Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Last Three Weeks. . .

Since I don't know where to start or what to say, I thought I'd let my phone pictures do the talking :)

Thomas (he says that's what they call him at work too. . .looks so much like his dad!) began an internship at Tom's office in the shop.  Very cool to be sending them off to work together each day --   and helpful since we have four drivers and only three vehicles!  He's there for this semester of school (he graduated HS in December) and is taking three classes at the local community college, still working his other part-time job, and now doing this internship at the company Tom works for to get his feet wet in what he is going to major in -- engineering.
We had a 3-day "sick week" from school my birthday week -- almost all local schools were out -- so Marie and I got this big 1000-pc New Orleans puzzle out.  I won't lie, she did 75% of if -- I'm not even sure Margaret and I can claim even the other 25%.  It was nice not to be sick ourselves and so enjoyed the time off and all the games, puzzles, movies, etc. while Eastern TN was blessed with incredible spring-like weather in early February!
But, even though we were out of school, my school work was not on "hold" -- ha!  It was nice, though, to work at a much slower pace and actually get (mostly) caught-up.
Then this beautiful girl (in black) had her first tournament of the season in Gatlinburg that weekend.  We saw some of the destruction left by the fires last November but also how quickly the area seemed to have rallied (the sportsplex we were at had had wind damage that seemed to be repaired by then).
Pop Peth requested a picture of this one, so here it is :)  She's gorgeous too!
Margaret's spring season has also started (second from left) and this was a picture after a win in Atlanta.  She plays with an awesome group of girls!
I had a birthday (45!!!) during this time and requested a Picture of the Day with my youngest.  I won't be bending down long. . .soon he'll have to do that for me!!  I was dressed up because a close friend was taking me to lunch on my birthday.  Not often that I'm off in the middle of the week to "lunch" -- ha!  Here we were digging into dessert after an awesome meal of fish tacos for me and crab cake sliders for her :)  And, to brag on my kiddos -- they had gone out early that morning and brought Chick-fil-A chicken and biscuits home for breakfast.  It was a great day!

And here was my birthday dinner -- Olive Garden compliments of several gift certificates parents from school had gifted me over the last year.  It was a day of feasting for sure -- I *never* eat three meals a day, and most especially not three very special all-my-favorite-foods meals :)
My exciting gift was this:
So completely unexpected!!  I have wanted one for years and years, but there is always "something" else to spend the $$ on.  I'm so happy that my family all pitched in together and bought me this along with a case -- it is my new, very best friend :)
Frederick also replaced my FitBit that stopped working a couple of weeks ago.  That was so thoughtful of him -- I really liked having one and this one is a tad more upgraded.  I especially like checking my heart rate while exercising and having the time right on it too.
I love how my kiddos love their teachers.  This was Frederick and Marie V-day morning.  They got up at 5 a.m. to make fresh gluten-free donuts for Tom and a couple of Frederick's teachers.  The donuts were actually pretty good -- an apple-type batter with sugar sprinkled on it if you wanted that.  The girls also bought or made the most wonderful card for their small group adviser, Dr. Ham.  I appreciate so much their small school and the interest that the teachers take in their students and, in turn, the love that my kids shower back on them.  It is truly a unique experience.
For some reason, Valentine's Day is a "big deal" for our kiddos.  Tom and I rarely, if ever, celebrate it ourselves, but the kids almost always buy and wrap gifts for one another.  Because of this, we always try to do something for them too -- this year we got them each $20 Chick-fil-A gift certificates.  The kids always know what kind of candy to get me (!!!) and Margaret made a card for Tom since he no longer eats sugar.  Thomas doesn't look awakes because, well, he wasn't :)  Also, he was the only one who didn't participate in the gifting -- but no matter, he was overly generous at Christmas, which is the holiday when HE likes to over-do it.  Frederick is a birthday-giver, as is Marie.  She rarely forgets a friend's birthday, even if they live out-of-town.  I'm so proud of them and their hearts for others.  Margaret certainly heads the Valentine's Day celebration -- the elaborately wrapped gifts were hers :)

Can't leave Chelsea out -- she got a new bed!!

