Monday, December 28, 2009

Just A Little Longer

I realized during church yesterday morning that the week after Christmas is my most favorite week of the entire year. I guess it's because the kids are out of school and John usually has the week off to spend with us, but I also think it's Christmas preparations are over and we can relax and just enjoy being together for just a little longer.

This is our traditional Christmas Eve photo. John takes one every year of me and the kids in front of the Christmas tree after our Christmas Eve service at church.

I usually take my tree down the day after Christmas. My family thinks I'm just plain grinchy for that. But a small house and a big tree make me feel claustrophobic after awhile. John's parents arrive later today, so in an effort to please everyone and keep it fun and festive the tree is staying up just a little longer. I may or may not make frustrating remarks under my breath every time I walk past it though.


I also want to quit eating rich, sugary, and fattening food. But we're about to enjoy Christmas round #2 so that will have to wait just a little longer also.


I'm hoping my kids will sleep just a little longer this morning. They've been staying up way too late every night. I guess we've let them because we know they'll sleep in. They're all camped out in Will's room this morning...it makes my heart smile that they love doing that. It may not last forever, but I hope it lasts just a little longer.


Ya'll...I am reading the best book. It's The Help by Kathryn Stockett. My sister read it last summer and told me I needed to read it. I had it on hold at our library forever but when it became available I was in St Louis. I forgot to go pick it up before they put it back in circulation. I was watching Good Morning America last week (have I told you that I have a little crush on George Stephanopolous?) and they featured The Help on a "Best Books of 2009" segment. John was standing there and I said, "I really, really want to read that book". He looked at me and said, "Well, I have an advance reading copy in the bookcase downstairs, let me go get it for you". Little did I know that book has been sitting on a bookshelf for well over a year while I had it on hold at the library for 5 months!!! There are some perks to having a husband who works in publishing.

Thanks for letting me chase that rabbit.

The Help is w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l, and I know I'm going to be sad when it ends. Thankfully I have just a little longer to enjoy it...and I'm savoring each page.


I hope each of you had a blessed Christmas. Ours was absolutely perfect! John and I usually don't exchange gifts at Christmas--we'd rather spend all of our money on our kids--but this year he gave me a great gift. A Slanket. Don't laugh. I really, really wanted one. I actually wanted one last year and they were completely sold out and back-ordered. Some of you asked me on Twitter what the difference between a Snuggie and Slanket is. Probably price--ha ha--but here's a comparison.


I absolutely LOVE my gift. It's the gift that keeps on giving since our Colorado winters stretch into spring...so I will definitly be enjoying my Slanket just a little longer!
And because I feel the need to comment on this photo: No, I'm NOT a Texas or Tennessee fan. Yes, there have been way too many pictures of me without makeup posted on the web lately. No, I didn't get a new Macbook for Christmas (John surprised me with it in October)! John posted this pic on Facebook with the caption, "Always wanted to live with a slanky lady". I'm pretty crazy about him...and I love how much he makes me laugh.


As much as I'd like to linger here just a little longer, I must get going and start some laundry and find my mop and get things ready for John's family to arrive. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Nothing Makes Me Lose My Mind Like...Toy Packaging

The words to this Sara Groves song are hysterical! I'm sure most of you with young children can relate. Enjoy!



And Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Interruption

In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, "Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!" Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. "Don't be frightened, Mary" the angel told her, "for God has decided to bless you! You will become pregnant and have a son, and you are to name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!"

Luke 1:26-33 New Living Translation


About five years ago, I was at an Advent retreat and our leader invited us to listen to a passage of scripture from Luke's gospel (vs 26-56) while she read it aloud several times. She asked us to listen with more than our ears. She invited us to close our eyes and engage all of our senses. What things do you see? What do you smell? What can you taste? What can you feel? What specific words or phrases do you hear?


It's an incredible exercise, and when a room full of fifty women begin to share the things that their minds have heard, seen, smelled, touched, and tasted, it truly makes scripture come alive!


On that particular day, one little phrase from the passage above stood out to me.


She was engaged to be married...


The engagement process is usually a time of excitement and planning towards a certain future. All of Mary and Jospeph's planning and everything they had looked toward was suddenly looking very different after Gabriel's visit. I'm pretty sure that having a baby wasn't part of their plan.

Just as clearly as that short phrase stood out to me every time the passage was read, I heard God whisper to me: "I want to interrupt your plans in order to birth life in you, Meredith".


I really don't like interruptions. Do you? When I first heard God speak those words to me, I was pretty much in the throes of depression. My husband of fifteen years had just resigned as co-pastor of our church--a church we'd been a part of for barely a year, and a church that we moved 1000 miles away from our family to serve. Ministry was the only life we'd ever known together, and stepping away from that familiar life was, well, an interruption. A big interruption.


I knew God was calling us into something deeper...into something more. It was the reason John resigned. We were tired of religiosity. We were tired of our faith feeling perfunctory and legalistic. God was offering us something more spacious, more freeing and life-giving, but we had to step into a scary unknown to accept it. We had to let God interrupt our plans.


Has life been birthed in me? In us? Absolutely, but just like actual childbirth that process has been painful and messy and slow.


Shortly after that Advent retreat, I met a couple that is living out God's interruption in their lives. Bob and Judy (not their real names) are raising their great-granddaughter. Did you catch that? They're raising their great-granddaughter.


Bob and Judy are easily in their 70s. I first met them when Madison was in my daughter's second grade class. Tears streamed down my face as they shared the story of her mom abandoning her to the care of her grandmother. When Madison's much loved grandmother died suddenly, Bob and Judy stepped in to love and care for that little life that so desperately needed to be loved and nurtured.


I've gotten to know Bob and Judy a little better over the years. I see them at church every single Sunday with Madison by their side. I'm awed by their sacrificial willingness to let their lives be interrupted. Instead of wintering in Florida, they're up to their eyeballs in tweenage hormones and fashion and (heaven help them) middle-school math.


