Sunday, December 28, 2008


I was awakened by the ringing of the phone the other morning. It was my father-in-law calling to talk to Jeff. I hate to admit that 2 weeks ago, if he had called early in the morning - on a day perfect for sleeping in - I would have been a little annoyed. I like my sleep. Sadly, I'm not a morning person.

However, on this cold, rainy morning - the day after Christmas - I found myself choking back tears as I listened to Jeff chatting on the phone with his dad. I could hear Jeff's words fumbling about as he fought to keep his emotions in check. I could only imagine the array of thoughts and feelings he was experiencing as he listened to the voice on the other end of the line.

Relief. Amazement. Joy. Thankfulness. And I imagine a part of him was having a hard time trying not to think about what could have been - or, what almost was.

Two weeks ago his father survived a life threatening aneurysm; an aneurysm that went misdiagnosed for two days. He then survived an emergency, 10-hour surgery to repair the extensive damage caused by the rip in his aorta; a rip that spanned from his heart all the way down to his legs. It was a surgery only complicated more by the need to perform a double bypass and replace a faulty valve.

Then, as his father laid in his hospital bed, recovering from the surgery, it was discovered that he had developed a life-threatening lung infection. Just his being awake, lying in a bed, having a ventilator doing all of the breathing for him, was too taxing for his body. So, as quickly as they had woken him up, the doctors sent him back to sleep. And we watched him sleep for 6 days. And we waited for his lungs to get better.

And we prayed.

It was then determined that he would need extensive therapy on his lungs, so the insertion of a trach was scheduled for Christmas Eve. However, on the morning of Christmas Eve, the doctor who was supposed to do the procedure fell ill with the flu; so, they rescheduled the trach placement for a few days later.

Then, on Christmas Day, he woke up.

The doctor re-examined him and it was determined that his lungs had made such improvement that he no longer needed to have a trach inserted. So, they took him off the ventilator and he began to talk, again.

And we all gave thanks for the beautiful Christmas gift that God had given us.

So, the day after Christmas, as I listened to Jeff talking on the phone, I gave thanks that he had been given another opportunity to have a conversation with his dad. I gave thanks for being awakened by the ringing of the phone.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Here is the Christmas card that I came up with for this year. Although, I'm not sure that I'm going to get them sent out in time. I'm still waiting for the prints to come in the mail. Also, my father-in-law had extensive heart surgery on Tuesday, so we've been spending quite a bit of time at the hospital. It has been a very rough road, so far, however, he is slowly improving. The fact that he is still with us has been the best Christmas gift, for sure.

Merry Christmas, to you and your families!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The House That Patience Built

The kids and I built a gingerbread house today. It was our first time doing one and at one point I was thinking that it may, also, be our last. This was another parenting moment that required so much patience; with the fragile gingerbread walls, the icing that needed time to dry, the shall-remain-nameless-3 year old who kept licking the candy before putting it on...patience was required.

I'd love to say that I flew through the whole task with flying colors, but I didn't. However, I made sure to get right with the kids when my patience wore thin and, in the end, we all left the table with joyous memories of building our little house of candy. The event even made it into Grace's journal. And she only writes about the fondest memories of her childhood in her journal.

And we will do it again.

One of the biggest lessons that I've learned as a mother is that I can't run away from the things that I need to work on in my life. Although, sometimes I really want to avoid situations that are going to require me to work in areas that sin may be lurking, like my impatience. And that's exactly what my impatience is...a sin. And how can I say to my kids, "Sorry, kids. No more (enter activity/situation that requires patience) because Mommy doesn't have any and she's not willing to work on that sin in her life?"

So, I try to keep moving along. Growing. Stretching. Learning. Getting it wrong. Getting it right. And my kids go along with me, sometimes having to see, all too clearly, the sins in my life, but also getting to witness my overcoming them. They get to see that Mommy's not perfect but she's still trying to get it right.

