Monday, December 31, 2012

Thorns and Sunshine

Two Sundays ago during church service we sang a song the song Our God is Able by Hillsong. It brought me to tears for many reasons....First, our new church (Bara) was actually meeting in the space that our old church (Redeemer) used to meet in. We were there because we were hosting a Christmas Eve service in Westlake and it was easiest for us to meet there on Sunday so we could already be set up for Christmas Eve. It was a bit surreal to be back with a different congregation. Second, it made me miss the parts of our church family that we no longer see. When I was worshiping it just seemed like I should have been able to turn around and see some old familiar faces. And lastly, this song, which I absolutely LOVE reminds me not only of God's abounding, forever faithfulness, but also of very distinct times in my life over the past year when I've sung this song while waiting in the valley for God's provision and direction for our lives. The lyrics of this song remind us that He will NEVER fail us...that He is GREATER than all we seek...He is WITH US and on our side...and that far above all we HOPE He has done GREAT things!!! So true when I look back at 2012.

If I had known some of the things that my family and I would face in 2012, I would have run away from it. My grandfather passed, our beloved dog Cosby died, Eva had some not so fun illnesses, we had to move from the apartment we loved, there was a long period where we didn't know what Ryan's job would be or where we would live, I had to pack us up while Ryan was gone away for a week, and the transition from churches has left us missing people we care about. None of those things would have been of my choosing. I would have been fearful if I had known ahead of time that we would face those challenges.  Thankfully our God who is not only able, but WISE and GRACIOUS, didn't let me know what was in store. And instead of spending the year being afraid of what might hit next I was able to enjoy each of the amazing BLESSINGS He had planned for me.

Blessings like...seeing my baby learn to sit, crawl, walk, eat, and talk!!!....moving to our new home that has so much more space and is in the perfect location and I honestly love way more than our old apartment......going on our first vacation as a family of 3...being a stay at home mama...celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary at the spot where Ryan proposed....SEEING how trustworthy and praise worthy God really is!!!!...seeing my cousin baptized....celebrating a friend's wedding...spending lots of time with our families....enjoying lots and lots of good meals around our dining room table...being surrounded by extremely generous friends and family....making new friends at our new church....getting to know and love more Middle School and High School students....finishing reading through the entire Bible!!!!....enjoying a beautiful white Christmas with my family....going on sweet dates with my husband....having a warm home to sleep in on cold list could go on and on! I am thankful for where our lives were led in 2012 and looking forward to 2013!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dreams Come True

Hope all of your Christmas wishes came true yesterday! I know that kids all over the world were dreaming of a white Christmas and for some of us here in Texas that dream came true!
Before all of the snow arrived we headed to Royse City on Sunday afternoon for Christmas with Ryan's whole family. Above: Christmas love; Mamaw (Ryan's grandma) with her great grandchildren; My brother and sister in-law stole my camera; My sister in-law and I wearing our matching scarves from Christmas past.
Christmas Eve Morning! We all spent the night at Ryan's parents and opened our family gifts in the morning. Above: Mallory & Eva excited and in the Christmas jammies; I found the Christmas pickle (and won $); Eva opening gifts; Eva's new playroom table; Kiersi and Kayden opening gifts; All the cousins in a box (Nana & Papa's real gift); and My sleeping beauty after a not so silent night.

We stepped outside and snapped a few holiday photos all dressed up. 
Christmas Eve afternoon we drove back home for our church service. Our plan was to go out for dinner at Cheesecake Factory after service, but by the time we got done visiting it was already later, and then we found out they had a 30 minute wait, which we didn't think would mix well with an already worn out baby girl. So we decided to pick up some Chicken Express and have a picnic by the Christmas tree instead. New tradition? I think so.
Above: Christmas Eve picnic; Too tired to wait up for Santa; Playing on her new car that Santa brought her; Delighted with the vanity that Daddy gave her.
My family came over for lunch Christmas Day to enjoy good Mexican food, more presents, and lots of snow! Above: Mamy and Eva with her new apron; Christmas dinner table: Mamy opening her new diamond necklace from my Dad (SURPRISE!!!!); Four generations of women; My dad and grandpa with Eva.

The of course we bundled up and took the munchkin out to play in the snow! She LOVED it! We got enough snow to have plenty to stomp around in while it was still blowing in hard. That baby looks pretty cute bundled up in her snow gear!  
It was a really awesome Christmas. I love Christmas even more now that I can share it with my husband and daughter. I can understand why our parents love to bless us with gifts so much because it was really fun to see Eva opening all of her presents. We've had a blast playing with all the new toys and our playroom is now officially sponsored by Fisher Price! Just kidding. Now we'll be enjoying having Ryan at home a bit more this week and staying snuggled up warm inside.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The most wonderful time of the year!

Only 3 days until Christmas! Hooray! And our Christmas celebrating really starts this Sunday! I wanted to quickly share a few more things we've been doing in our 25 days of Christmas countdown, starting with the painting above. I definitely did not do this with Eva, but I did create it myself! I bought a set of canvases from Hobby Lobby and painted them with chalkboard paint so I could use chalk to switch out the quotes or verses. This verse from Isaiah  was my creation for Christmas time.

