Thursday, December 31

Happy New Year!!!

Barb has a New Year's Eve tradition that she has been doing since her kids were very young. I love this idea and wanted to share....

Make your table festive for New Year's Eve or New Year's Day by adding the following:

CANDY... for sweet adventures in the New Year!

AN APPLE... for a New Year of smiles!

COAL... for love and warmth throughout the New Year!

PEANUTS (in the shell!)...a New Year of surprises!

Scatter some of the items around the table, putting an apple on each plate. A quick note written on the computer could sit beside each place setting to explain your wishes for each of your loved ones.

Simple, but it works to stimulate a discussion for everyone's dreams for the New Year.

Have a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30

Remembering 2009

Are you ready for this year to end? It seems like everyone I talk to says they can't believe it's the New Year again. Where did the time go?

I've found about the best way to track my year is by reviewing the books I've read. I keep a notebook and I record a brief summary of the books I read. I hate to admit this, but as I looked through my notebook today, there were books I read that I forgot all about. That means I don't remember too much about what is inside of them either:) Still, I am glad I read the books I did. In my notebook I fill out a quick synopsis of each book:

Name of book:
Author:
Number of pages in book:
Number of pages I read: (most the time I finish a book, but if it's not really speaking to me, I just record the number of pages I do read. It helps me to know if I should recommend a book, etc.)
Where did I hear about the book:
Premise of book:
Did it meet my expectations:
Would I recommend it to other women:
Why or why not:
What did I learn and hope to remember:


In 2009 I read 2 of John Ortberg's books, "When the Game is Over, it all goes Back in the Box" and Everybody's Normal till you get to Know Them". Both good books, easy reading, alot of good stuff. Highly recommend them.

I read 2 books by Margaret Feinberg. She is a popular author for women. "The Organic God" tells of her journey to see God's beauty daily. She asks, "What do you love about Jesus?" That is her way to open up conversations with other women. She maintains that sharing one's faith is a matter of connection, not coercion.
Her other book, "The Sacred Echo" is about prayer.

I recommend any of these 4 books if you are looking for inspiration and growth of your soul in 2010.

I loved reading to my kids when they were young. When they began reading books by themselves, I asked them which ones they would recommend for me to read. It made them think about why they were reading the books they chose and also gave us lots to talk about.

To my surprise, my kids continued to recommend books to me all the way through college!

In 2009, Dan told me about 4 books that I would never have picked up on my own. I learned alot about what he was studying and again gave us some good conversation around the books.

If you are looking for New Year's Resolutions...reading, recording what you read and reading what your kids are reading are 3 good ones to consider!

Monday, December 28

A Funny yet Creepy Christmas Story

Just thought I would share an interesting story about my Christmas this year. I need to first explain our house a bit. Our house is laid out where our garage is on the side of the house so you have to walk around the garage to get to the front door so we often just open our garage door and let those who visit come in through our garage. So our garage door is often found open. We also live up on a hill so we have a few steps that lead to a landing before you enter our back door. That said, we opened our garage door Christmas morning for my husband to shovel the beautiful snow that had fallen the night before. After breakfast and gift opening I walked outside to throw out the garbage when I almost stepped in a pile of poop right outside our back door. I called my husband and asked if he had seen it when he had gone out to shovel before, he hadn’t. A bit perplexed we shrugged it off to the neighbor’s dog who often can be found walking in our garage. I cleaned it up and we went on with our day. A bit later my husband went back to the garage to put a book into his backpack to take to work only to find a huge mess inside his backpack. He had forgotten to take out a few gifts he had been given before Christmas (he is a teacher) and all his candy was unwrapped and eaten. We figured then that it was probably not the neighbors dog that had be rummaging around in our garage. The first thought was it must have been a raccoon, what else could it be? I was pretty freaked out by now and didn’t want to be in the garage or have my children in the garage. We were hopeful it was not in the garage anymore but we needed to be sure. So we went over to my parent’s house to borrow their live trap. We placed a piece of bacon in the trap and set it. After watching a movie, we decided to go see if we had caught anything. We had. . .this is what was in our trap…no it’s not a giant rat-though it does look like one…


It’s an opossum. Can’t say I knew we even had opossums in Minnesota. It was very creepy to look at at 11:00 at night. We left it in the trap over night and Jeff read up on opossums on the web. We weren’t sure what to do with it. After reading that they are actually good for the environment and are wandering animals (I didn’t want it coming back to visit) we decided to let it go in a field close to our home. We all bundled up the day after Christmas and drove our opossum friend to his new home. Our girls thought it was so cute they wanted to keep him for a pet. We tried explaining the wild animal aspect but they didn’t buy it. Needless to say the moral of the story is close your garage door! Okay maybe it was just a fluke, but I am still closing my garage door!

Favorite Verse

As a mom, Luke 2:19 has been a favorite verse of mine for many years: "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."

This verse comes at the end of Mary's Christmas.

Her Christmas was much more eventful than any of mine. But every Christmas I find myself pondering all that went on during the days leading up to and including Christmas and that has proven to be the best time of Christmas for me.

"Ponder" means to "consider deeply, think deliberately...to ruminate".

So Christmas is over...what are you pondering?

There was one Christmas when my kids were really young that I tried a new tradition. I hadn't put alot of thought into it ahead of time and it flopped. Unfortunately, I had invited some friends to share my new-found tradition and I was embarassed that my lack of planning made the whole experience a waste of time. I pondered that in the days that followed. It helped me sort out what could have worked, why I wanted to do it in the first place and whether it was something I should pursue in the years ahead.

I know that what Mary pondered were thoughts that were much more eternal in nature. She pondered that fact that her baby was born to change the world.

But as a mom building my home, I have found that treasuring and pondering all that goes on in my home also has eternal value. It is when I don't ponder what I am doing or what I have done that I lose sight of my purpose as a mom.

Now that my family has grown, my pondering consists of feasting on the memories. I treasure up all that has gone on in the previous years to make my family what it is today. I realize that I need to ponder how to celebrate Christmas now as grandchildren become center stage.

Take some time this week to highlight Luke 2:19 in your Bible. Write 'MOM' beside it. Treasure and Ponder just what took place this Christmas in your family and in your heart.

Thursday, December 24

What God Wants for Christmas

I thought I would share the last poem in a scavenger hunt game we play every Christmas Eve day. I found this game What God wants for Christmas a few years ago at my Wal-Mart, and it has quickly become a family favorite. It is by Family Life and can be found at www.familylife.com. We choose to make a scavenger hunt out of the boxes and the girls use clues to find the pieces of the nativity scene we have hidden through out the house. It leads up to the last box, which contains a small mirror so that when the child looks inside she sees her reflection and realizes that God wants her for Christmas. Here is the poem we read after they find the final box:

What God wants for Christmas? Now here’s the surprise

In box number seven, where it’s been disguised

Peek in the box, for so long you have waited.

What God wants is you-the one He created!


“Me?” you ask. “Why is this so?”

“I cannot wrap me and put on a bow!”

No, you cannot; but what you can give

Are the choices you make in the life that you live.


God wants you to know Him and love Him within,

And this is called worship, an offering to Him.

