Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas, Dad

Dad, I've been thinking about you so much this holiday season, our first since you passed away at the end of July. Mom said there is no perfect time to say goodbye to a parent. It's true. There are so many things I want to tell you, so many stories I have heard for the first time since your passing. Sometimes I think you are looking down on us from Heaven. I hope you are proud and watching over my babies.

We have a tradition where we give little Kade a nutcracker each year. We try to pick one out that matches what he's been up to that year. For example, one year he was an old-fashioned golfer ala Payne Stewart so he got a nutcracker that matched. This year as he headed off to Texas to celebrate Christmas we got him this cute cowboy. I was chuffed when I got him home to find out that his name is "Bill" another reminder of you this holiday.

Shirley sent me this sweet poem that I read in a quiet moment this Christmas morning and then again to Brian. I want to share it today for others like my friends Aldyn, Amy, Shanna, Blair, Jackie, Erin, Adam and sweet Mary who may be missing loved ones this season.

This poem was written by a 13 year old boy who died of a brain tumor that he had battled for four years. He died on December 14, 1997. He gave this to his mom before he died. His name was Ben.

My First Christmas in Heaven
I see the countless
Christmas trees
around the world below
With tiny lights, like Heaven's stars,
reflecting on the snow

The sight is so spectacular,
please wipe away the tear
For I am spending Christmas with
Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs
that people hold so dear
But the sounds of music can't compare
with the Christmas choir up here.

I have no words to tell you,
the joy their voices bring,
For it is beyond description,
to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me,
I see the pain inside your heart.
But I am not so far away,
We really aren't apart.

So be happy for me, dear ones,
You know I hold you dear.
And be glad I'm spending Christmas
with Jesus Christ this year.

I sent you each a special gift,
from my heavenly home above.
I sent you each a memory
of my undying love.

After all, love is a gift more precious
than pure gold.
was always most important
the stories Jesus told.

Please love and keep each other,
my Father said to do.
I can't count the blessing or love
has for each of you.

So have a Merry Christmas and
Wipe away that tear
Remember, I am spending Christmas with
Jesus Christ this year

I miss you Dad. I love you. And I am so thankful you are with our Lord and Savior. Merry Christmas Your Daughter, Michelle

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! I wanted to share our Christmas card that we made on Shutterfly this year. Last year we spent big bucks with a professional photographer and expensive cards because Brian's parents Gerry and Betty were visiting from Ireland. We are on a tighter budget this year so I took all the photos except for where Kade is wearing blue. My friend Jennifer took that one and it is a favorite. Shutterfly had some great promotions going on and we got 100 cards for under $40!! I am still amazed and pleased as cranberry punch with the way they turned out! Each year I use Shutterfly to make calendars for the grandparents, myself, Melissa and Brian and that's my next project before the end of the year!
My Isla at eight months old! We took these pictures before naptime one day. She is always my sweet, happy baby!

She got her two front teeth for Christmas! You can barely see tooth #1 popping through here but I took this picture just two weeks ago.

Oh mon dieu. Little monkey Teagan! THIS picture took no less than 143 tries. Oh but I love her. It's just easier to get action shots of my two year old this year so I am happy we got one photo to work with!

We went to Kade's school Christmas program last week and I was SO proud of him!

And he even let his auntie capture a few photos despite the late hour!

Merry Christmas everyone! I can't wait to share our Tree Hopping photos. Today we are off to see Santa, take #2! I tried earlier this week thinking the line was short only to be told they are on a pager system and there was a two hour wait. A pager system??? I am just crossing my fingers that we are the last parents in town to get these shots today so we'll be able to walk right up to his jolly 'ole self! Hopefully sans any tears. From the kids. Or me. Stay tuned!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Perfect Gift

Well I just can't keep up with how fast this season is moving along! I got a chuckle out of an email I received yesterday from Zulily. It said: It's officially last-minute.

That made me remember that I haven't sent out an awesome link I meant to share on here weeks ago. Are you stumped for a thoughtful, last-minute gift? What about the gift of Compassion? Imagine your recipient's heart when they learn that on their behalf you have given the gift of hope and a future to families around the world? Pretty darn cool if you ask me. Compassion International has an online catalogue where you can give food, chickens, medicine and more to those in the world's poorest countries this season. They are truly gifts that keep on giving long past Christmas morning. We gave soccer balls on behalf of my sister's family last year. This made sense because they are a family of five and all play soccer with mom and dad coaching more than one team between them. Here are some of my favs from the catalogue this year:

*African Drought Survival ($13) - In Africa, an estimated 12 million people are suffering from a serious drought. Your gift can help train families to grow their own food so that their families can face escalating food prices, as well as weather future droughts.

*Survive to Age Five ($52)- Going without needed immunizations can put a child’s health and future at risk. Your gift will provide one child with all the recommended immunizations through his or her 5th birthday.

