Month: December 2009

  • It’s the Happiest Season of All!


    I love Christmas. I repeat, I just LOVE Christmastime!

    Even though it means coming out of a few very busy weeks, wherein I often felt I was not the mother and wife I wanted to be, just because of being so overwhelmed…

    Even if it means caroling in flip-flops and short-sleeves, which we did on Sunday night. Even if the doors and windows in my house have been open because it’s so warm, as I did a couple days this week. It does feel really really funny to have my house all decorated up and be able to go outside barefooted at the same time. Coming from the north, that is just not how it works!

    But I am VERY excited about going north today and HOPING for a huge snowstorm to come while I’m there! :) After I’m there, not while we’re driving! So excited about a road trip with a dear friend, all our three kids in the backseat! Wish us luck! :)

    There have been a few happy happening around this joint lately, and I wanted to document those before heading into the Christmas season… So this is backtracking a few weeks, but it’s as happy now in remembering it as it was then while it was happening!

    My sister Jana and I share birthdays. She was born on my 2nd birthday, and even though we didn’t like the whole sharing-a-cake-and-one-party-for-two-people deal while we were little, we just love sharing a special day together now! In fact, it feels like we can’t even have a birthday if we’re not together!



    This year I was talking to her a few days before our birthdays, just lamenting the fact that we couldn’t be together this year. Moaning and groaning to be sure, and she was pretending to moan and groan along with me. Pretending all right, because she had the most wonderful scheme up her sleeve!

    And  so it happened, that on the morning of my birthday, I had a lovely surprise – Ben stayed home from work that day just to be with me! Going out early in the morning to get donuts from Sugar & Spice (a local bakery, absolutely divine donuts), some chocolates, a sweet card, sparkling cider… all ready for me when I got up! And I thought my day was beyond happy just with that!

    A little while later he had a mysterious errand to run in town. Again. “Wasn’t ready until today,” he said. Okay, fine! I love birthdays! And a surprise sounded like fun!

    Well, what do you know, but my sister JANA walks in my bedroom a little while later – surprising the very socks off my feet!!! She had caught a ride down with some of Ben’s family, who were coming for Thanksgiving the next day! And they so graciously brought her down and let her spend the holiday with our family here!

    So a day that started out just wonderful ended up even better than I dreamed of!

    Jana & Clarita

    After a few warm greeting (hugs, “I-can’t-believe-you’re-here!!!” a hundred times, smiles that were from ear to ear) we toasted our birthday with some coffee (both of us were or are baristas, and a third sister is as well), we decided it would be a grand day to decorate the house for Christmas! So we gathered armloads of greens and set to work. What normally takes me all day, or several days, took only a fun afternoon!

    Jana Christmas Greens

    A few pictures of our Christmas-y house. I love it. Feels ever so cozy and warm. I think I might keep it up through the winter. :)

    the living room

    Living Room
    This is one of my favorite things from the whole house: taper-candle-holders turned upside down to hold a pillar candle.

    Grand piano.

    I went very simple with decor this year – just mostly greens and candles.

    Piano Candles
    Zoe’s stocking. Don’t laugh, but what we gave her for Christmas was a pair of fluffy bunny slippers and a battery-operated toothbrush. Simple is good, folks! :) We had our little family Christmas last night, and she was just tickled to death. :)


    Parts of the Navitity, as well as some carolers. Zoe’ joins them all together in a long, straight row, pulling them from their respective places and joining them on the coffee table/trunk.  She’s obsessed with long, straight rows.

    Nativity & Carolers
    The front entrance.


    Kitchen table. Simple simple, but I liked that this year. Spray-painted large pine cones silver, very lightly.

    Kitchen Table

    Zoe and me on my birthday. I’m now 27. Scared me to death before, but by George, it’s not that old!Now I think it’s a great age! :)

    Clarita & Zoe 1

    Clarita & Zoe 3

    Clarita & Zoe 2

    A week later, Ben and I spent a Saturday today – going to Jacksonville and watching the Nutcracker! I had never seen it live, and was so delighted to attend! Ben wasn’t too sure about all the “spandex” (his words, not mine!!), but other than that, it was a lovely time! Fun to dress all up, go out on a “real” date!


