Friday, December 23, 2011

ADVENTure Day 23: Out-of-Town Overnight Guests

Christmas is all about family. We've had the privilege of spending the past two weeks with all sorts of friends and family, with something planned nearly every night. Lucky for us, the Thomas family was headed south for the holidays and stopped in for a visit. Chris, Stephanie, Anna and Emi joined us for caroling around our neighborhood last night (so fun!) and for a trip about town today. We took them to Dublin and Pleasanton to show them around some different communities and happened upon this great park where the kiddos got out to play:

It's been so fun coming up with a new little adventure every day. It is a good reminder to celebrate the small things each day, as it is always an adventure with two little ones. :)

Daddy and Sam at the swings:

And because it's too good to leave out, I close with a very funny Maddie story. She's been struggling with sassiness and so we've been really trying to address the way she speaks to us and to others. Tonight she wasn't obeying and was having a lot of attitude so she lost a privilege and had to head upstairs to get dressed for bed. When we got to her room she continued to try and negotiate/argue with me about what she wanted, after I had clearly stated that we were finished discussing. When I cut her off to explain as such, this is what she said: "Mom, I don't like the way you're talking to me. If this is a mountain [making a peak with the tips of her fingers pressed together], you are at the peak of sassiness. If this is a pie [hands shaped into a round circle], you are a whole pie of sassy." I nearly choked, snorting and laughing all at the same time. Needless to say, that moment of discipline didn't happen the way I planned.

Where does she come up with this stuff??!!!

ADVENTure Day 22: Ice Skating!

Maddie's been asking about ice skating for weeks (okay, years) now. She finally got her chance on Thursday! What started out with lots of this:

Progressed to this, just an hour later:

 She did a great job. We were so proud of her!

Then our little mister:

Let's just say that Daddy got a workout and a half from toting these two around the slippery ice. Yay for ice skating!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

ADVENTure Day 21: We're Going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo

It's been a long week since school got out. Maddie & Sam woke up full of energy this morning and Maddie asked about going to the zoo, so off we went! The nice thing about a zoo membership is it doesn't really cost anything to go and you can stay for just a bit. We only visited the children's zoo, play area, and rode the train. That's what I call a great trip to the zoo. :)

On the slide:

Oh, and I forked over $9 for a five-minute train ride. But it was worth it:

Only 3 more days of Advent! Christmas is nearly here!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

ADVENTure Day 20: Movies & Favorite Things

 Today the girls and I took our kiddos to the movies. Alvin & the Chipmunks 3: Chipwrecked! With four adults and 9 kids we filled nearly an entire row of the theater. Here we are:

Sam, Tyler, Jacob, Tyler, Wyatt, Kelly, Maddie, Nicole, Kayla, Chloe, Susan, Joan (can't see the last 3)

Last night, I had the fine pleasure of attending a favorite things party at Mel's house. (By the way, when I grow up, I want to throw parties like Mel does. She's seriously so, so talented, and all over party blogs and pinterest because of her amazing attention to detail.)

Anyhoo, we were supposed to bring along 3 wrapped presents, all the same, under $10, that represent some of our favorite things. I brought gifts representing my favorite way to start the morning: delicious coffee home roasted by my hubby, a beautiful journal, and my favorite pen ever: the sharpie fine (won't bleed through paper):

Everyone who attends draws three names, hands out their gifts to the corresponding gifts, and explains why they are favorites. Mel had cooked enough appetizers and desserts to feed a small army, and the house was covered with little handmade brown paper packaging cards. Ah-dor-ah-blay.

And it wouldn't be a favorite things party without some of my favorite friends! Bridgette, Kelly and Susan: 

The hostess with the mostest, opening one of my favorite things gifts:

All of us together, Kelly, me, Susan, Mel, Bridgette & Nicole:

Such a fun night, and such a fun party. Thanks, Mel and friends!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

ADVENTure Day 19: Presents & Presence

Monday was one of THOSE days. A day you'd rather just forget about and file away in the "no good, very bad, horrible, awful" category. The kids were naughty. All. The. Day. Long. I think we'd already had approximately five time outs by the time we left the house to go grocery shopping mid-morning. Maddie was testing me all day, hearing consequences and then barreling right through, questioning whether I had the gumption to follow through. 

Sam was just plain squirrelly and a total pest to his sister. The two of them went at it, fighting and screaming and tattling and hurting each other.

By the time dinner rolled around, I was exhausted, spent, and completely done. A few friends joined us for dinner and my spirits lifted despite the chaos that continued around us throughout the dinner hour and into the evening.

