Friday, December 29, 2006

The Birthday Girl

Today is the birthday of a very special person--my sister-in-law Jen! She is turning 29 today (such a baby, I know) and we are heading to KC tonight to celebrate! Chad's brother Mark is throwing her a "Magic Birthday--29 on 29" party. Jen is super fun and ultra smart and will kick your tail at Trivial Pursuit or Cranium any day of the week! She is also an accomplished knitter and makes very gorgeous scarves, hats and shawls for friends and family members every Christmas. Jen is patient and thoughtful and funny, and we are very lucky to have her as a sister-in-law! Happy Birthday, Jen!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas Blessings

Obviously Christmas was a few days ago, but I just have to share just a few of my favorite pictures of my dear family opening some of their favorite gifts.

Saturday night, our nephew Quinton got a Sponge Bob lamp and pretty much went into hysterics he was so happy. I got a little bit of video of the elation, but unfortunately much of his happiness had passed by the time I got the camera changed to video mode!

Mom loves her beautiful new hat that my sister-in-law Jen knitted especially for her!

On Sunday, Miles and Quinton got a set of 75 hot wheels from Grandma Decker, and they were thrilled! I was just really amazed that they make a set of hot wheels this big!

Miles was pretty jacked about the Leap Pad, even though I'm not really sure he knew what it was at this point!

Hope LOVED her new stuffed animal she opened on Christmas Eve, but in typical Hope fashion, she had ripped it's appendages off in about 15 minutes.

Celtic liked his new froggy, and of course he carried it around the house all evening trying to protect it from his sister, who wanted to tear its appendages off!

My best present arrived on the 25th just before 10 p.m!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Chuckles

My cousin sent me this joke the other day and it really made me laugh!

A man in Phoenix calls his son in New York the day before Christmas and says, "I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough.”

"Pop, what are you talking about?" the son screams.

“We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the father says. "We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her."

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "Like heck they're getting divorced," she shouts, "I'll take care of this,"

She calls Phoenix immediately, and screams at her father, "You are not getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Okay," he says, "They're coming for Christmas and paying their own way."

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Saddest Thing Ever

Okay, maybe this isn't the saddest thing EVER, but yesterday was about the biggest bummer of a day I've had in a couple of months. My brother Eric was supposed to fly into Kansas City last night for the Holidays. He lives in LA, and unfortunately was supposed to fly through Denver. If you've seen or read the news at all in the last week, you will of course realize that the Denver airport was closed because of a huge storm, which means that my brother's flight was canceled. Although I knew that on Wednesday, somehow I thought maybe he and his girlfriend Paige would still have enough time to get here before our party on Saturday night that I was so excited for them to attend.

Yesterday morning he called, and I was excited to hear about his new travel plans. Unfortunately, the news wasn't good at all. When they tried to call the airline to reschedule their flight, the phone line was apparently so busy the airline just quit picking it up, so it just rang and rang forever. Luckily, Paige's dad called his travel agent, who gave them a special "travel agent-only" number to call which was actually answered by a person. After THREE AND A HALF hours on hold, they were finally able to rebook their flights by pretending to be a travel agent, but the earliest flight they could get is coming in at 10 p.m. on Christmas day. AAAAACKKKK!!! I am so disappointed. Not only will they miss our party on Saturday, but Eric and I were planning on taking a road trip together to my Dad's in Ohio, and I was so excited to spend a fews days hanging out with him! I tried not to cry to my big brother, since obviously he has no control over it and that would have made him feel worse than he already does, but I have to admit I did cry to some of my coworkers!

I really should be thankful. There are thousands of people who are stranded at the Denver airport, and had Eric and Paige flown a day or two earlier they would probably be among them. If they hadn't called the special travel agent line, they probably couldn't have rescheduled their flight as quickly as they did. My mom is still worried that they'll have trouble flying through Chicago because of all of the Denver related backups, so maybe them getting to Kansas at all will be a real life Christmas miracle! :)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Sweetest Thing Ever

My friend Shannon got married in October, and I was very excited that yesterday she finally sent pictures of her wedding day. They are beautifully arranged in a slide show with music which she sent out to all of her friends and family. I asked her if I could share it with my friends (and what better way to do so than on my blog) because there was something super special about Shannon's wedding ceremony: her Great Dane Van Gogh was in attendance. Van Gogh is a huge part of Shannon's life and that of her new husband Phil, so they decided that he should also be part of their wedding day. How sweet is that?

