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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year's Eve Snack Idea

New Year's Eve is coming up fast!  I can't believe 2009 is about to come to an end.  Seems like this past year has flown by so fast.  Maybe because I have spent the majority of the year chasing a sweet baby girl or dealing with a four year old who wants to "reason" with you now, or navigating the drama that comes with a pre-adolescent girl!!

I'm tired just thinking about all of it.

Anyway, I wanted to share a good idea for a New Year's Eve snack.  One of our secretaries at church makes this really yummy snack mix and I recently acquired the recipe from her.  Thank you for sharing Dawn!  I made this last night for our family to snack on while watching Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin's "Artist and Models".  Hope you'll try it and enjoy with your family.

"Caramel Apple Snack Mix"
7 cups popcorn (one regular size microwave bag)
4 cups Chex cereal
4 cups Apple Jacks
2 cups salted peanuts
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter cubed
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda

In a large greased bowl combine the popcorn, cereals and nuts.  Set aside.
In a saucepan, combine brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup.  Heat to boiling on medium and let boil for 5 minutes.
Pull off stove.  Add vanilla extract and baking soda.  Stir until it is light and foaming.
Pour over the cereal mixture and stir.
Place on wax paper on a cookie sheet.  Spray wax paper with cooking spray before putting the snack mix on it.
Bake at 250 degrees for 45 minutes stirring every 15 minutes.

Happy New Year,


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Day 2009

I pray this post finds you all resting and experiencing Emmanuel, God with us!

I began this Christmas season feeling a little disappointed and feeling down.  This is the first Christmas in quite some time we did not get to see our extended family.  However, in God's abundant grace, it has ended up being one of the best Christmases ever!  Part of what makes this year so special is that it was JennaBeth's first Christmas!

Mike had taken Bentley to a college basketball game this particular evening and Cecily and I thought it would be our opportunity to work together and get JennaBeth's Christmas picture taken.  I think we took a total of 22 pictures!!!  She's a grinny girl until you stick a camera in her face.

She had a very good time Christmas morning despite being woken up by her dad going down the hallway past her room going "ho, ho, ho" to wake Bentley up!  Yes, we had to wake him up.  Primarily because a certain 12 year old was up at 7:30 a.m. ready to open presents!

This would be that certain 12 year old...


Isn't that the cutest four year old?  He was much more cooperative with his Christmas pictures!  He was sound asleep when Mike went in his room.  I said, "I think there might be a present or two under the tree for somebody" and he jumped up out of a dead sleep ready to go.

I think JennaBeth was a little bit overwhelmed.  We could not get her to really open her presents.  She was too intent on eating the wrapping paper and bows!

Cecily was so sweet this year and with some of her own money bought us all a Christmas gift.  Even though, as I'm reminded on a daily basis, she is officially a "pre-teen" now, she still enjoys opening presents on Christmas morning.

Since we did not go home this year, the kids enjoyed getting their gifts from the grandparents in the mail.  We made them wait to open them on Christmas morning.

The "Cars" family is now complete with the addition of "Leak Less" and "Chick Hicks"...

Instead of opening her gifts...

a certain baby girl just wanted to do this...

Later yesterday evening, we had this sweet family over for Christmas dinner...

They are the Civil family minus their wife and mother who is back in Haiti taking care of business with family there.  From left to right is Lenes, Sharon and Carl.  Lenes plays the base guitar during the worship services at our church. He also played a role in our Christmas program this year and did an awesome job.

We had a great time with them.  Carl was so patient helping Bentley figure out his transformer.  Lenes and Carl also helped put Bentley's race track together...

JennaBeth did a little showing off for her company by showing off her latest trick...

She is standing on her own more and more although she hasn't taken any steps yet.  But, I'm sure it won't be much longer!!  And yes, that's a cell phone in her hand.

Here are the big kids hanging out after dinner with their cell phones after getting them all back from JennaBeth!

Gotta love those teenagers!  Something in their hands or their ears all the time!

Here's JennaBeth all ready for dinner...

Although the kids were about tired of the camera, I was able to get one more shot of them before bed with their stockings...

Our family prays you all have had a Merry Christmas and will have a blessed, healthy and happy New Year.

"The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth...From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another."
John 1:14,16

May the Lord bless and keep you,

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Four Thousand Three Hundred and Eighty days ago today...

a part of my heart began living life outside of my body.

It's 8:41 p.m. and in exactly one hour, Cecily will be 12 years old.  Twelve years ago tonight my life changed and it will never be the same again for as long as I live!  As I reflect back on the past twelve years, many things make me smile and a lot of things make me cringe, because I have missed the mark in motherhood many times.  God has taught me so much about His love for me through my role as a mother.  It was when I entered that role that I think I truly understood at a level I never had before about God as my Heavenly Father.

