2.23.2010

Play Dates

When you're a kid, you think that play dates are all about you. I mean, isn't everything about you when you're kid? It's funny how much events/situations in your childhood make more sense once you are a parent. You remember things you haven't thought about in years, but this time around, you have a totally different perspective, so it's like experiencing it all over again.


This past Tuesday, I got together with my friends Jill and Leah. I went to Hanover with their husbands, and I met Jill through work and Leah through Jill. Small world, huh? Not only is the world small, but the three of us each had our first child just days apart - all boys! Leah's son, Joey, was born on May 13th, with Noah following on the 15th and Jill's son, Jake, arriving just 4 hours later on May 16th. The story would be a lot better had the three of us been in the same hospital, but we were spread across the city in different locations.


I have LOVED having two people to swap ideas, stories, and issues with as Noah has gone through the stages of infancy and his first year as a toddler. Oftentimes, we will find the boys going through the exact same issues at nearly the exact same times. It is so wonderful to be able to say, "Noah is starting to show  signs of separation anxiety. Are the boys?" In fact, I asked that exact question last week, and both Jill and Leah said that Jake and Joey were dealing with it, too. It's funny how nice affirmation from other moms can be.


Jill also recently had a little baby girl, Maggie, and Leah is due in a couple weeks with Ray. While it feels funny not having a baby, too, since we all had our sons at the same time, I know I'm just not quite ready for baby #2. In the meantime, I will get to enjoy their little ones and let the baby itch begin again. Because Maggie is still so young, we all got together at Jill and Aaron's new house. They have a full finished basement, and the boys LOVED playing with this huge playset. There were two different sections connected by a tunnel, and each section had it's own slide. Noah was in heaven! All of the boys did a great job taking turns and just playing independently so that Leah, Jill, and I could just chat. I was in need of some girl time, and knowing that Noah was having a blast made my time with the girls that much more enjoyable.


After playing downstairs for awhile, we went upstairs to have lunch. Jill is the host of all hosts, always making sure everyone is taken care of and has everything they need. She had high chairs and boosters for all of the boys and lots of food options for them, too. I filled myself to capacity with this delicious pasta and salad and had a nice gooey brownie for dessert. I know I have my weaknesses, but something I pride myself is being aware of other people's needs, feelings, etc. I like to make sure everyone is comfortable and happy. I would say Jill goes beyond the my level of thoughtfulness and always goes the extra mile. We all had such a good time hanging out together!

What about Maggie? Well, all I know is that she is such a good little baby! In the four hours we were there, she didn't make a peep - not one. She snuggled with me almost the entire time we were in the basement, and I loved every second of it. One funny thing to mention was Jake's fascination with Noah's hair. You know how it stands straight up and floats back and forth like underwater plants? Well, Jake kept putting his hands through it throughout the day. It was so cute! Noah would just stand there while Jake investigated the floating hair. People have said to me, "I hope you get a good picture of his hair," to which I reply, "Every picture that I have looks like that because his hair never lays down flat."


Noah had a great day and really got along well with Joey and Jake! He was nearly asleep in the car on our way home. I think he took a big nap that afternoon, and I was able to get some work done around the house. Now that is the perfect day - one where you see your friends, your child gets to play with his buddies, and you get some alone time/work done around the house. Thanks, Leah and Jill, for the great day! I can't wait to do it again.

2.21.2010

Happy Birthday, Sweet Girls!

Our friends, Jess and Nate, were surprised with not one...not two...but three bundles of joy on February 13, 2009, and this past weekend, I had the honor of helping them celebrate their special day. When Addison, Kendall, and Kate (named in birth order) were born, they were just a wee 2 lbs., 1 oz. to 3 lbs., 3 oz. Now, just a year later, you would probably never know they were preemies! They spent the first 6-10 weeks of their lives in the NICU and then joined their big brother, Homer - the dog, at home.

Before I jump into the birthday festivities, I just want you to know how special my friend, Jessica, is to all who know her. I met Jess my freshman year at Hanover, and she had been dating her now husband, Nathan, since she was 14. They compliment one another so well and are totally committed to their marriage and family. Jess and I became roommates at Phi Mu our sophomore year, and we were both majoring in psychology and getting a minor in sociology. In a lot of ways, Jess and I got together like peanut butter and...well...peanut butter. I wanted to say peanut butter and jelly, but actually, we are too much alike to be PB&J. Sometimes I think we were cut from the same mold.

