Our daughter is 11!

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Yesterday our daughter turned 11 years old! I cannot believe it has been a decade as we are SO VERY BLESSED to have her! This was an emotional day for Ryan, Nana, and me. Perhaps this was an emotional day because Cora was born after our first baby was stillborn and we struggled so to have another. Cora is an extra special miracle to us! Or perhaps this day was emotional because Cora will enter high school this Autumn here in Leeds, England (when I was her age we had middle school, so this seems a bit young to be with so many older teenagers). That being said we had a great celebration of Cora’s first decade of life AND we were blessed to have Nana here to help us celebrate!

We began her day with her favourite breakfast of overnight French toast and opening a few presents. Cora also enjoyed her annual birthday coffee. 🥰

Cora decided long ago that she wanted this birthday to be the one for her to get her ears pierced. She also decided she wanted her girlfriends, Nana, and I to be with her when she exemplified bravery. 😉 Therefore, I drove all of us to a local shopping centre where we had an appointment at Claire’s for Cora’s ear piercing. She selected her birthstone earring, I signed the papers, the two women working in Claire’s carefully assessed the even placement of her earrings, and then at the same time they punched the holes! Cora held very still and never complained of the pain.

That accomplished, plus purchasing a few earrings chosen by her mates, we walked on to Frankie and Bennie’s where we purchased the four girls lunch. After our meals, the restaurant brought out an extra special pudding for Cora and we all sang “happy birthday”!

Nana and I gave the girls a bit of autonomy, after coaching them safely, and allowed them to walk around the shopping centre as long as they stuck together. They did great and allowed us time to shop (just my Mom and I) as well! I was well pleased how responsible these girls were together!

After opening gifts and driving the girls home, we ate carrot cake…yum!

Then we snuggled up together to watch the “Hunger Games” since Cora has read this complete series. She also requested to eat pizza for her birthday tea. 🥳 Cora made mention this was her best birthday ever! Thank you all for helping to make Cora’s birthday very special!

Our First Panto

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Tonight our family went to see our first Panto and we were excited we were able to include my Mom since she is here visiting us! We had a fabulous time participating in “Beauty and the Beast”.

A pantomime is defined by Google as follows:

a theatrical entertainment, mainly for children, which involves music, topical jokes, and slapstick comedy and is based on a fairy tale or nursery story, usually produced around Christmas.

“Beauty and the Beast” was a story in which we were well versed, which allowed the audience to participate in silly interludes without loosing the plot. We laughed and yelled answers to the actors’ questions. The audience danced and sang and all the while watching the story of Beauty and the Beast unfold.

When we had seen the final act, our children promptly said they would like to make this an annual tradition! My Mom said she thoroughly enjoyed it! I highly recommend attending a Panto, if you haven’t already, because we now see why this has become an annual British tradition even for those who are no longer children!

Christingle

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Our family has enjoyed a Christingle Service at Kirkstall St. Stephens Church along with a majority of our weekly Kirkstall Fellowship.

This service is uniquely European and His my Mom has not had the privilege of participating. However, since I have taught Christingle to children previously my Mom did know what each element represented. She said she quite enjoyed being a part as well as seeing the grandeur of this church completed in 1829! I quite enjoy the Vicar of this church as well because he identifies with his people, operating in an interactive format, and includes videos which enhanced the service. Furthermore, I greatly enjoyed singing Christmas carols!

History & Meaning of Christingle: In 1747 Bishop John in Germany decided our great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandparents needed reminding that Christmas is more than presents and chocolate.  Bishop John used the orange to represent the World, a red ribbon taped around the middle to show God’s love for the wholeWorld, four cocktail sticks to represent the four seasons, candied fruit on each cocktail stick to symbolise God’s provision for us beyond what we need, a candle to represent the light of Christ (Jesus said in the Bible, Christian holy scriptures, “I am the light of the World”.), and foil under the candle to catch the wax candle drips.   Ryan later added the foil reminds us to reflect the light of Christ and His love to others, which is exactly what we should do…often.

Dinner with Lord Darcy

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Yesterday my Mom landed here in Leeds from Kansas! What a wonderful Christmas gift! This is her first time here at Christmas and we plan to enjoy our time together thoroughly!

After greeting her at the Leeds Bradford Airport, we stopped for dinner (lunch) at a pub appropriately named the Lord Darcy. After all, we wouldn’t want Mom to come all this way and not get in meeting a Jane Austin character! Here we ate delightful English pub grub, which was a welcome respite after her long overnight flight.

