Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mauneyland's First Christmas

Christmas in Mauneyland came and went, but it seemed to be more of a week-long event this year than just a day. Instead of recapping the entire week, I think it might be easier to just hit the highlights.

With Christmas Eve came our little church's very first Christmas Eve service (actually two) and we saw a great attendance of 400 people... not bad for a campus that has been around for only three months! God is oh so good to us! The service was incredibly moving and one of my favorite gifts is seeing my husband doing what he loves and what he was made to do. The service was topped off by singing "Silent Night" by candlelight, which is always my favorite part (isn't it everyone's?). It was perfect.

When we got home, we had our second annual exchange of pajamas in which Josh gave me the most comfortable (yet super cute) maternity pj's that say "Baby Love" on the front and I gave him pj pants that match a sleeper for our sweet Baby Jake. We just need baby here to match them up together... I'm sure there will be a picture of that on here in the future!

After a good nights's sleep, we woke up to find that Santa had come indeed and filled our stockings! Even Jake's little teeny tiny stocking had a few surprises in it as well as PLENTY of loot that did not fit inside.

We leisurely swapped gifts and opened some from the family. I was particularly fond of the monkey hooded towel from my aunt for our little monkey on the way.

Josh and I both decided that we really did not need anything this year as we've been so blessed, so we were so very thankful for our many gifts. He oohed and ahhed over his new down vest and Craftsman toolbox and I have a beautiful new diaper bag to fill as well as some other fun toys and trinkets, too!

Even the pups were spoiled (as usual) and Minnie even opened her own gifts from her cousin Rascal. We did make the mistake of not paying close attention and she ended up eating most of the bag it was wrapped in, too! At the end of the festivities, we could not decide who did better: the dogs (who got a very expensive and labor intensive fence) or Baby Jake, who isn't even here yet. Either way, we enjoyed our first Christmas where we were able to spoil all of our kids!

After a day of doing absolutely NOTHING (which was probably our favorite gift to be honest), we set the table for two and enjoyed our very last quiet Christmas dinner together. Next year there will be a high chair in this picture and possibly some food items flung across the room... but oh how we can't wait! And what you can't tell from here is that we were still in our pajamas when dinnertime rolled around... absolute bliss!
After a yummy meal and six or seven movies, we turned in for the night, geared up for our weekend services at Crossroads. Even though the 25th had already passed, I spent the next morning trying my hand at frosted Christmas cookies for church that weekend. Although they were not quite up to par with my dear friend, Cookie Chick, they were well received. I'm not planning on dropping everything anytime soon to pursue a cookie career though!

After church, Josh and I took a drive around town to admire God's gift to our town... the whitest, fluffiest, most pristine blanket of snow all across the Midwest. With blue skies and shiny white landscape, the world truly looked peaceful and perfect.

With another successful weekend behind us, we left the weather above and boarded a plane for sunny Florida to celebrate Christmas Part II with the family (which will be a separate post that I will get around to eventually!). Actually, the blogging hiatus is partially do to the fact that we are in Florida as I type this and let's just say that blogging does not take priority on this relaxing getaway! Instead we are enjoying time spent with family, warm weather, and quality time with one another. It does not get much better than that.

From our house to yours, we do hope that you had a spectacular holiday season filled with many blessings. God bless you all and we'll see you back in Mauneyland soon!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Christmas Angel

Yes, I married a good one. I can't tell you how many times I think that same thought every single day and I hope that all married women can relate. And even if they can... I can't help but think that I am the luckiest out of us all.

Being married to my husband has been wonderful and amazing and I learn everyday that it's so much more than just having a partner. Having a loving husband is coming home from a business trip and having the house decorated for autumn because he knows you'll love it and thought it might be silly to spend the money. It's going to the store and coming home with silly Santa Claus slippers because even if he thinks they're slightly ridiculous, he knows you'll think they're awesome. It's making a perfect pot of chili because he knows you love the way he makes it, a post-it note on your desk that reminds you that he loves you, a smile in a crowded room that lets you know you're the only person he can see, and most recently...

installing a fence in the middle of the winter because he knows how much easier it will make life for you.