When I think back to college, I remember Jess always being such a loyal friend. She was encouraging. She was strong. Her family was number one in her life. I loved these things about her! Jess and I made a lot of great memories at Hanover, and I have the pictures to prove it. I'm still debating about how old my children will have to be before they see those pictures. :)

Anyway, after graduating from Hanover, Jess went to Eastern Kentucky for Clinical Psychology, and I went to Indiana University for School Psychology. We found ourselves continuing the peanut butter and peanut butter lifestyle, taking many of the same classes once again. I got married in January 2005, and she was in our wedding. Almost one year later, Jess got married, and I was in her wedding. We were peanut butter and peanut butter.

When Noah was just a couple months old, I got the phone call. You know - the call you never expect to get. It's the one where your friend says, "I'm pregnant," but there is not gaga giddy excitement. The flat, "I'm pregnant" was quickly followed by "...and they think there are three babies."

Uh...what?

Surely there was a mistake. Surely she's not pregnant with triplets. They had just started trying to start a family! There must be some mistake. Some time went by, and Jess had another ultrasound to see what was happening in her pregnancy. My mind was racing all day! I was taking care of Noah and his itty bitty self, wondering how someone takes care of 3 babies at once.

The phone rang.

Jessica's voice was on the other end, "Amy, are you sitting down?" No. "Well, I just had an ultrasound and saw my THREE little babies and their THREE little heartbeats." My heart melted, remembering seeing Noah's heartbeat for the first time when he was just 11 weeks old. It was moment a mom never forgets. Then, I fell to the ground and started laughing! I mean, three babies - in my little tiny friend's body??

From that moment on, Jess started organizing her life and doing everything she could to prepare for those three little lives. She was determined to carry them to 30 weeks and did just that without ever going on bedrest. I remember leaving work one afternoon to go pick up Noah, and I had a voicemail on my phone. The voice on the other end sounded tired - and to be honest, intoxicated. I heard, "Hey buddy, it's me. I'm in the hospital right now." At this point I'm thinking, what drunk person left this strange message on my phone? "I just wanted to call you to let you know that the babies are fine..." Babies? Oh my gosh! That was Jess on the other line! Turns out, she had quickly gone into labor, and the babies would probably arrive soon. Addison, Kendall, and Kate were born into this world with two of the greatest parents God could have ever picked.

I went to visit Jess, Nate, and the girls about 4 weeks after they were born. I expected to be completely overwhelmed by their teeny tiny selves, but instead, I could just feel God all around them. When those girls were born, they proved that God still performs miracles every single day, and if you pay attention in those still moments, you can see those miracles and feel His presence. My visit was one of the most special times I've ever shared with Jess, and I will hold it close to my heart for as long as I live. I watched her love each precious girl, giving them baths, changing their doll-sized diapers. I saw her encourage the girls as she tried to teach them how to eat. I saw Nathan hold Kendall's little two pound self against his bare chest, which was the only way they could hold her, taking turns every other day. I saw two people who had been my friends for more than 8 years turn into parents. It was beautiful.

Over the past year, Jess and Nate have worked triple time to go on this journey we call life. They've had a lot of support from family to help watch the girls. I am pretty sure they always have two people on duty to make sure each girl is well-cared for each day and night. I can't imagine the planning, organization, and persistence one would need to care for three babies in their first year, but if anyone in this world could do it and still smile at the end of the day, it would be Jess and Nate.

Saturday was the big day - the day the girls turned ONE year old! I always thought that birthdays were special days for kids, but after becoming a mom, I honestly believe it is more special to parents than even the kids themselves. The one year mark signifies so much, and it's such a special time to reflect on not on the birth of your child, but the events that took place the previous year. For Jess and Nate, I'm sure seeing their daughters turn one year old felt like a HUGE accomplishment to say the least.

The cutest birthday cake ever!

Each girl got to eat one of the peas - how creative!

