Monday, December 29, 2014

Cozy Christmas

Merry Christmas from Our Family to Yours

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Here's another Christmas tradition I really enjoy...Christmas Cards.
Fortunately I am gifted in pictures and designing cards (or finding good templates on various sights) and Chris is gifted at writing. So what I do is pleasing to the eye(usually) while what Chris does is interesting to read. As I try to recall December 1997 I started our Christmas letter and then asked Chris to edit it. Basically he rewrote it, rightfully so. That year I would have probably said something like, "In February we moved to Arizona and we have the cutest little kitten named Moxie." See that needs some serious revising.

Below are the two cards I mailed out this year. 

I love our Christmas pictures this year, it was so difficult to decide which one to use.  Thank you Kelli Gleckler at Kelli G Photography

The F word of the Holidays

I'm not going to write about all these things but they all played a part in our Christmas celebration. We had a full house for five days. Wow, there's two more F words.
The Pearsons
The Raabes
My family got here on Christmas Eve right before services at church. Year after year our church pulls off a wonderful service that is both entertaining and filled with the gospel message. Jesus came to save us. He wiped our sin stained heart clean. Amen!

After church we had homemade lasagna that met everyone's special dietary needs and then opened one gift, the jammies. Chris got some Santa boxers but didn't really want me to take his picture and post it. Ha
Christmas PJ tradition
Chris reading the Christmas story before opening gifts
After one year of crazy Christmas travels we decided we would always be home Christmas morning. I would cave on that if were we in some tropical location as a family, hanging by the pool Christmas morning would be really nice! I made Christmas breakfast and then the wrapping paper began to fly. I'm a gift person which means I like getting gifts but really enjoy watching my kids' faces light up when they open the thing they hoped and wished for all month long.
Probably her favorite gift
So excited but it's damaged
Compound Bow
A soccer goal to share
Following present time I was back in the kitchen prepping for other family to arrive. We had 17 people here for a soup lunch and way too many snacks. Yum!

Over the next several days my parents and brother hung out at our house. Finally last night my oldest brother and his wife drove up from KC. It did my heart good to see them and I look forward to May when we see them again. After some much needed downtime today I am ready to go out and have fun with Chris and the girls tomorrow.

In just a few short days we will be celebrating a new year. I know it's a time of resolutions that we seldom carry out. Today I am pondering what things I want to improve. Are there people in my life who are not safe? How can I be an instrument of change and not a victim of circumstances? Do I let the negative impact me or do I shine the light Christ put inside me? Prayerfully looking for the answers to these thoughts.

Happy New Year & A Blessed 2015!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Trees

Christmas Star
Christmas Trees
Christmas Music
Christmas Movies
Christmas Services
Christmas All Month Long
It's all
My Fav

(that's my attempt at a word design, does it look like a Christmas Tree?)

The day after Thanksgiving I start digging out my cherished Christmas decorations. It is probably my husband's least favorite day, this year he went hunting. Chris doesn't dislike the decorations but he knows I am going to ask him to put the lights on the house, that is most certainly his LEAST favorite duty as a husband but he does it because he loves me. 

This year we have a couple new trees, after 17 years of marriage we needed an upgrade.

TREE #1: A pencil tree that my mother-in-law gave me the year we moved back to Nebraska. Every year I decorate it with red and gold balls, gold starts, white lights and ribbon. It's only 6' tall. The girls call the pencil tree "mom's tree" This year my tree is displayed in the living room.

TREE #2: This is our new pre-lit tree. What an blessing. It was set up in a matter of minutes...I'm in love! I bought it after Christmas 2 years ago at Garden Ridge (which no longer exists) so when I plugged it in for the first time this year I was filled with relief and joy that all the lights worked. This is our "family tree" loaded with ornaments the girls have made over the years and all the ornaments Great Grandma and I have given them. It is so fun each year to watch them reminisce as they are carefully hung on the tree. This tree is 9' feet tall and displayed in the music room which is in the front of the house.

TREES #3, 4, 5 & 6: I don't know if these little trees really count, they don't have lights or decorations but they only go out at Christmas.

TREE #7: A sweet little tree in my kitchen.

TREE #8: Just a simple tree outside on the deck. I had planned on doing a little more decorating out there but it didn't happen. This is a 4' tree.

