Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 - A quick look back

Melissa at A Familiar Path challenged her readers to choose a few favorite photos from the past year and create a collage.  She commented on how hard it was to choose just a few from an entire year's worth, and she was right!

I ended up choosing pics that showed everyday life.  I left out birthdays and holidays and even some of our favorite 'posed' shots from the last year.  What made it into the collage is a collection that makes me smile, and makes me happy all over again to live the life I do.  We are so blessed!

We wish you and your family a happy and blessed 2010, and pray you are living each day trusting in Jesus and his grace!

(Click photos for larger version)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2 years ago today

December 30, 2007

2:33am - We got "The Call" that there was a possible liver for Alan.

3:30am - Drove away from home, waving goodbye to family.  Would not return until Valentine's Day.

6:00am - Arrived at hospital.  Went through the admission process just like it was any other admission.
Alan outfitted with an IV and began receiving fluids pre-op medications.  
Family began to arrive.  Alan received more pre-op meds:

8:20am - Alan was tired.  And hungry.  And we could have hours yet to wait.  Kristin took a turn entertaining a cranky baby amongst a pensive crowd.

8:35am - Greg got Alan to go to sleep.  He always could work magic with Alan on his shoulder.

9:00am - We were escorted to a pre-op room to continue waiting.

9:38 am - Once good and awake from his short nap, Alan was extremely happy and active.  Hard to believe the baby playing with everything he could reach and flirting with everyone in sight would soon be headed off to surgery.

10:34am - Still waiting.  In a tiny room.  The nurses from the recovery room next door brought in a stuffed horse for Alan.  They had been saving it for a special occasion, and decided transplant day for such a cutie pie was just the occasion they'd been waiting for.

11:24am - Still waiting.  Time for another nap.  Gramps' lap this time.

11:30am - Another nap interrupted.  This time for the big event.  A nurse carried Alan away down the hall, and into the operating room.  We watched them until we couldn't see them anymore.  By nothing more than answered prayer, Alan didn't cry to be carried away by a stranger, to a strange place.  She talked to him the whole way, pointing out pictures on the walls.  We have always been grateful such a difficult transition went so smoothly.

11:42am - All set up for more waiting.

2:14pm - More waiting...

and waiting.

3:17 pm - Alan's old yucky liver was brought out for us to see and feel.  It was big.  And hard.

4:19pm - Still waiting.  Things were sounding pretty good for Alan, although there were still a few hours left to go before surgery would be over.  We gathered all the wonderful family and friends that had come to support us for a group picture.

8:21pm - Finally able to see our baby boy.

The longest day of our lives?  Probably.  

The worst day of our lives?  Most definitely not.  

The best?  That's hard to say.  

December 30, 2007 was a beginning.  
The beginning of  a new life for Alan.  Of a long journey for all of us.  

We are forever grateful to God for the blessings he has shown Alan and our family.  And to the family that said, 'yes' when it mattered most.  And we can honestly say that we treasure each day with the ones we love, including the one whose life was spared on December 30, 2007.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Putting your best... cookie... forward. Or not.

So.  Have I mentioned we're having a baby in a couple of weeks?  


Leaves me a little on the tired side. 

I SO took it easy for Christmas, and my family really took up a lot of the slack, especially as far as all the cooking was concerned.

My sister and I have baked Christmas cookies together a lot over the last few years.

This year was no exception, but she did a lot of the work, and I did a lot of dancing around the kitchen 'supervising'.  

Alternating with sitting on my backside w/a cookie and cup of decaf. 

In a Christmas mug, of course.

The boys were thrilled to be making cookies with Kristin.

We all took a turn decorating.  Seems everyone wants to be an 'arteest' when it comes to cookie-making.

When it was all said and done, we each had a couple of cookies we were particularly proud of.

These we separated out to commemorate with a picture.  We dubbed it "The Plate of Honor."

Dale admired the plated cookies, then asked about the rest. 

"Are they the FAILURES??"  We assured him NO... ALL the cookies were GREAT.

So... when the time came on Christmas Eve to leave Santa a snack, what do you think Dale chose?

A "plate of honor" cookie for the big guy?  


