Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Nothing about LJ was planned. I remember distinctly waking up the morning that I discovered I was pregnant and deciding it was stupid to "waste" a pregnancy test (and WHY are those tests so expensive anyhow?). But, I felt so lousy I decided it was worth the waste. After all, the result would for sure be negative since Joel was a living miracle...I doubted lighting could strike twice. When the test was the furthest thing from negative I started to shake a little. Ryan was out of town on a very important business trip and I knew I couldn't tell him because it could throw him off his game. So, I kept my secret for a whole day. The entire time I didn't dare get my hopes up. I mean, after all, we had been pregnant so many times and only one of them got to come live with us...so why get too excited? After I knew Ryan was done with meetings and business "stuff", I called him. I can't speak to how he felt, but if he felt like I did, it was something like total and utter shock, with a lot of joy sprinkled in for good measure. Then, we found out LJ would be a girl. The emotions overwhelmed me. We had wanted a girl for so long. We had our girl, but she never came home with us. I felt joy, terror, guilt, elation...a swirl of emotions that I could not really label them all. My baby showers came and went and with each frilly dress, my dread grew. What if I have to pack all these frilly pink things up like last time and give them away to someone who was not dealing with grief so intense it felt like you were buried under ten tons of rocks? But every appointment, she was healthy, she was strong, she was perfect in every way. Then, induction day came. I remember being induced with Hannah. I remember the sadness of knowing she would only be "with us" for a few more hours. I remember being induced with Joel and experiencing true labor for the first time. I remembered the joy beyond my wildest dreams when I heard him cry out. So, when the meds did their work and labor started with LJ, I knew from a physical stand point what I would be up against...but I did not plan on the emotions. After a VERY quick 10 minutes of active "pushing" (with a few moments of sheer terror when my midwife announced that LJ's cord was wrapped around her neck), she was here. I remember that little head of VERY dark hair being placed on my chest and I remember feeling the sting of hot tears, ugly cry style, coursing down my face. She was beautiful. She was alive. She was healthy. SHE was here. Many people have asked if Leah has "helped" with my grief or if I feel like we are a "complete" family now. It's a really hard feeling to describe. I know Hannah is in heaven, and though separated from us by death, she is still "one of us." However, the only thing I can say to describe having LJ with us now is that she brought a sense of healing. While it still hurts sometimes to talk about Hannah, while occasionally I have down days, LJ has helped to heal that deep, deep pain in my heart. I love that she has a personality all her own. I love that she has stretched my capabilities as a mother. I don't really love the sleep-deprivation side of it, but I do love those late night snuggles when I am alone in the living room, just LJ and I, and I can sing my old hymns to her without anyone hearing how badly I sing. I love how much Joel loves her and how there is no kind of love quite like that of siblings. I love that Joel, the most social kid you will ever meet, now will have a playmate. We are tired at our house. We have been stretched in every way. We are sleep deprived, we have piles of medical bills from bringing home a new baby...in the middle of a raging flu season. However, we are also thankful. We are grateful. We are blessed. I am trying not to miss the moments. She will be like all other second-born children. She has a baby book...but it has only a little bit written in it so far (with her brother I wrote down the date and time of his first sneeze...you get the picture). However, my mental camera roll is full. I will never forget when Ryan held his little girl for the first time. I cannot erase the image of Joel sauntering into the delivery room, bursting with pride, to meet her for the first time. The way Joel beamed at her when she came to meet his friends at school is forever stamped on my heart. The way our children's pastor cried (and in turn made me cry....post partum hormones are mean that way) when he met her for the first time still makes me cry a little. When she gave her daddy her first little gummy smile....I hope I never forget how that looked. Not only can I still smell it, but I still smile every time I think of that first really catastrophic diaper...let's just say I laughed and laughed and then threw the outfit in a bleach bath. The look on her face while I giggled at her dilemma was priceless. Her middle name had to be Joy. How else could we describe her. She is our Joy.