*Chickens ($16) - A chicken is much more than a meal for a family living in poverty — one chicken can provide a source of income, manure for the vegetable garden, and a steady supply of eggs. Your gift will help put food on the family’s table and provide earnings for the future.

*Mosquitos Nets ($10) - Your gift will help give children and their families countless nights of mosquito-free sleep with an insecticide-treated bed net. They will also receive education about ways to prevent the breeding areas where mosquitos thrive to prevent malaria.

I hope you will consider a gift through Compassion International or better yet, sponsoring one of the precious children on the website. Your tax-deductible contribution of just $38 a month connects your child with a loving, church-based Child Sponsorship Program that provides food and clean water, medical care, education, and life-skills training. Most important of all, your sponsored child will hear about Jesus Christ and be encouraged to develop a lifelong relationship with God. When you sponsor a child, you'll receive your child's photo, personal story and a child sponsorship packet by mail in approximately 15 days. You can also choose to pick a child based on age, country or match a birthday with your child's. We love our little Pascaline in Rwanda and she has become a part of our family.

May God bless you this season! The most PERFECT gift??? It comes from Jesus Christ who gave his life for us. What more could he give? His sacrifice made it possible for our sin to be erased, for us to spend an eternity with our Heavenly Father. Our God is an awesome God and as you delight in the joys of Christmas morning I hope you and yours are filled with peace, love and happiness!

In Jesus' Name, Michelle

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Catching Up: Our Arizona Trip!

Happy weekend everyone! I am trying to get caught up on posting a ton of fun pictures we took on our trips to Arizona, Colorado, over Halloween and Thanksgiving! I can't believe we are already in December! Anyway, we had an amazing visit to the desert to see my sister's adorable family. Teagan and Isla loved hanging out with their cousins Peyton, Kiersten and Zachary!

Daydreaming under a desert sky!

Baby Isla was all smiles!

Zachary feeding the giraffes at the zoo! It was amazing how close we got to the animals!

This cracks me up! Little Tea getting introduced to scarecrows this fall. She seems to be thinking, "What's the scoop on your arms fella?"

The Daddys! We love them!

Our pretty girls! Equal parts fierce soccer players and graceful ballerinas! They are gearing up for their annual roles in The Nutcracker right now. goodness. I remember holding this girl as a newborn. Here she is just weeks after her 13th birthday! Her heart is just as beautiful!
I love my sis! We could talk for hours and Brian is always tickled at how we finish each other's thoughts and move on to new topics with rapid fire speed! What? We just have LOTS to cover in a short time on these visits. I always leave her house refreshed and inspired with design ideas, healthy recipes, homeschooling in our home and crazy cute birthday party ideas for the kids!

Fun Is: The slide in my cousin's backyard!

Another shot of Peyton's cute scrunchies she made for Tea in three colors.!

Hi handsome boy! Happy December birthday to you!

Teagan hung out in her Halloween costume this mid-October day. She was excited about being a purple fairy this year thanks to Auntie Angie who bought her this costume! Just this week she donned the same attire for naptime.

Zachary has joined his family's love of soccer! He made something like five goals one Saturday morning while we were there!

This photo made me smile. Teagan loves squirrels (see the shirt?) and is pretending to be a squirrel here eating an acorn!
Teagan says goodbye from the airport! We had SO much fun on this visit and miss our family already. We're on our way to Colorado next so stay tuned for more fun pics!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas!

We still don't have our tree or fresh garland up but it is getting very Christmassy around here! I am all about deco mesh this year which I promise has changed my life! Thank you Pinterest! I wasn't ready for the fall to be over so this wreath has lots of gorgeous red and copper tones with sumptious cheetah patterned ribbon peaking through!

I love this mini paper circle ornament I made for a smaller tree in our dinning room.

Deco mesh strikes again! This time I used lots of lime green and bright reds. Lovin' it though it doesn't match our maroon PB stockings. Hmmm. I used a Picnick feature that's making it look a bit wild here. It's not that bright. You get the idea though.

My french doors got a spruce up too!

And so did the chandelier in the dining room thanks to my friend Shanna who taught me how to make these sparkly tissue pom poms.

These paper circles have been my obsession for weeks now. I think I made 40 of them. Yes. Forty. And I have the glue gun burns to prove it. They are beautiful, aren't they?

I so love a little bling and added my bits of jewels to them.

Believe me when I type that it was no small feat getting them to hang on the wall. It.was.hard. Ultimately after several failed mediums and multiple trips to Hobby Lobby, Michael's and AC Moore I called in reinforcements via my engineer hubby who got them up with liquid nail gun for construction glue. He had an awesome idea to use plastic lattice work to make an even bigger display and I so can't wait for Valentines or one of the girl's birthday parties to give this a go again! One note, we hung them too high but it was a last minute communication snafu as guests were about to show for our North Pole Breaky. They should be slightly higher than the dining room table as a lovely backdrop!

