Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy 29th Birthday, Titus!

God has blessed our family so much with Titus. He is a wonderful husband, father, and friend. I don't think there is ever a day that goes by that I don't thank God for Titus. God knew exactly what He was doing when He brought the two of us together.

I remember the first time I saw Titus. We were both sitting in Geometry class our sophomore year, and the teacher was handing back our latest test we had taken. Everyone did very poorly, "except for Titus. Of course, he did great." Everyone in the class turned to look at the boy the teacher was talking about, and I for the first time, caught a glimpse of my husband.
The boy I fell in love with...

I remember when he spoke to me for the first time. It may have only been online, but I remember how excited I was to finally be talking with the boy I'd been so closely watching at my school.

I remember the first time he asked me out. We were walking home from school together, and he asked me again if I wanted to go to the homecoming football game. I made some excuse, but he was persistent. He didn't care if he had to meet my parents. He wanted to hang out with me.

I can remember the first time I held his hand. My heart was racing, and I knew my life would never be same again.

I remember our first fight and how hard it was to watch him walk away so sad. I remember apologizing and running away crying, wondering if he would follow me. Then I was so happy to see him tapping on my car window, knowing he had actually followed.

I can remember the first time our knees touched, the first time we hugged, the first time we kissed, the first time I knew I loved him.

I remember all the poems he wrote me, and the words of love he told me, knowing I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.

I remember when he asked me to marry him, and he put the bubble gum ring on my finger. I remember a few months later getting a real diamond ring out of the bubble gum machine, and him getting down on one knee, telling me he loved me, and would I spend the rest of my life with him.

I remember our wedding day, almost 10 years ago; he looked so handsome in his suit, with his dark hair and blue eyes. I remember as we said our vows it was his eyes that were full of tears and I wiped them off his cheeks.

I remember the first time we held our new baby girl, and how happy and proud we were to be parents for the first time.

I remember our first Christmas together, and how Titus lost his job. I remember the anxiety and the fear that we had about how God was going to provide. Then I remember waking up Christmas morning and opening my Christmas present from Titus a box of chocolates and the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" and then knowing without a doubt that day how wonderful my life truly was.

I remember it was almost a year before Titus found another job. He trusted God and the results were amazing. He started out in a temporary position and moved up gradually to where he is now.

I remember surprising him for his birthday and taking him to a hotel for the first time. He had no idea what was going on.

I remember going through some really tough times wondering if we were going to make it, but knowing still at the end of every day there is no man I've ever loved more.

I remember trying to have another baby, and how excited we both were to say, "I'm pregnant again!"

I remember seeing significant spiritual growth in Titus, and knowing each day that I could trust him to become the spiritual head of our household.

I remember buying our first home together. We looked at house after house, and we couldn't find that perfect place we wanted to raise our two children. It was after six months of looking, I can remember walking to the front door of this yellow home, and before I even set foot inside, tears came to my eyes because I know I was walking into my home. I remember praying together and figuring out what we were going to offer on that house. We both cried tears of joy when the call came saying it was ours.

I remember hearing about promotions Titus was getting at work, knowing that someone else out there knew and appreciated my husband just as much as I do. I've always been so proud of him and his accomplishments.

I remember watching Titus hold his first guitar, and seeing his face light up as he explained the different chords to me, and having him show me the calluses that were forming on his fingers.

I remember when he played and sang his first song just for me, and how hard it was to keep myself from crying out loud. "I'm going to take you by surprise, and make you realize, Amanda. I'm going to tell you right away, I can't wait another day, Amanda. I'm going to say it like a man, and make you understand, Amanda. I love you."

I remember all our fights and arguments, all our disagreements, and knowing at the same time that I hate you... I love you. I remember all our times making up too.

I remember our honeymoon that we took 5 years after our wedding, spending those 10 days with him in the Caribbean, wondering how could life be this good? Am I dreaming?

I remember all the times he put his strong arms around me, knowing it would be okay because he was there with me, even though sometimes my heart was breaking.

I remember the inside jokes we have, the laughter we share, the games we've played, the movies we've watched, the stories we've shared, the books we've read.

I remember how much we wanted another baby, and I especially remember him holding me in his arms when I knew it wasn't going to happen this month. Then I remember him holding me when I found out it was really happening, and we were going to be parents again for the third time.

I remember him taking care of me all the times I've been sick, calling the doctor when I needed it, taking care of the kids so I could sleep, cleaning the house so I didn't go crazy.

I remember all the dinners he makes me because I'm too tired to cook. He's had a long day himself, but still he never complains. He always just serves me.

I remember the late night ice cream runs, or the trips he takes to buy me coffee. If he hears I want something, he does everything in his power to make it so.

I remember the gifts he given me, the dates he's planned, the places he's taken me.

