Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

We're having a ton of fun in the mountains! I'm soooooooo proud of my kiddos because they all learned how to ski this week!!! Skiing down the mountain with them was priceless. They love it and John and I are plotting ways to fund this new sport for a family of five.

It's been VERY cold here this week, but the mercury today isn't forecasted to climb past ONE degree. We're hoping it's not too cold to tube, but we'll have to wait and see! We may just have to stay inside and drink hot cocoa and work our puzzle and watch the snow fall. Not a shabby way to ring in 2011, huh? Happy New Year, friends!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ho Ho Ho, I need some SNOW!

Well, I hope everyone's Christmas was as merry as ours was.

We had a really beautiful and lazy Christmas! I have to admit that I didn't start out with a good attitude on Christmas morning. Our kids asked us the night before how early they could wake us up and I told them between 5-6am since that's what time John and I normally wake up. I didn't factor in a terrible night's sleep or the fact that we've been sleeping in until 7-8am OR the fact that my kids would actually set their alarm for 5am. I was a wee bit grumpy when they woke me up. But I took a 3 hour nap that afternoon so it all worked out okay in the end. Smile.

We've actually had a string of lazy days which have been wonderful and exactly what we all needed.

Our company (John's side of our family) is getting closer--they're about an hour away--and we're going to have Christmas (Round Two) with them and tomorrow we're heading to the mountains. I'm super excited for two reasons:
1. We're going skiing!!!!!
2. There is actually SNOW in the mountains.

I think I've forgotten what snow looks like. Ha! This has been the weirdest winter we've experienced since we've lived here. It's been very warm and very dry. We've barely had any snow at all and I miss it!

The mountain forecast is looking promising though...great skiing conditions and plenty of the white stuff for us to enjoy. I can't wait!

I'm taking my computer so maybe I'll share some pics while we're there, but if not, HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

State of the Family Address: Christmas Edition

I absolutely LOVE Christmas break with my kiddos at home. [Sidenote: I wasn't really loving it Monday night when I was trying to watch the Vikings-Bears game and the kids were "sledding" down the stairs in their sleeping bags. It's all fun and games until someone slams head first into the bookshelf.]

These days at home are full and fun and I wouldn't trade them for the world. It certainly helps that my kids get along with each other pretty well, as evidenced by the the fact that they've slept all together (in sleeping bags on the floor) in Will's room for the past three nights. My heart is thankful for kids that love each other!

Anyway, here's the lowdown on some of what's been going on with each of us.

John: He's heading to Denver for a lunch meeting and to finish up our shopping then he'll be home with us for ELEVEN days!!! I am beyond thrilled about that. We all are for that matter. John's parents and his brother's family are coming next week and we've got some super fun stuff up our sleeve (more details soon)! I'm glad John will have this break because he has some HUGE deadlines coming up after the first of the year. He's going to need to take advantage of all the relaxation he can get before the ensuing projects slam him.
Me: Well, today is Operation Clean This House! It's not in bad shape, but there are a few things I want to tackle before our company comes. I also have some baking to finish up. And some menus to plan. And laudry, there's always laundry.

For some reason, this Christmas season has felt really busy. I've scaled WAY back in the last few years and have really felt a sense of peace during December. Not this year though and for the life of me I don't know why. I'm not doing more. I'm probably doing less than normal, but it just hasn't felt as calm for whatever reason. I have thoroughly enjoyed our Advent worship/soup suppers at church on Wednesday nights. It's been nice to have a focused time to slow down and simply pay attention. I try to do that every day, but sometimes I'm easily distracted.

Oh, and I'm LOVING my new refrigerator!!!
Will: Poor guy was sick yesterday with some sort of stomach bug. He wasn't able to keep much down for most of the day, but finally started to perk up around dinner time and woke up feeling much better this morning. I'm hoping and praying that whatever he had doesn't get passed around this week!

