Monday, December 29, 2008

Just stopping by...

To give my Dad a big birthday wish on my blog. Happy 65th today. I'm so glad I was able to give you a hug in person and all the kids got to give you one too. We miss you already!
Our family was back on the road this morning, bright and early, and thankfully we made it home from Minnesota safe and sound. We had clear roads to travel this time around and shaved a few hours off of our trip by not having to go through a blizzard. It's nice to be home. Crew seems to be the happiest of all. I didn't even think he knew what home was yet, but based on his reactions and his happiness levels, I think he really does know he's home. There's just something so calming about familiar surroundings. Even a baby knows that!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008.

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas this year. Thanks for reading Nitty.Gritty. and offering so much support, debate, fun and encouragement throughout the year to me and my family. I plan to share more stories and pictures in the coming year too. Who knows what the future holds?!
May you feel the true Peace that this season celebrates and look forward with Hope to your future because of the birth of our Savior.
Merry, merry Christmas from the whole Ferlaak clan.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It wasn't so pretty afterall...

The second half of our trek home to Minnesota wasn't all that wonderful. The snow started falling and we drove into a snowing/blowing whiteout turning our total drive time into just over 13 hours. Thirteen hours is about all we could handle scrunched in our vehicle with (as Chip calls it...) "white knuckle driving". The kids were amazing throughout the entire trip. They never sleep on these drives, except for Crew who kept taking nice snoozes all day long. So as the snow and winds picked up and the stress levels grew, we were surprised that the kids kept their cool. I think they knew the situation was dangerous and stressful, so they all somehow managed to keep relatively quiet and calm in their carseats.
We saw so many cars in the ditches and stuck in snow along the way that we were grateful to arrive at our destination- even though it was a few hours later than we had hoped for. To top off the final hour and a half of my birthday, Crew got sick, threw up all over me and then spent almost the whole night tossing and turning with a low-grade fever and stuffy nose. Poor guy. We're watching him closely and hoping he gets better rather than worse in the next day or two. I am crossing my fingers he will be happy and healthy as he celebrates his first Christmas.
Tomorrow we head to northern MN to be with Chip's side of the family for a few days. That 4-5 hour drive will hopefully be a bit easier on us, and I am starting to think that this will be the last time we do this winter driving thing. Christmas is supposed to be joyful and merry. Those two adjectives aren't exactly the two I'd pick for the 30+ hours of driving we'll put in when this trip is over. My body is telling me otherwise too. Or maybe it's the fact I only got two 40 minute "naps" last night. So as pretty as it is here and as wonderful as our families may be, it's going to be a VERY MERRY Christmas if we ever want to think about doing this trip again!
Now...I'm off to hopefully catch a Minnesota winter nap. =)
Thanks for all the happy birthday wishes you left for me yesterday. I think we needed them!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A different kind of birthday.

Today I turned 36 years old. I awoke and showered, finished packing everything I could manage {with Chip's help} to pack for a family of 7 into a Honda Odyssey and headed out for our trip to Minnesota. I am blogging for the first time ever in a vehicle. We're on Int. 90 headed toward Wisconsin. The roads are nice and clear (we just passed a sign for Belvedere/Sycamore, IL) for the midwest this time of year. Especially since we had a snow day yesterday and the storms have been all around this route and are possibly swirling for us to drive into as well.
I am sandwiched (tightly!!) in the back row between Bella and Ava. All the kids are watching individual dvd's and I'm on the laptop. Crew is snoozing nicely in his carseat and the driving is left for Chip to maneuver, and hopefully make good time too.
So far, I can't complain about the trip. Besides the stress leading up to it, and the last minute hassles of packing and loading everyone inside, I really can't complain all that much. I was treated to a quick stop at Starbuck's for a nonfat, half-caf, Hazlenut latte as we took to the road and as I sipped my birthday latte I thought to myself how lucky I am right now. Things could be much worse.
Lots of people have taken this route with family in tow- only in a covered wagon with no comforts of heat or wireless internet. My birthday wish this whole year long is that I count my blessings and look at the many things/reasons I have to be grateful before I utter complaints or criticism in the midst of any given situation.
I'm thankful today for my health, my family, clear,dry roads and new window wipers, cigarette lighters that provide power to dvd players and gameboy systems and so many other things too.
Yes, it's a bit of a different birthday, but I still there are lots of reasons to celebrate. Now, as long as we don't end up in a blizzard for the second leg of the trip I think being 36 is going to be a pretty good thing! =)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On this day in 1967...