Joshua, I know that the fence has become the bain of your existence and I know the work has probably been tough enough to make even a preacher cuss. I know that drilling 48 fence post holes into frozen (yet muddy) ground was gruelling work. I know that you froze your tail off as the snow soaked you to the bone in 30 degree weather. And I know that I am incredibly blessed to be married to a man who did the job without complaining one time. You truly are my angel and you make me the happiest woman in the world. Thank you for everything you do for me... big and small. I hope I am not too much of a pain in the rear in return!

Oh, and of course, thanks to Randy and the rest of the guys, too. You all are far too generous to give up your time to help with such a nasty task. We are so blessed to have such wonderful friends out here in Small Town, Illinois.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We Survived

The "blizzard" of 2009 blasted through here last week, but I think the weatherman may be kicking himself now for calling it the "worst storm in 30 years." Was there lots of snow? Yes. Were there negative degree temperatures? Yes. Did school get cancelled? Yes, for 2 days. Did some folks lose power? Yes. Was it worse than any other snow according to every person we asked? Ummm... that would be a no. Apparently, we need to get used to last week's weather, because that is what we can expect all winter long.

All in all, we ended up with about 8 or 9 inches on the ground. The strange part (to me anyway) is that it's a week later and the ground is still completely covered and it's solid ice. Every place that I've ever lived with snow, it was generally gone the next day, but that does not seem to be the case here. The dogs enjoyed it when it was soft and fluffy, but now when they go outside they have to walk slowly as the footing is very uneven for them. Sometimes they will lift one paw off of the ground at a time because it is so very cold on their little paws. We tried to take a video of them running around out there, but of course, they did nothing spectacular on film so it is not worth posting. Hopefully we'll get a good one next time... and I'm sure we won't have to wait long for that.

So in case you were worried, we survived the great blizzard of 2009. I will say that I experienced the coldest weather I have ever felt in my life, but I mostly stayed indoors so it did not bother me too much. And oh how beautiful the world looks underneath a blanket of white! I don't even mind that it's all dirty and piled up on the side of the roads now because those few gorgeous days, before it was all plowed and played in, made it all worth it. And nothing is cozier than a cup of hot cocoa at the end of a winter's day.

Oh, and in baby news, our last appointment went well and they bumped us up yet again to the March 22nd due date, which makes us skip ahead to the 26 week mark this week (are we overachievers or what!). Granted, we've now seen 3 different doctors plus a midwife and we get a different answer every time, so it's clear that Baby Jake will just come in his own time. And all three of us are perfectly content with that.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Season of Joy

This weekend and last weekend were like night and day for me. The events were the same for the most part, but the feeling was completely different. You see, last weekend a very exciting thing happened for our little church family here... we had seen so much growth that we launched our first Saturday night service and saw numbers over 400 come and join us for worship. Two services for a three-month-old church campus is pretty remarkable and shows that God has been with us on this journey, blessing this ministry in amazing ways. But last weekend, for me, it only meant one more day of giving up my husband. I was perfectly fine on Saturday night, willing to help out and enjoy myself, but on Sunday morning I was a mess. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and could only think that having two services was "stealing my weekend" away. When would I ever get my Sabbath? When would Josh and I ever have the same day off again? Why did we have to find a way to make our already busy lives even busier? Take these thoughts, throw in some pregnancy hormones, and by the time I got to church it was obvious to everyone there that I was not having a good morning. And on top of it, I felt guilty for even feeling this way, knowing that two services is an amazing opportunity for us and this church, and that I should count my blessings. Sunday passed (with many little dramatic moments from me about one thing or another) and when Monday rolled around, I seemed to be back to my old self.

So along comes this past weekend, which was the second weekend for our two servies and the message, appropriately enough, was all about JOY. As a bonus, my wonderful husband preached the message in both services which is always something we look forward to. So just like the week before I showed up on Saturday night with a much better attitude and no begrudging feelings, which was a good sign.

