If you didn't get our 2008 Christmas letter, enjoy a brief recap written by Jason.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, I looked back at some of the Christmas letters that we have written over the last few years. Each year, we gave a (somewhat) humorous update of the events of our lives and then the letter concluded with one or two sentences asking you to ‘remember the reason we celebrate Christmas.’ Looking back over this past year, one or two sentences just won’t cut it.
We rejoice constantly that 2008 has been the year that God has provided for us and the people we are close to again and again and again. This has been a year that has had more trials than we are used to, but at each step along the way we have seen the Grace of God working and the Hand of God providing, and caring for his children. This letter won’t give you a lot of details, but since the last time we wrote, He has carried us through a short period of unemployment, protected family from tornados, strengthened us through flooding, and healed severe pregnancy problems (our own, and those very close to us).
Sometimes along the way we struggled, wondering why these events were taking place and worrying about what would happen. Other times we faced the events with full confidence that our Father would carry us through. Each time, we have seen His Grace poured out and our faith in Him has been strengthened. We thank Him daily for how He takes care of us.
We thought about making this year’s Christmas letter a list of the things that HAVE NOT changed in the last year (we live in the same house and Brenda has the same job), but really, a full sheet of paper needs more than that. Here are some of the fun things and big events from 2008.
Ally is 5 ½ years old. She is now in kindergarten and is excelling in school. She is very talented at a lot of different things, She tried out T-ball this summer. She enjoyed it and definitely got better as the season went on, but she is definitely more skilled at artsy stuff and things that involve her imagination. Ally loves Jesus and is learning to love others too. She can’t wait for the baby to come and really hopes it is a girl. She is such a joy and a blessing.
Drew just turned 4. He didn’t make the cut off for the pre-K class so he is doing the ‘early childhood’ class AGAIN. It’s a good thing he loves his teachers (and they love him). Drew is a ‘mentor’ to a younger student. That makes me laugh every time I think about it. He loves to spell his name, is very good at baseball, and can color circles around anyone who wants to take him on. Drew is also very excited about the baby, but he wants a boy and wants to name it ‘Dumpster.’ He’s not looking forward to sharing his toys.
Brenda is 23 or so weeks pregnant and due in early April. She has had much more morning (or afternoon or evening) sickness with this pregnancy than the other two. (Maybe that means that this baby won’t throw up as much as the others!!!) She is teaching 8th grade math at Clear Creek Amana and is sad that when the middle school moves to a different location next year that she won’t be in the same building as Ally and Drew. In addition to all she does for our family, she has also worked right along side me through several projects this year including finishing our basement and helping build several things the reconstruction of our church. We were also able to work together for several long days of sandbagging and evacuating the church as the flood waters rose. It’s been a real blessing to serve with her.
As our church flooded in Iowa City the night of June 12 (Thursday), Cedar Rapids was experiencing historical flooding from a completely different river system. That night, Mercy Hospital in Cedar Rapids evacuated almost 200 patients as the flooding overtook almost 200,000 square feet and two floors of the hospital. I got a call from Mercy on June 18th to come and help with the rebuilding process. All of the damaged area of the hospital was rebuilt in 100 days and I have been able to stay at Mercy and work as a project manager on all of the other projects they have going on.
We have seen God turn each trial this year into a blessing in our lives and the lives around us. HE has encouraged us and given us more faith and strengthened our trust in Him each step along the way. Our prayer for you this season is that you get to see the graciousness and goodness of God as we have.
Have a VERY Merry Christmas.
Jason, Brenda, Ally, Drew, (and Hammie) Willis
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
If you didn't get our 2008 Christmas letter, enjoy a brief recap written by Jason.
Wow the year has come to an end and I can definitely say that 2008 has been a year to remember. I worked hard to finish up almost everything for 2008 blogwise! I can't wait to see what God has for us - the highlight will be meeting our next little one early this year!
