Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Tidbits

It's Christmas morning. Happy birthday, Jesus! I am so very thankful to be here with my family. Thankful that we are healthy and happy. The excitement of the season has carried us through the last several weeks to this day, and we have enjoyed every minute of it. Last night, we stayed at home and enjoyed homemade soup, reading the Christmas story from the Bible, and opening a few presents from Mimi and Daddy Nick. Oh, the kids were so excited about their gifts!
Christmas Eve has been very different since we lost Jan's mother, but I felt her presence as I made the vegetable beef soup and cornbread we warmed our tummies with last night. I know she would have been impressed with how much the boys knew about Jesus' birth and life as we discussed His birthday and sacrifice He made for our lives.
My children do not attend a school with a Biblical focus or curriculum, and it saddens me that schools that do have Biblical curriculums are not financially possible for all families. I do everything I can to provide them with scripture at home, involving them at church, and trying to lead by example. This Christmas, and my goal for every Christmas in the future, is to provide my children with the example of giving to others. Shopping for a family who lost their belongings in a house fire recently was one thing we did this year. I hope that we can continue to adopt a local family every year. It's nice to send money and things to people living in third world countries, but there are so many right here who need help, too. This Christmas, I am so very thnkful for the blessings God has given us.
I will admit, it is a struggle to balance Santa and Jesus' birthday during the holiday season. The kids get so excited about their wish lists(and I do, too!). They are only allowed to ask for 3 things from Santa, a Christmas tradition my mother began with my brother and me. (Because that's how many gifts Jesus received from the Magi.) This year, John Owen and Jonah both asked for Nintendo DSi XL gaming systems, a Skylanders Wii game and figure, and a Pokemon trading card game. Mary Claire asked for a "big girl" bike, a sleeping bag, and a dollhouse. What fun they have had this morning seeing what Santa brought!
We have had our Christmas morning breakfast, and the children are now going back and forth between their gifts...:) I can hear Jan playing Christmas music downstairs and I want to go down to join him, so I will end this Christmas post with wishing you all a blessed and merry Christmas and a prosperous new year!
Since this post would not feel complete without some pictures, here's a few "looks" into our Christmas season celebrations:

Christmas City 2012

Mary Claire singing in her Christmas program at school.

The boys both shopped with their own money to buy gifts for family. Jonah gave me a green scarf 'cause "he knew that was my favorite color". John Owen gave me some ear muffs which he said I could use while running this winter. :)

Lots of Christmas baking going on...

Don't need any mistletoe for this kiss!:)
Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas at Our House

Here's a glimpse into our house this Christmas...
The entry way with our nutcracker collection displayed on the table and our stockings hung on the banister.
The dining room Christmas tree. I just got this tree for downstairs since our tree we've had for almost 6 years has not made it's way downstairs for 3 or 4 years now. (It's just too big! I call it our "Griswald" tree, and it goes straight to the playroom. I'm a strong girl, but the ordeal of bringing that tree downstairs is TOO much!) Despite my husband's objection to another tree, I found a great Black Friday deal this year on the tree below and...voila! With the click of a button, it changes from white lights to colored lights. Personally, I like white lights, but my kids love the colored ones. It's a win-win situation! Hoo-rah!

A little touch added to the room where I spend most of my time.:)
The kitchen!

The fixture over the kitchen table

The playroom and the "Griswald" tree before I put all the ornaments on the tree. In the window in the background of the picture, you can see 3 stockings hung in the window. I love these metal stockings! My mom found them about 4 years ago, and I hang them with a small nail and ribbon. I love the fact that you can see them from the outside of the house. Like a sign saying, "Children live here!":) My very talented friend Christi, painted a canvas for me which says, "The stockings were hung..." which I hang above the window. Every year, there is at least one treat in the metal stockings for each child 'cause Santa won't leave any stocking empty, right?:) 
Two of my "elves" giving their favorite gingerbread boy and girl pillows a squeeze!

My Santa-in-the-box that my Mom gave me last year.

I love to use red berries and greenery every where I can.
Below is a cute Christmas frame with a picture of my kiddos beneath the red berries on the bar in front of the sink.

Mary Claire's tree and her pink Santa (from my Mom). I had to put the Santa on the dresser this year since we now have a puppy who just can't resist the temptation to chew! Praise the Lord, he mas managed to stay away from the pink tulle around the bottom of the tree.

Jonah's tree decorated with toy soldier ribbon and many of his handmade ornaments from the past few years.

John Owen's tree decorated with LOTS of lights (Boy, that thing puts off some heat!) and an antique set of ornaments. Some are broken, but they are still some of my favorite ornaments.

