Friday, December 31, 2010

Our Year in NUMB3RS

Here's the non-edited version of our Christmas letter this year.  We decided not to include Ellie's epilepsy diagnosis at all, just to keep it upbeat.  The other things were cut for space issues, since we all know that I have a rambling problem. 

Our Year in NUMB3RS

1 Olympic triathlon PR for Glen.  (1500 meter swim, 40k bike, 10k run)

new countries for Glen (South Korea and India).

goals in one high school lacrosse game for Spencea hat trick!

times per week, on average, that we have to pick Ellie up from school due to her medication side effects.  

-years of blogging and it’s still Lara’s main creative outlet.

th childAdamis baptized in October.

front teeth all lost a few weeks before Christmas for Ellie!  

th childElliegoes off to kindergarten.  Yay!

days at Bethany Beach, Delaware with family.

months of Glen & Lara eating sugar only once-a-week.  Time to start it up again!

th grade homeschool for Camia family tradition.

times-per-daythat Lara wonders what alien possessed her long enough to sign up to be the PTA Vice President at the elementary school this year. (okay, maybe it’s not THAT bad) °Ü°

-years-oldEmma finally hits double digits.

years in Virginia means that Lara is now officially more Virginian than Minnesotan.

-week fitness challenge leaves Glen & Lara a little more svelte...too bad it took 12 days to fall right back into old habits (and clothes).

miles per week on average for Glen’s running regimen + daily exercise classes.

-years-old for Spencer means he’s officially old enough to get his driver’s permit (just got it this week).  Yikes!

-years of marriage this December!  ♥♥♥♥♥

kidsthe approximate number of kids Lara takes care of in  the church nursery each week.

22nd day of September, the day we first notice Ellie is having petit mal seizures all day, every day.  

the approximate number, of non-gray hairs Lara has left on her head

inches of snow last winter gave the kids a taste of my childhood winters in MN.

pictures, on average, that Lara takes each month.mostly of food and kids.

9,614--the number of hits on the Recipe Shoebox this month.  Too bad 10,000 is out of reach though, since there's no way on earth I'll post as often ever again. 

Thank you for sticking with me this year through my blogging identity crisis
and Ellie information overload!  Love you! 

Happy New Year to all of you!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Conquering the World....

One cake at a time...

When Cami heard that one of Spence's best friends was having a sixteenth birthday party today including an afternoon of playing Risk, she insisted that she be the one to make the cake for him. 

Of course, neither Ryan, nor his mother minded Cami's insistence at all.

It didn't turn out quite the way she'd originally envisioned, but it didn't seem to bother the sixteen-year-old boys at all who had an extra sweet game board should they spill soda on the original. 

Now that Cami's getting so creative with her cake making, I'm thinking I should start planning ideas for my birthday cake, which, by the way,  is coming up in only 4 more months.  

I'm thinking chocolaty, tall, and really know, like me.   Maybe this one will do... 



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

This Christmas vacation...

I will...wear my sweats/pajamas as often as possible and make-up as little as possible. 

We will....have a Wii free day.

We will....try out some new board games.

We will.....make our gingerbread houses (from scratch).

I patient when Ellie has her daily hour-long crying fit.   (another side effect of the medication)

We all the leftovers from our Christmas in Bethlehem dinner. 

I will....start cleaning up the messiest room in the house (Santa's workshop our bedroom). 

I will.....finally give the guitar a try on Band Hero. 

I will....NOT be try the singing part on Band Hero. 

I will....officially put away the rest of the summer clothes.

We will....find places for all of our new presents or get rid of things to make room for them. 

I Adam with his Scouts, Cami with her Personal Progress,  Emma with her Faith in God, and Spencer with a preliminary Eagle Scout project plan. 

I will....NOT look at (or think too much about) my PTA stuff.

I will....enjoy the last few days of carefree treat eating before starting back on our sugar-once-a-week diet again in January. 

I will....finally send out the last few straggling Christmas cards. 

I will...enjoy the fresh air and take a peaceful walk at least once a day.

I hope hoping that by writing this all down, that it will help me to remember a few things that I am committed to accomplish (or not accomplish) this Christmas vacation.  If you have any great ideas of something I should add, please feel free to enlighten me.  :)


Monday, December 27, 2010

Traditions: Old and New

Ever since Glen and I were married 17-years-ago, we've been working on developing traditions that are meaningful to our family.   Back when we were first married, we simply parroted what we'd done in our respective homes growing up, but as the years have passed we've honed those old traditions and added many of our own.   I could take up an entire blogpost and talk about some of the traditions we have throughout the year, but this post is going to be specifically about our Christmas traditions. 

