Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Trimmed (to the brim) Tree

Before I reveal the fully decked Christmas tree, allow me to make a few disclaimers: yes, there's a snowflake tree-topper on our tree.  I (we) love Jesus and love His birthday, so I'm not trying to make a heathen statement by not having a star or an angel, since both symbols guided Savior-seekers to their newborn King.  After searching for a show stopping topper for most of our married lives (and living with an awful one that we had *in ignorance* registered for before getting married), I found this glittered snowflake at a garage sale last summer.  It's not acutely offensive (unlike our old star+snowman combo), and for now that's enough.

Next: the door has no trim, it's true.

Next: the popcorn garland.  I realize it looks like I should have one more string across the bottom, but alas, two little chipmunks live in this house- aka G and M- and we must keep the edibles up high. 

And finally: while the tree appears to be crooked...never fear!  It's tied to the doorknob.  We have had Christmas tree fatalities (the tree and ornaments, no humans), in Christmases past, so anything to avoid another calamity is key. 

And now, without further adieu...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

How lovely are your...

Branches!  Something our newly chopped tree has, unlike many Charlie Brown loved Christmas trees from our past.  This afternoon the whole family hiked out to our neighbor's little tree polluted plot and picked a spruce Santa would be jealous of.  Oliver played a pretty big role in sawing it down, and afterward he said, "Mom, can you believe I could cut down our tree?  It made me feel so big."  Adorbs, bud.  After our adventurous tromp through the woods, Andrew's parents (our new neighbors), had a bonfire and hot cocoa waiting for us. So great.

We had a wonderfully crazy weekend with Thanksgiving celebrations, so 'relaxation' was the word of the day.  And since snow has been falling all day, reading the Christmas story and watching the Santa Claus and listening to Christmas music on Pandora are (besides retrieving the tree), the most productive things the Toftnesses have done today. Among the unproductive things I would list taking all Christmas decor out of boxes, but just leaving it strewn across the basement.  Hopefully the new tree and fresh air will be inspirational...

Away we go!
In the thick of it.

Margot got a taste of spruce during the cutting...


Our favorite feline, Cream Puff, followed us all the way- climbing trees, being held, jumping in the snow.

And so begins the Christmas time festivities.  Keeping Christ the center of Christmas is our goal each year- we're praying that He would make Himself more real to us this season than He has ever been.  May He do the same for you.  Merry Christmas, friends!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Stairway to...Upstairs

Our house has been a labor of love since the day we bought it.  The most extreme demolition included purging all lathe and plaster, ripping up carpet and linoleum, tearing out walls, removing a larger-than-life wood furnace in the dungeon-like basement, removing the fish house...I mean entryway... that was falling off the east side of the house, smashing out a chimney; then began the restoration: pulling up, sanding/planing and re-laying all the wood flooring on the main floor, painting and patching siding after installing all new windows, building a dormer to create space for a second bathroom, refinishing the window and baseboard trim, tiling the entry, replacing all electrical, milling/laying/painting wood flooring upstairs, bathroom/bedroom/kitchen cabinetry.  This was all done by Andrew and other handy family members (I painted the walls, so technically I contributed).  There were a few things we hired out- like all the major excavating that needed to be done to bring the plumbing/well up to date, some of the bathroom tiling, plumbing, waterproofing, and ductwork. 
And now, after 3 years of anticipation and 3 weeks of hard work, our stairway project is in the books!  My perfectionistic husband is a cabinet maker, so this DIY challenge was like a dare for him.  "I dare you to conquer me," cried this rebellious flight of hideousness.  Let's just say Andrew won, okay?  Check it out:    
We lived with these dreadful stair treads for 3 years...and I never took a photo of them in the house.  Wow.

So excited that this process was rolling!

Testing paint colors.  It took a few days and a few remixes, but we finally settled on a pale gray-green that was custom mixed by the good folks at our local Hirschfield's in order to get it just right.

And the *glorious* final product.  So proud of Andrew's craftsmanship.

The treads are made from the cross arms of power poles.  My dad is a lineman for Minnesota Power and gladly takes worn out poles home, saving them from the wood chipper.  Andrew milled, plugged the bolt-holes, stained and finished them.  It's fun knowing there's a story behind the wood.

To upstairs.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Our October

Oh my.  Our lives are full.  So much has changed since my last post: Andrew completed our stairway project.  Our family has been added to, taken from, and added to again by way of niece and nephew.  Margot turned one- we celebrated her a week later, after rescheduling her party three times.  And we wrapped up the month as many did, by donning costumes, trick-or-treating, and having a pizza party.
I'll illustrate most of our activities with photos, but first-- in May 2012, my sister and brother-in-law were contacted about a baby to be born in October in need of a family.  They met with the birth mom, got excited, and started planning for the arrival of their second son.  [side note: after debating between Nelson and Theodore when naming their first baby boy, and deciding on Theodore for him, their next son was destined to be Nelson.] 
Now, something you should understand about adoption is that there's always a risk.  You're opening your heart and hands to an unknown.  From genetics to the final signing of documents, there's a looming question: what will come of this?  Not to say that carrying a baby in your own womb and delivering and raising it is a sure thing, but there are definitely more mysteries involved in an adoption story. 
So when Anna and Luke decided that they would open their hearts and home to this little dude, the call of God on their lives and the exciting future He had in store for them outweighed the possibility of failure.
But ultimately that's what happened.  A failed adoption. 
My sister and her family were staying with my parents while they were here from Utah to pick up the babe.  They had Nelson for two sweet days before the lawyer contacted them, saying the birth mom had changed her mind.  The first few days that followed felt like a nightmare.  Now as we seek God for healing, answers, and direction, there are only moments of deep sorrow throughout a day, while we fight the lingering sadness that seeks to consume us.  It's hard to accept the reality that our family will never be complete.  There's a void that has Nelson's name on it.  Though our DNA is not the same, our love is deeper than blood for that kiddo.
Another beautiful fact about adoption- the choice to love someone always builds in you a deeper love than if you simply feel like loving someone.  I don't know what Shakespeare was thinking when he said it was better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all, but I suppose he was getting at the fact that always having an openness to love leaves a person free.  Hm... 
We cling to the promise that what Satan intended for evil, God intends for good.
 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord. "Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you.  Plans to give you a hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11
  So, I'll follow that up with a gallery of October with the Toftnesses...
Niece Daphne Jo Kasper was born to my brother Isaac and sister-in-law Jessica on October 28th.  She is so beautiful- lookin' just like her mama! (Thank you, Jesus)

Dearly loved friends and family who helped us celebrate Margot, plus a look at the pretty cupcakes auntie Anna whipped up!
A very serious birthday girl after daddy helped her blow out her candle.
Oliver, Georgi, Theo, and Margot doing the most on Halloween.