christmas pictorial

BFFs riding shotgun:

Bannisters don't mess around when it comes to Christmas trees.
Mom had big plans for the fam:
The pond froze over:
So we went ice skating:
It was smooth as glass in the middle:
Then we had hot cocoa afterward:
After church, we made snowflakes:
Dad is the master snowflake maker:
Jayne focusing intensely:
Christmas Eve pjs!
Every Christmas Eve, my dad reads The Night Before Christmas. This year, we called Robert on speakerphone so he could hear too.

12.25.09 - Merry Christmas!
Santa came:
Yummy Christmas dinner:
Pool tourney:
Shaking hands after Jayne defeated me soundly:
Doug strategizing?
The bracket Mom made. Yes, she made a bracket.
(Doug ended up winning!)

12.26.09 -Boxing Day
We watched some soccer & lounged pretty much all day.

Fam went to Grandma & Grandpa Lynk's, and Doug & I went to Victoria & Jeremy's. V, I didn't get any pics of the 2 of us. Frown face.

Cute Christmas mantel:
The Mookster:
Sidenote: Who is 6 months pregnant, works full time, has a long-haired dog and still has floors this clean?!

We had to complete Mom's schedule, so we decorated cookies.

All in all, a wonderful Christmas (with the exception of Robert's absence). I'm sad I didn't get to see more people while we were home & that we'll miss Bannister Christmas.

Happy New Year's Eve!


a christmas message from moses

This is Moses, and this is his personality in a nutshell:

He's 6 years old and lives at Fountain of Life in Kenya.

Our friend Lameck, who is in his 20s and the "big brother" of all the boys, shared this conversation with us, and I want to pass it on.

Moses: Lameck, I've been thinking.
Lameck: About what, Moses?
Moses: Heaven.
Lameck: What about it?
Moses: You know how God will give everyone their own house in heaven?
Lameck: Yes, more or less.
Moses: Well, I don't want to live all alone in a big house. When we get to heaven, do you think it's okay if we check with God to see if you and me can share?


stupid betty.


Didn't even get a chance to make the ganache.
Cake broke while I was "inverting" the bundt cake.

Conveniently, I have all the stuff to make a trifle.

Thanks a lot, Betty.

just some things

First, an ode to my 2 weeks off!
Oh, sweet break! How I love thee & thy non-schooly ways!
Pretty pumped about Christmas break, even though today is really the first day I've felt like I'm actually on break. Friday I spent all day with birthday preparations (see below), Saturday I saw students, but today I realized that I don't have school tomorrow. Hip, hip hooray! Not that I don't love my job, but I am just more ready for this break than any other break so far. Anyway.

Second, pictures from Doug's birthday.
Getting ready to go to Bravo for tasty Italian cuisine.
Plus, complimentary gelato, thanks to our friendly waitress!

Also introducing the first cake I've ever made from scratch:
Chocolate angel food cake with mocha frosting. YUM!
27 raspberries around the edge for Doug!
But to quote my 4-yr old niece: "You forgot the candles!"

Third, random update.
Saturday we went to our friends', the Snyders, house to bake sugar cookies & decorate them. Well, let me rephrase - Patti & I baked cookies while Doug & Zac watched the UofM basketball game, but then we were successfully able to rope them into decorating cookies!

Last night I hung out with teenagers - we had the sophomore class party, but my co-sponsor got sick, so I had to chaperone solo.

Today was church & tonight we have a "family dinner" at Spring Arbor with a bunch of friends from college, so I'm looking forward to that. This post has taken me about 20 minutes to write because I'm baking a green bean casserole & cake, so the timer keeps going off for various things. This time Betty Crocker's stepping in for my cake, though. Although, I am going to be ambitious and make chocolate ganache (another first for me), so hopefully there will be a future post about another baking success story.

