"You can make anything by writing."

-- C. S. Lewis

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

13 x 365

We're in Kansas tonight, driving together under the December stars. And our marriage is 13 years old.

It was a night just like this one, 13 years ago to the day, with patches of unmelted snow on the ground, stars and clouds interspersed in the sky. My brother sang "'Til There Was You," and all our family and best friends were gathered there together in the candlelight.

A lot of moments have passed since then.

Tonight we kissed in the aisle of a convenience store in the middle of nowhere. I drove to the tunes of our daughter's newfound obsession, Taylor Swift, while Ryan slept. Ryley sat in the backseat of the Hyundai, headphones on and my laptop perched on her lap while she watched hours and hours of "I Love Lucy" episodes, her unsuppressed giggles interrupting my quiet, reflective thoughts.

And I thanked God for how GOOD He has been to us these last 13 years. Sure, there have been hard times and easy times. Sad and happy. Ups and downs. But through it all, His mercies have never come to an end. They are new every morning.

That's 13 x 365 mornings.

And we love each other more than ever.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Merry Christmas

We spent the night on the floor next to the Christmas tree last night. While it was a great idea in theory, Ryan and I didn’t end up sleeping very well. :-)  He was on the couch, and Ryley and I shared the air mattress. But it was fun.


It will be just the three of us for Christmas this year. But it’s actually going to be quite nice after a busy holiday season thus far…


Ryley’s school Christmas concert was pretty cute; her 3rd grade class sang Jingle Bell Rock and Sleigh Ride.






Ryley’s best friend has been spending a lot of time with us recently because of her mom’s work schedule. One Saturday, we went to our local nursery to see Santa and the reindeer…


Ryley was rather unimpressed by the reindeer. She said they weren’t the real ones.

“If they were really Santa’s reindeer, they would just fly right out of that pen,” she stated, so matter-of-factly.



We waited 30 minutes to see Santa, but the girls were hungry and decided they’d rather go eat lunch than meet Santa, so we left.

Ryley didn’t think he was the real Santa anyway. She was unimpressed that he was asking the kids their names .

“If he were the real Santa, he would KNOW your name. He wouldn’t have to ask.”


The next weekend I held my annual piano recital for my students. Our house has certainly become “the little house that could.” We have asked a lot of it in the last few months! We had 27 people squeezed into our tiny living room for the recital.

As we were waiting for students, parents, and guests to arrive, there was a knock on the door. I answered it and invited the two well-dressed ladies inside, thinking they were there for the recital. They seemed bewildered by my welcome, and as they crossed the threshold, one of them said, “Thank you for inviting us in, but I don’t think you were expecting us. We’re here to see Ryan.” And that’s when it dawned on me. They were Jehovah’s Witnesses – the very ones we’ve been hiding from for years! Ryan was friendly to them once and promised to read their literature (all with the intent of sharing Jesus eventually), but ever since, they’ve always come when Ryley and I are home alone or none of us are dressed, etc., and we’ve been dodging their attempts to contact us. So, Ryan came downstairs and talked to them, and they were so gracious and agreed to come back at a better time. Ha ha!!!! It was quite funny in retrospect. :-)

This is me giving my students a pep talk before the performance:

“If you mess up, just keep going,” I’m saying.



Each student played two songs.


As you can tell from my face, I was just as nervous as the kids!!!

Then Ryley and I played a duet later in the recital. We had literally decided to do it just a week before, and we didn’t tell anyone, in case it didn’t work out. But we practiced hard, and it went well! I personally hate performing, so I was nervous and shaky and sooooo glad when it was over!!! :-)


Don’t the kids all look so beautiful??? I love this picture!!


They all played so wonderfully, and I am really, really proud of all of them.


That evening, in keeping with our “clean the house once; have two parties in one day” tradition, we recovered our house from the recital and had 32 people at our Class of 1996 Christmas Party/15-Year-Reunion. It was a great get-together; lots of laughter ensued.

This is my bestie Danielle; she was maid of honor in our wedding.


