Thursday, December 30, 2010

Clara Anne is 6!

In honor of Clara Anne's birthday, let's take a little walk down memory lane, shall we?

Six years ago, this photo graced her baby announcements. . .our sweet Clara Anne, born 33 minutes after midnight in Hong Kong, making her a Christmas Day baby though when we called my parents to tell them, it was still Christmas Eve in the States! That sweet baby captivated her Grandpa. . . and everyone else.
At one year old, I took her for her first professional pictures. She behaved so well and we got such cute pictures that the photo studio used them as an advertisement on a billboard for the next four years!

Her first birthday was a bit of a bummer, she had gotten a cold and was a bit under the weather. But still could smile with Mommy next to the tree!

I finally made her a birthday cupcake sometime in January, after the rush of Christmas parties was over and she was feeling better. She loved it!
Two years old came racing up...what a change between one and two! So grown up! (Christin wore that sweater this Christmas. It doesn't seem possible!)
Clara Anne at two.

Three years old and her hair is getting so long! She loved this white dress from Grandma.
We were given this cake and so it became Clara Anne's birthday cake. . . she loved it!
Here she is already at four. We continued the tradition of getting photos taken on/around her birthday.

Her fourth birthday was when we began the tradition of pineapple blueberry upside down cake for birthday breakfasts. Yummy!
And here, just last year at her fifth birthday. We had begun to use the special plate and cup for birthdays by this point.

My five year old girl!
Which brings us to December 25, 2010, Clara Anne's sixth birthday. Though I can hardly believe it, my sweet Clara Anne is growing up. She has matured so much in this past year. She has professed her faith in Jesus, been baptized, and continues to encourage us by showing evidence of walking with God. She is endlessly creative and constantly making up stories, writing "books" that she illustrates and wants to dictate to me, is always putting on ballet shows and loves to recruit her sisters for her most recent productions. She has an amazing memory for facts and these days is absorbing knowledge like a sponge. Frequently we'll be talking about something and she'll say, "Mommy, we have a book of that," and sure enough, she'll find a book on our shelf that has relevant information and can turn right to it. She's doing great with school, making good progress and probably loves when I read to her most of all. She is a great help with the younger two girls, especially Christin, and we love her so much!
"Why is she holding the candles?" you might ask. Well, the simple answer is the breakfast cake was too warm to put the candles into without melting! We had to settle for lighting one candle and letting her hold it.

When Daddy got out the "magic Christmas bag" and began to pull out what was inside, this was Clara Anne's reaction (above). And then this:
Her special birthday gift from Mommy and Daddy was a bunny called "Lil' Bunny Big Ears" which has now been renamed "Beatrice Berry (Wind) Bunny." Beatrice has a beautiful wedding gown, satin slippers, veil, and flowers which make her extra special. She even came with a birth certificate. Given Clara Anne's obsession with bunnies, Beatrice is going to be a very special friend for a very long time.

Clara Anne's birthday was spent at home this year. She played with her new bunny, read books with Daddy, helped me make one last batch of Christmas cookies for her ballet class the next day, and finally at 5pm was just worn out. I could tell she was tired so asked her to rest on her bed for 15 minutes. Within five minutes, she was asleep! In fact, dinner was on the table (homemade pizza, like she requested) and all three girls were sound asleep still! Oops! I guess I should have made them take earlier naps. They were playing well so I thought they could make it, but all the excitement of previous days must have been too much. We did eventually get Clara Anne up but Chloe missed dinner and slept until after 8, on the couch in the middle of all the noise!
Christin, however, woke up quickly and was ready for some pizza. This is a homegirl move if I ever saw one. :)
The pretty birthday plate and cup, just waiting for Clara Anne. . .
And the evening had to end, of course, with a ballet that Clara Anne directed but everyone participated in.
Bunnies were also involved.
And the final bow. A lovely performance, girls!

