Oh hey 2012. Bye.

In honor of my least favorite holiday, here is my 2012 in pictures.

And here is a great song that our worship team played at the end of the service on Sunday.  It is to the tune of Auld Lang Syne and nicely sums up my thoughts on 2012 ending and 2013 beginning.

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Mihingo Lodge

After gorilla trekking, we spent one more night at our lodge in Bwindi, then got up at 7am and headed out for Lake Mburo – the final national park of our safari.

Roadtrip highlights include:

Seeing the Spaniards from our gorilla trekking group along the way – we waved at them as we passed them, then they waved at us as they passed us – and on the leapfrog game went.

We had been told that Lake Mburo is the land of hoofed animals.  We were so excited to see zebra, and perhaps envisioned our van barely able to drive because of the great number of herds of zebra we were surrounded by.  This was not quite the case, but we did see some hoofed animals on our game drive in to our lodge.

We saw zebra, monkeys, impala, topi, and many other antelope type animals on our drive.

Eventually we arrived at our lodge.  A really great girl who’s name I’m forgetting (after 5 months, who can really fault me for that) met us at the van and showed us to our room.  This was a really unique lodge.  It’s layout was up a hill and at the bottom of the hill was a watering hole that you had a great view of regardless of where your room was.  At the top of the hill was the main room of the lodge, which was open air with a thatch roof.  There was a fancy swimming pool and of course we were greeted with fresh juice and warm washclothes.

Our lodge-lady told us that we were staying in Buffalo Tent.  Yes, our rooms were like tents, but in a permanent structure sort of way.  We were at the very bottom of the hill.  The lodge-lady wished us luck on our journey back up, saying that previous guests had likened it to the Inca Trail.  The prize is that we were closest to the watering hole.  AND we had the best water pressure for our shower.  So there is that.

We were also told that we should not keep any food in our tent, as the naughty monkeys would find a way to break in and find it – even if it was at the bottom of our suitcase.  We also needed to lock the tent because the monkeys had figured out how to open it.

We arrived at Mihingo Lodge in the early afternoon, and spent the afternoon sitting on our deck, watching the watering hole and reading.

We saw warthogs, impala, topi, waterbuck, and water buffalo (and more) during our afternoon of leisure.  We got a lot of great use of dad’s binoculars.

That evening we hiked up to the lodge for a delicious dinner.  In my journal, this is the last day I wrote about, and my last line of my Africa journal is, “I had so many vegetables!  It made me really happy.”

Next up: our “nature walk” at Lake Mburo – don’t worry, this one actually involved nature, not people groups.  Not to spoil the ending, but I’m really excited to share my zebra pictures with you!

If I wrote a Christmas letter…

I don’t send out a Christmas letter, but sometimes people ask me to, hoping that it would be one of the more entertaining ones they receive during this season of merriment.  I think if I were to write a Christmas letter, I would struggle with whether to be serious or ridiculous.  Then I would walk away, not knowing what to do.

I am a P in my myers briggs, so that means there is a good chance you would receive said Christmas letter post-Christmas, kind of like this blog post.

I think that this year I would format it in the form of 2012 highlights.  Perhaps a top ten list of sorts, but not actually in any sort of ascending or descending order, as that would take too much thought and preparation.  Also perhaps not ten things, because that would also require too much thought and preparation.  So just a list of things.

The Best of 2012

my best decision:

Without a doubt, agreeing to take a student teacher at the last minute.  If we looked more alike perhaps Charlotte could pass for my little sister.  K PJ Day

my best risk:

Africa.

IMG_1116 copy_edited-1

my best forgotten accomplishment:

I finished grad school and got my master’s!  Good job, self. IMG_0112

my best olympics moment:

Seeing the Tower Bridge with its rings.  Thanks, layover! 08 05 12_7311 copy

my best cupcake:

The banana split cupcake.  Yum. IMG_9541

my best moment of being totally overwhelmed:

The generosity of my friends and family as they supported me in going to Uganda.  I still can’t express how thankful I am. postcard back

my best roommate pic taken in a parking lot:

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my best broken heart:

Saying goodbye to these twelve beauties. ram gate laughing b&w_edited-1

my best birthday party:

Turns out I only had one birthday in 2012, but Amber and I had a pretty great Twins party – watching the 1991 World Series also turns out to be one of the only times I saw the Twins win this year. IMG_9683-Edit

my best animal:

Elephants.  Who knew how much I would love them? IMG_1999 copy

my second best animal:

A triple tie with lions, gorillas, and zebras.  (Yes, I realize zebras are the only ones pictured here.  That’s because I’ve shown you a lot of pictures of lions and gorillas.  Perhaps someday I will finish telling you about my safari and show you more zebra pictures.  New Year’s Resolution??)IMG_2874 copy2

my best adventure:

Gorilla trekking.  IMG_2148

my best coworker: 

Our kindergarten team this year is really really great.  I love them all so much.  But working with this girl in my classroom each day is the absolute best.  #livingthedream 155359_10100263140571619_252305089_n

my best new discovery: 

FroYo. *disclaimer, I think that I met my new friend FroYo prior to the beginning of 2012, but I think this is the year I strived to make it a part of my daily life.IMG_0114

my best new addiction:

Young Adult Dystopian books

my best new tradition:

Giant balloons. photo (4)

my best target field moment:

The first time I saw the Race to Target Field was a real live thing this year – no longer just on the big screen. IMG_0004

Thanks for being a part of my 2012.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

you warm my hearta

love, Laura

All I know about dating, I learned from Christmas movies…

I have been watching a lot of cheesy made for TV Christmas movies lately.  I love them.

