Cultivating a Life of Gratitude

I am committing myself, during 2010, to attempt to cultivate a greater awareness of how much I have to be thankful and grateful for by sharing my daily findings and musings with you. It is my hope that by blogging about gratitude, I will be more aware of what is going on around me in my life, my family, my friends' lives and our world.

December 31, 2010

Ridder Christmas

I'm thankful my Mom's Christmas wish to Santa came true and that we were able to have one day with Jake, Jill, Josh, Ann, Mom, Dad and the three Manders under one roof to celebrate Christmas together.  We typically do brunch as our big meal, but because both Ross and I had worship leading commitments Sunday morning, we enjoyed a yummy roast beef dinner together before beginning our gift opening.

We ate delicious food thanks to my Mom's good cooking.

First, we start by getting our stockings and opening them.  Lots of great treasures are always sure to be found inside like candy canes and chocolates from Regina's, knives from the Amish, etc. :) 

After stockings are enjoyed, we move on to gifts.  Dad is usually "Santa", passing out a gift to each person during each round.  At the Ridder's we open one gift at a time, each person taking a turn.  It's fun to see what each person is opening and often much laughter can be heard because of various funny comments or gifts.

Some favorite gifts of 2010:

Jill got a food dehydrator!  I only wish I lived closer to taste her yummy creations.  

My Mom made Ross a puzzle through Walgreens photo center out of a family picture.  

This fire engine actually shoots water!

Ann displaying her new shoes.  I also got boots and Jake received a pair of Tom's.  It was a 'shoe' year!

Josh got a "Cocoa-Motion" machine.  

Mom's pretty much lovin' her new 'plush' snuggy from my Dad.  

My Mom found a mug for Josh that says "Living with a Norweigan builds character" which is funny on many levels for these two and lots of laughs were had by everyone when he opened it.

We asked Chad, Ross's bro to sketch my parents' homes in PA and MN.  I think they liked these special gifts and my brother even got teary at the 421 Merion Drive picture.  

We also did a white elephant (plus a $10 gift card) exchange that brought some more good laughs. 
Here was the winner gift that is now the 'new' 'thing to hide in each others' homes' - we do have funny traditions! :) 

After gift opening, some people rested, some people took a walk, later in the evening we played games and ate more Christmas cookies and snacks.  It was a wonderful day.  I really am quite thankful for my family and any time we ALL get to spend together!

Sunset at the end of our walk.

Telephone pictionary.

Well, it's almost 2011 so I'm going to wrap this up for tonight.  Thanks Ridders' and Manders' for a fun Christmas season!  

December 28, 2010

Over this past Christmas weekend, as we celebrated with our various family members and enjoyed good food and fellowship, I realized our family has several 'traditions' we partake in over the Christmas season.  I am thankful for these traditions and the memories of Christmas-past that accompany these traditions.  I'm also thankful for the chance Ross and I get to establish 'traditions' for our immediate family.  Here are some of the traditions I am thankful for and I have been reflecting on the past few days:

1.  We attend and/or lead a Christmas Eve service at church in honor of Jesus' birthday.  This year,  as the worship leader, I was mostly in charge at Park Free, and with Dad's help, he put together a series of readings from a past Christmas Eve service at FBCN for us to use.  So the familiar readings and reflections were a part of our celebration.  Here is a picture of me, Mom and E-man after church.

2.  We then went to Mom and Dad Ridder's house for tacos.  The eating of tacos has become a 'tradition' over the years.  Mom and I were talking about it and she said it was an 'easy' meal to put together when Dad and I had to be back and forth between services, etc. at FBCN.  So it's kind of just become 'what we do' and Ross loves tex-mex so it works out great for us to still partake in this meal with them.  After dinner, we helped Mom get the Monkey Bread all cut up and ready to go for the morning and then comes another MAJOR tradition of Dad reading C. Clement Moore's version of "The Night Before Christmas".  Here are some pictures of us participating in these traditions again this year!

3.  Here is a picture of the table at my house all set for Christmas morning breakfast.  This year, we hosted this event (usually Mom and Dad host this one and when we lived in PA Mrs. King and Creed always joined us - I still miss sharing the morning with them).  The meal has definitely become a tradition of Monkey Bread, grapefruit, Quiche Sylane and homemade hot chocolate.  It was different to not be all together with the Ridder siblings on Christmas day, but it was nice to be able to break out our fine china and to have Jill, Jake, Lexi, Mom and Dad over for brunch and E-man's opening of his gifts from us and Jill and Jake.  

