Monday, December 29, 2008

Routine

I am looking out the window right now at an absolutely amazing morning! Cold and crisp, with a clear blue sky and bright sunshine which stands in bold contrast to the cloudy, gloomy days of late. There is a layer of heavy frost that is stubbornly and beautifully clinging to the ground even as the sunlight shines directly on it, trying to burn it away. As I walked across the street this morning to go care for our neighbors' pets, I thoroughly basked in the beauty of the morning, and I still long to just stand at the window and soak it all in. I look forward to the blessings of the beautiful day to continue as the temperatures are forecasted to climb from a cold 29 to a comfortable 60 through the course of the day. It looks like we might actually get to spend some time outside today!

But for now, we are back in the saddle of a normal day, and it feels good!

It is amazing how we thrive in routine. I know there has to be a balance between sticking to a routine and being flexible to allow life to be lived, but it's always so nice to get back to that routine. We've been out of it since before Thanksgiving, and we were just ready. I don't think the kids can truly know how ready they were, but their behavior this morning has shown it to be true.

Doug and I started setting the alarm again on Saturday. We got up and going Saturday morning, and it felt great. So, the habit had already begun to re-establish itself by the time the alarm went off this morning. And, the feeling was infectious. The girls, who have been taking an hour just to get up and dressed in the morning, were dressed and had all of their pre-breakfast chores done in an amazing 30 minutes this morning! I was so proud of them! Now at 8:30 they are already pulling out their new art supplies from Grandma and PopPop for some fun and creativity instead of trudging through chores until there seems to be no time left for fun.

I know many of you have a week before you of kids still at home and life not quite back into the routine of normalcy. I'm praying that it is a wonderful week of togetherness and enjoyment of one another. May God use this week to establish His plans in your heart for the coming year. Know that our family is loving and praying for yours in this coming year!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas for the Hibbard Five

I truly hope each of you had as wonderful of a Christmas as we did. It was a very peaceful week with a lot of blessing in seeing our children learning to keep their focus on Jesus and His birth. Christmas morning was precious, seeing the girls delight in watching everyone else open the things they had put time and effort into making. Although we all enjoyed receiving this year, it seems that I wasn't the only one who greatly enjoyed the giving part of it. We were blessed to be able to contribute to a church-building effort in the country of Qatar by ROW in honor of the kids' teachers at church. We also enjoyed delivering some of those sugar cookies to the fire department and the ER on Christmas Eve as a small thank-you to those working through the night to ensure we'd be taken care of if the need were to arise. On Christmas Eve we also greatly enjoyed a wonderful candlelight service at church. It was a blessing to be able to participate in that service.

Earlier in the day, I made a birthday cake that the girls frosted and decorated with M&M's to prepare for lunch on Christmas Day.
Christmas morning we relaxed, enjoyed opening gifts, and spent most of the morning in our jammies! I think it was after 11:00 before the last of us got dressed. :-)
We had a nice light lunch, followed by the lighting of our last Advent candle, finishing our Advent calendars, and singing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus. We enjoyed some of the cake, and then loaded up to head to Monroe for the rest of the day.


The girls stayed behind in Monroe for the weekend while Doug, Steven, and I returned home. It's been strange without them, but we've enjoyed the weekend - and I think they have too. We went ahead and put the Christmas decorations away simply because it was a good day to do it, but we're still in that Christmas mood - we still have the music playing and will probably watch a few more Christmas movies before all is said and done!

May you all have a wonderful week as we welcome in 2009! I look forward to seeing how God is going to work in the Hibbard family and in all of you in this new year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Getting Ready for Christmas

We don't do a whole lot of Christmas baking - something that might change in coming years. I don't know. But, yesterday we did have to make our Christmas sugar cookies. Yum! The girls had a great time helping mix, roll, cut, and decorate. While the dough was chilling a bit, waiting to be rolled out and cut, we did our gift wrapping. All in all, we had a good day despite the cold gloom outside. Getting ready for Christmas is lots of fun!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sweet Music

Here is Steven with his rendition of "Away in a Manger."
video

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's been a good few days for the Hibbard family. Doug's mom arrived around noon on Friday, and Doug and I left not long after that for our weekend away celebrating our tenth anniversary. It was such a nice weekend for all involved, it seems. Steven did so well with Grandma - God really answered our prayers over that and he didn't have any problem with us leaving.

