Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve

The Christmas decorations are packed away. The house is back in "normal" mode. There is some significant cleaning to do, but that will wait until tomorrow, when my daughters will be available to help me. (More about that later.) The grocery store was busy and crowded-- especially with four children in tow-- but I left with not just our New Year's Day traditional meal ingredients, but a week's worth of meals and supplies. The pantry is loaded, along with the fridge and freezer. I have written my goals out and enjoyed reading the ones that people have linked to mine. I am, as they say, as ready as I'll ever be.

Tonight my daughter is in the Matthews Playhouse New Year's Eve Mystery play. She is in rehearsals all day, preparing. At some point, somehow, we will venture out to see her. If we can find a sitter we will go together to watch her. If not, we will go in shifts-- me with the 7yo to the 7 show and him with the 11yo to the 9 show. Not nearly as romantic, but real life sometimes intervenes.

Last night I got on a mission in the kids' rooms-- particularly my daughters' room. They are both old enough to keep their room nice, but they do not. This is an ongoing thorn in my side. I have lectured, and begged, and threatened long enough. When I walked upstairs and saw all their Christmas toys and things thrown around the room like a tornado had hit, I got crafty. I didn't say a word to them. I just got trashbags and gathered everything that was in the floor or shoved somewhere it shouldn't be. Four LARGE trashbags later, their room looked nice again! And it was alllll mine. The new Juicy Couture purse. The new dvd player. That new Ipod. M-I-N-E. (Maniacal laughter erupting while rubbing hands together deviously.)

Oh? You want it back? Well, my pretty, there is just one way to get your beloved things back. You must work to earn the bags back. One. bag. at. a. time. Oh, boy did I have fun with that one! Of course, the oldest girl is gone, as I said, so we will be starting the earning back process tomorrow. And I am going to have a clean house in the new year to boot! Wooowee, I love being the mama sometimes!

There was just one fly in the ointment. This morning I said something to my oldest about what a bummer it was that she had lost all her stuff and asked her when she thought she might get it all back. She paused, "We-ell, I have to admit my room sure does feel cleaner without all that junk cluttering it up...."


I always knew they were smarter than me.
Pin It!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The One With The Japanese Steakhouse

You know how on "Friends," they name all the episodes "The One With..." which is just genius, because that is what we all say anyway.
"You know, the one with the wedding dresses."
"You know, the one where Rachel and Ross kiss in the doorway." (I am quite sure that is not the name of that particular episode, but it is my personal fave, so I had to throw that in there.)
And yes, I did love me some Friends, back in the day. I know it is sinful and awful and I shouldn't like it. So, you don't need to write me and let me know that. I am already dealing with my own sinfulness.

Anyway. "Friends" and my former addiction is so totally not why I wrote this particular post. I wrote this post because today we totally skipped church. (Again with the sinfulness issues.) But we got a gift certificate from my in-laws for our most favorite dining experience-- the Japanese steakhouse. The problem is, a long time ago when we had less kids and, apparently, less sense, we took our children there. And now it is their favorite dining experience as well. We should have never let them in on this particular part of life. But the damage has already been done.

So when we got the gift certificate, we decided to be really good parents and surprise the kids with a trip to the beloved restaurant. We decided it had to be lunch because there is no way we could afford dinner-- even with a gift certificate. But there was a slight scheduling problem and the only way we could go with everyone before school started back was to go today.

And so, off we went, and it was a fine time. Everyone from teenagers to toddlers was in a festive family mood and on their best behavior. We had a great time and everyone cleaned their plate, or at least made a really good attempt at doing so. I have decided the solution to all my cooking-for-nothing woes is to learn to cook Japanese food. In front of them. And give them a choice of steak, chicken or shrimp. And load them up with carbs and not offer too many of those pesky vegetables.

And then the bill came. But no problem because our portion would not be that much, right? I noticed Curt shuffling through his wallet repeatedly, feeling his pockets, looking perplexed. Then he quipped, "Well, looks like we get to come here again! I think next time we should come alone!" He smiled like it is not really that much of a budget buster to have to pay for our fancy-schmancy lunch with our debit card. All $109 of it. Apparently, as we were leaving and I hollered out, "You have our gift certificate, right?" And he said yes, he did that was not really true. The truth was, it was in his car. Or his notebook. He doesn't really know. But he is sure he can find it.

I hope so. And I hope the children enjoyed their lunch, seeing as how it sucked up our grocery bill for about half a week. Do you think they will stay full until then? The Japanese Steakhouse is pretty filling, you know.
Pin It!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Goals Challenge 08!

Ok, I have had enough feedback from those of you who want to participate that I am going to go ahead and post my review of my goals from last year, and post my new goals for this year. I am excited about hearing what everyone's goals are. I think there is something about making them "public" that helps us stay more accountable, no?
So, if you are game, just leave a comment with a link to a post on your blog about your goals. Don't have a blog? You can still play! Just post your goals here in the comment section. I would love to have a ton of participants, so please join in the fun!