Monday, October 23, 2017
It all started in April. In April we listed our home of 8 years. My whole family came down from Tallahassee and we painted every wall and ceiling in my house. We replaced flooring, cleared out the backyard, changed light bulbs, staged the house, and landscaped. Within two weeks of listing, we had an offer. Naturally, because we have the best luck in the world, we got the world's most finicky buyers. So, then we had to begin the second round of "fixing, spending, repairing" to meet the buyers newest demands. Sooner than I was ready, however, we were signing final papers and driving away for the last time from the only place that our son had known as "home." I remembered so many things about that house. It was that house that had been supernaturally provided when we needed it most. It was that house that tested us in every single way with repairs, fun plumbing "events" that I cannot elaborate on for fear of laughing so hard and making my husband look over at me like I have lost my mind (none of those events were funny at the time), some remodeling, and tearing out a pool by ourselves (and nearly killing each other in the process). It was that house that Joel first came home to, took his first steps, talked, laughed, and rode a bike. Nevertheless, opportunity was calling. Ryan's job was on the brink of a big, big change and we knew owning a home would not be part of the immediate future. So, we dried our tears and settled into our VERY TEMPORARY (we were sure of that) one bedroom apartment. Ryan geared up for the biggest interview of his life. We were sure this was it. This was what we had been waiting for for such a long time. We took some of the profits from the sale of the house and paid off every single debt we could think of. It felt so good to have no credit card debt. It took quite a bit of the profits, but we felt unburdened and free (and a little more broke). Ryan flew up for the interview and Joel and I waited at home with baited breath, praying all the way along. Meanwhile, the morning of Ryan's interview, I felt super sick. It wasn't just nerves either. Having been pregnant now six times, I knew exactly what the "feeling" was. I took a test and literally said, out loud, right there...."You have GOT to be kidding me." And then I laughed. Only the Withee Crew would sign a one year lease and five days later discover they are pregnant. I couldn't tell Ryan....this was the BIG interview. I couldn't distract him. I would have to sit on this news for a whole day till his interview was over. So, we waited. I called Ryan when I felt his interview was over and let him in on the news. We were happy...scared to death...but happy. We have been through this so many times, it takes time for the real joy to take over because the fear of loss is always right there at the back of our minds. Then, life got interesting. Not only did Ryan get a "no" on his big interview (which was devastating to all of us) but he got a "no" at his current job at the time, only four days later. It was a really rough couple of days. It was really hard to watch the man you love so very much feel so low. However, God was at work, even in the rough stuff. He had a new job all lined up within a week of all this difficulty. Ryan was so thankful and was excited once again and ready to go. He has always been more resilient than me. His new job is in Palm Harbor (for my far away readers, that is a good 45 minute drive from our little apartment). Meanwhile, we get the news that this new baby is a girl and a whole bunch of new emotions came rushing in. We had gender cupcakes made because we never did a gender reveal any of the other pregnancies, including Joel, so we decided to go for it this time. When Joel bit into that cupcake and it was pink...it was the strangest combination of joy and fear all at once. I had a dear friend who was the only person (outside of my family) brave enough to broach the question no one wanted to ask. "How are you doing emotionally knowing it is a girl. Does it remind you a lot of Hannah?" It meant so much for her to validate what I was feeling. How on earth was I going to register for girl gifts again? How was I going to get through a girl baby shower? How was I going to get ready for this baby when I had already done it once before? I was honest with her and with myself finally. "It's been hard", was about all I could say. Every ultrasound is part thrill of joy and part agony. It is for that reason that her middle name for sure will be Joy. She has been a complete surprise, a complete joy, a complete unexpected blessing in a time of intense emotional upheaval. She is that good and perfect gift that comes from the Father. As this pregnancy progressed, we realized that we really might be bringing home a fourth person to this 800 square feet of crazy apartment. Additionally, we