Friday, December 28, 2007

She's Ruining my Life!

No, I don't mean her. :-)

Actually, I'm referring to another incident in the life of our poor mistreated three year old.

A couple of days ago, the girls had spent the morning helping my pack away Christmas decorations, and had since gone upstairs, playing happily with all the new Christmas toys.

Or so I thought.

A while later, Lauryn comes down stairs, trying desperately to cry.

Lauryn: They're ruining my life! (To be sure, it came out of her 3 yo mouth more like: Day're woo-ining my wife!)

Me (trying desperately not to laugh): Who is?

L: They are.

Me: Are Brynna and Hailey "they"?

L: No, Kora!

Me (not able to help it, I was truly laughing at this one, as Kora is her favorite sister): Kora is ruining your life?

L: Yes!

I grabbed her hand to take her back upstairs. I went to the room where Kora was, and told her what Lauryn had said. She laughed too.

Kora: She was waving her new princess wand around the bedroom, knocking stuff off the shelves, so I told her that if she wanted to play with the wand, she needed to out into the playroom. She then told me I was ruining her life before she stormed out to go tell you.

Now, don't you feel sorry for the poor darling who is so mistreated by her family?!?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

After Christmas Clean Out

I don't know about you, but we had a great Christmas! In fact, Brynna said this morning that yesterday was probably the best day of her life! Hee, hee. Oh, to be 6 again!

I don't know if you are like me, but after Christmas, I always feel the urge to purge my house. I'm not sure if it is my OCD reaction to all the extra holiday clutter, or what, but I always know I'll get the urge to throw out everything but the kitchen sink - keeping the kids is optional.

Just kidding. Most days.

Anyway, here is a list of areas that it would be a great idea to go through as we approach the first of the year.

  1. Wrapping paper. This is probably obvious, but since there will be great deals in stores on wrapping paper, now is the time to stock up. I always look out for paper that can by multi-functional. Last year I bought some gold and silver rolls that work just as well for anniversaries, even birthdays. Also take a look at bows, gift tags, Christmas cards, etc. And if you need one of those nifty storage bins for this stuff, they are usually on clearance this time of year as well.
  2. Christmas stuff. Again, obvious, but this the perfect time to evaluate your Christmas decorations, etc. Do you have things you don't use? Donate them. Do you have lights that don't work, wreaths that are smashed, etc.? Throw them away. Next Christmas you won't even miss them. Are there things you would like to add to your collection? Maybe you were really wishing you had an Advent calendar this year? Make a list as you go through everything and check the stores and online vendors like CBD this week. You can probably get some on clearance.
  3. Paperwork. First of each year, I clear out our file folders in our file drawer, as we keep current year stuff in there. Some of you may remember that I had let this slide for a couple of years, causing myself mucho work the first of this year. Don't let this happen to you! We keep everything needed for taxes out, and put the rest that need to be saved in envelopes in a special box. Everything else is shredded. I also go through the box and shred anything older than 7 years.
  4. Medicine. End of year is a great time to go through all your over the counter meds. Throw away anything dated 2007 (or earlier!). Don't forget to check things like hydrocortisone cream, sunscreen, antibiotic ointment, etc.
  5. Pantry. Ditto for the pantry! Most pantry staples have expiration dates, so poke back into the recesses of your pantry to see if there is anything lurking back there (and if you feel the urge to straighten that pantry up in the process, be my guest!). I recently came across several jars of baby food - and my youngest just turned 3! I was able to give one or two jars to a friend at church, but the rest of it was past dates, so I threw it out. No one wants to risk a past date jar for their baby!
  6. Spices. Actually the first of November would probably be a better time to go through the spice drawer/rack, so that fresh stuff would be on hand for Thanksgiving and Christmas. But if you forgot to do it then, take a moment to look through the spices. I'm pretty sure my cream of tarter is losing it's tart-ness, so that's going on my list. If you can't remember the last time you used something or when you bought it, it might be time to toss it.
  7. Calendar/organizer. Maybe I'm the only housewife/homeschooling mom who uses a Day Runner, but I love mine. I have tweaked the categories to fit my life, but I use it not just as my calendar, but where I keep lists (like my Christmas list), addresses books, important things to remember, to-do's, project lists. I also keep important pieces of paper in there, like invitations or notices, rosters, etc. But I have to go through it or the junk collects. Since I have to replace my calendar anyway, now is a good time to go through it.
  8. Junk drawers. I don't have an official junk drawer, but I do have a couple that tend to get junky. One is a drawer in the kitchen that tends to collect odds and ends. The other is a small drawer in my desk where I keep sales flyers and coupons. Wherever your junk tends to collect, no is a great time to clean it out!
  9. Toys. This one is also pretty obvious, but sometimes we must make room for the new by getting rid of the old. My kids are much more easily induced to get rid of things if they have brand new things to play with.
  10. Knick knacks. Usually we get more of these at Christmas, so it is a good time to go through these. If you've got stuff boxed up that hasn't seen a shelf or curio cabinet in years, maybe it is time to give it to charity. I usually try to go through things like this to get one last donation in before the first of the year.
  11. The Computer. That's right. If you don't already have a back-up system in place, back up your data! This can be done several ways, by burning cd's, backing up to a second computer, etc. Also, now might be a good time to burn a cd or dvd of this year's pictures if you have a digital camera.
You may have noticed that I left a couple of things off my list. I find it more conducive to cleaning out closets with the change of seasons. That's when I am going through the kids' clothes anyway. I also don't clean out or organize my school stuff right now - I do that on our "summer (read May/June) break.

So what did I leave off? What do you use this time of year to cull out?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Traditions III

Tonight is Christmas Eve, so we have come to the culmination of our Advent celebrations. Every evening when we read our story/devotion for the night, we light candles in our Advent wreath. This is a combination Advent wreath/nativity set that we have used for several years.
Kelly reads the story to the kids, which we'll finish up in the morning.
Also in the morning, the kids will place Baby Jesus in the Manger on our Advent Calendar.
Since we live in San Antonio, tamales are a Christmas tradition here, usually on Christmas Eve. However, we had our last night before going out to look at Christmas lights. Tonight we had lasagna, a family favorite. Tomorrow we'll wake up to cinnamon rolls. I also have a roast in the crock pot which we'll have with all the trimmings for lunch. We had turkey and dressing last weekend at my parents' house, and we'll have ham and dressing next weekend at Kelly's parents' house, so I decided to do something different for us.

Of course, the girls can't wait until after breakfast when we get to the presents. Come to think of it, Kelly is more anxious than the girls. He has a HUGE box under the tree that, for once, he doesn't know what it is. :-) Can't believe I actually get to surprise him for once!

May each of you have a joyous, memory rich Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

One last

Psalty post. These first few are really for family and friends that don't live here. These are some faces that go with names you've probably heard from the girls.

