Sunday, December 28, 2008

Continuing on...

Our next stop on the Christmas Express was to our friends' house for lunch. We've known the Cobbs (Brent and Kerry) since we were in college. Josh and Brent were fraternity brothers, we were in each others' weddings, we live just ten minutes apart, we had our children within months of each other (they also have two girls and a boy), and we just love spending time with such dear friends. So we happily accepted when they invited us over for Christmas lunch.
Somehow in the madness of cooking, eating, cleaning, and helping six children open gifts, I missed getting a big dual family photo, but here are the pics I did manage to grab (they're only of Jack because Abby had already taken off to play with Molly and Grace):
THE TRAIN CONDUCTOR:

THE CUPCAKE KING:

After a quick clean-up and nice, quiet snoozers back at our house, we were ready for the next round of festivities. My parents, sister, and her family all came over for dinner that evening.

As usual, the kids had a fantastic time running all over the place together...they really do have a special relationship, and I just love to sit back and watch it develop. So sweet!

My parents like to pretend that Bethany and I overwhelmed them a bit by giving them five grandchildren in three years, but something tells me they're handling it just fine (and loving every minute of it!)

They didn't even bat an eyelash when our house went from looking like this:

To THIS!

They're old pros! (Or should I just say regular pros?) :-)

And last but definitely not least, this post wouldn't be complete without wishing our newest addition a Merry FIRST Christmas!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Our Christmas Whirlwind Day (PART 1)

Our Christmas morning actually started on Christmas Eve night. Every Christmas Eve the kids each get to open one gift, which is always "surprisingly" new jammies to wear that night and on Christmas morning. I used to babysit for a family in college (who are now dear friends of ours) who did this with their children, and I always loved it and thought it was such a fun idea. So a decade later (I'm dating myself!), we now share this tradition with our little ones.
BEFORE:

DURING:

And WAH-LAH (imagine a little magic wand in my hand)...three adorable, perfectly coordinated munchkins ready for a fun morning:

Because of the late bedtime the night before, our morning got a little bit of a late start (which is really saying something considering we have three children four years old and under!). I'm not sure how many of you know our children, but in case you don't, one thing you should know is that they love to eat. And I don't mean they just like to munch on cookies, candies, and sweets (although they do enjoy that)...they just love food! Jack eats bananas and edamame like his life depends on it, and with the exception of scrambled eggs, Abby has pretty much never turned away a food. And Isabel seems to be well on her way toward keeping the tradition alive.

So did we race downstairs on Christmas morning and open the gifts that were lying in the middle of the living room floor? Oh no!! We looked at them with a smile as we booked it to the kitchen to make muffins for breakfast!

A little fuel for the work of gift-opening...

So with full tummies, it was off to open presents. As you can see, Abby is always the big helper for her little brother and sister:


The jury's still out on whether or not Jack was excited when he opened up his new tractor from Papa Joe and Nanna Lori in Connecticut:

And this was one of my favorite photos from Christmas morning:

On a much more important note, Josh and I have been looking for ways to teach the kids about the real significance of Christmas (see the Nativity post here). Presents are nice...food is yummy...and parties are fun.

But Christmas is the day that Jesus Christ was born.

What an incredible day to celebrate. And one of the ways we choose to do that and to teach our kids about the joy of giving is to sponsor a child through Compassion International. Our hearts have been drawn to Africa, and we were excited to find a little girl in Uganda around Abigail's age who is in desperate need of practical help (such as food and clothing) as well as emotional and spiritual support and encouragement.
So when the kids were finished opening their gifts, we pulled out one more present and told them we'd saved the best for last. Abby opened a small envelope with our sponsored child's picture in it:

She was confused at first, but as we began to talk with her about it, she started asking question after question about Loyce's life. And it has warmed our hearts to see her spend time drawing pictures and saying sweet prayers for who she calls "my new friend, Loyce".
This organization welcomes sponsors year-round, and there are countless children that still need help. Compassion International is committed to high standards and financial integrity. They have extensive information on those topics on their website. We would love to see others join in this invaluable and rewarding program, too!!

Well, I'm only to 10:30 on Christmas morning, and this is vying for the "World's Longest Post" record, so I'll close for now. Stay posted...lunch and dinner to come!

Four Feasts

One of our favorite parts of Christmas each year is spending time with our families and friends. And we normally take a couple of weeks to "hit all the houses"...but not this year. We packed five rounds of festivities into six days. Crazy? Yes.
Fun? Most definitely!!!

It started last Saturday with our annual "Eastaboga Christmas Potluck". That's our Christmas get-together with all of my mom's side of the family from Eastaboga, but this year we had it at my sister's house in Childersburg.

The kids (all seven of them...under the age of six, mind you!) had a fantastic time, and they looked like little streaks running in and out of every room of the house. We stopped them just long enough to grab a quick shot with their great-grandmother, Meme.

The next stop on the Christmas Express was to my sister-in-law's house in Helena. Angie and Joey hosted a dinner for Josh's side of the family on Christmas Eve. Half of the crew drove here from Georgia, and Aunt Sarah and Uncle David buzzed over from Mississippi.