Okay, buzzer is going to ring at any moment BUT:
- We will be in WNY for Christmas, but not sure how long we're staying or if we'll be there for Bannister Christmas. I know - I KNOW. Don't even say it.
- You should read Crazy Love by Francis Chan - I've gone through it twice with 2 different small groups, and it's great.
- That's it.


i dig doug

27 fun memories with my birthday boy:

1. When we first officially met - in the library at Spring Arbor.
2. How we used to play Mexican train & chess in Village E.
3. The time we watched fireworks on your dad's roof.
4. When we went to Niagara Falls (your first time), and you thought I fell into traffic.
5. Playing 20 Questions the whole way from my parents' house to Brooklyn.
6. How I used to stay in the library until 2am with you while you finished papers, even though I was done with my homework.
7. When I drove to Brooklyn to surprise you for your 23rd birthday.
8. When you flew to England to surprise me at Oxford.
9. When we went to France and didn't speak any French and were really hungry and it was pouring so we got quasi-Burger King.
10. Our trip to Mackinac Island, biking around the island on 1-speeds.
11. That time we went to Walmart in Mexico...
12. When we walked to Lime Lake & got lost on the way back because I knew the right way to go, but didn't want to contradict you because you just told me you liked me.
13. The first time you said you loved me.
14. When we went to look at engagement rings together.
15. Pancake breakfasts on Saturday mornings with Kress & Deb and Heather & Steve.
16. The time I had a migraine and you came over during open hours to check on me and brought me Subway.
17. When you were running for student body president, and we had the lemonade stand and handed out stickers that said "I dig Doug!"
18. When you proposed.
19. Our wedding, and how I kept laughing during the vows.
20. All the drives back & forth from Michigan to New York, and all the crazy things we laugh about.
21. When we used to do puzzles together with the Arbor Oaks residents.
22. The times that I visited you in NYC & always got roped into helping at LO.
23. Pizza, Mountain Dew & Frank Sinatra after the JSO concert.
24. Weeding the pond together before the wedding.
25. Making up stories about people at "Rhythms of the Night" - especially Napkin Lady.
26. That one time we went to Africa together & played with orphans...
27. Today at lunch when we went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and you knocked that container of kazoos off the shelf.

... & there's more where those came from!

You're my favorite person to make memories with.

Happy 27th birthday to the boy I love most.


finally getting holly & jolly

Took us long enough, but our house is finally starting to feel
Christmas-y. In our defense, we had planned on getting a tree on Dec. 5th, but the place where we went was charging $75 for the size we've gotten the past 2 years. Not happening.

So we went to a place closer to home & found a slightly smaller tree for $25. Hooray!

Tree topper (I did still need to stand on a chair - not THAT much smaller!)

Doug & Zooey, helping me decorate...

I also realized that I never put up any pictures of our new apartment like I promised, oh, 3 months ago or so. So above is our lovely gas fireplace, which I adore.

The Christmas re-arrangement of our living room:
Please ignore messy tree skirt - we've got our hands full just trying to keep Zoo from eating the tree.

View from fireplace: living room, dining room & kitchen
Plus what I've seen of my husband recently - but the final for his class is tonight!!

View from living room of dining room & part of kitchen:

& that's the downstairs.
Pictures of upstairs forthcoming - - after I do laundry, so it could be awhile...


zooey update

Since there are some family members who are more interested in how Zooey is doing than how Doug & I are doing (*ahem* EMILY), I thought I'd give a little pictorial update on the world's coolest canine.

1st day of puppy school picture that I never posted:
I can't get over how mini she is in this picture!

Zooey gets ridiculously excited when Doug comes home from work. Sometimes, if I see Doug pull into the driveway before Zooey can hear the car door, I'll say, "Who's here??" in an excited voice, and she'll jump up from the couch, like so:
then race to the door and start barking in anticipation. It's pretty cute.

Zooey was pretty bad about walking on her leash, so we got this little miracle called "The Gentle Leader" - which Zooey hates and we love. (Came with a highly entertaining dvd - we rewound and watched a lady being knocked over by her dog about 10 times.) Anyway, in this picture, Zooey is freaking out and trying to get the leader off.

Posing for her studio portraits?

Just hanging out, pondering the mysteries of life...

Cuddling with Jayne over Thanksgiving

Cuddling with Doug over Thanksgiving

Crawling behind the air mattress to lie by her favorite spot in the office - the vent.

Annoyed that I'm interrupting her nap.

Helping Doug study.

Now, the real reason I wanted a dog - -
An exploration of Zooey's various balancing tricks and her accompanying thoughts:
"And you seriously wondered why I jumped on your bed and peed on it that one time?"

"Say 'okay!' Say 'okay!' Say 'okay!'"

"Really? An elephant?"


& that's Zoo over the last 3 months, in a nutshell.

