Monday, January 24, 2011

Oral Surgery Adventure

We've just returned from seeing an oral surgeon about a cyst in The Girl's jaw.  While we had to wait way too long, considering the office wasn't even busy, I liked the doctor quite a bit. 
Before he came into the room I heard him stop outside the door to look through our papers.  Then I heard him mutter, "Oh, interesting...."

Just what I wanted to hear.  Kinda glad the girl was in the bathroom at that point.  She was trying the old trick that we use at restaurants...if you get up and go to the bathroom, the food will come.  Turns out it works with doctors, too.  When she came back in and found him there, I could tell she wanted to laugh out loud!

The cyst can be seen plainly on her x-ray.  The dentist noticed it on her panoramic x-ray back in September, but we were waiting for insurance to kick in before we went to the surgeon.  The doctor said he sees this once about every 3 years, and that's with 50-60 people going through the office in a day.  Normally they would form after a root canal or from an infection, but she has never had any issue with her teeth.  Back in September the dentist said that it would compress a nerve and could even break her jaw if left untreated.  The doctor today could feel the soft but firm spot on the inside of her gums with his finger, but she can't feel it and has never complained of any pain there.  Nonetheless in order to get the whole thing out, he feels he will likely have to take the tooth, too.  It looks as though the roots are not in the bone, anyway, so it is already probably not viable.  He said, "Good catch, dentist."

Our next step is to get a CT Scan.  I am calling ahead to make sure that the place we will go can actually handle a scan on the "mandible with attention to the roots of tooth #19," because I only want to do this once, and it sounds like an unusual request to me.  After that, we will schedule her procedure, which will be done under laughing gas and anesthesia in the office.  Good times.  After they get it out, it will be sent away for pathology so he can tell us exactly what it was.  (It's not cancer, he assures me.)  She will have to have follow-up x-rays frequently.  The doctor said he knew one patient who had it come back after 28 years!  As for losing the tooth, she is young so her bones will rebuild, and the third molar and wisdom tooth will take the space.  So maybe she will not have to have the wisdom tooth out in the future. 

This kid...always with the strange diagnoses.  She has a geographic tongue, too.  I think she should become a medical professional so she can tell patients, "Yeah, I've had that too..." all the time!  Although she seemed nervous in the office, she didn't burst into tears when we got to the car, so I guess she'll be okay through it all.  A "work in progress" series of blog posts is in the making.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Year in Review- enduring thankfulness

Recently our family devotional book (Character Building for Families, by Leeann Rubsam) led us through a study on thankfulness.  It talked about enduring gratitude, which in essence is to continue to be thankful long-term for the things God has done.  We forget our miracles too quickly. So I thought I would take this time to say THANK YOU! Again!  to Ivan and Debbie Weaver, and Jay and Carol Weaver.  You guys are amazing.  Thanks for letting God use you, one year ago.

About one year ago, we were living in an apartment, something like campus housing, at our missions agency's sending base.  We'd spent the summer in our camper and the late fall and early winter in this apartment, actually two apartments attached with the separate one for our older girls.  But a new candidate class was beginning, so we needed to find a new place to stay.

All of our housing finds are temporary because we still believe that God will move us out to, um, an unnamed country, soon.  We went to NY to visit family for Christmas and became convinced that we would have to utilize a house here where we had stayed before, so we left behind some of our things and wrote a letter asking for permission.  We went back to PA thinking we would pack up and come "home," not wanting to be in NY, but thinking we had no other option.  Our support isn't high enough or regular enough for us to afford a lease or mortgage, and we didn't want to have to get furniture etc., anyway.  After all, we sold our little house and downsized several times in preparation for a BIG move, so why undo any of that by settling in somewhere?  The house in NY was a comfortable plan because it was roomy, furnished, and cheap. 

