Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I almost bit it.

This was sort of funny. We went to get the mail and the girls got to go down a small hill. There's a lot of ice and just a skiff of snow. Last year we had something like four feet on the ground at this time of year (crazy.) I'm glad there's less snow this year, but still enough to play a little in.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The "New Year's Letter"

We didn't even write or send a christmas letter last year (not because we didn't like you all!) because last year was a really hard year for us and we just didn't feel like re-living it.

But at the beginning of 2009 things started turning around. We finally unloaded the Triplex and all the tenant issues and stress associated with all of that disappeared, and our previously "good marriage" suddenly became easy and great and just amazingly better without that added stress on our lives.

Lily turned 3 January 4th 2009 and has not only grown a lot taller this last year, but has been talking more and more and expressing complicated ideas. She loves princess things and the Nutcracker, reading stories, and especially playing games with Daddy and doing projects (art and scrapbooking) with Mommy. Lily is quite energetic and loves to jump and run and tackle, but wants to wear dresses as much as possible. She loves to play with her "girls" as she calls her friends and is quite close to her cousin Evelyn. She is almost always in a good mood, looking to make the other people around her happy, and taking care of her little sister.

Renna turned one year old March 6, 2009. She is our little drama queen who doesn't want to be comforted when she cries but be understood. Renna is proving to be a bit more of a challenge to discipline. I maintain that they have to eat a bite of something healthy before eating a bite of dessert or chip or something for instance and often our meal times are filled with the sounds of dramatic screams because she can't get what she wants. She is learning however and after she tries to throw herself on the floor or screams like she's being tortured she'll finally take a bite of the thing (THAT SHE LIKES) and then will get the special food that she wants. She will now pick up the food that she's thrown on the floor in anger, sometimes even without me reminding her to. As difficult as she is one minute though, she will completely surprise me the next minute with her sweet little kisses, smiles, and cuddles.

Lynne' has been beautifying our home, as always, making fabulous homemade meals and bread each week, running around the house with the girls, and enjoying the time hanging out with her mom and grandma. This year seems to have been a time of renewal and direction. After three months of intense writing she's come back to the idea of writing books for children and working to get them published. With several works of art sold, illustrating those books in a unique way is really important to her as well. She continues to scrapbook, knit, spin, play the piano and harp, and read, but her favorite thing to do is play with the girls and talk to Youssef.

Youssef has spent most of this year as a small town reporter learning to be content and yet not be stagnant. In the last year he's worked on learning a computer language so that he can complete the games that he's designed. He's done market research and is working towards completing his ideas so that he can bring in an extra income with it all. The main thing that keeps him from working on his own projects is how often he helps Lynne' around the house and takes care of the girls when he's home. Soon, Lynne' will have to tell him to stop being so helpful and go do his own thing! He would like to get a masters in English, but as with everything else it seems, the cost factors in the most to how possible this plan is.

We've had a wonderful year as a couple, always learning to communicate better and love the other more through our mistakes and arguments. As a family we are still learning how to do things together and make time for one another. Our recently established activity is to read outloud to the girls each night (books without pictures) while rubbing them with lotion. Lily loves this time of day and insists on not only "more story" but rubbing lotion on us as well! They are both our greatest joys in our life, and no matter what we have gone through in these last 5 1/2 years of marriage we always come back to the same simple conclusion - "I'm always glad that I married you."

*Youssef, Lynne', LilyAnne, and Renna Sleiman December 2009*

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The ski trip on my brother's 30 birthday! (Forgot to post these pictures before...)

Daniel is demonstrating his awesome ability to pose in a skiing position. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO HIM! :]
Oh, wait... Daniel you are going the wrong direction! (Just kidding.) ;]
Natalie- far left (my sister in law of course) Daniel (big bro) and Zack (Natalie's big bro)
The view, through the snow covered trees.
Off of my ski's to show the depth of the snow on the mountain (we were on 49) and there's not a whole lot up there yet.. but it was enough...

When we got as far up the mountain as we wanted to go Daniel pulled out his cook stove and made some cocoa for us! Fabulous.Another artistic shot by mwa. The cocoa had an interesting piney flavor as Daniel stirred it with a stick that had much red sap... none of us died or got close to ill though, so it was all good.
Me being artistic again... if I lightened this maybe it would make a nice poster...
Natalie was unzipping the *cough* vents *cough* on Daniel's coat because he was too hot. ;]

All of us together! Zack, Daniel, Natalie, and me (Lynne') it felt like old times (except that all of us were more out of shape!) Seriously though, I couldn't stop smiling the whole time. I'd been wanting to ski for SO long and have always been pregnant or otherwise unable to go when there was snow. WHOOP! I want to go again. Oh, there WILL be a free day on 49 on January 9 and 10 if anyone wants to go and spend absolutely nothing... maybe I could even talk Youssef into going then? (He's not so keen on winter sports.. the twerp.) ;]

The long awaited nutcracker performance.