Maddie had been warned repeatedly that if she couldn't get a handle on her attitude that she would not be able to stay at the beginning of small group. After her Daddy gave her one last, stern warning, she looked right at us before testing again. We sent her to her room, sobbing, screaming, wailing uncontrollably (an extrovert's worst consequence ever: to miss out!) This went on for many, many minutes as our friends gathered downstairs.

I went up eventually, held her in my arms, talked through the significance of her actions and the importance of honoring her parents. We discussed our total inability to obey apart from God's divine intervention in our lives and the power of his Spirit in us. Though there is always grace and forgiveness and complete love, there are also consequences for our choices. I explained that she was not going to be able to stay for the beginning of our group but she could come down to say goodnight to everyone. She eventually stopped sniffing and together we greeted our guests.

Then Verne and Melody showed up with presents. Big ones. Sleeping bags. (Maddie's been asking for a sleeping bag for a month now but I just hadn't found quite the right thing). I wish I had recorded her face, her voice, her demeanor. It's as if her whole body lit up with joy. "This is the best present EVER!!!" she exclaimed as she ran around, carrying her cozy gift with her. 

Sam jumped right in, too, and on his face was the smile that melts this Mama's grief all away. Pure, dripping joy.

I turned to Verne and told him, "You have no idea how much we needed this. How much I needed this. Thank you." And he gave me a big Verne hug.

As we whisked them off to bed (missing the party, upholding the consequence), they snuggled down in their new sleeping bags, smiling and giddy and joy-filled. I reminded them of God's grace. In our most undeserving, sinful, rebellious state, he came at Christmas. Not to destroy us, but to give us life abundant. Those gifts, the sleeping bags, were a reminder that God's love covers all our sins like a big, cozy, warm blanket. At the end of the day, we can just snuggle up in grace, in the very presence of God himself, because of what Christ has done.

It's such good news.

ADVENTures Day 18: Lighting the 4th Candle of Advent

Maddie, Nicole, Kelsey and Kayla help with the 4th Candle of Advent: Love

We have been on an amazing journey with our community. The Spirit of God is on the move in a major way, and it is both awe-inspiring and humbling to see the myriad ways God is blessing, encouraging, loving, serving, and motivating his people, all out of great LOVE for us.

As our sweet girls held the candles of Advent, we couldn't help but be filled up with the LOVE of the season: God sent his son, as a baby, a helpless, tiny, vulnerable baby who would one day grow to be a man, perform many miracles, draw many to himself, obey and serve the Father in LOVE all the way to the cross, where he died for us, his JOY, in LOVE, that we might forever know the LOVE and JOY and HOPE that is ours in God, through Christ. 

May you all know the depth and riches of a God who came not in power and in might and in judgement, but helpless, meek, and grace-filled. In our most undeserving state, we've received the greatest gift of all time, better than all the Christmases combined: God himself.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

ADVENTures Day 17: San Francisco

Today the Joyce-Krause families headed to the city for a really fun ADVENTure. First we hit up Union Square to check out the big Christmas tree. Since I had my prime lens, a family photo is the best I could do. :)

Jennie was kind enough to snap a picture with me in it (I always forget to get in the shots):

Then Ben took the kids to the toy store and let them all pick out a present as an early Christmas present (yay for end-of-year anonymous bonus gifts to pastors)! It was so fun to see their eyes light up as they picked out their gifts. Maddie picked a tub-painting kit, Sam a pirate ship (after we finally convinced him to put away the playmobil motorcycle man--he already has TWO), and Johnny decided on a spy kit. 

Maddie did a little good on our way out of Union Square:

And then, because any trip to the city just wouldn't be complete without a meal at our favorite restaurant, we headed to Caffe Sport. Part of John and Johnny's Joyce family initiation involves eating lots of pasta at our favorite joint. Sam loved the meat sauce, Maddie was partial to the prawns, and Johnny had helping after helping of the pesto.

On the way home, everyone in the back fell asleep (the kids plus Ben). It was pretty cute. A great day in the city with our family! 

Friday, December 16, 2011

ADVENTures Day 16: Santa

We've never been big into the Santa thing at our house. He is what he is, whatever our kids want him to be. We don't perpetuate a lot of the story behind Santa, but let Maddie and Sam ask their questions and discover for themselves what Christmas is all about. Even with Maddie's fervent skepticism ("How does one guy really get all the way around the world, with all those toys, to all those houses, in one night?"), our trip to see Santa was still pretty darn magical.

Waiting in line to see Santa:

Sam spots "ho ho ho!"

posing in front of some large presents:

it's almost our turn (Sam not looking so thrilled about it):



Waiting...(how can you not just love this face?!)...


