Monday, December 29, 2008

Family and Friends at Christmas

By far, the best part about our five day Christmas vacation was the extra time spent with family and friends. Last Tuesday night, we went to our friends Charles and Laura's for our traditional Christmas gathering with them and Chad's mom Joan, Chad's brother Mark, his half-brother Jonathan, and all of the significant others and children. It's definitely a Christmas celebration that we look forward to every year! Great food, great company, great presents (Joanie gave me the remaining three books in the Twilight series, one of which I've already finished)--it's always a great time!

On Christmas Day, my best present arrived via US Airways from California--my brother Eric! Although he was pretty pooped from his day of travel after just a few hours sleep, we still had a nice time with him and Mom and Cliff--eating, opening presents and playing some of the new Wii games we got for Christmas! This game Joanie gave us called WarioWare: Smooth Moves is absolutely the weirdest thing you've ever seen, but it's also flipping hysterical! My stomach hurt from laughing--as well as hula hooping on the new Wii Fit!

I got to hang out with Eric a little on Friday and Saturday, although I will say that he slept during many of my waking hours as he adjusted to our time zone and recovered from staying out all night with college friends! On Saturday, the houseguest total went up to 3 as we spent the afternoon and evening with our nephews Miles and Quinn. We played battleship, did some drawing and coloring, played Wii games, played with our old Fisher Price airport and farm, ate pancakes and sausage for dinner, read a story and watched Wall-E before bed. It was my first time to see the movie, but the boys had seen it no less than 20 times, I'm sure! The movie was pretty cute--a fun Christmas present from our sis-in-law Jen (whose birthday is today, by the way--happy b-day Jen!).

After taking the boys home to Kansas City on Sunday morning and spending a couple of much needed hours at the Humane Society, we welcomed new houseguests--our great friends Jake and Amber! We hadn't seen them since their move at the end of July, so we were very excited about their visit. Although it was way too short, we had such a fun evening, which was dominated by playing various games on the Wii while enjoying their wonderful company and conversation. I was so sad to see them leave this morning!

Although the holidays can be crazy busy, the joys of seeing family and good friends make all the craziness worthwhile! :)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

It's a little late on Christmas day to be wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, but Merry Christmas anyway! In case you didn't receive a Christmas card from us this year, here is a picture of one of our cards. Consider this the online version!

I was a big slacker on blogging several days last week just because we were consumed with finishing these Christmas cards. Why I put those darn things off until the last minute every year, I'll never know. Thankfully, they hit the post office last Friday and should have arrived at their final destinations earlier this week. They were certainly more timely than this Christmas greeting! I hope everyone had a wonderful day!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Early Christmas

Although it's only Christmas Eve, I feel like Christmas day has come and gone because we've had so many celebrations with family members already! On Saturday, Chad's parents Mark and Ginny came from Salina and his brother Mark and sister-in-law Jen came from Kansas City with our nephews. We had a nice afternoon of eating Chad's awesome chili and opening presents. I hadn't spent nearly enough time with my nephews in the last 6 months because my weekends were so filled up with walking, so I was so glad to see them. It was great hanging out with them for the day!

Miles and Quinn got a ton of Legos from Grandma and Grandpa, so much of the afternoon was spent putting together their new creations. Actually it involved Miles (who is 6 1/2) putting together the little Lego vehicles while Quinn (who is 3 1/2) sat and watched. I was amazed at Miles' incredible concentration, determination and attention to detail when putting together these tiny little Lego pieces. He was so focused! The cutest thing was that he spent so much time putting together his little helicopter, with Quinn watching patiently the entire time, but as soon as he was finished he passed the toy off to Quinn to play with. Miles was all about the creative process and not really about the finished product!

Miles, Jen and I also had a rousing game of Sorry!--which I hadn't played for at least 20 years. It was pretty fun and I can see why Miles wanted it for Christmas! He wasn't too keen about getting kicked back to the start square throughout the game, but Jen made him finish the game even when he was losing to practice his good-sportsmanship skills. He was so cute when he gave Jen a handshake and told her "good game" when it was all over!