My parents were married on Dec. 16th, 1967. I wish I had a wedding photo of them. They have such a wonderful, true, love story. I'll give you the short version... from their first date to the day they were married was 3 months. =) I can tell you today, 40+ years later, they are happily married and in love more than they were back then. I feel fortunate to have watched them model what a good marriage can and should look like through many of those years. I love that they have both changed and evolved together in so many ways. They are the kind of people that you can't imagine being apart; one without the other just wouldn't really be the same. Like milk and cookies. Somethings were just meant to be together. Today I wish them a very Happy Annivesary and hope they enjoy more love and happiness together for at least a few more years! =)
Then there's little Crew. I put him in a button-down shirt and suddenly he looked like a little man to me. How does that happen?! I also have to tell you that I took one of his 'santa baby' pictures and set my desktop background with it and now there are 3 pictures of him in a row. It's very cute, but the best part is that every time he sees himself on the laptop he gets the biggest grin and then starts smiling and even "talking" and laughing at himself. I found even when he's starting to fuss that I can show him those pictures of himself and he snaps right out of it. It's really funny and cute at the same time. Funny, because he doesn't even know it's his picture, and yet he's so taken by the baby in the pictures. I'm sure we'll tell him this story when he grows up and he'll be very embarrassed at himself. But it's cute for now!
As we prepare to pack and trek across 4 states back home to Minnesota for Christmas with our families, I'm beginning to think I should print out the santa baby photo and have it posted where he can look at it from his carseat for 14 hours. I'm trying not to dread the trip. Feel free to start praying for our family right now. I'm sure we'll need some prayers to survive the long hours and hundreds of miles on the road!
We'll be driving on my birthday and I am hoping that I can use that as leverage for the kids to behave. For at least 7 hours anyway! Wish us luck and if I don't post between then and now, I've either had a nervous breakdown trying to pack for 7 people, or I'm keeping Crew happy in front of the computer screen while he laughs at himself. This is my life... it's a little bit of this and that right now!
Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.
We'll give you hugs and kisses when we see you in less than a week!

Friday, December 12, 2008

I was a little girl in the 1970's.

I just couldn't pass up sharing these photos today and in so doing, hopefully encourage some of you to squeeze in a little handmade goodness into your home this Christmas. As this title suggests, I am a child of the 70's. What that means in my life is that I still own my Miss Beasley doll that I got when I was only 2. I still love to watch episodes of the Brady Bunch and I wish I could go for a drive in our powder blue Plymouth Chrysler that I so fondly recall sitting unbuckled in the front seat on the folded down "hump" where I could see out the front window and turn the metal dials back and forth searching for a certain radio channel.
It means I still love bold colors and patterns and I'd give anything for to spend an afternoon sitting next to our old record player and sing along with tunes from scratchy LP's. =)
What happens to me as I browse the internet (as I was doing this morning while sipping coffee with gingerbread creamer) is that sometimes I come across images and/or stories that take me right back to that wonderful decade in my life.
Today I decided this stuff was too good to pass up, so I am sharing Danielle Thompson's home with you via this link to her blog. I would pack only a few things to wear and leave everything I own to move into her home. I just love her eclectic style and her eye for color and funky/retro design. It's inspiring to me. She recently posted a lengthy tutorial to make the beautiful felt trees that you see here too. I think if I only get the chance to make one or two items for my home this Christmas that these trees would have to be it! They are adorable and doable in an afternoon. She also has some wonderful digital designs that are great for scrapbooking, gift-giving and for creating lots of special homemade goodies. You'll find links and information on all her designs on her blog too.
I have other people and places that inspire me- especially at Christmas time- but this is my top pick for today. Maybe next week I'll share another link or two.
In the meantime, if you have a special site or blog that inspires you- at Christmas or anytime, I'd love for you to link me up! Feel free to leave a web address in the comments and I'll hope to get around to each site.
Have a great weekend as you continue to prepare your heart and home for Christmas this year.
Edited to add:
My friend, Courtney, is holding a can drive on her blog until tomorrow morning. She's giving you the chance to help her efforts, if you just stop by her blog and leave a comment! Please take a minute of your time to contribute to this great cause- there are so many people who could use help this Christmas. This is a chance to help make a tiny difference without even moving from where you are right now. Thanks for helping...go here to leave your comment.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Santa baby.

