Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Fun - Part Three

Then there was the rest of the week. We most just relaxed and spent time together, which was, of course, nice. 

Zoe was a big hit with the little girls, and even Mom and the boys warmed up to her. Dad tolerated her because he loves us. :) After she got used to the fact that there were over ten people in one house (and two cats!) and that things weren't going to slow down any, she managed alright. The excitement was a bit much the first couple of days, but by Monday afternoon we were mostly proud to call her our dog.

We dressed her up :)
Snuggle time!
"What's this cold wet stuff, and why does it make me sneeze if I try to snort it?" 
Tuesday night we went bowling!

comparing the bump to a bowling ball... 
<3 <3
Noah and Anna
Nevin, Nolan and Nev's friend Nathan

Baby liked bowling, too!

No trip to see Mom would be complete without a visit to Goodwill or Salvation Army, so all the girls headed out Monday morning to see what we could find. I scored big on some silk flowers for our room - pictures to come!

Nicholas has always said having a birthday 3 days after Christmas and the day after his older sister's is a recipe for no birthday celebration at all. So, since the college freshie was home, we thought we'd celebrate a lil. 

After a nice dinner Dad took all of the guys out to see Mission Impossible 4. Then, we had cake and icecream when they got back. Talk about the perfect bedtime snack! ;)

Thursday came so fast. We packed up all of our things, as well as the nursery set that each of my siblings and I used to use for Baby, and prepared for goodbyes. It was sad to leave, and the drive home was not as exciting as the drive there, but it's good to be home. We'll be busy over the next two months planning and preparing for the baby's arrival, and it's a blessing to have things to do.

I have a New Year's post in my head, but in case I don't get to it until January 3rd -
 Happy New Year!

Christmas Fun - Part Two

12 hours of driving sounded daunting to us with a pregnant yours truly and a restless pup. So, we decided to break up our trip, stopping just under halfway, in Charleston, WV. *such* a great idea. The driving part of our trip was so much more enjoyable because of this!

I think this captures a typical day in West Virginia - dusty, gray rustic beauty,
brimming over with good ol' fashioned hard work
Just so this picture doesn't seem contradictory:
The second picture is actually in WV, not "Pure Michigan"

 Boy was it good to get all the hugs and kisses 10 excited bodies had to give when we finally made it late Saturday afternoon! We had just enough time to say hello and unload the car, before we headed off to church for the Christmas Eve service. Once home again, Mom whipped up some heavy hor d'oeuvres and the younger ones were granted their wish to open ONE present.

Then we sunk into our beds heavy-eyed and happy, and before we knew it Christmas morning dawned bright and cheerful! We all slept past eight, and the first present wasn't open until almost 10 o'clock. 

even Baby got something!

Daniel and my grandma, Mare, with the afgan she made him

Zoe got to open her "presents" first, and enjoyed the tennis balls, stuffed whale, and bones very much.

But even when Christmas was over our visit wasn't, and that was great. We had 3 days of fun! . . . read Part Three :)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Fun - Part One

Our weeks before and after Christmas were packed! Here are the highlights in pictures. We're so blessed to be surrounded by great friends and family this time of year.

Mellow Mushroom, Yoforia and Seinfeld with Carolyn and Billy!

Thursday evening we opened our presents, since we traveled to Michigan Friday.

Presents for Baby - team colors from me, ornament from Daddy
Best stocking stuffer ever!! Now we just hope Baby comes in time so that we can actually go! :)
For Baby from Grandma Wells

Zoe promptly went to work on her collection of toys :)
We were PSYCHED to get this from Daniel's Mom!!!
Really couldn't believe it... :P
We crashed Thursday night close to midnight, and after a half-day of work Friday we started our trek up to Michigan . . . see Part Two :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Thoughts

Being pregnant at Christmastime, I find the reality of Christ's  birth and humanity incredibly stirring. As I feel this little one inside of me kick and squirm, I think of Mary, who undoubtedly felt the same things. I'm filled with wonder then when I consider that the little one she carried was the Son of God. 

The Christmas story is a startling one. No where in any other religion do we hear about the gods becoming like their subjects. In fact, in most religions, the gods stay completely separate. They keep their distance.