A small tree in the bathroom upstairs

I will have to add pictures of the front doors later. The decorations on the doors are some of my favorites!
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Somebody Please Pinch Me!

Ever done something and wondered how in the world you did it? Or feel like what you did was a dream? Well, that's where I am right now.

Some of Team "Go Lucy Go" before the races began

Laura and me

Saturday, December 1, 2012, at precisely 8:17:02 a.m. I began my first marathon! I set my goal for running the St. Jude Children's Hospital marathon months ago, and even questioned whether I would actually follow through with it as I began the race. Jan hurt his knee and had to back out of doing ANY running at all, so I lost my running partner AND I have been fighting this cold for over a week now. (Just got a sinus "cocktail" shot and antibiotic yesterday!) My mother cautioned me about making myself sicker than I already was.

Anyway, I couldn't shake the feeling that it was now or never! Nothing I would endure for 26.2 miles would be anything like what our sweet friend Lucy has endured in her battle with brain cancer. Or what any of the children that St. Jude treats have endured.

I was so incredibly thankful to have my friend, Anna, to run the first half with me. It makes the time pass faster to have someone to talk to and run beside. When she told me she was turning at mile 12.5 to finish the half marathon, I tossed her my long sleeved shirt, took the rest of her "fruit chews", and I kept going! On my own for the next 13+ miles...

There's something about running long distances by yourself that helps put a lot of things in perspective...at least for me. I think and pray about so many things. Saturday, I thought about my kids, my husband, my parents, my job, my friends, what I needed to get done after the run and in the next few days (you know, that "Mom's To-Do List"), what I am going to EAT at the end. (Don't judge, whatever motivates me. haha) I read messages on the t-shirts of other runners. I admired the sights as I passed houses and people holding funny, yet encouraging signs. One particular sign's message "spoke" to me. (I spotted this one before I hit the 12.5 distance.) It said, "13.1 because you are only HALF crazy!" Then the FULL ON CRAZY feeling hit home.:)

Here I was, attempting something only 1% of the world's population accomplishes! 26. 2 miles!!
The last 4-5 miles were hard for me due to my side hurting and my FEET! Oh, my feet!:) I tried not to think about it...Walking didn't hurt my feet as badly, so I walked as fast as I could. A male runner ran up beside me and said, "That's sad, you are walking as fast as I am running." We both laughed, and kept right on going. I met a girl my age who was also doing her first marathon. She said her husband was somewhere behind her, and I wished that Jan was with me. I went through 2 wet towels and the last of my energy gels. The last mile, I found myself LONGING more than ever to see the turn to the finish. I was just about "spent", mentally and physically.

I had told myself that I wanted to complete my 1st marathon in 5:00:00, but it took me 5:12:11. I am not at all disappointed, though. I gave it all I had without killing myself. (I kept reminding myself at the end when I had to slow my pace down and walk some, that I had 3 kids to take care of, I had to sing at church the next morning, and go to work on Monday. See, I can be sensible!)

I started crying as I crossed the finish and heard my mother scream from the stands, "Way to go, Nicole!" I placed my medal around my neck, and tried not to look too desperate as I GRABBED the banana some lady was holding up.:) Then, along with the other marathoners, I found my way up the stairs from the field and then, finally, found my mom. I laid my head on her shoulder and cried again. She wasted no time in getting me to the food tables.:)

I cannot describe how I felt afterwards. Surprisingly, I have not been as sore as I thought I might be. 48 hours later, and I can't really complain about anything hurting. God is good! No doubt, He carried me through it. Can't say if I'll ever do a marathon again right now. But, maybe, just maybe...I'll do it for St. Jude again next year! Feels good to say, "I did it!"

Monday, November 19, 2012

Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart

The words to one of my favorite songs resounds through my head as I approach this Thanksgiving holiday. Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One, give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ His Son.
And immediately, my heart begins pouring out the many things for which I am thankful:

1. Thankful for the 3 little voices playing in the room next to where I sit and type this.
2. I am forever thankful for my hard-working and honest husband who loves me despite my faults.
3. Thankful for loving parents who gave (and still give) so much love to me and now give their love to my husband and our children.
4. Thankful for the time I have to be home with my children this week and for the beautiful day we spent running errands and playing at the park.
5. Thankful for my health so that I can run and work and spend time with friends and family.
6. Thankful for food, a warm house, a reliable car, and a great job.
7. I am thankful for friends I can laugh with, talk to about anything, run with...Friends I can rely on and trust and know that no matter how much time passes, we can pick up right where we left off.
8. Thankful that God allowed me another day...TODAY.