I couldn't help myself. I hung the stockings up and whenever I looked at them on the mantel I would think how cute Crew would look inside one of them. So I took one down and tried him in it. He fit part way, but didn't like the feeling of being in a straight-jacket and I wasn't about to torture him just for my own viewing pleasure/photo obsession.
We compromised.
Crew was happy to lay still with the stocking draped over his legs and body. He was happier still when I put it on his head like a Santa hat- as you see here in the first 3 photos.I thought it was funny- so did he. Those big eyes of his? He gets them everytime I take a picture. My camera is so big he thinks I disappear and that's how we end up with the surprised/questioning look on his face in most cases. I happen to think big eyes are pretty cute though, and admit they are even cuter in real life.
I'm still feeling so blessed- so grateful- that God sent Crew into our lives. I never dreamed that this Christmas my stocking and heart would be so full. I'm treasuring every smile and the time I spend cuddling my little Santa baby. The Christmas cards might just have to wait. =)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Christmas past...Christmas present.

Chip will probably give me the silent treatment for posting the top photo here. It's our family Christmas picture from 2001- the year Teagan died. We took our pictures in Hanna Andersson jammies with her favorite blankets and her stuffed pig. It seemed like a perfectly good idea at the time. Now? Just a funny memory as we look back through photos and reminisce about how we have changed and grown. I still can't get over how tiny Wyndham was back then. She was wearing newborn clothes (size 0-3 mos.) and she was a few weeks away from her first birthday. It's amazing to see how she has caught up to the growth curve as she now nears her 8th birthday. It's been a long journey for her, but she's doing great with her growth hormones. And I am still amazed at how you can barely notice the scars on Chip's face even that first Christmas. He had about 80 stitches across his cheek, eye and forehead after his injuries. Yet you look at this picture and between our smiles and his healed face you can hardly tell what we had been through.
I still remember how hard things were in our life at that time. I could write a whole chapter about all the issues we were dealing with each day, and yet somehow- even that wrapped in sorrow and grief, we could sense Hope that we would see Teagan again. More than that I remember smiling during those pictures- still missing Teagan- yet so grateful that there was still four of us together as a family. It was a really important thing for us to get our photos taken because I think it helped Chip and I feel like we were still holding together and we wanted to share that with the friends and family on our Christmas card list that year. We wanted them to see that God was carrying us through the most horrible time in our lives- and we were on the mend. We also had just found out we were expecting another baby (Isabella) and we announced that in our card too. I never imagined losing a child and having another all in the same year- but that's just how life turned out for us back then.
So here we are now.
The other {almost entire} family picture was taken by Chip just before the kids' Christmas program at church this week. I still notice a 'hole' where Teagan should be standing, but I also thank God for how He has blessed our family. Brock did a great job with his part in the program and all the kids did great with their carols and songs.
You can see we have done some decorating in our home. Wyndham was the most into decorating the tree out of all the kids this year. She was humming while she hung ornaments on the tree and even signed for "help" to put a few up higher than she could reach. She was so fun to watch. So were all the other kids and later, Bella put on a small concert for us and Ava ran around with a Santa hat on her head. It was a fun time last night. I'm still working on getting more Christmas cards in the mail this week. Bella has her letter to Santa all written out, and the envelope is addressed. Guess what tops her list this Christmas?!
A real, live puppy of all things.
Do you recall I recently wrote about her fear of dogs? Apparantly she is wanting to get over it, or thinks she already has. The sad part is I think this will be the year she stops believing in Santa Claus.
I plan to order some toys either from or Both those sites offer free shipping and they have some wonderful classic and lots of wooden toys. But no puppies- so Bella will have to get something else.
I hope you are having a chance to look back at photos or bake favorite cookies from years' past or simply recall how life has changed for you through the years. Christmastime is always such a wonderful time to look back, enjoy the present and make dreams for the future too. I promise to never take another family-jammie photo. Ever. =)

