Monday, January 28, 2013

Week in Review: Jan 21-27

Last Monday was Martin Luther King Jr Day, which meant a day off from school for the kids...after having 2 snow days and 2 half days (where they got out early for weather related things) last week.  Meaning, they had only been in school for the equivalent of 2 days last week.  Meaning Mommy needed a holiday, not the kids.

Did I get one?  Only if you count allergy testing as a holiday.  Since I hadn't been tested in 10 years and they have been giving me allergy shots for that entire time, they figured I was due.  What did we find out?  I'm allergic to the same stuff I was 10 years ago - trees, grass, mold and dust (the dust one was a lot more positive this time - I think that's a good reason for Tim to do all the dusting, don't you?).

Tuesday - It was back to school - Yay!!! While the kids were, thankfully, in school, I had an appointment with a new doctor, a rheumatologist.  I tried not to get my hopes up about this doctor but I have to admit, I was anticipating him helping me.  He's a doctor who deals with inflammation.  I have inflammation.  So he should be able to help me, right?

Wrong!  It was a total waste of a $40 copay.  He didn't even examine my abs/ribs, just said "Huh, I have no idea what that could be.  I'm at a loss.  I've never heard of that before."  And about my shoulder (which majorly started hurting during our flooding/snow last week), "The orthopedic doctor said that was your rotator cuff?  No, that's really your bicep tendon that attaches up there."  Um, do I care about specific medical jargon?  No.  All I know is that it hurts.  Stop trying to say every other doctor is wrong and just help me already! "I think you need to take Advil and do stretches and give it time."  I've been doing physical therapy, stretches, exercises and taking prescription anti-inflammatory meds for 6 months.  Isn't that giving it time?  "Well, maybe it will take another 3 months."  OK, what if 3 months rolls around and it's not better.  "Well, I don't know.  I guess you could come back and see me."  Um, no thank you.  Seeing as you were so helpful the first time.

So that was a lousy morning for me.  But that evening I did get to spend some one-on-one time with Julie while Tim and David went to Cub Scouts and build a bird feeder out of a milk jug.

Thursday turned out to be a much better day.  I went to get a massage.  I've been going to the same massage therapist for a while now, but I hadn't been in since before Christmas.  I left feeling pretty good but anticipating the soreness that usually follows these massages.  These aren't feel good, relaxation massages.  These are deep tissue, find all the trigger points where it hurts and press on those really hard massages.  Thankfully that good feeling lasted for about 2 1/2 days!  I had very little pain until Sunday morning.  It was a really nice 2 days.

We found out Thursday night that the kids were out of school on Friday because of an ice storm that was headed our way.  So we spent a lazy Thursday night and slept in on Friday morning (Tim had already decided that we was working from home on Friday).  Friday afternoon the kids got invited to sleepover at their friends' house, which happens to be in our neighborhood, so I didn't have to worry about driving far in the ice storm.  They went over there about 1:30 and stayed until Saturday morning.  Date night in for us!

What I'm watching:  Tim got the Lord of the Rings trilogy on Blu-Ray for Christmas so we are making our way through watching those again.  I had forgotten how violent they are.  That must be why men like them so much.  When we want to take a break from the violence, we watch Smallville through Netflix.  Oh, wait, that has some violence too...but super hero violence doesn't count, right?

What I'm reading:  I just finished Where Treasure Hides by Johnnie Alexander Donley.  Great, but frustrating book.  My full review will be coming soon.  Now I'm reading Kisses From Katie, a true life account of the work that Katie Davis is doing in Uganda.  You can visit her blog here.

What I'm listening to:  I love, love, love this new song by Kutless.  I think it was written just for me.  Take a few moments and listen to it and read the lyrics while you're at it.

That was the highs and lows of my week.  How about yours?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Is reading a waste of time?

"Many of the most worthwhile things in life are of no practical use.  What can a person do, in any utilitarian sense, with a sunset, or a snowy mountain peak, or mists on a summer morning or a beautifully shaped tree?  The tree of Paradise, we must remember, were not only good for food, but pleasant to the sight."

 - Leland Ryken

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

It Snowed!

