Friday, December 12, 2014


I have not done a FMF post in forever. I am not sure that I will even finish or post this one, but here goes.....

Every time before we go on a trip I make a list of things to pack. And before we leave the place we were visiting, I grab the list and make sure everything goes back home with us.

Often times I lay out clothes for the next day, or meal plan and I have three paper calendars. Three. One of which I print out for each member of the family and one for the kitchen. I even color code it.

I am all about the preparation of things.

But, some things you can not prepare for like when you are unexpectedly pregnant at 17, or your son runs away and becomes a drug addict or your daughter is pregnant at 15. Or your husband loses his job and you end up living with your parents for 7 years longer than you excepted.

Or you leave the church that has become family. You can not always prepare for those things.

But, God is never surprised. He is never unprepared for the circumstances that blind side me.

And He prepared a way for us to escape our final destination of eternal separation from Him. By sending a baby, born in a manger.

Am I prepared to celebrate Him? I seem to fall short in the preparation I should be taking for advent, making sure my heart is ready to receive the best gift I have ever been given. How about you? Are you prepared?   

Link up over at Five Minute Friday and then visit some of the other participating blogs. And leave a comment. It is always nice to know when someone stops by!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

For a Sleigh Ride*.......

I certainly feel like I have been on more of a roller coaster ride, than a sleigh ride this season. My emotions have been a mess. I am having trouble sleeping at night and all I want to do is sleep during the day. Thankfully, school/work during the week makes that a bit difficult. And this week has been full of activties for the kiddos - appointments, concerts, homework, make up work. 'Tis the season.

Thankfully, we have done most of our shopping online and have had it shipped to the store for pick up. I need to wrap some gifts and get them under the tree. Normally, by now, the cards are done and being mailed and most of the wrapping is done. But, this year, I just feel like I am going in slow motion.

But, God is still faithful and I have definitely felt His hand in many areas of our lives. Maybe not in the way I would like, but I can still see Him moving and know He is working. I have been reading through the Psalms in my nightly devotions. I was trying to do HelloMornings and it has not been happening this session. I can not get to bed before midnight, so getting up at 6 AM is not feasible. But, I found a list of Psalms in the back of my prayer journal, so I have been reading through them and journaling as I am reading. I have also been trying to count 1,000 joy moments this month. Some days my list is truly one of gratitude and other times it is just a list of all the foods I am thankful for, especially iced coffee. But, it helps me refocus unless I am being stubborn and just go to bed. I still end up whining praying before I fall asleep, but I am not sure that qualifies as quality quiet time. And Rick and I have been praying together every night which is good. Good for our marriage and good for my soul. Something about hearing him pray. I love the sound of his voice and hearing his petitions for our family.  

Last night after counseling as I was switching an appointment time, I noticed that they had a Christmas tree filled with ornaments. A sign was by the tree which said that the ornaments contained promises from God and to take one as a gift from the center. I took one and as I read the promise, I was immediately thankful for a Christian counseling center. It was 1 Peter 5:7. So perfect for me right now.

I am also participating in #fmfpartysnailmail right now and received my first card in the mail today. It was from a sweet girl in AL that added the verses from Ephesians about God's love. Verses I would pray for my son, Josh. The one in jail right now, needing to know and feel God's love. The one who was given new charges while he is in jail and most definitely will miss Christmas with his children and family again this year, unless God chooses to miraculously intervene. God's timing is always perfect.

I know that my depression affects my husband and my younger children at home as much if not more than it affects me. I am snippy and sullen, sluggish and forgetful. I even scared my husband this week and gave him the impression that I was not committed to our marriage, that it had gotten too hard and too much at a time when he is under the pressure of the ending semester, teaching without technology and curriculum that is so necessary and trying to keep our budget afloat during the holiday season. I could never imagine doing life without him, but had somehow communicated that maybe, I was done, with all of it, including our relationship even though that is furthest from the truth. Thankfully, he was honest and forgiving and we were able to recommit ourselves to each other and out family. Life is hard enough that I could never imagine doing it alone. He is my rock and I am so grateful. Just need to remember not to take him for granted.     

