I’m Back!….What happened?

 

 

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Sometimes we get a little antsy waiting at the airport for Daddy…

 

Hey Everyone! You probably thought I got lost or something, haha! Not to worry, after a 7 month hiatus, I’m back!

So what happened? Mostly, life happened.

My computer finally gave up on me in May, after 7 years of faithful service. I decided to wait ‘til October, when we visited the U.S. to get a new one. (Anyone else have bad luck with electronics in Latin America?)

By then I was so out of the blogging habit that it’s taken be awhile to get the nerve to jump back into things. I thought I’d give you a quick update of what’s been going on for the last 7 months.

Right before my computer went kaput (is that actually a word?….yes, I’m the geek that has to look it up now….it is! Yay!) I had just started the Food Cleanse portion of my 2014 Life Cleanse. It went really well, I felt it was very effective, much more so then my last try, and I felt like it did restart my health and get me back on the right track to eating right for my body. The total cleanse lasted over a month with first taking out all processed foods, then going vegetarian, then vegan, then just fruits and veggies, then juice and then back again.

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Yep, that would be two lines alright!

I was just finishing up my Cleanse when I found out I was pregnant again! This was a bit of a surprise since I had just miscarried right before I started my Cleanse. I was so grateful I had, had the chance to clean out my body before starting to grow one inside of it;)

For the next couple months my main focus was keeping my cookies down and trying to find a rhythm of life I could realistically handle with a pregnancy.

Balance is always something I struggle with, especially when pregnant, but the last couple pregnancies have taught me that I cannot be Super Woman because my actions and health don’t just affect me. Thus, I’ve tried to be gentler with my body while pregnant and found that it helps in a multitude of ways which I’m sure I will detail in another post;)

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“She feels it’s important to be prepared….”

We were able to go on a much needed family trip to the beach in May, in which I was once again reminded of how traveling and morning sickness don’t mix well. Thankfully Marvel and the kids were just happy to be at the beach and didn’t complain that Mommy was laying around and not on top of meals nor anything else for that matter:/

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Happy with her castle cake!

We finished up our homeschool year in June and celebrated Elf’s 4th birthday! Man time flies! She is growing up so fast, maturing even faster…4 going on 40! She keeps us on our feet and laughing all the way!

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Wow! Ten years already!

In July we celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary with a dinner out all by ourselves! Gasp! We had entire conversations without interruption and got to talk about each other instead of family and business matters. It was wonderful to reminisce and remember why we fell in love in the first place. Marvel has helped me grow in so many ways and is so patient with me. I will be forever grateful for him in my life.cropped-fonsecas_018.jpg

What would I do without him?

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Too cool to smile I guess;)

We also got to celebrate Engineer’s 9th birthday in July! He is growing up WAY too fast and it’s amazing how much he has changed in the last year or so. He has reached a new stage in his life and it’s been interesting to watch and then adjust as all our girls are really still in the “little kid” phase. It’s been really interesting to partake of Engineer’s wisdom as he has become much more expressive about his thoughts. Loving it and at the same time a bit of the Momma in me doesn’t want my little boy to grow up!

August was my birthday and though Marvel was travelling like crazy he made sure to set aside time to surprise me with Japanese food (my craving of choice this pregnancy;) and the kids and he just about wet themselves from the excitement of trying to keep the secret from me. The girls also threw me a “tea party” in which we had imaginary strawberry soup with carrots, strawberry cake and strawberry tea.

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Oh yeah, Engineer “rescued” a homeless kitten….pets….my favorite:/

I also spent the months of July and August planning our next school year and finishing up our immigration processes to get us all our Mexican residency. Immigration is always a headache for me, honestly, but it’s so nice to get it done and know that with residency we won’t have to renew everything EVERY year anymore. I also finished up getting Button’s Mexican and U.S. passports because Marvel was a sweetheart and got us a surprise trip to the U.S. to see my family in October!

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Engineer participated in a folkdance performance for the Mexican Indepence Day

September was the start of a new school year. I decided to wait to pick up my curriculum in the U.S. when we would go to visit (AKA: saving a BUNDLE on shipping costs!!) we spent September with mostly review and setting up and getting used to some new additions (Piano, Portuguese, and Button being more involved as an almost 2 year old). It was a very useful month because I was able to better pin-point exactly where each kid was and adjust many teaching methods and scheduling before we even got our new curriculum.

