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Friday, December 25, 2015

5 lessons this Christmas

This Christmas has been a little different than Christmas's past.  I guess they're all different in a way, but this one has seemed different in more ways than one and I wanted to share what I've learned.

1.  This is more of a silly one...but one nonetheless.  This was my first Christmas working in our church and the lesson I re-learned this year is to BE CREATIVE :)  Or, to think outside the box.  And maybe also to be flexible :) I started something new at the church (which I've done at other churches but not here) called Advent angels.  I don't know how others felt, but I had a blast :) Also, I had to be creative in coming up with a way to make more angel costumes without it taking forever (or costing a lot).  Thank you Dollar Store :)  $2 a pair and 5 minutes per set of wings :) I'll have to post a pic later :)  I enjoyed the season immensely and thank God for the opportunities He has given me!
2. On a more serious note, I learned to not put important things off...and NOT TO WAIT.  A very sweet lady at our church passed away about a week before Christmas.  She was the first one to open up her house to us when we moved here.  She lived in a retirement home but that mattered not.  You can still be hospitable and kind no matter the environment.  She also had a faith that was so strong she witnessed to people not only in life, but even more so in death.

After we moved into our new home, she wanted to come over and see our house - because she knew the people who owned it before us, and because, well, she loved us :)  But it was never a good time and we kept putting it off...and now we've lost our chance.

3.  This wonderful lady showed me something else this season.  You see, yesterday, we received her Christmas card <3  She had them all ready to go but they hadn't been sent yet - so her children did it for her :)  To get a card from her, after her passing...well, it was surreal and amazing.  I'll share her words from her note with you, "Christmas is almost here but amid all the activities, obligations and celebrations, my priority is getting in touch with each of you..."  And her card said, "A time for telling the special people in our lives they are fondly remembered, cherished, and loved today and all year through."  REMEMBER YOUR LOVED ONES.

4.  OPEN YOUR EYES.  We have shared a few "firsts" with our children this advent season.  One, we watched "The Nativity" movie with them for the first time.  I also hadn't seen it in a few years.  Second, we watched "The Miracle of Christmas" at Sight and Sound Theater. Both times, I watched and listened to the birth story as if for the first time...hearing nuances I hadn't heard before, seeing details that I had missed or forgotten.  It's easy to glaze over something you've heard many times...but try to hear and see the story with fresh eyes and a renewed interest.  Feel Mary's pain when she was shunned, feel Joseph's frustration and bewilderment when he finds out, rejoice when the angel tells Joseph, feel the sense of urgency and helplessness when Joseph can't find a place for them to stay, watch the shepherds' stunned faces that turn into delight and then pure joy as they encounter the angels...The story is a myriad of emotions - let yourself get swept away in them and see them with new eyes.

5.  BE THANKFUL AND COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS.  As many of you know, Noe's grandmother passed away yesterday.  It was unexpected and his family had to make quick preparations.  Without going in to detail, the funeral had to be set for Saturday which meant we had to make a very quick decision on what he would do.  He had no doubt - he had to go.  Despite the fact that we didn't have the money to pay for the entire ticket, we bought it anyway.  Then a voice in my head told me to ask for help.  Noe has been a blessing to me, our children and so many other people I knew that if I asked for help, it would come.  I just knew.  God is good that way.  Giving us hope when we feel hopeless.  I had no idea what to expect, but we collected over half the cost of the ticket in less than 24 hours and he left with a smile on his face and relief in his heart.  There have been some struggles this Christmas, but we have so much to be thankful for...including our wonderful friends and family.  The Juarez household may have an empty chair tomorrow morning when we wake up on Christmas, but I know that chair will soon be filled again.  Many people don't have that hope.  Please keep them in your prayers this Christmas.

God bless everyone this Christmas season and may God shower you with love, joy and hope next year :)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Candy cane crafting!

We are having a Christmas get-together/meeting at our house this week and I wanted to make a little "thank you" treat to give to everyone that will be attending.  I browsed pinterest and found a
couple of blogs that talked about being able to bend candy canes...not melt them...but bend them.  I was intrigued so I thought this would be fun for me and the kids to make for our guests :)  Unfortunately, it proved too hard for my youngest to "bend" (too hot for her young fingers and she got frustrated trying to use tools) and my oldest was only interested in designing the shape...not bending them :)  But they helped out in other ways - laying the out on the parchment paper, getting them out of the packaging, coming up with different designs, helping me decide if what I made was good :) and then placing them in bags at the end and tying them with a bow.

All you need is parchment paper, candy canes and a baking sheet and you're good to go :)  Both blogs I read said different temperatures and times.  Every oven is different, but after multiple tries I found my gas oven to work best at 270 for 4-5 minutes.  300 proved to be too hot even at 2-3 minutes.

