Dec 24, 2011

Joy To The World

Our family has so much to be thankful for, but I must say that the thing I am most thankful for is God's Love.

He loved us enough to send His son.

Born to a virgin, in a manger, on a miraculous night.

A night that changed the world in a permanent way.  Forever.

We read this story often, (or at least once a year), but do we ever stop to reflect on how it impacts our lives today?  Right this minute?

Because of the birth of that child on that night, my life is changed.

God no longer seems far away.

His love is close.  It is here.

It means that He came to me.  That He loved me enough that He chased me.  All the way from Heaven to Earth.

It means that He understands me.  He understands what it is like to be human.  He knows my struggle.  He has felt my pain and suffering.  And more.

It means that I don't have to earn my way into His grace.  It is His gift to me.  His gift to this world.

It means that I am free. 

To celebrate life.  To enjoy His blessings.  To bathe in His splendor.

I am able to snuggle up close to Him and tell Him my dreams.  To complain about my day.  Or to ask Him for anything.

He loves me just that much.

And I am in awe.

That God Himself would love me enough that He would leave His Palace.  His Thrown.  To come and live here.

To live a humble life.

And then to be ridiculed.  And tortured.  And killed. 

Just because He loved me. 

And you.

And He wanted us to know it.

Yes, I am in awe of that kind of love.

It is my prayer that you experience His love this Christmas in an intimate, life-changing way. 

Because I know that there truly is no greater joy!

Merry Christmas!

Dec 21, 2011

Our Night at The Nutcracker

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For a month, we had been planning our evening at The Nutcracker.  We were going to make sure the girls took a nap that afternoon, get ready in our nice clothes, have a fancy dinner at a great restaurant, and then go to the evening show.

It was going to be perfect!

But here's how it really went:

On Friday, we had our friend's kids spend the night.  It was great, except that all the kids had their last day of school on Friday. 

Which means classroom Christmas Parties.

Which means sugar.

Which means super hyped up kids.

We took them for Pizza and then to look at Christmas lights all over town.

Aren't Christmas lights suppose to be peaceful?

Hmmm....not so much.

I have never quite had that kind of experience looking at Christmas lights.

After that we came home and watched a movie, which I thought was a great way to wind down the evening before bed.

But, in fact, I just believe it gave them the rest they needed before they got their second wind.

So, somewhere around 11ish, they all settled down and fell asleep...

...and then woke up at 6am.

That would have been fine, except for the fact that my family had decided to celebrate Christmas last Saturday afternoon so that my mom could enjoy it on her "off week" from chemo.

So, I made the food, wrapped the packages, and loaded up the car. 

We had a great time together, and my mom was fully able to enjoy herself.

But no time for a nap...or dinner.

We came home, had to spend an hour looking for Faith's dress shoes, (which we never found BTW.  Good thing I had extras, even if they were too big!  Nothing a little tissue paper in the front of the shoe couldn't fix!),  got dressed and off we went.

I was very nervous that the girls were going to fall asleep during the show.  Or worse, that they would have a meltdown.

Doesn't that sound fun?

But I said my prayers, and decided we would just go with whatever happened.

When we arrived to get the tickets from Will-Call, they didn't have them.  But that was no problem.  The kind lady behind the counter simply looked up my name and re-printed the tickets.  I have to say, I was nervous as first, (because if I had gone to all this trouble only to be turned away, I would be the one having a meltdown!), but it all went very smoothly.

The girls in their pretty dresses.  Sorry for the bad photo!  We were trying to hurry in before lights went down...

After that, we went to take our seats.  And whoa, were they good seats!

They were actually PERFECT for the girls, and they could see the entire show easily.

Once the show started, I was just waiting for the complaining to start.  But I am here to tell you that it never happened!!

Addy reading her program

The girls were so fixated on the show that they never once whined or cried, or had to go to the bathroom. 

It was a Christmas miracle.

And honestly, it was one of the best productions of The Nutcracker that I have ever seen.

The dancers were fabulous, the sets were amazing, and the length of the show was perfect for 2 tired little girls.

And of course, the music is always beautiful.

If you have never been to The Nutcracker, I really urge you to check it out next year.  The Dayton Ballet does a phenomenal job and it truly is something everyone should experience.

Plus, The Dayton Ballet has several other performances throughout the year.  I have never been disappointed with them, and can't wait to take the girls again.

So I have to say, even though our evening didn't go as planned, it still ended up great!  And that's what Family Fun is all about!

Disclaimer: I received complimentary tickets to The Dayton Ballet's Performance of The Nutcracker to facilitate this review, but all opinions are mine and completely honest!

Dec 13, 2011

The Ups and Down of Life

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Yep.  Life has LOTS of ups and downs.

Sometimes even in the same hour :)

***This post is the length of a small novel.  You have been warned!***

So to get started, let me tell you about some of my "ups" lately!

On Friday, my husband and I surprised our girls with a trip to Connersville, Indiana where we rode on The Polar Express train ride.

They had no idea until we got there and they saw the train, and they were kind of in shock.

And I have to tell you that it didn't disappoint, either!