Well, God had other plans.  The church that owns the house we hoped to use had it for sale, which we knew, and the contract said it had to remain unoccupied.  So, that option really was not.  Puzzled but not panicked, we took our pastor up on an offer to post the need on the church prayer chain (at our church in PA).  Within hours, the same evening I think, we had a phone call from a man I had met but didn't really know.  He had a house he wasn't using!  He had a renter lined up for June, but would be happy to have us use the place at a low rent until then.  He even had furniture in a storage closet that we could use!  A former missionary kid himself, he understood our predicament and quickly, generously responded to our need.

As an aside, the best part of this sequence of events was when I spoke to our pastor about it and he said, "I didn't really think that was going to work."  Another friend said, "When I saw that prayer request come through, I thought you guys were crazy!"  So, maybe we are, but it's working for us.

We moved into that house (basement and bottom floors of a duplex) and lived happily ever after for five months, when it was warm enough to get back into our camper and the permanent renters were ready.  We got to know our donor and his wife, kids and family, as their daughters spent some days with us.  We got to know the charming little town in Pennsylvania, near Valley Forge Park.  Todd worked for the US Census and for a production company in the area.  And we were close enough to our sending base to visit a couple of times a week.  We were able to homeschool in a big playroom with room for projects, and we even got to go to a co-op for a couple of months.  I made some friends there and so did the girls, a real joy for all of us.  Although I had to force myself to reach out to people, I did enjoy those other moms so much.  In fact, there I met someone who uses Tapestry of Grace, and a number of those moms are doing a TOG co-op this year.  It helped me along on my decision to switch, because I got to see the curriculum and talk about different options with my new friends. 

This was really a lesson in dependence and community for me.  Todd and I have always said that we longed to live in community with other believers.  We would love to have open doors with other brothers and sisters, where we share meals, childcare, burdens, joys, cars...maybe even actual space.  Yet when Ivan called and offered us his house, I felt strange about it and part of me wanted to say no.  I realized that I always picture myself on the giving side of this imaginary community.  One year, we happily loaned our car to a young family with a need for several weeks, in spite of objections about the risks.  As youth leaders, we tried very hard to have an open door policy on our home with the young people we worked with.  We practiced hospitality as much as we could.  I pictured myself ever willing to share what I had with those less able.  So why did I balk at receiving generosity?

You might say pride.  Certainly that's part of it.  And an independent spirit.  I never really liked to work in groups in school.  I'll do it myself!  I don't like to have to ask for help.  Maybe I don't think I deserve it.  But now, I look at what a blessing those six months were, and I am so glad to have been on the receiving end of a share. 

Not forgetting the rest of the year, I'll tell you that we lived in the camper (oh the camper!  Another story altogether, no?) from the end of May until September.  It sounds difficult, and sometimes it was.  But it was parked at our sending base, so we had some access to community meals, a pool, a shower with space to move, and the whole campus to run around on.  That really helped.  We were able to take part in community life there, which isn't quite like what I just described wanting, but is something we treasure.  In the mid- summer, we took the camper to NY for a few weeks and parked it at my parents' house, so we could visit our supporting churches here and send the kids to their familiar summer camp.  Then, we were back down to PA for the remainder of the summer, looking in earnest for more supporting churches and a place to live in the winter.

Finally, we realized that we would have to move to NY and into this house.  It's Todd's parents' house, but they aren't here now.  In God's incredible timing, He moved them into the parsonage of a small church as Todd's dad became a pastor for the first time.  I'll be honest- I didn't want to do it.  I thought that PA was the way to go, and that more churches down there had showed interest in our work than we would ever get up here.  Todd didn't have a job here, either.  It didn't seem right- we hadn't accomplished what we'd gone to PA to do, which was find support for our ministry. *Sigh.* But we came.  And just to make sure we stayed put, the camper which was home for so long was obliterated in a major accident (my fault).

Here's a verse for me: 
Jer 33:2-3  "I, the LORD, do these things. I, the LORD, form the plan to bring them about. I am known as the LORD. I say to you, 'Call on me in prayer and I will answer you. I will show you great and mysterious things which you still do not know about.'

