Tuesday, March 12, 2013

When I Exercise, I . . .

You'd think by now I'd be convinced of the benefits of exercise.  Hmmm, then why is it still so hard to incorporate into my life?!  Well, home schooling three daughters, taking care of a baby, cooking, cleaning, running a home business, teaching a few music lessons, and tutoring for Classical Conversations all seem to take some time too!  Anyway, this is not a pity party, it is just life and reality and we all have many demands on our time. But I was realizing again recently (as I just re-started an exercise program) that when I am consistent with exercise I do enjoy many benefits and I thought I'd list them here, both for my encouragement and for yours!

1.  When I exercise, I have more energy.  It's just true.  It seems like I would be more tired, but as long as I don't overdo the exercise, I do have more energy.

2.  I drink more water.  This is a good thing!  I need more water and less coffee in my life!

3.  My silly back with it's old injury feels better when I exercise.

4.  When I exercise, there's no mental guilt "Oh, I should exercise."  I already did it.  Done!

5.  Exercise uses my muscles and gets my heart pumping in ways that help my body.  Though I feel very busy  most days, I don't use my body in the same way that I do when I exercise.

6.  Faithful exercise on my part sets a good example for my kiddos.

7.  Most of the time when I start exercising, I think, "I don't have time for this."  Then I just do it anyway.  20 minutes (yes, still doing that ridiculous 30 day shred) and I'm always glad I did it, no regrets.  Plus, I can easily waste 20 minutes on facebook on any given day.

8.  My clothes fit better.  Yeah!

9.  Exercise helps my posture.  I am always trying to improve my posture!

10.  Exercise helps keep the snacking at bay.  Why would I work hard to exercise and then ruin it with some  silly snack?

What is a benefit you enjoy when you are exercising regularly?  Leave a comment and help me be even more inspired!

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Daddy-Daughter Dates

Since the beginning of the year, John has been very consistent with taking one of the girls out each Saturday for a Daddy-Daughter date.  No surprise, they LOVE it!  Whether it's a trip to the library, fun at the Seminary gym, or a trip to the park, they love their extra special time with Daddy.  It has been so sweet to me to see how they respond to John's affection and time together.  He usually takes advantage of the time to try to initiate a bit of more meaningful conversation too, asking them some "heart" questions.

Last Saturday it was Clara Anne's turn.  They went to the library, and Clara Anne got to choose lots of books for Daddy to read.  Being read to seems to be one of Clara Anne's love languages; nothing makes her happier than curling up next to mommy or daddy and enjoying a good story.

Near the end of the date, John began to ask Clara Anne a few questions about her spiritual life.  Her answers were surprisingly perceptive.  First, he asked her where she had been growing in her spiritual life with Jesus, and she responded that she thought she was doing better at being more thoughtful and not so careless.  (I can affirm that this has been an area of struggle for Clara Anne...carelessness and thoughtlessness have been difficult for her to overcome, but we have seen progress lately!).  This is a wonderful reason to praise the Lord, because HE has to change her.  We were seeing these habits come through in many areas of her life--thoughtless speech, careless or reckless actions, sloppy work in her school lessons, etc.  John and I were frequently talking to her, using lots of words to try to help her see these habits as foolish, but ultimately the Lord has to give the power and motivation to change.  We are so thankful that there has been measurable and significant progress in these areas!

John also asked Clara Anne what was still a struggle for her.  She shared that she knows that sometimes she has a bad attitude, because "sometimes you really, really, really, really don't want to do something, Daddy!"  I can also attest that this is the case (for her and for me, now that I think about it!).  Now that Clara Anne is 8, she can tend to think that she has the better answer, that she can be in control of her own life and schedule, and that she doesn't need follow us so closely as her parents.  But, I think it was very good that she recognized this and hopefully the Spirit will use that to help her surrender her attitudes to the Lord as well!

Seeking to be a godly parent certainly gets a bit more complex as our children get older.  Looking back now, it seems so simple when your two year old disobeys, the punishment is clear-cut and then it's over and you move on.  But issues of character take more time, conversations, and communication.  May the Lord give grace as we parent our children, shepherding them to know and love Him!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Well Children, Sinful Pride, and the Stigma of Socialization

Today was an historic day.  Finally after a year and a half, I took the girls to an American doctor.  It's so funny, when we lived overseas I carefully scheduled our doctor's appointments based on times we were traveling to Hong Kong or Thailand, but here in the States I figure I can go to the doctor anytime--and then it doesn't end up happening!  Thankfully the girls haven't been sick, but it was time for a well child checkup.  So today I took Clara Anne and Chloe and we made a visit to the pediatrician's office.

