25 Days of Christmas--Day Twenty-Six!!!

It's a bonus! Jill Savage offered an extra day of her 25 Days of Giveaways! The question for Day 26: How do you take some time for yourself over the holiday season? One thing I love to do, that I very, very rarely allow myself to do, is to just sit and read! Some time between Christmas and shortly after New Year's (on a day when Mr. B is around to take care of the girls), I love to curl up with a good book and just read, read, read! I'm hoping to make time for that some time over the next week. I have a LOT of books to read...but I'll have to blog about that whole thing later! Stay tuned. :)

25 Days of Christmas--Day Twenty-Five

Here we are at last--Day 25 of the 25 Days of Giveaways! Here's what Jill Savage asks for Day 25: What are your Christmas Day traditions? Well, the girls are usually up very late the night before, so one Christmas Day tradition is sleeping in a bit. I love that tradition. :) When we do get up, we check out our stockings. This year I was a little more generous than last year, I think (last year was the year of scotch tape and glue sticks!); the bigger girls each got a toothbrush, a kazoo, a little Polly Pocket set, and a tiny lotion/bodywash set. They were so pleased with their stockings that I asked them if it was okay if they didn't get any other presents, and they actually said, "Okay!". I'll have to remember that for next year! After stockings, we open the other gifts. The girls give gifts to each other, as well as to Mr. B and me. I really enjoy watching their excitement over the gifts they give. This year, Mr. B and I gave them each a new winter coat--Evie and Eloise's came with matching snowpants--and a hat and mittens set. Evie and Eloise got their very own ukuleles (not toys, but real instruments!), and Audrey got the Fisher Price nativity set. The big girls also got recorders from my sister Molly and her husband, so between the kazoos, ukuleles, and recorders, Christmas Day was a very musical day! Once the gifts are open, I usually begin making the big breakfast, including the traditional blueberry muffins. This year was fun because Molly helped me in the kitchen. The others relaxed, played, and watched White Christmas until breakfast was ready. After breakfast, we typically do some more relaxing, perhaps some cleaning up, the girls take naps, and then we head over to my mom's for Christmas with my family. That's pretty much exactly how things went this year, too! We had a great time at my mom's. I'll probably blog more about Christmas later, but for now I'll ask you: how do you celebrate Christmas Day?

25 Days of Christmas--Day Twenty-Four

Welcome to the home stretch of the 25 Giveaways of Christmas, hosted by Jill Savage! This will be the first of three posts for tonight, as tonight is the deadline for my posts to count as entries for the Hearts at Home conference registration...I'm really hoping to win. :) For Day 24, Jill asked the following question: What does your family do on Christmas Eve? This Christmas Eve was very typical: we attended the candlelight service at church in the early evening, then went to Mr. B's parents' house to celebrate Christmas with his family. One thing that was not typical about the celebration at his parents' house, however, was that Mr. B's brother brought his girlfriend. If you know us, you know what a big deal this is. I may or may not blog about it later, but I will say now that she was very sweet! So, what about you? What's a typical Christmas Eve like in your family? Or what did you do this year?


25 Days of Christmas--Day Twenty-Three

Continuing with the 25 Days of Giveaways, here's Day 23's question: What is your favorite part of the Christmas story? Although the entire story is so amazing, I really love how, when the shepherds have heard the "good news of great joy," and gone to Bethlehem "to see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about," they worship the Child, and then they spread the word about what they have seen, and everyone who hears it is amazed. It is such a good reminder that we are supposed to share the Good News of Christmas, not just go on with life as usual! What's your favorite part of the story?


25 Days of Christmas--Day Twenty-Two

Well, we're nearing the end of the 25 Giveaways of Christmas. I'm having a lot of fun playing along (but I still haven't won anything...oh, well!), and I hope my answers to Jill's questions have been somewhat entertaining or at least informative. Here's Day 22's question: What are you doing during the holiday season to keep your marriage a priority? Or maybe the question is, what will you commit to doing during the next few weeks to invest in your marriage? I don't really have a very good answer...Mr. B and I have not been very deliberate about "scheduling" time together lately. However, between Christmas and New Years, things usually slow way down, and I anticipate several evenings where we can tuck the girls into bed and enjoy a quiet remainder of the evening, probably playing a game or watching a movie. If any of you have any suggestions for keeping marriage a priority, especially during a hectic season, I'm all ears (or, in the case of my blog, "all eyes"!). Mr. B's audit season begins in January, and if you were around, you know that last year's audit season was rough. You also know that I just made a huge understatement! So...any thoughts?


25 Days of Christmas--Day Twenty-One

I just got in from some last-minute Christmas shopping, and I'm almost out of time for my 25 Days of Giveaways post! Here's the question for Day 21: Have you ever taken a fun, creative family picture? Short answer: no! We haven't ever really tried anything fun or creative. :) We're pretty traditional, with the picture of the girls in front of the tree. Maybe next year we'll try something fun, though! How about you? Any creative family picture ideas?


25 Days of Christmas--Days Nineteen and Twenty

I missed my "deadline" yesterday for Day 19 of the 25 Days of Giveaways (I have good reason, though: my sister, Molly, arrived from Texas, and we stayed up late talking!), but I'll go ahead and answer the Day 19 question: What do you do during the holiday break? We don't really do anything, and it's nice! Between Christmas and New Years, we usually don't have very much going on in the evenings (most church activities are on "break," too), so we get some quiet family time. I have to admit that we're a little bit behind on our schoolwork right now, so we'll probably be doing a little catching up next week, too. Hopefully, I can get my office organized again. Overall, it's just a nice time to slow down, catch our breath, and get back on track! And before I miss the deadline for Day 20, too, I better answer that question: What do you do during the holiday season that has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas? I don't know! It feels like everything has to do with the holidays right now. Even Saturday morning, when I took Evie to her dance class, I took advantage of the "free" time to put my Christmas cards together. [Yes, I think I was later than ever with our cards this year...the first tree we bought was rotten and wouldn't stay standing up in the tree stand; after removing the lights and exchanging the tree, we finally got it decorated nearly a week later; however, Audrey had a fever of 103+ for several days and was not up to looking happy for a picture, so I had to wait until Tuesday (and of course I had a coupon for $10 that expired Monday!) to have the girls sit for their traditional picture in front of the Christmas tree; two hours and probably a billion pictures later, I still hadn't come up with the perfect photo, so I had to settle for one where all three were at least happy, even though they were looking in three different directions; I ordered the cards that night, and they arrived Friday...] I guess one thing this month that was not Christmas-related was my sister, Sarah's birthday. We celebrated here last weekend. Happy birthday, Aunt Sisi!