So, as much as I would like to wallow in my circumstances and turn my eyes away from the blessings in my family, I have been gently reminded this week, that life is a ride of sorts, of twists and turns, of hills and bumps and even at times tragedy, but that as long as I can refocus my mind, recommit my plan and lean into His arms, Abba Father will hold me steady and bring me joy.

*...together with you!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Silence is Golden

Tonight I got into a text battle with one of my addicted son's "friends". Why I let myself get suckered in to having a fight with an immature idiot is beyond me. I felt validated in verbally blasting him and defending my husband and my family, but I know it was not in my natural character to do it. Or was it?

I try so hard for my Christlike character to be genuine and not a facade, but I think that many times it is a mask I hide behind, not a lifestyle I live. Jesus said out of the mouth, the heart speaks and I apparently have much hatred for this young man and his lies and horrible influence on my son. 

I held nothing back as we verbally assaulted each other and then I promptly blocked him.

Sigh. Thank God for His forgiveness and grace.

Monday, December 01, 2014


Having a son with addictions is hard. It is hard enough to watch a child be sick or hurt when there is nothing they have done to cause the sickness or hurting. But, when someone chooses to make themselves sick or is hurting due to the choices they have made, it does not make it any easier to see them suffer. I have a cousin with two physically disabled children who judges my son and my husband and I very harshly because of the life he chooses to live. She has said many times that her children suffer unnecessarily, while my son chooses to suffer and inflict pain on himself and the family. And while that is true, it does not make it any easier to have a son that is an addict.

This was the first Thanksgiving in four years that he was able to be with his children and he spent most of the day in a medicinal hangover because he is on medication to help him with his heroin addiction. The medicine causes him to fall asleep suddenly and be in a hangover like state most of the time, which hindered him from really being able to enjoy his time with the children. His four year old son said he was worried about his Daddy, while my son laid on the kitchen floor after he suddenly fell asleep while getting dessert for him. It broke my heart for my grandson to see his father like that.

And then last night when the police came to our house for an incident unrelated to my son, but asked to speak to him and later cuffed him and took him away because of a warrant, my heart again ached for my grandchildren, who thankfully did not see anything, but were totally unaware that he had left because he has done it so often during their recent visits.

Now, during a time when he should be planning his next visit with them and shopping for their Christmas gifts, he sits in a prison cell for an undetermined amount of time for a very serious crime. I am very unsure of his guilt or innocence, but am sure that he will be missing yet another Christmas with his children when he should have been celebrating his recovery and freedom.  

And at a time when I want to be celebrating the season with my younger children and husband, I find myself grieving for my son's lost life and yet another holiday we will celebrate without him.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like.....

Since Rick and I have been married we have always put up our Christmas tree after Thanksgiving. Normally, we decorate on the weekend following the November holiday. I have always liked waiting until after Thanksgiving, feeling like each holiday deserved its own special attention. I hate that stores start decorating and commercials for Christmas start running right after Halloween. So, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving we'd trim the tree and hang the stockings.

But, once the grandkiddos started arriving it became a bit stressful to host 2nd Thanksgiving and try to decorate all in one weekend. We normally go to my sister's for Thanksgiving Day, so we have a second Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday to be able to spend the holiday with Kaysen and Kiyah since they are with their Momma's family on Thursday.

Noah wanted to start listening to Christmas music as soon as Halloween was over in October. He couldn't wait until Hallmark Channel started running their Christmas movies and he was not sure why we had to wait until after Thanksgiving to put up the tree. I tried to explain to him that we always wait until after Thanksgiving to start any sort of Christmas festivities. He didn't really see my reasoning, so I obliged as far as the movies went, but insisted we wait to decorate.

We had plans to visit Devin in PA today for pre-Thanksgiving dinner, but some surprise snow changed that for us. So, today became the perfect day to trim the tree and decorate the rest of the house.