Also in September I went to the OB/GYN for the first time! Yes, yes, I know, I know, believe me I’ve had the lecture about pre-natal care…let’s just suffice it to say that I’m not a big fan of doctors in general, haven’t ever really found one I’ve liked here, would prefer a midwife but after finding out about the minimal qualifications needed for them and doctors in Mexico decided not to risk it while we’re here, and in all humility I have done this pregnancy thing a few times now and basically know what is normal for me and what is not. So, all that said we were able to go to a basic check-up as a family and everyone got to see the baby on the sonogram, which is always fun. We also found out at this appointment that we are expecting another baby GIRL! January 19th is the due date…though at this point this Momma would go for earlier J

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Cousins! Actually only a few of them….

In October we continued our concentration on school and then the kids and I got to go visit my side of the family in Washington State! It had been 3 years since we’d visited and we’d only seen my parents in the meantime when they came for Button’s birth and another visit here.

It was WONDERFUL to see my brothers and sisters, many of whom had begun their families since we last saw them, and meet all the new additions to the family. It was so great to reconnect with Grandparents and Aunts and Uncles and even my close friends from my childhood.

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Birthday Girl!

Fiesta got to celebrate her 6th birthday while we were in Washington, which was a special treat and she was delighted with all of the attention! As usual, she was sure to tell us exactly how she wanted her cake, chocolate and vanilla with PINK frosting! As her nickname implies, if it had been up to her she would have invited every person she had met in Washington to her party, but we tried to keep it to close family;)

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Two Cakes???!!!!

It was really a wonderful visit and so fun for my kids to feel more connected to family that we talk about all the time. I was once again reminded of what an exceptionally loving and supportive family I have. They work so hard to stay connected and help whenever they can even with geography in the wayJ

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Can we forget Halloween?

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Why is she touching MY cake?

November we got back into the rhythm of school and also got to celebrate Button’s 2nd birthday! She was a little shy with the attention but made sure everyone understood that is was HER birthday and HER cake and HER presentsJ We had a smiley face theme because Button’s favorite song is “If you’re happy and you know it.” And she is truly one happy little girl!

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Guess we were too hungry to take the picture when the food was pretty!

We also celebrated Thanksgiving with our usual turkey dinner and this year the kids each picked a dessert that they wanted to make. We ended up having a leak come through our entry way, coming from the upstairs bathroom, a few days beforehand. So even though I wasn’t up to inviting some of our friends to share in the festivities as we usually do, we did have the plumber join us for our dinner;)

As soon as Thanksgiving was over we started on our Christmas preparations, more with our homemade gifts than anything. We knew Christmas was going to be a little different this year. Marvel had been hearing mixed reviews on his Mother’s health over the past few months and we all wanted him to go and see her himself to see what was going on. Though business wise travelling during December would be the best, he really didn’t want to leave in case the baby came early. He had decided to go in March.

Then he realized that his passport had run out of Visa pages. He travels a lot for business and Visas are often needed. Normally this isn’t a big deal but because his country has different regulations on passports the only way to get more pages was to return personally to his own country and get a whole new passport. So we felt that with that and his mother’s health deteriorating, it was best he leave before Christmas and be back by the end of December.

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Oh the ever frustrating star!

That meant we would postpone our own little family Christmas a few days. The kids were very understanding and everything was arranged. This also meant we had to adjust our Christmas preparations so that we wouldn’t just be sitting around waiting for Daddy to get home. So we moved everything over about a week and saved our Christmas baking for the real Christmas day so that we would be so busy making and delivering goodies we wouldn’t have time feel like we were missing out.

We’ll have a day of cleaning up for Daddy’s arrival and our Christmas celebration and a final day of cooking and baking and wrapping and preparing for our celebration of Jesus’ birth on Monday.

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Can you tell we like glitter?

We’ve simplified our schooling during the last part of this month and had many more activities and reading together than usual. We had a study of snow (which is interesting to do in a place where it never snowsJ We’ve made ornaments and gingerbread houses and the kids made all their gifts by hand this year. The kids also made their own Christmas stories, which was fun to see their creativity. Between that and being involved in Christmas get-togethers with friends and a Christmas program at church we’ve really had lots of fun memories made.

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Some candy even ended up on the houses!

So that about catches us up. In the next few weeks we’ll be having our Christmas with our family, celebrating the New Year, making our family and personal goals for the upcoming year, starting back to “normal” school, and finishing up our preparations for our new arrival next month!

Stay tuned!…

Is It Any Wonder?

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Why decorate ornaments when I can decorate me?

Do you ever have visions of how you think a certain aspect of your life will turn out and then get to that point and think….what happened?

