2011 Winter Piano Recital,
with our favorite pianist,
which just happens to be one of our favorite people, too.
Not surprisingly, my consistency in having a fun treat or activity each day of Advent was far from perfect, but better than last year. More importantly, by God’s grace, the observation of Advent interested and thrilled the children.
Here are some of our treats:
The hanging of stockings and drinking of hot chocolate. Good simple fun.
A Santa Parade. Our local fire department has a Santa ride on a fire truck and collect food and toys. Did I mention they throw tons of Candy?
The chirren decorated their little Christmas tree. It looked quite smashing, in my humble opinion.
Snowy Powdered Donuts and Chocolate Milk for Breakfast a couple of days.
Advent Sunday Gifts. For example, a Veggie Tales movie, “Tale of Jonah” (a friend gave it to me because she received it free with another movie she purchased!).
On the 7th, we made birthday cards for Andre, which was just plain great. We also were working on Andre’s requested birthday meal. However, his birthday dinner turned into a real flop. I was making gumbo and his fave cupcakes (yellow cake with milk chocolate frosting). I guess I got REALLY caught up in making the birthday cards, because as I was heating up the stock to add the roux, the pot was apparently upset about my inattentiveness and just blew its lid. Literally. It was like a mini explosion! Thankfully, the glass lid did not break and no one was near the pot at the time. I cringe to think what that hot broth flying all over the kitchen would have done to my precious children. Praise be to God that we are all safe. More good news: Out of almost two gallons of stock, I was able to save 6 cups. I said “good,” not “great.”
Poor Andre. He really is one of those people who like to be treated special on his birthday. And what is worse is that… well, you’ll read about that in a moment (if you stick with me).
Then we made Candy Cane Reindeer. I thought it was great! The kids expressed that the activity was far too short and Sissy added that she still needed to work with her hands a bit more. If only cleaning a toilet was a treat!
As Daddy’s birthday party was rescheduled due to exploding pots, we decided that we would celebrate on Wednesday, which is typically game night and the big kids have no tests on Thursday. The Advent treat was to Decorate Dad’s cupcakes. Ummm, that didn’t work out. As I was preparing the batter and breaking eggs in the mix, I picked a stinker! I know, I know! Crack eggs in a separate bowl to check them, THEN pour them in the batter. In my defense, every other egg in the egg carton (3 of them!) was perfectly fine!!! Apparently, I’m really good at picking the “bad” ones. Which is why I am always afraid to take the front item in the store! Which brings me to the fact that when I had to buy new lights for the tree (see story below), I took the second box in line (avoiding the front box like the plague), and guess what?!? One quarter of one string of lights don’t work. Murphy’s law? Maybe! I am just glad I know the Lord God Almighty uses it for my good. From the big things I can’t control to the little things I think I can control (which I cannot). Otherwise I might “lose it.”
Anywise, I made a cookie cake for Andre because I thought the kids’ hearts might break if Dad did not have a cake. He doesn’t really like cookie cake, but at that point, it wasn’t for him. And what’s worse, because of Christmas preparations, I completely forgot about the cupcakes! But I’ll make them for MY birthday that’s coming up (despite the fact they are not my fave).
We made pretzel candies. A really fun and simple activity. And the small ones can enjoy the fruit of their labors quickly – so quickly in fact, that there were barely any to store (of the children’s handiwork). One drawback: it took far longer than I had planned. Now I think it, many of the projects did. Except the reindeer. I LOVED the reindeer night!
We made Marshmallow Snowmen and that was super fun!
Those young frozen rebels caused all sorts of angst – they were not your typical merry sort. I think they were hyped up on HFCS. The kids had a real fun time with this easy activity! Who would have known!
The chirren colored Advent and Nativity pictures.
Another Advent Sunday gift was from my mom for my children. My Mom has always told me and each of my siblings that we are her favorite __________ (fill in with “oldest daughter,” “youngest daughter,” or “son” – my brother is the REAL favorite, but me and my lil ditter are OK with that. And before he has the opportunity to protest in a comment, let me explain what kind of son he was: This boy would sit in the lap of my mother, and pet her face, and cuddle all close to her and coo, “I wish everyday was mother’s day.” See. It’s inevitable that he should be the fave. How do you compete with material like that?). To continue MY story, my sweet mommy sent me these little ornaments with a boy or girl in their Christmas jammies holding a sign that says “Oldest (mom’s favorite)” or “Youngest (mom’s favorite).” That was really fun and I like sharing the tradition. Although, I don’t necessarily say that. My favorite thing to say to them is, “I love you! You make my heart merry” (which I sometimes think that they think I mean, “Mary!” Funny.)!