I am actually gald we did it today because now there will be no rushing this weekend. We can enjoy dinner and time with the grandkiddos.

And we are watching Elf while packing and cooking in preparation for tomorrow.

Traditions can always change.    

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Desires of My Heart

When Rick and I got married we had two cars that fit our new family of five, but if we added to our brood or if our kiddos grew (ha, ha), we would need more room. So, we went out and purchased a van that allowed our kiddos to spread out, us to add to our crew and me to haul around my day care kiddos for a few years before Noah arrived. It was the perfect van for us and served us well for 12 years.

As the time to look for a new vehicle grew closer, I really felt like a Honda Pilot was the way to go for our family. I wanted to get away from a mini van, but have a third row option for when we had the grandkiddos. My sisters both have Pilots, so I was pretty set on finding one and making it work for our family. Although, in the back of my mind, in the secret places of my heart, I really wanted a Chevy Traverse. Friends of ours had purchased one a few years earlier and I loved the look of it, the third row option and I just wanted one. But, I figured we could never afford one, so a Honda Pilot it was!

Rick decided that January 2014 was the perfect time for us to purchase a 'new to us' vehicle, so the search started on MLK's birthday while we had the day off from school/work. Some dealerships were having a few deals and we had a trade in and nice down payment, so off we went. We looked at several vehicles, including a Honda Pilot, but got settled on an MDX. Unfortunately, the financing was not working out, so we had to start the search all over near the end of the business day and with the possibility of a significant snow storm looming.

We ended up at a dealership that had a Town and County minivan that was exactly like the one we borrowed from friends' for our 2009 trip to TX. It had a lot more bells and whistles and was in our price range.   

But, when I drove it, it felt weird. I couldn't quite explain it, but it was not the car I thought our family needed.

Then the salesman told us a Chevy Traverse had just been brought in and had not even been processed yet, but we could test drive it and if we felt like it would work for us, he would make it happen.

As soon as I drove the car, I knew it was what we needed and what we wanted. I loved everything about it, even though it is not brand new, nor full of extras (I really wanted heated leather seats), but it is perfect for us.

And this week, as I contemplated how very differently my life has turned out since marrying Rick and blending our families, I was reminded that God does know and remembers our secret heart's desires, even in something so trivial as a car.

And I know that those other desires He planted will bloom when He determines that it is time and I am ready.

God is so BIG even in the little details of our lives. So in awe of that today.   

Saturday, November 15, 2014

One Year Later

Life as a middle schooler is hard. Sixth grade is a shock to the girl who was a big fish in a small pond, popular with the students she has been friends with since kindergarten. Especially, for someone who is starting at a new school where she only knows those she met during the summer bridge program. Add in having to open her locker with a combination lock and ride a bus to and from school for the first time ever and her mind will be blown and it will take a while to adjust and actually like school again.

But, then let her and her best friend of 6 years have a knockdown drag out fight that lasts a few months and makes an everlasting break in her heart and middle school becomes unbearable. She struggles to be happy and to even smile.

She learned to lean on new friends who suddenly understood her more than anyone ever had because now they were all dealing with growing pains and lost relationships and middle school woes. She grew and she changed and she blossomed. Even though, it was hard and heartbreaking, she did not let it completely break her.

She misses her best friend and the relationship they had, but has realized that people change and life is hard, but she can be joyful and smile again.

And she has.

She has started to sing and laugh and be social again. Going to birthday parties, hanging out at the mall, having sleepovers and inviting friends over to our house.

It does this Momma's heart good to see her daughter, who is quickly becoming a young woman, to surround herself with friends that she will probably have for a lifetime.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Where We Are

Life is heartbreakingly beautiful. And messy. Really messy. But, still beautiful. And here is where ours is right now.....

