I am behind on blogging about several different events from this month so I thought I would just kill 20 birds with one stone. 🙂 This won't cover it all, but here is our December at a glance with some pictures to help tell the story…
1. Our new Cafe Connection location had its inauguration. I have been averaging a pan of brownies a week to sell to the cafe. Business is picking up. Slowly but surely.
2. Emilia has been teaching a Christmas series this month for Sunday School.
3. Somebody got their first major haircut.
4. We made Christmas cookies.
5. Ana's Kindergarten graduation party
6. We have eaten our share of Paneton and hot chocolate this season.
7. Christmas dresses that Gram bought last year fit us this year!
Three-years-old is so much fun. After having Ana go through that stage and now seeing Maggie at three, this is the age where kids say some really funny stuff. My older brother's family has a tradition where they take their four sons to the Dollar Tree to pick out Christmas gifts for the family. This year, my three-year-old nephew, Daniel, picked out a placemat with a rooster collage for his daddy. When he saw it, he said, “Look Daddy. You will love this. It's a blanket with pictures!” I realize this post is about my three-year-old, but that story made me laugh out loud. On to Mags…
Ana was straightening her bedroom (the one that she shares with her little three-year-old sister). I am sure she asked Maggie to help clean up. I was sitting outside of their bedroom, and Maggie came out.
Me, “What's wrong?”
Maggie, “My belly hurts.”
Me, “Your belly hurts like you need to go to the bathroom?”
Maggie, “No, my belly hurts like I don't want to clean up.”
Boy am I behind on blogging about furlough. 🙂 In all honesty, I left my camera cord (the one that I use to take my pictures off of my camera and onto my computer) at Farmington. It should be arriving in the mail in the next week or so. I have some really cute pictures from the end of our time on the farm, but they will just have to wait…
So, here is a quick whirlwind view of furlough destinations through pictures:
(To see ALL of the furlough pics, go to my FB album. Click HERE. And HERE.)
We hung out at my parents’ the first part of the trip. My college friends have an annual reunion on Labor Day weekend. This was the first reunion that Greg and I have been part of in 5 years!
Farmington to NYC
Greg and I hadn’t taken a vacation without kids since starting our family five years ago. My parents babysat, and we took off to NYC to meet Marci and Randy and have a blast. There is a whole separate post for that trip. 🙂
Farmington to Memphis
We caught up with friends, stayed with the Huffards, visited with Collin and Jillian, ate Corky’s and Bob’s pizza, and met with Iglesia for a grill-out.
Memphis to Fort Worth
We arrived at my MIL’s, Vicki. We met up with Marci’s family and Cari for one outing. Uncle Julio’s was a must since we missed it last furlough.
Fort Worth to Abilene
Abilene Lectures, visiting with CUDA board member, visiting with my dear friend, Claudia, and Ryan’s family.
Abilene to Junction
We visited Greg’s dad and NeNe. We got to visit with Granny Peg, Patti and Debby too!
Junction to Fort Wort
hung out with the family
Fort Worth to College Station
saw Craigan and his new wife, and we hung out with the Tarpley fam.
College Station to Fort Worth
got in a visit with Blake and Renee, the girls went with Memaw and Greg to the Children’s Museum, and we visited with Pat and Deborah on the way out
Fort Worth to Tyler
Texas State Fair and lots of time with our Shiloh Family
Tyler to Searcy
we stayed with the Richardsons, visited with the interns, and met with lots of different people
Searcy to Tullahoma
where we ended the trip. We hung out with the Bills side of the family, went on a campout with young marrieds, and hung out with our Cedar Lane family.
We absolutely loved being home during a gorgeous fall. We returned to Arequipa the end of October. It was a full eight weeks, but we made so many memories. It was a great trip!
For your second Christmas, you will be twenty months old. You are so BIG. How did you turn into a little boy so quickly?! Let’s see…
You are repeating so much right now. If you “want to,” you will repeat just about any word we ask you to try. And you are really close a lot of the time. My favorite words you are saying in English are “He-suh” (Jesus) and “Aw-way-wu-wa” (Alleluyah). In Spanish, you are saying “Coma” (which means “eat”) a lot. Manuela tells you this when you are with her, and you have certainly picked it up. We give you your food, and as you are eating… “Coma, coma, coma.” So cute.
Your little run is as cute as can be. You love playing chase with Ana upstairs. You will run from your room all the way to the end of the playroom area.
You are my market side kick since you started taking your one nap of the day later (you go down around 11 and wake up at 2:00). Adela loves your visits every Monday morning, and you have gotten really good at walking over to Franco with me. There is a restaurant with a big patch of green grass (which we don’t see a lot of here) that we pass. You ALWAYS have to walk on the grass when we pass there.
You have a thing for holding money right now. You know I have my change purse with me in the taxi when we go somewhere. You will fuss and fuss until I give you a coin to hold, and then you are completely content. I guess you are big stuff when you hold the moolah.
You still love dogs and cats.
You run over to the computer when you hear the Skype dial tone. You love talking to family and friends when they call on Skype.