Has life been birthed in them? I'm guessing the sparkle in their eye would be the answer. Has life been birthed through them? Absolutely. They are an inspiration to many.


I sometimes wonder if the Christmas story would be different if Mary had not responded, "Let it be to me as you have said". Would God have insisted? Would we know Jesus' mother by another name?


But the thing is that she did say yes. Just like Bob and Judy, Mary let God interrupt her plans and birth life in and through her. Without knowing the end of the story. Without guarantees. With nothing but a willingness to say, "I am the Lord's servant."

Monday, December 21, 2009

You've Got (Virtual) Mail!

John and I mail lots and lots of Christmas cards every December. I wish I could mail one to each and every one of you, but time and money keep that from being a reality. I can send some virtual mail your way though. Here is our photo and letter from this year. Merry Christmas!


Photo design by Chele Randell at Distinctive Photo Creations
(Click on photo to enlarge)


From now on we’ll have to muddle through somehow…
Old blue eyes thought that line too depressing. At Frank Sinatra’s request, Dean Martin rewrote it: hang a shining star upon the highest bough. I’d love to rewrite a little of this last year, but I can’t; old brown eyes has to tell the truth.
She was not there on the day that he died, but a cell phone held to his ear carried a daughter’s benediction: I love you Dad. Meredith’s dad died on August 9th. We just celebrated Thanksgiving with Meredith’s family. Everyone was there, everyone except John. We are still folks of hope, but resurrection is empty without the thief called death. We are learning to muddle through.
Kids keep you muddling by virtue of being young and needy and just plain beautiful. Will and Sarah are knee-deep in middle school. Abbey is technically in the second grade, but her best friends are her brother and sister, so she’s middle school in spirit. Most days you can find all three in hoodies, skinny jeans, and sneakers. And many nights, all three are slumbering in the same room in sleeping bags. I know it could change tomorrow, but for now our kids love each other’s company. Old brown eyes just says thank you.
Marriage will also keep you muddling, especially when there’s something exciting on the horizon. Meredith and I have been married nineteen years now. Our hope is to celebrate twenty in a yurt in Yosemite next summer. There’s a picture on our refrigerator of two college kids, a lady and a tramp. Little did those kids know the stories you can tell of twenty years…my, my. Our plan is to keep at it so as to tell a few more, such as what it’s like to muddle for a week in a yurt. Stay tuned.
Writing is keeping me busy. After quite a few years of hard plowing, we’ve seen a few blades of hope lately. Not full blown hope, but enough to soldier on. Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas released in September. And I recently finished a book titled Start With Me; it’s set to release sometime in the spring. It’s a story about being a good Samaritan, among other things.
I pray these upcoming holy days allow you to glimpse some sweetness in what’s been a heavy year all around. I know many of you have experienced loss times two or three, maybe even four. It is tempting in days like these to be about rewriting our lives, making them more upbeat, something to sell a few more copies. But that sure is tiring. Maybe time is better spent reminiscing and that’s something you can only do in retrospect, looking back, over your shoulder, telling the stories and being slack-jawed at the cockeyed ways in which the Grace that keeps this world kept you and yours as well.
I, like you, look forward to a blue-eyed day of hanging a shining star upon the highest bough…but until then, may God bless us, everyone, and keep us all as we muddle through somehow.
Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas break has begun!

Thursday was the kids' last day of school and I had BIG plans to sleep in Friday morning. I made it to 6:58--which is late for me, but not exactly the hour I had in mind. I tried again today and was up even earlier. Hmmmm...I think my internal clock needs to be re-set, and I think that 18 days off is enough time to sufficiently readjust, don't you?


I went to the school board meeting on Thursday night and it is official: Our elementary school is closing. The good news is that all of those students are being relocated together to one of the middle schools that is being reconfigured as an elementary. My middle-schoolers aren't too affected by it. Their school will remain open and will become a 7th/8th grade campus. It wasn't an easy decision for the board and all of their options had cons, but I'm hopeful that our community will support their decision and move forward in a positive direction.


I'm very thankful that a decision was made about our school so I can stop thinking/worrying about this. Sadly, it has consumed a lot of mental space over the last few weeks.


Moving on.


I've been finished with my shopping for awhile, and I mailed my Christmas cards earlier than I ever have, but I haven't baked ONE SINGLE treat unless you count a triple batch of Chex mix. I keep telling myself it's because I want the kids to help me, but who am I kidding? I don't love baking with my kids. I do it because my kids love it and because "that's what good moms do" (said tongue in cheek) but I honestly don't enjoy having every individual nerve in my body challenged at one time.


We WILL be doing some baking this week/weekend though. I went to Walmart last weekend (took me 35 minutes to check out with my groceries last Sunday afternoon--bah humbug!) and I got the ingredients for all our traditional Christmas goodies.


Do you give food gifts? I rarely do. I don't mind receiving them, but I usually talk myself out of giving platters of cookies and candy because I figure that people are sick of "one more platter".
Am I weird? (Wait, don't answer that).


Since I'm rambling about Christmas stuff (in a most unorganized fashion) I must mention how wonderful my house smells since I bought this. We never buy a real tree but you wouldn't know that if you walked in my house and took a whiff. Mmmmmm....


I was telling John the other day that this Christmas has felt really spacious to me. I've given myself and my family the gift of time by being protective of our outside commitments this month. It has been very freeing and like I said, it has felt spacious.


Even our budget has felt spacious this year, despite having to replace the transmission in the car we just acquired. Ugh. We're going to pick it up from the mechanic in a little while. Merry Christmas, honey.


Being able to stay at home for Christmas and not travel has also been a spacious gift. You guys who travel know how hard it is to get all the loose ends tied up in order to leave during an extra busy time of year! My kids are happiest when they're at home on Christmas morning, and I love the years that we get to enjoy that.