A couple of weeks ago, Will started BEGGING me to buzz his hair. He had beautiful, long-ish hair that I'd grown to love so naturally I refused. I thought it was a phase he was going through but he kept on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on.... until I finally said okay. I was super nervous about cutting it and begged him to let me take him to see Rachel (our family hair wizard) because I was sure he would hate it but he refused and insisted he wanted me to buzz it. Sarah (such the diplomat) suggested I write up a contract for him to sign saying he wouldn't complain if he didn't like it. We didn't write/sign a contract, and he hasn't complained but he's been wearing a sherpa hat ever since so I'm not really sure he loves it. I have deep regrets, but shhhhhhhhh, don't tell Will. 
Sarah: I took the girls to the library yesterday because Sarah informed me that she had nothing to read. It was true. Our weekly Sunday afternoon library trips have been completely skipped over for a few weeks in favor of Christmas activity. Yesterday, she loaded up on books and disappeared for the remainder of the afternoon. At dinner last night she announced that she'd finished one book and was nearly finished with another. She still maintains that her sport is eXtreme reading. Love that girl.
She joined her school's speech team this year and is loving it. She's really good at it too! She's in a Reader's Theater group with two friends and they got third place at their last competition.

She's changed her Christmas wish list at least twenty times, her last alteration being Sunday afternoon. OY!!! She loves to bake and create, and lately her babysitting jobs have been funding her craft addiction. I bought a gingerbread house kit for the kids last night and I think I'm going to let her have at it this morning while I'm cleaning! She can totally handle it.
Abbey: She's our family clown and keeps us all in stitches. She made up a new word the other night at dinner: farfing. Trust me, you don't even want to go there. No matter how hard I try to keep the potty humor out of dinner conversation, it always worms it's way in. Always. I'm sure I'll miss that one day. 

Her class finished up a unit on Pioneers last week and everyone had to dress up as a pioneer on the last day before break. My friend, Sid, has let me borrow this dress numerous times and I'm so thankful! Abbey looked adorable, even without the matching bonnet and braids. What can I say? She's a non-conformist!

If you were to ask her what her favorite Christmas song of all time is, she would matter of factly answer: Feliz Navidad. She's completely serious. She knows every. single. word.

Abbey has a very pricey item on her Christmas wish list this year. I told her that I wasn't sure she'd get it because it was super expensive and she replied: "That's why I'm asking Santa. He doesn't have to buy things because he makes 'em." I love her logic. I hope Santa pulls through for her or else I'll have a lot of explainin' to do. Wink-wink.

Well, I must sign off and get into cleaning mode! Feliz Navidad.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The start of something new!

Raise your hand if my post title makes you start humming that song from High School Musical!

Sunday night our family joined with 9-10 other families from our neighborhood and went Christmas caroling.

The weather was absolutely perfect, the voices were strong and enthusiastic, and it was great fun! Our group was very large and I'm afraid we might have scared a few people when they opened their door to see all of us on the lawn but they seemed to enjoy having us sing to them! The one neighbor who listened to us sing every single verse of The Twelve Days of Christmas with a smile on his face the entire time was such a good sport!
After singing, we went back to our next door neighbors' home for hot chocolate and Christmas cookies. We even had an ornament exchange. I love that this is the ornament we ended up with. What a perfect reminder of a fun evening with our neighbors.
The snowman is holding a candle and a songbook that says "2010". It's just perfect!

My creative, energetic, generous, and amazing friend, Heather, organized the whole night. She made songbooks for every family (easy, kid-friendly favorites) and distributed them beforehand so the kids could practice. Believe me, the kids took her seriously and were well rehearsed! She also bought battery-operated candlesticks from the dollar store and gave each family a couple to use for the evening. We gave everything back to her to save for next year because it was such a great evening that everyone wants to do it again next year!!!

If our neighborhood 4th of July Pancake Breakfasts and Block Parties, and Halloween carnival and hayrides, and Bunco, and Summer Happy Hours haven't convinced you that we live in the BEST neighborhood ever, then maybe our Christmas Caroling party will?!? WE ARE SO BLESSED TO LIVE AMONG SUCH AMAZING FAMILIES!!!