Before each service, Josh has a meeting with the worship team and tech team, and since I run slides during the Saturday service, I am in the meeting. He tells us what the message is about, the different elements (music, video clips, etc.) that are a part of the service, and as usual, how there should be no "dead" moments and everything should run professionally and flawlessly. The plan for the Saturday service was as follows: the worship band would be playing 2 songs, then Josh would come up and make a few announcements, and then we'd play a short video from our kids program. During the video, the kids would come in and get on stage and sing two more songs, at which time we would play pre-recorded tracks off of the iPod for them to sing along to, and we would film them and project the images on the big screen so the people in the back could see. The kids were then going to march out while everyone sings "Joy to the World" together. Then we'd go to the message, two more songs from the worship team, and then we'd be done. Okay, got it... I even took notes. This should've been easy as pie.

But this is what actually happened...
The service starts with no problems, and while I am scrolling words for the first song, I catch a glimpse at the notes for "Joy to the World". I recognize a verse that I have never seen before about joy unspeakable. I quickly check my version of "Joy to the World" that is saved in the computer and as I suspected, I have the wrong version in the computer and the words won't match. I have a moment of panic, but then realize that since I am a fast typer, I can make new slides for that song during the announcements and kids' program. Awesome. The second song happens without any problems, I put the Crossroads logo on the big screen as Josh comes up to make announcements, and I start typing away to create a new song in the five minute window I have been given. And then I hear it... the "dead" moment that Josh always warns us about. The silence is deafening and people are shifting uncomfortably in their seats. I tune into what is going on and for the third time, Josh mentions the "kids' video" as Todd, the guy who runs the sound board, taps me on the shoulder and whispers, "kids' video"! Oh no, this is my fault! I click the video and it starts to play as I take a deep breath and silently scold myself. I then finish making the slides for "Joy to the World" and regroup for whatever is next.

As rehearsed, the kids are now standing on the stage ready to sing, so Todd presses PLAY on the iPod. The kids start their performance and the music stops. The kids stop, too. Todd presses PLAY again and the kids start dancing. The music stops. The kids stop, too. I stifle a giggle, relieved that it's not just me messing up today. Finally, the music starts up again and continues. Todd is laughing a little bit, too, now. The first song ends and it's time for the second song, at which time we have the same issues with the iPod. The performance starts and stops about three more times as we try to figure out how to make it the device work properly. The kids are not phased at all, but seem trained to start and stop their performance every time the music goes on and off, which I find even more hilarious. Finally, the second song gets started and Todd and I both share a laugh of silent relief. As I focus my attention on the cutie-pie kids who are singing and dancing their hearts out, I hear something fall beside me and then see the video screen on stage go blank. I look up at Mike, who is standing on a ladder filming, and he looks down toward the ground. I look down, too, and notice a remote control, which must have landed on the button that turns the screen off. I reach down to pick it up and the batteries have popped out. At this point, I lose it. Everything that could have possibly gone wrong in a five minute span has gone terribly. I get down on the ground to search for batteries in the dark, but mostly to hide so that nobody can see my fits of hysterics. Once we get the screen fixed and their performance is over, the three of us were completely useless, laughing uncontrollably because we knew how bad it all looked and how we were all responsible. But for some reason, it was just funny. Funny to the point that I had tears rolling down my cheeks... but I'll come back to that in a minute.

After the chaos, Josh got up there and once again delivered an incredible message. In a nutshell, it was about how our outward circumstances do not have to affect our inward attitudes. He gave many examples such as instead of complaining that your husband is home from work late, thank God that he has a job. When your kids are driving you crazy, rejoice in the fact that you have a healthy family who loves you. When your wife asks you to do the dishes, find joy in the fact that you can give the woman who committed her life to you a well-deserved break. It's all about perspective, and that resonated through my entire being. I consider myself a pretty positive person, but like everyone else, I can get it twisted around. That night at church, as I shared a laugh with the rest of the tech team and everything seemed to go wrong, God filled me with so much joy that tears rolled down my cheeks. You see, He doesn't expect everything to go perfectly... if He did, we wouldn't need a Savior and He would've never sent us His son. No, God understands that as humans, we mess things up and things go wrong. We make bad decisions, we let others down sometimes, and cause mayhem during a service that's meant for worship, but God understands and offers us grace. And I think that it's in these moments that God sits back and puts His feet up, knowing full well all of the chaos that is about to happen. And He enjoys the show. Because if God created joy, don't you think that He must have His fair share of it, too?