I am so unbelievably proud of the young lady Cecily is becoming.  I just about can't stand it!  I have seen so many of my prayers for her come to fruition and it is just about more than one woman's heart can take.

We took her out to eat for her birthday to...

If you go there on your actual birthday, you get your meal free.  In this economy, free is a very good thing.  Our family loves Mexican food, so we knew she would enjoy it as well.

She had been very curious about her present.  I think she thought she had it all figured out and when I came to the car with a small Bath and Body bag, I saw the disappointment on her face.  We ordered our food and I could tell she was so anxious.  She kept looking at that bag.  I finally couldn't take it any longer.

What you need to understand about this huge grin on her face is that the bag was "ringing".

Yes...we gave her a cell phone.

There is a story behind that phone.  It is something we have put off for some time now.  Cecily has been asking for one because you know, "Mama (insert the biggest whiney voice you can imagine) I'm the only kid on the face of the Earth without a phone!!!!"  We have put if off mainly because of trying to keep the monthly budget as trim as possible, but also because we have tried to be careful about feeding the materialism and "technology addiction" (my personal term for all the gadgets teenagers seem to be tied to) at a minimum in our home.

A few months ago when I was paying the bill for my cell phone online, I noticed an advertisement for a free phone with the addition of a line to my existing plan.  I called customer service to inquire and found out that the free phone was just a very low end phone with no bells and whistles and that switching over to a family plan and adding a line for Cecily would not add that much to our bill.  So, I called her dad and we decided we would give her the phone for her birthday.

On Black Friday, Mike and I went to the AT&T store to set it all up.  In talking with the guy helping us, we found out that because they were a small store they didn't have the "free" phone and would have to order it.  I was okay with that just as long as it was in time for a birthday on the 19th I told him.  He went to the back and came out with a manager who walked with him over to the wall displaying all the phones.  On their way over, I heard the guy helping us say to the manager, "It's going to be the free phone sooner or later anyway.  Why don't we just go ahead and give it to them now?"

The manager of the store called us over to the "wall" and explained to us that because they did not have the phone that was advertised, they were offering us the Samsung Solstice, which was a higher end phone with a few more bells and whistles.

Now, you might be saying, "What's the big deal?"  Well, the big deal to this mother who pays the bills every month and tries to balance everything and be as frugal as possible is this:  I saw this as a little touch of God's grace and provision.  I saw this as a good gift from Him.  We would not have been able to walk in the store and purchase this particular phone for Cecily, but we were able to surprise her with a nicer phone that didn't cost us anything. plan...a few extra dollars...the smile on her face...PRICELESS!!!  The girl was so excited she couldn't even finish her supper.  She had to bring home a doggy bag!!!

(The three pieces of my heart walking around outside of my body, well one is crawling, but close to walking :) )

(That boy loves his big "tister", can you tell by the grin on his face?)

Oh yes Cecily, I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living my baby you'll be!  I'm honored that you call me "mommy".

Doing less and enjoying more,

Letter From Jesus

Someone sent this to my husband and he sent it out in an email.  I wanted to share it with you here.
Letter from Jesus about Christmas --

It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are
taking My name out of the season.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily
understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I
don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET

Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in
which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a
couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front
lawn If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on
the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday
, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees.. You can
remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I
actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you
and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John
15: 1-8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my
wish list. Choose something from it:

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is
being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home.
They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all
the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them
personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing the President complaining about the wording on the
cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll
be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up... It will be nice
hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and
they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why
I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I
love them.

5 Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own
life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know
who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the

7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the
holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a
kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that
doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If
the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their
employees spend the day at home with their families

8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary--
especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My

9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your
town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and
loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you
wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.

Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do
what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest.. Check out the list
above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your
court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember :



Doing less and enjoying more,

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Beethoven Has Nothing On My Girl!

Cecily had her first piano recital last night.  She did an awesome job and we are so proud of her accomplishments in this area.  It is so funny, because for years now Mike has asked her off and on about taking piano lessons.  We have even had several of the pianist at churches we have served to offer to give her lessons, but she has never been interested.  "Too much practice required" she always said.

We never pushed it too hard, because if it wasn't something she enjoyed it would surely end up being something she hated if we pushed it on her.  When she started an Arts Academy for middle school this year she was placed in keyboard as one of her electives over something else she had chosen.  She was willing to give it a try and wouldn't you know it, she has ended up loving it!!  Her dad is tickled over it I think!

Here are some pictures I took of her before leaving the house for the recital:

Now presenting the accomplished piano rendition of "Here Comes Santa Clause" and "The First Noel" by Cecily Noel McIlwain (be sure and turn off my music player in the sidebar of the blog in order to enjoy the video): 

Nope!  Beethoven ain't got nothing on my girl!