To say that they cooked a feast would be a serious understatement! As a matter of fact, Joey prepared a prime rib roast that almost made me turn from my vegetarian ways! I'm pretty sure I drooled on it a little as I saw it come out of the oven. :-)
Speaking of being a vegetarian, do any of you know about the tradition of the Peppermint Pig? It began over 120 years ago in Saratoga, NY, and we've been doing it for years in Josh's family. I won't tell the whole legend, but it involves putting a candy pig (I learned her name is "Noel") into a velvet pouch and rubbing it for good luck.

That's nice...except it isn't true.

You're supposed to put Noel into a velvet pouch and kiss it while making a wish.

Not true either.

So what is the tradition of the Peppermint Pig?
I'll let you take a guess. Here's a picture of Noel straight out of the box:

Did you miss it? Take another look:

That's right, folks. We put Noel the Pig into a little velvet pouch, and we whack at her with a metal hammer until she breaks into a bazillion pieces. Then to top it off, we eat the broken shards.

Nice, huh?

In reality, it's a fun tradition that's full of laughter. GrandPam (Josh's mom) always reads the story:

Then we pass the pig around and pop it (maybe that sounds nicer than "whack at it") when we hear the words "THE PEPPERMINT PIG". And when the story is finished, we enjoy a little piece of peppermint pig as an after-dinner treat.

The rest of the Christmas fun took place on Christmas Day, so I'll be back with more later. But for now, there are new books to be read, new toys to be played with, and three sweet children to be cuddled!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Boys' Night Out

Josh and Jack headed downtown last night to enjoy some father/son time at the UAB basketball game. When they first got there, Josh said he thinks Jack was experiencing a little sensory-overload with the lights, the band, the cheering crowd, and especially the super-scary really energetic mascot, Blaze.

But he warmed up quickly, and he was apparently the object of attention and affection from some of the fans sitting around him! All in all, they had a great night, and Jack really enjoyed his first basketball game with Daddy...except when they went anywhere near Blaze, in which case he made the "If-I-don't-move-maybe-he-won't-see-me" face:

On a very different note, I know many of you pray fervently about concerns that we write about, and I have one that I would like to mention on behalf of some friends. They found out this morning that their unborn child has a potentially life-threatening syndrome.
We often have difficulty reconciling the picture of a gentle, loving God who allows the children He loves to walk through such painful times. But just as my children trust me without question to protect them and do what is best for them, I trust my Heavenly Father's sovereignty in my life. I trust Him to love me (Rom. 5:8), protect me (Prov. 2:8), and do what is best for me (Rom. 8:28). 2 Samuel 22:31 says "As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him." We may not understand His movement in our lives, but the Bible assures us that His ways are always loving and faithful (Psalm 25:10), just (Deut. 32:4), holy (Psalm 77:13), and righteous (Psalm 145:17). This family loves God, and I know they trust in His ways. Please join with me in praying for them daily.
And pray for healing for their sweet baby, and praise God for the ways in which He hears and answers our prayers.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What a waste!

I absolutely LOVE Christmas!!!

I love everything about it...the meaning behind it, the decorations, the lights, the beautifully wrapped gifts under the tree...I love it all! So imagine my disappointment when I realized I completely forgot to change our blog background to reflect the festivities. ARGGHHH! So I'll go ahead and warn you that I may be sticking with the Christmas theme until I change it for Valentine's Day. :-) ENJOY!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Silent Night???

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright,
Round yon virgin mother and child, 
Holy infant so tender and mild;
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

What, you ask, is the significance of my italicized version of "Silent Night"? I'll let you be the judge...but first a little background.

Josh's dear grandparents gave us a Willow Tree nativity set with the specific instructions that they would like the children to be able to enjoy it and play with it. Now if you're at all famliar with Willow Tree, you know that their figurines are: 1) fragile and 2) expensive. In our home, that combination typically equates with "put-it-away-in-the-attic-until-the-kids-are-married". But we honored their wishes and put the nativity set out not only in a place that the kids can reach it, but we went the extra step to put it on the table in the kitchen where they spend a good bit of their time everyday eating, doing arts and crafts, and playing puzzles.  

They've loved it! 

 Now back to the song. We love for our children to enjoy the secular aspects of Christmas (decorating the tree, driving around looking at Christmas lights, and wrapping gifts with me), but our goal is first and foremost for them to know that Christmas is Jesus' birthday and that God gave us the best gift imaginable when he sent His Son to us. So we've used the nativity set as a tool to help teach the story of Jesus' birth. And as much as they've learned from it, it's painfully obvious that the nativity has been in the "care" of young children and their far-from-perfect mom. Take a look:

Everything looks great, huh? I can totally get "silent," "holy," and "calm" from that. But wait, there's more to the story. Take Joseph, for example. This morning we had just finished up breakfast, and I walked into the living room to put Isabel down, and I hear Abby in the kitchen saying "Oh no...Joseph is sitting in the juice!" What?Jack had had fruit on his plate, and although he inhaled the fruit, he left all the fruit juice behind. And as only a two-year-old little boy could know, Joseph really wanted to go for a splash.