25 Days of Christmas--Day Eighteen

Here we are at Day 18 of the 25 Days of Giveaways, hosted by Jill Savage! I have to admit, I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep up with the posts (and I have missed a couple of days and made them up late), but it's been fun reflecting on the season so far. I do hope to put up a "regular" post one of these days--the girls have been up to all kinds of craziness and cuteness--but for now, here's Day 18: Who does the Christmas shopping in your family? I do! I keep Mr. B informed as I go, and I ask for his input on pretty much everything (even though he usually has little to no input to offer). I really hate going out into the crowds, so I try to shop online as much as possible. As I alluded to in this post, I even buy several small gifts for Mr. B to have the girls give me for Christmas. It sounds a little rotten or selfish, but it really makes life easier for everyone--it spares us time, money, and stress! Does anyone else out there shop for themselves? Who does the Christmas shopping in your families??


25 Days of Christmas--Day Seventeen

Day 17's question in the 25 Days of Giveaways is giving me some trouble. Here's the question: What is your favorite Christmas memory? Seriously? I have to choose one?!? I can't! Here are...several favorites:
  1. The Christmas I was three we went out to California to visit my dad's family. We stayed at my Aunt Dana's house--a big, old Victorian, which probably influenced my love for old houses--and I remember having lots of fun with my older cousins. I got to hear my Grandma Rugh play her ukulele. Gift-wise, I received some owl binoculars that year, as well as my Baby Feels So Real doll, for whom my mom had sewn several outfits and a set of cloth diapers. My cousin, Grant, dressed up as Santa, which, as you already know from my last post, was silly to me; he passed out peanut brittle, and I didn't care for it; but it was still fun being part of the big family celebration that year. When we returned home from that trip, my other grandparents met us and had a little Christmas with us at our house, and my sister and I got the refrigerator for our Holly Hobbie kitchen set. I remember everything that season seeming so wonderful and special.
  2. I remember lots of years just sitting in front of the Christmas tree, staring at the lights, listening to "The Christmas Tapes." My dad had put the cassettes together for our family from many different albums, some of which he had access to from the radio station where he worked (I think?). They truly were the best of all Christmas music...the real stuff! I remember wearing my tap shoes--I was probably four--and standing on what we called "the board" (not sure what it really was--a piece of countertop maybe?--but we kept it under our couch and slid it out to use as a hard surface for writing and such sometimes, and other times for tap dancing!), tap dancing to "The Little Drummer Boy." What's really cool is that in 2002, Daddy put most of "The Christmas Tapes" on CD for each of us. In fact, I'm listening to CD #3 right now! If only my tap shoes still fit...
  3. I think I was in fourth grade the year that my grandparents stayed with us for Christmas, and my grandma got a stomach bug (that's not the good memory). Early in the morning Christmas day, someone asked me to get her some medicine from the downstairs bathroom. I was thrilled at the chance to peek at the tree and any gifts that had appeared since we had gone to bed the night before. As I reached the bottom of the stairs, I was startled to see little Molly, who would have been two, standing in front of the tree. I scolded her and told her to go upstairs, but she didn't move! I told her again, but as I spoke, I realized that it was a doll standing there--a doll the same height and with the same coloring as Molly. It was very exciting all four of us, and we named her Polly. Polly stuck around our house for many years, even after one of her arms fell off and her hair grew quite ratty!
  4. The year after Polly showed up was even more special. Katie and I shared a bedroom, and in the middle of the night we woke up to a noise...it kind of sounded like a bird chirping. We stayed up the rest of the night listening for the noise, speculating what it could be. We already had a guinea pig, and we'd gone through a couple of hamsters, so it seemed unlikely that our parents might get us a bird. When morning finally came, we rushed downstairs and found a wrapped copy paper box (box and lid were wrapped separately). Out of the top of the lid were cut several holes, and poking out of one of the holes was a tiny paw! Our parents had gotten us a kitten! We'd never even dreamed that we'd ever have a cat. She was an adorable calico kitten, and we named her Ramona. In addition to Ramona, we received another life-sized doll that year: this time, a baby doll, probably 6-9 month sized. She came in a pretty Christmas dress, and we had fun dressing her up in real baby clothes. Seriously, I think Sarah was still taking care of Anna when she was in middle school!
  5. When I was in college, I worked at a daycare center in the summers and over my Christmas break. On Christmas Eve one year, I was subbing in the five-year-old room. It had been a gray December, with minimal snow, but when I woke the kids from their nap/rest time and began opening the blinds that day, we all were delighted to see the most beautiful snow falling outside. It was such fun to spend the rest of the afternoon with the kids, as they were so full of joy, wonder, and anticipation. It was difficult driving to and from church for the candlelight service that night, but that Christmas snow made everything seem extra calm, extra bright.

I am leaving out lots of other special memories, mainly because I need to get back to making memories for the here and now! It is so fun to reflect on these precious things, though...Christmas can stir up many difficult and undesirable memories and emotions, but it is good to hold onto the purely lovely ones!