The two girls in the pink and green are Kora and Aubrey's friends, Skye and Saige, AKA the twins.
This is Melody, one of Kora's and Aubrey's best friends.
The littlest girl in the very front and center with the red shirt is Abby, Brynna and Hailey's very good friend, who spends many Fridays at our house.

And now for a few amusing pictures.

This is Abby again. Yes, she's the one facing the back of the stage. It was really hard for the littlest performers to remember to face the audience.
It was also hard for them to remember where they needed to be at times, so the older kids had to help them out at times.
Actually it was some of these little episodes that helped make the evening so fun. They were so cute and were working so hard, it was impossible not to laugh at these little moments.

And this last one is an example of what was going on in my lap during the almost hour long performance.
Lauryn was sitting in my lap, and she decided she needed to copy all the choreography movements going on in front of us. So I was having to snap pictures around her, while holding her down at the same time. Obviously, I wasn't always successful. But she was having a great time! :-)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Psalty's Christmas Calamity

Well, I have to say that everyone who attended the performance last night was so impressed. All the kids did such a great job! They had had very limited rehearsal time in the facility where they performed, so I was nervous for them for how things were going to go, but they did great! The ladies who led it did a wonderful job of spreading out the speaking lines and solos, so that all but the very smallest kids had parts of some kind. And to think that a church as small as ours could pull off something like this is mind boggling.

The best part was listening to the kids afterwards. They kept saying over and over again how much fun it was. And although all the work going into was very hard, it was very fun to watch. I took over 75 pictures so I won't post them all, but I'll post a few. Three parents video taped the performance, and the church is going to have a professional editor take them and combine them into one DVD, so eventually we'll have a copy of the evening for posterity. Or as one of the parents said, as blackmail come wedding time. ;-)

The whole cast and crew, including "Pastor Smith" on the end.
The whole group singing with Psalty (Psalty is a singing hymn book. When you open a page the music to that song starts playing.)
Brynna singing and doing some of the choreography.
Aubrey was "Mary." Kora and Brynna behind her were angels.
Kora's solo came towards the end. Psalty later joined her for a brief duet.
And of course there was "Pastor Smith."
The Grand Finale.

Can't wait for the video! Wish you all could have been there!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Odds 'n' Ends

Just to set the record straight, I just wanted to reassure anyone who feared I was being taken in on the Who's Who scam. All those who's who lists are just a money making deal for the people who run them. I just had fun with thinking of ways to write my "entry." I haven't even looked at the application on the website, so I don't know if I would carry the joke that far or not, but it was sure good for a few laughs!

This week has been very busy. When we got back from our trip, we had to hit the ground running. We have had a few health issues that needed to be taken care of this week - Brynna's new braces that she sleeps in to help correct her toe walking were done and Kelly had to go in for his pre-op appointment for his Jan 3 surgery. Plus we had Bible study at our house Wednesday night, which included the children practicing the musical out in our garage. I know that sounds strange, but it is the biggest place we had at our house where 30+ kids could practice this that was lit well enough for a night rehearsal.

Complicating this is the fact that my right hip has been bothering me. Seems like every pregnancy it is something. It started about a month or so ago when it would tighten up if I sat too long in one position. Now some days it just aches or hurts so much it is painful to walk. Tuesday it was bothering me quite a bit but it has been better since. I am just hoping it is ligaments loosening up, as that will correct itself after the baby is born.

The older girls had another rehearsal yesterday afternoon. Boy, were they beat when they got home! I don't think they were that tired after spending a day at Six Flags! Tonight is the big night for them. They have another rehearsal this afternoon at the Geneva School of Beorne where the performance will be tonight at 7pm. Kelly, who plays the part of "Pastor Smith" is coming home early to take them to the rehearsal as he needs to be there as well. Then I'll bring Hailey and Lauryn later this afternoon. I'll be honest - the girls are having a great time with this and it has been very good for them, but I am ready for it to be OVER! But, like I said, it has been great for the girls, especially Kora. She has always been a little overly shy, but she is actually performing a solo! I just knew when they started this thing there was NO WAY she would do a solo, but she is and is enjoying it.


Well, if I can remember to take the camera, I'll post pictures of the big night over the weekend.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

When I got home from our weekend trip,

I had an interesting letter in the mail waiting for me.

Dear Tamara,

It is my pleasure to inform you that you are being considered for inclusion into the 2007/2008 Cambridge Who's Who Among Executive and Professional Women "Honors Edition" of the registry.

The 2007/2008 edition of the registry will include biographies of our country's most accomplished women. Recognition of this kind of honor shared by thousands of executive and professional women throughout America each year. Inclusion is considered by many as the single highest mark of achievement.

Upon final confirmation, you will be listed among thousands of accomplished women in the Cambridge Who's Who Registry.

Well. I have have no idea how they got my name and address, but I certainly got a great laugh out of it. I showed the letter to Kelly, and he told me I should apply. He thinks it is quite funny too.

So I have spent the last few days thinking of how I would phrase the info in my application, were I to decide to spend the time to fill it out on their website. What do you think of this entry?

Graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BA in history in 1996. Have spent the past 11 years in the field of childhood development. Duties include 24 hour care and instruction of children ages infant to pre-pubescent. These include, but are not limited to, nutritional research and execution of all meals, management of all health related issues of all children, wardrobe management, social and religious obligations, transportation to all extra-curricular events, meetings, lessons, and obligations. Also, sole control of all academic pursuits as well as teaching duties of all subjects from Greek and Latin to basic pre-school letter/number recognition.

Duties are also extended to household management, including fiscal responsibilities such as budgetary decisions, aligning all purchases to budgetary constraints, investment decisions, as well as maintenance of the physical plant, which includes - but is not limited to - all cleaning, organizing, and purchasing for said plant. Constant instruction in these duties must also be passed on to the recipients of the childhood development research.

Not only are these duties attended to every day, but responsibility also includes setting tone and atmosphere. Not only is a cheerful attitude a must, but maintaining a loving, yet disciplined atmosphere expected at all times. Nor do duties cease at bedtime, when responsibilities include nutritional supplements for children under the age of one year, psychological counseling for anyone above the age of 2 with nightmares, assuming nursing duties to anyone of any age who is sick, and assisting anyone ages 3 and up to the restroom at 3 am. If time off is allowed, a cell phone is provided to remain on constant call. By necessity, outside interests have been curtailed or severely limited in order to allow for complete absorption in the job of Chief Home Executive.

So do you think an entry like this has a snowball's chance of getting "confirmed"? :-) Let me know what you would add or delete to this entry in the comment section!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cookie Day!

Like nearly every other family with children, we make Christmas cookies at some point during the Christmas season, and today was the day. We certainly don't make it quite as big a deal as some people we know, but the kids have fun.

They roll them out and use Christmas themed cookie cutters to cut out the sugar cookie dough I have already made (a triple batch worth).

I'm not sure how many cookies Hailey actually made, as she ate more dough than she rolled out, I think.
And of course, the best part is eating the results - before lunch even!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Am I the only one

who looks at all these deals the stores are running and wished I had the money to go shopping?