We visited the doctor a couple weeks ago and found out that it looks like we are "growing a moose" according to the dr. I am measuring 3 cm bigger than I should be at this point. So what does that mean - it is looking like another healthy-sized baby. Hopefully a little early too for momma's comfort!
Posted by Brenda Rae at 2:34 PM
Thank you Allison and Jared for our new Easy Bake Oven. We have made two vanilla cakes and a chocolate cake. I have never made anything that only ingredient is 1 1/2 tsp of water. She has thoroughly enjoyed it and it isn't as bad as I thought!
We had a guy come out and clean our furnace and when he saw us - he couldn't believe that they stilled made those. He said that his daughter had one.
Anyone know what cooks the cake that doesn't taste too bad? A 100 watt light bulb.
We postponed our trip to Jason's parents until Sunday after another ice storm. We had had enough of the weather. We enjoyed a safe day in our house cleaning and regrouping.
We enjoyed a quick trip to Aplington. The kids got to go out and sled since they had more snow than us and the temperatures were finally reasonable! I have yet to attempt to sled with my ever growing belly. Who knows if I could get up out of the snow at the bottom of the hill? Some more Casey's pizza made our trip complete!
What could be more fun than bowling with your family? Well actually getting to bowl, I sat out. I thought it best to not test my luck with the back pain and pregnancy. I watched everyone else bowl and helped chase Lauryn. She is faster than me. This might have been the first time that the kids remember bowling. They had so much fun.
Please notice the scores (sorry the first one is blurry). Jason and Drew tied.
We enjoyed yet another Christmas. Jason and I headed back to IC with hope of him working a half day on Friday and coming back to my parents to open presents. But Christmas night was far from good travel weather. We had been watching the weather closely and found a break in the storm. We headed out (without kids). It was fairly good traveling until half way home when we almost pulled off to stay in the motel - the drive is only 40 miles total! From Williamsburg to IC we went no more than 20 mph. I kept praying and praying and seeing drivers slide right off the road. When he woke up early to go to work, the roads had yet to be cleared so he crawled back into bed.
The weather warmed and we scrapped some of the ice off the driveway before heading back to mom's. By the end of the day most of our 6 inches of snow was gone.
We got back in time to open presents to find out that Grandpa Charlie had a sick calf and was waiting for the vet to come. After everyone got naps - oh how I loved my snuggle bug. Too bad that my belly is so big that I take up much of the couch! We enjoyed lots of presents and laughter. Isn't it funny that everyone sits in the same place year after year when opening stuff?
We had a huge enjoyable Casey pizza supper extravaganza before heading out in the THICK fog to go bowling. Weather just isn't our luck. It was another long trip home for the Willis' in the fog with another ice storm on the way for the next day.
Picture it - Christmas Eve. Our kids were in their PJs snuggled in their blankets call "Fuzzies" made by Uncle Arlie a couple years ago. We were headed back to our house to go to bed with hopes that Santa would come during the night. The kids luckily fell asleep within 5 minutes of getting on the interstate and I was close behind them but still trying to stay awake for Jason.
Suddenly about 7 miles from our exit, we came to a halt at 11:00. We had just past an exit that would have gotten us home. There was one police car stopped there, but very little action. Several cars were turning around and going back to the exit - not the safest move in my book, but whatever. One guy even tried to go through the median (which has about 10 inches of snow in it). Even dumber move. But the dumbest move of the night came from a semi-driver from Montana.
After sitting there in PARK for 15 minutes, I called my dad to check the internet for road problems - it was a long shot but I was hopeful. I do miss the traffic reports from STL that most of the time gave you a hint of what was happening. Then I called my Aunt who had kids on the road that should be close to passing us going the other direction. She gave me Christine's phone number who happened to be in IC - 7 miles ahead of us. Chris and I talked the WHOLE time she drove by and guess what she saw.... NOTHING. No police cars, no fire trucks, no accident, no people in the ditch....
We had pulled out the kid's DVD player and were getting out a movie. I think that if I would have let him, Jason would have flipped around and drove BACK to the exit. Just then my dad called and said that he did find that there was something that happened in IC at 8:00 that had shut down the interstate. Okay - it was 11:50 now - is that really the problem? Just as we hung up from him, the traffic started moving - full speed.