25 Days of Christmas--Day Sixteen

To Santa or not to Santa...that is the question for Day Sixteen of the 25 Giveaways of Christmas: What about you? Santa Claus or no Santa Claus? For us, no Santa. We try to keep Christmas focused on Christ, and sometimes that's hard even without including that right jolly old elf. When I was little, my parents told us right off the bat that there was no Santa. They did tell us not to tell other kids, though, because it might make them sad. I remember one evening my mom's friend, Robin, stopped by with her daughter, Marcie, who was a year older than I. Marcie came in to talk with my sister and me. Our conversation went something like this: Katie: There is no such thing as Santa Claus. Me: Katie! Mommy said you're not supposed to tell people that. It might make them sad. Marcie: Yeah. And it did make me sad. You really hurt my feelings. (She did not, however, look very sad, and I suspect she already had known the truth.) It was a year or two later that my mom and I were walking through the mall, just the two of us. There was Santa, sitting in the middle of the mall, with a line of kids waiting to sit on his lap. I was shocked when my mom asked if I'd like to go sit on his lap! I reminded her that Santa wasn't real. She said maybe it would be fun to pretend, so I got in line. When it was my turn and Santa asked me what I would like for Christmas, I told him I wanted a "Make It and Bake It." (It was this little oven in which you could bake suncatchers. The heat of the light bulb inside the oven melted the little colored crystals you carefully put in the frame of the suncatcher. I had seen the commercial for it numerous times while watching the Smurfs on Saturday mornings, and it looked neat, but I'd never told anyone I actually wanted it.) I hopped down from Santa's lap, he handed me a little candy cane, and that was that. As I enjoyed the candy cane, my mom asked me what I'd said to Santa, so I told her about the Make It and Bake It. That Christmas morning, I was so puzzled when my grandparents gave me the Make It and Bake It. How did they know I wanted it? I looked questioningly at my mom, who responded, "Maybe Santa told them!" And then I realized that she had told them. (Much later, I realized that she had probably even bought it for them to give to me!) So, I probably almost believed in Santa Claus for about four seconds! I'm not sure when--I suppose it was when all four of us girls were definitely old enough for them to be completely certain we knew the real reason for Christmas--but my parents suddenly began giving us presents from "Santa." When we got even older, we started giving them presents from "Santa's Elves." It was fun, but not the focus for us. Anyway, I'm not totally against Santa Claus, but for our family, at least right now, we do not have Santa. What about you? Oh, and by the way, I still have that Make It and Bake It!


25 Days of Christmas--Day Fifteen

Welcome back for Day 15 of the 25 Giveaways of Christmas! We've talked about movies, music, decorations, trees, cards, and food...so what's left?!? Gifts! Specifically, gift wrapping. Here's Jill's question: What gift wrapping traditions does your family have? Let's see...we are definitely wrapped-gift people (as opposed to gift bags). I do most of the wrapping, although the girls help with all of the gifts they each give to others (and it is for that reason that I always stock up on scotch tape!). I read about some moms who use a different wrapping paper print or color for each of their kids. I think it's kind of fun to open gifts wrapped in all different types of paper, though. Plus, I'm not sure I'm that organized. Plus, as I mentioned before, we don't really give our kids that many gifts anyway, so I'm not sure it would mean much to anyone if I tried to do this. When I was growing up, the first presents under the tree each year were "the white presents": a present for each of us from our parents, wrapped in white tissue paper, tied with pretty red plaid ribbon and a candy cane attached at the bow. The presents had our names written in my mom's fancy handwriting with a red Sharpie. When we were older, she started tying a special ornament to each gift, too, so I have quite a collection of "white present" ornaments. My mom still continues to do white presents for us, and she has added the tradition of them always being something from IKEA. Do you have any gift wrapping traditions you'd like to share? Leave me a comment!


25 Days of Christmas--Days Thirteen and Fourteen

Yesterday was an unbelievably long day...I woke up at 4:30 a.m., was gone all day, and finally returned home after midnight. Needless to say, I missed my 25 Days of Giveaways post for Day 13. I'll go ahead and answer Jill Savage's question, even though it won't count for the fun drawing. Here's Day 13's question: Do you and your spouse have any "gift giving" traditions for the two of you? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Nope. Sometimes we get each other biggish things, sometimes small, sometimes practically nothing at all. Last year, we remodeled our bathroom in the fall and decided to consider that our gift to one another. One thing I started doing a few years ago, though, is buying myself small gifts for Mr. B to have the girls give me. Because he doesn't have to come up with any ideas or take the kids out shopping, it makes things much less stressful for him, and I'm always very happy with my little presents. I also can watch prices and get good deals, which saves us money over the run-out-Christmas-Eve-and-try-to-find-something-nice-for-Mom routine we had going for a while there. Okay, that was easy! On to day 14: So what food does your family prepare on Christmas that is a part of a long tradition? I grew up having blueberry muffins for breakfast Christmas morning. As we came up on our first Christmas after we were married, I told Mr. B, "My family always has blueberry muffins on Christmas morning." He responded, "Well, my mom always makes a huge breakfast with eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes..." To this day, I'm not sure whether he was serious, or if he was just trying to start a new tradition, but I make a really big breakfast that includes blueberry muffins. Here we are last year, eating our traditional breakfast:


25 Days of Christmas--Day Twelve

It's getting late, but I'm going to quickly squeeze in a post for Day 12 of the 25 Days of Giveaways. Here's Day 12's topic: What Christmas card traditions do you have? We send Christmas cards each year. Since Evie was born, we've sent photo cards. We use a photo of the girls in front of the tree; at least one of the girls sits in a rocking chair we have from my childhood. I don't do Christmas letters...I am intimidated by the thought of writing one...afraid of leaving out an important event, or gushing too much about how wonderful my kids are, or boring everyone to tears. Besides, I have a blog, which is kind of like my chance to do all of those things anyway, all year long! The girls really got into the Christmas cards we received from others last year, particularly photo cards. It is fun for them to put faces with names of far-away friends and relatives. Do any of you have any fun card traditions? Leave me a comment and tell me all about them!


25 Days of Christmas--Day Eleven

Today's official question in Jill Savage's 25 Days of Giveaways: What is your favorite Christmas movie? As I already alluded to in this post, I do love a good Christmas movie. Among my top favorites (I used to call them my "must sees," but I'm letting them go, remember?!?) are It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street (both the classic and the remake), and White Christmas. I used to enjoy the Charlie Brown Christmas special when I was a kid, but I hadn't seen it for years until last year, when we let the girls watch it for the first time. They loved it, and they frequently request that we read the book of the movie to them, so hopefully we'll get an opportunity to watch that one again this year (but if not, it's okay, because I'm letting it go!). One Christmas movie I do not like is A Christmas Story. I know there are tons of people who consider it a classic, and if you are one of them, I do not mean to offend. But I just don't get it! What's even worse is that as a kid, Mr. B looked an awful lot like Ralphie. Even in high school, kids would come to school the day after that goofy movie aired, saying, "I saw you on T.V. last night!". Weird. All I can think of is that scene where the mother is letting both boys eat like pigs (literally, I think, right?!?), and she just sits there cracking up. And that leg lamp. Like I said, I just don't get it! Do you have any favorite--or not so favorite--Christmas movies??? Please share!


