Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015

a seventh year on 66 Books
snow days
sick days
days with questions and a nagging doubt
clear direction
my own hesitation
a good last month
a eukelele
a song in medieval
lost June
the stress, the flashbacks, the fray
there was not as much mulch
the busting up of the hot tub

a cozy nook on the patio
the swoop and play of a family of owls
and playful foxes on the front stoop
a stick mound we never got around to burning
a summer with my nose deep in books
a diagnosis
a plan
the generosity of friends and neighbors as we replenished a pantry
and the pantry that Shane built
swim dates with friends

Marshall's mom's labels on my jars
pretty things
open doors for Lanie
my dad's heart issue in September
unexpected obstacles
emails from a sister in Christ in FL
trick or treating in our neighborhood with Vivi
neighbors who got gluten-free candy for Lanie
photo shoots
lots of reading

an ancient's class
roller skating with Erin
CBS for Lanie
a first friend around the corner who has blessed our life

good talks with Shane
good talks with friends
the Whole29
walks with Nora
fun packages in the mail
celebrating Anita's birthday
Lisa's quinoa cake
new friendships for Lanie
her 20 pounds and one inch
home fires and warmth
another Thanksgiving here
a holiday performance with my kids
blankets my dad made for me
a gifted necklace from him to me
a simple Christmas
gluten free cinnamon rolls
a hug from my dad
baking cookies
neighbor deliveries
and a delivery here that makes me thankful deep down
friends at the table during winter break
a New Year meal and a ham that not only fed 11 people, but has at least 4 more dinners left to it
I still don't know where to look. Haha!

This year was a hustle to a hunker to a hustle. I'm thankful for the people who sat at my table and engaged in our lives.

So long, 2015. A good year and full of change. Looking forward to 2016.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Hearty

Shane hates having his picture taken.


I was updating photos in my contacts list on my phone. I saw a Pinterest idea once of using Christmas card portraits on the phone. I did that for a while. So this year? The crazy face.

I told my friend Christy I needed a picture of her and she sent me these.
Go Jesus, it's your birthday

My BEST friend

I picked the one of her in the black wig. When she called me today, this image filled the screen and I laughed so hard.

Nora sent me a selfie of her sneaking a cookie. That's now the picture for her contact.

At dinner, I thought I was being so smooth to show Shane Nora's picture, and instead, I snagged one of him just as he was sticking his hands up to block me. Before I knew it, he grabbed the phone out of my hand and took off.

"Don't drop my phone!" I yelled, laughing.

He ran up the stairs and locked himself in our bedroom. I followed behind him and grabbed a door key to bust in. But he had deleted the image by the time I got in.

"That's ok," I said. "There's always tomorrow."

I love the idea of filling up my contacts with fun pictures of my friends.

I love my friends.

The end of the year questionnaire

I really do look forward to the questionnaire at the end of the year. On Christmas day, Shane and I spent a good, drizzly, foggy day hanging out and talking--and for someone like me whose love language is time together, this was pure delight. Our lives keep us both hopping and busy, so to have this down time to relax and reflect was rejuvenating and filling.

2015 stretched me for sure--from the hustle, to the diagnosis, to the hustle, I learned about priorities and boundaries. Some relationships grew tighter and some unraveled. Here are a couple of the answers I jotted down from the questionnaire.

The single best thing that happened this year: Lanie's diagnosis. For her health and her future, an alleluia yes! We are grateful to put an end to chronic issues and have an answer--we are also grateful for a chance for her body to heal and thrive (in six months she has grown at least an inch and put on twenty pounds). In an unexpected way, the diagnosis was a catalyst in my focus on priorities and boundaries. I not only learned a lot about Celiac disease and being gluten free, I learned a lot about family, community, loyalty, and God's faithfulness.

The best books I read in 2015--Joan of Arc, Gilgamesh the Hero, The Bible, Rising Strong, and The Hiding Place. (Obedience, friendship, sovereignty, resilience, and pretty much all of it in one.)