On the way home as we talked about all that went wrong and how great the message was, I told Josh that I found much joy during the service, because of all of the mishaps. And in that moment I realized that I find much joy during every service. Our church is a wonderful place filled with the most sincere, genuine, caring people you will ever meet. Seriously, I have never been around people with such kind hearts in my life, and those of you who have visited us out here would probably agree. So yes, maybe our weekends just got busier and maybe our days off together will be fewer, but how great is it to be able to open our doors for just one more day of joy during the week? I could be sitting at home on the couch watching mindless TV on a Saturday night, but now I get to be surrounded by friends, hearing great music and a great message about God's love, and it's about twenty-times more fun than anything else I usually do on a weekend. This church has brought me such great joy and I consider myself to be pretty darn lucky to be a part of it. So instead of it being one more thing that we "have" to do, I reailze that it's something that I "get" to do, and that makes all of the difference in the world. When Sunday morning rolled around this week, I happily got out of bed and looked forward to my Sunday routine. And you know what? Even though I had heard the same message the night before, it was so much better the second time around.

My challenge to you is to find joy in this week that lies ahead. It may only be Monday, but let's celebrate the season and remember that this life we get to live here is only temporary, so we must not waste it on worry. Instead, find joy in all that you do, especially during this holiday season of joy. Just watch what it does to your life.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Confessions from the bump...

We are already 24 weeks into this thing and aside from the daily dilemma of what to possibly squeeze this ever-growing belly into, here are my confessions from the first 24 weeks:

I finally started working out again (after about a 2 month break). After a workout, it's hard to decide whether I'd rather sleep for the next 100 days or eat every last morsel in the kitchen. If you find me passed out on the kitchen floor surrounded by open containers, please do not be alarmed... I probably just returned from the gym.

One ice cream cone is never enough. Sometimes two isn't either.

As Josh puts it, I "sleep like a tornado." We've stopped making the bed due to the fact that I'll just rip the sheets out of their nice tucked-in spots

My love for Mexican food has finally returned! Oh how I missed you chips and salsa! In fact, I may or may not be shoving them in my face as I type this. These days I am also loving fresh pineapple and my love for milk has only diminished slightly.

When the baby book says that your prescription and eye shape can change- believe it. Sadly I've been saying bye-bye contacts and hello to my old trusty glasses. It's just one more way to make a pregnant lady feel less attractive.

I have had to stop myself several times from signing up for any sort of marathon or road race but I am having a serious withdrawal. I just hope that this desire continues when I do actually get to run my next race.... whenever that may be.

I'm not even in my third trimester and a middle-school aged child has already told me that he thinks I might be having twins. I barely restrained myself from hitting him.

I'm not sure if I'm freaked out or intrigued by the amount of hair growing on my belly. I know it's cold up here in Small Town, Illinois, but is a winter layer really necessary?

If you hear a strange sound at our house in the middle of the night, don't worry. It's just me, shaking out yet another dosage of Tums. To the makers of Tums, you are my heroes. Seriously.

I'm pretty sure a stretch mark is forming on my right side. After I found it, I rubbed myself down with more cocoa butter and then went to the kitchen for another ice cream cone.

While watching TV the other night, I didn't feel good so I took my pants off. My husband looked at me as if I was crazy, but even though I couldn't explain why, I felt so much better!

Speaking of pants, I love my "fat pants", or yoga pants, or stretchy pants... anything with elastic. My husband is worried that I may never go back to the regular kind after this (and I have a sneaky suspicion that his concerns are warranted).

I'm finally feeling baby Jake kick all of the time. That little stinker is happy to do so until I put my hand on my belly and then he stops. My son is clearly in control of deciding whether or not anyone but me can feel a kick.