Even though I'm sure the majority of you don't know Shannon, if you're a dog lover (or just a romantic) you will love these pictures! You might have to download the file to watch it, but it is just so sweet it's totally worth the few extra minutes. The pictures of Van Gogh start about half way through, but the music and the rest of the pictures are beautiful too!

Congratulations, Shannon! :)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

White Elephants

I've mentioned before how much fun we have with our Journey Group friends from church, and last week's Christmas party was no exception. It was our second annual white elephant gift exchange, and I just wanted to share some of the most unique and hilarious of the items that were given in the spirit of trying to get rid of things in our houses we didn't want. :)

Kristin was lucky enough to choose this lovely head. Cara is a hair stylist, and she had this head left from one of her projects. The Mildrens stole it from Kristin later and named it Steve or Mark or something.

James scored big with a box filled with bunches of girly gifts, deceptively wrapped in NFL wrapping paper. The box's treasures included a little Kimono style cover for a water bottle and some gloves with painted fingernails. James was a great sport about getting in touch with his feminine side!

Chad received a lovely toy that was actually quite mesmerizing once it got some batteries!

Okay, maybe these don't seem quite as funny now that I'm writing about them, but I guarantee you would have laughed if you'd been there! Not a Journey Group meeting goes by without us doubling over with laughter about something or other!

For the complete set of pictures from the evening, you can click here to watch the slideshow!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Picture Perfect Packages

I started this strange tradition several years ago, and honestly, I can't even remember how many years it's been or how I got the idea in the first place. I only know that it's one of the few creative things I do all year long. Most people, including my husband, probably think it's time consuming and silly, but the result is just so darn festive I can't give up the practice!

Every Christmas, instead of purchasing normal wrapping paper and/or gift bags, I wrap all of our presents for friends and family in brown craft paper, then use decorative sponges to paint the packages. The colorful and coordinated gifts are topped off with assorted ribbons. I do the wrapping as the gifts are purchased, and then once I have a big batch of gifts wrapped I spend an evening painting. This was the first batch I did one evening last week.

This probably seems like such a ridiculous waste of time, but I just think they're so pretty! It's a weird tradition that I just can't resist doing every year!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A McPain In My Stomach

Last night, Chad and I did something neither of us had ever done before. It was the KU Alumni Association staff holiday party, and our event included dinner at the Improv Comedy Club in Kansas City at Zona Rosa. If you've never heard of Zona Rosa, it's a Plaza-like shopping/residential area that's up in north Kansas City. A couple of the comics described the area as a little "spray out of a can" version of Kansas City that they created near the airport since the airport is out in the middle of nowhere. It's a beautiful shopping area, but there wasn't anything that out of the ordinary with regard to the stores. We popped into The Sharper Image for a few minutes to see what useless and expensive stuff they had for Christmas, only to find possibly the most ridiculous gadget I've ever seen in my life: the World's First Truly Silent & Efficient Watch Winder. Are you kidding me right now?

Okay, so back to the comedians. The first guy was named Craig Peters and was actually originally from Missouri. He was pretty foul, but very funny. He did this bit about his road trip to KC and how he stopped to have a big McBreakfast and ate his McMuffin and then got a McPain in his side. You can probably imagine where the bit goes from here so I won't repeat it, but needless to say it was hysterical. He was a really funny guy, but I can't find much about him on the Internet except this random picture (that really doesn't look much like him at all) which came from the website of some other comedy club.