The best way I used my time this year: keeping my eyes on Jesus and my race. I was surprised by the obstacles in my path this year, and at the same time, not surprised. Dear God--help me to keep my eyes on you.

Some big things I learned this year: Sometimes a loss of expectation is harder than losing friendships. When God tells me to do something, it's truly wise to obey. Good flour blends make all the difference. Good friends are treasure. God gives grace freely.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October
November

December


Monday, December 28, 2015

And still counting (8057-8104)

home
Anita's visit
warm temperatures
serving at church

sleep-in days
cinnamon rolls
Christmas lights
a full moon
easy peace

my kids laughter
sparkly doll dresses
her morning cuddles
Christmas music all day
salad for dinner

precious words
pretty labeled jars
cookie baking with my kids
bags to deliver to neighbors
foggy mornings

rain
a 17-yr-old cat
nights out with Lanie and Erin
library books
friends who are trustworthy

Shane
coffee
quiet
rest
the writers on 66 Books

and the readers
an eighth year
a waffle iron
Sharon at the grocery store
daffodil shoots

peepers singing in December
dirt under my nails from pulling weeds
a focus for 2016
and lessons learned in 2015
a visit with Dad and Linda

movie night with the family
the French doors in the living room
wood to burn on cold days
the warmers with cherry pits
a busy week connecting

eggs from Lisa
hugs from my kids
windows open
a waggy dog



Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas 2015

It felt good to be home.

I loved the fog. I loved the glow of Christmas lights. I loved the melody of Christmas music.

Lanie requested I start the music when it was time for them to come down (a throwback to my childhood). So I did. Sometimes Christmas music sounds so sad, ever notice?

The day seemed to fly by. The coffee was good. The cinnamon rolls were really good (Yay! They were a bit of a sticky mess to work up the night before, but they handled the fridge overnight rise like a boss and had a bread-like pull and crumb. The only thing I would change would be the icing--definitely more of a cream cheese base. We--meaning the girls and I--ate the whole dozen throughout the day and this morning. Oink.). The kids played all day long. Shane and I sat in the living room and talked all day long.

Hearts happy, bellies full.

Good life.


our fifth Christmas here

piano music to her favorite singer


Erin loves shopkins

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve

Early start on the blog. Spring peepers peeping in the back yard--in December! Quick morning nap before the busy. Took the cat to the vet for a manicure (I usually do her nails myself, but they had grown and curled toward the pads of her feet, and I wasn't comfortable with a 17-year-old angry cat who had already scratched me once as I tried to trim her).
Her version of reclusing after the traumatic trip to the vet.
Back home to start cookie baking round two.

Round one was a flop. The roll out sugar cookies--a disaster. They didn't even make it to the pan, they crumbled. (insert sad face)

Today, we're making ginger snaps. My friend Doris had given me as easy and delicious recipe that was a go-to. This year, we are crossing fingers with a recipe in a book called Against the Grain. Christmas music is playing. The windows are open. There's a delightful drizzle.

Anita's grandson drove up with Anita as a passenger. Didn't my heart soar?

They came in and sampled cookies straight from the oven. Jake played a playful tune on the piano. Nella greeted them with waggy tail, and then I remembered my heart for hospitality that somehow has been buried beneath preoccupation.
I love them

Trying not to be in the frame

What about me?

She LOVES rocks!

Yes. And the perfect size for a mama-size cuppa

I'm excited for 2016 in a way that's probably like my kids' feelings today, this eve of Christmas. Because you know something good will happen, and a joy because of Jesus, and things around you that get into your memory and fill your heart. Like cinnamon rolls, but in 2016, it will be the memories we make.

I was walking around outside in a baggy tank top and distressed jeans, cuffed. Cookie boxes packed up and cards signed, awaiting delivery. Tonight, the return of Christmas nachos, and I get a second performance of the Christmas service at church--this time from the vantage point of camera 2.

Erin went with me to deliver cookies and wine. She wanted to be the one to take the bags up to the doors. And I couldn't help smile as she skipped back to me, that she will remember these days and that maybe one day she'll bake cookies for her neighbors too. (Rock the love, mini me.)