Here in east Tennessee, we don't get a lot of good snow.

You know what I mean.  Snow that you can really play in.

Oh, we get dustings a lot.  Meaning we get 1/2" or less, enough to make the grass white and to whet your I-want-to-play-in-the-snow appetite, but not enough to be fun.

But last Thursday, after one of the strangest weather weeks that we've had this winter, we actually got some good snow - 4" at my house.

The power was out for about 6 hours and the roads were terrible on Thursday afternoon.  But I am thankful that my kids were let out of school early and my husband left work early, so we were all home together, safe and sound.  I'm also thankful that we have a gas fireplace with a big, full gas tank hooked up to it, so we were warm while we slept without power on Thursday night.

The power was back on by Friday morning.  The house was cozy warm.  Our bellies were fed.
And Friday was play day.

I hope you've enjoyed a snow day too.  I know my kids are hoping for lots more of these this winter.  We'll see.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Booksneeze: Silent Night

A Rock Harbor Christmas Novella

(Book Description)

As Christmas day nears, Bree and her faithful search-and-rescue dog Samson follow the trail of a troubling mystery into the snowy forests of Rock Harbor.

Bree Matthews is preparing for Christmas guests, but her heart is reeling from the recent and tender loss of her unborn child. Her sister-in-law, Lauri, suddenly turns up on the doorstep of the lighthouse home Bree shares with her husband, Kade, in Rock Harbor. Secretive and withdrawn, Lauri seems curiously intent on discovering what happened to a parachuter who disappeared in the North Woods along Lake Superior's icy shore.

As Bree and Samson, her search-and-rescue dog, plunge into the search, Bree wonders if Lauri may know more than she’s admitted about the parachuter. And then the clues lead them to the trail of a young woman whose family fears the worst about her disappearance.

Will the search on this snowy, silent night lead Bree and Samson to more than clues about the missing girl? And will Bree’s prayer for a baby ever be answered?

My Thoughts:

This is the first Rock Harbor book that I have read, but a quick search on Amazon shows 5 other books about Rock Harbor by Colleen Coble.  The Rock Harbor crew also has a little cameo in another Colleen Coble book that I've read and reviewed, Tidewater Inn.

This was a cute little book.  Knowing it was a novella, not a full-fledged novel helped as I read it.  The action and the mystery of the book were resolved pretty quickly.  If this was a full novel, I'm sure there would have been more to the investigation.

However, I felt like Coble packed a lot into a little book.  Bree and Lauri both grow as characters and deal with losses and heartaches.  At the same time, they solve a mystery involving a missing college co-ed, an inexperienced skydiver and illegal activities happening in the Michigan forests.  Think that's a lot to pack in 140 pages?  Somehow Colleen Coble does it.  And all the loose ends are tied up by the end of the novella.

The only disappointment?  This seems to be the end of the Rock Harbor series.  Slient Night drew me in and makes me want to read more about Bree and her family.  Luckily, the first book in the series is sitting on my shelf, ready to read.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

I was provided with a complementary Kindle version of this book for review by the Booksneeze program.  All opinions are my own.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The right way to grow old

"When little boys and girls grow bigger and older, they should grow from the outside, leaving a little boy or girl in the middle...But some unlucky people grow older from the inside and so grow old through and through."

- CS Lewis

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Net Galley: The Stars Shine Bright

The Stars Shine Bright by Sibella Giorello

Once again Special Agent, Raleigh Harmon, is working to redeem her career in the FBI and to restart her life.  With her mom in a psychiatric facility on one coast and her fiancee on the other, Raleigh is caught in the middle, not knowing where she is supposed to live or who she is supposed to be.  Agreeing to an undercover operation seems to be the perfect way to delay the choice.  Sent on assignment to a thoroughbred horse track, Raleigh puts her real life on hold and instead poses as a rich niece set to inherit her aunt's horse business, at a track where all the horses keep mysteriously dying.

With only her handler, Special Agent Jack Stephenson, to talk to, Raleigh has never felt more alone.

