Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Images of the Season

Before Christmas is too far behind us, I want to share some great pictures, or rather some decent pictures of some great memories.

Bethany (bottom row 3rd from the right) and Hope (blondie just a little to the right of center) in our church's living Christmas tree.

Some of the lights in Marshall, Texas. We went for a LONG drive over to Marshall (in East Texas) to see the lights and eat dinner with Shane's brother Scott.

Our local Christmas parade with three avid fans (it's all of six minutes long and mostly filled with ambulances and fire trucks).

A tired 2 year old...Christmas is BIG when you're 2!

Shane & my cousin Jamie at our annual Cousin's Christmas party.

Audrey in her Christmas dress the Sunday before Christmas. On second thought, she has about four Christmas outfits with all the hand-me-downs! She was decked out each Sunday of December.

My big girls...can you see the anticipation on Hope's face?!

The real, live Mrs. Potato Head is in the house!

Think she's getting enough milk? Check out those cheeks and the double chin! Just a side note of great importance-she has my brown eyes unlike any of my other children! Yay!

One of my favorite moments of Christmas. Jaika especially loves my 89 year old Grandma.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This is my Christmas present from Shane. Yes, I finally got an mp3 player. I know all of you, except Luke, have one and you've had one for years but mine is only a few days old. I didn't think I'd use one enough to justify the purchase until I used my friend Shelly's while hanging out in the hospital. I used hers a few times at home before I reluctantly gave it back. I didn't realize you could still hear outside sounds while rocking out at the sink, but, lo and behold, when my children argue and fight I still get to be referee!

Although I've used it a lot the last week, mp3 moms have to be careful. Here's what I'm thinking, feel free to add to it:

It can't consume us. Listening to Nancy Leigh DeMoss teachings about being godly mothers does not trump our children's needs. Being available to our kids takes priority. Just know you're going to have to use the pause button frequently.

Keep it down. I can't lecture my children on the dangers of listening too loud if they can hear Chris Tomlin pulsing in my ears.

Keep it legal. A woman of integrity isn't going to pirate her music. Even if most of her church family does. It's still illegal because it's umm, like stealing!

Keep it diverse. I've enjoyed listening to everything from Tin Man Jones, MercyMe, Lifehouse, and Nicole C Mullen to Canon in D. I also downloaded a lot of (free!) podcasts from I've been listening to podcasts about homemaking, Advent, exercise, parenting teens, along with a few sermons. It's a simple way to get some good info in while doing housework, nursing the baby, or walking.

Keep it clean. This player came with some factory placed songs. Yuck. One was especially explicit. Given that kids get these players, I cringe. I let Bethany use my player before I heard the song. Thankfully, she's too young to get the lyrics, but it could have easily been her older sisters listening.

Keep it cool. I didn't like the ear buds that came with my Sony (they didn't fit) so while shopping for my super discounted Christmas cards for 2009, I found these red Skullcandy Ink'd beauties for a steal.

Okay, so the last one isn't too critical ;) What would you add or disagree with? Have you found a good source for (legal) downloads? How about kid friendly downloads for their mp3 players?

Friday, December 26, 2008

2009 Vision

I think it's important for moms, especially those who stay at home day in and day out to have a vision. The last year or so, I've had a vision for the year. Last year was Peace. I was in a funk emotionally and needed that peace. God showed me over & over last year much about peace.

This year, I feel He's prompting me to declare victory over some areas. I know I need victory over sugar. I would like victory over the details of handling our finances and staying on budget. I'm open to Him showing me more as the year goes on. This is not about making a perfect me in my strength, it's about allowing the Lord to grow me in whatever way he wants. It might be so small that no one else knows and that's okay, it's between me & my Lord :)

So, in keeping with this victory theme, here's what I'll be working on in 2009:

*Eating Fine in 2009 Challenge-no refined/artificial sugar

*Better Budgeting

Both of these will be spurred on by the Book Club I'm getting in on (see side bar button)-the first book is Your Money of Your Life. These books are cheap enough anyone can afford it, so go check it out at Simple Mom's site.