Our oldest son is a drug addict. He has suffered with addictions for a good part of 6 years now. His addiction has taken him to prison and taken him away from his family, true friends and children. He struggles with being accepted and loved for who he is, addictions, tattoos and all and it has broken him in many places. Just when he seems to be turning things around, he struggles. And his struggle is hard and it is real and it affects all of us. I know that he wants to break the cycle of addiction and be with his precious family, but sometimes what we want and what we choose to allow to happen are so different. I know that God's love is bigger than any rejection he has suffered at the hands of his biological father and his side of the family. And God is a loving Father that keeps His promises of redemption. I am believing with a mustard seed size of faith that God will save my son and allow him to be reunited with his family and have the future he was promised when I carried him in my womb. And for a job. He needs something he can be proud of for himself.

Our oldest daughter just started talking to us again after 4 years of a strained and broken relationship. It has been such a sweet thing to see her reconnect with her Daddy, her younger siblings and with me. She pursued us and desires for our family to be reunited and to grow. It will be a different growth process than we imagined as much time has past and much hurt has taken place, but she is in counseling and we have all had to set boundaries and begin to have a new respect for each other. The past has been placed behind us with a renewed desire for love and family. She is dating a remarkable young man and we are eager to see them continue to plan for their future. A 2016 wedding is in the works. And we are also eager for more grandbabies. Grandbabies are good.

Our middle son was just discharged from the Marines of his own volition. It became too hard for him to honor his commitment for four years and he asked his biological mother to hire him a lawyer that would advocate for his release. It took a few months, but he was released in September. Four months before his firstborn daughter will enter this world. At 19, he was without a job, but very much with a girlfriend and a child on the way. He has since moved back to MD, started driving school and secured a job, but is learning much about being in a long term relationship and becoming a parent. He also recently started talking to us again after a 2 month span of silence. There is much brokenness in his past as well and it was easier to try and bury it than face it. Now, we tiptoe through rebuilding a relationship with him and his gf, hoping for honesty and maturity as the guides for better, healthier relationships with me, his Daddy and his younger siblings.    

Neither of my stepchildren want to rebuild any type of relationship with my son and at first, that hurt and I was angry. But, for now, I know that our family dynamic is not what I would want or what I expected, but it is what it is. We spend time with my son and his children and enjoy our time with them. And we are planning the holidays for the first time in years with both my stepchildren. And I am okay with that. Now. I want real, authentic time with my children and if that has to happen in different segments, that is okay. I didn't choose it, they did. Their choices brought us to this place, but I am thankful to have time with each of them. Whatever that looks like. No blame, no regret, nothing fake.

I am cautiously optimistic about the holidays and my realtionships with my adult children. Parenting does not end at 18 or get any eaiser or less complicated as children grow up and move away. Especially if you want to be a parent that is continually vested in your children's future and wellbeing. The love and worrying is intensified.

Our youngest daughter is a beautifully, artistic and complicated 12 year old. She is amazingly creative and talented. She attends a performing arts school where she is pursuing her love of music/vocal. She is loyal and fiercely independent and opinionated. She spends more than the suggested daily screen time on her iPod and this summer we found out that she was accessing inappropriate sites and had maintained a internet friendship for 3 years that we were unaware even existed.  But, she desires to live purely and was so repentant and has made the proper changes with her internet access. She has tremendous compassion and such a tender heart. She cares deeply for her siblings and deals with depression at times due to our complex family dynamics and her obesity. She struggles with making the right food choices and being active. We do not help her, as my husband and I also struggle with obesity and being emotional eaters. She tries to not let it bother her, but most shopping trips end in tears.  I want her to be healthy, not be concerned or consumed with the number on the scale. I want her to be content with who she is, who God made her to be, but we are doing her a great disservice by not pursuing a healthier, consistently active lifestyle for ourselves and our family. I feel the heaviness of the guilt of her weight gain. As a mother, I should have never let it get to this point.

