The tree

We have had many awesome, epic tree hunting adventures in years past.  But this year there just wasn’t any way to fit in a trip to cut our own.  Sometimes simply being flexible is the name of the game.  It was drizzling and cold, again, so it was a short lived outing but any outing with cousins is a fun one.  Oh how thankful we are to live nearby my sister and her stellar hubby and their beautiful, precious kids!

A few holiday snapshots

Wow.  I can’t believe we didn’t get any posts up the week of Christmas.

Then again I can.  We had family gatherings nearly every day for over a week.  Many of them at our home.

It was crazy.  And fun (mostly – except my sometone’s temper tantrum on Christmas Eve).

Here are a few sweet moments we captured (better late than never hopefully!)…

Fine dining fun with five small children

As if heading to downtown Seattle the last weekend night before Christmas wasn’t ambitious enough for our little family, as our evening unfolded we found ourselves to be part of quite an adventure.

First, in order to get out of the parking garage, we waited what seemed like an eternity for the elevator that must be older than we are.

Then we walked up a few blocks to watch the fake snow fall in a mall atrium.  We waited for almost a half an hour looking upward.  When the snow came, it was actually some bubble foam sprayed from a few stories up.   It was cool enough for one time, but won’t make the cut next year.

By this time we were pretty hungry.  Kids have been in strollers or on backs.  It was crazy crowded so no running around was in order.

We head back to the other mall for food.  Despite the fact it is the weekend before Christmas, they were closing in 30 minutes.  We learned 3 years ago that when they close, even if you just got your food, they will stand around watching you as they ask you to leave your table and exit the area.  That was fun.

So we set out in a mainly retail area, to secure some food.  We burned through my well stocked snack bag quite quickly.  A pregnant sister, five little troopers whose patience was waning and no sign of a food source.  We were getting desperate.  We kept saying “One more block?”.  Every place we found was a super long wait.

My sister staked out an Italian restaurant that she thought was a low key pasta joint.  She glanced at the menu but only paid mind to the pizza prices.  She noticed that the guests were wearing slacks and dresses.   We were so in need of food at this point that the fact this was a high caliber Italian restaurant with rave reviews was quite impertinent.  We sat.  We ordered.  We waited.

“Would you like some wine with your ravioli?”  our waiter asks me.

My kidneys hate me I remind myself.  They are working overtime still trying to heal.  Alcohol is off limits but somehow I still manage to say “I shouldn’t but….yes, please.”

Sippy cups were thrown.   Bread came.  Bread was devoured.

We noted that this was not exactly family restaurant, a far cry from Red Robin indeed.  We definitely caught some glances at our table for TEN-five kids, five adults.

Audrey filled her diaper.  I went to change her.  I discovered that this kind of establishment does not cater to kids, thus had no changing table.  So I piled up 20 paper towels and laid her on the small bathroom counter.  I turned slightly red as woman after woman came to wash their hands while I was busy wiping a ghastly smelling diaper within arms reach.

We returned from said bathroom adventure to find antsy little people.  We inquired about crayons to do some drawing.

Instead of crayons they were pleased to offer us – SHARPIE permanent markers  “In all sorts of colors!” said the congenial waiter as he handed them to a three year old!

“Why does Audrey have a that-she can’t have that!?” said my curious husband.

“We are on the brink.  I’m not sure if you can feel it over there.  But we’re so close.  We are just trying to hang in till food comes okay?”  I replied.

Our food arrived, Rylee ate her fillet of grilled salmon in 3 minutes and promptly asked for another, I smiled and shook my head.  Caleb’s pizza was twice the size of his head.  My $20 plate of ravioli consisted of two giant pieces of pasta.  They were fantastic, I inhaled them in 5 minutes knowing Audrey was about to lose it.

I stood and grabbed Audrey ready to make a run for it.  I grabbed my glass of wine, quickly finished the glass.  Kyler joins me as we hightail it out of there.  We find wide open spaces and the two littles run free.

They watched a window washer through the beautiful glass window railing.  Then just as I snapped this photo…

…Kyler gets his head stuck on the other side as he peers down 2 stories.  He starts to panic and pull back and scream.  I hope I don’t rip his ears off as I pull him back through.  We find something a bit safer to do after I determine that Audrey’s head AND entire body would certainly fit through the opening.