We found out in the morning that a semi-driver from Montana decided to do a u-turn in the median (with a ton of snow on it and a mile from the next exit). His truck flipped over which was hit by another semi and then a car. Luckily no one was hurt, but it took over 3 hours to get it cleaned up - stopping the interstate since it blocked both lanes. He got a ticket for improper use of the median.
Jason thinks that officers should have a seperate ticket book for dumba**. They would write you a ticket for something and mark the level of stupidity. This would get the highest level.
We got home before Santa and our kids slept through it all.
Posted by Brenda Rae at 12:43 PM
Santa came eating all the cookies, mountain dew and bananas that we left him. The reindeer also got their snack of marshmellows and carrots. He came bringing some of our favorite toys that we asked him for. The kids THANKFULLY slept in on Christmas morning. We got home late from Christmas Eve at my parents due to an accident on the interstate - a post for the end all in itself. Aren't my kids so stinkin' cute? I love to see them so happy. I can only imagine how much joy God gets when He makes us happy. Jason spent the morning putting Drew's race track together before we had to leave. This is really cool and I recommend it also very easy to use.
Posted by Brenda Rae at 11:50 AM
Let's just say the ride home from this program was not full of cheer. Drew told me walking into the school that he didn't want to sing, but I thought that it would pass when he got into his classroom with his friends and teachers. It didn't.
He stood on the stage the whole time with this face (he is in the middle). His teachers tried so hard to cheer him up but we never figured out what the problem was. He had practiced all the songs and knew them by heart. They have been the same for the past three years so we had them memorized too! We find him singing all the time, but does get embarassed very easily. We did get his friends singing though!
He wouldn't visit with Santa later, but that doesn't surprise me since it meant that he was the center of attention. His sister would have loved it, but not Drew.
He had to apologize to them the next day which was another ordeal. No apology - meant that he couldn't take his school presents home after the party that day. Yes I am the mean mom, but there was no reason for this behavior - he wasn't sick!
Posted by Brenda Rae at 10:36 AM
We like to spread Christmas out a little. We let our kids open our presents on Sunday night. Jason's taste buds kept reminding me that I had said that I was going to make a prime rib. We had been doing research on how to make the BEST one. It wasn't quite perfect, but we will keep practicing. It was the most expensive piece of meat that I had ever bought - 5 lbs for $40+. Let us know when you want to come for come good beef! My parents and sister came to join us for supper - who can pass up prime rib?
The kids were thrilled with joy as they opened their treassures. Lots of clothes, movies, craft stuff, games and the hit pressent - the scooter. I thought Jason was insane for thinking they would like this. We struggle with our little chickens riding their bikes sometimes - let alone a scooter. They LOVE them and ride around the circle on the wood floors. Now we just have to train them to put them away so that we don't trip over them!
The "let-down" present were some walkie talkies that didn't work at all. I have already taken the silly things back. Oh well they have PLENTY to play with.
Ally told me the other day that we should get rid of the old toys to make room for the new ones. I wished I could have gotten that done before Christmas. Pretty soon we will need to get back out a third persons toys to add to the mess!
Posted by Brenda Rae at 10:05 AM
DISCLAIMER: We typically don't do naked crafts at our house, but the paint got on one of my shirt a week ago on another craft and didn't come out so to protect my kids' clothes - they had to be shirtless!
The goal for this project was to be the tags on Christmas pressents from the kids, but as we sat opening our last presents at family's houses - I realized the pretty reindeer and trees were still sitting on the desk at home waiting to be attached to gifts. Rats!
Ally and Drew LOVE crafts. That actually might be an understatement. So I got this lovely idea from a friend, Jenn. If you do the craft, I will steal it for my own kids. Also if you come to our house, you know that we have every craft supply that you could want - that comes from my many years of Sunday School teacher and school teacher. On Saturday night we painted lots of tongue depressors brown and green for reindeer and trees. At the end of the night we glue them together to let them set up for the decorating.
