Wednesday, December 31, 2014

An Ode to 2014

2014. 

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As I began this year I took on what was perhaps the biggest challenge of my life: to live chocolate free. In the years leading up to this one I had become nothing short of addicted, eating chocolate all day every day. Do I dare admit that I would buy the 72 oz bag of chocolate chips at Costco and finish them within a week? Chocolate had become my main fuel source. Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. 

I knew I needed to make a drastic change. 

So I resolved to go one year without; to rebuild healthy eating habits and treat my body the way I knew I should. I completely changed my health routine: I started practicing yoga again, eating balanced meals, drinking lots of water - and most importantly - I stayed away from chocolate and sweets. 

I expected to see a drastic difference in my physical state. I thought I would lose a ton of weight. Or perhaps I would look in the mirror and see a radiant complexion. Or maybe I would feel different, full of new found energy. But the truth is - none of that happened. My weight more or less stayed the same, my skin looks as it did a year ago, and I don't have any more energy than before.

But even though I didn't notice many physical changes, it doesn't mean that my efforts were for naught. Because that one resolve, the resolve to change one bad habit in my life, ended up changing my whole life. I gained self discipline I never knew I was capable of. I learned that I can do anything, that I have the strength to resist all temptations. I learned that through focus and dedication there is no challenge too hard. And as I have gained this strength, this knowledge, I have felt an unmatched sense of happiness and self respect.

Without a doubt, this has been the greatest year of my life.

Farewell, 2014!

Monday, December 29, 2014

To: The Sorenson Pets ... From: Santa Claus

Santa has never brought gifts for our pets. Maybe it's because they have never been on the good list before. But this year, 'he' decided it would be fun to surprise the girls by bringing presents for all their furry (and scaled) friends.

On Christmas Eve, shortly before they went to bed, the children started talking about the pets.  

"I wonder if the dogs will bark at Santa?"
Elsa asked.  

"Maybe he will leave them a bone if they don't bark."
she concluded.

That got Lorelai thinking...  
"I should hang a stocking for Guinness!" 

She immediately ran to her dresser and came back with a sock which she clipped to the side of his cage using a bobby pin. At this point I was thinking how grateful 'Santa' was that 'he' was prepared with presents for all - including the animals.

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And here's what was in those pretty packages:


To: Cesar Flickerman
From: Santa

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A new fish bowl. Or perhaps I should say fish cube. So modern, I love it.


To: Brigitta
From: Santa

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New water and food bowls! A step up from the old baby bowl we used before.


To: Emily and Scarlett
From: Santa

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These each held a ginormous bone from the local butcher. The dogs were in heaven.


To: Guinness
From: Santa

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Santa just happened to have a bottle of Guinea Pig shampoo to put in that sock Lorelai hung. So perfect! Guinness also got a hay trough for his cage and a grooming kit.

And...

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A new playpen! I can't wait for warmer weather so we can take it outside!

Is he not the cutest? Yesterday, the girls spent their afternoon doing a fashion photo shoot with him - dressing him up in doll clothes and hats. Cutest thing ever! Post to come!

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"I'm one lucky dog!"

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Very Merry Review

Before I went to bed on Christmas Eve, I thought "Did I go overboard? Did I do too much?". And almost instantly I answered my own question - no. For these are precious years and precious times. To create magic and fun for my children - and to create moments that turn into cherished memories - there is no regret in that. I love being a mother, I love making life special and whimsical for my children. I love finding ways to surprise them and bring them joy. So no, I didn't go overboard, I just did what I love to do.

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Elsa's face in the next photo just says, "Is it time? Can we start?"

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And then the wild rumpus began.

A few hours later our home was littered with boxes, paper, toys, books, clothes, and on and on and on...

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  A look at some Christmas morning gifts:

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Elsa, wearing new clothes - including superman socks with capes and new red boots (which was on her list for Santa) - and holding her new doll.

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Alexandra, wearing new clothes and holding a chandelier for her bedroom (which came with bulbs that flicker like flames!).

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Lorelai, who was wearing a new outfit but promptly changed back into her comfy clothes, sewing an owl pouch for her phone.

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Elisabeth, snuggling a new panda from her Uncle Michael. She has since come down with the flu :(

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A four foot sparkly-light-up Eiffel Tower, because if not at the Sorenson home, where? And another look at those red boots - boy oh boy, did Santa knock it out of the ballpark with that one!

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My girls know what I love - books! Alexandra gave me Anne of Green Gables, Lorelai gave me A Little Princess, Elsa gave me Swiss Family Robinson, and Elisabeth gave me Les Miserables - which is 908 pages of the teeniest tiniest print I have ever seen. It is going to take me forever to read it - but I don't care, I am excited!!

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A jewelry box fit for an Ethiopian Queen.

And Lorelai's new Furby:

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I am so excited about those maracas for Elisabeth! You see, Elisabeth is hard to shop for because there is little that she needs and nothing that she wants. Plus, lately I haven't even been able to let her play with toys because she hits herself in the head with them - hard. But look at those maracas!! They are designed with a soft, squishy top! So I can put one in her hand and it won't matter if she chooses to smash it against her cute little noggin!

Also pictured above, a Frozen karaoke machine. Now I must ask you, was that not made for Elsa?? It has been a huge hit around this house! And I may have done a rendition of Let It Go...and Lorelai threatened to Instagram it. Ha!

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I was thrilled to give this book to Donald. You see, two of Donald's greatest interest are Disney and WWII, and this book combines them both!