Not only did Marie (on right) lead her school soccer team this year and then play for her school's basketball team (they were short on players), but she has worked incredibly hard for their Science Olympiad team also!  Dr. Ham signed her up and she ducked out of an out-of-town soccer tournament this past weekend to compete at Lee University with CCS.  She participated in four events and took 2nd place in Rocks and Minerals.  I'm so proud of her!  Tom got to spend the day with them -- they needed an extra driver -- and although it was boring for him, at least it was science which he likes more than me :)

My dad was here this weekend, which was nice too.  We played tennis, went out to breakfast (both with and without Frederick), and played games -- dominoes and cards.  We had some Cedar Lake Camp people over for dinner Saturday night and Thomas was asked to Prom!!
M was so clever about it -- bringing Thomas a box of his very favorite donuts from our former town :)  The lid was inscribed with "Wanna Go To Prom?".  I'm so happy he has these life-long friends (it will be year 10 for both of them at CLC this summer) and that finally, after he's said "good-bye" to high school, that he will attend a dance!!!  This will be at his former HS in our former town where he mostly grew up with these classmates -- it will be a good end to this season of his life I hope.  

Not knowing how to end this post, I will with scripture that first was the passage we were studying in 7th grade this quarter, and then it became exceedingly relevant in my life (John 15:2 specifically).
Very suddenly (or so it seemed -- although the Lord has been preparing my heart, unbeknownst to me) I left the teaching world.  I know I was born to be a teacher, a wife, and a mother and the Lord has fulfilled all of those callings in my life.  I'm am blessed to have had incredible opportunities in  both my personal and professional relationships for the last 2.5 decades. . .and then I was pruned.  I don't know what is next and that is scary for me, but this year the Holy Spirit has again and again protected me in ways that I have continually acknowledged but never understood -- until three weeks ago when I submitted my resignation.  I did this with unimaginable peace and conviction, as well as tremendous support from those who love me best.   When my teammates found out I asked them to join me in prayer that my love for the classroom be supernaturally taken from me so I could move forward with "whatever" will take it's place.  The Holy Spirit faithfully answered those prayers also, without making me jaded or cynical.  I don't understand it all -- and I'm sure there are many that come alongside me in that statement -- but, for whatever reason, He has removed me from this profession.  I am starting a new season of rest, mothering, and searching.  This time, though, I will search in wait -- because I'm uncertain of the fruit He has in mind for me -- I'm clinging to John 15:4, knowing that if I remain in Him, He will guide me where He can best shine through me.

So. . .with that, I wrap up the last three weeks :)  Right now I'm looking forward to being a full-time mother and wife, maybe start blogging again, finding ways to reach out and give others a hand, work on the house that we moved in to almost two years ago but I haven't had time to invest in, and I have even been invited to a Bible study.  And guess what text they were studying last week?  Yep.  John 15.

In His Grace and Love and Service,

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Christmas 2016

 It's three days into 2017 and another Christmas is in the books.  Christmases.  With an "s".  I love that we have special time with so many different people at different times around Christmas. . .

On Wednesday, December 21st, we planned our family Christmas.  Just the six of us and special people that are framily (friends that are like family). . .this year is was Marla and the Maxwells.  I haven't spent time blogging like usual this year, but the Maxwells are dear friends/neighbors we have become close to over this last year.  So. . .we set up schedules a few weeks ago, Thomas took the night off work, and we planned our framily Christmas.

Margaret & Marla
The Maxwells

Barbara brought over quite a spread to get the evening started :)
It was enjoyed by ALL!

For the last several years, I have made the same "special" meal for "our" Christmas -- beef tenderloin, saute onions & mushrooms, twice-baked potatoes, bread and asparagus.  This year we added Grandma's corn casserole and Barbara brought a pea & radish salad -- delish!

Marie had set a beautiful table earlier in the day -- I tell ya, this year I could NOT have done it without all of the kiddos help in various capacities.  We didn't get out of school until the day before and I had been up late the night before grading exams so this was truly a family affair.  Marie even dug out my Christmas dishes that I haven't had out in a couple of years -- it was so good to see them again!
 After dinner, everyone took their "places" for gifts.

Marie settled in the rocking chair. . .