My first attempt was at a heart.  I layed it out as pictured below:

It really didn't matter if the the cc were exactly where you needed them, but I found that once you pull them out of the oven you only have a short window until they get hard again - so having them where you want them helps speed things up :)  To make the little circles (which I call "ornaments" ;) I just used one regular candy cane and shaped it into a circle - easy :)

After the heart turned out well I got adventurous and tried to make the word "Joy".  The "J" was easy because it's the shape of a cc.  For the "o" I broke off the stem and then for the "y" I broke the loop in half and split it (like below).

It took some fast "bending" but they turned out neat!

My daughter designed the star in the top middle.  I wasn't sure how it would turn out because it's 4 sticks place on top of each other - but I think it looks great!  My son designed the flower below - it also turned out just used quite a few candy canes :)  the sideways looking "g's" in the above picture were my attempt at making little sleds with a gift sack on top...too ambitious :)  they just look like "g's".  lol  I was hoping that once I filled in the sacks it would help...but it didn't ;)

I also made quite a few crosses - all of them different - but I don't think any of them look better than another.  But it was easier to just get two sticks (rather than 1 long and 2 short) and just smush them together in the middle :)

The last two things I tried were a snowman and a Christmas tree.  My kids had their doubts but applauded my efforts :)  They both broke as I we were putting them into the baggies and I had to re-heat them and mold the pieces together better.  But I like them :)

The snowman is pretty obvious - 3 candy canes each one shorter than the other.  The Christmas tree took 5 candy canes stacked on top of each other and the stem is shorter on each level.  I couldn't get the top quite right...I think a curved top would've looked better...

So, after we made enough for all of our guests to get one, we copied an idea from the other blog I read and filled in some of our creations with melted white chocolate...cause...why not? :)
The picture of the pan above (with the little "g's" :) were all the pieces we filled in.  I forgot to get an "after" picture, but here are a few examples.  Then, we wrapped them in little bags and tied them with a bow :)  It was fun!!

Have fun Candy Cane crafting!! :)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Safe place

I just finished a three day trip with three wonderful ladies that I've known since high school. 

Let me take that back...Although we all became really close friends in High School, I've actually known two of them since elementary school. One of them, I was in preschool with (we're right next to each other in the back :-) 

And another I was in Kindergarten with! (we're both in the 2nd row)

All of us were born the same year, and between the three of them I have 90 wonderful years of friendship. And I'm only 38 :-) pretty cool, right? Thinking about it, we actually don't have a whole lot in common now...besides our past.   After high school we all went to different colleges, we now live in different states, we live different lifestyles, three of us have kids-one doesn't, two of us go to church two don't, 2 work full time, 2 work part time; although similar in many ways, almost all of us are in different stages of life. 

But when the four of us come together, we create a safe place for each other - no judgment, no name-calling, no hostility, no grudges, no criticism and no negativity.  It's a positive, loving, encouraging, safe place. That's not always easy to come by in life. I'm very thankful that I've got these ladies to share it with. 

We went to a beautiful cabin in the mountains and spent two full days eating, talking, sitting by a campfire and catching up. 

No stress, no jobs and no responsibilities.  A safe place. Do you have a place like this in your life - where you don't feel judged, where you can relax and be yourself, where you can throw out all your crazy problems and not get laughed at, where you can have a shoulder to cry on? If not - I suggest you get one :) It makes a big difference. Driving up there (by myself) for three hours I thought about work, my schedule, responsibilities, conflicts and problems. On my way back I thought about how lucky I was to have such a safe place and such good friends...and I started constructing this blog in my head :-)

For my fellow pastor's wives, this isn't always a place we can find.  Making friends that aren't affiliated with the church isn't easy and finding friends that you can trust to confide in, is even harder. I'm very lucky to have this group of girls that I can meet with, unwind with, unload on and trust in...even if it's only every 2 to 3 years.  Although we may not see each other as often as we like, when we do, it's like we never left :) 
Friendships like that are once in a lifetime - and I'm blessed to have found them.  I'm looking forward to our next "girl's weekend" already! :)  Love you ladies :)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Pick-your-own Party!! :)


  I loved the idea that this woman wrote about in her I decided to do the same for my son who is turning 9 this week.  I told him we would give him $150 and he could either keep it, spend it on a party, or both.  It was his to do with as he wanted.  He decided to throw a party AND keep some money so then we had a big discussion on how much things cost :) He wanted to spend $50 on a party and keep $100 but was surprised how quickly the costs started adding up!  So, he started getting creative and came up with this - a Pick Your Own Party :) Pretty cool!  

