Sunday, December 28, 2008

It is beyond belief we are at the end of a year. A year in which so much happened and in which God changed our lives in so many ways...most of them for the better. Ha!

As we gear up to head into the beginning of the end, we look forward to friends, family, giving, sharing, and a whole lot of memories - being remembered and created. This Christmas we were able to have the celebration at our house, which was fun on multiple levels, but mostly because we didn't have to travel with the little dude across the country packing all of his stuff and probably incurring some sort of virus along the way. That, in and of itself, is a blessing to be able to avoid. But it was a fun adventure decorating the house, planning the menus, wrapping gifts and stacking them under the tree, and doing all things festive.

My parents and brother came up on Tuesday to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with our little trio of a family. Mom and I spent most of Tuesday cooking and preparing our Christmas Eve meal while the boys watched an array of TV, movies, and football. We had fun putting together Aiden's toys for Christmas morning on and off throughout the day and finally geared up for Christmas Eve Dinner. We decided to do things a bit differently this year since we weren't at my parents house and did a formal Christmas Eve Dinner after the little dude (Aiden) was in bed. It allowed us to have some adult time and enjoy a nice dinner. To compensate, we also planned a brunch for Christmas Day followed by several rounds of snacking and leftovers. We also toned things down some from Thanksgiving since we were having two meals instead of one big one. All in all it worked out well.

After dinner we opened our gifts from the Poage grandparents, which keeps in line with the tradition we had growing up since they were the side that always celebrated on Christmas Eve. Then we all tucked in for the night.

Christmas Day was super fun and the opening of gifts and the eating of food drew out for most of the morning leading up to a brunch at lunch time. It was so fun to see the joy on Aiden's face as he dove for the boxes, ate the ribbon, and ogled over his new-found toys. While he didn't really get all that was going on, he did have fun from what we can tell. This year we were able to enjoy a true miracle in Aiden's birth and to be able to see his joy as an innocent baby come out was truly thrilling as his mom.

That night Nathan and I went to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and really, really enjoyed it - the cinematography, the character development, the plot, and the special effects. We both came away with tears in our eyes and a realization that our sweet, innocent baby boy will have to endure the discovery of the awful things that comprise this sinful world. Our prayer, now more than ever, is that Aiden will come to know our Savior at an early age and that he would be impressionable and sensitive to the Spirit as both Nathan and I were as children. It struck me how very little I will soon be able to control about his little world and it made me sad to realize his pain in discovering all the trappings of this world. But the thing I am most grateful for is that the people in his life know, love, and exude Jesus every day and I can't wait to see the joy he already has amplified by the one true Joy.

All in all it was such a great Christmas and I can't wait to see what is in store for us the New Year!

I'm writing on my other computer, but will post some pictures when I get synched up. Trying to get cleaned up and caught up (still!) after the holiday season.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Try a MINT

So I keep track of the finances in our little family mostly because I'm super Type A and a former accounting major. I actually enjoy it. Sick and sadistic? Yes. But completely mind releasing to me? Yes. I know. I'm weird, so sue me. While things in our budgetary world are not wildly out of control in our world (yet!), the crazy economy has caused me to be a little more conscious of things as of late. I have always used some kind of software to track our budget and spending habits, produce silly trend graphs and pie charts which may seem a little over the top for some, but speak to my "Monica-esque" nature. Up to now I've found it fairly time consuming to download and run statements each month through Quicken, but have been turned on to a handy dandy site called MINT which has already made my life (and pie charts) a breeze.

In short, it's a one-stop shop to enter all your accounts: bills, loans, credit cards, retirement accounts, checking and savings accounts, investment accounts, etc. and see them in one place, tracked by the minute and analyzed based on the budget you set for yourself. It will email you (or not if you choose) when you have a bill due, when you're over or under budget in an area, and to send you a statement with your spending habits, charts, etc. You simply enter in all your account numbers and passwords to their secure site and watch the magic happen. It's really quite amazing and I've been wildly impressed with the ability of the program thus far.

