Saturday, December 27, 2008

11th Anniversary

Today is our 11th wedding anniversary! I'm amazed at how our lives have changed over the past 11 years. 11 years ago on December 20th, I graduated from college. I was 21 years old, selfish and clueless about what being a wife & mom was really about. On December 27th, we got married and everything changed. Since then, we've lived in 10 different houses or apartments, owned 3 homes, had 3 children and lived in 3 states. We've lost 4 of our grandparents and other friends & family members along the way. We have both grown up and learned so much about each other. We have had good times & a few very bad times. Sometimes it feels like we've been on a roller coaster ride, but I know that our love is here to stay. I have definitely learned that love is a choice and not an emotion.

I would choose you again. Happy Anniversary, Tommie!
Our wedding day - 12/27/97

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Day 25: The True Meaning of Christmas

Please join us in the 25 Days of December Challenge, issued by my friend Stacy.

As you celebrate Christmas today, please take the time between the eating and the unwrapping to reflect on what Christmas really is. A day to celebrate the fact that God himself loved us enough to send his one and only Son to die so that we might live eternally. No greater sacrifice. And it all began like this...
Luke 2:1-20
The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)
And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David,
because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary,
who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." When the angels had left them
and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem
and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,
and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen,
which were just as they had been told.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Day 24: Tradition

Please join us in the 25 Days of December Challenge, issued by my friend Stacy.
I've been thinking a lot about traditions lately, with the 25 days challenge and all. I love traditions. Things that families do... well, just because. Sometimes, there is great historical significance to a tradition and other times it is just for fun. I love finding simple traditions that we can do with our boys to emphasize specific events or holidays to create memories.
My family (the Majeres side) has always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. We grew up knowing the true meaning of Christmas and Santa did not play a role in that celebration. So, we were free to open gifts on Christmas Eve. We lived far away from my grandparents and I could count the number of Christmases spent with extended family on less than one hand. Normally, it was just my brothers, my parents and me (until we all got married & had kids, of course!). We would gather together on Christmas Eve and eat soup. I'm not sure where the soup thing got started, but thankfully, traditions can change over time. We used to always have oyster stew (ICK!). Now, we still have soup, but we eat yummy soups and there are at least two varieties so that everyone is happy! After soup, cheese, crackers and some sweet baby Gerkins... we would share the Christmas story (out of the Bible!) and talk about the meaning of Christmas. Then, we open presents! One person starts by handing out one gift. After that person has opened the gift, they choose a gift for another person. And so on. And so on... until all of the gifts are opened. It takes HOURS and I thoroughly enjoy every moment of it! The tradition carries on as we gather with my family again today.
In honor of my family tradition, I thought I would share my favorite soup recipe with you:

Cheese Veggie Soup
1/2 C water
4 T butter
20 oz. frozen corn
1 C shredded carrots
1/2 C chopped onions
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
21 oz. cream of potato soup (4 cans)
4 C milk
2 C (16 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
1 C (8 oz) shredded provolone cheese
In saucepan, bring water, butter, corn, carrots, onions, salt and pepper to boil. Simmer 10 minutes. Add soup, milk, then cheese. Heat until cheese is melted. Don't let it boil or scorch - keep on low! Yummy!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Day 23: Our Family Christmas

Last night, we had our own little family Christmas before we head out to see all of the relatives for the actual holiday. This was our first Christmas with the puppies and amazingly - they got more presents than all of the rest of us combined! They didn't know what to think... this is shaped like a bone & smells like a bone, but there's some sort of wrapping on it. They quickly figured out how to tear into the package and had a ball. They were more excited than the kids! (Probably because they got more presents!)
The boys each opened their stockings, which held some small, fun items (including this year's ornament) and an MP3 player. They have been talking about "iPods" for months and they got a very cheap, generic version thereof... so they are thrilled! We loaded them up with lots of songs, so the boys will be entertained on the trip to Illinois today. Now, if we could just teach them to TALK QUIETLY while the earbuds are in!!!
We usually do one bigger family gift, rather than a bunch of toys or other stuff. The boys usually get a big haul from the extended family, so we like to keep it simple. Can you guess what we got?
After Max & Lucky had "opened" all of their presents, Max was happily chewing on his bone & Lucky gave me this look... (some people just aren't satisfied!)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Day 22: Favorite Christmas Book

Please join us in the 25 Days of December Challenge, issued by my friend Stacy.

