Things Great & Small...God Bless Us, Every One

Something occurred to me today as I popped my Poptart in the new toaster at work.  I was thinking about how I'm grateful for Poptarts.  Then I thought about how I'm grateful for a new toaster that seems far less likely to cause the building to burn down than the old one.  As I was contemplating those seemingly insignificant things, I realized there had been no Great List of 2009.  No "I'm thankful for the following:" list.   I don't think I can call 2009 "complete" until it happens.

So it's happening now.

Or a few moments from now, after I share with you something that my husband informed me of the other day.  It was either super late and we were trying to fall asleep or it was really early and we had just woken up.  Either way, I was rambling on and on about various, unrelated nonsense while he was barely coherent.  He said to me, "Your mind just races, doesn't it?"  The answer is yes.  I am constantly thinking.  I am unable to shut my brain off.  It's no doubt why I have trouble sleeping, why I get so worried/stressed about things, why I make list after list after list out of fear that I will forget something important.  It's what I'm pretty sure is the very nature of a Type-A personality.

With that, I give you my list o' things both great and small for which I am thankful/by which I consider myself blessed.  (And because my mind will likely be racing whilst I compile it, you've been forewarned that it will probably be like witnessing a word association game inside my head, that I'm transcribing for you all to read.)

101 Things for which I'm Thankful/by which I am Blessed
  1. My morning Poptart at work
  2. A functioning, non-hazardous toaster
  3. Surprise Dunkin' Donuts giftcards "just because"
  4. The mischievous grin Abby gives me after she knows she's done something bad
  5. Friends with kids of similar ages to mine
  6. An office configuration that allows me to leave Facebook open all day without fear of someone walking by and spotting it
  7. A huge monitor behind which I can hide when I read something that makes me a little teary at work
  8. A tech-savvy husband who even attempts to rescue crashed hard drives
  9. A kitchen-savvy husband who makes delicious meals just for fun
  10. A kid-savvy husband who seems to always be able to find the appropriate method of distraction, discipline, or TLC that the situation requires
  11. Christianity.com's awesome Bible in 365 Days format
  12. The fact that I still have a job, the future outlook of which is less grim than even a month ago
  13. The Negative Nellies & Debbie Downers that I encounter each day as a reminder of what not to be like
  14. The thumb button on my mouse that allows me to go "Back" with ease
  15. Propel Vitamin Enhanced Water Beverage that has replaced Coca-Cola in my daily diet
  16. A Christian boss who values above all else God and family
  17. Dave Ramsey and his baby steps
  18. Common sense
  19. The fact that even though most of the time my first impressions are dead on, sometimes they're not.  
  20. A husband who finds the positive in everything
  21. A successful seven months (and counting) nursing Sarah
  22. A building full of childcare workers that leave me with a feeling of complete peace when I leave for work
  23. The model of marriage that my parents and in-laws provide
  24. A super smart six year old boy that finds learning exciting
  25. Our central vacuum system
  26. Orbit gum
  27. Mixed nuts...literally.  Mostly walnuts, pecans, cashews, hazelnuts & pistachios
  28. A commute less than ten minutes long
  29. That I am finally acclimating to the Georgia climate
  30. The useless movie/television quotes embedded in my brain that creep up at the most opportune moments
  31. The music my father listened to while I was growing up
  32. Baking
  33. The excitement in my childrens' eyes over life's little wonders
  34. Hand-me-downs
  35. Flexible schedules that allow us to pick up the kids at 3:30pm 
  36. Growing extended families
  37. 24-hour grocery stores, pharmacies, and, yes, even Walmarts
  38. Extended warranties
  39. 3pm chocolate breaks
  40. Notes of cheer
  41. Making people smile
  42. Doing jigsaw puzzles of varying degrees of difficulty on the living room floor
  43. Finding the perfect present...on sale
  44. Black Friday
  45. After-Christmas clearance
  46. 24-hour Christmas carols
  47. Pumpkin flavored treats
  48. Living like no one else so I can, someday, give like no one else
  49. Sudoku
  50. Mindless John Grisham novels
  51. Actually finishing a book that is not a Grisham novel
  52. The willingness of my kids to help in the kitchen
  53. The ministries at Central Baptist Church
  54. Living in a town voted Best Place to Raise Your Children
  55. Finding "a little bit of humor" in day to day life
  56. The memories of teachers who impacted my life that surface almost daily
  57. Proverbs 31
  58. Being able to use my height for good...like reaching things for short people
  59.  Awesome medical insurance (Thanks to you, Sam & the federal government)
  60. That I now crave salad from time to time (Thanks Sam)
  61. Dimetapp
  62. The rare nights that my kids go to bed without whining
  63. The opportunities to pass on 2-lane roads
  64. Having family in a rural community that I can visit and relax with.  Then I can return home to my conveniences...
  65. The possibility of seeing snow while I'm "home" for Christmas
  66. Capturing so many of life's little moments on camera
  67. The beautiful, amazing talent of the dancers on So You Think You Can Dance
  68. The chunky rolls and blue eyes of my precious 7-month old
  69. The long legs and blond hair of my wild 3-year old
  70. The Jennie-booty and thick, brown hair of my intense 6-year old
  71. Gummy grins
  72. Sour gummy worms
  73. Neighbors who overlook our less-than-stellar landscaping of late
  74. The smell of fresh cut Christmas trees
  75. People who take the high road
  76. People who remind me that we are covered by God's grace
  77. Peace that surpasses all understanding
  78. Cookies
  79. Those moments that make you realize how small the world actually is
  80. The people I've never met but that make my life better every day
  81. The people who do the thankless tasks
  82. Compliments from strangers, particularly in regard to my kids
  83. The willingness of people to volunteer as coaches in Upwards programs
  84. All You magazine
  85. Not having to go hungry, cold, or shelter-less
  86. The Day Zero Project
  87. The emerald waters of Destin, Florida
  88. Sandwiches on sourdough bread
  89. Handwritten mail
  90. Never wondering "What Might Have Been"
  91. Being able to enjoy infancy instead of stressing about it
  92. Dilbert
  93. Finding out at the register that something is cheaper than I thought it was
  94. Tiny fingers and toes
  95. Hot beverages that warm my fingers
  96. Free refills
  97. Unexpected Christmas bonuses
  98. XM radio playing in the background
  99. The brilliant idea I had to take a break from the news during the month of December
  100. Marrying the man I found "true love" with
  101. Above all else...God's gift to the world
This reminds me of that old song we used to sing in church, "Count Your Blessings".  I couldn't possibly list everything I am thankful for.  But...in closing, may the words of this song resonate with you this Christmas.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