First, I don't know if you can really call it a tradition, but each Christmas we like to focus a lot on the symbolism of Christmas.  We have family home evenings and read stories that help us to see the true meaning of Christmas in the lights and decorations that surround us.  This year we focused the whole month of family home evenings on service, including a family service project and a service chain which we are still frantically trying to elongate before the New Year.  

In addition to the more serious traditions of learning together, we also have a few seasonal traditions that we try to do sometime during the month.  These include making gingerbread houses (which we still haven't done yet this year, but plan on doing this week), drawing names for presents, seeing the light/international nativity display at the DC temple, and sending out our Christmas cards and letters. 
Our Christmas Eve is still an ever-evolving set of traditions.  This year we tried something new and different by going to a movie and out to eat during the day.  We saw MegaMind and enjoyed Christmas Eve dinner at the Olive Garden!  We totally loved the low-stress nature of going out instead of cooking and cleaning all day, but it still remains up for the jury about whether we do this again. 

Here's our crew this year:  Our family, plus my brother Matt and family from Maryland, plus my sister Heather visiting from Minnesota. 

And to prove that I was there too, here's a picture of Ellie and I  while we waited for our food.

My nephew Lincoln, kept us entertained with his cute facial expressions and funny comments.  It kind of made me miss having a toddler in the house.

The one part about Christmas Eve that we've been doing ever since we got married is that we each open a pair of pajamas on Christmas Eve night.  It's a combination of traditions from the family Glen grew up in and my own.  They always got new pajamas; we always opened one present.  This year it was these comfy cozy matching pajamas....and a Santa hat.  We pretty much rocked. 
After everyone's in their pajamas, we gather in the living room for our Christmas Eve devotional filled with  songs and scriptures.  We use a booklet with songs, scriptures, and pictures.    I like the structure that the booklet gives to our devotional and I love that it's got the pictures which makes it more visual and interactive for the kids.  After the devotional, we have a family prayer, put out treats for Santa, and the kids go to bed as quickly as possible.  Meanwhile, the adults in the house settle in for a long night of "helping" Santa wrap presents and do some assembly on some of the toys. 

On Christmas morning, we have a pretty strict rule that no one's allowed to awaken any other person or open their stockings until 7:00am.  The rule, since we instituted it a few years ago, has been a godsend for all of us Santa helpers that are usually a little on the sleep-deprived side.  After 7:00am, they can open their stockings and in general run around and be excited, but they're not allowed to touch the presents under the tree until after breakfast.

Glen declared himself "King of the Breakfast Table". 

This year we had a sausage casserole (assembled the night before) and orange-breakfast bread (super easy to prepare) and ended up eating at about 8:30am.  After cleaning up from breakfast, everyone is good and ready to get started opening presents, where we go through the rounds opening gifts one-a-time, oldest to youngest, until we get tired of taking turns (usually when a few people start running out of gifts). 

 Here is a little glimpse at our present opening rounds: 

Here is Spence sporting his new found favorite hat, as opposed to the striped Jamaican looking one he's been wearing the last several months (including the summertime). He's admiring his prize gift this year--a lacrosse helmet, so he can stop wearing his friend's helmet which sports the logo of a rival high school on it. 

Here is Ellie with her beloved gift from Santa....Barbie with a horse.  It's the only thing she asked for this year. 

And here is Adam with his theme toy of the day.....Legos! 

Cami got mostly clothes and was quite happy about that...

Aunt Heather came from Minnesota and the kids were THRILLED!!!!

Lincoln (and his Mommy and Daddy) stayed the night, so they could join us for Christmas morning.   Every present he opened was exciting, but I'm pretty sure that Santa could have just brought him this one truck and he would have been totally content.

Our sweet little Emma was the drama queen of the day with her screams of joy with almost every present!  If I'd been more thoughtful, I would've pulled out the video camera to document the shrieks of delight and ensuing jumps around the room, but then again I wouldn't want to be held responsible for anyone's eardrums getting pierced, so perhaps it's best that I didn't. 

We didn't get to eat our second annual "Christmas in Bethlehem" until tonight, but, boy oh boy, did we love it.  The middle-eastern lentil soup was perfection, the flat bread soft and delicious, and the baklava totally sinful.   It's definitely going on to our list of traditions to keep. 

And now all the guests have returned home, Cami's talk has been given, the house is starting to recover from its wrapping paper/ new toy inundation, and Glen heads back to work tomorrow.