I could ramble on and on...but the coffee is calling and so are the Italian cookies that Christen gave to me at Bunco last night. Chow, er, I mean Ciao.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sad and Happy

Well, I didn't really intend to let this many days go by without blogging.

I could tell you that it's because I've been really busy, but that's not so. This has been the most relaxed, slow-paced December I've ever had, and I love it.

I could tell you I've been sick which would be partly true. I felt terrible for a few days last week but thankfully it was short-lived. Y'all, I swear by Emergen-C! It really does seem to help me!

I guess the truth is that I've just felt a little blue.

So many of my friends are going through hard things right now. Things like job loss, deployed husbands, financial stress, marital problems, and scary medical diagnoses. On top of those things, it looks like our much loved elementary school is going to be closing at the end of the year. Our district is facing a sizeable budget deficit and sadly, closing this school is necessary. The future? It's still unknown at this point, and I feel very caught up in the emotion of the looming decisions.

So yeah, I haven't really felt much like blogging these days.

I did however start a list of things that make me happy, and I think I'll share it because it really does change my attitude.


THINGS THAT ARE STIRRING MY HAPPY POT THIS MONTH:
  • My Christmas shopping is 99% completed. Only a few stocking stuffers left!
  • Wednesday night soup suppers/Advent worship at our church.
  • A short week of school. We finish up Thursday then have 2.5 weeks off!
  • John will be home with us a LOT over the kids' break.
  • We get to stay home and not travel for Christmas!
  • Our Christmas tree.
  • Yummy-smelling candles. Especially this one and this one.
  • No stress--I've been fiercely protective of our schedule.
  • Hearing people talk about Touching Wonder.
  • Christmas music!!!
  • My kids! We had such a great weekend with them. They love this time of year and their joy is contagious.
  • A Girls Night Out this week with great friends.
  • And last but not least, my husband. We were sitting side by side at the table with our laptops last night and he was wearing his Harry Potter (Gryffindor) hat and scarf. We took some goofy pics and were laughing out loud and it just made my heart smile. He makes me laugh (even when I don't want to) and I love him for that.
John posted this picture on his Facebook page earlier. I titled it: Harry and Merry.
I think I look super tired. And desperately in need of some lipstick.

So I guess that's what is up with me. Hope you're having a great week! I'm making pecan pie muffins for a get-together this morning and so I must go. Adios, amigas!



I bet J won't be happy that I'm posting this one. Will thought it was extremely HILARIOUS...and it kind of is.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

10 on the 10th!


When I realized that I was going to get to make a list of 10 things for this post I got excited thinking about all the possibilities. Christmas is such a fun time of year and is full of so many great traditions and things I love.

I was still undecided about what kind of list to post until a little earlier this evening. John was getting some stuff out of his work bag and he handed me Chris Tomlin's Glory in the Highest cd--a gift from his boss. (Thank you, DP! You keep me supplied with the best tunes!) I loaded it onto Macie (my laptop) and have been listening and loving it! One reason I love it is that it has several of my favorite Christmas songs on it.

As hard as it it to choose my favorite Christmas songs, I'm going to try. Keep in mind this list changes from year to year, but at this moment, these are 10 of My Favorite Christmas Songs--5 Traditional and 5 Non-Traditional

1. Hark the Herald Angels Sing
2. The First Noel
3. Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
4. O Come All Ye Faithful
5. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

6. Hope is Born Again (Jim Brickman and Point of Grace)
7. Come and Worship (Bebo Norman)
8. Invocation (by the worship team at my church)
9. Let There Be Light (Point of Grace)
10. Welcome to Our World (Chris Rice)


You didn't ask for my least favorites, but I'm telling you anyway. I ABSOLUTELY cannot stand the Christmas Shoes song. I also detest the Hippo song. If you have no idea what songs I'm talking about, consider yourself fortunate.

What are some of your Christmas favorites???

Want to join the party? Just link up below with a list of 10 things. It doesn't have to be Christmas songs. It can be anything!!!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Found!

Hey blog friends! Guess what?


I FOUND my planning notebook that I thought was long gone. There was much rejoicing!


I FOUND my Advent wreath too.


I FOUND some cute pjs for the girls at Old Navy last week! They wore them to Breakfast with Santa on Saturday.

I FOUND all the addresses I needed for my Christmas cards and mailed them yesterday. WooHoo! Feels great to get that project crossed off my list.


I FOUND out that Sarah was nominated by her teachers to be student of month at her middle school. Way to go, Sarah! John and I are very proud of her.


I FOUND myself at home today with the kids for a snow day! We watched a movie, played some Wii, snacked a lot, and I even did some cleaning. I also did a little wrapping and a little napping, and we all had a nice, lazy day. It is unbearably cold outside. I don't think we got above 3 degrees today and wind chills tonight have dipped as low as -25. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.


I haven't felt much like blogging the past few days so I'm keeping this short and sweet. I'll be back though with my 10 on the 10th post. I remembered when I looked at my calendar this morning. As usual, it snuck up on me! I'm thinking this month's list will be some sort of Christmas edition.


Friday, December 04, 2009

A Gift to Myself...

I gave myself a gift this week in the form of a completely clear calendar! With the exception of a follow-up appointment for Jack-the-Beagle and a soup supper/Advent worship service at church, I didn't have one single thing thing to do or place to be this week.


It's been bliss.


Especially since it has been bitterly cold the last few days. And it's been snowing off and on. And we rolled back into town on Monday after being gone for several days. And because I'm a huge homebody.


I'm actually enjoying December this year!


I've stayed true to my commitment to not add anything else to the calendar and when I look at all my blank spaces, I feel sane. It feels good!


