Thursday, January 24, 2013

Birthdays and Babies!

The last few weeks have been full of fun surprises!  Just before the girls' third birthday, our precious niece, Molly, was born, so we made a surprise trip to Houston to visit our new cousin!  We celebrated the girls' birthday with a fun party and cake, so it's been a busy last couple of weeks.
 The girls were very particular about what kind of cake they wanted - Caroline wanted vanilla with pink icing...
 ...and Claire wanted chocolate cake with chocolate icing!
 Claire blew out her candles before singing, so we started again!  Three whole candles this year!
 Caroline blew one candle out at a time...very delicately.
 I love my cake!
 This is the best cake ever!
 The girls were so sweet with baby Molly and asked to hold her all the time.
 We are so excited we are three now!  Such big girls!
 We ate out at Lupe's, a favorite place for all of us!
 Back in Austin, on the girls' actual birthday, we took a trip to the mall and visited Build a Bear.
 Then we rode the train with our new friends!
 We are ready for this new adventure of being three!  Best friends and sissies forever.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Festivities

We spent Christmas in Houston and stayed at Grammy's house, then spent Christmas Day at Cassie's house in Katy.  The girls woke up early that morning, and made their way down the stairs to see what Santa had brought them.
 Decked out in their new scooter gear - Claire is ready to go with her new purse in tow!
 Caroline can't wait to join in on the fun!
 A new Memory game!  Helping sissy open presents at Cassie's house.
 Daddy brought us a new ornament from his ski trip in Winter Park!
 Gotta get that pacifier just right in my new baby doll.
 Fancy girls getting ready for New Year's parties. 
Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, and looking forward to what God will do in the coming New Year.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Christmas to remember

Christmas is only a few days away now; the packages are wrapped and tucked under the tree, the girls are excited to see what that day will bring.  Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, mostly because we get several weeks to celebrate and prepare and extend the holiday spirit.  This year, we've continued many traditions as usual: we've seen lights, wrapped presents, sipped hot chocolate, made a fire or two, visited Santa, ridden the train, decorated the tree, looked at pictures, and made cookies, while a few more traditions still wait for us to experience them before Christmas.

 However, this year has been not-so-typical in some ways.  We have added this little booger to the a constant source of entertainment, Minnie is pretty much 1/3 dog, 1/3 monkey, and 1/3 cat.  I have never seen a dog move so fast or climb furniture or gates so quickly, but she is turning into a really cuddly, sweet dog who loves to be with us.
 And this little face is hard to resist!
 Most of all, the hardest event we have had to endure this Christmas is saying goodbye to our sweet buddy, Jack, of 13 years.  For the last year, he had really slowed down to the point where he was having trouble walking, and in the last few months, really couldn't get up anymore.  He loved me fiercely and was so loyal to me since it had just been the two of us for so many years before Paul and the girls came along.  But, in the end, he couldn't get up to follow me anymore and it just wasn't the life he should be living, and the vet agreed that it was his time. 
 I adopted Jack from the shelter when he was close to two, so he lived nearly 15 years, a blessing to all of us.  He was there for so many memories in my life, and will always be remembered as my very first buddy and most special dog.  He was my first dog out of college, and he was so sweet never to bother Paul or the girls or ever get jealous of their presence in our lives.  He loved us all so much, and we will always love him dearly.  He truly was one of the sweetest, most laid back dogs I have ever met. 

One of Jack's favorite spots was under the Christmas tree, so we let him spend his last night under there, and the girls were so sweet with him.  The morning that we had to say goodbye to Jack came only one day before the tragic Sandy Hook shootings, so that is why this Christmas just doesn't feel so typical this year.  Tragedy is hard, but it makes it a little harder to bear when it happens around Christmas.  Despite the sadness and loss, I know that my little Buddy is at peace now, and I'm just remembering all the funny memories and special times we had.  We are so glad that Jack could spend some of this Christmas with us, and we will forever remember his sweet spirit and how much he loved being under the tree.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Festival of Lights

Last night, we visited Lakeway's Festival of Lights at the local community center.  I was really impressed to see how many lights and decorations there were, and they were lined up along a short walking path that was perfect for us to tour without the girls getting tired. 

 The favorite attraction for the girls was running laps around the giant lit Christmas tree.  They probably would have kept running all night if we hadn't stopped them!

Merry Christmas! 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Blessed to be a Blessing

This year, we have one EXTRA week to celebrate Christmas, so I'm excited!  The girls are at the perfect age (almost three) to really enjoy and get into all the holiday festivities.  We have set up our tree, set up our nativity set, hung the ornaments, and even wrapped a couple of presents.  We have our Christmas dresses ready to go, and we are ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior!
This year, I'm keeping it simple.  Growing up, we were showered with presents, and for some, that is fine, but I'm really liking one friend's tradition of giving three gifts, one to represent each wise man.  Some may say, "But wait? Only three gifts?"  Well, seeing as how it's not our birthday, and it is MUCH more blessed to give than to receive, I would say that three gifts is more than enough. 
It's all about balance.  There's nothing wrong with toys and giving gifts, but when it becomes expected and breeds discontent and ungratefulness, that is when we need to adjust our gift-giving and receiving focus.  I find that I buy used books quite often for the girls, and pick up puzzles here and there, so really, they don't need any more toys than they have now. 

This year, our church is challenging us to avoid that unnecessary toy or crazy sweater and give our resources to a ministry; that gift will last for eternity.  Although the girls don't quite understand that yet, I am beginning this year to adjust expectations and find ways to help them become givers and not takers.  It's a huge shift, and probably more difficult for me than for Paul or the girls, but I'm sure that is why God placed that on my heart; not theirs. 