On Saturday we got the news that Lacey, a 17-year-old from church, was in a car accident. It was a bit scary to hear the news, especially with the reports of the car. God was protecting her, though. She has internal bruising and suffered from a concussion, but after a couple of nights in ICU she is now resting in ICU.

Meanwhile, at home, our front bathroom door - a pocket door - got stuck closed! Fortunately no one was in the bathroom when it stuck the last time. We had to leave it closed overnight, but the next morning, the Lord helped Doug move it just right and it opened. We now have it taped open so no one will get stuck!

We have had so much fun this season making our Christmas presents. We finished the last one this afternoon, just in time for Christmas! The blessing is that even though we're finishing right before Christmas, we never really felt pressured because we were able to start early enough. This afternoon the girls and I sat down at the sewing machine to make Steven's gift from the two of them. It's a cute frog towel. They had fun, and I think they're proud of their creation!

Now we are surviving the wild and crazy temperature changes and are looking forward to our candlelight service at church Wednesday night.

We hope and pray all of you have a wonderful Christmas and are blessed as you remember the birth of the One who came to be with us. What a treasure we have to worship a God who desires to be intimate with us!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Silly Kids

It's so much fun to watch the kids grow - and some days it's rather funny, too! Here are just a few examples...

On Tuesday the kids and I had our annual dr's visits. As the doctor was asking the typical questions about the kids' development, Steven started sharing with her every detail of his breakfast that morning. She commented that she was supposed to ask about his speech development, but considering he's supposed to be able to put two words together to form a coherent thought (technically a two-word sentence), she figured he was just fine developmentally. What? My son who practically speaks in full paragraphs is fine? :-) I didn't tell her that he knows the words to every Christmas song we've been singing around the house, and, althoug he doesn't comprehend meanings yet, he can perfectly repeat all of the Polish words he hears on our Polish vocabulary cd. He's definitely quite the articulate little bugger. Monday night he was talking up a storm after supper. Doug said, "Are you going to preach for me on Sunday?" Steven answered, very matter of factly, "No, I'm going to Sunday school!"

Then there's Angie. She continues to amaze us all with her new-found reading skills. I believe she's competent at a second grade level. She also tries to spell her sister's spelling words - often very successfully. I think spelling will come to her a little easier than it does to Olivia. Olivia is very competent, but she has to focus. Angie seems to grasp it a little more naturally. But, there is a funny story about Angela that I must share that is in no way related to her reading or spelling skills. We have all heard various Christmas songs be "altered" by children in their lack of understanding. I will readily admit to singing "oh mighty vine" and "round young virgin" as a child. But, Angela's version of "Silent Night" had Doug and me rolling the other night. We were singing before bedtime, and we heard Angie sing "round John virgin!" And, it wasn't an issue of slurring "round" and "yon" - it was a very clearly articulated "round John!" Needless to say, I had a very hard time finishing the song! :-)

Which brings us to Olivia. Recently she started lapsing back into math issues. When this happens, I know she needs the right kind of motivation. She knows her math facts very well, and is very competent in math. But, she gets into a pattern of decline and has a hard time kicking herself back into gear. Sidetrack with me for a moment, if you will. We have cable TV for the first time in our married life. We could have paid more to get cable internet without it, so we decided the cheaper bill with cable TV was the better route. We still don't have the TV on all the time, and are cautious about what is played in the house. But, we are thoroughly enjoying a new favorite - the food network. And, we have a favorite show - Good Eats. Doug and I have learned a lot, and the girls are fascinated as well by the tidbits they glean from the show. All in all, we have a great time watching it as a family. So, back to math - we discovered the other day just what Olivia needed to kick her back in gear with her math. She was with me in the kitchen while I was cooking something, and I verbally calculated how to split the timer for something. This led to a conversation about how greatly math factors into cooking. A light went on in Olivia's head, and from that day on she has done her math beautifully! A day or two later she informed me that she had to focus well on her math if she was going to follow her new dream career. Be prepared to step aside, Alton Brown, to make room for the new future hostess of Good Eats - Kathryn Olivia Hibbard! :-)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Family

This past Friday we went to see my grandparents for our early Christmas visit. We really had a great visit. Olivia decided to become photographer for the day, so many of the pictures you'll see are her doing. I think she did a great job!
Playing in the closet above the cellar - a favorite place for many generations of the Browning clan.
Steven warmed up to Grandma Polly pretty quickly, as usual - well, as soon as she brought out the box of cars, that is!