    Dinner at the Cheesecake Factory afterward – a very particular favorite of mine. :)

    Cheesecake Factory!

    Browsing through Barnes & Noble afterward. Ben gets stuck in the real estate aisle. Note the bag of cheesecake clutched very tightly against him. That is precious, precious cargo there!

    Ben @ B&N

    Some biscotti-making the past little while. Made them as thank-you’s for some people.


    Biscotti Wrapped

    And a last picture – my babe and I!

    Ben & Clarita

    A merry merry Christmas to one and all!


  • The Pancake Breakfast.


    So we were host family at church last Sunday. Probably were scheduled that way for a long time, but I didn’t realize/remember it until Friday. At that point it felt so last-minute to me (I’m not a good last-minute person…) because we were going to be away from home all day Saturday (date with my husband – went to see the Nutcracker! Yay!), which meant I’d only have Saturday night (late) and Sunday morning (early) to prepare (how do ya like all the parenthesis? :) ). And I didn’t have groceries on hand…  I was stressed!

    Saturday evening after we returned from Jacksonville, we were picking up the girls and talking a bit… We still needed to get groceries, which meant it would be after 10pm by the time we got home. Someone very wise suggested, “Why don’t you just keep it simple and do pancakes or something?”

    You know, I liked that. But it had never crossed my mind. It was a freeing thought, as far as prep goes. I would still have to stop for groceries at 9:45pm, but wouldn’t be up until Sunday morning preparing meatloaf and mashed potatoes. But could I really do that?? I mean, is that even proper for a Sunday LUNCH, when I’m hosting, of all things??

    Let me just say, I really liked this idea. I would have been thrilled going over to someone’s house and having this for lunch. But for me to serve it was a different story.

    On the way to the grocery store, the next morning, and even part of this week, I was trying to sort through why it was so hard for me.

    Probably the biggest thing was expectations I have placed on myself. Whether they are real (as in, what other people really do expect) or imagined (what I think other people expect), I have believed them nonetheless, and have been held captive to some very silly expectations. They are as follows.

    There seems to be a “when-a-woman-has-company-for-Sunday-lunch-it-better-be-amazing” stigma. Like, Mrs. Smith had three sides to her lunch last week, so I probably should too. Like, a normal meat and potatoes meal feels too common and should be something a little more “spiffy.” Like, all this Sunday lunch stereotype scares me to death and makes me hardly have company on that day!! Anybody else out there like that??

    I think I’m a little paranoid too, because I was already feeling a bit of guilt from a previous discussion among some older women, wherein I was merely a listener. It was a very well intentioned talk, intended to motivate and inspire. Instead, I felt utterly discouraged and depressed. They were saying that if you don’t have everyone from your church over to your home at least once a year for a meal, then your church is either too big or you’re not hospitable enough. Well, our church isn’t huge, but I sure haven’t had everyone over in the 3.5 years that I’ve lived here! Whew, the very thought overwhelms me!

    For one thing, it’s rather expensive to have a lot of people over. At least, if it’s according to my “expectations.” I’m also breast-feeding (not for the past 3.5 years, but right now! Ha!) which puts an interesting twist on entertaining.

    So, is all this even valid? Is this pressure something real or do I just imagine it and put it on myself?? Anyone else out there that feels the same way?? Where does this all come from anyway? And whether it’s real or imagined, how do I find God in it, and what does He think of it all?

    My next thing was to go on a guilt trip. Guilty that I hadn’t adequately prepared by being aware of it earlier – it was oversight on my part not to plan better. Normally everything gets written in my planner, but somehow this was completely overlooked. Guilty that I didn’t stay up till crazy hours of the night on Saturday to make up for my lack of planning (the whole “pennence” idea), and therefore at least have meat and potatoes, even if it wasn’t filet mignon, pasta in a white wine sauce, and fifteen side dishes.