The ride is 2 hours long and they make it as much like the movie as possible.  Kids are invited to wear their pj's, everyone gets hot chocolate and a cookie, there is a conductor, (that even looked like Tom Hanks in the movie!), and chefs wearing chef hats and coats that pass out the refreshments.  The ride goes to The North Pole where Santa boards the train and sits with each child so that they can tell him what they want for Christmas.  Then he gives them a Polar Express bell...The First Gift of Christmas.

For Addy, who is almost 8, it was fun.  She enjoyed the whole thing and had a great time.  But for Faith, who is 5, it was magical!  She truly believed that she was on a magical train taking her to the North Pole.  She believed that it was 'The REAL Santa', that there were real elves.  I loved seeing her eyes get big as the train started to roll down the tracks as she anticipated the adventure.

That is the part that made it magical for me.

The next evening we went to Clifton Mill, which is a local attraction that decorates with thousands of lights at Christmas time.  It's always beautiful, but Saturday night was FREEZING, so our kids didn't last as long as they usually do.  So we only stayed about an hour and then ran through Tim Hortons to grab hot chocolate, Timbits, and use the bathroom.

Side Note:  I need to do a better job of paying attention to the 'Men's/Women's signs on the bathroom doors.  A nice gentleman who was washing his hands, (thank goodness!), got a surprise visit from me as I rushed in and then screamed when I realized what I had done.  I quickly exited the men's room and rushed into the women's.  I was completely embarrassed, and considered staying in there until the place closed.  Then I remembered that Tim Hortons is open 24 hrs, and since making the bathroom my permanent home didn't seem reasonable, (plus I really wanted those Timbits), I finished my business and went out to make my order.  The man was sitting right beside the counter.  But thankfully, he had mercy on me and never looked my way. 

After my Tim Horton's experience, we went to a friends house and visited a little while.  They just got back from Disney and they got to tell us all about their super fun trip. 

I'm not jealous at all.

No, that wasn't me rolling my eyes.

I mean, who needs a trip to Disney anyway?  I just love staying in Ohio and enjoying the dreary weather and grey skies.

Sun and warm weather are overrated.

Ahem.  Back to my wonderful weekend.

And it really was wonderful.

Because on Sunday, some of my bestest girlfriends and I did our annual Christmas shopping day!

We all pile in a van, (mine this year), and head down to Kenwood Mall near Cincy.

We spend an entire afternoon visiting all our favorite stores, and catching up.  Then we get back in the car and head over to Rookwood, another shopping center, where we hit up Home Goods.  After that, it's dinner at J. Alexander's and then home. 

It's always so much fun to be with these gals.  We don't all get to see each other as often as we used to, but because we have all been friends for so long, every time we are together, it just picks right back up where we left off.  I love them dearly, and I treasure their friendship!

So those are some of my recent "Up's"

And now for a few of the "Down's".

I mentioned on my blog a while back that my mom had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  She has now completed her first round of chemo, and it was a rough start.

We had no idea what to expect, but it has been pretty bad.

She just has no energy at all, has had horrible pain, and has been feeling sick pretty much all the time.  This is her week off between rounds, and just now she is starting to feel a little bit better.

Our family is trying to work around her schedule, so we will have Christmas together this Saturday so that she can attend on, hopefully, a good day.

Please pray that she has a great day, and is able to enjoy the Holiday.  Please also pray that her body begins to adjust to the poison that is being pumped into her body so that it can kill the cancer, and pray that it does kill all of the cancer!

Another 'Down' is that the same week my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, my father-in-law found out he had Bone Marrow cancer. 

I know.  Crazy.

He had been having back/hip pain for a while, and after a lot of testing, they determined that the pain was from damage to his bones and joints from bone marrow cancer.
And while we had some frustration with the doctors about getting answers for him, he had gotten a treatment plan and begun his chemo.

Until he had a fall and things spiraled and he ended up in the hospital with 2 blood transfusions.

UGH!  Why can it never be easy???

Anyhow, he is actually doing better and we think he will be able to come home today.

Please pray that he can have as easy of a time as possible with this process and that the chemo kills his cancer and that his body heals from all the damage that has already been done.

Ya know, sometimes, life just comes right out of nowhere and smacks you upside the head with more than you think you can stand.

But I have to say, I guess we can pretty much stand anything when we have Jesus on our side.

I know that people are praying, and I know He is answering, because I can physically feel it.

You see, usually I am one big stress ball.  I have all kinds of anxiety, and I can never control it.  And on top of that, I am a 'glass half empty' kind of person.  I like to call it being a realist, but it's all the same.

But with this, I have been steady.  Not to say that I haven't had my moments, but overall, I have been able to just think about what needs to be done, and stay positive.

That in itself is kind of a miracle.

So that's kind of our life right now.  Taking care of and loving on the parents in our life who need us more than ever right now, and trying to stay on top of our "normal" life with 2 wonderful, beautiful little girls that also need mom and dad to take care of all of their stuff. 

I won't lie.  It's a juggling act.  But I am learning that no matter how good of a juggler you are, a few things will always fall.

Sometimes, it's dinner, (lots of fast food).

Sometimes, it's my house, (looks like a tornado...or a frat house).

Sometimes, it's an email or text that I don't return, (there have been lots lately).

And sometimes, (okay, most of the time), it's this blog. 

Because as long as it's not the important things, (or the important people I should say), I can live with that.

Okay, novel can come to an end now! :)

Thanks for staying with it, and for the prayers.  Keep em' coming please!!