I didn't really know what to expect from this visit, except for paperwork and a brief checkup, but actually the doctor was quite thorough.  He took his time carefully doing a physical exam all while asking the girls questions about life, school, their favorite subjects, their favorite foods, whether or not they could ride a bike,  etc.  He did a little bit of testing too--quizzed Chloe on her colors and asked her to identify some items in a look and find book.  She did great, really no problem at all, but then stumbled a bit over her ABCs, of all things.

The silly part is that I felt my mama bear defenses rising a bit at his quizzing and testing.  Early on he had noted that we home schooled and asked me a bit more about my curriculum choices.  I explained a bit about Classical Conversations, but I'm not sure if he really understood.  I know it's so dumb to feel even the slightest bit defensive about my girls' education, simply because I know how the girls are doing, and truly he doesn't.  Spending 10 minutes in a room with my girls is not equivalent to knowing how they are doing generally with their studies.  But when Chloe stumbled over her ABCs, I felt pride rising in my heart and the urge to justify, wanting to interrupt, "Chloe, tell me the linear equivalents.  Or tell me about the Kush.  Or tell me three kinds of rock."  I wanted to shout, "This child can sing 10 minute history timeline song from Creation through the Seven Years War!"

Oh, sinful, prideful heart!  Thankfully the Lord restrained me in that moment, and I did not interrupt or justify or say anything at all.  And that was a good thing.  This little incident, which took no more than a few minutes, reminded me again of my humble state before the Lord, and that more than even Mr. Kind Doctor knows, my children's education is ultimately in the Lord's hands.  My children can have knowledge of many things, but without knowing and fearing the Lord, they are lost.  I have no need to be prideful or posturing--I certainly don't want to teach my girls to be that way.  Knowledge and education are a gift and mean nothing if not related to the overall framework of a biblical worldview.

So, even when a few minutes later the doctor recommended that I look into extracurricular classes (swim, dance, sports, science at the zoo, he mentioned them all specifically) in order to promote socialization, I could smile inwardly to myself and not even worry about it.  Non-homeschoolers seem to have this idea that home schooling means that we don't interact with anyone else.  He has no idea that my girls have quite an extensive social network--friends at church, friends at CC, friends overseas, friends near and far.  I understand his concern and even can appreciate it, but I do think my girls are actually quite well socialized.  They relate well to their peers, adults, and children younger than them.

All in all, it was a great visit to the doctor.  Everyone is healthy and growing well.  Clara Anne is in the 75th percentile for height, 50 for weight, and Chloe is 95th for height and 85th for weight.  They are tall girls!  I am thankful for their good health, a gift from God.  And, I am thankful for the reminder again today that all of my efforts as a mom to educate, train and teach them are in the Lord's hands.  He gives understanding and my fervent prayer for them remains that they will know the Lord and follow Him closely, all the days of their lives.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Scheduling Time: Reflections and Musings

This past Monday began a new spring schedule in our home.  Thanks to my husband and his big-picture organization skills, we took some time to evaluate what we had done in the fall, what worked well, and where we needed to improve, and then he actually made a spreadsheet to put on the side of the frig and keep us all on track.  This is something I would probably never do if it was up to me!  I have a tendency to slog along, day by day thinking that something should change, and then getting caught up in the next thing that needs doing and not taking time to step back, look at the overall situation, and decide where to change.  I appreciate so much that he is not like me!

So, a new schedule was made.  Part of the new schedule (insert deep breath here) involved getting up at 6am.  In fact, that was pretty much one of the key parts of the schedule--early to bed, early to rise.  And, the morning was stacked with activities, so that getting up at 6 was crucial to using our time well.  For both John and me, using our time well is an overarching goal of 2013.  To help us do that, we have tried to assign "slots" of time for various activities: home school, piano practice, preparation for Classical Conversations, memory work, reading aloud, family time, etc.  We tried to be realistic in that use of time, too--I tend to be too optimistic sometimes and then wonder why I am often running late!  (i.e. "I just didn't think it would take that long!")

