A 2015 Review

As I’m trying to write this article, I’m realizing that a lot happened in 2015, much more than I originally thought.

In January, my mom did the Celebration Half Marathon in Florida.  We made a Disney vacation out of it with a great deal through Disney’s education program.  Our aunt and cousin came as well.

Everest Gang

We had lunch/dinner at Tusker House in about a half hour when the above picture was taken. Lex, Anjalena, our cousin, and I hurried to Expedition Everest.  We waited in line (took a selfie), rode it, then rode it again with Fastpasses!  And we were only a tiny bit late to Tusker House!

Lady Tremaine

We got to Magic Kingdom at opening.  Cinderella’s stepsisters and stepmother were talking and hanging out with us as we walked to the carousel.  After riding, they went to their regular spot, and we waited in a normal line to take a picture with them.  It was magical!

Seven Dawrfs' Mine Train Selfie

Not all eight of us like roller coasters, but all eight of us tried Seven Dwarfs’ Mine Train.  This is Mom and Lex trying to take a selfie as the train begins to go downhill.

Also in January, I began my first college courses at our community college and my parents bought me my first laptop!  Mom and I read Unbroken, the story of Louie Zamperini.  It was a GREAT book!  I highly recommend it*.

In February, we drove down to Florida again for the Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend!  Yes, that winter we went to Florida every month.  We didn’t go to any of the parks, but we still had a blast!  Alli, Lex, Ana, & Papi ran the 5k.  Mom did something called the Glass slipper Challenge.  So the day before the half, she ran the Enchanted 10k (with me!) as well.

10k Finish
After the 10k

While we were down there, we drove over to Merritt Island to visit Teen Missions Int’l headquarters, where I would train for the trip that summer.  A nice employee (who ended up leading a preteen team to Trinidad) gave us a little tour and we met Bob Bland, the founder.  It was great!

Visiting TMI
I was NOT wearing a jacket in July!

March presented Pilgrim, a musical theatre production based on John Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress.  I showed up to help out for the final two weeks, and I fell in love with the cast, theatre in general, helping backstage, and Charlotte Christian Theatre Company.  Little did I know that I’d be called the Prop Ninja, and now as an intern with them, known as the Backstage Badger.  My sister Ana played Hopeful, and Lex joined backstage helping with costumes.

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Ana is in the gray vest wearing glasses on the right

In April, I was a production assistant (a fancy term for the person who does whatever odd jobs a set may require) for Upward Sports‘ “The Big Story”.  It’s a small evangelical DVD Upward gives out to participants every year.  While on set, I met Jason Burkey, mostly known as the best friend character of the same name in the movie October Baby!

I also went to Carowinds, a local amusement park for the first time.  I went the fastest I’ve ever been before (on land): 90 mph on the Fury!

Charlotte Christian Theatre’s 8-12 year olds class put on Pinocchio at the beginning of May.  All three of us older girls helped out.  I did the lights for all three shows!

The Run Wild 5k was another success!  Getting up at 5am, delivering ice, setting up tents, giving out temporary tattoos, all of it is so fun for me!

I finished reading through the Harry Potter series for the first time in May.  It was epic.  I was quite bitter at the ending, but I’ve since come to peace with it. 🙂

My aunt took Ana, Lex, and I to the beach in June.  We had a lot of fun!  It was a great getaway before the biggest trip of my life…

On June 27, I arrived at The Lord’s Boot Camp to train for Guatemala!

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I think I’ll just sum up July with a slideshow:

 

 

August and September were awesome, but really tough.  I came back from my trip and started a full college semester.  I tried to maintain two internships, and I got my first job.

In October, I brought myself down to a normal busy (rather than the crazy busy).  I visited my best friend in upstate New York and had my 17th birthday the next weekend!

 

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Watching the sunset

November was full of tough school assignments and learning to “bloom where I’m planted”.  I saw The Phantom of the Opera for the first time!

December has been fantastic!  A cousin got hitched on my parents’ 18th wedding anniversary.  We went on a Disney cruise aboard the Dream.  It was so much fun!

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And I saw STAR WARS VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS!!!!!!!!  Star Wars pretty much runs in my family.

