Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Your Christmas Traditions

I totally copied this from an email but thought it did give me something to think about. My answers are in Green. The poster (who shall remain nameless) wasn't the originator of the email, and her stuff is in pink. Maybe you would like to have someone you love take this so you know what's important to them at Christmas.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? paper both

2. Real tree or Artificial? artificial, with lights already in it. I hate hanging lights. Fake with my own lights!

3. When do you put up the tree? about 2 weeks before I guess Thanksgiving

4. When do you take the tree down? after the Epiphany when dh gets tired of it

5. Do you like eggnog? yes,especially if it's spiked Yech

6. Favorite gift received as a child? I don't know, probably Barbies Barbies definitely saved my childhood

7. Hardest person to buy for? my father I got it all down now! Prob my mom

8. Easiest person to buy for? my kids, because they want everything Little girls

9. Do you have a nativity scene? UH, I think so, a little one Yes but it’s tiny. I would like a big one with lots of pieces and a camel--not big in size but in movable pieces.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? I don't do cards b/c I'm cheap and not everyone has a computer. (i.e. mom & dad. they don't even have a VCR.) Mail and Christmas Letter, would love to do a Christmas movie

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I'm drawing a blank here. Microscope. Only nonfun toy in the Sears catalog. But I ended up having some fun with it. It was my own fault , I was busily turning down pages of stuff I did want but before I had a chance to look the folks wanted to know what I wanted so I looked to find the most expensive thing in the catalag as a joke. They bought it for me instead of the Barbie Townhouse . Humor is a difficult concept.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Does the Wizard of Oz count? Its a Wonderful Life/Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? December, I'm always late. I never stop. I start with the stuff I forgot to give last year LOL

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? NO No but I have given away presents to someone who could appreciate them

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? ??? Homemade candy

16. Lights on the tree? Yep, and already on the tree. They're white, but I do own red ones that I love. And the house, yard, etc.

17. Favorite Christmas song? I don't know, I'm sort of a scrooge. Angels we have heard on high/Far far away on Judea’s plains

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? We travel a few miles but I would love love love one year to spend Christmas on the beach. HOME. Very definitely.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's? Uh let's see. Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen.............is that right. Close, you forgot Rudolph

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? I have a fiber optic angel.How hi tech. Star now

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Both One Eve, rest morning. Unless Dad loses patience then everything a few days early!

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? THE FINANCIAL STRAIN and selfish people, and the fact that most people don't even care about the meaning of Christmas but think it's all about presents. Credit card bills and wondering if the presents are "even"

23. Favorite ornament theme Or color? RED I like the homemade stuff

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? seafood gumbo turkey

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? I want to spend a nice chaotic free Christmas in my new house waiting for my new baby. I want to read The Night Before Christmas to my girls on Christmas Eve and I want to spend Christmas morning relaxing with my cup of coffee watching the girls play with their things while Christmas music plays in the background and the smell of apple pie baking in the oven fills the air. No crying, no fighting, no screaming, no whining for more, just a day filled with warmth and comfort and gratitude...............(((sigh)))............... A girl can dream can't she?

Hmmmm House finished, cute tea kettle would be nice, new crystal glasses as my Italian ones are almost gone :( I do like the apple pie baking idea and if dh cooks the turkey on the bbq I might have oven room for it! And there will be no whining, fighting, screaming or crying. We are well behaved over here!

Have A Very Merry Christmas...God Bless You All And Be Safe

I would also add Christmas Traditions you enjoy? I like to only play Christmas music for the month of Dec. Taking pics after piano recital with the boys in their suits and red ties, and the girls in their fancy dresses

What goes in your stocking? Socks and Earrings

Caroling? Visiting Santa? Christmas Pictures? Yes if possible, Maybe, Absolutely

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Yearly Calendar

I finally found the perfect gift to give relatives. I give calendars with pictures of my kids. For the older folks it's nice to have a picture big enough to see and for the not so visually challenged it's a helpful organizational tool (added bonus I put the kids' birthdays on there!) The first year I did not have 12 pictures of all 4 kids so I did some months with just the girls, or just the boys, and my mom in law said she would like all 4 every month. So the next year I worked like the dickens to get the kids' pictures done. Now I do it every year. I was so obsessive about it this year I had over 50 shots to choose from of all 4 kids, all 4 looking at the camera... wow!! Here are some of the goofy ideas we used to make sure the calendar wasn't a pile of mugshots:
1. I put all 4 kids on the grass in the front yard with heads together. I love this shot.
2. Sitting on a bench
3. Sitting on a tree branch (hunt for a good tree, nice background)
4. By a fountain (fountains, water make good backgrounds)
5. In the pool with beach balls
6. Kids climbing on each other--big kids on bottom, little kids on top, pyramid if you can!
7. Swinging at the park
8. Looking like they are engaged in an activity (I am planning next year a shot at a theater with popcorn and all the kids looking like they are watching a movie--now if Hollywood will comply with a decent movie!!)
9. Sitting at a table at a cafe
10. Bridges make good backdrops
11. Don't forget props... Pumpkins for October, Beach balls for August, Mardi Gras beads for February (hey we are in Louisiana!!) Flags for July, Santa Hats for December. I haven't actually done the 4th Flags but next year....
12. Colorful clothes are nice. Matching are even nicer. We do the boys in suits with red ties for Piano Recital in December which is where we take our Dec picture for the next year's calendar.
13. Keep your eye out for good backgrounds. I liked the books at the library but ended up at Barnes and Noble for the book one... taller shelves. And we have a local bank that decorates for Christmas and encourages people to come in and take pics. Sometimes they even have a sleigh.
I have found that even though we love our family pets, it's like the book "Simple Pictures are Best" when it comes to non-smiling family. If they can't smile, they don't sit for the pic. Maybe I will make some exceptions.... I also thought about taking a pic of all my kids playing with a bunch of puppies... but that didn't work out!