And I pray that they'll take that approach in their lives, too. I don't want to raise them to believe that it is okay to be complacent in their sins. I want them to be able to go on to build their own houses...with candy and patience.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Family Night: Christmas Lights Drive

We had a rather easy Family Night this past Friday. Jeff is working a very hectic schedule right now, so I knew it would have to be something easy and kind of late, since he wouldn't get home until around 9 that night. When he got home, we were waiting in the van for him and we took off on a hunt for Christmas lights. We, actually, do this quite a bit during the season, as we go along our way to other places. However, the kids were very excited because the main goal for this drive WAS the Christmas lights. They would yell out to us when they could see a house all lit up, "Mom, turn that way!" Or, "There's one!"

We listened to Christmas music on the radio as we wound our way through different additions and we sang Christmas carols, too. Abby is at a wonderful stage where she sings so loudly and without abandon...even when she doesn't know the words. She had all of us giggling throughout the night.

As we drove along though, I did have a specific house that I wanted to see. So, we made our way to the other side of the city, in search for this house. It's one of those houses that is all lit up with lights that are choreographed to music. Not exactly my cup of tea, however, I knew that it would be something that the kids would enjoy. Unfortunately, I didn't know exactly how to get there, so I ended up having to call my Mom and have her give us directions. Which caused Grace to get a little nervous because she does not like to hear that Mommy and Daddy don't know where they are going. After a few wrong turns, we eventually made it to our destination.

The kids were squealing with excitement when they saw the house. They quickly unbuckled from their seats and clambered their way over to the windows facing the blinking lights. They watched and danced with the lights as they flashed along with the music

At one point, I could hear Abby climbing over coats and car seats as she made her way towards the front of the van. Without a word, she climbed up onto the console next to me, grabbed my face in her hands and gave me a big wet kiss on the cheek. Then, she turned to her Daddy and did the same thing with him before she climbed down and made her way back to her spot at the window.

So, without much planning and about a quarter tank of gas, we were able to have another memorable Family Night. So much so, that the kids ask almost nightly if we can go back and see the dancing house.

For more Family Night fun, visit Heather at Whittaker Woman.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Little Getaway

My mom, sister, and I slipped away for a few days last week. We left the menfolk home with all of the kids and flew to Florida. It was wonderful! We stayed at a nice little resort on Marco Island. We had a great time full of conversation, laughter, and even some tears...but mostly, laughter. I hadn't laughed so hard in a very long time.

A few things from the trip, which will mean nothing to any one else, but I know my mom and sister will appreciate them:

~Morning walks on the beach, combing for shells.

~Beautiful sunsets

~My inability to drive and do anything else at the same time, like tune the radio, talk...breathe.

~The response from the valet at the resort when I asked him for directions to Walmart.

~3 o'clock sorbet on the beach


~Dolphin tattoos (No, we didn't get tattoos, but we joked about doing it.)

~My sister carrying around her coupon book...everywhere.

~Christmas lights

~More U-turns.

~Our daily lunches on the beach.

~Plates and bowls. ;)

~Building Rudolph to send a photo to the kids and then getting to watch other people stop and take pictures of him.

~Mom trying to get her bulging suitcase zipped shut for our return flight.

~Panther crossings

~And, more U-turns.

It was a great time and I feel blessed that we were able to do it!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A New Name for Abby

Abby has informed us that her name is no longer, Abby. She now wants her father to call her, Sweetheart.

As for the rest of us? We are to address her as, Daddy's Sweetheart.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Stone Pile In Your Inbox

I just wanted to let friends and family know that you can now have an email sent to you, notifying you of new posts on our blog. Just enter your email address in the box to the right of the page to sign up for that option.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Weekend Projects

We've been getting some major things checked off of our to-do list over the last couple of weekends. It's been hectic, but it feels good to be getting these things done.

Last weekend, Jeff, my dad, his dad, and my brother-in-law got the piano from Jeff's parents' house and brought it to our house. Jeff parents gave us the piano over a year ago, but the timing never seemed to work out right for getting it, until now. So, we now have a beautiful piano for the kids to start learning how to play.

We're all very excited about it!

With the beautiful piano being moved into our living room, it made me want to get the room painted. We have been needing to paint the living room and kitchen for some time now, but just haven't wanted to hassle with it. However, this past week I decided that it had to be done this weekend. I'm not sure that Jeff agreed with the urgency, however, he went along with it, wholeheartedly.