Monday, December 08, 2008

You take one Holy Baby....

My kids have been playing with the Little People Nativity set for a few days now. We had a special carved nativity that stayed under our tree when I was a child and it was one of my favorite decorations at Christmastime. The thing I love about nativity sets is how they allow you to 'enter in' to the story of Christmas even though it happened over 2000 years ago.
This commericial set doesn't quite do Bethlehem justice if you ask me, but my kids love to play with it so much. I wrote earlier about the tension I feel at this time of year- the struggle to strike balance between the real reason to celebrate Christmas versus the glitz of twinkling lights, cookies, candy and gifts wrapped in colorful papers.
The more I have thought about it and the more I have seen my kids playing with this set (and a couple of others we have too), I have felt more assured that they understand what Christmas is all about. I don't know that any of us will ever fully comprehend the depth and meaning of what God has done through this gift of His Son Jesus, but I think we are headed in the right direction and I feel like really, it's not up to me to make sure my kids "get Christmas"; instead I believe that God will work in each of their hearts in His way and His time. I feel so much more at ease- more calm and bright- knowing that God has their little hearts in His constant care.
What really struck me the past few days is some of the things that you hear and read from the Christian community this time of year.
Have any of you heard or seen the words, "Keep Christ in Christmas"? Or remember that "Jesus is the Reason for the Season"? Now I think that these are very valid and can be catchy phrases to help some people focus on what matters, but I truly believe that for some people it becomes the only time they think and focus on Christ. I think that while catchy phrases may have meaning, somtimes they miss the real point.
I thought of this as Ava went downstairs to the rest of her Little People playsets and chose a few happy children and Santa and a couple of Care Bears and Hello Kitty to come up and join the wise men and angle in the nativity to welcome baby Jesus as she played. I couldn't help but think again how Jesus came for ALL people and he didn't just give his love to us at Christmastime, but every single day- forevermore. He loved us so much that he made a way for all to know Him intimately- His gift of salvation is free to any sinner who simply asks for His forgiveness and repents. Jesus became a baby- a man- and lived a perfect, holy life and then shed His blood on a cross. He died, was buried and then rose again- to take away our sins and restore a right relationship with God through His death.
I think Christmas is a special time to reflect and to celebrate and recall this amazing story that is one part of God's plan for us- sinners. It is a wonderful time for us, who have accepted and believe that Jesus is the way, to share our faith and celebrate what and why we believe what we believe and to offer others this same free gift.
But to think that we have to do something to keep Christ in Christmas to me seems like we're missing the main point of what God intended to do through this baby. Yes, God sent His son to the earth and Jesus was born in a little stable, and his mother, Mary, wrapped him in cloths and lay him in a manger. That's a wonderful story, but I think God meant for it to be something bigger than just a nice little story. He sent His son to earth to change hearts and lives. God loved us so much that the birth of His Son paved the way for everyone to know real Love and real Peace and to have Hope in a dark and hopeless world.
I love that my kids can play with a little toyset and understand this nice story, yes. But my real hope is that they can grasp that Christ wants to live in our hearts and be a part of our lives each and everyday. I hope they grow up knowing that we need to keep Christ in our lives and depend on His strength and we need His forgiveness so many times in our life. Not just at Christmas- as special as this time can be. We need this story to affect the way we live always. Feel free to follow this link for more insights and meanigful ways to "live out Christmas" beyond this month. May the Spirit of this season touch your life in a meaningful way- today and all the year through!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

