Friday, February 26, 2010

Some of our favorite things


These mini bagels are a life saver for me.  Between Benjamin’s morning nap, lunch, afternoon naps and dinner, there really isn’t a lot of time to run errands.  I have to push through and sometimes infringe on some critical time in order to be productive.  Sometimes I just get caught – in line.  Case in point: the Costco photo pickup before Christmas. 


So, I generally carry these with me whenever we’re out running errands.  They can instantly bring peace.  They are soft enough that they’re easy to chew.  They have no nut content and only “may contain sesame seeds” – of which I have never found any.  They are yummy.  They take a little while for the boys to each eat them, so it’s a long peace time.  And the boys can hold them easily while they eat them.  When the natives get restless in the backseat of the car, I just hand them each a half bagel instead of turning around over and over to dole out more Cheerios, bunnies, craisins, etc.  I love ‘em!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Monkeying Around

Papa and Nana bought Jasper a trampoline for his 3rd birthday.  He loves jumping on it, but early in January he discovered he could mount it “Dukes of Hazard Style” and crawl underneath it.  We might have encouraged him to crawl underneath it, but the “Dukes of Hazard” mount is all boy

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And yes, this is how our living room floor looks every once in a while.  Sometimes the boys take out all the toys and don’t put things away as they go.  It can get a little nuts.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Before Christmas is Officially Over …

here are some photos of our boys in front of our Christmas tree (from early January).


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As you might imagine, the first word Jasper asked to learn how to spell was:


He spelled this on his own on the first day of 2010!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Christmas 2009 … snow, snow, snow!

Each year I hope I will handle Christmas better than the last.  I endeavor to be more Christ-focused and less materialistically driven.  Each year I try to teach Jasper (and soon Benjamin) more about the birth of Jesus and the hope it brings us.  Each year I hope I am demonstrating love to our family, friends, neighbors and strangers better than I have in the past – even if that means only a note on a Christmas card instead of a more heartfelt and inspired gift. 

Perhaps when my days are less consumed with the daily joys and trials of raising small children each of these things will be easier to accomplish.  For now, in 2009 I think we made progress on teaching Jasper more about the birth of Jesus, a noble task. 

We love the Jesus Storybook Bible and delighted in reading the beginning and then the birth of Jesus stories over and over again in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  We talked about how much God loves us that he put in place a plan to rescue us from the punishment of our sin and that Jesus was the way.  He’s only 3, but he’s catching on.  What JOY! 

We still make it a point to travel to see family at the holidays.  At Thanksgiving it was Ohio to see the Gant side.  Christmas it was to Michigan to see the Jasper side.  This time we had to travel through O’Hare.  Generally we avoid O’Hare like the plague.  We have never had good luck traveling through there and really didn’t want to risk it, but tickets were so expensive, it was the only feasible economic choice.  So with much prayer support undergirding us, we planned for this trip.  We were leaving on the 23rd, so the night before we departed we set up a video conference with Grandpa and Grandma Gant to let them participate while the boys opened the gifts they sent.  They sent books, fleeces, trucks, games and more.  Jasper thought his h-u-g-e cement mixer was the greatest!  Benjamin just thought the computer screen with grandpa and grandma on it was the coolest thing ever.  We positioned it on the floor, and Benjamin kept toddling over to it, bending low to see it and squealing with delight.  What a hoot!  It was precious. 

Much to our amazement, relief and great JOY, our trip through O’Hare was a piece of cake.  We were late leaving Austin but didn’t suffer on our connection.  We were late departing from O’Hare and actually arrived about an hour late but considering we were flying directly into Kalamazoo, it was of little consequence (especially since Papa was so gracious to wait patiently for us).  The boys each napped on the flights, including a quick cat nap on the O’Hare to Kalamazoo flight for Jasper which meant he was done for the day.  No worries, excitement pushed him through.  He was thrilled to see Papa, Nana, Karin, Linnea, Asher, Daisy (!) and his aunties and uncles.  Drew and I were glad to arrive in one piece.  We slept solidly that night and were so glad to be on vacation. 

