Thursday, December 30, 2010

1000 gifts: Christmas edition

The 1000 gifts is a list of all the gifts God has given me that I'm thankful for. December is always the busiest but most wonderful month. So many blessings.

115. A cowboy version of the Nutcracker
Thursday Dec. 2nd: went to see the Nutcracker ballet, a local performance by the University of Wyoming and Laramie dancers. This was Dreamer's first ballet and she was so excited. Blaze saw the Nutcracker four years ago but didn't remember much. The choreographer added some unique western touches to the ballet, which Mom and I loved! For instance, Clara's family lived at the Ivinson Mansion, the beautiful old Victorian mansion here in Laramie. Herr Drosselmeyer was decked out in the traditional cape, but he also had a cowboy hat and cowboy boots! For the scene of the fight between the Nutcracker's soldiers and the mice, the soldiers were costumed as the US Cavalry and the mice were decked out as cattle rustlers. Fun!

116. 3-D glasses
Friday Dec 3: Celebrating the twins' 4th birthday. I took all four girls to the movie theater to see Disney's latest: "Tangled" (a retelling of the Rapunzel story). It was the twins' first time in a movie theater, and they behaved themselves beautifully. It was fun to see all four girls staring up in awe at the screen with their 3-D glasses on.

117. Balloons in the bathtub.
After the movie, we celebrated with my parents. The twins love balloons so much, I got them a bunch of the fancy mylar balloons (plus their real gifts, of course, but the balloons were the biggest hit). For the next couple days, the twins played with those balloons nonstop. I would even find them in their beds, fast asleep, with their hands still clutching the balloon strings. The ultimate though was when I started a bath for the twins, and came back a couple minutes later to find them in the tub with all of their balloons crammed into the tub with them. I wish I'd gotten a picture!

118. Rotating Christmas trees.
Saturday Dec. 4: Took the girls to the Christmas festival at the University Art Museum where they have a Christmas tree auction and Christmas music and singing every year. We love to look at all the trees up for auction, each is decorated with a different theme. This year I was particularly captivated by a a beautiful rotating Christmas tree. A rotating tree! I actually put a bid down on it, but was thankful that I didn't win it because we really couldn't afford it.

119. Two skinny trees wired togehter = beautiful Christmas tree
When we got back from the tree auction, I planned to buy a Christmas tree as I usually do at the store that sells them here in town. But B. wanted to go up into the mountains and cut one down. It's an awful lot of work, because you have to plow through deep snow in the forest. But he talked me into it by offering to hook up the trailer so we could take the horses up and have them plow through the snow for us! The girls loved this idea. Blaze rode Spring, I rode Ally, and B. rode Folly pulling the three younger girls behind him in the sled. Unfortunately, we ran out of daylight and ended up having to pick trees (one for us, one for mom and dad) by flashlight. When we got them home into some proper light, I realized they were both so skinny and sparse we'd only be able to hang half our ornaments on them. Which gave me an idea: why not wire the trees together? B. thought I was crazy, but he knows better than to argue with me when I'm in Christmas-decorating mode. So we wired those trees together and the result was a beautiful Christmas tree - you can't even tell it's actually two trees unless you look really closely! (only problem was now I'd have to find another tree for mom and dad).

120. New variations on old Christmas songs
Sunday Dec. 5: went to the annual University Christmas concert with Mom. This is another tradition we absolutely love and never get tired of. They always manage to find some new Christmas song to add to the repertoire or to find or variations on old beloved classics.

121. Surviving the first few months of violin lessons
Dec 8: Blaze's violin concert. She started taking lessons this fall, but she's not to the stage where its enjoyable to listen to yet! However, with all the other first year students combined, plus a few experienced teachers, they managed to sound okay!

122. Surfing in the car
Blaze tells me that she's getting really good at "surfboarding." What? We live in Wyoming, no where near the ocean. She grins and explains that surfboarding is what she calls it when we get into the mini-van to go somewhere, and I ask her to help the twins get their seatbelts on. A lot of times she's still standing when I start pulling out, so she has to keep her balance!

123. Finally a good Italian restaurant in Laramie
Dec 10: We celebrated B's birthday a week early with his family after Thanksgiving, and then a week late with his friends here in Laramie. I got a babysitter for the girls and took him out to the new Italian restaurant that opened up downtown. I told him it was just the two of us, but when he got to the restaurant two of his good friends, Jonlee and Bob and their wives were there waiting for us.

124. Coveting nutcrackers while Christmas shopping
Dec 11: Shopping down in Ft. Collins with Mom, helping her pick out her Christmas tree. I found some nutcrackers I just couldn't resist adding to my collection. This years additions: a bear nutcracker, a jester nutcracker, and a dandy nutcracker (decked out in velvet and lace with a feather in his cap). Mom also saved me from a potentially distressing incident - I won't go into details - but just wanted to say, thank you Mom.

125. Drinks in fancy hotel lobbies
Dec 12: Mom and Dad wanted to celebrate B's birthday too so we had a third "party" for him - they took us out to dinner at the Hilton. The best part though was after dinner, sitting by the fireplace in the lobby, Mom and I drinking tea and B. and Dad drinking Black Russians. I could tell my Dad was completely enjoying himself, which is very rare these days. We brought the twins along for a change (it's impossible to eat out with all four kids and not feel like a freak show, but just two of them is fun). The twins had a ball running around the lobby, re-arranging the magazines and charming the ladies at the registration desk into giving them cookies.