Christmas was wonderful, of course.  It’s rather unsettling that it’s my last Christmas as a high school student and legal minor.  But I know that whatever next year is, I will make it fantastic.

 

 

*I do NOT recommend it for kids and sensitive teens.  The book tells the true story, which is very violent.

 

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A family “Cupcake Wars”

Disclaimer: We’re just a bunch of sisters who like watching Cupcake Wars on Netflix or Food Network (when we’re at a hotel with cable TV).  We have no official relationship of any sort with anyone officially affiliated with the TV show.

December 22, 2015, welcomed the second annual Lopez family Cupcake Wars.

Last year’s Cupcake Wars was our first.  Alli (age 8) and I went up against Lex (13) and Ana (my twin-not-twin).  Alli and I got the kitchen first.  We used this recipe that I found on Pinterest for the cake part, and used store-bought buttercream frosting.  For the decoration, we used some gingerbread men-shaped toppers we found in Target’s baking section.

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I was proud of myself for not ruining the recipe and for cutting the corner of a Zip-loc bag to squeeze the frosting out.  The alternative would be using the standard butter-knife to  frost.

Ana and Lex used a “death by chocolate” recipe and store-bought chocolate frosting.  For decoration, they used a Reese’s cup, a (different) store-bought gingerbread topper, and yellow sprinkles to make a baby Jesus in a manger.  They got the major creativity points.

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Some behind-the-scenes pics (with Papi photo-bombing)…

In the end, ALLI AND I WON!!!  The judges had a tough decision, but landed on the gingerbread cupcakes because WE’RE AWESOMER THAN THE OTHER TEAM’S!  Just kidding, the delightful taste of the gingerbread surprised them, so they chose us.


 

This year, the we divided into the same teams.  I pinned a bunch of ideas, and together Alli and I picked a fun Princess Leia design.  We didn’t follow the recipe, just the picture for the decoration.  We used this site for both our peanut butter frosting and chocolate cupcake recipes.

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Every homemade frosting I’ve tried to make thus far in life has failed, Cupcake Wars 2015 being no exception.  The only difference this time around was that the frosting tasted awesome, despite its lack of fluffiness (it’s consistency was more similar to soup than frosting).

In light of that, Alli and I quickly made up two more cupcake designs: a simpler Christmas-themed one, and a Chewbacca that would use the store-bought frosting.

I panicked over our batter for no reason, as it baked just fine.  When I was celebrating evading imminent failure, Ana and Lex began their baking.

They used this chocolate cupcake recipe and made homemade caramel cream cheese frosting (from a recipe I can’t find).  I thought my frosting tasted great, but theirs was AWESOME.  They used strawberry tips for noses, chocolate chips for eyes, and pretzels for antlers.

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Some behind-the-scenes baking… Nothing much has changed.

We made a HUGE mess.

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Then it was time for the judges to taste.  Something went wrong with Ana and Lex’s batter, because the cake was dense and dry.  However, their Christmas-related creativity and frosting were favored over Alli’s and mine.

In the end, they couldn’t choose a winner.  The competition was a draw. Next year, Alli and I shall reign champions!

Cupcake Wars @ Unreached by the Frost

Have your own Cupcake Wars, a great indoor winter activity for all ages! Comment your own stories of family baking/cooking competitions and rivalries!

Our Thanksgiving 2015

I have an uncountable number of things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.   have this many things to be grateful for every year, but I really noticed it this time.  This Thanksgiving I’ve been so content. I’ve always been relatively content, but really, it was only in an innocence-of-childhood way.

This year I dealt with discontentment and sadness (I even fell into a minor depression) in a way I never had before.  The old saying may seem cliché, but it’s true: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Many of the things movies and books portray as feelings are choices.
Love is a choice.
Joy is a choice.
Contentment is a choice.

I learned the secret to being content, and the trials of this year have made me a better person.  I’m only 17, so there’s a lot more to learn, and a lot more challenges to overcome.  I hope that when the obstacles come, I’ll welcome them, remembering how much stronger I’ll be when they’re through.

This is how my family’s Thanksgiving went.