Here are just a few of my favorite pictures from the day.

Miles is enjoying the dogs much more than he used to!

Quinn was trying to contain his excitement about presents.

Miles is excited about the massive Lego set!

Quinn is excited about all of the Home Alone movies!

Miles seemed to like his dinosaur building kit.

Quinn is tearing into his Legos!

We had a great day with Chad's family and I of course had a great time taking pictures of the boys. I will admit though, I was pretty exhausted when they left! Being with kids takes the kind of energy that we're not so used to expending! :)

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Lesson in Humility

Yesterday Chad and I braved the ridiculously cold temperatures and went to Jack's after church to watch the Steelers game. The Steelers lost, which was slightly depressing, but not nearly as depressing as a conversation that I had with the hostess. This girl was likely in college--I would have guessed her to be 19 or 20. Here's how our conversation went:

Hostess: Do you by chance have a daughter named Alex?

Me: No, sorry, I don't.

Hostess: Oh, I thought maybe you did because you look just like one of my friends.

Ouch. Seriously, that hurt. She clearly thought I was the mother of someone who is probably between the ages of 18 and 21!!! Do I really look like I could be old enough to have a college aged child???? ACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Help--I think I need a makeover!!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Hula Hooper

We were watching one of our saved episodes of AFV this weekend and it happened to be the $100,000 finals episode. One of my favorite all time videos was up for the grand prize, and although it didn't win, it still made me laugh so hard my stomach hurt. Check out this little guy!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Beautiful Sunset

On Friday as I was driving home from work I could barely keep my eyes on the road because of the gorgeous sunset to my west. I was trying to get home as fast as possible because all I could think about was running inside, kissing my husband hello, and then running back outside with my camera to try and capture the beauty. I don't think I did too bad of a job, especially considering this shot is straight out of the camera, with no editing or color enhancing involved!

Gorgeous, no? :)

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Best Christmas Party

Despite the fact that I stayed home sick for three days this week with a lovely case of strep throat (which I immediately recognized by the unmistakable "I think I just swallowed shards of broken glass" feeling) it's still taken me over a week to blog about the best Christmas party of the season! Last Thursday night our Journey Group friends from church came over for our annual White Elephant Gift Exchange and general Christmas merriment. While we missed our recently departed friends Jake and Amber, we were thankful that we were able to schedule the party around the visit of the Guatemalan contingent of the JG, our friends James and Beth.

I've blogged about this event in previous years, so I won't go on and on about how much fun we always have--I'll just share the pictures!

There were no hideous paintings or decapitated heads, but it was still an entertaining evening of gift giving! My personal favorite was probably the children's book entitled "On the Day His Daddy Left." I'm sure that one's pretty uplifting!

Although we've been to several other Christmas parties this year and still have a few left to attend, our JG party is always one of our favorite because we love our JG friends! They're so fun and we're so thankful for them!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Family Photo Session

On Sunday evening Chad and I engaged in a longstanding tradition in our household--the family Christmas picture. I love this tradition because I love to see how we've changed over the years and how our dog family has grown and changed. However, the actual act of taking said picture can be a bit of an ordeal since our family consists of all canines, who aren't necessarily always cooperative. The photo session was especially difficult this year because we didn't have a volunteer photographer like we've had in the past. This meant we had to rely on the camera's timer, which isn't so helpful when working with dogs who don't know they are supposed to be looking at an unmanned camera.

So the photo session took a while, with me extracting myself from the group after each picture to go reset the timer, hoping the dogs all stay in place, then clicking the shutter and jumping back into the group, then getting the dogs to focus back on the camera in just 10 seconds. Celtic was an old pro since he's done this for the last 12 years, and Hope did pretty well after getting over the initial trauma of being forced to sit facing away from Chad, and after several tries Fresco figured out that he was supposed to be sitting still. Remarkably, it only took us nine tries before we got a few pictures that were usable!

Fresco initially insisted on greeting me upon my return, while Hope only wanted to escape the horrible trauma.

Telling Fresco to look at the camera certainly didn't work, since he just responds to the person talking to him.

"Oh, hey Mom, welcome back again!"