It can be a two-sided coin really…or…are there any three-sided coins;)? Sometimes I look around and think, “I could not have planned it better, this is “perfect”.”

Then there are other times that I think, “Oh dear, this definitely isn’t what I wanted, can and should I change it?”

And every once in a while I have times when I think, “This really is best, but it’s not what I planned or even could have imagined.”

The last thought is what I’ve had with Christmas over the last few years. My husband and I decided a few years back that the going here and there, and doing this and that, which had been our custom at Christmas, was really taking away from the peace we felt we should be feeling at this time of the year. We vowed to focus more on our own nuclear family and keeping things low-key and Christ-centered.

We noticed an immediate change in the spiritual environment in our family. Things were indeed happier and more peaceful. Actually it felt just how we thought it should….but….why did I always have a bit of a melancholy feeling during some days of the Christmas season?

I finally decided that it was a my psyche “mourning” the visions I had created and the traditions I had left aside in order to find the best way for us.

So strange huh? Even though you know something is “best” or “right” for your family and yourself, sometimes you still yearn for “what might have been”, even though you know the fantasy you created in your imagination is next to impossible? And probably not even healthy.

Well, this year I found that my melancholy temptation, that I usually can just push aside, was being more persistent. I blamed it on pregnancy, lack of sleep, a travelling hubby, some stress over finances and changes that need to be made in our homeschooling, trying logically to explain it away and move on so I could enjoy the season and more than that make it a happy season for my family.

I would wake up and get myself motivated for a few hours but it seemed that I was running out of the ability to fake it. The last few days it was taking nearly every ounce of energy I had to get out of bed and keep the act going.

Finally this morning I really didn’t think I could do it. During my morning prayers I pleaded with the Lord, “Please, please, please, I have to do this. I know my life is not bad and I know there are people out there that are much, much worse off to worry about, but I have to have your help. I need to make this day special for my kids. If I can’t be happy I need you to help me fake it so they can be happy. This day is not about me, please, please help me.”

The Lord never lets me down. It was a bit of a bumpy take-off to the day but I finally just said, “I can’t, you have to support me through this.” And a little miracle happened. I let go. He took over. And it was a good day. I became happy. At first it was an act, and then it was real.

After I put the kids to bed I was pondering on what happened….what was the turning point? What happened?

I finally concluded that the Lord opened my eyes so that I could really see, more than anything see my kids. Children are so wonderfully happy with simplicity and reciprocate such an overflow of love with the smallest acts of love shown to them.

On our way home from watching a movie and delivering some Christmas treats my 9 yr old son said, “ Mom, doesn’t it seem like it feels happier on Christmas?” When I asked him why he felt that way he said simply, “It’s probably because it’s Jesus’ birthday.” It was then that is hit me. Is it any wonder?

Is it any wonder that Christ was sent as a baby to the earth? Is it any wonder that we call babies “bundles of joy”? Is it any wonder that no one can resist the laughter of a small child? Is it any wonder that though the textual references in the bible are few in regards to Jesus’ childhood we do know,

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. [Luke 2:40]

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” [Luke 2:51–52]

Today is was confirmed to me once again that our children are not only our responsibility, but also our teachers. They are wise beyond their years, they understand what is truly important and know truth when they hear and see it. Is it then, any wonder that the greatest gift to mankind came in the form of a child?

John 3: 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

For this wonderful gift I will be eternally grateful. Even more amazing that we can not only be eternally saved but like I was reminded of today, we can be saved…day by day.

Merry Christmas!

A Different Kind of Christmas

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Each year since having our own children my  husband and I have searched and planned for ways to make Christmas meaningful. I’ve learned over the past few years that many activities and going and doing EVERYTHING does not equate to a Merry Christmas. Actually we’ve found that simple is best. My plans for Christmas this year simplified even more after reading this quote (by Jeffrey R. Holland) in one of our family devotionals.

There are so many lessons to be learned from the sacred account of Christ’s birth that we always hesitate to emphasize one without considering all the others…

One impression which has persisted with me is that this is a story of intense poverty. I wonder if Luke did not have some special meaning when he wrote not “there was no room in the inn” but specifically that “there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7; emphasis added). 

We cannot be certain what the historian intended, but we do know these two were desperately poor…

Perhaps this provides an important distinction we should remember in our own holiday season. Maybe the purchasing and the making and the wrapping and the decorating should be separated, if only slightly, from the more quiet, personal moments when we consider the meaning of the Baby (and his birth) who prompts the giving of such gifts.