If I was really smart, I would have all my Christmas gifts bought by the end of October every year, and use November and December to snag some great deals for myself and our family. I see great deals on kitchen appliances (that I need to replace), household linens like towels and bedding (that I have been looking to replace), and everything else from good deals on batteries to movies. But of course, who has the money this time of year to do anything but pay for Christmas gifts and travel?

Maybe I'll be better about buying ahead next year, and be able to take advantage of some of this.

Yeah, right.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Home Now

Made it back.

Good trip.

Great weekend.

Too many wonderful sweets.

Lots of cool presents.

Good to be home.

Very tired.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

WHY MEN ARE NEVER DEPRESSED

Kelly forwarded me this email the other day, and we both got a laugh out of it. I thought you might as well. I have no idea who to credit with this one, as it is one of those circular emails.


WHY MEN ARE NEVER DEPRESSED:


Men Are Just Happier People-- What do you expect from such simple creatures? Your last name stays put. The garage is all yours. Wedding plans take care of themselves. Chocolate is just another snack. You can be President. You can never be pregnant. You can wear a white T-shirt to a water park. You can wear NO shirt to a water park. Car mechanics tell you the truth. The world is your urinal. You never have to drive to another gas station restroom because this one is just too icky. You don't have to stop and think of which way to turn a nut on a bolt. Same work, more pay. Wrinkles add character. Wedding dress $5000. Tux rental-$100. People never stare at your chest when you're talking to them. New shoes don't cut, blister, or mangle your feet. One mood all the time.

Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat. You know stuff about tanks. A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase. You can open all your own jars. You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness. If someone forgets to invite you, he or she can still be your friend.

Your underwear is $8.95 for a three-pack. Three pairs of shoes are more than enough. You almost never have strap problems in public. You are unable to see wrinkles in your clothes. Everything on your face stays its original color. The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades. You only have to shave your face and neck.

You can play with toys all your life. One wallet and one pair of shoes -- one color for all seasons. You can wear shorts no matter how your legs look. You can "do" your nails with a pocket knife . You have freedom of choice concerning growing a mustache.

You can do Christmas shopping for 25 relatives on December 24 in 25 minutes.

No wonder men are happier.

This one is for my friends...

who were offended that I didn't post the full length picture of Kelly and me last Saturday night before we went to the company party. :-)


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Why we homebirth

I have been asked by several people lately, including my sister, why we have started having babies at home instead of a hospital. It's a great question.

First off, I want to say that I am not completely anti-hospital and doctors. There are instances which in past decades would have resulted in the death of either the mother or baby or both, are now almost completely unheard of. Although the greatest step forward in the safety of childbirth came in the mid 1800's when doctors and scientists figured out that puerperal fever (childbed fever, the number one killer of new mothers) was caused by birth attendants' not washing their hands before touching the patients. Once it became common practice for physicians and midwives to sanitize their hands before attending a birth, the death rate for mothers and babies dropped dramatically.

And there are some conditions and instances when early detection can greatly help the health of the mother (like gestational diabetes) or when a natural childbirth is impossible (like with a side long breech baby who resists being turned). I am very thankful to live in a time when we don't have to fear dying in childbirth.

However, after four hospital births, Kelly and I did run into a few problems. Let's face it, hospitals are primarily for people who are sick. Childbirth is not an illness. It is a process that for 98% of women occurs with no need for intervention of any kind. And nearly every time we had a baby, we had to fight to do things the way we wanted. The hospitals all had their way of doing things, the nurses all had ways they liked to operate, and if someone came along to mess up their system, they had to be willing to be pretty assertive to get it. And frankly, in the middle of labor is not the time anyone wants to be assertive. You go to the hospital expecting help in a most special time of your life, not a battle.

And really, I don't believe we are that picky. I prefer to keep the baby with me at all times. I don't like to be tied to the bed giving birth - I want to be able to walk around, go to the restroom, change positions, etc. And I have had nurses gripe at me for doing all the above. If I changed positions, it would cause the monitor straps (which I hate with a passion! Who wants all that stuff strapped around a belly that is contracting hard enough to push a ten pound baby out?). Because of the way a hospital is set up, they tend to treat a delivery as if it were a medical problem: they know best and you just need to shut up and do what they tell you to do. And no, it doesn't matter if it is your baby and your body, they would really rather you didn't have a say in the matter.

I know that not every facility is this bad. But I have given birth in four different hospitals in two different states, and that has been largely my experience. During my fourth labor, the nurses - who didn't believe I was in labor at all - made my husband stay out in the waiting room while I changed clothes and they asked me a zillion history and physical questions. Then they would yell at me for not answering them in the middle of a contraction (my husband is great about answering questions for me when am contracting but they treated him like an interloper). They were trying to hurry up so they could send me home because they were full up. (I got the last laugh when they discovered that my water had indeed broken as I had said and I was already 7 cm dilated! I ended up having the baby right there in the triage room!)

So rather than cooperating in a natural process, just standing by in case real medical attention was needed, we have experienced a great deal of stress in dealing with hospital staff during my labors and deliveries. But it doesn't end there. My postpartum stays in the hospital have not been pleasant either. Mainly I don't get very much rest. Not only am I in a strange (plastic) bed, but the nursing staff seems to have a natural talent for coming in to take the baby's vitals or my vitals - never at the same time - just when I have finally gotten us both to sleep after a 22 hour day. With baby four (that was the hospital stay that had Kelly and I saying "never again!") one nurse woke me up to check my Foley catheter. I didn't have a Foley - it was my next door neighbor who had had a c-section.

Again, because they need to do things on their schedule, they come in to check on us when it suits them, not when we were awake. The nurses would gripe at me for having the baby is bed with me, or for having the room too cold, etc. They would come to get the baby in the middle of the night for hearing check-ups. All this led to a very exhausted Mama by the time we got home. I was usually less rested after a two day hospital stay than I was when I went into the hospital in active labor after three hours of sleep!

With baby number five, we elected to have her at home. I didn't have to rush out the door to get to the hospital on time (always an issue with my short labors). We had a very calm labor, with the midwives allowing me to do what I needed to do to have the baby, helping when it was required. And it was so relaxing afterward. I was in my own bed or own recliner for the next few days. I took our vitals when we were already awake and recorded them for the midwife. I got more sleep and more rest after that baby than with any other one.

So basically it boils down to being able to have as stress-free, natural labor with all parties cooperating with my body rather than fighting against it, and a greater ability to rest and get more sleep afterwards. We are looking forward to another homebirth!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

For all of you who keep insisting that we might be having a boy...

even our three year old knows better!

Today at lunch, Aubrey was asking Lauryn a bunch of silly questions, like "Do you like Kora? Do you like Mama and Daddy?" Etc. Finally she asked Lauryn, "Do you like the new baby?"