Todd has a job that he loves, and we have space to do school.  And the churches here are alive and well, after all.  We're reviving old friendships and making new ones.  Hope remains that we can move to that unnamed country (yes, I know many readers know, but I am trying to keep this blog neutral).  Even if we don't, God's got this!  I couldn't have, and wouldn't have, chosen much of what happened to us this year.  And then I couldn't and wouldn't have seen God move and felt His loving care like I do.  So I hold my hopes and dreams in an open hand, willing to let Him show me more 'great and mysterious things.'

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New York State Capital and Capitol

Our history studies have The Girl Who Loves to Be Blogged off on a much-needed rabbit trail to study State History.  We are all still studying the Ancient World, but she is looking at New York State in addition, preparing a State Report with maps, color photos, etc.  As part of this project, which takes 5 weeks, we are supposed to visit three cities in our state, one of which should be the capital.  So this week we took a day trip to Albany, which happens to be not more than an hour from home.

I really did not expect much from this trip.  The planning was poor; I handed The Girl a book about Upstate NY that I got for Christmas and said, "Here, plan your trip.  Find something free."  Just keepin' it real.  I've been to Albany before, and it hasn't been too long since we visited the New York State Museum there, which as it happens, is free.  But she didn't pick that.  I did veto the Duck Boat tours, as decidedly impractical in January, as well as decidedly NOT FREE.  Also, I personally consider them death traps, and please don't try to tell me differently.  She did manage to find out that there are free tours of the Capitol Building.  There's also a nice little building called the Albany Area Heritage Visitor's Center, which is free.  They advertised a movie and a self-guided walking tour.  So, off we went.

In an awesome display of indifference about this adventure, I waited until the night before to call the tour office and ask about times.  I'm talking, 10:00p.m.the night before.  Surprisingly, no one answered and more so, there was no convenient outgoing message announcing the times.  Bother.  When we found out that President Obama was supposed to visit General Electric in the neighboring city of Schenectady that day, we almost canceled anyway due to traffic concerns-that's how not invested I was (but after the events of this weekend Mr. President's trip was postponed).  So, on the morning of our grand adventure, I finally called and found out that tours were not hourly but at 10, 12, 2 and 3.  If we came for the 2 o'clock, by the way, we'd be taking the tour with a large group.  

So off we went with lunches packed (sort of free!), winter hats and gloves on, and a stroller for the Little Princess.  Or for the lunches.  She's a little big for that, but it was also going to be a long day.  We parked near the visitor's center, a tiny little brick building (if you're local, it's near Huck Finn's warehouse).  Not surprisingly, it seemed empty aside from one employee.  They had the nicest little exhibit on the history of Albany, which started out as a Dutch beaver-fur trading town called Fort Orange.  In my mind the exhibit was the perfect size.  The Girl got all the information requested  by her report-writing cheat-sheet, and did so quickly enough that the others were still entertained.  And they got to do this:

 Which was very entertaining.  The Little Princess said "Take my cheese!" many times!  These aren't Pilgrims- they are Dutch styles from about 1650, when they brought over from Holland what is now the oldest pulpit in America.  I hope that factoid helps you on Jeopardy! some day.

I learned so much, I am tempted to write The Girl's History paper myself, right here!  It was fun.   But, our time at the visitor's center had to be brief so we could get to the capitol in time for the noon tour.  The capitol was a few blocks away, but we figured walking was just as easy as moving the car to a new parking spot, which might not be closer in the long run.  So off we went, huffing the stroller down North Pearl Street and uphill on State Street to the capitol building.  We walked right past the Dutch Reformed Church housing the aforementioned elderly pulpit.

Unfortunately, I didn't know which side of the capitol building to go into.  Actually, I had a theory but I just followed those who didn't because I didn't have any facts to back it up.  I do that often, and usually find that I shouldn't have, but I did it again anyway.  As a result, with the help of a metal detector and a huge crowd of public school kids on a field trip (I do not envy those teachers!), we didn't make it in time for noon.

