Monday, January 6, 2014

December and 2013 Wrap Up!

 Gingerbread House!
We took the month of December off of our Homeschool.  Being that I'm a part time music and theater teacher, December is out of control. So, 4 weeks off it was.  But when you are educating at home you're always going to find some way to be learning something.  And we never stopped "doing things." for sure.  Our Christmas festivities began right after Thanksgiving.  I don't know where Claire got the idea but weeks before Thanksgiving she would ask constantly for a "Ginger Bread House."  So as soon as they came to Trader Joes, I bought her one.  Lucky for me, it was the last one in their stash that particular day.  Every single day she would ask to do the house until I finally had to hide it.  I told her we can do it "after Thanksgiving."  "Is this Thanksgiving. . . ?"  So until Thanksgiving came, all I heard about was this house.  We waiting until the morning of Black Friday to do that house and she loved it.  Wanted to eat most of it, but loved it. 

 Later on, I caught her bringing her Little People from her nativity set over to the Ginger Bread House to have them visit.  So baby Jesus, the Wise Men, the shepherds and the angel all got to visit with the candy German people at the house. It was pretty funny. 
Choir Concert,  "Yes, Virginia" and Knotts
But the biggest stress over the holiday season does not revolve around the normal shopping, wrapping, parties, decorating, Christmas cards, family photos, stress that is typical for most. Being a part time music/theater teacher makes for an even crazier December.  This year I thought I'd do something totally crazy and put on a Christmas musical in addition to the Choir Concert I usually put on in December.  Because my life wasn't crazy enough.  The show was called "Yes, Virginia" and it was sponsored by the Macy's company.  While looking up the show, I found a link to a grant I could get if I applied and thought, "what the heck?" thinking there's no way I could possibly get that grant.  Yeah, got the grant.  $1000 from Macy's.  It was pretty exciting.  So the week after the choir concert the kids put on "Yes, Virginia." The show is cute, based on the historical account of the little girl who wrote the New York Sun asking if there is a Santa Claus.  It was stressful but the kids pulled it off and it was a HUGE hit at the school.  But the girls were dragged to rehearsal after rehearsal, stayed out late on several occasions the first two weeks of December while all these performances, rehearsals etc. occurred.  They are now great theater goers but it was still pretty taxing on them and our family.  Claire, though, sings music from every show I do.  She likes performing (her dance recital is coming up in this post) and singing along with the kids.  When she plays with her toy microphone at home, she often calls herself "Virginia."  It's pretty cute.
On top of this, due to some scheduling issues at Knott's Berry Farm, I had to take the same group of kids who performed in "Yes, Virginia" to perform at the park the day before.  Yes.  The day before their Christmas production, we performed at Knotts.  The cool thing about Knotts is that usually Christian brings the girls and we make a day out of it.  They like being at the park and watching the kids and then we spend most of the rest of the day at Camp Snoopy and on the kid friendly rides in the park.  Ashlyn was too short for most rides but she got to get on the airplanes with Claire at Camp Snoopy and was able to lap ride on a few others. 

  Then, the following night we were all there for "Yes, Virginia"   The kids turned on the energy (I have no idea where they got it from after several grueling days) and it was a fantastic show. 

Jesse Tree
After the production was over, we did get some time to slow down a bit and enjoy Advent and Christmas.
One of the things I'm really passionate about is getting the girls to understand the season of advent, that it's not just Christmas, Christmas, Christmas! but that it's a whole season of waiting, of commemorating in Incarnation.  Not to downplay or knock people who do this but I've never liked the concept of "Singing Happy Birthday to Jesus" or "Making a Birthday Cake of Jesus" around Christmastime.  I've always felt like it was irreverent and somewhat silly.  It's never felt "right" to me to do that.  Because to me, it's more that just the birth of Christ we commemorate, it's the incarnation.  It's the COMING to EARTH - Fully God and Fully Man.  THAT is amazing. THAT is bigger than any Birthday Cake.  I never want my kids to think it's about just a baby and a birth.  It's huge, it's monumental.   There are lots of fun things we do around this time as well, but this is the big one.  So we started a Jesse Tree this year and I've loved it.  I took the same tree from Claire's Thankful Tree (the one painted in her room) and used the readings and ornaments from "A Holy Experience".  We filled up her tree one ornament everyday and read about all the things in the Bible that lead to the Savior, to His coming.  This is something I want to continue for years and years and, eventually, make it part of Family Worship during Advent.
The Jesse Tree after Advent

We do several fun things around the house with the girls.  Christian was able to borrow and old model train from his dad and set it up around the tree in our living room.  It was fun to watch the girls get so interested in it and even more fun to watch Christian get so excited to have it working! 