To do this, trust Jesus, who died in your place

When you didn’t deserve Him-that is called grace.


Pray now and offer your life and your heart.

Say, “Jesus, I need You. I’d like a new start.”

Forgive me today for the sins I’ve committed

So one day in heaven I will be permitted.”


When you pray this decision, the heavens rejoice

That you have made worship of God your life’s choice.

God wants you to know Him, so choose every day,

To love God and thank God and give Him all praise!


So as you spend your Christmas Eve and Christmas day with those you love this year, remember the real reason behind this season-Jesus came to earth for you! Celebrate the most wonderful gift that was ever given.

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Tuesday, December 22

Delaying and deleting Christmas?

I am not a perfectionist by any means. But of course there are certain things I like to do for Christmas just like everyone else.

Bake. Shop. Christmas Cards. Decorate. Wrap presents.

These tasks have all been deleted or delayed this year as my time has been spent caring for my two little ones.I don't think anyone really cares...except me. My kids certainly aren't aware of the tasks mom hasn't completed. My husband definitely doesn't care.

But for some reason, I find myself trying to maintain the same standards and expectations that I do every Christmas. However, I've never faced a Christmas season with a 14 month old and a 3 month old.

It's so easy these days to view my kids as obstacles to me getting the things done that I need to do:
Hard to shop with snowy roads, cold weather and two little ones.

Hard to bake with two kids that need my time and attention.

Hard to find the time and energy to decorate (and then spend the entire day telling my son "no, don't touch that!).

It's hard to do what I've always done.

And so I'm not. I'm not doing it all.

And I'm learning to be ok with that.

Well mostly ok. I'm still working through some guilt and letting go of some expectations. But I realize no one in my home cares about decorations or gifts or cards or baking. They just want my time and attention and love.

And no one can give them the gift of their mother's time, attention and love but me! 

Monday, December 21

LOVE...at Christmas

If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, 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 the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn't envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of your 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, and 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.

I Corinthians 13 Style by Sharon Jaynes

Friday, December 18

Pretzel Buttons










My favorite Christmas treat includes:
Pretzels
Rolos
M&Ms

Place pretzels on cookie sheet and place a Rolo on each pretzel. Bake in oven at 250 for 3-4 minutes until center of Rolo is soft. Remove from oven, press M&M in the center and place somewhere to cool and harden. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 17

Chocolate Chess Pie

We had a Christmas Card addressing party last night and I was in charge of bringing dessert. I made one of my favorite pies from a restaurant I used to go to in North Carolina. It is one of our family favorites!

Chocolate Chess Pie

1 frozen pie shell
1 stick of butter
2 oz. semi-sweet Ghiradelli chocolate bar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs well beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
dash salt

Melt butter and chocolate together on low. Take off heat and add sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt. (Add these slowly while mixing to make sure the eggs don't scramble.) Pour into pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Serve with Redi-whip.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 16

A family favorite

I am going to share a recipe that Barb shared with me years ago (I am hoping she has not shared it on the blog before, but if she has it is worth repeating)! It has become a family favorite at our house. I will just warn you that if you make this it will not last long. . .it is so very yummy!

Frosty’s Favorite:

3c. corn chex

3c. rice chex

2c. cheerios

2c. stick pretzels

2c. dry-roasted peanuts

12 oz. MM's (I like Reeses Pieces better)

16 oz. almond bark

Mix everything but the almond bark in a large bowl. Melt the almond bark in microwave according to direction on pkg. Pour over cereal mixture, stirring gently until mixture is well coated. Spread mixture on waxed paper-lined baking sheet and refrigerate (I just let it cool on the counter). When cool, break into pieces. Store in air-tight container in frig. (it's usually gone before I need to store it!).

I have motified the recipe slightly because I could not find some of the ingredients in the right amounts and I am not one to use 3 squares of left-over almond bark. So everything is the same except the following:

5 cups cheerios

6 cups pretzel sticks

1 lb bag of Reese Pieces

24 oz almond bark (I think the Plymouth Pantry brand is the best-I find mine at Walmart)

Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 15

Cookies and Customs

I started a Santa Lucia tradition with our kids when our first 2 were 3 and 5 years old. Part of this tradition included learning about the folklore and meaning of all the decorations that we surround ourselves with during the holiday. I decided to add one tradition each year and tried to tie it into a cookie. I was young and zealous when I rolled out this plan:) That was 28 years ago, you can figure the number of cookies I have baked since then!

I will share just a few examples of favorite cookies and the lesson that went along with them:

One years we learned about wreaths:
Wreaths were first used about 2000 years ago by the Greeks. They crowned champions with wreaths.
Christ was mocked with a crown of thorns
The Christmas wreath symbolizes His eternal love; it never ceases, stops, or ends. It is one continuous round of affection.


That year we made these cookies...Cornflake Wreaths:
1/2 cup butter
30 marshmallows
1/4 teas green coloring
1/2 teas vanilla
1/4 teas salt
3 1/2 cup corn flakes

Melt the butter and marshmallows in double boiler. Add green coloring, vanilla, salt and corn flakes. Blend thoroughly. While still warm, drop on aluminum foil and mold into wreaths with fingers. Decorate with cinnamon candy and silve bagets.

One year we made Gingerbread cookies and talked about how they became so popular at Christmas time:
This was one of the first cookies made in the U. S. by early settlers...a recipe from Europe.

Gingerbread People:

  • 1 cup margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 T vinegar
  • 2 slightly beaten eggs
  • 5 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Combine margarine, sugar, molasses and vinegar in saucepan. Bring slowly to a boil. Remove from heat, cool to room temperature. Add eggs to cooled mixture. Mix flour, cinnamon, ginger, soda, and salt. Stir into molasses mixture until dough is smooth and satiny.

Chill for at least 2 hrs. Let stand at room temp until pliable to roll. Roll out and cut with small 'people cutters'. Bake 375 for 7-10 mins.

I could go on, but in yesterday's post I said my kids' favorite cookie was the wheat thin/peanut butter sandwich dipped in chocolate. We named that cookie the 'magical cookie' because it magically disappeared from the tray so fast. We learned about Christmas Cards that year:
The first card was sent in 1843 by the King of England!

What we learned was short and easy to remember year after year. As more cookies were added to the tray, more lessons were learned and the whole beauty of Christmas and the decorations came alive to all of us.

Monday, December 14

Sugar Plums?!

Remember that line from "The Night Before Christmas?":

"While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads"

Did you know that sugar plums are candy that are made of sugar and shaped in a small round or oval shape. So what kind of sugar plums are dancing in your head this Christmas?

I have a whole notebook that I keep nothing but Christmas recipes in and all these recipes 'dance' in my head as I take the notebook out the day after Thanksgiving. Several of the recipes have been passed on to me from a generation or two ago! They are probably my favorite because I can imagine them being served to my relatives even before I was born.

I have baked hundreds of cookies in Christmases past, but these are my kids' favorite:

Wheat Thins
Chunkie Peanut Butter
Chocolate Bark

Spread wheat thins with peanut butter. Press another cracker on top, making a sandwich. Dip into melted chocolate bark. Tap off excess chocolate and let the cookie/candy harden on a sheet of wax paper.