Kate, Addison, and Kendall in front of their proud parents

After the girls finished their cake, I really enjoyed my cuddle time with Kendall while giving her a bottle. I hadn't seen her since her heart surgery last summer, and she has grown SO much! She is such a precious little girl, and I love that she looks just like her mommy! Jess and Nate had asked me to be Kendall's Godmother, and I am loving having this role in her life! I am so excited to see how our relationship grows over the years, and I am really looking forward to sharing God's word and His love with her!

Kendall and me - Feb. 13, 2010

I wanted to pick out something special for Kendall's birthday but was just not finding the "right" gift. After talking to my friend, Beckie, I had the perfect idea - a charm bracelet. I could add a new charm to it each year. I found this perfect bracelet at Zales and a cute torquoise and pink cupcake charm at Von Maur to signify her first birthday. I am so excited to find out what her interests are over the years so that I can add beautiful charms to her bracelet each year on her birthday. Noah also got all three girls some of his favorite gifts to share. Happy first birthday, sweet girls, and congratulations to Jess and Nate! You did it!

2.20.2010

Egg in the Hole

This past weekend I tried another recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cookbook. I know, I know! This is like the tenth post I've written about her, but what can I say? She's a genious! I could get lost reading her blog. Here is the recipe I made:

Egg in the Hole

1 slice of bread
1 egg
2 tablespoons of butter
salt
pepper

1. Cut a hole into a slice of bread using a cookie cutter, the rim of a glass, etc.


2. Warm pan to medium, placing 1 tablespoon of butter in pan until melted
3. Place bread into the pan with melted butter, letting it soak for a couple minutes


4. Crack your egg and pour it into the hole of the bread - add salt and pepper
5. Let it cook until firm


6. Let the other side cook until the yolk is cooked to your desired firmness. Add salt & pepper.


You will find yourself eating a restaurant quality breakfast that has crispy, buttery goodness! Serve with fresh fruit and a tall glass of orange juice. Enjoy!

2.18.2010

President's Day Makeover - Part II

Yesterday I wrote about reorganizing Noah's playroom, and I promised to write about how that little project turned into a full closet makeover. Once we removed those L shelves from the closet and cleaned out the clutter, I was disgusted by how many scuff marks were all over walls in the closet. I know it's just a closet, but it was nasty. I remembered some paint that we used to paint our hallway, as well as a different closet, and knew it would be perfect! After repainting the walls, I told Ryan about how I would LOVE to put shelves into that closet, as well as a place for my shoes. He asked me where I was thinking we could find something like that, and I said Home Depot, Menards, or Lowes. So, without hesitation, he put on some warm clothes and began to clean off our driveway. We took some measurements and were out the door, braving the third snow storm we'd had in two weeks.

We didn't have any luck at Home Depot, which wasn't a surprise because it seems like we never have luck there anymore other than with their Behr paint. We then drove to Menards and found everything we needed:

1 - 8 foot white board (to make 3 shelves, each 32" long) - $12.99
6 brackets - $7.74
2 packages of screws - $4.00
Shoe Rack - $34.99

Total Cost: $59.72

We budget $100 for house items like this each month, so we were able to stay under budget. :)

Onc we got home, I began putting together the shoe rack while Ryan cut the board into 3 shelves. We were excited to start assembling the closet when we realized that the shoe rack was not going to fit. CRAP. So, then I got busy disassembling it, doubting the possibility of my vision for that closet. Ryan thought he might be able to assemble it inside the closet, so he started to work on that project, turning the screws by hand - ouch. Sure enough, he was able to assemble the entire piece with the exception of the bottom left corner. We had to use wood glue instead of screws - my idea - and it worked just fine.

Shoe Rack - CHECK!

Next, it was time to install the shelves. Well, because I insisted on having this shoe rack at the bottom of the closet, there wasn't much room to install the brackets for the bottom shelf. This shoe rack was beginning to be our nemesis! Ryan worked on those brackets for a long time while I alphabetized our DVDs - of course I did, right? Slowly but surely, Ryan installed all three shelves. Originally we talked about putting in two more shelves, but then Ryan put the hold wire shelf back into the closet, and I thought it looked just fine. I could still stack our board games on that shelf and still have plenty of room for our DVDs. Here is the final product. Sorry I don't have a "before" picture for comparison's sake, but just take my word on it - this looks a million times better!