My favorite Christmas children's book isn't really a Christmas book at all. However, when I read it, I am reminded of our Savior's birth - so I count it as a Christmas book! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do...

The Tale of Three Trees
Author Unknown

Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: "I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I'll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!" The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. "I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I'll be the strongest ship in the world!" The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. "I don't want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they'll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world."

Years passed and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain. The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, "This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining ax, the first tree fell. "Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!" the first tree said. The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, "This tree is strong. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining ax, the second tree fell. "Now I shall sail mighty waters!" thought the second tree. "I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!" The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the woodcutter never even looked up. "Any kind of tree will do for me." He muttered. With a swoop of his shining ax the third tree fell.

The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter's shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feed box for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, nor with treasure. She was coated with sawdust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals. The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty ship was made that day. Instead, the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river. Instead she was taken to a little lake. The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. "What happened?" The once tall tree wondered. "All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God..."

Many, many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feed box. "I wish I could make a cradle for him," her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and the sturdy wood. "This manger is beautiful," she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through the wind and the rain. The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand and said, "Peace." The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the King of heaven and earth.

One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man's hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God's love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God.

That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Day 21: Payne Family Ornament Collection

Please join us in the 25 Days of December Challenge, issued by my friend Stacy.

Family Collection:

  • 1997: Gold bell - as a wedding favor, we handed these out with a cute little poem!
  • 1998: 1st anniversary - bride/groom
  • 1999: Snow people family - we added Franklin to the family!
  • 2000: Penguin ice skaters - still a family of 3
  • 2001: Door - we bought our first house in Peoria, IL (We had a 2nd ornament for 2001 with 4 people because we added Harrison to the family, but it broke!)
  • 2002: Snowman on candy cane
  • 2003: Bear Family - we added a 3rd child, so we became a family of 5 & Texas flag ball (moved to Texas)
  • 2004: Family Photo
  • 2005: Silver piggy bank - we started following Dave Ramsey's financial principles
  • 2006: Silver "P" monogram
  • 2007: Chicago cityscape - Tommie & I went to Chicago for our 10th anniversary
  • 2008: (...You'll have to wait until Christmas!)

Here are a couple of other special ornaments that hang on our tree:

This is the ornament from my 1st Christmas - 1976.

Tommie & I both graduated from Western Illinois University.

I bought this ornament in 2001, so I would remember to pray for those whose families were forever changed by the 9/11 tragedy. It is a little fire station. Each year, as I hang it on the tree, I pause to pray.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Day 20: Franklin's Ornament Collection

Please join us in the 25 Days of December Challenge, issued by my friend Stacy.

Franklin's Collection:

  • 1999: Precious Moments baby bootie - 1st Christmas
  • 2000: Franklin the Turtle ball ornament - Franklin loved the cartoon because it has his name in it!
  • 2001: Franklin the Turtle snow angel (still loved it)
  • 2002: Current photo - gingerbread frame
  • 2003: Cowboy hat - we moved to Texas
  • 2004: We visited San Antonio over Thanksgiving and each boy picked out their own glass animal.
  • 2005: Current photo in berry frame
  • 2006: Current interest: karate
  • 2007: Franklin's original artwork turned into an ornament
  • 2008: (...You'll have to wait until Christmas! The boys get their ornaments in their stocking each year.)
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Friday, December 19, 2008

Day 19: Harrison's Ornament Collection

Please join us in the 25 Days of December Challenge, issued by my friend Stacy.