What I like best about this is that no matter how hard it is to get the family together for pics, it's something I will have when they are gone that will be very precious to me, and to them.
I actually liked it so much I decided I would do yearbooks this year for the kids. They are cheaper than school yearbooks but full of memories of our family. Watch for specials and you can get them really reasonably from Snapfish, Kodak, etc. Keepsakes for everyone, and the idea is to pass them out and have an evening signing them. How cool is that?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Mommy Burn Out

Mommies constantly have stress. We spend so much time with the day-to-day that it's hard for us to calm down and focus and regroup. We feel our lives-- the life we planned-- is slipping into the diaper pail... or the carpool, or the homework drain.... and what about our life, anyway? Is it so bad to want a little ... whatever, to ourselves? Time, money, break of some kind? I read about a lady saying we need to make ourselves a priority. It is about priorities, but sometimes priorities shift. For example, sometimes we are coping well, and at other times we start getting over our heads and do need to give ourselves permission to take care of our own well-being.

If I didn't spend $240.00 a month (plus books) on piano, I could do a whole lot... get my nails done, my hair, maybe a massage... but right now I would rather have four kids playing piano and having a talent that may serve them well in the future.

If I didn't have my teens in band and sacrifice $2000 a year for that, I could pay off some debt and buy some nice clothes, instead of getting the Family Dollar clearance shirts. But I think it's more important for my kids to have this experience and keep a talent that may be a huge part of "who they are" for their lives.

If I didn't spend time getting my kids to do homework, I could spend that time doing anything I wanted-- doing makeup, reading, sleeping, getting some cleaning up done, but I choose to try to be there for them to help them with their homework and priorities.

Yes it's a choice. My priority now is that I want my kids to grow up functional adults with clear ideas of how they are useful to society. It's worth sacrificing now to be able to say, no matter how they turn out or what they do with their lives, that I gave my best NOW so I have no regrets later.

I do remember those years of cabin fever when even going to the grocery store with little ones was excruciating. I remember going the the grocery store in North Carolina with two babies in diapers watching two men smoking in line ahead of me, thinking, Nothing is worth this! This filthy store, these filthy men, being a terrible example and aggrivating my breathing problems, these rediculous prices, the fact that, however frugal I have been buying the cheapest meat available, the specials, the stuff in season, when I finish paying for these groceries I will have NOTHING left until next payday and my husband is on maneuvers with the Army and I won't see him for 3 weeks and I have no friends in this cruddy town that will babysit (or that I know well enough to ask)... Oh yes I remember those days. The days when I made fabric covered boxes because a friend was going to a craft fair, and I hoped to make $15.00 which would pay for $5.00 in the glue sticks I bought to make them (I already had the cardboard and fabric) and maybe, just maybe, ten bucks just for me... I would spend it on pacifiers so I might not have to look so hard on the floor when the baby dropped one because holding a crying baby and looking for a paccy in the middle of the night is just a little too aerobic at 3am... So I worked making 15 of them.... then only sold one.... for $3.00.... crying because it had been a bad investment and I had lost 2 bucks of grocery money.... Oh yeah, I remember those days.

I would go to the book exchange and turn in old books just so I could look through the shelves of books and pick one out to keep. A new one. This was the highlight of my time in North Carolina.

So I found myself an outlet that fit the budget that made me feel indulged. I didn't get my hair done and trimmed my nails with kitchen shears (Yeah I still do too) and thanked God for a roof over my head and healthy kids (when they were healthy). And I knew this was just a short time in the timespan of my existance, a test of my mettle, to see what I am really made of. I was patient with my kids, made do, made my own toys and learning materials, and eventually got to move!! And get to know people I could trust to babysit.

Then I worked full time and was away from my kids. I hated spending money on lunch, but there wasn't anything at home but tomatoes and green beans and they don't pack well for lunch. My husband worked construction and we had no way to heat the house but woodstove. I chopped wood in the snow, yes indeed, but I had a really low power bill and my kids were taken care of until I could quit work and do it myself. I knew this was a test too.

Now that I have all 4 in school I have time to myself and I do indulge a bit appreciating this time in my life. I get up early and stay up late with the activities and homework and challenges and illnesses so I take naps when I want to when they are not here. I think a nap is the height of indulgence when I have floors to clean and clothes to wash and a closet that needs organizing. Nevertheless I do take some me time but I appreciate it all the more because I have been in worse spots.

