Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fun Winter's Night

One of Hope's favorite expressions throughout this season is to declare it "a fun winter's night" any time we are headed to do something special. It's a good thing both Joe and I dig a good "field trip," because the girls are almost always up for one. Before every season I like to brainstorm with friends, flip through the area parenting magazine, type in a few google searches. It IS really fun, after all, to be a part of our community and to expose the girls to new things-- new things that will become old things, the traditions that weave together to form our family memories.
Now that doesn't mean it's always easy with a seven month, two, and three year old. Sometimes I can feel like I've run a marathon before even leaving the drive. But, like all good marathons, the finish line is usually sweeter for the effort. Or at least sweeter because the babies sleep like rocks when all is said and done.

In the next neighborhood over from ours this wonderful couple does it up right. They have an unbelievable light's display and pick one night to actually dress up in some authentic North Pole attire. They even hand out gifts to the kids, sharing the kind of free giving that Christ did when He gave His life on the cross. That's my favorite part of "Santa" anyway... the unconditional love that spills over into giving, the spirit of what Christmas is all about. Speaking of that kind of love--my dear friend and her husband lent extra hands to me since I did this one alone with the girls, and as always it just meant the world.

Our annual neighborhood Christmas carol is another nighttime favorite. We all cuddle up in warm gear, drink hot chocolate and carol to a few houses where we really feel like we need or want to spread the cheer. Appetizers and desserts, warm drinks and fellowship await back at our house and in the end we are all worn out and blessed.
Worn out and blessed by candlelight is my favorite, for the record.

There are fun winter's mornings too. Lots of littles at different houses reading, playing, creating, eating. Mamas trying to squeeze in conversations between hugging, kissing, trading, fixing.

Also, for the record, Hope is shouting "Merry Christmas!" here and not being strangled to death.

Honestly, though, I think the origin of this "fun winter's..." stuff came from this.
Me pulling the TV I had in college, which lives in the corner of our playroom, into our bedroom. It was for my survival after a long string of sleepless nights, but the girls thought it was just divine. Christmas movies, books, coloring, and many times even breakfast. Our room got cluttered and crazy fast, but it sure made for some good moments together.

And now we wait for a bunch of bundled Britts (say that five times fast!) to arrive at our front door!!! There has been much creating, much excitement, much anticipation... and I can't hardly hold off these girls much longer.

Even though our little blog had to go private, it is still so much f-u-n when I get an e-mail, FB message, phone call saying that you enjoy and are encouraged by visiting here. In the last few weeks I've gotten several of those and, I tell you, it blesses me so! I have great ambitions for writing welled up in my heart, which is one of many reasons I am so thankful for this chunk of space to remember and record. Thank-you for being a part of our family, especially since so many of you are much too far away!! :)

Merry, merry Christmas from the fun and heart and joy of our family to you and yours...

Until 2011,

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Preschool... All for Love

It was about the angels practicing in preparation for Jesus' birth. It was about a starry night and their coming to see the shepherds on a hillside. It was about songs and glitter and shiny halos.

But, as the title shared, it was really all about love. That was the reason Jesus came.

And, merry Christmas, there was a lot to love on the cold Tuesday evening when Hope performed in her very first little program.

Starting with our lamb who tried her best to form those perfect singing o's with her mouth just like her music teacher taught her to do. We got the best seats almost right in front of her. So close, in fact, that at one point when she noticed her daddy singing along she mouthed to him, "You're not supposed to be singing, Dad!!!"

Besides for correcting us, there were the cutest smiles and waves and blowing of kisses. We were so proud that she stood in front of all her angel friends and did so beautifully!

Maddie knew that her job was to "cheer weally loud for Hopey!" and she, too, was a show stopper on that one. When she tried, for real, to be an actual show stopper... mostly wanting to run or roll down the aisle and kiss the baby a few rows in front of us... we may have bribed a bit with our favorite candy sticks from TJ's. Yep, not above that especially because-- you know-- it worked.

Alysse helped us film, and it's funny. Even before I was a mom I had a feeling I'd be one of "those moms" who loves to take pictures and film and cry at the milestones. What I didn't exactly count on was marrying a man who can be quite the memory police himself. I started out filming, but apparently he was certain I didn't have a good angle and was missing zooming in on Hope, so I lost my privilege pretty quickly. Don't ask about the little boy who had the audacity to stand up and do his part, thereby blocking the view of his girl. Trust me, don't even ask. :)

We stopped for soup in warm bread bowls on the way home, and I couldn't help but smile at us. Hope recounting the play and reading too loud from a new book. Maddie enamored with the journey to and from the trash can to throw away every scrap and crumb she could find. Alysse finally getting to nurse and coming up all smiles and giggles at the rest of us. And Joe trying valiantly to tell me a story about two dozen times.

I never did hear the ending, but...

Hope finished her preschool week with a "Happy Birthday, Jesus!" party and I was thrilled because Maddie felt so included. She even got to hold the coveted babe on a rubber maid container/manger. As she told us, "I just love hims, dat baby Jesus!"

I will never forget Hope's first "official" teachers, Ms. Dawn and Ms. Samia, who genuinely love on this big girl of ours. That's why we had to make them a little something special.

(We've had to be more creative than ever with our gifts this year... this was less than $5 including a photo card of Hope with her teachers!)

That's why Hope will show anyone who comes to visit her special ornament for 2010... a little red school house that proudly hangs right in the center of the tree at three year-old level.