When the schedule was first made I thought the girls would really buck at having such a firm plan for life's activities, but in fact they have been totally excited!  It seems to have helped them to recognize and clearly differentiate between "now this is school time" and free time, for example.  They are excited about knowing exactly when their free time will happen, and I am glad that they all know that 5pm every day means clean up time before supper at 5:30.  Too often in the past we had not set a specific time to clean up and then we'd be rushing around before bed trying to get things put away, bedtime would get delayed, and everybody would be cranky!

As well, one of my goals for 2013 is to maintain my early morning time with the Lord.  I have to face the truth that if I don't get up early, I just don't get enough time in the Word as I need.  So, 6am it is, which, if I get up right away, gives me a full hour to sip a hot cup of coffee, spend time in prayer and Bible study, and make sure I'm ready for the day before we wake the girls at 7 for family prayer time.

I've been pleasantly surprised at how this week has felt non-rushed, even though I am much more aware of the time and packing it full of activity.  The truth is, when I am disciplined with my time, it actually frees up time.  I got a nap two different days this week, and this afternoon found myself with a free hour, which we used to take some new Chinese friends to our neighborhood park on this balmy January day.  No one even wore a coat!  If I hadn't been structuring my time well recently, I'm sure I would not have had time for an outing without sacrificing something else I should have been doing.

All of this to say, a more focused, disciplined schedule is showing itself to be good for all of us.  I am trusting the Lord for the strength to persevere, and trying to be wise about where I fit in certain activities.  One practical change I am making is to not even turn my computer on until the afternoon, when home school is done and the majority of the day's work behind me.  I also am seeking to redeem the time while nursing Charis by reading a book, rather than checking my email or doodling around on facebook.  I always have lots of books I want to read but never enough time to do it (or so it seems) so this will be one way to read, even if it's just a few pages at a time.

As I get older, I think I am realizing more and more that my days are numbered.  The time seems to fly by so quickly, and I really desire to redeem the time and live intentionally.  I know the Lord will help me and I'm trusting Him!

Saturday, January 05, 2013

A New Year

A new year is upon us!  One of my goals in this new year is to blog at least once a week.  Life can be so busy, so crazy, and so full that sometimes I find myself just caught up in the whirlwind of it all.  But I have missed blogging the last few months and hope to return to it, even on a part-time basis, in 2013.  For now, after a five month silence, you might wonder what's going on with our family...

We are 1.5 years into a 4 year degree here in Kentucky.  John has been doing very well (in my humble opinion) with his studies but has lots of work still to do.  He is also teaching now for Liberty University online, which he can do from home; the perfect job, really, for a PhD student.  We are praying earnestly about where the Lord would have us after this degree is complete.  It's a few years off, yes, but we are seeking His will and direction so that we can perhaps begin to make some plans.

Our family became involved with Classical Conversations this past fall.  CC is a nationwide organization but with local chapters.  It is a way for homeschooling parents and kids to join together to help each other do classical education at home.  Each week we meet on Tuesday mornings from 9-12 to learn together, and then I review and/or expand on the information the rest of the week during our home school time.  We love it!  Much of the information is set to music and so we spend a great deal of our review time singing things like   the multiples of numbers 1-12, history sentences like "As the Heian government weakened in Japan, shoguns began to rule and expel all foreigners.  During the period of isolation, circa 1853 Commodore Matthew Perry of the US restored trade, allowing the Meiji to modernize Japan." and a science snippet like "what are some plant systems?  Some plant systems are photosynthesis, respiration, and transpiration."  It's a fantastic program and all of my girls are loving it.  I am tutoring a class of 7 and 8 year olds on Tuesday mornings (including Clara Anne) and that has been great.

Clara Anne just turned 8 on Christmas Day and was so excited to order the Liberty Doll with her birthday money.  She loves sewing, listening to stories, and creating artwork.  She is very verbal and frequently uses words in their correct context that astonish us.  She also loves to write stories and thanks to Grandpa and Grandma's gift of an "Illustory" she wrote her own book about Charis' birth and it was bound and sent back to her.  What fun!

Chloe is 6.5 now and has a beautiful high singing voice that she often uses to entertain Charis.  She lost her two front teeth just before Christmas and looks darling with a big gap there.  She is thoughtful towards her sisters and usually quite sensitive to others' needs--my big helper in the kitchen!

Christin is 4 and doing well being a new big sister!  She loves to hold Charis and often asks to "hold her just for one moment, Mommy."  She has a dry sense of humor and can make us laugh just with her expressions sometimes.  On our recent Christmas vacation when we were all sleeping in one room I overheard her say to Chloe during the middle of the night, "Chloe!  You are not lying correctly on the bed!"  (They were fighting over the available space.  Unfortunately it was Christin who was lying the wrong way, as it turned out!).  Christin is frequently determined to do things herself--which can be good or not so good, depending!