Now for Joseph example #2. No, Joseph didn't cut his arm on his staff (and I know that because I accidentally sucked the staff up into the vacuum last night). Rather, he was a victim of the aforementioned arts-and-crafts time.

Lambs. They're the epitome of "tender" and "mild", right? Looks like this one hit a little rough patch and lost his ear.

And now for my favorite. Abby was in the pantry one day looking for a snack, and I hear "MOMMY! THERE'S A SHEPHERD IN THE TRASH CAN!" (Did I expect that sentence? Not really. Was I surprised when I heard it? Not in the least! "Mr. Garbage Shepherd" has Jack written all over it!)

With each passing year and growing little one, I become more and more appreciative of the imperfection of my life. And as beautiful as the Willow Tree nativity set was the moment it came out of the box, I think it's far more precious now. That's probably a lesson that Grandma and Grandpa had already learned, and they taught it to me in such a meaningful way. As Christmas rapidly approaches, I pray that you and your family will remember what really happened that Silent, Holy, Calm, Tender, Mild, and Peaceful Night (even if your home is far from any of that!)Merry Christmas!Love,
allison

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sweet Baby Ayda

Our newest niece arrived last week!! Ayda Grace Lin was born on December 4, and our family was excited to visit her in Atlanta when she was just 24 hours old. Then the kids and I made a whirlwind trip back over there yesterday to do her newborn photographs (yes, we were driving in the torrential downpour!). She was an angel, and we got some really sweet shots of precious Ayda. As a reminder, here she was during her last photo shoot:

And here's a little sneak peek of her most recent session...

Beautiful Mommy and baby:

Can you tell that Rebekah and Kevin are absolutely smitten with this sweet baby girl?

There are so many shots that I love, but to see more, you'll have to convince Mommy and Daddy to give you Ayda's gallery password! :-)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ballet "Recital"

Abby had her first little ballet "recital" today. We were talking with some friends of ours over dinner (whose daughters are also in Abby's ballet class) about how putting quotation marks around a word implies that it has a meaning other than what is actually stated. In this case, Abigail's Christmas ballet "recital" was exactly the same as every other Monday class, only parents were allowed to photograph it and her teacher served cookies. Now don't get me wrong, I'm definitely not complaining. Abby is not a big fan of new and unfamiliar situations, so it was nice to ease into the world of ballet recitals. And I am a big fan of any situation that involves food. So all were happy!

One of the things Abby has really enjoyed about ballet is learning all of the positions and ballet moves (Are they called "moves"? That sounds a little jazz or hip-hoppish). The teacher taught them a precious dance to "Away in a Manger", and the girls each had a little baby doll that they held throughout the song. Here are some of Abby's exceptional ballerina skills at work: :-)

FIRST POSITION:

ARABESQUE:

About to do a TENDUS:

I'm pretty sure this isn't the technical term, but this is a SAILBOAT:


Can you tell she's a really big fan of "sailboat"?!?

Enjoy your week, and I'll be back in a couple of days for Wordless Wednesday.
allison

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday in our family. After fine-tuning the plans, we finally figured out the perfect "formula" for Thanksgiving, and it's a tradition that's been going on for a few years now. The day starts at Meme's house (my grandmother) with a potluck dinner for all of my mom's side of the family. And this year was extra-special because it was the first time in several years that every single member of the family was able to attend. Between sick little ones, overseas deployments, and work obligations, we haven't been able to celebrate all together for a while now. So I'm thankful for the special time we had together this year!

Perhaps the biggest breakthrough of this year came when Isabel suddenly decided that someone other than me could touch her. Actually, for a while, she was skittish if someone besides me even looked at her. And honestly, it was like someone flipped a switch on Thanksgiving Day, and she was cuddling with all sorts of family. Here's the proof...


I'm sure you're thinking "Isn't that Josh? Isn't that her own Daddy?" Yes it is, but if I was within her sight, not even Daddy would do (until Thanksgiving, that is!)

From Meme's house, we headed over to Josh's family's house in Marietta. This is where the serious Thanksgiving tradition kicks in! We always take it easy there on Thursday night, but the women of the family wake up at an hour that is in no way worthy of being referred to as "morning", and we hit the malls!!!!! Yes folks, I'm one of those women. :-) Now there isn't even a hint of madness in our shopping (unless you consider waking up in the 3:00 hour to be madness!). It's just loads of fun and family traditions.

Abigail and her cousin, Natalie, got to enjoy a second annual tradition this year...riding the "Pink Pig" at Lenox Mall in Atlanta.

GrandPam and PaPaw treated them to a couple of loops around the track...and Jack got to experience it, too. I was worried that Jack would get weepy when the train went out of our sight, but GrandPam assured me he would be fine. And which one of us was correct? I'll let you be the judge. This is what we saw when he rounded the corner...

Izzy wasn't quite ready for the infamous Pink Pig, so she hung out in the carrier...

...until she fell asleep. She's definitely a third child! I would have NEVER had Abby snoozing in the middle of a crowded mall during Thanksgiving. :-)

I pray that you all had a weekend full of thanksgiving and rest. Our family has spent a lot of time thanking God for everything He has done for us...we are so blessed.
Love,
allison