If my children get any more delicious, I might just have to eat them, right along with all the Christmas baked goods I have in my house right now. They are just too sweet!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

ADVENTures Day 15: Christmas Lights!

Growing up, one of my all-time favorite traditions was going to see the Christmas Lights with my family. Often we would go on December 21st, my younger brother's birthday, after enjoying a large, delicious meal at our family's favorite restaurant Poncho's in Portland. Every year would be different, but I especially remember Peacock Lane in Portland and Candy Cane Lane in Gresham. So fun. 

Ben's family has a running joke about Ben never being able to see the lights when they were out looking at Christmastime in Wisconsin. Somebody would notice something cool, point it out, but by the time Ben started searching, the car would have moved past the house. 

Suffice it to say, we both have vivid Christmas lights memories and this is one tradition we love to keep with our own kids!

Enter hot cocoa, Christmas jammies, Handel's Messiah, and a warm car:

This year we made it to Danville's own pride and joy: Dana Highlands Ct, home to this beauty which awed our children (and us adults):

This is the hysterical neighbor house:

We all loved it!

 And this year our family has a "second row." John fits nicely behind us four. :)

We drove around until the kiddos were good and tired and then whisked them away to their beds. Such a fun night! 

Maddie: 59 Months

Dear Maddie, 

This is your final monthly update as a four year-old. In less than a month, you'll be turning five! I don't know how this is at all possible. At one time I snuggled your tiny little body in the crook of my arm as we napped in bed. You curled up on your daddy's chest for midday snoozes on the couch. We played peek-a-boo in the covers of my bed and you made us laugh with your outgoing personality and funny faces. Now, when you fall asleep in the car, I huff and puff as I carry your 48-lb. body up the stairs to your bed. When we snuggle I nearly always get hurt by some angular body part or long limb poking me. You still make me laugh, almost daily, with your funny Maddie-isms and fun, fabulous, outgoing personality. Much has changed, but so much stays the same, too.

I know I've written about your relationship with Sam before, but such goodness bears repeating. You move me to tears at least weekly with your tenderness toward him. You are gentle and kind-hearted, generous and so understanding. For all the ways Sam gets on your nerves, hurts you, and causes general chaos, you are exceedingly patient. This month we invited a new family member into our house (Big John), meaning Sam needed to move into your room. When I sat you down a few Wednesdays ago to explain what was about to happen, and what sacrifices you would have to make, your helpful, generous, can-do attitude gave me all the more reason to praise God for the heart he's given you.

Without a moment's hesitation, you headed into Sam's room and came out carrying stacks of books and toys, trip by trip, until you had filled your closet and bookshelf with all his favorite things. You approached him with joy, excitedly sharing how when he woke up the next morning all of his toys and books would be there waiting for him. 

And for the next many nights, the two of you have gone to sleep happy and contented, giggling and whispering. You allow him into your bed for pre-nap snuggling and he's even stayed for many a naptime, wiggling and knotting the covers up in a heap while you lay, amused. At night you patiently remind him to get into his own bed. In the morning you come out, hand in hand, ready for another day's adventures. Honestly, I couldn't have planned it better or dreamed up a more easy transition; it is all God's grace that you love him like you do and I am SO grateful for the opportunity to have my own heart grown in love and thankfulness to a Father who would teach me the abundance of his love in the tenderness between my own two children.

At school you are learning so many new and exciting things. You love to learn and are a very good, quiet, respectful student. In the times I've volunteered in class, I've watched with equal parts amazement and pride as you wait your turn, raise your hand, make good decisions and respectfully follow the teachers' directions. When other kids have instigated trouble or started to pick on each other, you don't join in. You are quick to comfort those on the outside or kids who've been hurt. Your heart of compassion is enormous and such a gift! I praise my Father, for you are truly fearfully and wonderfully made.

We often have discussions about next year, and what Kindergarten holds for you. The thought of a longer school day (with a lunch!) is very exciting to you. We've talked at length about the timing, and the fact that you can still take a nap when you come home if you're tired out (and if you continue to take naps as a Kindergartner, well, bless your sweet little heart). I am so thrilled for you and the new adventures that await, but also hesitant to let you grow up and move on, knowing full well that your peers will have a greater and greater influence as my own diminishes. But it is another exercise in faith to trust that the work we've done in these first five years will carry you into public school with a heart of compassion, a desire to learn, and an ability to be Jesus to so many little ones who don't know him.

