Sunday, December 25, 2011

Living Nativity

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you are all having a wonderful time with friends and family as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. I'm sitting here, waiting for the rest of my family to wake up so we can start all our Christmas traditions. So I decided to write a quick Christmas post instead of pacing the floor! I thought pictures of the Living Nativity that we went to last weekend would work just fine for a Christmas Day post.  The above picture is our family with "Clyde the Camel". He is the coolest camel ever and we love it when he gets to visit Bethlehem!

Josiah petting Clyde.

Each station in Bethlehem gives out a label so you know if you have missed a station. This was the inn keeper.

Hailey quickly found baby Jesus. 

Our friend, Margie, played Mary. She let Hailey "feed" Baby Jesus. The doll really looked like it was drinking from the bottle. I didn't think we were ever going to get Hailey away from the stable!

They made crosses for the kids at the carpenter's shop.

Grinding herbs at the "Apothecary's Shop". Smelling lavender. Hailey wanted to be "Laura" from Little House on the Prairie that night. She is where the sunbonnet I had when I was a girl.

Carding wool.

Weighing out real Roman gold coins. Of course Josiah was trying to wheel and deal to get one it. 

It was wonderful to see our friend Dennis at the potter's wheel again this year. He just got back from another tour in Iraq. So happy his family gets him home for Christmas this year!

Eating bread samples at the bakery.

Hand dipped candles.

I'm sure you can see why we love going to this every year. Not only is it a wonderful homeschooling experience, but it all points to Jesus. All of the people in Bethlehem are abuzz at the news of a the Messiah being born that night. I love the way they talk about Old Testament Prophecy, all pointing to that very special night. 

I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas! Thanks to all of you who have left comments and spoken blessings into my life throughout this last year. You encourage me in this life journey so much! I'm taking a bit of a blogging break, but I will see you all in the next year :) 

God Bless,
Jackie

P.S. Even after writing this post, the kids STILL aren't up, LOL! Now I'll start pacing!

Monday, December 19, 2011

2011 Family Christmas Letter/Family Pictures

Summer 2011
2011 Family Christmas Letter

Friends and Family,
We hope this year was a great year for you all. We recently lost my grandma Mary. She peacefully passed away in her sleep the weekend after Thanksgiving. The kids and I had a wonderful visit with her the evening before she died. So glad she is no longer in pain, but she will be missed. Our family has been busy this year with homeschooling, organic heirloom gardening, cheese, soap and now candle making.  Recently, we joined the E. OR Celtic Society and have been enjoying learning more about our family history. We discovered the Whitesell family is originally from the Scottish clan “Lamont”. Our clan motto is “Acquired By Work”. We all thought THAT fit our family well, lol.   


Michael worked for the Forest Service out of Baker City up until December of this year. He just  got a new job working as a federal technician for the National Guard as a tank mechanic. This is his dream job! It is a good thing he didn’t get his commission back because he wouldn’t have been eligible for this job. God works in mysterious ways! He is soon planning on putting his packet forward to become a warrant officer instead. He is still at 3670th CRC out of Clackamas for his weekend drills and seems to like it there. Michael has been able to do a lot more hunting and work on restoring his 1923 T-Bucket Roadster as funds have allowed.

I’m busy homeschooling Josiah and Hailey. I’ve had a great time planning a lot of field trips for our local homeschool group. The kids are developing some strong friendships. We absolutely love homeschooling and know without a doubt that is the best thing for our family. I’m still working 6 hours a week doing soil database work. I’m enjoying my third year of being a table leader for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers. I love that ministry! I also lead a Beth Moore bible study every week and continue to grow in the Lord as a result. The garden kept me very busy this summer, especially since we increased its size by 1/3!  I’m still cooking from scratch like crazy and making all my own cleaning products, which saves us A LOT of money. I’ve kept up with my blog www.homesteadwannabes.blogspot.com and Facebook where I share family pictures and do various posts on healthy living.

Josiah's 2nd Grade School Picture - 2011
Josiah is 8 years old and is in 2nd  grade. Josiah is doing great academically, although keeping him focused on doing anything he doesn’t want to do is challenging. His behavior has improved tremendously since last year.  So grateful I’m able to homeschool and teach him at HIS pace. He is reading on his own a lot now. He is also busy with Aikido and AWANAS.

Hailey's Preschool Picture - 2011
Hailey is 4 years old and is still in the “princess” stage. She loves anything to do with princesses, music and dancing. She loves role playing with her brother, cooking and arts and crafts. She is attending her second year of AWANAS. She did Aikido over the summer, but is taking a break. She is a joy to homeschool. She really likes to learn. We’ve been working on behavioral issues with her this year, especially involving bedtime!

May you all have a Merry Christmas, enjoying the celebration of the Messiah’s birth and a prosperous New Year (despite the current economic state) and enjoy God’s blessings for this Coming New Year. Don’t forget to pray for all our troops and their families (including Michael’s brother, Nathan) who are experiencing separation due to deployments around the world. 


