Monday, December 31, 2018

Wrapping up 2018


We had such a full December, and I'm ending the month feeling very happy about all that we were able to fit in to our Christmas season. We've left up our tree and decor to enjoy for just a while longer. I don't want to rush to put away all the twinkling lights and the greenery, though I am ready to organize and put away all the new toys that came into our house! :)  Here are our December highlights:


Snowman Peeps in homemade hot chocolate . . . a tasty way to start the Christmas season!


At the beginning of the month, Home Depot had a project to build Santa's sleigh and reindeer, which the boys loved.


We went to President Benjamin Harrison's home for the first time. It's a 10,000 sq ft mansion that was beautifully decorated for Christmas. They even had actors reenacting Harrison and his wife Caroline on Christmas Day 1888.


When big brother gets a new winter coat, everyone has to try it on :)



We went to the Santa Lucia Fest and had a great time! The boys met Jultomten, ate Pepparkakor cookies, and listened to Christmas songs sung in Swedish.


Steve's university threw a Christmas party, complete with real reindeer to pet!



After dinner, the line to see Santa went down, and the boys gave him their wishlists!


Matching Christmas jammies, 2018 edition! I love this photo!


 My friend Lindsay and I went to a Christmas tea at her church, and it was a lovely morning.
 

August is always trying to steal my drinks and food!



We haven't had any significant snow yet this year, but August is ready with his Lightning McQueen boots!


The library has a program where kids can read to therapy dogs. Nolan and Ephraim loved doing this!


Not many other kids showed up, so they read to their dogs for nearly an hour!


I made Dala horse gingerbread cookies, and August became pretty obsessed with eating the "neigh neigh" cookies. :)


We also built a gingerbread A-frame cabin from Trader Joe's. It turned out really cute, and August was intent on eating it.



It's always a great feeling when the Christmas cards are done and mailed out!
 

Our Christmas photo - thanks to Phil for taking it for us!

  
Ephraim's always offering to open his afternoon snack shop for his ever-hungry mama.


The Friday before Christmas, we headed to Pennsylvania to celebrate with our families, and we were there for over a week.


I won this book from my friend Heidi's Instagram, and it is the cutest Christmas book! The illustrations are beautiful.


Mormor and Papa Don took us to Mary Poppins Returns, and August sat completely still throughout the entire thing - a Christmas miracle!


Nolan and Ephraim have been singing the songs nonstop since we saw the movie!


We had lunch with our friends, the Yohes. Carol made a completely kid-friendly meal of dinosaur chicken nuggets, pizza tater-tot casserole, fries, strawberries, and ice cream sundaes :)


The boys share a full size bed at Mormor's house, and every night, I would find them in these adorable cuddling positions!


It was too funny!


On Christmas Eve, Steve and I sat in the same spot we got engaged 10 years before :)


August REALLY wanted to hold his own candle at the Christmas Eve service. He did not want me holding it at all, which meant he screamed through half of Silent Night, and I was left with this sweet photo :)


We had a Christmas Eve dinner of ham, mashed potatoes, rice pudding, and French Silk pie.


 I snapped this photo of the four brothers and their dad playing a game and never looking more alike.


Relaxing after the big rush of gift-opening.


The whole Zimm gang!


 Traditional Christmas Day lunch with cousins!


All of the activity of Christmas week was really tiring for this little guy!
 

 While we were in PA, I reached the 20 week mark of my pregnancy! I can't believe we're over halfway to meeting this little baby, and I wonder who he or she is going to be!


Grandma made brownies to celebrate August's birthday a little early at their house. He loved being sung to!


I finished my 2018 goal to read the Bible in a year! I wrote a quick post about books here.


 These were my "Top Nine" most-liked photos of the year. Looking back, we had such a great year. The two biggest things were buying our first home and finding out about baby four!

Here's to a fresh start in 2019!!!


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Books


2018 was really the year of the books for me. And, it's not like I spent a ton of time reading leisurely, but the amount of books that came in and out of our house was an all-time record for us.

We have been lucky to have two amazing libraries in our new city. They both have incredible selections - and what one library is missing, the other has. 

We checked out 501 books in 2018 from the first library, and I can't find that information from the second library, but the count is high.

I'm grateful for our libraries and all they are able to offer us for free. I don't always check out novels for myself, but I do like to bring home new cookbooks, and lifestyle and design books to flip through.

For the boys, I started off the year choosing a theme for each homeschool week, and then selecting a group of books from the library based on that theme. This fall, after we moved into our new house, I fell off that "theme" wagon, but my goal is to get back to that for this new 2019 semester.

At this point of his first grade year, Nolan is reading SO WELL. He needs a little encouragement to pick up a chapter book (he would rather build Legos), but he reads quickly and doesn't stumble over big words. He loves Nate the Great books, the Flat Stanley series, Elephant & Piggy, and books full of facts about animals.