All of our kids (the ones who came anyway) got along so well….just like we all did, back in the day. :-)


The boys make small-talk.


And of course, new baby Macy made her debut among our group of friends….



I don’t think we’ve changed all that much. The biggest difference is that we wear less flannel and don’t sit in corners playing the guitar and singing anymore. Ah, the good ol’ nineties.


We had a lot of snow this week, and Ryley and Ryan had fun playing in it! I think there were 10 inches at our house, with drifts up to 18 inches in the backyard. We let Ryley open her present of new snow pants early. She wears a size 10 now and has been squeezing into her size 6x snow pants for the last three years!




Then yesterday we went sledding. I think it was the first time in five years. Last year we didn’t really get enough snow to sled. Some years the conditions are hit or miss. But the snow was perfect this time, and she had a blast!




She’s getting a new coat for Christmas. This one has seen better days. :-)


I have so many more thoughts that I’ve formulated over the last few weeks, and I’m sure I will blog again soon. But here are a few Ryley Stories to leave you with…

1. A couple of weeks ago, Ryan and Ryley went to the Zoo Lights for Girl Scout Night. There was a large light display of a “whale,” and Ryan was curious if Ryley knew that it was specifically a blue whale. Science and animals are not my strong point, so I think this whole story is funny as it backfired on Ryan.

Ryan: “Ryley, do you know what that is?”

Ryley: “Yes, balaena.”

Ryan: “What?”

Ryley: “That’s whale in Latin.”

Ryan was taken aback. It certainly wasn’t the answer he was expecting! Ha ha! Ryley’s school has been teaching Latin this year, and it’s actually been interesting to see how quickly all the kids have picked it up. I wish she could take Spanish or something!


2. The other day, as we passed Toys R Us, Ryley asked why the R was backwards in the store name.

“Well, I think it’s because they think it’s silly…like how a kid might write it,” I answered.

Later, she brought it up again.

“I just don’t understand why they write the R backwards. Do they really think that kids don’t know how to write an R?”

I could tell that she had been thinking about it, and she was so offended!

“Maybe they meant younger kids,” I responded.

“Maybe. But I still don’t think it’s nice.”


3. Ryley auditioned for the school play (a funny Cinderella spoof) a few weeks ago. She worked really hard on her monologue, and Ryan and I thought she was well-prepared, but we didn’t want her to get her hopes up either. I told her that if she didn’t get a part, it was okay because God must have something else in store. It was hard for her to fathom anything better than being in the play:

“If I’m not in the play, then God must have some really big plans for me!”

The day she was going to find out if she got a part, I was just as nervous as she was. It’s that fine line where you want your child to succeed, but you also want what’s best for her growth and development as a person.

So as I drove up to her class in the pick-up line after school, Ryley had the biggest smile on her face. It was not a smile of “I got a part.” It was not a smile of “I got the role of fairy godmother.” It was the widest, toothiest grin I’ve ever seen; even before she spoke, I knew it. “Mom, you’ll never believe it: I got the role of Cinderella!”  :-)

We have a lot of lines to memorize over break, but it will be fun. We are thankful that she gets the opportunity and experience.


In some ways it feels like Christmas Eve, and in other ways it doesn’t. These last few months, God has been doing a lot in my heart, and Jesus is becoming so much more real to me. He’s changing my mindset about a lot of things, and it’s really, really good. Those are thoughts for another time though.

May you have the merriest of Christmases, remembering that it’s Jesus’ birthday and not our own. :-) That, to me, is the biggest lesson of all.

Grace, peace, and joy to you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Home Is Her Favorite Place to Be

Recently, Ryley was filling out some sort of questionnaire, and she listed “home” as her favorite place in all the world. Ryan read it first and then brought it to show me.

“Even more than DisneyWorld?” was my response.

“Yes,”  she answered, with no hesitation.

Honestly, we took it as such a compliment – that with all its shortfalls, our sweet little house has become such a haven for her from the ickiness in the world. We consistently invite God to dwell here, and we pray that our home is filled with His peace.