Who knew? Really, their favorite?

Somehow this recipe doesn't seem like the kind of recipe I thought my kids would have 'dancing in their heads' after all the intricate cookies I have baked. Yet these cookies are the cookies that are most requested at my house.

Ask your clan what they like best and share a recipe or two with us this week.

Friday, December 11

Just Starting Out

I was married for three years before having children and when it came to gift giving at the holiday season...we basically just did whatever our families were doing. My family picks names and then also buys for the grandchildren. My husband is an only child so we buy gifts for both of his parents. This year we have some decisions to be made about gifts. We want to start some of our own family traditions that our girls will be able to look forward to.

The largest decision we are making right now is whether or not to include Santa Claus in our family tradition. I came from a family that did not celebrate Santa and my husband did. We both want our kids to see the real reason for Christmas is Jesus, but I also appreciate the innocence and excitement believing in Santa brings.

I would love to say we have this figured out, but we don't. Here we are only weeks away from Christmas and still without a plan. Any suggestions or ideas would be helpful. Do you include Santa in your celebrations?

Thursday, December 10

Gift-giving in our family

One quick follow-up from yesterday’s post. I should have clarified one thing. I do love the snow. I love a white Christmas. I love looking out at the snow from my warm home. I don’t even mind driving in it, but I do not like to “play” in the snow. Skiing terrifies me, sledding is a close second and I hate cold, wet snow going in my boots or up my sleeves. I think that is why I felt the need to post what I did yesterday. I truly felt like I put myself in my girls’ shoes. They wanted to “play” in the snow, and I set aside how I felt about it to enjoy a moment with them. I think that is what being intentional is all about. I had so much fun because my daughters were having fun. I also wanted to share because I think I needed the reminder to live in the moment-to not be preoccupied with my to-do lists. I want more days like yesterday!

Onto my thoughts on gift-giving. . .

I think I referenced this in an earlier blog post, but early on in our marriage we decided to not go overboard for any holiday or birthday as far as gifts go. This was a harder transition for my husband than myself mainly because he grew up in a family that bought nothing throughout the year but on Christmas they went all-out. We decided we wanted to be a family that gave things throughout the year. We wanted to spend the time and money doing things as a family like going out to eat, to the movies and buying things when we wanted them (and had the money for them). We have carried this philosophy over to when we had children. We do ask the girls what they would like and go off of their lists (we sit down and talk about what they would like to put on their lists so I try to do some directing). Sometimes we are like Barb and choose to buy another gift they haven’t asked for because we think they will just love it (like this year I found a small “real” sewing machine for my 8-year-old daughter on sale. She loves to sew with me and I think she will love this gift, but it was not asked for). We also decided to purchase one larger gift and then round it out with a few smaller gifts. We try to buy the same number of presents for each girl as well. We do end up buying a lot of the same gifts for each girl since they really love playing the same things and we have found they love opening the same gifts. That really makes it easy for us. I also try to purchase small gifts throughout the year that I think they will like for their stockings. I have stopped buying their bigger gifts throughout the year since at their ages they change their minds so much, but finding small things for their stockings are easy. I also purchase a pair of new jammies that they wear on Christmas Eve when we open a gift for the family, a puzzle or a new game and then we spend time playing or doing the activity as a family. I guess my basic philosophy is I want my children to experience the joy of giving and getting gifts, but I do not want it to be the main focus of our celebrations. I love the time we spend after opening presents eating breakfast and playing as a family.

Wednesday, December 9

deviating from gift giving for a day. . .

Well, Christmas has arrived in Minnesota (My apologies to those that may be reading in a warmer state)! I spent most of my morning outside with my 3-year-old daughter making snow angels and attempting to shovel the blowing snow since our snow blower died. I know I will not be popular when I say this, but I love the snow! I really can’t imagine living in any other state, especially during the holidays. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a huge fan of bundling up the kids day in and day out, but the look on their faces when they got up this morning is worth it all. Imagine, for a moment, being a child again. What would you feel like if you woke up with all this fresh white stuff to run in, taste on your tongue or slide down? As adults our worlds get so busy with all of our to-dos that we can miss the unbelievable beauty that God has created-the snow! I know I was supposed to talk about gift-giving today, but I am going to let that wait until tomorrow. . .for today-I challenge you to go be a kid again with your children. Push back all those thoughts and reasons why you shouldn’t go outside and jump in. Call your kids, bundle up and have fun! May you enjoy this beautiful winter day that the Lord has made-we will rejoice and be glad in it!



Tuesday, December 8

Gifts to Give

I've shared before that in our family we used to give 5 gifts to our kids at Christmas.

A gift to hug and love (doll, stuffed animal)

A gift to read

A gift to play with

A gift to encourage an activity (sledding, skating, sports)

A gift of artistic expression (crayons, clay, glue and paper)

This worked great in the developmental years of the children. It gave me insight as to what my kids really were attracted to. It helped them develop an interest in areas they may not have had an interest in.

As they got older, they began to express what they wanted. My husband and I would have lengthy discussions as to whether we would buy them what they wanted or what we felt they would like and need. That was tricky as they got older. We finally settled on giving gifts that were worthy of giving.

Sometimes it was what they wanted.

Sometimes it was what they needed.

Sometimes it was what we thought would be valuable to them once they received it. We would introduce them to a new sport or hobby and it often became their favorite gift.

Christmas was spread out over the year for me as I evaluated what my kids were attracted to and what I felt they could use more exposure to. It was a time to connect with their desires and focus on their strengths and weaknesses.

18 days before Christmas isn't the time to delve into what your kids might benefit from this Christmas, but it is a time to commit to this idea. Decide that next year you will know your child well enough to choose a gift of value for them. A gift worthy of giving.

It will put Christmas into the right perspective for you and your family. God's gift to us that first Christmas was just what we needed.

Monday, December 7

Gift Giving

Did you know there is an art to gift giving? I heard a woman talk about it once and all the dos and don'ts of gift giving made me tired.

It got me thinking, however. Why do we give? Maybe that is the only question we need to be mindful of this season.

Are we giving to reciprocate a gift?
Are we giving because we've given to that person every year?
Do we give gifts of equal value not thinking about the intrinsic value in the actually giving of the gift?
When you give gifts to your kids...do you give the same number of gifts to each child?

Lots of different ways to look at giving and hopefully we can share this week ways that we give in our families.

I think the most valuable gift to give is yourself. Either in service or words or time. The person receiving the gift knows that the giver is really giving something priceless...themselves!

When my kids were young, I had them give small presents or at least a card of thanks to their teachers, sunday school teachers, piano or trumpet teacher, babysitters and anyone else in their lives who gave of themselves. Whether that person was paid or not wasn't the issue, the point I wanted to make with my kids was that these people were in their lives and gave all year long. Christmas was a good time to give back with a word or small gift of thanks.

As a former teacher, I learned that giving consumable gifts were always appreciated. A small set of cards with postage stamps, packets of cocoa or tea & a mug, or a small edible we would make along with the recipe. Avon and fragrances were usually over-done as a gift and I tried to avoid that. Don't focus on the gift as much as WHY you are teaching your kids to give.