never wanted Ryan to be far from his work (since he is the one who could be "called into work" and I have more set hours). So, even though we vowed never to own a home again, we set to work to buy a home....AGAIN. We looked at houses all over the county, dragging our poor realtor all over the place at all hours of the day. We saw nice houses and money pits, we saw cute backyards and jungles. We saw horrifying color schemes, stinky house smells, and scary neighborhoods. We saw "the perfect" house more than once. We put offer after offer out there only to be "scooped" by a better offer. We were starting to wonder it the right place was out there. Then, finally, we found the right place, for the right price, in the right location. We put an offer out there again...and finally someone chose us (over four other offers, I might add...which gave us a little peace that maybe this was the place God intended for us). Now comes the wait. In typical "Amy" style, the wait has me terrified. The fear overcomes me. How are we going to get together a down payment so fast? What if the seller changes their mind? What if we don't close on time? What if I have to go on bed rest with this baby like I did with Joel? How am I going to move and set up house-keeping while I am 8 months pregnant? How are we going to get all the stuff we need for this baby (we gave away every single baby thing we owned when we downsized to this apartment). But, I have to remember...in all the years we have been married, we have never done without and gone hungry. In fact, in all the years of being alive, I have never been in such a serious situation that I couldn't see how God was working it out in my family. We have had some "lean times", but we have never been homeless or hungry. Today, Ryan was driving home from work and coming off of Highway 19 (which is a harrowing experience any day of the week in my opinion anyways) and could not avoid some road debris. It ripped up the bottom of his car. So, I got the text: "I am having a problem with my car and am sitting at Perkins waiting for a tow truck. Can you come get me?" So, I drove to Perkins to find him. The tow hadn't arrived by the time I got there, so I took a seat across from him in a booth and had a mammoth muffin (I had my glucose test this morning, so hopefully I passed or that muffin was probably a bad choice). I shared with him my fears, especially now that we will have a very large car repair to pay for while also saving for the down payment on this new home. Suddenly, we found ourselves reliving some of the "tougher" things we had been through. Ryan reminded me of the summer after we had been married for a year when our landlord decided to sell his condo and we could either buy it for WAY more than we had or move. So, we had to chose to move. The down side is we had no place to move to. A coworker of mine was going "home" for the summer and let us live in his little RV (less than 400 square feet). So, we did. We spent two months in that tiny space (and caught H1N1 flu at the same time). BUT, we had a place to live, and summer jobs, and made it work. I should say, God made it work. We laughed till we cried remembering when we had the plumbing debacle of 2012 and Ryan found himself in our front yard, waist deep in unmentionable horror, replacing old plumbing pipe with a saint of a church member who came to save the day. We cried remembering how Ryan took a small hatchet and "dismantled" the above ground pool and had me help haul it out, piece by piece, to the front yard (I KNOW the neighbors thought we were getting divorced for sure...there was lots of "elevated stress levels" that night). We survived all that...maybe, just maybe, we can survive all this crazy we now find ourselves in. The waitress took pity on us and brought over a slice of pumpkin pie to go (on the house, probably because we looked so pitiful) and the tow truck came at long last. We went back to school, drove home, and collapsed on the couches in exhaustion. Even now, as I sit and write this and baby girl kicks and wiggles and moves non-stop (all the while the heartburn is wrecking my throat and stomach forever), I am reminded that I just don't know what surprises are around the next corner. I know WHO knows, and HE has never left me alone in my worry and fear. In fact, He invites me to give that over to Him. I am not sure why I love to hold onto it the way I do. I am not saying tomorrow I will be carefree and worry-free...but I am going to try. He knows what's coming next, and that is good because I could never have written this chapter of our story. I don't know if anyone would believe it if I wrote it all down. Well, you tell me...You've been reading it, can you believe it? No? Me either...but this is our life. It is crazy, wild, scary, amazing, exhilarating, never-boring life.
