Merriest Christmas Wishes

Thursday, December 25, 2014

From our home to yours...

Merry Christmas!

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." - Luke 2:14

Enjoy your day with loved ones celebrating the birth of our Savior!

  • Christmas Tour of Our Home

    Monday, December 22, 2014

    2014 is the second Christmas in our home in Columbia. This year, I had it down: I knew what I wanted to put where. It's hard to think that we only had 2 Christmases in our first home before we move: will this house beat the first one and host 3+ Christmastimes? Or will we be in another city next year? I don't know and I can't think about it right now! All I know is that I love this home and I love decorating it for Christmas!

    Here's a quick Christmas tour of our home, 2014.

    The big tree in the family room

    Is there anything better than soaking up the glow of the Christmas tree?

    Advent calendar: an ornament is added each day to the tiny Advent tree (below)

    Family portrait!

    I just love this little pillow...scored for $2.50 after Christmas last year at TJ Maxx!

    Dining room

    Even the bar in the dining room got some Christmas flair. 

    I keep things pretty simple in the kitchen...too much other stuff is going on in there!

    Front living room. Finally have furniture in there this year!

    Our smaller tree in the sunroom. The best thing about it is you can see it from the street!

    The girls are clearly thrilled with the decor!
    Merry, merry Christmas!

    'Twas the Friday before Christmas

    Friday, December 19, 2014

    Holy moly - I am in disbelief that Christmas is less than a week away! I'm not even tired of Christmas music yet! And I'm definitely not done with my shopping. Looks like it's going to be a mad dash to the finish line this weekend along with the rest of America!

    But truly, there are so many wonderful things about Christmastime. I'm trying to soak it up over the next few days and enjoy the sights, smells, sounds and love all around. Awwwwwwwww.

    ONE. I hosted a cookie swap a few nights ago for some Junior League gals. It was so fun! The best part about going to a cookie swap is that  you only have to make one batch of cookies and end up with dozens of different kinds. Love it!

    TWO. I just LOVE opening the mailbox every day to see beautiful faces of friends and family smiling back at me! I've got all the cards on display above our kitchen window, and I'll probably leave them up through the end of January to keep Christmas going just a little longer.

    THREE. My new Erin Condren Life Planner has arrived!! This is my fourth planner from EC, and there's a reason I keep going back. The organizer in me loves the functionality; the creative in me loves the colors. I'm hooked! Can't wait to fill it in and get prepared for the fabulous year that 2015 is going to be!

    FOUR. Holiday baking! Aside from the cookie swap, I haven't done as much baking by now that I've usually done. But I did whip up a batch of these Peppermint Melt-Away Cookies for our neighbors this week. I made them last year on a whim and my neighbor raved about them - so if it ain't broke, why fix it? Here's the easy-peasy recipe:

    Peppermint Melt-Away Cookies
    1 8-oz package of cream cheese
    1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
    1 cup peppermints or candy canes, finely crushed (tip: put them in a big plastic bag, wrap it in a dishtowel, and beat the daylights out of it with a hammer on your driveway)
    1 large egg
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 box Duncan Hines Classic White Cake Mix, divided
    1 cup white chocolate chips/morsels

    Preheat oven to 350. Place parchment paper on 2 large cookie sheets. Let cream cheese and butter come to room temperature. Mix with electric or stand mixer until barely blended. 
    Add egg, vanilla, and one-half of cake mix. Mix for 1-2 minutes or until thoroughly blended. Stir in remaining half of cake mix, morsels, and 1/2 cup of mints until blended. 
    Place remaining mints in a shallow bowl. Shape dough (which will be soft and sticky!) into 1.5 inch balls and roll tops in the mints. Place on cookie sheets mint side up, 2 inches apart. Bake 11-13 minutes or until golden and center is barely set. Let stand 3-4 minutes then cool on wire rack. Makes 2-3 dozen cookies. 

    FIVE. Alex and I have been so blessed by the flowers, notes, texts and prayers from our loved ones over the last 10 days. It has been a rough journey: hard to believe the journey started only one month ago and it's over, for now. {Read about our loss here} I'm taking each day one at a time and know that great things will happen. We have so much to be thankful for and so much to look forward to! The best is yet to be! 

    Have a lovely weekend, everyone! My wish for you:
    May you find that perfect last-minute gift you've been searching for;
    may you enjoy extra Christmas cookies without worrying about calories;
    may that quintessential Christmas song come on the radio at just the right time; 
    may you escape your family for a breath of fresh air when it's needed most;
    may you enjoy the magic of the season through the eyes of a child; 
    may you remember the reason for the season: Jesus is born!