Next we drove to Temple Newsam where Mom was impressed by the grand words (All Glory and Praise be Given to God, the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost on High, On Earth Good Will Towards Men, Honour and True Allegiance to Our Gracious King, Loving Affection Amongst his subjects, Health and Plenty be Within this house.’) displayed around the front of this large manor home. The lettering was originally cut in stone in 1628 but replaced in metal in 1788.u

Here Mom was able to read about a real Lord Darcy who lived in this ornate manor home from 1500 – 1537. Unfortunately he was beheaded as a traitor to The Crown. However, this manor home property was given to the Knights Templar in 1155 and the manor home was built between 1500 – 1520 which housed several notable people such as Lord Darnley who married Mary, Queen of Scots.

We enjoyed the live Christmas music, viewing the ornate Chippendale furniture, attempting to fold cloth napkins, viewing enormous paintings, Titus dressed as a Tudor prince, and the kids decorated Christmas biscuits.

After touring this expansive manor home, which includes three floors once prepared to house royalty, Ryan and the kids played hid and seek in the gardens designed by Capability Brown! This day out was definitely a great start to our long holiday together!

Ryan’s Birthday

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Sometimes it can be difficult having a birthday near the holidays…especially when Ryan has a cold. However, today we made the most of it by treating ourselves (whilst the kids were in school) to the Harrogate Spa! This beautiful Victorian building is well worth spending time in just to see the Turkish mosaics. The Harrogate Spa contains a wet and dry sauna and a 15 degrees Celsius (59 Fahrenheit) plunge pool (which is shocking cold after enjoying the saunas!). These contrasts in temperatures relax your muscles and cleanses your body of impurities…leaving you relaxed and refreshed!

For lunch, we enjoyed a delightfully tasteful sirloin steak (which we had not had in over a year) accompanied by hot wings at an American restaurant. Ryan and I found it perplexing to see a rifle on the wall in an English location! 😉

Afterwards we visited a local coffee shop for tantalising local coffee and a decadent chocolate treat.

We then made our way through thick traffic towards Leeds, stopping along the way at an antique shop. After school Ryan wanted to take the kids to the arcade where we enjoyed some amusements before retiring at home for sticky toffee pudding, fish and chips and a movie.

Thank you all for Ryan’s Birthday blessings!

Dramas and Panto

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Our children have been practising for their school’s Christmas Drama since November began. Cora and Titus had a few more speaking parts since they are apart of the Drama after school club. There was some drama with the Christmas Drama as roles were switched for some later than preferred and even the final performance dates! However, the children prevailed as they performed beautifully at 2pm and 6pm on the same day!

Cora and Titus were shepherds. Cora performed a sword dance with the other shepherds whilst Titus kept them timed evenly by playing the tambourine; for both of them this was a first! The plot was captivating and comical as one shepherd seeks to return the lost gold to a wise man. One Y6 student even wrote his own rap song! Some lines were missed out in the first performance, but this was unbeknownst to the audience as all seemed to flow seamless. The children were disappointed in this, but us parents tried to reassure them they would get it right the second time…and they did!

The very next night, Cora performed in her first Panto (funny drama) at Guides (Girl Scouts)! Cora was the Queen in the original Aladdin. Our family enjoyed watching her have fun with the other girls as lines were delayed and scene changes a bit confused, yet all seemed to have fun!

Cora also enjoyed wearing her new party frock (dress) and the jewellery I once wore which belonged to my Great Aunt Alice! And even though she was a bit saddened at this being her last Christmas Drama in Primary School, they both will have these memories to treasure forever!

Winter Fair

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This past week as had our annual Winter Fair at the kid’s school. Together we raised £950 for instruments, school trips, sports equipment, and more! We had two new stalls this year, one of which was the design and technology students who had fashioned amazing bee (school mascot) badges and laser cut keychains! These Y6 students (which includes my daughter) sold £96 of their creations! 🤗

FAB (Friends at Beecroft; our PTA) is always thankful for all the parents who join in to help setup stalls and help us sell during the fair. The Y6 students were a BIG help this year as they manned the games and drinks stalls! The stalls we had included tombola, raffle prises, toys, uniforms, books, games, face painting, ornaments, cakes/biscuits/buns, hot dogs, samosas, hot drinks, and more!

THANK YOU to everyone who helped make this fund-raising event a HUGE SUCCESS!

Open Up Christmas (formerly Rewind to Christmas)

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Last Thursday and Friday mornings, I had the privilege of helping a local church with Open Up Christmas (the name was changed because “rewind” isn’t a commonly used term anymore). Open Up Christmas is an event which invites Y4 children, from local Leeds schools, to see and hear what it is that makes this particular time of the year so very special to Christians.

Through a mix of topical quizzes, craft, videos, dramatisation, and study these children (who come from a wide range of cultural backgrounds) think about that first Christmas. Teachers in attendance are able to sit, relax, and enjoy a cuppa with a snack…which is particularly treasured this time of year!  Teaching staff who attend the events are telling us just how much they and their colleagues value this annual event; Frequently commenting on how well organised we are and how effectively we explain what we as Christians believe is the true meaning of Christmas.