And because I'm insane, we tried to track down the tour and join it in progress. Which meant more metal detectors.  Did I mention we were pushing around a stroller full of Princess and lunch?  Lunch had soda cans in it.  Those are metal.  So, we had to take everything out of the bottom of the stroller and have it scanned.  Again.  Did I mention it was very warm in there?  Good times.  And we couldn't find the tour.  So, we went back downstairs and had our lunch in the Albany Room under the Empire State Plaza, across the hall from the tour office.  A very nice lady we met in the elevator led us there. 

The problem then, of course, was that we had some extra time before the two o'clock tour.  I asked about the audio tours, but the machines are on the fritz so they said I couldn't have one.  We decided not to go to the museum (attached at the other end of the plaza) because by the time we got there and back, we might miss the tour again.  Instead, one of the ladies suggested going to the top of the Corning Tower to the Observation deck.  Kids can run around there, she said.

Sounded perfect!  So, off we went.  No metal detectors to get there, either.  Sadly, the incredibly steep escalator was broken.  We were told that we would have to wait for an escort.  After just a few minutes, just as we were wondering whether this, too, would cause us to miss the tour, two men came and took us onto an elevator, going up one floor.  This floor had nothing but banks of elevators.  He let us off and said to go find elevator 14.  Just stand in front of it, don't push any buttons, and when it comes it will take you to the Observation Deck. 


He didn't mention that it would leave your stomach contents and sinuses on the 12th!  At first we thought it wasn't going to move at all, as we stared dumbly at buttons we weren't supposed to push...then Voom!  We were on the 42nd floor!  Whoa! 
I struggle with vertigo on a regular day, so that was a real treat.  My right ear still hurts!

The view from the tops was quite nice though. 
That is the frozen Hudson River on the right, so this view is to the Northeast.  On a clearer day, you'd be seeing Vermont.  The kids couldn't believe how small the city looked. 

I jumped ahead a little in our history studies showing them this nice Gothic Cathedral type design- what a perfect example of something that one might not appreciate from the ground! 

Our tour time approached quickly, so we rocketed back to earth (under it, actually) and headed for the tour office once again, where we met George.
George clearly loves his job! 

All of my children enjoyed the tour, which included things such as "the evolutionary staircase," "The Million Dollar Staircase," two legislative chambers and one of the ceremonial governor's offices.  It is made of red and black sandstone from Ohio and Scotland, granite from Maine, White Onyx from South America, gold foil, brass foil, papier mache (?!), oak, was exceptional.  We got to sit right in the Senate and the Assembly chambers, though they were not in session.  We found out that the public can sit there any time they want without advance permission or anything, as long as they are not disruptive (no banners!).  On the Million Dollar staircase, there is a spot left uncleaned so that everyone will know how disgusting it was before the cleaning took place.  How random is that!?

The staircase is really a field trip- no, an education in itself- as it is carved with the semblance of just about every public figure ever.  Over the course of 15 years or so, many sculptors contributed to this, though it looks like a continuous work over four flights of stairs.  Founding fathers, gods and goddesses, gargoyles, literary characters, fruits and vegetables, and on and on.  We even found Revolutionary soldier Peter Gansevoort, whose land grant became my hometown.  George described the carving as an attempt to make the place look old, like a European castle might.  At this time my camera memory was full!  Ahh!  I guess you will have to go see for yourself!

I honestly can't believe that I have never done this before.  I've lived in NY for most of my life, within an hour of Albany most of the time!  I don't think I know anyone who's taken advantage of this opportunity.  The tour lasted just over an hour.  It was time well spent.  Although very few people have anything good to say about the state of the State of New York, this was a treat. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

For Sale!! Cookie Cookie Cookie!

It's Girl Scout Cookie Time!  I have two Girl Scouts selling cookies, so look us up if you need some sugar!
The varieties are Lemon Chalet Cremes (sandwich), Trefoils (shortbread), Do-si-dos (peanut butter sandwich, no jelly), Samoas (coconut and chocolate), Dulce de Leche (caramel chips), Thank you very much (cranberry with white chips), Tagalongs (chocolate covered peanut butter) and of course, Thin Mints.  The price is $4.oo per box.