Marla curled up in one of the recliners and Margaret kicked out in the other. . .
Frederick had his spot in front of the tree so he could pass out gifts -- his favorite role.  Tom, good guy that he is, was the trashman :)

Earlier in the day the kiddos had gotten out a stocking for Chelsea (she got a deer antler) and Marla. . .we forgot we put candy in Marla's stocking, though. . .and you can imagine what state it was in when she took it out of the green stocking later that night (hint:  the fireplace got turned on)

The Maxwells are very talented and have been building their house from the ground up.  They do everything. . .but I hadn't seen them do metalworking.  Earlier this month when I was at a fair I found this metal sign that is our state with the word "home" cut out in it.  I hope it's something they will enjoy in their new home.

The girls thought it would be super-fun to tease Marla with an enormous gift. . .which she kept opening. . .and opening. . .a tote to a cooler to a large mailing box, shoe box, etc.  Finally she reached the "prize". . .a necklace Marie and I had found for her at a boutique we knew she liked.

 The Maxwells were overly-generous with gift cards for the four older kids and then a special certificate for Frederick. . .

And remember I said that they could do anything?!?  They made Tom and I PENS.  Ball-point pens!  They are sooooo cool!!

That pen!  Barbara MADE it!!  I wish I would have had Tom's in this picture too -- his is wood.
And Marla's parents sent gifts from GERMANY!  It was really a neat gesture and perfect for the kids -- a cookbook from the region they live in (which Frederick was happy was in English), a noodle-maker that the girls are crazy about, and lots of candy.

Thank you, Marla's family, for all of the treats and goodies!
Thomas going through all of the candy (and picking the best for himself?)

Just because I don't have many of this guy -- I think this was his mug from Marie.  It says something like, "I'm your gift for putting up with the others" or something like that -- ha!

I think Frederick is discussing the "particulars" of his gift (when can we start?  when can I choose?  how many can I choose?) and Barbara prepared her sought-after-by-this-family dessert -- cheesecake!!!

Was Thomas protecting his loot while eating his cheesecake??  We all thought, when we bought his Christmas gifts, that he would be leaving for college in January.  Plans have since changed but we still gave him his sheets and comforter set -- he can enjoy them here until he heads off in August.

The next day, Tom brought home my gift.  We sold our van this fall and I have been (mostly) driving Tom's car -- he bought a new-to-him vehicle this summer to tow the boat.  The car is a couple of years old but, with no "one driver" it doesn't get the love and attention it should on a regular basis. . .so. . .my gift was having the car detailed so I can become the owner of this car!!  Yea!!!  It looks really, really nice (even the engine was detailed!) and I'm so happy to call it "mine".

This was an absolute amazing gift!!  I highly recommend it for anyone.

Friday we were up-and-at-em early -- dropped the dog at the kennel and then on the road up north for Christmas with family!!
We made a quick stop in Richmond, KY to pick up some Starbucks -- use those gift cards the Maxwells gave the older three (along with the many I got from my students!) on Wednesday.  It was a yucky, grey day -- we needed something to brighten it up. . .

When we arrived we hung out with my mom for a bit as well as my sister.  Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures at church that night (boo) but did get this one of Mom and her only grandsons at dinner afterward:

Last year we didn't go "home" for Christmas, but when we do we generally go to this Christmas program at my sister's church and then out to dinner with Mom.  Sometimes it's lots of us -- this year it was just the six of us and Susan, my youngest niece.  AVJ had an early-morning swim practice so her parents took her home before our (late) dinner.  Chinese this year -- yum!

I can't get my picture to turn right now -- not only do we have to haul Santa presents up when we go (some years I'm on top of it and have many delivered, but this year we shopped pretty early and didn't really decide on which were going to be from us and which from Santa until right before we left) but also had shopped and wrapped my mom's gifts too.  I laid them all out for her with Post-its so she could write out the tags.  Yes, each kid has a different paper -- it keeps things organized ;)

Christmas Eve I got to spend some time with this precious one and her awesome mother!!

She looks SO MUCH like her mother when she was this age (it's unbelievable how quickly life circles around!!).  I love, love, love spending time with this family -- and Marie enjoyed it too :)

After we left My Favorite Muffin (a favorite place to meet Dayton friends) we went over to see this little one's great-grandparents whom we love and adore.  No pictures this year -- not sure why?  But it was a good visit with them and they were glad to see Tom, Marie, and Thomas too.

That evening my sister's house was, of course, decked out beautifully.  She had our entire family (my brother was in CO this year so missed out), my in-laws, and some friends of hers over for dinner and we exchanged some family gifts.