Your imagination never ceases to amaze me. Just in the past few months, you've discovered a special place in the bushes near our house where there is a natural, light-filled "clubhouse," your very own space to fill with pretend creatures, creative scenes, and imaginary friends. You and Sam each have your own "rooms" behind the tall hedges, unseen to passersby, where your minds and hearts and bodies flourish. I know you will remember these moments with fondness, as my own favorite childhood memories are tied to pretending outside with my siblings and cousins, spending hours upon hours with only our imaginations to guide us.

I realize my post is dreamy and inspired and joy-filled this morning, and I'm so grateful. This Christmas Season has filled us all with such joy and wonder and childlike faith. It is a magical time of year, and I'm so grateful that we get to experience it through your eyes. I love how you announce "family advent time" each day, the way your eyes glimmer when you open the door on our little advent house, the way your secret dimple shows up in the left corner of your sweet little face as you experience the joy of Christmas. It is such a treasure knowing you, Madeleine Noelle, our little gift of Christmas!



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

ADVENTure Day 14: Play Dates!

Today is the day of play dates. Sam's Purple Room buddies got together with the mommies for a cookie exchange at a classmate's home today. The kids played so well, the mommies enjoyed visiting, and Max had even made tie-dyed shirts for all of his friends! Check out the cuteness:

Meanwhile, Maddie got to play with her classmate Cassie for a good two and a half hours at Cassie's house, where they did art, watched Veggie Tales, played puppets, did more art, and ate lunch.

Then we all came home and Maddie and Sam went right to sleep, together, in the same bed. Adorable.

ADVENTure Day 13: Susan's Birthday

So, I never really snapped any pictures of the kids playing last night, but for ADVENTure Day number twelve, we got together with our bestest-bestest friends to celebrate Susan's 35th birthday. It was SO much fun, one of those rare nights where we all needed so badly to be together, to laugh until we cried (or peed our pants), and to enjoy the gift of each other.

We girls started planning our Summer getaway. It's been five and a half years since we all got away overnight together. Since I was pregnant with Maddie. That is a TRAGEDY. 

Later in the evening we were discussing Ben's 35th and chatting through some of my theme ideas. After some joking about toasting Ben and making it "all about him," Kelly suggested everyone come dressed as Ben and do Ben impersonations. Then Ben started to laugh, Kelly started to laugh like Ben, and her impersonation was so perfect we all couldn't help but laugh until we cried. See below:

The kids played well together for two and a half hours, at which point we went upstairs to find every. single. toy. in the Holbrook upstairs pulled out its cubby. It looked as if a hurricane had blown through the kids' rooms. After a long and thorough picking up, done mostly by the grown-ups, we all agreed it was still worth it. Happy Birthday Susan! What a wonderful way to celebrate together the coming of Christ's birth. (And in related birthday news, Susan and Andrew's newest nephew Colton was also born on Susan's birthday! Hooray!)

ADVENTure Day 12: Christmas Programs!

Monday we got to celebrate the Advent season with two wonderful Christmas performances at the kids' preschool. First up in the morning was Sam's classroom program.

The little ones told the Christmas story and added their own characters to the growing nativity scene. Sam was the angel (of course). When I asked him before class what he was going to put in the manger, he said, "ROBOT!"

Because it's mostly two and three year-olds, the Purple Room program is quick. The Christmas Story, a couple of songs, a special snack, and present opening. Sam enjoyed his cookie and two glasses of sparkly punch:

The little lovey bug presented us with a photo book full of pictures from school. In about a third of the pictures he is wearing the woo-woo man costume. He also hand-painted the wrapping paper. 

Mrs. Sims is the most kind, big-hearted, encouraging, loving and amazing preschool teacher! We absolutely love her and are so, so grateful that Sam gets to have such a wonderful first school experience in her fun and engaging classroom.

After Sam's program we caught up with Susan, Kelly and a few other friends to celebrate Suz' birthday out to lunch in Danville. It was a lot of fun!

Back to the church at 12:30 for Maddie's Pre-K performance! They combined the Pre-K classes together for about twenty combined minutes of singing! The kids were AMAZING! Maddie did a great job singing along, following the teachers, doing the hand motions, and smiling her little heart out. We were impressed.

She's in the back row, about five kids from the left. 

So, so cute. After singing, the kids had their names called and they came forward to retrieve their handmade gifts for presentation to the parents. The pictures didn't turn out too well because Sam is dead asleep in my arms. My left bicep was pretty worn out by this time from supporting his huge head.

And here it is, her beautiful plate:

I JUST LOVE IT! So pretty, unique, and colorful. She calls it a Maddie-flower; fitting, as she is a beautifully special, precious, & colorful girl.