We did not do an Advent activity on several days. I found that on Fridays and Sundays an activity is difficult to accomplish — especially because we have Family Date Night on Fridays and usually a big Sabbath Supper on Sunday. I think I will be using “King’s Treats” (a kiss or peanut butter cup) – but give it to them in the morning to make it funner.
We tried on several occasions to decorate our Christmas tree, but the star topper broke (or was broken by a child who shall remain nameless), and then the strings of light refused to consistently maintain their Christmas glow (I won’t disclose how many times I put on and took off lights because I really hoped they might stay on once they “warmed” up, or got positioned a certain way.). I am happy to report that we made it through, finally. And I just discovered I took NO photos of the tree! Yikes! What’s wrong with me?!? Wait! Christmas morning photos will save me. “We” also forgot to hang candy canes on the tree. Which is supposedly a family tradition. And which was supposed to be an Advent treat…
On the 15th, there was No Official Advent Treat – because I had part of my toenail removed, then was out of commission and medicated. However, Dad let them play Lego Indiana Jones and have a cereal supper. I definitely think that counts as an Advent treat, even if it wasn’t in the date’s little pocket!
The next day, there was no activity but they did get a King’s Treat. My toe was feeling much better in the evening! YAY!
Another Advent Sunday treat was a little crocheted whale (the only project I completed in its entirety). It was a hit, mostly. But I must admit, I was so glad we were not having a handmade Christmas, after all (Thanks to the extreme generosity of my mommy and Andre’s parents!)!!!
And honestly, I think that hits the highlights of our preparations for Christmas. We continued with the Advent family devotions regularly – but still not every single day. The devotions were really neat and were set forth in a very plain and helpful manner for the kids. We had some good discussions. And we sang — my personal fave.
I pray that these preparations have helped us look forward to celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ even better this year, and that Christmas would be exceedingly joyful for us.
I also look towards a day where we are able to truly celebrate each day of the 12 days of Christmas! But baby steps, right?
In December, we use an advent calendar to help us look forward to and prepare for Christmas. I have previously tucked in sweets, or “King’s Treats” – but then the children had to take turns. Let’s admit that although taking turns may be a good character builder, it’s just not quite as fun. So this year, I tuck in a slip of paper cut around the edges, all cute like, and list a treat – which can be an activity or victuals. And I decide the night before or that morning, so that on a busy (or bad) day, I am not committed to doing something completely outside of my capabilities – meaning I have to have the time and be able to be cheerful – otherwise, what’s the point?!?
I must readily admit that this fourth child has thrown me for a loop. I do not know if it was because of how it started, because the two babies are closer in age than I have ever had them, because I am older, or just because there are four, but I find myself needing more help. Thankfully, I have (mostly) willing helpers, and it actually forces me to delegate some responsibilities to the children that I probably should have already done. But with more responsibilities, is it not proper to enjoy more blessings? I think so, too. So this year, although the Advent/Christmas decorating will go slower, it will be mostly done together, and hopefully make some cherished memories, and perhaps even traditions.
We also started last year or the year before the tradition of giving the children little Advent gifts each Sunday at our Sabbath Supper. This year, as we usually do, we celebrated the First Sunday in Advent in Texas with Andre’s parent. We gave the children ceramic Christmas decorations with Bluebonnets on them. We hope those ornaments will be a fun reminder to each child of Thanksgiving with Emmy and Granddad in Texas on the lake, the beginning of Advent and our excursions to see bluebonnets.
On Monday, well, I honestly just did not have it together enough from our trip, so we simply started Advent Family Worship (or devotions). It is a little bit of a change-up from our normal form, but really good. If you are interested in such things, this is the packet of Bible readings, prayers and devotions we use during Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. Andre also gives a blessing and catechizes the children with seasonal questions concerning the church calendar (and here is a good one for children, if you are interested). We love singing Advent hymns – although time is never sufficient for all we want to sing! I just love hearing Sophie sing — you’d think she knew all the words by heart! Jacqueline is great at the singing, too. Poor Gabriel is stuck at that point where he is reading, but not to the point of reading the unusual/larger words in hymns, or at the speed or rhythm of the hymns. Good thing he memorizes pretty well. Baby Boy just loves it when we sing. So I love that.