TREES #9 & 10: Both of these outdoor trees were purchased at Garden Ridge two years ago. I need to find bigger pots to prevent these 5' trees from tipping over when the winter winds swirl through my front porch.

TREE #11: Emma's little 2' pre-lit tree

TREE #12: Olivia's 1' hot pink tree. We couldn't find the skirt this year. I promise that everything in Liv's room does not lean to the east. I guess this is poor photography. ha

TREE #13: Reagan's 2' pre-lit tree.

Until now, I had no idea how many trees I had in the house. Mystery solved. 

(Vicki, show me your trees)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Nutcracker

Once again our home is blessed with a fourth daughter. Gabby dances with Ballet Nebraska which means she travels 2 hours every weekend to spend Friday and Saturday dancing in Omaha. I love it because we get to see our friends more often. With performances this upcoming weekend, Gab is here for technical rehearsals all day Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. This girl works hard! I can't even begin to tell you everything she does that involves dance and performance but she is driven and has high aspirations of a career as a ballerina. The Raabes are proud of you girl. We look forward to watching Gab on stage with the professional company dancers Saturday night, bringing The Nutcracker to the city of Omaha.

Emma and Gabrielle tonight right before bed. Emma was sick earlier this week and Gab is coming down with a cold. I told them, "You both look terrible so let me snap a picture." As you can see, they don't look terrible, they are beautiful both inside and out. 

Christmas Cards Oh My!

Do you do them?
Do you love them?
Do you hate them?
Are they a pain in the butt?

Yes, I do them. 
Yes, I love them. 
Yes they are a pain in the butt! 

There are so many sites that make cards. I spent the last week researching prices. VistaPrint, Shutterfly, TinyPrints, Sams Club, Costco, Walgreens, Target and the list goes on. Be careful they can be very tricky! For instance a site may show that a particular card is $.55 or $.79 each which sounds pretty good unless you want the rounded corners like displayed and that adds $.24 per card but even then in order to get that awesome price of $.55 you have to purchase 200+ photocards. Ok, maybe you have 200 friends, I don't. Well if you look at my facebook "friends" you make think I do but I assure you I do not. So the price goes up to $1.03 per card (depending on how many you want to order) plus the pretty shape and don't forget the shipping is $10. Seriously? Finally you come to terms with the fact that you need to cut down the number of cards you are purchasing which actually increases the price per card and you won't get the scalloped edges. How much are you willing to pay for Christmas cards that almost everyone will throw away? At checkout the site makes you go through a series of 5 pages declining all kinds of cool time saving options. They can print the return label for you, in fact they can address all the envelopes too. (Note to self, now they have the addresses to all my known affiliates. Wow, a conspiracy theorist would have a hayday with that.) What about those cool postage stamps with your families photo on it, just $.24 plus the cost of the stamp. YIKES! 
Here's a little mock up that I did from Tiny Prints. Not bashing them I just want to point out how ridiculous this gets and I know people spend this much and more because I get cards like this.
100 cards with rounded corners = $179
matte cards are no extra charge, glossy and pearl finish is more
white envelopes free, colored are more
liners in the envelope is $14.75 per 25 = $57
coordinating labels 48 for $16 = $32
shipping $9.95
tax $16.43
GRAND TOTAL $294.38 for 100 Christmas cards & envelopes
sorry bad picture
I did find a pretty good deal at Shutterfly  Take a look if you haven't already ordered photocards. This link will earn me $10 if you use it.  :) Today they have 20% off your total order or free shipping. There are promo codes all over the internet. I also had a gift certificate through my Discover rewards so I ended up paying just $9.05 for 50 cards. We send more cards than that so I also ordered some from also. Their designs aren't as nice as some other sites and I'm praying that they are good quality (which is why I upgraded the quality just a tiny bit) but the price is much better. Again, I declined the special shapes, well really almost all the extras until I got to check out and at 1:00 in the morning I got sucked into buying the return labels. By the way, if you receive a card from me and there is a typo remember I ordered them at 1am. With shipping, tax, labels, linen finish, envelopes and whatever else they could list to make it look like I was getting a great deal my cards came out to $.80 each instead of $2.94 a piece. 

There are other options. My fantastic husband would appreciate me much more if I would turn to email/text/facebook Christmas cards. Oh Mr. Love of My Life, I just can't do that. I love photocards! I respect you for keeping our family financially stable but please let me keep my cards. Don't forget the good old fashion paper Christmas cards that you have to open and then you could write a personal message in each one. Wow, that thought is pushing my sentimental button. I do miss the personal touch. Maybe next year.