To which Lauryn answered, "Yes, she's so coot!" (cute)

Then tonight she wanted to know what her name is. She also told me she didn't want my tummy to get any bigger. Tough luck, kiddo.

And here's a picture of us before our party last night.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Christmas Randomness

This is really an extraordinary and busy weekend for us. I got to have a great Girls Night Out last night - thank you, honey, for staying home with the kids. They watched Pirates 3 while I was out. Tonight my honey is taking me out. Tonight is his company's holiday party, so we have a babysitter coming, and we'll be stepping out into the land of nice dinners and grown-ups. My two older girls are pretty tired already, as Kelly took them for an afternoon of volunteering at the Food Bank.

We have one more week of school, although it will only be a four day week. This coming weekend is the weekend we'll celebrate Christmas with my family. It still seems a little weird to not see them on Christmas, but with four different families with different work schedules, plus each of us girls have in-laws to fit in as well, it got to be too difficult to plan a time right on Christmas. And Kelly really wanted to start our own family traditions, spending Christmas at our own house. So we see my family the third weekend of December, and we get together with his family whenever we can all fit it in. This year it will be New Year's weekend. We rotate who hosts, and this year, it is my Mother-in-law's turn.

I have to admit I am as ready for a school break as the kids. We have had breaks this fall, but they have all been due to illnesses or funerals. We've attended two family funerals and the kids have had two major illnesses since school started. Not exactly how I had envisioned the year to go. Since we school year round, I had scheduled a few weeks off throughout the fall, so we really aren't behind, I just had to adjust our time off - one of the beauties of homeschooling. The down side is that the time off hasn't been a fun, relaxing time. And somehow I doubt Christmas break will be relaxing, although it should be fun.

I have one more gift card to purchase, and then I am D.O.N.E. Christmas shopping. I do still have quite a bit of wrapping to do. I also have one more daughter who still needs to go shopping. But we are definitely entering the home stretch. It will be time to start thinking about doing more baking soon! I seriously doubt I am going to get Christmas cards out this year. So if I normally send you one, please don't feel neglected this year - it's nothing personal. Besides, my life is an open book on this blog, I think a Christmas letter would just be redundant.

Well, I better go start primping. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Neglect

I'm really not trying to neglect my blog. Although it is busy around here, the real reason is that I am working on a post that is taking longer than I thought. I have had several people ask me lately why I have started having my babies at home. It's a great question, but it is taking me a while to write it. So keep checking back, as I know everyone is just dying to know why. :-)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sweet Day

I have had a very sweet birthday today. Even though the "getting older" part is no longer fun :-), I had a great day. Many friends and family calling or emailing and wishing me a happy birthday. The girls surprised me this morning with handmade cards, and many drawings and paintings as their gifts. Before taking me out to dinner tonight, Kelly and the girls presented me with some very pretty blue topaz (my birthstone, which Kelly says match my eyes) and sterling silver dangle-y earrings. And of course, what day doesn't end well with Mexican food?

And no, if you don't already know, I am not revealing my age. Kelly said at church that I am turning 29 again, and we are leaving it at that. ;-)

Some days you can only wish...

Hailey asked me a question today, right in the middle of phonics lesson, out of the blue:

"Does it ever rain wine?"

Wouldn't that be a sight? Can you imagine the conservation efforts on those days? Of course, there are days when it would be really nice...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Chow Time!

I think I've mentioned before that I do the majority of my grocery shopping once a month. Either Kelly or I go to Sam's once a month, and then I go to Wal-mart and do what we call "big shop." This means the rest of the month I only have to go to HEB to pick up milk, eggs, and any fresh produce that doesn't come in our co-op.

Being the first Saturday of the month, yesterday was the day for "big shop" at Walmart. I had also gone to a bakery outlet that I visit about once a month for most of our bread, buns, and tortillas. Of course with Christmas this month, I had a few extra things to pick up (like stocking candy) so my cart at Wal-mart was very full. (The checker always comments on how many groceries I am getting.) This is a big job, even when I am not pregnant with an aching back. What's even more fun is unloading it all once I get home and putting it all away.

Fortunately, Kelly and the kids unload the car and the girls take everything out of bags. I still insist on putting most of it away myself, because the girls still just want to throw the stuff into the pantry and fridge. Since I am OCD like things organized, I still have to do it mostly myself.

So if you can picture my kitchen completely taken over by groceries and grocery bags, four girls emptying the bags and tossing them over their shoulder onto the floor, this was the scene when Kelly came in the kitchen with the last bag (it is amazing how much stuff that little bitty car of his will hold!). He walked in, took a look around, turned to me and asked me with a straight face, "What army are we feeding?"

Believe me, I think the same thing as I am checking out at Wal-mart. :-)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas Traditions II

Sunday is the traditional start of Advent. This may be a word that many Protestants are unfamiliar with, but it is simply a word, originating from a Latin word meaning "coming", which describes a season of anticipation or waiting for the celebration of Christmas. It can become a celebration all on its own. Just as the Jews anticipated the coming Messiah, we do things that help us anticipate the coming celebration.

As I stated in a previous post, several years ago, Kelly and I decided to deliberately include things in our family traditions meant to help our children - and us - focus on the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Many children can anticipate Santa and presents, but we wanted to somehow make the significance of an all-powerful God coming to earth as a helpless baby, and coming only to die for us, as real as possible to them. Yes, our kids look forward to presents and to giving gifts, but our goal was to also make this time of year of deeper import to their lives and faith.

One of the tools we use is a set of books suggested by several friends by Arnold Ytreeide. The first is Jotham's Journey, then Bartholomew's Passage, and then Tabitha's Travels. If you clicked on any of these links, you might have noticed how expensive they are. Unfortunately they are out of print (so used copies can be pricey), but maybe you can find one at a used book store or borrow one. Or check in May, they are probably cheaper then.

Each of these books is about a pre-teen child who is swept up in an exciting story set in Israel of bandits, slavery, rescue, Essenes, faith, love, family, and cliff-hanger endings. The story is divided into sections to be read each night, culminating in the climax on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day with the birth of Jesus. It is a great time for the whole family to gather around and listen to as these children - and the adults in the story as well - are faced with their misunderstandings of who the Messiah will be. Because of the exciting way each section ends, the children can't wait until the next night's story. And it keeps the coming Messiah in their minds every evening during this time.

Just a couple of notes: the books are meant to be done over a three year span, one book per year. We have done each of them once, have read Jotham and Bart twice, and will be reading Tabitha this year. Also, there are other books on the market meant for this same purpose. The Ytreeide books are in novel form, with applications after each night's selection, so it makes them particularly enjoyable, but I found several Advent devotion books on CBD that would fulfill the same purpose. I can't personally vouch for any of them, but if you are interested there are resources out there.