The headliner for the evening was a very funny and not quite as foul comedian named Jake Johannsen who is very well-known. He's been on Letterman 32 times, so as you can imagine, there's references to him all over the Internet! You can check out his MySpace page or his website or some videos of him on YouTube. He was very funny. We pretty much laughed nonstop for his entire performance, which I think was about an hour. Some of his material was a little bit racy, but he also has some funny stuff about being newly married and a new father. Overall it was a very funny evening, and I'm really glad we got to go! By the end of the evening, my cheeks hurt and I had a McPain in my stomach from laughing so hard. Tonight is our KUEA Christmas party, which I'm pretty sure will not be nearly as entertaining!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Parent's Worst Nightmare

Someone sent me this picture via e-mail the other day and it made me laugh really hard. Can you imagine how embarrassed you'd be as a parent if you received a copy of your child's "goofy" class picture and your child was the first kid in the front row?

Oh my. That had to be horrifying.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Most Adorable Dogs in the World

The other night while Chad and I were eating dinner, Celtic and Hope struck a pose that was just too cute to ignore. Unfortunately, the only camera within arm's reach was the one on my Palm Pilot, which doesn't offer much clarity. Regardless, I had to capture a shot of this adorable pair.

I'm so glad they've bonded. :)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Speaking of Trees...

If you read my last post you know I have an aversion to Scotch Pines trying to poke me to death. Here's an incredible video that someone sent me the other day which only strengthens my disdain of this these dry, prickly trees:

Is that not amazing (and scary)? Just one more reason to love my moist, soft White Pines!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

My Tree Addiction

Last night, Chad and I finally got around to decorating the Christmas tree we purchased last weekend. For the last 10 years or so, our tradition has been to go out to a local Christmas tree farm and walk around in the freezing cold while Chad picks out trees that are adequate and I explain to him why they aren't perfect for our home. It was actually kind of fun and not really as painful as I'm making it sound.

Our favorite tree farm was this place in Eudora called Pine Hill, which was complete with horse rides, wassail, a pond with ducks, and dogs running around with big bows around their necks. The farmhouse was so gorgeous I would always tell Chad it was my dream house and I wanted to buy it if it went on the market. Then, one Christmas, it did. Of course it was way out of our price range, but the most awful thing about them selling the farm was that it meant our favorite tree farm was closing! The last year they were open, because they hadn't been replanting (knowing they were going to sell) and their crop wasn't that good, they flew in some White Pines and other non-Kansas varieties of trees from some northern states. This is where my tree addiction began.

For those of you who commonly cut your own trees in Kansas, you'll be familiar with the plethora of cuts and stab wounds you usually receive when trying to set up and decorate a Scotch Pine. They are dry and they are prickly. When I saw the beautiful soft, green, flexible needles of the White Pine and realized that I could actually touch it without bleeding, I fell in love. Although it wasn't quite as fun (for me) as walking around the tree farm in search of perfection, it was worth the sacrifice to bring home this soft, perfectly shaped tree that wasn't a fire hazard. Plus, we still enjoyed the ambiance of the tree farm.

So the last couple of years, we've gone to a different local tree farm, yet stuck with the new tradition of walking through the small selection of gorgeous White Pines and picking the most perfect one in 10 minutes or less. It's not quite the same, but this farm does have hot cider, which makes it a little bit festive and fun. It's worth the loss of tradition to get my White Pine fix and stick my face right into the branches!

So last night, we decorated our beautiful tree (that's so perfect it actually looks fake) and put up the rest of the Christmas decorations in preparation for our favorite holiday! We really only have one important tradition when it comes to tree decoration:

If you can't tell exactly what is happening here, it's the ceremonial hanging of Chad's favorite ornaments--Larry Bird and the more recently acquired Steelers bulb. I think we have a picture of Chad hanging Larry Bird for like the last 5 years, at least!

