Friday, December 19, 2014

Christ at Christmastime

For the past several years "the magic of Christmas" has been missing for me. I've chalked it up to being grown, to working in retail, and to not having sufficient funds. Christmas if very different once you've lost the magical Christmas mornings of your childhood. That's one of the things my mom always did very well. Christmas mornings were absolutely delightful. Working in retail reveals often times the worst in people. The madness of Christmas shopping isn't something you endure for how ever many hours you subject yourself to it but it's something you must suffer for weeks on end. And then there's money. I don't mind as much not having fabulously lavish gifts for myself as much as I mind not being able to spend copious amounts of money on everyone I care for. I'm pretty sure that giving gifts is my strongest of the five love languages and I do suffer at Christmas time with the inability to give well thought out, hopefully gleefully received gifts to everyone I love.

Things were supposed to change once I had children. It's said that the holiday glee of childhood returns once you're able to watch your kiddos experience it for themselves. This will be my son's third Christmas and last year at least was actually more frustrating for me then ever. I've celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmastime for my entire life. Santa Claus and his elves were always a fun story but my siblings and I never "believed" in Santa. Jesus was the reason for the season. Last year I noticed for possibly the first time how very removed from Christmas Jesus has become in our culture. When it comes to TV shows and Christmas marketing/ decorations, gift wraps, bags, kids books; you name it there is very little sign of Christ and the nativity left in Christmas. It was sickening to me last year and I was really sad for much of the holiday season at the revelation of what apparently Christmas is now about: giving and getting gifts. I get it that alot of people don't believe in Christ but that's what Christmas is for me.

This year has been very different, in fact this has been the best Christmastime I can remember and Christmas day itself is not even here yet. I have very little money to spend on gifts. I already know that I'll be getting some pretty small gifts myself. The holiday shoppers don't seem any less stressed or polite than years past. The television programming and marketing sure haven't changed. This year has been different thus far because I made a conscious decision to make Christmas about celebrating the birth of Jesus with my son and not about anything else. Our Christmas countdown has helped alot because we are reading scripture every single day about His birth and the Christmas story. In an effort to combat the Christmas programming that I do allow my son to watch even though it has nothing to do with why we celebrate Christmas I've been talking with him every single day about the Christmas story and Jesus. Just the other night I told him the story of Saint Nicholas before bed... which ended rather silly. I said to him, "now the simple story of Nicholas has turned into the giant story of Santa Claus." Then my two year old looks at me and says, "he was a giant? did he say fee fy fum? were the kids scared?" Uh... 

This year I've been enjoying the simplicity of the Nazarene baby born in a stable, placed in a manger, and visited by shepherds and my son has been too. The peace and joy and holiday splendor that have come from truly taking gifts out of the equation are magical. It's not that we aren't giving gifts but this is the first year that I don't feel pressure about it and that in a way it doesn't matter. For me this is the first Christmastime where Jesus is the gift, the only gift that matters or means anything and I'm really really happy. Santa Claus is fun. Giving gifts is a wonderful thing. All the decorations and music and parties are great but I'm enjoying this Christmas more than any other because none of that matters this year.

Did you know that Rudolf the red nose reindeer (almost Rollo or Reginald) was created by Montgomery Ward department store in 1939 in an attempt to sell their own coloring books as opposed to buying and selling other coloring books? The simple fact alone that Rudolf was created for marketing purposes... yep. (and I love the little guy. he's adorable but... yep)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Merry Christmas to me/ A BRAND NEW SINK

When I was a kid our sink leaked, it leaked for a very long time. The smell under there, the rot, the mess... my mom never fixed anything so it was just another one of the broken parts of our home and it was gross. I don't remember exactly but I think it was a small leak too, probably a bad washer or something like that. Last night the pipe under our kitchen sink got a hole in it. It was very corroded so it was only a matter of time. My husband was at work and I was just about to get my son in bed and I felt like the roof collapsed on top of me. I think you have regressive flash backs in moments like this. I was imagining living without a kitchen sink for weeks, or possibly as horrid having to pay for a plumber to repair the broken pipe. It's Christmas time. I'm not entirely sure yet how I'm going to pay the mortgage this month and now this!!! I became physically nauseous and went to bed thinking positive thoughts with a knot in my stomach.

My dad gave us $50 at the family Christmas party the other day. I've honestly been dreaming about what I'm going to do with it. (I'm not supposed to "pay the bills" with Christmas money/ I've been scolded for that before) I would like to complain about the money going to fix the sink but honestly I feel more appreciative that we have the "extra" money for the sink repair as opposed to not having an extra $50 bill in my wallet right now and still having to fix it. This was a completely unavoidable problem.

