Christ in Christmas

Mommy and Ella at worship, Ella loved all the singing!!!

So proud of Ella. We had an amazing worship service last night where the kids acted out the Nativity story, Ella was an angel (she is on stage in the picture below) After which we sang happy birthday to Jesus and were challenged by Pastor Tom and Pastor Stan to make Christmas about Christ and to celebrate His birth.
We talked about this with Ella before going to bed and told her that we wanted to pray and say Happy Birthday to Jesus before opening anything or doing anything else.
The girls stockings were left outside their doors for them to dig into while Mommy and Daddy slept, that way we all go down to see the tree together. Ella woke us up though and told us that she saw her stocking but didn't want to touch anything in it yet until we said Happy Birthday to Jesus.

Ella woke us up to pray!!! Ella waited before digging into gifts and candy to say Happy Birthday to our Lord.

She makes this Daddy and our Abba's heart smile!


Alright Sammy, I mean "Havoc." This morning as I was chasing Samantha through the house to put her in a Figure 4 Leg Lock and pulling her off the kitchen table (what?!) an old X-Factor character came to mind..."Havoc."
Havoc would shoot plasma blasts that he had a hard time controlling. If I remember right (and it has been a while) he is the brother of Cyclops, leader of the X-Men, and the 2 teams were often at ends with each other even though they were often working for the same side. Ummm...Samantha!

Somehow she has learned to climb on the kitchen table where she really dug into some bananas.

She really wanted to get the beads for the Christmas tree and is really troubled by the "balls" on the tree. It was a 3 way tug of war, of course Ella was "helping." She is a good big sister :-)

If she is all about the balls on the tree, what do you think she does with the exercise ball...which I have turned into a foot rest. Something seems wrong about that.

Ginger, oh Ginger. While I feel that you almost deserve a little harassment by my Havoc for destroying my t-shirt blanket, Samantha is always after her.

Through all her Havoc, though, she is so smart, sweet and a true blessing from God...that is JOY on that face my friends...JOY!

Where Have We Been?

It has been months since our last update. So where have we been and what has been going on? The easier answer is life, the honest answer is a tremendous amount of love and grace from God.

During this time I have not been able to stay healthy; everything from panic attacks in the middle of the night, to a prostate infection, to being diagnosed with anxiety disorder to awesome strep throat right now. I have seen my family and my church pull close around me and take care of things I thought I had to be the one to do. My love and desire for my wife grows more every day as I see her sacrifice, work and pray daily. She is amazing! My mother and father take care of my daughters and my house without a single tough or judgmental word, just a continued focus on love and serving -2 of the most important things Christ has called us to do.

Our church plant truly feels like it is surrounded by the hands of God and I find myself looking for ways to be more Christlike, but still stay within myself...if that make sense.

The house is messy, Ginger all of a sudden pees every time we leave the house and the cat peed on top of Ginger's pee to prove he is in charge. I have stopped working out and am crazy tired!
With each day and each person I meet it seems that God is reminding me that I cannot do it without Him and that I need to let go of my expectations of being a Christian, a father, a son, a husband and a teacher and just focus on serving Him. We all need Him, no exceptions. No matter how blessed our lives are there is more with a life filled with Christ's love, grace a forgiveness.

For the first time I think about this season I hear the word Emmanuel, which means "God with us." It is this time of the year we celebrate that He chose to be with us.

I did not intend for this to be a spot for testimony, but it just happened. I had intended to post a few pictures and statements to get caught up....here you go.

Ella met Ms. Claus, her favorite, at the Bel Air Christmas parade.

Sammy wasn't worried about Ms. Clause, not when cookies are around!

Baba and the Funival crew blessed our house over Thanksgiving, we even changed the gym into a sort of guest room with shiny insulation walls and a real bed.

Mommy, Grams, Auni Nenni and Ella out for a Christmas show. Grams loves the theater, especially this time of year!

Afterwords they went to dinner where Ella got pink steak, her favorite, and was allowed to use a real knife for the first time.

Smarter and cuter everyday - in that order, if you can believe it.

Ella needed a bumpy pumpkin for Halloween this year, it was REALLY tough to cut!

Samantha is as cute as she looks, but as tough as one of the boys. She loves dinosaurs and chasing us with them, "rooooar."

The Grouchy Lady Bug and her escort. She picked up the idea pretty quickly of walking up to someone and holding out her bucket. Papa is easily one of her favorite people!

Ella Starting School

Today we wrapped up day 12 of Ella in Kindergarten. She is fully established and totally in school now. No more pretending; she is actually growing up. Mommy and Daddy are not taking this lying down, however, we have a spy...Mr. Dennison!

Ella started her school career at the best school in the county, Daddy's school...Havre de Grace Elementary! She is not in my class and I can never be her teacher, but it is so nice to see her at lunch everyday and to see her in line down the hallway.

Ella waits for me everyday at recess, but after a quick hug will run off to play with anyone she can find. She grabs their hand and just says, "What's your, name? Let's go." I have never seen anything like it. Sometimes the kids look a little freaked out...who is this crazy girl, calling the teacher Daddy and not scared of anyone?!On Tuesday she realized that I was a teacher. For the first 2 weeks of school I don't think it made sense to her. After she came to my class and saw me interacting with the kids, playing guitar and other kids hugging me it suddenly sunk in. On the way home she told me, "you know it's pretty cool that you're a teacher. Normally you're just Daddy, but you're a teacher too. That's so cool."

Then at home she told Natalie that she got to walk down the hallway with the teacher and she didn't even have to be in line like the other kids! She just walked out with the teacher and she wasn't even line leader!...I was walking the bus riders out to buses and I had her just walk along with me, who knew "walking with the teacher (Daddy)" would be so awesome.
It has been odd to see things about the school through a parent's eye. I am trying to just be Daddy and not Mr. Dennison, especially when it comes to talking to Natalie about school. It is hard line, but one I am willing to walk to see Ella everyday.

So...how confused are you with the multiple names and references in this post? Mr. Dennison = teacher = Daddy = Thomas, did you follow?

Big Girl, Little Girl

This summer I have learned a lot about myself, my girls, my family and my God. I've realized the large age difference in the girls. Ella is a great big sister and we often talk about how cool it will be when Samantha is old enough to play doll house with, read with, play Wii with and son on.
Samantha adores Ella. Check out these pictures of Samantha yelling at Ella and banging on the door while Ella played with her friend Morgan in the front yard.
Is this sad or cute...or a little of both?
They both loves books. Ella loves to read to Sam and Samantha has started making sounds and noises as she flips through pages, just like her big sister.

Samantha loves the peek-a-boo books and anything that moves. This Animals book is one of her favorites because it has four sliding pictures on each page and we do lots of animals sounds while we read. Mommy's sounds are pretty funny and my elephant is just awful!

Kentucky Livin'

So we've made our way out to the "Blue Grass" state for a little Furnival fun. We've:
  • celebrated Ella's 6th birthday
  • seen Samantha start walking almost everywhere
  • gone to a Hibachi dinner to celebrate Roger and Bev's 32nd wedding anniversary
  • played in the little pool
  • Rocked out to the Beatles on RockBand
  • cooked a lot
  • played a lot
  • and had a ton of wild fun
We still have a week to go...Check out. Hailey and Kiana will be joining us today and I am sure nothing less than pure insanity will break out.

Ella, Sophia, Skler and Samantha in their tutus, all made my Grams. Hailey and Kiana will be getting theirs today.
Samantha and Skyler taking a bath. Samantha isn't a fan of a busy house, but when the numbers get smaller she laughs and smiles all the time.
The pool and slide out front have been a HUGE hit! All of the girls have gotten into it and Alex and I even tried to teach the girls how to slide on the slip and slide.
Skyler goofy and always making us laugh.
Uncle Al reading Samantha her favorite book.

MUCH more to come...that's why I wrote it in all cap locks, so you know I'm serious!

Our Sam turns 1!

Natalie here--
Sometimes when I am daydreaming I imagine going back in time to the Natalie and Thomas of 1997 at Fort Knox High School and telling them about the life they would someday build together: a house, 2 cars, a dog, a cat, two turtles, and two gorgeous red head girls. Of course, that was so far off our radar when we were two starry-eyed teenagers in puppy love that we would not have been able to imagine such a life, but I often wonder at the fact that so many things fell into place to bring me to this exact moment in time, living a life so very full of blessings. And now here we are, celebrating our baby Samantha's first birthday. One whole year she has been part of our lives and I can scarcely imagine life without her.

We decided on the name Samantha from the book of Samuel in the Holy Bible. Samuel's mother Hannah is barren and prays every day to God that he may give her a child. Hannah is finally rewarded for her faithfulness with a son and she dedicates his life to God, naming him Samuel which means"God heard."

After suffering the pain of our miscarriage in 2006 and then struggling to get pregnant again, I very much identified with Hannah and Thomas and I agreed, almost without saying, that should God ever bless us with another child, we would name that child after Hannah's blessing. It took 3 years of struggling--struggling with disappointment, struggling with fear of failure, struggling with trying to run our lives on OUR schedule until we finally decided that we had had enough. We resigned ourselves to God and said that if God only wanted us to have one child, then we would love her with all of our hearts and we would accept that this was the family he meant us to have. We found peace in trusting God.

Then the next month, I took a pregnancy test at work, mostly out of curiosity when I realized I was 3 days late. I called Thomas from the bathroom, crying so hard, he couldn't understand me. We were pregnant. We had placed our faith in God and he had answered our prayers. "For this child, I have prayed."

And all this is why I am in awe of the lucky life we have. It has not been a straight road to this point, and in fact, sometimes we were so lost, we couldn't even see the road. But God has somehow brought me here, right where I belong, with my wonderful husband, my two heaven-sent girls, my house, my cat and dog, and even the turtles.

Happy birthday Sam!

My Girls!!!

Thomas writes: I was talking with a friend recently about the path my family has taken to be where we are now. The struggle for 2 years of trying to get pregnant, the ignorant want of a boy and finally fully trusting God and receiving the amazing gift of a second redheaded daughter. I am so convinced and so happy to raise a household full of girls, it is not a job I take lightly. God gives us a role and designs each one of us to fill a specific role. I believe a daughter needs her Daddy, God sets us up as men and father's to lead and love.

Last week Ella "Graduated" from pre-k. It was the second time she did so, since we kept her in pre-k for an extra year due to her age. She was so amazing up on that stage: singing her songs louder than anyone, doing each sign, saying her words in spanish and then saying, "when I grow up I want to be a Mommy." She didn't copy the other girls who wanted to be mermaids or nurses, she wants to be her Mommy!

Yesterday she called me when I was in Ohio helping Charlie move and she said to me, "I really miss seeing you and hope that you come back safely to us." Two weeks ago she prayed in front of the whole church, bravely... then leaned on me and kissed my cheek and grabbed my arm with both of her hands.

What an honor to raise my girls. To see how amazing their Mommy is, to feel her love and patience in all that she does. You just have no idea how amazing Natalie is. To see Samantha using her signs, showing me "stop," trying to blow a kiss, flapping her arms when she sees one of us or even watching her chase the dog.That's my big girl just chilling on the steps with me, rockin' her Popeye smile and spotting a kitty cat. Aunt Nenni took this picture from her car as we went out to say good-bye to them.

Samantha is "all done" at the graduation.

This is not what I thought I wanted...where is the baseball, the young professional golfer I'm training, the Star Wars battles or bow ties and rockin' hats? This is not the fatherhood I had planned, but somehow I wake up happy and am filled with love everyday. I have amazing kids and an untouchable wife. How could I ever question God? He truly wants what is best for me. -

Father give me the strength to be everything I'm called to be.
Father show me the way to lead them
won't you lead me...

Hershey Adventure

Ella and I have started going on "adventures." We get in the truck and just drive. We don't have plans or expectations, just spend the day together doing something far away that we normally don't do. Of course, I look ahead to see if there are things we'd enjoy such as a kids' museum or in this case, Hershey Park and her favorite music group The Imagination Movers. We were actually tipped off by one of the students in my class that they were going to be at the park. I didn't tell her anything, just drove to Hershey. When she saw the big signs of candy we decided to go there, then when we checked in they mention the Movers and her eyes jumped!
Ella was a Reese in height. This meant she could ride any ride with the Reese's sign. She was pretty excited to meet the Reese's guy.
A seal show? At Hershey park? Is he a chocolate seal?
Mmmmm boardwalk fries!
We played arcade games early on when it was raining and she actually won 2! She was pumped!!! The rain was nice because it kept the crowds down and made us try out things we normally wouldn't.
Right after getting her bunny face. She didn't want to take it off at the end of the night.

Ella rode her first real size roller coaster called the Super Dooper Looper. Can't believe that she is big enough to ride it and the she loved it! Half way through she yell's, "this is insane!" then keeps saying, "I want to go again." For that video and MANY others check our our Picasa page.

She seemed to be skipping the whole time we were there

I will post stuff about the Imagination Movers later. Even without that concert this was one of the best days of my life. What an amazing kid! Thank you God!