Here are my goals from last year, with my comments on what I did:
  • Use this "7th year" as the Israelites were commanded to make it a year of rest. I started off really well with this one, but slipped back into taking on projects and assignments as the year went on. I did resign from a couple of regular writing gigs, so that was good. I do not regret resigning.
  • Write for fun. This was my husband's challenge to me. He wanted me to get back in touch with my love for writing. He noticed that I had gotten so publication focused that I had lost sight of the sheer joy that creating brought me. It was not lost on me that, when challenged to write for fun, I went straight to writing fiction, not nonfiction. Fiction is, above all, my first love and what feels most natural for me to write personally. I wrote several short stories in the winter and spring of last year-- something I had been wanting to challenge myself to do. It was fun, I entered a few short story contests, didn't win a single one, but did accomplish the point of getting back to just writing for fun and not publication.
  • Move. Well, we did list our house, but moving didn't happen, unfortunately.
  • Get a book contract. This goes back to what I said about making my writing less about publication and more about enjoying what I am doing-- and letting God take care of the rest. He is still working on me in this regard, and probably always will be to some degree. I tend to put the cart before the horse and judge my ability by my professional, measurable accomplishments. Ie, if I get a book contract or sell an article, then I must be a good writer. Instead, He is showing me that I need to write what He lays on my heart, write for the sheer pleasure of expressing and cataloguing my thoughts and experiences, and let go of any agendas I might be operating under. All of this to say that I did not land a contract this year. But I did sign with an agent I have thoroughly enjoyed working with, and have prepared a proposal that he feels very good about. I also did the ebook, which was not even a goal of mine, but which helped our family financially and was quite a blessing!
  • Get published in a magazine I have never published with before. I did do this-- I sold an article to Parent Life. Hooray!
  • Read through the Bible in a year, have a more consistent quiet time/Bible study. Get back involved with CBS, if possible. I got back in CBS and have enjoyed studying Acts, plus I have one more day left to complete my daily Bible reading using The Daily Message Bible. It feels good to have met this goal and to once again be making time with God a first priority in my life, instead of just talking about it!
  • Resolve my kids' school issue and come to some sort of peace about it. We got the kids into a local charter school and, for now, that has afforded me a much-needed break from homeschooling and some time to concentrate on my writing. I am not sure how long the charter school will be the answer, as my heart is still for homeschooling, but for now this has been a great solution and I have enjoyed the break and the concentrated time with my youngest child while the older ones are in school.
  • Begin a running/exercise program. I did start running for the first time in my whole life this year. Last year for Christmas, I got a gift certificate to the New Balance store and bought a pair of nice running shoes. I also got an Ipod to listen to while I run. Did you know that it is a proven fact that people who run together or listen to music while running will run further/longer than those who don't? I believe it! I have had a bit of trouble getting a run in now that the kids are gone and can't listen out for the baby while she naps-- which is when I used to go running. So, my running this fall has been sporadic and I have felt that loss of stamina and commitment creeping in as a result. I got some money for Christmas that I plan to use to buy a jogging stroller so I can start running with her in the stroller. Have baby, will travel!

Here are my goals for this coming year:
  • Get back to running. I have signed up to attend a training program which will hopefully hold me accountable and inspire me to train more intentionally for at least a 5K. That is my goal for this year. Baby steps, right?
  • Keep up with my daily Bible reading habit. I plan to read "Streams In The Desert" each morning, and also keep up with my CBS study I am going through. Additionally this year I have begun a book study with other moms. We are planning to go through a parenting/discipline book (Parenting By The Book) and a marriage book (What Every Husband Needs From His Wife) this winter/spring. While this is not a Bible study, it is a great group and I learn from this regular time of fellowship and study.
  • Continue to balance my writing with fiction and nonfiction. Trust God for a contract if that is what He has for this most recent proposal my agent is shopping right now. Finish the novel I have started, if nothing else just because I have started it and would love to finish it just to say I did!
  • Possibly write another ebook. Am thinking about doing a full-fledged cookbook as I often get questions about cooking/requests from blog readers for recipes. The ebook is a cost effective way to produce something like that as both an income earner for my family but also a service to the readers who want that sort of information!
  • Move. We will try this again! We are doing quite a bit of work to the house in January, and looking towards listing the house again in February.
  • Be a servant. Serve others in some fashion. I am not sure what that is even going to look like yet, but I know that, while ministry is good and that I do help others through writing and speaking, it is not the same as hands-on, community-based service. Still praying through what God has in this area. Something in the "least of these/cup of cold water" arena, I know. This idea was planted when I read "Quaker Summer" and has been a recurring theme as I have studied Acts, listened to sermons, etc. This began in learning to give money away-- something that has been very hard for me as we have become regular tithers and givers for the first time in our whole marriage. And I know that it also will involve giving time and resources away.
  • Bake, cook, and care for our home better. This is a request of my husband. It is important, I think, to listen and respond when we hear these little "I wish" statements come from the mouths of those we love best. Curt places precious few demands on me. So if he throws something like this out there, I know it matters to him. And so, I am getting more intentional about baking and cooking-- about making it a priority instead of seeing it as a drudgery and merely "throwing something together" because I have to. This also falls into the category of keeping a home that is warm, clean, and welcoming for those I love.

Well, that about sums it up. I have enjoyed this little exercise in both reviewing what I committed to and summing up how I did, and also looking ahead to what I can change, add or delete for next year. I will probably be re-reading this post and tweaking it in the next few days.

Can't wait to hear what's on your minds and hearts as you prepare for a new year!

Pin It!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Scenes From A Christmas, Now Past

Before we pack away the decorations. Before we turn the calendar page. Before we put away the memories and file the pictures for the future. Before we stop listening to the music and relishing in the sights, smells and sounds that only Christmas can bring. Before we say goodbye to Christmas for another year, I wanted to share these scenes from our Christmas. Moments we will never get to have again:
A promise to a five year old fulfilled-- making a gingerbread house

sneaking some candy for more than just decorating

Eggnog french toast for breakfast on Christmas morning-- that's not his sippy cup, in case you were wondering...