Doing less and enjoying more,
Jennifer a.k.a. "Proud Momma"

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Unplanned Christmas

If you are not reading the blog at Desiring God, then you should be.  It is truly a blessing and gospel centered in every post!  The posts this month have especially been a blessing to me and yesterday's post by Jon Bloom, one of the blog's contributors, "Joseph: Unplanned Detours" was no exception!

This year has held many unplanned things for our family; the joyful surprise of a new family member, JennaBeth and many not so joyful things.  However, as I reflect back on our 2009, I can trace the hand of God in everything!  As difficult as this year has been, I don't think I would change one thing about it.  God has been faithful and He continues to guide us.  It has been a grace-filled adventure learning more about what it means to truly trust in Him!

Here are a few lines from the end of the Desiring God post:

"The Holy Family's first few years were not tranquil. They were filled with grueling travel during the hardest part of pregnancy, a birth in worse than a barn, no steady income, an assassination attempt, two dessert crossings on foot with an infant, living in a foreign country, waiting on God for guidance and provisions just in the nick of time. It was difficult, expensive, time-consuming, career-delaying and full of uncertainty.
And it was God's will.
The unplanned, inefficient detours of our lives are planned by God. They are common for disciples, and they commonly don't make sense in the moment. But God's ways are not our ways because our lives are about him, not about us. He is orchestrating far more than we know in every unexpected event and delay.
So when you find yourself suddenly moving in a direction you had not planned, take heart, hold tight, and trust God's navigation." 
*Turn the player off in my sidebar to hear the video.

I pray you will be encouraged this Christmas and blessed beyond measure not in material things, but in the Grace and Peace of the Lord!

Doing less and enjoying more,

Monday, December 14, 2009

How Grace Became Amazing

I am so proud of the group of people in that picture!!!  Especially proud am I of the gentleman in the middle of the group on the front row!  That's my sweet husband, Mike, and the choir at Northside.

They presented this year's Christmas program last night, "How Grace Became Amazing:  From a Blue Christmas to a True Christmas".  The gentleman on the far right in the green shirt, Steve, wrote the drama to go along with the songs Mike had selected for the program.  I absolutely believe that no better "program" could have been purchased already put together than what was presented last night at our church!

It took lots of talented people to present this awesome message.  This is Matt, our spotlight guy.  He's the Matt that I spoke about in my "Snowflake" post.

From left to right, Jim, Birchel, and Jordan, were the sound, lighting, and projector guys.

Krystal did an amazing job along with some other ladies and a few of our youth including Cecily (our daughter) on the flats for the program.  They worked some long hours finishing these up.  There were a total of four flats.

Here is Cecily along with Andrea who designed the shirts the choir wore.  The front as you can see on Cecily's is an iPod with Psalm 95:1 "Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation."

Left to right are Steve (He wrote the drama), Shawn (played Jesus) and Mike.  There were scenes that involved Jesus and Nicodemis and Jesus with the woman at the well.  Maybe those aren't things you would consider parts of a Christmas program, but that is the beauty of this particular presentation.  Not only was the birth of Jesus our Savior presented, but the reason He came was emphasized.

Hal, our Senior Pastor, spoke from Matthew 1:21 yesterday morning.
"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name
because He will save His people from their sins."
That is why Jesus took on flesh and came as a baby in a manger!  He came to save His people from their sins.  He came to save me from my sins and you from your sins!  That is what Christmas is all about, God being made flesh and dwelling among us!

What love the Father has for us!

Enjoy this small part of the program!  It features two of our youth Kiera and Cecily, my sweet girl!! 
*Before watching the video you will need to cut the music on the player in my sidebar off.


Doing less and enjoying more,


Friday, December 11, 2009

Lunch with the Doves

I just got back from sharing a Christmas lunch with a special group of ladies who call themselves the "Doves".  

The one gentleman in the front is our deacon, Herb Tanner.  His wife Ellen is the lady in the red top in the left side of the picture.

The Doves are the Senior Adult ladies I teach in Sunday School.  If you ever want to teach a group of ladies who read their lesson and are prepared, then these ladies are that group.  Many of these ladies have various health problems and physical issues, but they are faithful to be in Sunday School each Sunday.  

We sadly lost one of our Doves this week.  Ms Ruth went home to be with Jesus on Wednesday and her Memorial Service is tomorrow.  If you've happened upon this today, will you voice a prayer for the Aalderink family?

"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints."  Ps 116:15

Doing less and enjoying more,

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Computer Give-Away

Would you like an awesome opportunity to get a new computer for Christmas?  Well, I know someone who is giving away an HP Touchsmart computer!!!
Kelly over at her review blog is hosting this give away.  So, click on her name and get on over there for an opportunity to win this computer!