He let Grandpa Russell play with him, too.
But he wouldn't let ANYONE help him carry his big car!
Despite her very low heart rate (in the 30's!) on that day, my 88-year-old grandma just had to get in the floor with the kids as she usually does. Please pray for her today and over the coming weeks. She will have a pacemaker put in this afternoon (Dec 15). She is looking forward to having energy again.
Olivia delighted in learning how to get close-up shots of people.
Here's Grandpa Russell.
And Grandma Polly.
Ann & Alli - she doesn't think we look at all alike.


We left my grandparents and headed to the Humane Society where my "little" brother Tim was waiting for wife DeAnn to get off work. It was a treat to get to see them, even if just for a few minutes.


Next we met my other brother Ben and his wife Ashley in Jacksonville for supper. They were actually on their way from Little Rock to Judsonia to see my grandparents, but we weren't going to get to wait for them to get there. So, we took Alli with us and met them for dinner. I didn't get any pictures of that leg of the trip, but we had a really good visit. Then we sent Alli back with them and continued on our return trip.

After a couple of quick errands, we drove by the Capitol in Little Rock to see the lights. It was really pretty. We drove around until we found the huge nativity that used to stand on the steps of the Capitol. Thanks to the tensions of recent years, it no longer graces the Capitol itself, but it is still displayed. We all really enjoyed going to see the beautiful wood carvings. A nice ending for a really good day.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Way He Works

I read a story today that I just had to share. Some of you reading this will say, "Oh, that's a sweet story, but things like that are coincidences or only happen rarely." The reason I share this story is because it is a perfect example of the way God has been working in us and in people we know. He works this way all the time! He has been greatly teaching us over the past year that He does use His people to provide for His children, but they are not the ones we are to share our needs with. HE is the only One we need to share the needs with. Then He will go about providing in His incredibly beautiful and perfect way. Enjoy!

GOODNESS HAPPENS
By Dr. Michael A. Halleen

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." (Psalm 23:6)

Larry and Renee appeared at the door of my office in the church on Christmas Eve. They had come early because he was to set up sound equipment for the candlelight service. This was a unique couple - mostly on the fringe of congregational life, but loud, energetic and funny. Larry was a free-lance advertising man who never had enough work, and persistent health problems kept Renee from holding a steady job. Life, it seemed, was an ongoing struggle for them, continually on the edge of poverty, touch and go.

Our casual banter soon turned to Christmas plans, and Larry became strangely silent. Renee, however, let the words - and tears - flow. She told me that they had been unable to afford even new tinsel for their artificial tree this year and had used what was left of last year's wrinkled stuff. Worse, they had no money to buy a ham for their holiday meal. It had always been a tradition in her family, but this year they were just broke. It was going to be beans and bread and coffee for Christmas dinner.

As Renee was talking and crying, another couple walked into the church, friends of mine who ran a successful small business. They were carrying several large fresh hams, left over from earlier in the day when they had distributed them to their employees. They asked if I would let people know that a ham was available to anyone who wanted one. The look on Larry's and Renee's faces - and, I am sure, on mine - were those of children who had just met a Christmas elf. Renee turned and playfully slugged her husband on the shoulder. "See?" she said. "I told you God knew about our problems! I knew God wouldn't forget us!" Later that evening they walked out with a ham - and some extra dollars in their pocket from that same generous couple. Their irrepressible smiles lit up the night.

A small moment - no cancer cured or war averted, but a reminder that there is goodness out there waiting to meet us all the days of our lives. It may not come with that just-perfect timing, but the wonder is still there. The sickness passes . . . you find the key . . . a check arrives . . . she calls to say everything is okay . . . he finally understands . . . the sun comes out - God uses small and subtle means to strengthen our hearts.

Goodness happens. Mercy is shown. Watch, receive and be glad.

-------------------

You can contact Mike at mhalleen@att.net to be added to his weekly devotional email list, "Monday Moments."