This is only one aspect of Christianity that makes it so totally unique. Our God does not keep his distance. In fact, he gets so incredibly personal that he is carried inside a woman! He goes through those fascinating changes, and develops eyes and ears, a brain, and skin. Our God was at one point the size of a sweet pea, a blueberry, a lemon! Imagine that... the God of the universe - the God who MADE sweet peas.

Talk about vulnerable.

Then this little sweet pea grew. He grew and grew and grew until there was no more room inside of Mary. She was "heavy with child" - basically, she was ready to pop! And so God the Son was born.

Do you know how messy birth is? It's pretty messy. Actually, it's gross. 'Nough said, right?

But God the Son was willing to go through that process so that he could be, in every way, like us. In fact in Hebrews 2, God's Word says "it was necessary."

Why was it necessary? Why did Jesus Christ become so very vulnerable? Because God looks down from heaven and aches to see that things aren't right. Nothing is as it was meant to be.

I already mentioned one on my favorite Christmas songs. Another one is Keith and Kristyn Getty's Joy Has Dawned. "God's salvation now unfurled, hope for every nation. Not with fanfares from above, not with scenes of glory, but a humble gift of love, Jesus born of Mary... Hands that set each star in place, shaped the world in darkness cling now to a mother's breast vulnerable and helpless. Shepherds bow before the Lamb gazing at the glory. Gifts from men of distant lands prophesy the story: Gold, a King is born today. Incense, God is with us. Myrrh, his death will pave a way and with His blood he'll win us."

The Christmas story captures for us a momentous occasion in history where the God who made the universe becomes like us in order to save us.

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope your heart is full of the joy and wonder of this Christmas story!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Jesus is Alive!

It takes a lot to write decent, Christ-centered Christmas music these days. But this year, my favorite is definitely Josh Wilson's "Jesus is Alive." Love the lyrics.

Wish that I was there,
On that silent night,
When your tiny heart started beating for mine,

I wish I couldv'e seen,
The star in David's town,
When you turned a stable into Holy ground.
I sing along, the angels song.

Noel, Noel, Jesus is alive.
Emanuel, hope is here tonight.
So go, and tell, the world that death has died.
'Cause Jesus is alive. Yea Jesus is alive.

The God who made us all,
With these two little hands,
Is bringing us his kingdom quiet as a lamb.
Oh such Amazing Grace!
A divine conspiracy.
This Savior in a manger changes everything.
That's why we sing.

Noel, Noel, Jesus is alive.
Emanuel, hope is here tonight.
So go, and tell, the world that death has died.
'Cause Jesus is alive. Yea Jesus is alive.

Sin you have no sting.
Hell you have no power. (Jesus is alive)
Curse you are no more.
This is your final hour. (Jesus is alive)
Because the son of God
Has not left us alone. (Jesus is alive)
He'll live and die and rise again, and then he'll bring us home. (Jesus is alive)
The old will pass away
And we will become new. (Jesus is alive)
This baby boy is making all sad things untrue.

Noel, Noel, Jesus is alive.
Emanuel, hope is here tonight.
So go, and tell, the world that death has died.
'Cause Jesus is alive. Yea Jesus is alive.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

28 Weeks!

UPDATE: (A side shot per request. :))

 How far along?: 28 weeks
Total Weight Gain: + 15-20
Maternity clothes? Yes :)
Stretch marks? no
Sleep: Pretty good
Best moment this week: I got to hear Baby's heartbeat again on Friday, which is always special. But honestly, the highlight of every day for me is in the evening when Baby starts to do his/her little exercises. :) I just can't get enough of those flutters and bumps. They are precious.
Movement: Yes :)
Cravings: Not really
Gender Predictions: mostly girl, sometimes boy, though. :) Most of our friends think it's a girl.
Labor Signs: no
Belly Button in or out? Basically out! (look closely at the picture - see that little circle in the middle?)
What I miss: sleeping on my back, and red wine
What I am looking forward to: We'll be getting our nursery furniture next week, and I am so excited to really start on the nursery!
Weekly WisdomJust throw your scale out. That thing has given me more grief than it's worth! LoL. Eat healthy, exercise regularly and get plenty of rest and you'll be fine. :)
Milestones: THIRD - and FINAL -  TRIMESTER!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Must-Haves on a Wedding Registry

I meant to put this together closer to our 1 year anniversary, but O, well. Maybe a couple extra months means I'm a more seasoned housewife? ;)

Registering was super fun for me. Seriously, why would I not want to go around with a little gun machine and scan anything I think would be fun, or useful? :) Daniel and I were registered at Bed, Bath and Beyond and Macy's. We got mostly everything we needed in gifts, or got to enjoy using gift cards together after our honeymoon!