Can she repair her relationship with a mother who refuses to see her?  Will her fiancee ever understand her need to be an agent?  Can she uncover the killer at the track before they succeed in killing her?

With the world looking so dark, will Raleigh ever see the stars shine bright again?

My Thoughts:

This is the fifth book in the Raleigh Harmon series.  There are times when reading the book that I did feel like I had read it before.  Oh wait, Raleigh is censored by the FBI again?  She just got chewed out by her boss and told that she's demoted again?  She has to restart her career at the bottom again?  Seems like I've already read this.

Raleigh's roller coaster career in the FBI is very repetitive throughout all the Raleigh Harmon books.  That being said, I liked this book best.  Raleigh is a much more in-depth character in this book.  She seems more vulnerable, more confused,  more real.  Instead of being someone who always knows the right thing to do, she is struggling.  She realizes there's not always a right thing to do but that she has to live with the consequences of whatever choice she's made.  I enjoyed seeing her develop as a character and make discoveries about herself throughout the book.

The mystery in The Stars Shine Bright is completely unique.  I loved the horse track setting and learning how things work in the background at a horse race.  I'm always impressed by how Giorello can come up with dirt that can help solve the case (and I mean actual dirt, like from the ground).  Special details such as how Raleigh can cheat a lie detector test make the story seem that much more believable.

I do have to say that if you were to pick up this book without reading the other Raleigh Harmon books that you would be a little lost on the backstory.  There is a lot in the previous 4 books that just can't be summed up easily in a couple of paragraphs.

If you have read the other Raleigh Harmon books, definitely read this one as well.  It finishes up the series nicely.  If you haven't read the others, don't start here.

I give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

I receieved a complementary Kindle version of this book from NetGalley.  All opinions are my own.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

2013 Goals

In January of last year, I wrote about my 2012 goals.  There were only two of them - blog once a week and finish 2 digital scrapbook pages a week.

Guess what?

I didn't keep either of them.
But I didn't do horrible at them either.

I digitally scrapbooked once a week for about half a year.  And I know this isn't an excuse, but...I got a new computer this year...and my scrapbooking program is still on the old computer...and it's really annoying to change it because it involves calling the company and getting new pin code thingies...and using it on the old computer is sooooo slowwww ...I'm sure you understand why I couldn't keep that one.

As for blogging, I think I did pretty well.  There were a few weeks in there where I didn't post, then others where I blogged and posted a lot.  I blogged in clumps.  We aren't pharisees here so I'm sure that's good enough to count.

All that begs the question...what will I make as my goals in 2013?  Something as lofty as those oh-so-hard-to-reach 2012 goals (note the sarcasm)?

Lofty?  Maybe.  But not as time specific.  I know, I know, goals are supposed to be specific, that's how we keep them.  Make them measurable, attainable and specific...blah, blah, blah.  I'm making them my way.

For Me:

Start a walking program again and work up to 1 mile 3 times a week.  Back in the summer and early fall, I had been walking 1 mile 3 times a week every week.  But when my arm started hurting, it hurt to walk because my arm would swing.  And I would have to walk holding my arm, so I just stopped.  And while one mile doesn't seem like a lot to most people, it's really a huge milestone for me.  My body cannot physically take more than walking at this time and slow walking, at that.  So I'm setting an attainable goal for me.  When will I get up to 1 mile 3 times a week?  Who knows?  Hopefully, sometime this year.

Increase water intake and research diet and supplement options.  Over the last year, while I've been in pain, I've been on quite a few medications.  I've been to two different physical therapists, not to mention a host of doctors.  But the one thing I haven't really touched is what I eat and drink.  I have been reading recently about foods that inflame and should be avoided.  I hope to do more research on that.  And everything I read talks about getting adequate water to keep muscles, fascia and joints hydrated.  I definitely don't drink adequate water right now, so I'm slowly trying to increase that as well.

Read 40 books.  You can see a post all about that here.

For Tim:

Go on more date nights.  Will that be monthly?  That would be great, but we'll just see what I can handle and how I feel.

Use words to affirm him more often.  Including telling him how thankful I am for all the things he does around here and for how hard he works during his workweek.