Harrison's Collection:

  • 2001: Baby's 1st Christmas photo frame
  • 2002: Current interest: Barney
  • 2003: Mexican bobblehead with guitar - we moved to Texas, plus Harrison likes the guitar
  • 2004: We visited San Antonio over Thanksgiving and each boy picked out their own glass animal.
  • 2005: Current photo in berry frame
  • 2006: First time riding the bus - for kindergarten
  • 2007: Harrison's original artwork turned into an ornament
  • 2008: (...You'll have to wait until Christmas! The boys get their ornaments in their stocking each year.)
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Day 18: Truman's Ornament Collection

Please join us in the 25 Days of December Challenge, issued by my friend Stacy.

Each year, I buy each of the boys a Christmas ornament. Our big tree in the downstairs living room plays host to all of our ornament collections. When we decorate for Christmas, each boy puts their own ornaments onto the tree, then we all get to add the balls & bells and other red/gold ornaments that fill in the gaps! I love selecting that year's ornament for each child and the family. I try to get something that reflects what happened that year or a current interest. For the next 4 days, I will highlight one collection.

Truman's Collection:

  • 2003: Baby bootie - Truman's 1st Christmas, plus we moved to Texas
  • 2004: We visited San Antonio over Thanksgiving and each boy picked out their own glass animal.
  • 2005: Current photo in berry frame
  • 2006: Current interest: bowling
  • 2007: Truman's original artwork turned into an ornament
  • 2008: (...You'll have to wait until Christmas! The boys get their ornaments in their stocking each year.)
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dear Tooth Fairy:

Harrison (7 years old) lost yet another tooth yesterday. And he has one more that should come out any day now. He knows that the tooth fairy isn't real, but he also knows that he will get one dollar for his tooth if he plays along with us. Tonight, he put his tooth into an envelope to put under his pillow. I told him that he'd better write a love note to the tooth fairy, if he wanted a dollar. This is what he wrote on the envelope:
I love you $1.00$ for tooth please

Welcome to Our World

I heard this song today & was reminded of how much I love it! It is one of my favorite Christmas songs. Enjoy!

Welcome to Our World
by Chris Rice

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You've been promised, we've been waiting
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child

Hope that you don't mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long-awaited Holy Stranger
Make Yourself at home
Please make Yourself at home

Bring Your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven's silence
Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world

Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God
Welcome to our world
As I typed out the lyrics to this song, it made me think about yesterday. Yesterday, I went to visit my friend, Natalie, and her newborn son (Johnny) in the hospital. I'm always amazed at God's creation in a newborn. They are so fresh & new. So fragile, yet sturdy. His body is perfectly formed and the basics of his personality have already been formed also. Immediately, I could see a resemblance to one of his big sisters.
Imagine Jesus as a newborn. Fully God and fully man. Sent to the earth to save us. What was going through his mind? What parts of his personality and body resembled his father (God)? I'm just amazed to think of what it must have been like to hold & kiss the baby cheeks of God himself. Wow!

Day 17: Christmas Photo Rewind: 2005

Please join us in the 25 Days of December Challenge, issued by my friend Stacy.

Ages in 2005: Franklin (6), Harrison (4) & Truman (2)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day 16: Christmas Music

Please join us in the 25 Days of December Challenge, issued by my friend Stacy.

One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is how almost all of the music played glorifies God! I love walking through the mall or sitting in a restaurant hearing songs about Jesus' birth. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. We have a 5 CD changer in our home stereo and these are the five Christmas CDs that we always load.

1. First Call - Beyond December (my all-time favorite!! My parents always listened to this, so it brings back so many family memories for me!)
2. Michael W. Smith - Christmas OR Christmastime
3. John Michael Talbot - Birth of Jesus: A Celebration of Christmas
4. Steven Curtis Chapman - The Music of Christmas
5. Jars of Clay - Drummer Boy

This year, we downloaded a bunch of new Christmas songs as MP3s, so my list may have to change to favorite songs for next year, rather than CDs. For now, we love our old stuff!! The day after Thanksgiving, as we decorate for Christmas, I just pop all five CDs into the changer and hit random. I love it!!

