Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Day

I've written about Christmas Eve and I've blogged more in this last week than I have in the last two months (or three?).   So, how about I keep the love coming and write another blog post?  Wowsa!

Christmas morning came way too early, esp. since we had been up insanely late (yeah, still not admitting just how late).  We were able to eke out a bit more sleep by snuggling in bed with Abigail, but couldn't put it off any longer once Bethany joined us.  The little girls were all to ready for stockings and presents and it didn't matter that Mommy and Daddy were freakishly tired.  The tree looked pretty with all of the gifts around it, though.

I made the kids sit on the stairs, even though there wasn't really anything to get ready.  I was sorely tempted to lay down on the couch and doze a bit.... 
Here they are, waiting to come down.  Note that Samuel looks like a zombie.  Or something.

Stockings were first, as usual, before wading into the gifts.  I always like to think we can open gifts up in an orderly fashion, enjoying each other's exclamations and looks of surprise or joy, waiting patiently, but it doesn't seem to work like that.  At least it's not total chaos and the kids do tend to take note when someone is opening something.

The little girls were the biggest focus this year at the start of handing out the presents, with Samuel eagerly handing them his gifts and the big sisters ready to give theirs as well.  Bethany especially seemed excited about her new Cinderella crown (and her new hair do dads from her stocking).  She actually has two soft stretchy headbands criss-crossed on her head in addition to the crown.

The little girls got games, Magna-Tiles, books, stuffed animals and a few princess things, including a 'Sleeping Beauty' (non-Disney variety) dress for Abigail that caused a momentary pout from Bethany, who wanted a dress, too.  Bethany actually gave me a pretty good stink eye when she opened a game instead of a dress-up dress, but got over it fairly quickly (besides, she has a pretty decent Cinderella dress need for another one!).

A highlight of the morning for me was watching the littles open their princess dolls.  Abigail got a Sleeping Beauty and Bethany got an Ariel.  Just kidding.  Bethany got a Cinderella.  As if I could even think about purchasing another princess for her.

Abigail, if you notice in the photo, has her hands on the sides of her face.  She was ecstatic and very enthusiastically ripped the paper from the box once she caught sight of what she was opening.  These were purchased back in October or November, while on a Saturday-in-town shopping trip with the little girls in tow.  Costco had the dolls and I knew that this might be my only chance to purchase them before they disappeared.  So while Abigail was wailing about wanting the doll, I snuck back to buy them.  And believe me, Abigail wailed for about the last half of our trip through Costco, begging me to buy the doll for her.  She remembered that when she opened it and said something to the effect "you tricked me".  Yep, honey, I did...because I love you and wanted to see this exact reaction.

The olders got some good gifts, too.  Samuel and Moriah each got cameras for their upcoming trips, along with books and t-shirts.  Susannah got a Wii game she asked for and some nice markers and a sketch pad for all of the neat designs she draws.  I got my trekking poles I requested (for hikes up the mountain) and Jim got the promise of a bonsai tree shopping trip. I accidentally killed his last one and wanted to get him another.  But if there is one thing Jim is, it's unpredictable about his choices.  I wanted him to be able to choose the one he wanted, not necessarily replace it with the same kind.

Captain Obvious, to the rescue!
Sock Monkey slippers!

Wii game...for me?  Just Dance 2!

Jim also got some cool stamps with the church's picture on them.  They are 'legal' for use on USPS mail!
We had two yummy meals, too.  Brunch with a dear friend that included pumpkin pancakes (YUM) and cinnamon chip bread french toast and dinner with just us that included some of our favorites.  The biggie for me was the twice-baked potatoes, which went with the ham and pineapple pudding quite nicely. 

Potato-y goodness

We also sang Happy Birthday to Jesus (even though December 25 is highly unlikely to be His actual birth date).  Still, Christmas is a celebration of his birth, regardless of the actual date, so a birthday cake is always part of our meal on Christmas.
See those green things at the top?  I tried to make a holly leaf shape.  *giggle*

Jim is working on separating the ham into baggies...

and really hamming it up during the song! (ha? ha?)