Maybe it's the extra sleep. Maybe it's the sugary cookies. Maybe it's the warmer temps. Maybe it's Christmas. But the joy is definitely Jesus. I didn't send out a newsletter with the holiday card this year. I just couldn't get it all together, and that seems to be the norm for 2015. And that's ok. Friends reading here are in the know. And the ones around my table, even more so.

Merry Christmas, friends. Thankful for you in our lives--however you've touched us, you are a part of our story (and by reciprocation, we are a part of yours).

Grateful.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Catching up on December

Erin's class had a poetry reading. Cuteness!

 Goofing around in Great Books on the last day of class in 2015.

Aunt Connie came by with cupcakes last week! Not a crumb left.

Had coffee with Ann and she brought these warmers filled with cherry pits (heat 2 mins in the microwave). The benefits of an old, cold house--warmth from friends and family.

Marshall's Mom made me labels for my jars. Hello buckwheat.

Welcome baking soda and baking powder!

 Seriously, I love this.
 Getting ready to start cookie baking for my neighbors. Our first year as gluten free. Wish me luck.


Much of the week has been/will be dedicated to hermitting. What is hermitting? A kind of nesting, hibernating, reclusing--involving warm drinks, hot fires, good books, Christmas music, and something sweet.

Slowing down to savor family and season, to rest and restore.

Monday, December 21, 2015

And still counting (8023-8056)

tomatoes and garlic in pasta
color pages
sleeping in

books to read
warm fires
warm days
friends to play in the morning
visits with Connie and Linda

coffee with Ann
a school room table top nearly cleared
a "private" movie showing at the theater
their loud laughs at "a dark and stormy night"
cat naps

Christmas lights on the drive home
a full tank of gas
that man of mine
66 Books
a Christmas card from Kathy

coffee with Janet
a holiday breakfast with two of my faves

this old, cold house
warmers from Ann
library books on hold

old seasons and new seasons
the bittersweet of change
a lazy Sunday to read on the couch by the fire
that man of mine
Linda at the dinner table

the necklace from my dad
cookie boxes ready for neighbors
a week to hermit
Corrie and Betsie ten Boom
Psalm 23

Lisa and Doug

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

La-la-la-la!

Slept in until 7:30 this morning.

GLORY!

Schooling with kiddos at home.

DELIGHT!

Taught the kids to toast their own waffles! (We haven't had a toaster in six years, so they had no experience with one. I have always broiled anything that needed toasting--which means freezer waffles and toast were a rarity around here.) Welcome to the family, little toaster!

FREEDOM!

First, the last of math homework for break, then reading The Saturdays with Erin on the couch.

WONDERFUL!

The sun is shining! Thinking of plans for the week--a movie, a grocery run, piano, math, CBS, and a fun Christmas breakfast with friends. (And next week? A whole lotta home and not a lotta running.)

Next week, baking and deliveries and lots of HOME and HUGS and LOVE.

Books. Playing. Home. Hikes. Food.

Yesterday's Great Books class was fun with a Jeopardy-style test--and color pages. Ha! So funny how a room with a majority of boys quieted and was peaceful when color pencils came out. It was like magic. I had no idea. Great day with them. Hugs to friends and merry wishes. Walked through the lunchroom as Erin had pizza on pizza day. Came home to fix a (gf) pizza for Lanie and our own pizza day. Sat at the table with her and listened to all that was on her mind. Why does life seem so rushed? This was good, this time together.

I love the after dinner talks with Shane at the table. Last night we talked about memories, and not the ones in the past, but the ones to come.

I love my people. I love what we do. I love home. I love winter break (and sleeping in and laughing and reading and baking and singing and doing all this fun stuff. And coffee ...).

Happy vacation!