I remember the few days we spent for our anniversary in NYC. Titus knew I always wanted to see "Phantom of the Opera" so why not see it in the best theater possible? He always spoils me.

I remember the first time he sang a song for offering at church, and how proud I was that he could get up in front of everyone and sing. Every time he sings, I get nervous for him and forget to breathe, feeling just like it's me up on that stage. He is always so inspiring to me.

I remember his beautiful hands and the way they guide me. They make me feel so loved and secure that nothing can shake that.

I remember thinking years ago on our wedding day just how much I love him, and wondering is it even possible to love anymore than this? I see now that it was just a fraction then of how full my heart is now. God has given us 10 beautiful years together, and I know that right now my love is going to be insignificant compared to years from now. My love will never stop, or diminish; it can only grow as time goes on. Titus is a part of me, and I am of him.

"And the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” Mark 10:8-9

The kids planned a very sweet surprise party for Titus. This year his birthday happened to fall on a Wednesday night, so we had church to attend first before our celebration. As soon as we got home, the kids sent him out to the store for some much needed supplies. New Years Eve is coming, and we needed some sparkling grape juice to share. Ariel also said, "Buy some sugar."

When he came home he had three adorable children waiting to SURPRISE him with a party. We had cake, presents, and then watched a Monk episode together. They know how much Titus and I like the show, so they thought it would be fun to watch for him.
The kids worked really hard baking the birthday cake together. They took turns mixing up the batter, and Zech took a turn licking the bowl.

We didn't have 29 candles, so instead we put 5 candles on the cake. One for every member of our family.

The kids had the idea of making a laptop cake for Titus, so this was the closest we could get to it. It's a keyboard and mouse.

I Love You, Titus!! I hope you have a wonderful Birthday!!!!


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Homemade Christmas

Christmas is my very favorite time of year! I love everything about it, except maybe the colder weather. Although I must admit, I visited Mexico a couple weeks before Christmas one year, and it didn't feel like Christmas until I came home to the colder weather outside. So maybe I do love it too.

The reason Christmas is so special to me is because of the giving. I have heard it called "Giftmas" by some, but I feel that no matter how many gifts there are, if there is an abundance, or a lack of them, it's still not about the presents at all. I love the holiday because of the love behind the giving. If you've ever read the book "The Five Love Languages" by Dr. Gary Chapman you'll find that I fit perfectly into the category of "Receiving Gifts." I think sometimes this love language can be mistaken for being materialistic. That is far from the truth! I believe the whole point of the gift is the love, thoughtfulness and effort behind it. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. Christmas just feels to me like everyone is speaking my language. The season is full of love for me, and I especially treasure the moments when I get to give Christmas away.

This year our finances were a little bit tight as we wanted to make it to the end of this year with money to spare. That was not going to stop me from giving, or take away from the acts of love I wanted to bestow on my family and friends. I have never had so much fun getting ready for Christmas, as I did this year. I spent many days and hours laboring with love on my gifts. I always want everyone to know just how special and important they are to me. This is my day to LOVE!

I thought I would share with you all the different projects and homemade things we put together this year. It was a joy to do! To start off, I wanted to show you some of our homemade decorations. We made the paper chain and snowflakes a few years back, and this year we added to it the peppermint candies. I also made a huge star of Christmas to hang in the center of the room. We save it all in a large trash bag in the basement, and I'm sure we will always be adding new things to it each year.

I love to make new ornaments for the tree. It makes it extra special when you can walk around your tree naming where each ornament came from. Each one has a different meaning, and they have come from all over the place. Some of my favorites are the ones the children bring home from school each year. It's always so much fun to put the tree together and reminisce about where they came from and what they mean to us. There are many ornaments that have been made in love, and I treasure them.

This year, we made lots of ornaments to give away as gifts. Sometimes it can get rather expensive to purchase a gift for everyone that you love: teachers, friends, family, etc... so an ornament is a fun gift to make! This year we really got into using popsicle sticks! They make some really cute projects.

During the holiday season, I joined together with some of my closest lady friends for a special Christmas party. One of the activities we all did together was candles. It was a first for all of us, and we were pretty pleased with out how they turned out. My favorite part was the painting of the jars, adding that special touch to make it extra personal.

I made this candle for a really good friend of mine who is a "fancy girl." I added some flowers on our hats and some high heels for our feet. On the opposite side of the candle, it says "Snow Buddies"
My favorite candle I made for myself, is this blue one with a snowman family!

Each year it seems like I find a project that seems to take over me. Duct Tape purses was my obsession this year. They are SO much fun to make, and are very inexpensive. As it got closer to Christmas I was hoping I would meet some new friends just so I could make more purses. If you didn't know, you can pretty much buy Duct Tape in every single color. You can even find rolls in leopard print, flames, and tie-dye.