E sporting his new wild shirt over his PJs and his new Twins backpack!

4.  After nap time, we headed to Diane and Jerry's to share Christmas dinner with the Manders' family.  We also opened gifts.  One tradition with for the four cousins, is that they exchange gifts.  It was a fun time of being together as a family.  We always attempt a picture but getting all four kids to look the same way and SMILE at the same time is near impossible.  Here is our attempt:

These next two aren't really 'tradition' pictures as much as they are just special memories of 2010.
I just really love this girl - she's my only niece and this year, I feel extra blessed with the privilege of being her piano teacher.  We have shared many photos over the years on Christmas Eve - it's hard to believe she's 7!  
The grandsons' playing Geotrax with Grandma.  So cute!  

I'll continue my 'tradition' thankfuls re: the Ridder Christmas tomorrow.  For now, I'm calling it a night!  I've got a LOT to be grateful for this Christmas season!  

December 15, 2010

Catching Up Gratefuls

I have been neglecting my blog the past couple of weeks.  There has been a lot going on in our lives and much of this has caused blogging to get knocked down the priority list. However, I have still been collecting various moments and memories in an effort to continue cultivating gratitude in my life.  Here's my effort to catch up a bit on my 'moments of gratitude'.

1.  I am so thankful for safe travels for me and my family in all of the amazing snow and below zero temperatures we have been having in Minnesota.  I have had 2 incidents of my car (the saturn) not starting/needing a jump and they both happened in places where I was safe and could get warm and thankfully Ross was close by enough to come to my rescue.
2.  My Mom and I baked Christmas cookies starting back in November and it has been such a blessing to have a lot of our baking done for the holidays.  I go 'shop' in her freezer when I'm in need of cookies to share/eat.  Baking early on has allowed us to enjoy doing other fun things and I think made the baking less stressful and more fun because we were so far out and not under the other 'pressures' this busy season can bring.
3.  I have been enjoying being a part of MOPS this year at Grace Fellowship Church.  We had a Christmas tea this past Monday to celebrate Christmas and the end of this semester.  I was in charge of helping to create the center pieces and I think they not only turned out well, but all of the women really pitched in to make their tables absolutely beautiful.  Every table brought china and goblets and much more to create their own really amazing table.  It was neat to see it all come together.  I have been blessed  by the "Mom" time this Fall and I'm looking forward to continuing with MOPS again in January.
4.  This past weekend, we drove up to Fargo to visit Josh and Ann.  Jill and Jake also happened to be in Fargo this weekend because Jill was serving as a bridesmaid in a friends' wedding, so we got to see them for a few hours, too.  It was fun to see Josh and Ann's place and hang out with them in Fargo.  We did have to cut our time short in order to come home before the 2010 Blizzard hit the Twin Cities, but thankfully we enjoyed time with them and made it home just as the first flakes were starting to fall from the sky.  Unfortunately, we missed out on the Manders' Christmas gathering in Osakis, but we were thankful to be safely tucked inside our warm home and not traveling on the roads.  I am also thankful for how blessed E-man is to have so many 'fans' in his life and for him to get some quality time with them.

5.  Today, E-man, my Mom and me went to visit the 8th floor at Macy's.  They put up this kind of weird (weird as in if you are afraid of clowns, etc. you might find the elves to be kind of creepy) display you walk through  called "A Day in an Elf's Life".  We decided to go during a work day before all of the kids are out of school and that was a VERY good decision.  We road on like 16 escalators, and walked right up and into the display with not a single line in sight.  There were very few people near us while we were walking through which was nice for my little man's sight lines of everything.  Here is a picture of me and E-man near the 'singing' woods.

At the end of the display, you can go visit Santa and we weren't sure how that would go with E-man but we decided to give it a try ... and ...

NO TEARS!  Santa asked him what he would like for Christmas and E-man responded "Toys!" so Santa asked him what kind of toys and he said "CARS!"  It was very cute and I was actually quite impressed E-man did not melt into tears.  After our journey through the 8th floor, we headed down to the Lower Level in search of some replacement goblets for my crystal.  After locating those and getting a fairly good deal on them (minus the shipping fee because they didn't have them in stock), we headed up to the 12th floor to the Sky Cafe and enjoyed a DELICIOUS salad bar and lunch (thanks Mom and Dad!).  It's a neat room, with a view of the city and good, fresh food.  So our first trip to Macy's 8th floor with E-man couldn't have gone better and it was a very fun memory-making day.  For these memories and so much more, I'm grateful!

