Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Letter

I wasn't sure what to post, and one of the blogs that I follow did a Christmas letter. It gave a quick rundown of what the family had been doing. Here is my version.

Let's start with the big girl. What a joy she is! People that are not Christians have asked how I know there is a God, and I point to her. Every now and then, I have to straighten her halo when I point, but still. She is a great friend. She has many friends that love her and want to spend time with her. One of them started private school this year, and that has left a little empty spot in her heart. She doesn't get to see her very often, yet she makes the most of it when she does. The big girl is empathetic and has such a lovely heart and soul. This year with dance she is doing hip hop, again. She wants to take two classes next year, if finances cooperate, and take ballet. That's a huge leap for her. This year, she has officially become youth at our church. Middle school and up is considered youth and she is no longer part of the children's program. My heart hurts with that one. She has integrated well, and has made some really good friends in the program. She was able to go to Rock the Universe, which is a Chrsitian rock festival, at a local theme park. Of course, her mama and papa were chaperones because we like to rock, too. I stepped back and let her be herself and tried not to "mother" her half to death. The big girl was also confirmed this year. We did the program and went to a wonderfully moving confirmation weekend. She stepped out of her comfort zone again and again, and was rewarded greatly. We are so proud of her. Friends and family were asked to send letters and emails of support, and she received many. It was fantastic to be held up with love and support during this time. She was confirmed into our church and accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. She is an amazing big sister, loving her role of authority. She is my best helper, always there when I call. We have spent more time together in the kitchen, trying to get her over her fear of the hot stove and oven. She is making amazing strides since being burned and is so brave and strong. And she makes brownies from scratch that are so, so lovely to eat.

The boy. That should be all I need to say. It's not all I'm going to say, but it should be all I need to say. He is loud and obnoxious and sweet and caring. He is one of the smartest kids I have ever known. He's not just book smart, he is world smart, too. It has often been said that he will either be the president or a preacher. He wants to be a preaching president. He listens to the world around him, so watch what you say. He knows how to take the information that he hears, process it, and make correct assumptions. It's the way that that information comes back that is the amazing part. The boy is also dancing this year. He is taking ballet and loving it. His dance teacher is amazed at his natural talent and loves having not one, but two, boys in her class. The boy has to share the stage this year with another and is actually OK with it. He thinks that next year he may want to take martial arts as opposed to dance, but I'm the one having a hard time with that decision. He is a great little brother, but still working on his big brother skills. He is home with us so much while hubby is at work, he tends to think that he is the man of the house. By the same token, he is the first to defend his sister, either one, when there is a threat. Nobody hurts his sisters.

The baby, once again, brings up the rear. And what a pain in it she is. We love her so much. She is always trailing if you let go of her hand. I think it's so you she will always get your hand or you will pick her up. If she doesn't have to do the work, if somebody will do it for her, she's good. She uses those big green eyes and her natural charm, and the world falls at her feet. Lucky thing. This year she learned how to read. She will read anything she can get her hands on, so be careful what you leave laying around. She is reading on an upper first grade level, and frequently chooses, and reads, chapter books. She wants to read like her brother and sister. She is doing fantastically with her math and I am very amazed and impressed with her academic progress. This is her second year of dance. She takes a class called half and half. It's a half hour of tap and a half hour of ballet. This year she did a few extra performances with the dance company and got rave reviews. I always love seeing my kids on stage, dancing their little hearts out. Her eyes have made amazing progress this year. She is more conscious of the floating and has made great strides in correcting it herself. Her right eye will still float, but not nearly as much as before. It doesn't always float when she's tired. She doesn't like it and has really worked hard to get it to cooperate. She still won't clean her room without help. And the whining has got to stop. She drives me crazy and I love her.

Hubby and I have decided that in 2011, we are going to Hawaii. I want my kids to meet their relatives and learn more about that side of their heritage. I can't do that for them. I wasn't raised around it, I don't speak the language, I don't know where to begin. We have started a vacation fund. My dad and stepmom are going with us. I don't know if I would do the family thing without him. I don't know my relatives either, so this will be good. And my kids get to spend time with Mamaw and Papaw. Bonus! We would like to go for two weeks and are working hard towards that goal. We were blessed with an abundance of overtime this year and used the money to pay off some credit cards. We are striving to become debt free. We still have a long way to go, but we are getting closer and closer. We have started volunteering with the youth at church. It's one way to keep an eye on the big girl, but there are also kids that need to know what a stable family looks like. They don't have that and we would like them to know that love is out in the world, just waiting for them, despite their backgrounds and upbringing. It will be a bit of a struggle earning their trust and respect, but we're working on it. I am still leading the JAM Crew, but we have started focusing on special events. We did a trunk or treat at Halloween, and a Santa's workshop for Christmas. Already visions of Easter egg hunts and grilled hot dogs are dancing in my head. School has been wonderful. We love homeschooling. It has made our family stronger and more solid. We are blessed to be able to spend so much time together, learning together. What a great way to spend our time. You know me, though. I'm thinking about curriculum for next year already. Help, I'm addicted to curriculum.