    Linking up with
     AprilChristinaNatasha and Darci

    A year of loss

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

    **WARNING: this is not a happy post. But it's true, it's very real and it's from my heart. I wanted to share because this is a topic that often goes un-shared, un-discussed and un-mentioned. Maybe you needed to read this today, for yourself or for a loved one. I hope it finds its way to someone who needs it. 

    When Alex and I look back on 2014, I hope we think about our life in Columbia...maybe our vacations to Chicago or Pebble Beach...or that I turned 30. But I'm afraid we might think of 2014 as a year of loss.

    The tidal wave of loss started in August. Alex's Mimi, who had been ill for some time with dementia and Parkinson's, left this world. We were saddened but knew it was coming, and when she died, we knew she was no longer suffering. In some ways, it was a bittersweet relief for we knew she was so much better off in heaven.

    Then, a few weeks after she died, Alex's Papa (Mimi's husband and Alex's last living grandparent) found out he had untreatable, widespread cancer. He had not been overly sick - just weak (and brokenhearted), but the cancer diagnosis quelled his will to live and fight - and who could blame him? We lost Papa in September just 1 month and 1 day after Mimi passed. His death was more sudden and shocking: just like that, Alex's mom had lost both of her parents in 31 days and Alex had lost all of his grandparents.

    October seemed to be going alright until my grandmother had her knee replaced at the ripe old age of 87. Now, not many folks elect to have total knee replacement at that age, but she wanted to - said she had a lot of things she wanted to do! The surgery went great, and she was healing wonderfully in rehab. Then, out of nowhere, she caught pneumonia while still in rehab. She was admitted to the hospital. Within two days, she was moved to ICU and had a mild heart attack due to the stress on her heart caused by her labored breathing. She died on Sunday, October 26. I was in shock. How could this happen? My Grandma was sharp as a tack, in great health and a reasonably young 87. I took the loss incredibly hard (and am still taking it hard): I was very close with her. We emailed (yes, emailed) on a regular basis. She called to chat about football games. I inherited a lot of my hallmark traits from her, like bargain shopping and organization. She was the first grandparent to lose, which just opened a fresh wound for me and a haunting realization that I'll have to go through this three more times for three people I'm equally close to. I still can't believe she's gone.

    November came fast and brought with it a slew of activity, mostly work related. I'd started to have another Crohn's flare (the 3rd or 4th of the year), but I really didn't want to start prednisone again because, quite frankly, taking steroids is no fun at all and causes me to blow up like a balloon, have a ferocious appetite, and most importantly, jacks with the timing of ovulation. Yep, we've been trying to conceive for a year now so our world pretty much revolved around ovulation (fun times!!). I'd also started taking Clomid that cycle (which makes your body ovulate - my doc prescribed it because my progesterone was slightly low. Also, it's an excellent first line of defense if the horrid label of "infertility" is getting near as it's super cheap and easy). I didn't want to undo the hard work Clomid was doing by taking prednisone, so I asked my gastroenterologist for a milder med to treat the flare. I knew I was taking a risk that my flare could get worse, but I was bound and determined that nothing else was going to get in the way of having a baby.

    With the grief from my grandmother's loss, the stress from work and the Crohn's flare, I knew November was a gonner for us in terms of conceiving. But God has a funny way of showing us just exactly how in control He is. I found out I was pregnant on Thursday, November 20 - at my OB-GYN's office! I was there because I *thought* I'd started my period, so I was going to get another round of Clomid. The nurse did a pregnancy test (just in case) and lo and behold, it was positive.

    I was in SHOCK. I mean, shock I tell you. I had to wait ALL DAY LONG to tell Alex because I wanted to tell him in person that night after work. I surprised him with a gift - a little onesie and my positive pregnancy test - when he got home that night. You know that country song, "Laughed Until We Cried" by Jason Aldean, where he talks about trying so long they almost gave up hope and they find out they're pregnant and they laughed until the cried in the kitchen? That was us. Laughing, crying, looking in amazement at that positive test (actually, two tests - I'd taken another when I got home). We felt so blessed, so unbelievably grateful that I'd conceived after 11 months of disappointment.
    girls, you're gonna be big sisters!