All album cover photos are "borrowed" from's website.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Day 15: Small Group Christmas Party

Please join us in the 25 Days of December Challenge, issued by my friend Stacy.

Last night, we had our Small Group Christmas Party. We have really enjoyed getting to know these guys. Everyone is so down to earth & fun! We feel right at home!! We enjoyed pizza, a cookie exchange and the kids even played pin the star on the Christmas tree. Mostly, we enjoyed each others' company!
Paula, Tommie & Bruce waiting for the fun to begin...
Natalie - 2 days away from delivery!
The Sissons
Marsha did a great job of getting the kids involved in the game!
Tommie & Tera bonding...
The Murphy Family
A real life photo of Patty! She always hides from pictures!
Hmmm... the Prathers look both surprised & embarassed! Nothing a little teasing won't cure...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Day 14: Christmas Photo Flashback: 1999

Please join us in the 25 Days of December Challenge, issued by my friend Stacy.

Franklin - 2 months old

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Day 13: A Visit to Santa Claus -- Indiana

Please join us in the 25 Days of December Challenge, issued by my friend Stacy.

We visited Santa Claus, Indiana with our friends (Marsha & Jason P and their 3 girls). Santa Claus, IN is known for three things - Holiday World theme park (similar to Six Flags/Hurricane Harbor put together), the name of the town and for its Christmas postmark. Almost everything in town is named after the town, like "Holiday Foods" (grocery store), "Santa Claus Chiropractic", "St. Nicholas Catholic Church", "Kringle Place" (shopping center), "Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort", etc. The main business in town is tourism - all because of the name of the town. To read how the town got its name, click here.

This weekend is their big Christmas Festival - and for a town of a little over 2,000 people - it's quite the festival! Our day started with the Christmas parade. Almost every float was either Christmas-themed or Abraham Lincoln-themed. Lincoln State Park is about 4 miles down the road from Santa Claus. (We camped there this fall.) Despite the freezing wind, it was a very enjoyable parade - especially for the kids! Each of the firetrucks and shuttle buses are named after the reindeer - we saw Rudolph & Dasher & Donder!
After the parade, we visited the Santa Claus Post Office to mail our Christmas cards. Each year, they have a contest to design the Santa postmark. They are the only post office in the US with a Santa Claus postmark at Christmas time.
We also visited the Santa Claus museum (mostly history of the town & Holiday World). All letters that are written to Santa & mailed to Santa Claus, Indiana are answered by "Santa's Helpers" at the museum. They have collected funny & interesting letters that have been sent to Santa since the 30s.
Next, we went to a Christmas puppet show at the Santa Claus United Methodist Church. It was performed by their youth group & was very funny and entertaining.
Then, we visited Santa's Candy Castle. Our favorite part of this visit was the monster campfire going out back! We discovered that we share a love of campfires & camping with Jason & Marsha. I forsee another family trip together in the future - camping! The castle was very commercialized, but the kids did get to see Santa inside. There was also a really neat St. Nicholas carved into a tree stump out back.
We cut the trip short, due to a lack of things to do (that are fun for kids!) until dark. We were planning on going to the "Festival of Lights" through the 12 themed neighborhoods in Christmas Lake Village (about 850 homes). With tired kids & parents, we headed home & enjoyed a quiet dinner and fun at our friends' house instead. We will try to see the Festival of Lights another year! Maybe this will become an annual tradition!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Day 12: More Baking & Gingerbread Houses

My friend, Marsha, & I baked our hearts out this morning to prepare for our small group's Christmas cookie exchange on Sunday. We are both stay-at-home moms with kids in school, so we try to find time to spend together once in a while. We had a great time & got a lot of cookies baked too.
The fruit of our labor:
Me - hard at work with the oven!
The gum drop cookies I made:
The rice krispie cherry cookies were the yummiest!!
This afternoon, I volunteered to help out in Harrison's classroom. They were building gingerbread houses out of milk cartons, graham crackers and lots & lots of CANDY!
This is Harrison's house:
A plate of candy!
The class - hard at work!
Harrison & I with his finished product.
All of the class' gingerbread houses!