Monday, December 14, 2015

And still counting (7994-8022)

an answer to wondering
a change in schedule

warm days
fun days celebrating Erin
good friends
good neighbors
lined leggings

a sweater that Lanie said looks like chain mail

a blanket scarf
a jacket that's not Shane's
books to read
ice cream and cake

Grandma Anita
Christmas cards in the mail
the cross in white lights on the corner
La Vie en Rose
her hugs and gratitude

the Lego ship
a cocoa date
an early morning coffee with Christina
freedom
a gift from my dad

love
faith
hope
joy
trust

a toaster
Erin's book of poems

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The winter to-do

Tomorrow is the last day of co-op for 2015 for Erin and me.

Looking forward to winter break.

(Insert jumping and exclamation!)
  • A family hike at a nearby park
  • a movie matinee with the kiddos
  • peppermint ice cream scoops
  • ice cream delivery to David and Anita's
  • cookie baking with kiddos for our neighbors
  • hoping for a snow day and sledding!
  • fires in the fireplace and no place to go
  • books to read
  • Legos to build
  • Christmas movies to watch
  • sleeping in
  • picture taking
  • a play date day
  • New Year's Eve dinner with friends
  • all of us together
  • driving around looking at Christmas lights
  • did I say hot chocolate and marshmallows?

There's no place like home. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Inscribed

He (my dad) gave me a present and told me not to open it. And then a week later wondered if I had.

"Do you want me to open it?" I asked.

I stepped away from the computer to fix up dinner. And afterwards came back to his reply that I could. And so I did.

Inside a bigger box was a small box. And inside that box, a velvet-y one still. I opened it up to see a necklace with three sparkly golden hearts.  I took it out of the box and held it up. And I don't know why I thought to turn it over, but I did.

Inscribed on the back, it read:

I love you.

And that is all I ever needed or wanted.

I immediately teared up.

God knows words mean a lot to me.

Friday, December 11, 2015

En rose

I've been preoccupied with things the past few weeks. And in the distraction, I neglected things that really matter. Before I knew it, Erin's birthday was upon us, and I hadn't sent out the Evite.

So last night, on the last day of being eight, we had family friends come over for pizza and skating. It wasn't an official party, but she was officially loved. A BFF sharing necklace from Cara, and a small bag crocheted by Anna. We had at least four types of ice cream to choose from, and sang to Erin over scoops.
Last day of eight.

During skating, Erin won the limbo, and they played a happy birthday song to her. She even tried to keep pace with the "old people" skating posse as they moved around the rink to classic organ skating music. After the birthday song, there was a bluesy rendition of La Vie En Rose. And me? I nearly cried over that.

"This is the best birthday ever!" she said to me. "Thank you!"

The hugs. The sincerity.

This humbles me. I'm the mom who dropped the ball.

I made her a gluten-free red velvet cake (w/ tapioca flour and coconut flour and BEETS!). It was really good, although it just looked like chocolate cake. Maybe because I ran out of regular cocoa powder and had to use the dark stuff.

She had pizza two nights in a row.

She had a day full of love and surprises (thanks Ivette, Anita and Miss Christy!). 

She wanted to open presents first before cake. So we did. She was thrilled to have Lego Friends gifts.

All of us got the biggest hugs.

And then we sang to her and ate cake. And no one had a clue I made it with beets.

seriously--the gray! Ugh.



Thankful for her grace and gratitude. Her sass and laugh. She dances in the stores, especially if Christmas music is playing. She loves dogs. She's got the biggest heart (and her mama's loud).

The best days of my life are spent with the people around this table.

Thanks, God.

Before bed tonight, she said, "Thank you for the best birthday ever."

Monday, December 7, 2015

And still counting (7966-7993)

a God who sees me
who knows my heart
who is sovereign
who rejoices over me
the prayers of friends

Christmas music on the piano
Christmas music on the radio
Erin's hum
boxes in the mail
laughs with Michelle

a Christmas party with homeschool moms
a holiday performance


Lanie's math class and teacher
beef and rice bowls for dinner
a Christmas card in the mail

Panera with Nora
Holy Spirit shivers
healing and protection
connecting with a new homeschool mom
cuddles with Erin

fires in the fireplaces
peace
His words to me, unpublished
faith
a visit from my dad

his gift
his hug
the ringing of the silver bell



Sunday, December 6, 2015

Silver bell

The kids and I went to see an orchestral performance of seasonal music set to the story of Polar Express. It felt geared towards a younger audience, to be sure, when the story was sung and included audience participation to ring the bell from our seats.