On Sunday we got out the googly eyes, buttons, foam pieces to decorate them. There was a lot of supervision since I didn't want glue everywhere. Personally I liked Drew's trees better since he used buttons instead of the HUGE foam pieces, but it was her project and she is as stubborn as me.
This is a rare picture of me trying to glue on Rudolph's red bows. Jason enjoyed playing with the camera.
Posted by Brenda Rae at 9:47 AM
So far we are far below the snow depths that we had last year, but there is MUCH winter to come. I couldn't imagine living somewhere where there was no snow for Christmas or during winter! It has been a VERY cold December - much below average. I am so glad that I found a nice maternity coat to keep me warm. My other coat would have NEVER gone around this belly!
The kids love to go outside. There have been many days were they couldn't because their skin would freeze and I don't feel that would be very responsible of me! They enjoy going to the lot next to ours and sledding down their big dirt mound. Getting them bundled up takes forever since I am so picky about things getting tucked in so the snow doesn't reach their bodies! They love their cocoa and hot apple cider when they come in. At least this year their stamina for playing outside has increased so my labor to put their snow clothes on doesn't seem useless!
Jason has enjoyed the snow blower. I guess "enjoyed" isn't the word that would describe it, but he is thankful that he hasn't had to break his back trying to get it all cleaned off. I helped one day - kind of but really I am useless!
Posted by Brenda Rae at 8:30 AM
December 15th was quite a busy day. Not only did we have to go see Santa, but I had a dr. appt and small group. We managed to get it all done with a couple seconds to spare. We know that we have to get there early since so many kids come to visit Santa that night. Drew waited paitiently for his turn by coloring a picture of Rudolph for Santa.
Ally and Drew had worked hard on their lists for Santa. Santa brings two things that you ask for. They (mainly Drew) had been contemplating for several weeks on what they were going to ask for. Ally has been set for awhile on what she wanted - a pink guitar and a princess watch. Drew finally decided on a race track and power ranger.
Posted by Brenda Rae at 8:20 AM
Ally made her annual chain to countdown to Christmas. We didn't do such a hot job of riping the links off this year. Drew was too interested in playing to make one that night. He tried to get one down two days before Christmas. I guess the point is having fun with the stapler and scissors rather than the countdown.
Posted by Brenda Rae at 8:09 AM
Back on October 6th, we started one of our major projects for the church reconstruction. After many hours, sweat and tears (by me and probably a few by Jason) we finished this one. They look great and will be even better with Pastor Jeff's books on them.
On December 14th, we held our first service back in the building. Even though the church is not a building, it feels great to be home. It looks beautiful. Thanks to all the guys and gals that helped us on our small parts. Besides the shelves, Jason also worked on all the sound baffles. I never posted about that day (I also have no pictures since I was helping), but over 10 guys helped us on that project and we finished it in 12 HARD hours!
Posted by Brenda Rae at 8:00 AM
Snow days are great especially before Christmas. It helps crazy moms get some stuff done - as long as they don't have to go out and buy it! The kids and I worked on college kids study snacks on our first day. Well - Ally and Drew didn't really help. Every so often I would see them run through and grab a pretzel off the table and keep going hoping I didn't notice. Finally they decided to test their luck and sit down to eat this yummy snack. They remind me of their Dad!
Come June when I want to be at home with my THREE kids I will be frustrated with snow days, but for now - I love them!
Posted by Brenda Rae at 7:53 AM
We worked hard on this surprise for Grandpa Charlie. It all was great until Jason hid it in a feed shed that he goes in all the time. Oh well!
The kids helped Jason build this latest masterpiece. They pounded in the nails. Jason had predrilled the holes so that they could get them in straight. They also painted on all the names of the grandkids. This spiffy new work been will go in the new garage. It has wheels and electricity. You can have your own built by Jason for one low price!