There ya have it.  Our Christmas in words and photos.  We had a wonderful day together full of surprises, laughter and song. 

This will be my last December post...Have a happy and safe New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

19 Years

Our family of two was formed 19 years ago today, right around this time (accounting for the four-hour time difference and the fact that our ceremony started at 7:00 pm in Indiana).  Over the years, our family has obviously grown, to this jumble of love and energy and laughter and noise.

My heart swells with joy and bliss and I truly thank God for the gift he gave me all those years ago.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Eve, continued

I'm sitting here, watching Moriah and Susannah play a new Wii game and offering pointless advice.  Because while I sort of get what to do, the girls really don't need my suggestions.

Anyway!  Between the pageant and the first service at the church, we grabbed a pizza from the "A Bar" (Aurora Lounge) at the hotel and were able to choke down some dinner.  You'd think that there would be plenty of time between a 5:00 service and a 7:30 service to have some dinner, huh?  Well, after the actual pageant is over,  by the time we have to get all of the costumes collected and folded and stored in the bags and bins and the candles put back into a box and the table and advent wreath stowed away and the electric keyboard carried downstairs and finish looking around for any random items that might have been left behind, it's fairly close to 7:00.  And it just doesn't seem to occur to me to have anything going in the crock pot, until around 2:30 and by then it's too late to do anything because we have to be getting ready to go by around 2:55.  (it is my hope that you get a sense of the crazy-ness with how jumbled this last paragraph was)

Between the 7:30 and 11:00 services there is a bit more breathing room, but not much.  We're usually home by around 9:30, after chatting with folks and cleaning up in preparation for the 11:00 service.  We also took a few moments to get a family photo taken:

 Once we got home from the 7:30 service, it was time to open jammies and ornaments.  We take a lot of care in choosing the ornaments for the kids every year, trying to find something that reflects an important event or something they currently are interested in. The girls were fairly easy, while Samuel presented a challenge (because there just aren't that many Debate-themed ornaments out there, if you must know).  In the end, all five kids got an ornament that reflected something special for them and it was a lot of fun to see them open the pjs and find the ornament nestled inside.  In fact, the pjs are the 'wrapping paper' on Christmas Eve, which makes it nice and easy to get each kids' things ready for opening.
Samuel's 'handmade' ornament*, which he loved!
Moriah got a guitar, which was as close to a ukulele** as I could get.

Susannah is making a funny face, but she loves her piggy*** ornament.

Abigail has a Sleeping Beauty**** ornament

Bethany has a Cinderella***** ornament

We got the little girls settled in their new fleecy, warm jammies and put them to bed.  Then off to the 11:00 service went four of us, with Moriah and Susannah sporting their new pjs as well.  That's a plus for this service...the kids are welcome to wear their pjs, esp. since the service ends near or after midnight.

I think that is about it for our Christmas Eve report.  Except maybe to share how pathetically late we were up finishing the wrapping.  Then again, maybe I'll keep that sad information to myself.  Every year I vow that the wrapping will be done well before the 24th and every year, I'm doing it late into the night.

Someday I'll get my act together.  Probably just in time for the little girls' last Christmas before they head off to college.

* Samuel's is a 'tub' with 'folders' and 'paper' inside, meant to represent the Rubbermaid tub full of information that he and his debate partner use for their debates to formulate their cases.

** Moriah won the first annual "Girdwood's Got Talent" back in October.  She sang Hey Soul Sister while accompanying herself on her ukulele.  It was good.

*** Susannah loves pigs and will not eat pork of any kind.  So it was time to get an ornament reflecting this preference of hers.

**** Abigail's affection for Sleeping Beauty is undiminished and still as enthusiastic as ever.

***** Bethany's affection for Cinderella is equally undiminished and she often refers to herself as Cinderella.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Our Christmas

As my Christmas gift to you, I'm actually writing a third December blog post.  And possibly a fourth, if this one gets too long.  Don't let it go to your head, though.  This burst of generosity won't likely last once classes resume.

Christmas Eve was especially wonderful this year because we were officially in our new church.  But before those two services, we had the annual Christmas Pageant up at the resort.  The little girls were over the moon excited to be in the pageant this year.