For Ariel's school Christmas party, she was asked to bring a $3-5 gift for a girl. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to make a purse! This one is a bit more fancy then most of the ones I made. It has a cardboard bottom, gathered sides, and a pocket inside.

I made a couple purses to use as gift bags for my girl friends. It was fun to find small items to put inside them, things like hot chocolate, gum, or different kinds of candies.

This was another special ornament I made for a friend. It was a little more time consuming, so I didn't get to make too many of them. The pinecone was too difficult to paint.

Each year I find a special ornament for my children. It usually has something to do with their interest for the year, or their personality, or just something special I know they will like. I don't like to spend a lot of money on them, so I search many stores before I find the right ornament for the right price. For Ariel, I found a really cute brightly colored knitted owl. I found Gabe a music note that he always draws when he writes his songs, and I spray painted it red, his favorite color. Zechariah was a little bit more difficult to find the perfect thing for. I searched and searched and nothing stood out to me. I love it to have meaning, hence my earlier talk about love languages. I finally found a really cute ornament for him at the Christmas Decor store in our mall that was a small laptop with a Santa hat sitting on top. He loved it, and I loved it... until I caught a glimpse of the price, $9.95!!! That may not sound pricey to you, but I got Ariel and Gabe's for $2 and $1. I really try to watch my money, so I was very disappointed as we left the store with no ornament still. Then I had a wonderful idea-- paper mache! I could make it for him, and even personalize it a little bit more. I ended up making Zech his very own miniature laptop ornament, complete with Mario and Luigi on the screen! I think it turned out really cute, and Zech loved it. He actually sat and tried to play it for awhile when he unwrapped it on Christmas morning.

For Jesus, we always make Him a special birthday cake. The kids love to sing Him "Happy Birthday," and we all take turns blowing out one candle for Him. This year I made Jesus an apple dessert pizza. It was soo yummy, and the kids each took turns as they blew out their candle telling us what present they would give Jesus this year. Both Ariel and Gabe know how much they need to work on getting along with their brother/sister, so they each promised to try to not fight. A wonderful present for mom too!

Gabriel worked really hard at school making us this BEAUTIFUL macaroni wreath to hang on the wall. I loved it, and told him I was certain we would be hanging it up every single year!

Ariel weaved these colorful coasters for Titus and me. They each had a note attached saying, "Number 1 Mom" and "Number 1 Dad". She really wanted to paint on a couple of coffee mugs the same thing too, but I stopped her before she had the chance to finish that. I told her the paint probably wouldn't hold up in the microwave or when they were washed. My coaster is the larger yellow and green one. (My favorite Colors)

These next two pictures are probably my largest time consuming presents. I worked for SEVERAL weeks on the boy's gifts. I wasn't sure how much money we were going to have for presents this year, and I wanted them to be able to open a very special gift so they know just how special they are to me. I made them both paper mache superheros' to hang up in their bedroom. Gabriel has a red half of the room with black spiders crawling on the walls for Spider-Man. And Zech has a big Batman emblem on his side of the room. They were SO excited when they opened these presents. It was difficult to do it as slow as I wanted them to. I didn't need any arms, legs or fingers breaking off before they got to hang them up.

I went to a few stores looking for a Batman costume, and couldn't find a nice one, in the right size, in my prize range. So I decided when I made the paper mache Batman's cape, I would just sew an extra for Zech to play with. He loved it! As soon as he opened it he went flying around the room. What's really neat, later on Christmas, he opened a present from my mom and dad that was some footed pajamas. It looked just like what Batman wears. So with the cape and the pajamas Zechariah got his Batman costume after all!

Now since I put so much work into gifts for my boys, I knew I had to come up with something extra special for Ariel too. Ariel has had this Little Mermaid blanket all of her life. It was a gift at my baby shower for her, so it's just always been there with her. It was a homemade blanket that Mikaela's "Grammy" (Great Grandma) made for Ariel. Through the years I've tried to talk her into getting a new blanket, or maybe tossing the Mermaid blanket because it was starting to look pretty scary. The back of the blanket was a white fabric, and it was tearing off the back and turning very yellowed and stained. Nothing I said would convince Ariel of getting rid of it, she loved it so much. She's been using it for 9 1/2 years after all! So... a week before Christmas I convinced her it needed a wash, and I secretly brought it to my mother's house where I sewed a new back onto it. The blanket looks beautiful again, and it still holds that special feeling for Ariel! It was a rather funny thing, me taking the blanket from her. When I told her to throw it in the wash, she gave me an evil look and said, "Nooo! You're not throwing it away!" I promised her I would do no such thing, and took very good care of it. She only asked me one time during the week if it was done washing, and I made the excuse that it's a very busy time and I would try to do my best to get it back to her!

If you couldn't tell, this is my baby ornament. I happened to be sitting on the couch at my parents house right where it was showing on the tree. I couldn't resist taking a picture of it!