The gold, frankincense, and myrrh were humbly given and appreciatively received. And so our gifts should be, every year and always. As my wife and children can testify, no one gets more giddy about the giving and receiving of presents than I do. But for that very reason, I, like you, need to remember the very plain scene, even the poverty, of a night devoid of tinsel or wrapping or goods of this world. Only when we see that single, sacred, unadorned object of our devotion—the Babe of Bethlehem—will we know why the giving of gifts is so appropriate.

What Joseph must have felt as he moved through the streets of a city not his own, with not a friend or kinsman in sight, nor anyone willing to extend a helping hand. In these very last and most painful hours of her “confinement,” Mary had ridden or walked approximately 160 kilometers from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea. Surely Joseph must have wept at her silent courage. Now, alone and unnoticed, they had to descend from human company to a stable, a grotto full of animals, there to bring forth the Son of God.

I wonder what emotions Joseph might have had as he cleared away the dung and debris. I wonder if he felt the sting of tears as he hurriedly tried to find the cleanest straw and hold the animals back. I wonder if he wondered: “Could there be a more unhealthy, a more disease-ridden, a more despicable circumstance in which a child could be born? Is this a place fit for a king? Should the mother of the Son of God be asked to enter the “valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4) in such a foul and unfamiliar place as this? Is it wrong to wish her some comfort? Is it right He should be born here?”

Perhaps these parents knew even then that in the beginning of his mortal life, as well as in the end, this baby son born to them would have to descend beneath every human pain and disappointment. He would do so to help those who also felt they had been born without advantage.

At this focal point of all human history, a point illuminated by a new star in the heavens revealed for just such a purpose, probably no other mortal watched—none but a poor young carpenter, a beautiful virgin mother, and silent stabled animals who had not the power to utter the sacredness they had seen.

Shepherds would soon arrive and, later, wise men would follow from the East. But first and forever there was just a little family, without toys or trees or tinsel. With a baby—that’s how Christmas began.

Today we had very few gifts, those which we did have were mostly homemade, we had good food and spent the majority of our day in service. Everyone was happy, it was one of the most memorable Christmases I’ve had thus far. I’m recording this now so that each year I can look back and think about how the first Christmas really was, and that truly HE is the REASON for the season.

What Do You Think of My New Makeover?

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We made our traditional Christmas cookies on Monday (we added mint flavoring this year though, YUM!)  We had the Christmas trees, stars, bells, hearts, my son decided to make a nativity, a neighbor boy made a sign of “I love you” for his Mom…it was so fun and cute and the kids loved it.

I was really touched though when my oldest daughter (5 yrs old) brought me this little creation….”Mom!” she said beaming, ” It’s you! I made it for you!” It was so darling, and I loved how she tried to match my hair and eyes, it was one of those “Melt” moments that just sends a burst of joy through you.

It wasn’t until today that I was looking at it and the thought came to me, “Is this just a 5 year old creation or does she really think I look like an 80’s country singer?”….Well, I guess it doesn’t matter, it said “I love you, Mom”,  no matter what.

Ornaments!

Ornaments!

After finding that I had “undesirables” living in the kilo of whole-wheat flour I just bought,we decided to use it for our salt-clay ornaments! So we invited over some friends and had an ornament party! We’ve made them several years and in several different ways and I’ve messed with the recipe until I’ve found one that we like:

1 kilo whole-wheat flour (you could substitute any flour, corn flour for gluten-free)
1 cup salt
1 cup white (“school”/all-purpose) glue
1/4 cup cinnamon
Enough water to make stiff dough (similar to chilled cookie dough)

Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch in thickness and cut out the shapes you would like. Bake at 350 degree F for about 20 minutes or until thoroughly baked (will look and feel like a cracker). Paint and glitter to hearts content! We’ve also just left them plain, for a fun country look. Use a clear acrylic paint (we use a spray-paint) over the top to have them keep longer. We’ve had some for several years now!

Christmas FAVES!

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I’m a little crazy about Christmas. I start listening to Christmas music in July or August and then stop in about February:)! Personally I think that traditions in general are SO important for families, but Christmas traditions are paramount because we are celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ!

Though I am from the United States, we do not do Santa at our house. My husband is from Africa and did not have the Santa Claus tradition growing up, and that helped us to make the decision of not holding that tradition in our own home.

At first I was worried, would I be “depriving” my children? The tie-breaker for me was when I was pregnant with my first child and was contemplating our first Christmas with him. I thought back through my child-hood and thought of all my favorite traditions of Christmas. A striking thought came to my mind…..there was not one that stood out to me that focused on Christ! Yes, my Christmases were wonderful and memorable and lovely, my parents worked so hard to make them that way. I do remember them teaching us “The reason for the Season” but I wasn’t focused on the whole reason we were celebrating, I was focused on myself.

