Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gingerbread and Christmas Homeschool GTG!

First off. Aunt Debbie's the coolest-- everyone in my family is, really. This family ROCKS! 
But, speaking of the coolness of Aunt Debbie: She's given us a "25 Days of Christmas" box that has a little door for each day and yummy treats inside. She opens this incredible home up to many people every week, and she never seems to run out of energy to have fun with her little sweethearts. AND... she's the one who got the fun gingerbread houses for decorating! She has the best ideas for fun-- gives the best hugs-- and helps us all remember that GOD is the most important One to please.
 My incredible Big Brother, Josh, and my amazing Dad, Mr. David.... 
Two of the best guys in all the world!
 My babies working on our gingerbread house. ;)
 I love this picture. I love the little gingerbread man, but ohhh, how I love that little smile showing those little teeth on my girl's face. To see that happiness and know that we are all together as a family working towards going home to Heaven to see Mom again... There is nothing like the bond that you can have in the church!
 Four totally cute, totally covered in candy, full of *sweet* memories, GINGERBREAD HOUSES!
 Picture by Carter-- =)
Family Fun Night is something that I look forward to all week, every week. Same as our monthly Ladies' Bible Class, our Teen Devos at JJ's, and our Homeschool Get-Togethers. This incredible fellowship time is priceless and gives us a taste of what Heaven must be like.
The homeschool get-together this month was at our house. Notice that? "OUR" house! :) I love our house. It is super cute... and it's home now. It was fun to have people over and have them see my room and visit where I live. There is something really great about having a place to call your own and being able to share it with others. This picture makes me happy. It was such a sweet and fun night because every kiddo at the party got a present.
Sweet sisters sharing a moment of lookin' at their presents together. All of the kids were so good and waited patiently until everyone had their present in hand, and then all at once, they unwrapped their gifts! Excitement on all sides!! 
 The joy that spending time together with Christian friends (not to mention getting and giving presents) is not able to be described fully. It MUST be experienced. 
So... everyone is welcome to come on over!!! Love you all! 

Major "homeward" Christmas road trip!

 I love road trips... Road trips where you get to stop every few hours at another place that you consider home and visit with people you consider family. *Happpppy Sigh*  The church is the biggest blessing ever!
 10 days, 45 hours of driving... and hundreds of friends...

Skip and Helen, my wonderful preacher's family. Saturday night and Sunday morning for worship. It felt so good to be with them again and things through worship and around the building just like we used to have at Duluth. They are like grandparents to me and heroes forever! 

Then on to Cordova to see my dear friends, my sweet Owens. They are those awesome kinds of friends who you might not talk to often but when you do get back together you act just like you see each other every day. I know they must be such an incredible blessing to that congregation because they help me every time I'm with them to be a stronger Christian and more focused on our Father. Our time went too quickly, but it was full of hugs and laughter. I adore their family and how they are bringing up their 4 beautiful daughters!
 Then on to see my Graves! It felt so good to "come home" to their house-- even though I'd never been there before. I love how the family and a few familiar things on the walls make any house feel like home. The Graves have been my second family for as long as I can remember. They are my dad and mom, and my brothers. They've now taken a job at the TN Childrens' Home and are doing a wonderful job. I'd not seen my "dad," Mr. Kevin, in almost exactly a year. And Brandyn and Hannah for even longer. Being together again was precious! 

I was able to spend a day at Freed seeing lots of friends and enjoying the college life for a day. Met some new friends, even one from Bates City- if you can believe that! Enjoyed walking around campus, chapel, seeing the craft show, hanging out at Rachel's, eating at gano, super with Brandyn and Hannah and friends, and an INCREDIBLE Christmas Concert!!! And then getting to go home and cuddle with my parents before bed and having your sweet brother kiss you goodnight... I never wanted to leave.... I love being one of their girls!!
 AND it snowed!!! While I was with them-- first time for me to be in the snow in 2011!!! WOOT!
 On the road again from one part of TN to another... Couldn't be so close to Nashville and not run by and see my Crookshanks. I wish I could have seen Lina, but I sure did love getting to visit with my Mr. Ed. He's so awesome. They are the missionaries who live in Malawi, Africa, who I went to work with twice. I really want to go again before they move back to the States, which they are looking at doing before too long. It was awesome to catch up with him. Please keep their family, the church in Malawi, and the family who will take over the work for them (once we find someone to do that...) in your prayers. They give God the glory in all that they do, and I love them for that!

Then to my Gran and Grandad's I went! I'd not been there since a few weeks before I moved and wow, how good it felt to be back there!! Everything was just right. There's such a special feel about your grandparents' house. I am going to miss being back at real Christmas time with my family, but I enjoyed my one-on-two time with them. :) I'm hoping that they will come out here to meet my kiddos and family and congregation. They're cool grandparents that still travel all over the place even though they're older than 70. I wanna be like that! 