25 Days of Christmas--Day Ten

Hopefully by now, you know the drill! Here's Jill Savage's question for Day Ten: What gift giving traditions do you have for your kids? I'm not sure we really have any real traditions for gift giving, except that we really don't give that much to our kids! Typically, we give them two gifts each, but there's nothing special about the number two. Last year, Evie and Eloise each got bed sheets (we were planning to get them bunkbeds, but not for Christmas). My sister and I made a whole bunch of silly sock puppets, and I found a small puppet theater, so that was the second gift for both girls to share. Two years ago, I made hooded towels for each of them, and a big wooden dollhouse was their second gift to share. We do fill stockings, but with pretty simple stuff. Last year, I think glue sticks were the biggest hit from the stockings; they also love getting toothbrushes in their stockings! It's been fun to see the girls get excited about giving gifts! A couple of years ago, my sister helped Evie make ornaments for Mr. B and me. They wrapped them, and Evie brought them home and put them under our tree. Christmas morning, there was a big red wagon under the tree, with two large gifts (one for each of the girls) inside. Evie ran right past the wagon and gifts to grab the box she'd wrapped for us; she was so excited to give us the ornaments she'd made that she didn't even notice the gifts for her! I've heard of several moms who give each of their children an ornament each year, and I think we are going to start that tradition this year. I feel a little bad for Evie, who will be missing ornaments from her first six Christmases, but I figure it's better to jump in where we are than to never start the tradition! Do any of you have any good gift-giving traditions to share?


25 Days of Christmas--Day Nine

Hello, folks, and welcome back for Day Nine of Jill Savage's 25 Days of Giveaways. Here's Jill's question for Day Nine: What homemade gifts are your favorite to give or receive? I do try to make gifts sometimes...some times more successfully than others! We usually put together tins or plates of cookies for friends and neighbors. I've also made different "gifts in a jar," with cookie, brownie, and soup mixes. I've made aprons for a couple of my sisters, my mom, and my mother-in-law. I've also created photo calendars for my mother-in-law and brother-in-law, and a coupon book for Mr. B. I won't say what homemade gifts the girls and I have been working on this year, just in case a gift recipient is reading this post, but we do have a couple of projects in progress! I do love receiving homemade gifts. Last year, a friend gave me a little package of lovely cards she had created (she's so talented!). I have a "trivet" (actually, a painted six-inch tile) a former student once gave me. My sister, Molly, has painted me a couple of beautiful paintings (I still need to frame them!). Do you have any good homemade gift ideas? How about any homemade gifts you like to receive?


25 Days of Christmas--Day Eight

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas," so it's probably time for me to "haul out the holly, put up the tree before my spirit falls again." "The weather outside is frightful," but the girls keep asking to go on a "sleigh ride," or at least "walking in a winter wonderland." Yes, this is a corny way to introduce Day Eight of Jill Savage's 25 Days of Giveaways. Here's Jill's question: What is your favorite Christmas song? It is so hard to choose just one! I love the Christmas hymns, particularly "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Silent Night," and "O Holy Night." I remember learning "O Little Town" at church when I was in first grade. We were supposed to sing it for a Christmas service, but I got the flu and didn't get to sing...I was crushed! "Silent Night" has always been a special one to me. I might not have this right, but I think it was my Grandma Rugh's favorite Christmas song; either way it always reminds me of her (plus, her birthday was Christmas Eve!). We also sing "Silent Night" at our candlelight service at church every year once every candle has been lit...for a number of years, my sisters and I even got to lead the singing of "Silent Night." "O Holy Night" is such a beautiful song. I grew up listening to Evie's (the singer, not my daughter, although the singer was very much an inspiration for my daughter's name!) recording of the song. My sister, Katie, also sings it (and pretty much everything else) beautifully. There are also so many good, more contemporary Christmas songs! Right now, I think of Chris Rice's "Welcome to Our World." Several lines of the song are so beautiful: Fragile finger sent to heal us, Tender brow prepared for thorns, Tiny heart Whose blood will save us, Unto us is born, Unto us is born. So wrap our injured flesh around You, Breathe our air and walk our sod, Rob our sin and make us holy, Perfect Son of God, Perfect Son of God. Welcome to our world. I also love the words to "One King," sung by Point of Grace: One king held the frankincense, One king held the myrrh, One king held the purest gold, One King held the hope of the world." I guess the best answer to the question "What is your favorite Christmas song?" is probably simply yes, for me! I like 'em all. Or, at least, most of them!


25 Days of Christmas--Day Seven

Here we are at Day 7 of Jill Savage's 25 Days of Giveaways. For Day 7, Jill talks about giving gifts that give back, listing several examples. The Day 7 question: What about you...have you ever given or received a gift that gives back? Do you have any to add to our list? Since last year, Evie's Sunday school class has been collecting money to purchase animals for families, last year in China, and this year in Africa. Last year, I believe they began by raising money for a pig, then they moved on to chickens, a duck, and bags of seed. It's been very cool watching her get excited about doing extra jobs around the house to earn money to put toward the animals for these family. Then yesterday I checked out Angie Smith's blog, Bring the Rain, and she was promoting a ministry called Sweet Sleep. Sweet Sleep provides beds, bedding, and Bibles to orphans and abandoned children all around the world, and they are gearing up for a big trip to Uganda, where they hope to provide beds and Bibles to 450 children! You can donate money for beds ($88), mosquito nets ($8), mattresses ($50), bedding ($30), and Bibles ($10). Isn't that an awesome gift that gives back???