And I’ve been learning a lot from them.

I thought I’d take a moment to pass along some of the relationship tips that I’ve picked up in the past few weeks.

Number 1:  Christmas might be just a few days away, but it is NOT too late to find love in time for the holidays.

Sure, your love might start out as contrived, fake, or unwanted.  But soon (very soon)  it will blossom into a true Christmas miracle.

Number 2: Deceit is a great beginning to finding love.

You usually are trying to deceive your mother.  But really who can blame you – she is putting all sorts of pressure on you to be married.  This pressure really only bothers you at Christmas.

Your mother will forgive you once she realizes your fake boyfriend is a great addition to the fam.

Number 3: If your actual boyfriend (or fiance) dumps you right before Christmas, really the only option is to put an ad in the local paper, online, or by hanging an ad in your store front.

This is actually pretty amazing to know, because in 100% of people (movies) polled, the guy who answers your ad will be your one true love.  #greatnews

Number 4: Realizing that this stranger-man is actually the love of your life requires your mother to have you both stay together in your childhood bedroom.  This is awkward at first, but he will offer to sleep on the floor.  Then neither of you will be able to sleep.  So you will stay up talking.  And fall in love.  But neither of you will admit as much to the other person.

Number 5: Your feelings will be solidified when you are forced to kiss in front of friends and families to prove your love.

Number 6: If you don’t put out an ad to find love, coerce someone to be your fake boyfriend, or pay them to pretend to like you, someone else will put you in an equally awkward position.  It might be your son entering you in a contest to find a husband by Christmas, or a well-meaning family member setting you up on a blind date for Christmas Eve.  You will be unhappy about it at first, but in 90 minutes or less, (give or take a few commercial breaks) you will be wondering why you didn’t see what a brilliant idea this was right off the bat.

Number 7: Wedding are super fast to plan.  And after your family has a couple minutes to get over the fact that you initially lied to them and faked your relationship, they’ll be so happy that you ended up falling in love with this amazing imposter who has no family of their own to celebrate with so they were willing/forced to pretend to be with you but is actually a super quality guy, better than anyone you’ve ever brought home before, that everyone will join the planning-fun and you will be married by New Years (or sooner).

You are welcome.  And congratulations on your newly-found happiness and joy.

I am off to a Christmas Eve Eve Eve party, but am already looking forward to getting home again and either (a) cleaning up the Christmas cookie mess I left in the kitchen, or (b) checking out my Netflix line-up.  I still have a lot more Christmas/love stories to watch.

And then there are all the Christmas/puppy movies.  I’ve always wanted a pet!  Maybe me and my fake boyfriend will bring home a dozen of adorable Golden Retrievers for Christmas.

Winter Break Bliss

The first few days of winter break are about two things for me:

1. Rest.

2. Maximizing the Christmas in my life.

I think that so far I’m doing pretty well. Here is how I have spent my time in the 27 hours since my winter break started…

I mailed a Christmas package. And I only had to wait like 5 minutes at the post office! A true Christmas miracle.

I went to Rusty Taco for dinner with my roommate. It isn’t really Christmassy, but it is amazing. It is possible that we have been twice in the past 10 days.  I would go again tomorrow if I had someone to go with.  Yum.

I went to the mall and visited the Madewell store for the first time. It was as delightful as I’d dreamed it would be.

While at the mall, we stumbled across a delightful little Christmas concert by a brass ensemble.20121221-193823.jpg

We sat down with the elderly and the babies and were filled with Christmas joy. Our favorite parts was this baby in a cart. Because why wouldn’t you love a baby in a cart?20121221-193857.jpg

And when the sweet lady playing french horn shouts across the mall, “Scott! Come quick! We need you” and their friend Scott rides to escalator down and is coerced into playing the jingle bells for the next song. She assured him that the music would just come to him…20121221-194427.jpg

After that, we visited the most beautiful Christmas tree. (Well, this is not counting the tree at Rockefeller Center, as they are in two different genres of Christmas trees).20121221-193917.jpg

But seriously – how amazing is this? I love it so much.20121221-193937.jpg

We chatted for a bit with the man who lives there – he is really sweet and gave us the award of best tree fans of the night – pretty much no one else had been willing to brave the cold (and tresspassing??) to go get a close up look at the tree. (And by the way, if you go visit the tree, you are welcome to walk down their driveway – he loves visitors and seeing how much joy their tree brings to people).

Then I was sleeping by 9:30 pm.

Today I got up for the furnace man’s arrival and drank some of Caribou’s reindeer blend coffee.