I think one of the most needed things we did in December was attend Christian's company Christmas party.  As most can probably imagine, we haven't had a lot of time together for a little while with everything being so crazy during the Holidays.   So, it was nice to just get out and go to a nice dinner, dress up and talk.  We didn't talk much to others from his work.  I mean, we DID but not a lot, I think because we actually got to talk to each OTHER for a change.  It was a short night but a good one and the grandparents said the girls did great :-)

December Sick
The Wednesday evening before school let out for the Winter Break, I took the girls to their swimming class at the Aquatic Zone.  Everything was fine for the lesson but on my way home, I could hear Ashlyn throwing up in the backseat.  After three stops on the way home, and a few more vomiting episodes before her bedtime, I put OnGuard on her feet and DigestZen on her tummy and finally sent her to bed.  It came on so fast and it was pretty scary for me.  That night she threw up, constantly, until about  midnight.  We changed the sheets at least 5 times on her bed.  It was awful hearing that sound on the monitor.  The next morning she seemed ok but tired.  My mom came over to watch her.  Neither girl threw up again that day and we'd hoped we'd gotten past this.  Until Thursday night when I woke up with Ashlyn in the night (yes, she is still night nursing) and immediately made a run for the bathroom to throw up after she'd fallen asleep.  I was stuck there for a few hours.  It was awful. Not to be graphic but both sides of my digestive tract got a good, er, clean up from this bug.  At 3am I went downstairs to get a sub online and write an email to the school secretary.  The next morning, Claire woke up because she's thrown up. Christian stayed home to be with the girls and I slept all day long.  Claire handled the illness much better than the rest of us did.  Playing, then periodically running to the bathroom to throw up.  By the afternoon, she seemed tired and had a glazed look on her face, she complained very little. I remember at one point listening to the cat hacking up a hair ball and thinking, "I'M SO DONE WITH PUKE!" 
Throughout all this, we ran the diffuser with OnGuard and I tried to apply it as often as I could.  Claire had her recital Saturday night and I was determined to get us well for it.  Luckily, Saturday morning, we woke up puke and. . . the other thing. . .  free. However, my mom called and said she had gotten it in the night and wouldn't be able to make Claire's recital.  She felt awful and I felt awful for giving it to her.  But on Saturday, while I was still a little sore, I felt well enough to eat and go out and get a few things and Claire seemed back to normal. Christian, thus far, had avoided the plague, unscathed.   We all went to the recital (that topic is for the next section), came one and went to bed.  At 3am, I heard Christian in the bathroom.  There's little more unnerving that listening to your big, strong husband totally horribly sick and there being very little you can do about it, especially when you know exactly how he feels since you had the same illness days before.  The next morning, I took the girls to church by myself and sang with and rehearsed Christian's church choir.  We prayed no from our family got this bug from him at the recital and it seems none of them did. (although, my grandparents did later, over New Years, which put my grandma in the ER for dehydration but we aren't sure they got it from our house during Christmas or from another source altogether).  It was just frustrating to finally have some time off together and get hit by this stupid, horrible bug.
Over the two week break, Christian and I both found ourselves in Urgent Care.  Me, for what I thought was a cracked rib (which turned out to be a pulled muscle in my ribs) and Christian for a cough that randomly set in the Saturday before New Years, rendering him unable to sleep.  Both of us wanted to make sure it wasn't something severe before we figured out how to handle it.  It lasted about a week.  He is still coughing some, but not to the degree that he was a weekend ago.  So despite our best efforts to stay well, I believe the stress finally caught up with us.  When I teach oils classes, one of the things that I make sure I drive home to whomever I'm talking to is the oils aren't a "bandaid" for your problems.  We had been running on empty as a family for too long and the stress, when finally over, finally caught up to us and our immune systems were easily attacked.  It's one of the things, through all this, I'm praying we can fix in the next several months.  I believe it's all part of wellness.  And while the oils helped, we still need to figure out a way to become more healthy in this area.           