This year at our BIG family Christmas, we revived an old family tradition. When I was younger we used to do "Secret Pals." I think it was started a year that my family didn't have a lot of money, and it just became a favorite that we kept up. I remember one year when I was about 8 or 9 years old, I got my dad's name. I spent hours working on a special doll house for him. I was very interested in "The Little's" books, and wanted to make him a Little's House. It's funny now as an adult to think back on how upset I was that my father didn't ever play with the house I made him. He just let it sit on his dresser. ☺

A couple weeks before Christmas we all drew names for our "Secret Santa's". If we had done it further from Christmas I don't think the kids would have been able to keep it a secret. We still bought all our normal gifts for each other, but this present was different. We had to actually make the gift. It was okay if you needed to buy the supplies to make it, but you couldn't just purchase them a gift. It must be homemade. It was such a neat experience. I LOVED seeing all the things my family made. We are all a very talented, creative group of individuals.

This is done in a random order; I think how we opened them.

I was Gabriel's "Secret Santa." I made him a notebook like he loves to make. The first part was a story that was 50 pages long!! I only wrote a couple sentences on each page, and had full color illustrations. After the story I added some other things he likes to make notebooks of... like tally marks, counting, math problems... and Maze World

Since the story was 50 pages long, these are just a few random pages out of the story. The title was, "The Alien Baby". It was about Amanda and Gabriel who find an alien baby in the bushes and they are transported through a black hole to another world, where Spider-Man comes to the rescue and saves them.

I really enjoyed making it for Gabriel!

Zechariah was Mikaela's "Secret Santa". I helped him make his gift. When I asked him what he wanted to make her, he said, "a toy snowman". So this is what we came up with. What's really impressive, I drew the outline for the snowman and Zech filled in the picture. He is very good for a three year old!!! It was so cute when it came time to give the gifts. He went over to Mikaela sitting on the floor, cupped her cheeks with his hands, and said very excitedly, "Kaela, I paint you snowman!" I don't think you can tell from the photo, but the jar is actually a homemade candle too!

Gabriel was Titus' "Secret Santa" and made a paper mache coffee mug, with my help. He painted it red and on one side wrote "Dad. I love you" and the other side said "mug". It was a dad mug.

Titus was Zechariah's "Secret Santa". He worked really hard and made this AWESOME rubber band gun. I think it probably was Zechariah's very favorite Christmas gift. It's made out of a block of wood and a clothes pin. When you open the clothes pin, it shoots a rubber band. You have to be very careful playing with it though. Titus was telling me how well it aims and he held up his hand for me to shoot. It was a little off and gave Titus a good sized welt on his forehead. Whoops!

My mom was Ariel's "Secret Santa". She made Ariel some sugar cookies in the shape of an A and J, and then a whole container full of peanut butter balls, Ariel's favorite cookies. They are almost all gone already!

Stefanie was my mom's "Secret Santa". She made these very beautiful construction paper flowers. They are very delicate, but so pretty!

My dad was Shaun's "Secret Santa". He made Shaun a very special picture for his wall. It was very sweet and brought tears to all the women's eyes.

It reads:

Shaun loves God and serves in the Children's department at church
e is a very intelligent and moral person
Amazing are the productions Shaun makes at church
Uncle Shaun loves playing with his niece and nephews
Never lets anyone down

King James Version Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Shaun was Stefanie's "Secret Santa". He used his great editing skills and made her a very touching family video. It had Dave Barnes song "God Gave Me You" as he had pictures of Stefanie flashing on the screen. It also made you cry! It was very sweet. If you're friends with any of my family on Facebook, we are all tagged in the video.

Ariel was my dad's "Secret Santa". She worked really hard on a couple different art projects. She made him a poster with some Christmas bells on it drawn with chalk. She also painted and glued together a snowflake ornament. Both were very pretty!

Mikaela was my "Secret Santa." She made me this gorgeous bracelet I'm showing off in the picture below.

The secret Santa's were a bit hit, and I'm sure we're going to do the tradition again next year. This was the first time we've done it since I've been married. It was very meaningful, and special. I always treasure the homemade gifts the most, because you can see the love and sacrifice that goes into the making of it.

I've saved for the very end, a gift I've spent the past year working on for my father. I call it "Seasonal Inspirations". Titus wrote a program to run it as a screensaver. For the past 4 seasons, I have driven around Topeka in ALL kinds of weather to take photos of nature. I have over 150 pictures of each season and at least 25 pictures with scripture verses on them. My dad loves pretty pictures and pretty things. Whenever you're out in the fall, or spring or summer, you'll hear my dad commenting on how beautiful the trees look, or the flowers are. I wanted to preserve that for him. Sometime I might do a blog post of several of the photos I took, but here is just a sample of one from each season.

I pray that you had a wonderful Christmas too, and were able to feel loved by someone who is special to you! Merry Christmas!!