In the weeks before Thanksgiving, we gave the house a scrubbing -- the likes of which it had never seen. And somehow, despite the fact that yes, we need new carpet/flooring all over…and we could really use an updated/expanded kitchen…and our second bathroom isn’t really working…and our yard needs serious landscaping, the cleaning we did seemed to have breathed new life into what we do have. And in light of what others don’t have, God is speaking to us about being content.

Today was one of those afternoons where my drive to get things done simply pushed Ryley too far. I was trying to purchase some various gifts for a few upcoming parties, and looking ahead, I realized this would be the best night to do it. For more than three hours we traipsed from store to store, fighting icy parking lots, wielding heavy coats, and waiting for slow cashiers. We broke two ornaments in Hobby Lobby, spilled custard all over the backseat in the van, and upon arriving home, Ryley clumsily broke two plates in our living room. I was so upset with how things had gone, and poor Ryley just sobbed at my less-than-patient snap at her from across the yard when I heard the sound of breaking glass: “What did you do?” They were all accidents, of course, so we curled up together in our cushy chair, and she said, “I’m so sorry! Please forgive me! All that time we were out shopping, I just wanted to be home.”

Ryley is becoming my buddy. She quite excitedly accompanied me to visit my friend Katie and her baby in the hospital last week. She offers unsolicited but appreciated advice when I’m shopping. She is opinionated about everything, yet enthusiastic and encouraging. She sorts my groceries into piles and, when we’re shopping on a gift registry, she hogs the registry list and leads the way. Very type A. Though she loves her daddy to pieces, she chooses to ride in the car with me -- because I will listen to Christmas music, whereas with Daddy, she has to listen to sports talk radio. Some days she’s eight going on thirteen; other days she’s simply eight going on nine.

What she wants more than anything else for Christmas is a pair of comfy jeans with an elastic waistband. Second, she wants a wall clock that plays hymns at the top of each hour. I love it. We might actually have to get them both.

At school, she was given an assignment to create a PowerPoint presentation about Cleopatra. It’s not due until next Monday, yet she’s been working on it faithfully for the last week. It’s actually pretty good, though with its tales of adultery and suicide, the Cleopatra subject matter is a little interesting.

“Did you know that Cleopatra and Julius Caesar had children, even though they were not married? They were loving each other the wrong way!”

Ryley was diagnosed with eczema on her hands a couple of months ago, and it’s been so hard to watch her struggle with it. At its worst, right before we took her to the doctor, her skin was bleeding at school, and she could hardly hold her pencil. With the weather as cold and dry as its been in the last few weeks (below zero this weekend), we’ve been vigilant with the lotions and creams, and sometimes she sleeps with gloves over her lathered-up hands. My heart just breaks for her. Just when we think we’ve got it under control, it flares up again.

Well, today is our dog Juliet’s third birthday. She sits here at my feet, contentedly chewing her Dingo and passing gas. Lovely. My Scentsy warmer is working hard to combat the odor with its blissful “Festival of Trees” fragrance.

Leahh and I had Yolanda’s Tacos for lunch at work today because A) there is nothing like their deliciousness in all the world, and B) I’ve noticed I lose another pound every time I eat them. I can’t figure why, but we’re just going to keep that up!!! :-)  The weight loss has slowed down some. I finally reached 30 lbs. this past weekend, so I cheated in celebration, and back up to 28 I went. Ha ha. It really does take constant work. Back on the wagon I go…

Our lives are imperfect. Our house is imperfect.  But it’s cozy, warm, and Christmas-lit, and we just have so, so much to be grateful for. Ryan is almost home now, and we will probably watch some TV before bed. Then we’ll start again tomorrow…another day of traffic and work and school and errands and traffic, all with the goal (or reward) of coming home and being together in the evening. It’s what we work toward all day long.

I have to agree with Ryley’s (and Dorothy’s!) sentiment that there’s simply no place like home.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

And there were 29…

We began the Thanksgiving holiday with a pantry, fridge, and freezer busting at the seams. Our shelves had never been so stocked. I took Tuesday off of work, solely so I could go grocery shopping, and it took Ryan’s help (exasperated sighs and all) and two full shopping carts. Then I spent hours organizing the groceries and using a lot of creativity to cram them all into our extremely limited space. But it was worth every single second.