Partly, this was long awaited because Lily knew she was getting a princess dress and partly because she LOVES the nutcracker.. of any kind or version of said show or performance.
This morning we let her open her dress which was on this dress form that my littlest is hugging (made out of duct tape.. totally awesome idea.) Then I let her open her nutcracker, she oohed and awwed at all the right moments as she unwrapped it.
Her dress was beyond puffy as you can kind of see in the above picture. I felt like a maid of honor as I helped her use the bathroom because I had to hold the gigantic poof of the dress up for her. Incidentally, her dress started out as a walmart $12 cookie cutter dress and I add the layers of pink organza with sparkles, tucked it here and there and added a pink ruffle and bow and altered the side of the original dress because it was too big and VOILA! The most princess of princess dresses. Every little girl that saw her walk by turned green with envy... such will be the life of my daughters since they have a seamstress for a mother. ;]
Out in the lobby there was a row of large nutcrackers and Lily was checking them out. (The show was the best that I'd seen by-the-way!)
Our little princess with her absurdly handsome daddy. ;]

This would be the last picture that I took when I was just told not to take any more pictures... I was being evil. Of course, they SAID no flash photography with the dancers and I didn't take pictures when the dancers were on stage! Lily always does this goofy smile when she sees a camera... it seems rare that I can capture her "real" smile. "Think of something funny." "Tickle tickle?" hmm... you get the idea.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Reflections of Christmas...

All today I was practicing the songs for the candle-light service on Sunday, figuring out cords, typing words, and looking up verses for the program. (A program is a pretty unusual thing for our open-meeting small church) And I got to thinking about how often I'm busy this time of year. How I don't stop and just think about why I'm getting everything ready to celebrate. This is a little long, but I hope you all will read the following thoughts and verses and reflect as well.

--In my heart I often visit the place of Jesus’ birth, with the cattle lowing, and the star shining down. In the midst of the whispering of angels, my thoughts gather round. My longings are at home here, and at rest; and my faith finds its treasure in this, a Christmas night blest. I could never forget the vision: the dark stable, filled with creation and Creator; this place is a foretaste of joy complete. I come here daily to roam, leaving behind the world’s mocking scorn and seeking for ways to sing and speak your glorious praise. How the memories linger of this ancient manger--a crib of wood and hay. The miracle within and beyond all this is God appearing here in a stable small and rude. He came, but was despised on this poor earth-- Him the eternal, honored Word. Yet I know I can offer Him a dwelling place forever, here in my heart.
Please come, sweet Jesus. Come to this heart that is your home. I know it’s no strange place I offer you; it is a place built and bought by you. Here, you can come back into your creation, and I will wrap you in my heart and soul. If I could, I would place palm branches all around your feet. For you, Lord, I will live, and for you I will die. I have found complete joy, as in my heart, Lord, you are born anew!--

Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”
A prophecy fulfilled in Matthew 1: 18-23 “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin will be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’ Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.”

Micah 5:2-5 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”
A prophecy fulfilled in Luke 2:4 -7 “Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Psalm 72: 10-11 “The kings of Tarshish and of the isles will bring presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba will offer gifts. Yes, all the kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him.” Fulfilled in Matthew 2: 1-3 & 2: 7-11 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’ ….. Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said. ‘Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.’ When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

Gen 3: 14a & 15 “So the Lord said to the serpent: ….. ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
Fulfilled in 1 John 3:8-9 “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God appeared, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God……

1 John 3: 16-23 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide with him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.”

John 1: 1- 14 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not the Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

Monday, December 07, 2009

Christmas music is unavoidable...

Hey, I found this blog draft and thought I'd post it... it's after Christmas now, but the song could be a Christmas song OR a folk song. You get a gold star if you know both titles.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Organizing and decorating...

As soon as we got home from Thanksgiving with my grandma we set to work on decorating (the house was a total mess at the time, but it always is when boxes and things are being moved everywhere.) This is our little village. "Lily's flower shop" and a Newspaper building that I'm going to put the "Newport Miner" sign on it for where Youssef works.

The next picture is of the shelves that I put up in our bathroom... this is probably interesting to only me because it has been annoying me for a long time that all the stuff was on the floor and the door couldn't open all the way. It looks so tidy now and easy to clean. Things that make my life easier are always good.

Next is Lily's little area with her Tinkerbell house that I built last Christmas for her (it's mostly survived) the wall where my picture hangs is also where we can project netflix movies.

"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care" in hopes that a fire or smoke damage wouldn't happen right there... My desk is still really messy. I spent a good three months just doing a writing project. As in... I did nothing else that I didn't HAVE to do. Cooking food and basic clean up happened, but REAL cleaning, organizing, prolonged times of playing and reading to my kids, and any other project were totally out. It felt good to finish the fanfic story - in case anyone is interested (and you don't have to have read the original books to like or understand it.)
This area around the fireplace is sort of a project storage area and sometimes I work there too.
Speaking of projects this is the beginnings of my latest art endeavor I was inspired to make it as I was working on the fanfic and then didn't finish it because I have a hard time doing more than one project at a time. It was extremely difficult to cut out the shapes and keep everything connected so that I can layer the strips of paper on it. As you see it in the picture the image is backwards because I have to work from the back to layer the paper... that's why the moon is backward and my initials are backward too. The sun beams and warm colors from it are going to mingle with her hair so they look sort of blended... Hopefully I'll be able to sell it. Haven't had too much trouble selling my art as long as someone sees it in person. ;] This is the first realistic people image that I've done. Quite difficult... especially the hair. I had to draw it all out first before cutting the poster board. Normally I just freehand the cutting, but couldn't with this because the hair and their faces were so complicated. I had to figure out where I needed to keep each element connected and what would go under what when I layer the paper. I'm going to call it "Opposites"
I don't have a before and after picture of my craft/scrapbooking/art/school room, but you can just imagine it if you take out the shelves and add a pile of stuff on the table that buried the image from anything worth looking at. I painted the shelves on the far left side and moved my cd player there so that I could listen to it when working (I love to listen to books on tape especially!) I ran a speaker into the bathroom too (the door on the left) so that I could listen to something other than the water when I do dishes in the only sink.
And this next picture was taken from about where my desk is (the farthest room away through the kitchen is the scrapbook room that you just saw.
Then from the other angle taken from where my piano is and the village. Youssef must have seen something shocking on facebook. It's a lot more open now that we got rid of the other couch that we didn't use.
Now for the tree! I've been told to put up this picture for a while now, but couldn't find our camera under all the junk I was organizing and throwing out. Now all I have left to organize is my computer desk and the fridge and pantry. So.. the tree. We went to a friends 40 acres and walked around for about an hour looking for the "perfect" tree. Youssef was beginning to wonder what in the world I was waiting for, "There are trees all around us. What's wrong with that one?" "Everything!" I was looking for one with strong branches an even shape, full but not TOO full, and most of all NARROW. All the "wild" trees are so ridiculously wide and this one was perfect. Actually, (trade secret) this is two trees that I wired together. They both fit the criteria except that they had a few bare sections were it wasn't as full. Take two and put them together and they fill in the empty parts of the other (so many metaphors for a marriage right there...) The star is really heavy and I wired it to the ceiling. Part of christmas for me as always been the ingenuity of creating something lovely from something that is less than perfect. hanging the ornaments just so so that the branches hang right (because they bend down) This is the first year that we actually HAVE a real star for the top. Every other year I always had to be creative with that as well.. from an ornament transformed to a tree topper to a dollar store star. This star has 50 lights and I feel like I've been waiting for the five past christmases of being married for this star... and the lights too! Normally I have to scrimp with lights and keep adjusting them so that they'll reach to the top of the tree. I put on three strands of 100 bulb red lights and one strand of 100 clear lights. This is a good trick.. instead of buying one big strand for 15 bucks or whatever and then some go out or they don't last long... get in on a sale that is like a buck for 100 strand lights and buy four or five boxes of the colors you want. If a strand conks out it's not quite as big of a deal. ;] I did splirge and buy bubble lights this year though... I've always wanted them.. it's sort of a childhood dream thing. ;]
Decorating for Christmas has gone much better this year... we've had a much better year than the last so it makes sense. A end of the year/christmas letter will even be written this year! It feels so nice to have a put together house... I need to figure out how to do little bits at a time WHILE I'm doing projects, but I get a little wrapped up. *sheepish*
Oh, and Renna's "kissy face" - She loves to give me kisses and this is how she wakes me up in the morning - with little baby kisses and giggles, so cute. ;]