(For women whose future-husbands are not shoppers this may be the only time your husband will actually enjoy browsing endless aisles of home goods. Daniel and I had a blast that first month... then, it suddenly wore off, and now he comes up with excuses of why not to go shopping faster than I can spend money. ;))

But, let's be honest. There are some things that get used way more often than others. There are also certain items that were way worth the investment, while others you could have done without. Some items I went cheap on, when I shouldn't have. And in todays nifty world of gadgets galore there are dozens of all-in-one systems that are so much easier to own, rather than storing ten different utilities in your spare bedroom closet. ;)

Ok, Ashlee, enough rambling. We get the picture.

Here are my top ten must-haves:

1. Glass Pyrex. Oven, freezer, dishwasher, and microwave-safe. Easy to stack and store. Register for EXTRA of this. You will be glad you had it.

2. Kitchen Aid Mixer - worth every penny. And why not, when it comes in so many fabulous colors? I just want to collect them all! (Kidding).

We didn't get this as a gift, even though we had registered for it, so I waited for it to go on sale at Macy's. On top of the store sale, I used the 20% discount that most stores give you for any remaining items on your registry. They even shipped my choice color {colbalt, please} to my house for free, since they didn't have it in the store. I think we ended up saving like $60 - and I still paid for every penny of the mixer in gift cards! Woot!

3. Good Sheets and Pillows - little lesson from the not-so-wise-but-always-thrifty-me (*blush*): Your sheets will get their wear-and-tear very quickly. Don't just buy the clearance sheets because they're $40 cheaper than the ones you registered for. Invest in good quality, high-count cotton sheets (or whatever your preference is) that will last. Register for two sets - Back up sheets are good for nights when you puke on one and don't feel like washing at 2am. Plus, it's fun to mix and match. As far as the pillows go - I completely forgot about them when registering! But this is another essential we take for granted. Find out if your future hubby is a back, side or stomach sleeper, and get a good quality pillow for him, and for you. Then, register for those pretty fluffy ones for your shams. DO NOT get the $9.99 100% cotton pillows - seriously. I'm embarrassed I when guests sleep over, because I have to hand them a flimsy lump of fluff. :-P

4. Cast Iron Skillet (small and large?) - We actually didn't register for these. Daniel already had a small and large skillet given to him with a bunch of his grandmother's stuff. I honestly did not know the greatness of them, and sent the larger one to Goodwill, to free up cupboard space [tear]. But I have since learned to love the small one! Everything taste good on a cast iron skillet, and is there anything else easier to clean??

5. Giant Wooden Cutting Board - oil with some evoo and you're good to go! Wish I had a bigger one... maybe when I'm cooking for more than two we'll upgrade! :)

6. Your Favorite Games - Not a "must have" but definitely a "must register for" :-P We only have a handful of games, but they are all well-used, especially when company is over. It's great to have something to do together besides watch movies. 

7, 8, 9. Good Pots, Pan and Knives - You'll be using them everyday, and if you invest well they could last 10+ years.

10. Food Processor/Blender All-in-One - Pictured below is what I have. It was handed down to me by a friend who no longer needed it, and it. is. amazing. This one item blends my smoothies, shreds my cheese, and chops my onions. It's easy to clean (by hand... or it's dishwasher safe) and does everything all in one, so you don't need to buy (and store) several different items.

Of course, I'm sure I'll think of something else after I've posted this, but 10 is a good place to stop. 

What are your favorite registry items? What does everyone tell you is a must-have? 
Anything you got that was a waste of time/space/money?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Letting Go - End of 2nd Trimester thoughts

At seven weeks (which seems like ages ago) morning sickness was in full swing. In fact, in some ways, those first few weeks were the worst, because I was still learning how to cope with the nausea. Those days my body, and Baby, were going through huge changes, and I felt it. I was sore, I was sick, I felt a constant headache-coming-on feeling, yawned incessantly, and I was working 9 1/2 hour days with two highly active elementary-age kiddos, which exaggerated every gag and ache. 