126. Cowboy bubble baths
Dec 14: My office's annual dinner and white elephant gift exchange - we got a chance to unload a couple unused presents from last year (in fact, I recycled a cutting board from a party two years ago that I never used). This year I traded for a Santa filled with chocolate, and poor B. got stuck with a wicker vase. Unfortunately, our church white-elephant exchange was the same night, and we showed up a bit too late to join in. However I did get to check out some of the gifts. My favorite was a jar of beans with a home-made tag attached to it: "directions for a cowboy bubble bath: cook the beans, eat the beans, get in the tub, relax and.... let go." !!!!

127. The Last Straw: a Christmas story
Dec 18: I finally finished my home-made advent calendar for the girls (yes, only 18 days late). But that worked out okay because each girl got to pick out an advent piece from the pockets and hang it in or around the manger. Each day came with its own Bible verse, and Blaze and I took turns reading them. We also read a wonderful little Christmas story called the "Last Straw" which reminded us all about the true spirit of Christmas - doing things for each other and for Jesus.

128. Going crazy at outlet stores
Dec 22: we drive down to Denver to pick up Stars for Christmas. We took her to the huge Colorado Mills mall, where there was a Guess factory outlet store - her favorite store. She went crazy in there and came out with four different tops but fortunately they were all on sale. It was fun to see her excitement - I remember being the same way at that age. It's all about the clothes! An extra bonus: there was real carousel in the food court at the mall. Blaze and Dreamer love riding carousels, and I do too!

129. Watching your stepdaughter pick out special jewelry for her 16th birthday
Dec 24: Stars' 16th birthday. I had a credit at Alexander's Fine Jewelry store, and so I took Stars there and let her pick out some high-quality jewelry. She had to text pictures of her top two choices to her friends to get their input (grin), then finally picked a beautiful silver key necklace (I've been noticing lately that keys are the latest in necklace fashions). Then we did some other last minute Christmas shopping. At home I made her a triple chocolate birthday cake and we sang her happy birthday and she blew out her candles. Annie tried to blow out the candles too!

130. My daughters' very own Christmas stories
Christmas! B. got up early to help me finish wrapping presents. Mom and Dad showed up at 9 am with bags and bags of more gifts and the fun began! A few highlights: Mom and Dad bought the girls an "adventure play tent" complete with a tunnel the girls could wiggle through. I got them a deluxe Thomas the Train set of tracks with all sorts of gadgets on it. B. got me a beautiful Breyer horse. Blaze and Dreamer each gave Grandma and Grandpa a homemade "book" they'd made - Blaze wrote and illustrated her own story, called the "Christmas Horse" and I helped Dreamer write her story, "The Nutrcacker and the Zebra." I gave Mom and Dad a calendar that I made with picture collages of the girls from 2001 to present, along with some of the cute things they'd said and done.

131. Sledding with horses
After we all recovered from gift-opening, B. got the horses out and pulled the girls on the sled behind the horses for fun. Stars and Dreamer really got a kick out this, trying to hang on while B. takes sharp turns to see if he can toss them!

132. Personal love letters from God
Sunday, the day after Christmas - B. makes me mad by going hunting instead of going to church. But Stars surprises me by actually getting up in time for church. A wonderful message. I especially liked the analogy Pastor used when he talks about how the Bible doesn't make any sense until we receive the Holy Spirit, and then it's like a love letter from God. Until then though, it's like "opening someone else's mail" - perfect description! I remember trying to read the Bible before I got saved, and I was so frustrated by it!

133. Getting a secure job.
B. starts his new job on Monday morning! Yay he finally has a job and we are both very excited about it. Hopefully we won't have as much financial stress now. He is working for the Wyoming Dept. of Transportation, doing snow plowing and highway maintenance, and calling in road conditions. He thinks it will suit him well and there is opportunity for advancement (and also lots of overtime during snow storms). He will work three weeks on the early shift, from 5 am to 1pm, then three weeks on the regular shift, from 8 am to 4pm, then back to the early shift.

134. B said his first day on the job went very well - though he was rather amused when his alarm went off at 4 am and he came downstairs only to find that Stars was still up - texting and Facebooking with her friends. She claimed that she'd gotten up early to wish him well for his first day of work, but he knew better! She's been up late every night and sleeping in until 10 or 11 every morning. We have also enjoyed giving her a "hard time" about her first boyfriend.

135. When your four year old is a charmer and a diva
Stars and Starlet really hit it off – Starlet is such a charmer. She brought Stars a hairbrush and ask her to braid her hair. We were commenting on how Starlet was such a charmer and Starlet overheard and got all dramatic, heaving a big sigh and covering her face like she was "above it all" – just more proof what a little diva she is!

136. Tragedy can bring you closer
Some very sad news, but even in sadness it possible to find a blessing. Stars' Granny (her mom's mom) has been fighting cancer for over a year and half, and finally came to the end of her battle. Stars' mom really wanted her to come home when she realized that time was getting short, so Stars ended up heading back Tuesday morning (she was originally supposed to go back January 1st). Her Granny died Wednesday morning. It was a blessing that she passed away peacefully, at home surrounded by her family. I also thought it was neat that Stars wanted to be there for her mom, because she knew how hard it was for her. It also gave us an opportunity for us to pray together as a family before Stars left.

137. The Three Sweet-tooth Gnomes
This wonderful week off from work between Christmas and New Year's has given me lots of time to relax and catch up on my journal/blog and my writing. I wrote a short story for a writing contest (about the gnomes that haunt my building at work - how else can you explain the odd behavior of our elevator?) and also started working on my NaNoWriMo project again - I wrote over 2000 words yesterday! But more importantly, I have been spending time in the Word everyday, something I had really slacked off on during the busy-ness before Christmas. I am doing Beth Moore's Breaking Free study, and getting some wonderful spiritual insights out of it.

My WT (wonderful thing) this week is Isaiah 43:10:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.