We then ventured back to the carousel and end the evening riding horses together just as we (and my sister Danielle and her husband Todd) have done for the past 9 years in a row.  This year it was great fun to have our other sister, now graduated from nursing school, back home to join us as well.

My top kid-gift picks (hand/locally/fairly made!)

Yes, we still shop at Target some days and have our share of Hotwheels cars.  But this year, we are choosing to only buy things for our children that we know where they came from.  Hand made wooden cars from a grandpa on the east coast.  Beautiful, simple baby dolls from a stay at home crafty mama.    Carefully sewn light saber swords that won’t leave a mark when they “accidentally” whack you in the head.

Yes, it costs more to buy fair trade, local items.  But I would argue that most kids don’t need the plethora of toys they are barraged with every year.  Truly, less is more.  Simple and classic can be wonderful.  Just because it doesn’t have batteries doesn’t mean it isn’t cool.

So these are a few things that will be found under our tree this year (or under the trees of our friends with kids) in case you are interested in any ideas…

simple wooden toys

I bought a set of these cars for each kid for their stockings this year.  I will have to restrain myself from the last minute dollar store run for just a ‘few more things’.  But I think I can do it.  And these heirloom quality, ready to be played with by boys and Rylee will be wonderful.  My interactions with Grandpa Ernie’s niece (who runs the selling side of the shope for him) were downright entertaining and very speedy.

all boy house

Have you ever been knocked in the head by your son’s plastic or wooden sword?  Have you ever had to throw said sword into the trash 4 days after you bought it because it broke?  Well, instead consider the thickly stuffed fabric sword from this mother of boys.  They won’t dent your head or your wall and are modeled after the light sabers in Star Wars (in my opinion).  Our boys are mad crazy for Star Wars and I’m quite sure this gift will be a highlight this December.

briar claire

For the girlie girl in your life…fun hair clips and lovely hats and headbands.  Made by a pair of moms who met while picking up their adopted daughters from South Korea, I have given these as gifts a couple of times and they are absolutely darling.  I tried to make some myself.  It did not go well.  Now I have a lot of ribbon for….something.

the crafting corner

At this little shop you can find I Spy bags.  They are a fun, quiet, interesting little activity for children.  Our kids are huge fans of the I Spy books.  I actually bought do-it-yourself kits of these and sewed them myself last year.  The kids LOVED them.  Until our dog shredded them into pieces and I cried in the kitchen.  They make a great gift.

lil peeper

This Tennesee mama makes amazing ring slings and other types of baby carriers.  I have two of her slings myself and they are my first choice for carrying Audrey in.  She has also done some other custom sewing for me and is quite talented.  When Audrey was born we got Rylee a little baby doll sling for her to wear her baby.  She loves it and now carries our cat around the house in it daily.  The ones like Rylee’s at Li’l Peeper Keepers are now $15 but you can find many great choices in the $10 range here or here.

bit of whimsy

It was hard but narrowed down my choices and a doll from this shop will be Audrey’s gift this Christmas.  I thought I’d get Rylee one too but I can tell she doesn’t really want a baby.  She’d rather have a purse and a diaper bag for her baby things.  And an outfit for her cat…so I’m working on sewing those myself (we’ll see how that works out!).

Don’t you dare say last call tonight…

home-brew

For a portion of our Christmas celebration, we chose to exchange names and not only give a gift to the name we drew, but also some sort of creative expression.  I was lucky enough to draw my brother-in-law’s name and here is the song I “wrote,” played on guitar, and sang for Todd.  Please note that there was a considerable amount of inspiration from Enrique Iglesias, and a few borrowed lines from here and there, and some help from Karissa.  Todd has recently taken a journey into the world of home brew, hence the subject matter of the song.  As you read, Read more

To us a child is born

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Luke 2

The Birth of Jesus

1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.

4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

This was the passage we read and had a spontaneous drama unfold in our living room the other night.  We wish you a Merry Christmas and rejoice for to us and to you  a Savior was born!

Joseph (Auntie Stephie), Mary (Rylee), and baby Jesus (a dolly)
Joseph (Auntie Stephie), Mary (Rylee), and baby Jesus (a dolly)
The awe inspiring Gabriel (Papa)
The awe inspiring Gabriel (Papa)

A night of friendship and worship

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Saturday night we intended to head out to Everett Family Church for a night of worship.  We had been tootling around in our van with chains on feeling very comfortable in the snowy/icy conditions on the roads here, so we were not nervous about heading out Saturday night even though the weather people were predicting severe winds.  We got the van started, and were about to start loading up our tribe for the 5:00pm service when it started to snow.  At that point we chickened out and decided that we better stay home.  However, we invited friends over and had a delightful time catching up and carved out a significant amount of time to tell the story of Christmas to all 7 kiddos.  This was our version of church for the week, and we loved it.  Thanks to our friends who trekked through the snowy conditions to get to our house.