This is what we're giving our neighbors this year for Christmas.

It's cookie dough that they can refrigerator or freeze until they're ready to bake again (are y'all cookied out yet?) I totally copied the idea from this blog. I copied the Chewy Chocolate Chip cookie recipe too. My Silhouette and snowflake punches came in handy yet again for the red wrapper. We still have more dough to deliver, so if you're my neighbor and you're reading this, please act surprised when we show up on your doorstep bearing gifts later this afternoon.

Friday, December 17, 2010

All is (finally) calm.

Christmas break officially began yesterday afternoon.

I think my happiness exceeds that of my children.

The few days before school lets out for the long break are full of craziness and busyness and all sorts of activity.

That craziness is behind us now though. I'm sipping coffee in a quiet house while the snow is falling gently outside.

Things are finally calm.

Very calm.

And if feels very wonderful.

Our weekend isn't too crazy either which thrills me. There are some fun activities thrown in there but nothing that compares to the week we've had!

I have a couple of links to share with you.

The girls and I made these Mint Brownies (we chose peppermint) to give to a few of their teachers along with some packages of gourmet coffee. I don't usually give food gifts, but the coffee just begged for some brownies to go with it. John and the girls said these were delicious. I wouldn't know because I didn't eat any don't like chocolate but they sure looked pretty!

We also made these "gingerbread" salt dough ornaments for Abbey's class to paint at their party yesterday. It's a typical salt dough recipe with cocoa powder added to the mix to give it a nice brown color.
I bought some Sharpie paint pens (at Michael's by the acrylic paint) and some inexpensive, plain ribbon to make a hanger for the tree. They turned out pretty cute!

(This one cracked and I didn't end up using it for the party, but my kids painted it anyway!)

If you think you want to try this, here are a few tips:
Spray them with clear acrylic spray and let dry completely BEFORE you paint them with the paint pens. The dough is very porous and the paint will bleed like crazy.

Don't make the mistake I did and assume that the ModPodge Dimensional Magic will make them all shiny and bright. It will until it dries and then it will turn milky white and you'll have to start all over again. Use a spray acrylic glaze like this one instead.

One batch of dough makes about 20-24 cut out ornaments. I made 1.5x the recipe and ended up with about 34 ornaments to paint.

One more idea to share...
The girls have been making these three-dimensional snowflakes. They are so pretty!!!

I saw the idea on Leah's blog last year and thank goodness she posted a link to the tutorial. The video is cheesy but watch it once and you'll be on your way to making dozens of gorgeous snowflakes to hang in your windows or from your ceiling!

They're really not hard to make UNLESS you try to make them with a group of twenty one kids at a class party and there simply isn't enough of you to help each kid individually. The party ended with two boys crying. I felt TERRIBLE!!! (But it's sorta funny to think that I made kids cry).

Happy crafting!

Off to pour another cup of coffee and enjoy the calm and quiet while it lasts!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Schmonday

I'm trying to muster up some enthusiasm to wish everyone a happy Monday. I don't know about you all, but I could have really used an extra day of weekend before Monday arrived chock full of activity.

Our weekend didn't feel anything like I hoped it would. In fact, I don't feel like I've had a restful weekend since before Thanksgiving. That's NOT typical for us and I think the disappointment, not to mention the exhaustion, is catching up with me.

I do see light at the end of the tunnel though. This is a short week for us and then our Christmas break begins. I'm trying not to fill our days with activity. We are all tired and in need of some serious rest.

Here's some of what we've been up to lately:

School projects. I am SO ready for this grading period to be over.

Extra-curricular activities. SO proud of Sarah and her Reader's Theater group for getting 3rd place at their competition on Saturday! 

Christmas shopping. I'm gleefully close to being finished!

Baking. Oh, wait. I haven't baked a single Christmas treat. Nope not one. Not yet anyway.

Enjoying friends. We got together with four other families for dinner last night and spent some time catching up. It was good. It was very, very good.

