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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving '10

As promised, here are my pictures of the Thanksgiving table.  I use all of my favorite dishes, the Johnson Brothers' Friendly Village collection that I've been collecting since we've been married.  Each plate has a different, beautiful, snowy scene on it.  All of the linens were meticulously ironed.  The place cards were carefully crafted.  The silverware and glasses were hand-washed and dried so that there were no spots.  I looked up and experimented with different ways of folding napkins.  My satin-type napkins weren't stiff enough to do the fun folds, but I liked this one well enough.
The boys got "special" turkey plates and cups.
My Great-Granny Susie's doilies adorned the table runner.   Oh, and there was hot apple cider brewing on the stove the whole time.  The recipe was ridiculously good!
And I think it all came together really nicely.  Oh, and in the bottom-right of this picture below you can see that Samuel taped up our names on the wall.  He said it was so that everyone would remember who lived here.  Haha.
Since we live in a small, old house, our washer and dryer are in the kitchen and oftentimes have to serve as a countertop.  That's where I put the lemon-water and ice.
No rest for the weary!  After dinner I just can't stand for the dishes to sit around, so I pushed through a little more.  I like to rest after it's all cleaned up (well, mostly cleaned up, anyway).
So after everyone left, this was my favorite part of the day...watching Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with Michael and the boys.  I couldn't have done anything else even if I wanted to.  My back and legs were DONE.
And after all of that thought, preparation, and work, I realized that I totally neglected my kids on Thanksgiving.  :(  That made me really sad to recognize.  I spent so much time and energy doing stuff for the "grown-ups" (and me, if I'm really honest about it) that no one really even notices (because the things are so subtle, not because they don't care).  The crafts, the shopping, the cleaning, etc. took a couple of weeks of my time and energy.  Then I started working "full-time" on Thanksgiving (cooking, more cleaning, decorating) on Tuesday afternoon all the way through Thursday.

Upon my request, Michael basically just kept the boys out of the house while I worked on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday, and then he kept them busy on Thanksgiving morning.  I feel like I totally blew it with my priorities.  It's so clear when I'm writing it all out, but it's not so clear when I'm in the midst of it.  I was too much of a perfectionist and people-pleaser when it came to my preparations.  And, ironically enough, when I'm all in my "zone" I'm not even a good host because I'm all stressed and frazzled.  

Then after the adrenaline was gone (that was what kept me going while I was working), I was so tired afterward (being 8 months pregnant and all) that I didn't have the energy to participate with my family in the Christmas activities that they did on Thanksgiving weekend, like the local tree lighting, church, and a Christmas tree farm.

Next year I really want to get my priorities straight and make Thanksgiving special for my kids.  They deserve that after my craziness for the past 6 years of hosting Thanksgiving.  I think I'm done hosting for now.  My mother-in-law mentioned just doing a BBQ dinner or something of the sort over at her house with everyone the night before Thanksgiving next year.  That way we're free to do whatever we want on Thanksgiving Day with just our family.  I like that idea.

An old friend of mine went to New York with his wife and kids over Thanksgiving and saw the Macy's parade on Thanksgiving morning.  Then I think they went to a nice restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner and had a great weekend as tourists in NY.  I just loved that idea.  They were building great memories and having a wonderfully nostalgic Thanksgiving weekend.  When the kids get older I definitely want to do that.  How fun!

Anyway, I hope you all had great Thanksgivings.  This is a good reminder to keep my Christmas priorities straight!  I don't think I'll have a choice, though, since I'll be quite pregnant at that point. Did you all know yet that January 3rd is the big C-section date?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Grocery Dilemma

Throughout our almost eight years of marriage, I have tried SEVERAL different grocery methods.  I'm pretty organized, so we've always made lists and had a plan.  And we're always tweaking our plan to make it fit our needs more appropriately.

Currently I have a spreadsheet with every possible grocery item on it, and when I need something I put the quantity in there and then hide everything that I don't need.  There's a meal list (7 days worth) on the same page.  So I first make my meal plan for the week, then I fill in all the groceries that I need, print the paper, and shop.  It's pretty easy and straightforward.

My problem right now, however, is that this plan only works if I FEEL like sticking to the plan.  But when I'm pregnant, tired, and not feeling all that great all the time, sometimes I just don't feel like cooking.  We've been "cheating" and getting take-out lately when that happens, but that's not exactly the best option for us.

So does anyone have any healthy and cheap options of how to keep to a sane diet while worn out and tired?  I don't want to get take-out every time I don't feel like cooking, and TV dinners are just about as expensive and not much more healthy.  I'm stuck...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Love and Whatnot

I was at church today, and the sermon was so good.  It was on 2nd and 3rd John.  I had been thinking a lot about this topic lately, love and whatnot.  It kind of seems trite, right, but man, I don't think it's as easy to get as it seems.  Our pastor made the point that John wrote these books in his old age, and with all his wisdom from walking with God for so long, being an Apostle, etc., he chooses to harp on the topic of love above everything else that he could write about.  That's fascinating to me.

I'm still dealing with a lot of control issues.  I learned a lot during marriage counseling about how the key to overcoming that was so centered around empathy.  And I think that empathy leads to more love in so many ways.

So anyway, I wanted to think about these things some more, so I wrote some questions down during the sermon that I could journal about later.

1.  How does my need for control not exhibit love?
2.  How can relinquishing control of others exhibit love to them?
3.  How am I like Diotrephes?  (He was a pastor who loved to be first and who didn't welcome John or other believers walking in truth.)
4.  How am I like Gaius?  (He was the one that the letter of 3rd John was written to, faithful, loving, and commended by John in a divinely inspired letter.)

I probably won't be putting the answers to these up on the ol' blog, haha, but I thought it was some good food for thought that I would share with you.  Love you all.  ;)

Give Thanks Banner

I saw this banner the other day and LOVED it.  So I made it last night and added it to the pine coney window.  The PDFs are available there on the website, so all you have to do is print it up on some colored paper.  They used brown, but I didn't have any, so I used orange construction paper.  If you print on construction paper, you have to first cut it down to letter size (8 1/2" x 11") before you can put it in the printer (for most printers, anyway).  And instead of using ribbon, I used some hemp string.
It's so way easy, though.  And I think it's so pretty.  Sorry for the poor quality picture.  I took it with my iPhone at night.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pine Cones O'Plenty

So we've been up to our ears in pine cones lately. I think if I do pine cones again I won't paint them anything but gold with spray paint.  It was so easy and quick and looks so much nicer.  Or I might try just leaving them brown and glazing them.  That looks pretty, too.  Although, Samuel can have his time to paint with the acrylics if he wants.

Anyway, I'll show you what I made out of them, but first note that I'm not a regular crafter.  Yes, I think I have some creative genes, but I don't regularly craft.  It's really just because I'm cheap and don't really like to spend the money on it.  I do like to decorate my house for free, but that's just the thing with crafts; you have to spend so much money on the materials.  Like the spray paint for the pine cones was $4, and I could have bought a bag of cinnamon pine cones for that (although I wouldn't have gotten as many).  Oh well.  

So first I put some pine cones up in this window that sits above our dining room table.  It looked plain, though, so I bought some Spanish moss and a pick of berries to add to it.  I like the way it turned out, all woodsy.

For Samuel's pine cones, I put them in his Indian headband that he made at school with a paper plate taped to the bottom with some Spanish moss inside, and now it's a centerpiece for the kids' table at Thanksgiving that he can show off!

This is a garland that I made out of the rest of the pine cones (with a Christmas chain in front of it that Samuel made).  I don't really like the way it turned out, but I'm planning on adding some Christmas greens to it to spruce it up for Christmas.  It would look better if I had a fireplace mantel to put it on.  Oh, and don't mind the lack of a window treatment.  I'm not bothering with them until the kids are old enough to not play in the curtains (something they LOVE to do in my bedroom).  

And this is not pine cones, but it's the other craft I did for Thanksgiving.  I like to do place cards each year.  One year I did pieces of chocolate and wrote everyone's names on them with either white chocolate or butterscotch.  But I also do 4x6 cards that everyone writes what they're thankful for on and save them in our Thanksgiving photo album.  

So for some of the years I let the 4x6 cards double as place cards.  That's what I did this year.  These cards are actually about 4" x 5 1/2" (the brown paper bag part) folded in half.  The other part I printed a template from the Martha Stewart website (they always have such great ideas on there) onto cream paper and glued it onto the brown paper.  They had the idea of gluing it to a piece of Thanksgiving stationary, but that would have cost money.  So when I happened to get a brown paper bag the other day, I seized the opportunity.    

That's all I got for now.  :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pine Cone Painting

I really love pine cones.  I love picking them up while on walks and decorating with them in the Fall and Winter.  This friend of mine has a TON of pine cones in his front yard, so I've gone over there a couple of times this past week and "cleaned up" for him.  I let Samuel help me paint them, although I've recently learned that you're really supposed to either wash them and let them sit out first or bake them to clean them.  I realized the importance of this while a few bugs fell out of a few of them.  Oh well.  
Samuel, hamming it up, had a great time painting.  I like to let him paint in this cut open cereal box.  I also covered the TV tray with plastic wrap.

The more colors the better, for Samuel.  His pine cones will likely go in his room.  ;)  I'm thinking that I might make a Christmas tree out of all the ones that he paints by attaching them to a cone shaped piece of foam from Hobby Lobby.  Or I might make a garland out of them and hang them across the window in his room.    
I painted a variety of colors.  Some are more fallish and others more winterish, but all are pretty neutral.  
The fallish ones I'm thinking of making a garland out of and hanging somewhere in the house.  I may even make a few Christmas trees out of them, too.  The really Christmas colored ones I'm thinking that I'll hang on the Christmas tree.  
The only problem is that I got mostly big ones.  I need to go somewhere and find some small ones now.  I'll be sure to post the pine cone creations once I get around to actually making them!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Internet Finds

Today I'm not feeling too great (maybe a cold virus), so I've been on the internet a bit more than normal.  Oh well.  I thought I'd make the best of it and share some of my favorite internet finds this week.  Are you bored?  Here you go:

  • I subscribe to GOOP and found this awesome email in my inbox this morning.  It's an interview with Jessica Seinfeld, who I LOVE and who just wrote a new book called Do It Delicious, a follow-up to the amazing Deceptively Delicious.  It's filled with simple recipes aimed at cookers and non-cookers alike.  Her website has a bunch of videos that she made for her friend that can't cook at all, teaching her to cook very simple recipes.  I watched the one on halibut over spinach, and it looked SOOO simple.  I'm totally going to try it.  I highly recommend this to anyone that's busy and wants some simple ideas or is wanting to learn to cook.
  • I'm sure you've all seen the hubbub going on with the Amazon scandal and the book on pedophilia.  I know there are many different opinions on the matter, and I respect those, but this blog post from Joyful Abode best sums up what I feel about it.  I could have written my own blog post about it, but she did a much better job with all of the research, so I'll just link to hers.  :)  
  • Erica Jong wrote what I consider to be a pretty absurd an article in the Wall Street Journal about how attachment parenting victimizes women.  It almost sounds like satire until you realize she's serious.  The Undercover Mother wrote a beautiful rebuttal to this article that I very much enjoyed reading and appreciated.
  • And finally, I leave you with this hilarious lesson from SNL on how to be debt-free.  Enjoy.  :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Having Christmas Bliss

I was reading this post from Simple Mom about preparing financially for Christmas, and I LOVED it!  I'm totally on board already with everything she mentions (take a look; it's a great article).  The only thing I can't really do is take a seasonal job to earn more money and get a store discount - great idea, though.  I think the idea of the article, though, is that you have bliss during Christmas and not stress!  That's the way it should be!

The thing that I loved most about the article is: #5 "Make a bigger deal out of the little Christmas activities."  That's such a great idea!  We Hedgies tend to do this with Fall activities (festivals, pumpkin patches, etc.), but I'd like to be more intentional about doing it with Christmas activities as well.  We all could use a little less emphasis on the material side of Christmas (you gotta admit our culture is a bit ridiculous about it).  There's so much materialism and gluttony surrounding the holiday, and it just makes me feel guilty and gross, so why not try to minimize it!

So here are some ideas of things we've done or things I'd like to try out:

1)  Last year we did karaoke at our family Christmas party.  It was so much fun and brought such a light and festive mood to the house.

2)  Last year we went to a fun Christmas tree lot that had lots of activities for the kids and was one of the highlights of our whole month.  I think we'll go again this year but not buy a tree.  (Is that ghetto?  The tree last year died a few days later, so I want to use a fake one this year.)  

3)  I'd love to have Christmas movie night where we watch either one of those old, claymation, Christmas movies or Elf (my favorite) and string up popcorn for the Christmas tree.  Or the kids can make those paper chains to put up on the tree.

4)  When we put the kids to bed we always sing Christmas songs this time of year.  I think we'll look back and remember it as a special time.

5)  Visiting Santa at the mall is a great memory maker.  We visited him three times last year and only bought the pictures once.  If you go during the day on a weekday when there's no line, Santa is not rushed and totally doesn't mind chatting with your kids for a bit.

6)  Hanging Christmas lights is a big event here.  It's just such a nostalgic thing, and the kids LOVE seeing the lights up every night.

7)  Going to the Christmas Eve service at church is a wonderful time for me.  It puts my heart in a really warm, loving place and reminds me of the true meaning of Christmas.

8)  Reading the Christmas account in the Bible on Christmas morning during our French toast or pancake breakfast has become a nice tradition for us that Michael started.  I love it, and as our kids get older they can read it to us!  Also, reading the Christmas verses (from the old and new testaments) during my own times of devotion throughout December helps keep me from losing sight of what it's all about.

9)  I know this involves money, but we're going to go to the IMAX to see The Polar Express (my kids' favorite).  We have passes, so it won't be that much money.  Plus, Samuel is saving his chore money to pay for his own ticket.  We're going to a Saturday showing that they invite all the kids to wear their pajamas to, and they serve hot cocoa.

10)  This isn't an event, but it's a non-materialism mindset thing.  Because I can't travel in December, we can't go to see my family in San Antonio.  So to cut down on costs and the general materialistic spirit of Christmas that stresses me out, we're not going to do gifts for everyone down there this year (sometimes I feel obligated, but I'm just not going to this year.)  We are going to mail photo books to my parents and sisters (I hope this isn't the one time they read my blog), but sorry nieces and nephews - you'll get enough gifts and won't miss the absence of ours.

Don't get me wrong.  I LOVE giving and getting gifts during Christmas.  But there is a line that can be crossed with everyone where it is stops being done out of an overflowing heart of love and joy and starts being done out of a bitter sense of obligation (to varying degrees, of course).  I like to try to stay away from that line when I can.

Anyway, do you have anymore events or small things you like to do during December that don't involve a lot of money spending or sugar eating?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

PDFs of Our Rules :)

A few of you said that you'd like the signs of our rules, so here you go!  I hope it works; I've never attempted file sharing on my blog, so we'll see if it works.  I put them in PDFs since I don't use Word (I use Pages).  But if you want to make your own they're pretty easy.  I basically just got all of the images off of the internet using Google Images.  I did have to add the circles on a couple of them, but it was pretty easy.  But if you don't need to edit them, then feel free to print these!

"No Throwing" Sign
"No Screaming" Sign
"No Hurting" Sign
"No Climbing" Sign

Friday, November 5, 2010

We Gotta Good Thing Going

Lately we've been experimenting with a new household system.  We've give the boys four specific rules and four specific chores to do daily before the bedtime routine. It has been working so amazingly and has totally made our lives better! It sounds like I'm exaggerating, but I promise I'm not.

Our four rules are:

They're pretty self-explanatory. They are specific to the prominent issues that we were facing in our household, haha. Our thought: keep it simple. If they break a rule, then they go straight to their room for time-out. No drama or yelling or threatening. Just time-out. We posted the signs on their bedroom door so that we can point to it and remind them of the rule as they're going into time-out. It works great, but the trick is to be consistent (as with everything in parenting).

I think maybe since it's posted and they helped make the signs on the computer that they got on board with the rules. So when they break a rule they realize that it's fair to go to time-out. They still put up a fuss sometimes, but it works well for the most part.

Samuel's four chores are:
1) Clear the table and push in the chairs.

2) Pick up the toys in the living room and tidy up.
3) Pick up the toys in their bedroom and tidy up.
4) After shower time put the dirty clothes away in the bathroom and tidy up.

Levi's one chore is to put away all of the toys in the bathtub after his bath is over. He's usually pretty eager to help Samuel with all of the other chores, too, though. They each get one quarter upon the completion of each chore.

Samuel is so motivated by those quarters.  He's been able to buy a lot of things that he wants (fun bands, a Woody doll, kettle corn at the pumpkin patch, ice cream from the ice cream truck, and more), and he saves for things, too.  I love the lessons that it's teaching him about money and hard work.  We also ask him how much he wants to give to God each Sunday.  He loves to do that and gets really excited about it.

I also love that it's making housework a family effort!  It's so wonderful.  Our house stays pretty clean now, and we work as a team.  There are nights that NONE of us want to clean up, but we know that it makes the next day so much better if we prepare the night before.  If we skip a day of nighttime chores, then the next day is more than double the work.

So this is working really well for us right now.  I'm sure that things will be shaken up quite a bit when the baby is born, but I'm hoping that we can get back into this routine pretty quickly after we're back home.


So on our home phone line we had the bare bones package where you can only make a certain amount of outgoing calls a month and there were no features at all. It's kind of annoying not having Caller ID, but you get used to it. So yesterday I was home, and got this totally disgusting perv call (I won't gross you out with the details). Even remembering it makes me want to vomit. I was so disturbed by it, so we got a normal phone package again with the Call Trace feature. It's free until you have to use it, and then it's $9 per use. It alerts authorities when you get an offensive call. All that to say, some things, like peace of mind, are worth the money, even when you're cheap like us!


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