On Tuesday, we checked the treat before school, so that the children could look forward to it all day (and I can get everything ready for after school!). The treat was, “Decorate Jars with Christmas Candy and have some King’s Treats.” I asked them who their King was and they beautifully replied, “Jesus!” I truly believe that if you can use decorations made from things you can use (and do not have to store), it is a better investment. We always have candy on Friday for our Family Date Night (pizza and a movie) and we can put the candy in a crystal bowl and use it as a centerpiece – and as dessert when we have guests. It’s festive, fun and yum. While we were filling the jars, Jacqueline said, “Mom! This is the best Christmas ever. This is so fun! It’s better than Halloween!” Love that!
On Wednesday, the treat was: “Watch ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas.’” It was received thankfully enough, but I thought that they would be ecstatic to watch a movie on a school night! Oh, well.
I am excited about the rest of the week and hope I can maintain consistency with all the things I really need to do (There is so much to do in so many different areas of my life that I feel as though I am making no progress anywhere. Unfortunately, I think I feel like that because it is accurate. Good thing I have such a good hubby. He is a constant, physical reminder of Christ’s mercy, sacrifice and faithfulness. And the children! How merry they make my heart!).
Enjoy all of God’s material gifts this season as we celebrate the incarnation!
*Virtually every family tradition we have and every “idea” I have was inspired by or gotten from friends and/or blogs I read — Thanks!
Many people who hear this story say that it was a miracle. I, honestly, do not think of it as a miracle. I am not offended when someone says that, for I am also in great awe as to God’s actions, but I see no suspension of the created order in this story – this is no virgin birth! But what I do see, and what I hope to accurately display, is how God uses all his creation (especially, people and technology) as a means to extend mercy and to work His good will. In my case, He desired to be overwhelmingly merciful to me – granting things to me that not only did I not merit, but that I actually demerited. He gave to me blessings, when I earned His condemnation. My God is a gracious, merciful God who delights to do good to those who love Him. And I especially thank Him for his mercy and saving grace granted to me almost 11 ½ years ago! Who is like God? Who is like God that he would take a miserable sinner weighted down with guilt, rejecting God, and hating what He requires of her, and save her from her sins? Who is like God that He would save a sinner like me, and my baby, from physical death, that we might have time to enjoy and glorify Him a bit longer on this earth with our blessed family and friends (past and future)? And that is why the name Michael is perfect for our baby boy, for “Who is like God?”
On Monday, December 15, 2008, some facebook friends may remember that I was not feeling very well. I had worked pretty hard over the weekend preparing and celebrating the Third Sunday in Advent, which was glorious. I also had been fighting a cold and it was getting the best of me. And when I hit the last month of the pregnancy, I started feeling nauseated. In fact, the Thursday before I had gotten sick and thought I felt some contractions.
In any event, on Monday, after getting my eldest daughter off to school, I essentially watched movies with the two little ones and rested on the couch until lunch and nap time. After retrieving Sissy from school, I was still not feeling well. In an effort to procrastinate doing the evening activities, I checked email, facebook, bloglines, Drudge, etc. Then, with a strange feeling, and wondering if it was possible that my body was preparing for delivery, I used the potty. Without realizing what would have been obvious to anybody else (that I was hemorrhaging), I calmly asked the eldest to bring me the phone and called my hubby, told him I was bleeding profusely and that he needed to come home now. He told me I needed to call the doctor. I did so, and upon describing my condition, the doctor asked where I lived, who was with me (the three children), and how long until I could leave. I responded probably 15-30 minutes. His response was, “No, no, no, no, no, you need to get an ambulance,” or something to that effect. That’s when I began understanding that this may be serious. I called 911, they told me to go lie down on my left side and wait. I did so and called my neighbor and explained the situation and asked if she could come watch the children – she readily agreed (she is a dear and is always so good about helping us – a neighbor near is better than a brother far away). She was here in a flash, looked at me, went and got a wet wash cloth and started wiping my face (She told me later that I looked so pale that she was very scared, but tried not to show it). I called Sissy’s and The Boy’s teacher, who is also a beloved friend (because school is right around the corner and I suspected that she and her husband would still be there, and I thought the children would be more comfortable with her because she is more familiar to all the children, particularly my baby girl, who really only likes mom and dad). She arrived before the ambulance, although the fire department had arrived. I still had my wits about me and was trying to prepare the children, and urged them not to worry, and if they did begin to worry (because they were seeing me taken away by myself in the ambulance, all the emergency personnel in our living room, you can imagine the scene), then to pray to God and trust Him to take care of me and the babe. They know that God created all things and governs all His creation, and that we belong to Him, that He loves us and does everything for our good, and so it really was not difficult to keep them calm. Sissy was quite concerned, but was comforted at those words. I am not sure The Boy understood the gravity of the situation, and The Baby Girl was quite upset (she turned two today) – she is very perceptive. After doing what I could to prepare them, I put a movie on to distract them.