Loved getting to go to their congregation while home with them and see heaps of friends and favorite cousins. The church is such a blessing. Family is such a blessing. And it doesn't get better than when someone in your blood family is also in your CHURCH family!! I am thankful to have many such cases as that. As every other place, I was not ready to leave when it was time to go on to the next stop, but I was excited to see the next group of fantastic friends and family, too...
 HOME! All the way to GA... all the way to my house! =) Got to decorate my tree, my shelf, put my presents for my family under the tree... ohhhhhh, it felt SO good to see our BIG Christmas tree outside with all the lights on it lite up again (because Daddy and Christina are amazing!). Home is such a special place!!
 There were so many people to see, things to do, places to visit... Every person there is such a blessing in my life. The fun was unending-- from surprising my preschool friends, to taking care of my Miss Terri, to going for a night of games and laughing in Athens, to worshiping with my home congregation, to sleeping in the same room as my big sister and talking to all hours, to skyping with friends in China, to having amazing friends over for lunch, to an early breakfast with my big boys on Sunday... And I could just go on... and on... and ON! Because I know the best people in the world! =)
 All the little things are so sweet, so special. Mean soooooo much. Take the time to make memories with your babies as they're growing up-- you will never be sorry that you did.  I find myself telling my kiddos about things we did as a family all the time. I will, and do, cherish those memories forever! You never know when the last day, the last hug, the last laugh and smile will be... make every moment count!
There were hugs from Grandma, cuddles with each of my sweethearts that I used to take care of all the time (and who I miss SO much!), visiting the cutest dog, hearing one of my favorite preachers, singing with my Duluth, turning to put my toothbrush away where it always went before I moved-- and realizing that my bathroom cup was still there. Waiting for me. Getting to watch a Christmas movie with my family, eat Lucky Charms for Christmas breakfast, hug my Mommy, see my Daddy when he came home from work, hear Addy and Cason's voices call me "Miss Kawa" again... Precious!! 
 Took new family pictures in our new awesome sweaters from Grandma. She picked the colors for each of us perfectly-- it's amazing how Moms and Grandmas just know everything, isn't it? I find it the most useful thing in the world to have so many parents and grandparents-- so helpful when you need to know what to do about something. I enjoyed traveling alone and all the time I got to just be still and know that HE is GOD. Also the time to sing to music, listen to Ladies' Class lessons, and talk on the phone with dear friends. It was wonderful!
 When it was time to leave home to come home... I came by way of the Colleys'. That was a blessing all its own--and very incredible to fall on a time when they were home and not running around like crazy! =) Just an incredible lunch visit and catching up on life for a few hours. Could have stayed there forever... But... On the road again towards my last stop before home-- Memphis!! Memphis is such an exciting place-- not because of music or Elvis or anything like that, but simply because of the Forest Hill congregation and the love and zeal they have for the truth and each other. It is always wonderful to "come home" to my Memphis family. I'm a Mangrum and a Phillps, by rotation, and enjoy the time with my Memphis parents and sisters bunches!!
Last morning to get up and say goodbyes... but then a WHOLE LOT of hellos!!! Coming home the first stop had to be the Leonards', then my Hecks', and first thing Wednesday morning, I had my babies back in my arms! (And hardly let go of them all day-- or week, to be honest!) I loved every minute of my trip. But I have equally loved every minute of being at home. HOME. In my Missouri. <3

Sunday, December 18, 2011

December Begins! =)

There are so many sweet, funny, busy, happy, learning-filled moments in our lives. I'm happy for the beginning of every new day with my sweethearts and best friends. Glad to go to bed at night in a home where I am loved, taken care of, and feel so safe.
 We have really been enjoying doing art. Cater, my hates-to-be-messy boy, LOVES to finger paint. It makes me happy every time.
 We like to look outside and see all that God's made us. We like to watch our neighbors walk their dogs, come and go through their days... and we like to be out playing in our great yard. 
 Dancing inside is something that we do very often-- and since it's gotten colder, the kids call it "ice skating!" :)
 ~My Ice Princess~
 ~My Little Prince~
 First sighting of Santa in my house! She and Carter have been my sidekicks while doing and making Christmas presents for my family in GA and all the dear families I have here. It's been so fun to share those secrets and excitement with them!
 We had a MAJOR sleepover with the grandkids, my kiddos, and our cousins-- or you could just say all the cousins who make our lives just FULL of happiness! I hope that one day I can have a home like this one-- where people feel very welcome at any time and there's always room for one more! :)
At lunch after a fun morning with our homeschool group seeing the Nutcraker! Like father, like son! :) My guys are super cute!
What a beautiful time of year. What a beautiful place to live. What a happy time in life... why? Because GOD is in control. Because we are praying for HIS will to be done. Is it always easy to live everyday with the sadness and sin around us? 
 No. But we can do it. And we can have peace. When we work together for HIS glory, everything falls into place. And remember to THANK HIM for everything HE blesses us with daily!!