I messaged a friend this morning who's really great at repairing things (I'm NOT talking down on my husband but he is absolutely not handy and is always fearful of making any situation worse if he tries to fix it (is there a term for someone who's not handy, like how you can not have a green thumb?)). My friend was glad to help but is in Chicago this week. I watched you tube videos for a good portion of this morning working up the nerve to do the fix myself. I picked up a box of sink plumbing pvc pipes and a joint wrench while I was working and this evening.... wait for it... I totally fixed the broken sink myself and there is no leakage going on down there at all!!!

I spent $25.75 on the fix and truthfully I feel like this little sink issue has repaired something inside of me. I am actually thankful right now that I had to spend $25 of my Christmas money on repairing the broken sink myself. (I will be singing another tune if the fix doesn't hold... but we'll cross that bridge IF we get to it) I feel like I've stared an old demon in the face and kicked it out of my life. I am an adult. I can take care of myself, with God's help always. I am not a helpless kid living in a home that's crumbling over my head. I am NOT! I feel completely on top of the world right at this very moment. I've bills that need paying and not a ton of money laying around to get them paid and yet I feel like a millionaire. This Christmas (for other reasons as well) has been the best Christmas I can remember ever experiencing and we're still over a week out! One happy camper right here!!!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Who Needs Presents When You've Got Cheesecake?

Our first Christmas party this year is in a few hours (as soon as my little one wakes up from his nap we'll be heading out). Instead of buying a gift for each of my 6 nieces and nephews (on my side) because we don't have the money for and sort of decent gifts I took $15 to the dollar store and bought 15 toys. I told my siblings ahead of time so they wouldn't be offended at our "little" gifts. I'm going to hand the 5 oldest three numbers each 1 thru 15 and they will get to choose gifts from the pile and open them one at a time in order of the numbers they get. I think it sounds like a fun game. They can trade off after it's done. I'm really amazed at some of the fun stuff dollars stores carry too.

My mom put me in charge of the desserts for the party. Very fortunately she paid for all the supplies I just had to shop and do the baking. I've got almost $9 worth of chocolate in that triple chocolate Ghirardelli cheesecake right there! I CANNOT wait to cut it up. I've also taken a second attempt at lemon meringue pie. I hope it turned out as good as the first one I made. There's some Russian tea cake cookies too because my parents LOVE them. But who doesn't love a cookie that's covered in powdered sugar?

This party should be wonderful. Mostly because I love spending time with my entire family and we really don't get together much more often than at Christmas. My kid is SUPER excited too so I'm looking forward to the event due to his excitement as well. I suppose I'd better get everything else ready and be off!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


For birthday party gifts I absolutely love to have little Abe paint the funny pages and we use the artwork for wrapping paper. 

Sometimes however you may not notice until you're on the way to the party for the one year old nephew that one of the only legible words left on the page is "BURP!" I laughed. They are called the funny pages after all. But it was NOT my intention to have that one word left sticking out like a sore thumb.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

One of Those Rare Uber Accomplished Days

Today I made a visit to the chiropractor, went into work for the day, finished making a Christmas present for my mom, and melted together some homemade peppermint bark all by 5:00. Woohoo! Oh, and my letter to the editor was printed in the local newspaper today.

I'm pretty proud of my mom's gift this year. I spent a whopping $1.50 on it (for the navy paint). Everything else for it including the piece of scrap wood I found in my basement were items I already had around the house. The handwriting could be nicer. The hand painted letters could be way less "crafty" looking. And it could contain the month of October... I'm really awful at completing any task without a major glitch. This particular glitch was not measuring the circles to make sure I could fit 12 of them under the wooden header. I had it all complete before I found out I could only fit 11 months. Oops. I guess you can't be in our family if you were born in October (Starr, that means you can't marry a guy whose birthday is in October).

My mom has 4 kids, 3 in law kids, and 7 grand kids. With this hanging on her wall she shouldn't have any problem remembering birthdays (not that she does necessarily but this will make it easier).

Sunday, December 7, 2014

It's the Season for Giving

The Christmas countdown is going so well. Every morning my little one opens a bag to find a single Hershey's hug, a Bible verse and a giving goal for the day. I've only done two little gifts so far, a hot wheels car that I got on sale for under 70 cents and a wooden owl Christmas ornament on sale for 65 cents that he was able to paint. Funny thing about that, if you give a two year old red, green, and white paint (that came with the ornament) for painting an owl, the owl will turn out brown in the end.

For the giving goals it's been super simple so far. We've only done two that required leaving the house. The one was when he picked out a gift from the dollar store for his fried Isaac and we brought it to his house. The other was when we baked cookies for our neighbor's Rick and Vicki and brought them next door to their house. Apparently giving is incredibly fun. This morning my little guy was running around the living saying, "I want to go to Isaac and Vicki's house again," on repeat. I think we need to bring someone else cookies in the very near future! I love that my son is having so much fun giving to other's this Christmas, even if sometimes it's just reading a story to mom or giving dad an extra big hug. It makes me so happy!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Christmas Cake

What type of cake would you think appropriate to celebrate the birth of the Christ child?

My son is so excited to celebrate Jesus' birth that he's already planning the cake and balloons. I can't say I've ever had cake on Christmas day but I fully intend to this year (and I think I'll get a balloon or two for the occasion as well). I know the little guy is going to have us sing happy birthday to Jesus as well. Even though it's not His actual birthday, we will be celebrating His birth so why not? I have it in my mind to make a nicer looking version of the chocolate cake I blogged about a few months back... you just can't go wrong with chocolate and in my opinion it certainly is heavenly but maybe something lighter, brighter... hm. Decisions, decisions. I guess it's good I still have 18 days to get these things sorted out.

Do we have extra money so that we can enjoy a lavish holiday season? No. Are finances quite possibly tighter than they've been in a very long time? Yes. (it seems to be a common December issue though) Are we having a fantastically joyous festive holiday season already none the less? Yes!
Who needs money anyway?!?!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christmas is in the air

Yes, the word Christmas just might possibly be in the title of all my posts from here on out.

Today we brought cookies that we baked last night to our neighbors. Oh my goodness! My little guy was so proud of us and he was absolutely thrilled to tell them both "Merry Christmas." It was priceless!

Yesterday I saw the most interesting thing. I can really only speculate at what it was but whatever, it made me smile something tremendous. A well dressed, very cheerful looking, middle aged man driving a nice vehicle got out of his car at a stop light and quickly walked up to the car in front of him. He had an envelope shaped very much like a gift card in his hand. The lady in the car in front of him had a look on her face like, "what in the world???" Yet she rolled down her window. I saw him smile, nod his head, hand the card to her, and walk away. I don't think he said anything at all. If he did it was only a word or two. (I like to think he said Merry Christmas). She rolled up her window and drove on when the light turned green.

The look on her face told me that she did not know him. The look on his face was nothing but festive or jolly. Anyhow I think I witnessed a total stranger handing out gift cards to total strangers. Yeah there's a little bit of creep out factor in today's culture but it was really neat even so. I've heard of people paying for other's groceries, and paying for the car behind them in the drive through, or picking up someone's meal at a restaurant... all cool things to do. I hadn't heard of this idea before.

All total speculation on what I saw but my oh my the Christmas season is special!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I Think It's Time for Bed

Today would have been one of two more days I was going to allow myself to work on Christmas cards before I call it quits this year. When I arrived home from work my husband was sound asleep on the couch, my son was no where to be seen, and my house looked like a category eight tornado had blown through (this is a rare thing; finding hubby asleep when little Abe is not. little Abe was sitting politely on the potty doing his business)... fast forward several hours, my house is pretty much put back together and some cookies have been baked to bring over to our next door neighbors tomorrow.

No cards have been worked on this evening.
I'll give myself two more days still and then all of this talk of Christmas cards will be left in the past with different Christmasy topics waiting to unfold.

: )

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Dollar Store Christmas

Christmas is a time for giving: Today we should go to the store and buy a Christmas present for Isaac, wrap it, and bring it to his house.

Little Abe found the above written on a piece of paper in his Christmas countdown bag today. He was beyond excited as he listened to me read today's "do something nice for someone" goal. We took $2.12 out of his piggy bank (so we could pick one toy for Isaac and one for himself). We put the coins into today's bag and then we were off to the dollar store for a shopping adventure.

I'll tell you what, the toy aisle at the dollar store is like little a piece of heaven to a two year old. This is only the second time we've gone there together. I personally get as much enjoyment out of watching him ooh and ahh over all the toys he gets to choose from as he does choosing I think. He picked a large blue bouncy ball with a flashing light inside for his little friend and a sheriff's kit for himself.

His buddy LOVED the blue ball. My buddy had a wonderful time giving the special present away. These bags are proving to be very fun indeed! I'd planned to only stop for a minute or two and instead the boys ended up having a drum session together. Pretty great day for my little guy I'd say.

23 Christmas cards are currently on their way to their respective destinations.
6 are waiting to be sent, for various reasons.
13 need to still be made, written, addressed, sent... but my list is growing daily.
There are a good 20 people more I'd love to send a card to but I feel it may be best to focus my attentions else where, I mean I've been making cards since October.

Who thinks I should set a cut off date and what's done by then is where it gets left?
Maybe this Saturday?

I must be going now. I have more cards to make.
: )

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Bit of Literary Art to Start off this December

The first of December is here. Christmas is rapidly approaching and the Christmas season is upon us.

I can see no better way for me to start off the month then by sharing a wonderfully entertaining Christmas story that I read on one of my absolute favorite blogs yesterday. It is an original story that I think is exquisitely written, wonderfully creative, and the ending is beautifully profound. I highly encourage you to stop by Frugally Challenged's blog:
Trundling through life <- linked here
and to read this fabulous story "Tea Break in the Archangels' Restroom." I had to giggle several times at how very English or British (I apologize at not knowing the most proper way to describe my thought) the Archangels in this story appear. And I giggled immensely at the angels suggestion that they should get to building "a very quick twenty first century hospital. And organize parent craft classes" in first century Palestine for the Christ child's arrival.

Here's to a wonderful Christmas season for one and all, free as much as possible from the stress, obligation, and hustle and bustle that so often can creep in!!! Simple can be (and maybe always is) so much more enjoyable anyhow. Also, and this I'm working very hard at focusing on this year, may we all (who recognize Jesus as Lord) truly remember the reason for the season :)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

December To-dos (Christmas Countdown)

I have quite the list of goals for next month. One of my big ones was to complete a Christmas countdown project by December 1st. I'm so excited to have checked that one off the list today.
There are twenty five bags and each will contain a Bible verse, a "do something nice for someone" goal for the day, and a piece of candy (a Hershey's hug). Some of the bags, maybe five or six will have a small toy, or Christmas craft, or stickers in them. At present the bags are empty. I'll fill one each night after little Abe falls asleep. I didn't want them to be too heavy and it will be nice for me to be able to decide on the "do something nice for someone" goal the night before.

Some of the nice goals I have thought of so far for him are: bring cookies to the neighbor, make Grammy an I love you card, give daddy a giant hug, help mommy clean something up, give piggy bank coins to the Salvation Army red bucket, invite the cousins over so aunt Amanda can have alone time, pick out a gift from the dollar store for a friend (with is piggy bank money), read a story to mommy... I'm excited!

I've checked and the bags are not getting hot from the lights but I've purposed to not having the lights on for longer than 30 minutes at a time and we won't have them on when we leave the house.

Yay, one Christmas goal done!!!

Our Tree

No we didn't put up the Christmas tree yet. But our Thanksgiving tree craft is finished. It saddens me to think of taking it down now. It was really a lot of fun and I love the way it looks too.

This year we (and that mostly means little Abe) decided that we are thankful for the following:

Along with nine leaves with names of family members,
two leaves with names of friends,
one bunch of leaves with our pet's names,
we're thankful for God,
toy cars,
giants (I told him this was not relevant but he insisted),
Peppie and Bay (the real ponies that he rides),
our home,
our jobs (this was added by me),
Mike, his horse, and castle (his favorite toys right now),
Caillou (his all time favorite television show),
our country (also added by me),
shoveling snow (he loves shoveling snow),
garbage trucks (he also loves watching the garbage trucks on garbage day),
drums and guitars.

This is really going to be a fun tradition and we are very thankful.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

I'd planned several different posts this year in my head leading up to Thanksgiving, one of my very favorite holidays. I wanted to do a few posts about things I have much to be thankful for, a post about the first Thanksgiving, one about President George Washington's Thanksgiving proclamation, and one about blogs I'm thankful for... Thanksgiving 2014 has come and gone and I ended up posting a "thank-you for my home" and a few "Thanksgiving tree" posts. Needless to say I did not live up to my expectations.

Normally my little family and I will attend a Thanksgiving feast at a relative's house but I always make a traditional feast for just us as well (a few days before or after). I think our little feast is one of the reasons I love the holiday so much. I don't enjoy entertaining. There's something about the drama of it all (there are some very colorful people in the family), the expectations, and never being able to meet those expectations that makes entertaining very, um, not enjoyable for me. (I do like to think I'm "practicing" each year for someday though) But I love to cook, and I LOVE to bake, and eating is one of my absolute favorite past times. Our little feast is heavenly each year. This year I didn't make one single thing. We just didn't have the funds in the budget to get a turkey, even a small one, and all the fun baking supplies for a decadent pie or a luscious cheese cake. I very wisely accepted fact and didn't try to scramble to make my Thanksgiving meal.

I'm a tiny bit saddened by these little let downs but mostly I'm just thankful. I'll most likely make our little feast next year. We had a nice meal at my in laws (although my mom in law cannot cook... she tried) and no one tackled anyone, no cuts or bruises arose, the kids had a ton of fun together, and I didn't have to leave early due to an excessive amount of profanity being exposed to my little one's ears. This evening we'll head over to my sister's house for a second feast. I couldn't ask for more. This Thanksgiving was a total success and I have more than could ever be mentioned to be thankful for. I hope everyone who celebrates had a more than worthy Thanksgiving this year as well.

I leave you with an excerpt from President George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. For some reason every year when I read this it just makes me smile so much:
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor… Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next (1789) to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
All glory to God! Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Magical Powers (or lack there of)

I'm pretty sure that somewhere in my subconscious I believe I have magic powers and a fabulous magic wand that I can wave to make all of my dreams and schemes and elaborate projects I've stashed in my imagination come to life in a blink and a wink and without as much effort as they really will take.

I will not get stressed about Christmas this year, I will not get stressed about Christmas this year, I will not... meanwhile I'm almost half way through my enormous Christmas card project, there's a small child's quilt (or three, I told you I was ambitious), a fleece stuffed penguin, an alphabet picture book (which didn't seem like it would take as much time as it's taking), the rest of the Christmas cards, a hand made frame, lots of baking, an advent calendar, a family tree craft, a starfish shaped pillow with some intricate painting involved, and... oh my I can't even list everything I'm in the process of dreaming up, starting and working on. Time and especially time management are issues BUT Christmas is going to be spectacular no matter.

Fortunately I have most of the materials needed for these schemes...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

15 / 60

I'm a bit behind on the Christmas card making but I think it's coming along well. My cards have slightly evolved. I'm really enjoying making them even if I may be spending an absurd amount of time doing so. Every new card I make is my favorite yet. That helps keep me motivated. I have about three versions now that I really like. This is one of the three.

I'm using buttons from my Grandmother's button tin that I've had in my basement for several years now. So I've included a little note on the back of each card letting people know that my Grandmother has had a part in this year's holiday greeting.

At present I'm using old buttons, a stock pile of thread and scrap booking paper, I have at least 15 blank white cards and envelopes and I've purchased 50 more for only $9.99. Each card this Christmas should end up costing me about 70 cents and that includes the postage stamp. I think I've done quite well. I'm not factoring in the postage for the buttons that will be traveling to the UK, Sweden, and the Philippines so that might boost the average a few cents per card. Still, that's a lot cheaper than buying boxed cards at the store. Yay!

Along the same lines, I've sent out only one Thanksgiving note thus far but I'll be getting more out this week. AND I've received one Thanksgiving card this year :) It absolutely made my day and it traveled quite far to reach me, it crossed an ocean in fact and was sent by someone who doesn't even celebrate Thanksgiving. How absolutely delighted I am! Thank-you my friend :-)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Thanksgiving Tree

Our tree is really coming along. I think my favorite leaf up there so far is "pickles." My little guy really loves pickles (and popsicles, that's up there too).

There's so much to be thankful for!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Our Home

A Thanksgiving Post

I'm thankful for the way the raindrops "tink" on the tin siding. When we first moved in the unfamiliar sound was a bit annoying but I've grown quite fond of it over the years. It's rather musical now; it's the music the rain makes.

I'm thankful for how the living room and dining room open into each other so that my little boy can run laps around the main living quarters at full speed without bumping into much of anything.

I'm thankful for the family history in the walls. These walls have certainly heard their fair share of yelling but they've seen plenty of good times too and all of them shared by family; at least 70 years of Christmases, Thanksgivings, Easters, and well over 120 birthday celebrations. I love to hear my mother in law tell the same stories over and over again about the house, "that's the window I used to talk to the neighbor boy through, him standing at his window over there and me here at mine. We weren't supposed to talk to each other. Our parents couldn't stand one another but we always talked through our bedroom windows."

We don't renovate, redecorate, or remodel... ever. But I'm thankful for the gorgeous color of the wooden window frames and sills, baseboards, and built in cabinets throughout the house (I'm in love with the burnt honey color stain that my grandpa in law chose for them), the antique glass door knobs and the skeleton key lock still at the back door.

Our home is often messy. It's filled with a mismatch of worn eclectic furniture and linens. It would never be featured in a lovely magazine but it's warm and cozy and big (for us) and it's home.

I'm thankful for our home.