Open is an acronym we pray helps children remember what they learned.

O = Ordinary People is who God uses

P = Proclaim the Good News of Jesus’ birth

E = Everyone whom this Good News is for

N = Near to us is God whenever we need Him

We had about 115 children the first day from four schools and 75 the second day from two schools. I led a small group of ten and later nine with whom I asked additional questions such as, “why do we need a Saviour?” Together these children (some of whom I knew from Lunchtime Bible Club and my kids’ school) and I had lots of fun and many children asked Good questions. I felt very privileged to be a part and pray these feel very loved and that what was taught makes a difference to these children’s lives!

Pre-teen Struggles

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Unfortunately one day this week started with a row with my ten-year-old daughter…again! Almost overnight it seems my little girl has morphed into this not-quite-grown person who thinks the best way to win someone over is to keep saying the same argument in different ways until surely I might see it her way! However, I said sometimes we just have to agree to disagree. And in the case of a recent argument I have decided we are walking together since I am still her grown-up (after all she already has three days a week to walk by herself).

Cora 2012…4 years old!

Cora 2018…10 years old!

Saturday we spent most of the day sorting her room (as well as her brother’s room) to see what is no longer played with or needed to donate to our upcoming school Winter Fair. My heart was heavy with emotions as I was a bit sorrowful for all their cute childhood toys and books being tossed aside. Cora said she would have given ALL of her toys, but I persuaded her to not be too hasty and keep two boxes. I am encouraging her to setup her new room (we bought them both new beds recently) and see if she has a place for a few keepsakes.

Yesterday, Cora sold two Sylvanian Families homes/play sets. Instead of being sentimental about it (one set she just bought this past summer), she couldn’t wait for the money. In a way not being sentimental is good…after all, I am not and that helps me whilst living thousands of miles from my family. Yet, I cannot help but wonder if she is in too much of a hurry to grow up!?

I am proud of the generosity of Cora and her brother for other children to enjoy their things. And I look forward to helping my children grow through this next phase of life. However, I am shocked to find Cora changing physically and mentally as if overnight! I keep telling her that she doesn’t wake up one day (at ten-years-old) and become a grown-up! There is still much coaching and leading her father and I need to do AND learning she needs to be willing to receive. I pray the Lord’s guidance as we enter these pre-teen struggles.

Saying all this, I hope what I write helps you to see you are not alone in the uneasiness of your child’s transitional phase of life. Send me a message if you would like to talk further and/or have any tips for me! 😉

Fat Burning Fingerprint

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Did you know there are basically three body types (your Fat Burning Fingerprint) and knowing yours can help you burn fat efficiently?  For the past 21 days, my husband and I have committed to this three week fast and the results have been better than expected!  Basically, we have fasted from 7pm until 11am daily and during these times we only drink tea, coffee, and water (there is also a suggested tummy tightening tea which I drank but I realise this may not be for everyone).  Never before did I think I could start my day with exercise (as I have for much of my life) and not eat breakfast until 11am without taking someone’s head off!  😉  Prayer helped immensely with that!  And perhaps this is also possible because I have previously done Whole 30 for years and learned to avoid some foods which do make me crazy…or perhaps it is because I am over 40 and finally have learned my physical needs?! fat-burning-fingerprint-3week-fast-track-guide-878x1024.png

Being over 40 years old is one of the reasons I needed this 21 day fast because I just wasn’t loosing my belly fat (and I don’t enjoy excessive cardio)!  After 21 days of fasting and eating well (even whilst on four days holiday), I am please to announce I have lost 1.7 inches in my waist, 3 lbs of weight and have more energy!  Yeah!  Thank you to those who have been praying for me!  I am SO thankful the Lord led me to this plan AND, of course, I would not have been as successful without my husband doing this plan with me!  Thank you, My Beloved!  Although my husband did not do the tummy tightening tea (Apple Cider Vinegar in herbal tea) nor eat an avocado daily, he also lost weight and inches!  Therefore, this must be a forgiving plan.  Mostly the importance is to eat less hours which equates to eating less calories and, for me, led to praying more to take the way out of temptation when I really wanted to eat (especially chocolate)!  I highly recommend (especially if you are over 40 and have hit that brick wall) trying this fast/diet…after all there is still time to do so before Christmas and still enjoy the holidays!  😉

Additional Tips:

Not all Apple Cider Vinegar is created equal! Spend the extra pence and buy this brand and make sure it contains the “mother”. This brand is much better tasting!

I highly recommend this diet to cleanse your system. Since it focuses on liver function, and this is what affects some skin irritations, my skin itching has stopped! I no longer take anti-histamines daily and have minimal itchy skin!

My prayer is for this information to help you as much as it has helped me!