Photos courtesy of Ryan Prouty

Friday, December 24, 2010

That Christmas letter I couldn't find time to write

For some reason, I am having a hard time writing the Christmas letter this year. Maybe because I feel too busy to really reflect on what the year has brought us. Maybe because... if I am really honest, I am not a fan of what the year has brought us. Maybe because I feel guilty for not being a fan of what the year has brought us as I think about all of the amazing and miraculous things that go on in our lives every day that we simply overlook in selfish self centeredness and self pity. Can anyone relate? I guess this is one of those months when my life feels so overwhelming (new job, trying to keep pace with 4 kids' activities, desperately trying to keep my house clean and organized, trying to stay in shape, etc).

I decided that I would share the responsibility this year and let each person share about their year themselves. I will go first since its my blog :o)

**I am still working full time and changed jobs December 1st. I was getting very burned out at the Health Department and a new opportunity landed in my lap. God opened the door and I walked through. His timing is perfect. I should be feeling refreshed as the pace is much better, but learning a new specialty is daunting and I have allowed it to stress me a bit. I think that would be my pride in not wanting anyone to know that I do not, in fact, know EVERYTHING. I have ventured into the world of Pulmonology (lungs) and truly am enjoying the challenge. I will be back to the hospital starting at the beginning of the year, helping with rounds and consults in the morning and then have clinic in the afternoon. I was very surprised at how much I missed the hospital environment. It has been very hard leaving all the relationships I had at my last job. I was there long enough to start to get to really know people and enjoy all their personalities and talents. We laughed a lot. I miss that.
**I am hoping my new hours will allow me to be at the kids' school more too. I really got spoiled when I worked part time (or not at all) and miss seeing what is going on in the classrooms. 
**I read every book I could get my hands on about teenagers since we became a family with one this year.
**I became the 3rd tallest in our family this year. I think next year I will likely be demoted to 4th.
**I plan to get back to my daily Bible study/reading in 2011. All the books I read this year were Christian books, and I still read my Bible, but I am definitely missing the in depth study time and regimented reading. I have missed how in the past years, in my reading, how many days I would be so amazed as I read a story that seemed brand new (in spite of reading through the Bible either chronologically, front to back, or reading OT/NT verses) or how the day's reading was so pertinent to the events of my life that exact day.

**I continue to work as the Executive Pastor for our church while wrestling with God over His long term plans for my life. My hip has not been dislocated yet, but after 16 months, still no answer. Support has dwindled but we do not see this as a discouragement, just God refining and teaching and possibly moving me on.
**Coaching basketball at the middle school has been quite an experience!
**I actually enjoyed the negotiation process when we bought our house and all the joys of home ownership and teaching the boys how to fix things. We are all still trying to adjust to in-town living.
**I love teaching Financial Peace University and I also meet with two other men for in-depth Bible study and accountability.
**Our church received a complete makeover requiring me to order 450 feet of pipe and drape (to make a cafeteria look like a church) and then hire staff to oversee set up and tear down of our mobile church, purchase signs, toys for the kids' classrooms and lots of other stuff that was a major undertaking of my position this year.
**Our church has seen major growth with nearly doubled Sunday morning worship attendance and a Christmas Eve Eve (not a type-o) service that hosted 630 people. We were BLOWN away.
**I have gone back to grad school for a Masters of Arts, but will only attend as we have funds for classes.

**It has been a crazy year. We have been having fun, it's nice and warm and I am loving it, but I miss the snow.
**I had a really awesome birthday this year.
**Our church and youth group is getting bigger.
**I am playing basketball and we are having a good season so far.
**School has been crazy. We now have a high school and it's really big. I do not like school anymore because it's school and it's a lot of work. I have about three tests a week.
**I am now taller than my mom, even when she's wearing high heels. I finally weigh 100 pounds!
**I got stitches again last weekend (ear this time) and we think my total for my lifetime is over 40 stitches. All in my face except for the 17 I had in my leg two years ago.
Gabriel has really grown this year both physically and spiritually. He has taken on a leadership role in his middle school youth group willingly. He started 8th grade this year. Wow, high school next year. Here is the proof of his growth spurt:

**I started 5th grade this year. I have a first year teacher and she is pretty nice.
**I started football this summer. Our team lost the first game and we were undefeated the rest of the season. I liked my positions as a left guard and defensive end. I was also on the kick off team. I crushed a few people; it was fun.
**In my spare time, I like to read and ride my bike.
**I had 13 stitches in my leg after falling off the counter (he is a there really any other explanation??)
**I am playing basketball. I don't like it as much as football, but its still fun. I am the only 5th grader on the team. We are 5-3.
Riley grew up several years this year it seems. He acts much older than he is (maybe because he shares a room with Gabe and they spend so much time together). He is more reserved like Paul and has a  fabulous sense of humor and loves to quote Bill Cosby from his stand up routine "Himself". He is always cracking us up!
**I have been having fun in Florida, and I miss my Iowa friends.
**I started third grade this year. I just started health and it is my favorite class. I have been having fun doing math, science, English, Spanish, reading, computers, PE, art, library and playground. I still don't like school uniforms.
**The cool thing about this year is that I didn't lose any teeth. Riley finally caught up to me!!
**I had fun playing soccer, racquetball, Frisbee, yo-yoing, riding my Heelys. I am still waiting for a new bike.
Holden is doing very well in school and reads his dictionary in his free time! He is very interested in my medical journals, and loves to look at the pictures everyone else thinks are gross. Hmm, may have another medical person in the family!