This was the first year I drove Papi (Spanish for ‘daddy’) to go buy the day’s newspaper.  I even parked between the lines in front of the gas station!  (It’s not uncommon for me to take up two spaces with the small car.)  After I drove us back home, I made this cute Thanksgiving-y breakfast treat I found on Pinterest!

Turkey food

It’s a turkey!  The bacon is the feathers!  It’s so cute!  My little turkey may not be as good as the perfect Pinterest one, but I made it and I like it.

We watched most of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on the Today Show, as we do every year, while Mom finished up the green bean casserole.  At around 11, we hopped into the Pickle (our nine-seater van) and drove up near High Point, North Carolina, to my Grandmother’s house.

All of Mom’s siblings made it this year, and there were a couple of new faces too.  The meal was wonderful.  The number of desserts nearly matched the number of meat and side dishes!

After eating, the kids, which consisted of my sisters, me, and our two-year-old second-cousin, went out to play in Grandmother’s front yard.  Our uncle had cleaned up the leaves the day before, else we’d have raked them up.  So this year, the older girls and I played “Big Boss” and some other improv games (our favorite!).  Soon we included the littles, and we ended the afternoon playing “kung-fu”, also known as “ninja”.  I won once!

The drive home signifies the official beginning of the Christmas season for our family.  Alex and Anjalena requested “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”, Home Free’s version, to be the first Christmas song we played.

When we arrived at home, Mom and Papi went through more of the Black Friday ads, the girls went off to play, and I read my book.  It was a great Thanksgiving.  I’m excited to see what new things I’ll be thankful for next year.

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. -Ps. 69:30

On Sharing a Birthday

On October 20th, 1998, my mother gave birth to her first child, me.  My parents had no idea what they were getting into, raising a tiny human and all, but they did it.  Two months after my birth, they celebrated their first anniversary.

About ten months after that, on October 20th, 1999, my mom was in the hospital again.  She came home with the best birthday present I could have ever hoped to get: my sister Ana.

We’re as close as you can get to being twins without actually being twins.  Someone once told me that we’re Irish twins.  We’re not Irish (we don’t look it either) or twins, but that makes us sound cool.

Sharing a birthday has been a blast over the years.  I can remember one year disagreeing on what theme our birthday party should be.  We were probably about seven and eight at the time.  I wanted Tinkerbell and Ana wanted cowgirl.   My mom, ever the peacemaker, decided we could do both!  If you had been at that party, you would have eaten a pretty fairy-themed cake and potato chips from a bowl with a cowboy boot design.  You would have worn a bandanna while flapping your arms to fly.  It was great.

Our taste preferences have always been different.  I like new and flavorful, and Ana likes the classic and simple.  Sharing a birthday, we’ve discovered what we can agree on: grits and chocolate cake with chocolate icing.  Every year, we ask Mom for a breakfast of grits and for a chocolate-on-chocolate cake.

Sharing a birthday doesn’t mean we do everything together, though.  One year we took two different weekends and each had our own sleepover.  Ana and her friends stayed up late playing MarioKart and eating popcorn.  My friends and I stayed up late eating ‘worms and dirt’ and playing in our sleeping bags.

On my eleventh birthday, Ana’s tenth, our birthday was CHANGED FOREVEEEEEER!

That’s quite dramatic.  We didn’t know it at the time, but it’s true.

Our sister Alex was born.  We didn’t know she existed for a few months.  Then it took a few months more before she came to live with us.  She was adopted, and that entire journey would take up a whole book, plus a couple sequels.  For now, I’ll just say that things didn’t go how we planned, but that God worked it all out for good.

Last month when I turned seventeen, Ana sixteen, Alex turned six.

This is the third year in a row we had a Sofia the First-themed birthday party (in recent years, our birthday “parties” have been for our family only).  It’s hard to find a cartoon character all three kids in the eleven-year gap enjoy.  Yes, I enjoy Sofia the First, don’t judge.  The cake isn’t chocolate, because on October 10th our other sister Anjalena turned seven and had a chocolate-on-chocolate cake.

This was the first year Ana and I both worked.  I was off earlier than Ana (I arrived earlier too) and I didn’t know what to do with myself those couple of hours before Ana came home.  It was weird.