Sunday, February 5, 2017
I have been working really hard the last few weeks. I took a work related trip and so the prep to be gone from my classroom for 3 straight days about killed me, then I drove to Tallahassee to pick up my son, then drove home, then worked for a full week and ended this week being sick. So, needless to say, I have been so busy, I have hardly had time to think about my next meal, let alone to think about anything else. However, today, I finally got my little guy to go to bed early and I got my lesson plans for THIS coming week logged and emailed and my thoughts would not stop swirling. I am not a big "ranter and raver" but here are my top "things I rave about in my head but not out loud to anyone else ever." BATHING SUITS So today, in between morning church and evening church, J and I attempted to tackle the monumental task of hunting down a bathing suit for myself (or as J calls it..."baby's suit"). The last time I actually purchased a bathing suit for myself, it was two years ago and I was 5 dress sizes larger than I currently am. So, unless I wanted to start with a suit on and after diving in, find myself suddenly not wearing one....I needed to get one, and soon. What I discovered was the following: if you feel like going to the pool or beach in NOTHING at all, this is the year for you. The "bathing suits" I saw in the store were the same size as J's little Thomas the Train underwear! They came in all kinds of cute colors and prints (what little of them there were) but those are not for me, let me tell you. If you feel like you should cover yourself in some way, you are going to pay an arm and a leg for your swim suit and it will only come in two colors, black or neon pink. Additionally, the only swim suits in your size will look like 52, 000 people have already tried it on and found it wanting. Needless to say, I still have no swim suit. If you see a woman swimming in leggings and a t-shirt, that will be me. DIET PLANS I lost weight this year. I started the school year at my heaviest weight in my entire life. After a really unpleasant doctor's visit and not really being totally sure how to fix it, my hubby and I signed up for Weight Watchers. I was not totally sold on the idea, but I had watched it work for my mom so I decided it couldn't hurt. Do you want to know what I learned? I didn't have to "sell" Weight Watchers to ANYONE else! I didn't get kicked out of Weight Watchers or have to pay $25.00 more per month if 5 people didn't join and give my name as their "encourager." I joined for me! I joined for my husband and for our son and I joined so I could feel good shopping for clothes again. I joined so we could have more kids. I joined so I wouldn't cringe when the yearbook came out this year. You know what happened? People ASKED me how I was doing it! The lady in Anne Taylor Loft decided to join because I came out of the dressing room BEAMING because I was holding a pair of pants in a size that I had only ever seen with a 1 in front of the other number! You know what I pack to go on a trip? Clothes and that is all. I don't have to pack a blender, five pounds a shake mix, dehydrated fruits, or prepackaged meals (and those may work for you, but let me tell you it is freeing to sit down at any restaurant and find SOMETHING you can eat. Heck, I am going to Disney World next week and I am already thinking about one special "splurge" I plan on getting. I can do that...really, I can). I have discovered that my new "life" is just that, LIFE...it isn't a gimmick or a slogan or a pyramid scheme...it is me learning that food is not an enemy or a friend, it is just fuel. That makes me happy. It makes me even happier that I don't have to worry about who else joins...it it just WW and me and I love that. The creeps at the Library So, I stopped at the public library on my way home from work the other day. I have been on a quest for a book I can read to "relax." Being that I am a teacher, I am constantly reading works on history and biography to stay on top of exciting information to supplement my regular curriculum for my students (got to move "beyond" the textbook, ya know?). Anyhow, I sometimes like to kick back for 15 minutes or so, just to get my mind off work and ready to sleep, by reading some regular fiction. So, I stopped at the library to meet that need. There I am, wondering the shelves of the fiction section (which, may I remind everyone, contains ALL kinds of literature). So, from behind the shelf I am browsing comes this voice. "Oh, I see that romance book you are holding over there." I stop. How close is this guy looking because from my eyeline I see a mystery book about a guy in India. There is an elephant, a magnifying glass and a guy in a turban....not exactly Fabio here, am I right? I try to give one of those laughs that says, "Ok, thanks for trying to talk to me but you are odd and I just want to pick out a book, thanks." But he goes on about something else, still oblivious to the very obvious clues I am dropping like, I don't know, my walking up and down the shelves much more quickly, not making eye contact, the usual things someone does when running from the serial killer in the library. I blink and keep shopping for a book and then say, hoping he will leave, "Just looking for a book to keep me engaged." He leaps on that, "How can you forget you are married?" Oh brother! Finally, I look right at him, point a finger to my forehead and say, "keep my MIND engaged." I scurried off to the next shelf where OTHER people were and he thankfully found someone else to bother. Someday, in my perfect world, I am going to make a library where people always return their books on time, never creep on people in the aisles and never leave food stains on the best chapters of the books. There will be a policeman on duty at all times and the librarians will all be trained in the art of karate. Will you support my library fund someday? I guess that is all for tonight. I am sure I will think of more. Until then I will be shopping for swimsuits and buying books from regular bookstores, at least until I get my library idea up and running. If you know any librarians willing to learn karate or maybe are already skilled in that area, please give them my contact information. Until next time, XOXO, AMY