Dinner is always amazing - this year we could choose from beef or turkey, lots of sides, and lots of different pies along with an assortment of cookies and treats that Marie had put together for all of these get-togethers.  I think we ALL gained at least five pounds when it was all said and done.

The onion rings are the most-coveted -- AVJ and Marie were the masters of those this year:

And I'm so sad I didn't get more of these "around the table" pictures -- not one of all the couples or anything!  But here are three of my favorites. . .Marie, Thomas, AVJ (the three oldest)

Looks like they were playing with Grandpa Fred :)

There was also fun times being had in the lower-level. . .

FINALLY - a picture of Susan :)

I love how laid back Christmas Eve can be. . .plenty to do, plenty to eat, plenty of people to be with. . .the VJ's are great hosts!!

We even had a little time outside next to the fire.  It was too cold to stay out long. . .but it was a beautiful night with a welcome fire.

My big gift to all the grandparents this year (my mom, my dad, and the Bells) were frames for all of their grandchildren with Thomas's graduation picture in the first one.  I put graduation dates of all the others in the other ones, in case they want to display all of the frames at once -- like my mom has done -- or pull them out each year, like the Bells are planning on doing.

Tom spent at least two hours hanging my mom's collection the day after Christmas -- I love how it turned out!!

And it's always great to have all the Foster cousins together -- Marie & Thomas in the back, Margaret, AVJ, Frederick, and Susan on the sofa together.  They had all generously been sent gifts from their Aunt Susie & Uncle Bruce and Uncle Brad & Aunt Kristin.  Since they were in FL and CO we took a picture and sent it to them!!

Mom and her girls. . .Dad with his. . .
Here's a fun little height perspective. . .:)
He is just about an inch taller than his dad now too. . .

We did something we have never done before -- we all spent Christmas Eve in different houses -- some went to Dayton with Nana & Grandpa Fred, some stayed with the VJ's, and we stayed with my mom.  It was very different waking up and not going straight to the tree. . .straight to "see what Santa left". . .but instead driving over to my sister's to pick up a couple of kids, then heading 40 minutes north to see the rest of the kiddos and our family.  Different but not bad.  It's kinda nice that the kiddos are older now and we can be a bit more leisurely in the morning. . .

Santa came!!!

 Breakfast, compliments of Nana and Marie. . .Tom (no grain, no sugar) even decided that he should indulge in some pancakes too :)

 This guy asked to be Santa again. . .he's good at running the show!

Giant Uno cards were on the list. . .as was the expensive Patagonia shirt. . .and anytime you give Margaret clothes, jewelry, or make-up you've pretty much done the right thing.

That was a family game from Santa and a hat that ended up being a hit (I wore it for a walk later that night -- a little big but WARM).

 Nana & Grandpa Fred opening their graduation frames. . .
 And Aunt Kathy was able to stay off her feet because of our helpful Santa. . .who also received more than a "few" things. . .!

The question begs. . .will this pack of cards be enough to make it through the year??
 As always, my generous MIL invited both my parents to Christmas dinner and the grandpas got some pool in with the grandboys before dinner. . .
And some special friends stopped by before we ate (Debbie on the left. . .I think that's the back of Jennifer's head on the right). . .it was was great to see them!
 I didn't take any good "table" pictures -- darn!  But here was my delicious plate of food :)

After dinner, but before dessert (more pies, cookies, and candy!), we had one more batch of gifts to give. . .my mom to my kids.  
Margaret (14), Frederick (13), Mom, Marie (16), and Thomas (18)
My mom leaves most of the shopping up to me.  This year they all got "Life is Good" t-shirts (except Margaret - I found something else for her), Frederick got a week at Cedar Lake Camp, Thomas some high-end clothes, Margaret picked things out from a Mary Kay catalog, and Marie pretty much picked out her things too -- a Vera Bradley wallet, a new down coat, continue her National Geographic subscription, and an ottoman for her room. 

 My favorite picture of all, though is this last one.  It is now my Facebook banner and probably will remain so for a very, very long time.  All four of our children with all four of their wonderful, spectacular grandparents.  What a very special, very memorable Christmas 2016 was.

And now. . .back to school for me tomorrow!!  This post only took three days to write :)