Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I don't know how to do any fancy banners or anything flashy yet, but from our family to yours, Merry Christmas. May the blessing of Christ touch our hearts all year long!

This is our Christmas Eve picture when we got home from church.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

January Specials

Have I mentioned that I love to take pictures of children and families and seniors? Did I mention that my business partner and I have been blessed to open a studio in Baltimore? Did I mention that we are giving away FREE 16x20s in January? Click here to go over to our website and check it out...

Here are the wonderful Smeltzer grandchildren - all 6 of them- aren't they sweet? I did the Foster 8 last year and will try again this winter. And, because I teased him earlier this year on this very same blog, here is a great picture of my brother in law and his handsome sons.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cassilla's Country Crafts

My good friend Jennifer (Makayla's mom) has opened a new business with her sister, Debbie. The two of these ladies are amazing crafters and Deb's husband seems to be able to do just about anything with some wood and nails (and probably some wood glue but I won't get into that). The business is out of Jennifer's house and they have a great showroom (seen in the photos above). Here is the info:

Casillas Country Craft
212 N. Cherry St.
Lancaster, OH
Saturday + Sunday 12 - 5
Thursday 5 - 8
Stop in and check them out! Tell them Janis sent you!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Nutcracker Production

Two of my little dancers performed in a local production of the Nutcracker. Muffin and Doodle did great and it was so fun to watch. On Friday, we brought two of Grace's friends with us to watch it and they were so well behaved. I have to admit that I was a little jealous though. When Muffin first came onto the stage I watched her eyes scanning the audience. When she finally got glimpse of the person she was looking for her eyes lit up and her smile widened. Only, that person wasn't me! It was her friend Caitlin and I felt that I had somehow been replaced.

Here is Muffin in one of her outfits - I think it is the Sugarplum fairy outfit.

This is Doodle in her mouse costume. She had the biggest smile of her life when she came out on stage. She was also the child "directing" everyone about when they needed to move and to where. She was adorable!

Here is Muffin in her snow fairy costume. She had one other for her gymnastics dance but I took that with another camera. The funny thing was that both girls said that they didn't want to do it again next year but they would like to watch! I was really surprised because they looked like they were having a lot of fun and both of them have friends that dance with them. Well, we'll see what they say in a week or two!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Just a quick note about a couple cute things Doodle (4.5 years) said today.

1) We were getting ready to leave for AWANA (Bible club at church) and we sent the big girls upstairs to get dressed. Doodle comes down and sits at the table. Me, "Are you wearing two pair of pants?" Doodle, "Yes because this top pair are capri-ses" That must be the plural of capri pants! Sure enough, she had on a pair of jeans under her pink capris!

2) Later in the evening, I told Doodle she needed to get her jammies on and she was unhappy saying that she just wanted to wear the outfit she had worn all evening. I told her she needed to change and she begrudgingly obeyed. As she walked by Andy he asked her what was wrong. She explained that she didn't want to change her shirt because, "Well, I just wanted to wear it for the rest of my life."

3) Mator has a new habit of sneaking out of bed right after we put her in it. Tonight I found her cuddled up next to Doodle pretending to be asleep. Doodle said, "I'm just going to pray for her." "OK," I say. "Dear Heavenly Father, I just want to pray that Mator will stay in her bed. Please peace her during nappytime. And I just want to say again, please let Mator stay in her bed. Amen."

I think I'll keep these girls!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2008 in Review

Sorry for the delay in posts, we've had some technical difficulties that I'm still working with but missed writing so here we go again! Here is a little Q&A that was sent my way- A Review of 2008"

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?

I went to Las Vegas with Andy, my business partner (Carolyn) and her husband (Paul) in March for a photography convention. It was a great week but I don't see myself going back there again.

2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
No, don't make them. So at least I didn't break them!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yeh, I was standing next to this lady in line at Lowes and Whoops! This is a funny question but I guess the real answer is no- no one in my immediate family had any babies.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
We had a really bad year for this and attended 5 funerals and about four other calling hours.

5. What countries did you visit?
We're getting ready to visit Italy, France, Canada, the UK, Norway and several others- of course they are all at EPCOT at Disney World-will that count?

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
A cleaner house

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory?
I'm not good with dates. I had a minor in history but exact dates elude me.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Opening our studio in Baltimore.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Man did I gain some weight!!!