*Being on purpose more with the girls. Specifically: Ashlyn-touching more (it gets challenging when they aren't cuddly babies anymore), Hope-listening to better, Bethany-drawing her out more, Jaika-continuing to cuddle, Audrey-looking into her eyes & interacting, not multitasking.

*Stopping to smell the roses of my home-for me this means living more not just surviving. We have a bird feeder & new identification guides to help us get to know our feathered friends, I want to keep trying new recipes, and I'd like to do more crafts with the girls & maybe even just for my pleasure! (Denise get ready to come over & cook! I'm ready to get going!)

*Getting into the Word again (I'm not so good at this with a new baby!). I now own the One Year Chronological Bible, which I've been interested in for some time. Can't wait to get started-and I hope to make in past February this time!

*Finally, I need victory over my carpal tunnel. I've battled it for a few years, yet it went totally away when I was pregnant. I'm back to wearing the wrist braces but am still experiencing pain & numbness, which will keep me from learning some of the new crafts I am interested in. I plan to get a referral to a pain management doctor my OB uses for her carpal tunnel and if that doesn't work, I'm ready for surgery. I need my hands!

Does your family need Momma to have some vision? Does this idea get you excited or stress you out?

My Best Christmas Ever

This Christmas was a little different in several ways. First, Daddy had to work Christmas Eve night so he didn't get home until around 8:45 Christmas morning--way late into the day as far as kids are concerned. I needed a stalling tactic to keep them happy until they could open gifts. We set the table and had a nice sit down breakfast. You know sitting down anywhere other than by the tree is forbidden on most Christmases, lol. The kids did as well as can be expected and I was only asked 42 times when Daddy would be home.

Shane arrived just in the nick of time. He'd just heard about the pilots who send the kids who've lost a parent in the war to Disney World. He was so moved by this reminder of the sacrifices made for our freedom that he decided to lead us in prayer for those kiddos & families who were missing someone Christmas morning. I was touched by his sensitivity.

Okay so we opened, stuffed trash, opened, stuffed trash and opened some more. Everyone only had about 5-6 gifts under our tree, but there are a lot of us, you know!

Off to Mom & Dad's for a short gift exchange then off to my aunt's across town for the Jones Christmas (my family).

This is where the best Christmas ever part comes in-hang with me!

Meet my little brother Scott & sister in law Mary (they're holding my Audrey here):

Mary was diagnosed with colon cancer this year. She & I were in the hospital at the same time (different hospitals)-me having a baby and Mary having her tumor removed. This after months of chemo & radiation treatments to shrink it. She had complications and had to go back in for surgery a few days after her initial surgery. They had to drive back & forth to Dallas, a good ways from our humble little rural town and Scott used all of his paid leave. They were in financial stress, to say the least-especially since Mary hasn't been able to work most of the year.

Meet the gift box:

The family started cooking up a conspiracy to skip the Chinese Christmas this year and instead put the money toward Scott & Mary, without breathing a word to them. Throughout the day, people slipped cash into this innoculous decoration...

Meet one of the crafters:

Each of the kiddos in the entire family brought a homemade item to auction off. Hope is making a bird house, Ashlyn painted note cards with sweet greetings, Bethany painted a purple polka dot picture frame, and cousins made book marks, sculptures, a collage, and even a book! We all thought the items would go for a few bucks a piece, with the point being just to let the kids feel involved but they raised over a hundred dollars!

Scott & Mary didn't know what was going on :)

Then we presented the gift box to them, explaining that they are more important than gifts and we felt they needed the help this year. They were speechless, but not necessarily tearless.

I've never been more proud of our family. We didn't leave the celebration with as many gifts (our Chinese gifts are usually pretty good, especially for the girls-I have aunts that know how to shop!), but with a special memory that exceeds any joy from opening gifts. Scott and Mary left with almost $700 to help pay for medical expenses or whatever else they need.

Be blessed-I know I am today!
PS-Happy 30th Birthday Scott!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I had some sentimental, wonderful inspirational words to say here but in this current moment I can't get them to come out of my fingers. Audrey didn't sleep too well last night, so neither did I...and that's my excuse for this Christmas Eve post.