Posted by Brenda Rae at 7:47 AM
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
So, last night after work I went over to Wal-Mart and got the kids from Brenda so she could get groceries and pick up a couple of odds and ends. We stopped at Menards and they were actually pretty well behaved.
On the way home, I had the radio on in the truck and wasn't thinking much about it until I heard Drew say from the back seat 'Come on everybody, dance with me.' This didn't really phase me or strike me as odd since I have trained the kids well to dance and groove in their seats when a good song comes on.
I listened to the music for a second and he was right, it was a good song. But before I could dance along with him, I heard him say again from the back seat 'Come on everybody, dance with me' followed immediately by, 'Don't make me dance alone.' WHAT!?! Where did he get that from?
So anyway, Ally and I humored him and danced along. When the song was over, he wanted me to play it again. Doesn't work too well when you're listening to the radio.
Posted by jasond at 4:47 AM
Friday, December 12, 2008
Okay, this is Jason and I'm hijacking the Blog to put up a fun post. (Yes, I know it's technically not hijacking since I'm a 'contributor'. And yes, I had to look up how to spell hijacking) This post is about a fun game that I like to play this time of year that involves Christmas decorations. I thought it would be a good idea to talk about it a couple of weeks before Christmas, so that all of you faithful readers out there would have a chance to try it out as you go to family and friend's homes this season for parties, meals, gift exchanges, etc.
There is no official title for the game (but I'm open for suggestions). Basically, it goes like this. Find a set of decorations and then rearrange them slightly and then wait to see what happens. I'm not talking about moving the Christmas tree to a different room. These have to be small things. I've taken some pictures as examples for you to look at.
How do you win? Well, let's just say that you can't lose....UNLESS your final project makes the host incredibly mad, in which case, you lose. You can win in a couple of different ways. 1. You win if after you do the rearrangement, the host never notices the rearrangement before you leave. You will be laughing to yourself all night and all the way home as you anticipate the reaction the host will have once they find it don't know who did it. 2. You can also win if the host finds the rearrangement while you are there and you get to see their (potentially) classic reaction and have a good laugh about it. 3. You get bonus points if you do a rearrangement, they find it while you are there, and then you do another before you leave.
Anyway, here's some examples from around our home. The first one can be played with any nativity scene. (Let me just sate that I intend absolutely NO DISRESPECT to the nativity scene, it just always works wonderfully) If you look closely at the scene in the picture you will see a small Christmas moose (borrowed from another area of the house) next to the sheep and angels. This produces widely different reactions from different people. We did this at my parents house with a small snowman and my Mom hasn't put out the nativity scene since.
The next one can be played where ever you have a set of individual letters arraigned intentionally to spell a word. For example, the popular Christmas word 'Noel.'
'Noel' works great because there are many potential variations (some real and some sort of real). Here are some that I have thought of.
Sounds like it could be an actual word. (Only, knoll)
Potential baby names (for someone else)
Words that are just funny.
Well, there you have it. I'm sure that none of you will get nearly as much enjoyment out of this as I do. I'm also sure that I've convinced you all what a sick person I am. I also have to apologize to my wife, since I'm sure that none of you will now EVER want to invite us to your home. (and I'm also sure that I will no longer get to be a 'contributor' to the blog)
Merry Christmas everyone!!! Since I average about one post per year, I hope you all have a great Christmas, (and New Year, and Valentine's Day, President's Day, St. Patricks Day, Mother and Father's Day, Flag Day, Groundhog Day, Earth Day, etc...you get the picture.)
Seriously though, Thank you to all of you who faithfully read this blog. I know it brings Brenda great pleasure to post all of the silly things we do and we both enjoy having this format to use to share our lives with you. I know we'll see some of you this season and we'll be able to wish you all Merry Christmas personally. To the rest of you, please be assured that you have a special place in our hearts and that we wish you all the best this season. Our prayer is that God blesses you and provides for you the way he has for us.