    But, you guessed it – we had the pancake breakfast for lunch. 

    And despite my nervous feelings of serving this kind of lunch, I felt such a freedom. Pancakes, eggs, and sausage is a meal that feels very do-able to me, even if the eggs did end up sticking to a non-stick frying pan that had issues.

    As I was preparing the lunch after church, before anyone arrived at our house, thinking of how encouraging Ben had been of the whole breakfast idea vs. the “traditional Sunday lunch,” thinking and wondering what our guests would think of this (would they be disappointed? wonder what kind of cook I was? think I should start planning earlier/better?), I thought of the story of the widow and the tiny amount of money she gave to the Lord in the Bible. What she had to give wasn’t much, but she gave what she could, and she gave it with her heart.

    She could have saved her “pancakes” – after all, it wasn’t as good as the “shrimp dinner” that the people just ahead of her gave, so why even bother? But the point is not in what she gave, but in that she gave.

    And so the Lord impressed upon my heart that He was pleased with my pancake breakfast-lunch. He liked it! It made Him smile with delight! Not because it was a grand feast, but because we were giving what we could and offering ourselves along with it. And perhaps the Lord even purposely had me overlook the the timing of us being host family that Sunday, just to teach me a thing or two.

    I admit, I did apologize for our humble lunch, although now I wish I wouldn’t have. I think God is still teaching me things after the fact! And we – at least Ben and I – enjoyed our time with our friends so very much! After they left I found myself thinking, “That was fun! We should have people over next Sunday too!”

    As a side note, I do enjoy cooking and presenting food. And there definitely IS a time for adequate preparation. The hard part for me is that I struggle with being a perfectionist in some things, and in food presentation especially, and think it has to be a very certain way in order to be pleasing. And those thoughts are not of the Lord!

    Was reading today in Women of Dominion, and came across this excerpt on hospitality:

    “… [Hospitality] also requires a homemaker of confident realism who’s not paralyzed by the pride of perfectionism. A few hot dogs may have to be put on and served alongside a roast and mashed potatoes to feed unanticipated mouths. Such a mature perspective and performance requires a confident and realistic woman (of dominion).

    … It’s chiefly the woman of the house, not the man, who creates… sweet and hospitable environments…”

    I need to be challenged by thoughts such as those, True thoughts, not paralyzing thoughts of self -preservation(“This isn’t a typical meal! We can’t do this!” etc. etc. etc.). We can all fill in the blank! I’d love to hear feedback about this whole area, and any others you think of as you’re reading!

    All because of a pancake breakfast lunch. Thanks, Mama Yoder! :) And thank you, Lord!

    Anyone up for a pancake breakfast this Sunday? :)





  • The Other Side of My Family.


    Here’s to the Yoders – the other family of mine! :)

    Seems that I often post pictures of our  families in Pennsylvania – probably because it’s “vacation” to us when we’re there and so I take my camera with me everywhere! But this family in the south is very dear to me as well, and I want to say “I love you!” to them too! :)

    These were taken at Thanksgiving, and it’s taken me a while to get them up here because I’ve been learning a new photo editing program. Yup. Taking lessons. From a master, for sure. Marylou has been teaching me. I’m a little hestitant to even say who it is, lest I make her look bad because I’m just learning and don’t know how to do everything yet! But she has been such a huge help to me that it would be a great injustice not to say so! So that said - any editing bloopers are my fault, not hers. :) Thanks, Marylou!!

    This was the year to be together for the Thanksgiving Holiday, and it was a beautiful southern weekend! The day we took these pictures on St. Simons Island was a little chilly – I can see some of the kids’ red noses! But we were able to catch some glorious backlighting for some of the pictures with less people. It was absolutely magical there when the sun was setting!

    For some of you that care, we were at Christ Church for these pictures. This is the same church and area that Eugenia Price wrote about in her many books of the islands of Georgia. A lot of history going on here!

    Without much farther comment, here’s to my Yoder family!