For Julie and David:

Read 1 book aloud to them every month.  We used to do this all the time, but we have gotten out of the habit.  This activity is something I can do with the kids that doesn't involve any movement or pain on my part.

Listen to 8 audio books this year.  We love to listen to books on CD while we are driving to and from places.  And, better yet, we borrow them for free from the library.  This is a great way to increase their "reading" without much effort.

Go on a date with one child each month.  Once again, this was something we have done in the past, but just fell out of the habit of doing.  Julie has requested that we start up again and I think it's a great idea.

Use positive words to affirm more than negative words to correct.  This one will be the hardest, I'm sure.  Not that I love to be negative with my kids.  It's just that they need so much correction, it's hard to remember to affirm the good things they are doing as well.  So my goal is to try to affirm them and tell them the things they are doing right more often than the things they are doing wrong.

As you can see, the goals involving my family are all about my relationship with them and how I can help build that up.  These may be broader goals than in years past, but I've tried to make them flexible.  I've written goals that, except for the walking one, don't require much physical effort from me.  In other words, goals that I can manage at this point in my life and health.

I'd love to do a "goal check-up" post every quarter or so.  Will you help keep me accountable for that?  I love to hear if you made goals this year.  Drop me a comment with your goals or a link to your post on them.  I promise I will read them all.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Downward Spiral: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

escalator at the end of a tunnel
Picture Credit

(On with the saga...Haven't been keeping up? Read the rest: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.)

What do "they" always say?  You have a high chance of coming home from a doctor's office or hospital with something you didn't have before you went in there.  And I don't just mean a huge medical bill.  I mean germs.  Icky, yucky, no-matter-how-much-you-clean-they-are-never-gone germs.  But, as germs go, it could have been worse.  Very soon after we got home from the hospital, I started getting a sore throat, stuffy nose, cough, etc.  All those things you associate with a cold.  Could I have gotten it somewhere besides the hospital?  Yeah, sure.  The only thing I know for sure is that while I was recovering from some massive digestive system trauma (and, yes, throwing up for 36 hours is greatly traumatic to the digestive system), I was also dealing with unneeded head cold junk.

I let that cold go on for about 3 weeks before I went to the doctor.  I kept hoping that, just maybe, it would go away on it's own.  No such luck.  By that time, the cold has turned into a lovely little sinus infection.  On Halloween Day I went to my doctor's office and got some antibiotics. (Side note: Halloween is a great day to visit your doctor.  All the nurses dress up as cats and bumble bees and stuff.  They made me smile, even if I did feel crappy.)  I saw the nurse practitioner that day, because, let's face it, the doctor is never available when you are sick - only the LNP.  For whatever reason, she decided to give me some strange antibiotic that I had never heard of called Ceftin.  And believe me, I've been on a lot of antibiotics in my life.  So for me to have never heard of one is odd.  I should have protested then, but I believed that she knew what she was doing in prescribing that to me.

I filled the script and read over the side effects.  I always do that because I get a lot of side effects from medicine and I wanted to see what I might be in for that time.  There was big sticker on the bottle for this drug that said "May cause diarrhea.  Diarrhea may occur weeks or months after finishing the medication."  Um, say what?  I may get diarrhea months later because I took this medicine now?  Or I may get diarrhea starting now and lasting for the next several weeks or months?  Either way - not good.  I hesitated but once again, I trusted that the LNP knew what she was doing in prescribing it so I took it.

I'm sure you see where this story is going by now.  Nine days into the ten day antibiotic, I started getting diarrhea.  I lost 9 pounds in 4 days.  That should tell you how bad it was.  Of course by that point, I was frantically searching online trying to figure out what was wrong with me.  Normal antibiotics may cause some stomach distress, but this was too much.  And, the worst thing was I was no longer on the stinking drug, so I couldn't even just stop taking it.

Then I saw it.  There on one of the sites I visit quite often -  (Yes, I look up prescription drug info a lot.)  I found this little gem "Pseudomembranous colitis has been reported in patients treated with cephalosporins [author's note: Ceftin is in the cephalosporin family], including cefuroxime, and may occur during or after treatment. If diarrhea occurs and it is unresponsive to discontinuation of the drug and/or standard therapy, pseudomembranous colitis should be considered."