Our youngest son is a quirky young man with a bent for anime, video games and art. He is crazy talented and can draw like nobody's business. He has applied to attend the same performing arts school as his older sister. He is also wicked smart and enjoys science, technology, engineering and math, prompting him to also apply to the STEM program at my husband's school. I am praying he gets into the STEM program, as I think it would help the somewhat strained relationship that my husband and son have. My husband has a natural bent toward athletics and our youngest son does not. Although, he does like to dance like nobody's watching. He struggles with his emotions, wearing them on his sleeve, being overly sensitive at times. He feels very intimately and in such a big way. He is my snuggling buddy and very much the baby of the family. He loves his blanket, even at 10 and is offended when it is washed or left behind during an outing. He lives a very black and white life with not a lot of room for gray. He values honesty and expects promises to be kept. He is loyal and loving, as long as you are just as loyal and loving to him. He apologizes readily, but is not always as forgiving of others' mistakes. His lack of athletic prowess as caused him to gain some weight as well and he has become an avid snacker even with his newly diagnosed corn allergy.     

My husband is the rock that this whole dysfunctional family rests and depends on for stability and all the answers to life's daily problems and math/science homework. He is a dedicated husband and father, an intensely hard worker and wicked intelligent man. He is currently teaching three classes with no curriculum as a long term substitute and is doing a better job than the veteran teachers at his school. He is highly admired by his administrators and colleagues, alike. But, he struggles balancing work, home and leisure. He is also struggling with his weight which is affecting his health and energy levels. He desires to give 100% and is able to juggle his responsibilities most of the time, but has struggled with mild depression and become overwhelmed with being all for everyone lately. I see it, know it and yet struggle myself with motivation and desire to do well domestically and in my career, so I find myself judging instead of helping more often than not. The struggle is real. And marriage is hard, but we are dancing this life with each other and even though I forget to let him lead or step on his toes, we are doing it together and it is still beautiful. And he is good looking and awesome in bed, so balances out pretty well. He is also a man if integrity and does his best to lead us spiritually. He is also in his last semester of college. He is an inspiration for pursuing his dream to teach well after some would say he should be in school. He is such a great example of determination for our children.

And then there is me. My misplaced expectations has caused me to miss some pretty awesome parts of this 14 year journey that my husband and I have been on with our blended family. I was sure I could make sure everyone was happy and healthy, loving the Lord and changing the world. I never expected out story to include such brokenness. I thought the brokenness had come before our marital union. I was sure God was going to allow me to see that my children saved, sane and successful. But, I needed to get out of the way and let God doing the moving and the changing. I ignored my own brokenness and vulnerability and found myself depressed, bitter and riddled with guilt. It was all about me - my fault, what I didn't/did do, what I couldn't change/fix - such selfishness that caused me to sleep more than engage in my older and younger children's lives. And my weight got out of control and I allowed myself to pass the blame from myself to God. God and I have been there before and He is so gracious. I am slowly, but surely coming back to a right relationship with Him, realizing that I am the one that needs to change. By His grace and mercy alone.

I am currently working as a teacher's assistant and enjoy it, but secretly desire to be a stay at home momma. I know that is not an option for now or the near future and at times it angers and stifles me as a mother and wife. I know that where we are physically and financially is our doing and that there is a way that we are working toward to change it all, but it takes time. And I may never be able to be at home full time. But, I also know that my gifting is teaching and oh, how our world needs teachers dedicated to shaping our students for the future. I am afraid I will fail them, just like I have failed my own kiddos and that it is too big a task. Again, forgetting how amazingly big and awesome God is. He has a plan, is still writing my story and I need to actively get involved in it. I need to get back to school, get my Master's, start writing my book, finish my wedding scrapbook, develop that film....go back to living even when it is painful. There is beauty in the broken. 

Every time I update this blog, I feel stressed and get a headache. Getting my story out is exhausting. But, worth it, even though I am pretty sure no one is even reading here anymore. Maybe someone who needs to know they are not alone in this blended family journey will providentially find my blog. Someone needs my story. Not just me.              