Now, omitting the big fat man from center-stage doesn’t guarantee or children will grow up with any different sentiments than I did, but we’re hoping it’s a start. Also, I don’t like the lies, white lies are still lies to me (yup, no Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny either).

We also have committed to only one gift per child. So far, we’ve done pretty good with this one. A couple years we’ve had one small gift to tide the kids over til they got their “real” gift (yes, sometimes living internationally has shipping downfalls).  It’s SO hard to stick to this at times, and loving extended family definitely don’t follow the same guidelines 🙂 but the idea is to limit materialism.

So enough of the soap box, we are far from where we’d like to be but from the things we’ve tried and experimented with over the years these are our favorite traditions thus far (meaning, we’ve done them three years or more):

1. Christmas Tree Decorating-

I used to think this was a given, like every family in the world did this…haha! I know, small town girl. Now that I’ve “been around the block” a few times I treasure this tradition even more because of its symbolism. We pick out (or set up, depending on “real” tree availability ) the tree and decorate it together. We strive to use only the “traditional” Christmas colors of red, green, silver and gold. Then I read about the symbols that Christmas decorations hold. Sometimes I read the complete story of “Teach the Children”, (with less Santa emphasis) or sometimes we just discuss the symbols.

2. Christmas Cookie Party-

This has evolved over the years to the kids inviting their best buds (and their families) over for some sugar-cookie decorating. We bake several dozen sugar-cookies (trying for 6 for each kid) and make up several different colors of frosting and have sprinkles always (and sometimes nuts, raisens, chocolate chips, etc., depending on what’s available). Then we ask everyone to bring toppings to decorate with if they wish. Since for the majority of my children’s lives, we have generally lived around people that don’t bake (or own an oven most likely) I think it makes it even more fun because the invites really love the novelty! We’ve also done this as a pizza party (with smaller groups) and potlucks (with bigger ones). This is also great because our “Christmas Party” and “Family/Friend Gift-Giving” is done all in one event. We also try to always make enough cookies to give to friends, neighbors and those that we think just might need a bit of cheer.

3. Service-

This one is not to the level I would like it yet. We’ve done Caroling, anonymous treats and gifts, yard clean-ups, household chores for others and the like. We have found it’s tricky to do some projects with small children and be sane and safe. We really hope to amplify this tradition as time goes on. Ideas would be greatly appreciated:)

4. Christmas Devotionals-

Another evolving one, for the past few years we’ve been using thisbook as our main source for devotional inspiration. I really love it because it’s so simple and Christ-centered and gives inspirations rather than a script for the holiday. We strive to do one, focused devotional a week, starting in December, with a “project”/activity to go with it, usually self-reflective or service oriented.

5. Christmas Breakfast-

This is a tradition that traveled over from my child-hood. Instead of a big Christmas feast (though we usually do have something special and out-of-the ordinary for dinner), we do a big brunch. The fixings vary according to the ingredients available but every year but one we’ve had our Orange Rolls (recipe coming soon)!

6. The Biblical Christmas Story-

We may read excerpts as part of our devotionals but on Christmas Eve we try to read the entire Christmas story from the Bible (we prefer the Luke version in the King James Bible). Last year we had enough members in our family and a new baby, so we acted out the story. Though our shepherd (then 2 yrs old) kept getting distracted, we still had a memorable experience that I hope will become tradition!

7. Birthday Party for Jesus-

On Christmas Eve we have a “special”(meaning out of the ordinary) dinner and then have a small birthday party for Jesus. We make a white cake with white frosting to represent the purity of Christ. We also have a small wrapped gift box that we put in our “gift to Jesus”. This is a small paper, with which is written a commitment to one aspect of our life we will strive to change or improve upon, to become more Christ-like, before the next Christmas. This is one tradition my kids ask about every year.

8. Homemade Gifts-

Depending on materials available (and Mom’s availability and patience  ) we’ve done anywhere from making EVERYONE homemade Christmas gifts, to just concentrating on Grandparents. We’ve done many salt-clay creations, ornaments, games, bookmarks, picture frames, dolls, lamps, nativities, change dish, etc. What I love about this tradition is that the kids really start thinking about how to give of themselves in a way that someone will really treasure.

So, those are our favorites! We hope to keep refining them so we can make each year more meaningful. I would LOVE to hear about your favorite traditions, share with us how you celebrate this marvelous season!