**I started first grade this fall. I like my teacher and I like work (papers...I LOVE papers!) I have a lot of friends. Jacob is the only one in my class taller than me.
**I started gymnastics again this fall. I feel stronger every time after gymnastics. We are learning stretches and we can do a roll and penny drops on the bars. Every year after gymnastics, we have a jamboree (a show for the parents). I like the bridge even though it does hurt.
**I lost my two front teeth this year.
**We went to Iowa for my birthday and Daddy's.
**The best thing this year was that we went on a cruise for Gabe's birthday.
**I learned how to make a paper airplane, ride my bike for a few feet without training wheels, and ride my roller blades and I haven't been hurt yet.
 Alayna still chatters and eats nonstop. She loves to read and recently started a Ted Dekker novel because he is the boys' favorite author. (Ummm, not sure she comprehended any of it!) She loves animals and still does not own a single baby doll. She is a fan of lizards, snakes, toads and even spiders.

We have had some fun Christmas things to do around here. Our neighborhood has a Christmas light/decorating contest and offers nice prizes to the winners, like free home owner's association dues for a year! On the night of the contest, a trolley offers tours of the neighborhood to look at your neighbor's lights and efforts at decorating. They had funnel cakes, cookies and hot chocolate while you waited. It was great fun. We did not enter the contest. We had seen a house who did last year and knew we would spend more than the year's worth of dues just to purchase enough lights to even have a chance! Here we are getting off the trolley:

The only picture I was able to get of the winning house was blurry since it was dark and we were constantly moving on the trolley. It was pretty amazing! I am not sure I would have chosen this house if I was judging, but I wasn't! The reindeer in the yard were more funny and the rest was very formal and elegant and absolutely beautiful, especially the garland over the front archway.

This was my favorite and the 2nd place house. I liked it because it really reminded me of the Grizzwald house but was prettier. They even had snow coming off the roof over the garage and a train in the front yard. I think you could probably see this house from space because of all the lights on the roof!

And this is the house I would have chosen for honorable mention in the understated category! Yes, its my house! I am not a fan of the yard blow up thingys, and only like white lights, so this was what we ended up with this year. I was very happy with it.

 Front porch:
 Alayna had to bring Christmas cookies to her party on the last day of school before break. I cringed when I got her assignment because it meant I had to actually make something. The night before the party I had nothing planned, but we had all the ingredients for frosted sugar cookies. We actually had a great time making these and sprinkling them with different Christmas sprinkles I had in the cabinet for years. I only own 2 cookie cutters though: a star and heart. I don't think the first graders cared!

We had fun trying to decorate this house for Christmas. I have to admit that I am relieved that we will finally be sure we will be in the same house next year! I can actually put things in the same place next year and start to think about what to add if anything! The stockings are always tricky when you don't have a fireplace:

So we hung them all around the knee wall in the entryway. The sofa table got some Christmas cheer too:

And I finally have my Papa Dee's clock up with some bling as well:

And the little Christmas tree found a home on the table in the living room. This made the kids miss their Christmas trees they used to have in each of their rooms. We just didn't have room when we moved for all the Christmas stuff and they didn't make the cut. Maybe again someday!

This cute one will probably lose its home on the front porch for someone's room.

Okay, this has gotten waaay long. I forgot it wasn't a blog, but a Christmas letter! Please know we pray for each of our blog visitors, family members, friends, coworkers, and brothers and sisters in Jesus. We would love the privilege of knowing exactly what we could be praying for you in the new year. Many blessings on you and your families! We love you!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The little things...

It really is the little things that make my day. There have been a few things that have happened that are (or seem) so little, but really brought me much happiness. This is the first:

Yes, I know that is a picture of my oven. I love this thing. It is actually a double oven. The lower drawer not only stores my pans, but it will bake as well. BUT, now there is something even better! The thing that made me so happy was that on Saturday, Paul and I finally got the door taken apart and cleaned. Before we moved in, someone spilled something down between the panes of glass and I have been cringing over not being able to clean it for SIX months! Now, as you see, the spots on the dishwasher don't bother me at all, the oven door is clean! I was very disappointed when no one noticed that it was  now clean besides Paul and I, but I decided that I was ridiculously happy about the oven door's transformation, and that was all that mattered!