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Momma Said There'd Be Days Like This

I didn't think having a blended family would be easy. I knew it would be a challenge, but I thought that it was a struggle worth taking and something God and I could handle together. I imagine that my expectations were different than God's or different than His plan or something, because this blended life, this life in general, is very different than I ever thought it would be.

I just wish that all of my children and grandchildren could be, would want to be in the same place, at the same time for holidays and birthdays. That our home would be the safe haven, the one where memories are being made.

I guess it's just a wish.....

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Long Time No Post

It has been forever since I have posted anything. I regularly click on my blogroll on the side of the blog, but just haven't felt like posting anything. No real reason, except for maybe not feeling like I have anything important or interesting to write. Life just moves along one day at a time. And I don't write.

The kiddos are off for the summer, but Rick is working at a two day/one night STEM summer camp this week (and he worked it last week as well) and I am getting ready to work summer school again this year. I do not mind working (much), but am looking forward to the day when I don't have to work and can choose to work if I want to for extra $$. I really like my director and the other TA I will be working with, so that helps. Won't make the 7:30 AM arrival time any easier, though =)  Kari has bridge camp next week and Noah has been taking tennis lessons on Saturdays. He loves it and Kari is looking forward to hanging out with her PVA friends. Rick is hoping to get the kiddos into a routine of library time, swimming, cooking and such during the summer while I work. We'll see. Hopefully, the pool will be ready to swim in in a few weeks.

Rick is in his last semester of classes and will be student teaching in January. If all goes as planned, he will graduate in the spring of 2105. He will long term subbing when school starts again in August at LMS and hopes to be employed as a full time teacher there at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. I am slowly starting to make strides toward obtaining my master's degree. I am not sure when I will start, but know I want to start soon. Even if I do not get back into the classroom as a full time teacher, being able to continue to be a TA with the option of extra $ would be nice. Although, sometimes I wonder if I should be doing something else, like finishing and publishing my book and touring the country as a public speaker. Or maybe just staying home, watching my grandkiddos. BTW, we have another one on the way.

Cody and his gf, Brianne are due to have a baby in January 2015. We still have a while before we find out the gender, but I am hoping for a little girl. They are moving back to MD in a few weeks, so it will be nice to have all of my grandkiddos close. Although, I am sad that Cody is getting out of the Marines.

We went to a friend's daughter's 8th grade promotion party today and I couldn't help and think about Kari being in HS in just a few years. Noah will be 10 next Saturday and I can still remember the day he was born like it was yesterday. I feel like I am letting so much of our lives just pass me by while I work and try to decompress on the weekends. I don't want to just be a bystander.

I had coffee with a dear friend from college on Friday and I enjoyed getting to catch up on the last 20 years and talk about weight loss and healthier living. I am starting on a new journey, but am afraid it is not going to work, so I am hesitant in even sharing what I am doing. Maybe after I lose a pound or twenty, I'll let people know what is going on with me.    

But, now it is time for me to head to bed, since I have to be up and out of the house by 7:30 AM tomorrow. Maybe I'll put writing in my blog on my summer schedule.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Last year I participated in the OneWord365 campaign. I was a bit nervous about choosing a word and was over thinking it way too much. This year as soon as I saw the tweets starting I got out a notebook and wrote down a few words that I thought may be in the running for my OneWord for 2014. But, even before that I think I knew.

These last 13 years of marriage and having a blended family have been blissful at times and painful many more times. There has been heavy heartache and times where I was sure I could not go another day without breaking. I spoke at a women's conference once about hating my own son and it was hard to even breath out the words.

After I spoke a dear friend came up to me and said, "I know times are hard right now and they may get harder before they get better or easier, but you have to keep a little bit of Hope tucked inside your pocket. When you are sure you can not go on and don't even know how to, get that little bit of Hope out and lean into Jesus and you will make it."

And she was right. But, all I had was a little bit of hope.

But, this year, this year I want it to be the year of HOPE. Hope for me and my family. Hope that is BIG and STRONG and SURE.