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Torn meniscus. Click here for the story

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Well, I guess it depends on who you ask: I bought some Utz Pub mix at Sam's and it was the best gift I ever got Andy. Doodle and Mator got some light up princess shoes that they were pretty excited about. I bought Muffin a Tom Sawyer comic book that she really like. I'm kind of partial to our new video camera.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Mator - She is getting really good at pooping in the potty which is always followed by a rousing rendition of this song:
Mator went poopy in the potty, Mator went poopy in the potty,
Mator went poopy in the potty, And now she gets a ho-bag!
Click here for that story.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Probably my own. I can be so selfish and impatient sometimes.

14. Where did most of your money go?
I think that if I analayzed our every expense, a good bit went towards fruit snacks and yogurt tubes.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I got really excited when I saw the way God moved so many things to allow us to go to Las Vegas. Not enough room here for the whole story but suffice it to say, He moved proverbial mountains!

16. What song/album will always remind you of 2008?
This is a tough one. This is a song I LOVED this year. Click here to hear it. It's called "Mighty to Save."

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: happier/sadder,thinner/heavier,richer/poorer?
happier, richer, probably a little heavier even though I lost 10 pounds last spring-no fair!!

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Playing with the kids, teaching them stuff.
Talking to Andy.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
driving around, cleaning (I guess that wouldn't make my house any cleaner next year would it?), eating junk food

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
Chrstmas Eve Day and night-Andy's family.
Christmas Day- My family.
In both cases celebrating the birth of our Savior with the people we love the most

21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?
Carolyn and my mom. I talk to both of them at least once a day.

24. What was your favourite TV program?
I only watch two-Survivor and Amazing Race but I have found that I really like the reruns of the Office so maybe we'll watch it.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Uh, no. I'm pretty sure I haven't HATED anyone since the 7th grade.

26. What was the best book(s) you read?
There's book I love and must have read it 150 times this year. It starts out like this, "In the Great Green room, there is a telephone. And a red balloon, and a picture of..."

Also, although it wasn't the first time I read it, a great book I read was, "Sheppherding a Childs' Heart" by Tedd Tripp

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I'm pretty sure this isn't what the questioner had in mind but... Mator has one of those books that have 4 buttons on the side and it plays the songs that you read in the book. I have
"discovered" that with my foot in the middle of the night while Mator is sleeping on several occasions. I have also "discovered" it in bed with her when she was supposed to be going to sleep. Finally, on more than one occasion, I have "discovered" that someone in my house likes to play with the volume dial on my alarm clock radio. Unfortunately, I usually don't "discover" that until it goes off at 6:00 in the morning.

28. What did you want and get?
a point and shoot camera

29. What did you want and not get?
A whole lot of sleep

30. What were your favourite films of this year?
Let's see, have we gone to the movies this year? I did take Muffin to see the American Girl movie and it was very good.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
OK, not fair. My birthday was in February and I was 34. That's a long time ago! I'm guessing that since it was a Wednesday: I took Doodle to preschool, picked her up, took Mator and Doodle to Pop & Sue's, taught art to three classes of first graders at FCA, picked up the kids, ate dinner, went to church and taught AWANAs to 1st and 2nd graders, came home and fell in bed. This year Wednesdays are a little slower, thankfully!

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
I would descibe it as "What Not to Wear"'s nightmare! Jeans and t-shirts are the most common, occasionally a pair of khakis sneaks in.

34. What kept you sane?
Well, that is debatable. I think I would say caffeine and a sense of purpose.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I think the whole Sarah Palin thing was interesting. I wasn't a huge fan of McCain or Palin but I think she did add some interesting discussion to the election.

37. Who did you miss?
I haven't seen my friend Libby in a long time-Does she even read this?

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
Here are a few:
* Don't leave Mator alone for more than 3.5 minutes.
* Your children's potty habits are not that intersting of a dinner topic (but since this is MY blog, it will probably continue to dominate the discussion here).
* Just because something costs lot of money does not mean it is worth a lot of money.
* Andy REALLY likes that Utz pub mix from Sam's club.
* A torn meniscus will not heal on its own- side note: I may be too old for bounce houses.
* If the world and the media (or my flesh) are telling me something is great, there is a good chance that it violates some scriptural command. Examples might include: divorce, no interest mortgages, fame and Big Macs.

There we go, 2008 wrapped up in a nice little bundle- now, I really must get started on those Christmas cards...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

My Visit to SCI (prison)

[Note: The words that are underlined are links to other web sites with more information about those words]

When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" Matthew 25:38-40

On Saturday afternoon, for the fourth consecutive year, the Wings ministry had a presence at the Southeastern Correctional Facility just outside of Lancaster. This was my third time in attendance. The concept is simple: Allow inmates a time to interact with their families in a relaxed, fun setting and allow volunteers the opportunity to share the love of Christ with all of them.

