Wednesday, January 30

Christmas 2012

Here is my post about Christmas, only a month or so late. :-)  We had a busy month of hosting all sorts of friends and family members, parties and gatherings, church activities, and memory-making.  I think at one point we had 14 people sleeping in our house, and we could have easily fit more!  I love having a big home so we can have everyone here, it makes my heart so happy to have a full house with mingling families and so much love.  :-)

This year we hosted a Christmas Eve party which was attended mostly by family and a few good friends, and the next morning we woke up to a yummy breakfast casserole and coffee, then opened a few gifts, went to mass, then opened a few more gifts, then hosted Christmas dinner, then went over to my grandma's house for dessert and more visiting with family.  In retrospect, I might have been a little crazy for hosting so many activities and people, but really, I live for this sort of stuff.

We had late night chats and early morning visits, moments of quiet and moments of insanity!  A house full of Christmas decorations and grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins/friends.  Busy, but perfect.

Making cookies


The night before Christmas...

Christmas morning

Santa Finley

Five Cousins

Wednesday, January 2

Welcome 2013!

Another year already!  I just looked at my New Year's Eve post from last year and seriously, it looks just about the same as it did this year, except for Beth's hair is longer and everyone's a little taller!

For new year's eve we invited two couples and their kids over to our house, shared dinner and drinks, then put the kids to bed upstairs so the adults could stay up and usher in the new year together!  We played games then right before midnight, took our champagne outside to watch the neighbors shoot off fireworks.  There were quite a few- there always are- so we opted to watch the real ones instead of the ones on tv!  It's nice having older kids who will sleep through the fireworks!

I continue to contemplate my new year's resolutions this year, but after rereading my post from last year I think I've figured it out.  Last year I chose the word "Joy" to define my year, and I feel like I did a pretty good job of sticking with it.  There were times when I would remind myself to find joy, be more joyful, and to create an atmosphere of joy.  Looking back I can see where I could have improved-certainly there were many times when I was grumpy! On the whole one thing I came to focus on through the second half of the year was just to be more relaxed about everything.  We've raised our kids on schedules and routines, and I love that now that they're older and they know the basic way we run our lives.  But sometimes I feel like maybe it's too much, and I want to not expect so much from them and not have them worry about what's happening next.  That's a source of stress in my life, and I want them to be able to just go with the flow.  So now that they're older, I want to loosen the reigns and just be more Jamaican- no worries. ;-)

So this  year, with that in mind and with my other new goals, my word for the year is Peace.

  • I want to create a peaceful home in which we are able to share our thoughts and feelings- and without having to argue, raise our voices, or fight. As a family, we've all agreed to work on noticing and improving the tones of our voices in how we speak to each other.  This is especially important for me, because as the mother I set the tone for our whole day, and I can have a very harsh voice.
  • I want to be at peace with my home and the gifts that God has given us.  I want to avoid jealousy by giving thanks for the things I already have!
  • I want to be a peaceful presence to my husband, my children, my family, my friends, and my clients.  For me, this means putting my needs last and their needs first by being a servant.  However, I don't want to burn out- and I know that I can definitely burn out fast if I don't take care of myself- so I am going to be diligent about taking my vitamins and exercising!  And maybe I should schedule a monthly massage or something too... :-)
  • I want my mind to be at peace.  This will only come through dedicated prayer, and now that my children are older and I get sleep on a regular basis, there is no excuse for me to not carve out time for daily prayer.  There is a season for everything, and my life has scheduled time for school, house cleaning, clients, and play... It's time for me to put the Lord back in the number 1 place again! 
  • Also, and this has nothing to do with peace, but I resolve to clean my shower on a more regular basis... Eww.
On December 31st I got an iPhone, so Ryan and I both have the ability to sync our schedules and plans with a special app that we've downloaded.  I am hoping that by keeping our schedules in one place, it will allow us both to just sit back and relax to some extent!  Maybe that seems counter-intuitive for some but for us, by creating order we are also freeing ourselves to not worry about missing events or overbooking our schedules.  Now it's all in one place so I won't have to spend time emailing him our schedules or trying to figure out when to schedule meetings with clients!  This should also bring us some peace!  But the app has a place to "journal" my day, and while I try to keep my blog for that I think I'll try take one picture per day and write some way about the peace or joy it's brought to my family.  It will be a gratitude journal, so to speak.  Maybe one day I can figure out how to blog about that?

I wish you all the best- a happy, healthy, and very blessed 2013.

Tuesday, January 1

Cutting Down Our Tree

Visit with St. Nicholas, Jack didn't want to get in the picture!
 In my mad rush to make up lost time with all of my December posts, I realized I didn't include pictures of us cutting down our tree!  We went to the same tree farm that we've gone to the past two years, which is also an actual farm.  Unfortunately once we were out in the field is started to sprinkle and so we were a little rushed to pick our tree, and once we got home we were a little disappointed!  After we cut the tree, we met some friends and wandered around the farm a bit, looking at horses, donkeys, chickens, rabbits, the old fire truck and some exotic birds.

This is Beth's best friend, M.  She is also homeschooled and they do a lot of activities together!