We had a wonderful time celebrating Clara Anne's birthday and are so thankful for her six years of life! We pray the Lord will give her many, many more. We love you, Clara Anne!
(PS True confessions: you will see from past pictures that I have had a hard time staying organized enough to make a birthday cake for Clara Anne in addition to all the other holiday baking and December craziness. This year, theoretically I could have done it (in terms of time and energy) but I just couldn't do it in terms of how much sweet stuff had already been made and consumed in my house this Christmas!! So Clara Anne got a cupcake--not just any cupcake, a red velvet chocolate chip cupcake with white chocolate cream cheese peppermint icing--with a candle stuck in it at the very end of the day. It must be admitted that the cupcake was a week old, left over from our Christmas party with American friends. BUT, Clara Anne was perfectly happy and since she got to stay up and eat a cupcake when her sisters had to go to bed, that sweetened the deal a bit. This time when Chloe complained that she didn't get a cupcake, I reminded her that she got a six layer rainbow cake for her birthday and Clara Anne got a week-old cupcake, so told Chloe to be happy with her life. Ha! Next year, Clara Anne! Next year I will try my hardest to make a cake for your birthday!)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Can this really be?

Wasn't this just yesterday? I remember it so clearly. It doesn't seem that long ago! But look, she's grown just a bit since that day. Six years ago to that day, in fact.

We love you sweet Clara Anne! Happy Birthday! more pictures to come. . .

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Memories, 2010

December 2010 was filled with celebrating the wonder of the Incarnation with my husband and children, hosting guests for Christmas parties, choosing and making special gifts for dear friends, celebrating Clara Anne's birthday, and spending time with those that I love. Last December I felt I did a poor job of managing the special tasks and responsibilities that come my way during this season. Last year, the whole month rushed by and I fought against feelings of resentment at all of the extra "work." This year, I took a half-day retreat at the beginning of the month and that really helped to set my perspective for the busy days of December.

The truth is, I want to have a meditative spirit in preparing for Christmas. I want to be focused on the Lord's work, in my heart and others'. I want to be a welcoming and joyful hostess. I want to be focused on Jesus and celebrating His amazing, humble birth.

But the honest truth is that often my sin and selfishness can get in the way. When I start to worry about all that has to be done or get stressed or snap at my children who make a mess with toys 10 minutes before 20 guests arrive, that doesn't bring glory to Him. So in the forefront of my mind this Christmas was staying focused on Jesus, depending on Him for the patience, strength, and joy to do the extra activities of the month, and giving Him all the glory! And I want to share here publicly that the Lord really answered my prayer and hopes for this! We had numerous "big" events during the month and on the whole, I felt joy and peace in the doing of them, and more importantly, I actually felt able to worship during them! I truly praise the Lord for this! He helped me have a very different attitude as I got ready for events and sustained me with grace and strength through this busy month. I pray that my guests also sensed, through word and song, the joy of the Lord and the wonder of His birth. I trust that He touched many hearts.

Here are some pictures from the first party I hosted. It's fun to get out the pretty Christmas plates and make the special treats!
A closer look at the candy cane cookies...I told about the legend of the candy cane and shared some of its symbolism, as well as telling the Christmas story and singing Christmas songs!
These cute little Christmas hats (at the bottom left and right) are always a hit, it's simply a brownie mix baked in a mini-muffin tin, topped with an inverted strawberry, and decorated with melted white chocolate or white icing. And don't forget the chocolate peanut butter star cookies! My girls helped a lot with those...rolling them into balls and then in the sugar. And can you tell I had some little helpers decorate the sugar cookies? One night Clara Anne spent some of her points to stay up 30 minutes late and we made cookies together. She was given the joyful job of separating out red and green from a package of mini M&Ms. There may have been a few that got into her mouth by mistake, it's hard to tell. We had such fun together that night!

And speaking of help...of course I had lots of "help" in the kitchen--sometimes it was truly help and sometimes it was an investment for the future! (If you know what I mean!) I like to have the girls involved, generally, so it was fun to carefully let Chloe use the mixer for the first time. We were making eggnog, so she kept it holding steady while I gradually added the sugar and milk.