You take one happy baby...

I always hate taking my babies for immunizations. You take them into the doctor's office all happy and leave with a crying, fussy baby for the rest of the day and sometimes night and following day or two as well. It doesn't seem to make much sense- except that I believe the benefits of the shots outweigh the tears and pain and suffering inflicted for a few hours/days.
Poor Crew got his shots today. He was all smiles this morning before his appointment. It almost doesn't seem right to take a happy baby to the doctor and put them through this treatment, but I know it's for his own good. Which is why I allow the nurse to poke him and even help hold him still as she does.
I've touched on this subject here before but am reminded of it again today. Immunizations to me, are a picture of what some of us go through in life- unexpected pain and suffering- seemingly for no good reason. Just as babies don't have a clue as to why they are inflicted with pain from a shot, so we sometimes have life cause us deep sorrow, pain or grief at times. From our perspective, we can only shout, cry, get angry, or grow bitter because the pain can be so intense and comes without warning. We may feel like yelling at God and asking the question "why".
But from His viewpoint our pain and {temporary} suffering likely serves a good purpose. We may never know what it is. Just as a baby can't understand that a polio vaccine keeps them free from disease and even more pain and loss, so we can't understand a lot of things that come our way- cancer, divorce, financial loss, death of a loved one, infertility, depression...all sorts of things in this life can cause heartache.
Still, I know that just as I hurt for Crew to see him get his shots, so God hurts for us as we feel life's pains and heartaches. But He holds us through the tough stuff and promises for us to "make all things new". He can turn our sorrows into joy and our mourning into dancing. It takes great faith to believe that even though we hurt and many times don't like the stuff we have to go through, that God is able to bring good out of suffering. Even if we don't see a purpose to our pain, He promises that He is preparing a place for us in which there will be no sorrow. All our tears will be wiped away.
What a comfort that is to me on some of the toughest days I have traveled and know may still lie ahead! I don't have to fear the suffering that comes because God is in control and He loves me {and you!} and is working for the good of those who love Him.
Today, listening to Christmas music in the car on the way to the dr. appointment didn't feel like a "Christmas-y thing" to be doing. I was reminded of all the hurts I have felt this time of year and of so many hurts that people I know and love are feeling in their lives right now too. Pain doesn't seem very Christmas-like. But when I paused to think about it for a moment or two longer, I couldn't help but think that pain and suffering and sorrow are the VERY reason that God sent His Son, Jesus, to this earth in the first place. Jesus came to heal our hearts and to make a way for us to be reconciled to God forevermore. God allowed His own Son to be born in a lowly place, in a cold, dusty stable, to connect with people and heal their hurts.
Christmas is the perfect time to tell God that you need Him, and that you want to trust His way all the rest of your life. No matter if your life is going well or if you have questions, doubts or pain. God is the answer and this time of year is the best time to sense His love, His grace and His peace.
I am so glad Jesus was born and that through Him we can have Hope- for all eternity!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Keeping it simple.