One of these .... lesser cookies?


He chose this guy.  A bug-eyed snowman wearing a ... black... vest?

I guess it was acceptable... there was nothing but crumbs left on Christmas morning!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Baby in the Manger

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief... Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows... But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities... and with his stripes we are healed.
Isaiah 53:3-5

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas, celebrating the birth of our Savior!

Friday, December 18, 2009


We have these two pictures that hang together in our living room.  I don't remember where we got them, or when, but they have nicely filled the space between the window and the lamp for at least 5 years now.

What - you only see one picture?  

Yeah, well, we have this little problem with one of them.

This tends to happen a lot:

It's always "Joy" that falls.  

Same frames, same hangers, same kind of nails.  

"Joy" has hit the floor for what seems like no reason, and on more than one occasion.

But "Love"?  

Or "Falls".

Cuz... you know...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

'Tis the season

1. I am 8 months pregnant.  And feeling it.  4:30am is my new wake-up time for this week.  Not on purpose, mind you.  I think my body has simply had enough horizontalness by that point.  But not enough sleep.  I'm a little out of it most days.  Of course, I might as well just get used to that lack of sleep, hm?  

Even with the aches and pains and lack of sleep, I'm still not in a hurry for him to be here.  I like him where he is.  I like feeling him kick and roll and get the hiccups.  I don't mind carrying around my baby bump everywhere I go.  For now, anyway.  ;)

2. Christmas is here.  Pretty much, anyway.  I didn't put up my favorite-est decoration: my own theme tree that goes beside my bed.  I planned on it, but time got away, and it started to seem like too much effort.  (see #1)

The boys and I are working on a few fun craft projects that I would love to post about, but that would spoil some surprises.  So those posts will have to wait.  Until when, I am not sure.  

Even with those projects, we haven't done nearly all the fun stuff I would like to do.  But I try to cut myself some slack.  (See #1)

And most upsetting?  I can't find my favorite Christmas cd!

3.  Let's talk about food.  We like keeping around extra little snacky things this time of year.  I even have a set of plastic "tins" just for that purpose.  Do you do this?  What is in your tins?

I have a taco-flavored party mix in one.

I made saltine toffee for another.

That's all I have so far this year.  I will hopefully be adding a couple of different cookies soon, and maybe something peanut-buttery.  But time will tell.  After all.... (see #1)!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Children's Book Tuesday - Christmas Edition

I just this very minute finished reading a brand-new-to-us book from our library and was glad I hadn't done my Children's Book Tuesday post yet.

I highly recommend:

Beautiful, handsome, full-page, soak-them-up illustrations help tell this story-with-a lesson.  Instantly one of our new favorites!

See more favorite Christmas books at The Joyful Chaos.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Christmas Gift

Three years ago, two babies were born to two mothers.  Both had soft baby feet, squeaky newborn cries, and that sweet baby smell.

Soon, one baby began to be poisoned by the failings of his own body.  Both babies grew.  They smiled, they crawled, they waved bye-bye.  But the sick baby's future began to dim.  Without a drastic gift, he would have no hope.  He would not survive.

Time passed.  

The unthinkable happened.  

The healthy baby's life suddenly ended.  But in that sadness was a beautiful light.  His perfect body was given as a gift to the sick baby.  And the sick baby wasn't sick any more.  He had life, and hope, and a future.

In another place, in another time, a Father looked at his children.  He saw their lives being poisoned by their own failings.  Without a drastic gift, His children were without hope.  They would die.

Two thousand years ago, another baby was born.  He, too, had soft baby feet and that sweet baby smell.  His mother watched him learn to smile, and crawl, and wave bye-bye.

This baby grew up.  He helped many people.  He was a good man.  But more than just good, He was perfect.  

And then, the unthinkable happened.  

That man chose to give His perfect life for not one sick person, but generations of people.  And in that sadness was a beautiful light, because that man was not just a man.  He was the Son of God, and his death was not the end.  It was the conquering of death, and the conquering of sin, the poison in the hearts of all His children.  His death was the beginning of life, and hope, and the future of all mankind.

When our baby was offered the gift of life, we joyfully, humbly and thankfully accepted it.  For him to have life, it was our only choice.