25 Days of Christmas--Day Six

For the 6th day of her 25 Days of Giveaways, Jill Savage shared a special version of I Corinthians 13, and then encouraged us to add our own line. Here's the poem: I Corinthians 13: Christmas Style by Sharon Jaynes If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny bells, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator. If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook. If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing. If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata, but do not focus on Christ; I have missed the point. Love stops the cooking to hug the child Love sets aside decorating to kiss the husband. Love is kind, though harried and tired, Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens. Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way. Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can't. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. Video games will break; pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust. But giving the gift of love will endure. Jill's question: What about you? What would you add to personalize this for you? My answer: If I spend hours baking Christmas goodies, but won't break down and let my kids enjoy a few as a special treat because it will spoil their dinner or make them too crazy (and trust me--it will!), I am more worried about breaking rules than making memories.


25 Days of Christmas--Day Five

Welcome to the 25 Days of Giveaways, hosted by Jill Savage! I'm really having fun responding to Jill's daily questions (and it'll be even more fun if I win something!). Day five's question: What's your easiest favorite holiday treat? We make a lot of goodies at Christmas, but one of the easiest--and tastiest--are Oreo truffles. Stick a block of softened cream cheese and a package of somewhat-broken-up Oreos (just the regular size package) into a food processor and process until well combined. With your hands, form the mixture into small balls. Dip balls into melted white chocolate and place on waxed paper. Drizzle with melted semi-sweet chocolate. Chill, then enjoy! I'm always looking for quick, yummy treats to whip up, so feel free to leave ideas in my comments. And, hey--if you'd like a bunch more ideas (and the chance to win something!), hop on over to Jill's blog.


25 Days of Christmas--Days Three and Four

Life's been crazy (hmm...it's December...go figure!), and I missed blogging on Day Three of the 25 Days of Giveaways, but I'll go ahead and make up for it in this post (even though it won't count as an entry for the Day 3 prize). Day Three's question: How does your personality show up in your Christmas tree? Our Christmas tree is usually a bit on the scrappy side, and so am I. I'm kind of kidding, but not really! We use the bigger, colorful light bulbs (C7, maybe?) like I grew up with, so I guess that shows my bent toward tradition and even nostalgia. I mentioned before that we have ornaments from many places we've been, as well as many we've received as gifts, so I guess they reflect the value I place on people and experiences. But mostly, it's kind of scrappy, like me. :) Okay, on to Day Four! What are you choosing to let go of to simplify Christmas this year? I love this question. I was just thinking about this the other day, and I decided that--as silly as it may seem--I am going to give up Christmas movies. I realized that each December, I have a desire--an expectation, even--to see a small handfull of Christmas movies: It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street (I love both the classic black-and-white and the newer remake), and White Christmas. Each year, I wait for evenings when Mr. B and I are both home, not busy, not exhausted...and when Christmas comes and I have not yet seen a single Christmas movie, I get annoyed. Seriously! Isn't that dumb? So this year, I'm giving up my Christmas movies, or at least the need to see them. I will not get upset with anyone when the season passes by and I have not had my fill of George Bailey or Kris Kringle, and this Christmas will be that much sweeter because I am eliminating something that nearly always creates frustration. Jill Savage talked about singing "Let it go, let it go, let it go!". What are you going to let go this year?


25 Days of Christmas--Day Two

In case you missed yesterday's post, I've decided to join Jill Savage for her 25 Days of Christmas Giveaways! I forgot to explain on "Day One," though, that Jill is giving away a separate prize each day, but all entries qualify for a free Hearts at Home conference registration! I've been to four Hearts conferences; they are amazing, and I think it would be even more amazing to go for FREE. Anyway, on to today's topic: Random acts of Christmas Kindness...Have you ever been the recipient of someone else's random act of kindness? Have you been prompted to bless someone in a special way? I've definitely been the recipient of random acts of kindness...I can think of numerous times that friends have picked up my kids so I could work on a project at home without the extra little "helping" hands. When we've had babies, friends have brought meals so I didn't have to worry about anything but loving on the baby. Probably some of the most meaningful random acts of kindness, though, are cards or notes of encouragement I've received from friends at different times. The thought and time it takes to sit down, write a note, and then actually mail it, when an e-mail or even e-card would be so much quicker, make these special notes valuable blessings to me. What about you? Have you received (or given) any random acts of kindness? Leave me a comment! Or, better yet, head on over to Jill Savage's blog and leave her a comment--you could win!


25 Days of Christmas--Day One

I haven't even blogged about Thanksgiving yet, nor about Eloise's fourth birthday party (I think I'm still recovering from all the festivities!). However, those things will have to wait, because I love to win stuff, and Hearts at Home's Jill Savage is hosting a 25 Days of Christmas Giveaway, and I get more chances to win if I blog about her daily topics. That's right, folks: because of my competitive nature, I may actually blog 25 days in a row. Or not. We'll see how it goes! So here's the first day's topic: What traditions do you and your family have for decorating for Christmas? When it's time to decorate the tree, we pop some popcorn, turn up the Christmas music, and get to work! It's always fun to unwrap each ornament and remember where or from whom we got it. The first year Mr. B and I were married, I made a bunch of ornaments. We've also tried to purchase an ornament each place to which we've travelled. There are ornaments from my former students. We have special ornaments from family and friends. A couple of years ago, Evie began making up her own "history" of different ornaments so that she could play along with the game. The girls definitely enjoy hanging the ornaments, but they probably love munching on popcorn best!


What about you? Any special holiday decorating traditions?


filling in some gaps

Well, here I am again after another nearly-two-week hiatus from the ol' blog. I'm sitting here with a literal mound of paperwork (and stickers, packages of balloons, two spools of thread, a roll of masking tape, a pacifier, three suckers, and a Target bag of things to return to the store) surrounding my laptop on my desk. I probably shouldn't even be taking the time to blog right now, but I thought I'd post a few odds and ends, filling in some of the gaps that I seem to leave when I fail to blog for long stretches of time.
I can't remember if I ever mentioned that Eloise is taking ballet class this fall, but, in case I did fail to mention it, Eloise is taking ballet class this fall. She loves it! She loves interacting with her teacher and classmates, and she adores wearing leotards. Here are a few photos from her first day of class back in September:

Eloise is in white.