One final note: While we love these books, we disagree with some of the conclusions Ytreeide draws in the nightly applications, as they go against some of the things we believe as Reformed Christians. It's not in every one, but there are a few things sprinkled throughout the applications. So this last year, I rewrote the applications that we objected to for the Tabitha and Bartholomew books. I meant to do all three, but haven't made it to Jotham yet.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wrapping Gifts, Maternity Addition

This really has nothing to do with traditions, but I've spent quite a bit of time wrapping presents today, so it's on my mind.

I had forgotten how much wrapping gifts makes my back hurt, especially with a pregnant belly sticking out in front of me. So today I thought I would get smart. I got my cutting board I use to cut out fabric and spread it on my bed. For those of you who have never seen our bedroom furniture, we have a very tall bed, with a very thick mattress on top. The top of our mattress reaches my waist - or where my waist would be if it weren't for this baby sticking out front of me. This brought the job up to a much more comfortable level. My back still aches, but not as badly. The only disadvantage is that my reach isn't what it used to be because my belly runs into the bed. :-)

I'm also stealing an idea from my friend Cathi. We've already had a snooping incident this year, so when I label the gifts I am using pseudonyms. Cathi gave each of her kids a reindeer name last year, but I am using the names from the 12 Dancing Princesses. And I won't tell them who is who until Christmas Day. Hopefully this will keep them from knowing which packages to snoop. :-)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Christmas Traditions I

One of my favorite things about the holidays is talking about different family traditions. Each family is different and I love reading and talking about different things that make the holidays special. I think this is partly because these are what gives a family an identity, a distinct heritage. Sometimes these are accidental things, sometimes they are intentionally started.

I thought I'd take a few blog posts to outline some of our traditions, things that make us the Smiths, that our children look forward to all year long. Some aren't that different from your family's perhaps, but maybe some are new.

Of course, one of the first things we do is put up the Christmas tree, while listening to Christmas music. We don't have room for colored balls. Each of the girls has gotten 1-3 new ornaments each year, plus Kelly and I have a few, so we stick to the special ornaments. (This isn't a tradition, but two years ago we invested in a very nice artificial, pre-lit tree and it was well worth the money. We've had people in our home surprised to find it isn't a real tree. This is Kelly's favorite, since he was the light person. :-) )
After we put all the ornaments on, Kelly pulls out two that were set aside for the end. You probably can't see from the picture but they are large nails. Kelly starts off by asking the girls why Jesus came to earth to begin with. He talks about how He came to earth to die for us because of our sin and God's love for us.
So when we hang these "Easter ornaments" as Aubrey calls them on our tree, we are purposely reminding our children that behind the gifts and the songs, the baking and the fun, there is a deeper meaning to it all.
We have one more unusual thing we put on our tree. We don't top it with a star or an angel, we have a crown. But this is a crown of thorns. Again as Kelly talks to the girls about it, he reminds them that if Jesus hadn't been the Son of God who came to purposely die a horrible death for us, he would have been just another baby.

This helps us start off this season on a very good note. Yes we are all excited about presents and seeing family. The girls have been practicing Christmas music for their musical next month. We have stockings hanging up and plans to bake. But as a family, we stop and take the time to remember why we celebrate this time of year. And it's not that the baby Jesus was born in a stable. It's that God sent His son, the Messiah - fulfilling a promise made back in Genesis 3 - who would come to pay the price for our sins.
While this is not "traditional" Christmas to many, we have found that this helps keep everything in perspective. I hear many Christians bemoaning the commercialization of Christmas. We decided to do something about it, and this is one tradition we started to keep the focus where it should be.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A double birthday

So last night we celebrated Aubrey and Lauryn's birthday. We had an I love horses cake.

And an I love puppies cake.

And of course there were lots of presents, some from us, some from grandparents. There were Barbies.

There were games and books.

There were dress up clothes.

And you knew there had to be horses. And books about horses.


We even had a house and an airplane.


And a fancy dress for a doll.

There was lots of help with opening everything up - it's nice now that Kelly and I aren't the only ones who can undo all those annoying twist ties that try to make the toys incapable of being separated from the box, even for legitimate buyers.


I think Aubrey summed it up. "I loved everything!" Lauryn hasn't played with anything else but her new toys ever since, so I think she feels the same.

Friday, November 23, 2007

I'm this many!


Happy Birthday, Lauryn! Lauryn is three years old today! Yes, we just had a birthday on Monday as Lauryn was born four days after Aubrey's 6th birthday. So tonight we will have a double birthday celebration, with cake, ice cream (yes in spite of the cold weather!) and lots of presents.

Lauryn has been a special child, forging her own way, making her own mark in our larger-than-normal family. She was our first home birth. She was also our biggest baby by far - 10 lbs. 10 oz., 23 in. long! Yes, her middle name could have been ouch! Of course the fact that she was ten days late (!!!) I'm sure added to the size.

She makes us laugh every day. Every meal right now is "supper." She gets up in the morning asking me, "What's for supper?"

"You mean breakfast?" I ask.

"Yeah, bekfast. Ah we habing (are we having) Mack-a-meal?" (Malt-o-meal, her favorite breakfast)

She also insists that she only be called by her name Lauryn. If you compliment her, telling her what a good girl she is, or a big girl, or that she's cute, she responds like this:

"I not a big girl, I Wauwyn!" (The "L" and "r" in her name both come out sounding like "w's")

"I not coot (cute), I Wauwyn!"

And right now she is constantly asking what time it is. She copies everything anyone says, including Hailey's phonics lesson - hey maybe she'll learn right along with her, and I can get two for one!

Happy Birthday, my sweet Lauryn!
Sisters!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful

I am thankful for so many things this year:

  • My husband who provides for us, allowing me to be a full time mommy and home maker. Who loves me and the girls, and is the leader of our home.
  • The children that God has given us, which make us laugh, bring us joy, and force us to greater maturity and patience (although that last one I have to remind myself to be thankful for :-) ).
  • Our church family with whom we are a community.
  • My family, including the grandfather I just lost. Even in the grief I was proud that they are my family. I am proud of the way my mom honored her parents in the last months of his life.
  • Kelly's family, especially the amazing recovery from breast cancer that my MIL has had this year. This was truly the grace of God in our lives.
  • I am thankful to be feeling so much better. And so far this pregnancy is easier than Lauryn's. I wasn't quite as sick, and I am not having the sciatic nerve problems so far at all.
  • I am thankful that we have a plan to address some of Kelly's health problems.
  • I am thankful for HOPE, the homeschool group that I have been a part of for so many years, that continues to be a touchstone for me.
  • I am thankful to the God that gives us not only all of the above, but every breath.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

'Twas the day before Thanksgiving...

and all through the house, all the feet and backs were aching, but all the mouths were watering, anticipating the 'morrow.

I know, I know, it doesn't fit the cadence. But it definitely fits the day. Like most of America today was cooking day in preparation for tomorrow. But what a difference this year! Last year we traveled and helped while at Kelly's grandparents' farm, but there were many hands then, and the girls weren't needed.