Our pastor reminded us again today that Christ came to serve, and not to be served, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  I want that to be our family's focus for Christmas in this year and many years to come.  He is, after all, the reason for the season.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Vanilla or Rocky Road?

Flavors…doesn’t that word just conjure images of choice, freedom, variety, and opportunity?  Since I have a sweet tooth, the image of ice cream first entered my mind when I wrote that word.  Although I love having a choice and my favorite flavor of ice cream has about five different colors and textures in it, I feel that most of my life has been lived in the vanilla carton at the ice cream store.  Lately, I have been aware of many attitudes in my life that don’t match with the flavors of life, specifically of people, that God has surrounded me with. 

This semester in Bible study, we have been reminded of the picture that every man, woman, and child is created in God’s image.  Even if I don’t like the way they are rude, even if they cut me off in traffic, even if they don’t believe in God, even if they don’t give me what I want when I want it, even if they act in ways that I wouldn’t act, even if they have the opposite personality that I do, even if they have different skin color, even if they make more than I do, even if they make less than I do, even if they have a different culture, even if
Just to cement this realization, today in Bible study, we received a handout for our children that talked about knowing people from other cultures and races, and how important it is to introduce God’s “flavor-filled world” to our children.  My carton of vanilla ice cream is only one flavor out of hundreds that will be represented in Heaven one day, so I better start making some changes now to get to know all the flavors that God created and loves just as much as He loves my plain old vanilla flavor.  As a mother, now I realize that it’s not only my attitude that is important and affects my relationship with others and with God, but that attitude trickles down directly to my daughters and to how they perceive others.  Is my attitude teaching respect and love for others, even when we don’t agree or they don’t look like we do?  Jesus’ most common dinner guests were sinners and tax collectors, the two most hated groups of people in his day.  So, if I’m following Christ and leading my daughters by example, I probably need to work on opening my heart to knowing people who aren’t as vanilla as I am.

Over the years, I have met many people who have impacted me and I’m taking time to think about them and thank them for the impact they have had on my life.  These people aren’t just like me, but my life is so much better for having known or met them.  I want my girls to know the kindness and humor of my Indian friend, Krishna, with whom I taught for five years and was one of the best fathers I know;  I want my girls to know the love and incredible gift of a special student, Kendall, with Down's Syndrome, whom I once had the chance to help teach;  I want my girls to know the loyalty of my Jewish friend, Jessica, who drops everything to be at my side and sacrifices her time over and over; I want my girls to know the "realness" of my African-American friend, Sadie, who loves Jesus with her whole heart and even though she doesn’t have much money, possesses more joy, wisdom, and contentment than anyone I know;  I want my girls to know my Asian friend, Sandra, who strives for excellence and honors Christ daily with her music talents.  Some of these friends know Christ, and some don’t, but I want my girls to have a heart for all people, regardless of race, socioeconomic level, or cultural background. 
Vanilla?  Maybe.  Rocky Road?  Definitely.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


This Thanksgiving, it's different.  After years of looking at things from one perspective for so much of my life, I have slowly begun changing and thinking about life, my world, my mission here on earth, my role as a mother and wife, just everything...differently.  Moving to Austin has been directly from God; I know that now after encountering some people who have changed me and my perspective.  This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for these people whom God has brought into my life:

Sadie Bell...a lady in my Bible study - her voice soothes me like a gently rocking chair; she loves God with a fierceness and honesty that brings most of our group to tears every time she opens her mouth.  She underwent surgery and lost her father in the span of a week, but still came with insights, a smile, and a listening ear.  She's more joyful, content, and wise than most people I know; she struggles to make ends meet, and get this...she rides the bus every week to class because she can't afford a car. 

Brad Thomas...the pastor of our church - he speaks with genuineness and deep wisdom, asking questions that pierce through all the trappings of our lives.  I've heard a lot of pastors, good ones too, but something about his messages and his heart really cause me to think in new ways about my faith and about God's love for me.  He has a special needs son and I know that he has a heart for helping and serving, and he inspires me to change and embrace Christ fully.

Garrett Luce...a young boy who recently died in a tragic accident.  I didn't know him, never met him, but the stories and the faith that he lived out, have inspired me to re-examine my priorities and my path in life.  I know this lesson well, having lived it with my own dad's death, but it can easily be forgotten as time goes by.  However, Garrett has left a legacy through the lives he impacted, and the contagion he spread has caused me to look at my life, be thankful for each morning I'm alive, and make my days count, instead of counting my days.

My sister's friend with a special son...she probably doesn't know I read her blog all the time and think of her and pray for her.  My girls know her son's name and we talk about him and I just am convicted time and again when I complain about anything in my life that she is walking a completely different path, yet she still chooses to fight and battle.  She, too, inspires me to love others and be accepting of people who maybe don't get things as easily as I do. 

Most of all, these above people are selfless - sure, they probably have moments of selfishness and are not perfect, but because of their situation and because of their love of Christ, they inspire me to change, too.  Selfishness is like cancer; it starts small, and before you know it, it spreads throughout your body until every part of your body is consumed with it and you no longer know your own self apart from the cancer.  Meeting these people and hearing about these people's stories this year has caused me to realize how easily I can slip into selfish thinking and spend time making sure my needs are met without considering others before myself.  May your Thanksgiving be different and may your heart be open to people around you who can impact you as these people have impacted me this year.