I know that I am not drinking enough water in a day because I still make it through the entire night without having to get up to pee.

I would really love a frosty beverage. Just one would be nice.

I am a belly rubber... I love to rub my growing belly all day long and it brings me so much joy to know that our son is curled up in there, happy and warm.

I already know that I am going to miss being pregnant when this is all over. For now I'm just enjoying every day.

Things so far have been pretty easy and smooth sailing! We have our next doctor's appointment on Friday and from what I understand, we will be scheduling the dreaded glucose test for January. Boooo! Only a few more months until we get to meet our Sweet Baby Jake!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

And it begins...

I really shouldn't be surprised. The year I moved to Florida we had the first hurricane in 20 years. The year I moved to Small Town, Illinois they call for the worst blizzard in 30 years. Although I am a big fan of the snow, the word "blizzard" is not something I'm familiar with and it has me a little bit on edge. Six to eight inches is one thing... it means snow days and just enough to play in, but blizzard? That sounds more like we'll be trapped in the house for a few days. Regardless, it's sure pretty to look at and the pups seem to enjoy going outside and running around in it (although they like it so much that they usually end up in the neighbors' yards and circling half the block before bounding back to the house). And as for me, if we are going to be cooped up in the house for awhile, at least I'm stuck here with my handsome husband and baby Jake in my belly... it sounds like the perfect remedy to keep me warm on this long, snowy night. We'll keep you posted on Blizzard Watch 2010, but here is what we're expecting to see in the next couple of days:

Today: Snow. High near 32. Breezy, with a east wind between 15 and 20 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Total daytime snow accumulation of around 2 inches. (Dearest Weatherman, I can already assure you that we have WAY more than 2 inches on the ground at this point).

Tonight: Snow and areas of blowing snow. The snow could be heavy at times. Some thunder is also possible. Low around 29. Breezy, with a north wind between 15 and 20 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of around 6 inches. (Breezy? Makes us sound like we live in a tropical paradise. And at what mph is the limit to describe the conditions as breezy?)

Wednesday: Snow and widespread blowing snow before noon, then snow likely and widespread blowing snow after noon. Temperature falling to around 16 by 5pm. Wind chill values as low as -5. Windy, with a northwest wind 15 to 20 mph increasing to between 25 and 30 mph. Winds could gust as high as 45 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of around 1 inch. (I will officially have to watch the thermometer tomorrow. I have never seen that little mercury line dip below zero. Oh who am I kidding? Nobody has a real thermometer anymore. Hopefully we'll have power so that I can see it on

Wednesday Night: Widespread blowing snow and a slight chance of snow before midnight, then areas of blowing snow after midnight. Mostly cloudy and breezy, with a low around 0. Wind chill values as low as -20. Chance of precipitation is 20%. (Blowing snow? That's a new phrase to add to my weather vocabulary. And please don't bring attention to that -20 part... that has to be a joke)

Thursday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 11. (Ooooh! A warm front!)

Thursday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 1. (So what you're saying is, this will be three days in a row that I don't step foot outside.)

Friday: Partly sunny, with a high near 20 (Warmth and sunshine, just in time for the weekend... ha! Looks like I should get used to seeing this white stuff on the ground because it looks like it might be here awhile)

On another (kind of) unrelated note, I was on the phone talking to my friend Crystal last night about the impending blizzard. By the end of the conversation, the weather talk had ended and we were instead contemplating whether we should meet at Dairy Queen to get an "actual" Blizzard. Yes, we're both pregnant.... all roads lead to food.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Small Town Christmas

For six years of my childhood, we lived in a tiny town in Louisiana. Everybody knew everybody else, all of the kids went to the same schools, and it was not uncommon to be in the local paper for some reason or another. Life moved a little slower, felt a little safer, and excitement came in the form of the parish fair, rodeo, circus, or local parade. The Christmas parade in those days was always a big event and my sisters and I usually ended up participating in some capacity whether it be for a sports team, dance studio, marching band, or girl scouts. There was even a year that I was not going to be in it at all, but my sister's float needed kids dressed up like presents and so I happily obliged. In those days, dressing yourself in a wrapped cardboard box with a bow on your head was worth it if it meant being in the parade. It was the small town life, and I have such fond memories of those times.