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
It is only three little words... But if not. You are the best readers in the world so I know you already know the story and the meaning behind those words. Three men, uncompromising men, faced with bending to a tyrant's psychopathic ego and a direct violation of their faith or certain painful, agonizing death. They chose to stand for what they knew was right and face the death. The source of the courage to stand--the unflinching belief that God would deliver them out of the king's hand, far from his fire-flamed wrath. BUT IF NOT...if for some reason the answer was no, if for some reason God allowed them to perish...still they would not bend. 2017 is still fresh. It is a mere 3 days old. Already, though, it has been a struggle. We have prayed. We have struggled. We have agonized. We have "what if'ed". Unforeseen troubles and tragedies and emergencies have filtered in quicker than we can respond. Still, the answers do not come. The answers are not a yes or a no....they are silence. In that silence, in that restlessness...I have to choose. I must choose, in the waiting, in the doubts that quickly swoop in during the quiet moments--I have to choose to trust in the same God...the God of the "but if not." I am not saying it is easy. There have been requests on my "list" since I placed my trust in Christ. Still, I wait. Not getting a "no"...but not getting a "yes". Sometimes, I feel the anxiousness begin to close in. Suffocating restlessness. In it all, I have to trust. The same God who chose to save a wicked wretch like me (I don't say that in jest...sometimes I marvel that He would even save me...ME...the unworthiest of them all) is the same God who delivered those Hebrew men so long ago. What is so hard for our 21st century minds to remember is that they did not know the end of the story. When they stood there, sweat probably beading on their brow (I mean, come on people, that room HAD to be hotter than Florida in August), they did not KNOW they would be delivered. They were trusting with all they had, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME, being "ok" with the alternative. We see the end of the story...but in their time, in their actual moment, they had no clue what the end would be. "But if not" just leaps off the page at me tonight. What if those things we have been praying for get a "no"? Am I ok with that? Am I willing to bend and say, "If it will bring YOU glory, I will do it, even though it is painful, even though it is really, really hard." There are a lot of things I am "waiting on." Some are personal, just known only to me and God. Some are family goals and dreams and things we have talked about and hoped for since we started dating. I couldn't begin to post about all the things we hope for...there is not enough storage space on my computer to type a document that big. God knows them all. The same God who delivered those men knows the recesses of my heart, the last of my dreams and hopes. He cares. I know He cares. He knows about those little pink outfits stored in my hope chest. He knows they have been there since 2012 and He knows how long they will sit there without someone to use them. He has watched each time I have given away little pink outfits to someone who really needs them and how it has been so hard to do that. He knows how many little pink outfits are left in that chest and how many we started with. He knows how hard we work to make a life for ourselves in the physical sense. He knows the hours upon hours my amazing husband works to provide for us. He knows the deepest dream of our family as a whole. He cares about it. He may make us wait. He may tell us "no" or "no, not right now." Even then, even in the "but not"...I will choose to trust. I will choose to wait. I choose joy in the waiting. Thanks for reading XOXO--Amy
Sunday, December 25, 2016
I am sitting here in the glow of my Christmas tree, I am thinking back on the many many many memories this particular Christmas has given us. I found myself thinking--almost hourly--since the day after Thanksgiving, "Please slow down. This is going so fast and I want to remember it all." There has never been a more joy filled Christmas than this one. Each day carried new joy, especially as I watched my three year old enjoy the delights of the advent house, Christmas advent calendar, the searching shepherd, walks to see Christmas lights, buying presents for family and friends and watching Christmas movies. I wish it didn't have to end. I wish I had taken even more time to savor the season and take even more pictures than I did. It wasn't about how many present he got (he got way too many)....each one (whether it came from the dollar tree or the Disney store) was treasured and cheered about by my darling little man. Watching him experience Christmas from December 1st to today was all the gift I ever needed or wanted. Thank you Lord for the gift of joy. Thank you that because of the gift of Your Son, we can fully experience joy! Merry Christmas, dear readers!!! Soak of the joy of the season