Doing less and enjoying more,

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Youth Christmas Party

Cecily was really excited about her first Youth Christmas party this past Saturday!  I don't know what makes a "youth" Christmas party any different from a "regular" Christmas party, but...oh yes I do!  I remember being her age and wanting so badly to be a "youth"!  Oh, to be a "youth" again...NOT!

It was a really fun party and it was great that the youth let us old folks hang out with them for a little while.  I know they may not think that is the coolest thing, but I think we have a great group of youth and well, I like hanging out with them!  Makes me feel, well, not so old!

We had a really great meal of pork loin, green beans, broccoli and cheese casserole, rice with black beans and a few deserts.  It had been so long since I'd had rice crispy treats and they were so good!!

The kids played their version of the Gong Show and exchanged white elephant gifts, which were so funny!

(Jordan with his Hanna Montana poster.  His wrapping paper was glued instead of taped!)

(Cecily ended up with a roll of toilet paper!  They got to exchange - kinda like dirty Santa - so she came home with a remote control Barbie of Swan Lake toy!)

(Kiera ended up with Cecily's diaper full of Tootsie Rolls she had wrapped and brought.)

Bentley had a very good time himself!  He loves hanging out with the "big" boys and they are really sweet to play with him.


JennaBeth got to hang out with Mr. David and she loved him walking her around and holding her!

David is one of our elders and his wife Dawn is our Senior Pastor's secretary.  They have four children. I asked David if he still knew how to get a little one to go to sleep...

and apparently he does!

The kids spent the rest of the time hanging out on the back deck and drinking hot chocolate...

Even though it feels surreal to be a parent of a was a fun evening!

Doing less and enjoying more,

Friday, December 4, 2009

Decking The Halls

I love Christmas decorations!  I am excited every year to get the tree put up and all the other Christmas things put out around our home.  I don't have extremely fancy decorations, but the ones I have are things I have collected over 17 years of marriage and each decoration holds a special meaning.

This is our main tree which is in the front room of our house.  It is a 7 1/2 foot artificial tree.  We got it on sale at Ole Time Pottery our first Christmas in Florida.  I love clear lights!  The tree has two strands on it and next year I think I'm going to put a third strand on the tree.  I just don't think you can have too many lights!

Our tree is covered with mostly homemade ornaments...

like this one.  The ladies ministry at our previous church in MS had an ornament exchange each year.  You brought 12 homemade ornaments (all alike) and you left with 12 different ornaments at the end of the evening.  We were at this church for four years, so my tree is full of beautiful homemade ornaments.  The greatest thing about this is they all tell a story.  So, our tree is full of stories and I love it!  
The "M" ornament in the picture above was the one I made the last year we were at the church.  I just took wooden m's from Wal-Mart and spray painted them gold and hot glued a frosted cranberry and ribbon for hanging.  

Cecily is one of many "angels" on our tree.  She made this ornament in Kindergarten.  The body of the angel is a tracing of her foot and the wings are a tracing of her hands.

Here is Mr. Smore Angel...

And isn't Rudolph cute...even though he has an antler missing!

This next ornament is very special.  In January of 2006 a member of our church, a 53 year old woman, died unexpectedly of a heart attack.  She had just had a grand baby born in September of 2005 and another daughter getting married in April of 2006.  Her death really shocked our little church.  Her name was Trevette.  Trevette loved scarves!  At our ornament exchange in December of that year, her daughter Templete had taken her mother's scarves and wrapped them around clear glass ornaments and gave each one present a "Trevette" ornament...

I am honored to have it hanging on my tree along with other ornaments Ms Trevette had made for the ornament exchange in previous years.

I also have all three kids "baby's first" ornaments...




All the kids have trees in their rooms...


I have Santas on a shelf in the front room with the main Christmas tree...

We also have a porcelain nativity set that is 17 years old and has survived 5 moves!  A couple gave it to me and Mike our first Christmas as a married couple.  I think I've only had to glue the donkey's ear back on once!

A former pianist at our present church made this ceramic winter church piece for Mike one year for Christmas.  We enjoy it in our living room.

I have a Snowman theme in the kitchen...

I enjoyed getting to purchase a fifth Christmas stocking this year!  And instead of being hung by the chimney with care, they are hung almost from the ceiling with care!  Why you ask...

because this little sweetheart of an active and mobile 9 month old could pull up and reach them where I normally hang them!  I would rather have them hanging in an odd place than have her pull the heavy stocking hanger down on herself.  So...

Mike (Santa), Me (Ms Snowwoman!), Bentley (the moose), JennaBeth (Rudolph) and Cecily (the panda bear).

Thank you so much for stopping by our home today!  Our family prays you have a blessed Christmas this year!
Don't forget to take a chocolate mint candy cane on your way out!!

Doing less and enjoying more,