Enjoying platefuls of french toast and bacon, giddy over a surprise cell phone tucked in a stocking

Waiting to open presents is so hard!

Piles and piles of presents at Mimi and Dada's

A book that serves as an investment in a future film maker's career

A living, breathing, furry present is the best present of all

Well, maybe the furry present and a Nintendo DS

Most of all, there are the faces of Christmas-- the thrilled expressions

The pure joy that is captured on these little faces that bring me such joy every day

Pin It!


Welcome to all of you who are visiting from the P31 devotion today! Thanks for stopping by! If you are one of my regular readers and would like to read the devotion today, go to this link:

I think it's a great one to be pondering as we head into a new year and begin to set personal goals. (I like "goals" instead of "resolutions." How about you?)

Soon I will be posting a review of my goals for this year and a list of my goals for 08. I would love to set up a conversation where we can all do this and post links here in the comments section. Anyone game???
Pin It!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

About The Puppy

I have mentioned several times on the blog that our dog Sophie is 13 years old and is having issues with bladder control. It has finally gotten bad enough that we were discussing putting her to sleep. As sad as it is, it is time. Three times of cleaning up her accidents in one day was enough to convince me. But the mere mention of doing so caused much weeping and gnashing of teeth around here amongst certain children. I knew that putting the dog to sleep was not going to be met with a great response. (Not that I expected it to, but still.) So, I broached the subject of getting another dog right away to my husband. His response was that he wanted to go several years without a dog to take care of or be responsible for. Oh. Years?

Hmmm. I had some convincing to do. And so, like any submissive wife, I began to secretly research dog breeds. I kept coming back to Springer Spaniels. They seemed to be the right size, right temperament, etc. But I couldn't find any available within a reasonable driving distance from us. So, I gave up and went with the original plan, which was, put the dog to sleep and then just deal with the kids' grief. But I still had romantic notions in my mind of a puppy for the kids for Christmas. I will admit it.

Then one day last week I was running last minute errands, one of which was to stop by the homeschool store to pick up some books that I had consigned that they didn't need. As I was walking by the bulletin board they have in the store, I saw a sign that said, "English Springer Spaniel Puppies Ready for Christmas." I couldn't believe it! I had looked and looked on the internet, but found nothing. And there was the exact breed I had been searching for.

It was a sign straight from God.

And you better believe that was what I went home and told my husband.

He, however, was not at all convinced that God had declared us ready for a puppy by placing a sign in the homeschool store. And so, I lobbied. I begged. I launched an all-out effort to get him to just go see the puppies. All the while reminding him of how submissive I am, and how he could put the skids on the whole thing at any point. He agreed to let the breeder send us photos of the puppies. A small but significant victory.

Then he came back and said that he was actually very interested in the puppies, but that he did not see a way possible to pay for this rather expensive last-minute Christmas purchase. We are a cash-only, no credit cards family. Which means everything is budgeted and planned for. Which means last minute purchases are just not possible, as there is no way to go and get money we don't already have. This was, for us at least, a revolutionary way to live when we first started it several years ago. We had always used credit cards for "emergencies." Until we realized all these emergencies spelled T-R-O-U-B-L-E. And so, now we have waaaay fewer emergencies, and make waaaay less impulse purchases. It's a great way to live.

Anyway. The old saying, "You can't get blood from a turnip," proved true in this case. And so, I wrote the breeder, who it turned out, was an acquaintance of ours (she works at the homeschool store), and told them that we loved the puppies but just couldn't swing it. He wrote me back the first time and said to let him know if we could work it out, as he would still have some puppies in January. Then about fifteen minutes later, he wrote again to say that he and his wife had discussed it and wanted us to take the puppy and just pay them as we could! I went back to Curt and told him what had happened and he just made a face that said, "I've been had." He smiled really big and said we could go after church on Sunday and look at them without the kids, then make a decision. We were thinking that if it seemed like a good situation, we would choose one, then bring the kids out to pick it up on Christmas night or the day after.

So, we got everyone settled down for naps after church and headed out for our secret mission. We were going to look at the female liver and white puppies they had. That was the plan. And then we walked into the garage and there, in the middle of all the puppies, was Winston. He was the only tri-color one they had left, and he stood out with his distinct markings and calm behavior in the midst of all the puppy merriment going on in the pen. He and Curt locked eyes, Curt scooped him up asking, "What's the story on this little guy?" and I knew he was a goner. I tell people it was truly a case of puppy love!

Within a few minutes, Curt was saying, "Well, why can't we just take him home now?" And that was all she wrote. We brought him home that day! And the funny thing is, he is Curt's dog. He shadows Curt everywhere and lays at his feet to sleep. Curt is smitten with him, which makes it nice. I keep asking him, "You don't regret it do you?" And he smiles good-naturedly and says, "No." So, it all turned out great and I know it will make the adjustment of losing our old dog much easier to have this adorable, energetic little guy around. I am so happy it worked out so nicely.
Pin It!

It's Over

This morning I had to run my daughter to play practice and on the way home, I caught a random Christmas song on the radio. I almost turned the station but then I thought to myself, "I bet this will be the last one I hear this year on the radio." And so, for the sake of posterity, I listened to Mariah Carey belt out "All I Want For Christmas Is You."

Is it bad to say that, as much as I love the anticipation and preparation of Christmas, I am glad that it's over?

Well, I am. Not because I missed the significance of the holiday or because I got too overcommitted or anything like that. It's just because, well, I was tired of the hyperactive children and the being off schedule and the weight of pulling off all that had to be done in the name of making things "memorable." Because with six children, two adults, a smattering of relatives and friends, a tiny house, a new puppy, and an elderly dog, things are going to be, well, memorable without any extra effort. But sometimes I forget and get the teensiest bit single-minded about pulling off everything I have in my head that I want to do.

And so, the occasion which causes me to feel compelled to do and do and do is over. And I am glad. Because hopefully, the house can get back to normal and the kids can go back to normal and my stress level can go back to just normal, I-have-six-kids stress instead of I-have-six-kids-and-it's-Christmas stress. The kids did, after all, have a great Christmas and got way too much stuff and ate way too many sweets. And I am just now making our family Christmas dinner. Tonight. If that tells you anything about how busy and crazy we have been.

And so, tonight we will sit down to turkey and green beans and rice and gravy and sweet potato casserole, and rolls. And I might make a dessert if I get in the mood. The gravy will be from a package. The turkey is being cooked in the crockpot (the simplest way I know). The rolls are courtesy of Sister Schuberts. The rice is Minute Rice. But the time together and the yummy food will be all that matters.

And I think that is my greatest lesson.
Pin It!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas From Our Family To Yours!

Look what Santa left under our tree! (A bit early!) Welcome to the new member of our family, Winston (named for Churchill because what else says "English" like Churchill?), an English Springer Spaniel puppy. We are all quite smitten with this little guy. The kids have pronounced him to be "the best Christmas present ever." (I will write more later about how we came to be the owners of a puppy. It is a pretty neat story!)

Have a great day celebrating with those you love the most! Merry Christmas from all of us!
Pin It!

Random Christmas Stuff

My daughter made this for me at school. It is a simple little craft that would be quite easy to do. It made me think of Dawn, and her love for nature and the outdoors. This is just little nuts, acorns, gumballs, etc. glued on a round piece of cardboard and spray-painted silver.

Another view so you can see that they just used the bottom of a tealight as the base for the candle.

Some homemade granola that my family has enjoyed immensely over the last few days. I made it in the crockpot and it was quite easy!

The baby enjoying a bowl of granola. Notice the diaper next to her. She likes the picture of Winnie The Pooh on the diaper.

A plate of goodies from our neighbors. We devoured the entire plate in two servings. We gave them, as we always do, a loaf of pumpkin bread. It is easy because it makes three loaves at once.

Some eggnog bread I made that was SO good. I received this Gingerbread candle and homestead kitchen soap (which smells heavenly!) from the folks at The Old Schoolhouse. What a sweet surprise!

And now I will leave you with a poem I wrote in honor of Christmas Eve:

Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house
Not a thing was getting done and I was feeling like a louse
There was food to be cooked and last minute gifts to be bought
Chores to be done and traffic to be fought
Plans to be made and people to see...
Instead I sat at the computer and spent time on me
So what is the moral to this tale that I tell?
It's okay to let some stuff go, things will still turn out swell!

Have a great day!

Pin It!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Time For Vegetable Soup!

These are photos taken from earlier this week when I made vegetable soup. It was yummy and it made a ton!
First you need a "helpful" toddler.

Then you need a recipe for some easy, quick rolls and a package of yeast.
If you can't read the recipe, here it is:

California Refrigerator Rolls

1 pkg. dry yeast

2 cups very warm water

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 egg, beaten

4 cups sifted flour

2 Tbsp. flour

2 tsp. salt

Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add sugar, vegetable oil, egg, flour, baking powder, and salt to yeast mixture. Stir to mix well. Store in refrigerator for up to one week. To bake: spoon into greased muffin tins. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes.

Mix up your dough. This doesn't need time to rise, but I was able to for a bit. It does make them taste a bit better if you can do that.

Make vegetable soup. Need a recipe? Here's mine!
Zesty Vegetable Beef Soup
1 lb. ground beef
1 chopped onion
2 cans beef broth (if you want more liquid, you can add water and beef bouillon cubes-- I did)
1 can tomato soup
1 tsp. Italian seasoning mix
salt and pepper to taste
1 1b. bag of mixed vegetables
1 cup macaroni noodles
Brown ground beef and onion in Dutch oven. Drain well. Return to pot and add broth, soup, seasonings, tomatoes, and vegetables. Let simmer for at least 30 minutes. (I started mine at 2 and let it simmer all afternoon.) Add elbow macaroni and heat through. Serve.

Put the dough in muffin tins to bake.

Serve up the hot soup, preferably in Christmas bowls!

Enjoy some piping hot rolls right out of the oven with a pat of butter. A warm, comforting dinner on a cold winter evening.

Pin It!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

In Memory Of Dan

This morning Curt was at his computer working away when he asked me, "Did Dan Fogelberg die?"

"I didn't hear that," I responded. Of course, I am not up on the latest news, so that is not a good indicator of whether something has happened. For the longest time I thought the Unibomber was a plane and wondered why everyone was talking about it. I am too covered up in kids to keep up with news. Not to mention that my morning shows for the last fifteen years have been children's programming on PBS instead of Good Morning America.

Anyhoo, I told him to Google it and find out. And I braced myself for him to tell me that Dan Fogelberg had indeed died. Because when Itunes has on its front page, "A Tribute to Dan Fogelberg, 1951-2007," that is not a good sign.

He came in the kitchen, "Yeah," he said, "Prostate cancer." The same thing that killed my beloved grandfather. I tell my kids not to use the word "hate" about things, that that is too strong a word to just throw around. But I hate cancer.

And so today I have listened to this song, because it is, appropriately, the time of year to listen to it. But also because it is my favorite song of his. And because many years ago a friend of mine got to see him in concert and I was very jealous of her. I had just one question for her after the concert, "Did he sing Same Auld Lang Syne?"

"Yes," she said. "In fact, he said that he always gets asked if that really happened. And it did. Pretty cool, huh?"

Well, that just made me like the song all the more.

And so, here is a link for those of you who would like to listen and remember. And maybe say a prayer for his wife, and his friends and family, and even the real person who ran into him in a grocery store one snowy Christmas Eve. You know her heart is heavy too.

So, what is your favorite Fogelberg song? Do you have a special memory attached to one of his songs that you can share? Leave a comment so we can all remember him!
Pin It!

More Christmas At My House

If you missed the first installment of this riveting saga, you may go here to catch up. And now, on with the second edition of my Christmas tour!
Our "skinny" Christmas tree, as my family calls it. It is a fake tree, pre-lit, which has relieved us the annual Christmas tree light fight we used to have after my husband would string lights for hours and I would casually walk through and complain that it didn't look like nearly enough lights, or that they weren't on the tree very well, etc. Notice that I never offered to do it myself. I just complained-- only I called it "helpful suggestions." He would get mad because I wasn't appreciative of his sacrifices, and it was just never a good scene. So, this pre-lit tree could have, quite possibly, saved our marriage. I miss my "real" tree scent, but I don't miss watering the stupid thing. So, it's a trade off. Besides, the Yankee Candle Mistletoe scent is darn near the real thing. Whatever works, baby. That's what I say. The tree is skinny because it had to fit in that particular corner it is in. Notice the abundance of ornaments clustered in the bottom right lower corner. This is what happens when you let the short people decorate the tree. Long ago, this would have bothered me and I would have changed it when they weren't looking. Now I think it's cute. Does this mean I am turning into a grandparent?

Some of the ornaments on our tree. It is filled with homemade ornaments, mementoes from our childhoods, gifts from grandparents, and ornaments for the different things the kids are into each year-- ballet, sports, etc. It is a very eclectic tree. These particular ornaments (the Santa and the tree) were made by my husband's 85 year old grandfather. He is a master woodcarver and amazes us all with his ability!

This picture is of two ornaments that my mom cross-stitched back in the 70's. I have the whole collection and they are very special to me. They used to hang on our tree when I was a child, now they hang on mine. Nothing brings out my sentimental feelings like Christmas! I think that could best describe my "theme" in decorating for Christmas.

My daughter made this ornament with foam balls, sequin pins and multi-colored sequins. This was the craft at her Girl Scout party last year, which I was in charge of. Thanks to Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight for this wonderful idea! The girls were able to mindlessly stick on the sequins while they talked and joked. They created beautiful patterns that suited each individual personality. We ended up with plenty of leftovers, so all my kids made sequin ornaments last year-- until I found the baby with a sequin pin in her possession and nixed the craft party at my house!

If you have bought my Christmas JOY book, then you have seen that I wrote about hosting a Christmas peppermint tea. My friend Jess asked me incredulously, "You don't really do that, do you?" Well, we usually do. This year my cohort Cindy could not do it as her husband is working two jobs-- 90 hours per week-- and she just couldn't take it on. I understood completely and since we have at her house, doing it was not going to be possible. So, next year! But I wanted to include this photograph of an easy candy cane from red and white beads and a white pipe cleaner you can make as a craft. Fun for all ages!

This was a gift to the two year old from her Aunt Paige. Aunt Paige indulges her entirely too much, probably because she saw her come into this world and they have bonded as a result. Anyway, Aunt Paige is the marketing director for Chick Fil A so she has access to such cool cow memorabilia-- though they are selling these if you would like one to add to your decor. This cow has now found a home on our piano. And there he will probably stay.

This Santa was bought for me by my stepdad when I was about 15. It was one of the first things he ever gave me after I admired it in a store. It made me feel very special that he did that. It sat in our home while I was growing up, then my mom gave it to me when I had my own family. Sentimental, remember?

And speaking of sentimental...
this piece is very special at the old Whalen house. This was the Christmas present given to me by Curt our first Christmas after we started dating in August. So, we were only four months into dating just so you don't have to figure it out. When I pulled it out of the box, I just sort of stared at it thinking, "I sure would have rather had jewelry." (Because back then I cared about jewelry.) But then he explained that these bears represented the four children we were going to have together. Well, we were practically married after he said that! I was over the moon all that day as I admired my very special gift. We were going to have four children! He said it out loud! And yes, I do know that the name of my blog is "Cheaper By The Half Dozen." So, we actually exceeded our own expectations. The thing was, we just knew we wanted a "big" family. To us, big was four kids. I tell people that we said that the night we met, and we did. To me, these bears are proof that we were planning ahead for these children.

This is a full length view of my centerpiece with the angels and you can also see the balls hanging from the chandelier. And yes, those are books in my dining room, cause what is a good meal without some reading material on hand? Actually, the dining room doubles as Curt's office when he works from home, so those are his books in there. Remember when we were trying to sell our house? Perhaps this is giving you a glimpse of why!

A centerpiece for my kitchen table as well. The candlesticks are holly, the ring was from a candle assortment my mom gave me years ago, and the striped candle was from CVS on sale after Christmas years ago. It has served me well and has appeared in various spots throughout the house through the years.

This was a little gift from my mother-in-law at Thanksgiving this year. I love it! It has each of our names and sits in the windowsill above my kitchen sink. It brightens my day as I wash dishes. Thanks Mimi!

This is our nativity scene. It sits on our computer hutch, which is in the same room with the tree. I think it is good to think about Jesus while you are on the computer. Notice the little trees I used to attempt to hide the computer speakers? Very clever. My dad made this set when he was in his ceramics phase. It is very unique and each of the pieces has jewels stuck to them that you can not see in the photo. We don't see much of my dad, so it is nice to have this part of him as part of our Christmas each year. Or odd. It depends on how I choose to look at it.

This is a little corner of our kitchen. You will see my Mistletoe candle, a cute little Santa thing I picked up at a craft show years ago, and one of my many, many Gooseberry Patch Christmas cookbooks. Love them!
And so, that's about all the showing off I have in me for today. I think all those compliments you gave me the last time went straight to my head! Actually, I realized that I didn't include my tree, which made me want to include it, which made me get on a tear with the taking of the Christmas stuff photos. My children thought I was crazy. Which is so totally normal for them that it did not stop me. Hope you enjoyed (or at least suffered through) my second and final Christmas tour. Next year I will either re-link to these posts, or maybe, just maybe, I will have a NEW HOUSE to photograph.
Send all complaints to BooMama as she got me started!
Pin It!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wanting More?

This is the verse that was on our flip calendar yesterday. It is a kid's calendar, so the verse is paraphrased. Today, as I was about to turn the page, I paused long enough to read the verse. Here's what I read:

"It is better to be happy with what you have than always to be wanting more." (Ecclesiastes 6:9)

A fitting verse especially at Christmastime. At first my thoughts went to my children and their endless listmaking and revising this year. And then God got my attention and showed me that, while that verse may apply to any number of folks, today it needs to apply to me.

While I don't struggle with wanting material things, my "wants" tend to run to situations. Instead of being happy with what I have, I find myself wishing things away. I forget to embrace the now, to live in the moment, to welcome the place, the people, and the position God has placed me in now. When the baby wants to help me make soup and dumps a large amount of water on the counter in her efforts, I find it hard to be happy with what I have. Because what I have is a mess, and an adventurous, loud two year old. And yet. There is that precious little voice saying, "I cook toup wike you" and looking at me with all the love in the world. Without the mess I would also miss that moment.

This morning she looked at me and shook her head vigorously. "I not da baby anymore," she told me. And though I know that is really true, I argued with her. "You are my baby," I told her. But the time, it is so fleeting. I have today to treasure, to love, to feast on life. How could I want more than this?
Pin It!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Funny Video For/About Homeschooling

Even though we aren't homeschooling this year, I could still get a laugh out of this clever video. I can't figure out if this is a real family or just a bunch of "actors." Either way, it is cute. Check it out here.
Pin It!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

BooMama's Christmas Tour Of Homes!

Call me a blogging nerd, but I have been looking forward to this day since I heard that BooMama was going to be coordinating it! This here's my contribution!

These are actually suspended from the chandelier in my dining room. An easy and quick craft with just some wired ribbon and a glue gun! Pretty! Festive!

The top of my piano-- some trees, some greenery, some snowmen and reindeer all thrown in for good measure. It may not all go together, but it works somehow-- at least for me.

My mom got me these snowmen one year, and they make the perfect sentries for my dry sink. I top off the dry sink with a handpainted wooden scene that was my grandmother's. It has sentimental value for me-- especially this year as it is the first Christmas since she died. I flank it with my festive candy-cane striped candles.

Our mantle. I like to take the picture that hangs there all year long down and replace it with a wreath. (If you look to the right of the photo, you can see the tree that sits on our screened-in porch.)

Half of the centerpiece that graces my dining room table. (I wrote about this centerpiece in the opening article of the JOY book.)

This is a large hurricane vase filled with pinecones, greenery and more of the balls that hang from the chandelier. (This piece is also in my dining room.) I set the vase down in a wreath, and flank it with angels and candlesticks.
Thanks for touring my home! Y'all come back now, ya hear?

Pin It!

List Of Goodies To Bake This Week

Here is a list of what I plan to make this year to enjoy and/or give away as gifts to friends and neighbors. Seeing as how I did nothing today (see previous post), it is making me feel better (read: productive) to write this list out.

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies (using this recipe with the swirled mint chocolate chips and chocolate mix)

Pumpkin Bread (our standard neighbor gift)

Toffee Grahams (this recipe is in the JOY book)

Sugar Cookies (this recipe is also in the JOY book)

peanut butter fudge (another one from the book, but I am going to try a recipe I found in a new Gooseberry Patch cookbook just to mix things up a bit)

Chocolate chip brownies (ok, this is from a Ghiradelli box mix)

Eggnog bread

I am sure the list will be added to or played with some, but this gives you an idea of what I will be doing this week!
Pin It!

A Day To Do Absolutely, Positively NOTHING

This morning I woke up cold. No matter how much coffee I drank or how warmly I dressed, I stayed cold. The weather outside also looked cold-- just looking out the window made me shiver. My baby was still coughing and my 13 yo was stuffy and sleepy. So, I handed down the verdict that the girls and I were staying home and doing nothing-- no church, no chores, no obligations of any sort. A day to do nothing was exactly what we all needed. So, Curt and the boys headed off to church, then out to lunch, then over to the Playhouse so Curt could usher, then off to run some errands. Because he just did not feel the same about doing nothing, apparently.

Me? I stayed on the couch most of the day. Only getting up when I absolutely had to. I made us a lunch of whatever I could scrounge up, then laid back down. It was like I was sick or something. Only I wasn't. I was just flat-out out of energy. Happens to the best of us, or so I am told. I must say that I rarely have a day that I do literally nothing-- no laundry, no dishes, no writing-related duties. I didn't even read a book, as even that seemed like a strain. Watching old movies on tv was much, much easier.

Mostly we watched the food network. We watched Paula and Rachael cook and plan for their holiday meals. It was fascinating. And inspiring. So inspiring, in fact, that I got up and went to the pantry and got out the makings for pumpkin bread and mint chocolate chip cookies. I did not, however, go so far as to actually make these things. So now they are just sitting out on the counter accusingly-- evidence of just how lazy I was today. Curt said I could make those items tomorrow, which sounds reasonable. I am hoping the urge and the energy will be there tomorrow.

But not today. Today was a day to do absolutely, positively nothing. And you know what? It felt good, decadent even. You should try it sometime.

ETA: I remembered something I did do first thing this morning. I read the book "An Orange For Frankie" by Patricia Polacco out loud to my kids. It was a great story. It made me want to eat an orange. And it just felt cozy to snuggle up and read a good book to my kids. It made me nostalgic for our homeschool days. But we won't talk about that right now.
Pin It!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Yummy Dinner!

I made up a recipe last night that I just had to share with you all, because it was yummy, and because, I will admit, I am quite proud of myself and wanted to share this with folks who could appreciate my accomplishment. My husband, I think, is tired of hearing me sing my own praises.

So, here is how I did it.

1.) Thawed a bag of frozen chicken tenderloins, then marinated them for several hours in Italian dressing. Then cut the tenderloins into bite-sized pieces.

2.) Cut up several bunches of broccoli and steamed them.

3.) Cooked a 1 lb. package of penne pasta. Then drained it.

4.) Heated 1/4 cup of EVOO (does anyone not know what that is thanks to Rachael Ray?) and stir-fried the chicken til it was cooked through, placed in LARGE bowl with the steamed broccoli

5.) Heated another 1/4 cup of EVOO and placed a large can of diced tomatoes with garlic and onion, 1.5 cups of chicken broth, several cloves of fresh garlic that I had chopped fine, and a sprinkling of Italian seasoning. I heated this through and then let it simmer for a few minutes.

6.) Finally, I tossed the pasta with the broccoli and chicken, then dumped the sauce I had simmered on top and tossed it all together. We ate big, steaming bowls with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. It made enough to feed us all and still have plenty left over for lunch.

This sounds long and involved, but it wasn't. The whole thing took me less than thirty minutes to do! Try it at your house if your family loves Italian-type dishes.

When my kids asked me what it's called, I quipped "Christmas Pasta!" As the red tomatoes and green broccoli do indeed make the meal quite Christmas-y! Let me know if you try it!
Pin It!

Friday, December 14, 2007

An Article Worth Your Time

This is a very important article all moms should read. The author is dead-on, and it made me happy to read it. It will take a you a minute to read, but it's worth it. So go. Why are you still here?
Pin It!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Bit Of Magic

We all need a bit of magic in the midst of all this merriment we are making, right? I found my magic today in moments with friends and children, in laughing with my husband and bonding with him over the perils of raising a teenager in today's world. I need to laugh often. It truly is good for my soul.

I talked to my friend Terri today and asked her how she was doing. She quipped, "Well the boat is taking on water, but I am baling it out as fast as I can-- and paddling frantically at the same time!"

And I responded, "Oh, I am right there with you, baling and paddling myself. And that doesn't even include that now we have to decorate the boat for Christmas!"

We had a good laugh at our little joke before she had to rush off somewhere, as did I. We promised to connect soon. And we will. And in the meantime, it was enough just to laugh for a moment. To say to another mom, "Yeah! Me too!"

This morning at Melanie's was wonderful. A public thank you to her for opening up her home to all of us. When I rounded the corner to her house and saw the line of cars down the street, my jaw dropped open. She had a great turnout! It was a very cool reunion for those of us who were there. She only invited women who go or used to go to our old church. She is still there-- as are many of the ladies who were there. And then there were those of us who are now at other churches. It was a great group.

It was so neat to see all those folks again. To pause in the midst of all the rushing around to eat and talk and laugh, and catch up on people we hardly get to see anymore. Not being at church with all those folks is hard-- and seeing them today reminded me of how much I miss them all! Though we absolutely love where we are now, there is something special about getting to spend time with our old church family. Because they truly were. Our family. The morning, then, was quite magical, and I left feeling so buoyed by our time together. What is so cool is that, though we no longer worship at the same place, we all still passionately love and serve God. And this morning it was clear that that is all that matters. I love that kind of unity.

The rest of the day was also good-- mainly because I knew I did not have to cook dinner tonight. I savored this thought all day, mentally rubbing my hands together in anticipation of what I would do with that T-I-M-E before dinner that is usually spent 1) preparing food, 2) dealing with various squabbles and/or complaints while preparing said food, and 3) keeping the baby away from her new favorite toy, the refrigerator's water dispenser. Look mom! A waterfall! Watch mommy clean it up! Again!

Instead, I knew I could stay out of the kitchen entirely during that time, as we were having a wonderful meal called leftovers. Leftovers are a mom's best friend. Maybe not the kids' best friend, but definitely mine.

And so I sat out on our screened in porch with a book in my lap, intending to read while my children played in the yard. (We had another day of 80 degree temps-- definitely doesn't feel like December, but I will take it!) Instead, it turned out that I merely held the book on my lap while my 13 yo daughter chatted with me about every little thing that popped in her head. And then the baby joined us. And by the time darkness fell on our happy little party, they were all gathered on the porch. I looked around me and felt tremendously grateful.

Tonight we loaded everyone into the car and headed to the library to drop off books and pick up other holds that had come in. A new pile of Christmas titles are now on hand for our reading enjoyment this season. Just as we were leaving the library, the train came through our little town, rushing by the library almost close enough to touch. My husband drove the car to the closest spot we could get to and the kids jumped out to see the train go by. They stood on the fence and watched in awe as I watched them watching it. I wondered if they would remember that moment someday when they are all grown up. I certainly hope so. I know I will.

Now my two youngest are in bed. The oldest and my husband are doing a grocery store run. The 13 and 11 yo's are at the Matthews Playhouse production of A Christmas Story. And the 7 yo is creating some top secret masterpiece at the kitchen table. I had to usher for the show tonight at the Playhouse, but am now home in my jammies, savoring the quiet stillness that has fallen over our house. In a moment, I plan to get into bed and actually read the book I never read this afternoon. I can hardly wait.
Pin It!

Lysa TerKeurst's Giveaway Today!

Today I am participating in a giveaway that my friend Lysa is doing over at her blog. She is giving away a gift every day in December! Head on over there to sign up if you haven't purchased my book, and would like to win it instead. Lysa has been chronicling her adventures in Hollywood for her last several posts, and it has been quite interesting. Leave her a comment on today's post to enter.
Alas, I have no adventures in Hollywood to chronicle. My adventures consist of one coughing baby, one long to-do list, one proposal that never seems to get finished, one smelly dog with incontinence problems, and a partridge in a pear tree. On a bright note, I got all the niece and nephew gifts yesterday-- a big check mark off the old to-do list!
What's on your to-do list today? Leave me a comment and tell me either one thing you are looking forward to doing today, or one thing you are dreading doing today. I am looking forward to spending the morning with my friend Melanie and other friends at a Christmas brunch at her home. Fun! (I am skipping CBS to do this, shhh, don't tell!)
Can't wait to either comiserate or celebrate with you all as we enjoy the Christmas craziness together!
Pin It!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Menu Plan Monday, Wordless Wednesday, Works For Me Wednesday, the Thursday Thirteen, Show and Tell Friday...

these are all events in the blogging world I have every intention of participating in... then forget all about half the time! Since Laura over at Organizing Junkie did the review of my book, it jogged my memory to post my menu plan today. And no, we are not going to exist off cookies, cookies and more cookies, tempting as that might sound!

Here is our menu for this week:

Monday) chicken tacos, applesauce for those who want it

Tuesday) Vegetable Beef Soup, homemade rolls or cornbread

Wednesday) marinated chicken broiled and served over pasta pomodoro, bagged salad

Thursday) barbecue chicken, wild rice, corn

Friday) probably Chick fil a-- several of our kids are going to be gone doing various fun activities so we will treat the ones who are home to dinner out!
Pin It!

Yummy Cookies

I made these last night after we got home from our trip. And I am making two more batches right now. Tis the season, right? I had to make one batch for Curt to take to work this morning for a cookie exchange at work. Then today I have made two more batches-- one for the teachers' cookie exchange at school and one to take tonight to my Momtourage Christmas social. Fun! Tomorrow night I will be making one more goodie for a party my 13 yo daughter is going to. I have a list of gifts/ornaments to buy for the various exchanges either myself or my children are going to-- and the list goes on. Anyone else feeling this way?
I must confess, it is busy, and harried, and crazy. But I wouldn't change a thing! I love Christmas!
Discovering easy cookies like these to whip up in a flash sure does make things easier. Here is the recipe, taken from one of the Gooseberry Patch cookbooks my mom got me. Y'all, these cookbooks are so good! This one is called, "Christmas Cookies" and is full of-- you guessed it-- recipes for cookies! A great one to pull out for some inspiration for yet another cookie exchange.
Can't Leave Alone Bars
1 pkg. white cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
6 oz. pkg semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, sliced
Combine dry cake mix, eggs, and oil. Mix well. Press two-thirds of the mixture into the bottom of a greased 9X13 dish. Set aside. In microwavable bowl, combine chocolate chips, butter and sweetened condensed milk. Microwave in intervals of one minute per time, stirring after each time, just until chips are melted. Stir until smooth. Pour over batter. Drop remaining cake mixture by teaspoonfuls (I just pinched off bits with my fingers) over top. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until batter on top is light golden. Let cool, then cut into bars. Makes 3 dozen.
Pin It!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Musical Baby

Playing the guitar (that's her daddy's guitar-- that she's absolutely not supposed to play with!)

playing "the drums" (that's a wooden spoon beating on a Crisco can)

Singing with her brother (those are the finials off the end of my bedposts!)

Hmmmm, I wonder if she will be musically inclined??
Whatever she is, you can bet she will be very, very loved!

Pin It!