Getting some help with her jumping (she's already gotten much better!)...

They learned the YMCA (or Y-C-M-A, depending on whose version you're singing...)!

The day before we left for Texas last month, I took the "big girls" for haircuts. Evie decided to cut off 10 inches of her hair and donate it to Locks of Love. I had donated my hair a few months ago, and I think she really loved the idea. So, we went from this:

to this:

Cute picture, huh? It was "drawn" in one of those photo booth things!

I was nervous about it being so short, but I think it's adorable. It really suits her, and she loves it!

We don't do Halloween in our family; neither Mr. B nor I grew up celebrating it, so it feels pretty normal to us to just ignore the holiday. Our friends from across the street are not Halloween people, either; they've always gone to Chuck E. Cheese that night. We've been joining them in their tradition for the last several years, and I can tell you that Chuck E. Cheese is very quiet on October 31st when most of the rest of the world is out trick-or-treating! Here are a few photos:

The whole gang: some of those "kids" are not very little anymore, but they still love their annual Chuck E. Cheese visit!

Crammed in the climbing tubes!

Taking a spin with Chuck E.

So, nothing terribly thrilling in this post, but consider yourself a little more "caught up" on our ever-exciting lives. Doesn't it feel good?


the tickle in my tummy

We were having a rough morning the other day, and we hadn't even had breakfast yet. I woke up with a tickle in my throat, unsure whether or not it was going to turn into a full-blown sore throat. I heard Evie and Eloise squabbling about something, and Evie switched into her bossy voice and said, "You just lost Cinderella." (The Cinderella doll belongs to Evie, and sometimes she sort of lords it over Eloise, taking away the privilege of playing with the doll if Eloise won't cooperate with Evie's plans or ideas.) Mr. B and I quickly jumped in and told Evie she couldn't play with any dolls or the dollhouse all day. This is a major punishment in our house. Anyway, Mr. B left for work, and I was getting breakfast ready for the girls. Evie began telling Eloise that the Little People (Fisher Price) are not dolls. I wasn't sure the point of the conversation, but I continued to listen. Evie continued to explain that Little People are not dolls, because they are fat, and Eloise echoed that statement. I quickly explained that Little People really are dolls, that they are not fat (they just have super short legs), and that calling people or things fat is unkind and can be hurtful. Breakfast was ready, so I brought it to the table, and we bowed our heads to pray. This was Eloise's prayer:

Dear Father, Thank you for the wonderful day. And help us to be kind and show others how to be kind. And Evie lost dolls for the whole life. And we were talking about Little People. And they are not fat. In Jesus' Name, Amen

I definitely had to stifle a laugh. But then I suddenly realized why Evie was insisting that Little People were not dolls: she wanted to play Little People, even though she'd lost dolls and dollhouse for the day. I was soft, and I let them play Little People off and on for the rest of the day. Eloise had another cute prayer at lunch time:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Lord, please be with all the people in the whole...the whole...the whole...states. All the states...Because some of the people in the states are sick. And my mom has a tickle in her tummy.


So, the tickle was in my throat, rather than in my tummy, but I thought it was sweet of her to pray for me nonetheless. If I had a Cinderella doll, I'd let her play with it.


canner kids and other adventures in Texas

So, we've been home from our trip for almost a week, and I'm just now sitting down to blog about it!
We really did have a great time visiting Matt and Molly. Saturday, we drove out to Caddo Lake. I guess there's a whole Cyprus forest growing in the middle of the lake, all hung with Spanish moss and everything, and it's amazing. They had taken Matt's folks on a boat tour of the lake when they had visited a few weeks prior to our visit, and they thought we might like it. When we arrived, however, we discovered that everything around the lake was flooded from all the rain they've been having down there, and some of the "houses" for the boat tours were totally under water. Most of the docks were covered. Basically, there was too much water for boats.
This picture is of a parking lot. You can kind of see an information sign a ways out, probably about two-thirds covered with water.
So, instead instead of taking a boat tour of the lake, we hiked a trail right there in the state park, and it was a fun little adventure.
We all used bug spray, but somehow we all still got bitten. Poor Eloise had it the worst: her little eye was nearly swollen shut the next morning!
The park also had a nice playground area where we sat and enjoyed some snacks and, of course, played. Evie and Eloise impressed me with their fearless trips down a rather old, very long metal slide.
Sunday, we visited Fellowship Bible Church, where Matt and Molly have been attending. Molly even played cello with the praise team during the service! While we were in "big church," all three girls went to their separate classes/nursery. After church, I was asking Evie how Children's Church went (we call it Children's Church where we attend), but then I tried to remember I'd heard it called when I'd dropped her off...finally, I remembered: Kinder Kids!
So, I restated my question, "How was Kinder Kids?"
She looked at me like I was nuts. "It wasn't Kinder Kids!"
Me: "Yeah, honey, I think that's what it was called."
Evie: "No. Our teacher told us what it was called. It was...it was...CANNER Kids."
Me: "Canner Kids? Like, did you work in a cannery?" (Yes, I am silly and slightly sarcastic with my kids a lot.)
Evie: "For real, Mom. The teacher said it was called Canner Kids."
And then it dawned on me. We were in TEXAS. Of course the lady told her it was called Canner Kids. That's exactly how an East-Texan would sound, pronouncing Kinder Kids. Molly and I had a good laugh about it, but Evie asked me not to talk about it anymore. So I'm not. I'm just typing.*
Sunday night, we had a bonfire at Stonehouse, where Matt and Molly live and serve as house parents for people who come to serve at Missionary Tech in a somewhat short-term capacity (I think?). We roasted hot dogs and s'mores. The girls call marshmallows "marsh-a-moles," and when they roast one, they say they "marsh a marsh-a-mole." We even had some live music--Molly played guitar, and their friend, Joel, played mandolin. Except for more blasted mosquitoes, it was great!
Monday morning, we woke up (at Stonehouse--we slept there Saturday night) to a birthday party! Molly wanted to celebrate all three girls' birthdays, because they had been gone for Audrey and Evie's birthdays, and Eloise's is coming up quickly. They had filled the hallway outside our bedroom with balloons.
Molly made muffins with candles in them, and yummy French toast. There were presents for all three girls: Evie and Eloise got homemade paper dolls (so, so cute!), sparkly batons with streamers, cowboy hats, feather boas, jump ropes, and a neat book; Audrey got a stuffed dog, some hair clips, and a cloth book with clear plastic windows for photos, and Molly inserted pictures she printed off my blog.
Everything was delightful, and the girls were so excited! As part of the party, Molly also tuned their ukulele to a major chord and let the girls take turns playing it.
Oh my...what fun!!! There were even a couple of party games with prizes!
Once we finally finished partying, we headed over to Missionary Tech to see the building and meet some of the team. Unfortunately, we arrived just as they were calling people in for chapel, so we really didn't get to meet very many people (although, the ones we did meet were very nice!), but we did get to tour the building, in its present, in-the-middle-of-remodeling state, and it's going to be great.
From Tech, we headed to a nearby town to visit an oil museum. Of course, when we arrived, we discovered that the oil museum is closed on Mondays, so we just peeked in some windows and piled back into the van. I had it in my head that one must eat some good Mexican food while visiting Texas, so we took Molly out to lunch and did, indeed, enjoy some good Mexican food.
It was hard to hit the road for Missouri after lunch--Molly and I had a teary goodbye--but I just keep reminding myself that Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and she and Matt will be here! Of course, thinking of Thanksgiving also makes me think of all the things I need to do before then, so I should get off the computer. I'll post later about the rest of our trip!
*Seriously, while I was working on this post, Evie came up alongside me and said, "Mom! Why are you typing about Canner Kids?!?" She proceeded to read that whole section aloud, including the part that said, "...but Evie asked me not to talk about it anymore. So I'm not. I'm just typing." Let's just say, she was not amused. But I was!