Seeing as "pseudomembranous colitis" is not in my vocabulary, I looked it up too.  It is affectionately called "C-Diff" by medical personnel.  From Health Central: "Clostridium Difficile, or C-Diff as it is more commonly known is a bacteria that when allowed to grow and flourish in the gut can cause mild to severe symptoms. Mild symptoms of C-Diff infection include: 3-4 watery diarrhea bowel movements per day and mild abdominal cramps. More serious symptoms of C-Diff infection can include: up to 15 daily diarrhea bowel movements, fever, nausea, dehydration, weigh loss, blood in stool, and sever abdominal cramps.  

Basically, that means the drug I was on killed off all the good bacteria in my intestines.  And, in a case of Bacteria Gone Wild, the bad bacteria, C-Diff, in my gut just threw a huge party and took over.  C-Diff is a bacteria that can be picked up anywhere - shopping card handles, playgrounds - any place that bacteria abounds.  Pretty much everyone has it living in their gut.  But pretty much everyone also has enough good bacteria to keep it in check.  Unless ... you are given something strong enough to kill off that good bacteria.  Then the C-Diff can show it's true colors.

After reading all that, I knew that's what I had.  And I knew that meant yet another trip to the doctor's [sigh].  Sure enough, after convincing the doc at the after hours clinic to test me for it, the test came back positive.  Guess how you treat this condition caused by taking antibiotics?  With another antibiotic.  Strange, huh?  And not just any old antibiotic, one that I had been on 12 months before.  Guess what happened that time?  I threw up for 12 hours after taking just one pill.

Another phone call to the doc later [sigh again], and I found out I had to take that drug - Flagyl.  It was my only option.  There are only two antibiotics that kill C-Diff and this was the milder of the two.  The only solution was to take Zofran, an anti-nausea drug, 3 times a day, each an hour before taking the Flagyl and then making sure that I took the Flagyl with food.  So for 10 days, it was...wake up an hour early to take the Zofran, then make sure breakfast is on time to take the Flagyl, remember an hour before lunch to take Zofran again, eat lunch exactly an hour later to make sure I take the Flagyl at the right time, then do it again for dinner, all the while keep my fingers crossed that I don't start vomiting   Oh and did I mention this was the week of Thanksgiving.  AHHHHHH!!!

During that antibiotic treatment, I felt completely awful!  My digestive system was so messed up by the C-Diff that eating was hard.  There was all this wonderful Thanksgiving food and I didn't feel like eating any of it.  I went from horrible diarrhea to horrible bloating and constipation.  On top of that, my regular doctor told me to eat yogurt 3 times a day to get good bacteria in my system.  I haven't eaten yogurt in years.  Now I remember why - lactose intolerance.  It took me about a week to figure out that the yogurt was making me feel much worse.

I have never been so glad to finish a course of medicine in my life.  It has taken a good month for my body to get back to "normal" after that C-Diff infection.  I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

I did learn a few things from all that.  Always ask your health provider about alternative medications if you are unsure about the one they prescribed, even if you've already paid for it at the pharmacy.  Hold out to see a doctor who may be more knowledgeable even if the doctor's office pushes for a LNP appointment.  If you think you are having a specific side effect to a drug, persist with the doc until he gives you the test for it, especially if it is an easy, non-invasive test.  Don't eat yogurt if you are lactose intolerant.  It will not make you feel better.  (That last one was in there just to make you smile.)

So where does all that lead me?  Now I'm back to just being in pain.  That may sound bad, but when I had to focus on everything else falling apart, I couldn't focus on how to get out of pain.  Now, I can focus again on treatments and research for my condition and, hopefully, sometime soon, make some headway.  (I have had several positive things happen in terms of my pain level.  I'll tell you all about those in another post.)