We still don't have things decorated. I suppose I could have pulled all the Christmas boxes out and tackled it this week, but in our house, it's a family affair. All five of us look forward to it. I couldn't deprive my family of that. I'm hoping we can put our tree up tomorrow in between some fun things we have planned.


Last night we constructed our gingerbread house. I think this is the first time that John has been a part of the fun, and the kids decided that's why this our best house ever. I agree!


In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I've been putting each activity for our Advent calendar in place right before the kids open it (after school or after dinner) because I've haven't planned ahead with my calendar. Between homework and dinner and showers, it can be hard to squeeze some of the activities in! Tonight, Will and Sarah have a youth group party, and I'm having trouble coming up with something we can all do together within our time parameters. Good thing I'm not a stickler for rules because we may have to skip tonight and double up on things tomorrow!


I should also tell you that I can't find my Advent wreath and I've just been using a random candle this week. I looked long and hard for it before we left for St. Louis. I wanted to have it set up and ready to go when we returned. I've looked a couple of other times this week and cannot find it! It's at the bottom of a box somewhere I'm sure. Our Advent readings have been pretty haphazard this week as well.


In fact, last night, I got so ruffled about two of my kids throwing a fit about what I made for dinner that we didn't even light our candle or do the readings. Well, we DID do it eventually, but not until after dinner when I'd calmed down a bit. (Do your kids gripe about dinner too? Oh my word, that sends me over the edge sometimes! We ended up having three different meals for five people and I was NOT in a good or Adventish mood.)


Apologies were spoken, forgiveness was offered, and we all got back on track and ended our evening on a fun note! I love sharing life with these people!





PS: This is not our finished gingerbread house! My camera battery died before we finished decorating it.

Winner of Touching Wonder


Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:
8 
Timestamp: 2009-12-04 13:25:16 UTC

Congratulations to Kathy!
Kathy, I need you to email your address to me, and I'll get your (autographed) book mailed today!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Recipe Request: Spiced Dough Ornaments

One of our Advent calendar activities I listed the other day was to make ornaments. I bookmarked the recipe for No-Bake Spiced Dough Ornaments in The Adventure of Christmas by Lisa Whelchel and since I had all the ingredients on hand, that was our Advent activity for yesterday.

I posted about it on Facebook and had a couple of requests for the recipe, so I'm sharing it here.

It was quick, easy, and the kids enjoyed it! Bonus: Your house will smell amazing!


Spiced Dough Ornaments

1 cup ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground cloves
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp ground nutmeg
1 cup applesauce
2 Tbsp white glue (I used Elmers)
Food coloring (optional)
A few Tbsp flour

Combine the cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg in a mixing bowl.
Add the applesauce and glue.
Mix ingredients thoroughly, using your hands.
Add food coloring, if desired. (I didn't add any).
Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to about 1/4-inch thickness.
Using cookie cutters, cut dough into various shapes.
Make a hole in the top of each ornament using a drinking straw.
Lay the ornaments out flat to dry at room temperature for 3-5 days, turning over often. OR bake for one hour in a 200 degree oven.
When completely dry, attach a ribbon and hang on your tree!

*I didn't have a complete Tbsp of ginger, so I used cinnamon to make up the difference.
*I buy my cinnamon in bulk and it's CHEAP. The package I used yesterday cost $1.64 and was about 1.5 cups of cinnamon.


Here's a picture of our ornaments. It's not a great picture, but you get the idea! I put them on waxed paper to dry and the kids wanted to make sure they knew which ones they made--hence the "boundary" lines. Aren't kids funny?

I'm hoping that white stuff on a few of them is either glue or extra flour from our work surface. If it's still noticeable after they dry, that will definitely be side that doesn't face out on our tree! I have some red and white gingham ribbon that I'm going to use to tie them on our tree. I think they're going to look (and smell) great.

I actually have one more idea I want to try from The Adventure of Christmas book which is due back at the library today. Guess I better get crackin'.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

One More Chance!

I've tried not to be too obnoxious about this on my blog, but my husband wrote a book! It's a Christmas book that would be wonderful to read or use as a devotional during this season of Advent. I know many of you are already doing that, but he told me last night that I could give another copy away this week.


So..........

If you'd like a chance to win, leave me a comment and tell me one of your favorite Christmas or Advent traditions. If you don't have any traditions, tell me your favorite character in the Nativity story.

I'll close comments tomorrow night (Thursday, December 3 at 10pm MST) and draw a winner and mail your book on Friday!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Meet Me in St. Louis!

Our Thanksgiving 2009 road trip took us to St. Louis. Other than driving through Kansas (the longest, flattest, most boring and most Starbucks-deprived state) the trip was very fun!

(Sorry, Jeanie. I'm sure where you live it's not flat or boring or deprived like the rest of I-70.)

We went mainly because my cousin was getting married on Saturday, but it was wonderful to spend the holiday with lots and lots and lots of extended family. All of my siblings and their spouses were there, as were my dad's siblings and their spouses, and all but one of my first cousins on my dad's side. It was also the first time that my kiddos got to meet some of my cousins' children!

I really think it was important that we were all able to spend this first holiday without my dad together. And it was great that we had something joyous to celebrate.

St. Louis is a beautiful city. My kids were begging to go up in the Arch, but my cousin's fiancee talked us into a trip to The City Museum instead. Wow! That place was AMAZING. We spent a few hours there, but I think we could have spent all day had we not had to get back for the rehearsal dinner!

Here are a few pics...











There are all sorts of slides and tunnels and things for kids to climb on and explore. There are also some fun and educational exhibits. Seriously...this place had something exciting around every corner, even a fire pit outside where kids could roast marshmallows. If you're ever in St. Louis, it's a must-see place!

We took the kids to lunch at The Hard Rock cafe at Union Station. Will was in heaven. Sarah was the only one who wanted a t-shirt and she chose a Bon Jovi one. I asked her in the car if she even knew who Bon Jovi was. She didn't. Which totally cracks me up. She picked that shirt because the artwork was pretty. And yes, I let my daughter wear a Bon Jovi t-shirt.

