Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Review

This was a pretty mild year for us. No babies, no pregnancies, no moves, no job changes. But I did find a few noteworthy events in my review of the past year to share with you. 


1. I gave up Dr Pepper for 28 days and did not lose a single pound (despite replacing it solely with water).

2. Lena celebrated her first birthday with roseola, her first ear infection, and a blizzard.

2. Justin and I celebrated his 29th birthday in Auburn Hills, MI with a shopping spree at Bass Pro Shops.

3. I chopped 10 inches off my hair.

4. Justin’s car dropped dead and we bought a new one thanks to our tax return (and the generosity of friends who sold us their car for less than it was worth!).

5. We had a "tornado" that blew open our living room door and did a bunch of damage, both inside and outside the house.

6. I got my first smart phone!

7. Lucy turned 4 and celebrated with a “Frozen” party!

8. I stepped outside my comfort zone and started attending a yoga class with Kelly. We were both surprised by how much we loved it, and signed up for a second session, only to have the yoga studio close a few weeks later!

9. I battled depression most of the year. 

10. I planned and executed a VBS curriculum for the preschoolers at our church. 

11. Lucy was a flower girl . . . twice. First at Uncle Jordan and Aunt Karla's wedding in July:

Then at Uncle Luke and Aunt Esther's wedding in December:
Still waiting on professional pics, so this is the best one I've got of Lucy in her dress/tiara.
12. Justin and I celebrated our 9th anniversary with dinner at Amore.

13. We visited the air zoo and went to princess night at the Whitecaps.

14. Lucy puked at Rio Grande for Mom’s birthday.

15. We spent a lot of time at local beaches, but never made it to the big lake. 

16. We also spent a lot of time in the pool and Lucy started to get the hang of swimming.

17. We went camping with Justin's family.

18. Lucy started Cubbies at church and is loving it!

19. We started homeschooling

20. I celebrated turning 29 with a family hotel trip.

21. I had enough of the depression and went to see my doctor. She started me on Prozac, and it has made all the difference in the world. I am feeling so much better!

22. I started my 30 before 30 list.

23. We sold our house for significantly more than we bought it for 5 years ago, and were able to pay off all our credit card debt and over half our student loan debt!!


24. And I finally got a new car! I drove my van with a slipping transmission and no heat for over a year before buying this beauty:

Last Christmas I got the 5 Year Journal and faithfully kept up with it this year. I recorded a lot that is interesting to look back on, including all the books I read this year. At first, when I started my "30 Before 30" list, I was worried I'd be able to read 30 books in one year, but when I went back and wrote down all the books I read this year, it totaled 20! So I only have to squeeze in another 10. :-) I'm going to share my list, but not link to all of them. You know how Amazon works. Do it yourself. ;-)

Books I Read in 2014
Freefall (Kristen Heitzmann)
The Mission of Motherhood (Sally Clarkson)
Crossfire (Jeannette Windle)
Bridge to Haven (Francine Rivers)
Hannah Grace (Sharlene MacLaren)
The Bachelor’s Bargain (Catherine Palmer)
Love Finds You in Calico, CA (Elizabeth Ludwig)
Betrayal (Robin Lee Hatcher)
A Proper Pursuit (Lynn Austin)
The Inheritance (Tamera Alexander)
A Sensible Arrangement (Tracie Peterson)
A Courteous Cad (Catherine Palmer)
Eve’s Daughters (Lynn Austin)
Heart’s Awakening (Delia Parr)
Blue Moon Promise (Colleen Coble)
Me Before You (JoJo Moyes)
The Secret Keeper (Kate Morton)
Out of a Far Country (Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan)
Before Amen (Max Lucado)
The Bible! (God)

See that last one ^? I did it! I finally accomplished my goal of reading through the entire Bible. It was my resolution for this year and one of the only resolutions I've ever kept. Haha. I credit my success to the One Year Bible (and the work of the Holy Spirit, of course). It was so helpful to have the days' readings arranged for me. There were definitely times I got behind, but I always caught up eventually. This entry is already so long I'm not going to include my thoughts on it just yet. I'll make a separate post for that.

My other resolution was to lose some weight. I didn't lose a ton, but I'm definitely less now than I was at the beginning of the year, and I'm continuing to limit my Dr Pepper in an attempt to lose a little more.