The years pass fast.

Lanie and Erin were near me, and I treasured what might be one of our last holiday trips to the orchestra. The shows for younger audiences, and my kids growing up.

It warmed my heart to hear the orchestra, my oldest sitting next to me. I fondly remembered all the years we'd gone downtown. Would this be the last?

Today, from my seat by the school room fire, reading for tomorrow's literature class, I can hear the television on in the living room. Erin has been camped out watching Christmas shows all day under the premise of belly aches.

"Polar Express is on again!" she said with a hint of disappointment. She kept it on anyway.

My dad showed up to drop off a gift for me. It was wrapped in Santa Claus wrapping paper. The label read, "To Courtney, From Santa. Do not open early."

"What's early?" I asked.

"Christmas Eve?" he countered.

I noticed his white hair. His hearing aids. His age. I took the gift from him, thankful.

I hugged him.

And he hugged me back.

The years pass fast. Even the lost ones.

After he left, I returned to my seat--my mind pensive and melancholic.

I could hear the cold call of a Christmas song from Polar Express. And later, the ringing of the silver bell.

My chest heavy, I wanted to cry. How I could feel so full of gratitude for the season, my father's visit, his gift, his hug, Santa paper, and my children next to me at a holiday performance--and yet wonder, sober and somber, on thoughts of last.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Word

There were several words that came to mind. Like wonderment. Balance. I think at times I even considered boundaries. But I picked Camera 4.

Nearly the end of the year and I still have not picked up that camera and roamed. I likely will not. At least, not this year.

So maybe Camera 4 was more than just an action--but a mindset.

Camera 4 meant getting out of a comfort zone.

It meant looking at things from new angles.

It meant risking being seen--for someone like me who is generally so behind the scenes.

This year was a lot of that--being stretched and challenged. And while not all of it was fun, it was beneficial. Instructional.

In quiet reflection this Advent season. I don't know what the word will be for next year. For now, my eyes fixed on Jesus. Cherishing family and home. 

Went with Erin to the library last night.

"Mom, put it on a station with Christmas music," she said.

We found one with a blend. I listened to her humming along to a Christmas song. We saw the beautiful and colorful lights of decorated houses.

Thank you, God, that out from darkness something beautiful can shine.


Monday, November 30, 2015

And still counting (7921-7965)

a hug from Sandy
a break from co-op
home with the kids
the hum of heat
Lisa for a chat

her girls hanging out with my girls
New Year's Eve plans
good sleep
packages in the mail
firewood

time with Lanie
all those birds in that tree--looked like leaves fluttering
a frumpy fleece jacket
hot coffee in my hands
strength in the Lord

peace
Nora
another Thanksgiving with my dad
days home with Shane
his hand in mine and a pretty sunset

laughs around the house
breakfast pizza for lunch and dinner
family traditions
Grandma Jane
kettle corn

Christmas ornaments
Erin's love of the season
understanding Lanie
rainy days
warmer weather

books to read
sleep-in mornings
five (co-op) days till Christmas break
the love of sisters in Christ
popcorn and a movie with the family

cranberry gingerale for my dad
gray days
a place for Lanie
whatever Monday holds
the goodness of God in all things

faith
Christmas ornaments crowded close on a branch
candy canes
old recipes
memories

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Landslide

We put our tree up yesterday and did the annual ornament shop. In all the years past, we would go out for a cookie as big as your hand and a slice of pizza from Wegmans. Being gluten free meant holiday traditions and staples needed rethinking.

And that's ok.

This year, we got a bag of kettle corn that was freshly popped outside the nursery. I thought I knew where a coffee shop was in a nearby plaza, but got it wrong, so we skipped hot chocolate and coffee. But next year, I'll make sure to know.

The kids got home and excitedly hung ornaments on the tree.