Then one Thursday morning I woke up, and as I showered and got ready for work it hit me: I felt great!

Immediately, panic sunk in. Every newly-expectant mom knows the symptoms of miscarriage. It's our worst fear. I felt like calling in to work sick, curling up in bed and crying. I was gripped with fear - dreading what they day would hold. Daniel's concern heightened mine. He tried googling symptoms to ease our fears, but was only met with grim facts.

We prayed together earnestly before I left for work, and I put on a brave face.

"Pray without ceasing" would be the phrase for that day.

Daniel and I texted almost constantly. The day progressed and I still felt great. At any given moment I kept thinking I would be met with the most obvious of miscarriage signs.

But the day went on, and still we prayed. And in those prayers we prayed, "Help us be content with Your perfect will, whatever it may be."

Ironically, that was the same prayer we prayed right before we took the pregnancy test.

At the same time, of course, we did not hold back expressing our deepest heart's desires for the health, safety, and life of our little one.

Around mid afternoon the Holy Spirit gave me a peace no words can describe. 

I realized the life of our baby was a gift, and whether he (or she) lived for only a couple weeks inside of me, or we were blessed to hold him and raise him to live a full life, that ultimately, he was not ours ... ever.

Our children are not given to us to hold onto forever. 

I heard of a mother who once spoke to this effect. She understood what it meant to let go, and she understood why. "We need to let them go. We need to let them go so their lights can shine for Jesus, where ever He takes them." She understood this fully because in less than a year she saw two of her children off to college and buried another.

I hardly slept Thursday night, but when morning finally came I was greeted by welcome symptoms of raging hCG levels! O, we were so thankful! We rejoiced and praised our Father together, all the while acknowledging that this by no means meant we were "safe" from future pregnancy complications.

Our outlook was so very different. Our thankfulness for our little one's life was heightened, but we had perfect peace knowing every day and every heartbeat was in the Lord's hands.

Our prayer now for this little one is that there will never be a day where he knows himself apart of Jesus Christ. And in knowing Jesus Christ, he will let his light shine brightly for Him, wherever the Lord takes him - should he live for fifteen years, or fifty.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Weekend in Florida

This past weekend Daniel, Zoe and I headed down to the sunshine state for some quality time with Daniel's mom over her birthday weekend. We left around 4am Friday morning, and the 9 1/2 hour drive just flew by, and we settled into Daniel's mom's house by 1:30.

I was full of excitement when we left Friday morning. Happy, bubbly, and talkative. Daniel tolerated it, I guess you could say. :-P He began to tease me, call me Aliza (my little sister), and point out all the things that made me seem six instead of twenty-one:

Amoxicillin pink socks. :-P
a pillow pet, and french braided pigtails.
Well so what if I seemed more like I was six. The drive just flew by!

Traveling with Zoe was . . . interesting. She did a whole lot better than we expected, but was wide awake for the whole drive - both there and back! She seemed determined not to fall asleep, despite obvious fatigue. Her head would droop a little, her eyelids would slowly flutter, and then she would shake herself awake and stare out the window.

When we finally made it into Tampa we let her keep her window down, and she happily breathed in all the fresh air.

Saturday Janet and I did a little shopping, and then the three of us went to the Cheesecake Factory to celebrate Janet's birthday. SO yummy. :)

They thoroughly embarrassed her by singing "Happy Birthday" 

Linda's Chocolate Cake - Janet's Favorite
Sunday after worship we met two men of Daniel's dad's football gang at a sport's bar, and then went to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get their butts whooped by Cam Newton and posse. Yeah. Not such a great game for Bucs fans. It was beautiful weather though!

The first of the record-setting touchdowns

proudly wearing our colors, and graciously accepting defeat. :-P
(Actually, we didn't stay til the end... it was too depressing for Ralph's friends. ;))
No comments about the ride home... except that it took us almost 11 hours and we were both so tired the rest of Monday we thought we'd been hit by trains. And Zoe was even more awake than on the way down. 

We made it though, and we're glad we had such a great weekend in Florida!