I hope I didn't bore you with my saga.  It helped me to get it all in writing.  In the midst of a trial, it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But once you look at things in hindsight, you see the lessons you learned and the character you built through it all.  Would I say that made everything worthwhile?  No, not really.  I still wish I hadn't gone through any of that but God doesn't promise us a easy life.  He just promises to be with us through it.  And I have definitely felt His presence through verses, songs and friends that have been there for me this fall.  And I am eternally grateful for that.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Blogging for Books: The Girl in the Glass

The Girl in the Glass by Susan Meissner

(from Amazon)
Renaissance is a word with hope infused in every letter.

Since she was a child, Meg has dreamed of taking a promised trip to Florence, Italy, and being able to finally step into the place captured in a picture at her grandmother’s house. But after her grandmother passes away and it falls to her less-than-reliable father to take her instead, Meg’s long-anticipated travel plans seem permanently on hold.

When her dad finally tells Meg to book the trip, she prays that the experience will heal the fissures left on her life by her parents’ divorce. But when Meg arrives in Florence, her father is nowhere to be found, leaving aspiring memoir-writer Sophia Borelli to introduce Meg to the rich beauty of the ancient city. Sofia claims to be one of the last surviving members of the Medici family and that a long-ago Medici princess, Nora Orsini, communicates with her from within the great masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance.

When Sophia, Meg, and Nora’s stories intersect, their lives will be indelibly changed as they each answer the question: What if renaissance isn't just a word? What if that’s what happens when you dare to believe that what is is not what has to be.

My Thoughts

The Girl in the Glass is a beautiful, poetic piece of prose.  The city of Florence comes alive in the pages and even a non-art-minded person like me is caught up in the beauty of the Renaissance masterpieces.  It was a fun book to read, as the setting played such a strong part, it was almost another character.

The story is told from Meg's point of view.  Because of that you get a first-person view of her heartaches and her loves. That really made the book come alive for me.

I enjoyed Meissner's prose; however, at times, it was almost too philosophical.  I just didn't understand some of it (of course, I don't understand a lot of poetry either, so maybe it's just me).  And I felt like Meg really waffled back forth over men in the story.  We find out in the epilogue who she ended up with.  I would have loved more story on that.  Her choice of love seemed almost more of an afterthought.

The Girl in the Glass was a good read and is a great choice for the more artistic person out there.  I enjoyed it, but I think someone who knows more about the art mentioned in the story would enjoy it more.  As a side note, I did look up some of the art on the internet to see what it looked like and I think the author has pictures of things in Florence on her website as well.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

I received a complementary Kindle version of this book while participating in the Blogging for Books program.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Book I Plan to Read in 2013

At the beginning of 2012, I made a resolution to read 24 books that I already owned.  I didn't quite make it through all 24.  I ended up reading 15 of those books.  I discovered that, if given the choice, I will always pick the fiction book to read first.  Then, if the month is almost over, I just decide not to read the non-fiction book.

Guess I gotta work on that.

But I did read a total of 41 books this year and I reviewed all of them.  That's an average of almost 3 and a half books a month.  And ... I made a Pinterest board of all of them.  I've never done that before, but I thought that it was high time I join the rest of the world in using Pinterest.

Did I make a new 24 book resolution for 2013?

I felt very stressed last year trying to read the books that I had prepicked each month.

In light of that, I decided this year to pick 12 books instead of 24.  I'm not going to assign the books to any particular month.  I'm just going to pick one each month that strikes me.

What I picked this year:

White Picket Fences - Susan Meissner
Leaving - Karen Kingsbury
A Seahorse in the Thames - Susan Meissner
No One You Know - Michelle Richmond
Raising a Modern Day Knight - Robert Lewis
All Things New - Lynn Austin
Sacred Parenting - Gary Thomas
Rocking the Roles - Lewis and Hendricks
Captivating - John and Staci Eldredge
Too Busy Not to Pray - Bill Hybels
Emilie's Creative Home Organizer - Emilie Barnes
8 Great Dates for Moms and Daughters - Dannah Gresh
Six Ways to Keep the Little in Your Girl - Dannah Gresh

If you look closely, you will see some repeats from last year's list, things I didn't get the chance to read.  And, yes, they are mostly non-fiction.  Several others are books I got for Christmas.  And a few I got through the Paperback Swap website.

Overall, I hope to read over 40 books again this year, the 12 on the list above and another 28 that I pick as I go through the year.  You can follow along here on my blog as well as on my new 2013 Books Pinterest board.

What books are you planning to read this year?  Anyone else out there have a Pinterest board to keep track of their books?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Christmas 2012

The holidays are done.

The decorations are getting put back into their boxes (except at our house - hmm, maybe that will happen this weekend).

And I'm just now blogging about it.

I'm soooooo last year.

Seriously, I just made a list (yes, because that's what I do - I make lists) of blog posts that I need to write...and there are a ton of them, so let's hope that being back in our "usual" routine will help me get them written.

So, onto Christmas...

We had a great Christmas this year.  It was super busy with most of our time spent at different family members' houses.  When we get all together there are 13 people on my side and 19 on Tim's side.  That's a lot of people.  But we love them, so it's not bad.

Christmas Eve is always held at Tim's cousin's house.  This year's menu was homemade Italian - homemade lasagna, baked spaghetti and chicken alfredo.  YUM!!!  Then every dessert you could possibly think of.  The adults all exchange names and we have a good time trying to make our "chain" as long as we can.  You know the chain, right?  The number of people who don't just have each other's names.  Anyway, I got some great blue and green kitchen towels and dishcloths.  I love them!

On to Christmas morning.

Which started at 5:15 AM at our house.

Yes, you read that right.  Our kids are now at the age where they wake up super early, and are super excited on Christmas day.  And they wake the rest of us up that early.  I do enjoy this age and this stage.  But I think I will enjoy the sleeping a little later, teenage stage too.

I would say all that happened in minutes, but really we took turns opening gifts and the kids were very patient.  It took about an hour to open all our gifts.  Notice the left side of the picture...Julie put all her gifts in a nice neat little rectangle.  The right side all belongs to David - stuff everywhere - just like you'd expect from a 7-year-old boy.

Julie's pile - World atlas, US atlas, cookbook, some shirts, gloves, games, Loopz game.  Her "big" Santa gift is a keyboard with headphones.

David's pile - Legos, legos and more legos.  Lego books, oh and an Ironman and Wolverine thrown in there too. David's "big" Santa gift is the "Destiny's Bounty" Lego Ninjago set.

Tim's big gift?  This awesome T-shirt quilt that I had commissioned for him.  My sister made it and she did a great job.  It's nice to get his favorite, extremely ratty, can't-be-worn-because-they-look-yucky-but-he-doesn't-want-to-get-rid-of-them T-shirts into a usable form :).

And me.  I got more dishtowels, 2 scarves, 2 books, and a bunch of other cool stuff.

OK, so I look awful in the pictures because, y'all, it was 5:15 in the morning!  But, because I'm not totally vain, here I am.

Anyway, after our house, it's off to Aunt Leigh Ann's house (Tim's sister), where the men enjoyed cooking us breakfast.  OK, some women helped too, but I wasn't one of them.  To my credit, I cook dinner at least 3 times a week every week of the year, so I figured a day off wouldn't hurt.

We started our celebration by stuffing ourselves with tons of breakfast - we're talking eggs, bacon, sausage, hashbrown casserole, biscuits, pancakes and muffins plus all the gravy and syrup you can load your plate with.  We ate good.

Then we opened presents which was fun.  Once again we drew names among the adults and had a good time finding out who had everyone's name.  There were 2 new family members to share with this year.  My brother-in-law is now engaged and his fiancee and her son had their first Christmas with our clan.

Then it was on to my parent's house, where the kids were so excited that they just tore through all their paper.  The adults took it a little more slowly and took turns watching what each other got.

See how patiently I'm waiting.
My brother and his family are getting ready to go serve in Asia for 3 years so we tried to soak up and savor as much time with them this year as we could.

My favorite gift of the day wasn't even a Christmas gift.  In September, my parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary.  The 3 of us kids decided to make them a photobook of the last 40 years.  We were a little late in giving it to them, but it was an awesome book, if I do say so myself.

Great Christmas!  Tiring Christmas!  Now only 12 more months until Christmas again.