I don't like to post pics with other people in them (without their permission) so the rest of these wedding pictures only have my kids in them.

The wedding was Saturday afternoon and it was beautiful! My kids haven't been to a wedding since they were very young, and the girls were mesmerized by the whole thing--especially the bride!

These city trolleys carried the wedding party to the church and to the reception (and to a couple of other places for photos). On Friday night, we were waiting for one to pick us up for the rehearsal dinner and as it pulled up in front of the church, it was smoking because something caught on FIRE! Everyone had to evacuate the trolley and find rides to the pub. Oh my gosh, it was hilarious and scary at the same time!

My aunt rented this 35 passenger bus to shuttle all of the extended family from the wedding to the rehearsal to ensure that no one would drink and drive. That was brilliant, but I got very sick riding in that bus on the way home from the reception. Very, very sick. Let's just say that I don't want to see the inside of a bus again for a very long time.
My kids, however, LOVED the bus!

But not as much as they loved dancing at the reception. We were all dancing fools! It was so much fun. I honestly cannot remember when I've enjoyed myself so much! The girls are still talking about how fun it was.

All you Razorback fans should know that one family member snuck a small television into the coat room and we watched the end of the fourth quarter. My heart couldn't handle the overtime drama and disappointment though. Ugh.

We made it back home yesterday morning. We were planning to drive straight through on our return trip, but we bought my dad's car and drove it home so John and I both had to drive. We got a super late start on Sunday because we were very tired and I felt sick for most of the morning, so we drove as far as we could before crashing at a hotel and finishing the drive home Monday.

I'm very glad to be home! I absolutely love my dad's side of my family. I have so many cousins and when we're together it's always fun and crazy! John and my kids love them too! Can't wait for the next family wedding or Razorback weekend. Just wish Colorado wasn't so far away. Sigh.

Monday, November 30, 2009

My List is Lost!

Oh no!

I've looked everywhere and I can't find my planning notebook (aka yellow spiral) that I keep all of my lists written in.

I know I took it with us to St. Louis, but I've unpacked everything and checked and double-checked the van and it seems to have vanished.

I feel lost!

However, I promised you all a list of the activities I'm going to fill my Advent calendar with, so I will do my best to work from memory.

Keep in mind that I'm going to work ahead in my calendar by a few days. This will allow me to be flexible and realistic with my schedule!

Here goes:


Family Advent Calendar Activities, or what I like to call "The Gift of Presence".

1. Decorate for Christmas! (Tree, lights, nativity sets, etc).

2. Make Christmas cookies (Sarah's choice).

3. Watch the Charlie Brown Christmas dvd (our family favorite!)

4. Have breakfast with Santa (at Abbey's school).

5. Do something nice for your brother or sister--without telling them it was you.

6. Shop/Wrap/Deliver our Giving Tree gifts.

7. Make Christmas cookies (Abbey's choice).

8. Handel's Messiah (we're going to a performance next week!)

9. See a Christmas play together (our church is doing one this year).

10. Go sledding (obviously, this is weather dependent but Colorado doesn't usually disappoint).

11. Spend an evening reading Christmas books.

12. Make Christmas cookies (Will's choice).

13. Drive around after dinner and look at Christmas lights.

14. Deliver cookies to neighbors.

15. Go out for dessert one evening.

16. Make a birthday cake for Jesus! (December 24).

17. Family game night.

18. Sign/seal/stamp our family Christmas cards.

19. Make luminaries (something new we're doing this year).

20. Make a gingerbread house (got my kit back in November with a 50%off coupon at Michaels--cheap!!!)

21. Pop popcorn and watch a Christmas movie (Holiday Inn or It's a Wonderful Life have been requested, though personally, I love laughing at ones like Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story).

22. Make ornaments (we usually make them for friends/neighbors and tie them to packages).

23. Learn about Saint Nicholas

24. Read the Christmas story from Luke's gospel.

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I think I did okay from memory, but of course I added Christmas cookies three times! (smile!)

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A friend sent me a link to an AWESOME blog called The Idea Room and her Advent ideas post was great. I can't wait to go back and read more of her stuff. Go check it out! (Thanks, Michelle!)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ketchup

Brrrrrrrrr...it got very cold here last night. It's 10 degrees with a -3 windchill and I woke up freezing despite being snuggled under three blankets! I just poured a cup of coffee and climbed back into bed to type this post. Wish I could stay here all day. Or at least until the sun warms things up a bit.


Walking from the kitchen to my room, I glanced in Will's room and smiled because all three of our kids are camped out together in sleeping bags on his floor. They have the week off from school and they've spent the last three nights exactly like that. I'm grateful that my kids love each other and get along so well. They really are each other's best friends.


Ugh. Just took a sip of my coffee. I've weaned myself down to one cup a day because I gave up sugar a couple of weeks ago and unsweetened coffee is just plain bad. I wasn't going to give up creamer, but I tend to be an all-or-nothing-girl so I bid it farewell too. The good news is that my scale says I've lost 5lbs in about two weeks. The bad news is that I've grumpily counted the days until I'm reunited with my Pumpkin Spice and Gingerbread CoffeeMate again. Two more days!


I'm actually considering extending my sugar fast beyond Thanksgiving. After I feast on pumpkin pie, of course. I have SO much more energy, I'm sleeping really well, and I just feel better without it in my system. Also, did you know that sugar greatly compromises your immune system? It really does. That alone is reason to make me think twice about overloading myself (and my kiddos) with sweets.


In other news...
I've been working like a madwoman getting my house really clean. I'm sure some of you have figured out by now that I'm a little obsessive in the housekeeping arena. That obsessiveness gets ratched up a dozen or so notches when I have guests coming. A friend is house-sitting/dog-sitting for us while we're gone and my inner clean freak has been in overdrive for the last ten days. I've been cleaning blinds, windows, cabinets, closets, and more. I have a couple more to-do's on my list today and then I can relax!


