Monday, December 29, 2014

Being A Responsible Citizen, I am

Last night I stayed up until 3:30am catching up on Season 4 of Downton Abbey.  I'm not a big TV watcher, but that is my show.  That and Wheel.

I'm feeling surprisingly good for staying up practically all night long.

Today we are having a nothing day.

We're all in our pj's.  Kids are on Wii and I am dreaming about buffalo check curtains.

You'd be so proud of me.  I did so good this Christmas season with all of the stuff being strewn here and there so the kids could enjoy.  It about did me in, but we made it.

I am in the mood to declutter.  Do I love it?  Do I use it?  If so, it will stay.  If not, it is going.

Maybe it is because January is right around the corner.

Maybe it is because six of us live in a three bedroom home.

Either way, I have the itch to downsize and simplify.

You may think I'm always downsizing.  And I am.

Staying on top of the excess is a constant exercise.

I try to live by a 10 toy mantra.  The kids play better with their things when there is less of it.

We have empty drawers and underneath our bed is clutter free.  That feels really good.

Right now, the thing that is bothering me is my drawers and closet.  These are the hardest for me to tackle.  Probably because when I do a stash and dash before company, all the things that don't have a home and all the things I'm not ready to make decisions on are the things that get crammed here and there.  That is why cleaning them out is the hardest.  It forces me to make a call on if it stays or goes.  And if it stays, where is it's home to be?

But I am in the mood.

In Mid-February I always put a Bed & Breakfast weekend on my calendar.  It is my inspiration to fluff and shine my house during January.  On our B&B weekend we stay home.  The house always looks its best.  I always buy fresh flowers, a new candle, a new magazine or decorating book and fun food.

If you're in the mood to downsize, you should join me!  This week is living room week.

Grab two grocery sacks.  Throw or give away 27 things today.  And then do it again tomorrow.  And the next day.  You'll be so happy with the results as you whittle down your stuff. 

Nothing makes your house look fresher than getting rid of all the stuff.

I promise!

Even empty spaces look better than being filled with stuff that is just Meh.

I'm dealing with an empty space right now.  It's about my ficus tree.  We took it out for the tree and I think we are all liking the empty space of not having it back in the house.  I'm not entirely sure what to do with the wall space, but I'm living with it blank for a bit to see.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Little Planning

If I counted it up right, we've celebrated in one way or the other the last eight evenings.  That is a lot of partying.  Today we are staying in our jammies and I am curled up in my chair with my calendar, cookbooks, and grocery store list.

For me, a big part of traditions are the tastes and smells that you come to expect each year.  Some things we are still tweaking and figuring out and some winners are already established and part of our family culture.

I make notes and add them to my recipes so I remember the small details.

One thing I do during Christmas is buy good coffee from a kitchen store in town.  They grind it in house and it is such a treat on these Christmasy mornings.  Our special coffee usually lasts from Christmas through New Year's.

So this morning I've been browsing my cookbooks and making my grocery lists.  I will end up having three grocery lists for between now and New Year's Eve (a Christmas Eve and Day trip, one in between for fresh bread and veggies, and a New Year's trip).

One thing I'm always sure to add in is extra special treats for the evenings.  Things like hot cocoa, chocolate melt bars, apple dumplin's, snickerdoodles, oyster crackers, ranch dip/fresh veggies/wheat thins, and a cheese ball.  Some of our best memories are snuggling into the living room in the evenings and watching Christmas shows while something good bakes in the oven.

This is probably one of my biggest holiday tips.  Spend some time writing down some menus including fun treats.  Make your shopping lists and go ahead and do your shopping.  Having these things planned makes it easier to settle in for movies, games, and fun around the Christmas tree.  It just takes a small amount of effort and thinking through things like this, but it is so worth it!  Think about who you want to spend time with and create some good memories this year.

(no sticks of butter or jugs of heavy cream were harmed in the publishing of this post)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas Shopping Idea

Today I want to share something with you that we are doing with our kids.  It has been a HUGE hit!

We are doing one on one dates with each child this week to Christmas shop for ideas online.  Here is how it plays out.

We drew names from a hat to see who got to go on which night.  The rule was you have to be happy for the other brothers when it is their night!

When your night comes for a shopping date with mom and dad, you get to pick a special snack and stay up late browsing things online and hanging out with mom and dad all by yourself. 