Getting your kids involved in giving gifts at a young age will help balance the insatiable desire to GET gifts. They will see the thought that goes into selecting a gift. They will know why they are giving and will understand the work or money that goes into gift-giving. As they get older they will appreciate receiving gifts even more and will be able to express their thanks in a genuine way.

As you head to the mall this week, be mindful of WHY you are buying for the people on your list and count your blessings that they are in your life in 2009!

Friday, December 4

Busy with a family tradition. . .

sorry for the late post, but today we were busy with another family tradition of ours-baking Christmas cookies. Is this not the cutest Christmas cookie ever! (okay so I am slightly biased!)


If you did not know before, Barb is my aunt, my mom’s sister, and Stacy is married to her son Ryan. Aren’t I lucky?! Every year we have gotten together to bake Christmas cookies. Every year it changes a bit and this year was no exception. With Stacy and her two children under 2 years and Rachel and Jonathan along with my two girls it changes the product at the end, but increases the fun during. My mom and I were the only ones to actually bake cookies today, but memories were made none-the-less. With three little ones added to the mix, compromises must be part of the package. They all did great. We barricaded off the tree and brought out some new toys and the boys had a great time. As you can see by the photos below it is hard to get a good photo of everyone, but I think you can tell that we were having a good time and shouldn't that be the reason we have these family traditions? If you can’t read the sign it says, “Life’s Short. . . Eat Cookies!” Pretty good motto huh?
(back row: Stacy holding her son Samuel, my mom holding Stacy daughter Lauren, me, Rachel (Barb's daughter) and Barb holding Rachel's son Jonathan
front row: my daughters Maddie and Abigail)

We hope you and your family will have many of these special moments together this Christmas season-thanks ladies for a great day!


Wednesday, December 2

Dice game

One tradition my family has enjoyed for years is the dice game. Some people play this and they bring white elephant gifts to exchange. My family actually uses nice, enjoyable gifts.

Here's how it works:

Everyone buys 3-5 $5 gifts. Gifts for guys, girls or either. You wrap them and place them in a pile in the center of the room. Everyone sits in a circle around the gifts. Then, depending on the number of people, you have one or two containers of dice going around the circle. Everyone rolls the dice and every time someone gets a double they grab a gift but don't open it. Once all the gifts are divided between people (not necessarily evenly), you open the gifts. Then the fun begins. You roll the dice again and when you get doubles you get to steal a gift that you want and exchange one that you don't. So all the gifts exchange hands numerous times. It's a blast and so fun to see what items everyone purchased. We usually set a time limit for how long the dice can go around the circle for.

I enjoy gift giving and this is a unique way to have fun together as a family, laugh and share in a little competition. It might not work well with smaller kids, but with adult kids and relatives, it will lead to great memories!

Tuesday, December 1

Christmas Traditions

Wow, I love Betsy's tradition she wrote about yesterday. What a way to get everything done that you want to accomplish during this very busy month of December.

I've shared my traditions on this blog before so perhaps this is a good time to share what I learned about traditions...

I had to learn the hard way that 'More is not Better' when it comes to Christmas. I piled on the traditions and fun when my kids were little and soon found myself...and them drowning in too much.

Too much food

Too much running and shopping

Too much activity and stimulation

Too much fuss...and mess

Too much


It all led to too little

...money

...time

...family fun

...patience

...appreciation


Being intentional in planning the month of December is a way to avoid 'too much'. Whether you are intentional or not, you will be exhausted on Christmas morning. But if your December has been planned out even just alittle, your exhaustion will soon be replaced with satisfaction as you see Christmas turn into a special remembrance.

As you build tradition into your family, don't be afraid to challenge yourself as to why you are doing an activity. Don't be afraid to change up or cancel something if it is just too much or it is not accomplishing what you had hoped to accomplish.

Sometimes a wonderful memory is made when you carve out time just to hang out with your family and enjoy an evening of quiet.

I love Christmas. I love tradition. I love being intentional in what I choose to do with my family life. I love that I know that 'More is not Better'.

Monday, November 30

Christmas Traditions

This week we thought we would share a few family traditions. I am starting out the week since my tradition starts on the first of December. We thought if anyone wanted to join in they could. . .

A year or two before Abigail was born I found this adorable wooden countdown-to-Christmas shelf that I just had to buy. At the time I had no idea what I would do with it, but I bought it anyway. I am so glad I did. It has since turned into a tradition my girls love. It is a twist on those chocolate countdown calendars I had when I was a girl. You know the ones where each day you opened the perforated cardboard square to un-veil the piece of chocolate candy as you counted down to Christmas. I loved those as a child, but I had hopes of doing something a little different. I wanted to focus on doing all those things I hoped during the holidays, baking cookies, making ornaments, driving around to see the Christmas lights. . .the count down shelf was my ticket to connecting these two ideas. Each year I make little tags to place inside each door. (I print out the activities on cardstock, cut into a rectangle and staple of piece of ribbon on the top). I use some of the same activities every year like the cookie-baking or ornament-making, but others I change as the girls grow. I look at our calendar for the month and place the obvious tags in their appropriate door. Then I add all the other tags pretty randomly. I also keep a basket on the top of the shelf that contains alternatives. Life is crazy sometimes and some activities need to be changed the night before for various reasons. I try to keep all the activities manageable. They are not all huge undertakings. I have, “Read a Christmas book with dad tonight,” or “Eat dessert after breakfast.” I even have one that says, “Mom will make your bed today.” It is really a way for us to have fun as a family all month long. The girls love that I have taken the time to think about activities they would like to do during the holidays, and I like that I can incorporate traditions that I want our family to carry on. I love that as we get closer to Christmas day, the activities like "Bake a birthday cake for Jesus" and "Play the game What Jesus wants for Christmas” lend themselves to thinking about the real reason we are celebrating Christmas in the first place. This puts the purpose back into the Christmas season, and I love that most of all.


Having two girls almost 5 years apart, I decided to purchase a second countdown shelf at an after-Christmas sale so now I have two. ( I repainted the second shelf last year and still need to paint on the numbers) Since they are so far apart in age, some of the days I have wanted different activities (i.e. Abigail celebrates her Christmas party at school-Maddie obviously is not part of that so I chose another activity for the two of us to do that day). Last year I just put two tags in each door and that worked fine. But I am also one of those mom’s who hopes one day my girls will want to pass on this tradition to their kids and now they each have their own shelf. A bit optimistic I know but a mother can dream can’t she. . .

Friday, November 27

Thankful

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I absolutely love this time of year. I love being with family. I love eating delicious food and I love reflecting on what I am thankful for this year. I have much to be thankful for...my two amazing baby girls, my supportive husband, my wonderful extended family, a roof over my head... but right now I am most thankful for my relationship with Jesus.

Earlier this fall I picked a verse to memorize. It was Is 41:13, "For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to YOU, 'Do not fear, I will help you." At the time I picked this verse because I was a new mom who was tired and needed help. I needed the promise that God takes hold of my hand and helps me. I loved the imagery of Him actually holding my hand. My older daughter has been learning to walk and she looks to take hold of our hand as much as she can. She knows that my hand will keep her safe and help her to move forward. I LOVE the fact that I can depend on my Heavenly Father the same way. For that I am very thankful.