And, clearly, this is a picture of me drawn by Alayna. Aren't you just loving my outfit? Girl's got some style for sure. She sat down and worked so diligently and carefully on this drawing on Sunday before church (she is a morning girl) and I was so honored that she chose to spend her time and effort on my portrait.

And, here is proof that I do in fact have the Christmas tree up. This is Paul's and my 18th Christmas together and our very first fake tree. I have to admit it was very easy. Paul dragged it down from the attic (I acquired the tree last year after Christmas on Freecycle--its 6 feet tall and pre-lit) and Holden and Alayna had it together in just a few minutes. I was very proud of myself for letting them do most of the decorating and for not rearranging everything. Only 3 ornaments needed a different home. The tree is living in a corner in the den (the advantage of having a tiny tree!) and didn't even disturb our furniture arrangement. The kids kept exclaiming about how puny it was, but after it got dressed, it looks quite pretty and no one makes fun anymore...not even me! This is something totally new to us, but I could get used to it! No watering, pine needles falling, wondering what to do with it after Christmas. Makes me happy!

Which reminds me that I really have so many things to be happy about. Starting with the beginning of the celebration of this season we are in. I am finding time to reflect on the reason for the celebration this morning. The birth of our Saviour. The baby that came to save us all in such a humble way. Wow, we are so blessed and loved. How quickly we can get caught up in the doing of the season, get the tree up, the lights on the house (ours are up too by the way--thanks honey!), buy the presents, etc. I am so thankful for the reminders of what its really all about. And so thankful that I have been saved through GRACE because I am so unworthy to be a child of God. That is definitely NOT one of my little things...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Busy, busy, busy

Yes, we are still alive. The cessation of football didn't kill was a close call, but we are still here! Life's pace just seems to keep kicking up for me. Or maybe my ability to keep up keeps slipping...hmmm, will have to contemplate that one. October and November were busy months, but I was able to capture a few things on film that we did.

Riley and Holden's classes went on a field trip together in early October and I took the day off to go with them and drive some other kids too. You can see exactly how much Riley appreciated that I chose to sit with him in the picture above {insert sarcasm here}.
Holden miraculously escaped mom's presence and sat happily with his friends Robby and Joshua. The classes went to a theater in Sarasota (I believe it was called The Little Theater, but that was too long ago for me to be sure) to see Pinocchio live on stage. If you know me at all, you know that I have no culture and would rather watch a football game than a play or ballet or opera or--you get the idea. But, I was able to get the day off, so I thought I would grit my teeth and endure it.  I even knew how the story ended, so I wasn't expecting a whole lot from the performance. I was amazed! I was completely entertained and impressed with the actors and actresses. There were 2 men and 2 women who played multiple parts each and had to change their voices/accents to match their new part several times. The play was modernized (the kids played video games that turned them into donkeys) and so witty. I have to admit that I even cried when Geppetto died in the end (turns out he wasn't really dead), and laughed out loud multiple times. Riley even enjoyed it too.

I was thrilled to make it to a couple of the boy's basketball games. Luckily they were just down the road at the YMCA, so I was able to skate out of work and catch them. Their first game was on Veteran's Day and I had it off (oh, the joys of being a government employee), so I got to enjoy the entire game. With six minute quarters, the game is over quickly. The middle school team only has 8 players, so the boys are getting great experience. Paul is the assistant coach and the 4th grade teacher's husband is the head coach. He has coached basketball on the college level previously, and Paul said he has learned things from him that he never learned before from any coach. The boys are having fun. And as of tonight were undefeated. They are on their way home from the first away game right as I type.

Here, both boys were playing. Riley running toward the camera and Gabe down low.

Paul and the boys all on the bench

I am sure you all knew that the 2nd week of November was National Nurse Practitioner's Week. This is Pam and I in front of our poster that was put up at work for us. We were treated to a pizza lunch one day that week too. We were quite pampered! Thanks Dawn!

And this is the  note Gabriel left for me in my car today. I got such a kick out of it. He is so formal with his signature. I am sure he was hoping I would not get him confused with some other Gabriel that loves me! It just made me giggle and I wanted to remember it. As you can see, we still have a certain elementary school to thank for not teaching spelling in 1st grade. The kid can spell difficult 8th grade level words, but not "coming".

Just a quick attempt to get you all up to speed more, I started a new job yesterday. I have gone back into specialty practice (this time Pulmonology--lungs) and will be back to practicing in the hospital too. I am very excited about it and loving it so far. I will desperately miss everyone at the clinic and have so many fond memories there! I was not looking for a job, it sort of fell in my lap. Just how God works.

I promise I am going to try to be better about posting updates here in the future. I am typing it here to hold myself accountable! I pray you all are doing well. I love reading your blogs (those of you who have them) and keeping in the loop. I covet your prayers and thank God for you every day!