I think I'll take a nap. 


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Card Photoshop Winners

Okay....first thing first, I guess I'd better announce the winner of my holiday card toffee contest. 

Here's the one we put in our Christmas card:

And here's the original: 

And since I know you're all in awe of my super sweet skills, I'll let you in on a little secret.   I learned everything I know about photoshopping from my little brother, Pete.  See his version below and weep with jealousy at the pure awesomeness that I grew up with. 

Obviously, any of you who guessed "Lara and Spencer's-just-rolled-out-of-bed-grumpy- head" are correct (Denise, Matt, Morgen, and Deanne) are all winners!  Of course, I really think that anyone who reads my blog is a winner, so anyone who wants some toffee is free to stop by for a treat!  If I get my act together I'll think about driving around and dropping some off, but since that will require brain power,  you probably don't want to hold your breath waiting for it. 


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Card Game

The Christmas cards are sent (mostly), the shopping is done (mostly), the treats are made (mostly), and I am tired (totally). 

The kids are oscillating between ecstatic excitement and sensory overload and in amongst all this craziness I am trying to give them some semblance of a remembrance of why we celebrate Christmas.  Our family home evenings this month have all been dedicated to serving others.  Some days I think they're finally getting it...thinking of others before themselves, but other days I'm pretty sure that they have severe short term memory loss. 

One other thing I've been doing in hopes that it will help us  all to  keep Christ in our hearts more this season is reading them a Christmas story every night at bedtime.  We have a number of beautiful picture books that share stories of unselfishness, love, and the spirit of Christ.   It's one of my favorite traditions of the season.  I don't have time right now, but maybe sometime in the next few days I'll share some of my favorite books with you.  

And since this has been my all-consuming project of late, here's a glimpse of our Christmas card this year (the scanner cut off the very bottom).  We sent them later than we like to, but we are hopeful that most people will still receive them before Christmas.     Glen and I LOVED this card and I love the tradition of exchanging Christmas cards.  I have no intention of ever going digital on Christmas greetings!  

And for a little Christmas card game: 

One-and-a-half of us were photoshopped into this picture.  Can you tell who?  I'll post the original picture another day and maybe I'll bring some of my toffee over to whoever guesses right. 


Monday, December 20, 2010

Facebook Security: A Funny and Cautionary Tale

The other day when I logged onto Facebook I got a message that I needed to increase my security.  It recommended that I add another email address to my account and add my cell number, in case there was ever need to contact me about me about my account.  It was very legitimate Facebooky stuff, so I went ahead and did it, actually relieved that there was that extra layer of ways to contact me other than my unreliable Juno address. 

Fast forward a few hours and I get a text message on my phone that was a response to something I'd written on Facebook.  The person was a regular texter on my phone so I didn't think anything about it, however over the next day or so I notice that I get a text every time someone writes on my wall or sends a message.  I've never had any kind of mobile internet connection (still don't) so I think it's all kind of cool to get the updates while I'm out and about. 

Fast forward another day or so and I log into Facebook and  randomly see this message that I've supposedly posted in response to announcing on Facebook that it was my anniversary.  In amongst all the nice, "Happy Anniversary" comments was this: 

Yikes.  I know I'm a tad random sometimes, but vampires and silver bullets?  What the heck is going on with my account?  It's not your normal click on this link type of thing, but still?  Killing vampires?!

I felt so embarrassed that  a whole host of anniversary well-wishers got the same email (shown above), but felt a little better after changing my password, apologizing publicly,  and  tweaking my security settings. 

I was just starting to forget about it all when Spencer randomly commented to me that he'd been getting my Facebook update texts all evening.  (You see, his cell phone was ruined a few months ago and since we won't buy him a new one,  he uses my phone to text in the evenings. )

Bing!  Suddenly the light goes on!

I ask him, "Did you by chance have a texting conversation with one of your friends about killing vampires?" 

After dodging the question a bit, he finally admitted reluctantly that he had and wondered how I knew.  

Apparently in addition to receiving the Facebook updates, you can also reply to them via text.  So in the middle of his texting conversation with a friend  about vampires he was getting my pesky anniversary wishes and he accidentally replied to the Facebook text one time instead of to his friend. 

Lesson learned.  Mobile updates turned OFF and Twilight movies thrown in the trash!  

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Visions...

As I sat there enjoying the lovely strains of "Joy to the World" during the Christmas program at church today,  I suddenly realized that I was surrounded by visions of Christmas loveliness.  Sounds lofty, eh?  Maybe.  But since it's my phrase of the week, it's what was in my brain.   