I don’t know how to celebrate my birthday without my sisters.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

On a Baking Whim

I’m not much of a baker, but sometimes, I go on a baking whim.  It’ll be a random moment of the day, and I’ll desire to make something new.  Most of the time I check to see if all of the ingredients are in the pantry.  Other times the urge to bake will be too strong and reckless.

My parents were out and I was in charge.  The teens were upstairs and the littles were watching a movie.

Our Publix often gives coupons for a free item of the week.  That week my dad had redeemed a box of the store-brand Cheerios, called “Toasted Oats”.

Staring at me that night from the pantry was a recipe on the side of the new cereal box.  The Toasted Oats “Frosted Raisin Squares” called my name. “Aaaaaabigail… Aaaaaaabigail…”

I grabbed Alli (the nine year old) off the couch and we began baking.

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We assumed “line the baking pan with butter” meant rubbing butter all in it.

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Crushing the Toasted Oats in a Zip-loc bag with a wooden spoon was so fun, we couldn’t keep it to ourselves.  We took turns with Alex and Anjalena.

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We had plain measuring cups, but those aren’t as fun as our Mickey Mouse cups!

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The recipe called for a cup of raisins.  We checked the pantry and only found two small boxes.  Oh well!  This is why you should check to see if you have all the ingredients BEFORE beginning to bake.

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Looking good so far!

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We made quite the little mess, but we didn’t mind cleaning it up!  Alli and I had so much fun!  The squares turned out delicious!  I should have taken a picture of the final product, but we were too busy eating them!

I Am the Guinea Pig: Tales of Being the Oldest Child

My parents always called me the guinea pig.  Think about the way guinea pigs are used to test things out first (e.g. makeup).  Got that picture in your head?  Good, because that’s me, minus the cuteness.

I was seven and a half years old when I got my ears pierced.  My parents took me to Claire’s and this young employee pierced my ears one at a time.  I was a pretty tough kid, so the piercing of one didn’t cause enough pain to make me not want to get the other one done, but it was close.  Later that day we realized she put the earrings in way too tight.  My dad had to use pliers to loosen them enough to twist them like you’re supposed to do to new piercings.

My other sisters’ ears were pierced at the same time, not too tight.  You’re welcome.

I was in seventh grade when I took pre-algebra.  I was homeschooled, so the instructor remained the same throughout the years, but the curriculum did not.  I used Saxon Math for pre-algebra, which was the first time we’d ever used that curriculum.  Saxon can be a fantastic source for some kids and their way of learning… but not for me.  My brain couldn’t handle all the x’s, y’s, and a’s, especially the way Saxon taught me.

My sisters used A Beka for pre-algebra and the algebras following.  You’re welcome.

I was sixteen when I started some dual-enrollment courses at our community college.  The test to get in was tough.  I relearned algebra II in two weeks to prep for it.  I made it in, and now I know the best (and not-so-great) instructors for certain classes.

My sisters will take a couple months to slowly soak up the information needed to pass the entrance test.  They’ll be able to sign up for classes with my favorite instructors.  You’re welcome.

When the latest Disney Wii game was opened up on Christmas morning, I was the first to play it.  My sisters may not have gotten to play until after lunch.  You’re welcome. 🙂I Am the Guinea Pig @ Unreached by the Frost


Photo cred: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictographic/5990917604/in/photolist-a8p25Q-haVocF-a8mbBF-85ZLNf-8f5kuW-8odnH7-4RKmoE-sFkSuX-AkGXC-cZwMYj-7S8jTh-2m1aV-7WC5fW-7S8jF9-7S9DZG-7S8k4d-7S8jPu-7S8jJC-2VFGV-84rSAb-a8p2yQ-4n9WiC-a8m8uV-a8p1sm-6bpeWZ-7Socr6-7SruiJ-7Srtdh-7SocDM-7SrtmA-7Soc3k-7SrsW1-8jzX17-ckuP7b-d6uUko-nuqyzZ-7Soc8Z-9q8HBR-2TbLZo-oTP1Eg-2TbJau-d89Xid-siac6e-8XpsTm-4zksGj-5Yb1Ko-A7jNg-4zgd4a-4zkrDS-4zkteW/