Part of the reason why we've been putting off the painting: I have a horrible problem with making decisions. Especially when it's a decision about flooring, paint, furniture, what to make for dinner,...well, pretty much any kind of decision making is complicated for me.

If Jeff and I ever have a house built, it will not be a pretty sight. Too many options. Too many decisions. Too much for Nicki!

So, it took me a couple of trips to the hardware store - and until about 3 in the afternoon on Saturday - to make up my mind on what color of paint to use. And the funny thing about it all, is that the color that I chose - it's not much different than the color that was already on the walls. Yes, it appears I spent hours of my time choosing between the many different and exotic hues that are available for the color...beige.

I have come to the conclusion that not only do I have a mild phobia for decision making, but I also think that I may have a fear of color. Although, I did leave the interior walls of the kitchen untouched, with the thought that I would add a little kick of color on those walls.

But, we'll see if that happens. It may be too much for me to have to decide on something outside the beige family. We'll have to save that project for another weekend.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Letting the Creative Juices Flow

A couple of months ago, I took some engagement photos for my cousin and her fiance. One Saturday, we drove out to our aunt and uncle's house and quickly took some pictures, as rain clouds threatened overhead. We were able to get some pretty decent shots before the clouds opened up and began to pelt us with rain.

Since then, we've been working together on a save-the-date card to mail out to guests. This week, she was finally able to order them. And, the best part is, she got them all printed for free! I'm just crossing my fingers that they print out the correct way.

Also, she wanted to have a website that guests could go to, in order to get details about the wedding, hotel accommodations, directions, etc...Since she is trying to be responsible with how much money she spends on her wedding, we looked at some of the free wedding websites that are available. She wasn't exactly thrilled with what was offered in the free category and the price tags on the websites that you pay for, were a bit ridiculous.

Since I've done a little bit of web design before, and I'm fairly familiar with Blogger's platform, I decided to take a stab at making them a website. I just took a free Blogger blog and rewrote some of the coding on it to try and make it look more like a website than a blog.

Voila! A free wedding website.

It's still 'under construction,' but I think that it's looking pretty good...especially for being free!

Now, I need to get a little more creative with my pitiful little blog!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Stick

I was doing some reading on the internet this morning, when I saw this post about The Toy Hall of Fame.

I didn't even know there was such a thing as, The Toy Hall of Fame!

Anyway, apparently, one of the newest 'inductees' to The Toy Hall of Fame is, none other than, The Stick. Now, that may sound ridiculous to some, but I think they would have been mistaken not to induct The Stick.

Let me show you why I feel that way...




Jacob found that stick while we were on our camping trip, last month. He took it everywhere with him. Now, here is a picture of Jacob from this morning...


Yep. Same stick. Although, it has been banished to the garage by his Daddy, who thinks 'sticks' don't belong in the house. Where IS his imagination? That stick is one of Jacob's favorite toys. It gets played with outside, taken in the car, and it even gets fought over. Unfortunately, his little sister thinks it's a pretty neat toy, too.

So, I think it was very appropriate for The Stick to be inducted into The Toy Hall of Fame. Now, if we could get them to induct The Pot, The Pan, and The Cardboard Tube.

Or, my personal favorite, The Toilet Training Seat.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Family Night: Dress Up Night

Wow...I'm really behind in posting. I meant to post this last week! :) I see that the pictures are all messed up! I'll have to fix them later.

This past Friday was, once again, a Family Night for us. It also happened to be Halloween. Well, we don't celebrate Halloween but the kids really wanted to dress up for our Family Night, so we decided to go ahead and let them. We told them they could pick what they wanted to be, however, it had to be something that was, for the most part, homemade. I wasn't about to spend $15-$20 each on their costumes. What can I say? I'm cheap frugal. So, using what we already had and a few store bought items, I was able to come up with the costumes for all three of them for around $15 total.


Abby insisted on being a pink cat. That was easy to come up with, even though it took the longest to make. I used two fuzzy boas to make her tail, ears, and other accessories. I was covered in pink fuzz for days!