We have all been offered the gift of Life.  It is our only choice.  Have you accepted the ultimate gift?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Composer Study - The Easy Way!

From the time I first began reading about homeschooling and Charlotte Mason, I knew I wanted our family to study various classical composers.  

After a year or so of never getting to it, I finally let go of my perfectionism a couple of months ago and just did something.  

If you, too, have been wanting to begin a composer study and haven't been able to bring yourself to start, try these tips:

1 - Just do it.  Choose a composer.  It doesn't matter who!  Better yet?  Let your kids pick!  Several years ago I found a great deal on a set of 10 classical cds of 10 different composers.  It has mostly been sitting on the shelf.  One day in early October, Dale was looking over our little collection.  I asked him to choose one for us to listen to.  He chose Strauss.  I never asked him why.  My guess is just because of the funny hat he was wearing on the cover painting. 

2 - Start listening.  We often spend a lot of time in the car.  This is a great time for us to spend listening to music together.  Choose a consistent time that works for your family.  Mealtimes, chore time, rest time... you may have to experiment before making it routine.  

3 - Do just a little bit of research.  This part can be so easy.  Google the name of the composer o'the month.  Wikipedia is usually a good source.  We like a little bit of basic biographical information:  When & where he was born/died, and anything he may have been particularly known for.  For example: Strauss was also known as "the king of the waltz."  Little bits of information like this are easy to review each time you listen.

4 - Keep listening together:
 - Stick with one composer for at least a month.  It takes some repetition to become familiar with particular pieces and develop favorites.  
 - Point out which pieces are well known.  Strauss' "Blue Danube" for example.  You might be surprised to start recognizing classical pieces everywhere: tv commercials, cell phone ringers, and even musical toys!
 - Learn the names of each piece.  Composers like Strauss, whose pieces have 'real' names (instead of "Concerto in A minor for flute" or some such) tend to be easier.
 - Point out different instruments you can hear.  Even if you don't have a background in music, you can hear the difference between a trumpet and a snare drum, yes?   Watching YouTube videos of concerts is a great way to see the instruments in action.  My boys love picking an instrument to pretend to play along with a piece.  Sometimes they even choose to be the conductor!

5 - Do extras, but don't force what isn't working.  Our first composer was Strauss.  Strauss was a big hit.  We watched YouTube videos, and listened every time we got in the car.  It wasn't long at all until both boys (6 & 3) were humming his tunes and requesting favorites by name.
For month two, Dale chose Vivaldi.  Again, no rhyme or reason to his choosing.  Vivaldi wasn't as successful as Strauss, but we still learned things, and were still exposed to a month's worth of listening to his work.  Even so, after listening to a few pieces of Vivaldi, someone would request Strauss and back we went to our old favorite.
Since our school load is a little lighter this month, I have put a little more into our composer study.  I chose this month, and went with Tchaikovsky, for the Nutcracker, it being Christmas and all.  We checked out a few picture books from the library that tell the Nutcracker story, and we're almost halfway through this 16 video series of the ballet on YouTube, but only because we like it!  If it was work, we wouldn't do it.

Music study should be enjoyable, not a chore.  It doesn't have to be work for you to prepare for and fit yet one more thing into your curriculum everyday.  It doesn't have to be work for your kids, centered around worksheets and research reports.  After you've given your composer a fair chance for a month or so, move on.  You don't have to love his stuff (but you might) and you don't have to be able to list or recognize an extensive list of works (but you might), and you don't have to know his entire life story (but you might!).

 The key is listening:  listening actively, listening together, and listening often!

Do you have a favorite composer?  We are open to suggestions for January!  

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Alan's Birth Story

You know that thing they say about hormones making you forget the pain of childbirth?  That must have at least some truth.  Either that or you just see how fun the whole 'parenting' thing is, and decide you're ready for more.

Either way, three years after Dale's birth, we were gearing up for baby #2.  

We had a new doctor, a new hospital, a new town.

Alan was due sometime right around Thanksgiving.  I don't remember his actual due date.  Isn't that sad?  I'm fairly certain I have it written down, but still....