That's about it for this year. I'm sure there's more, but getting things focused and my mind to slow down isn't easy. My prayer and wish for the new year, for you and yours and mine, is loads of love, ginormous amounts of joy, and adundance and prosperity galore. May God keep His hand in your life and guide you to greatness. May Jesus always keep His healing and comforting arms around you, holding you, loving you.

Have a great day!

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's Over!

This was our busiest weekend of the year. I cannot believe we made it through. It was touch and go there for a minute or two, but here we are. Here's the rundown, starting from Friday.

Friday was our home school party. We had an impromptu party at my house with the families that we go to the park with. Not everybody was able to come, but we did have a great time. There was food, and food, and food, everything from fried chicken to cookies. One of our moms brought these Ritz Bits crackers that were out of this world. Homemade cookies and brownies were present, but not for long. As good as the food was, the company was better. All the kids were outside playing, while we moms were inside talking. At one point the kids came in and asked to watch a movie. Sure, I say, because I'm crazy that way. The TV got louder because we were talking too loud, then we got louder because the TV was too loud. It just escalated. I finally went to turn the TV down and it was up to 48! No wonder nobody can hear.

It rained at one point. All the kids were outside playing nicely, the windows were open letting in a nice cool breeze. Then the bottom fell out. I had wet, smelly kids pouring through the back door. It was fantastic. I just handed out towels as they came in. I love wet kids that smell like wet dogs. That is the smell of a good time playing outside. As soon as the rain stopped, they went back out. Good times, good times.

Saturday was our Christmas workshop at church. For several years, the workshop was one where the kids would get dropped off, eat a pancake breakfast, do some crafts, hear some Christmas stories, and the parents were able to do some Christmas shopping. It was close this year, we just didn't do breakfast. That would have been too much. We only had the workshop for two hours this year. The theme was a little different.

When we planned this event I wanted a Santa's workshop. I wanted the kids to be able to come make great crafts that they could give as gifts to their parents or siblings or other members of their family. No foam crafts. Nothing against them, but they fall apart before you walk out the door. This was their chance to be an elf. We had awesome crafts. They got to make their own wrapping paper, snow globes, decorate the inside of a glass ornament, decorate hats and shoelaces, paint sun catchers, put together snowman soup, and decorate their picture with Santa. Santa showed up to tell them what a great job they did in his workshop. We had a Santa's bag toss (bean bag toss) and a pin the beard on Santa game. They took cotton balls with a piece of double sided tape on it, got blindfolded and spun once or twice, then had to get the cotton ball on Santa's beard. Too much fun! Everybody got a prize, whether they made the beard or the bean bag.

We also played the Christmas Carol game. You set up about eight different carols, with activities that represent that carol. You divide into teams and play as a relay. When one person is done, they go back to the beginning and tag their teammate who begins the process all over again. For example, the first one is Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly. They sing that as they decorate a branch from an evergreen with a couple of ornaments and a little tinsel. They move on to Hark the Herald Angels Sing as they place a halo of tinsel on their head and open a hymnal. You work your way through the songs and it is too funny to watch. The kids love it.

The story this year was The Real 12 days of Christmas. The story relayed the true meaning behind the song. Each item in that song has a meaning based in Christ. While they ate their cookies and drank their milk, they got a dose of Jesus. How great is that? I didn't know the story, so I got to learn great things, too.

We had lots of help setting up and tearing down. I had been allowed to speak at a church council meeting and they really came through for us. We had more volunteers than we had kids. That made it nice, too. More there to help corral. Even the adults had a great time. Some made crafts. I loved it. Already I'm thinking about Easter. Good grief.

After that, our babysitter came home with us and watched the kids while hubby and I went Christmas shopping. We had to go on the busiest shopping day of the year. We are so lucky. This year, though, we went with a plan and a list. We were able to do a little birthday shopping for our two youngest, who have bdays in January and February. We even got to have dinner and sit next to each other. We held hands. We were in no hurry and didn't let the crowds get to us. I get to wrap the rest of it tonight.

Sunday I got to greet at our contemporary service. I love that. It is so much fun. Sunday night was the youth Christmas party. I made two lasagnas and put together a nice salad. There weren't many youth there, and I brought home a whole lasagna. The good thing is that I don't have to cook tonight. It's lasagna again! We also had cookies and cake and ice cream and jello jigglers and yummy treats. We ate together and had great conversations. The kids went back to the youth house and watched a movie, but we took our brood home. It has been a long weekend and we were ready for bed.

That was our weekend. There was days and days of prep beforehand for events that were over within a couple of hours. But it was worth all of that to see happy faces, young and not so young. I had great conversations and was able to spend time with my favorite people, young and not so young. I am exhausted and exhilarated all at the same time. I am not doing anything strenuous today.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Random Pictures

This is the boy on our field trip to learn about Indians. They had this great pioner village set up that we got to tour on our own. There was this little United Methodist church that had been moved on to the property from some little town. The boy couldn't help but go right to the pulpit and start to preach. It has been said many times that he will either be a president or a preacher. His response was,"Why can't I be a preaching president?" I love him.
This is my pumpkin seed experiment. I was really happy with how they turned out and ate quite a few. I love sunflower seeds and these were just as good. I did decide there were a couple of things that I would do differently, so I marked them on the recipe. They were golden brown and toasty and yummy.

This is the group of kids we went on the Indian field trip with. They had a train station set up, with a miniature train that traced a route close to the area where we live. On this train car, they had lots of information about trains and paper hats for the kids to wear. We picked up a ton of info and coloring books. It was fun and we would like to go back to see the pioneer part. Apparently you get to churn butter. That could be cool.
Have a great day!


I found my camera yesterday (I am always losing it), so I hope to get some pictures posted from our parade that we were in. You would think that I would try to keep better track of my camera since it's new, I just keep forgetting where I put it once we get back to the van or the house. You would think I would always put it in the same place, like my keys and my iPod, but no. On with the show.

Several weeks ago, while the kids were watching TV, I heard some things I really didn't like. If it had come from the TV, I would have turned the channel. No, it was coming out of the mouths of babes. I heard "I want that!" and " I want two of those!" and "I want...", "I want...", "I want...". Are you serious? When did my kids turn into greedy little monsters?

I give part of the responsibility to the advertisers. They make some of these products look like the best thing ever. We know half of them don't work, or don't work like the commercial says they do. But would you let someone advertise your product that didn't make it look wonderful? The kids, however, don't quite understand that. The big girl is starting to see that things are not always like TV says they are. The other two still aren't there yet.

The bulk of the responsibilty lies with the parents. Yes, I know that's me and hubby. Part of the problem is allowing the kids to watch TV, the other part is buying things that are advertised. The kids don't understand about the money part. My kids see the credit card symbols and say we could just charge it. The big girl has started replying for us that you still have to pay the bill. Thank goodness. It almost seems more real coming from her. Coming from us, it seems more like an excuse. If money grew on trees, we would have an orchard, or a grove, or a farm even. So to combat their growing obsession with things, we have a plan.

The kid are no longer allowed to say "I want". We have changed it to "I would like to have". It sounds nicer, and not so greedy. It drives me crazy to hear about all the things they think they have to have. We have told them they can no longer sit through the commercials announcing to the world what they want. If they want something they see on TV, they have to keep it to themselves. If we ask, they may tell us.

As we wander the aisles, and especially the checkout lane, they are allowed to look, but not touch. The boy has to keep his hands in his pockets or behind his back. It has started to trickle down to the baby. She, too, is supposed to keep hands off. And they are not allowed to say anything about what they want, unless prompted. But then again, they say "I would like to have...". I actually had a busy body say I was a bad mommy for not letting the kids play with the toys in the checkout. I took that well, or not. I told him that when the kids got sick from playing with the toys all the sick kids played with, he could come take care of them. And when the credit card bill came in from buying them all the things they wanted from the checkout aisle, I would send him the bill. That shut him up.

We have also made the kids clean their rooms and get rid of toys. We take them down to the thrift store or find a family that would be blessed to have them. All the broken ones get thrown away. All the ones with missing pieces go the way of the land fill. It makes their rooms easier to clean every time and the amount of junk has decreased.

Then there's Christmas. This will be a light Christmas. Not only for the monetary reasons, but for the want of things. Things do not make the world go around. It shouldn't anyway. We are trying to get that across to the kids. Love, respect, and honor should be the things that make the world a better place.

And finally the vacation fund. The boy is exceptional at finding change. I wish he would find mama a couple of hundred dollar bills, but no. He can find pennies and nickels and dimes and quarters like nobodies business. When the kids find change, they get this gleam in their eye like they cannot wait to spend it. I look at them and say those two sweet words. Vacation Fund. At first, they look a little heartbroken. Then I ask them how bad they want to go to Hawaii. The boy is funny. "We're one quarter closer to going." Keep it up, big boy, keep it up.

We are hoping that these changes will help the kids realize that the love of money is the root of all evil. We tell them money is not bad. But the wanting of more and more and more is not good, for you or your soul. We are also working on ourselves. We, too, are not allowed to say "I want". We, too, are not allowed to look at or touch those impulse items in the checkout aisle. We, too, have to put our money in the vacation fund at the end of the day. We are trying to lead by example.

Have a great day!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Technical Difficulties

My computer crashed. It seems to be going around. I have several friends that had the same thing happen to them. Hubby took the tower to a computer shop not too far from where he works and they were able to salvage a great deal of my documents, pictures, and music. The hard part is getting it all back on my desk top. It probably would have been easier to replace it, better even, but we didn't. Now I'm trying to get all my stuff back on. I still don't have my Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc. If any of you can help me out, I would love that. I would also be very appreciative.

Tonight was decorate for Christmas night. We got all the trees up and the decorations. We have three trees that we put up. One is our 6' tree that is our main tree. We also have a 2' and a 3' tree. I love them. I am actually going to our church's thrift store to look for one more. I'm going to use them as a bribe for the kids to keep their rooms clean. If they can keep them clean, they can each have a tree in their room. The big girl has been wanting to do that for awhile, like years. I can really work a deal with her.

This year was a little different. We normally listen to Christmas music, which we did. Then we pop corn and watch a Charlie Brown Christmas. It was pretty late this year when we got done, so hubby and I nixed the movie and popcorn part. We may do it tomorrow night instead. I want to go do a little shopping when hubby gets home from work tomorrow. I'm not sure what's going to happen though. We also have a birthday party and a trip to the grocery store. I may have to wait for shopping.

Today we had our Nature Nuts program at the park. We learned about how important trees are. The ranger had 17 things laid out on the table. She had us work in teams and look at each item. We had to decide if trees were used in any way to make each product. The Almond Joy was funny. I heard one kid say, "It's a candy bar. You don't use wood to make a candy bar." Well, no, but you use trees. Cocoa trees, almond trees, and coconut trees are all part of that. After we were done guessing, the ranger read a couple of different passages about trees and their uses. She gave us three opportunities to change our answers. I ended up changing all of our no's to yes's. I was right. My friend CP and I were the only ones to get it right. Whoot, whoot for us!

It was freezing at the park today. I don't want to hear how cold it was at your house. Blah, blah, blah. It's always warm where we live, so anything below 70 is cold. That and we had a wicked wind blowing off the lake that just dropped the temperature even more. The clouds blocking the sun didn't help any either. We ended up coming home and bringing two families with us. The kids all played and we moms talked. I had such a good time. The two moms that came home with us are very funny, smart, crazy women. They crack me up. The kids played and played. Mine were filthy by the end of the day. They went straight into the shower when everyone left.

The baby was supposed to do two more performances with the dance company. I just couldn't do it. It was too much. She wasn't very upset either, so that was good. It has been crazy busy and we all needed a break. I've tried not to let the stress get to me, but after a while, you just have to drop something. That was what we dropped. We did do the parade. The boy had a melt down before the parade started, the baby had a melt down after the parade started, and the big girl, as usual, was golden. Thank you, God, for the big girl. I'll post the pictures as soon as I can get that working again. I tried once before, but I'll be darned if my computer works the same way. I'll try from the lap top later.

I have offered our house for a Christmas party for our park families. Some people missed today, and we missed them. I really like having company. I like filling my house with the joyous sound of friends and family. It makes me happy. I hope we get a good response. So far, I've had three say yes. That's about 8 kids and 4 moms, including me. They'll come.

Christmas will be on our own this year. My FIL just had open heart surgery and my MIL doesn't want to stress him out. I don't know how he would be stressed if we did all the work, but whatever. One of my BILs and his family will be out of town for Christmas. So it's just us. That's alright with me. A nice quiet Christmas without waiting for anyone, hopefully no drama, and great company. We may just pick up some food so I don't have to cook and we can snack all night and open presents.

Christmas Eve will be the last service for our Associate Pastor. She has come to mean so much to our family as a mentor, pastor, and more importantly, a friend. I know that I can be myself with her and the other way around. She helps enlighten and lighten my world. We will miss her terribly. The good news is that she is going to a church in the little town that hubby works in. It's actually across the street from where hubby and I had our first apartment. The way life just circles around and around. We are going to make it to the service to support her, hear about Jesus, and say good bye to a great source of joy in our church. PC, we love you!

That is pretty much the update as it stands. I will try to get pictures up as soon as I can. I know there are those of you out there champing at the bit, waiting for them. I'm working on it, I'm working on it!

Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Updates, updates, updates

I have not felt like blogging on here. My other one, yes, but not this one. I just felt like it was always the same. But I guess it's time. And there have been a couple of things happening, so here we go.

Thanksgiving was good. My FIL was able to do turkey and stuffing. I love his stuffing. I had always had dressing, which is out of the bird. He makes stuffing, which is in the bird. I have been after the man for at least 10 years to come off the recipe. He finally emailed it to me. I lost it. Isn't that my way? I had to ask him for it again. Now I have it saved about a million places and printed out to boot. I filed it in my recipe box. I have it in a file in my file cabinet. I am not losing that thing again, darn it. I am exicted about trying and tweaking it. You know I cannot leave a recipe alone.

The kids had a dentist appointment Monday. They have healthy teeth and crowded mouths. Great. The dentist metioned orthodontia again for the big girl. I told her again it wasn't happening. We cannot afford it. I know, with all the overtime hubby is working we could. No, we can't. Our orthodontia benefits are next to nothing. And there's no guarantee of overtime. I don't want to get in the middle of paying for something and then it dries up and we are stuck with yet another bill. I cannot do that to our family. The only new thing is that the big girl has to have her 12 year molars sealed. That's being done before Christmas and before our benefits change.

We just got through open enrollment. I don't like that part of the year. Trying to gauge what our health situation may be for the next year is hard. It's one of those things you have to guess at. We have gone with the cheaper of the two plans. It seems like it will work for us. It is such a crazy process. Nobody understands their insurance. I'm glad I have a background that helps me wade through all the hullabaloo.

We finished Roald Dahl's The BFG. He is such an amazing writer. The only thing I don't like is that the two books we have read by him had a rather gruesome start. They got better, but sometimes the beginning doesn't sit well with us. This story is about a big friendly giant that kidnaps a little girl named Sophie. He takes her so she can't tell others about him. He takes her to giant land and keeps her hidden from the other giants, who are not so friendly to humans. They take off every night and eat "human beans." The story is about Sophie and BFG's plans to make the other giants, who are quite mean to BFG, stop eating people. It was cute and funny and we enjoyed it. Our next book on CD will probably be Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I'm still not sure. Our new after dinner book is The Incredible Journey. We started tonight, so we'll see how it goes.

Hubby and I have started volunteering at youth. We did it to be able to spend time watching what goes on at youth while the big girl is there. We had a Thanksgiving dinner with them the Sunday before the actual turkey day. We had turkey meatballs with cranberry BBQ sauce, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, rolls, banana pudding, fruit cocktail, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, and ice cream sundaes. It was fantastic. I enjoyed being able to spend time with the kids. Many of them do not have a church family or much of a family life at all, so it was nice to provide a family atmosphere, even if it was just for a couple of hours. So far, we have had a really good time with it. We hope to get to the point that the youth trust us enough to really let us into their lives.

We have the opportunity to purchase 50 pounds of grass fed, non hormone or steroid injected beef for a fantastic price. This came about from our organic co-op. We will get the meat after Christmas. Very excited we are. We're not real sure where we're going to keep it, but we have a couple of ideas. We are also getting venison from some friends. My friend's hubby went hunting and brought back two deer. She has offered to share and we accepted. She is going to give us ground venison, which I have never had before. Now I need to look up new recipes. We are also getting some stew meat and a couple of roasts. Love it! And last, but certainly not least, we are getting a turkey from my BIL. He gets one every year from his company, but he doesn't use it. It sits in the freezer at my in laws taking up space. I just made one yesterday, so we won't need it for awhile, but nice to know we have one.

The kids are particpating in some extra dance activities this season. The baby has been performing with the dance company from their dance school. The first performance was last Friday and she was wonderful. She has a couple more performances before Christmas, so all my local friends need to come see her. The kids are all going to be in the Christmas parade of our neighboring town. The big girl will be dancing and the boy and the baby will be riding on the float. The boy wants to dance so bad he can't stand it. Alas, one more year, big boy, one more year.

That's about all for now. I know there's more, but right now is not the time. This has been long enough. Thanks for letting me empty my brain. My prayer for you tonight is one of joy and grace.

Have a great day!