Those paper trees are featured today at Martha Stewart's website. There are so many great ideas and recipes for the whole year, but especially so this time of year. I always see something to love when I stop by there. I don't always have time, money or energy to recreate what I see, but it's still fun for inspiration and it helps get my ideas flowing.
To be honest (here I go again...keeping it real), I really want to just have a simple Christmas this year. My kids don't need a single new toy and in fact, they need to spend a couple of hours sorting and organizing the ones they already have. I am even a bit frustrated because there just isn't a nice space to put up our big tree and yet I feel like it's part of our tradition. Please tell me I'm not the only person who has a hard time trying to figure what's best at Christmas for your kids, your family and yourself. I would love the less-is-more approach and yet I still remember how wonderful Christmas was to me as a kid, when my mom did batches and batches of cookies and the whole house was decorated and we sang in Christmas musicals and plays.
I know I can't recreate my childhood, but it just seems like it gets harder and harder to keep the meaning of Christmas at the focus. Is anybody else torn during Christmas season? It's wonderful and overwhelming to me at the same time. That's where I'm at today...loving all that this season holds, but feeling too small to hold it all.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Documenting December & Photobooth pics.

Among scrapbookers there is a wide variety of books and classes and just different ideas out there as to how to document the days of December. Last year I kept a little journal of the daily activities we did in our family to make each day a little bit more special- some were more of a big deal than others. In my little book, I wrote what the special event or treat was and then I added things like stickers, hand-drawn doodles and other items like Christmas tags and ticket stubs, just to keep track of the fun we had counting down to Christmas Day.
I pulled that book out yesterday and found I hadn't even kept up with it the last week of Christmas, I'm sure it was because things goto so busy. But, as I flipped through the pages that I did keep track of, I was so happy because there were a lot of little memories I would have never remembered. And there were good ideas for me to do again this year! It was fun to reflect and 'see' that we were having a great month and the anticipation did build up til Christmas. I'm glad that I have that little journal and I think I may write it in again this year.
All that to say I have a couple of WONDERFUL, talented artist/friends, who are keeping December/Christmas blogs and sharing inspirtation and festive projects and ideas for whoever wants to stop by their blogs.
One is by my friend, Wilna {Hi Wilna!} and I guarantee you will enjoy seeing her art/pages and ideas here. I just know she is going to make her holiday beautiful and special. She will likely have some mention of Starbuck's between now and Christmas too. She has a thing for their Peppermint Mochas and collects their bears too. =) I know you will love her blog!
Another one is called Sugarplums and Mistletoe and this blog is going to put you in the Christmas mood, no doubt about that! One of my favorite persons is sharing her passion for all things holiday... you will love it! Thank you, Sarah Bowen for being so generous in sharing yourself with so many people in this way. You've made my holiday better already!
I, myself am also reading through the book of Luke in the Bible this month. I just think it is another way for me to draw my heart and mind into the 'real story' behind Christmas. I'm so thankful that God gave us His scripture so that we can read about the actual events that were all so perfectly orchestrated and then played out according to His plan. I love that so much.
What do all the pictures have to do with all of that? Truthfully? Not much. Except that today is December 1st and I am documenting some of the random details of my month here too. I keep telling Chip that Crew reminds me a lot of Teagan when she was a baby and after snapping a bunch of photos of him [and me] today I went looking for some pictures to compare them as babies.
I came across some Photobooth pictures of me and Teagan and really they just made my day. As I looked more closely at them I could definitely see the resemblance, and these aren't even the pictures I was thinking of. But since I found those pictures of Teagan and me, I figured I might was well share the pictures I took of Crew and me. Even though the self-timer isn't nearly as great as sitting in a booth. I tried. =) I did like a couple of the pictures of Crew by himself though...especially the one of him in his fuzzy moon hat. I couldn't resist taking a picture of his knitted booties either- today was a perfect day for hand-knit booties.
Now, to close my first day of December, I am looking forward to climbing into a freshly-made bed with flannel sheets. I love flannel sheets!
All month long, please feel free to leave me comments as to what your December daily is... from fun activities to favorite carols and poems to recipes that you think are divine. I'd love to 'see' what different things you do and be a part of your Christmas countdown too!