This past week this verse has taken on new meaning. I have very fair skin and I freckle easily. I have always had to get my skin checked once a year for any changes. A year ago I had a mole removed and the test showed it was a risk for skin cancer. I was told to watch the mole to make sure it did not grow back. Well, it did and now I need a biopsy of the spot next week. Now I know many, many people have biopsies done and they turn out totally fine. But, any time that horrible C word is thrown out in a conversation I get a little uneasy. I left the clinic feeling fearful. Actually, when I think about the worst case scenario I still have the tendency to feel fearful. BUT that is where this verse comes into play. God tells me do not fear because he will help me. He knows every inch of my body. He knows every thought before I speak it. He knows me, and I can take His hand and know that this wonderful God already knows the results of this test and He can help. That my friends, is something to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 25

Counting our Blessings

I love Thanksgiving, not just because the turkey meal is one of my favorite, but also because I love the idea of taking time to be purposeful in being thankful. Teaching my girls to have thankful hearts has to be one of my top priorities, but it is something that can be tricky to teach. The best way, I think, is to obviously lead by example. So during the month of November for the past few years, I have had the girls keep a thankfulness journal. We tried to write in it everyday. I tried to have them think about their day and choose a different thing to be thankful for. I liked that but at times it was hard to remember to do it each day if we got busy, so last year at an after-Thanksgiving sale I purchased this count down to Thanksgiving chart from Pottery Barn Kids. I was so excited when I pulled it out this year. Each day the girl’s write/draw one thing they are thankful for and place it in the pocket of the correct day. It is sort of like a countdown to Thanksgiving, but it has a pocket for each day of the month so it continues even after Thanksgiving Day. I like to see what each girl is thankful for each day, and I also like talking about that we are thankful for as a family. During this busy holiday season I hope you and your family can take some time to stop and truly think about those things in your life that you are thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!




Tuesday, November 24

The Pilgrims

Are you hard-pressed to remember how the Pilgrims celebrated their first Thanksgiving? That story is part of our history and is worth remembering with our children.

When the Pilgrims left England to find religious freedom, they knew they were taking a horrible gamble. They were just like us...raising their families. They felt God was calling them and were determined to follow. There were 102 people crammed into a boat the size of a volleyball court. They crossed the Atlantic Ocean, knowing that the Virginia colony that they were heading for had suffered an 80% mortality rate. Would we have followed God's calling?

They arrived at what is now Plymouth. They lost 47 of their friends during the first winter.

Then God provided Squanto. Fifteen years earlier, he and 4 other Indians had been captured by Captain George Weymouth. They were taken to England where they were taught the English language. Squanto spent 9 years in England and then God miraculously provided a way to bring him back to the New World. Upon arriving, Squanto hoped to work on board a ship but the captain took him captive, shipped him off to Spain where he was sold as a slave. Squanto was purchased by local priests and eventually gained passage back to the New World. Again.

Squanto arrived 6 months before the Pilgrims. His entire tribe was gone...dead. He lost hope. Eventually, he came across the new English colony that was desperately trying to survive.

Imagine the surprise of the Pilgrims when this Indian came into their settlement, offering help... and speaking English! He taught them to fish, hunt, plant and use herbs for medicinal treatments.

The story eventually ends with the first Thanksgiving feast. But it is the details leading up to the feast that makes us again remember God's provision and faithfulness.

I love that story. Kids love that story. It's another reason to pause and REMEMBER this Thanksgiving week. To remember and give Thanks.

Monday, November 23

Thanksgiving...Remember

Remembering...that's what this holiday is all about. Remembering our heritage. Reclaiming a day in our busy lives that is usually full of things to do. This day we want to remember.

A friend of mine shared with me that her family was going to pull out their 'treasure chest' this year before the Thanksgiving Dinner. She went on to describe a box of momentoes that her family had collected over the years. It made me want to turn back time and build a treasure chest with my family.

I asked her to explain what it consisted of. She said there was a small plastic horse in one corner of the box. That was for the time her husband and son had a terrible accident while horse-back riding together. The big horse fell for some reason, pinning their 3 year old son under the horse. The horse got up quite quickly but turned and kicked the boy. My friend's first reaction was that she had just witnessed the death of her son. By God's grace the boy escaped severe injury. The plastic horse was a rememberance of God's goodness.

She said there was a pencil in the box representing a business transaction her husband had made years ago. It was a tough decision her husband had to make, but by a letter he wrote, a huge business opportunity came his way a few years later. Time had passed, but the pencil went into the box so the family would never forget.

She went on telling me about the treasures, just remembering them in her head because her family had taken the time to establish a way to remember. They don't review them every year, but this year it was time again to remember around their treasure chest.

May this week be a time to remember and give thanks for your family.

Friday, November 20

Feeding a family of four

Now that there are four people in my family, mealtime has taken on a different 'look.' Mostly that means that none of us are eating at the same time. At some point one of us adults is eating, while the other is managing the two kids. Occasionally we get to sit down at a table and eat, but that seems rare these days.

Usually I am eating some cold leftover toast and a few bites of Samuel's left over banana for breakfast. And that's OK, because this is just a season. And while it might seem like a long season at times, it will be over in the blink of an eye.

For 8 years I only thought about what to feed my husband and I. Now I have to figure out what to feed my 13 month old. This has been interesting and challenging at times. When he started eating baby food he got all fruits and veggies. I made a lot of my own baby food - steamed carrots, peas, beans, potatoes, squash, pears, peaches, etc. And he gobbled it up. Now, it depends on the day.

I am not big on microwaved food. I believe microwaves suck a lot of the nutrition out of food. But since this season is not about making lots of homemade meals that need to simmer on the stove or roast in the oven for hours, sometimes dinner is determined by what can be quickly defrosted or heated up and put in hungry mouths.

That said, right now my goal is to just get food on the table that everyone will eat. Some nights its healthy, some nights its not as healthy. Some nights its prepared in 6 minutes, other nights 60 minutes (those are rare!).

In thinking about food and my family, most likely this holiday season won't find our dinner table looking much different than the past few months. We'll try to hit all the main food groups throughout our days, and once awhile even try to eat together as a family!

Thursday, November 19

Portion control and children

Since I talked yesterday about portion control I thought I would share a few stories about portion control and my girls. One of my goals as a mother is to help teach my girls to have self-control in all areas of their lives. This is obviously easier said than done, but a goal none-the-less. We have taught our girls that they need to eat the healthy food first and then they may have dessert. We have also tried to teach them why they need to eat the healthy food first. Their bodies need it to grow healthy and strong and their brain needs the food to be able to think better in school, but also that eating a little dessert at the end of a meal is always an option. We also teach them that we eat dessert last so if we are full we do not need to eat the whole dessert. We teach them flat-out that dessert is not something that is “good” for our bodies, but a little in moderation is okay. They are then teaching themselves how to regulate when they are full. They have eaten the good food to fill themselves up but can still enjoy a little of the dessert if they have room.