The closet from top to bottom

All of our board games - I love game night!

The alphabetized DVDs - LOVE it!

 The dreaded shoe rack - but doesn't it look great?

The only other things I wanted in this closet were my favorite cook books. I pondered over where I could put them and how I could make them fit. Then, a light went on, and I put then between the shoes and the DVD shelf. Now the project was complete! I am considering finding something cute and non-bulky to hang on the inside of the door so that I can store items like markers, crayons, paper, and other kid items that I don't want in Noah's playroom. We will see where that goes! It's amazing how reorganizing a closet can make the rest of your house feel so much cleaner!

2.17.2010

President's Day Makeover

Do you ever have those days where you start with one small project and end up creating a HUGE project out of it? You know, like when you want to reorganize your child's toy room, and you end up getting out the paint, installing new shelves, and completely reorganizing a closet. Well, if you've ever had that experience, then you know exactly what happened at our house yesterday.

Ryan doesn't exactly love doing projects around the house. He is great at helping clean up (i.e., dishes, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, etc.) He just does like painting, putting in shelves, or anything of the like. Sometimes I have to "trick" him into helping me, and other times it just sort of happens without either one of us seeing it coming. This is what happened on President's Day.

Ryan had the day off work, so Noah and I were enjoying the extra time with him! His toy room has been a complete disaster for about a month, toys just laying out everywhere along the walls. I needed a way to contain all of them in order to make it look neat and organized again. I thought about buying some new shelves with canvas containers when I remembered having two "L" shelves in a closet that already had four canvas containers. We had originally used them for our DVD player, receiver, and other TV equipment. However, we really wanted a cabinet for those things, and once we found one, the L shelves were moved into a closet, where we decided to keep our DVDs in canvas containers. We own so many movies, and the containers were starting to overflow. I thought the L shelves would look great in Noah's room! So, my small project of reorganizing Noah's room quickly turned into gutting a closet in our eat in kitchen area.


I'm really happy with the final result! What do you think? Noah loves being able to climb on them so that he can peek over our half wall while saying, "I see you! I see you, Mommy!" It's adorable!

Noah's puzzles, some play food, and some old dolls


The cubes each contain toys from certain categories: tools, cars, books, and miscellaneous


The right side holds Noah's musical toys

I feel like I can breathe again in this room now! And the only thing we had to buy was one canvas container, so our total project cost was $7. After finishing that small project, it was onto the next one. Stay tuned for my next blog about our President's Day Makeover - Part II.

2.16.2010

Chicken Enchiladas


I have been CRAVING chicken enchiladas for weeks and finally decided to check out one of my favorite websites, All Recipes, to find out how to make some delicious enchiladas. There were several different options that received high ratings, and unfortunately I was missing a key ingrediant for most of them: sour cream. So, after reading about 10 different recipes, I decided to create my own chicken enchilada, and they were FANTASTIC! Here is the recipe I used:

Amy's Chicken Enchiladas

6 - 10 inch flour tortillas
2 cups cooked chicken breast, diced
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can enchilada sauce
1 can Rotel with green chilies
1 small onion, diced
1 serving of Minute Rice, cooked
Cheese - I used sharp cheddar and a Mexican blend

1. Saute an onion in some olive oil until translucent - add Rotel tomatoes & chilies
2. After a few minutes, add cooked chicken to onion, tomato, and chili mixture
3. Spray 9x13 dish with cooking spray
4. Put some cream of chicken soup across the bottom of a 9x13 dish - just enough to lightly cover
5. Mix together the rest of the cream of chicken soup and enchilada sauce in a small bowl
6. Add 2 tablespoons of enchilada sauce mixture to the chicken mixture
7. Put heaping spoonfuls of the chicken mixture into the center of a flour tortilla
8. Add two heaping spoonfuls of rice on top of chicken mixture
9. Add LOTS of cheese to the enchilada
10. Roll up tortilla and place it in the baking dish
11. Repeat steps 7-10 for the rest of the tortillas, placing each into the dish
12. Pour enchilada sauce/cream of chicken mixture of top of the enchiladas
13. Sprinkle more cheese on top
14. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees

Enjoy!

