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2011 Christmas Card

I had every intention of getting a family Christmas card in the mail early this year. I was really looking forward to more formally announcing the addition of Natalie Rose to our family. But the taking of our family photo never got on the calendar. Then there were other things….I was hoping to have a hair cut before the photo was taken; I went on a mini-vacation; and  Thanksgiving happened. Then, my dad passed away, and things got all out of whack!

On to “Plan B” I thought. That plan consisted of Aaron being out of town and me, in my pajamas, taking pictures of the kids all dressed up on Saturday morning in my “make-shift photo studio,” our living room – thank goodness it was our living room since I was in my pajamas.  Well, I thought I’m going to take all of these pictures on my fancy new iPhone. After all, it’s supposed to have an amazing camera on it. I got some great shots. The kids were in a good mood and cooperative. It was awesome…..until I went to do something with them on the computer. They were all REALLY grainy. Nothing like I had hoped. They looked o.k. on Facebook, but were NOT good enough to do a Christmas card. Apparently the iPhone camera is great for outdoor photos and it is a great camera for a PHONE camera, but it doesn’t replace a real camera.

So, on to “Plan C,” recreate the “make-shift photo studio” on another day and time when the kids might be cooperative and in a good mood (a near impossible task); take new photos, similar to the others, with our good camera; find a picture for our Christmas card and get them printed ASAP! Aaron was here, and helped make “Plan C” happen. The poses for the pictures weren’t as cute as in “Plan B” but there were a couple that we could make work.

So, putting “Plan C” into further motion, I must find a Christmas Card template to put our picture in. Well, several years ago there were like 150 template choices, now there’s a bazillion! After spending WAY too much time on this task, I finally found one that I liked. Then I went to order it…..

Well, before I ordered any, I called Aaron.

Me: “How many should we order?”

Aaron: “How many did we get last year?”

Me: “No idea.”

Aaron: “I like having a card for everyone in our church.”

Me: “REALLY?” – I’m thinking, that may have worked when we had 25 people in our church, but we’re running 240 each week….this doesn’t include family and friends who don’t go to our church or live in DC!

The conversation ended with us deciding maybe buying Christmas cards online and sending them out this year is not such a good idea. We’d be rushed. We’d have to decide who to give cards to and who not to. And, we’d really only be doing it to keep up with the Jones,’ which is certainly not a motivating factor in our family!

So,  on to “Plan D!” …send our card electronically via our blog and other lists. This way, LOTS of people can enjoy our Christmas card!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I introduce our 2011 Christmas Card

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It’s that time of year, when good ole’ Saint Nick shows up in our malls and graces the screen of our T.V.s. To be honest, I love him! I’ve always been a fan. He just makes me happy. However, in our house, we’ve chosen a different path for our children in terms of Santa Claus. Here’s why.

Growing up my parents went to great lengths to help me believe in the jolly guy. And believe, I did, for TWELVE YEARS!!! Yes, that’s right, I was almost a teenager before I realized that Santa Claus didn’t really come down my chimney every Christmas Eve. Here’s my story.

When I was around 8 or 9 the Cabbage Patch Doll was the hottest toy in town…or better yet in the country. I knew how difficult it was to get your hands on one. There were waiting lists at every toy story of parents who desperately wanted one. Well, it was Easter and I had asked the Easter Bunny for a Cabbage Patch Doll (Yes, I know that I just switched from Christmas to Easter, but let’s be honest if the Easter Bunny’s real, then Santa Claus MUST be real)! I figured if I was going to get my hands on a Cabbage Patch Doll this Easter, it would have to be as a result of the Easter Bunny, because there’s no way my parents were lucky enough to get one.

Well, this particular Easter, I ended up with TWO CABBAGE PATCH DOLLS! One from my parents and one from the Easter Bunny. That’s it, end of story. The Easter Bunny MUST be real, there was no other explanation. The fact that I got two of the most desired and difficult to obtain toy in the nation absolutely explained the fact that the Easter Bunny was real….AND my parents got lucky.