    The five lovely sisters.

    Five Yoder Sisters

    Four handsome brothers.

    Yoder Brothers

    And once again, just because one of them is my husband. :)

    Yoder Brothers 2

    Laurie and Beth.

    Laurie & Bethany


    Where it all started… :) LOVE this picture!!

    Papa & Mama Yoder

    Parents with the nine children. And if you think that looks like a lot of people, wait till you see the entire family. :) And we’re just getting started with grandkids!

    Xanga - Yoder Kids

    The entire family. This picture took about 3 hours to edit. In part, because I was new to the editing program, and in part because we had to replace seven heads!! With this many people, you just don’t have one picture that is good – so you combine heads from many different pictures to get one where everyone is looking!

    [uploading trouble...]

    The married children…

    Sonya and Marcus. LOVE this picture of them. They look like newly weds. :)

    Xanga - Marcus & Sonya 

    Rod and Jena.

    Rod & Jena

    Mary Jo and Wendall.

    Wendall & MJ

    Ben and his wife. :)



    Xanga - Zoe

    And Mariana.

    Xanga - Mariana

    Those two played together so sweetly all weekend! It did my mother heart good to see that, because Zoe rarely has an opportunity to play with another little girl her age! Plus, they’re cousins, so that made it extra-sweet!

    I didn’t get the picture of the grandkids edited yet, so here is the unfinished product. Yeah, not sure how to replace the heads of the wailing children because they were howling on every picture here. Perhaps we’ll just let them wail??


    Such a fun weekend together! Lots of games, laughter, a campfire, enjoying being together…

    I think this was my favorite family weekend together with them! Just really good times! :)




  • Olivia – 6 Months


    My baby girl is halfway to a year. The more children I have, the faster time goes! What’s it going to be like when we add a few more to the mix?! :)

    I snapped some pictures of Olivia when we were in Savannah a couple weeks ago. Dora was my right-hand woman, keeping Olivia propped up, making sure she didn’t get any head injuries in the process! Olivia is sitting partially on her own, but not for long periods of time. And that day was not one of the best days for sitting.

    One thing I’m learning with little babies – shoot, shoot, shoot!! In the end, after taking about 50 pictures or so, I might have a few worth saving. Especially when she likes to stick her tongue out a lot. And especially when we lay her on her tummy and all she wants to do is “swim.” And especially when it’s at mid-day (I know, I know, not the best time for picturs…) Whew. It’s hard work taking a baby’s pictures.

    We were at some historic landmark, and I was a little embaressed to be *in* the landmark when a carriage-ride full of tourists came to have a little history lesson about that particular place. Oh well, cute baby for your viewing pleasure, folks!


    Olivia’s personality seems to be emerging more and more. I love that. For the first several months they’re just so much “baby” that even though babies have differences from each other, you don’t really know what one particular child is going to be like.

    She’s creeping, although not crawling. Seems to be rather aggressive in personality, while very tender. If Zoe or another child is rough with her, she’ll cry as if her heart will break! Yet has a strong will already, we can tell. Like my mom used to say, “The strong-willed child will go places if they’re trained!” So Lord, teach us so we may teach this precious daughter!

    She’s still a little baby. I think she’s filling out a bit since she’s eating cereal and other baby foods, but she is definitely not on the upper part of the baby percentage! At 6 months, she’s weighing in at 15.5 pounds.


    She is a model child at night. Been sleeping about 12 hours solid. Amazing, I know. I think the same thing. And I’m very ready for it, because she does not want to sleep during the day. Seriously, not sure why a 6-month old would have a problem with taking naps, but she does. If I can get her to take two naps a day, I think life is going really well. Sometimes it’s just one nap. All day. Seriously!! Anybody have tips??!


    But, as her name speaks, she is a Messenger of Peace and of Joy. She is a very happy baby, despite her very little amount of day-time sleep.


    Dear baby mine, what a treasure you are!

    And as we all say to each other in this house, and Zoe says to Olivia,  
    “You’re my BEST Leah!”