By the way, I only baked 4 enchiladas that night. I wrapped two - precooked - in saran wrap and then again in foil so that I could freeze them. I put the enchilada sauce mixture in a freezer bag and put everything in the freezer. This will be a quick meal for a future dinner!

2.15.2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! I hope you all had a fun time celebrating your love for each other. Being a parent has really helped me see Valentine's Day as something more than celebrating the love you have for your significant other and your girl friends. Now Valentine's Day is a time to celebrate how much I love Noah, too! Because I was reflecting on how much I love him, I was also thinking about how much I love my parents - all of them - my dad and Danette, my mom and Kent, and Gloria and John! I am the luckiest person in the world to have so many people to love.

Because it's been a tradition so far for 2010, Ryan once again got sick for this special occasion. No, I am not kidding. Noah had his first double ear infection this past week (see puffy face picture above), so we dealt with several nights of little sleep and several days of crankiness. He had a pretty nasty cold on top of it, too, which he passed onto Ryan. He has quite the head cold where at times his nose is running like crazy and the other minute it's stuffed up completely. I got a tiny tickle in my throat, which I'm sure I got because I can't help but kiss Noah - even if he is sick. His little baby kisses are too sweet to resist! In the moment, I even think to myself, "Now, Amy, if you kiss Noah, you are taking the chance of getting sick." Then, I kiss him anyway. I mean, how many more years is he going to let me kiss him smack dab on the lips anyway? :) Ahh, a mother's love. Here are some pictures of Noah enjoying his Valentine's Day presents:

A new shopping cart and dishes for his kitchen

Noah at his favorite place - the stairs

Ryan came home last Monday from work and told me that he made a list of EIGHT different things we could do for Valentine's Day. I guess he took my birthday conversation pretty seriously! Anyway, Ryan thought of so many fun ideas: go see Footloose at Beef and Boards, go to a big band dance night, and have dinner at Cobblestone Grill to name a few. Although all his options sounded awesome, I ended up really wanting to just do his last option: grab take out at Bonefish Grill and watch a Redbox at home. We had gotten some really delicious filets at Bonefish a couple weeks after Noah was born, and we thought we would recreate that dinner!
Sunday morning we decided not to go to church. With Noah just getting better and Ryan fighting his cold, we decided to keep our germs to ourselves. Ryan surprised me with some French toast for breakfast. It was delicious - meals are always better tasting when someone else makes them! The rest of the day Ryan worked hard to keep the house clean, the dishes done, and Noah happy. It was really sweet. That afternoon we exchanged gifts, which was a lot of fun. Ryan got me a subscription to Everyday Magazine, which I am SUPER excited to get in the mail! He also picked out a cute shirt for me to wear with my fun boots. Noah heard me talking about a mixing bowl with a spout, and so he picked one out for me. I love my gifts!

Love this shirt!

Can't wait to make a double layer cake with this tool!

I found a great idea for Ryan's Valentine's Day present from this blog. I didn't have a lot of extra time this week to put it together, so mine didn't turn out quite as fun as her's. However, I really do like the final product, and Ryan loved the gift!

A Year of Dates

The first page...

Example #1: February

Example #2: June

Example #3: March

Last Page - I guess great minds think alike!

We had a lot of fun with our gift exchange. We kept the limit at $50, and I think we did pretty well! It shows that you can find fun and thrifty ways to celebrate Valentine's Day.

Well, as Valentine's Day drew nearer, we realized that spending a bunch of money on a steak that Ryan woudl never taste was a little ridiculous. Sooo, we got some spicy Chinese food from Panda Express, guessing that if Ryan could taste anything it would be that food. Ryan put Noah to bed while I ran out to grab take out. It was SO cold, and I got our food and returned home as soon as I could. It wasn't until I put the garage door down and got inside that I realized that I forgot the movie. Oh well! Surely there would be something on TV that night, right? Well, there really wasn't, but we had fun just hanging out anyway. The day was perfect - absolutely perfect.