Beautiful musical numbers, uplifting talks, cute kids, handsome husband of 17 years, awe-inspiring paper program, you know....the works. 

So I came home and decided that I needed to document a glimpse into these visions.   

My visions of Christmas loveliness: 

Our tree.  We've had this baby for 16 years now and fully intend to have it another 16 more.  With Glen's allergies, this is as "real" as we get in our house. 

Our leaf-strewn snowman.   Although I'm not wishing for as much snow as we got last winter, I do like having a few snowstorms during the year to give them a taste of winter fun...and a week before Christmas is awesome! 

Our handmade nativity.  My sister AnnaLisa got on a creative kick last year and made these beautiful nativities for several members of our family last year.   I totally love it! 

Christmas goodies.
  Sure, I'm getting a little overdosed on sugar and will be good and ready for our sugar diet again in January, but in the meantime I sure am having fun making and sharing all these sweet treats! 

And last, but not least, my Christmas cuties.   We're too low-maintenance for special Christmas dresses, but some cute wintery earrings sure got them excited. 

Emma was thrilled to get rid of the rats that had taken up residence in her hair this past week.  It took half hour of brushing this morning, but finally her hair is smooth and soft again and it only added to the lovely Christmas vision! 

Ellie's too little to have her ears pierced (9-years-old is when our family does it), but her flippy hair and denim dress sure made me smile today.  We needed those smiles too, since increasing her medication dose this morning, she's falling all over herself again. 

And what about my boys, you say?  Well, they had a hard act to follow with the sparkly earrings and cute hair-dos, but Spencer did his best to match up. 

Adam knew he didn't stand a chance of competing with that kind of Christmas loveliness, so he stayed far away from the camera instead. 

And my one last vision of Christmas loveliness (boy, am I in love with that phrase) is that we almost finished our shopping yesterday.  As per our anniversary tradition, Glen and I spent the day shopping.  Throw in a delicious dinner at our favorite restaurant, Sweetwater Tavern, and it ended up being a lovely way to celebrate our 17th anniversary! 

Now, I'm going to ask Spence if I can borrow his socks....

Friday, December 17, 2010

white stuff

The first snow of the season came yesterday.  It was only two-inches, but because it has been so cold lately every last flake stuck to the roads, which meant that school let out early yesterday and was delayed two hours this morning.  I guess it has something to do with my Minnesotan upbringing, but I am one of those people who generally loves snow (20-inches at a time I could do without, but I rather like these little storms). 

I love the contrast of the white background in the pictures of my kids.  
I love how excited they are to see their breath and make  funny nose prints on the frosty windows.

I love that my kids have gotten more fresh air and exercise than they have in weeks.  Somehow the cold seems so much more bearable when there's fluffy white stuff on the ground as well. 

I love that they giggle and play together for hours on end. 

I love them all bundled up in their cute snow clothes. 

and I love how totally and completely excited they are about everything all at once--about being off school, about being outside, about being together, about throwing snowballs in their sisters' faces, etc. 

And my only beef with the snow....
It doesn't matter how little or big the snowstorm is, it is completely inevitable that our microscopic entry way will look like this before long.

On the bright side though, my shoving skills are getting quite sharp again.  You'd be surprised at how much stuff can squeeze into that little space between the shelves and the stairs.   


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I ♥ ....

I ♥ my Christmas tree
I ♥ online shopping
I ♥ package deliveries
I ♥ Christmas cards

and of course I ♥ Glenny, Spencey, Cami, Emmi, Addi, and Ellie-boos.  (Glen says that if you ever call him Glenny, he'll probably defriend you on Facebook).   ;)

And now for an informal poll:  Do you prefer shopping in stores or online? 

I have no idea how Christmas ever happened before the days of online shopping.  The parking lots are packed enough without people like me filling them up. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why oh why?

Why?  When I have absolutely nothing to blog about, do I feel the need to blog anyway?

Is it because I hope that by starting to type that something profound will flow forth from my fingertips?  Or is it that I can't sleep at night until I've at least got a blogpost forming in my head?  Or is it that I love you all so much that I can't bear the thought of you having to go through another Lara-free day?  Or is that youuuuu..........

Wait a second.   Patience please!  I feel  profundity  emanating from me. 

A precise post of plutonic proportions is percolating in the pits of my pectorals and pure pituitary pensiveness will placate the most proverbial pickled pixie in Pennsylvania.   Then my progressively prominent post will plow past the pure pointless pile of pungency that is this post and your passive paranoia that I'm pudgy and predictable will proceed to persuade you that I have a proud perception pecking, but purely placid, polite, and  pleasing personality. 