Whatever you do or don't do with cards at least take the time to tell people near and far Merry Christmas. As Christians this is one of the times each year that others can expect to hear us talk about our Savior. Don't miss your opportunity. Remember few people will turn down an invitation to church at Christmas especially when you follow up with an invitation for dinner at your house or at a favorite local establishment. Love breaks down walls, show the world that Jesus loves each one of us!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pre-Thanksgiving Thoughts

I am struggling today. 
I love Christmas and decorating is one of my favorite things to do...after Thanksgiving! It's hard for me to focus on Thanksgiving when all I can think about is Christmas lights, buying gifts and getting out my decorations. And let me add, that's not even what Christmas is about but I still like it.

(I was about to get on my soapbox but it didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. Aren't you lucky?)

Have you noticed how this time of year facebook is filled with daily posts of thanksgiving? What a nice change from all the senseless complaints or political messages. In fact, it brings me great joy to sit and think on the things that I am thankful for. (flashback to my journal of thanksgiving) This year I refrained from the daily FB post and have been sending personal messages of gratefulness. I like to think it's no accident that we celebrate a day of thanksgiving before we celebrate Christmas. For me it's a lot like singing songs of worship before hearing a message from our pastor on Sunday morning, it prepares my heart for the real deal. Taking a moment every day to remember how blessed I am humbles my heart. I find it's much easier to accept the tremendous gift of salvation when I have an attitude of thanksgiving.

For many years Chris and I have spent Thanksgiving Day with extended family at Aunt Helen's house. We even flew home from AZ back in the day to celebrate at Helen & Lynn's a couple of times. This lady knows how to host large groups of people, I am watching and learning. We always have lots of people, too much food and a special day of laughs, cards and shopping strategies. Again, this year we will be with Helen, Lynn and 43 other family members. Mom, Dad and Eric will even be there. 

Last year I made the turkey and stuffing. That was a big job! In 2014 I have a much easier task. Our contribution will be deviled eggs, strawberry pretzel salad (it's really dessert but we like to call it a salad so we can still have pie) and chocolate covered pretzels. Tomorrow I will brave the busy grocery store to purchase food for our celebration and the 30 items we are donating to families in North Omaha. (more on this later) This time of year, I like the traditional foods. I don't try to go healthy, creative or glutten free. Nope, I want all the yumminess I have loved since I was a child. In other words, I'm not looking at Pinterest to see how I can complicate things. What are you making this thanksgiving?

Have you ever gone to bed hungry because there wasn't any food in the house? I haven't and neither have my children. Hmm, that's another thing I can be thankful If you are interested in helping hungry children in North Omaha our church has made it very easy for us to pour out our love. Most of the students at Franklin Elementary in North Omaha are part of the free lunch program and often do not have enough food when they are not in school. Christmas break can be a huge challenge for these families with extra mouths to feed all day long. CCC has partnered with Bridge Church to create food boxes. If you are able and live in Omaha please consider donating to this project or find another worthy cause in your area. Click here to see the list of 30 items. I have never felt so thankful as when I have been able to help another. 

In case I don't get back on here before Thanksgiving I want to wish each of you a warm celebration. No matter what you do on Thursday, if your heart is beating and you have a roof over your head I pray that you can find something to be thankful for. Tell those you love that you appreciate them and focus on the good. God loves you. He didn't promise an easy life, He promised an eternal life if you follow Him.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy Birthday Christopher

There are so many big things to blog about today...
*Our first SNOW :(
*Veteran's Day
*The Marine Corps 239th Birthday
All very important but I choose to talk about the ULTRA HANDSOME LOVE OF MY LIFE...Chris Raabe!
HaPPy BiRtHDaY Honey! 

I remember watching Chris play baseball in this uniform. It's strange to think that he is closer to daughters' ages in this photo than the age we are right now. I don't know where the years have gone? But I do know that I am thankful it's been the two of us together through it all. I loved this guy back when this picture was taken. He was funny, a good athlete, from a christian family, got good grades and a really good kisser. Yep, those were the important things in life. Today I love him even more and in a whole different way. All those "important" things are still true but he is so much more. Chris is a man of God. He has a great sense of humor that he uses to put others at ease. He sees to it that our family is centered on Christ. Chris is good at his job and helps our daughters see the importance of doing their best. And he's still a really good kisser! :)

Now please pray that I pull off his birthday party this weekend without a hitch.