In the ambulance, I started to feel nauseated and told the woman I thought I was going to pass out. I was trying hard not to. She kept saying we are almost there (without traffic, the ride is like 14 minutes – with traffic it can take 45 minutes). I remember being pulled out of the ambulance. I remember hearing someone say, “We got a sleeper,” so yelled out that I could be awake if they needed me to be. I remember hearing the baby’s heart beat when we got to the ultrasound machine. It was super slow. I knew then that there was no way that I would have time to try to labor. The doctor came in and said, “Wow, she looks pale, doesn’t she?” or something to that effect. My impression was he was surprised at all the blood and blood clots (there had been a load at home, too). I was only dilated to 1, and he got right in my face (He has been my doctor almost my entire marriage and has delivered all my babies and is a Christian and we have a great relationship – so it was in no way alarming), and he said, “I have to put you under now and do a c-section and that’s all I have time to tell you.” That was alarming. I knew then that it was a matter of life and death for me and my babe.
I heard someone say something about getting blood ready. I shouted my blood type and that my husband was the same as I and that he was on his way to the hospital.
Then I felt overwhelmed. I wanted to cry. I closed my eyes. I began to pray fervently. I thought of losing my life — the affect on my husband, my children. I am not a Christian who rests easy in an assurance of my faith (which shamefully shows my lack of trust in God’s promises), but I can actually say that I was peaceful in what God chose to do with me. I was not scared. I truly believed I would go to heaven and not hell. But I begged that he would spare me and let me keep this earthly life I love. I thought of losing my baby, my child. How hard that is. But I remembered that this baby does not belong to me. He is God’s and God just lets us have our children for a time. I was willing to submit to God’s providence even if that meant the baby must die and go to Him. But again, I wanted him to live and I begged God to be merciful, to let this child live, and to let me have him much longer than the 9 months in utero. This year, I had reread Stepping Heavenward, and the main character lost a child and handled it so Christianly, so beautifully. Providentially, I think it was very helpful to me. Later, I also found out that my sweet hubby was praying at the same time and in the same manner as I as he was trying to get to the hospital.
They put a mask on me, and I was out.
I woke up and Andre was there, and I just remember asking him if the baby was OK, when I would get to see Baby, when I could nurse, and telling him that I was sorry for all of this happening. I was on the med Dilaudid and did not entirely have my wits about me. I did not like it at all – it was hard to communicate and often times I could hear myself speaking and not making sense…very frustrating under the circumstances. Andre had to go call his mom so that she could come to stay with the chirren and then they would not let him back in. I guess I finally was taken to the hospital room about 8 or 8.30pm and he was anxiously waiting for me, ready to do something a little drastic to see me.
I was still not really grasping the gravity of the situation (placenta abruption), but over the next several hours and days, I learned of such things as “it was touch and go” for me and the baby; that if “10 more minutes [had passed] bad things would have started happening;” that I had a thready pulse and there was fear I might have a cardiac arrest and code; that the baby was born not breathing; that the placenta looked horrible and was small; and so on.
But despite both Michael and I being brought so near to death, God may have used this to save Michael, for he had a true knot in his cord, though it was not yet tight. I would not have been to the doctor for another 4 days, and because the last week of school, also the week before Christmas, was to be very busy, I am not convinced that I would have detected decreased movements of the babe. I am convinced there was a real chance that he could have died in utero. Regardless, he was born at 37 weeks and weighed only 3 pounds, 7.9 ounces. I think it is fair to say he was not being nourished, and may in fact have the opportunity to thrive outside my womb. And seems to be doing just that, as he has progressed remarkably well considering all the trauma he suffered.
That God saved, and continues to save, my little baby boy is another reason his name is perfect. For another meaning associated with the name Michael is “Gift from God.” And as I look at that precious baby boy, I am reminded again and again that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” James 1:17 (KJV).
The delivery of Michael, from start to finish, happened in manner that Andre and I would have never allowed (going by myself by ambulance; my having a c-section; my using general anesthesia; my being separated from the babe (I have never even let a baby go to the nursery, and if it was required that a babe leave the room, then I would “make” Andre follow the baby and nurse); and initially pumping rather than nursing). Although I still think in principle the way we would have chosen to do it, and the way we have done it in the past, is best, I love how God works through exceptions. As I have heard say: He draws straight with crooked lines; He overrules the bad in a situation and uses the circumstances to work good.
I am thankful for His mercy, life and blessings in this situation. And I am thankful for this trial and that He found my family worthy to go through this trial for the glory of His Holy Name.