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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"It was 20 years ago today..."

Groom's Cake
Bonnie & David

Daddy and Me

Monday, December 10, 2012

Weekend Fun

We had another action-packed weekend.
David and the boys hung in there with me, as they had been warned there was a lot going on.
Now, things slow down just a bit.
In addition to two Christmas parties, an all-day event at church on Saturday for the boys, a Philharmonic concert, appliance shopping, youth group for Thomas, and homework/school projects, we had some excitement Sunday morning at church.
note - fuzzy photos below, grrr.
The children presented their Christmas Musical and did a fantastic job.
It was a story that mixed the true Christmas story with Dickens' "A Christmas Carol".
It actually worked well, and the music was really well done.
Brennan was awesome.
This was Brennan's first year to participate and he did such a great job.
In addition to singing all 9 songs with the group, he was the narrator.
As you know, a Christmas musical takes many Sundays of practice (and part of Saturday's all-day event) and Brennan hung in there. He even hung in there with an ill-fitting shepherd costume.
He did great.
The Audrey Hepburn-look alike was "Edna Scrooge" in the play.

I loved little Matthew as a shepherd. He was adorable.
Brennan had two long narrations, where he stood at the pulpit (his first time).
You might think kids with Asperger's are inherently shy, but not the ones I know.
It's always a hold-your-breath moment when Brennan gets a microphone in front of 200+ people.
He took his narration very seriously, incorporating many gestures and even a slight bow after his narrations. Everyone said afterwards that he did just great. And may have a future as an evangelical preacher.
During his second narration, however, he lost his place in the script.
He was slightly frustrated and embarrassed as he flipped through the pages, but handled himself so well. I have no idea what I would have done if it were me. Or what any other child would have done in the same situation. He never broke or asked for help, he just kept looking.
My natural instincts were to run across the church and help him, but he had to figure out a way, in front of all of those people, to handle himself. It could have gone either way. One of the play coordinators eventually went up and helped him. Instead of fussing about it or getting even more upset, he said a simple "sorry bout that" into the microphone which elicited a great laugh, and then he continued with his narration as if nothing had happened.
A very proud parent moment!!
We got tons of feedback from the congregation after church about what a great job he did.
So proud!
And after the musical it was time to introduce the 17 newest members of our church - our graduated confirmands.
The kids and their mentors went up front to be welcomed in.
Thomas's mentor, Charlie, as Elder was introducing them.
Our youth pastor surprised the kids with letters from the pastors who had baptized them.
Most of the kids were baptized as infants, so she put a lot of work into tracking everyone down.
Thomas received a beautiful letter from the associate pastor in Memphis who baptized Thomas (and me, and Brennan). She's in an important district leadership role now, and it was really nice to hear from her.
This is a great group of youth, and I'm so happy that Thomas is part of this wonderful group.
During the Sunday School hour I led my last official job as Children's Elder (after 4 years I move to the Youth committee beginning next year) and led the Happy Birthday Jesus party for all the preschoolers and elementary aged kids.
It's a chance to celebrate the Christmas Musical excellent work, and celebrate the reason for the season.
Didn't Kroger do a great job on the cake?

A wonderful bunch of little ones as well!
Phew, now on to the last 2 weeks of school and work before a nice Christmas vacation!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What I've Been Reading - December 2012

Hello, hello!  I completely missed posting a What I've Been Reading post last month, so I'll catch up on the last several weeks of books.

 I finished Ally Carter's "Gallagher Girls" books with the 5th one. Now I have to wait a few months for the 6th and final one to come out - then what will I do? I've shared my love for this young adult series. It's my kind of book - smartly written, engaging characters, some mystery, some romance, and it's a series. It's the kind of series I wouldn't mind having on my shelf at home, and would easily recommend this to young ladies who like to read!
One sentence goodreads.com description - With more than a million Gallagher Girls books sold, a legion of fans have fallen in love with the "New York Times "best-selling spy-girl series, and the fifth book delivers the most nerve-wracking, high-stakes adventure yet.
Loved It

Mama Gena's advice book was a gift that I felt compelled to open.  At first I thought I would enjoy it, but quickly realized this just wasn't for me.  I passed it on to another friend.  If you feel like you have lost yourself a bit and want to get your groove back, this is the book for you.  Otherwise, I say pass.
One sentence goodreads.com description - So if you need a refresher course in fun -- and you know you do -- come to Mama.
Didn't Like It