At first, Jacob wanted to be a Jedi, but I kind of talked him into being a pirate. I couldn't think of a cheap and easy way to do a Jedi, but I knew what to do for a pirate. When I told him that I would make a beard on his face, that kind of sealed the deal. He ended up LOVING his costume.


Grace started out wanting to be a princess, but when she didn't like any of my ideas on how to make her costume...she decided that being a butterfly would be better. I even let her splurge and buy 'real' wings, instead of making her own out of foamboard. Hee!


We decided to take the kids to a Trunk-or-Treat event at one of the churches down the street. It was...interesting. I'm not sure that we'll ever do it again, but the kids definitely enjoyed getting all of the candy and prizes.

Then we went over to Nana's to play games, do crafts, and eat some goodies.

It was a fun night and we'll definitely do a costume party again. I'm just not sure we'll do it on the same night as Halloween, again.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bring Your Child to Vote Day

Today, was another one of those days that I was so excited about homeschooling. Every election, since they were born, the kids and I have made our way down to the local retirement village, so that I can vote.
This year, with my second grader, kindergartner, and preschooler, was no exception. I loved having them stand in line with me - for about an hour - and talking to them about what I was about to do. It was so great to hear the very inquisitive and thoughtful questions that they had about the whole process, too. The kids also had the opportunity to hear stories from other people in line, stories that often started with, "I remember when..." Which is always a great way to learn about history!

It just made me happy that the kids weren't sitting in a classroom, hearing about the election and the process of voting, but they were out there actually participating! Well, participating to a certain extent. Unfortunately, the poll workers wouldn't let them cast their own ballots...something about voter-age restrictions. Anyway, this was another time that reminds me to just laugh at the criticisms that we often hear about how homeschooling is sheltering our kids from the 'real' world.

I don't think so.

Today, was just another example of how my kids were actually out in the 'real' world, instead of just reading or hearing about it, while sitting in a classroom.

So, today, I'm not only thankful for the privilege that I have to be able to participate in a democratic society, but, also, for the freedom to be able to choose how to educate my children. And I pray that neither of these privileges are ever taken away from me.

Election Day 2006

(My nephew, Elijah, joined us on that day.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Winning, Losing,...and Racing?

The other day, Grace could be heard lamenting the possibility of losing a coloring contest that she had entered, when her little brother gave her some sage advice. In a very compassionate and supportive voice, Jacob looked at her and said, "Grace, there's more to winning than racing."

Yes, it appears he is getting his life lessons from the movie, Cars. And he sometimes gets the words mixed around, but...such a sweet and wise little brother!

Monday, October 27, 2008

It's Been a Squirrely Day!

We've been having a squirrely day, today!

A while back, the kids built a squirrel feeder for me, using some wood scraps and extra stain that we had in the barn. Yesterday, they helped their Dad set it up in the backyard. So, we have been on the lookout for squirrels all day. We spent the morning looking out the window, while reading books and searching the internet for more information on squirrels. Finally, this afternoon, as we were finishing up school, I walked by the window to find someone visiting our new feeder!

We were all so very excited!

Yay, kids! You did a great job!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Last weekend we went camping with Nana and Pa. It was perfect weather! Warm enough during the days that jeans and a sweatshirt were adequate, then cool enough at night that you really wanted to sit around a campfire to keep warm. We had a great time and were able to do so many different things.

On our first night, we carved pumpkins. They added a nice touch of fall to our campsite.

We went fishing, too. The first night we went to The Children's Pond. I think it might be called that because it seems as though there were no fish in it more than 4 inches long. The fish were small but they kept biting, so the kids had a good time catching them.

On our last day, we went to the lake to try some fishing. We were a bit skeptical to what we would be able to catch there, especially when Pa's first catch was this:
Here it is a bit closer, just in case you couldn't see it.

However, as time went on, the fish began to get bigger and bigger. This one was definitely the catch of the day!
Where we fished was rather rocky, so the kids enjoyed climbing and jumping all around on the rocks.
Miss Abby even made her way out on to her own little island.

She keeps me on my toes.

We were able to enjoy some beautiful scenery, too. The leaves were definitely far from 'peak,' however, they were still beautiful.