God Bless, 


Michael, Jackie, Josiah and Hailey

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bringing Home The Tree - A Scottish-Themed Tree

As is our tradition, we went out to a local tree farm and cut a beautiful fir tree. Josiah wanted to cut it down, so we handed him the saw. Love this pic of just his feet sticking out from under the tree. I liked his comment as we were looking at all the trees, "Whew, picking out a Christmas tree is harder than I thought!". 

He lasted about one minute before he asked his dad to take over. 

Standing by the fallen tree. Josiah wanted us all to yell, "Timber!" as it started to topple.




Packing it out is always a family effort. It pays to be the one behind the camera, hee hee!

Josiah and Hailey wanted a Scottish-themed, aka "plaid" Christmas tree this year. I was determined to be much more relaxed after our fiasco last year when I discovered that I had an unhealthy attachment to my tree. Click here for that funny story. We all managed to get the tree up and get it decorated without a family fight. A fete in itself to be sure! When the kids weren't looking, I'd quickly rearrange the ornaments. 

Hailey was my helper to the end. Josiah petered out about half-way through.

I thought I'd take a couple  shots of the tree, using different light settings on the camera. This one shoes the ornaments better.

But this one shows the lights better but is kind of blurry. 
Now if I could just find some bagpipe ornaments! Also, we all thought pheasant feathers sticking out all over the tree would be cool the next time we do this theme. It will give us something to collect as a family.

Hope you are all posting pics of your trees so I can see them. I love looking at other peoples' trees! OK, so I can check one thing off my to-do-list. Tree is up. Check. Next thing on my list is the family Christmas letter...We have so much to be thankful for this year!

God Bless,
Jackie

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

First Time Ice Skating

My kids have been begging to go ice skating for sometime now. We finally took them when we were in Pendleton a couple weeks ago. They have a small, inexpensive, outdoor rink. 
Here are some short video clips of the kids skating the second day.  I quickly realized Hailey didn't need any help from me because many of the kids at the rink thought she was so cute and they all wanted to help her. They had these great little strap-on, double-bladed skates for her to use. They were perfect for little ones. 
As I predicted, Josiah was all go, but never could figure out how to stop without falling. I gotta give it to him though, he was tenacious and never stopped trying both days we were there. He ended up with some pretty good bruises and worked up quite a sweat, but he had fun and he never quit. He made several friends there who where happy to help him up and give him pointers.
I skated the first day. It is harder work than I remembered. What a work out! I was very cautious and didn't fall once. I hate pain and avoid it when at all possible! 

I definitely see more ice skating in our future. The kids had a ball and it was really inexpensive. Our kind of fun!

How about you? Any new activities for your families this Christmas season? Leave a comment and tell me all about it. 

God Bless,
Jackie

Monday, December 5, 2011

Grandma Mary - Our Last Visit, A Peaceful Passing

I just got back from one of the hardest, yet most blessing-filled weekends of my life. I need to blog about this weekend before I forget any details. I want to look back at this post and be reminded of God's mercy, grace and love during this difficult weekend. 

It all started with a homeschool field trip to Pendleton I had planned that Friday. We thought since we were already over there and my husband was gone for drill, we would stay with my mom and do some ice skating and such. Of course, we always try to get a visit in with my grandma who lives in an assisted living apartment in the same town. It had been a long day what with the all-day field trip, and I was pretty tired and was debating on if I should take the kids to see her Friday night or wait until the next evening. Mom and I talked about it and decided Friday would be best. I'm so glad that was what I did or I would have had some serious regrets.

Now my grandma hadn't allowed me to take any pictures of her since she got so sick and almost died 6 months ago. She miraculously slowly but surely got better. At the last minute, I felt prompted to grab my camera because I was hoping she would allow me to take some pictures of her and the kids. When I asked her, she didn't feel self-conscious about it, so I went for it! What blessing that did. Here is my grandma with the kids. It was the first time I had seen her dressed in something besides a nightgown in 6 months. She was 82 years old and barely had any grey hair, even with all she had been through this last year.  We talked about how great she was doing and how good she looked. She was walking around and so cheerful.

She has always loved animated Christmas toys and pics up a few each year. She has quite a collection now and she so enjoyed watching the kids play each one. I love this picture of pure joy on her face as she laughed with the kids. I can still hear that laugh so clearly. I will treasure this picture always.

Hailey watching the snowman and the dog dance to Christmas music.

This was Josiah's favorite. It was a reindeer shaking the bars of his cell while it played "Grandma got run over by a reindeer". Little did he know he would be taking it home by the end of that weekend.

Hailey always loves to snuggle with Grandma. 

More snuggles. 
Grandma kept telling her how much she loved her. 

One of the things I think is very strange is that she gave me a funny letter that my mom had written to her in 1982. She carried it around in her purse and showed it to many people throughout the years. It was so strange that she insisted I take it that night.

After I was done taking the pictures, I had to remind her to put her oxygen back on. She called the nurse for a couple of pain pills as we were leaving. Our last words to each other were literally "I love you so much."