So, any time my friends would say, “Amy, Santa Claus is not real! Your parents give you those gifts!” I would confidently tell my story and convince them myself that not only did Santa Claus exist, but so did the Easter Bunny AND the Tooth Fairy! I was a believer through and through.

That is until I listened up in church one Sunday in December shortly after my 12th Birthday. Our pastor was in the middle of his sermon. I was seated on the second row. He looked around to make sure there weren’t any little kids in the congregation who still believed in Santa Claus….little did he know. Then he just blurted it out….”Santa Claus is not real!” And he went on to talk about some other related stuff, but all I heard was “NOT REAL!”

I went home and spent the afternoon wrapping presents with my mom. I nonchalantly brought up the sermon and asked my mom if what the pastor said was true. With tears streaming down both of our faces, my reality was shattered! Christmas would never be the same. That Christmas in particular was SO disappointing and sad. It was ridiculous!

So, this very simple belief in something fun and light had completely tainted my view of Christmas. Instead of focusing on the beauty in Christ’s birth, I was devastated that Santa Claus wasn’t real! Complete insanity!

Therefore, when it comes to my own kids, I don’t ever want to give them a false sense of hope in something that isn’t real, when there’s so many awesome things to believe in that are very real….like Jesus! Or even the spirit of St. Nicholas.

So, what are we telling our kids? Well, we talk about  how “St. Nicholas was a man who lived a long time ago and he loved God and loved people very much. He especially loved children and he wanted to do something special for children whose families didn’t have very much money. Every year at Christmas he would buy toys for poor children and give them without the children ever seeing or knowing who or where the toys came from. Today, when we see the man everyone calls Santa Claus, he is a reminder to us of the spirit of St. Nick and encourages us to be generous to those in need too.” 

Taking a picture with Santa helps remind us carry on the same spirit that St. Nicholas had. I hope that will be what everyone thinks of as they see Santa this year!

And, don’t worry, if you want your children to believe in Santa, we will certainly teach our children to keep the truth to themselves! 🙂

Daddy

On Saturday night, November, 26th, I received a call that I will never forget and really never want to experience again. We were just finishing up worship practice at our house and the phone rang. It was my brother. I thought, “I’ll just call him back in a bit.” The phone rang again within a minute. Again my brother. I decided to answer. After saying hello, I heard my brother say my name, “Amy?” and then say, “This is Paul.”

I knew by the tone of his voice and the way he said my name, and then his, that something was wrong. He went on to tell me that my dad’s friend, Bill Adkins, had called him and said that he and dad were in the car driving home from the Marshall game, and my dad had a heart attack and wrecked the car. He then said, they took him to the hospital, but he’s gone….he died.

On top of this, for a little while we thought that my mom was also in the car, that she was injured in the accident and was in the hospital. But she was just at the hospital receiving the news and had asked Bill to call my brother. It was so traumatic.

It seems that at the end of a very intense, stressful, and exciting Marshall football game, which went into overtime and Marshall came out victorious, my dad and his friend, Bill, got in the car and started to drive home. Just minutes into the drive my dad all of a sudden accelerated, which wasn’t like him at all, and they were heading for a pole. Bill quickly responded by putting the car in neutral and turning the keys off. This helped stop the car.

He had a massive heart attack and his heart stopped. While the paramedics and doctors tried many times to get his heart started again, he was gone….instantly.

My dad’s friend, Bill, called my mother and told her that she needed to come down to the hospital because he and my dad had been in a car accident. My mother didn’t think it was too serious at that point. When she arrived to the ER and was taken into a conference room, she began to realize what must’ve happened.

As the doctor entered the room, and my mother’s heart was beating at lightening speed, she was relieved to at least know she knew the doctor, Dr. Alan Holmes, a friend of our family’s. He came and sat in front of her almost knee to knee. With Bill sitting right beside her, he told her that when my dad arrived to the hospital his heart had stopped, at which point she thought “well, maybe they got it started again.” Dr. Holmes said that although they tried many, many times to get his heart started again, they just couldn’t. He said I’m very, very sorry.

He then asked my mom if she wanted to see my dad. She said she did. Dr. Holmes then explained, to prepare her, that his clothes had been cut off so they could get to his heart. She did go into see him and as she was leaving, Dr. Holmes said, “I’m so sorry. Is there anything else we can do for you?”  My mom said, “Can you please go try some more…..”