I used to think Christmas was a reflection of other things in life that have a great buildup then explode and are quickly over.

Now I think Christmas is like giving birth. See how they tie together?

No matter how good the day is going, there comes a time in all the preparations when Mom says, "I'm done, I can't do it! I'm going to bed and you all have Christmas without me." I know I've said these very words during the transition stage of labor and I'm thinking them right now.

Here are some other similarities:

No one can do it for you. Come on moms, you know your husband couldn't pull of Christmas without you. He can't deliver that baby either. And no matter how hard he tries, he will never really know how much you put into either one.

Both are beautiful things, but a lot of work. 'Nuff said.

Both are romantic notions but rarely do they go off without a hitch or two.

Crazy family members. Amen? My mom pulled my mother in law outside my hospital room window when I had Ashlyn so they could spy in hopes of seeing if she was a boy or girl. I'm sure you have plenty of examples of odd balls you'll be seeing today or tomorrow!

Hopefully, they'll both end well for you this year. Birth shows us so much about God-as we look at a marvelously formed new person we can see God's miraculous side and we again see his miracle of love when we ponder the baby in a manger.

Many Blessings today! Merry Christmas friends!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Eating Fine in 2009 Challenge

A few friends and I are taking a huge challenge to dump sugar in 2009. Yep, that's right, no refined or artificial sugar for an entire year. Birthday cake? Make mine with date sugar (ground dates) please :) Latte? Maple syrup only (really yummy by the way!).

This summer I was sugar free for about three months and it felt great. I'm ready to go back. The pounds just slipped off (even though I was pregnant and still gaining Audrey's weight, my net loss was about ten pounds). I felt good. I felt I was in control, not food. My girls would offer me some treat they'd brought home from Awana and then sadly remember and state that I couldn't have it. I was constantly reminding them that I indeed could have the sugar if I wanted to, but it was my decision. I will tell my body, it won't tell me.

So, want to join us? There is a group of about five of us who will leave sugar behind on January 1. We'll keep each other accountable primarily through email, so even if you don't know us, you can join in. Just drop me an email.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Traditions

Traditions add depth to families, they give a comforting constant.

Many families collect ornaments and enjoy picking out a special one each year. We do this too, but with a little bit of a twist. We choose one ornament to represent the most important event of the year-just one per year for the entire family. I'm glad we started out with just one-can you imagine how expensive it'd be to buy one for each of our family members ;)

I'd like to share our years with you today: The first 13 years of our marriage are chronicled on this wreath. The ornaments start at the top and go clockwise:

Our first year is celebrated by two ornaments that say "Our First Christmas." This was 1995.

1996-Pregnant Kangaroo, I was six months pregnant with Ashlyn.

1997-Ashlyn's first Christmas-a teddy bear on a rocking horse.

1998-We joined Bell Baptist Church, represented by a gold & maroon bell. This church grew us tremendously and the PRC was birthed from there.

1999-The call to start the PRC, symbolized by an ornament with John 3:16 on it.

2000-Millennium Baby ornament for Hope's arrival into this world.

2001-An ornament that represents what touched all of us that year-9/11. This ornament is an American flag heart.

2002-We bought our land in Sunset, which looks a lot like the winter scene in the country on the beautiful tear shaped ornament. I cried when I looked at this one this year, since our land is on the market.

2003-My first Christmas for Bethany.

2004-Shane's tassel from his 2006 graduation from college (we didn't find one that year, so we retrofitted the wreath after he graduated). This was the year Shane was laid off and returned to college.

2005-A gold ball with a Sheriff's office theme, for the year Shane was hired onto the department.

2006-Jaika's first Christmas.

2007-A karate chopping Santa represents the girls' new love for karate and their precious leaders.

2008-Audrey's first Christmas.

I would love to hear about your ornament traditions! Share in the comments:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

From Our Home to Yours...Our Christmas Letter

In order to be a little thriftier this Christmas season, we chose to write our Christmas letter on virtual paper. If you just found this site through the address on our card, thanks for stopping by. I hope you have fun seeing the girls and reading our thoughts and stories. Grab some hot chocolate, read the letter, then browse around the site if you wish. Hope to see you back here soon!

