Friday, December 30, 2011

back from Christmas break

Sorry about that.  I took an unintended Christmas break.  With KOJ home the past week and still for a few more days I thought I'd surely have plenty of time to blog.  But amazingly I haven't.  I also haven't felt any creative writing juices which also affects my blogging.

We had an amazing holiday.  Christmas was super blessed this year.  My sister in law and her dog Blue visited us for a few days and spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day with us.  The kids had a fantastic time with their Aunt and especially the dog.  My kids love that dog.  I love that my kids love the dog.  It's too cute.

For a final small update on our giving project this holiday season we managed to give a few more treats to friends at church including the pastors and their families.  But the rest of our giving did not get done because we all got strep throat and decided not to pass our germs on through baked goods.  The children did however come away with an understanding that Christmas was about Jesus and giving and this was the end goal so I call it a success. 

Usually when the holidays are over I'm sad and wish they hadn't ended so quickly.  But then I usually spend the holidays running around all harried and busy and stressed out despite my best efforts not to be.  But this year it was different.  When Christmas day was over I didn't feel sad.  I felt peace.  I felt peace that it had been a good Christmas season and that we had lived the season to it's fullest - through our giving project and through our intentional family activities.  But we didn't rush around and try to cram too much in either.  I'm excited now to take down the decorations and move into the new year.

So speaking of the new year there will be a few more posts from me in the next few days.  I want to share my resolutions here on the blog.  Of course I have to pick some first right?  So I'm going to work on that tonight.  I am also going to try to do Muffin Tin Mondays again in the new year and bring back regular posts on that and our school day.  I've revamped the pre-k/k-4 stuff for Colton and Sawyer and am eager to see how it works out so I'll be sure to post about that.  I've also done/am planning to do some organizing/decor stuff around here and I'll post on those projects as well.

One last comment for tonight - the year of date nights as a gift for KOJ went over fantastically.  He was very excited about it and I caught him reading through the binder like three times on Christmas day.  His home made gift for me was amazing also.  He wrote me a sonnet.  It was very very sweet.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Joy of giving - update 2

Woot.  It's Christmas time.  I love the holidays.  Truly love them.  This giving project is just one of my favorite things this year.  It's not as huge and mind blowing as perhaps my imagination had intended at the start but by keeping it relaxed and doing it out of a genuinely giving heart rather than a sense of obligation has made it such a blessing to me.  So this week we didn't do much throughout the week.  I had a sick baby girl for most of the week and during the week KOJ isn't here to help corral grabby hands and what not, so it's harder to get things done.  I did have the kids make a Christmas card for a special person they wanted to give treats to.  Kayd wanted to give treats to his baseball coach (who also happens to be a friend from church lol) and I prompted Colton and Sawyer to consider giving treats to their awana teacher because she's amazing.  They jumped right on that.  Colton even wrote the note in the card he made for her.  I can't believe I didn't think to take a picture of it!  Grr.  So on Wednesday we took two of our treat bags that we'd made up with the Christmas button candies and the cards they'd made and put them in the proper church mailboxes.  The boys were so excited.  It is so fun to watch them want to give and get joy out of it.  Kayd came to me about giving a treat to his coach and I'm so blessed that he was even thinking about it.

But yesterday we made a few more treats to put together a somewhat larger goody bag for the three pastors of our church.  Not only are they pastors but they are all dear friends.  So I really wanted to do it up right for them.  So we made chocolate dipped marshmallows to add to the Christmas buttons.

Very fun, very easy, very yummy, very pretty.  It's really a win, win, win, win treat.  And it was another winner for involving the children.

Later after watching Rudolph we made homemade hot cocoa mix and again because all the ingredients were dry it really was also another great one for including the kids, I helped them measure everything out and the dumped it in the huge bowl.  I used a funnel and some fancy baggies we bought for Sierra's birthday party but couldn't use due to shape issues to baggy up two servings (in each bag).  Whichever children were still at the table and not in the bath got to put mini marshmallows in on top.  I tied them with holiday ribbon and they turned out cute.

Then the kids helped me put all three treats together into gift bags and now we'll take them with us to church today.

Next week on the giving list I plan to make potato fudge for my mom and grandma.  It's something that my great grandmother used to make once a year at Christmas and my mom always wanted to hog the whole box for herself.  I also plan to make this toffee to give to one more family at church that Kayd picked out, the mail person, and my other grandma.  KOJ is planning to take Friday off from work and I'm hoping to go as a family to visit both of my grandmas.  I'm very excited about the whole thing.