Baby Charis has been such a delight to our family!  She brings us so much joy!  She eats and sleeps well, and smiles at anyone who will give her a little attention.  The girls can really get her giggling as well!  She is not really mobile yet, so is in the golden age of babyhood where she still stays where I lay her down, but is interested in playing with toys or simply watching what is around her.  She is a little blonde, blue-eyed girl, who totally looks like she fits in with the family.  She's a precious little person; we're so thankful for her little life!

I've been busy with a new baby, teaching a few piano/voice lessons, tutoring for Classical Conversations, home schooling, and then selling Norwex.  I had a fairly busy fall with my business so that was a blessing to the family finances.  Sometimes I feel like I'm going 7 different directions but that is ok--trusting the Lord to help me prioritize my time and not waste it; time is a precious gift that we're given and I try to use well each day.  Life is full and busy and wonderful, so I try to enjoy each day, no matter how nutty it seems, since someday I will look back and remember these crazy days with great fondness.

So that's a brief summary of our family at this point in time!  We are trusting the Lord for His leadership and guidance in 2013.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Charis' Birth Story

We are so thrilled and thankful to welcome this new little one into our family!  Charis Janelle Wind was born on Friday, July 27, at 8:41pm.  She was 7 pounds, 11 oz, and measured 20.5 inches long.  She is a cutie pie and looks a lot like her sisters, we think!    (Disclaimer: the rest of the post has an excessive amount of pictures and lots of details about the birth!  If you don't enjoy that sort of thing, you might want to just click over and see how Team USA is doing at the Olympics or something.  Consider yourself warned! :)
Charis' labor was similar to all my other girls in that I had lots and lots of contractions for the month prior to her birth.  But, it wasn't as bad this time:  only a few of them were painful, the majority were just bothersome, and for the most part I never even timed them.  Experience had taught me that until they intensify and become more regular, nothing is happening!  However, I was happy when a doctor's appointment on my due date (July 25) showed that I was 1.5 centimeters dilated.  It gave me hope that she would be born fairly soon!  I was really hoping to avoid being induced, and my doctor was willing to give me another week before we started talking about that.  Thankfully it didn't come to that!

I have mentioned before how I was SO very glad to be able to stay at home during this pregnancy.  With all the other girls, we traveled away from our home, two of those times internationally, and that just meant a lot of sitting around and waiting--doing fun stuff, yes, but away from normal routine and normal life.  I enjoyed and appreciated being able to stay home and keep house, prepare food, clean, and generally just get things ready for the baby.

Because I suspected that baby girl would be arriving late, I had various events scheduled right up until the evening of my due date.  And the day after, my mother-in-law, Ann, was arriving from Minnesota.  It wasn't until Thursday evening, July 26, that I went to bed feeling satisfied that all of my to-do's were done: bathrooms shining, front glass wiped and polished, kitchen floors cleaned, frig and freezer stocked, and my mother-in-law safely arrived.  I even dusted my blinds that night after the girls went to bed!  John thought I was crazy but I just wanted to get it done!  (The funny part is that I haven't done it for months!!!  Nothing like a baby coming to give me a little motivation!)

Anyway, I went to bed that evening and woke up a couple times with uncomfortable contractions, but nothing regular.  Around 3:30 I was lying there, half awake, when suddenly I felt a "pop" and my water broke!  This had never happened to me before so I wasn't sure if I really believed that was what had happened, but indeed, it was.  This kicked me into high gear.  I woke John, got up, finished packing the hospital bag, started setting things by the door, put the clothes I had been wearing in the wash, just generally bustling around getting things ready.  However, by about 5 we realized that I really wasn't having any contractions, and without contractions it was pointless to go to the hospital.  So, we tried to lie down and rest again.  John fell asleep but I was too keyed up.  Eventually I got up, took a shower, did my hair--the whole 9 yards.  By 7am I was ready for whatever might happen!

