Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day

We had a wonderful Christmas day. The boys still wake early and eagerly to go downstairs for presents. Thankfully we have them trained to wait until a decent hour, so this year we actually held them off until nearly 8 a.m. Enjoy these pictures from our holiday:

MiMi and BaBa were here to enjoy the fun with us.

The boys show off their Christmas surprise: an iTouch.

Some sweet hugs from a thankful boy.

A family photo commemorating Christmas 2010. A very merry one, indeed.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Invitation

"Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:32

From Henri Nouwen's Advent and Christmas:

"God came to us because he wanted to join us on the road, to listen to our story, and to help us realize that we are not walking in circles but moving towards the house of peace and joy.

This is the great mystery of Christmas that continues to give us comfort and consolation: we are not alone on our journey. The God of love who gave us life sent us his only Son to be with us at all times and in all places, so that we never have to feel lost in our struggles but always can trust that he walks with us.

Christmas is the renewed invitation not to be afraid and let him - whose love is greater than our own hearts and minds can comprehend - be our companion."

Joy to the world...the Lord has come! Merry Christmas to all!

Christmas in LA

Our Christmas celebration begins with several days at my parents' home in LaFollette. My sister, Beth, joins us - along with her dog, Bella - for this time. She brought her new skills in origami to teach the boys and me how to make these beautiful origami snowflakes:

Uncle Barry joined us on Wednesday, and Tim came on Thursday afternoon. Thursday night we were joined by my Uncle David and cousins Diane and Karen for our big Christmas dinner prepared by Mom. Yum!

Christmas eve morning we excitedly opened our first presents.

Reed rests under the Christmas tree after all of the packages have been unwrapped.

Tim with my brother-in-law Barry.

The boys with MiMi and BaBa.

By lunchtime, it's time to say our goodbyes as Beth and Barry head back to Nashville for Christmas. We left soon thereafter for Knoxville, but we brought MiMi and BaBa with us to share the Christmas day fun.

Here's the entire Dunham clan, circa 2010, including our newest canine additions: Titan and Bella.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Surprise Snow

It seemed too good to be true! A snow day in December?! On Sunday night when we exited the movie theater after seeing the latest "Chronicles of Narnia" film, we entered our own personal Narnia. It was a snowy wonderland in West Knoxville.

In all we only received about two inches of snow, but that plus the ice was enough to merit a day off from school yesterday and a late start today. Here are a few pictures from our day of frigid fun:

This was our first snow with Titan, and he is definitely a fan of the fluffy white stuff! On Sunday night he checked out the first flakes as they fell.

Here are our two happy campers celebrating their day off from school. Given that this is our last week before Christmas break, it certainly felt like a bonus. I confess I was just as excited because it meant a day off from work for me too (one of the perks of working at their school).

Titan loved chasing his tennis ball in the snow but gladly abandoned it for one of the boys' snowy gloves. They spent a lot of time chasing him to retrieve their gloves.

Even though we didn't have a lot of snow, there was enough for some good sledding down our driveway. Here the boys enjoy their slippery ride to the bottom:

Titan came inside from the snow to find someone else cozied up inside his crate. Fred must have enjoyed a nap while we were all outside playing. Titan just sat patiently and watched Fred until he vacated the funny!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Season of Advent

Today marks the first Sunday of Advent, and to me the beginning of the Christmas season. Though our neighbor's have had a "Countdown to Christmas" clock in their front yard since October 1 (no joke), it is on this day I begin to anticipate the coming of Christmas.

Here is a devotional that we shared as a family tonight as we began to consider the Advent season upon us. May it encourage you this holiday season...

"The Church centers its attention these days on a season we call 'Advent,' a season of preparation and hope. We are summoned in the first week of Advent to be on guard, to be ready, and prepared for the coming of the Lord.

Unfortunately, this holy season gets lost in the shuffle of preparations for Christmas, already begun in our secular society. A maze of glitter and frivolity highlights the material aspects of a feast that is long off, and misses the true spiritual meaning of the event.

So we need the Advent season to help us focus our attention on a spiritual preparation of the celebration of this greatest event of history, the birth of Christ. All too quickly Christmas day will be here. It will have much more meaning for us if we have prepared for that day spiritually.

I invite you to take a moment each day to reflect on our reason for hope this Advent season. Take out a little time to enter into the season with hope in your heart, awaiting this coming feast as the people of Israel did...You will find as they did, that God comes in a special way to the people who steadfastly hope for his coming."

Monday, November 22, 2010


I confess...I like routine. The predictability of a day, the ability to anticipate what's coming, and the comfort that comes in knowing what to expect. Of course, parenthood has rocked my routine through the years (the 3 a.m. wake-up call by a sick little one; the "forgotten" science project due tomorrow; impromptu sleepovers and playdates.) But I try to maintain some routine despite demanding days and changing times.