For example, my oldest daughter absolutely LOVES donuts. (She gets that from her grandma)! What amazes me is that she has learned that if she is full, she will leave half the donut on her plate. She does not feel the need to eat the whole thing. That is amazing to me. That is what I want. I think that it is a combination of her personality, her knowledge that she will be able to have a donut at another time, and that she is learning to “read” her own body. Since we allow her access to sweets she does not feel the need to shove her face when something sweet is put in front of her. We are also starting to see a little of this happening in our 3 year old as well. I will say she has much more of her mommy’s sweet tooth than Abigail, but she is slowly learning as well. Today at lunch she ate about 5 bites of a piece of apple pie and left the rest saying she was full. Now, please know that this is a process and my girls have a long way to go, but I am seeing progress.

I also think it is worth saying that we all need to know our own weaknesses. I have jars of candy on my kitchen counter, usually with Peanut M&M’s or Hot Tamales. Every time someone comes over they say, “I could never have that in my home, I’d eat the whole jar.” For whatever reason I am not tempted to eat more than a handful of these particular candies so I can have them there. Now if the jars were full of Peanut Butter M&M’s or chocolate covered raisins, I would not have the same level of self-control. I think that is part of being healthy: not putting ourselves in a situation where we continually fail. But it is equally important to teach our children how to control when there are full and that not finishing a treat is okay and often a really healthy choice.

Wednesday, November 18

My thoughts on holiday eating. . .

First I need a disclaimer, I am not a healthy eater as far at what most people think of when they think of a healthy eater. So please know that I am sharing my opinion, but I am not an expert in this area in anyway. . .that said. . .

I would like to take a moment to share my philosophies for eating during this holiday season as well as all throughout the year. I am someone who loves a good dessert, and I can’t make it through the day without a Diet Pepsi. I can often be heard saying, “Life is too short to not eat ________!” While it is often said in jest, I mean it. But I need to add another disclaimer. I am a firm believer in everything in moderation and portion control. I think having a little bit of everything is a good thing-it is good for our bodies and it makes me satisfied so I do not feel like I am going without. A close second to the everything in moderation is portion control. I remember a few years back going through my great aunt’s belongings after her death and looking at her salad bowls and dinner plate. I struggled to see how you could even get a few pieces of lettuce in those bowls let alone anything else on that salad. It reinforced in me the need to be observant about the size portions I eat. I was lucky enough to have an example of both these philosophies in my parents. We had goodies around the house and we were taught self-control in eating them. My parents always split a meal whenever they ate out. My husband and I now do that as well. It is amazing how half a burger is more than enough to feed us both. I would encourage you this holiday season to allow yourself to enjoy those foods that only are available at this time of year, but remember to be mindful of your portion sizes and that you can have a little of everything as long as it is in moderation!

Tuesday, November 17

Mindless Eating

I read an interesting article last week. The article was entitled, Obesity of our Spending and our Bodies. It gave a different twist to holiday spending and eating.

Kathleen Vohs, a marketing professor found that "exerting self-control in more than one area at a time is difficult."

I never thought about that before.

"Your ability to control your behaviors is like a precious resource, there is not going to be enough to go around, " Vohs said.

She maintains that you need to give yourself time in between a Christmas buffet and a shopping trip in order to "give your self-control time to rejuvenate by spreading out activities that will tax your willpower." Interesting.

I mentioned Dr Brian Wasnick yesterday. He's the author of Mindless Eating.

In it, he says “People’s tastes are not formed by accident.... The key to the quickest way to eliminate mindless overeating is to start at home. We need to set up our daily environment and routine so we can eat the right amounts of food we enjoy."

That is alot to think about on top of the holiday rush, but we are all going to be decorating and baking this season, let's keep in mind what we are communicating to our families as we set our food before them.

Check out this fun website http://www.mindlesseating.org/ It's encouraged me in little ways to be intentional as my family's 'Nutritional Gatekeeper'...if not during the holidays...then soon afterwards:).

Monday, November 16

Intentional Eating

I was going to start this week sharing what we are going to be talking about at Homemakers tonight, but I think it requires more thinking than what we need to do right now. The busy holiday season is upon us.

Last week we talked about honoring our husbands amidst our busyness, how about thinking about ourselves this week. Specifically, our eating habits.

How and what we eat will really affect how we feel this holiday so let's share what we do to honor ourselves in this area.

I think we would agree that we are what Dr. Brian Wasnick calls the 'Nutritional Gatekeeper' for our family. We decide what's for dinner for the most part and we stock the food we keep in the house. That means this is an area we really can be intentional in and the holidays are no exception.

Wasnick maintains that we eat more than we think we do. He has conducted experiments to back up his theory. He found that people lost almost 2 pounds per month over 3 months simply by eating off salad plates as opposed to regular-sized dinner plates. What an easy exercise we can do over the next 6 weeks. Just use a smaller plate or bowl as you fill up with holiday goodies.

He also says that the better a food sounds by name, the more likely a person is to eat it. Bavarian Black Forest Cake is more appealing to us than chocolate cake. In an experiment with 1st and 2nd graders, students took 60 % more peas at lunch when they were called power peas.
Maybe we should spend some time re-naming our healthy recipes to appeal to our family's desires!

When it comes to shopping, many 'Nutritional Gatekeepers', buy snacks in bulk. Dr Wasnick says we tend to eat HALF of whatever the snack is in a WEEK, regardless of how much we buy. Some intentional thought should accompany us to the grocery store in the next 6 weeks.

This is as good as any week to be intentional in what we eat and that should carry over to how we feel. We all agree we need to be in top form in all respects as we enter into this holiday rush, so start today. Go ahead and make yourself a 'Personal, Beauty-Enhancing-Peanut Butter Sandwich'...and eat it on a salad plate.

Saturday, November 14

Honor despite chaos and craziness

As I think about this upcoming holiday season I almost want to put my head under the pillow and take it out on January 1. With two little kids and less sleep than I am used to getting, planning for, thinking about and celebrating the holidays might put me over the top this year!

A lot of people try to just survive the holidays with cooking, baking, shopping, cleaning, entertaining, etc. So much of my time and attention these days is focused on just surviving my days and getting through to the next one with all family members alive and kicking (and if they're clean and fed we're doing really good!). Things are chaotic and crazy and we're learning how to manage that a little more each day.

The holidays can stress me out with all their busyness and activity. Don't get me wrong - I love it. But it can be crazy as you all know and this year will be crazier with a newborn and toddler. When I am stressed and tired I tend to take it out on my husband. But I don't want our first Christmas as a family of four to be memories of me crabby at Ryan because I'm overtired and over scheduled.

Rather than allowing the holiday season to stress me out (when does a mother of two young children go Christmas shopping or find time to create, print, address and mail Christmas cards?), I want to pause, take a deep breath and enter into the holiday season carefully and intentionally.

I need to recognize that my plate is already very full. This means I have to say no to some good and fun things.

I also want to be sure that family is our first priority. Immediate and then extended. All other activities, parties and events come after family. If I keep this top of mind, then it will help make my decisions (regarding both time and money) easier.

I think these two things will help me honor my husband as well. We can continue our traditions if we choose this year or we can put them on hold for one season and know we'll pick them up again next year. We can take time to celebrate our precious miracles rather than see them as a burden that keeps me from having a beautifully decorated house this Christmas. We can get sitters and go on a date or two so that we can celebrate together all that's taken place in the past 12 months.