Have a wonderful Veteran's Day! God bless our men and women who have and do serve this country.

Monday, November 10, 2014

NPL Soccer in Chicago

This past weekend my little soccer player and I zipped up to Chicago for some mother-daughter soccer time. Chris and I have committed to cutting our travel expenses which means carpooling, eating sandwiches in the car and sharing hotels. On top of saving money this weekend, we got to get better aquainted with some very special people. Ryann is new to the team and she is freaky fast! It's sad to admit, but joining this team is no picnic. There are some pretty mean people in this world, you know the kind who would be mean to a little girl because she's a flipping awesome soccer player. (whew, got that off my chest) Anyway, getting to know Ryann and her beautiful mom, Victoria blessed us in unexpected ways.  God you are so good!

Reagan's game schedule looks much different from last year. We use to play Gretna, OFC, Elkhorn and Lincoln but now it's surprisingly difficult to find quality competition in the state of Nebraska. Since fall we have played only one local team (beat 'em) while other opponents have been from Dallas, Kansas City, St Louis, Minneapolis, Chicago, Ohio, and Detroit. Holy Buckets!! For now we are in 1st place (I'm pretty sure) in NPL (National Premier League) which could mean playing in the national tournament in Indianapolis this July. 

Back to Chicago...Wouldn't you know it, Saturday in game one against the Chicago Sockers Reags played really well and I left my camera in the hotel. Not a big deal since she had a game the next morning. Except my little go-getter got kicked then rolled her ankle Saturday and was not able to put any weight on her right foot. Therefore, she did not play anymore soccer. I took my camera to game 2 anyway but I was so cold (it was windy and 40 degrees) I took very few pictures. This is what I got...
The only time #8 will ever be taller than her goalie!
The girls on the sidelines
The two R's sitting out this game
Protecting their goal...and it worked!!
Can I brag for just a moment? If it makes you sick just skip it...
I mentioned that Reagan played well in the first game of the weekend. During the game I noticed the ref talking to Reags then she pointed over to me. Instantly I began playing every comment I had made over in my head. Had I yelled something and the ref was going to give ME a yellow card? Was he warning Reagan that I was out of line? No, I couldn't think of anything. After the game, as I was getting ready to carry Reagan to the parking lot (Thanks Mark Thomson for your help) the ref said to me, "Make sure she always plays on a good team, your daughter is a very special player, she sees the game different than most." Wow, I've never had a ref say anything like that before. I think #8 is a good but I'm mom, that's my job. Hearing it from an unbiased person made me feel pretty proud of Reagan and her hard work. Keep working towards those goals, you can do it!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Halloween Havoc

As much as I really, really, really love fall, I don't love Halloween. There would be no tears shed from me if we skipped Halloween altogether. However, I have children and they love dressing up so I do my best to not be the Scrooge of Halloween. It's not that I think we are all going to eternally perish if we participate, it's not the candy, I'm not sure what it is. As much as I enjoy shopping and being creative I do not like buying or creating costumes. It is so much pressure. Maybe if my kids would just be what I want them to know the super cute costumes on Pinterest like a bag of jelly beans or walking waffles maybe even a jellyfish. No, that's never what they want to be. (really I'm ok with that) This year the girls were Luigi, an Evil Minion and Michelangelo. Not very creative but at least I don't have a zombie bride, witch or some other representative of evil.
Kind of a family picture
By the time we took a family picture Reagan was already gone for the night, we filled her spot with Em's friend Alaina. No, the evil minion does not have a cigarette in her mouth...early candy eating.

A Hunter and his Deer

My Ninja Turtle is the Orange One: Michelangelo
The clock is ticking way too fast today. I have one hour until I need to be in the school parking lot but I have several hours of stuff to do. Maybe I shouldn't have had lunch with my mother-in-law today...nah it was worth it. Blessings to each one of you reading my post. May you feel God's grace pour out on you whether you accomplish your daily tasks or not. After all, He is more interested in your heart than your to-do list.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Birthday Week...Er...Um Month

I love Fall!
Have I said that before? I know I have. I have said it time and time again. Truly the reason we live in Nebraska becomes apparent in the fall. I can't help but love the colors, the smells, the brisk temperatures, [sometimes it's warm too] pumpkin spiced everything, real pumpkin patches, Husker football and MY BIRTHDAY. I love it all I will endure the freezing [ridiculous] winter tundra of December to February just to fall in love all over again from September through November. 