So, my word is HOPE. And as soon as I chose it, God started dropping statuses and tweets and verses into my lap with hope in them, laced through them. He began to show me that sure enough, all I need is HOPE in Him and it is enough.


I have a hard time seeing myself the way Father God sees me. I have a tendency to see all of sin wrapped up in failure and disappointment and I assume God sees the same thing.

But, He doesn't.

He sees me through the blood of Jesus, redeemed, righteous, clothed in white and forgiven.

My older sister once told me to get up every morning, look at myself in the mirror and say,"I am loved because God loves me. I can not do anything or say anything to make Him love me more or less. I am loved."

It was hard to say those words when I knew I had failed my God, myself, my husband, my children, my friends, so many time the day before, but it was a new day. New mercies. New sight.

She then encouraged me to close my eyes and imagine myself climbing into the lap of Father God and cuddling up close to Him allowing Him to put His arms around me and to feel His love for me.

When I did, I saw myself climbing up into the lap of my grandfather, someone in my life who loved me no matter what. Pricklies and all, he loved me and I knew I was loved when I was with him.

Let it be also when I am in the presence of my Heavenly Father. How I wish for it to be so.

Link your post "See" to Lisa Jo's blog and join the community of writers, being brave in just five minutes!

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The Most Wonderful Time of the YEAR

Christmas kind of sneaked up on me this year, with Thanksgiving being so late. Thankfully, we were able to get the tree up and decorated the weekend after Thanksgiving, but it took a few days to get everything finished.

My sister, Janie took our family pictures on November 29 and Rick got bust right away designing and ordering the cards. We did a postcard style this year and it was so easy. No more stuffing or licking envelopes!

We were also able to score the kiddos' Santa gifts on Thanksgiving Day and did the rest of the shopping little by little, which took some of the stress of that away for the season. I tried to wrap gifts as we purchased them, so that didn't get overwhelming and it worked! We only had to wrap PJs on Christmas Eve!

We hosted the Annual Parker Family Christmas Eve Brunch again this year. A few of our friends' families came as well as my sister, Janie and her family and my aunt Barb. We may open it up to even more friends next year since not as many family member attend. The grandkiddos were able to be there as well, which is always nice. Cody was also able to come home from NC.

After the CE get together we went to our church's candlelight service. It was really nice to take a moment and refocus on the reason for the season. We opened PJs, left out milk and cookies for Santa and then headed to bed.

The kiddos let us sleep in until 8 AM on Christmas Day. We opened stockings, had a scavenger hunt to find the Santa gifts and then had some scrumptious cinnamon roll casserole for breakfast.

It was just a nice relaxing day.

We rang in the new year with the Duques. We just had munchies and played games. Again, very low key, but really nice to be able to laugh and enjoy the company of good friends.

Today, it's been mostly about laundry and getting back on schedule after 12 days off of school/work. I also went to have coffee with Holly during her layover at BWI. It was nice to catch up and keep her company.

Looking forward to 2014 and still trying to decide on my word for the year.

 Our first 2nd Thanksgiving* in the newly remodeled dining room

 All bundled up and cute - Kiyah Rayne (1)

 Putting up the tree.....

 Freddie the Elf is back!

 Santa on a firetruck visiting the neighborhood kiddos

 "Here, MoMo! It's Claus!"

 Kaysen Jace (3)


 Opening gifts from Papa and Nana, the Howells and the Hall family

 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle!

 Opening gifts from Daddy

 Opening gifts from Grammie and Poppy

 Noah (9) and Gabe on Christmas Eve

 Kari (11) and Arcelia on Christmas Eve

 Opening Christmas Eve PJs

 Reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas"

 Christmas Morning

 Cody (18) opening his stocking

 Cinnamon roll casserole

 My parents' Santa

Ready to get his party on for NYE

Here is the scavenger hunt video from Christmas Day. The kiddos really enjoyed it. Santa may have to do one again next year!


I am not sure how it started. I guess maybe it was a genuine illness at first. Then the teenager babysat a little late on a Saturday night. ...