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Today I was on my lunch break (Monday and Tuesday are the two days I actually get lunch alone...every other day usually has a commitment). So, after I had heated my lunch and got back to my desk, I opened my phone for a minute to catch up on the news of the day while I ate. The old adage, "No news is good news" was really true today. I stumbled across the page of an old school friend from long, long ago. I had recently started following her again to get a flavor for what was happening "back home." Unfortunately, "back home" suffers from the same tumults and tempests as "right here." Today, I read a testimony of an old friend, another mom who lost her child. Having written about that myself, I knew exactly why she was writing it. She needed to write it, she HAD to write it. Those words she wrote through her absolute gut-wrenching, heart-rending pain HAD to come out. We all needed to hear them and she needed to say them. It pierced me to my core to read it. The pain and agony I felt nearly four full years ago, came back with such an intensity that I wondered how I would teach my last two classes of the day. I found myself in that place all over again...fresh and raw as though it had just happened. Why is grief like that? Why can't it come, do what it needs to, and leave forever! I hate that at the most random of times, it comes back. Then, with grief comes the guilt. "Amy, why are YOU thinking about YOUR pain. Your friend is the one suffering right now. You are so selfish. When will you get over yourself? When will you get over THIS?" Then, not only do you feel that dark cloud of grief settle in, but now you feel guilty in combination with it--adding another layer of misery. I wondered how my friend was sleeping at night? I wondered how many times she had cried today when she thought no one was watching? I wondered if anyone was helping her with the funeral so she didn't have to visit that place of death for a moment longer than she had to? I wished, more than anything, that the peace she described having in her Facebook post would get her through the most painful days ahead and that in those days ahead she would not doubt that God was still good. I know a lot of people think that I should not still grieve over the loss of my children. After all, I have Joel now. He is healthy and strong and adorable and loving. Still, in the back of my mind, I remember them....all of them. Sure, several of my babies never got names and I never met them face to face. The grief of those losses is painful, but it is a very brief visitor. The grief for Hannah Grace, however, comes and settles in and is hard to shake. I met Hannah...I held her. I am still angry at myself for not holding her longer. It was such a strange thing because I knew she was already in Heaven, so maybe that's why I felt like I needed to let the nurses take her away. The days after, however, when my arms ached to hold her....I cried and hated myself for not holding her more, memorizing her face, committing her to my heart. I knew after reading that Facebook post, this mom had not reached that point yet. I also knew, that moment was coming for her at some point. Maybe not today or tomorrow...but sometime. I ached anew for her. So, today, as I cried over another mom joining the ranks of loss and grief, I wished in my heart of hearts I could be there to help... To wash those dishes that had probably piled up since the loss, like someone did for me. I wanted to make sure someone was taking care of the condolence meals and organizing the funeral needs, like someone helped us to do. But, I know she is loved and has people around her that are helping her, caring for her, and praying for her, like someone did for me. You have to wonder, as I do...what is the purpose to these little lives? Why did we get to have Hannah for those few short months only to give her right back to God? I don't know. If I had a nickel for every time I wrote a post about her and why she lived and died and how I still don't know why, I would probably be a very rich person. I can say one thing, her short life taught me a lot about what is actually important and what isn't. Her life also taught me to be thankful. I just had another day with my son. In fact, as I write, I can watch from my vantage point on the couch as his little self sleeps in his room. I am thankful because he got to turn three. I am thankful because he can identify numbers 1-5 by sight, tell you all the colors (except brown, for some reason) and knows his ABC's. He is a living, breathing miracle that I would have taken for granted if it wasn't for Hannah. Sometimes, we have to drive by the place where her grave is. Even now, four years after the fact (this coming May), I cry. It is so crazy. I know she (her actual person) is not there. But, I guess the human side of you overcomes the logical, "I know where she actually is" side. Not sure this post helps you at all, and the friend of long ago that is now dealing with this pain in a new, fresh way...she won't ever read this...we aren't that close any more and I doubt my experience is exactly what she is dealing with. But this post helped me. That little dark cloud of grief trailed me all day and I couldn't shake it. I needed to write this. I needed to put this on paper. I don't know if anyone will care or even read past the first paragraph--"Oh here goes Amy again with another sad post. I am over this."---close web page, walk away. That's ok. I didn't write it for anyone except me and the new member of this group. I wrote it for us. This is my way of dealing with grief. I hope she finds hers. Until then, I am going to pray her through it...just like someone did for me.