We ended up having a blast and I was proud of him for being creative :)  The only thing 
I did different than what the other blog mentioned, was that I didn't have him make his own cake or anything like that.  He helped me plan the menu and he paid for it...but it is his birthday after all :)  I don't make myself a cake on my birthday!  So I didn't ask him to :)

  This is a neat little orchard.  Remember, we live in Amish country so pick-your-own farms are everywhere.  We even have a small one within walking distance to our house.  However, when we decided to find one last year (when we first moved here), this was one of the few that still had fruit/veggies to pick and it was reasonably priced. So, we tried it out even though it was 20 minutes away.  It made such a lasting impression on them, that's where he wanted to have his party :) it has a neat little play area as well as a tether ball - which the boys loved playing with. 
So, in all, he paid $15 for pizza and cupcakes (would've been $10 but we had to get him a gluten free pizza which isnt cheap!). For the kids' "goodie bags" (which I'm not a huge fan of), we decided we would let them pick whatever fruit they wanted to take home-and averaged about $5 per child...or $15. Add in the cost of some paper products and misc and he spent around $50.  Awesome!

We picked raspberries...


and climbed some trees to get some peaches :)
Ate our pizza and cupcakes...
And played until we had to leave! :)

Overall, he had a great party :)  His actual birthday isn't until September 11 (another blog about that here...) but we decided to do it before school started and the craziness begins :)  Happy birthday buddy!! I love you <3

Monday, August 24, 2015

My sweet six year old - "I Love that you..."

I did this for my son back on his birthday and I really enjoyed writing it's my daughter's turn! :)
To my sweet, smart, beautiful six year old:  Elita, this post is for you :)


...almost always have a smile for me and everyone else around you.
...have the best laugh ever!

I love that 
...there are times when you are very shy and times when you aren't - and I never know when they're going to happen.
...the first thing you do every morning is crawl in bed with me and snuggle-then ask for my iPhone to watch pbskids :)
 ...your favorite show right now is Wild Kratts 
 ...your favorite food when you were a baby was black beans...and still now prefer them to most everything else (except maybe pizza and hot dogs)

I love that you to be find pipe cleaners and yarn and suddenly you have whole new worlds or a laser maze!! karate because you "have to work hard" and you like it!
...can make a bed out of anything, anywhere, anytime and lay down and relax :) have always loved the water. Bored? You can always play in the tub for an hour or more :)

...loved your friends in K and that they loved you so much they named their class pet after you :) school and always want to do your best. 
 ...are so competitive that you got upset when the girls in your class didn't get dressed as fast as the boys after swimming lessons.


...want to grow your hair long so you can wear it like Queen Elsa's. to get messy!


...can always make your Papa laugh :)


I love that...
...for the moment, I am your hero and can do no wrong...I know it won't last long so I cherish it while it lasts.
...when it comes time to read a book, hold a hand, dance, or most everything else - I'm your first choice...again, I cherish it while it lasts :) ask Papa to take you to play soccer and have a blast.

I love that you...
...have a wonderful sense of humor
...hate it when I brush your hair, but paul can yank it out and you laugh.
...ask to do silly things-like spray my car when it's raining. 


...never give up and will persevere even if I or anyone else says you don't have to keep trying. 


...adore every kind of animal and want to be a vet when you grow up (or a teacher, or musician...and definitely a mama)
...have already informed me that when you move out of our house you are going to buy pets (we're allergic...she's not) are trying very hard to learn Spanish. love Peru and ask all the time when you are going to get to go visit


...I love that your brother is one of the few people who can make you laugh so hard you make this happy face... :)


...ask to sing in church and love getting on the microphone. to read.
...adore your brother and (most of the time) beg him to play with you. 

I love that...
 ...anytime music or a song comes on in a movie you tell me to dance with you.
...whenever I play dollhouse with you I have to be all the "boys" can find any baby within a mile radius - and then love all over him/her. take your time and remind me to stop rushing and enjoy life! never complain about your peanut allergy even if that means not getting cupcakes and treats at school or missing out on the entire buffet of desserts at a church luncheon or at Golden Corral. pick out your favorite shirt, your favorite pants and your favorite shoes (for that day) and wear them...even though none of them match. They're your faves so who cares?! :) say "mama, mama" 1452 times a day and "mama will you play with me?" 549 times a day :) have hardly any interest in video games are excited about going to Pennsylvania to "play in the snow", even though you don't like cold weather bring up God at random times and remind us that God loves us and made all of us...

AND, I love that the only thing you asked to do today was get a donut and watch the sunrise on the beach like last year :)
Wish granted!!

I love you little monkey!!  You put a smile on my face every morning! Happy Birthday!!