A New Bible Study Group

After taking about 9 months off from our last Small Bible Study Group, Ryan and I decided to join a new group with some friends. Dalia, Kevin, Patty, and Mark all ran the Bourbon Chase with us, and we had already met Natalie and Brock once before. It has turned out to be a really great group! Kevin and Brock are both pilots, so we usually plan our meetings month-to-month, which has actually been kind of nice. I like that it changes, sometimes falling on Friday nights, Sunday afternoons, or a week night, for example. Ryan has taken a 6 week break from playing guitar at church, and I have really enjoyed the extra time with him! Our church is getting ready to go to a Saturday evening service, so once March arrives, Ryan is going to be really busy with playing in the band again. I'm a little overwhelmed by the time commitment of playing 3 services each weekend, plus having practice during the week, but the Saturday service is just a 12 week trial period. I'm trying to view it as just that - a trial. I guess we'll see how things go!

Back to our small group.

We had everyone over a couple weeks ago for our meeting. Noah goes to bed at 7 p.m., so it was perfect. We put him to bed and then enjoyed the rest of the evening with our friends. I made some snacks and brownies, and despite the big snow storm we were having, everyone made it to our house. We are doing a study right now called iMarriage by Andy Stanley. It's pretty good! We've talked about how a lot of our desires going into a marriage (e.g., type of house, division of chores, how often you take a vacation) turn into expectations. Then when those expectations aren't fulfilled, you feel resentment, anger, and cheated by your spouse. It was supposed to be different. Yeah, we've all been there. Recently, we also talked about the whole idea of submission in the Bible. Ephesians 5:22-24 states, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything." As someone who feels close ties with the feminist movement, this one has always been difficult for me. Why should I submit? I am just as good as a man. Well, something finally clicked for me at our last meeting. The answer lies in Ephesians 5:21: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Did you catch that? "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Reverence means the feeling of deep respect or devotion. So, I am supposed to submit to Ryan because of the deep respect that I have for God. Now that makes much more sense to me. I tend to be outspoken and dominant in many situations, and ever since I decided to put more effort into submitting to Ryan, I have felt this strange sense of freedom. Additionally, I have felt even more respect for him. It's pretty awesome!

After we finished the formal study, we all hung out, talking, eating, and playing video games. Here are some great pictures from the night.

Mark, Ryan, and Kevin "concentrating"

Not really sure...

Mark, Patty, Ryan, and Kevin playing Wii

I am really looking forward to growing spiritually with this group of people! They truly are some of the most fun, encouraging, kind, hilarious people I have ever met.

2.08.2010

We Heart the Colts

Last night Ryan, Noah, and I stayed home to watch the Superbowl. We had a few invites from friends to go watch it at their houses, but we had a really busy weekend, and Noah was getting sick toward the end of the weekend, too. Although it was just the three of us, we really had a great time watching the game together! Noah never watches TV - unless he is sick. Then, he can make it for about 15 minutes. We were so surprised when Noah actually watched the entire first quarter with us!

Mommy & Noah dressed up for Colts vs. NY Jets game

Enjoying some Arni's pizza and some Cheerios during the 1st quarter

More pizza and Cheerios

Our eyes glued to the screen!

Daddy and Noah in awe of two great NFL teams!

Would you believe Noah took this picture all on his own?

Snuggle time with Kya!

I love my family.

I know in the end the Colts didn't bring home a win, but we still love our team! I love living in a city where everyone gets so excited to watch the Colts play. Wearing jeans and Colts' jerseys to work on Fridays is wonderful, too! I'm already excited for next season to come so that we can see that sea of blue once again!

2.04.2010

Gifts Galore


As promised, today is all about gifts that we gave others this year for Christmas.We try to keep our budget at $50 per person, though I'm always tempted to spend a lot more! Let's start with my very favorite - the gift we gave Ryan's sister and her husband. While playing around on Etsy several months ago - planning my Christmas gifts, I'm sure - I saw these wonderful framed pieces of art. You could have a word written where each letter is created by something found in the environment. For example, a "S" might be a picture of a curvy road. After doing a lot of research to find the best deal, I found the Letter Your Legacy website. Here is a picture of the final product. Their last name is Phillips - isn't it perfect?