You can order up until Jan. 21st, and they will be delivered after Feb. 17th. 
Remember that you're welcome to make a donation to the troop and skip the cookies if so inclined.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

So, why do you homeschool?

For some reason I'm assuming that every homeschooler's blog has to contain a post like this.  We're supposed to be asked this question constantly, and have a handy explanation ready from having to answer it so often.

That's not me.  No one ever asks.

For the last few years we have moved in circles where we know more who do than don't.  After all, increasing numbers of families choose to do it.  Or in circles where people make a conscious effort to live and let live.  Alternatively, everyone around may just assume we're...eccentric... and not want to know the details. 
Those people don't have to read this post.  But I plan to tell the story anyway.  It's a story, not a policy.  A love story really.

Three and a half years ago, we sold our home so that my husband could attend Bible college for a certificate.  Our fourth child had just been born.  We had two daughters in Elementary School, a son in Preschool and the baby.  The girls had always been public-schooled, and we never had any problems or complaints about it.  When we moved, we just put them into the local public school.  It was big, but the girls liked their teachers, both men.  They did well.   Played intramurals.  Got tomato soup spit at them at lunch, and pushed other girls into the dirt at recess.  But that's not why we brought them home. 

On the Saturday before the first day of school that year, I suddenly realized that on Wednesday, I was going to be FREE!  Free!  They were going to be gone to school for hours at a time and I would get some peace and quiet, without someone asking me to do something for them every 2 minutes.  No more breaking up fights or wondering what they had gotten into when it was too quiet.  No loud mouths waking the baby.  Yup, I was happy.  Delighted.  Excited.  And then I thought...there is something wrong with this picture.  It appears I am raising kids that even I don't actually enjoy being with.

Yup.  True confessions.

A year or so prior to this, we were discussing with some people at a Christian agency what our schooling options would be if we were to live overseas.  I said absolutely no to homeschooling.  No interest in it whatsoever.   One of my main reasons was that my oldest child didn't believe a word I said and would argue with me all day long.  And when the representative said they had some concerns about that relationship, I blew her off.  She just didn't understand what I meant, I said.  It's not like the kid is terrible. 

During the year at the Bible College, many people homeschooled.  There was a huge Co-op that met at the church we could see from our window.  Other college students had kids at home, too.  When the end of the year of Bible college came, we had to move again.  We thought we would only be in the new location, our sending base, for about 3 months and might move out of country after that, or at least more around some.  (That's not what happened, but that's not important to the story really). Having had those bad experiences with fitting in, I began to get used to the idea of homeschooling as a "mercy killing."  I didn't want to do it, and didn't consider it something I would do long term, either.  I'm a very practical person, and just wanted to save them the agony of trying to make friends in another new place, just to move away again.  In fact our son went to public kindergarten that year.  I didn't want the pressure of having to teach him anything "important" like learning to read.  My theory was that since the older girls could already read, they would be teaching themselves whatever they needed to know, with little input from me. 

So during our first semester of homeschooling, I was really absent.  I was in class at least half the day for our orientation to the agency we were working with, and had homework of my own.  I set the girls' schedules, nothing more.  They did exactly what was written in the book, and I looked at their work once or twice a week.  They were bored.  Their Math skills were terrible -in fact, have never quite recovered.  I blew it that year, thinking that they would just progress on their own.  I had purchased a "boxed" curriculum, which came in three huge boxes- including a hardcover book for each girl for almost every subject, a hardcover teacher's guide for me for each girl in each subject, and several workbooks and test packets.  I chose it because it was cheap and thorough according to people at  It had a word-for-word script for the lessons in the guides and I tried to do them in some subjects, really I did.  But my girls could sense my anxiety and that I was unimpressed with the curriculum.  They made fun of it (and I think it would be rude to say why, or what program it was).   They resented it for being dorky.