Bethany and Abigail, lined up and ready to go!

I had high hopes that they'd do well as angels this year, based on their enthusiasm for their roles. They asked me daily when the pageant was, raring to wear their costumes and be part of the play.   I wrote about our pageant experience last year and I am very happy to report that Abigail was a perfect angel.  Really.  She was an angel.  And a perfect one.  Stood up on stage, on her mark, with her hands folded 'in prayer' and stayed that way the entire time.  What a difference from last year's reluctant donkey, huh?  Bethany did quite well too, but did make a dash down to my seat so she could take off her shoes.

Walking to the stage.

The two services at the church were magical.  The decorations managed to hide the fact that the sheet rock isn't truly finished and painted. (Jim has some great photos of the sanctuary on his blog, in more light, that you can check out here.) There were about 113 chairs set out and they were all nearly full for the 7:30 service.  The service itself was familiar and traditional, but there was something about singing Silent Night at the end, all of us holding candles, with the lights turned low, that made me lose it.  I made it through the first verse and then became rather verklempt and cried for the other three.

Here is Jim singing during Silent Night.  Grainy photo, but it captures the warm, glowy atmosphere.

After the service, Samuel noticed my tears and asked me what was wrong.  I replied that nothing was wrong but that everything was right.  And it was.  Around 100 voices raised in singing about the birth of our Savior (although 'silent' was probably not how that first night was!).   Pretty awesome.  And, to know that all of the things (Bibles, hymnals, chairs, altar, lectern, Christmas tree, etc) that were moved over for this service get to stay.  That's even better.  What a gift God gave to Jim this Christmas season!

I also went to the 11:00 service, thanks to Samuel's generosity.  He stayed home with the little girls, who were sound asleep, and I got to go to the late service for the first time in a few years.  Samuel said he'd use the time wisely and finish wrapping gifts.  Instead he zonked out on the couch.  The late service was not as widely attended but was still magical.  We saw a couple of cool videos, sang a lot of carols, heard the Christmas story through scripture and sang Silent Night in candlelight, welcoming Christmas Day in style.

Between the two later services, the kids opened their pj/ornament packages.  That'll have to be for another blog post because I think this one is long enough.  So, hey, you may get five December blog posts before I'm all done!  No fainting please.  Just come back and visit and read!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

We've had about a week off from school, filled with lazy mornings, trips to Anchorage, c-c-c-cold temperatures, housecleaning, cookie baking and anticipation for Christmas.  The little girls seem especially aware of this year's festivities and have gotten very excited at the thought of presents, both received and given. 

This year's Christmas will be extra special because we'll be able to worship in the new church.  The state fire marshal gave the okay for us to be in the space (read: 'legal' but not 'finished') and the Doepkens and many church members have been working diligently to get the sanctuary decorated and as free of sheet rock dust and other areas as cleared out and cleaned as possible.  The little girls have fancy dresses that are partially black...wonder what they'll look like after tonight's lessons and carols service!

Our family is keeping things fairly low key tomorrow, as usual, but it feels almost too low key for me this year.  I think having us all so busy these past few months made it feel like Christmas came up too quickly.  But funny thing about's always in December, on the 25th.  No excuses really work, do they?

Even as I wonder if we've gotten 'enough' for our kids (that horrible battle between materialism and what I want my kids to focus on), I keep reminding myself that this isn't about gifts or cookies or decorations.  It's not any of our birthdays, after all (although the chocolate birthday cake will be tasty).

Christmas is about celebrating the birth of our Savior, Emmanuel with us.  Thanks be to God.

Monday, December 6, 2010

My apologies

I will try to get back into the blogging habit. I will. I am sorry that any family and friends who try to follow what's going on with us have been left out of the loop with my lack of posts. Maybe they've given up on me completely...and I don't blame them!

But, once my classes are over, I will attempt to catch up. I promise.

In the meantime, Happy St. Nicholas Day!


Sunday, November 7, 2010


A little Halloween 'eye' candy for you all.