In the evenings, we enjoyed sitting around the campfire: making s'mores, gazing up at the stars, and singing songs. The kids can now sing harmony to the song 'Ring of Fire.' That's what happens when your Pa can do a pretty mean Johnny Cash impression.
We had such a great time! I wish we could go again soon, but that will probably have to be it for the year.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Boy Is...

Scuffed up knees,
a freckled nose
with dimples here and there.
A daring, caring, sharing heart
a mass of tousled hair.
Boundless curiosity
the spirit to explore.
Two twinkling eyes,
a smiling face and energy galore!

A love of life,
a bit of sass
a source of untold joy.
A wonderment,
a dream fulfilled
God's miracle...
...a BOY!
(Author Unknown)

I love being the mother of a boy!

Since I come from a family dominated by girls, Jacob has given me the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of a boy. I love to watch him get lost in play, letting his imagination take him to far off worlds. I'm amazed by the variety of sounds that can come from his mouth - cars, trucks, planes, laser guns, light sabers, sirens, bombs...the list goes on and on. I love the way his hair smells when he hugs me: a hint of baby mixed with dirt and sweat.

And I love the opportunity that he gives me to take a picture like this:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Theme Thursday - Sunshine

I'm participating in Theme Thursday at The Land of K.A. The theme this week is...sunshine! I've been majorly busy this week, so I haven't even picked up my camera. However, I do have some photos from a few weeks ago, that have plenty of sunshine in them.

I'm often annoyed by bright sunlight when I'm taking pictures, but sometimes it just adds a special touch to photos. None of these are excellent pictures but I do love the effect that the sun had on each of them.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a different photo from this series of swing photos. I just love the sun in her hair.

My handsome boy with the sun shining on his tousled hair. This photo got really washed out because of the sun, but I think it gives it a neat quality.

The sun was very direct and bright in this photo, but I love her face and hair in this photo.

I'm not crazy about the composition of this photo, but I just love the way the flower looks, as the sun shines through the petals.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Philadelphia Getaway

Last Tuesday, Jeff and I flew out to Philadelphia for a little getaway. Actually, he had business to do in Delaware on Wednesday and Thursday, so while he worked, I played! Well, actually, I didn't do a whole lot of anything on Wednesday. I hung out in our hotel room, listened to music, watched TV, surfed the net, painted my toenails, ordered room service...stuff like that.

It was wonderful!

On Thursday, I went to a little salon and spa across the street from our hotel so that I could...get my eyebrows waxed. My sister couldn't believe it when I told her that was what I did. She told me that I should have at least had a massage done, too. But, no. I chose torture over pampering.

What exactly was I thinking?

On Thursday night, the company that Jeff had been working with, wined and dined us. Well, actually, they 'peanut and Cracker Jack-ed' us. They took us to a Phillies playoff game against the Brewers.

It was a great time!

Friday, we woke up early and I met up with my friend, Libby, at the Reading Terminal Market. It was great to see her and to catch up with one another!

Then, Jeff and I made our way over to The Independence National Historical Park.

We saw the Liberty Bell.

We, also, took a tour of Independence Hall. It was very moving to stand there and think about all of the monumental moments that have occurred on those grounds.

But, I have to admit, I couldn't help but think about all of the scenes in National Treasure that were filmed there!

Yes, I'm deep like that.

As a matter of fact, the entire time we were in Philadelphia, I kept looking for places that were filmed in the movie. What can I say? It's our family's favorite movie! It has also been a great catalyst for some history and geography lessons with the kids.

Since we only had about half of a day left to explore all of Philadelphia, we decided to take one of those double-decker bus tours.

Here are our reflections in the second story window of some building. Look at us being all touristy!

It would have been nice to actually visit some of the sites, instead of just driving by them, but we just didn't have enough time to get it all done in one day. For example, I really wanted to stop at The Museum of Art so that I could videotape Jeff running the steps, Rocky Balboa style.

I know that he was absolutely heartbroken that he didn't get to run all of the steps. Weren't you, honey? Just heartbroken!

We had a great time! We missed the kids, but it was definitely nice to have some alone time. Once they are older, we'll probably take them to Philly, so they, too, can see the places where some of National Treasure was filmed our nation's most monumental events occurred.