The founder of Wings, Ann Edenfield-Sweet knows what it is like to be the family of a prisoner. To raise her children without a father and what's more, to be ostracized by everyone (including her church) for the crimes of her husband. She wrote a book about this experience and then turned it into a way of serving God and helping others with the Wings ministry. In our case, she organizes the volunteers and works with the warden of the prison to provide a three hour long party. It goes something like this:

12-12:30 - Introduction and ice breaker games

12:30-1 - Crafts & cookie decorating for kids and parents. Visiting time for everyone else

1-1:45 - pizza, cookies and punch for everyone. Guests are grouped in circles of ten and Wings volunteers spread out and minister, eat and visit with their group.

1:45- Group Game (decorate a human angel in the group with the supplies provided-see one example below)2-3 - Activity that involves the angels and focuses on the Christmas story. Scripture is read and a short sermon if given. Closing prayer and a few minutes of visitation remain.

In short, this is one of the most rewarding 6 hours of ministry I do every year. I say six hours because if you have ever been to a prison, you will understand the bookeeping and security involved in getting someone into the prison (not a lot unlike the airport!!) Where else are there so many hurting people who need (and some even want) to hear about the saving grace of Jesus Christ? I am amazed by the boldness given to me by God during this time. I have been invited to share the hope and love of Jesus Christ with hurting people who are thankful for my presence. Can you ask for a better deal?

My heart is so full after this day and this year was the most amazing yet. I had the opportunity to bring my photography equipment into the prison and set up a studio to take pictures of inmates with their families. I will give each inmate two copies of their portrait to send to whomever they choose thanks to the generosity of some donors who will help cover the cost of the printing.

When Carolyn and I started our business three years ago, an earnest prayer was that God would allow us to use this equipment and our talents to bless others. We have actively sought ways to do this and appreciate every opportunity to serve the Lord when He has given us so much. This is yet another example of His provision. What really melts my heart?

How about this FOUR DAY OLD BABY who got to meet his dad for the first time:

This little guy was all smiles as he played with his dad in a way not usually possible during regular visitation. He also brought his 6 week old brother who met his dad too.
This one really touched my heart. This nine year old girl posed for a picture and then walked over to me and asked if she could see it. After I showed it to her she looked up at me, her eyes gleaming, and said, "I love my Dad."

I am humbled again by the blessing of my husband who knows that his girls love and need him. I pray that these guys see it too.

The last half hour of the program is difficult for me to witness and I was thankful to be able to have the distraction of tearing down my equipment. It's a quiet time after the crescendo of excitement that came directly before. It is the transition from being a regular family spending a fun afternoon together to the realization that some people are leaving their loved ones behind - in some cases forever. When Andy and I went to different colleges, our weekends were marked by this same spirit. Friday night I'd be bursting with excitement to see him. Saturday we'd have so much fun together. Sunday it was like a cloud had parked over us, knowing that our time together was almost over. Multiply that by 10 and this is the sadness that I witness those last few minutes.

It's all worth it. It's the reality of the situation and it's an important part in the process of consequences to realize that the inmate did something that separates them from their family. Of course, my hope is that they realize that the greatest tragedy is the sin that separates them from their heavenly father. Those that can understand that may be ready to hear how Jesus Christ came to make reconciliation possible. The hope of spending eternity with Him is the greatest gift I can give.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

On my way to prison

I'm on my way to prison today - South Eastern Correctional Facility to be exact. Stay tuned to hear more...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ode to My Meniscus

Ode to My Meniscus - 2008

One summer day

A mom did try

To race her darling daughter.

Through a bounce house

She did fly

And really should have caught her.

But alas,

Her knee did “pop”

And the pain spread to her head.

Mommy lost

Then did shop

For a doctor whose bill she would dread.

Doc said, “Look!

What have we here?

I think your meniscus is torn.”


Confirmed that fear

And now for her cartilage we mourn.

So surgery

Will now be planned

To remove the painful piece.

Now we do pray

The doctor’s hand

Is steady and his heart full of peace.

And so we part

I hardly knew you

Oh cartilage in my knee.

The day you’re gone

The pain will be too

And no more bounce houses for me!

- Janis Smeltzer, 2008

This poem was inspired by my friend Vanessa (who has written beautiful and moving tributes to both her stolen snowmobile and her stolen bike. Check out her blog here.) and written almost entirely while waiting for the doctor and scheduling nurse at the appointment today!