Oh, and I started my Christmas shopping--I've bought one gift. Considering that I usually start mid-December, I'm very proud of myself.


We were planning to leave for our Thanksgiving road trip today, but John really needed to work after being gone most of last week so we're leaving tomorrow. That's fine by me because I have a few things left to do today, including a trip to Target. Target is the brightest spot in my day. I just wish Target was closer--the nearest one is 12 miles from my house. Which, come to think of it is probably a good thing. I always spend a chunk of change when I go to Target.


I realized on Saturday that I don't have to prepare one single thing for Thanksgiving dinner this year. That makes me both happy and sad. I offered, but was assured that I only needed to show up with my appetite. I'm sure that won't be the case again for a long time, so I'm rolling with it!


I spent some time with my calendar on Sunday morning and realized that December is already *very* full. If you're my Facebook friend you've likely already heard me say this, but I decided on Sunday that nothing else is getting scheduled for next month. All the important things are already on the calendar, and I blocked out all the free days I have so that they actually stay free. I was talking to a friend at church about this and she reminded me that December will roll around again next year and I'll have opportunity to say yes to different things. Some of my Facebook friends scoffed at my resoluteness, but I'm really sticking to my guns on this one. I want December to be enjoyable, and it's not enjoyable for me when I'm running from one thing to the next.


Lastly, I had a lot of comments yesterday asking if I would share the list of activities for my Advent calendar. YES! As soon as we finish it, I'll post it for you. However, you should check out Michelle's list. She has some great ideas I want to copy.


Oh, and thanks for all your Trader Joe's suggestions. I'm going later this week and so excited to find some of the things you guys love!


Alright. Must get out of my warm bed and get this day started!


Catch-up. Ketchup. Whatever. You're caught up now. Smile.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Muffin Tin Advent Calendar

Look what I made!
I think it turned out SUPER cute. The best part was that it cost practically nothing since I had all the ribbon and magnet sheets and scrapbook paper/cutouts. I only had to buy the muffin tin--$4.50 at Walmart.

Here's a link with directions. I opted not to put numbers on mine, mainly because I didn't have enough number stickers! I was also going to paint the tin, but I decided at the last minute not to. I think it looks fine as is.

I hot-glued some rings to the back of the tin and tied different ribbons to it to jazz it up a little. Then I hot-glued the wide grosgrain ribbon so I could hang it. I hope it holds!

Here's a link to another one I found that I thought was cute too!

Let me know if you want more detailed instructions. I didn't follow the ones on that link exactly.

I can't wait to start using it! I think I told you that I'm going to fill the cups with family activities each day. I have a partial list, but John and I are going to finish our list (24 things is a lot to come up with!) on our long road trip this week. I'm sure you'll hear about some of 'em!

Another pic for you!

I'm dying to know!

Do you put your tree up before Thanksgiving?


Me?


Not usually, and not this year.


We put ours up early last year because my dad had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer which knocked the wind out of our sails, and we all needed a boost of joy.


But most years we wait until after Thanksgiving. I remember putting our tree up early a couple of times when John was in seminary and we went home for Thanksgiving break. It was REALLY nice to come home, flip a switch, and voila!--instant Christmas.


I'm trying not to stress that we're going to be gone this week and things are not going to get decorated for a few days after we return.


I'm not sure what the rush is, though it is nice to enjoy the trees and the lights and the decorations for more than a few weeks.


So...when do you put your tree up? And why?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I'm making a list and checking it twice...

I'm sure you're not surprised to hear that I'm making a list. I have at least two or three going at all times.


However, I'm working on a REALLY fun list and I need some help.


I'm going to Trader Joe's next week.


I have some standard things that I always buy there, and some seasonal things I hope to pick up--peppermint Jo-Jo's, gingerbread coffee, chocolate Advent calendars, etc.


But since I don't get to shop there all the time, I don't know all of the wonderful things I need to try.


So help me out. What do you lucky ones who live-in-the-land-of-Trader-Joe's buy every time you go, or simply cannot live without?


I'll have extra room to bring stuff home this time (I may even have a cooler) so lay it on me!!! I'm all ears.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hump Day

Good morning.


Today is a happy day, friends.


Today my husband returns home after a six-day trip. Six days is a long time. John travels fairly often, but this is the longest he's been gone in a while.


He's been on a mini-publicity tour for his book. Three book signings, two television interviews, and another radio interview mixed in there as well. He's having fun, but I think he's pretty tired. I'm tired too. I never sleep well when he's away.


But he'll be home later and I'm so happy! And so happy for him.


Of course, anything that can go wrong while he's away usually does. This trip was no exception. Since Friday, I've had to handle some lovely stuff including--plunging a toilet (gross, gross, gross), dealing with an emergency vet visit for an eye problem with Jack-the-beagle, administering eye drops to a very active beagle three times a day (oh my gosh! not easy!), dealing with standing water under my kitchen sink, driving on icy roads, and helping my middle schoolers with their math homework (oy!) I'm sure there's more stuff that I can't remember right now. I'm content to let it live deep in the recesses of my memory.


Anyhoo....it hasn't been dull around here, and I'm actually a big fan of dull. (smile).


Today I'm field-tripping with some second graders to see a play--Peter Pan. That's two plays for me in less than two weeks! (So cultured.) I laughed when Abbey's teacher asked me if I wanted to go. She said this was an "easy" field trip because they'll all be sitting for two hours. I'm really good with that!