Chris tells the story of Jesus' birth
Chris tells the story of Jesus' birth
Thomas opened his gift box to find Gabriel the angel.
Thomas opened his gift box to find Gabriel the angel.
Kyler investigates the Mary that he found when he opened his gift
Kyler investigates the Mary that he found when he opened his gift

Christmas came early

Saturday we bundled everyone up and headed out to North Bend to  “Christmas” with Grammy and Grampy.  Although it was about 18 degrees that night, we stayed toasty with Grampy’s fireplace.  Everyone had a delightful time, and our kids loved their gifts.  But as you can see from Audrey’s face, they also loved just being with their grandparents!  Grammy put on a huge culinary display with more food than you can imagine for the 8 of us.  Here are some of the pictorial highlights:

Audrey lovin' being with her Grampy!
Audrey lovin' being with her Grampy!
Grampy working off all that ham!
Grampy working off all that ham!
Kyler loved wrestling with Grampy too!
Kyler loved wrestling with Grampy too!
Caleb working on a puzzle with Grammy
Caleb working on a puzzle with Grammy
Dad and I slaved all day preparing the meal (yeah right...thanks Mom!)
Dad and I slaved all day preparing the meal (yeah right...thanks Mom!)

-Chris

The theology of Christmas music

drummer-boy1

Like many of you I am sure, I have been taking in a steady diet of Christmas music.  I am certainly not one of those people who listen to Christmas music all year round, like this guy, but once the Thanksgiving turkey has fully digested, I say bring it on.  Most of the songs are so familiar that we don’t pay much attention to the lyrics, at least, I find myself not paying attention.  The other day however, Rylee and I were having a Daddy-Daughter dance in the living room and the song happened to be The Little Drummer boy.  As we danced I began to describe what the little drummer boy was doing and experiencing.  As I began to explain to her about this poor little drummer boy who was trying to give the baby Jesus a gift fit for a King I began to get overwhelmed by the significant theology found in the lyrics of this classic.  The picture here is the cover of my favorite version of the song by Jars of Clay.  Here are the lyrics that I would love for you to take some time to ponder.

Come they told me,
A new born King to see,
Our finest gifts we bring,
To lay before the King,So to honor Him,
When we come.

Little Baby,
I am a poor boy too,
I have no gift to bring,
That’s fit to give the King,

Shall I play for you,
On my drum?

Mary nodded,
The ox and lamb kept time,
I played my drum for Him,
I played my best for Him,

Then He smiled at me,
Me and my drum.

I was deeply struck by the desire of this little boy wanting to bring Jesus the best.  I often find myself feeling like the poor boy, that I do not have the finer things to give Jesus.  But what the poor boy did was give Jesus the best gift that he had, he gave him a song that came from his heart using his God given gifting and ability.  I was floored by that thought once again and just want to give Jesus my heart, my best, my life, my all each and every day.  The line that totally got to me was “then He smiled at me.”  I love that Jesus is pleased when we give from our heart.  I know that I have gifts to bring the King every day.  I don’t know about you but some days I wake up with a desire to use them and some days I wake up – on the other side of the bed.

I am grateful for a sweet daughter who encouraged me to take some time to actually listen to the profound words of these worshipful songs we hear all the time throughout the Christmas season.  I pass the challenge on to you, take time to listen to your favorite songs and allow them to sink in.  Who knows what you might hear!

-Chris

Pretty in pink

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Rylee had the delight of attending the PNB Nutcracker yesterday with her Nana. They had a fabulous time. Then today she had a little ballet recital which was very fun too.

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"Everyone take a bow"
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Look at those "fairy feet" go!
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Rylee seems to have a real knack for ballet so far. After only 7 classes she was pretty good with her moves. Hopefully we can get her in another class soon. Thanks to all of you who have played a role in helping Rylee get a good start in ballet. If you ever get the opportunity, ask Rylee to do her “build a snowman” dance, it’s a winner for sure.

-Chris