We made our first gingerbread house when Kade was visiting because he is an expert on these sorts of things at age four. He directed us well and mission accomplished! This was lots of fun!

I am touched by this simple picture because Tea and Kade were putting on shoes to help Brian put the Christmas lights up the day after Thanksgiving. I can't believe how big they've gotten and so fast!

Oh here is trouble. I mean, poor Isla. Can you just seeeeeeee the amount of messing these two will do with her? She's none too happy with it.

My sweet baby! Sporting her new tooth for Christmas. I took this one afternoon last week.

After our North Pole Breakfast we caught a much needed snooze. That night our neighborhood had a Christmas party for the kids with dinner at the golf club house, crafts to make, Santa came to visit and they got to ride on his "sleigh" through the hood on a horse drawn wagon which was a huge hit! The night wrapped up with the dj playing some fun music. The sight of Santa and a bazillion kids on the dance floor around him is something I'll never forget. We had a great time AND I got pics of the big guy with Kade, Teagan and Isla - and nary a tear was involved. Score!

Teagan was delighted to find a few treasures in our Christmas tote boxes! With that we say sláinte! More Christmas festivities to come!

Monday, December 5, 2011

North Pole Breaky!

Happy December everyone! I have so many pictures to share and am way behind on posting so look for lots of new stuff this week as I get caught up. In the meantime, Christmas is charging toward us full steam ahead and we've been having a great time getting into the spirit!

This year we started a new tradition in our house by welcoming the season via a North Pole Breakfast hosted by our new house elf, Pookie...ahem. That is, I thought her name was Pookie but Teagan has very different ideas. She insists that her name is Kiersten as a reminder of her much loved cousin... so Kiersten it is!

Elf Pookie/Kiersten left a special basket Kade, Teagan and Isla found in the morning amidst much excitement! It included a letter introducing herself and special Christmas pajamas.

The letter told them Kade's house elf Zachary (also named after his cousin...see a theme here?) had shown her how to get to our house! She said they need to put on their new pjs and head downstairs for a very special breakfast!

The breakfast table was set for a surprise visit from Teagan's buddies Jackson, Caleb, Lauren, Olivia and Landon who came over at 9:00! Each child got a special bucket with Christmas socks, sparkly Christmas cup, candy cane and reindeer food to sprinkle on the lawn on Christmas Eve!

We had "snow" covered donuts, chocolate donuts, fruits, cheese danish, Christmas breakfast casserole, hot chocolate, oj, mimosas, and lots and lots of coffee!

Check out Dave, Shanna, Caleb and Liam's matching jammies!! I love this idea but Brian so won't do this with me. Boo.

Speaking of cute jammies, I adore mom Blair's Christmas paisley pair with frilly hem! Aren't they oh-so-cute? Little Lauren is always a fashionista and looking sweet!

Good Morning Olivia and Landon! Landon is a HUGE...I mean HUGE FSU fan so I he wore his sporty pjs!

One of the few pics I got of my busy Teagan that morning! She is so not into mom taking pics this year which makes me wonder if we will get a Christmas card pic out of her at all? Still, there never was a happier girl that morning which made the lack of sleep worthwhile!Speaking of sleep, Isla's ready for her morning nap after all the excitement. Sleep little angel! It's a busy, happy season.

A few of my friends asked for the recipes from that morning so I thought I'd share them here. Both are super easy!

Breakfast Cheese Danish


2 pks cream cheese

1/4 c sugar*

1 tbsp vanilla extract

2 pks crescent rolls

1/2 stick butter

1 tsp sugar*

1 tsp cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350. degrees

Lightly spray Pam in bottom of 9x13" pan. Lay out one pack of crescent rolls in the bottom of the pan pressing the seams together. Mix together the first three ingredients (cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract) until smooth. Spread on top of cresent rolls. Top with second can of crescent rolls, pressing seams together. Drizzle mixture of melted butter, sugar and cinnamon on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

*We found the original recipe way too sweet so cut our portions as noted above for a more savory version of the dish. Play with these amounts to suit your family's taste!

Christmas Breakfast Casserole


4 c frozen shredded hash browns

1/2 c chopped onion

8 oz bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 c (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese

1 can (12 fl oz) Carnation Evaporated Milk

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt (we use Tony Cachere's)

4 oz sausage patties, cooked and crumbled*

*This wasn't in the original recipe but adds some oh-so-good flavor!


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease 8" square baking dish. Layer 1/2 potatoes, 1/2onion, 1/2 bacon, 1/2 sausage and 1/2 cheese. Repeat in a second layer. In a small bowl combine evaporated milk, egg and seasoned salt. Pour over mixture in pan and cover with foil. Bake 55-60 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 additional minutes. Let stand 10-15 min before serving.