No matter how selfless you are right now and feeling overwhelmed, find a way that fits your lifestyle, budget, and time to escape. Ready for a list?


Read a book

Go out to lunch

Have your nails done

Get a sitter or mother's day out or switch babysitting with a friend

Spend QUALITY time with Daddy when the kids are in bed. This is not watching TV together. Talk, play a game, do some project together.

Volunteer with your dh to help with a project large enough to provide some child care. Team teach a class at church, help out with Cub Scouts, Boy or Girl Scouts. Doing it together helps you remember why you married this dude and signed up for this life in the first place.

Help someone more in need than you. In high school I had a friend who volunteered to watch kids for a lady one day after school every week. I thought she was crazy. She was onto something... she gave this lady time to have a bubble bath, undisturbed, read a book, run a few errands, and be rested and cheerful when her husband came home. What a gift! (Now my friend has 7 kids of her own, homeschools, and makes it all look easy. Go Carol!)

If your kids are walking, take them to Chuck E CHeese just to play.

Go to the park. Enjoy the weather and nature. Look at the other kids and think how blessed you are.

Light a candle. A smelly one if you have it.

Next time you are grocery shopping, get something to treat yourself. I get sushi if I am in the mood or carmel rice cakes (!) or buy some new hair thing. Ok sometimes I get chicken salad and sometimes I get bread pudding at Adriens. Just stuff NOBODY in the house likes but ME!! It's amazing how self-indulged I feel. I put that sushi in my purse so on the off chance someone is there to help unload the groceries they won't see it. It's my secret!

Save your change. Spend it on your favorite hobby. I have a friend (Sandy!!) who would give a 10 dollar bill if her bill was $9.01 just so she could get the change for her scrapbook addiction. She managed about $40.00 a month this way (I can't sock away that much!) to blow on herself and she loved it. Besides, scrapbooking was a great outlet that contributed to her family. You have to do something with those pictures! Justify it.

Find an interest and spend a set amount of time researching it on the internet. Teach yourself all about it. That quality time is useful to destress.

Play a video game. I used to play dumb video games when stressed. It helped when I was nursing the baby too. Babies. Ok you end up nursing a lot on the side you don't drive your mouse with, so be careful... but anyway, a game is destressing. When I am playing Freecell or Spider Solitaire, my kids know it's too loud or too much going on and they are stressing me. Find a game that relaxes you. Not timed, those make you tense: this has to be something you can get up from in the middle and not ruin the game. You are a mom, emergencies happen. And the idea is LESS stress.

I hope those give someone some ideas to destress and spend time on YOU. In the meantime, I am thinking that blogging here is a great stress reliever too. I even have a blog just to spout off about school system issues. I feel great after I get it written down. I don't care if anyone reads it or not!

And always know you're not alone and there are probably 150 people in your town feeling just like you do.

One more thing (I know I am long, it's a problem!) is that making traditions for yourself is great too. Things to look forward to help us get through the day. I used to promise myself one piece of chocolate a day. If it was bedtime and I hadn't had it yet I would get all excited and eat it before I brushed my teeth! Five pages of a book. Lunch at noon and the crossword puzzle. Check the email and reply or write to 3 people. Something to look forward to. And remember the kids like something to look forward to too, don't forget the notes in the lunches, the notes in the folders, a new pencil in the booksack. And for DH who is working so hard, he needs to destress too, so make sure you plan something for that, a walk together, a snuggle when he first comes home, a special dessert... because men rarely plan nice things for themselves either.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Spring cleaning; Good any time of year!

Have you made your own fridge list (BORED) yet?
I had a friend who said when she's got a bored girl, they make brownies. I thought this was super. I like the whole list thing though. Here is my list of things my kids can do when they need to repent of something... if they are mean or late to school and need a ride... later they can make it up by apologizing and doing something in the Service jar. These are jobs we just don't get around to often but will help them when they get out on their own. Ha! If the job is not possible they have to put it back and draw again (clean the gutters when it's raining, come on I am not that mean!)
Clean the microwave
Clean out gutters
Hang/Take down Christmas lights
Take out everything in one pantry cupboard, wash, dry, put everything back
Sweep front , back, or side yard
Take down light bowls, empty them of dead bugs, return
Clean out the car (one piece of paper for each car, with the make listed)
wash a car
Read two short stories or one long one to a little sister of your choice
Achieve a goal in Boy Scouts for your Eagle
Organize camping gear better
Polish toaster
Write a letter to a close relative living far away
Plan your Eagle project
Scrub chairs at the table (especially feet get hairy)
organize a drawer
Tidy a shelf that needs it
Clean out fridge
Get out shopvac, clean room, front of fireplace, and track of sliding door
Vac ceiling fans
Start a database for our books and record info on 20 books, Title, Author, ISBN number, genre

This is all stuff my teens can do. I did not put in the two things we do when they are really trouble, which are move the woodpile and clean up the dog doo.