Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Beautiful Chaos

Brunch with my parents Sunday morning

Christmas Eve at Gigi's
She's baking us a cake in her mixer

Naomi at Gigi's, making a silly face

The teepee we got the girls

Christmas morning at my parents house

Christmas has been overwhelming to me in the past 6 years. But I try not to look at it as overwhelming, not anymore at least.

See, I grew up with just my parents and sister in town. Our Christmases included presents, breakfast, relaxing and then a movie later on in the day. And maybe some of our grandparents would come for Christmas on the occasional year.

Now, six years later I've just completed my fifth Christmas of the week. Yes, five! Friday night we had dinner with the Gafford's, Christmas Eve was with my MIL, then Christmas with our family of 4 later on that day, Christmas morning with my parents and Christmas evening with the Whitehorn extended family (my MIL's family). And the extended family functions aren't small, the grandparents all had 5 children and then all those kids have kids and those kids are having kids (the great-grandchildren now). If you're exhausted from just reading it, I totally understand!

Last year was really hard for me. We'd made the decision to start paring down our belongings and then Christmas came along and we all got more stuff. Thankfully, I'm fairly strict about the "one in, one out" rule so as to not be so overwhelmed.

This year I had a good attitude and looked at it as "beautiful chaos." Let's be honest, Christmas time can be utter chaos but instead of looking at it like that, I took a positive approach and made it "beautiful" instead.

"Beautiful chaos" means enjoying the special moment when Nyla lights up about a certain present. It's about Naomi opening her first presents and trying to get the hang of opening things. It's being surrounded by loving family who are so giving. It's about sitting next to my husband as present-opening is happening and showing one another what the girls got. It's about enjoying the moments of our girls being this age for just today; they'll be one day older tomorrow and one year older at the next Christmas. This piece of their life is so short to us.

Instead of looking at it as we got more "stuff" and getting bogged down in that negative feeling I enjoyed our "beautiful chaos" this weekend.

Merry Christmas!

Working puzzles at my parents

A few of the grandchildren and great grandchildren Christmas night

Nyla got a tricycle from Gigi and she had to ride it immediately!

We started a tradition in our home this year. I made a cake and we sang
"happy birthday" to Jesus.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Power Grid [Board Game Review]

Up to this point, I have only talked about "lighter" games. By that, I mean that they can be picked up easily by those new to the strategy game hobby - i.e. beyond Monopoly. Now, however, I want to talk about one of the heavier (more in-depth, strategic) as well as one of my favorite games out there right now: Power Grid.

Power Grid is a game all about, well, power. Each round of the game consists of several phases: An auction phase for power plants, buying resources to power the power plants, a network-building phase to establish your power grid, and the "get paid" phase. The game continues in this order until a player builds to a certain number of cities, which varies according to the number of players.

Power Grid is definitely a step-up from Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan. The rules are more complex, so you will need to read and re-read through the rules both before and during the game. The order of each phase in the game is fixed throughout, but within each phase, there are several rules to remember and follow. I recommend making notes in the rule book and consulting this FAQ guide.

What I like about Power Grid is the auctioning of the power plants and the way player order is determined. There can be a great deal of positioning and posturing for who goes where in the turn order. There is a tension that exists as you try to manage both your money and resources, all the way trying to connect cities with the cheapest connection costs possible. The imbalance of both power plants and the map (connections are more expensive in some geographic regions) are offset by the player order and the fact that you can decide where to build and what to buy. I also like the fact there are several expansion maps available. Among my favorites are the Italy and Korea maps.

The downside, as I've somewhat alluded to earlier, is that the rules are a bit complex and "fiddly". Through our first play, we were constantly checking the rules to make sure what the proper procedure was. Some players may be prone to "analysis paralysis" or the tendency to over-think and spend too much time calculating a move. The tension that makes the game fun can also make the game last longer if players get too bogged down.

Overall, I rate Power Grid a 9 out of 10. It is a great game for those who already are in the world of strategy game. For those not, I would point them toward Ticket to Ride or TransAmerica.

Happy gaming! And merry Christmas!


Monday, December 17, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Heavy Heart

Friday was a day of broken heartedness with the events from Connecticut. We cried on and off in our home most of Friday afternoon and held our girls so close. I know if we didn't have the girls we would've felt grief for the families but having kids, it hit closer to home.