So much of life is about being intentional. The holidays are no different. And this year I can still honor my husband even in the midst of a little chaos and craziness!

Thursday, November 12

Showing Love...

My husband and I have known each other since we were sixteen. I love that I have known him since my teen years because I have memories that remind me how head over heels in love with him I was at such an early age. I am also reminded of the crazy ways I would go above and beyond just to show him how much I cared about him. Tucked away on a shelf in our basement is a box that I made for him in high school. I decided the best way to give him his present that year was to take him on a scavenger hunt. At the end of the hunt was a box that I had decoupaged and bedazzled.... yes bedazzled. I glued on pictures, quotes about love, Precious Moments coloring pages, and stickers. On the inside I typed up every memory I could think of that we had shared. I clearly took a lot of time on this box. His gift was inside but I was so much more excited about the box. Years later as we were moving into our first home I saw that my husband had kept that box all of those years. I love that the way that I had presented his gift to him that year made him feel loved.

I have to admit that over the years I have not always bedazzled my husband's gift boxes... but maybe I should. Like Betsy, there have been years in our marriage that we have decided not to do gifts for each other. I still want to make my husband feel special though. I still want to take extra time to tell him my favorite memories from that year or share what I appreciate most about him. Holidays are a great time to set aside time to make your spouse feel appreciated and special. Whether that comes from a sparkly memory box or really thoughtful card, encourage your man this season.

Wednesday, November 11

Honoring my husband during the holidays. . .

I will be the first to say that I need to work on this area. I just LOVE the holidays and I am one of those who want to do it all. I need to be reminded to slow down and be careful to choose those things our family is involved in very carefully. I agree that including your husband in the planning is always helpful, even in general all throughout the year. I think communicating with our husbands helps keep us on the same page and also keeps us both in check on what we want to be prioritizing in our life and for our family.

Early in our marriage we decided to not do much in the way of gifts for any holiday/birthday. We decided we wanted to celebrate things throughout the year, going out to eat, buying something when we wanted it, instead of keeping it all for one or two days out of the year. I think it has helped us enjoy the holidays more because our expectations are not on what are we going to get or how “big” our day is, but on celebrating as a family, celebrating each other. I will admit that is was harder for my husband than for me. We live in a world that portrays a good husband as going all out during the holiday/birthday-basically that is the way he shows his love. I think that is so sad. I do not want to put that much pressure on my husband. I want to enjoy this time with him. We will give a card or a small something we have found through out the year, but nothing big. After hearing a mentor mom speak at MOPS about the 12 days of Christmas tradition she did for her husband, I knew I wanted to incorporate that into my holiday to honor my husband (even though we had agreed on the gift thing). I will admit my husband felt a little bad after the first year I did this, but after talking about it he could see that it was my way of showing him he was important during this time of year. Barb once shared with us a quote, “If you love someone, become an expert on them!” Well, this helps me do that in small ways. I spend the year looking for small things that I know he will like. They are usually small and are things he would not purchase for himself. . .he is a very practical man. I have come to buy a few staples that seem to work into my honoring him in this tradition. His favorite author usually has a new book out at Christmas so I purchase that for one of the days. The girls and I also create a mini scrapbook from the last year about 10 things we love about daddy, and I usually have to include some beef jerky-he loves beef jerky! The first year I did this, I tried to choose the same number items as the day is was i.e. on the 6th day I would give 6 of something. After the first year I realized that I was stressing out so much about what to buy I lost focus on the reason I was doing it in the first place so I let that go and just do one gift in each bag. (On a side note, I know some women who have gone all out for this tradition and if it is within your budget and time-go all out. But I really think this tradition was started to show appreciation for our husbands, not a tradition to out-do ourselves every year-does that make sense)?

I also thought that I would include my girls more in this tradition but other than the scrapbook, I do most of the work. I have realized that is the way I want it. I want to be the one focusing on my husband. I am the one who can get distracted during the holidays and this is one way I stay focused on what matters-Jeff.

Tuesday, November 10

Honor Your Husband...Even during the Holidays!

I probably wouldn't have had to learn to honor my husband during the holidays if I had started the tradition my girlfriend did when she got married.

She celebrates the 12 days of Christmas, giving a gift to her husband each day. (I think she gives just one gift a day, but perhaps she gives a number of gifts each day as the song goes.) She doesn't spend a lot of money on each gift it's just a way to let her husband know he is on her mind as she shops for others. It has grown into a wonderful tradition that her husband tells everyone about!

It began 37 years ago! The last time I asked her about it she hadn't missed a year!

I tried it one year. It was a fabulous way to focus on my husband but for whatever reason, I didn't keep it up. (Betsy, I think you give your husband gifts for the 12 days of Christmas, don't you? Share how that works for you!)

An older woman told me once to write down my expectations for the holidays and that got me thinking about really honoring my husband as one of my expectations. That actually changed some of my other expectations.

It's not too early to think about the holidays when a new tradition or habit needs to be put into place. If you have a tendency to dwell on your kids and extended family alot during this season, perhaps your husband is abit displaced. Give it some thought.

Monday, November 9

Husbands and the Holidays

"Husbands and the Holidays"...is that an oxymoron at your house? I mean, does your husband 'get in the way' of all that you have to do to get the holidays moving? Does he understand what it takes to 'do' Thanksgiving and Christmas?

I heard one husband say he always knew the holidays were coming because his wife fell into a "Pre-Thanksgiving Day Twit" every year:
She wanted everything to be perfect.
She wanted her home to look good
Her children to act right
...Her husband to 'fall in line'

It took me a long time to realize that the way I could counteract 'My Twit' was to include my husband in a lot of my planning for the holidays.

He is the leavening agent that keeps me sane. He always comes back to the real reason for celebrating and isn't so swayed by the decorations I need to buy or the extra memory I want to make.

Together we will decide who we want to entertain.

We'll talk about how much we want to spend.

I lay my expectations out to him so he will know what is behind my busy days.

Remember, I've been married 38 years and this has been a process. But I have found it an invaluable focus as I go into the holidays every year. Making my husband a priority has set an example for our kids. It truly is a family time...when there is family unity.

I think we can all get in a 'Twit' this time of year. If you haven't already identified that maybe some of the problem is that you are going up against your husband...or ignoring him completely, be honest and give it some thought.

It sounds good to be a wise woman. To have a quiet and gentle spirit. But somehow we think that excludes this time of year!

I think embracing your husband's ideas and input is a way to make your holidays fit your family...and a way to actually be wise throughout this busy season. I know your holiday will take on a different look than what you expected if you were to do it all yourself, but I also know there will be more harmony and sense of family if you begin to plan for this busy time together.

Friday, November 6

Saying thank you

What comes to mind when I think of gratefulness and manners is thank you notes.

For some people thank you notes seem outdated and a waste of time. For others, they are simply not optional.

I fall somewhere in between. I truly believe in the importance of thank you notes because it reminds me to be grateful to the giver - whether that's for a gift, an act of service, time, friendship or more. But I don't always take the time (or remember) to say thank you.

I think thank you notes also remind me to be intentional. It makes me think about the giver and helps me to appreciate their act of kindness.