Enjoying each other. And laughing a lot. I don't know that we've done anything to make our kids love each other but they do. They get along well 95% of the time. They enjoy each other and (for now) they enjoy hanging out with their mom and dad. I love laughing with these people. In true John fashion, he had us all in stitches at lunch yesterday. I was feeling stressed about all that I had to do and grumpy that my Sunday wasn't feeling spacious. But laughing with my peeps? The stress melted away. Temporarily.

Waiting for it to snow. Seriously, this is the WEIRDEST December we've experienced in Colorado. We've had one "big" snow this entire season and by "big" I mean about 3-4 inches. It's just weird. I like snow in December! Today it's supposed to be 60 degrees. See? WEIRD. I hope that Mother Nature sends some soon or it will be a very dry summer in Colorado. 

Alrighty. I've got to run. My stressometer is revving up and I have lots to tackle today. Hope your Monday-Schmonday is a good one!

Thursday, December 09, 2010


I have three questions for y'all.

1. Anyone know if you can clean a self-cleaning oven by hand or with some sort of product? I'm scared to lock my oven at extremely high temps. And it is beyond filthy.

2. Does anyone have a great pie recipe? I have to make two for a dinner next Wednesday and I'm not a pie kind of girl so it must be easy and no-fail.

3. I also have to make a cobbler of some sort for Sunday. I don't make cobbler very often. I think someone is bringing peach and someone is bringing apple. I was thinking some sort of berry cobbler. Ideas? Recipes? I'm picky about my cobbler though. I don't like a doughy crust. I like it to be more pie-crust consistency. I know I can google a recipe but I prefer to make on that is tried and true.

THANKS in advance!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Candle of Peace


Seems elusive this time of year, doesn't it?

Schedules and finances and relationships all seem to conspire to steal what little bit of peace (and sanity) we have.

Yesterday, our refrigerator died.

We've been anticipating it for awhile and trying to save for a new one. We had money saved but new brakes/rotors on the van the week before our trip to Arkansas, and a furnace that needed repairing once we returned ate away at most of those savings.

Financial stress immediately began to eat away at my peace.

Why did this have to happen NOW? December is already expensive without having to buy a major appliance. (Last year we bought a transmission!)

Where are we going to find the money to buy a new one? Cash is preferred, but our reserves are low and I really don't want to dip into our "Christmas fund".

Do I need to get a job? Does my husband resent being the only one supporting our family financially? He doesn't but I know the responsibility weighs heavily on him sometimes.

Stress. Stress. Stress. 

We went to Sears last night (with tired kids in tow) and perused the selection. We settled on one that was in our budget and when I say settled, I really mean that. It wasn't ideal but it was what we could afford to spend. We handed over our Sears card to complete the transaction and discovered that our account was inactive because it hadn't been used in quite some time. It's not a big deal to re-activate the account, but it just felt like a good time for us to hit the pause button.

We decided to leave, think/pray/sleep on it, and try to figure something out in the morning when we weren't tired and grumpy and impulsive.

As I was drying my hair this morning, I was reminded of the Advent candle we lit at church Sunday morning: the Candle of Peace. Hmph, I thought. I'm feeling anything but peaceful.

I was then reminded of one part of Sunday's sermon that really stood out to me. Our pastor was sharing about the importance of names and how our names shape and define us. She (yeah, we have women pastors) threw a photo up on the screen of Richard Gere and Julia Roberts from the movie Pretty Woman. I love that movie. There's some nuggets of spiritual truth in there that are too good not to share, so remind me to do that sometime.

Anyway, in one scene Richard Gere picks Julia Roberts' character up in his car and asks what her name is. She responds coyly with "What do you want it to be?" Missie used that picture and movie quote to prompt us to think about what names we might need to know God by this season. Wonderful? Counselor? Almighty God? Everlasting Father? Prince of Peace? Provider? Healer? Savior? Rescuer? Warrior? Love?

I stood there blow-drying my hair and asking God to remind me of the peace candle we lit to usher in this second week of Advent. To flood my heart and mind with the peace I know comes only from Him. To show up today as my Prince of Peace and remind me that this is going to be okay. I asked him to show me/us that He sees us and that He cares about the fact that we have to buy a refrigerator in less than ideal circumstances. (Are circumstances ever really ideal for buying a refrigerator???)