The next morning we got a call from the assisted living home. She had died during the night. It was so shocking. We all expected it 6 months ago, but now? We thought she was going to have a few more years. We just saw her. She was doing so good! My son was devastated. It is the first time he has had a loved one die. Hailey kept saying to me in her sweet little voice, "Mommy, don't cry. We will see GG Mary in heaven". What a wonderful reminder from the lips of my four year old.

When my mom got her apartment, it was clear that Grandma had died in peace. She asked the nurse on duty if she had her oxygen on when she found her. She said no, it wasn't on. Then we understood. She had to take her oxygen off to get her nightgown on and when she did, she forgot to put the oxygen back on after she got dressed. She climbed into bed and went to sleep and slowly stopped breathing. What a way to go. Happy, full of life, knowing she was loved and cared for, she just slipped away into the arms of Jesus.

I'm blessed to have such a caring family. My sister and Aunt immediately drove up to stay the weekend, grieve, remind each other of all the blessings, laugh, reminisce and work together to take care of all the details. It was so hard going back into that apartment the next day and not hearing the familiar, "Come in!". The beautiful quilt that we were just discussing the night before lay on her empty bed.

It is going to take awhile to adjust to this. I'm grateful for the wonderful memories from this weekend and the pictures I have to remember her by. I found the journal I gave her last Christmas. I had written in the first page, "Grandma, tell me your story". She wrote in detail about her childhood. She got up to age 18. Again, another gift to hold on to. My grandma loved Christmas! It is going to be difficult this season, but even as we grieve, we will continue to look for the blessings. I praise God for His hope. For his perfect plan of Salvation so that we can claim that hope!

Please pray for us as we continue to process this. It is all so raw at the moment. I know time will heal. I hope you can see what a wonderful, loving woman she was though these pictures. I hope those angels watch out, because there is a woman riding her dirt bike up there in a red leather jacket and eating as many chicken wings as she can!

Grieving, But Blessed,
Jackie

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thankful For Family!

This is me with my grandpa who soon turns 90 years old. Not many 90 year old men out there that still farm with horses. I've always felt very loved by my grandpa. He's a character for sure. Stubborn as they come, but loving as they come, too. I was so grateful to get to spend some time with him this Thanksgiving when we spent Thanksgiving break out at the ranch. My Dad and step-mom hosted us and we had a great time. All the cousins had fun playing outside and of course we all did what we do best, EAT, LOL!
This is my brother and his pregnant wife, Sonya, with their toddler, Noah. It was so nice seeing them :) They have been very busy selling trees for a fundraiser for Camp Morrow, a Christian camp out of Pine Hollow, Oregon. I truly admire their dedication.

My grandpa's wife, Regina, was kind enough to give some great back rubs. In this picture she is giving a much-deserved massage to my step-mom, Diana, who works so hard to cook for us. She brings lots of traditional dishes, like "Butterhorns" a tribute to the sweet rolls that her mom always made during the holidays. My six year old nephew, Andrew, bragged that he ate 9 of them, LOL!

Hailey and her cousin, Lily, are thick as thieves now. They are playing much better together now that they are older. They are very similar in personality and like many of the same things, especially dress up! They got those genes, from my twin sis and I. That was our main past time growing up.

My beautiful sister, Stacie, relaxing on the couch while most of the kid were outside riding 4 wheelers with Papa and Michael. She is sitting next to, Pat, who is my other grandpa's wife. We had an enjoyable visit with them as well.

Here is my Grandpa (Pat's husband). It is hard to get him to smile for a picture. This was the best I could do. It was fun visiting with him, too.

Regina and Grandpa having a cuddle moment. She keeps him young and doing what he loves :) She baked a slug of old-fashioned pies for us all to feast on. When you ask my grandpa what his favorite pie is, he will say, "more pie!"

My 13 year old, nephew, Josh, having a "James Dean" moment. He is seriously crackin' me up. 

He is wearing my deceased grandfather's bomber jacket from when he was in the Air Force during Korea, I think. He loves it and never takes it off. I sure hope he doesn't lose it! He thinks he's pretty cool in it, LOL.

Two more of my nephews, Jacob and Marcus, being silly.


On Friday, I got to go visit my sis and we had Thai food for lunch, yum! The we all met up to go to the Starlight Parade. My step-mom kept with tradition and provided hot chocolate, cornbread, chili and left-over turkey noodle soup. 

On Saturday we spent most of the day visiting Michael's best friend, Tim, and his family. We had a great time cooking s'mores over their shop stove and visiting until we almost lost our voices!

Sunday was very special because we were able to go to church with most of our family. My sister was singing a solo that day, and God used it greatly. There weren't many dry eyes in the place. It is wonderful to see God so active in their church. It has really changed for the better since I was a kid. God was palpably in that place!

So we are home again, and working hard to get caught up. My husband starts his new job on Monday (more details to come in my family Christmas letter)! Can't wait to tell you all about it :)

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I look forward to catching up with you soon :)

God Bless,
Jackie

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