Posted by jasond at 6:30 AM
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I was listening to the messages tonight. They guy on the phone said -
This message is for Dr. Jason Willis. I saw his interest in opening practice online and wanted to know if the DOC was still interested. Please call our office at 1-800-...
I didn't get the phone number because I was ROLLING on the ground in laughter. I tried googling him and there are 2 Dr. Jason Willis's - in Georgia and California. There is also a football player too.
Posted by Brenda Rae at 4:51 PM
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
It's a no school day! What shall I do? I have lots of food to make a Christmas letter to get out and presents to wrap. I just wish the roads were a little better so I could get a couple things at Wal-Mart!
Drive Safe if you are in Iowa. We have a thin layer of ice on everything and some snow on the way supposedly - we will see if it shows up!
Posted by Brenda Rae at 4:46 AM
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Hannah was babysitting our kids so that Jason and I could get some Christmas shopping done and have dinner with another couple. We had forgot how fun it was to eat with someone WITHOUT your children. I barely remember those days - how about you Scoggins?
When I was taking her home she was telling about a converstation with Ally which is ALWAYS amusing. They were talking about what Santa was bringing them. Ally said that last year Santa brought her underware - and yes he is this year also. She wondered how the elves made those. If she were an elf, she would knit them. But she doesn't know how to knit.
Man how uncomfortable would knitted undies be???? I am glad that Santa shops at Target for our underware!
Posted by Brenda Rae at 7:24 PM
Saturday, December 6, 2008
At about 5:00 a.m. I heard Drew yelling for Daddy. I had just got situated after my third time up to go to the bathroom, so I was NOT rolling back out to see what the deal was. Instead I shoved Jason out telling him that Drew wanted him.
When we woke up, Jason asked me if I knew why Drew was yelling. When Jason went in there, Drew wanted to tell him that his boo boo on his hand was all better and that he didn't need the band-aid anymore.
Then handed over the band-aid, rolled over and went back to sleep.
Posted by Brenda Rae at 11:18 AM
Monday, December 1, 2008
Jason takes pride in his Christmas lights. This year he added some great touches - solar eyes and outlets in the roof with two new circuits. He is trying to cut down on the fire hazards! He spent several hours up on the roof and gained a beautiful house and a lot of sore muscles. He is getting old and is not as flexible.
I worked on the bottom and went only to the roof to work on the strands that weren't working completely. I wish I knew how many lights were up there - he thinks that there are about 15 strands of normal lights on the roof and 5 strands of icicles. On the bottom I used about 5 strands. Our struggle was the lovely twirly trees that almost won and didn't have to stand in the cold this year, but the front would have looked slightly bare without them. A fence post, wire ties and a popcicle stick later - Jason and I won and they are up looking nice only at night!
The funny part that was as we were finishing up people were driving by REALLY slow. One family stopped to turn around in our driveway. My mom almost drove off the road looking at it. Jason is my hero!
The kids wanted to put up their lights and I agreed they could decorate the deck. They picked the colors and we put some green and red on the deck. It was nice and fun project to do with Ally. Drew chickened out and got too cold. Sorry there are no pictures of it, but it is too cold and now I have to wear shoes in the backyard instead of my flip flops with the snow!
Posted by Brenda Rae at 5:22 PM
I think that we got a dusting of snow a couple weeks ago, but it was gone before breakfast so it didn't count! We woke up on Sunday morning to an inch or so of snow. It continued for most of the day.
Sadly we only ended up with about 2 1/2 inches total by Monday a.m. There is a nice layer of ice smashed in between the snow which made for great road travel today. I think that people really wanted a late start but come on this was NOTHING according to some of our days last year!
After church the kids and Jason headed out to scoop the drive-way and make a family of snow men, women and kids. Most of them melted before they came in but they had a blast!
If you look closely you can see the creativeness of my kids and husband to see the corn for eyes, buckeyes for buttons, random pieces of wood from the garage for arms and a corn cob for a nose. Jason claims that one snowman is grabbing the other one's bottom, but only him would think that way.
Posted by Brenda Rae at 5:12 PM