I may have been forced to have Christmas cookies for breakfast, as my milk was expired. Desperate times and all that…

I wrapped presents.20121221-193949.jpg

I made Christmas ornaments.20121221-194004.jpg

I finished a Christmas puzzle.20121221-194033.jpg

And I watched a stellar Christmas movie on Netflix.20121221-194018.jpg

I think this winter break is off to a great start! Now I am going to sit by the Christmas tree and drink some tea with my slippers, a blanket, and a good book.

Schoolhouse Rock vol. 51

Today is my student teacher’s last day.  She has been in my classroom for a year – since last January. We’ve become not only co-teachers, but also good friends, and I am so so sad to see her go.  (but also really excited to see her go on to teach on her own – she is beyond ready.  Is anyone hiring a fabulous kindergarten teacher?  Because I know where you can find one).

Because we have already cried too much today, I thought I’d brighten all of our spirits with some hilarious moments from kindergarten.

“Miss K!  My dad gave this to me so my locker doesn’t smell!”  (holds up a Cars themed air freshener like you’d hang in your car).

“In one hundred days we will be so old.  I would not want to see the look on my face when I am elderly!”

“My pre-school teacher had a time-out chair, and they would not get to play for the REST OF THEIR LIVES!”

“In 10,000 years, we will all be skeletons.”

Twas the day before winter break, and not a student was learning, not even a mouse…

Of Monsters and Men Concert in Review

Last night I went with some friends to the sold out Of Monsters and Men show.  I was assuming you’d want to know some highlights.

First of all, the weather was “beautiful” for December and we were able to successfully leave our coats in the car without turning into icicles on the walk from the parking ramp to First Ave.

Secondly, Kari found us awesome spots to stand!  We had a great view and were removed from the crowdes.   So awesome that (a) my student teacher’s parents stood behind us and (b) another girl really wanted to stand with us.  She tried to dance me out of my spot, but I held strong.  Whether she was bumping into my arm on repeat, crouching down low and nearly nuzzling her head on my shoulder while flailing her arms out in front of her, or melodramatically basically hugging this pillar that was in her way to peek around it to see the show.  I mostly wanted to tell her that perhaps she shouldn’t have chosen to stand behind the cement pillar and then she wouldn’t be having these issues.

Another highlight is when the band said they wanted our help singing a particular song.  None of the words seemed familiar.  I thought perhaps I just had misunderstood their icelandic accents on the song, but I soon figured out that of course the sing-a-long is to the one song that my iTunes refuses to play for me.  I definitely recognized the first 10 seconds that my CD plays before just stopping.  Then the next 4 minutes seemed like a brand new song.  I am choosing to think that they wanted to take time to teach me this song, rather than feel like a lame fan who doesn’t actually know the music of the band she went to see in concert.  Oh irony that this would be the song they encouraged crowd participation…

It was a super fun night – Of Monsters and Men is adorable and they put on a good show.

Plus, Old-Lady-Work-Night-Win: we were all home by 10pm.  That is the silver lining of seeing a band that only has one album out.  The sad part is it is over all too soon…

 

Schoolhouse Rock vol. 50: Christmas is Coming!

The weeks before winter break at kindergarten are always… well, they’re something. Fun? Exhausting? An adventure? you warm my heart

Yesterday spontaneous Christmas caroling occurred in the middle of math. I may have told the children that they needed to be quiet so we could finish our math lesson, and then followed that up with this pearl of wisdom, “You might be singing in your heart, but your ears can still be listening.”

Today one child was reading a book from their book box and exclaims, “It’s Baby Jesus!” “Nope, that’s a turkey…”

Today was pajama/polar express day. When we brought them to gym, one boy asked me, “Are we going to take our clothes off in gym?” and all I could think of is when my pastor quotes Princess Bride saying, “I do not think it means what you think it means…”

Did I mention the kiddo who can’t go a day without wearing a sweater vest so he wore one OVER his pajamas?? Awesome.

And I’m always on high alert to intervene in case of conversations spilling the beans about Santa.

Have you seen our Christmas tree forest? Our friend Jessica provided the most beautiful picture in the middle, which has been an inspiration for us all… Photo on 2012-12-18 at 16.00

generous hearts

christmas donationsThe kids ministry at Hope Community Church, where I attend, decided that it would be awesome to collect Christmas presents for the kids at my favorite orphanage in Uganda.  I went to all the Sunday school classes and shared a little bit about Rafiki Africa Ministries and showed a short video with all the kids in it, and invited the Hope children to bring presents for the Rafiki children.  The kids were all super excited about it, and had lots to say.  I loved their enthusiasm and was so encouraged by it.

But the moment that touched me the most is when I was visiting the first grade class (who I taught last year in Sunday school and adore them all) and after we took a picture for a Christmas card, one little girl came up to me, took a bracelet off her wrist, and said, “Do you think the orphans in Africa would like my bracelet?” and without hesitation, she put it in our donations box.

I loved so much that this sweet little one’s heart immediately was so filled with love and generosity, that she gave up a bracelet off her wrist.

Merry Christmas, Rafiki Kids – know you are loved by these kids in Minneapolis who have never even met you.