don't mess with Texas...

...or something like that! We are in Texas right now, visiting my sister and her husband. We left home Wednesday night and drove non-stop until we got here. Well, non-stop except for two stops to fill up with gas. And except for three potty breaks. The girls did great in the car. They all fell asleep right when we hit the road. It was a little disconcerting when Audrey woke up at 2 a.m., chattering and laughing away. Despite my numerous attempts to lull her back to sleep, she remained awake until about 5 a.m. She slept quite a bit of the remainder of the drive, though, so I think she probably came out close to even. We were slowed down a bit by some pretty major rain, but at long last, we arrived. It's been so good to see my sister; the girls have really missed their Aunt Molly! Tonight was a big event for the missions organization with which they are serving--the 40th anniversary--so everyone has been very busy preparing for that, as well as board meetings and such things, but we look forward to a full weekend with them both! It seems like with every other thing that happens with the girls, Molly turns to me and says, "Oh, you have to put that in the blog!". She is motivating me to become a little better devoted to keeping up with this thing...so we'll see if it sticks. One thing I don't think I've mentioned at all here is that Audrey is a toddler. She is quite proud of her newish ambulation ability, and she does not get discouraged when she falls (she has a number of bruises on her little head, though!). I had forgotten how quickly a new walker develops speed...one day she's wobbling around, and the next day she's running from the waiting area into Eloise's dance class before I even realize what has happened! My camera is still giving me fits, and I haven't taken the time to force it into submission so I can get a good walking photo or two, but perhaps tomorrow while we're enjoying the Lone Star State and two awesome people who live there. Until then, bye y'all!


mrs. murphy's * cheesy chowder

This recipe is a slightly altered from one in the low-carb menu plan I follow (and it even has potatoes in it--go figure!). I made it a few weeks ago and YUM. So good. The only thing I'm changing for next time is doubling the recipe because my girls couldn't get enough of it, so I barely got a single portion! So, here you go! If you live near me, I imagine you could use something to warm you up right about now, and this recipe is easy and delicious!
Cheesy Chowder
(Serves 4)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 14.5 oz can low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cooked
2/3 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups low fat Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup turkey ham, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
In a large saucepan, melt the butter; add onion and garlic; saute until onion is translucent. Combine 1 tablespoon of the chicken broth and the flour and stir into a think paste; set aside. Add the remaining broth and the potatoes to the onion mixture in the saucepan; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for five minutes; add flour/broth mixture and cook for an additional five minutes, stirring frequently. Add milk and salt and pepper to taste; cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until mixture thickens. Gradually stir in cheese; reduce heat to low; stir until cheese melts; add ham and heat through.
*Does anyone know that song? "Mrs. Murphy's Chowder"? Mr. B does...and a bunch of kids to whom I used to teach music, who aren't really kids any more...