Today is pretty full so I need to get going. Just wanted to pop in and say hello! I also need to confess that I totally cheated on my sugar fast on Monday. After wrangling Jack at the vet for over an hour and driving on the icy roads and trying to get warm in the 15 degree weather, I gave up and drove through Starbucks. That gingerbread latte was SO good. But I'm back on track and haven't cheated since. I know that pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving is going to be so worth it!!! (By the way, I've lost three pounds just from NOT eating sugar for 10 days--not bad!)


Bye. Happy hump day. ;)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Been thinking about Advent...

Did you know that Advent begins two weeks from Sunday?


If I'm going to be intentional about celebrating this season with my family then I need to be on the ball, especially since we're going to be traveling for Thanskgiving. It's so easy for my good intentions to get lost in those busy days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.


So....


I did a little bit of research and planning yesterday afternoon, triggered in part by a book I checked out from the library last week. The book is The Adventure of Christmas: Helping Children Find Jesus in our Holiday Traditions by Lisa Whelchel.


Let me back up and little and explain a little of what Advent is. It's easy to assume we all know and understand, but that's often not the case. Advent is the season on the Christian calendar that precedes Christmas. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and is basically a time of preparation and expectant waiting for the birth of Christ. As believers in Jesus, we re-tell and remember the stories surrounding Christ's birth, and we look for his second coming. I believe it's also a season to reflect on Emmanuel, God with us, in our day-to-day lives.



One way our family celebrates is by using an Advent wreath. Here's a pic of ours that I took last year.
Every night before dinner, we light the appropriate candles--one each week, and the middle one on Christmas. I have a small booklet that a friend gave me that has scripture readings for each week. There are responsive readings too, and we usually learn a new one each week to say at dinner each night as we light the candle.


An Advent wreath doesn't have to be fancy. I bought cheap candleholders at the thrift store one year and then bought a circular garland (above) at Michael's--with a 50%off coupon. The traditional candles are purple (3) and pink (1) but I've had a hard time finding those colors some years, so I just go with whatever I have (or whatever matches my kitchen decor).


If you do a google search, you can find tons of info about Advent wreaths--including how to make them, how to use them, what each candle represents, and the history of the tradition. I like that our wreath is the centerpiece on our table and a constant visual reminder of what the season is all about.



I referred to Advent earlier as a season of expectant waiting? I don't know very many people who enjoy waiting, do you?


An Advent calendar makes waiting a little easier for children. They can be simple or elaborate. Here's one we've had since Will was a baby.
Each day leading up to Christmas, my kids pull an ornament from the pocket and hang it on the tree. They love it. They also love these chocolate Advent calendars. I bought them each one at Trader Joe's last year for $1/each, and I plan to buy more this year!


Remember when I said I was feeling crafty but didn't know what I wanted to make? Well, I found an idea! I bought the stuff today to make an Advent calendar like this one. (This link is SO worth clicking on!!!) I haven't decided what to put inside for each day, but I'm sure that it won't be candy. I want to do something different. More along the lines of "presence" than "presents".

Some of my ideas include things like:
  • Make cookies and deliver some to neighbors
  • Make a Christmas ornament
  • Scripture verses (like ones that go along with each week's Advent candle)
  • Make a Christmas craft
  • Buy a gift for a child in need
  • Watch a Christmas movie
  • String popcorn for the tree
  • Sing your favorite Christmas carol at dinner
  • Make a gingerbread house
  • Go to a Christmas concert
You get the idea! My goal is to make time to do something together each day. Please feel free to add to my list!


I also just love, love, LOVE this video. Actually, I'm sharing two. They're both fabulous. If you have time, watch them both...because it shows what a difference we can make if we consumed less and gave more!!!


This one is from last year:


And this one was just released:




I mentioned this book at the beginning of this post and it has some good craft and recipe ideas for kids. I love that it explains the history behind some of our traditions--Christmas trees, lights, gifts, etc, and gives you ideas for weaving faith discussions into things you probably already do. I also pulled out a few new ideas I want to try this year.


Here's a couple more of our favorite Advent/Christmas traditions. It's hard for me to write a post about Advent and not mention John's book. We intend to read through it as a family this season! You have no idea how excited I am about that!


I strongly believe that before we step into the season of Advent, we need to celebrate Thanksgiving and be reminded of how much we have to be grateful for. That's why it feels a little weird to post this today. BUT...more than anything, I desire Advent to be reflective, calm, and focused. And for me, none of that happens without some planning and some intentional living. So...I've been thinking along those lines this weekend.


Wanna share your Advent ideas, traditions, or intentions? I'd love to hear them!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Carnival: If You Came To My House Today

One of my dearest blog friends, Kellie@LaVidaDulce is hosting a fun blog carnival this weekend. She asked us to complete this prompt and link up:


If you came to my house today...

So, if you arrived on my doorstep I'd invite you into my messy, messy house.


I'd offer you a cup of tea or coffee or maybe hot chocolate because our glorious weather has disappeared and it's once again cold.


I'm still not showered. My kids are home today and we're having a slow day. I asked them if they wanted to go see a movie or get out and do something fun. They all said no. Begged me to let them stay at home all day. (They're definitely MY kiddos--homebodies to the core!)


So there's really nothing extraordinary or creative or super fun going on at our house today. I'm just spending this day cleaning and getting things in order for the weekend so we can rest. Our last few weekends have been brutal! We've been going non-stop. But I hear there's snow on the way so we're hoping to lay low and watch movies and read and get caught up on our rest.


What about you? What's on your plate today? Anything fun?


And by the way, I'm sure Kellie would love for you to join the carnival. I bet she'd even save you come cotton candy or a fried twinkie.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Series

I just googled synonyms for list because it seems like all I ever post anymore are lists...and really, I can think of only one way to say "list"...even after googling the synonyms. The closest substitution I could find was series.

So this is a series of bullet points of some things on my mind.