Now he's quit looking at us and Hope has finally calmed down, but Celtic is just looking bored and distracted.

After a slight readjustment Fresco is getting it figured out, but Hope is trying to escape again!

Okay, we're getting closer. Fresco is finally looking at the camera, but now Celtic and Hope aren't paying attention!

Celtic and Hope have completely lost interest at this point.

We finally have all three dogs almost looking at the camera, and now there's a ridiculous bizarre look on my face!! Ugh--idiot!

Ok, finally something almost usable! All I had to do was Photoshop Celtic's eyes open and we look almost like a normal family! :)

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Belated Pittsburgh Post

Today I stayed home sick with a wicked sore throat, and although I felt awful and laid around in bed all day it did allow me adequate time to finally write my annual Christmas letter. While it felt a little like deja vu considering I've already written about everything that's happened in our life on this blog, it made me realize that I failed to mention a special trip that my dear hubby took last weekend.

Our friend Brett was going to Pittsburgh and to the Steelers game on business, so when he invited Chad to come along for merely the cost of a plane ticket, Chad was quick to say yes. Little did poor Brett realize that bringing Chad along would cause him to get stuck at a ridiculously cold football game that he didn't really care that much about until the bitter, bitter end. The weather in Pittsburgh last weekend was absolutely miserable, and apparently even the Pittsburgh fans were complaining about it being way colder than normal!

Although Chad certainly isn't the picture addict that I am, he did take a few shots that I thought I would share.

Our friend Brett freezing to death, but being a good sport about it.

Chad in his puffy Steelers coat that his friend Chris gave him a few years ago. It certainly came in handy on this trip!

The awesome Steelers video board, pouring digital Heinz ketchup onto the screen when the Steelers get into the red zone.

In case you missed the game on T.V., the Steelers came back and won the game in the final couple of minutes, scoring two touchdowns in like 24 seconds--so it was a good thing that the guys stuck it out until the end! Thanks Brett, for taking Chad to the game and then hanging in there for the amazing comeback!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Decorating

The last few days have been so busy I've definitely gotten a little behind on my blogging. Since Thursday we've had two Christmas parties, two house guests who stayed two nights and two days of Christmas shopping. I'll talk more about at least one of our Christmas parties soon, but for now I'll just share a few pictures from our tree-shopping excursion and evening of decorating on Wednesday.

We left work a little early and went out to Strawberry Hill Christmas Tree Farm, where we quickly walked through their majorly picked over selection of white pines. There were seriously only two of them left, but thankfully one was perfect and I fell in love immediately! They are just so soft I love to stick my face right in the needles!

As we left we saw the most gorgeous sunset. Although the windshield of the truck kind of ruins the picture, you still kind of get the idea!

We came home and started decorating immediately. Chad thought this was a neat picture of me untangling the lights.

While I was busy hanging ornaments, Chad was playing around with these "magic" Christmas glasses that we have which make lights glow with the word Noel. Chad took this picture through the glasses so you can kind of get the idea. You can't even tell I'm in this picture!

We managed to finish decorating (I use "we" in the loosest sense of the word since the only ornament Chad hung was his little Larry Bird) by the end of the night, and I think the tree was quite lovely when we were finished! I should have taken some better pictures with the good camera, but this one with red highlights is kind of fun!

Finally I'm into the holiday spirit!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holilday Eating Tips

Since tonight we spent the whole evening decorating our house for the holidays, just in time for our Journey Group Christmas party tomorrow night, I thought it was an appropriate time to share something funny that I received via email the other day. This totally made me laugh! Enjoy!


1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare. You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's... You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin...always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry--January is just around the corner.

Monday, December 08, 2008

What's Important At Christmas

To help get everyone into the Christmas spirit I want to share something I saw on Good Morning America this morning. They showed just the end of this news story, but it was enough to make me start bawling. I've watched it like 3 times now and I've cried every time.