An author friend recommended Everybody Sees the Ants as something completely different in the world of Young Adult literature.  I thought the writing was superb, but had a hard time with the subject matter.  Main character Lucky being bullied made my stomach turn.  Lucky daydreaming himself into the POW camp that his grandfather disappeared from, somewhat disturbing.  Compelling, but not the kind of book that I want to take to bed at night.  I think for young men, this would be a good read.
One sentence goodreads.com description - Michael L. Printz Honor recipient A.S. King's smart, funny and boldly original writing shines in this powerful novel about learning to cope with the shrapnel life throws at you and taking a stand against it.
It was OK

Friends who also love Ally Carter's "Gallagher Girls" series couldn't believe I hadn't read her "Heist Society" series as well.  Never heard of it. 
I picked the first two up at the library and truthfully couldn't get into the first one that well.  Then I read the second one and LOVED it, so I went back and re-read the first one. 
OK, I get it now. 
While the Gallagher Girls is about young ladies in a spy school, the Heist Society is about an extended family whose business is high stakes thieving, although the younger generation is doing it to right wrongs versus for profit. 
It's an engaging series and apparently Drew Barrymore is directing it for the big screen soon.  The third in the series comes out in February.  Again - I highly recommend this series for young ladies who like a little mystery.
Really Liked It

In the airport on our way back from Hawaii, David pointed this book out to me with a smile.
Having never heard of it, I read the reviews online and ordered it from amazon right away. 
I think the review that got me was, "not only a story about Asperger's, but a love story as well". 
This memoir is about David Finch's pursuit to learn to manage his Asperger's traits in order to improve his marriage.  It's a pretty detailed account of what he learned once he was unofficially diagnosed by his wife, and how he addressed their issues head-on.  It's hilarious (I read several passages aloud to David on our Thanksgiving drive), touching, and very relatable.
One sentence goodreads.com description - Guided by the Journal of Best Practices, David transforms himself over the course of two years from the world’s most trying husband to the husband who tries the hardest, the husband he’d always meant to be.
Loved It
And that's what I've Been Reading!

Wine Club Game Night

We hosted a Game Night for our wine club last month!
I thought I had posted this already, but it's still showing as draft, so forgive me if you've already seen it.
I had a ball planning this - lots of great photos out there when I googled "game night party".
I had this adorable vinyl banner made and will hopefully get a chance to use it again and again.

I found this cool cardboard sign with stand (which we didn't need) online.  David hung it out front in the driveway.
We set up 4 games throughout the house and made a scoreboard to keep up with who won each round.  We asked partners to play a different set of partners for each game.
I set up Operation in the living room, but Thomas played with it and found the buzzer didn't work right.  And it was a brand new game!  Brand new batteries, too.

We gave up and pulled out Perfection instead.  Always a fun game, especially with wine.

I believe David chose the other games, including Pictionary - his favorite.
I made easy rule sheets so that people who had never played before could learn it quickly.

Following a great idea I saw online, I used a Twister mat as a table cloth and we set up Jenga in the kitchen.
And we sent everyone downstairs for the fourth game - Taboo.

Based on a great idea I read about online, I put the invitations on Uno cards and sent them to our guests with a ribbon for hanging.

 Everyone brought an appetizer or dessert, and a bottle of wine or beer.
The food/wine was not meant to be the star at this party - just a casual game night.
As always with our friends, the food was great.
I made up a couple of dishes that worked well with the other dishes.
And Scrabble tiles announced them for us.

I made my friend Leslee's famous sloppy joe's - they are the best thing, and we don't even eat that much meat.  She makes them every year for Halloween before we go trick or treating, at David's request.  I have several photos from Game Night where David is in the background eating sloppy joe's.  They completely disappeared and I was thrilled.

Have you seen these little suction mustaches for beer, Cokes, and water bottles?  They're color-coded so you can find yours after you set it down.  I found these in the Dollar spot at Target.  Awesome!

I found these cupcake toppers on Etsy.  The boys enjoyed decorating for me.

I made up a "community chest" of candy.  It also disappeared - awesome!

I set up a lot of food in the kitchen, but also used one of our new counters for more snacks downstairs.  (still need art for this space - I have an idea though...)

This was in front of the water bottles and carafes of water.

Copying this idea that my friend Missy sent me...

...the boys were happy to decorate with Legos.

And lots of other stuff....
Quick, fun decorations!

We were only missing a couple from our group that night.  Tons of fun catching up!