I took the easy way out this year and bought costumes. What helped that decision was having the little girls with me at Costco. And by 'helped' I really mean that 1. the little girls caught sight of the costumes and became *completely* and instantly excited and 2. I realized how easy it would be to just pluck them off the rack and buy them.

Here is Abigail as Tinkerbell. No Sleeping Beauty or Belle dresses to be had, but this costume felt a little similar to the original idea of being a butterfly. 'Cause of the wings....

Bethany was Cinderella. Her costume did take a little altering because it was 3 sizes too big, which means I can claim that I did a little more that 'just' buy them. Right?

I also took one photo of both of them, before Jim took them out Trick or Treating. Note the Alaskan version of princess/fairy footwear.

The previous Friday was the community Halloween Carnival and I was asked to be a "Spooky Story Lady"...I'm pretty sure I was supposed to be a lady who read Spooky Stories, not *be* a Spooky story lady, so I dressed appropriately:

I thought I had photos of the two older girls and Jim from the carnival, too, but I don't.

Moriah dressed as a pop singer named Justin Bieber. She had a very complex costume to pull it off, too. A zipper hoody, wide-brim plaid baseball cap and a microphone.

Susannah dressed as a book character (be still, my librarian heart). She was Katniss Everdeen from a very popular YA series of books called The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Fabulous books, cute and easy idea for a costume (forest colors, bow and arrows).

Jim, my dear, punny hubby, went as a Doc in a Box. Scrub shirt, cardboard box around his middle. Simple and funny. Like him. :o)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Saving graces in twindom

I am always (always) grateful when tantrums happen in ones. There do exist occasional stereo tantrums that are completely and utterly hellish to endure. But for some unknown (and blessed) reason, most of the time the little girls throw tantrums one at a time.

Take tonight, for instance. The regular pjs/brush teeth/go potty routine was going just fine. Bethany was finished first and got to pick the first book. The second book reading went great, as did the third. Getting lotion and 'nosey stuff' (saline spray) was smooth as silk.

It was when Abigail settled onto my lap for songs that Bethany became upset.

And it was when I explained, rather gently and calmly, that Abigail got there first, that Bethany became rather unhinged. The following tantrum was fairly epic and dear sweet Jim had the pleasure of escorting Bethany from the room while I sang to Abigail.

The entire time her sister was freaking out, Abigail was wonderfully cuddly and calm on my lap.

And I was reminded yet again to be grateful when tantrums come in ones.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More teenagers

Yes, it's true. There are two more teens in this house. Moriah and Susannah celebrated their 13th birthdays today...and officially entered teen-dom.

They awoke to crepe paper streamers at the bottom of the stairs, the number 13 made out of crepe paper on the windows and chairs festooned with crepe paper. Unfortunately, the crepe paper didn't cancel school for the day.

It wasn't an easy day, schedule-wise, to turn 13 because of all that this family had going on. Jim had to go to Anchorage, Samuel had DDF Club after school, I had to work and then had class, the girls had X-C running and the end-of-season pizza party and then piano right afterwards, Jim and I had play rehearsal and then Bible study at the church.

I had found time to make a delicious (and I mean DELICIOUS) apple pie cake for the X-C party (I stayed up insanely late last night/this morning after finishing homework to get it ready for baking), using up the last of my energy reserves and the flour and sugar. But my lack of time, energy and basic baking staples meant I couldn't make their 'official' birthday cake in time to have it for dessert, which was to be Texas Sheet Cake.

After Bible study, though, I had a little brainstorm and suggested that Jim get ice cream for a little celebration. That worked well and the girlios enjoyed (I think) being sung to over Goo Goo Cluster ice cream. They each got their own song and each got the chance to blow out their candles. Samuel insisted on helping light the candles and thankfully didn't catch anything on fire.

Here is a photo of the two 13-year-olds with their birthday ice cream:

Happy Birthday, Moriah.
Happy Birthday, Susannah.

I love you more than you could ever imagine.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Boat trip with the fam (warning...pic heavy!)

Here is part two of the boat trip from the end of June, the part of the trip that includes picking up the kids and Jim's folks and heading back out into Prince William Sound.

Anyhoo, here's a refresher on the setting: after spending an evening away, puttering around in a little bay and getting shrimp, Jim and I and our hosts boated back to Whittier to pick up the rest of the family. Betsy and Tony had gotten all five kids loaded and unloaded and they were waiting and waving up at the top of the 'marina' area.

After getting the babes safely down the pier and life-jacketed, we headed right back out. The little girls got to 'drive' the boat for a bit and enjoyed playing Captain. Abigail took it very seriously and moved the wheel back and forth. Bethany seemed happy to simply hold the wheel in place.

The boat had an upper deck that was wonderful to sit on, especially since the sun had come out. It was a little breezy but I got some nice photos.

There were even some photos taken with me!

As we traveled, we were treated to the sight of a raft of otters. The little girls were thrilled and insisted on waving goodbye to them.

The kids moved around on the boat, taking in the sights and trying to steer from down in the cabin. It wasn't until we were all the way home that I realized I hadn't gotten many photos of the other three adults in our family. I guess I was focused on the kids or something. Weird, huh?

We reached our final destination, Blackstone Bay. WOW! Beautiful and chilly, all at the same time.

We listened to the ice shifting and saw a few small ice chunks calve off. Our host also brought some glacier ice on board but I didn't get any photos of it. I'm still enchanted by the hue of glacier ice...that soft, misty blue.

Eventually, the boat had to return us to reality. After a lovely dinner and some more breathtaking scenery, we headed home. I think it's safe to say that all five of our kids would be happy to go back out into the Sound someday. Sooner rather than later, of course.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Boat Overnight 2010 (way overdue)

Jim and I were blessed to go on another overnight on a friend's boat back at the end of June. We arranged to go over night on a Tuesday to somewhere cool and then to meet up with the rest of our family on Wednesday to do a shorter 'tour' out to Blackstone Bay.

Tuesday's weather was less than stellar (read: rainy and chilly) so we ended up not going out as far. Our lovely hosts apologized about that, but I assured them it didn't matter how far out we went, we were just thrilled to be out on their boat.

When the power went out after an ill-fated attempt to hook up a new shrimp-pot-puller, our lovely hosts apologized again, this time from the depths of the engine room. And again I assured them that Jim and I were more than content--we didn't have to be anywhere until the next day, we had no email or cell phones demanding attention and most of all we had no children running around, needing us! (Plus I was certain they'd figure out and fix the problem, although being stranded on a nice boat with food and good company is definitely not the worst thing I can imagine!)

So, Jim snoozed and chatted, I made a couple of duct tape wallets and read, our hosts worked on the boat and visited with us, we all contributed in some way to a delicious steak dinner and we thoroughly enjoyed our night on the boat.

The weather was better in the morning, which encouraged Jim and I to take the dinghy and explore. There was a beach near the little cove we anchored in that is known as Kayaker's Beach. It has walkways and platforms for tents and an outhouse and looked like a neat place to stay.

Here is the view of the boat from the little dinghy:

'Captain' Jim:

One of the many wonderful views as we puttered around the little cove (note the teeny bit of blue sky peeking through!):

And the Kayaker's beach from a little ways out:

Once we got to the beach, we got to see the smooth stones, wooden steps, beautiful foliage and an outhouse perfect for clowning around in.

Here is a partial view of a platform and the view to the left from the platform:

We left the beach and kayaked back to the boat, so we could leave in time to stop by and haul up the shrimp pots before the rest of the family met us back in Whittier.

I perched on the bow, helping to run the motor that pulled in the rope and getting the rope coiled into a large tub. I believe there was at least 600 feet of rope to pull up. Might have been a couple hundred more. I was just grateful the winch was working this year. Anyone who read my post from last year might remember that we (read: mostly the two men) pulled the pots up by hand. Not an easy feat.

As the pots came into view, they were hooked and pulled over to the side and brought on board. Then the shrimp were dumped into a waiting bucket.

The kids and Jim's parents were waiting for us when we got back to Whittier and we pulled in just long enough to load 'em up and we headed back out.

More on that part of the trip in another post. Lots of cute photos of little girls 'driving' the boat and photos of Blackstone Bay. Stay tuned....