But nothing happened.  I had an occasional contraction, but nothing regular.  The contractions I was having were stronger than the ones I had had until that point, but still, not frequent enough to be considered in labor.  So, we waited.  I was starting to feel tired after being up since 3:30, so I laid down to rest and we decided there was no point in doing any timing yet, we might as well pass the time some other way.  So, we watched a movie: While You Were Sleeping, which is one of my favorite romantic comedies.  John (who dislikes re-watching movies) gamely watched it with me and rubbed my feet, too, dear husband!  After the movie, when STILL nothing was happening, we decided to change our game plan and go out and do something.  We went to Chick-Fil-A for lunch and though I had a few hard contractions while we were there, again, they were random--12 minutes apart, 20 minutes apart, 18 minutes apart.  We then walked around the mall a bit to try to get things going.  We thought walking would be helpful, and since it's been SO hot outside, the mall seemed like a good choice.  Unfortunately it was busy and somewhat noisy and I was really feeling tired by that point, so we didn't stay too long.

We arrived home around 5 and I took a short nap, waking up at 5:30 and realizing that I hadn't had any contractions for at least 45 minutes.  I had just said to John, "Well, maybe today isn't the day after all," when at 5:40 I had a MONSTER contraction that lasted more than 2 minutes and was as strong as late-stage labor contractions.  I was crying by the end of it!  We decided to start timing again (using a handy tool online where you just push the space bar at the start and peak of a contraction and it does all the math for you) and it wasn't long before the contractions started coming closer and closer together.  By 6:30 John said, well, let's time another half hour and then we can maybe head to the hospital.  By 6:45 it was evident that we were   heading for the hospital sooner rather than later.  John started to load the car and get other things ready.  I kept timing contractions and they were progressively closer and longer--90 seconds, 100 seconds long was becoming typical.  By the time we headed out the door it was 7:15 and I was in serious, hard, very strong labor.  In the car I had at least six major, monster contractions that did not give me a break between--they were right on top of each other, one starting within seconds of the last one peaking.  Oh my!  That was quite the car ride!  Good thing the hospital is only 15 minutes away!

We arrived at the emergency room and told them "Labor and Delivery:  Fourth child and contractions 2 minutes apart" and they had a wheelchair for me right away.  As they wheeled me upstairs I noted the time: 7:40pm.  We got to the labor and delivery area and essentially began to prep for the birth.  I was so relieved and thankful that at first check, I was "a loose 8, pretty much a 9."  By the time the nurse finished asking me all the questions they ask you on admittance, my doctor was there and it was time to push!  That took a little longer than I expected, probably because I thought with my fourth child that it would go quicker, but Charis was situated face up and apparently that is a little harder.  But, Dr. G and the nurses all coached me, and John gave me sips of ice water between contractions, and after about 30 minutes of pushing she was born, at 8:41pm!  Just exactly an hour after we got to the hospital!

Here's some of the pictures of those first few moments:  They practice "kangaroo care" here where they gave me Charis almost right away, only wiping her off a little first.  We got to cuddle skin to skin for a long time--it's good for the baby and great for the mama too!

Sweet face! So good to meet you!
The happy, relieved, and thankful mama...and Charis even has a slight smile!  (Reflexes, I know, but sweet anyway!)
Because everything happened so quickly, John was able to go home after the birth and get the girls and Grandma Ann to come back with him that night!  They arrived back in the delivery room just as I was getting up out of bed and cleaning up a little.  They were thrilled to be able to see Charis' first fingerprints/footprints, see her get weighed and measured, and be there for the general excitement.  I hope it will be an evening they remember forever!
So amazing...just a few hours before they saw me in great distress leaving the house, and here they have arrived to see their new baby sister!

Meeting Grandma Ann for the first time...

Crowding around to get a better view.
Clara Anne was SO pleased and proud to be able to hold her by herself.  At the end of this time, the nurse said, Ok, give her to your mommy, let's go to the hospital room, and Clara Anne stood up and gave the baby to me.  She was so proud that she could stand up with the baby and do it safely!
Love and kisses from her sisters.
Charis didn't particularly enjoy getting measured.
Here's the mama, smiling now that the intense 3 hour labor was complete!
The girls LOVED watching this nurse in action.
Daddy finally gets a chance to hold her!  He was busy taking care of everything else, this was his first time to cuddle her.
Sweet sisters.
Finally we got settled into a hospital room after a very eventful evening.  I'm so thankful for how the timing worked out; it was really special that the girls could be there that night already.  It was a late night for them but totally worth it!
The next day, Saturday, John, the girls, and Grandma Ann came in the afternoon to visit.  There was much "discussion" over whose turn it was to hold her!
First family photo: July 28, 2012.
Mommy and Daddy with new baby Charis.
Grandma Ann and the girls.
"It's my turn to hold her!  No, it's my turn!"
"See?  Told you it was my turn!"
No matter who was holding her, there were always plenty of admirers...