. . . All I know is that our kids have a lot to live up to.


africa: day 9

Sunday 11.15.09 - our last day in Africa

I hate mornings that are filled with packing bags and anticipated goodbyes.

We went to church at Fountain of Life's new property. They are currently holding church under a rented tent. We got to see the foundation of the new church, as well as the foundation of the new home for the boys!

The service was awesome - Dave preached and Pastor Kioko translated. Pastor was amazing! His translations were so quick, and he spoke with the same intonations and emotion as Dave - it was such a cool thing to watch. Clara, Nora & Irene all led worship. They apologized to us because their sound system wasn't working, so they couldn't use the keyboard or anything - - but let me tell you, I am so thankful that the system was down. When Nora sang the first line and then Clara, Irene & the congregation joined in... wow. It was absolutely beautiful. I had goosebumps the whole time.

Photo by Sara.

Little Moses was sitting by me, and he didn't make it through the sermon. He kept nodding and then doing the head-jerk, and then in the middle of a prayer, I felt a little thud against my shoulder, and that's where his head stayed for the rest of the sermon.
Taken during the nodding routine.

After church, we had a community lunch with the congregation and then just played with the boys for a couple hours. I met Pastor Kioko's son, Prince, who was so adorable & funny. He kept coming up to me and running his hands over my hair over & over and just saying, "So soft! So soft!" He spoke excellent English and a LOT of it - I don't think he ever stopped talking or moving!

Prince on the right, a little boy from church on the left.

As the afternoon wore on, and the departure crept closer, the boys started asking to write us notes in our journals, and occasionally one or two of them would go off for a minute and just sit alone, either just watching everyone pensively, or writing a little note. I'll include some excerpts from the notes I received in another post.

Fountain of Life boys, some church members, and our team.

Finally the bus came to take the boys back to their temporary home. A couple of the older boys, a bit sheepishly, smuggled letters into our hands under the guise of a handshake. There were a lot of hugs, a lot of last minute jokes, and a lot of tears.

After the boys were all packed into the bus, they were hanging out of the windows, all trying to talk to all of us at once and say goodbye one more time... I was managing to hold myself together, until my buddy Benedict reached through the window took my hand and said, "Bye, my BFF." I smiled and said, "I'll see you again, rafiki melele," (Swahili for "friend forever"). Then the bus pulled away, and I lost it. Thankfully pretty much everyone was either crying or avoiding eye contact. We prayed for the boys and then piled into our vans to go change before we went to the airport. The boys went to Lameck's apartment, and the girls went to Mama Florence's house.

Pastor Kioko and his family were riding with us, so Prince crawled in next to me, took my face in his hands and whispered, "No more tears." Of course, it was so adorable I wanted to burst into tears all over again, but I just hugged him and dried my eyes, then listened to him jabber the whole way to Mama Florence's house as he played with my hair. He asked me about "America" and what our country was like, so I told him about how it was starting to get cold in Michigan and soon it would snow, and then I told him about snow. Ellie was sitting on the other side of him, looking out the window, undoubtedly lost in her thoughts. Prince looked at her and asked, "Why are you so serious?" - which is just hilarious to hear coming from an 8-yr old Kenyan boy. We asked him what it meant to be "serious" and he put on a stern, contemplative face. We laughed and I said, "Well Prince, are you ever serious?" He looked up at me, somewhat bemused and said, "Of course!"

When we arrived at Mama Florence's house, he jumped out of the van, started running around, still talking, then ran back up to me, and without taking a breath exclaimed, "And when you come back, please bring me some snow!"

Pastor Kioko & his family left shortly afterward, we freshened up, chatted with Mama Florence, Clara, Nora & Irene until the boys arrived, then we said our goodbyes once again, were off to the airport, boarded the plane, and watched out the window until Africa was hidden beneath the clouds.

Now I'm back in Michigan, praying for my boys, looking at their pictures and reading their letters every day and asking God for an opportunity to return to them as soon as possible.

If you want to see more pictures of our trip, we've compiled everyone's pictures here.

If you have any other questions, I'd be more than happy to talk your ear off about the experience!

Paul: "Rachel, will you come see us again? I fear you will not."
Me: "Paul - if the Lord lets me, I will come see you again."
-pause, as Paul looks directly into my eyes, as if trying to read my heart, then - -
Paul: "I feel that you will come again."