December 5, 2010

Prayer Warriors

Tonight I received my monthly 'send me your prayer requests' email from my Mom.  At about the same time I was opening up my blog to begin my post for the night.  I was just starting to think about what to reflect on today when I got the email.  What great timing for a blog inspiration!

I have many prayer warriors who regularly pray for me and my family.  I'm very thankful for these people. One example from my band of warriors is a group of women my Mom has prayed with for a very long time.  A few of the women have moved away from Newtown, but still exchange prayer requests - specifically for their families/kids - each month.  So, around the first of every month, my Mom sends each of us kids an email asking for prayer requests and then she passes them along to these faithful women of prayer.  I'm so thankful to know they are consistently keeping us in prayer and have been doing so for many many years.

December 4, 2010

Christmas Ornaments

As we started to crack open the Rubbermaid tubs of Christmas ornaments, in order to decorate our fresh, deliciously pine scented Christmas tree, nostalgia overwhelmed my senses.  I have so many favorite ornaments.  Ross is learning that I have about five to ten ornaments I alone am allowed to place on the tree each year.  Our tree is 'decked' with tradition, memories and meaningful gifts.  My parents have passed on to me all of my Christmas ornaments they loving picked out and purchased for me each year of my life. They continue to 'gift' ornaments to us each year and we have also tried to be intentional in our travels and life together, to pick up an ornament that will remind us of where we have visited or what milestones have occurred in our family.   I also often receive hand-made ornaments from piano students.  We have a full, 8 ft Fraser Fur this year and it's a good thing.  If our tree was much smaller it would probably look a little overcrowded.  I took some pictures to share with you a few of my favorites and to give you a sneak peak into why these ornaments are all such very special treasures to me.  I am very grateful for my collection of Christmas ornaments and all of the memories we get to sift through each year as we decorate the tree.  (SIDENOTE: I will confess, we are about to purchase a new camera as our gift to each other for Christmas, because our Canon Powershot has either been dropped one too many times or she's just giving up (planned obsolescence anyone?) so please do not judge me by the quality of my pictures.  Currently, everything other than the focal object appears sharp ... grr ... you'll get the idea though! :))

Jack Frost painting the windows is a Ridder Family favorite from Hallmark, 1983

Joy -I love word ornaments :), gold-ish square one - OC, NJ with Santa in a lifeguard stand from our 2009 trip to the beach/Ethan's first vacation to the ocean, and at the top of the picture a choir director of penguins, Hallmark, 1998
 Santa and his reindeer actually move and circle the house, 1986
 Real glass ornament from my Great Grandma Addleman (Mom's side)
 This place, Bethel University has impacted each person in my family in big ways!
 Chili peppers are a memory from my sister-getaway weekend to Santa Fe 2010 and the M is from my Manders in-laws!
 The Windmill is from our family missions' trip to the Netherlands in 2001 and the peach is from our trip to Atlanta, GA this summer!
 My boss and her kids gave this to me as a Keyboard Kids, Inc. memory.

I really did allow them to put on quite a few ornaments - here is proof! 

My Mom also contributed in another way to our tree.  She quilted the beautiful tree skit under our tree.  
There is so much love, thought and care represented in this one tree - it is truly a blessing for which to be thankful.  

December 3, 2010

Friday Gratefuls

1.  Ross went back to work today!
2.  I had a day to 'catch up' on life around my house and clean in preparation for Christmas arriving at Baltimore Street!
3.  E-man refused his nap but remained fairly pleasant despite the lack of sleep.
4.  I was able to spend time with 11 day old Teigan and her Mama today - what a treat!
5.  Snuggly newborns are good therapy.
6.  Ross and E-man rescued me by jumping my car at the gas station when Lily died in the middle of our snowstorm.  Thankfully, she died at the gas station and not on a snowy, dark road!
7.  The tree is up, the lights are on, the mantle is decorated ... more decorating to come tomorrow.
8.  I'm anticipating a weekend of Christmas preparations and looking forward to it!
9.  Ross is feeling 90% healed at this point!
10.  Cold, dry snow is VERY sparkly and kind of fun to drive on :)

December 2, 2010

Turned the Corner

Ross turned the corner yesterday ... after 1 surgery, 3 ER visits, 2 nights and 2 days in the hospital and countless pills and IV meds consumed, I think he's on the road to recovery.  He's planning to go back to work tomorrow and he made tacos for dinner (while I was teaching) and he even suggested we go out and get our Christmas tree tonight.  I think his energy level is almost back to normal and his pain is almost gone.  THANK GOODNESS!  :)