Thirty minutes later I walked into Home Depot.

I found a much nicer, bigger refrigerator (the one I secretly wanted yet couldn't afford at Sears) for a CHEAPER price and the salesman even offered me an additional percentage off because it was a floor model. I was okay with that BUT he later found one that was in a box in the back and still gave me the extra percentage off!

Of course I snatched up the deal. I used what cash we had and put the rest on our credit card. And it was sooooo much less than we would have spent had if we'd impulsively bought the one at Sears!

Wanna know the best part? I called John to coordinate delivery times while the guy was writing up my sales ticket. He told me a guy had just offered him a small freelance job that would cover the cost of the fridge. I almost started crying but instead I whispered a prayer of thanks to the One who took my concerns and gave me what I asked for: PEACE!

I share all of this because I think it's so important to share what God does for give him the credit.

But it's hard too because I have so many friends who are waiting on God to intervene in their lives in similar ways. I have no formula, friends. No list of do's and don'ts. I doubt God's care for me more than I should...especially when my prayers (seemingly) go unanswered. I believe he has a time and a purpose for everything, but on days like today I just simply say "thanks".

Monday, December 06, 2010

"Smiling's My Favorite".

Last week I spent some time pulling out Christmas movies and adding others to my queue. We have lots of seasonal favorites that we love to watch every year and I thought I'd share my top ten favorites with you.

1. Elf. 
We watched this last night and I laughed just as much as I did the first and second and third and fourth time I saw it. Very funny.

2. Auntie Mame.
I guess technically this is not a Christmas movie (though there is a Christmas scene!) but it's one we watch every single year during Christmas break. One of our pastors referenced a line from this movie in a sermon last month and asked for a show of hands from those who had seen it. I was proud that all five of us had our hands in the air.

3. Miracle on 34th Street.
We like both the old and the newer version. I think the little girl in the new version is just adorable but then again, so was Natalie Wood.

4. The Nativity Story.

5. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
I actually bought this last year (because it's HILARIOUS) and watched it with the kids before previewing it. There's quite a bit of language that I'd forgotten about. I think it is one of the funniest Christmas movies around but wish there was a cleaner version for families. 

6. A Christmas Story
This is another of the funniest movies around. And after watching our "VHS taped-from-television" movie for many years, I bought it on DVD only to realize that the television version had most of the language edited out. There's so many funny lines from it though. Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra. The last scene gets me every time. 

7. The Polar Express

8. Holiday Inn
Years and years and years ago, a family friend told us about this movie and it was instant love for my mom, sister, and me. I've seen it dozens of times and I still adore it. The girls watched it with me last year and I believe we launched a new tradition.

9. It's A Wonderful Life
I cannot believe we don't have this movie on DVD. That must be remedied ASAP. 

10. A Charlie Brown Christmas
I know, I know. It's not a full-length feature film but it's a MUST-SEE Christmas favorite around here. I always always always cry at the end when they sing Hark the Herald Angels Sing. 

The Bishop's Wife
Bells of St. Mary's
The Family Stone
Love Actually
How the Grinch Stole Christmas

What are some of your favorites?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Ah, Saturday

I'm not kidding when I tell you that I live for weekends. Especially during the school year and especially when they follow a busy week in December. Ah, Saturday. I love you!

Saturday morning is really the only day that I get to sleep in, and it doesn't happen with the frequency I want it to. I blame it on getting older. I seem to wake up around 5am whether I want to or not. But today? Today I slept until 8:20AM and it was glorious!!!

Our home is more quiet than normal today. Will and Sarah are at Wyldlife Snow Camp this weekend. It feels weird to only have one child at home, but let me assure you she is LOVING it. I'm pretty sure I heard shouts of joy as their bus was driving away yesterday afternoon. Her Royal Highness definitely has an agenda for the weekend.