Our American friends came for Christmas dinner the night of the 17th. We began with an appetizer tray with crackers and a yummy cheeseball recipe that I first got from my Aunt Judy, eggnog or spiced cider, some lovely hershey's mint kisses, and a whole tray of pickles and olives. It was delicious! We then had our worship time, a festival of lessons and carols that ended with a darkened room, each person holding a white taper candle and singing "Silent Night." It was a wonderful way to celebrate the Saviour's birth! Then we moved to the table for the dinner: Ham, mashed potatoes, and a tossed salad with mandarin oranges and candied pecans. Dessert was homemade turtles or red velvet cupcakes with white chocolate cream cheese peppermint icing. Ooh, that icing was definitely a keeper, first time I had made it but it's going in the family recipe book. Yummy!
It was so good to be with friends, just look at these lovely ladies:
After the meal the children put on an impromptu talent show. There was dancing, there was playing of cymbals and other instruments, and we all laughed and loved it! Notice Clara Anne dancing with her current crush, Uncle Brad! I love the expressions of joy on everyone's faces in this picture.
Christin favored us with a piano solo, when she wasn't too shy/embarrassed. Her little facial expressions are priceless!
Ok, now on to some later December pictures. In this one below, the girls are receiving gifts of dresses from Grandma, and Daddy is playing a little game with them where he pretends that Christin's dress is for Clara, etc etc. The girls thought it was SO funny and here are delighted that Christin finally found the dress that fit her. (And yes, my girls DO wear their ballet clothes all the time. Have you noticed?)
Now all three have their right dresses on. Aren't they lovely? Thank you so much, Grandma and Grandpa! Clara Anne can't stop looking at hers and touching its ruffly skirt!

Christmas morning, 2010 was the 24th for us since we reserve the 25th to celebrate Clara Anne's birthday. It began with me making cinnamon rolls at 6am and savoring a cup of tea in the quiet dark hours before the girls were up. This dancing extravaganza was happening before we ate breakfast! Look at those braids flying!
Mmmm, cinnamon rolls, orange julius, and lit candles, and of course a steaming cup of joe for me. Delightful!
We arranged a webcam with my mom and dad for that morning so they could watch the girls open their gifts, what a benefit of modern technology! Here's the girls waiting to begin. I realize that not one of them is looking at the camera, but they were all too excited!
Opening their stockings from Mommy and Daddy. They each received identical bunnies (from Ikea--so soft!) which are now named Becca, Bella, and Brea respectively and the names are written on the bunny's bottoms so that we can tell whose is whose. Equality, you know!
We continued our two-years-now tradition of not wrapping gifts...last year on Christmas Eve I ran out of time and wrapping paper and so we decided to simply just bring the gifts out one by one. We made the girls close their eyes each time and John had the "magic Christmas bag" (a large-ish gift bag) that he put things in and drew them out upon coming back from the bedroom. The girls seemed to love it; it's true, they probably don't have clear memories of opening wrapping paper, but anyway, I'm glad it worked! It was fun and saved me lots of time and energy! Here are all three girls, diligently closing their eyes:

Notice that the two younger ones felt the need to put their hands over whereas Clara Anne just squeezed hers shut. Funny girls!
Here everyone is holding a special gift from Grandpa and Grandma...such fun!

We started a new tradition of going to Starbucks for hot cocoa on Christmas Eve Day (well, this was the first year so we'll see if the tradition "sticks" or not). And I'm sorry these are the closest we got to a family picture this Christmas! We'll have to take a family New Year's picture instead!
We brought our own mugs and sipped slowly while the girls played "Hide the pony" with Daddy...they had brought their small My Little Ponys with them and Daddy kept hiding them in unexpected places and threatening to eat them. We laughed and laughed; it was such fun to be together and relaxed, simply enjoying the time. We had ridden our bikes to Starbucks and it was a bitterly cold day, that hot chocolate tasted GOOD!

Nice chocolate mustaches everyone! The final picture here is from Christmas Day in the evening when we completed our Jesse Tree journey. It was so fun to see the girls thoroughly embrace and enjoy the daily Scripture readings and putting the small piece on the tree.

Merry Christmas, 2010! Whew! We made it--with joy, even!--and you made it to the end of this LONG post! Thanks for sharing in our Christmas memories!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

From our home to yours . . .Merry Christmas!
For the wonder of Emmanuel, God with us. . . Merry Christmas!
For the joy of a long-awaited Savior. . . Merry Christmas!
And for the peace that reigns in our hearts (though not yet in this world). . .Merry Christmas!

I am treasuring and pondering as we finish up our Christmas celebrations for 2010. May the reality of the Word made Flesh alight your heart with that wonder, joy, and peace today. Merry Christmas!