This year, since my back yells at me already due to the pregnancy, I needed their help. What a difference older girls make! Kora rolled out pie crusts, made the cornbread for the dressing, separated eggs, and chopped up the onion. Aubrey helped me mix up the pie crusts, and she and Brynna did many dishes. Hailey and Lauryn sampled the pie filling to make sure it was edible. :-) The last time I did any serious Thanksgiving preparation, I did not have nearly this much help. It makes me look forward to the day when we can all be in there cooking away.

But it was a fun morning, in spite of tired bodies. We had Christmas music blaring (remember they are practicing for a Christmas musical being performed in just over a month), had cinnamon treats made from left over pie crust, and many tasks accomplished, including one burned finger (mine) which is evidently a necessary part of any holiday cook-a-thon. I have 3 chocolate meringue pies sitting in my refrigerator, the dressing's dry ingredients assembled, ready for a final mix with wet ingredients in the morning, and fruit all ready to cut up for a salad. I love the smells of fall.

It's even supposed to get chilly here by tomorrow, making it really feel like fall! While we are going to miss our family this week, we are going to enjoy the time with members of our church family and each other. I doubt I'll be posting tomorrow, so I'll just wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pumpkin Pancakes and (Traditional) Shortbread

I wanted to share a recipe that our family had for the first time yesterday - YUMMY! Tastes like eating a pumpkin pie for breakfast.

Pumpkin Pancakes
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup milk (I used buttermilk and added 1/2 tsp soda as well)
  • 1/2 cup cooked or canned pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks, milk, pumpkin and oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form; fold into batter.

2.
Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto a hot greased griddle. Turn when bubbles form on top of pancakes. Cook until second side is golden brown. (Make sure these get done, or they will still be gooey in the middle.)

Click here for the full recipe from allrecipes.com, including an apple cider syrup to go with it. Sounds good, but I didn't have time to make it. I had to double the recipe for our family and it was barely enough. But it was a unanimous hit!

Today, I made shortbread cookies. However, these are for Christmas time. For some reason, shortbread gets better after a few weeks, so I like to make it ahead of time. (Also makes a good gift for that very reason - and this stuff is much better than the tins you can buy in the store!)

Shortbread Cookies

  • 2 C butter (if you aren't going to use the real thing, don't even bother with this recipe)
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 4 1/2 C flour
1. Preheat oven to 325.
2. Cream butter and sugar. Add 3 to 3 3/4 C flour; mix well.
3. Sprinkle rolling surface with remaining flour. Knead it in for 5 minutes, making a soft dough. Roll to 1/2 inch thickness and cut 3x1 inch strips or cut out shapes. Prick with fork before placing on ungreased cookie sheets.
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes until just starting to turn golden. If you can keep from eating immediately, store in airtight container or bag for a few weeks. Enjoy with coffee or hot chocolate!

*No these don't have pumpkin in them, but I thought I'd put this in because this is a great time to make them ahead for the Christmas season. But if you look in the comments section, I did find several pumpkin shortbread recipes (that I have not tried) that do look good. I may try those next week!*

Monday, November 19, 2007

Nine Years Old!


Nine years ago today, a certain red head came into our lives. She surprised me in a couple of ways. She came a day early - my all time record. And she had red hair. That may sound silly, but it had never occurred to me that I might have a red headed child, despite the red color of my mother-in-law's hair. In fact, right after she was born and laid on my stomach, the first thing I said was, "It's got red hair!" I didn't even know the gender yet. My midwife said, "She sure does." So I had to ask, "So it's a girl?" The midwife grabbed each ankle and separated them like a wishbone. "Yep!" So that's how Aubrey came into our world.

Aubrey's nickname is - well, she really has two - "Red" and "Mini-Me." But only Kelly calls her the second, because she is just like a little female version of my husband. Not only does she look like his family, she thinks like he does, has his sense of humor, is good at math and science like he is, and just generally makes us laugh at the resemblance.

She loves horses, loves to read (especially about horses), is a natural organizer, and will laugh so hard she starts crying. Happy Birthday, Aubrey Blair!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

This 'n' That

Things have settled down a little for us last week. And thankfully, this week should be less busy than normal.

Monday night was the fall awards ceremony for scouts. The girls did get badges, and that is always fun for them. This was Hailey's first awards ceremony as an official scout. The Kinder group gets beads for a necklace instead of badges, but she didn't mind. :-)

Wednesday Kelly had a CAT scan on his sinuses done. He even brought home the films and had an impromptu biology lesson with some of the girls, showing them what his head looks like. Alas, the films prove what many have been saying for years - his brain appears to be missing. (Hey, I can make that joke 'cause Kelly made it in church today.) He had a follow-up appointment with the ENT doctor on Friday and they have set a surgery date for January 3rd.

They are hoping to accomplish several things. He still has, despite another surgery several years ago, a deviated septum. So the right side of his nose is nearly shut off. He has a left sinus that is blocked off from the rest of the sinuses that they will open up. He also has turbinate bone structures which are far too large and misshapen. The doctor is going to break those bones, and turn them down in hopes that they will heal smaller. I'm sure there is more (like closing up the hole in his septum) but I think those are the main things.

This is all being done to hopefully kill two birds with one stone. As many of you know, Kelly has sleep apnea. How good a night's sleep he gets is largely dependent on how good he breathes, and over the last year or so that has been very poorly as his sinus situation has worsened. He also gets chronic sinus infections, one about every 4-6 weeks. Between these two issues (and another unrelated health issue that is now under control) he has missed many, many days of work in the last several months. Plus he just feels rotten most of the time. The family doctor and ENT have had him on medicines and they just don't work. So we are praying that the surgery will help both issues and help him feeling like himself again. It would be really nice for him and us if he could use his time off from work for fun things like camping trips instead of it all being for sick days! And that isn't an exaggeration!

I also had my next check-up with my midwife. Everything looks great. I'm nearly half-way through! Now that I'm done with morning sickness, I can forget I'm pregnant at times. Until my back starts yelling at me because I have been on my feet too much. We are still unsure if we are going to have the baby at home or at the birth center. It depends to some degree with what the midwife's billing department works out with our insurance company. We aren't sure what they'll cover if we have the baby at home. We paid for Lauryn's birth completely out of pocket, but we are hoping that we don't have to do that again. :-)

Of course the burning question is "Are you having another girl?" Kelly and I both believe it is a girl, but I don't think we are going to find out until D-day. But, come on, what are the odds? In fact, after church today, one of the girls in our church asked Brynna, "Is your mommy having a girl or a boy?" Hailey jumps in with a face that said "how could you ask such a dumb question" and told her, "It's a girl. My mommy only has girls!"

I've also been Christmas shopping and getting ready for Thanksgiving week. We will be doing a little school on Monday and Tuesday - to catch up after some of the sick days from last month. We also have two birthdays this week! We'll also be spending Thanksgiving with about 45 of our closest friends. :-) Much as I love to visit family, I am glad we don't have to travel this week! I am hoping that with a week off of scouts, piano lessons, Bible study, musical practice and with Kelly's two days off, it will be an enjoyable, restful week. May you have a good one also!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A first for our family

Two weeks ago when I packed for our trip to go to my grandfather's funeral, we had a first in our house.