Our total came to $112, but just as I was checking out, someone from the company sent me an instant message and offered me 10% off the cost for the picture & frame. This brought us to $103 - what an amazing deal!! So many other places charged between $150-$250. I even looked into just buying the prints and buying my own frame separate at a place like Michaels, but the cost was outrageous. As long as you place your order by noon on Friday, Letter Your Legacy will ship you your items the following Monday. This customized gift came in one week from the time I ordered it. We were very happy and look forward to working with this company again in the future!

Oftentimes when I'm planning our gifts for Christmas and birthdays, I like to buy things for people that they wouldn't buy themselves. For my brother and his wife, Kristen, we decided to buy them tickets to see Beauty and the Beast at the Fort Wayne Embassy. Check out a trailor for it HERE. Doesn't it look like so much fun?!  We loved The Lion King so much, and I'm hoping Dan and Kristen feel the same way about Beauty and the Beast!

Sidenote...

Speaking of musicals, have I ever mentioned my complete love for them?? It all started when I was in grad school and saw Thoroughly Modern Millie with some girlfriends. That was just the beginning! Since that time, Ryan and I have been to Chicago to see Wicked (Ah-mazing!). I saw Rent with my friend, Abigail, and my sister-in-law, Kelli. Abigail and I also saw Hairspray together, and it was SO much fun! Last year my mom and I saw Mamma Mia, which was phenomenal! As I previously mentioned, Ryan and I saw The Lion King with Abigail and her husband, Devin, last year. I really think it was my favorite because the visuals were amazing, and the actors' voices were unbelievably strong. For my birthday this year, my dad and Danette gave me money so that I could go see another musical! After hearing a lot of great reviews about Jersey Boys, I finally bought tickets a couple weeks ago. Doesn't it look great?? I cannot wait! We got balcony seats in the second row at the Murat, so the seats should be awesome!

Back to what we got other people...

My mom is a really special person, and just before the holidays, she and I were going through some pretty difficult things together. I wanted to pick out the perfect gift for her but was having a really hard time thinking of the perfect idea. Last year I got her a ticket to go see The Sound of Music at Beef & Boards so that we could have a fun girls' night together. Finally, the idea hit me! We would get her a beautiful diamond necklace for Christmas, and when I saw this beauty, I knew it was the right one.


Even the name for this necklace seemed perfect - Love's Embrace - because we really had to take care of each other over the holidays. Love you, Mom!

Next came my dad and Danette. They always present me with a challenge when trying to pick out just the "right" gift. What do you get people who seemingly have everything? :) I know a lot of people feel that way when shopping for their parents, and they are not alone. All of the sudden, it hit me. They love pictures - pictures of family, pictures of their dogs, pictures of friends, and of course, pictures of Noah. An old friend from high school named Desiree lives close to my parents, and she is getting her photography business off the ground. She offered us a great package deal, including the session fee and a CD of 20-30 images. My dad is really big on having images on CDs so he can make whatever prints he likes. Plus, Danette likes to make slideshows with her digital images, so it works out perfectly! I think they were really happy with their gift. This Spring they would like to get all of us together, including their two sweet puppies, and take some fun pictures with Desiree.

Ryan and I both were very blessed last year when two of our very best friends asked us to be god parents for their children.
My God Daughter, Kendall - she's a miracle baby!

Ryan's God Son, Chase - Happy birthday!!

Ryan and I really wanted to choose something special for Kendall and Chase's first Chrsitmas. We wanted to have a focus on God, as well as Jesus'; however, at less than one year old, we also wanted to find something that would be practical for their developmental stage. After much thought and may discussions, we decided that buying them each a tunnel would be the perfect gift. In their Christmas cards, we wrote Kendall and Chase a letter talking about how Jesus is a lot like a tunnel. God is at one end of the tunnel, and we are at the other. Jesus is the person who connects us to God, and He wraps around us with His love just like that tunnel wraps all the way around us. Because Kendall has two sisters - they are triplets - I also wrote about how she can share the tunnel with her sisters just like she can share Jesus' love with them, too. We had so much fun choosing these gifts, and we are excited about all of the special occasions we will share with them in the future.

I think that wraps up some of my most favorite gifts that we gave this year! I hope it helps give you ideas for your own gifts.
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