PS  I love you too.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Night Stream of Consciousness

Some random thoughts running around my brain tonight: 
  • Stomach bugs are horrible and I especially hate how hard they are on Ellie.   On the other hand, because of Ellie's vast experience with vomiting, she's  extremely accurate.  She hasn't missed the toilet with her spewing in over 2 years. 
  • Some of Spencer's friends called Glen, "buff and intimidating" and for some reason I can't stop laughing about it.  Buff maybe, but intimidating I'm a little more flummoxed about.
  • I have awesome friends.  One immediately gave us Pedialyte when they heard of Ellie's sickness, saving us a Sabbath trip to the store.  And another brought popsicles and a little present for Ellie.  It was the first time we'd seen her smile since this all hit her on Saturday night. 
  • This whole goody-a-day posting on my recipe blog is doing a number on my waistline.  Dang it!
  • Watch your mailboxes!  Our Christmas cards arrived from Shutterfly this week and I just wrote our newsletter.  Now I just need to print, address them,  and get them in the mail.  Yay--I love Christmas cards!  If I don't have your address, please feel free to email it to me and I'll add you to our list. 
  • I'm so happy that at least a few of my kids will still talk to Santa, even if they wouldn't look him in the eye if their lives depended on it. 

  • I had this vision that no amount of snow could bring my homeland of Minnesota to its knees, but after seeing all my friends' updates on Facebook, I'm pretty sure that either everyone's gotten wimpy or this really was quite the storm.
  • Glen stayed home from church today with Ellie and Adam (who has a different sickness) and I'm thinking I could get really used to coming home on Fast Sundays to a home-cooked dinner including cornbread and dessert (which he also happened to take pictures of for the recipe blog).   He took pictures of every step and even had Adam snap this one, so he could have both hands in it.  I'm so spoiled by my buff and intimidating man. 

  • Our sleep number mattress is one of the best home improvement projects we've ever made.  Speaking of which, it seems to be calling my name right now.  
  • Our very classy outside decorations could use a few stakes.  If you know where they ended up please call me.  They're either in the attic or the garage. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cute Boy vs. Innocent Bird

You know the old poem about little boys? 

What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Frogs and snails
And puppy-dogs' tails,
That's what little boys are made of.

I don't know about this cute little guy being made up of amphibians and dog parts, but after 15+ years of mothering boys I've discovered that there definitely is a different mind set in the male brain. 

What kind of differences you ask? 

Here's a direct example from Adam's 2nd grade report on birds: 

One of the biggest hazards to orioles is hunters....

hunters in tanks and helicopters apparently. 


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cupcake Shoppe

Today was one of those days.  A day where nothing is truly wrong, but all combined life just seems more stressful than usual.  Between all the undone things on my list, Ellie's new medication side effects, and a small case of hormones,  I'm already good and ready for another vacation. 

But instead of complaining about the fact that Ellie can hardly take two steps without falling now and has already cut the back of her head and scuffed up her nose, instead I'm going to focus this post on my wonderful support system. 

Many people have offered their love and prayers for us since her diagnosis in September.  That love and support has been so meaningful to us and it has made this difficult journey all the more bearable. This post is about a thoughtful gift from my friend Jenny.  She heard that Ellie was coming home early from school on a regular basis, so put together this kit to help fill the time on a few of her afternoons at home. 

Ellie's Very Own Cupcake Shoppe. 

A basket filled with the supplies needed for her very own cupcake shoppe:  Complete with apron, cake mixes, frosting, mini cupcake pan, mini cupcake papers, cute little utensils, and even a cute cardboard cupcake stand. 

It was a complete dream come true for Ellie.  She gabbed and gabbed the whole way through about how Sis. M. was so nice and how she must have known that she loves to cook. 

This work was serious business to her and she made certain that I took plenty of pictures for the blog. 

so proud...

I think she has a knack...

This cupcake stand is her pride and joy! 

Her cute sign...

And her eager customers who couldn't wait to buy her cupcake masterpieces for 25 cents each.

Thank you to Jenny for a wonderful, thoughtful, generous gift.  It meant the world to Ellie and she is so proud and protective of her own special cooking supplies. 

Thank you to all of you for your love and support.  The prayers, the rides, the listening ears have made all the difference to me and made it so the down days are the exception rather than the rule.

You all are awesome! 

(FYI:   I feel much better now after looking at all these cute pictures of Ellie while I typed up the post).  :)


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