***

I was putting away the Thanksgiving dishes. Some shelves held magazines of my favorite food publication: Everyday Food. It's out of print now, but I loved the perfect sized cookbooks that I got every month. At the other house, it was one of my favorite things--to get the magazine and tune out the world and turn page after page of new recipes.

On some of the covers, I wrote the names of my favorite meals held in that edition. Several of these foods were staples to our menu: banana chocolate chip bread (a playdate feature and welcome loaf to new friends), chicken parmesan, peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, plum cake, and chicken penne pasta.

I went through years of magazines. I ripped out pages of things that were old favorites, and I kept pages of recipes we can still use now.

Still, I felt a little sad.

*** 

There was gray smoke coming from the chimney when Erin and I got home from a quick run to the store today. Fire in the fireplace. Warmth.

We fixed up some popcorn and put on a Christmas movie. The four of us and the dog in the living room.

Outside it looked wintry gray.

I thought on things.

An address label from our former house fell from one of the magazines.

New traditions in an instant and old favorites left behind.

How the kids hung Christmas ornaments, sometimes several crowded close on the branches.

My dad and his love for the cranberry gingerale we had this year. I bought him a bottle to take home with him today.

Friendships and former friendships.

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love? Can the child within my heart rise above? Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Dad told me that he really enjoyed Thanksgiving, and I felt grateful.

I don't know why I'm so acutely aware of the brokenness in this world. Maybe it was that song. Or maybe because of Monday.


Friday, November 27, 2015

On black Friday

Slept in.

Had leisurely coffee. Two mugs.

Laughed and talked to my man.

Had lunch at home. Erin asked if we could put up the Christmas tree today. And the Little People nativity.

"I could play with that all day!" she said.

Outside was warmer than in my house, so I stayed outside. I saw a baby snake outside one of the sheds. I rode the tractor to mulch up the leaves. Then I grabbed a rake and started raking out the leafy mess in the front garden.

Christmas music is playing.

I got a Zulily delivery: some fleecy Christmas leggings (the uglier the better) and some kid-friendly essential roll-ons for the season (sniffle stopper, immune boom and germ destroyer or something to that effect).

I thought about how happy I feel, and how much energy I have, and how good it is to be home from co-op.

My mums are perking up, and the primrose in the garden is wondering if it's spring.

Picked up sticks in the yard, because one day these hills will be tracks for sleds.

The girls have played non-stop, save for the TV breaks they've had.

I'm so thankful for the peace and quiet and time home with this crew.

Hugging my man out in the garden when he was locking up the shed, I asked him, "Do you feel loved?"

"Yes," he answered.

Tonight, Thanksgiving leftovers, and packing up the few fall decorations I have to make way for the Christmas season.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

Sometimes, it's a hit.

Sometimes it's a miss.


They say, "Don't debut a new recipe on a special occasion."

This year's Thanksgiving is gluten free.

Turkey and mashed potatoes: no problem.

Butternut bisque: a fave.

Today debuted a pumpkin panna cotta tart and cornbread stuffing.

monkey slippers

the new stuffing, I mean, dressing

gluten free

morning prep

The food was good. The time went fast. There were plenty of smiles and warmth. This heart: happy.

and thankful


tablecloth!

that girl

this picture makes me happy

these tasted homemade

Erin set up shop at the door and sold several of her books to Granddaddy and Aunt Lori.




I snagged a selfie with Dad and Linda.

Thanksgiving 2015

After they left, Shane and I walked the trash cans to the end of the driveway. There was a beautiful sunset, and we stood at the end of the driveway holding hands looking out at it.

"How did we ever get here?" he asked, as we were walking back to our home.

Home, sweet home.

"Um, YOU!" I laughed. How Shane found this house, one of the three listings he stuck under my nose that day. And we'll never know if it had been the first one to catch his attention, because it seemed so insignificant back then. The insignificant day that would change everything.

Thanks, God, for glowy pink sunsets, my husband's hand to hold, family around the table, this old/cold house, a long driveway, hot coffee, and a great day.