Family Saturday

Oh what a great day.  We started off the day by getting the kids ready for a "surprise".  The surprise involved something cold and required several layers to be warm throughout.  So we spent probably 20 solid minutes getting the kids in jackets, coats, hats, and mittens.  They were fairly cooperative this morning though, which isn't always the case, but was sure a blessing that started our morning off right.  Then we set off with a few blankets in hand for a ride on the "Polar Express".  Now our children are huge train lovers.  We live two blocks south of the train depot and you can see one of the main tracks from the corner nearest our house and the boys have spent a lot of time in warmer weather sitting at the corner watching the train move back and forth.  This particular train is just for paying passenger rides - like a tour type thing.  I looked into it when we first moved back here to my home town and with four children it's just cost prohibitive for us.  So when I heard that our local library was doing a Polar Express program ON the train this month I called up the library asap and got on the waiting list.  In the end we were blessed that we were able to get on.  So we walked to the tracks because with four kiddos walking was probably about equal in time to loading up the kids, driving there, parking, unloading the kids etc.  And frankly it was a lot simpler to walk out the front door and direct the kids to keep walking.

So we headed off the two blocks to the train.  At this point the boys were starting to realize where we might be going.

Once there we got our tickets and hopped on the train.

There were two coaches and one coach got to hear the story "The Polar Express" on the way to the "North Pole" and then we swapped coaches while those kids met Santa and we got to hear the story.  They had a giant screen tv that displayed the pictures from the book and a man dressed as the conductor read the book.  It was very cool.  Then we got to go to the north pole and meat Santa too.

Now I took pics of all the kids but my flash only works properly when it feels like it and it didn't feel like it for the first two kids.  I feel badly about it but that's life.  So Santa gave each of the children a bell like in the book and a little hot cocoa packet with a candy cane.  Very cute.

After this we boarded the train and headed back to the station.  We took the kids to McDonalds where a whole group of our friends (who also were on the train) were meeting up for lunch and play.  I didn't take any pictures of that.

We all relaxed during nap time and then late in the afternoon we worked on a project I'll post about tomorrow.  Then we decided to have our cocoa from Santa and watch Rudolph.  We have it on DVD so we just watch it whenever it suits us during this season.  Love that movie.  Love the line about getting the women folk back to Christmas Town. It cracks me up every stinking time.

Sawyer loved the singing snowman and especially appreciated when he pulled out his ukelele.  Sawyer grabbed up his own "guitar" and played along.

A few more pics of the kids enjoying the movie together (and ignore the mess it's a lived in house on a Saturday, what can I say?  The living room was spotless and vacuumed at one point yesterday.)  

Sierra was intentionally hiding from the camera.  It was super cute.

She was happy to give me a "cheese" though when I asked her to.

Colton was too engrossed watching to eat much of his make shift dinner.

It always amazes me how much kids move around during movies and yet still seem to enjoy them.

Except Kayd.  He seems to have the sitting still thing down at the ripe old age of 6.

And that was our fantastic family day.  It was such a blessing to make these memories with the kids.  Truly.  Next weekend we have more fun family memories to be made in store too!

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I had an epiphany today.  One that has been six years in the making and I'm so glad I finally had it because it clears up a LOT for me and my emotions.

Priorities are important but they are not always going to be consistent and steadfast.  Not in the day to day.  I think I've had this ideal that every day my priorities should be exactly the same and in the exact same order and I realized today that this just isn't so.  I have a lot of priorities in my daily life.  They look something like this:

School kids
feed kids
clean house
watch what I eat and try to exercise
time with God - and I'm sad and ashamed to say that this always seems to fall last as the thing that I'll get to "later".

I mean really that's a very simplistic view of it all.  Cleaning involved a multitude of tasks too tedious for me to list out at the moment.  Feeding the kids happens WAY more often in the day than someone without children might think.  Schooling the kids - this one has tripped me up some this year.  I think I've had it in my head that I'm not doing a good job if school does not look the same and in the same setting and at the same time every day.  But really the only thing that can gauge how well I'm doing is the progress the children are making and since we're moving right along in both math and spelling it should be very clear to me that whether we do it upstairs at his desk while I stress about his sister and his brothers continually interrupt or if we do it in the living room or even in the kitchen (like yesterday when he sat on the floor writing and I stood at the sink washing dishes and dictating phrases - I have multi-tasking down to an art form people) while the littles nap and Howler plays an educational game online and we can both think clearly does not actually matter in the grand scheme of his life or mine.  Run on much?  Sorry.

Anyway while that too is something I realized today it's not THE thing that I realized.

What I realized is that yes each day has priorities.  But those priorities are different and fall in a different order each day.  Today the priority is the princess girl who seems to have a tummy bug.  Comforting her and being compassionate towards her today is way more important than being rigid about the house cleaning and the schooling.  We'll work those things in.  Yesterday my priority was schooling Kayd so at naptime (we spent the morning at the library) while his siblings were all asleep that was what I focused on.  By having a primary priority and understanding that cleaning the house is NOT always the top priority of my days (not even the majority of the time is cleaning the top priority) takes a load off me.  It shifts my thinking.  I no longer feel badly that I didn't get to the dishes because I was schooling.  I have a new perspective.  I got to the important task of schooling and the dishes will still be there until whenever they become priority again (usually when we decide to have company over lol).

So take a look at your priorities and see where your heart is.  I know there have just been too many times where I felt like my child being sick was an inconvenience that got in the way of the "real priority" whatever the heck I thought that was for the day.

What a fresh look at life.  I thank God for these little nuggets of truth in life.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A year of date nights - a gift

So this idea is not original to me.  I found the link through a post on a mom's forum that posted a link to pinterest which led to a blog who shared this idea.  Did ya follow that?  Basically, what I'm saying, is that this is not an original idea.  Well it is, it's just not MY original idea.  Ok then, moving along. 

I had been planning to make KOJ a booklet of coupons but I was coming up blank on how to make them and what all to put on them.  Then I saw this idea and thought that it was so much more perfect.  So I'm going to create a year of date nights.  Now the website: year of date nights created this as a wedding gift (which is also a fantastic idea) but it made a lot of the date ideas implausible for us due to cost and childcare.  So I thought it would be much better to find 12 date nights that we could do here at home after the kids are in bed.  So I went to the handy dandy pinterest and searched "date night ideas" - give it a try there are some awesome sites out there.  And I read through lots of ideas and this is what I have so far (please follow the links to see the original inspiration).

January - we're going away for a night for our anniversary so that will be our January date night but I will be bringing the Date Wheel in case we run out of ideas for things to do. lol

February - fondue date night - this one really appeals to me and seems appropriately romantic for Valentine's day too!

March - Lord of the Rings movie marathon - ok to be honest this doesn't appeal to me at all but I found these for KOJ for Christmas and he loves these movies so I'll probably try to get a child free day so we can watch them all in a row.  Maybe.  I could be convinced to find another date idea for this month. hahaha  But this is really about KOJ not me.  Right?  Right.  Oh and this was an original idea that I did not find on a blog anywhere.

April - Date Wheel - what can I say, the date wheel just seems cool.

May - Dinner and a Dance - this appeals to me and it's something we've never done before.

June - Wii sports night - this was my own original date night idea.  I mean I'm sure a blog out there somewhere has offered up this idea before but this particular week I thought of it all on my own. lol  I mean we own the wii and we really should use it for something besides netflix.... at least once a year.... right?

July - Christmas in July - we will watch It's a Wondeful Life as we both love this movie and have hot cocoa and some yummy holiday type snacks.

August - Garage Sale - for this one we will get a sitter for the kids on a Saturday morning.  We both love garage sales so this will be fun for both of us.  This idea came from the original idea link above.

September - Asian night - we'll watch a Jackie Chan movie (we love pretty much all of these) and I'll make something yummy and Chinese for dinner - probably stir fry, we love stir fry.  But the egg rolls I'll splurge on from the actual Chinese restaurant.  This is also an idea in the original link.

October - Clue Night - this just looks fun and simple.  Now I've gotta find some friends who would likely agree.

November - Board game night - frankly this is one of KOJ's favorites, he loves board games.  So I pulled this out of previous personal experience and not from a blog though one or more of the blogs linked might also suggest this as a date night idea.

December - Baby It's Cold Outside - love the simplicity and the idea of just snuggling up and enjoying a relaxing night together in all the hustle and bustle that tends to be December in our home.

So the top things to notice about our dates: All but two are at home.  They use things we already have.  Are mostly things we haven't ever done for dates before.  Can be done after the kids are in bed so that childcare isn't necessary.

I'm learning something about myself while putting this project together for KOJ - that while I want romance I feel like it has to come in some big package or something but really just spending time together, laughing together, talking together is what dating is really all about.  It's really that simple and I can't believe I've missed that all these years.  Here's to hoping that these monthly date nights make our 8th year of marriage even better than the previous 7.

Also I should note that I have asked KOJ to stay away from the blog the rest of the month so this gift will still be a surprise but it was too fun and simple not to share with anyone who might still be looking for the perfect frugal gift to give their husband (or wife).

Also fun to note this gift costs me nothing in my 100.00 holiday.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Giving project - the Joy of Giving

So I meant to post a daily update about this.  But here's the thing. I'm a mother of four small children.  Sometimes the tasks we were picking weren't do-able on that day and sometimes the day disappeared before a task could get done.  And well, basically, I realized that while my intentions were fabulous, and on paper it is a great idea, in practice it's still a little on the unrealistic side of things. 

But have no fear!  We're not giving up.  We're just not going to be legalistic about the whole thing.  So on Thursday the boys and I made some treats to bag up and take to our favorite children's librarians at the local library.

Princess loves to clean and she's trying to wash the spot on the table.

Howler and Spider work on putting their kisses into their pretzels.

Princess works on putting her kisses into her mouth (clearly she's doing a good job, note the chocolate dripping).

Howler is still putting kisses in his pretzels - Squirrel is on the other side of him but you can't see him.  Spider's have been baked and we're putting the M&M's in the middles.

This was a super fun and easy baking activity that the kids could actually help with.  I found the idea on pinterest and being a lover of chocolate covered pretzels I couldn't resist it.  You just bake for 2 - 3 min (literally here people) on 250.  Then stick the m&m's in the middles.  Super yummy and super kid friendly.  These are going to become a yearly tradition I think.

We dropped off baggies of them to the librarians Saturday morning (because I refuse to take Princess to the library right now - she's a super-destructor at this age).  I also handed a baggie to the UPS guy when he dropped off the too many diapers we didn't mean to get from amazon on Friday.  He seemed visibly thrilled about it.  He's a nice guy, always very friendly so I was excited that I actually had these treats ready to just hand on over to him as a holiday thank you.

That's all we did in the giving department this week.  Next week I plan to put together treats for the church pastors, take the kids with me to donate some coats to the coat drive, and make cards for vets, military members, and elderly at some of our local nursing homes.  I'll update again next Sunday to let you know what we actually manage to do.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Seasonal activities turn into traditions

Has anyone else ever noticed how busy this time of year just seems to get no matter how hard you try to slow down and enjoy it?  Our schedule has been jam packed this weekend and will be fairly busy again next weekend.  But the times we've had so far have been a huge blessing.  The kids are starting to get old enough that these activities we're doing are going to become fond memories for the kids (I hope anyway lol).

So last night the town our church is located in had a big tree lighting event and various businesses downtown sponsored some fun things for the people to walk around and enjoy.  I was blessed to participate in a craft activity that was sponsored by our church and one of the main street businesses and it was great.  KOJ and my mom took the kids around to the other activities and from all accounts it was a great night had by all.
Candy cane craft sponsored by our church.

Decorate your own cookie at the fire station.
Spider monkey got his face painted at the fire station.
Spider and Squirrel had awesome face paint - a green soccer ball and a beautiful red flower.  Howler got a star but I don't have a pic of it.
Howler making a birthday card for Jesus.

All three boys making birthday cards.

a small live nativity

Looks like Sierra was trying to figure out what was going on.

Today the college students that attend our church blessed us with free babysitting churchwide for a few hours to go do some Christmas shopping.  As you know since you read my blog faithfully I'm already done with my Christmas shopping but KOJ and I took the opportunity to get a few groceries together.  It was so nice and peaceful.  I really appreciate those occassional breaks.

Tomorrow we're taking the children to Bethlehem.  Well, ok, so it's not the real Bethlehem but there's a nearby church that turns their building into the streets of Bethlehem.  We went last year and it was super cool.  Except the roman soldier's kinda scared the boys a little but we're prepared for that this year and can warn them ahead of time. And in the evening our church youth group is sponsoring a church wide caroling event that I'm still in the process of talking KOJ into.  I think it will be a lot of fun and that the kids would enjoy it.  But we'll see.

Next weekend we're on the wait list for a Polar Express ride on the local train that is being sponsored through the library.  Crossing our fingers (and saying a prayer or two) that spots open up so we can all go and enjoy the event.  If we do you can be sure I'll post about it.

So what fantastic things do you all have available to do in your hometowns?  Do you enjoy participating in several holiday events or prefer to keep it simple with only one or two?  I'm trying to keep it simple enough that we don't all end up grumpy at one another but also realize that these events are only available during this month of time.  I appreciate how easy it is to find fun things to do in our area that are generally free and family friendly that we can turn into traditions for our children.

Tune in tomorrow for an update on our giving project.