Last Saturday my mom came up to make Christmas cookies with me and Eva. We found ways to let Eva help in every step of the way, whether it was dumping in a cup of flour, pressing out the cookie dough, using the cookie cutters, or - the best part - putting on the icing and sprinkles!!!

Mama's little helper! I took one of my hostess aprons (the kind you tie at the waist) and looped it up and around to make a halter style apron for Eva. I wish I had photos of our beautiful cookies, but I'll admit that they tasted better than they looked. I always have big dreams of perfectly decorated cookies but they don't quite come to life.

Sunday night we had our youth Christmas party! Lots of teenagers and lots of fun! We are blessed to love on these students.

Monday I wrapped up some goodies in these special treat bags. I need to prepare them to take when....

We went caroling! Jingle Bells - Joy to the World - We Wish You a Merry Christmas - we sang a little bit of it all!  I know this isn't the best photo (taken on an iPhone outside at night) but we had a blast surprising different friends. Caroling may feel a little awkward initially but hopefully everybody loved hearing our joyful noise!  We wanted to go to more houses but it was getting late and we had to get the munchkin home.

Wednesday night our plan was to go out to Southlake town square and drink hot chocolate with Eva. I made some at home and packed a thermos. We went and sat by the fountain, which was dyed red and green, for the big moment and....she didn't care at all. She was completely disinterested in the hot cocoa. She DID ENJOY getting to pet this horse. I guess it's a good thing that she prefers broccoli and avocado over hot cocoa.

Today we had plans to take Eva to the Galleria in Dallas to see the big tree and watch iceskaters while we had lunch. Plans don't always go the way you think they will though, so we ended up enjoying some Corner Bakery in Southlake. They had a beautiful tree too, and it was just as fun. Family days are more about being together than what we actually do so it was still a wonderful afternoon!

Getting ready for our big Christmas weekend!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Not over the hill, more like just continuing to climb the beautiful mountain

Happy 60th birthday to my dad! Hope you enjoy celebrating! I love you and am looking forward to our lunch date on Thursday!

PS This is one of my favorite photos of us from over 10 years ago at an awesome Mavs playoff game. It was taken using an actual film camera.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

In case you aren't aware there are only 10 days until Christmas!!!! Woo-hoo! Are you as excited as I am????? I hope so! 

Before the Christmas season began I created an advent type calendar using PicMonkey. This type of list is called subway art (I don't know why). It took a while to design but I was able to come up with 25 fun activities, one for each day of December leading up to Christmas morning. 

I used the same three frames from my Thanksgiving wall of thankfulness and had 3 separate lists that had a total of 25 activities. I really like how this looks in the playroom. We've been pretty good about doing an activity each day and I like having them in this type of list because I can be flexible for what we do each day. A couple of days we've done more than one so I think I'll be short the week before Christmas but I figure we can still have fun. And I put going caroling on there twice without realizing it.  Oops. I guess we really better go caroling next week. 
We stuck with our small tree again this year. Our big tree that used to be my grandma's is in storage at my parents and we decided that the small tree would be better with Eva. Honestly, I really wish that we'd gone with the big one, but it's okay, I can use the big one next year. The main reason we went with the small tree was so that it would be safer if Eva pulled it over....which she has....twice. Oh, toddlers.

You never know what can end up in your tree! I found this stuffed animal tucked into the back the other day. We're trying to teach her that she can gently touch the ornaments but she can't take them off or pull on them. Our plan has mostly worked :) I've only had to do emergency repair surgery on one ornament that I didn't even realize was breakable.   

One of our favorite holiday traditions is going to Denton for Wassail Fest.  We got to see lots of old friends while we were there and Eva had fun at the petting zoo. 

Last week Ryan and I hosted our small group's Christmas party. Umm, it was pretty awesome!!! Probably because we have the best small group ever. Literally. That's our group's official name. 
We played several minute to win it games (from the popular game show). From top left going clockwise: 1. Wearing pantyhose with a tennis ball in the toe on your head to knock down water bottles (I won!!!) 2. Using chopsticks to race with fruit loops. 3. Cup stacking (the boys cheated). 4. Using a barbeque skewer to stack nuts (as in nuts and bolts).

Two fun traditions for Eva: We have an advent Santa and a Nutcracker days until Christmas countdown and every morning we change the days and open up the new door on the Santa calendar as a family. Eva goes straight to the shelf and points until we walk over and pick her up. She also received a Fisher Price Little People nativity set that she absolutely loves and plays with every single day. The book by the nativity shelf is The Story of Christmas by Patricia Pingry - it is one of the best simple stories of Christmas that presents the basics of the true meaning of Christmas in a toddler friendly way.
Early on for our advent days I put up this felt tree that I made for Eva. This was so easy and inexpensive to make. I used cookie cutters to make the fun ornaments. Honestly right now Eva's favorite thing is for me to put all the ornaments on the tree and for her to quickly knock them all off. When I was figuring out what ornaments I wanted to create I considered having this tree for many years to come so I purposely thought of ways that she could sort and count ornaments in the future (like circle/not circle, glitter/not glitter, and by color) - of course this year it's more just about the texture and colors of everything!