For the first time since 1996, I didn't pack a single diaper, pull-up, or wipe. Yep, that's right. For almost 11 years straight we have had someone in diapers of some kind.

We actually had a month or two with no one in diapers during the day. Aubrey was already two when Brynna was born, and had been potty trained during the day for a month or two before Brynna came along. But she still needed a diaper or pull-up at night and nap time. And that's it.

Lauryn potty trained back in April or May during the day, but finally was able to go without anything while sleeping about a month or so ago. It feels weird not having to buy something in that aisle of the grocery store.

I guess I should enjoy that while i can, as that will change again in just a few months. :-)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A couple of (history) book recommendations

Last week I finished Bruce Catton's A Stillness at Appomattox, which covers the last year of the Civil War. Actually I've read it several times before. This book won the Pulitzer Prize when it was first published back in the 50's. It's part of a trilogy on the Civil War, but I haven't actually read the first two books, but I assume they are as well written as this one. If you love history, the Civil War, or know someone who does this is a must read.

I am always struck, when I read about the Civil War by several things. One thing that always gets me is how much we know about every aspect. Some Civil War buffs can recreate the movement of every battalion of either army in any given battle. The amount of not only official documents and reports, but letters, journals, and even photographs is staggering.

One of the most interesting things about this war is actually that it was two wars, at least in tactics and strategy. While most of us think of WWI as being the first trench war, the latter year or two of the civil war really could be classified as such, even though it started off as more of a "traditional" war, with the armies meeting in wide open fields, and firing rounds from a standing position in carefully choreographed cadences. New technology also changed the war. Repeating guns, ones that could fire several bullets before needing to be reloaded, while not in widespread use in the entire army, were beginning to make an impact that old tactics couldn't account for.

This and other developments were causing a material change in the nature of warfare, and for the most part, the military leaders seemed to be completely oblivious to it. Even the "greats' like Lee still sent armies into battle in straight battle lines to be slaughtered, until his need for purely defensive tactics forced him into the trench. But of course this is always easy to point out in hindsight. Makes me wonder about the things that are going on under our noses that we are missing.

Growing up, I always laughed when I read (or saw in the movies) the Southerners' claims that one of them could "lick 10 Yankees" - or was it 12? Anyway, while it seems foolish considering the outcome of the war, the more I read about the actual military campaigns, the more I believe it, at least when it comes to the leaders. I am constantly astounded by how the northern generals were so talented at bungling things up. Obviously the Confederates had a decided advantage in that they were on the defensive most of the time, but the Federal army couldn't even get orders to attack to the right people half the time, so that it wasn't unusual for a dawn attack to be delayed until 3 pm. I haven't actually counted, but I do believe that Lee really did lick many more than 12 generals.

If you are ever interested on a real in depth read about the war (or want the ultimate gift for a history buff), I highly recommend Shelby Foote's three volume series entitled The Civil War. Foote was a writer first, who grew interested in the Civil War. So the writing is top notch, and very engrossing. One of the best gifts Kelly has ever bought me!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

One of these days, I'm gonna blow my top!

(FYI, the title is an old Cagle family joke.)

I thought the police would be at my house before lunch time today.

I really did.

I figured one of my neighbors (perhaps the doctor next door with the new baby) would call 911 reporting the sound of a gun being fired. And no, it wasn't my kids who were in mortal danger.

It was our washing machine. Again. I really thought about taking our shotgun and putting it out of our misery.

About three weeks ago, a computer part went out. A week later I was still getting the same error code. So out the repair men came again. The computer part they had just put in had gone bad because the electrical panel was causing spikes of electricity to be shot at this computer panel. So both parts had to be replaced. Needless to say, if we had known ahead of time that both parts would need replacing, we might have opted for a new washing machine, because it wouldn't have cost that much more.

Well, since last week, the washer had been behaving bea-u-ti-ful-ly. Just like it had for three years. Then this morning, I got an error code. But a different code. This one telling me that it was taking too long to drain or wasn't draining properly. I messed with it, and restarted the drain cycle several times, but to no avail. Finally the girls and I had to take out the clothes and hand wring them out over the sink. Then I had to call my husband with the bad news.

After he got home, he took the washer apart a little to inspect the drain hose, etc. Everything seemed fine until he got to the drain filter. A small article of clothing had worked its way under the gasket seal, and into the filter causing major backup. So we are so thankful for a cheap fix this time!

Moral of the story: if you have very small items of clothing that you are washing, use those wonderful mesh bags to zip them up securely in while laundering. They re very inexpensive at Wal-mart and work great!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A few tips for the Season

Seems like this is the time of year to blog about Christmas shopping. Everywhere I read, bloggers are sharing their thoughts on this. Well, I had planned on doing the same, so I guess great minds think alike. Then I wondered if I have anything original to add to this discussion. Probably not, but it's my blog, so I'm going to add my two cents anyway.

1. Shop throughout the year. Oh, wait, I know that's one everyone has heard. And it is easier said than done. Even for me. I am usually pretty good about doing this, but this year I fell down on the job, and now I am regretting it.

At the very least, if you don't buy stuff throughout the year, set aside money throughout the year, so that when November/December roll around you have most/all of the money you need to buy the gifts. (This method has its advantages too if you get loss leaders this time of year.) You can put it in your savings account, create a special bank account for gifts, have an envelope that you add money to every pay period, whatever. But plan for it throughout the year. This is critical if you, like me, have 4 birthdays in your family in November and December. Thank goodness this baby is coming in the spring!

2. The Christmas Kora turned 2, it was like a toy store blew up in our house. Between gifts from us, both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., our small house could hardly hold it all. After that we decided to change how we did this. Then I read somewhere about a family that only gave each child three gifts, just like Jesus received three gifts from the Wise Men in Matthew. We decided then and there that if it was good enough for Jesus it was good enough for our kids. So from us, our kids only get three gifts. One of these is always books.

Sometimes they might share a particular gift if they both want it. especially a more expensive one. For instance, last year, Brynna and Hailey received the Barbie and the 12 Dancing Princesses Magical Dance Castle. It was about $80-$90 retail last year. Well that was more than I would spend for one gift on any one child, but I got the best deal I could find on it, and gave it to both of them. They were thrilled. They share a room and all their Barbies anyway, so it was a perfect match.

I have heard of other ways to limit the gifts. One lady I knew had a different system. They gave four gifts: one each for their spiritual, mental, physical and recreational lives. So a child might receive a study Bible or devotional book (spiritual), a leisure book or CD (mental), a pair of roller blades (physical) and then something fun like a toy of something for their hobby (recreational). However you do it, they children are much more appreciative of the gifts if they are a few thoughtfully given ones, rather one on a sea of other gifts.