Resolutions 2015
So my resolutions for 2015 are as follows:
1. Finish my 30 Before 30 List by October 10.
2. Repair the damage pregnancy did to my core. Haha. I definitely have diastasis recti after carrying Lena the heifer, and while I want to have another one, I'm not prepared for the pain of carrying another huge baby. I'm hoping that by re-strengthening my core, it won't be quite as bad the next time. 
3. Find another devotional/continue to read the Bible. I'm afraid that now that I've finished reading through it, I won't be as diligent about studying it.  
4. Make photo books. I've given up on scrapbooking, so I never even print my pictures. I post most things on facebook/my blog, but I want hard copies too.
4. I've seen this floating around facebook and really want to try it:

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Book #4: Before Amen


I've been a Christian for at least 20 years and still struggle with prayer. One of my most popular posts ever is my thoughts on the matter. I wrote that post almost four years ago and still have a lot of the same questions. So I'm always on the lookout for a good book on prayer. I got an email from Proverbs 31 Ministries about Max Lucado's new book called "Before Amen" a few months ago. And then P31 revealed that they were going to do an online Bible Study to go along with it. So I signed up for the study and bought the book. Both were a little bit disappointing. 

The online bible study mostly reiterated what the book said and linked to cheesy videos. And the book itself . . .

Let me preface this by saying I started the book with preconceived notions. When my dad saw the book he said, "Oh Max Lucado. Pastor Chris says his past few books sound like they were written while he was waiting in the airport terminal for his flight to arrive." I was surprised to hear that. My dad has Lucado books on his shelves. Pastor Chris recommended one of his books in his Top 50. But after reading this one, I have to say I agree.

The premise of the book is the "Pocket Prayer." It's supposed to be simple, easy to remember, something to build off of. But it was too simple for me. Lucado expounds on what it means that God is our father, why it's important to thank him, why it's important to ask forgiveness, how to present our petitions - both for ourselves and others, and how to pray "in Jesus' name." Nothing he said was new to me. Nothing shone light on my theological questions about God's sovereignty. I was also troubled that Lucado spent very little time discussing how God sometimes doesn't answer our prayers - or at least answers them with a "no." He made it appear that God is our father and therefore wants good for us and all we have to do is ask for it. He shared lots of examples of people seeing miracles because of their prayers - which I absolutely don't deny. God does answer prayers. He does perform miracles. But not always.

My question still remains: why pray if God is sovereign and has our best in mind? His will is perfect and he knows what's best for me. The reason he sometimes answers my prayer "no" is because he knows the big picture - whether he has something better in store for me or whether he just wants me to grow. I fully trust that. I believe that his plan is perfect. Why should I try to change his mind when he knows so much more than I do?

My next prayer book is going to be Philip Yancey's "Prayer." Hopefully that one will be more helpful.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Saturday 7

1. I decided to get serious about limiting Lena's binky time last week. She can have it in bed and in the car, but not during the rest of her waking hours. For the most part, it's going well. She usually cries for a while in the morning when I take it away, but once she's sufficiently distracted, she forgets about it. At least until something upsets her, when she starts crying, "Binky! Feel better!" One day this week, she handed me her binky after her nap and told me to put it up, saying, "Big girl." That incident has yet to repeat itself. Haha.

2. We finished our advent activities with making a candle to give Grandma VK, making craft stick stars, and making cookies to deliver to our local librarians. We made my mom's famous peanut butter cookies and the librarians raved that they were the best peanut butter cookies they'd ever had. Maybe they were just being nice, but I tend to agree and thought I'd share the recipe in case you want to test it out for yourselves:

Crackle Top Peanut Butter Cookies
3/4 c. butter
3/4 c. white sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 c. peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 c. flour 
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine ingredients and refrigerate for a couple hours to overnight.
Roll dough into 1" balls.
Roll balls in sugar. 

Bake @ 375* for 10-12 min.

I made this cute card to go with them:
Season's G"read"ings!


3. We had a wonderful Christmas as usual. On Christmas Eve, we went to Justin's parents' house for a delicious dinner and family time. Justin's brother Jesse was home from California, and he literally entertained Lucy all night. I told him later that it was the best Christmas gift he ever could've given her: playing along with all her ridiculous games. At one point I heard him say, "Oh yes! I've always wanted to be a fairy!"
There wasn't enough room for everyone at the big table, so Uncle Jesse and Lucy sat at their own special kids' table.
Jesse is literally a professional Santa Claus. He went to Santa Claus school and everything!
Justin's parents spoiled us all with gifts, we played Wizard, and we stuffed ourselves with amazing food. Good times were had by all! When we got home, my siblings were all over and Lucy sat down right in the middle of everyone to show off every single gift she got.

4. On Christmas morning, my siblings all came back over and the celebrations began anew! The kids found their stockings, my dad read to us from the Bible, then we did our annual "activity." This year, we were split into two teams and given scavenger hunt clues to race to a prize. My team lost. But it was a blast. And then the present opening began.
All the kids.
The girls loved it, and had so much fun tearing into everything.
It was a very "Frozen" Christmas for Lucy.