    Just a week later was Thanksgiving, and A's parents were going to come to my mom and stepdad's cabin for the weekend. We knew that even though it was really early, it was the perfect time to tell them since they'd all be together (we FaceTimed my dad and stepmom, who were in Florida). And I could not keep a secret like that from my mom for long!

    Right before Thanksgiving dinner, I told everyone we were going to  play the "What are you thankful for?" game and I'd placed a message in a little box for everyone to read aloud. Slowly, they began opening and reading the tiny pieces of paper: "I"m thankful to become a Grandmother!" and so forth. The reactions were priceless. Tears, laughter, hugs, handshakes. It was everything I ever hoped it would be. This would be the first grandbaby on both sides. Finally!
    the place setting...holding a secret!
    my mom's surprise
    my brother and our parents with their notes! 
    our family
    A week later, I was 6 weeks pregnant and starting to feel the joys of pregnancy. Food aversions, extreme tiredness (not helped by giving up caffeine), and even a little nausea. Crohn's had continued to get worse and I was worried that it would hurt the baby, so my GI put me on 20mg of prednisone which had some risks to the fetus but my health was seen as more important. It wasn't helping, and my symptoms were getting worse.

    A few days later, on a Saturday night, I started to bleed. Not much, but any time you see blood when you're pregnant, you naturally freak out. Then I started cramping: again, not horribly, but the combo was unsetting. We decided to go to the ER to rule out an ectopic pregnancy and for peace of mind.

    After 6 awful hours in the ER (including an ultrasound that literally lasted one hour), there was no conclusion. The doctor said that they hadn't detected a heartbeat, but at 6 weeks along that was hit or miss. He said some women have bleeding and cramping and everything turns out fine, while others will eventually miscarry. There was really nothing to do but go home and rest.

    The next Monday morning, I had my hcG levels tested to see if they were rising as they should - the only good indication that the baby was alive and thriving. I had to wait an excruciating 30 hours to hear from my doctor's office with the results. When I finally got them on Tuesday, December 9, they hit me like a freight train: my levels had dropped. The pregnancy was not viable. I was losing my baby. I had a decision to make: miscarry naturally at home or have a D&C.

    I opted for the D&C because I wanted it to be over as soon as possible. I had the surgery the next day, on December 10. If I'd waited it out completely naturally, it could have taken weeks. Even with the assistance of medicine, it could have taken several days. I wanted it to be over. I wanted to mourn the loss of that tiny life inside me and heal. I also had Crohn's to think of, which has gotten so bad that I was having a hard time keeping food down and the thought of going through a painful miscarriage on top of that sounded miserable. But most of all, to be completely honest, I chose to forego the emotional toll I knew a natural miscarriage would have on me.

    The D&C was easy. My doctor came in beforehand and prayed with Alex and I. The nurses and staff were so sweet and caring and were really considerate of the reason we were there. They put me under; I woke 45 minutes later (in pain, but speedy drugs to the rescue!) and went home a few hours later. I rested for the next several days in bed where Alex played nurse in the most excellent way.

    Emotionally, it has not been easy. While I am glad that I opted for the D&C, I am still (I'm only 8 days post-surgery) mentally tender and emotionally exhausted. I KNOW God has a very special plan for Alex and I and our family. I know that this baby was not meant to be - on earth, anyway. I am so relieved to know that I CAN get pregnant. But I am devastated. I cry at the most random things. Some moments I'm pissed at the world. I wonder, why me? why us? why not this baby? But you know what? It doesn't matter. God took me to this place for a reason. He will lift me out of it, too.

    Needless to say, we're ready to bid farewell to 2014 and are SO hopeful for 2015! I know that there are great things in store for us. We may not have a baby in 2015, but I do believe that we will be closer to becoming parents. Right now, it feels like we're starting over but hey - that's OKAY! A new year is the perfect fresh start. Bring it on. Right now, I'm focusing on healing physically and emotionally and getting Crohn's under control.

    I hope that I haven't depressed you a week before Christmas, but I thought it was important to openly talk about my miscarriage. About 50% of women will miscarry at some point, and no one talks about it. You may know a few people who have miscarried, but I promise you know a TON more who have experienced loss and never told you. I know it makes me feel better to have friends and family coming out of the woodwork to tell me about their losses - and to see them now with a few cute, healthy kiddos they're hauling around town, frantically trying to finish their Christmas shopping! It will happen. I know it will. I have faith. And it's going to be worth the wait.

    "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." - Hebrews 11:1


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