I know my birthday is actually only one day but it deserves so much more celebration than 24 hours. I remember being pregnant the last few weeks and all I could think about was bringing my baby into the world...every day I thought about it. So you see birthdays really ought to be observed a few weeks early. That may be me justifying and I am okay with that! 

Celebrating with these girls
My dear friend Susan's birthday is early in October. This year we started our birthday lunches and coffee dates on the 3rd. Kimberly and Susan are long time friends. When our babies were little we use to put them to bed and then scrapbook together until the wee hours of the night. Now our three families have eight busy children, it's not often that we get several hours together. Dinner at Spin Pizza in Papio was a great kick off to the birthday month! [Blood Orange Sangria was amazing!]

I love the sign my girls made
My morning walk with Anna
BOGO lunch at Qdoba...YUM!
Free coffee from Caribou Coffee
Free Cupcake from Mockingbird Cupcakes
Dinner at Genji

Olivia trying to catch shrimp in her mouth
Emma dancing and singing to her mama
The girls have learned what makes their mom feel appreciated. Each of them wrote a poem or song, as you can see Emma even danced. The day before my birthday they made dinner and then that night they folded laundry. If that doesn't make a mama feel loved I don't know what would. To top it off I woke on my special day to balloons on the floor [something I do for them] and a gift card from Starbucks. Life is good!

Since Chris' dad had knee surgery in mid October we didn't really celebrate with them but my parents and brother stopped by for a few days. I made hummingbird cake, did lots of cooking and managed to stay up late talking each night. These are the times we are reminded how blessed we are to have the space in our new home to host visitors.

I will have my last celebration this Wednesday night with my friend Nicole.

Next month we will be highlighting my handsome husband...can't wait!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Good-Bye Vincent

Our Furry Family
Over the 18 years we have been married, our family has loved Moxie, Babe, Vincent and Bella. Unlike our children, we can admit that we love some pets more than others. (Vincent was the best) I grew up with pets and I still miss Bluebell, the best dog EVER but as an active family we know that we don't have the time to properly take care of a dog. Hence, we are a cat family.

This week with sad hearts our family said good-bye to our beloved Vincent. He has been part of our family since Liv was a baby. Vincent came to us as a stray and we loved him well.
Our Last Family Photo
Oh the house will be quiet tomorrow morning when everyone else goes back to school and Vinny isn't here to follow me around meowing relentlessly until I agree to sit down and cuddle. I will miss my sweet, extra fluffy, foul breathed cat. Thank you Vinny for the many years of love. Rest In Peace.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Vinyl Creations by MelKate

I have found a hobby that bring me such joy...
Creating wall designs for friends and family. In the last couple of years I have created around 50+ vinyl sayings and designs for friends. The moment I pull off the transfer tape and take a step back I get this sense of accomplishment and joy. Because my friends have big mouths, I guess, I have even had the privilege to design for a few businesses. One of them, didn't finish paying me for the 40+ signs I made but that's my problem. I'm just going to throw this out there, if you would like for me to design and cut a saying or emblem for you leave me a message. The cost is minimal compared to other popular sites and you can be sure that your design is created with love and care not mass produced.
Below I have attached a few pictures. 
They aren't crooked, it's just poor photography. :)
I love to pray scripture with my children's names in it. So when a dear friend asked for this verse for her daughter's room I inserted Molly's name right into it. They loved it.

 These (and 8 others) can be found in the new Habitat for Humanity Building in Omaha

"America the Beautiful" 
Fun holiday decor

This one is in my house, love it.

 This LeBron James quote took me more that 3 hours to apply. YIKES

This one is huge, the picture doesn't do it justice.

"Music should strike fire from the heart of man and bring tears from the eyes of women"
I painted the staff and cut the notes out of black vinyl

Don't remember the translation of this french saying

It's Friday and part of my family will be out of town which means I will have more time to create. I hope to finish a design for Ballet Nebraska, a softball quote for Kristi's room and figure out what the Millard youth football program wants for car decals. If I get all that done then I can get back to staining my deck.

Peace and Joy to each person reading this blog. God loves you more than any other creation, after all you were created in His own image. Know that you are loved!