After Lena had opened a few presents, though, she got pretty sick of it and just wanted to run around and play with her stuff. We eventually let her stop opening them, and set them aside for after her nap.

We spent all day playing games and decorating cookies and eating way too much good food again. Absolutely my favorite day of the year.

5. Since Christmas, I've been spending a ton of time rearranging toys to make room for the new ones. And I've been playing with the new Kindle fire Justin got me. Woohoo!

Not much else to report. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! We have one more party tomorrow, then on to New Year celebrations! Stay tuned for my 2014 Recap entry and an update on my new year's resolutions. Still mulling over whether or not to make any for 2015 . . .

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Saturday 7

1. This was a big week for us. On Monday, we finally closed on our house! Selling our house, that is. We're still living with my parents indefinitely. We left with a box of cheese from our realtor, a box of chocolates from the title company, and the promise of funds being wired to our account the next day. They arrived right on time on Tuesday, and I immediately started paying things off. I paid off our credit card debt and over half of our student loan debt. I wish it wasn't a faux pas to tell you how much. It was so exciting. Haha.

2. On Thursday night, Justin and I drove down to Charlotte, MI to look at a car from craigslist. I've never bought a craigslist car before, and was admittedly nervous about the craigslist killer or some kind of scam. The guy gave me his home address, but then changed his mind and asked to meet at Wal-mart, so I felt a little better that we'd at least be in a public place. And then when we got in the car to test drive it and he had the channel set to a Christian radio station I started to feel a lot better. We ended up buying the car and making it home without incident. I think I'm really going to like it. It's an '07 Ford Freestyle that was owned by an older lady with no kids, so it's really clean. We'll see how long it stays like that. Ha!


3. I feel like I've been so overwhelmed and busy all week. I don't even know what I've been doing. At the beginning of the week, I spent a ton of time re-arranging our bedrooms. They're finally starting to look good!
Reunited with our queen sized bed! 
And our full-sized dresser/normal closet!
The view from the bed. 
Lena's room!
I know this looks chaotic, but it's actually very organized. Clothes, toys, baby stuff, random stuff.
I don't know what is going on in this picture. Lol.
Lucy's room from the stairs. We have a twin bed for her, we just haven't set it up yet. 
The wall of dollhouses and Lucy's "office."
Lucy loves this little office area. I filled the cubbies with art supplies, her quiet time boxes, and activity books. She's in her glories! (Sorry about the awful pictures. It's ridiculously difficult to take pictures in a room with sloped ceilings.)

4. I think I've also been a little overwhelmed because I've been trying to do more of our Advent activities/Truth in the Tinsel lessons. So this week, we did peppermint ornaments, peanut butter bird feeders, family game night, and special ornaments. I was skeptical about the peppermint ornaments, but they actually turned out really well.
Only one casualty (the star at the top)


We hung the peanut butter bird feeders by the window so we can watch them.
Checking for birds. (Lucy's using binoculars. Haha.)
Every year, I buy the girls an ornament that represents something they were really into that year. I bet you can't guess what they got this year . . .
Lucy's Elsa
Modeling her ornament
Lena's Anna. As soon as she opened it, she shouted "Anna!" So cute.
Lucy also had to make a salt-dough ornament as part of Truth in the Tinsel. The recipe made a ton of dough, so we went crazy with the cookie cutters and paints. It was a great activity!

5. The last Advent activity we did for the week was our annual trip to Frederick Meijer Gardens to see the Christmas trees. Justin's grandparents literally live across the street and buy a membership every year, so they can get us in for free. We love spending time with them, and Grandma always feeds us well! This year, Justin's grandpa is in a rehab facility after just having had hip replacement surgery. He's actually not recovering that well, but will be coming home this week. If you think of it, we'd appreciate prayers for him. Anyway, the girls loved the trees and all the lights.
And afterward, we went back to Grandma's for dessert:
Lena couldn't figure out how to cut her cake, so she just picked it up and shoveled it in.
6. A couple weeks ago, in church, our pastor made a comment about how his kids don't earn their presents. They receive them by grace as an example of how we receive salvation by grace. I'd never thought of that before. I'm admittedly not a fan of Santa. Mostly because we didn't believe in him growing up, so I don't have sentimental memories attached to him. But also because I'm hesitant about lying to my kids. I loved this connection, too. I don't want my kids to think they have to be good enough to earn their Christmas presents. I want them to know they receive them as an expression of our love for them. And it's a great analogy to explain that we receive salvation as a gift from God because he loves us so much. *Sidenote: of course I don't condemn anyone who chooses to include Santa in their Christmas festivities. And I think the Elf on the Shelf stuff is totally adorable. To each his own!!