And if He chooses to give me TOMORROW, I will give thanks for all He has given to a very undeserving sinner such as I.
Happy Thanksgiving!
Love, Nicole

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Home Sweet Home

I sit at my computer right now listening to the rain falling outside, and I am so thankful to be in my house. Warm, protected from the weather, kids in the bed, and me ready for bed...reflecting on the last few weeks' events. Wow! Time sure passes quickly right before your face.
Halloween 2012 was a blur, but we sure had fun!

A stealth ninja, Pikachu(from Pokemon), and Rapunzel

A little trick-or-treating...

Mary Claire loves Ms. Andi Katherine!

After trick-or-treating, we were off to our church for the Fall Festival.
My kids were EVERYWHERE having fun, playing games, jumping in the bouncy houses...I have hardly any pictures due to the fact that I tried to stay "centrally located" and watch all three from my spot.

Soccer season has ended, and we had our awards ceremony yesterday. This was my K4-K5 team that I coached this year. Mark my words, it might be a LONG time before I coach my daughter again. To say it was difficult(and I've coached middle school girls before), is putting it nicely.:)

Jonah participated in the Twinkie eating contest. He almost won, too. I would have given him the award for the best expression while stuffing the Twinkie in his mouth and eating it!
(That is maybe the 2nd Twinkie he has eaten in his enitre life!)

John Owen's team won the "wrap the coach in toilet paper" contest!

Before Halloween, we gathered in Somerville to celebrate my grandmother's 92nd birthday!
This is all of the great grandchildren (minus 2 more boys) in birth order. Starting with Mary Shields (age 16), all the way down to Henry (age 2).

Silly picture time!

When you turn 92, you can blow your own birthday horn as loud as you want to!:)
Jenny surrounded by her great grandchildren as she celebrates her birthday.

Aunt Dinah brought pumpkins from their pumpkin patch and the little kids had fun decorating them!
Last week, I was preparing for Jan's birthday and a half marathon on Sunday when something I wasn't prepared for happened...

A trip to the doctor with Jonah, then he was admitted to the hospital, and kept there for two days.
Asthma is the culprit. We could not leave until his oxygen level came up and stayed up without the hepl of the oxygen machine. Breathing treatments around the clock, and little to no sleep for Jonah or Mommy.:)

Happy to see sister and vice versa.

After several rounds of checkers, someone was feeling better! And trying to hide from my camera...
We got to go home late on Saturday, Jan's birthday.
I had no cake, but I had managed to call and order a chocolate pie from a local restuarant which my mother willingly picked up for me. Thank goodness for take-out, too! On the way home from the hospital, I called and ordered two of Jan's favorite things from another local restuarant. Not exactly what we had planned, but thankful to all be home and healthy more than anything.
I rested much better that night  and got to run my half marathon the next morning! Surprisingly,  it was my best time for 13.1 miles!! Probably still running on adrenaline or something after being in the hospital for 48+ hours with a child "hopped up" on albuterol and steroids. And no, I didn't take any of his meds. :)

Glad to be home sweet home! 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Scenic City Part 2

(Continued from previous post)

Rock City had some amazing sights to see!

(Admittedly, taking this picture made me a little nervous.) I didn't walk out there. Did I mention I don't like heights?:)

 Jan demonstrating his Superdad powers!
 Wow! Like father, like son. :)

After Rock City, and a "cat nap" in the car for 3 of the 5 travelers, we climbed aboard the Incline Railway at Lookout Mountain. Very steep at the top!

 The view DOWN...gulp!

Somebody enjoyed the ride!

Next, we were off to the Children's Discovery Museum.
We actually went for about an hour the first day we were in Chattanooga, but they closed at 5:00, so we were forced to leave before we had experienced it ALL.
John Owen kept asking, "When are we going back to the museum?":)
This was probably his favorite place in Chattanooga.
Can't say that I blame him...It was pretty awesome!
I just couldn't help myself, and neither could they for 4 hours!! That's right, 4 hours!)

 River Works Exhibit
Very cool...
Very wet!!

 You better believe this child of mine wanted to wear the plastic apron to keep her clothes from getting WET!

MEGA climbing apparatus

More climbing!

"Hamming it up" for the camera:)

Jan got in on the fun. Isn't he talented? He can talk on his cell phone and balance at the same time!

Up on the rooftop of the museum is a Simple Machines Exhibit. Lots of wheels, pulleys, inclined planes, etc.