You take a bath almost every night. If I say the word bath, you immediately say “Baaa” and run over to the steps to go over and take one. Maggie is your bath time buddy. You are an absolute pro at getting water ALL over the floor.
I forgot this above. When you want more, you say “Mow.”
You answer all questions (even when the answer is “yes”) with shaking your head no and saying “Nawoh.”
I wish we had a yard. You LOVE playing outside. We took you to the park this past month, and it was the first time you could do so many things and enjoy it. You are such a boy.
I posted on FB yesterday that nine years ago I emailed Greg to tell him that I would date him starting in our spring semester (we had just returned from our fall semester abroad to Chile). He was on his way out the door with friends to see one of the LOTR movies. This anniversary, we went to see The Hobbitt in the theater here. Isn’t it funny how things come full circle sometimes?
Eight years. I say this every anniversary… we have grown so much in these eight years. I think the major thing for me this year, though, is defining what we do share as a married couple and what it takes to really build a long lasting happy marriage. I believed in fairytale love, but it is becoming evident to me that fairytale love is not what lasting love is built on. I have always said that Greg and I built our relationship on Christ (we don’t have a whole lot in common), but it wasn’t until this year that I really grasped that fact. You see, I get why marriage is hard. We have had rough times, and there will still be rough times ahead. Times of difficulty. Times of grieving. Times that just aren’t happy. We fight, we disagree, we get on each others’ nerves, we speak disrespectfully to each other, we sometimes don’t understand each other. But on the flip side of that, we have times where we are totally in love with each other, times of PDA ;-), times where we just want some alone time together, times when we can’t wait to do something together. It isn’t that we don’t share times of “fairytale love,” it’s that our marriage doesn’t always demonstrate the perfect love connection we are told about through romance novels and chick flick movies. And when we aren’t that season for birds to be singing above us, or when our hearts aren’t pitter-pattering for each other, where does REAL LOVE come from? God is love. He teaches us to submit to one another, to LOVE one another, to respect one another. And as long as I have heard that, I don’t really think that I fully grasped the concept for my marriage until this past year.
It always kind of bothered me just a little bit when I read Jesus’ teaching about the resurrection and what part marriage will play in it. He says marriage won’t exist. If I had to define “my heaven” it would definitely include my husband, and I just really don’t like what Jesus has to say about that thought. But really, what is important? Christ’s kingdom and my decision to live out his purpose in that kingdom are what are important. I trust that when all is complete and made whole by Jesus’s return, I won’t be whining about not getting my perfect version of heaven. So how does my marriage play out in living out God’s purpose in this time? Through sharing the journey of God’s mission with my spouse, and living every day to try and honor him as Christ honors me. Because we are Christians, he can call me out when I am not honoring him with Christlike love. I can call him out when he is not honoring me with Christlike love. That, to me, makes all the difference in the world. When the world says, “You just aren’t compatible anymore. People change. You once loved each other, but now it’s okay to move on and find someone else who fits better as your ‘soul mate,'” we can disagree as Christians. Anyone who has stuck it out in marriage can see the truth in this teaching from the world. But this isn’t the teaching of Christ, and Christ has a way of taking the world’s teachings and turning them completely upside down. You love your spouse when you are a Christ-follower because you are demonstrating the love of Christ, and that NEVER changes. Ever. Period.
Greg McKinzie, I love you. We have had quite a journey up to this point. We have shared many experiences that I smile on and that I also frown on. But through it all, it is my prayer that I continue to learn to love you better as a Christian wife. We are far from perfect, but thank you for trying to love me in a way that is Christ honoring. Thank you for striving to be a father that exemplifies Christ-like qualities to our children. Thank you for openly loving and respecting me in front of our children so that we can be a positive example of a Christian marriage for their lives. Thank you for saying sorry when you mess up and showing humility when we may not understand each other. You are my partner in the gospel. And I pray that God will bless this marriage for the ultimate purpose of his kingdom work in the here and now. Here is to many more, my love…
I am convinced that many Christians have taken Christ out of Christmas in our U.S. culture. It has been a blessing to live in Peru and spend almost every single Christmas for the past 4 years here.
1. Peru is a Catholic culture. I DO NOT agree with worshipping Mary and the saints, but I love the fact that during the holiday season the focus is Jesus’ birth scene. There are more nativity scenes than Christmas trees and Santas.
2. Getting mountains of gifts is not cultural here. One reason is that the people don’t have the money to spend on tons of gifts. But their tradition is that the parents buy their children one gift and give it to them at midnight Christmas Eve. The children might receive gifts from aunts, uncles, or grandparents, but it still isn’t a mountain of gifts.
3. The Christmas “treat” is fruitcake and hot chocolate. How many Christmas treats exist in the states? Even though I am not a fan of the fruitcake, I love the simplicity.
4. The majority of Peruvians decorate the week leading up to Christmas, and they don’t take their decorations down until January 7 (symbolizing the time of the wise men visiting). I love this.