Another advent activity was to take a walk as a family to go look at Christmas lights. I figured that she wouldn't have much driving around in the car to look at lights because her view would be limited from her car seat. Also Trophy Club has awesome lights so it was easy to walk around to find really decked out homes.
The other night for our activity we all cuddled in our jammies and watched the classic Rudolph movie. The movie has Santa Clause in it, of course. She really likes cartoon Santas..... 

Real Santa? Not so much. I promise that we only sat her on his lap for a milisecond to take this photo. She was really interested and happy to see him up until the moment we sat her down. So sad, yet so funny at the same time. Everybody needs a classic toddler meets Santa photo like this, right?  Despite what this photo may suggest, she still gets excited and says,  "Ho-ho-ho" every time she sees a picture of Santa on TV or a book. So I don't think we scared her too much.

Ah! I'm having so much fun doing Christmas things with my family!!!! I've been so intentional to keep things light and fun and to remember that it's more about spending sweet time together than having a perfect moment so I don't get stressed about things. Because the holidays should be about LOVE and JOY and PEACE!!! Can't wait to share more activities this week!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Remember when it was right after Thanksgiving?

More blogging catch up! We had a blessed Thanksgiving with our families. Starting with the day before when we headed to Ryan's parents house to spend the night.

Showing off those Bradley genes. Football runs in their blood. Eva's Papa was a football coach for 35 years, her uncle used to be an athletic trainer before becoming an pricipal, and her Daddy was a high school football stud (and pretty darn good at flag football in college).

Getting a few pointers from Daddy.  She's wearing the correct costume for football practice, right?

Or she could be a basketball star like Ryan's sister. Seriously, there whole family was so athletic. While they were at sports practices and games I was busy singing and dancing around the house. Different upbringings :) 

Thanksgiving Day we enjoyed lunch and family time over at Ryan's aunt's house. The weather was gorgeous so the cousins got to run around and play outside. I love it every time these beautiful girls are all together.

Thursday night we returned home and got our house ready to host a big meal for my family the next day. My family decided a few years ago to make Friday our official Thanksgiving gathering so there are less conflicts. 

I was so proud of my center piece! Granted, I had to put two card tables together, which were not quite the same height, so I had to use two separate cake stands instead of stacking them like I had hoped, but it still turned out great. Thanks, Pinterest. You are worth the time I spend pinning ideas.

I made my Grammie's traditional zucchini squares. I still miss her so much around the holidays and making these is a sweet way to honor our memory of her. When we stepped into her home, she would always have a warm plate of zucchini squares to offer. 

A new dish! I used this sweet potato casserole recipe for the first time this year and it was delicious. 

And for dessert? S'mores cupcakes

On Friday Eva wore this dress that used to be mine! I wore it for my one year portraits many years ago and my mom had saved it all this time. Eva was supposed to be sitting in her rocking chair like a little lady for this photo but she was so excited to have all her family around that sitting still was not a choice. Still cute!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What I did for my birthday .... AKA the post that should have been up on November 20th.

Ah! Time to play some blogging catch up  now that I can get photos to post. Let's roll back time a bit to the weekend before my birthday....

On the Saturday morning before my birthday my best friends came over and we had an awesome morning of coffee and crafting. Sometimes we do fun bday dinners with each other but what I really wanted most was just a relaxing time to catch up on life with my friends while we got a bit creative.

This was my project - a wreath for our front door. Pinterest has tons of wreath ideas so I went with this one (that was actually a project my friend Marianne had made for Ashley's shower). I wrapped a styrofoam wreath in red yarn, glued on 2 yarn scrapbooking stickers, and attached a rhinestone B ornament that I already had. The whole thing cost under $5 and was super easy, although it was time consuming to wrap the wreath in yarn.

Saturday night we celebrated my birthday with my parents. We went out to eat at Saltgrass steakhouse and then walked around the Gaylord Texan to see all the magical lights.

 Ryan and I also got to do their winter snow tubing adventure. Wheee!!!

Handsome hubby and me. I love it when he dresses up for a night out :)

 The lights there are awesome. I would love to be able to stay at the hotel over the holidays one year.

I life size ginger bread house? I think I'll take a bite. Just kidding. It's not for eating, but it is made out of all edible pieces.

Ryan couldn' t stand not eating the gingerbread house so instead he ordered the world's largest single person cookie. It was bigger than Eva's head.

A new birthday tradition! The morning of my birthday Ryan slaved in the kitchen to make some delicious birthday cake pancakes for me. The are made with yellow cake mix, sprinkles, and topped with glaze.

 Then Eva and I got to be treated to lunch at the Cheesecake Factory with my mom and grandma Dede. What a fun girl's day!

Let's face it. The best part of my birthday or any day would be spending time with this giggle box!