An Escape to Jamaica

Ryan and I were invited to go to Jamaica by some friends to help them celebrate their 5th wedding anniversary, so we "crashed" their trip!  We left on a Thursday morning and got back very late on a Sunday night, and we stayed at a couple's resort in Ochos Rios.  We had a wonderful time!  The only downside was that the weather was unusually rainy, but not so much that we couldn't enjoy the beach- just enough that it wasn't the typical tropical weather that we'd imagined.  The resort was very nice, though a bit hilly!  We definitely got our workout with all the stairs!  It was all-inclusive, so we enjoyed drinks at the bar and on the beach, and the different restaurants offered at the resort. 
A view from one of the cliffs, overlooking the small beach that was only occupied by our resort

I spent as much time here as I could- this is why I go on vacation- to sit on a beach and look at the water.  I was born for this!
 We felt honored to be invited on their trip so Ryan and I planned a surprise for our friends.  Before we left, we gathered notes from family members with memories from their wedding.  During lunch one day, I snuck away ("tummy issues," lol!) and I (literally) ran off to decorate their room with Christmas lights, leave their letters from family members,  and set up our phone playing music from their wedding.  I think it's safe to say they were pretty surprised when they finally made it back to their room!
Dinner the first night: an obligatory resort-wide outdoor buffet and entertainment show, and our friends Patrick and Allison who were celebrating their anniversary!
 One morning we went on an excursion to Dunn's River Falls, which included us climbing from the bottom of the river to the top of the water falls- which was no easy feat!  We formed a human chain of 30+ people and spent a couple of hours climbing the freezing cold river.  It was exhilarating!  Another afternoon we went out on our resort's boat with a guide and went snorkeling for about 45 minutes, over a reef not too far from the resort.  When we left the beach it was raining pretty hard, but by the time we got to the reef, there was a beautiful rainbow and clear skies, it was amazing!  I took an underwater camera with us to both the river and snorkeling, but I haven't developed the pictures yet!  I'll update this post once I have them.
The beautiful sunset, I think this is the only night we were actually able to see it.

Toes in the water. :-)
 These trips are so much fun and we feel so blessed to be able to travel together.  Ryan and I both love exploring new places and taking a break, though it always seems to short!  We hope to go to one of the French Carribean islands next, whenever we're able to go!

On our way out to leave the resort, one last photo!
We got back late on a Sunday night, and the next day was the first day in our kitchen renovation... More to come on that later!

St. Nicholas Day

At the beginning of December, Grandpa and Grandma took Beth to see The Nutcracker at the ballet, at a special time with our homeschool group.  She loved seeing the ballet she knows so well, this time up close and personal.  After the ballet was over she had a special treat and was able to meet one of the orchestra's violin players, a friend of Grandpa and Grandma's.

The next night was the eve of St. Nicholas' visit!  We placed our shoes out with tender care, only this night was a bit different since Ryan and I would be leaving early the next morning for our trip (more on that later), so Grandpa and Grandma's shoes were left out instead.  The next morning, the kids woke up to shoes filled with oranges, chocolate coins, and for the kids- new slippers and books!

The kids had fun over the next several days with Grandpa and Grandma, then with my Mom and two brothers, while Ryan and I left town for a little vacation!

Goodbye Austin

They are gone.  My parents sold the home in which I spent the last eight years of of my childhood, and I've left so many memories- the good and the bad- behind.  They have moved because of my Dad's job.  When work calls, you gotta answer.
Saying goodbye to the house in which I spent so many formative years of my life was very bittersweet.  Remembering what had happened there... From fifth grade through high school... Well, it's overwhelming.  Then, I made new memories by watching my kids play in the house where three of my brothers were born and had spent their whole lives. 
I walked through the house one last time, alone, and I spent time recalling the happy times.  Reminding myself of the things I wanted to make sure I remembered- not just how I'd left them, but how they were when I was much younger.  My slumber party in 6th grade with my girlfriends and I sleeping in the living room... I didn't have a birthday the year before because we'd only just moved to Austin and I knew no one.  Wrestling my brothers on the living room floor.  Playing in the backyard on the fort and in the hose.  My band blockhead in the front yard.  My pets- my cats, rabbits, a brief stint with some noisy birds.  So many wonderful memories.  
I have to mention that there were many things I chose to leave behind me.  Many memories I am done with, parts of me that don't even feel like me anymore.  It is freeing to be rid of that, though I know they will never actually leave me.  I choose to learn from the past but not let it dictate who I am today.  Good riddance.
I know that saying goodbye to a house is not the most important part, because it was our family made it a home.  And I've moved on and made a new home, my siblings are doing the same, and my parents and two youngest brothers will be creating a new set of memories in a new house...Making it their home.
So, to a house full of memories, to the friends we've left behind.  To starting over again in new places, and to new memories yet to be made.  To exploring a new city and state, far far away, and to learning how to be a family though we're separated by miles.  May we all be blessed as we are on opposite sides of the country, and may we all remember to use this newfangled technology like Skype and FaceTime to see each other on a more regular basis!  This is not the end, but the beginning to a new exciting journey!  Will you please pray for my family- all of them- as we all settle in to this new way of life?  

Mom, Dad, David, Alex- we are looking forward to seeing your new digs soon. :-)
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