Tiny Dancer
On December 21st, Claire had her very first dance recital.  She's been taking a Ballet/Tap Combo class for 3 and 4 year olds at To the Pointe Productions right near our house.  We couldn't get a lot of good pictures of her since she dressed backstage but got a few of her onstage.  Doing her hair and getting her ready reminded me of my own performances as a kid.  It's funny what a bunch of sponger rollers will do to your memory. . . She had so much fun and is very excited for classes to start up again in a couple weeks!  They did their tap dance to "Rodolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and knew. . . some of her choreography.  It was adorable, if I don't say so myself.:-)

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Christmas Eve is always a little stressful for us, but once our church service begins, it quickly becomes one of our favorite things about the season.  I love our church's service.  Not flashy, not showy but not hokey and totally meaningful.  Christian directs the adult choir and I usually try to come up with something to sing with the kids.  This year we were a little lower on kids because some moved, some couldn't be there and some just come and go on various Sundays, so it's hard to nail down commitments from parents.  It's Claire's second year singing with the kids.  My parents and grandparents usually come to the service, too and my mom plays the piano for us.

After service we headed home with two sleepy girls.  Put them in their Christmas jammies and read to them the second to last Jesse Tree reading (the last one we read on Christmas Day) and "The Night Before Christmas" that a friend of mine a work gave me to read to the girls when Claire was tiny.  

Then, after they were in bed, we went to work.  Putting things together, getting the presents just right and cooking for breakfast and appetizers for the next morning.  It was a sweet night. 

The next morning, the girls woke up earlier than our company was going to arrive (of course) and they wanted to see the girls come down the stairs for their gifts.  So we killed a little time with them by letting them watch a little "Thomas the Train" on the tiny tv in our room.   
But when my parents and grandparents arrived, they got to come downstairs.  They were pretty excited about what was waiting for them.

Ashlyn loves her Papa

Auntie Nini thought Claire needed a microphone O_o

Papa made the girls a fridge and matching washer dryer

After Christmas morning, we took the girls to Christian's parents to do Christmas with them.  We had dinner over there and opened more presents.

Claire really, really likes pickles. . .

Although traveling and doing so much over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is crazy and a little hard, we do realize that we are blessed to have these friends and family whom we have these connections with and that God's given us good relationships and family that we are privileged to see.

Moving toward a New Year
Between Christmas and New Years, a few members of our family camp out at Carlsbad for a few days.  I haven't camped with them there in a while and would like to go soon, but every year there seems to be a reason why we can't.  I am determined to take the girls camping this summer, for sure.  Anyway, my cousins came out from Colorado and the girls got to meet them again and we were able to spend most of the afternoon at the beach.  My parents came with my brother's daughter, Soli, and the girls all had a great time.  Christian was still dealing with his cough and feeling run down so he stayed behind and napped.  But the 80 degree weather in December reminded me why CA really is a nice place to live (high cost of living and unfortunate politics aside).  

New Years Eve, we continued a few traditions started the year before.  I made a nice dinner, although, everyone we knew was took sick to come for dinner (my Grandparents, Cindy and Cliff, and Christian wasn't really up for guests anyway).  I made a Zuppa Toscana and the girls loved it.  We ate together and I "pondered these things in my heart" and considered why might happen this year, what kinds of events, adventures and journeys we may embark on.  There are a few exciting things in the works and we can't wait to share more with some of you and ask that you pray for His will and guidance in our lives and in our family this year.  But for now, here is Claire at dinner on New Years Eve.  And below that, our verse for 2014. . . "Behold, I will do a new thing now it shall spring forth, shall ye not know it?  I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert"  Isaiah 43:19 KJV

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