Dear Friends & Family,

At our house, we don't put a lot of emphasis on Santa but if we did, I can predict where our crew might fit in on his Naughty or Nice Lists...
Daddy, of course, would fall on the Nice List. He's been working two jobs all year, so he's too busy to get in trouble! The Sheriff's Department and his security guard job take up plenty of his time-although he sure spends a lot of time with many on the Naughty list :) Daddy got extra points taking good care of Mom and all the girls when Audrey arrived, so he gets a free ticket for the Nice List for the next few years!

Mom, well, she's doomed for the Naughty List. You see, it all started November 5th when she went into labor with Audrey. Mom got all dramatic...or was it Audrey...and they ended up in surgery for an emergency C-section. Mom got so used to the quiet home away from home and room service at the hospital that she decided she needed a few more days of it. She conjured up this plan to have trouble breathing and with excess fluid just so she didn't have to cook or do dishes. Good thing she and Audrey are both healthy now, maybe she can earn her way back to the Nice List next year. She'll have lots of time to work on it since she left her job this Fall to stay home with all the girls.

Ashlyn might want to take a walk on the wild side, but she's a true Nice List girl. She's Mom's right hand. Becoming quite the "tween" she's little girl and young woman all together. This will be her last year as a student in Awana, where she memorizes Bible verses. Next year she plans to be a Leader in Training. She's been working at saving for a horse and will probably have enough to buy one as soon as we move to a house with space for one.

Jumping from one list to the other all year is Hope. Most of the time she is a great helper, especially to her little cousin Adri who spends her weekdays in our home. Hope is an expert diaper changer, baby entertainer and Bible verse memorizer. Like most kids though, Hope flirts with the Naughty list when she stalls on her school work and chores...and bedtime...

Ahh, the soft voice and cute freckles that belong to Miss Bethany keep her far from the Naughty List, even when she begs to play with her large Polly Pocket collection instead of doing her kindergarten work. Bethany still has a strong shy side but is a riot at home. Most of the giggles we share come from something Bethany said.

Jaika-easy as pie: Naughty List! Naughty List and loving it! I'm sure she'd have it no other way! Jaika has caused her parents to put up extra baby safety locks on cabinets they'd never thought reachable by other siblings. Poison Control is on speed dial. Thankfully, Jaika is a lively two year old with a huge smile that goes hand in hand with a great sense of humor.

Audrey Shayne is just five weeks old, so she's hardly had time to cross over to the Naughty List. However, before she was born, she thought it'd be fun to play jump rope with her umbilical cord and she knotted it up. The Lord watched out for her and kept it from getting tight. She's so cuddly, I'm sure Santa won't hold it against her.

So, there you have it, the run down on who gets coal and who gets gifts! One gift we're hoping for soon is our land to sell. We can fulfill some big financial goals with that money, including buying that house for the horse. Well, it will also have more bedrooms and bathrooms for the humans!
Merry Christmas from us! May you always be on the Nice List...of course we all know Who's list we need to be on and it has nothing to do with Santa!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

When I am old...

Today I was in line next to an older lady and she got me to thinking...

There are a few things I want to remember when I am old.

First-Just One Squirt of perfume will do. I also hope to have my young hip daughters pick out my perfume so I will never have old lady perfume syndrome. Oh my, you know that stuff doesn't come off kids' faces well! I cringe when my little ones are hugged by a perfume bather!

Second-Choose Life. When visiting with my Grandma yesterday, we were discussing our recent health problems (hers was much more serious than mine). We agreed it may be the scariest thing on earth to feel like you can't breathe. She said she prayed, maybe out loud, maybe silently, "That the Word says to choose life, so I choose life, Lord, I choose life." Y'all, she's 89 years old. She hurts all day long. No one would fault her for going Home, yet she chose life in the middle of confusing pain.