I cried while I watched pictures flash on the screen, listened to a piece of President Obama and watched him cry for the families, when the girls woke up from their naps and then cried again while Daniel and I were talking later that night. It was a hard afternoon.

Thankfully, I find hope in Jesus Christ. Hope amongst the pain and grief. I pray that everyone affected find it too. He's there, waiting on us to find Him, waiting on us to talk to Him. It makes the pain a little easier to bear but the grief for the little ones and their families is still heavy on my heart. And I know it will be for awhile and that's okay. I can cry out to God and know He's there, there's comfort in that. We'll never know why it happened, never know why that young man was so angry he felt he needed to   take the lives of innocent people.

I pray we learn from this experience. Are we doing enough as a community to help prevent this in the future? It's hard to say we're learning when it seems someone is shooting up a school at least once a year or someone is taking their own life because kids are cruel to them. What else can we do? What aren't we doing for our kids that we need to be doing? I hope we take a good hard look and keep this day fresh in our minds so we can be compassionate to those who have a need. We need to see their need and not turn away from it because it seems too hard, too daunting. Intervene and save a lives, not just one but possibly many.

I know I can't save the world and save x amount of children. I do know that I when I see a need I step in and do what I can. In the future the girls will bring home friends that may not come from a loving environment. I know that we can provide one for them. We can be a shelter in their storms of life. I hope that when they walk into our home they know Jesus is a part of our lives and see Him acted out in our lives. I pray that they can talk to us and we can listen and pray with them and for them. I pray we can stop the cycle of hate and neglect in our home, one kid at a time. And even if it only ends up being one child, so be it. Because of that one child how many others can live to see another day and grow up and live the lives their parents imagined for them?

Love starts with Jesus. I can't love others without loving and knowing Him first.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

When the Girls are Away...

This past weekend, Ginny and the girls abandoned me left for a weekend trip to visit G's grandmother in the great town of Griffin, GA. Sunday was her birthday, and they wanted to spend a weekend with Grammy.

That meant I had the entire house to myself Friday through yesterday. "What did you do with your time?" you, the fair reader, will ask. And my response to you is an emphatic and resounding...

Other than going to church Sunday and to Dairy Queen Saturday night for a Blizzard, I did absolutely nothing. I sat on the couch, watched TV, watched way too many YouTube videos, and ate junk food.

I'll be the first to admit - the house was just too quiet. Sure, I enjoyed sleeping past sunrise. But I missed my girls. All 3 of them. I enjoyed the time to myself. Don't get me wrong on that. But 3 nights was a long time away from them.

Thankfully, they made it back safely yesterday afternoon. Promptly, Nyla and Naomi both scooted over to me, wanted to read books, and played with Daddy for a while.

When the girls are away... Daddy misses them!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Very Gafford Christmas

Christmas is quickly approaching. Does it get faster with each year? It sure does seem like it!

I'm finding the season to be a little harder this year. Getting into our own family traditions and such is more difficult than I thought. I'm having a hard time with "Santa" and what I want the Christmas season to look like to our girls each year. I know it'll evolve each year, with each season of life we go through but there are a few things I do want to keep as our "traditions." 

What we'll do:
-go look at Christmas lights a few times
-bake for neighbors, our Pastor and a few church volunteers
-have a craft or activity each day of the month (or most days)--see my list here
-wake up in our own home on Christmas morning 
-send out Christmas cards--I got a few free from Shutterfly and Nyla and I have been working on a few at a time for a couple weeks

What we won't do:
-go out of town--thankfully family is in town and we'll see just about everyone over a 4-day period
-buy one another presents--Daniel and I talked this year and for one another we're just doing stocking stuffers and after Christmas we'll go out to dinner and have a mini-shopping spree for a couple new clothes items, just the two of us! 
-buy a lot of presents for our girls--in the years to come we'll do 3 gifts like Jesus received or 4 gifts using this motto: "One thing they want, one thing they need, one thing to wear and one thing to read." I like the idea of this because it's not to much and since we're trying to simplify our lives, it'll work well for us. And, most likely one gift will be a "gift of experience" (i.e. zoo membership, children's museum membership, etc), and another gift or two will be a joint gift. This year it's one per kid and a joint gift. And I was done a few weeks ago! :)

What are some of your traditions?