  • John and I had dinner last night with some dear friends, Sam and Amanda. Amanda did all of the sketches in John's book. John is giving away a print of one of those sketches this week on his blog (along with a book). He's drawing a winner on Friday.
  • You can also go here and meet Amanda for yourself. I enjoyed visiting with her so much last night!
  • I've always prided myself a bit on being a library girl. Always said, "I rarely buy books." Well, that's fine and frugal, but guess what? I'm married to a writer. And guess what? Writers NEED people to buy their books. So, I'm eating some crow these days...and putting my money where my mouth used to be.
  • I have three sugar-free days under my belt. This morning I'm drinking my coffee without creamer. It's not bad...but it's not good either. How are the rest of you sugar fasters doing?
  • So ready for Thursday. Because it is my Friday this week. My kids are out on Friday (and Monday) and so I get a four-day weekend. I'm thinking of painting my bathroom. If you find my motivation, will you let me know?
  • Definitely feeling crafty these days, but don't have a project in mind. I bet a trip to Hobby Lobby would remedy that!
  • I have book club today and hoping my friends will still let me continue in this group seeing as I haven't read the book. (Hanging my head in shame).
Alright. That's all. Short and sweet.

Hey, thanks for joining the 10 on the 10th fun. I always have a blast reading you guys' posts.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, November 09, 2009

10 on the 10th!



I'm listy, you guys. I make lists all the live long day. Writing things down helps me not have to work so hard to remember them. You're the same way, right? Please say yes.

Lately I've been writing down things that bug me because it seems that if I write them down, then they bug me less.

My list is growing LONG though which leads me to believe that I am easily annoyed.

Thought I'd share 10 things from my list with you.


10 Things That Really Annoy Me:


1. Solicitors outside of stores.
Really, I would just like to walk in Walmart or the grocery store and not be asked if I'd like to buy popcorn or a subscription to the Gazette or raffle tickets or if I'm registered to vote in Colorado. It seriously bugs me. And for the record, I was not a fan of our Brownie troop selling cookies in front of Walmart last February for this very reason. But I did it, and now I feel guilty for ranting about this.



2. Opening a new bottle/jar/box/tube of something before the old one is used up.
Last week I discovered three containers of dishwasher detergent under my sink. Three. Seriously? One was almost empty, one was half empty, and one was brand new.

I also have two opened jars of peanut butter in my pantry (do you keep peanut butter in the fridge or pantry?). And don't even get me started on shampoo, soap, and toothpaste.



3. Stickers from produce on the sink, countertops, and floor.
You know the stickers that come on fresh produce that have the upc number or code on them? Well, somehow in my house they end up stuck to my kitchen sink, or the counter, and sometimes the kitchen floor. Seriously? Why not the trash can?



4. Dog hair. Everywhere.
Beagles don't shed nearly as much as other breeds, but wow. It's just gross. I have a small fortune invested in Scotch pet products and I still have to vacuum daily.



5. Non-Reply Commenter
I have quite a list of blog/Facebook things that bug me but this is at the very top of my list. People, people, people PLEASE configure your profile on Blogger (other platforms too) so that when you leave me a comment I can reply to you. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to reply to comments on this blog only to see these three words pop up: non-reply commenter. That means that I cannot reply to you via email no matter how much I want to. Here are the instructions for correcting this. I am begging you for the love of all things good, please go and do this. Please.



6. Clean Laundry in the Dirty Clothes Bin.
I'm sure this never happens at your house, but sometimes my children neglect to put their clean laundry away and somehow it ends up on the floor or under the bed and the dog lays on it or rifles through it and it ends up in the dirty clothes bin again. I'm not a fan of extra laundry.



7. Wastefulness.
I hate wasting food, especially in restaurants. I hate wasting time. I hate wasting energy/electricity. I hate wasting gas. I really hate wasting money.



8.Toothpaste in the sink.
I'm sure this never happens at your house either.



9. Spots on stainless steel.
The only stainless appliance we have is our coffeemaker. Thank goodness. Because fingerprints and water spots on it drive me
C-R-A-Z-Y. Just ask my husband. I gave him the "will you please try and be more careful so I don't go insane wiping this appliance down twice a day?" speech. Trust me, he wasn't loving me in that moment. But the spots have been fewer. Thanks, J.



10. Not being able to find things in my house.
I spent 30 minutes on Saturday looking for one of Sarah's sweater coats. How do you lose something like that? I also spent way too much time today looking for my cell phone. I emailed John and asked him to call me but that was useless since I'd set my phone to silent mode. Finally found it in the van. Last week I couldn't find my sunglasses (Abbey "borrowed" them) and one of my craft punches. Our house isn't very big...I just don't know why I can't keep up with things better!
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Sorry if this list sounds like I'm whiney and grumbly. I try to keep things positive most of the time, but this list was begging to be posted.

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If you want to play along, I'd love to have you. Just post a list of ten things (anything you can think of) and link to your blog post below!

Wanna Join Us?

I decided Saturday night to join my friend, Megan, in her sugar fast. She challenged her blog readers to take a break from sugar until Thanksgiving.

For me, that looks like this:
  • No soda
  • No dessert
  • No baked goods
  • No Starbucks
  • Very Occasional (like once a week) honey in my hot tea
We're only fasting from sugar until Thanksgiving...which is about 2.5 weeks away, and even though I have a MAJOR headache today from the withdrawals, I know I'll feel so good when I get it all out of my system.

My one (tiny) concession is coffee creamer. I like my Gingerbread and Pumpkin Spice CoffeeMate a lot. But the thing is I only use about a teaspoon anyway. This morning I had my second cup with only half and half and it wasn't unbearable.

Megan isn't super strict on the rules--you can basically set your own. Maybe you just want to cut out dessert. Or soda. You can choose your parameters.

So...........anyone want to join us?


PS--I just realized today is the 9th, which means tomorrow is the 10th. I've got a good list going for 10 on the 10th! Be thinking about yours if you want to join in. I'll get my post up this evening for those of you who want to link up.