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Coming tomorrow: What Santa brought for The Sorenson Pets!!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep"

Last Sunday we sang I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day as a congregational hymn at church. Though this is a hymn that I have sung many times before, the lyrics resonated with me in new and powerful way. That's what I love about art - whether it be poetry, music, or visual - it can mean different things at different times in life. And this year, this hymn simply spoke to me.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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I know that this picture doesn't exactly relate to I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, but it is yet another thing that made me immensely happy this Christmas. Elsa drew a picture of our family - using sheep to depict us. She put a bow tie on Donald, a dress on me, a tiara on Alexandra, and a binky on Elisabeth. She told me that she didn't know what to draw for her and Lorelai, so they just have letters. Under the drawing she wrote, Families are happy. My family celebrates Christmas. My family plays together.

I am not sure what inspired Elsa to make us a family of sheep in her picture, but my mind instantly went to Isaiah 53:6 - All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

And that verse has me thinking back to the hymn above...

And in despair I bowed my head:"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Merry, merry!

A Christmas review is coming tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Christmas Hymn


Merry Christmas from our house 
to yours!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Big Animals Are Big Around Here

A few days ago I ran into an old friend of mine while out shopping with Lex. I hadn't seen her in years and so naturally we chatted and got caught up on life. While we talked, Alexandra took note of a ginormous caterpillar on the top shelf behind her. Immediately, she pulled it down and wore it like a boa around her neck.

A short while later as we were saying our goodbyes, my friend said that she wanted to buy the caterpillar for my girls, her Christmas present to them. No, I told her, I couldn't possibly let her do that. But she insisted, and we came home with an adorable, 9 foot caterpillar.

The girls are in heaven.

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And it is absolutely perfect for Elisabeth! 
Look how it wraps right around her!

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We decided his name should be Sir Isaac Newton. 

It fits him. 

Somehow.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Eyebombing

Eyebombing has become an epidemic at our house...

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Beware the googly eye!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Winter Wonderland: Elf Style

We all know and love Elf, right? Good.

So, remember how Buddy makes paper chains and snowflakes to decorate for Christmas?
(See below)

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Well, yesterday I arrived home and found Alexandra in the family room doing this:

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Needless to say, it was AWESOME!!!!

Later that evening I left Elisabeth laying on the floor and went upstairs to put some laundry away. During that time some paper chains fell from the ceiling and this is what I discovered upon my return:

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Ha ha ha! Silly girl!

Once I untangled Elisabeth, the question was, what to do with all the chains? I decided they would add the perfect little something to our tree and wrapped them around in a way that would make Buddy the Elf proud:

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"I'm a cotton-headed ninny-muggins."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Silent Night, Holy Night

Life has been busy lately. The latter part of November I was performing in Richard III, that was followed by Messiah, and last week was consumed with Nutcracker. I have absolutely LOVED performing in these shows, but it has meant a lot of time away from home in the evenings. So when Elisabeth's school called yesterday to tell me that they didn't have a nurse on staff (and Elisabeth legally can't be there without a nurse) I was thrilled to have an excuse to keep her with me.

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After doing some housework and wrapping a few gifts to put under the tree, I bundled her in a blanket and held her tight in my arms while we listened to Christmas music. Silent Night came on and it seemed like the most perfect, peaceful moment. I know it is good to stay busy and productive, but sometimes the most beautiful times in life are the simple, quiet ones.

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All is calm,  
all is bright.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Road From Dunchai

Before moving to an orphanage in the capital city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Elsa lived with her family in the remote village of Dunchai. The dwellings are made of mud walls and thatched roofs, there is no electricity, no plumbing, no phones, no modern amenities. It is a very primitive tribe.

On Friday night we sat down as a family and watched a ten minute segment from an Ethiopian documentary titled African Spirit. Those ten minutes focused on the majang people - Elsa's people. Elsa was so excited to have a glimpse back at the land she came from; to see the familiar traditions and culture of her first home. And it was even more fascinating for us to see what Elsa's life was like and gain a greater understanding of her past.

As soon as it ended Elsa glanced at the clock: 5:03 pm. "Time to go!" she exclaimed and popped up from the couch. It was opening night of The Nutcracker and she needed to be there by 5:30.

That night, while Elsa was up on stage, I marveled at the road she has traveled from Dunchai to the stage of The Nutcracker. Not only is it a great distance geographically, but emotionally and intellectually as well. In one year Elsa has become fluent in English and can read and speak basic Spanish, too. She has become accustomed to the modern world: phones, computers, airplanes, and cars (to name a few). She has gladly taken on the role of daughter and sister and has made oodles of new friends. She has experienced holidays and celebrations from Christmas to the Halloween. And finally, she has danced in The Nutcracker Ballet.

Elsa truly is amazing and I have no doubt that she will grow and do something great with her life. Never before have I witnessed such bravery, such willingness to accept what life brings with grace and dignity. She is an extraordinary child and I feel blessed to be her mother, to teach her, to love her - and even more so, to learn from her.

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Elsa backstage as a mouse in The Nutcracker Ballet
Along with fellow rat and mouse, Lilly and Avery.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fa la la la la...la la la la!!!

Deck **
the  *
 *  *  Halls!

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It's beginning to look quite Christmas-y at our house!

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I am tickled with how this little ornament display turned out. The inspiration for the ornament twig tree came to me at about 12:00 one night and I had Donald go and cut me a small branch off the front yard tree. I love how it looks alongside the prints of my grandfathers Christmas art.

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Stockings are hung on the backs of chairs here in these parts.

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As always, the picture doesn't do justice to the Christmas lights hanging under the cabinetry. My kitchen glows. And it is fabulous!

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Standing guard.

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Ho ho ho!

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