Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas, from our family to yours!

We’ve turned the corner! Sarge’s body is healing, he’s become somewhat predictable and life – for the first time in four months – seems to be getting back to normal. Well…a new normal.

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I’m still trying to process all that God has taught me through the year 2014. It’s been a remarkable year. One that will impact our family for generations to come.

One thing I’ve learned through Sarge’s adoption is to keep my focus on my family and stop looking at what everyone else is doing because, quite simply, it doesn’t matter. I’ve been staying away from social media more and focusing on just doing what my family needs without worrying if I am doing the “right” thing or what everyone else is doing.

There is such freedom in this.

We let the girls open their presents from us last night. Totally A-typical, but it is what was best for my family this year! So we did it. It did feel a little strange with it being five days before Christmas but I don’t want Christmas Day to be hectic and I wanted to be able to take our time and have fun playing with new toys instead of trying to rush through it all to get to the next event of the day.

Before Sarge I am not sure I would have had the guts to do something so off my normal tradition, but Sarge has taught me so much. Mothers put so much pressure on themselves to do do do. And it has to be done THIS WAY or your kids are missing out!!!

Not true! Sarge has taught me that I need to do what is best for my family. Period. And if that means letting my kids open their Christmas gifts five days before every other kid in America opens theirs, then so be it! (My kids got it made this year, didn’t they?!)

We stuck to our 3 gifts per kid rule but then we also got the girls a gift that I have been waiting until they were at the perfect age to give them… a dollhouse!!DSC01850

They were thrilled!

Sweet little Sarge got to open his presents first. His big sisters each opened a gift for him.

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Then the girls opened their presents and we played Hungry Hungry Hippos over and over again!

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Thank you for praying for Sarge’s healing.

I feel like his little body was hit so much worse than the girls, but his healing has come so much quicker. His issues are not totally behind him yet, but he has made a remarkable recovery in just four months. Please keep praying for him.

And have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

Merry Christmas!

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And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

Luke 2:8-11

Christmas Cookies

I’m not so sure pictures adequately describe the chaos that ensues when Little Bug is cooking in the kitchen! If you aren’t careful, she will add ingredients that shouldn’t be in the recipe and take licks from the bowl or batter at any given moment. My mom really needs about eight arms when cooking with Little Bug.

They have so much fun together cooking in the kitchen. On this day, it was Christmas cookies. Sugar cookies. They got their batter rolled out and cut out all kinds of different cookies.

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When I was writing this post, I couldn’t help but put this picture on the facebook page. It depicts my Little Bug to a T. Here she is making Christmas cookies and making red icing. She gets a HUGE glob of icing on her spoon that she is mixing with and then, all of a sudden, there it goes up to her open mouth and tongue sticking out. She just can’t help herself sometimes, even though we had said no licking this spoon! Girl keeps me on my toes, daily, but I know God is going to use her zest for life and determination to do mighty things one day.

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She wanted to ice and decorate the “old rugged cross” cookie first. She has been obsessed with “Jesus dying on the cross for our sins” for a while now, so it has been really neat to be able to go back in the story and tell her about Jesus’ birth in the stable in Bethlehem because he was born so that He could eventually die and pay the price for our sins. She is getting that as much as a 3 year old can this year, and that is just really cool.

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And not to be left out on all the fun, Sweet Pea wanted to decorate a cookie, too. I love her face in this picture. Pure delight and joy at something so innocent.

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Well, we later learned what this baby really wanted was just the empty sprinkles container and the top. She loves putting tops on things!

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Bisa came over to making cookies too. How special to have four generations making memories together!

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Some of the cookies we made:

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Christmas with our families

My parents, Wesley and Grandmother came over mid-morning for a little visit. Sweet Pea sat on Gramps’ lap for the longest time playing with her baby doll.

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Little Bug gave her presents first. She got Uncle some cooking spoons because he likes to cook.

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My little girl knows her Mama well. She got me a pair of fuzzy socks and some little notepads.

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Every year Little Bug gives Gramps a picture of them with their walking sticks in the mountains.

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Little Bug made an ornament for her family. Here she is giving Bisa’s hers.

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My mom made me a photo book of our 5th anniversary trip! She also included the big events of our lives over the past 6 years: our engagement and wedding, our honeymoon and what we call our “2nd Honeymoon” (a trip to Brazil one month after our wedding for the wedding of my cousin, Cristina), Little Bug’s birth and Sweet Pea’s birth. This book is SO special to me and I love that it tells the story of God’s faithfulness through my life from 2006-2012.

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Bisa gave Little Bug a responsibility chart. I am excited to start using this with her.

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Grams and Gramps gave Little Bug a tent with a tunnel. That was a huge hit for both girls (and Uncle)!

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At the end of our time together, Little Bug crawled up in the chair to sit with Bisa while she finished her coffee. Because my Grandmother was a missionary in Brazil, she didn’t get to see me much as a young child. It is very special that my daughters and Bisa have such a special relationship.