It has been one of the most fun things we've done with our boys.  Milk shakes, pj's, Christmas tree, making wish lists together, having the special one on one time.  It is so much fun to let them browse and dream.

Some of our favorite sites are Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart, and Fat Brain Toys.

I tried to start a "Family Fun Day Christmas Shopping Day" as a new tradition a couple years ago.  We drug our way through the awfulness of it all two years in a row before we buried that tradition.  We got in one of the biggest fights of our marriage on the way home from "Family Fun Day" and I learned something valuable.  My boys hate shopping!

This tradition is turning out so much better.  No crowds.  No fussing.  Each child gets to think through and look at toys.  When anyone asks what is on their list, we'll have some good ideas.  And most importantly, it has been such a simple, simple way to invest individually in each child.

Tonight our six year old is up to bat and rumor has it he has his sights set on a Chick-fil-A shake for his special treat.  Glory.  His big brothers told him a toy he saw in the Target sale ad was highly toxic so every time he has mentioned what he wants he always says, "Legos, the highly toxic toy, and world peace."  OK, so I made up the very last part.  That was Miss Congeniality.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I'm not hormonal, per se

I don't know if it is my hormones or what but I put the hack on my hair this morning.  And it felt SO GOOD.  Until I took a looksee in the mirror and blowed it out and saw my hack job.  That Twilight Zone music started playing and all I could do was stare with wide eyed horror at the work of my hands.  I'm sorry, but who just up and cuts their hair? 

Living with all boys and a baby whose main word is blah blah blah didn't help either.

Naturally I called up my mom and sister.

By the afternoon I was sitting in a beauty shop watching an uncomfortable amount of my already short hair do fall to the ground.

The good news is I got like three compliments on my flannel shirt.

"Where'd you get that?!"

"My husbands side of the closet."  Actually that is not true.  This summer we were having a yard sale and I kept shopping from our own stuff.  It's like something comes over me when I see how good our stuff looks with a neon dot on it and I have to bring it back home.

So yeah, I'm wearing his shirt and apparently the ladies at the beauty shop liked it.

To top it all off, I am trying to not eat carbs and sugar and all I want in this whole wide world is some nachos from a taco joint our friends from church opened up this year.

So now, not only am I having hormonal issues, but I'm realizing I am an emotional eater because I'm stressed over my hair and think I look weird and only a plate of nachos will make it all better.

Is that rational?

And in all reality, I've been in a poopy mood all week.

I really do think nachos might make it all better.

And maybe an estrogen patch.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Jesse Tree

The idea of having a Jesse Tree during the month of December is a fairly new one to me.  Last year we created our first Jesse Tree by taking a branch from our yard, sticking it in a vase, and hanging an ornament on it each night as we read a passage of Scripture together.  The Jesse Tree is a way to trace the lineage of Jesus.  A family tree.  Our family tree.

Shane made us a new tree for this year complete with a hand-made star on top.  Last year I read The Greatest Gift during Advent and we used the free printable paper ornaments (from the book) for our tree.

I hang the paper ornaments in the kitchen and each night we count down the days until we celebrate the birth of Christ.  Celebrating Advent builds a special anticipation towards Christmas.  Even though this will only be our second year to celebrate Advent, I can't imagine a Christmas season without it.

This link will give you a list of verses to read each evening, along with ideas on how to celebrate Advent, if you are looking for a place to start.

Can you tell her hair is fuzzy in this picture?  Love.  "Happy Advent everyone!"
If you have school aged children, I highly recommend the Jotham's Journey trilogy.  Our family ate this up last year.

Tonight we begin the second book in the triology, Bartholomew's Passage.  Everything in me wants to start Ann Voskamp's new kids Advent book, but I'm trying to exercise self-control and not go into Advent overload. 

Even if you haven't planned anything formal for Advent, I'd highly recommend doing something each evening!  It is not too late.  Light a candle and read a passage together as a family.  Again, this link is a good resource for verses to read each night.

The whole point of Advent is to prepare our hearts for Christmas.

A few candle-lit minutes spent reading scripture each evening reaps huge benefits.

p.s. I use all white candles in my Advent wreath.

p.s.s. I found my Advent wreath a few years ago at Hobby Lobby.  It's just a small non-Adventish wreath that I thought was pretty.  Don't be afraid to put your spin on celebrating.  In my opinion, there is no right or wrong way.  The heart of it is to point our hearts toward Jesus, so He can remain our focus.