One thing on our weekend agenda is to get our Christmas tree put up. The hard thing about traveling during Thanksgiving break is that you really don't feel like you've had a break and when you get home, BAM!, it's December whether you're ready or not. The only decoration we have out right now is our Advent wreath but that is all changing this weekend. We're going to put our tree up tomorrow afternoon but we're waiting for our campers to return before we put the ornaments on. It's a family event for us.

I was pleasantly surprised by the survey results that show I'm not the only one who doesn't have a Christmas tree up. Roughly one-third of you don't either. That makes me not feel so completely off my game. I was also surprised by the number of you (about 65%) that said "O Holy Night" is your favorite Christmas song. Wow. Only ONE respondent mentioned my favorite, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing". I'm dying to know who wants the Flowbee Haircutting System for Christmas this year. Or who it was that only wants sleep! Those two made me laugh out loud.

Moving on...

I'm sad there is no Razorback football on today but I'm NOT sad that they're going to the Sugar Bowl!!! (I guess we won't "technically" know that for a couple more days but it's looking likely. Go HOGS!) I want to watch the SEC Championship game later today and as much as it pains me I'm cheering for Auburn.

Well, the "princess" is calling and there are no siblings here to distract her so I guess that means that I must be at her beck and call today. Hope y'all have a GREAT weekend!

By the way, I said "y'all" one day this week on the way home from school and my youngest asked me to please not use that word any more. What in the world is wrong with that girl?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

some schtuff and some photos

Warning: I cleared my camera's memory card the other day so this post contains lots of random pics and lots of scattered thoughts.

My friend gave me a SUPER FUN gift yesterday. A pair of fuzzy warm Glee pj pants. Aren't they cute? I nicknamed them my "gleejays" (instead of pjs) and can't wait to wear them to pajama Bunco this month! By the way, I'm loving some of the mash-ups from Glee this season--especially the Singin' in the Rain and Livin' on a Prayer ones. Wow.

Know what makes me jealous? My husband can play the piano very well. And he can play by ear. Sarah was practicing Deck The Halls last night and kept missing notes. He wasn't even paying attention to the keyboard and was telling her things like "It's D, Sarah." or "Try hitting G". Not fair.

Our library is amazing. I mentioned the cool Playaway audio books they have available but last spring I discovered another fabulous resource they offer: the Book Club Collection. Your book club selects a book to read from their lengthy list of offerings and then you reserve as many copies as you need for your group. No more buying every book we read for book club! You also get to keep them twice as long as you would a normal book. One person checks them out for the group and they come in this cool bag. I'll find out later today how much I owe for all 8 books that are now overdue. Oops.

I'm loving eating by the light of our Advent wreath this week. Tonight we're going to our church's soup supper and Advent service. I love this season so very much.

My kids found my old OBU student ID card the other day. Hilarious. Love the preppy sweater vest. I betcha I also had on khaki shorts and white Keds.

Do you remember when I planted basil seeds? It's been growing like crazy (this pic is from a month ago) and I've been cooking with it. Delicious!

The girls found these rocks in the backyard one afternoon. They thought they were so funny. And they are. They gave them to me to keep because I'm the big 4-0.

A few weeks ago, I was searching high and low for a photo to show my Bible study group. I never found the photo but I did find the medallion I got when I ran my first (and probably my last) marathon. I didn't run all 26.2 miles but I ran 7+ as part of a relay team. It was a fantastic experience and the cool part is that it was Little Rock's first ever marathon! Great memories with great friends. Love you Carol and Carol and Terry!

A couple of years ago, John bought me a Caphalon skillet from Williams-Sonoma. The non-stick coating started peeling off a few months ago and I stopped using it because I was afraid of ingesting it. John reminded me that the skillet had a lifetime warranty, so we took it back and they replaced it (NO hassle!) with a new and improved skillet. That's the best customer service I've seen in ages and I thought you should know. You get what you pay for and in this case it is quality and superb customer service!

I still want to post some pics from Thanksgiving but Blogger is giving me difficulty and I really need to get moving. Later, friends.