I encourage you to try it. It's free...and requires very little for you. You can let it track it all or just the basics. But regardless of how you use it, I think it takes a load off of all the downloading, naming conventions, etc. associated with most of the programs out there. It operates like Quicken in that you can create and modify the categories, but just takes a few steps out of the process, buying us all a little time. And who can't use the extra time these days?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A friend of mine sent me this link to Elf Yourself. While I'd seen this in year's past, I never took the time to do it. But this year, I partook in all the Elfing festivities. Here's our little Country Christmas dance. Check it out here:

Now it's your turn. Go ahead, Elf Yourself. It's fun. 

Nathan has this book on the shelf in our office called, Letters to Philip. While I've never read the book, it is actually a collection of letters from a father to his son before he gets married. It's a fairly old book, but still finds its place on our shelves among some other great books. Anyway, the point is that one day while I was holding Aiden at my desk, it occurred to me to do start my own letters to Aiden. There's not much thought to this yet and I'm not sure exactly what my vision is, but my idea is to kid of collect my thoughts (and whoever else's) in the form of letters to Aiden as he grows up.

I've just been struck with the fact that he changes so much every day. It hit me so much more after I returned from Arizona and after being away from him for only three days, he had changed SO MUCH. But while I was gone, I thought about all the things that are so "Aiden" about him and I want him to know those things from my perspective, as his mom, when he gets older. I started doing this when he was a few weeks old, mostly because I had so much going on in my head about him as this new thing in my world, my thoughts, feelings, emotions. And not only me, but what he was doing, what his expressions were, what he laughed at, all those little things that we forget within 24 hours because in 24 hours it's something different they are doing, or thinking, or laughing at. There's not really any method to my madness, and not necessarily any particular topics come to mind, but I'm just writing him notes, letters, comments, thoughts, etc. as they strike me. It's not even a daily thing as much as it is an emotional thing.

I want him to know all I see in him from now until he is old and grey and while I may not even ever give him this collection (while I'm alive at least!) at least I'll have my memories kept in a place so I never forget how he changed my world forever. With Christmas right around the corner and a six-month milestone not far beyond that, I realize how much time has already passed and how fast it will only go from here. I don't want to miss a thing and I want him to know how very loved he is for every second of it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

In recalling my Christmas memories in the questionnaire, I failed to mention my dear old Dad in the lis of memories. And while these memories number themselves far to many to recount in detail, one of the memories that comes to mind most clearly is the Christmas we had when I was about nine in Michigan. We had flown from Texas to Michigan (I think!), to spend Christmas with my Dad's family....actually it might have been California to Michigan...regardless, it was a long flight. We all felt a little jet-lagged from the trip and it took more than a few hours to recover from our travels, so it was an interesting start to our visit. While this sort of a trip could be memorable enough for any child of a young age, there's more to make it a true Christmas memory. I, being the busy kitchen helper I always have been, was working with Dad in the kitchen on a lovely breakfast for the fam.  Dad was busy makin' bacon on the stove and I was making eggs. And I'll just add that I was making eggs in the microwave. Why? To this day, I am still not sure.  Regardless, as I pressed the buttons to continue the cooking, I began to feel dizzy and told Dad, "I feel dizzy." The next thing I know I'm waking up in the living room with an audience of ten or so hovering over me like I'd just died. Apparently I'd just fallen flat on my back and passed right out in the kitchen. My mom, the ever-calm woman that she is, was freaking out and hyperventilating and they almost had to resuscitate her, not me! My dad, the humorist, was calming her down, and telling everyone I was just fine. Always the hero, there to save the day. I'll never forget making breakfast that day, and how he saved my life (joking!). A fond Christmas memory to be sure...and to this day I will NOT eat eggs from a microwave. Seriously. Ask anyone. Never. 