I hope she always loves to learn and that the rest of our crew follow in those footsteps too!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Scenes from Advent

Baby, it's cold outside. After stepping out to get some mail, I decided that our errands today could simply wait. The big girls are bundled up reading together in the chair downstairs while I have my gingerbread coffee, a sleeping baby, and the happy distraction of Christmas pictures to keep me busy.

So while I postpone the inevitables for at least a few minutes more, here are some memories from the first twelve days of Advent... celebrating in little, special ways as we countdown to Jesus' birthday. I hope the girls remember this, one of my favorite traditions that we began last year, for a long time to come.
Auntie Marcie's pajama package is always a BIG hit! Perfect for wearing while unwrapping this year's book find and reading by the tree.
An early morning pancake "breakfast with Santa" adoption fundraiser
Stuffing blessing bags
Tailgating at our small town Christmas parade
Delivering goodies
Making gifts

Baking and baking some more

It's hard to believe that Christmas is upon us so soon. There have been some of the sweetest Norman Rockwell moments amongst all this holiday cheer, and there have been a few other Christmas Vacation-like ones when someone took someone else's something and put it somewhere. The nerve.

I never want to forget, though, how Hope was overcome by compassion for a homeless man and how that inspired the creating of the blessing bags. How her little heart genuinely wanted to give away her bed, our home, our car, and the rest of our stuff. How I slipped her out of bed as a surprise the night before we made the bags, how we shopped in Target using $7 of her own piggybank money to buy travel-sized toiletries. How she asked some hard questions of why, and how I wasn't exactly sure how to give her the answers she was looking for because pain and loss are pretty much always hard to understand.

I don't want to forget Maddie and her excitement over a tiny plastic Jesus, how she understands now the reason why we celebrate, how she loves to act out the story by wrapping Raggedy Ann in old receiving blankets since there was no more room at the inn.

How Alysse looks grinning or napping by the glow of her first Christmas tree, how red is really her color, how last year this time her face was unknown to us but she gave me the gift of her first kicks to let us know she was there all the same.

Sweet Advent season. Here's to the days that are left to count.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Permission Granted

I love the permission that an occasional snow day gives you. The opportunity to veg and eat and sip and watch movies and read. Like a blank check to huddle up and pretend that there are no tomorrows with responsibilities or worries. Just the here and now with the words "treasure this" etched in the memo line.

That was this snowy Sunday.

As I lay here with Alysse's fleecy snowman covered body stretched across my lap, my arms leaning over her all cockeyed to type, I can hear the whistling wind outside our window. I can't see it, but I know there is a blanket of white spread across the ground. The rumor of its coming gave us permission today to wake up a little later than normal, eat pancakes with a side of gingerbread for breakfast, and drink something warm made from the recipe on the back of the cocoa powder tin.

It caused us to load up the car with all manner of winter gear and high tail it to Bethlehem. One of my favorite new traditions, for sure.

The ride home was a bit more treacherous, but we took it slow and listened to the only awake girl tell us all about the snowballs and snow angels to come. She was right.

Afterwards there was getting into our jammies at 4 pm, the decorating of the much anticipated gingerbread house, another round of hot cocoa for all of us including the floor, a quick wardrobe change, the eating of chili by the bowl fulls, and the cuddling up with Christmas creatures for the watching of a family movie.

But, best of all, was the knowing that Bethlehem came home with us. Just before bed as the girls piled into ours for the reading of books, Hope brought in a basket of noise makers so we could sing about baby Jesus being born. Maddie caught on fast as she started shouting too, "Okay, guys, now 'peat affer me!" The sound of "Angels We Have Heard on High" (along with some other Martins girls' originals) has never sounded better.

It seems these days are all the sweeter when they come after a long stretch without any snowy Sundays in the forecast.

Treasuring this,

Monday, December 6, 2010


Before I can give way to toe-tal Christmas cheer...
It's only right that I finish up the month of November. After all, it held a lot of little celebrations for our family.

Let's see...

First, we celebrated Daddy's birthday! The girls were certain he needed a bear-themed party, and I was certain he needed some kind of coconut sweetness. He really enjoys coconut, and this is the one time of the year I'm sure to make it for him. In fact, I've been doing this since we were dating and I had to use the sad little kitchen in my residence hall. He was out of town until his birthday evening, and none of us could stand it in all of our preparing (read: making a big, fat mess) until he walked through the door.

We had a lot of fun. Excitement over a bit of salmon and saved up steaks, corn pudding, a fun salad, and warm crusty bread. Some of my very favorite memories include us gathered around the table. Since becoming a wife and mom, I can honestly say I enjoy taking a little bit of this and that thrown here and there and baked at 350.

Especially when it actually tastes good.

Alysse turned six months. Halfway to birthday. Mercy, mercy me.
With the third I have to say I'm the most comfortable, most relaxed I've ever been with a babe. I love it. But we HAVE to get our sleep thing down, so we've been spending a good bit of time these past few weeks working on a better schedule. And watching her scoot backwards in an attempt to get forwards, sit up with increasingly more confidence and ability, drooliest of the drooly teethe (read: the soaking wet top half of her onesie), and become more vocal and kissable all the while.

Mercy, mercy me.

Finally, Joe and I celebrated SEVEN years. Lucky number seven! Got a babysitter and everything. Hold the press! I think the last time we were even alone together in a car was several weeks before Alysse was born (read: unless you count being in labor on our way up to the hospital-- I don't). A hibachi grill with my sweetheart.


With that off my chest, let December begin (read: yay, yay, yay!) :)