Losing a loved one so suddenly is a huge shock to your system. The outpouring of love and support from so many has made a very difficult time, a little more bearable. To hear how many people loved my dad and how many lives he impacted, is SO awesome. But, as I’ve described it many times, there are waves of sadness that wash over me in the midst of also having tremendous peace.

I know my dad is in heaven and is experiencing more love and peace than we could ever experience on earth, but it is still so hard. Even as I write this and most of the people in our house have gone to bed, if Daddy was here, he’d still be up too….we were both night owls.

I love you Daddy and I miss you already. I can’t wait to see you again!

Banana Nutella Cake

Cake Ingredients

3 Cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups of sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 very ripe bananas, mashed

Make the cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have ready three 8-inch round nonstick cake pans.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together.
  3. In a large bowl, use a mixer to cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. One at a time, add the eggs and mix until well blended. With the mixer set to low, add a little bit of the flour mixture at a time, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla, mixing just until smooth. Use a spatula to gently fold in the mashed bananas.
  4. Pour the batter evenly into the three cake pans, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Set the layers aside to cool completely in the pans before frosting the cake.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 Stick (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups cream cheese, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
To make the frosting, use a mixer to cream the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl until fully combined and smooth. With the mixer set on the lowest speed, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar, mixing until it is completely incorporated and the frosting is smooth.
Filling and Decoration
2 Cups Nutella (you’ll need two 13-ounce jars).
Frost each layer with Nutella (you won’t use it all) and stack them. Spread the cream cheese frosting over the top and sides. Using a piping bag with a 12 – or 14- mm tip, pipe five concentric circles of Nutella around the top of the cake, starting with a small one in the center and increasing the size of the circles as you work your way out. Run a butter knife from the center outward, across the top of the frosting, alternating with scores in teh opposite direction (outer circle to the center) until you have gone around the cake.

Bathroom Renovation

In 2007, when we bought our house, one of the things I said was a must-do was a bathroom re-do. Well, we all know that bathroom renovations are often complicated, time consuming, inconvenient, and expensive!! Nonetheless, it was one of the only things that I really didn’t like about our house.

Initially, I painted it a nice warm and bright color, Periwinkle Dusk (you can find it at Home Depot in their Behr paint line). That helped ease my discomfort with the bathroom.

What was the problem with the room, the layout was ALL WRONG. The tub/shower combo was taking up so much space that it left room for an itty bitty sink and toilet. I knew if the layout was different, then there could be SO MUCH more room in there.

Our neighbor, Frank, is a contractor and he does AWESOME work! I came up with a layout for the bathroom and I asked Aaron if we could just ask Frank to give us a quote. Aaron agreed (I’m sure he now wishes he could take that back!). 🙂

The four things I knew would make this work or not were:

  1. Could he even do what I wanted done
  2. How long would it take
  3. Of course, how much it would cost
  4. Could Frank and his team do it during the middle of August while we are away
Frank came over and did a quick run through.
  1. He said he COULD do what I wanted, which actually kind of shocked me because the toilet needed to be moved over about 40 inches. So, number 1 – ✔
  2. He said it would only take 10 days….I was like, o.k. 2 weeks at least! But still, totally doable. Especially if we could arrange to have most of it done while we were away. So, number 2 – ✔
  3. This was the one I was most concerned about. While I’m not going to give you an exact amount, mainly to protect Frank, just know he gave us an AMAZING deal! Basically he was willing to just do the whole thing for the cost of materials. I was floored. So, number 3 – ✔
  4. Yes, they could do it the middle of August. Mind you, it was the middle of July when we got the green light. So, number 4 – ✔
Now, with all of this information, I was like “Aaron, we can’t pass this up. This is such a good deal.” But, I had to get my butt in gear and order all the things we would need.
Since I already had basically everything picked out, I just had to place all the orders and pray that everything would come in, in time.
Now, Frank said it would take 10 days, I was thinking “there’s no way.”
Well, we left on Saturday and his team started working. They don’t work on Sundays. I’ll have you know that by the following Saturday, when we were to return to DC, the bathroom was COMPLETE!!! It only took them 7 DAYS!!! Unbelievable!
Now for the reveal:
BEFORE
Old, flooring that’s crumbling. A floor that is slopped so much that we could’ve had a slip-n-slide party in there!
Our itty bitty sink with a lot of rust!
Our toilet. Notice the placement of it…and then where it moves to. Moving a toilet, from what I understand, is one of the most complicated things to do in a bathroom.
Please bathroom genie, bring me a new bathroom!
DURING THE RENOVATION
The bathroom…..exposed. This is showing how the toilet is being moved over.
Of course, in order to move the toilet, they had to cut a MAJOR hole in our kitchen ceiling. No biggie. We couldn’t even tell it had happened when we returned home!
Things are happening!
While I really enjoyed the Periwinkle Dusk, it was time for a change. You’ll notice that we went with exposed brick, which I LOVE! Exposed brick is definitely the thing to do in the city!
AFTER
Welcome to our new bathroom!
I really wanted the pedestal tub, even though I knew that it works best to have a pedestal tub if you can have a separate shower. Nonetheless, we went with this interesting design. It takes working out a few logistical details to make it work, but it is AWESOME!
This is how the curtain looks when you are taking a shower. It’s actually kind of cool.
I kept the periwinkle in the towels and the rugs. Love, love, love the exposed brick.
We now have an adult size vanity!!! So exciting.
Hope you enjoyed the tour. For those who have stayed as guests in our house, take note, you can now close and easily lock the door! Sometimes it’s the little things!

My New ‘Do

Over the last 19 years I have been growing my hair. Up until that point, it was super short, like shave the back of my neck short.

I’ve had it various lengths over the last 19 years, but when I saw the above picture from Elijah’s Birthday party, I was like “something’s gotta give!” OR better yet, “Maybe it’s my turn to give.”

I decided this past Sunday (9/11/11) to get it all cut off. And today, I did! I was really hoping I could donate my hair to Locks of Love, but I wasn’t sure of all the ins and outs of that.

I’ve been wanting to get a cut for a while that is called a “swing bob.” I think Victoria Beckham made it popular. It’s a bob cut where the front is longer than the back. Of course, with curly hair it’s a little more difficult to pull this look off, but I was bound and determined.

So, without thinking about it too much, I made an appointment with a salon here that specializes in curly hair! A-MA-ZING!

Before I left, Aaron wanted to take some “before” pictures. I was really thankful Aaron was on board with it. After I showed him the picture from Elijah’s party, he was like, “yeah, it’s time for an update.” Which is the polite way of saying, “your hair is too long and not very stylish!”

BEFORE

I didn’t really plan on it, but I have the same dress on that I wore to Elijah’s party.

When I showed up to Fiddleheads, the salon, and told the stylist what I wanted to do, she said you can totally donate your hair. So, we started our time together binding my hair up. Then, in about 3 seconds, she cut it all off, all 10.5 inches.

It was SO exciting. Then she went at it, cutting it dry, like any good curly hair stylist would! And Vicky, my new stylist, gave me the look I’ve been wanting for a while. It felt SO GOOD!

When I left Fiddleheads, I couldn’t wait to call Aaron and tell him how excited I was. When I got home, he took these “after” photos.

AFTER

What can I say, I LOVE IT!  It’s just so much fun!

And on top of it all, I get to donate my hair. It is all packaged up and ready to mail to Locks of Love, which is an awesome organization!

What a great day!

Labor Day in the park

As a family we love to go to the various parks in and around DC.

This past Labor Day we decided to go to Haynes Point. It’s got two great playgrounds (to keep things interesting). It’s flat (for Elijah’s new bike riding adventures). It’s surrounded by water (which makes me happy).

It was a great time! Here are a few pictures of Natalie and I enjoying the beautiful day!

She loves this position! The Bjorn is one of her favorite things!

Such a happy baby, when she’s not in pain! I can’t believe she’s 4.5 months old!

He adoption will be finalized on Monday, Oct. 3rd at 2PM. Please pray that everything goes well.