Fast forward twenty years later and I sometimes feel as if I'm having moments of deja vu. This small town in the middle of Illinois stirs so many of those memories that I had long forgotten about, and a piece of me feels as if I've rediscovered snippits of my childhood that had been buried away for awhile. As Josh and I stood on Main Street (in the freezing cold mind you)watching our little town's parade go by, I couldn't help but smile as my brain was flooded with fond childhood memories. The parade was short and sweet (which I was actually thankful for due to the fact that my toes were frozen), but the two of us stood there with wonder as we enjoyed a perfect holiday moment. As I stood there cozied up to my husband, I was overcome with how sweet life can be. Through all of the chaos and craziness, all of the nights of working late or being frustrated with mundane everyday activities, it's the moments of sheer happiness that remind you how good you've got it. And this Christmas, man we've got it good. And it's even sweeter to think that next year at the Christmas parade, we will stand and watch as our sweet baby Jake's face lights up when the floats pass by, full of a brand new wonder and excitement. And in that moment, I'll be reminded once again that life just doesn't get much better than this.

Of course, no post would be complete without some highlights:

(Seriously, can anyone see Santa anymore without wanting to shout that out loud? Oh how I love Christmas movies!)

And wish us luck this week... we may see up to a foot of snow by Wednesday with a HI of 17 and a LO of 5! I may need a reminder as to how much I love this small town after that! BRRRR!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree

The holidays are HERE which means Christmas parades, twinkle lights, gingerbread houses, gift wrapping, caroling, and of course the celebration of the birth of baby Jesus has officiallybegun! And to make it even more special, it's our very first married Christmas, which makes it merrier than usual!

To kick off the holiday season, the first order of business was to find the perfect tree. Growing up as an Army kid, it only made sense for my family to have a fake tree, so I was super excited about the prospect of a live tree and even more so about getting to go out and chop it down. Something about it just sounded so... rustic maybe? Traditional? I wasn't really sure what I felt, but I was like a four-year-old on Christmas morning all the way there.

Since the family was all still in town, we loaded into 2 cars (complete with the pups as well) and headed out to the farm! Once there, we grabbed a wagon and an axe and set out on our search. Having never done this, I had no idea just how overwhelming tree hunting can be (or how many stumps you can trip over in a span of five minutes for that matter)! Each tree was unique in its own way, but some had big bare spots in the back or were not quite tall/fat/full enough for what we were looking for. Josh would point one out to me and I would just look at it and try to picture it in the house with lights and ornaments, but mostly it just looked like a tree in a field at that moment! Finally I gave him a little bit of direction when I said, "I like the fat ones." Hmmm... maybe it's because I'm pregnant.

Eventually, there it was. Josh stumbled upon it before I did, and I came running (well, if it could be described as that) over to where it was planted. And he was right... it was perfect. We all stood around and gave a few ooh's and ahhh's before Josh and his dad set to work chopping it down. The rest of us all looked on, took pictures, and enjoyed the brisk, winter air. We finally got it loaded up onto the wagon and put the little ones to work as they tried to pull the wagon all the way back to the car.

We watched them wrap it up with their super-nifty machine, strap it to the roof of my car (which has probably never had anything on it until now... my car just got a little bit tougher!), and off we went to take our beautiful new tree to its new home.

When we got it up and decorated, it was PERFECTION... the most beautiful tree I have ever seen. And oh it smells so good, too! Here in Mauneyland, a new tradition has been born, and I will forever be a "real tree snob" from here on out.
Our Mighty Chopper

Down she goes!Fun family time

Child labor... good job pulling the wagon, boys!

The tree-wrap machine was awesome!

Loaded up and headed for home

Finishing touches (and a lovely face from Josh)

Happy Holidays to all! Enjoy your Christmas season and remember that Jesus is the reason for it all!