Lately, I've been reminded how it can all change in the blink of an eye. And I'm not just talking about a glitch in the schedule. One's entire world can be forever altered with one decision, one phone call, one conversation. Tim and I have seen this happen a lot lately in the lives of co-workers, friends, and neighbors. Tragic decisions, heartbreaking situations, and lives turned upside down.

Just last week we were walking our puppy around the block when we noticed some men building a ramp onto our neighbor's back deck. Earlier this month the teenage son was in a car accident resulting in the amputation of a foot. They haven't returned home yet, but the house has begun to be prepared for their arrival and all of the changes now required for this young man's daily life.

A friend's wife has left him, and he's left figuring out what it means to split custody of their only child when she's moved two hours away.

Another friend's long-time boyfriend died of a heart attack. He was 42-years-old.

What is our response when we witness such events? Surprise. We just can't believe it when we hear about couples who are divorcing, friends with sick children, or an unexpected death.

The increase in these surprises over the course of the past few months is...well, surprising. What's going on? Perhaps it has to do with our age (we've both just crossed over into our 40s this year) and where we are in life. Midlife...or so they say...and it seems that either illness and injury lay in wait or way too many people are indulging in the "crises" they believe are due them.

Perhaps we live in an ivory tower and have forgotten that it is situated smack dab in the middle of a lost and broken world? I think we all too often think that everyone's tower is ivory too, and we either don't believe such calamity can fall our way or we fail to consider the hurts that the tower walls may contain.

Let me dispel any myths about our own tower...We cling to each other (and many times we push each other away). We laugh together (and we cry, sulk, and stew). We love each other (and we often wound each another too). We forgive (and we try to forget). We are thankful (but sometimes neglect to offer thanks).

Today I say thank you to the One who has provided it all...our family, our health, our joy, and our hope. And I cling to the one sure thing in a world that offers constant change: "Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever" (1 Chronicles 16:34).

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Harry Potter Halloween

Most Halloweens I can take little to no credit for the boys' costume choices. This year, however, they were both drawing a blank when it came time to decide on their disguise. Ninja? Been there. Knight? Done that. Jedi? So 2009...

So, one night as we were cuddled up watching "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" it came to me. Seth = Harry Potter. Reed = Draco Malfoy. Not in character, of course, but in looks...yes!

Reed was sick all day, but he rallied for the Trick or Treating (imagine that). Here are pictures from our Hogwarts Halloween:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Smoky Mountain High

On Saturday of fall break we returned home the long way. Tim loves to meander on the road less travelled, but I don't often let him. I was feeling generous I suppose or inspired by the fall foliage, so we drove home through Cherokee, North Carolina past Sugarlands Visitor Center and then through Townsend.

It was a beautiful day, and luckily most of the traffic was coming the other way, so we were able to keep our slow but steady pace through the mountains. Here are our pictures from one of the scenic overlooks:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Trip Down Memory Lane

On Saturday of fall break we drove to Black Mountain, North Carolina, to visit Camp Crestridge. My sister, Beth, and I attended this girls' camp four summers during our childhood, but I hadn't been back in probably 26 years. Camp was empty, so we were able to explore on our own and enjoy a lovely fall day here.

Our first stop as we climbed the hill into camp was the stable and riding ring. Beth spent many hours here during her camping days. Me, not so many...

Luckily the chapel was unlocked, so we were able to go inside. The green stained-glass windows brought back a sense of familiarity that the hilly terrain hadn't. However, the more we walked around the camp, the more my memories stirred.

I began attending Crestridge as a Chickasaw (the youngest campers were the Chippewas; the oldest the Cherokees).

Whenever I've told Tim about Crestridge, I've mentioned the many, many steps leading up to my cabins during my second and third summers. He teased me, believing this hill had grown higher and higher in my memory. He wasn't teasing me any more when he tackled Choctaw Hill himself. As you can see, the railroad-tie steps look unending. They feel that way too as you are climbing them!

They have recently renovated the cabins at Crestridge. I was happy to see they kept evidence of the original walls with our shoe-polish graffiti inside (areas covered with plexiglass showing the original walls with signatures of campers).

We ended our day at the open-air pavilion. To the left is the lake, which I avoided at all costs when I was a camper. My childish mind couldn't understand that "manmade" meant the creatures it contained were limited. It looked much less scary void of its murky waters.

It was such fun to return to Crestridge and remember the summer days I spent there as a child. It was also fun to share it with Seth and Reed, who now have "summer camp" memories of their own.