The other thing that stands out and definitely bares mentioning is our annual reading of the Christmas story in advance of opening our gifts. While many families do this, I'm not sure you have the eloquence of our dear Dad Down in your household sharing his take on the story that year. It never fails he manages to find a new detail in the amazing story of our Savior's birth. The story we could probably all relate from memory (I did before I was even in 1st grade) is always presented in a new and fresh way, with some new nugget to chew on while we open our gifts. It's something I love and will miss whenever the day comes we aren't together on Christmas morning. I am blessed to have them coming to our home this year for the first's going to be one to remember and I'm sure filled with lots of new "firsts" that we'll be talking about from this Christmas forward. I can't wait. 

Friday, December 12, 2008

I was checking out Beth Moore's blog and her daughter had posted this Christmas questionnaire. I decided it would be a nice way to get into the Christmas spirit a little early and also share a few of my favorite things.

1. Fresh Tree or Fake Tree

Fresh...there is nothing like the smell of a North Carolina Frasier Fir in my home at Christmas. Nothing in me could live with a fake tree. Nothing. Nathan could not pay me enough money to have a fake tree instead of a fresh, messy, sap covered, water drinking tree. There is something about it that makes it Christmas.

2. Favorite Ornament
I love the bee my mom gave me a few years ago. In high school I had this nickname from a good friend of mine at the time: "Kara Bee" and she found this beautiful bee ornament that stands out in the background of the tree. While I don't keep up with the friend anymore, it reminds me of the simple times in life and the joy those memories will always hold in my mind and heart.

3. Favorite Christmas Song
Oh, this one is so hard, but I have always loved, "Emmanuel, God With Us" by Amy Grant. It still gives me chills every time I hear it. Not sure why. I remember singing this at church when I was in middle school...just me in front of every one...and I just have that sacred memory burned in me and can't seem to let it go every time I hear the song.

4. Favorite Tradition
Three things...that make Christmas "CHRISTMAS" at our house:
1) Opening our gifts from the Poage grandparents on Christmas Eve
2) Mom's homemade Cinnamon Rolls on Christmas morning
3) Going to the movies after we're stuffed to the brim on Christmas afternoon (though I am thinking that one will get a bye this year due to our little addition, Aiden...we'll see!)

5. Favorite Gift Ever Received
Oh wow. Not sure I know quite how to answer this one. If we're talking about Christmas gifts, I'd have to say my marriage. The first year we were married, we hit a rough patch right before Christmas and it looked like we might not even be spending Christmas together as husband and wife. After some amazing intervention and a re-uniting that can only be described as God-ordained, we spent our first Christmas together and it was the most perfect day I've experienced on any Christmas.

6. Favorite Christmas Meal
Love the turkey and dressing (only mom's cornbread dressing will do), homemade rolls, green bean casserole is a must, sweet potatoes, and of course, PIE: cranberry nut & fudge. All these things = the perfect storm and a very happy belly.

7. Favorite Christmas Cookie
I LOVE LOVE LOVE my mom's Sandtarts. It is not Christmas without a few staple Christmas cookies, but this one is the most favorite of all because the recipe dates back several generations and it makes me feel like home no matter where I am.

8. Favorite Place To Be
Home. This year we have the luxury of waking up on Christmas morning in our first home. In the nearly five Christmases we have shared only one has been spent in our "abode," and that was a 700 square foot condo at the time. So, needless to say, it has been a joy to decorate our house this year and I cannot wait to wake up on Christmas morning in our home. I've always loved being at home for matter what city that is.

9. Favorite Memory
Up until now, my favorite memory was probably the Christmas we spent in Dallas with the entire Poage clan and getting to share with everyone that the first great-grandbaby was on the way the following year. Seeing the joy and elation on everyone's faces, getting to share in the family times (good and bad) and seeing all of my cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. deep in the heart of Texas was really good for my soul. Something I won't soon forget. And while that was a great memory, somehow I think seeing my Baby Aiden on Christmas morning will somehow top it. Though he doesn't quite get Christmas and was super scared of Santa, just seeing little miracle...will impress a deep memory I'm sure. We'll see.

10. Favorite Christmas Movie
ELF. Without a doubt. Hands down. Best Christmas movie ever. I love it because it makes everyone laugh and without a good laugh, what is Christmas.

Enjoy...your turn. Take and share!