Our time in Kalamazoo was filled with fun stuff.  We ate tons of good food, opened fun presents, played charades, celebrity, Wii and with Legos.  We went sledding in the snow in front of Papa and Nana’s house and delighted in seeing a couple of good friends.  The time went by too quickly, and before we knew it we were back in Austin settling in to work and play as usual.  Each year that we come back from the holidays and are driving home from the airport we ask each other if we feel like this is “home.”  Not being native Texans, I don’t know how Texas will ever feel completely like home.  But after 6 and a half years, it’s certainly feeling more and more like “home” to us.  It’s where we started our life together and it’s where both of our boys were born.  It’s hard not to get attached to a place with those memories. :) 

Here are some snapshots of our time in the cold midwest.  Asher is sporting a seriously adorable hat – for one adorable boy!


Having tons of fun, the kiddos line up for a Christmas PJs picture (from nana).  Linnea (7), Karin (5), Jasper (3), Benjamin (14mo) and Asher in front (7mo).


Can you tell we’re a Scandinavian bunch?  Look at all that blonde hair!


Benjamin is wanting to get to know his cousin a little bit more.  too cute!!



Then the cookie baking began.  Of course, nana had already made several batches of all kinds of cookies and fudge (minus our favorite peanut blossoms … sigh), but the kiddos wanted in on the fun, too.   DSC_5146 DSC_5200 The next day, Jasper, Linnea and Karin frosted their sugar cookies.  They did a marvelous job.  Jasper took his job quite seriously, and enjoyed it! 








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Jasper’s favorite playmate is Daisy.  He sooooo loves her, that he looks forward to seeing her whenever he can.  We are so grateful that Daisy is a great dog.  I mean GREAT!  She is really patient with the kids and Chris and Lindsay have worked hard with her to be obedient, so she just lays and lets Jasper listen to her heart, etc.  How many dogs will do that?  DSC_5150 DSC_5152

Our Texas tree was up on a table, far from prying and pulling hands.  But at papa and nana’s house, the tree was on the floor and a wealth of visual and tactile stimuli.  Benjamin loved being able to explore it’s ornaments.  I think he might be kissing a photo of me as a girl.  …  Oh, and hanging out with papa is always a treat. :)

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Check out their master creation, an energy efficient (check out the windmill in the back), Asian-inspired house.  How fashion-forward are these two? 

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Okay, here we go, the family photos in front of the Christmas tree: 

Jasper (3), Erica, Drew and Benjamin (14mo)


(clockwise): Adam, Brittany, Linnea (7) and Karin (5) Shively


Lindsay, Chris and (hiding behind his hat) Asher (7mo) Atkinson


Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without Swedish meatballs (on a very superficial level, of course).  No, not the kind you get at IKEA.  MUCH better.  So yummy!  Jasper calls them “Nana’s special meatballs,” and they are.  Here we are sitting down to enjoy Christmas Eve dinner after the service at Calvary. 

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Jasper is teaching Auntie Lindsay how to get festive and do “cheers!”


And yes, Benjamin’s plate is virtually empty.  He ate like a champ!  Bring on more meatballs! 


On Christmas morning, we open stockings and gifts.  We take breaks as we go to get nourished because with all of us taking turns opening one gift at a time, it takes a while! 


The girls get a big Santa gift on Christmas morning, and this year it was a Barbie condo for Karin.  Both boys liked driving their cars/trucks through her condo. 

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Jasper got a Fillmore and a Red (the fire truck) in his stocking.  Had those been the only things, he would have been totally happy.  He was thrilled to get those two cars.  Along with that he got Mater & McQueen jammies, a cool LeapFrog computer from nana and papa and an orange CARgo tractor trailer (among many other things).  He was quite pleased with the orange truck and enjoyed playing with it right away.

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Are these girls stylish or what? 

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It hasn’t taken Lindsay long to bust open her sewing machine and get crafty.  She’s got serious Nancy skills, and we’re so impressed! 

DSC_5329 DSC_5332Sometimes there is nothing nicer than a warm fleecy top to cuddle up in during the cold Minnesota winter days and nights.  Now Britta and Adam are matching!

After being up for eating breakfast and opening stockings, Benjamin and Asher took their morning naps.  They both rested well and woke up fresh as Daisies – just in time to open their gifts!  Benjamin was quite taken with all his gifts: jammies, three new trucks and a cool water bottle.

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Asher got all kinds of BIG and small, colorful and stimulating toys, and the Shively girls scored big with a Wii!