Third-I'll tell big families they are blessed. It seems the Great Generation is drawn to our family. We get stopped by little old men and women who happily give us proverbial pats on the back for having a big family. They usually have fond memories of lots of siblings. I love their sage attitudes about family. You know, those attaboys even make up for certain family members' comments that aren't so, ahem, positive.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Audrey Shayne

Audrey is one month old today. Here are some moments of the first weeks of her life...

She is a cuddle bunny so we tried to trick her into letting the Boppy Pillow hold her.

Milk faced

Got some Daddy love goin'

Audrey and her Great-grandmother on Thanksgiving-those are ballerina shoes on her dress-isn't it cute!? Thanks Summer & Season ;)
And best of all-first smiles saved for big sister Bethany. I love hearing their "conversations". Bethany was telling her about a big early Christmas gift Shane's family surprised us with.

I've been tagged!

Vix has tagged me! I'm supposed to list 10 things I'm thankful for and then tag 5 more people.

Here's my list:

1. My faithful, helpful husband who's always looking out for me. He took especially good care of me in the last month.

2. That our two last babies were born alive. Once you have 2 knotted-cord babies, it almost gets ordinary when they pop out crying. To realize that they were so close to death for as many as 25 weeks (in utero-from the time the cords probably knot until delivery) while I'm just going about my regular days is down right scary.

3. Borrowed baby swings.

4. Chubby cheeks all from mom's milk. Too cool.

5. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

6. Advent.

7. Lots of family nearby-and we get to see them all this month!

8. Generous parents & in-laws.

9. Steady income in an unsteady economy, along with a profession that isn't bothered by a recession/depression.

10. A Savior to celebrate and worship.

I tag: Summer, Jennifer F, Denise, Jennifer R, and Tonya . If you're name is here, consider yourself tagged :) You have to come up with your own list of 10 and then tag 5 more people.

Have fun!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Where are the dads?

Kerr, who flutters down the runway in a cool-shade blue lace low-cut bra and high-cut brief, sexy sandals with thigh-high ribbons and the coveted wings, took comfort in knowing her family was in the crowd, and winked at her mom and dad.
"My mom didn't mind seeing me up there in my underwear ," Kerr says. "I am 25 and it's all very lovely and like a costume. It's beautiful and romantic ... it's not like standing up there in my everyday underwear. It's a theatrical show and everyone is there to have a good time."

The above was from a Yahoo! article about what Victoria Secret models do to get ready for a live fashion show on CBS. I'm not even going to ask why we need to see this on TV...

I am going to ask where are the dads of this generation? Was Kerr's dad uncomfortable in the audience? Not that Shane would approve of his daughter being on stage in underwear, but if we were to find ourselves in that situation, I can tell you, we'd both be squirming.

In public, I've often seen whole families or dads & daughters together and wondered if dad got to weigh in on her low cut, see through shirt. Maybe he doesn't care, maybe he's overruled, I don't know...

I really wish men would stand up (and women would sit down!) and take their roles. Call me old fashioned, but I think there's a huge lack of decency in our society, and most of it could be alleviated with some daddies who put their foot down and clothes on their daughters (and sometimes their wives!).

How's that for a soapbox? Wonder if I just lost my 6 readers...

Monday, December 1, 2008

How about another epiphany?

I realized the state of my house is an idol for me. I didn't say my house (after all, a house with carpet square carpeting in the bedroom could hardly be considered an idol, lol), just it's level of cleanliness. If it's clean, I'm more at peace and I'll do just about anything to achieve/keep that peace, even at the expense of my relationships with my family. I wish I could get as upset about missing my quiet time as I do about another mess the kids made.

So, the last few days have been a little different. The house has been clean, but I have not been emotionally involved in it. I keep reminding myself that a scattering of popcorn on the floor after the kids have watched a movie does not deserve my emotional response.

Ironically, it's been a lot more peaceful this way. I don't need to yell at anyone for leaving out their dinner plates again. I can pass out consequences without the drama, it's just matter-of-fact.

I'm sure this idol issue goes much deeper, but I'm thankful for the wake up call from the Lord. It's a lot more exhausting sacrificing to an idol than to be sold out to the welfare of your family.

Be blessed :)