Jen Hatmaker wrote an excellent post. You can read it HERE. I firmly believe that my generation of Christians is fighting a culture war against Christmas. I am relieved to hear friends and my siblings share with me that they are making changes. I want my life to be more simplistic. How do I teach that to my kids?
Greg and I seem to make more and more changes every year. I am so glad we are moving in that direction. Here are some changes that I didn’t grow up with…
1. This year, our kids are receiving one “big” gift. We are also stuffing stockings with little things. We explain the tradition of Santa. Our kids don’t believe in the white-bearded Santa. We also stress to our kids that others do believe so they shouldn’t talk about it. Our kids don’t make a “wish list.” I grew up looking forward to Christmas because I would make a list of all the things “I wanted.” I don’t want my kids falling into that.
2. Every year we do a special Christmas project as a family. 2 years we prepared food baskets for a poor community and had a friend deliver them anonymously. Last year, we fed a group of homeless men on Christmas Eve. We try to do something that our kids can participate in. It is getting better and better as they get older.
3. On my side of the family, the siblings draw names. Last year and this year, we have changed to choosing a charity, and giving $50 in honor of that gift we usually bought. Also, the cousins are drawing names, and giving a book or small gift card. Simple.
4. Each year I want to emphasize the Advent season more and more. I am learning, because I did not grow up with this tradition. I want our kids to know the details of Christ’s coming forward and backward. What better way than with storytelling from the Bible? Again, it helps that they are getting older. I want the emphasis to be Christ.
These are just a few things we are doing differently. I still decorate, but I am considering taking Santa out of the decor. Many Christians struggle enough with their view of God. How many people view God as an old man looking down from heaven wagging his finger at them? This isn’t a healthy view at all. But isn’t that what we have turned Santa into? I remember when Ana was three. She was crying that December. When we asked her what was wrong, she explained that she didn’t want a scary stranger coming into her house at night (referring to Santa). We explained exactly who “Santa” was that evening to her. “Elf on the Shelf” has become such a fad. That fad didn’t sit well with me the very first time I heard about it. I want my kids to be good because we strive to be like Jesus, not because they want a spy to report back to Santa who is making a list about their behavior. I realize there is fun in all of it, but I am seriously considering what exactly I am teaching my children through it all.
It certainly isn’t what I was raised on, but I want to build on the things that I was taught and add to it. My prayer is that my children can do the same. I am ready for Christ to be back in Christmas.
I love sauteed green beans. I only ever buy fresh green beans here in Arequipa. I have combined two favorite flavors of mine in regard to green bean preparation when I cook them here.
First, a big shout-out to Denise Henderson. We lived with the Hendersons for 6 months in our preparation year with the churches before leaving for the field. Denise is an excellent cook, and she has lots of experience with cooking something quick, easy, and nutritious with 5 very active children in the picture. While we were there, she would simply saute frozen green beans in a little olive oil with salt and pepper. I personally love the little blackened bits that happen from the process. Here in Arequipa, I chop a little onion, a little garlic, and saute the fresh green beans until they blacken. Simple and delicious.
Second, I love green bean bundles. Who doesn’t love the taste of bacon and brown sugar wrapped around those delectable bundles of green beans? I am sold at brown sugar on just about any recipe. I love the stuff. Ever since making caramelized onions for a pizza I saw on Pioneer Woman, I caramelize onions for anything they go well with: hamburgers, sandwiches, green beans.
So one meal that I was preparing, I thought, “Why not combine these two ideas into one?!” And so I did. And you know what my favorite fan (Greg McKinzie) said?
“Wow. These green beans have a ton of flavor. What did you do to them?”
Caramelized Onions with Sauteed Green Beans
1 kilo (a little over 2 lbs) green beans
1 large onion
olive oil OR 3 slices of bacon
2 Tbs brown sugar or as much as you like (!)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper for seasoning
Put a splash of olive oil OR cook 3 pieces of bacon in a large pot. When oil is hot OR when bacon is cooked, crispy, and chopped up, ADD diced onion, garlic, and brown sugar. SAUTE onion until translucent (about 3-5 minutes) and caramelized.
ADD snapped green beans to the pot and stir every 5 minutes until beans are blackened. (Medium-High heat; 15-20 minutes) SPRINKLE salt and freshly ground pepper over the mixture for desired flavor.
I got this recipe from Gina’s Skinny Recipes at SkinnyTaste.com. It would be so good with spicy sausage like she recommends, but I can’t find spicy sausage here in AQP. If you are looking for a way to use a butternut squash, this is a great recipe for it. I had a rather large squash (thanks to the generosity of my friend, Larissa) so I doubled the recipe.
Recipe for 5 servings (the AQP version):
4 links of salchicha argentina
1/2 k butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 Tbs butter
10 oz or 1 and a half 250 g bags of pasta
1/4 c shallots (in Spanish “chalotes”)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of baby spinach, roughly chopped
2 Tbs freshly shaved parmesan cheese
2 tsp dried sage
salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
Just click the SkinnyTaste.com link at the top of the post for photos and the step-by-step directions.