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It was Christmas two years ago that we announced to our families that baby #2 was on the way. Little Bug was wearing this exact same outfit and I thought it only fitting that Sweet Pea – baby #2 – wear it this Christmas. Only difference…this Christmas there was no special Christmas announcement!

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My mom made a pancake lunch and we ate together and then my family headed back home so the girls could nap. We woke the girls up early from their naps and headed to Dave’s parents’ house for our big family gathering and Christmas Dinner together! My family came as well and I absolutely love that our families love each other!

Here are the girls walking into Grandma and Grandpa’s house!

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They gave Little Bug a Princess Castle. Another huge hit for both girls!

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Sweet Pea checking out her present from Grandma and Grandpa! This is perfect for Sweet Pea because she will sit and play with one toy for a long time and there is lots of fun to be had with this toy.

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Aunt Amanda always finds the coolest things to give the girls!

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She gave Little Bug fingernail polish! Little Bug left the house that night with pink and purple fingernails!

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While Little Bug was getting her nails done, Grandpa was in the other room putting together her Princess Castle.

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It was a blessed Christmas Day filled with lots of family time! Dave and I are so blessed with our families. It really is such a blessing that we can ALL get together on holidays.

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Christmas Morning

After we got the girls to bed on Christmas Eve, Dave and I decided that we would go ahead and exchange our gifts to each other so that we could focus on the girls on Christmas Morning. It was such a fun time for the two of us. I think that is a new tradition that will stick around for a while.

After we opened our presents to each other, I got the girls’ presents under the tree. We gave them four gifts each.

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Bob took his place on the rocking chair, holding and rocking Baby Jesus through the night.

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A 3 year old on Christmas Morning is just pure JOY! Little Bug got out of bed and started creeping around the corner on tipee toes to see the Christmas Tree. It was so adorable. I kept wishing I had had the camera rolling. She ran straight for Bob and found Baby Jesus.

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And now her Manger Scene is complete!

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Little Bug started climbing up the chair to get her stocking so we let the girls open their stockings before we had breakfast and read The Christmas Story together.

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After stockings, we ate a waffle, eggs and bacon breakfast and then Daddy read the girls the Christmas Story from Luke 2 while we acted the story out using the Fisher Price Nativity Set. Sweet Pea had just pushed the button to make the song “Away in a Manger” come on and she was dancing.

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And then it was present time! I was so excited about the girls’ main gifts. Little Bug’s was a Minnie Mouse (from Disney Land) that I had found from the consignment sale. But there is a story! I saw the Minnie at the sale and knew Little Bug would love it, but when I went to pay, the tag was missing and they would not sell it to me. I left my number and asked to be called if the tag was found. I didn’t have much hope in being called but later that night I received a phone call. They had found the tag, the Minnie was just SIX dollars and they wanted to know if I still wanted it!

When Little Bug pulled it from the box she said, “A GIANT Minnie Mouse!!!”. It has gone everywhere with her since Christmas Morning although, yesterday we went to my parents’ house and I told her she could pick one Christmas present to take with her. And do you know what she picked? A box of bandaids Grams had put her in her stocking!

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What do you get a baby who has an older sister just two years older than her? A baby doll, of course! Every little girl needs their own baby doll. I still have my first baby doll. Little Bug has a special first baby doll and I wanted Sweet Pea to have her own baby doll as well.

To say she loved it is an understatement. It was the perfect gift for her.

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Little Bug was very much into every single aspect of Christmas this year. She has been obsessed with “Jesus dying on the cross” and we really tried to tie the two stories together for her this Christmas – that Jesus was born to die for our sins.

She loved Bob the Elf and finding a piece of the Nativity each morning. We had so much fun making Christmas crafts, making Christmas cookies, looking at Christmas lights, going Christmas shopping, making sausage balls and opening presents on Christmas Morning.

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Sweet Pea enjoyed all the festivities, too. Last Christmas she still couldn’t handle a lot of stimulation and spent most of Christmas in my parents’ bedroom in her swing, away from all the Christmas commotion. This year, she was in the middle of it all, enjoying every second!

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Sweet Pea did break for her morning nap at 9:45am, after we had opened presents. We had fun playing with Little Bug’s marble track and got the house cleaned up and ready for my family to come over for a little visit.

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It was a wonderful Christmas Morning with our little family of four.

A New {temporary} Christmas Eve Tradition

Last Christmas Eve was something I did not want to repeat! I LOVE going to the Christmas Eve service at our church or my Grandmother’s church and, last year, I had visions of standing in church with my family of four and just relishing in the blessings that 2011 had brought.

Instead, at the end of the night, we ended up walking the hallways in the frigid cold with a toddler who wanted to talk along with the preacher and a screaming, overstimulated baby. It was simply put: stressful.

I vowed next Christmas we’d come up with an alternative Christmas Eve tradition that didn’t involve rushing around trying to feed and dress two little girls and make it to Christmas Eve service on time just to end up walking the hallways! Really. What was the point??!

And this is what we came up with – and it was perfect.