Of this sweet little face!  Love you Charis!

Finally on Sunday, John, the girls, and Grandma Ann came after church to take me home.  I was ready!
Welcome home Mommy and baby Charis!
Such a sweetie pie!  I managed to catch a little half-sleepy-smile on camera Sunday afternoon while she rested.  What a joy and treasure to have a newborn again! We are so glad she is part of our family.

Charis' name is Greek for "grace" and her middle name, Janelle, is after my mother, Jan.  Plus, we had to keep the tradition going:   Clara Anne Danielle, 12.25.04; Chloe Rachelle, 6.26.2006; Christin Arielle, 4.28.08; and now Charis Janelle 7.27.12.  The girls were hoping for the 27th because then we would have someone's birthday on the 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th--and that's exactly what happened!  So she was only two days late, hallelujah, and we are rejoicing that she is here with us.  I am especially thankful for modern medical care and the reality that though having a child is not an easy process, it is not one in which generally I am fearing for my life or the life of my child.  The Lord is so gracious, and gives us such good gifts, including doctors and hospitals that are clean and safe and take good care of us.  I met so many neat people working at the hospital where we delivered--that was an unexpected blessing!  As well, I am so thankful for my husband.  He proved his worth yet again in being an excellent coach.  What a blessing to have him by my side as Charis was born!  He is a gem!

I hope you enjoyed the birth story and the ridiculous amount of pictures!  Welcome with us Charis Janelle!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My 36th Birthday

 My birthday seemed particularly significant this year.  Maybe because it is because I am now officially on the downswing of the 30s, or maybe because I am expecting a baby any day now and thinking lots about birth...but for whatever reason, I was really thankful to be able to spend some time celebrating with my family and reflecting on God's faithfulness through my 36 years.  The specialness of the day actually began  the night before with the best birthday present I could have asked for--my dad sent me an email!!!!  If you've been following his story at all, you know that this is a big deal.  It has been almost 16 months since he has done this, and the email sounded just like him, with some reminiscing about the day I was born, special words of love, and even a sports report on the Twins!  I feel like our family has been given a miracle...the situation with my dad has turned around so drastically.  Praise the Lord!  I cried tears of joy to read his words and know that he has improved so much.

My birthday morning started with a special birthday breakfast--I had dough for cinnamon rolls in the frig, and made those up along with bacon, cheesy scrambled eggs, and fresh hot coffee.  Yummy!  It was worth the effort to have a great breakfast!  We ended up eating more like at brunch time, so that was helpful too--we just skipped lunch!

The girls came up with their own ideas for celebrating my birthday.  First, they spent at least two hours by themselves in the basement preparing their gifts for me--including several mosaics and a button necklace.  Then, Clara Anne convinced the other two that they should all take a shower and get dressed in fancy dresses, with jewelry, lip gloss and all, and even laid out a special dress for me to wear, so that we could have a tea party.  That is what we are doing in the picture above.  It was lovely and sweet!  I was really touched that they wanted to dress up and make such a big deal out of my birthday!  Then, they put on a performance for me...Clara Anne played the piano and Chloe sang while Christin danced to "Floating in the Water" (those of you with early piano students in the Hal Leonard method will know that one!).
 The lovely performers.

 We also took some pictures of baby girl Wind...as clearly as we can see her right now...39 weeks!

 LARGE is what I would call this...but the girls are so excited and there's plenty of belly to kiss!

 Performing and taking a curtsy...

 Thankful for these three.  They give us so much joy!

 Opening gifts from the girls.
 Chloe, pointing out various parts of her drawing so that I would know what they were.

 Clara Anne gave me this lovely handmade picture.  Thanks girls for making my birthday so special!
John then took us all out...we went first to a doctors' appointment for me ("no real progress"), then to a bookstore where we had some credit to spend, and finally out for dinner to this fun, fresh Mexican place.  We enjoyed our special meal out!  Chips and salsa are my love language!

The plan originally was for me to spend some evening time at a coffeeshop, reflecting on these questions
http://lansingbible.org/newyear.pdf, but we ran out of time and so I spent a little time the next day doing that instead.  That evening some friends surprised me with a fun girls' night and made me feel so special!  So, all in all, it was a wonderful birthday and I am so thankful for the Lord's blessings to me!  I pray that I will use the next year for His glory!