As the weekend progressed and each meal was prepared, the pantry became roomier. The fridge became easier to work with. While I rejoiced that there was breathing room at last, I also became sad. Because with every meal that was cooked, we were that much closer to everyone leaving and to the weekend being over.

And I can’t speak for the entire family, but I was having a really good time. :-)

This was the first time in six years that our entire family on my mom’s side had been together in the same place at the same time. It was heavenly…

My brother Justin and his wife Alyson drove through the night and arrived around 7 a.m. on Wednesday. We had lots of time with Will and Jack, my 15-month-old twin nephews. My parents flew in that morning as well, so soon we were all together!


I thought I had baby-proofed pretty well, but I guess I’m out of practice, and I missed some spots! And unlike our dog, baby gates don’t deter little boys! They turned the DirecTV box off, on, off, on, off, on, all weekend long. :-)





Justin pointed out that, staying true to the story, Super Girl (Kara) and Super Man (Kal -El)  really were cousins! Yes, we’re not too ashamed to admit that we’re a family of nerds. ;-)


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On Thanksgiving morning, we got up early and worked together to create the meal.




After tripling the stuffing recipe, it still didn’t seem to be quite enough, so we quickly octupled (?) it.


Ryan and Justin had a separate little project going on for Turkey #2. We were experimenting with deep frying.

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We thought that if anything was a fire hazard, it was our flaming pot of oil in the backyard. But no.

While Mammaw and the grandkids were on a walk…

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the fire happened in our oven with Turkey #1:



Unfortunately, I don’t have an actual picture of the fire because I was busy diving into the flames to SAVE THE TURKEY!!!

Thank you, Alyson and Daddy, for knowing how to put out a fire quickly. Thank you for saving our house!

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Alyson and my dad cleaned up the oven, and we transfered the turkey to a different dish, and Justin and Ryan aired out the house, and soon we were back to normal, peeling our potatoes and waiting for our company to arrive.

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It was a lovely day, so we lined up most of the food outside. My aunt pitched in and made the casseroles.



Family arrived just in time! We had 25 for dinner and then 4 more came later that afternoon…



We did it!


Brotherly love.

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Kids ate upstairs, and adults ate downstairs.




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That evening, when all 29 of us were there, we did our traditional Christmas white elephant gift exchange:



And then we gathered at the hotel for family portraits. My uncle used his amazing camera. This is my entire family, minus my grandpa.



My parents with their grandkids:



My grandma with her six grandchildren:


The next day was the Nebraska football game, and we were right where you would expect. And yes, there was Rotel dip.


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The cousins played on the trampoline for most of the weekend…




My mom and her siblings started singing around the piano on Friday afternoon, which was really fun…

The Korell Family Singers, just like in the days of old. I promised I wouldn’t post a video, so just imagine four-part harmony to just about any old hymn. :-)




On Saturday, everyone started leaving, and it was really hard to keep my emotions in check. And poor Ryley -- whenever she sees ME crying, she starts crying too. It had been such a perfect weekend and family time. We all actually like each other, which we know is rare, and we are grateful.

Around noon, all that was left were my parents, brother, Aly, and the twins, so we had some family fun at our local nursery, which was having a festive open house:




We returned to the house and played some board games…



But before long, it was time to say goodbye to all of them too. It was really rough!!! Ryley went on and on (through heavy sobbing) about how she didn’t spend enough time with her Mammaw and Pappaw, how much she just loves those boys, etc., etc., etc.

We just chilled on Sunday. It was a quiet and sad day. We had looked forward to Thanksgiving for so long that we were really feeling the letdown. We recovered our house and put up our Christmas tree, but it’s still been hard. Ryley still has a whine in her voice three days later.




The house is empty.

Thanksgiving is done.


The pantry is re-stocked.

Now Christmas can come!