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We girls have been looking for a new birthdays/anniversaries (year- independent) calendar for my dad for YEARS.  To be honest, I had kind of given up hope.  But in the week before Christmas while I was wandering around Lifeway, I just happened to spot this calendar.  Of course I immediately had to call Lindsay to tell her of the find.  I mean, for crying out loud it was a calendar … with Bible verses!  Dad opened the gift, looked at it for a moment and then got big eyes and said, “I’ve been looking for something like this!”  Ah HUH, we KNOW!  So have we!  We all laughed and were happy to check that one off the list as finally being done! 


Somehow after all the pandemonium of gift opening and cleaning up (maybe even on the next day – I don’t know), Papa managed to get some snuggle time with both boys.  They appear to be enjoying it. :)

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Linnea is a reading machine, and is reading Benjamin a book from his stocking, “Let’s Meet Farmer Jed” (a current favorite). 


It doesn’t take much to make Benjamin giggle and squeal.  Here Papa is playing with him on his lap, and Benjamin was just having a BALL!  These two are best buds!

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Auntie Lindsay, a newly self-proclaimed “all I want to have is boys” mommy, is getting in some cuddle time with Benjamin, too.  It was such a huge blessing to be with my family in Michigan and have our boys be so comfortable with everyone that there were never moments of crying or clinging because they only wanted to be with me.  With as much trouble as we’ve had getting Benjamin to go into the nursery at church, Drew and I were really relieved and blessed by his easy spirit around everyone.  We don’t have photos of the boys with everyone, but they willingly hung out, were held or played with everyone. 

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All I can think of when I look at this photo is “when I was your age, I had to walk through snow up to my knees!”  How funny when the perspective is given. 


Day 1 of sledding adventures for Jasper really involved very few sleds.  While his cousins loved being pushed or pulled down the hill, Jasper instead liked running down the hill and jumping into the snow.  Check it out:

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Yes, it was cold – cold enough to make his cheeks seriously rosy, but Jasper LOVED being outside.  We were outside together for at least an hour and a half.  He outlasted both of his cousins.  Perhaps it’s the novelty of the snow, but he just loved it.  He wanted to stay out even when Drew and I were just shoveling the driveway.  That’s a crazy “Drew gene,” if you ask me!

DSC_5460 DSC_5485 DSC_5487 DSC_5488 DSC_5491We introduced Benjamin to the snow on Day 2 of sledding.  He liked it but was not nearly the natural fan as Jasper.  It’s hard though when you’re small, loaded up with all that extra clothing and are trying to walk.DSC_5574 DSC_5581 DSC_5585 DSC_5588 DSC_5595

It snowed on Day 2, and it came down pretty thick.  Jasper was undeterred, and even Benjamin enjoyed sledding with daddy. 

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Sledding with Jasper, however, was not exactly Benjamin’s cup of tea. 


After a long time outside, this is the sign of a good time: sweat, a runny nose and bright red cheeks!  He could be a snowboarder with that hair!


Since Benjamin and Asher are less than a year apart, comparisons will likely be made of them as they grow.  I suspect they’ll be close friends throughout life, and that is super cool to think about.  Here it just so happens that they have the same jammies and can be in a photo op together.  Benjamin fits snugly into his jammies (as Drew said, “think Elivs”), and Asher has a little more room to move.  Still they are cute as buttons sitting together. 


Next time, we’re taking this photo when we all have makeup on – not just Britta!  Here we all are, some more groggy (Jasper) than others (Asher – smiling like he does ALL the time!, what a sweetheart!). 


Winter landscape photos are so pretty, and you just can’t stage these to be natural.  How cute is this one of the Atkinsons?  SO cute! 



Papa and Nana, Linnea and Karin got these Nothing Runs Like a Deere hats when they were at the MN state fair in September.  They got enough for each grandkid.  How great are they?  Since we Gants were the last of the kids / grandkids to leave Michigan, the boys got a little bit of one-on-one time with Papa and Nana.  They like to wrestle, and seriously even Benjamin gets in on the act.  He has so much fun. 

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What luck – we don’t have to saw goodbye but see ya later alligator.  Papa and Nana will be flying south in January.  Yippee! 

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Parting shots, look how the boys have grown!

Thanksgiving 2008:


Christmas 2009: