Thursday, December 31, 2009

It is the eve before the new year, and we have not posted for a LONG time... so we thought we'd do a quick recap of some of the adventures we've had so far during our vacation. We arrived safely in Joliet on December 19th, even though our clutch went out in Arkansas! God took good care of us, and He gave Matt wisdom on how to drive the Neon well without having a clutch. He also provided us with green lights and yield signs, instead of stop signs, when we got off of the highway to make Matt's life easier. Having our faith stretched was a great way to start our trip!

We spent one night in Joliet, then went to Elgin to visit the Rugh family. We stayed one night in Elgin, then went back to Joliet for a few days. There was a snow day where Mom-n-Dad-Ackerman and Matt & I made this:

This is a picture Char took. I borrowed it because all of my snowman pictures need to get developed. I used my Canon 35 mm for our snowball fight pictures (where Dan, if you ask him, will say that I have the WORST aim ever) and snowman-building pictures. He has snow cheekbones and a knob nose of snow. He's got a very cute smile, too!

Because of schedules, we celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve morning... SO on the ACKERMANS' Christmas Eve (the day before the ACTUAL Christmas Eve), we watched The Nativity before we went to bed. Actually... the PARENTS went to bed, and we "kids" stayed up and talked for a little while, planning breakfast for the next day.

In the morning we woke up and began making breakfast for the parent Ackermans. We made scambled eggs with veggies and sausage in it and pancakes.

(The pancakes Chris was making)

(This is why I usually wear make-up.)

Then we went into Mom-n-Dad-Ackerman's bedroom to wake them up for Christmas. Dad-Ackerman was already in the shower, even though Mom-Ackerman told him to wait. (I guess we took to0 long making breakfast!) :)

After breakfast, we went into the kitchen and lit the advent candles. Once they were lit, Matt read the Christmas story from the Bible.

After reading, we shared presents and laughs with each other. One of the biggest surprises was a unicycle for Matt from Anji and Chris! More pic's of that later! Here are some of us that morning. I tried to weed through the pictures for you.

(Matt lighting the advent candles)
(No, Anji's not on fire... she's talking to Matt and the candles are close by.)

(The Christmas story being read)(The Ackerman siblings)

(Anji and Mom-Ackerman)

(Dad-Ackerman and Chris smiling with their Rambo Ribbons on their heads.)

(Pretty Christmas House)

(Pretty Christmas Tree)

(Dad-Ackerman and Matt)
(Lights at night)

After our Christmas morning, which was really Christmas Eve remember, we had an awesome Christmas Taco lunch.

In the afternoon, Matt and I drove to Elgin because we were going to play at the Christmas Eve service. We played "Still, Still, Still," Matt on guitar, Sarah and Jessica on Clarinet and me on the cello. The service started at 6PM, and at 6 my A string snapped. My brand new A string that I had put on my cello the night before. FORTUNATELY I had my bad one in my purse, so I had to quickly replace it and tune the cello as closely to the right pitch as I could without other instruments to tune to. The song went well, and my cello was surprisingly more in tune than I'd expected.

The Ackerman family came out (minus Anji who had previous plans to be at a different candle light service), and we had dinner with them after the service. We said goodbye to them, and headed over the my sister Sarah's house to visit and play a couple games.

Here are some pictures taken at Sarah and Jeff's house on Christmas Eve.

(Molly and Sarah in front of their pretty tree --- note that I'm wearing Jeff's pajama pants because my pants were SOAKED from the deep snow.)

(Jeff with the notebook that started a very interesting game of... well... I don't know the name of it. It's like Pictionary and telephone mixed together.)
(Matt and Jeff. Do you see the presents on the floor? "Santa" -- Daddy-- came by with two bags filled with awesome things for us. We were sipping eggnog and opening these crazy gifts from them before our game. One thing Santa brought was a draft-blocker for the door. It was a Christmas village that you stick in front of the door, so the cold air doesn't come in. Creative, huh? We also got candy, coloring books, sparkling crayons and more! Matt's favorite was the box of GUMMY lifesavers.)

(Sarah is very surprised by what she found in her notebook while playing Pictionelephone.)

(They are so cute, huh?)

After having a fun time at their house, we headed over to Jessica and Ben's to sleep. We stayed up while the stockings were getting stuffed with toothbrushes, kazoos and other fun things, talking and laughing with Jessica and Ben until Ben turned in. I was looking forward to seeing how the girls would react Christmas morning, and I had so much fun taking photos of them opening their stockings and presents. Jessica made a big breakfast while the family watched White Christmas. Here are some photos from Christmas morning at my sister Jessica's house.

(Good morning, Audrey!)

(The girls are going through their stockings.)
(Mom's preoccupied... Perfect time to grab at that piece of candy in her bowl!)
(Dad and Audrey)
(Eloise's kazoo!)
(Evie bartering for a piece of candy. "I'll trade you this orange for your piece of candy!")
(Evie is so excited to see what her mom opens.)

(I think Evie just opened a gift from Eloise, and Mom is explaining the stamps to Evie.)
(Walkie Talkies from the night before!)
(Dad's turn to open a present.)
(Audrey's fun with ribbon)

(Eloise sporting her new guitar watch)
(... And her new guitar!--- or ukulele)

(Tuning Evie's ukulele)
(This room has experienced some Christmas fun!)

(Matt blowing up balloon rockets that he got in his stocking)

(A final note on an upside-down recorder.)

I know there were a lot of pictures there, but I wanted to share some of the fun that we had, and I probably only chose about 1/4 of the pictures I took. Those girls are fun to watch.

Christmas night we went over to my mom's house for the gift exchange and some great snacks. That'll be our next post, though!

Until then... Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Few Photos from Thanksgiving in Elgin

Right now I'm on break, and I wanted to share some cute pictures that I happen to have with me at work. These aren't the best quality--- I'm not a great photographer--- but these kids are all top quality.

This is Evie on top, Eloise seated on the bottom, and Laurel standing on the trundle.

Here they are again.
This is prayer time with Katie and Paul. They are all sharing little stories and ideas, and after this shot was taken, they prayed together. We have Pigtail Olivia, Shiny-Cheeks Eloise, Puffed-Sleeves Evie, Good-Listener Laurel, Cozy-Clothes Jackson, Restfully-Relaxed Peyton, Cuddling Abigail, Hidden Katie, and Standing Paul.

These sweet people clockwise from the fireplace are my dad; my cousin, Sally, my sister, Katie, my sister, Jessica, Matt, my niece, Audrey, and my brother-in-love, Ben. Missing from the picture are Paul, Jeff, Sarah, and my mom. Oh... and all the kids in the other photos.

I miss my family!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Matt's Favorite Sweater

Did you know it SNOWED yesterday? Okay, okay... in Illinois we call it a light flurry, but Matt and I stood at the doorway and watched the silent film along with a couple of mesmerized neighbors. It was quite exciting for me, but I found out that we did NOT beat Elgin to the finish line of First Day of Snow. We tied for first! (Good work, Elgin!) :) Anyway, it's cold here. Cold-ish, at least. Sweaters are out, hats and gloves are encouraged, and the heat is cranked (which makes me cranky, but that's beside the point...).

This morning Matt was wearing his favorite gray and blue striped zip-up sweater with his plaid green and navy fleece pants when we got up for breakfast. He wears that sweater everywhere in the winter, and it's quite a compliment to me, because I personally LOVE sweaters, and I found him a few at the thrift store a year or two ago, and this one was a hit with him.

After we ate and came back to the bedroom, he said, "Molly! Look what I can do," and he unzipped his sweater from the bottom to show his bellybutton. At first I thought it might be broken, so I said, "Oh no!"

He said, "No, look!" And he unzipped the top to meet the other zipper. He played with it over and over, so that he could get different "looks" with each zip. "Why would they do that?" he asked.

"Why would they do that on a MEN'S sweater?" I added. Our eyes both got wide, and he whipped the sweater off and examined the tag. I tried to see what it said, but he just grinned.

He said, "It isn't big at all on me. Can you guess what size it is?"

I shrugged, but thinking it may be a women's sweater, I guessed, "Is it an extra-extra large?"

He grinned back at me. "Yeah! And it's from GAP! Well... maybe a guy who shops at GAP would want a sweater that can do that cool trick, so maybe it IS a men's sweater!"

We both doubt it. .

One cool thing about Matt is that he's so comfortable with who he is and what he likes, that he'll probably proudly wear that sweater for a long time to come. I really admire that about him.

Ha ha. Matt likes to wear women's clothes.

Friday, December 4, 2009

When God Likes Pain

Two blogs in one day?! I'll bet you're thinking, "She never blogs anymore, and now there are TWO blog entries in one day?!" Right? Well, as the new saying goes, "Blog posts are like Christmas cookies. You don't get to have them all that often, but when you do make 'em, you can' t eat just one..." Is that the new saying? No? Okay, well grab some Christmas cookies to munch on, because this is a long 'n'.

While I was resting, I realized how boring recovery can be... especially when you haven't had time to play the piano in a relatively long time (since I was at my in-laws' house last week). I did know that Matt would be annoyed if I wasn't resting while home, so with that in mind, I hobbled restfully over to the piano, and slowly sat down. Then I began to play a quiet tune that would only inspire restfulness. But if you know me and my piano playing, it can't stay restful for the entire song. Soon I was painfully singing every song I ever wrote--- I say "painfully" in reference to the jab in my right side where my gallbladder was removed a couple days ago... not because the neighbors heard howling that I roughly described as singing.

A funny thing happened while pain was throbbing in my right side, just under my rib cage. Words to complete a recent song hit me suddenly! I grabbed the closest thing to me that I could legally write on, and I began sketching out how the song would go. I put it back into the flood of music that surrounds the lyrics at that time (it's a pretty busy piano part, and I'm imagining some crazy orchestration), and it worked. There were a couple times it sounded like I was singing while jumping over toys left out on the floor that I didn't see, but I think after some smoothing out and cleaning up it'll be done!

Then a strange recollection began to form as I was singing. I began imagining where I was when I wrote each song that have become my "canon" of Molly songs. Each song I wrote was birthed from a very painful part of my life. In fact, today I began playing one song that still hurts a little to play and sing out loud, one that I wrote the majority of the lamenting after our first, horrible miscarriage and finished after our second miscarriage a year after. The experience of those miscarriages taught both Matt and me several things about our Lord, and we wouldn't trade that understanding for anything, but I don't know if the pain fully goes away. I mean, there I was at the piano, singing a song I'd written nearly two years ago, bawling my eyes out.

And I knew God was right there. Listening.

Because I was being honest and open about how I felt.

But you know something cool that He's taught me? Everything that I encounter--- good, bad, beautiful, ugly--- all of it is given to me as an opportunity to use it to glorify God. So, as the Psalms of Lament all end with praises to the Father, so do my lamenting songs. But I didn't realize that they almost ALL do this! It really cracks me up. Whenever my mood is quite "Woe-is-me-ish," then I have a tendency now to turn it into praising God for who He is, and sometimes for what He's teaching me. But why is it that in life we always look FIRST at ourselves, when we are not even as big as a pea in His hand? Why do we automatically first look at ourselves?! It makes me crazy!

I know God heard me singing the honesty of my heart today, and I actually believe He cared. But I wonder how sick He gets of me dwelling on my misfortunes when I don't see any longer how great He is that I am awestruck--- or dumbfounded. Can you believe that I actually have a REAL phobia of losing a nearly healthy perspective of God (which really means a growing understanding of His might and sovereignty) that I wrote a song about it?

Okay... that's a tangent. (Where's Sammy Carani to say, "Mrs. Ackerman, is that a tangent?") What I REALLY wanted to say was how each song I wrote ended up being a song of praise of who God is. I think it's amazing that He uses pain, even small jabs, to create something beautiful, like a song. I think those moments are when God likes pain.

Update on Molly's Surgery

Just thought I'd let you in on this week's adventures with the Ackerman Duo. My surgery went well, I think. No news on the liver, which I'm assuming is good news. (For those who did not know, I had my gallbladder removed. I've been pretty sick for awhile, and it's finally out!!!)

I had an allergic reaction to Vicodin that was prescribed, but we didn't know that I was reacting until the next day. We didn't realize that the underwater-I-can't-breathe-anymore feeling mixed with the very itchy skin might be a negative reaction to the medication. I suppose that I've never been allergic to anything before, so we didn't recognize it.

So every 4 hours Matt would wake up and give me my 2 Vicodin and some fresh water in my liddy-cup, readjust my pillows, and kiss me goodnight again for the next four hours. Finally I told him that I couldn't sleep well, and that I was so uncomfortable (I also couldn't see straight), and I just wanted to get off the Vicodin, but he convinced me to take just one pill. So I took one, and he read somewhere that I was showing bad allergy symptoms, so he called the number on the prescription bag.

When he finally talked to someone (he left a message and never heard back), they called in a new prescription for me, but it made me too fuzzy, still, so I decided to stay off that stuff. I'm only taking Ibuprofen, and I took a Tylenol today, too. So... all that to say that I'm a wee bit sore, and I'm not able to do everything I wanna do, but we did have the TECH Women over today. Matt helped with every bit of it, including breakfast! He is such a trooper! Even when we're in the car he remembers to go slowly over (or even drive around) bumps in the road because they rattle my guts and stitches. HOWEVER, he forgets to not be funny, and he's made me pop a few stitches!!!! :)

All that to say I'm healing and very grateful for a clear mind and eyes that can focus on this screen. I hated the moment I went to write a note and I couldn't make sense of what my pen was doing on the paper... but now things are making a little more sense. (Maybe not to you, the reader, but at least a little sense to me, the writer!)

Matt worked yesterday and today, and I'm planning to be back on Monday. I'm looking forward to feeling all normal again! My bedroom smells like flowers from sympathetic bystanders, and the house smells like Christmas due to fabulous candle-burning! I should probably take a nap before my violin lesson. I'll try to write more soon! (Maybe you'll hear from Matt soon, too!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

October Visit II

So, I wrote the last blog post a bit late in the evening, I suppose, and I was NONDESCRIPT about everything! I reread it and thought, "What?! What is that about?" So, I thought I'd tell you again.

The weekend of the Missionary TECH Team anniversary, my sister and her family came out for a visit. We were expecting to spend a lot of time together, doing all sorts of things. I was counting down for about three weeks straight. I'd catch Jessica on-line and remind her how many days left until I saw them. Let's just say that I was thoroughly pumped.

Day one- Thursday: I worked until 4 PM, an unexpected surprise, as I was planning to work a half-day. We got to have them over at 5:30 for supper, but I had to leave around 6:30 for church because I'd be practicing with the worship team for the first time here in Longview. (I played cello.) When they arrived at Stone House, Evie and Eloise were both very shy, and they weren't sure if they wanted to hug their Aunt Molly and Uncle Matt. Jessica was holding Audrey who was very welcoming to a hug. I couldn't resist, though, looking at those Mary Englebright girls... I swooped them up and hugged them. :) They are precious. They continued to by "shy" for only that night. Oh! And Evie's first words to me were about their amazing hotel!!! :)

Day two, Friday: I had to go in to work, even though I'd planned a day off, but there were pressing things for the anniversary celebration to take care of. I got to see the Ben, Jessica and the family around noon. We had lunch, and Evie, Eloise, Jessica and I spent time together and flew kites while Ben and Audrey took naps at the hotel. We had a really good time running around the yard. That night we had the anniversary celebration, and afterward, Matt and I went to the amazing hotel to hang with Jess and Ben. It was really fun, but I was so tired and cranky, I'm afraid I was a bit of a downer for the party. The rest of 'em were good sports, though!

Day three, Saturday: We spent time together in Longview before we headed out to Caddo Lake. Caddo Lake brings Texas and Louisianna together. It's a cypress forest in a lake... or swamp... or bayou? :) Nah, it's a lake, and it's GORGEOUS. However, I failed to check ahead of time, and there were no available boat rides that day because the water was SO high, that even the ticket booths near the road were flooded! Instead of checking out the cypress forest, we hiked through the Caddo Lake State Park, and got eaten alive by mosquitoes.

Day four, Sunday: My sister's family joined us at church for the second service, after we had breakfast with them at their hotel. After Church and Canner kids, we had lunch, and then we spent some time resting. Matt and I had some final errands to run before we had their surprise birthday breakfast Monday. So we did those while the fam rested, and Ben and Evie went out on the town. When we got back we started a bonfire, and played a little together. We had hot dogs, beans and salad, and we drank water, of course, because that's Evie's "favorite drink in the whole, the whole, the whole world." :0) Joel Givens joined us along with Joel Kreider and Wally. (You'll meet Wally soon.) We sang songs, ate and toasted marshmallows. We really enjoyed ourselves. It was this night that I started nervously anticipating their departure. Jessica, Ben, Matt, Joel Kreider and I stayed up and decorated the house for the birthday party.

Day five, Monday: The girls woke up and were very surprised to see balloons! I was so excited that they were enjoying the balloons so much! (Eloise asked to be excused to go potty 3 times during breakfast, so she could play with the balloons on her way there and back! :) ) We played a couple games after Matt went to work, and we played music on Matt's ukulele. The girls wrote song after song, and they sang with eyebrows raised and eyes closed at times. It was so heartfelt and adorable. After this we drove out to Kilgore to check out the East Texas Oil Museum . After we found it, we found it closed. :( It's closed Mondays!!! Gotta tell ya', I was super embarrassed. They handled it so well, though, and they decided they'd take me out to eat as consolation for being a loser. (Hee-hee-hee... they didn't actually say that.) We ate at the amazing JalapeƱo Tree, and we said some weepy goodbyes afterward.

Since they've been gone I keep thinking of things that we can do together NEXT time... other than Caddo Lake and the Oil Museum. It sounds like "next time" might be soon-ish, which is so cool to us. We get to see them in a week (after Thanksgiving), for Christmas, and then POSSIBLY again in January! Knowing these possibilities helps us feel a little less homesick. :)

So, there ya' go. There's a tiny bit more detail. I still feel like I had to exclude too many cute details about them to make this an understandable overview. Well, anyway, we are so thankful for this experience with Ben, Jess and the girls. God is so sweet to us!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

October Visit and November's Talent

There are approximately 2 months of activities missing from our lives on our blog because we didn't write for awhile, so we'll catch you up little by little (paso a paso?) working backwards. In October, my sister Jessica and her family drove all the way down to visit us! We spent Thursday evening (a short time for me) with them through Monday afternoon. They were able to attend Missionary TECH Team's 40th anniversary service with us, and we spent some time hanging out at Stone House and seeing a couple of places here in Texas. You might have read on her blog that we went to Caddo Lake, but didn't get to do the boat ride, since the water was too high (for a boat ride?), but we did get to go hiking and experience the wildlife... or mosquitoes. We all served at least one mosquito a nice meal as we hiked. Matt did not have good battery life that weekend (actually, in many senses of the word...), but we took these pictures of my sweet family:

The kite is UP!!!

The kite is down.

Evie Bird's Perch.

My beautiful sister

The French toast for the birthday breakfast we put on for the three little ladies

Decorations in the dining room

The girls first walk our and wonder about the balloons (you can see one is already air borne)

Evie's shy face. (:

We played games that morning and listened to some great ukulele music by Evie and Eloise. (Uncle Matt has a uke that we tuned into a major chord, and the girls strummed and sang their hearts out in some amazingly arranged ballads about God and stars and things!)

We sure miss them! It was weird to watch them perform, and for those moments of their stardom to be special moments, when before, they were such a routine sort of thing, you know, "Okay, Evie, I'll listen to your song in a couple minutes... Okay?" And I took it more for granted than I realized. It is such a treat to hear a made up song by a child. Especially a child who is part of your family! I was just so used to being around these scrappy kids, that I thought it was normal. It's not normal. It is so special, and I'll try my hardest to never take those shows for granted ever again.

So... because I liked their talent shows so much, I'm arranging a talent show for my whole family for Thanksgiving. Each act has to be super silly, though no one is as into it as I am. I have a feeling once the children see it, they'll wanna participate, probably. I must say though that Matt and I have an AMAZING talent planned, and it has NOTHING to do with a unicycle or juggling. It's BETTER! :) Maybe... We'll blog about it after the fact.

Well, we'll catch you up on more activities we missed writing about another time!

'Til then!

Matt's Project: Pixelated Version :)