We moved again mid-year and I did a better job, I think, with the rest of the year.  They had my full attention, and our boy stayed home from kindergarten after that, too (since he'd already learned to read).  I soon began to understand what homeschooling was "supposed" to be like, or rather, to appreciate some of the benefits of having the kids at home.  I felt that I knew them better than when they were strangers who came to visit for several hours each afternoon.  I knew what they were learning and thinking about.  I knew what they were reading and what they struggled with.  I got a bigger kick out of testing the pH of household products than they did!  That's when I realized that this could be fun!

We kept on moving about (that's another post), so the idea of putting them back into school was never discussed.  If we knew anything it was that I could never screw them up at home as much as changing schools over and over would.  We made our decisions or plans in increments of three months or so.  We changed curriculum for the second year, with mixed results.  We used something physically lighter, which was nice, but less challenging and not very integrated.  I stayed more involved, and in the middle of the year we also found a co-op where they could do gym, art and music. 

Even before we moved again this fall, I found a curriculum I was in love with for some subjects, and filled in the rest with a strong set of materials, too.  I have gotten more flexible with my choices with experience.  I've listened to my kids more.  Having lived with their learning styles, I became more alert to what they needed.  For example I had always blown of craft projects associated with their work because they were too messy, complicated or expensive.  But when I spent a week or two sampling the new curriculum, they dove into the crafts head first- even my bookish one!  I was sold on that, but that's another post, too.

I had a bit of an epiphany (hey, that's a holiday two days from now!) when we moved back here and I realized that, though it looks like we could be here for a longer stretch of time than we are used to, I hadn't even considered sending anyone back to school.  I do, in fact, know and like my kids and enjoy being at home with them, guiding them in their worldview.  There would have to be some very serious reasons to send anyone to school when we have such a good thing going here (math skills aside).  Our family dynamic has changed so much for the better.  Should relative strangers in the public school system have more influence over my offspring than I?  Teaching them at home is a responsibility, certainly, sometimes a drain on me.  But I also consider it an opportunity not to be missed.  I'm not saying that I hide my kids under a bushel to protect them from the dangerous world, although it might seem like that to some.  I prefer to think I am training them on how to approach this world with strength, integrity, sensitvity and God's love for the lost.  I teach them to think and to love learning. 

Today my daughter's friend's mom let me know she was taking her daughter out of public school (for a variety of reasons, different from mine).  Naturally I asked my daughter if this was her idea.  She said they had not really talked about it; but she also grinned.  A "we won them over to the dark side" kind of grin.  The other day a cousin was very excited about a trip to the library, and someone said we were turning him into a nerd like us.  That's an accusation I can deal with!  A part of me would love to take in other students, actually, but that's not legal in New York State. 

One other reason that deserves to be addressed of course is the flexibility I have in terms of grade level.  We're all over the map, doing some subjects at a higher level and others at lower than grade level.  This has become important to me especially with my son who moves along at a quick pace and is doing well at third grade math, learning the multiplication tables already/  I'm really glad I am able to do that for him, because I think a bored, bright child can become a danger to himself and others.  I know I was!

I've found I suddenly love to talk about our school choices.  I love to encourage and even counsel people who are new to the idea of homeschooling (even though I turned to internet sources instead of live ones, myself).  If I find out someone is considering it, I want to tell them all about what we do- I have to hold myself back because I know I could become obnoxious really quickly!  I wish I had had someone to explain the choices and approaches to school- for there are many- so that I could have found my niche sooner.  I understand that it's not for everyone, and that many moms truly enjoy their careers and/or aren't interested in, financially able, or willing to be at home.  It knew beyond a doubt that it wasn't for me three years ago, but I'm so glad I gave it a try.  I don't know whether teaching changed me, or I grew into it, or quite how it happened.  It's God at work; I didn't see it happening but I'm so different, and our family is so different from when we started.  And that child who didn't believe a word I said?  She's the one with the biggest smile most days.  
Homeschooling readers- do you have a post like this on your blog?
How has homeschool changed you?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christmas Wrap-up