Also check out Mike's book "You Are Rich: Discovering Faith in Everyday Moments":
http://snipurl.com/mHalleen (Amazon info)

Copyright 2007 Dr. Michael A. Halleen. Permission is granted to send this to others, with attribution, but not for commercial purposes.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Brownies!

Some friends clued us in to the fact that this was National Brownie Day. If they can celebrate halfway around the world, then we surely must celebrate as well! :-) So, in honor of this great holiday, we have made cheesecake brownies. Yum!!! We'll be enjoying them for a nice dessert after our chili casserole supper. My mouth is watering even as I type!

Friday, December 5, 2008

My Little Sillies

Here are just a few silly shots from the past couple of days...I love it when my sweet children make me smile just through the routine of the day.
The kids have several nativities they can play with. Steven decided he needed a chair, apparently! I found him this way the other day as I was doing chores.
And, of course, when he saw that I had seen him, he thought it was so funny that I'd "caught" him in the act!
The kids gathered around Doug as he showed them how our nativity advent calendar would work. They are greatly enjoying creating the nativity scene one day at a time.
There are days when there is just downright silliness. They make me laugh!
We are so greatly enjoying this Christmas season. We got enough of a head start on Christmas gifts and crafts that we actually get to have fun working on them. This year we're also going to try our hand at making our own dough ornaments, so that should be a fun adventure!

The kittens are very slowly learning that the water bottle comes out when they attack the tree and its ornaments. The tree skirt has stayed intact a little more today than what it's typically been, and I've had to pick up fewer ornaments. Fortunately, neither of them has tried to actually climb the tree yet, so the more fragile ornaments have been kept safe. Hopefully we'll get them trained to stay away from the tree before anything like that happens! :-) (Meanwhile, we think we have a new home for our last kitten! YAY!!)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Parade

Last night we had the opportunity to go to the local Christmas parade. Sorry, forgot the camera, so no pictures! We had fun, though. We went first to an open house at one of the local banks. Santa and Mrs. Claus were there for pictures, but only Olivia wanted to go see them. Steven and Angela were perfectly content to find a corner with Daddy where they could sip on hot chocolate and munch on cookies. Oh, and look at the alligator! An enormous stuffed alligator was on display in the lobby, and Steven thought it was the most awesome thing in the world! We actually did snap a couple of pictures on the cell phones so that Steven could look at them whenever he wanted to see the alligator. Silly boy.

The parade was fun. The girls had actually never been to one before, so they had lots of questions. They really seemed to enjoy it, though. And, I realized that God's timing on Angela's new coat was so perfect because she had it just in time to wear it to the parade - she was nice and toasty warm through the whole thing!

We all so greatly love the Christmas season. The kids are having a wonderful time with our advent calendars and the nativity scenes displayed all over the living room. Doug and I are greatly enjoying the fact that this is the least harried and stressful Christmas we've had in years, now that Doug is no longer employed in either the retail/restaurant industry or the shipping/logistics industry. We're savoring the peacefulness and truly enjoying the extended celebration of our Savior's birth.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Flashback to...Saturday & Family

We were disappointed to miss an unexpected gathering of the Browning siblings on Wednesday, but we were able to make a Hibbard gathering on Saturday. We headed to Monroe for an all-day visit - fortunately Steven, although still tired and a bit under the weather, felt well enough to make the trip.

Doug's sister Stephannie and niece Morgan came down from Hot Springs for the occasion, so the cousins seemed to have fun, as usual.
While Doug, his dad, his sister, Steven, and I went to run some errands, the girls stayed home to color the walls of a cardboard playhouse. Each girl had her own wall!


It was a lot to color, so they still have a ways to go. But we decided to go ahead and assemble it and told them they could color more with each visit. They seemed to like that idea! They all thoroughly enjoyed the playhouse - as did Steven. I was quite surprised all four of them fit!
All in all, it was a good day. Good visits, fun kids, yummy food, and safe trips home all around.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Flashback to...Friday and Decorating

Well, if I can get the computer to finally work right, I might be able to finish this post! :-) Ah, computers!

Friday we had a great day of decorating the house. It didn't take long with all of the help, and we all had a great time! Here are some of the pictures...








And, to let you know, Steven is feeling much better now. His wheezing abruptly ended yesterday (Sunday) afternoon and his appetite returned full force. We were all very thrilled to know that our bout with the croup had ended! God is good!