Anyway, after an evening of tree decorating we are very pleased with our beautifully soft White Pine!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

You probably think I'm referring to Pearl Harbor, but actually, in the Luce household, December 7 is the anniversary of another very significant event in history--at least in our personal history! Five years ago today, I took Chad to the emergency room with severe stomach pains. After a long wait and thorough examination, the surgeon on call assured us that Chad needed a "textbook appendectomy." HA! When this simple surgery lasted way longer than expected, the surgeon came into the waiting room to inform me that he wasn't even able to find Chad's appendix, since his appendix wasn't enlarged in the least. What he did find, however, was a fist-sized mass in Chad's colon, which turned out to be diverticulitis. To make a long story short and spare you the gory details, complications from this surgery to remove the mass led to a second surgery 6 days later, which led to a grueling hospital stay of 16 days. Watching Chad suffer through the pain of those surgeries and the subsequent recovery had to be one of the most physically and emotionally draining two weeks of my life! I couldn't even fathom how difficult it was for him. Finally, on December 23, just in time for Christmas, I brought my weak and emaciated husband home from the hospital. One of these days I'll hook up the scanner (five years ago we didn't have a digital camera) and show pictures of what he looked like when he came home. I believe he weighed just under 160 pounds. It was crazy!

Due to the nature of Chad's surgery, about 2 months later he had to go back for a third and final surgery, just days after his 30th birthday. Thankfully, all went smoothly and he was out of the hospital in a mere 7 days. Fortunately, his problems since then have been relatively minimal and he leads a fairly normal life considering he's missing half of his large intestine!

While I'd certainly never want for either of us to have to go through something like that again, I know it was a learning experience--one that strengthened us as individuals and as a couple, and one that definitely strengthened our faith. We saw God's hand in so many of the circumstances surrounding the event, there was no doubt that it was all part of His ultimate plan! Not a fun trial, I assure you, but one that we're thankful is 5 years behind us!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Speaking of Creative Friends...

Last week, my friend Amber and I went to a "Bead and Beauty" party to check out my friend Kristin's latest jewelry designs. For the last few years Kristin has been selling her original creations around the holidays because they make such wonderful Christmas presents. This year she had what seemed like hundreds of bracelets, necklaces and earrings on display. She even had beads available for you to make your own necklaces, which I did, with a little help from Amber! Although the idea was to go shopping for gifts for friends and family, I actually fell in love with one bracelet that I ended up buying for myself. It's kind of hard to tell what they look like from the picture, but here are my beautiful new purchases, most of which will be given to loved ones for Christmas.

Kristin is super creative and has lots of jewelry to choose from, so if you're interested in some of her designs, I can probably hook you up!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Festive Trees

This week I went to an annual Lawrence event called the Festival of Trees. It's a benefit that supports The Shelter, Inc., which is a local organization that provides emergency social services for children in our community. I probably wouldn't have attended the event except that my friend Amanda, who used to be a graphic designer at Endowment, was the featured local artist for the event this year. She was commissioned to make 25 handmade ornaments to sell at the event, the proceeds of which would benefit The Shelter. There was a whole article about her in the Lawrence Journal-World that talks about her ornaments in particular and her art in general. There's even a link to a slideshow with audio commentary by Amanda. It's pretty cool! She's super talented, and you can see lots more of her work on her website, I just love her work and could spend hours looking through her portfolio. I was lucky enough to purchase the very last one of her handmade ornaments on the last day of the festival, and we discovered that it compliments our red kitchen beautifully! I'll be displaying it year round instead of just at Christmas!

Anyway, the Festival of Trees raises funds by receiving donations of uniquely decorated trees from people and organizations in the community, and then auctioning them off to other people and organizations in the community. It might sound a little silly, but when I actually went this year, I was pleasantly surprised at how many really fun and unique entries there were. I was hoping that the Journal-World would have lots of pictures of the fun entrants, because some of them were just too crazy or complicated to describe. Some of them weren't even really trees at all, like the entry from Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, which was actually like four little putting greens stacked on top of one another in the shape of a tree. Many of the trees has particular themes, like the Dr. Seuss tree, which apparently sold for more than $2000. There were trees with decorations made by children, and trees that were themselves made of recycled metal. It was really interesting! Although the Journal-World didn't publish many pictures with their article the following day, they did publish a link to the local news coverage, so you can get a glimpse of a few of the trees!