Ephraim is turning five in January, and he hasn't begun reading yet, but it's coming. I need to set aside time to work with him alone, the way I was able to do with Nolan when he was in preschool. Ephraim loves Pete the Cat, Mother Bruce books, Skippyjon Jones, and even Mommy's collection of Fancy Nancys. :)

As for August - he wants to read Little Blue Truck and Paw Patrol, and he loves lift-the-flap type books.

We do a readaloud at bedtime - currently, we're making our way through the Boxcar Children series, which the boys love, and are so nostalgic for me.

This week, in the back of my mom's garage, I found a box of my picture books that I haven't seen in 17 years! I have wondered whatever happened to them, but I was never able to locate them! I'm happy I can share them now with my boys.  :)

I have to also mention that I reached my 2018 Resolution to read the entire Bible in a year! In the past, I've never been able to make daily Bible-reading into a solid habit. If you want to start for 2019, I strongly recommend the One Year Bible! It breaks the Bible up into 365 days, and each day has an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, a piece of a Psalm, and a verse or two from Proverbs. There were days when I struggled to read certain parts of the Old Testament (the long geneologies and the descriptions of battles), but then I would be blessed by that day's New Testament passage or the Psalm reading. Some days, I ate chocolate chips while I read for a little extra encouragement ;) I haven't decided exactly what I'm going to do for 2019, but I know that I have to keep getting into the Word every day and not lose the momentum.

The last thing that I'll say about the topic of books is that Stephen sent the final draft of his Sidekicks book to his publisher today! I'm so proud of him.

Here's to a New Year of reading!



Friday, December 14, 2018

Ellie Claire Journals


A few weeks ago, I was asked to review a set of devotional journals by Ellie Claire (of Worthy Publishing). When I saw the photo of the covers, I jumped at the chance to do this review. They are gorgeous! Each book is a 365 day devotional, with ample room to write thoughts and prayers on each page.


I was pleasantly surprised at how solid and heavy the journals are - I think they're bigger in person than they look in the photos. Each journal has an elastic band to keep it closed and a ribbon bookmark to save a page. They don't stay open by themselves, so it takes two hands to write in them.


PEACE BEGINS WITH ME

"We pray for peace. We beg for it from others. We make speeches about it. But in the end, the only peace most of us can control is that little portion we display for the world to see. If we are at peace, the chaos around us seems to calm down. Our peace affects others. And the Giver of peace awaits to give us the gift that can change our world. It begins with a prayer. It begins with me."

I'm naturally drawn to this watercolor turquoise cover because it's my favorite color. The gold lettering is a fancy addition to the cover's soft texture. When it comes to journals, and especially if I'm going to use one every day for a year, I want one that's visually appealing.


The inside pages are just as lovely as the cover. Each day has a verse at the top, which I think is important, and three-to-four short paragraphs of devotional, followed by a prayer. The bottom half of the page is empty space - lined for writing thoughts or listing prayer requests.

(If you click on the above photo, it should become big enough that you can read all of the words.)


THE EARTH IS THE LORD'S AND EVERYTHING IN IT

"From the small whisper of a snowflake to the large circumference of a baobab tree, all of nature is the creative expression of God. When we embrace His creative nature by taking the time to stop, notice, and connect our hearts are encouraged and souls refreshed. Respond to the devotions, add your own creative writing, or keep track of prayers on the journaling lines."

Aren't the peacocks beautiful?! This journal both catches my eye and piques my interest, as lately I've become more and more fascinated by God's design in nature and creation.

 As with the first journal, this one also starts off with a scripture reading, follows with a short homily, and ends with a prayer. There is, of course, plenty of space to write.
 

 TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS

"When life gets busy, it’s easy to forget to spend time with God. This 365-day devotional journal offers encouraging meditations to help you spend a few moments turning your eyes on Jesus before your hectic day begins. After short devotions and Scripture for each day of the year, you will also find light journaling lines and ample space to record your thoughts, hopes, and prayers―just what you need to start each and every day with the reminder that God is always by your side."

 Every time I catch a glimpse of this cover, I begin to sing the hymn :) The cover is very pretty, decorated with painted pink peonies, roses, and white hydrangeas.


This journal differs slightly from the other two in that the quotes at the top are lines from Christian songs or hymns, which is neat. The Bible verse for the day is given as a reference to look up and read at the end of the devo. 
 
I love that these devotionals look manageable and straight-forward. They're not overwhelmingly lengthy, so I can see any of them as a great gift for a busy woman trying to add quiet time with the Lord into her life (perhaps as a New Year's Resolution). From what I've read, every page is inspirational, Biblically sound, and points to Jesus.

I always say that I am going to write and journal more, but I forget to make the time to do it. When I start one of these three journals in the New Year, I am excited for the encouragement to write in the margins and keep track of my thoughts. This way, I'll be able to look back and see the development I've made in my faith, and see if and when God has answered my prayers.


On Amazon, to look at "Peace Begins with Me", click here

For "The Earth is the Lord's and Everything In It", click here.

And for, "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus", click here

(I know they're available for 2-day shipping if you have Prime and want one before Christmas!)


Thank you to Ellie Claire for gifting me these journals!




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