When Thanksgiving ended, I decided that THIS year, I was going to make the moments of Christmas count. I am sure every parent says this every single Christmas, but I knew that this year (Joel is three) would be special. He really is "getting" Christmas...the excitement, the purpose of it, of course, the thrill of presents. He also takes so much joy in seeing his own Christmas tree brightly beaming with colorful lights and ornaments haphazardly placed (and then replaced) all over it. So, this year I decided to say "no" to extras so I could have time to treasure Christmas before it whipped past me in a frenzy of work, parties, events, mandatory and obligatory attendance, and so on. Here is where we are December 1st---Tree was up and we started the advent house and the advent calendar my mom made for him. By December 2nd, he knew what both of those things were and looked forward to doing both every day. December 2nd--We put up the Star of Christmas on the advent calendar and opened a "chokate" from the advent house. December 3rd--Busy, busy day today. We woke up early and Joel went to his first Weight Watchers meeting with Mommy and Daddy. He was a hit of the gathering, to say the least. We then took Ryan to work and saw one of Joel's favorite people (Mr. John) and met up with Santa Cow. This year, Joel has been mentioning Santa. This was a real concern of ours...how to handle Santa. I didn't want him to be that kid who shattered the illusion for other kids, but we had always committed to just skip Santa (I know, cue the hate mail) and focus on Jesus and family and the reason of Christmas. So, the main question Joel has been asking lately is "Mommy, is Santa 'weal' (real) or 'be-tend' (pretend)". So in spite of Santa being "be-tend", Joel was very, very excited to meet Santa Cow. After that, we raced home to prepare for our good friends to come into town for a party the next day. We had a very full day. Today we got a special new mini train engine in the advent house and were (at first) a little disappointed that is wasn't candy. December 4th---Birthday party for our sweet friend, Levi. We partied and opened presents and ate cupcakes (well, one of us did...the grown ups didn't really share in the purple and red frosting festivities). It was really a great time together. December 5th--Back to school....but only for a few more days and then the blissful break full of PJ's all day, Christmas movies at night, and lots of Christmas memories. We added a few trees to the advent calendar on the wall and discovered another little mini train engine hiding in the advent house. Side note: I bought the advent house after Christmas last year. I bought it because my mom had something kind of like it as I grew up. Every day there would be something in there. It might say, "play a game as a family", "go look at Christmas lights together", "make Christmas cookies", or "pick your favorite Christmas movie to watch." Sometimes, mom would slip a quarter or dollar in there for us. Some days it might have a chocolate kiss or maybe even a little trinket or toy. As a kid, it helped Christmas and the excitement last a little longer. It helped us find time to spend together. I knew, if God ever allowed us to raise a child of our own...the advent house was a must. I think I love doing it even more than he does. Until next time, XOXOXO AMY P.S. There is no real guarantee that I will find the time or energy to sit down and record all the "magic" of Christmas this year, but that is one thing I will have after the tree is boxed and in the attic once more---the memory. So, if I don't sit down and write again till New Years...well, its because I was so busy making memories, I didn't have time to record them.