Jan, Vinita, and Ginger

Jayne, Jan, Roger, and Charlie are serious about Jenga

Barry, Leigh, and Jeff join Charlie and Jayne for Pictionary

Downstairs Mary and Karen challenged John and Ginger in Taboo

Well, someone has to be the loser in each game.  Sorry guys!
P.S. I love how Mary's L is even backwards.  Serious loser.

So it came down to a tie David and Michael vs. Jeff and Mike.
They decided to battle in Taboo to determine the winners.

And David and Michael won!

It was a really fun evening, and I appreciate everyone being so "game"!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Family Weekend

The reason I do my birthday/Christmas shopping so early in the Fall is because December is always SUCH a busy month! 
I love having the majority of my presents purchased, my Christmas cards and my decorating done by the end of November so I can truly enjoy the spirit of the Christmas season. 
It didn't quite happen this month, but I'm not that far behind, thank goodness!
We have to find time to enjoy the season as a family, while attending all the fun stuff in the month!
This past weekend was no exception.
In addition to our Pastor retiring, and my involvement with hiring an Interim Pastor, we have a fun month at church in progress.
First up, Thomas completed the semester-long Confirmation program.
The 19 junior high youth attended weekly classes, and attended a retreat where they made their stoles and wrote their statements of faith - describing their beliefs and their desire to join the church.
This Sunday, with their mentors by their side, the youth read their Statements of Faith in front of the Elders, their parents, and a majority of the congregation!  It was so touching.  I had lots of tears for all the kids.  Their statements were obviously from the heart and were all unique.  I was so proud of the kids!
Thomas reading his Statement of Faith with his mentor and our youth pastor.

I never took my Nikon off the previous night's nighttime settings, grrr.

Charlie and Thomas
All the kids, getting ready to present their Statements of Faith 

Last month they attended an overnight retreat where Thomas made his stole and wrote his Statement with his mentor's support.
I was grateful for all the photos the mentors shared with me!

Dad and Thomas after Confirmation
So proud of this kid!
And, speaking of Thomas, he had a pretty big Saturday as well.
He took the SAT!  I know, I know, he's 12.
But he's in a program through Northwestern University where he had the opportunity to take it early and possibly continue in other parts of the program.
We got great help from Hawaii teacher friends, and Thomas took a couple of practice tests this Fall. 
He was ready.
He was the only junior high kid at this test site on this day, so I'm sure it was rather intimidating.
But he did it and we're anxious to see how he did.
Note:  if he does better than me as a 7th grader than I did as a junior, I will not be surprised!
AND... Thomas marched with the two middle schools in the Christmas parade!
He's been in the parade, years ago, with his Cub Scout pack, but this was pretty awesome.
He's started marching practice through band at school, and they did a great job!
I got a few photos of the event.

All the city wide Junior High band members.
Thomas is in a green sweater with a red scarf, playing a trumpet.
Can you see him?  We couldn't.

SAT, Christmas Parade, Confirmation - a very busy weekend for Thomas!
And speaking of busy fun, this guy had a pretty full time as well.
David took the boys to Macbeth at the High School on Friday night.  I thought Thomas wasn't going, but he really really wanted to. 
Brennan was game - "Shakespeare, a tragedy, and high school kids possibly missing their lines?  What's not to love?" 
Umm, OK, I think I like your enthusiasm.
In addition, we had a blast at the parade, watching from the new parking garage.  He got a lit light saber sword type thing, and he cheered on EACH and EVERY float.  Although we couldn't see Thomas, he kept cheering "you're doing great Thomas!" as the junior high bands marched by us.
He also spent quite a bit of time Sunday in practice for the church Christmas Musical next weekend.
And his biggest choir concert to date.  Brennan's elementary school's choir (5th and 6th graders) were invited to sing with the Symphony!  They were so great, singing three songs - It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, O Tannenbaum, and Do You See What I See.
I'm hesitant to put the videos on the Internet (since there are other kids involved), but I'll share them with family when we're in Mississippi this Christmas.  They're a very talented group and we're so proud of Brennan for getting through the early morning rehearsals each week, the evening rehearsal with the symphony, and spending the majority of his Sunday in practice and in concert too.  It's a lot to take on, and he's doing it beautifully!

Soooo happy to see us in the audience!

No one had more impressive moves - Brennan really gets into the dancing and singing.
I got to see my friend Jeanne in Louisville on Friday, for a fun day of dining and movie watching.
(Lincoln was great - Oscars are inevitable)

Phew, fun weekend!  I love this time of year!