We went over to my parents’ house on Christmas Eve and my mom cooked a wonderful Christmas Eve lunch. We leisurely got the girls dressed in their beautiful Christmas dresses after naptime and took some lovely pictures.

Little Bug, for the first time in her 3.5 years, completely cooperated with the picture-taking and was like a little model posing for the camera. She was SO excited to wear her Christmas dress. I want to add here that I bought the girls Christmas dresses this year at the second hand store for less than $15 total!

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Don’t smile, Sweet Pea!

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We took a family picture. Pictured here are my parents on the left, followed by my brother, Wesley, and my Grandmother.

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And then, we had our own little Christmas Eve service right there in my parents’ living room, complete with Christmas Carols and The Christmas Story. It was a night I will always remember!

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The girls walked around as we sang and even danced a little to the music. It was perfect and I got to enjoy the whole “service”!

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After singing we had an intercession for a bit so Gramps could put out the luminaries with his little helpers and my mom warmed up some leftovers for the girls to eat dinner.

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While the girls ate, we read The Christmas Story of Jesus’ birth!

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After the girls ate, we gave them a quick bath, put them in their warm Christmas pjs and then headed out to look at Christmas lights!

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Santa Claus is always in the neighborhood behind my parents’ neighborhood so we went to find him! He gave Little Bug a candy cane.

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I love this picture! Santa and I are the only ones looking at the camera! Sweet Pea is checking him out, Little Bug has one thing on her mind – eating her candy cane – and Dave is enjoying watching his girls enjoy this wonderful night.

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Little Bug found Baby Jesus and wanted to walk right up to Him lying in the manger.

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Little Bug thought that monkey was so silly!!

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It truly was the perfect (stress-free!) Christmas Eve! We got the girls home just in time to change them into their matching Christmas pjs my mom had gotten for them and tuck them in bed!

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And then I had fun playing Santa!

Sausage Balls, Fake Snow & Wrestling

That was our family night at home on Christmas Eve Eve. I think it’s the start of a new tradition for us.

After dinner, Dave and Little Bug made Sausage Balls that are famous in his family!

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Little Bug helped roll some of them, but then when it was time to eat them she decided she doesn’t like them. Not sure why! She loves sausage and she loves cheese! Maybe they will grow on her.

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While they were rolling, Sweet Pea was eating cheerios.

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She probably decided she didn’t like sausage balls because she couldn’t eat them before being cooked!

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Sweet Pea was sharing cheerios with Daddy.

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One night last week we spent the night at my parents’ house and I forgot to bring Bob, so Bob showed Little Bug the angel by playing in fake snow after we made the sausage balls.

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I think this one was Little Bug’s favorite because she got to play in the “snow” too!

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She kept giggling and putting it on her hands because she liked the way it felt.

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Dave read a Bible story to the girls before bedtime.

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And then a wrestling match broke out between Daddy and his girls!

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And now on this Christmas Eve, Little Bug has gone last minute shopping with Gramps, Daddy and Uncle! My mom just went to get Sweet Pea up from her nap and now we will start making Grandma Rolls (a childhood tradition of mine with my Grandma)!

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These are truly some of the best days of my life! Nothing like make memories with family!

Our Stance on Santa

There have been several comments recently about what we are doing as far as Santa goes, so I figured I’d just write a post about Jolly Ol St Nick.

Santa is fun and I won’t take fun away from my girls, but I also won’t lead them to believe something that isn’t true.

Santa is someone the girls will go see every year. They will know the story of Santa. The story of the legend Ol St Nick and the magical story of Santa delivering presents to all the girls and boys on Christmas Eve.

Just like any other fairy tale, that magical story will be just that: a fairy tale. It won’t be something that we will present to our girls as truth. We won’t lead Little Bug to believe Santa dropped off a present for her and Sweet Pea on his run around the whole entire world on Christmas Eve.

If Little Bug were to pretend that one of her presents “came from Santa”, so be it. She does have a vivid imagination! She pretend-plays all day long, talking to her “Disney friends” and making up stories of what they are doing and saying.

I don’t buy into the theory that by teaching your child to believe in Santa you are putting doubt into their hearts about whether God is real or not. It really just boils down to the fact that we, as parents, just can’t see ourselves teaching our children that Santa is actually going to come down the chimney (that we don’t have!) and drop off presents to them in the middle of the night!

We also have a problem with using Santa to get our girls to behave in the month of December. We want them to behave and obey their parents and other authorities because that is what the Word of God has instructed them to do and they desire to please the Lord and their parents. Not just so they can get something other than coal under the tree on Christmas morning. Even if we did “do Santa” I know we’d not emphasize the part of being good so Santa will bring you something nice.

Do I feel like my girls are missing out on something magical about childhood?

Well, my parents didn’t do Santa with me or my brother and we had one of the best childhoods imaginable.

I guess that all goes back to what I said above. If Little Bug wants to pretend one of her presents is from Santa, I will play along with her, just like I play “tea party” with her or anything else she comes up with that she wants to play.

And no matter what we do with our girls at Christmastime we desire to teach them the true meaning of Christmas: celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ!