Monthly Archives: November 2011

Bubbles & Jesus Turn Eight…….And Presently Speaking

Sorry I’ve been missing in action the past couple of days. My mom is in town and yesterday we began the season of birthdays that my family celebrates. My youngest two had their golden birthday yesterday (eight on the eighth!) so we’re smack dab in the middle of birthday week.

Before we start our Wednesday discussion about keeping our holiday priorities straight and making them easier to navigate, I thought I’d show you a few pictures from our day. I took them with my phone (still having camera issues) so the quality isn’t great, but we’ll get through this.

The kids decided to take Krispy Kreme doughnuts to school to share with their friends yesterday. When we went to pick them up Monday afternoon, I asked the cashier if it was true that they gave away a free doughnut for every A on a report card. This was a fact, which was music to my A Honor Roll students’ ears! We left with 21 free glazed doughnuts. So on birthday eve, visions of sugar-coated goodness danced in their sweet little heads. We decided that we’d begin the day with a celebratory birthday doughnut so they could practice blowing out candles.

I’ll fast forward through the day to save time. We opened presents last night and they both seemed happy with their gifts.

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The boys, however, were not happy to see that Grammy had bought their sister the Justin Bieber movie.

That was a speedy trip through the day. I didn’t linger long because I don’t have long to stay today and because thinking about the fact that my babies are eight sends me very close to the edge and I don’t have a lot of time to spend in an emotional state today.

So moving on…..

Let’s talk presents. This may be a more-than-one-week discussion.

I’ll start. I do not have all of my presents purchased. I am not one of those people who has all the presents bought and wrapped before Thanksgiving. In the past, you may have found me looking for last minute gifts on Christmas Eve, but that’s not usually the case anymore. I don’t mind shopping in the Christmas crowds, unless I’m looking for something specific that has already been purchased by every other person and I’m in panic mode.

A few years ago, we decided to try to limi the number of  our immediate family gifts to three. The three gift limit helps us from going overboard and it also reminds us of the wisemen’s visit to Jesus because they brought three gifts. We let the kids make a wish list and then Kelly and I sit down and decide on three gifts that we will give them and three gifts for Santa to give them. We also do stocking stuffers, which are just little, inexpensive gifts I’ve picked up along the year. If I don’t shop with a specific list in mind, I don’t know how to stop shopping and I always overbuy.

I have to buy for sixteen kids for Kelly’s family. This year, I bought the girls bracelets from a store in town that sells jewelry made by women in Africa. They make beads out of magazines and create beautiful pieces of jewelry with them. I’m also giving them each a ring I made from buttons. As soon as I finish making the rings, that is. I’d like to do a similar gift for the boys….something that I can either make or buy that will benefit someone else. Any ideas?

How many of you already all have of your gifts purchased? How many of you will still be purchasing on Christmas Eve? Do you all have a gift limit? Do you make lists or buy as you see something that catches your eye? Do you buy online or from the stores? Do you give homemade gifts? Any favorites that you’d like to tell us about?

Next time, I want to talk about ways to teach our children about giving back during this season. I have a few ideas but I can’t wait to hear yours!

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Five Minute Friday: “Remember”

I’m linking up with the Gypsy Mama today. Every Friday she gives us a writing prompt and five minutes to write. No editing, just words straight from the heart. This time I didn’t go over not even one minute and I’m pushing the publish button without even reading it a second time. I am living on the edge this fine, fall Friday!!

Today’s prompt was “Remember.” Here’s what I wrote:

I wonder if this will be a permanent effect caused the events of two years ago.

I’d always heard it said that the holiday season is never easy again after someone you loved so much is no longer there to be a part. No new memories only old ones that still seem so very sharp in places.

But I choose to remember fondly. As so many things associated with my grief, the memories are bittersweet.

But some memories are mostly sweet.

Her texts yesterday and today have  reminded me of this.

“I got my first white chocolate peppermint mocha yesterday…..”

“I soaked a peppermint tea bag in my coffee for about two minutes….it was so good!!….Who needs Starbucks?!”

She is attached to so many memories that I hold so close to my heart. So many that are associated with this time of year.

Yes, I remember the bad, the ugly, the hard.

But I remember the friends who stood by. The friends who showed up before I even knew I needed them. The year I learned more about what friendship looks like than I’d ever known before.

And so I choose to remember…..

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Making Stuff Up As I Go

For as long as I can remember I’ve made up stories. Most of them I keep inside my head but every now I then I’ve been known to let a few out where people can see them. I never know what’s going to start one. A lot of times I hear a song and see a story in my head that fits the lyrics. Occasionally I’ll see people out somewhere and they become a story I tell myself. I do it for my own entertainment mostly.  In fact, after graduation, I didn’t write any of my stories down until I happened to tell one to my dad one day. As a result, he gave me a challenge that stretched me in ways I’d never been stretched before. One of the greatest joys of my life so far was when my dad trusted my stories enough to let me bring them to life in the form of drama productions. For several years I was able to actually see my words come to life on a stage. I will always hold those opportunities as very special memories.

I think maybe my made-up stories became so closely linked to my memories of my dad that since he left, they’ve pretty much stopped. I don’t think I consciously tried to make them stop anymore then I made them happen in the first place. I don’t even think I realized they weren’t happening the way they used to until my friends Tara and Jennifer started a new project.

Both of my friendships with these ladies have grown in unconventional ways. Tara and my mom were in a small group together with several other ladies and we have several mutual friends, but have never spent a lot of time together in person. Neither have Jennifer and I. I’ve actually grown to know these ladies through their blogs (Jennifer had a blog where she challenged herself to write a poem every day!) and Facebook. But still, I certainly count these ladies as precious friends.

I’m not sure the hows and wherefores, but not long ago, Jennifer and Tara started a new blog called shortyarns.  Shortyarns, and I’m quoting from the website, “is a place for [writers] to hone their craft through weekly writing prompts.”  Every Monday, Jennifer and Tara offer a different story starter and encourage their readers to exercise their creative muscles and write.  Isn’t this one of the best ideas for a blog you’ve ever heard? I think ultimately, Jennifer and Tara want this to be a place for aspiring writers to hone their craft not only by disciplining themselves to write, but also by giving and receiving feedback from other writers about the posts.

I didn’t realize how much I’d missed making up stories until Jennifer and Tara asked me if I’d be willing to write a guest post for this week’s prompt. This was my assignment:

You and a friend have just finished a lovely meal at your favorite restaurant.

But things take a turn when you notice that the waiter has scribbled an unexpected—and startling—message on your bill.

Write this scene.

Ever since they asked me to participate, I’ve had so much fun trying to think of a story to go with the prompt! It has given my brain something to do (besides play Words with Friends) while I’m waiting to pick up my kids from school or while I’m driving to the grocery store. I’ve missed the feeling that comes from figuring out how to get a character from Point A to Point B. I had a great time getting to know characters who didn’t even exist until I thought them into being. It’s been fun. And therapeutic. And I’m so thankful that Jennifer and Tara invited me over to play.

I’d love for you to go and check out my story. I’m not inviting you to take a peek because I think it’s my best work, because, although I wish it were, it’s not. Hopefully my very best has yet to be written. Hopefully my stories will come back and I may even start writing them down again. Even if I write them down just for me. I think many of you will want to become regular visitors of shortyarns. Hopefully, some of you will even take some of the writing prompt challenges yourselves!

Here’s the beginning of my story:

We’d finished our meal but lingered a little longer over dessert, soaking up the laughter and conversation. It had been way too long since my friend and I had shared a chunk of uninterrupted time together. Our hearts and stomachs were full after an evening of good food and great conversation. I packed a few memories away to savor at home along with my take-home bag of leftovers. All too soon it was time to go and my friend signaled the waiter to bring our checks.

For the rest of the story, visit shortyarns.

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When Do You Deck Your Halls?

I wrote a post with my thumb on my phone whilst riding home from a field trip with a bus full of fifth graders. But apparently I was thumb typing in vain because when I got home, it hadn’t published. Oh, well. It was probably not going to get any votes for my most Austen-like post. Not that this one will. Not that any of them have any votes so far. Not that Jane actually had a blog and therefore, posts to which one could compare.

Anyway…..

It’s Wednesday, so we’re talking about the holidays and ways to make them more meaningful and less stressful. Today, let’s talk about Christmas decorations. Specifically, I want to know when do you put up your Christmas tree and deck your halls with bough of holly and such? I know most people consider it a cardinal sin to show any Christmas spirit until Thanksgiving is over. That’s the plan I’ve always tended to subscribe to, but this year, I’m thinking about starting earlier.

We celebrate Christmas with Kelly’s family over Thanksgiving in Kentucky. By the time we get back in town the weekend after Thanksgiving, our calendar is pretty much full with commitments. We say no to as many as we gracefully can in order to preserve family time and our sanity, but still we end up with quite a few obligations that we just need to fulfill for various reasons. I feel like as soon as we get back from Kentucky we hit the ground running and one of my favorite parts of the season, a Christmas-y house to enjoy, becomes more like a chore that I’m fitting into whatever spare minutes I can find in between activities.

Over the years I’ve accumulated a lot of Christmas decorations. I never feel like a have time before the holidays to clean out my boxes properly and by the time I’m putting everything back after Christmas, I’m just ready to get them packed so I can cross that chore off my list. This year, I would like to pull out a box at a time and decorate at a more leisurely pace.

I know some people think we rush Christmas and I hear people complain that the stores start pushing Christmas earlier and earlier, but I love the entire holiday season and I’m for any excuse to make it last a little bit longer! I love coming home to a house warmed by Christmas lights! I usually start listening to Christmas music around Halloween because I just can’t wait any longer,  so if I start pulling out my Christmas decorations a little earlier, I’ll really just be making my outside match my inside!

Here’s a quick holiday decoration storage tip for you: I am trying to make my decorations easier to find in my storage area by packing them in colored plastic storage bins that match the holiday. For example, all of my Halloween and fall decorations are in orange containers. This year I’m planning to change all of my Christmas storage bins over to red and green (Since they get moved every year or so, many of them are in desperate need of replacement!). I want to get a pink bin for my Valentine’s stuff.  The color coded bins make it easier to make sure I have all the decorations for that season. Just a suggestion.

So let’s discuss: When do you do your holiday decorating? Do you do a lot of decorating or just a tree?

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I Forgot What I Was Going to Say

I have lots to say but not enough white space on my calendar to say it. Actually, I had lots to say, but I’ve forgotten most of what that was. I may have told you this already, but I do most of my thinking and mental writing in one of three places: in the bathtub, in Oscar Sprocket (my minivan), and in my bed as I’m trying to get to sleep. The other night on my way to sleep I wrote three different blog posts in my head, full of news I wanted to share with you. For the life of me, I can not remember them now. They must have been crowded out to make room for something else.

While I try to remember, I’ll share my obligatory Halloween pictures.

He has wanted to dress up like something scary for years and years and I’ve always talked him to something else. This time I let him be scary. He had a blast. He stayed in character all night and didn’t speak.

We live on a street with only five houses and only four of them are occupied. This time last year we only had three children on our street, but now we’re up to five. After we took turns trick or treating at each others’ houses we made a caravan and rode over to the library and then another neighborhood nearby that has more houses….and people…and candy.

Here we are at the only street on the one house on our street without children. Before we moved in, it had been a long time since any children had lived on the street. I often wonder if they miss the quiet.

And here we are at the library.

Kelly’s boss lives in the neighborhood we visited. He was out of town so we taught the children how to vandalize by rolling a sign in his front yard with toilet paper. (We didn’t even use a quarter of a roll.) Unbeknownst to us, one of Kelly’s boss’s bosses was visiting the house next door and handing out candy to trick or treaters. He took a picture of the sign and emailed it Kelly’s boss. Kelly’s boss (and the boss’s boss) are great lovers of fun and everyone got a big kick out of it….except for our kids. They spent the rest of the evening wondering if Daddy’s boss was going to be mad at us. Apparently we aren’t raising delinquents…..yet.

I wish I could stay and talk a little longer, but I’m expecting company today and my house looks like it’s had a bad virus that caused it to vomit its contents all over itself. The guest bathroom could double as a science experiment. And I still have three of my four meetings of the day yet to go.

Tomorrow I’m a chaperone for the fifth grade science trip to the museum and we’re leaving the school at 6:30. In the morning. That’s just this side of early, folks, especially when it’s darker and darker every morning these days. But it’s going to be a full and very fun day and we’ve been looking forward to this for awhile. Don’t forget that tomorrow will be another post in our series of posts to help us not feel overwhelmed during this busy season. And then on Thursday I will be a guest blogger on a brand new website that a couple of friends created called “shortyarns.” I can’t wait to tell you more about this site.

I hope that The Great Pumpkin found all of your pumpkin patches to be sincere and without hypocrisy and that you are enjoying this beautiful first day of the Thankful Season. I am thankful for you.

Step away from the chocolate and enjoy the rest of your day!

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