Before they become totally outdated, I've got to share just a few pics of our holiday celebrations.  We do keep the  gift-giving to a minimum around here, so we've never done the open-a-gift-the-night-before thing.  This year, however, we had to.  We like to keep 'em guessing, and we wanted them to wear these Christmas morning.
The only child we actually had pj's on the list for was the Mayor,
but then we found the purple ones (peace signs) for the Girl and the ball started rolling! The clincher was the penguin feet on the Sleeping Giant.  As we came around the corner in the women's section of Target, we were lamenting that they probably didn't carry women-sized feety Pj's- after all, this girl is taller than me, and I am not short!
Not only do they carry them, they put baby penguins on the feet!  Score!  The Little Princess has frogs, which seemed appropriate.  The only trouble is, if you pick her up while she's wearing these, *zap*!
As she watched her sister and brother open their jammies, she picked up on the trend...everyone seems to be getting feety pajamas...she asked, "You didn't find these in my size, did you?"  She was very eager to open her package. 
She even posed willingly for these pictures, even though she hates to be blogged!

That was Christmas Eve after church.  I didn't take photos of Christmas morning at home, because I want to join in the celebration, not be behind a camera!  We open our gifts in our bedroom, having stuffed them all under the bed.  This tradition started because we have never had a Christmas tree.  Even when we are at Grandma and Grandpas on Christmas morning, we want to have our own family time.  So, we crammed them under the bed to hide them.  This year, there were also lights strung around the bed on the floor, as well as the ever-present tweeting Christmas irritant.  That's how he wakes up the kids.  In how many families does the Dad wake the kids up on Christmas morning?  I think this is a good sign that we've kept them from getting too greedy in the season!

We had plenty of time after our small gift exchange to start the Cinnamon rolls- Clone of a Cinnabon!  When those were ready (and the house smelled oh so good!) we brought them to my parents' house for Christmas with Nana, Woody and their cousins. 
I am happy to see that my nieces are wearing their new pink boots that I found for them.  It's becoming a tradition for me to get them some kind of fun boots to wear, something that their mother wouldn't buy.  I usually get something dressier but these, I think, were a hit!  The Mayor is looking a bit surly in this picture; but hey, it's really hard to get a shot of 7 kids all looking at the camera and being cute at the same time!  This was the best one!  Maybe he got up too early that morning!

After brunch with these folks, our next stop was Grandma and Grandpas.  Usually, we're at their house in the morning because we're staying with them from out of town.  This year, we live at their house but they don't!  They have a parsonage because Grandpa just became a pastor, so this was their first Christmas in a new house.  My camera never made it out of my purse at this location- I left that up to others.

 Here are shots of our candy houses we built at church a few weeks ago.

All manner of candy and cereal is provided for decorating these houses, lovingly cut out of cardboard and assembled by volunteers in advance.
The one below belonged to a friend.
One day I was left home alone for a few hours and got inspired, so I built this gingerbread log cabin. 
Way easier, I imagine, than trying to get planks to stay together.  My kids were impressed by it- they didn't even try to eat it, so it was a decoration on the hutch for a few weeks.  Now it is outside to see if the critters find it appetizing. 
There was also a lot of gingerbread and sugar cookie decorating, an annual tradition.  We baked loads of cookies, many kinds, even though we had no plans to host any events, so on Christmas Eve the Sleeping Giant and the Little Princess went to some of the neighbors' houses and delivered some as gifts.  We haven't really gotten to know any neighbors since we've only been here since October.  This made a nice ice breaker, except that some people slammed the door in their faces- I guess they thought they were trying to sell the cookies.   Good practice for life overseas I guess, since some of our neighbors there will undoubtedly think we are up to no good, as well. 

Happy New Year to All!  I have some thoughts about what I hope the new year will bring, which I home to share with you soon.