And that's not the only place my memory gets fuzzy:

Just like with Dale, I was induced with Alan.  But this time, I'm not exactly sure what the reasoning was.  I know I mentioned to my doctor being induced with my first pregnancy, so maybe he thought that was my preference.  I think it was for convenience.  Mine and his.  I doubt either one of us wanted to spend Thanksgiving in the hospital, so he set the date for Tuesday, 9 days before Thanksgiving.

Would I do it that way again?  Probably not.  Did it hurt anything that it happened the way it did?  Probably not.

Anyway, we headed to the hospital before dawn that Tuesday.  I had hoped and hoped as the days ticked down to D-day I would go into labor on my own, all the way up to the end.  But it didn't happen.

Seemed like things got down to business a little faster at this new hospital than they had with Dale.  We didn't have to spend so much time on paperwork, for one thing.  

I remember having barely arrived and already being ushered into the the little bitty bathroom to change into my gown.  It was at that moment I had the distinct feeling to turn around and go home with a "Nevermind.  I'll just keep this baby where he is."

But of course, we carried on.

While things were still getting started, we were asked if we would mind a couple of student nurses being in the room off and on.  Being an agreeable person, I said, "Sure.  Why not?"  

By the time daylight hours rolled around I was ready for some entertainment.  I was so happy to see 3 year old Dale come marching in with my parents an hour or two later.

It wasn't too long before my grandparents and then our pastor and his wife all stopped in for a quick hello and  settled themselves into the waiting room.  

It was nice to feel labor progressing and not be in unbearable, unending pain.  I think a big part of the reason for the difference was simply how my body reacted to the induction.  Whether it was a different method, or better timing, or some other issue, my body cooperated a whole lot better that time around.

And, having been through this once before, I was better equipped mentally to deal with the contractions as they picked up. 

I had decided ahead of time I would experiment a bit with relaxing and breathing through each contraction, and just see how that changed my progression.

I was very pleased with how far I was able to get before requesting my epidural.  I had absolutely no intentions of trying to deliver without one, but I was glad not to 'stall out' before getting it.

So, around 11 am, I had enough experimenting and asked ever-so-nicely if they would bring on the meds.  Which they kindly did.  While I was painfully hunched over a pillow getting a needle inserted between my vertebrae, one of the student nurses and I began a little chit-chat.  

And whaddya know?  Her little sister had been in the youth group Greg and I had led at our church the year before.  We exchanged our "Oh!  So that's who you ares!" and proceeded to visit.  Awkward?  A little.  It wasn't exactly my best moment.  But still - it was fun.  And distracting.  I'm thinking the anesthesiologist was probably sitting there wondering how to arrange small-town connections every time he put an epidural in a laboring woman!

It didn't take long for the epidural to do it's thing, and I was back to having fun again.  And let me tell you, things were getting fun quickly.  

By 11:30, my little room was full of people.  Ten, if I remember correctly.  Me, Greg, my mom, 2 nurses for me, 3 student nurses squished up in the corner to observe, a nursery nurse for Alan, and a student nurse with her.  

The only one missing was the doctor.  And.. uh... it was time.

Those few minutes waiting for him to show up seemed to take forever.  It was one of the most undignified moments of my life, and yet.... it was one of the most fun.  Every one was so happy!  So celebratory!  I'm glad Alan entered this world under such light-hearted circumstances.  It has been good to look back on in all the times that followed his arrival.

Dr. C. finally made his entrance in classic Dr. C style.  It's one of those 'you-just-have-to-know-him' sort of things, but he is a real character.  He got gowned up and gloved up, and in what seemed like a matter of moments, Alan made his entrance at 11:40am on the Tuesday the week before Thanksgiving.

Easy peasy.  No drama, no mis-haps.  Twenty-four hours later we were all cozied up at home, a family of 4, and very happy to be there!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

WFMW - Household Routines

There are untold ways of organizing your family's time.  We are currently in a system that is working very well for us.  It is more relaxed that scheduling, but still gives some structure and routine to our day.

I have divided our day into specific Time Zones.  

The best part?  They are color coded!  I have printed each Zone's title on the appropriate colored paper.  One color at a time is displayed on the refrigerator.