7. I'm going to end with the obligatory kids' Christmas concert video. I never watch other people's when they get posted to facebook, but this is a short song and look how cute that kid is in the front and center. :-) She was so excited to sing on the big stage and wasn't nervous at all until we pulled in the church parking lot, when she said, "I'm starting to feel a little shy." Haha. But she got right up on stage and sang every word. So proud. :-) (I zoomed in too far, so you can't see the kid drop his bells twice - hence the audience's laughter.)
video

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Saturday "7"

1. We've been doing terribly with school lately. Last week was crazy with wedding prep. I don't know what my excuse was this week. I just feel like we've been so busy. We did one tiny lesson about the "sh" sound. Lucy did awesome with making "sh" words:
Oh, and we did our Cubbies lesson. It was about the fiery furnace and gave Lucy the bonus activity of recreating the story with Play-doh. She has an obsession with watching YouTube videos about play-doh, so she loved this activity:
Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and the angel in the furnace.
2. I was so excited about doing Truth in the Tinsel with Lucy, but I've failed at that too. And the Advent Activities have been pretty lame too. We made snowman pizzas:
We made gifts for Lucy's Cubbies leaders:
Melted crayon ornaments.
I can't believe I forgot to take an "after" picture. They looked really cool! Although they took forever. Word to the wise: only use a few tiny crayon pieces. Lucy got bored quickly and left me to melt those stinkin' crayons for like 30 hours. And burn my poor little hands.

3. The only other thing we did from our Advent list was throw a birthday party for Jesus.
If you want to see the list of activities I intended to do, see here.

4. We finally got the OK to close on our house! And not a moment too soon, since our propane is down to 8%. Haha. We're closing Monday at 5:30. I'm going to take that big check to the bank Tuesday morning and go buy myself a car! I know it doesn't really work like that, and the bank will put a hold on the check for a few days, but I can't wait to finally have a vehicle that works! And has heat! Keep an eye out for me: under $5,000. 3 rows of seats. Working heat.

5. I've got nothing else. I've been working on this entry for an hour. The end.

Jesus' Birthday Party 2014

We hosted our 4th annual Birthday Party for Jesus this week. I've been doing this since Lucy was 18 months old, but this year for the first time, she seems to be getting it. She said, "So Christmas is Jesus' birthday? Why didn't you ever tell me that before!?" Lol.

We sent out birthday invitations a couple weeks ago and got together Thursday morning. We have a couple friends who are allergic to milk, so I consulted Pinterest and made a breakfast of dairy free cinnamon rolls (with an icing made from almond milk and powdered sugar), mini-quiches (some with cheese, some without), grapes, and cinnamon bread.

After breakfast, we started on our game. I always try to do some kind of craft/activity that drives home the story of Jesus' birth, but it's difficult with the age ranges. Lucy, Presley, and Abby all turned four this spring, so they're the oldest. But then we've got a couple 3 year olds, a couple nearly-2 year olds, and some 18 month olds. I catered to the older kids this year since they seem to enjoy games the most, but tried to make it do-able for the littles, too.
Most of the group listening to my instructions about the game.
A month or so ago, I ordered this package of stickers from orientaltrading.com. I drew a ridiculously rough stable and arranged the stickers in it, then made 10 black and white copies:
I had each kid write their name on their sheet, then told them we were going to go on a treasure hunt to find stickers to fill in our Nativity scene. I explained that once they got all their stickers filled in, they'd get a prize. 

The night before the party, I had written up the clues and hidden them along with an envelope of stickers at each spot. 
This envelope was full of Baby Jesus stickers. The yellow paper is the clue.
Here's an example of the clues:

The kids had a blast running all around the house finding clues and filling their papers. Well, at least the older ones did. The youngers lost interest pretty quickly. Haha.
Finished product:

When everyone was done, I gave them their prize (goody bags Lucy and I had filled the night before) then had them sit on the rug while I read The Story of Christmas by Patricia Pingry. I told them to point to the character on their paper anytime I said his/her name. So when I talked about Mary, they pointed to Mary, etc. The last page of the book says, "We give presents to show Jesus' love." The way we live this out every year is by donating toys to Toys for Tots. It's hard for some of the younger kids to understand, but Lucy is finally starting to catch on that some kids don't get toys and we can help.


Finally, we broke out the cupcakes and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus.

Thanks, everyone, for coming and celebrating with us!
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