We do, on top of those three, put one or two smaller things in their stockings. These are usually small toys (my pretty Ponies work well), jewelry, nail polish, a small stuffed animal, etc. This also in no way limits what they get from the extended family. But it has helped us enjoy our Christmases more. I can honestly say that our girls have never asked why they don't get more, as we choose carefully to get them things they really want.

And as a note, we do not do Santa with our kids. There are no extra toys under the tree, even at grandparents' houses from Santa. We have our reasons for that, but that is another blog entry.

3. Keep a list. On December 26, make a list of some kind of everyone you will need to get gifts for the next year. Keep it handy so that throughout the year you can write down ideas of something you could get them. Maybe something someone gave somebody else gives you an idea. Maybe you are talking on the phone and something they say gives you an idea. WRITE IT DOWN. Then check it off when you buy for that person. Also write down how much it is so you can keep track of holiday spending.

4. Give group gifts. If you have cousins or couples to buy for, don't feel obligated to buy each one of them a gift (unless you have all the money you need for that type of thing, in which case, I think I am a long lost cousin). I have bought movies, books, games, art supplies, and even made a tent for gifts for all the kids in the family. For couples, think of home items they can both enjoy (maybe a nice pair of candlesticks with candles for mood setting), movies, gift certificates for a date night (if you live in the same town, offer a night of free babysitting for them to use it!), or items they are both interested in (maybe they are both readers or both collect something). You'll spend less than if you try to buy two gifts, you'll be less stressed, and it will be just as appreciated.

Don't know if this has helped anyone else, but these tactics have helped keep me and our family sane through the holidays, and out of debt. It also helps keep our focus on the real meaning of the season, while still enjoying some great gifts.

Busy week

Although I am always busy - a lifestyle with 5 (and a half) kids, homeschooling, housekeeping, cooking, church going, kids activities, etc. will do that - this week has been particularly so.

Of course, Sunday we returned from Abilene and my grandfather's funeral. I had a migraine that prevented me from doing too much after we got home. But Monday I hit the ground running. I still had the headache when we got up and Kelly still had a sinus infection, so he made me go to the chiropractor that morning while he was home. I followed that up with a trip to the dentist. I was supposed to have a tooth filled Tuesday afternoon, but since Kelly was home on Monday, I called to see if they could get me in then. They could, but I got a little more than I bargained for.

A corner of my tooth had actually broken off, and a cavity visible to the naked eye could easily be seen (even without an x-ray). What I didn't know, this being only my second cavity in my life, was that he was going to deaden my mouth. And not just with the cream - he actually gave me two shots with deadener in it. Although I was thankful not to feel anything they were doing, having the right side of my face numb for hours had not been in my plan for the day. I felt like my face was swollen past my ear (it wasn't) and I couldn't eat until the effects went away.

I had to go grocery shopping that afternoon, but fortunately by the time I had to talk to the checker I was just about back to normal and not talking like Bill Cosby anymore. That night, I had to take Brynna and Aubrey to the Laurie Auditorium at Trinity University for a presentation of The Sound of Music, performed by marionettes. The girls are working towards their puppetry badge in scouts right now, so this was a neat opportunity that just happened to fit right in with what they were doing. Kelly took the other three to scouts on the other side of town.

Tuesday was Kora's piano lesson, of course, but I also had to start cleaning the house. Kora had a chance to go horseback riding with her scout group that day, but there was no way we could make that. After the girls were sick for so long, followed by Kelly's sinus infection and my allergy attack, the house had been somewhat neglected, especially after being gone over the weekend. And we had company coming Wednesday night. The Prathers, friends who moved away earlier this year, were coming to stay with us for a few days, along with their three kids. So I had some serious catch up work to do Tuesday and Wednesday. I also had some curriculum that I needed to get ready for this week. And Wednesday nights are Bible study and practice for the kids' Christmas musical they are in. I felt a little like my head was spinning.

But the house got clean, the Prathers came, and we have had a great time. I even got the final shopping done for our November birthdays we have coming up. So while it was very busy, it is nice to feel that we got so much accomplished, after what seems like weeks of dealing with nothing but illness. But I have to admit that a laid back, very quiet Lord's Day has been very nice today!

I'll leave you with a picture of Lauryn holding the Prathers' newest addition, 3 month old Melia. And while Lauryn thinks she is a big girl for getting to hold the baby, Melia is evidently not enjoying it nearly as much.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I don't usually go for bumper stickers, but...

I saw one today that Kelly and I both need on our vehicles:
Tact is for people who aren't witty enough to be sarcastic.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Flip Side

There is nearly always a humorous side to things, especially when kids are involved. So it was this weekend.

During the funeral procession from my grandparents' church to the cemetery, we of course had police escort. They let us go through all the lights and stop signs and blocked traffic on the loop while we were on it. This really impressed the girls. One of them, I think it was Brynna, said, "It's like we're breaking the law... and we don't even care!"

The other good laugh we got was actually from a sign we saw in Brady, which is right in the big middle of huntin' country.
Going shopping with your husband is like going hunting with the game warden.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Saying Goodbye to Granddad


This last weekend was bittersweet. Of course it is always hard to lose someone you love, even when he was ready to go home and had been suffering for so long. It was hard to watch my grandmother and mother in particular. I can't imagine having to face a loss like that, and then have to turn around and make all the arrangements, sign all the legal documents, empty out his room at the nursing home, etc.

However, the funeral went very well. Granddad had set out years ago exactly what he wanted. He even had a list of hymns he wanted sung, and he wanted my dad to lead them. He wanted my uncle and his preacher to do the speaking. He wanted it held at the church building (that he had built), and he wanted Psalms 23 read, which was done by my cousin, the only grandson (yes there seems to be a dearth of males in our family).

My grandfather was one of 7 children - 3 boys and 4 girls. One of his brothers passed away a few years ago, but his other brother and all four sisters came up from the Texas coast to attend. I don't remember how many nieces and nephews he has, but they counted up and about 3/4 of them were there as well. Needless to say, the family section of the church was quite full. All the children, grandchildren, grandchildren in-law, and great-grandchildren were there, of course. (On a humorous note, my family took up one entire pew.) The rest of the church was full of friends and church members of the church he served as elder for 30 years.

After a brief graveside service, we were back at the church for a family meal - the fellowship hall was full. But the food was so good - small town West Texas church ladies can cook! It was startling to me how many of these family members had come across my blog somehow. I had great- aunts and uncles asking me if I was feeling better now. (Hi Uncle Glen and Aunt Peggy!) But it was so nice to visit with family that I haven't seen in a while. I even met my cousins' kids of whom I had only seen pictures.

So even though I had a headache from all the tears, it was a good weekend. It touched me to see all the love people had for my granddad, and what an impact God had used him to make in that town. But I think my grandmother expressed it best when she said that it was going to be very hard to get used to not having him around.

If you are interested in reading the obituary my father wrote for Granddad, click here.