We start each day with our Morning Red Zone.  Red Zones are a.k.a. "Taking care of business."  In addition to Morning, we also have an Afternoon Red Zone and an Evening Red Zone.

Other time categories are:
Yellow Zone: School

Green Zone: Play Time
Blue Zone: Rest Time

 I can schedule our day in any order I need depending on what we have to get done, or other things that may be going on.  Part of my plan with Time Zones is in preparation for having a newborn in the house soon.  Hopefully our day may not feel so interrupted or unproductive if

#1 - we are in the mind-set of being in a time zone instead of on (or off) schedule
#2 - we can switch zones at any time - just by changing the paper hanging on the refrigerator

Our most structured Time Zone is red.  Here is an example:

The Green Zone simply says "Play Time" under the heading, and The Yellow Zone lists basic school subjects we want to cover every day, like Bible & Math, and then blanks to write in extra stuff.

After a trial period to make sure the details were working for us, I laminated each sheet so we could check off what has been done in the Red and Yellow Zones.

This system is great for keeping not only the kids, but also us parents on track as we go throughout our day!

For more Works for Me Wednesday tips, visit We Are That Family.

Children's Book Tuesday - Christmas Edition

The two books I am sharing today are both good books, but what makes them special in our family is simply the tradition of reading them every year.  And by 'every year' I mean every year since I was a kid, including those years when we were all grown-ups, before Dale came along.

First up is one of the "I Spy" books.  These are always so fun!

Do you spy the clock in this picture?

And then, there is Tosca:

We first fell in love with this book because Tosca looked so much like one of our cats.  Our kitty has been gone a long time now, but we still love to bring Tosca home for each Christmas!

Aren't these pictures amazing!?

Definitely worth a read!

For more great Christmas books, visit The Joyful Chaos!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Weekend of Christmas

We really packed a lot of Christmas into two days this weekend.  And it's a good thing, seeing as how in three weeks it will all be over!

Our first event Saturday was putting up the tree.

The tongue helps.

Alan spent most of his time 'driving' this part.

Dale still assembling.

Alan still driving.

Once assembled, Alan thought the tree should be hugged.  Repeatedly.

Dale was great help with the lights!

Alan helped with the lights some, too.

And then he took our picture!

After adding our colored lights, we discovered our white strands were in pretty bad shape, so finishing the tree would have to wait.

We had ourselves a little nap and an early supper and then split into groups.  That's right, my friends, we had so much Christmas fun to get in we had to divide and conquer!

Well... sort of.

Mom and I took Dale to see his first play!  Before the play, however, we walked a few blocks to the beautiful, decked out, city park to hear a college choir give an outdoor performance of Christmas favorites - complete with adorable choreography!  I'm not sure who had more fun, those performing or those watching.  

A quick, brisk walk back to the theater... 

(guess who we saw on the way!?)

...and then we settled in for The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever.  Yes, those infamous Herdmans!  Dale literally sat on the edge of his seat for the entire production, and only partially because the seat would have folded up with him otherwise.  He got all the jokes, behaved like a perfect gentleman, and can still recite his favorites lines today.

We completed our evening out with a look through the local drive-through lights display.  We always try to go through at least once a year, usually more.  Nativities, Santas, a carousel, a butterfly-speckled waterfall, snowmen, a dragon... and so much more... all out of lights.  Pretty fun!

Meanwhile.... back at the ranch... we left Alan with Gramps, and the two of them went to see our little town's annual parade.  Alan came home with a goody bag of candy, talk of seeing trumpets and drums, and the simple satisfaction of going somewhere with Gramps!

Whew!  All that in one day!

Unfortunately, the boys and I stayed home from church Sunday because of colds, or we would have gotten to see the sanctuary all decorated, hear a Christmas sermon, and sing a few Christmas songs.  Hopefully we'll be well next week!

But we did spend the afternoon finishing up our tree.  Complete with the surprise of Dale doing a great job evenly distributing the icicles ornaments to finish up, and the classic 4-ornaments-all-on-one-branch (courtesy of Alan).  

As fun as all this has been, I can't wait to see what sort of Christmas-y things the rest of the week has in store!