Having just received meals for the last 7 weeks, I am incredibly grateful for those who have served my family this way.

A number of people who have given us baby gifts or meals have said not to write a thank you but this is difficult for me. I want to show my gratitude. I need to show my gratitude. And the polite thing to do is write a thank you note.

I'm not sure what I'll do in this case, but I do know I want to continue to strive to acknowledge kindness with a thank you - whether that's verbally or written. And I want to teach my children to as well.

Sitting down to write thank you notes takes time and discipline and is a habit that is developed when used regularly. I still have a long way to go, but thank goodness there's not a time limit on saying 'thank you.'

Thursday, November 5

Gratefulness

Barb mentioned on Monday that our two topics to focus on this week were manners and gratefulness. There have been a couple of situations that have happened this week that have made me very aware of how I am doing in fostering an attitude of gratefulness. I am thankful for the reminder because I obviously want to be a grateful person, but I also want my daughters to see this displayed in our home. I definitely think this is a topic you can discuss with your children but I also believe this is one of those "caught not taught" behaviors. Meaning that seeing my husband and me display a spirit of gratitude will be far more effective than simply talking about it. Unfortunately for me...one of the situations this week reminded me of how easy it is for me to complain instead of look for things to be grateful for.

On Tuesday night I decided to be very brave and take my five week old baby to Target all by myself. Now for all of you professional mothers out there, this may seem like a very easy task. For me...not so easy. Because although I love my daughter dearly, she is not the happiest baby on the block between the hours of 7 and 12 each evening. My husband stayed home with our other daughter to put her to bed. My sweet baby started her wailing in the car and continued her screaming throughout every aisle at Target. I felt like I was on Supermarket Sweep racing down the aisles to get my milk and bread. I had neglected to make a list (which was not a smart decision) and in my frazzled state I could not even remember what else I needed. I got to the checkout lady who said what everyone says when a baby is screaming, "oh my, she must be very hungry!" I wanted to scream "NO, I just fed her!" But instead I smiled and thought to myself please hurry so I can get home as quickly as possible and forget that this trip to Target ever happened.

Upon arriving home (with a screaming, sweaty baby) I realized that my husband had put my daughter to bed a whole 15 minutes early. In my sleep deprived, frazzled state this was just too much for me to handle and I lashed out at him with a snippy comment about putting her to bed early and messing up the routine. As I type this I realize how silly this sounds, but sadly that was what I was upset about. Anyway, in my frustration I didn't even notice that my husband had done the dishes, cleaned the kitchen, and picked up all of the toys from the day. He looked at me in amazement that I could get so wrapped up in the bed time routine that I couldn't even see that he was being helpful. Yikes! He took the baby and suggested I blow off some steam on the elliptical. As I was gliding along I thankfully realized that I was being ungrateful by only seeing my point of view and I apologized to him after my run.

Looking back on this situation, I responded out of being tired and stressed. Did I have reason to be tired and stressed? I think so. BUT, I didn't have a reason to be rude. I didn't have a reason to be ungrateful for what my husband had done. I want to be a person who looks for ways to show gratitude even when things are not going my way. I want for my girls to see that we can be people who are QUICK to be grateful and SLOW to complain. So today my challenge is for us all to do just that...find something to be grateful for instead of complaining. I think we will all find it so much more profitable.

Wednesday, November 4

My daily struggle with teaching manners

I must admit that this is a difficult topic to talk about because I feel so very inadequate when it comes to teaching my girls manners. It has been encouraging to read Barb’s comments the last two days to be reminded that it is a long process, but with children the ages of 8 and 3 you would think I would have it down right? Wrong! It’s not for a lack of trying on my part, but I just feel like the whole world is against me. I really feel like I am swimming up stream in this area because most people do not emphasize good manners or give my children a pass instead of reinforcing those good behaviors. For instance I do not want my children climbing all over my furniture and I expect them to do the same at other people’s homes. But often we go somewhere and the other children are climbing and jumping all over the furniture so inevitably my girls join in. Then I am left undoing everything that just happened in the car on the way home. It doesn’t make sense to them why they can’t so something if other kids can. It just seems like I am in it alone at times.

We started both girls very young to use sign language for many things they could not ask for. Please and thank you were at the top of our list. We actually still communicate at times with them using these signs. It is a great way to quietly remind them to say thank you to someone without embarrassing them by saying something out loud. I guess I am just amazed at how often we still need to remind them to say please and thank you!

We also decided early on that we wanted them to be respectful to their elders so we started by calling people Miss or Mr. and then their first names. We felt saying last names were pretty hard for a two year old so we went with Miss Heidi or Miss Stacy. As Abigail is getting older we are transitioning to last names more often than not. Either way I like the form of respect it conveys to the grown up, and I think it is helpful in teaching our girls there is a difference between those who are older and themselves.

I think the manners I am struggling with most right now are their manners at the table. If any of you have school-age children and join them for lunch, you will be able to relate to this story. The other day I sat in horror as my 8-year-old daughter was literally shoving her pear into her mouth as fast as she could, slurping every bite…pear dripping down her chin, as she continually looked up at the clock to see if she would have time to eat her pickle that was left on her plate. Having only 15 minutes to get your lunch down is not conducive to good manners, but this was unbelievable. But could I really blame her? She is starving (because she eats lunch so late) and she has a limited time to eat that lunch. Again, I feel like I need to undo what she is learning at lunchtime everyday.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that teaching manners as well as values in general would be so difficult. Isn’t that what good parenting is all about? Isn’t it about putting in the work day after day holding onto the fact that it will pay off down the road? Or at least that you are doing your job of being the best parent you can be-trying to give your children the best possible foundation to succeed? I guess I am just in that spot where I feel like I am in an up-hill battle. . . but I do know it is worth the fight. Please be encouraged today that you are not alone!

Tuesday, November 3

Manners Matter

When my kids were young, I didn't really think about manners as a 'parenting value'. I don't think many young moms did then. We just told our kids to be 'nice'!

I love how young moms use 'sign language' with their very young children long before they can speak! A simple 'sign' of 'please' or 'thank you' starts the young child to converse with abit of understanding that he/she needs to communicate in a certain way to get what they want.

Manners in conversation takes a long time to teach. It starts as you converse with your child. Eye contact and a kind voice will be duplicated by your child over the years if you are truly consistent with it yourself. Basic courtesy, such as treating your child as a participant in a conversation, is vital as a mom.


Children just naturally 'interrupt' when talking because everything is about them to begin with. It is easier to stop interruptions before they become a habit.

The holidays are a perfect time to work on manners and to build this value into your family.

Start early in November with family dinners. Light a candle and 'practice' manners as a family. Sorry, I wish I could say this only takes a few dinners to instill good habits. It takes years, but you will see progress if you stick with it.

If you entertain during the holidays, include your children for the first 5-10 minutes before you send them off to their bedrooms or to the babysitter. Let them see you and your guests interact. Again, let them be a participant not a performer when you have company. Your child will begin to see what manners are for and will eventually feel good about themselves that they know how to act in a formal setting.

I never found teaching manners was easy but as the years went by, I saw the fruits of my labor.

Start this holiday season and be intentional in passing on good manners.