our little party on the prairie

Before I embark upon this long-overdue post about Evie's birthday party last month, I thought I'd update you on all things flu-related. Evie and Eloise have both turned the corner and are feeling much better. Unfortunately, Mr. B woke up this morning not feeling well; although he never did throw up, he had some of the other symptoms, so he retreated to bed where he slept the day away. I, on the other hand, spent a lot of the day washing sheets, towels, pajamas, and rags, and disinfecting the house from top to bottom. It certainly feels good to be this clean, but I'm exhausted all over again! Thankfully, Audrey has avoided everything so far (except for her herpangina thing, which seems to be disappearing slowly but surely).
But onto happier things...like parties!
Evie and I had a good time planning her first-ever friend party. Evie allowed my dad to attend, but mostly because he was our event photographer (so thanks, Dad, for the great photos!).
As the guests arrived, we gave sunbonnets (made out of wallpaper) and pinafores to the girls who wanted to wear them, and we had a brown paper "farmer's hat" for our sole boy guest. Then we had everyone sit on a quilt to make butter (shaking cream in a canning jar) while I read a couple of the "Little House" picture books aloud. It took a while, but we finally got a good chunk of butter in the jar, which we later tasted on a biscuit.
After the "churning," it was time to do laundry.
We had each child wash one of Pa's handkerchiefs (bandannas) at the washboard and then hang it up to dry.
[I've never seen laundry seem so fun!]
Next, we made simple corncob dolls. I'm pretty sure Laura Ingalls didn't draw a face on her corncob doll with a Sharpie or Marks-a-Lot marker, but they still were fairly authentic-looking.
Everyone had a blast when Mr. B started up a rousing game of "Blind Man's Bluff."
I don't think any of the kids had ever run a three-legged race before...
it was definitely a challenge for most of them, but everyone was a great sport!
Everyone was so thirsty after the race that we headed inside for some lemonade--and the cake and ice cream. The cake was a log home. When Eloise first saw it, she said, "Mom, are those hot dog logs?" Interesting concept, but no: everything was icing...big globs of very heavy icing...so heavy that some of the logs kept trying to roll right off the cake...
and the chimney was definitely bowed...
but it worked!
We lit the candles and sang to the birthday girl.
Would you believe it took her many, many tries to get any candles out? Seriously...hasn't her musician mother taught her anything about air support yet?!? (She was so cute trying, though!)
It appeared that the cake was every bit as yummy as it should have been, considering it was covered in a double recipe of chocolate buttercream!
Evie received tons of wonderful gifts. [We're still working on the thank you notes...please don't talk to me about this.] Once the gifts were opened and the cake had settled enough to induce a massive sugar high, Mr. B attempted to lead them in one more game involving balloons...instead, the kids decided to play their own game...I think it was called LET'S GO CRAZY!!! Just before the party ended, we gathered the kids for a group photo. Much to my delight, each and every girl (except Evie) decided to wear a sunbonnet and pinafore for the picture, and Tristan agreed to hold his hat.

Evie definitely had a great time, and I think everyone else did, too.



A couple of days ago I noticed a little white bump on the tip of Audrey's tongue. At first I thought it was just a piece of food, but she never seemed to swallow it, and it was there all day, even after a record five-hour afternoon nap. Yesterday, the bump had spread (or multiplied, I'm not sure which!), and when she failed to finish her beloved banana at breakfast--she normally inhales it!--I suspected something was wrong. My suspicions were confirmed when, while I was "doing school" with the bigger girls, Audrey laid down on the floor and fell fast asleep. I called her doctor and took the only available appointment, which was at 4:15 that afternoon. I cannot tell you how excited I was to sit in the doctor's office at the end of the day, at the end of the week, especially after waiting for two hours to be seen for our 10 am appointment (one-year and six-year checkups for Audrey and Evie) on Tuesday (which, of course, I was convinced was probably where Audrey picked up whatever was ailing her). Anyway, we went to the appointment, and much to my delight, we only had to wait a half hour. The doctor looked her over and determined she has hand, foot, and mouth disease, minus the hand and foot (I think she called it "herpangina"?). Basically, we can just give her pain relievers, push the fluids, make sure she gets plenty of rest, and keep her away from other kids until the blisters are gone. The "keep her away from other kids" thing meant she couldn't go to small group with us last night, so I stayed home with her and Evie--who needed to go to bed on time or even early, if you get my drift!--and Mr. B and Eloise headed to small group. I caught myself falling asleep while reading to Evie, and again while praying with her, but after tucking in the girls, I decided to call my sister, with whom I hadn't really talked for quite awhile. She and I chatted for a more than a couple of hours, and Mr. B and Eloise came home while I was still on the phone. When we finally got off the phone, I went in to talk with Mr. B about the evening, and suddenly I didn't feel well. Within about five minutes, I was vomiting. It was so bizarre, because I seriously had felt fine while talking with Molly (just tired, but that's normal). I continued to be sick pretty much all night long with what is definitely the worst flu I've had in years. (Of course, I haven't even had the stomach flu for almost three years, but this truly was terrible. Yuck.) I'm doing better now, although I can tell I'm very dehydrated. Mr. B has been a good sport: he ran out fairly early this morning to get some gatorade to help replace my electrolytes, and he took Evie to her dance class. However, when they returned from dance, Evie announced that her stomach hurt, and she's been throwing up for the last couple of hours. Eloise has diarrhea. We're a regular three-ring circus around here... I have two prayers right now. First, I pray that Audrey doesn't get the stomach thing. It's so heartbreaking when little ones get it, and it's also so messy (I know, that's very selfish!). Secondly, I pray that Mr. B doesn't get it either. He doesn't handle being sick very well, and I don't handle him not handling being sick very well, very well. I have hope, though, since he is the only one in the household who's had a flu shot! Does anyone know how long it takes for those to be effective (assuming, of course, that they guessed right on the strain of flu for which they're immunizing this year)? He had the shot on Tuesday...hmmm...I hope it works!



The Monday after Audrey's birthday party, we started homeschooling! I felt like I should commemorate the day with a "first day of school" photo in front of the house...it just seemed so first-day-of-schoolish. So I had Evie and Eloise stand on the porch and pose for a picture, but my camera wouldn't take the picture; it just kept shutting off. Even though I took it right from the charger, where it had been "charging" overnight, it kept saying the battery was dead. After five or so attempts, resetting the date and time each time, and monkeying with the clear packing tape I've been using to hold the battery compartment closed (have I ever mentioned that I could really use a new camera?), I finally gave up and sent the girls inside.
We tackled our studies with much gusto. Or something. Both Evie and Eloise were excited to get started, and they loved the little "schoolroom" I had set up the night before. Audrey hung out in her pack-n-play right by us for quite a while, playing with a bunch of the new toys she'd received from her party.
At the end of the day, before we sat down to dinner, I decided to try taking a picture one more time, and it worked!
Evie and Eloise's first day of Kindergarten and preschool
She kept insisting on striking different poses...

Yes, she wore this all day. No, I will never admit to being glad that she wasn't actually leaving the house like this...

We've been going strong for four weeks now, and we're still enjoying it. Each day is a little different, depending on what other activities we have (dance classes, piano lessons, storytime at the library, and homeschool gym and swim class), but we're in a routine, and we're learning a lot! I was a little bit surprised by how much material is considered "Kindergarten"--some things I don't remember learning until 3rd or 4th grade!--but Evie is soaking it all up, and Eloise is, too, actually! (The other day Eloise asked me if I noticed the simile in the book we were reading...probably not a question uttered by most three year olds, I'd wager...)