When that little girl's voice cracks I completely lose it. I don't know that I've every heard a child cry for joy before or have so much passion in the words I love you. This little girl knows what's important at Christmas: having your loved ones safe and sound and in your arms.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

(Partially) Wasted Weekend

Okay, so maybe my weekend wasn't completely wasted, but I like alliteration--so there. I did get a few loads of laundry done, got some family budget stuff done, had a glass of wine with my friend Karen, took some pictures at the shelter and got them uploaded, and made a quick trip to Manhattan to see our friend Clint and his new bride Jenny. However, what I intended to do this weekend was start Christmas cards and do some Christmas shopping. Chad has been in Pittsburgh all weekend (thanks to his friend Brett, who took him to the Steelers/Cowboys game today), so I thought I'd be super productive. However, I made the moronic mistake of starting Twilight for the second time, and for the second time, I just can't put it down!! Ugh--what is wrong with me???

I guess I did sort of get my Christmas shopping started this evening, because I went to the Samaritan's Purse website and purchased a few items from their Christmas catalog in honor of a few people on our Christmas list who say they don't want anything or are otherwise difficult to shop for. Samaritan's Purse is the ministry that does Operation Christmas Child--a project that we've grown to love over the last several years. This year we received their Christmas catalog as well, which has 40 great gift ideas, called "40 Gifts of Hope for a Hurting World". The gifts are things like food, shelter, clothing and medicine which you purchase for needy people all over the world in honor of someone else instead of giving them a gift. I thought it was a really neat idea, and hopefully my friends and family who receive the honor will too!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Christmas Spirit

Let me just start by saying that Christmas is most definitely my favorite holiday of the year. I love giving gifts to the people I love, I love Christmas decorations, and I love celebrating the birth of Christ. With that said, I'm having a really hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this yuletide season! I'm not sure exactly what it is, butI think maybe it has to do with the fact that I have been so consumed with other events for the last 4 months that I just can't seem to switch gears!

Tonight I went to a very nice holiday party with a bunch of ladies from work, and while I had a lovely time hanging out with friends, it still didn't feel very Christmas-y to me. Maybe it will be better once we actually get a tree and some decorations put up, although I'm not sure when that's actually going to happen. With Chad sick in bed all of last weekend, tree shopping certainly wasn't an option, and this weekend he is going to Pittsburgh to watch his beloved Steelers play. Time is running short, so we may have to forgo the annual visit to the Christmas Tree Farm this year!

Maybe doing more Christmas shopping or actually get started on my Christmas cards would help my holiday spirit. Maybe I just need to listen to some Christmas music. Maybe it just needs to snow a few inches. Whatever needs to happen needs to happen soon--only 20 more days until Christmas!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Speaking Of Mindless Humor

While I'm on the subject of mindless AFV humor, I have to share just one more hysterical video. Today I was searching in vain for our favorite AFV clip of all time (a show-off doing a backflip for no apparent reason and landing flat on his face) and I came across this video on the AFV website. I was literally sitting at my desk crying while watching this. Babies are so flippin' funny!

Can you imagine the cell phone minutes this child is going to use up?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

The other night Chad and I were watching AFV and this was one of the best videos of the evening.

Before you make too much fun of us for watching AFV, let me just say that laughter is good for you, and there's not much funnier than people falling down over and over again. So there.

Monday, December 01, 2008

3-Day Videos

I've loaded the remaining 3-Day videos onto YouTube, so if you're at all inclined, you can visit my personal "channel" here and check them out. Most are self-explanatory, I think, and just consist of a lot of people cheering! The people who come out and support the walkers every day on the route are so incredible. They are always so encouraging and entertaining. This year, there were supporters who made us laugh and cry as well!

The one video that probably needs a little explanation is the one that I think might be the funniest. Let me first say that I knew I had the camera turned sideways--I'd actually learned not to make this mistake after messing up several videos with my old camera. However, this camera appeared to right itself when you recorded a video sideways--at least it did in playback mode. I was trying to test it out, to see if would reorient its videos, when we came upon this guy singing while he was walking. It was so hysterical I couldn't stop recording! In case you can't tell, he's doing Bon Jovi's Livin' On A Prayer. It was absolutely hilarious! Hopefully you can turn your laptop or yourself sideways to watch it! :)