(refrain) Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings—wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Mom Things - Have a Very Merry Christmas!!!

You can convince your kids to try anything if it's dipped in ketchup.

You have grown to hate glitter.

You know that little white lies, like referring to pork chops as chicken nuggets if it gets your kids to eat them, are mostly harmless and often necessary.

You experience the joy right along with them when your child learns how to assemble a puzzle, or sound out words all by themselves.  There's nothing quite like that fresh sense of accomplishment and pride.

At some point, you will clean chapstick off the floor, marker off the walls, and syrup off the underside of a table.  All in one day.  And not think a thing about it.

You can agonize for months over what gifts to get your kids for Christmas.  They will always want what the other one got.  Gender and age is irrelevant.

You are startled, but not surprised, when you find pine needles in your child's underwear and scalp.

You know that there is no way to prevent or predict the outlandish things your child will say at top volume in the midst of a quiet setting like in a church service, during a blessing, or in a doctor's waiting room.  You also know that however embarrassing whatever they say might be, the best reaction is a smile and a quiet "shh".  Chances are the people around you will find it humorous (and if they don't, Bah Humbug to them).

If you can't find your daughter, and she's not swinging from a rafter somewhere, the next logical place you look is in the pantry.  She's probably in there.  Sneaking chocolate.

You understand the code names your kids have for the local restaurants like The Peanut Restaurant (Logan's Roadhouse), The Orange One at Daddy's Work (Pizza Depot), The Fire Restaurant (Any Japanese Steakhouse). 

“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” -Frank Zappa

And so I will begin my list update for anyone who chooses/cares to become up-to-date on such things.

#2~Join a committee at Ben's school.

This is an interesting one.  I *think* I am on the Teacher Appreciation Committee, but I can't be sure.  Until I know for a fact, I won't cross it off.  How's that for being on the ball?  What I do know is that they never forget to contact me when it's time to donate goodies for a teacher luncheon.  And I have to admit, I am more than willing to donate food/goodies/treats to make teachers feel appreciated!

#27~Reach two new "tens-places" in my weight.  

I have achieved the first new tens-place!  Can you believe it!?  In the midst of a holiday season, cookies aplenty, I have dropped to a new decade of weight.  Methinks this might be attributable to the extended nursing because it is *surely* not attributable to the amount of baked delights I've have been eating.

#41~Send a note of cheer to someone twice a month.

Check and check for the month of December!  I have to admit that it felt a little silly what with the Christmas cards going out in the mail.  But that's the point...to send two notes of cheer per month over and above routine correspondence.

#48~Anonymously do 10 acts of kindness.

This one is proving tricky as well.  I guess it depends on how *I* define anonymous.  And if I'm being a stickler, I didn't accomplish one of these this month.  Anonymous means NO ONE but me knows about it.

#49~Take treats to the kids' teachers once a month.

Delivered goodie trays to Abby & Sarah's teachers this morning.  Delivered goodie bags to Ben's teachers last Friday.  December is a go for #49.

#55~Read the entire works of Dr. Seuss to my children.

I believe I mentioned the Buy 2 Get 1 Free at Barnes & Noble in my last update.  These 3 are unread Dr. Seuss books...Yertle the Turtle, The Lorax, and Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?  I wrapped them yesterday, and can't wait for the kids to open them on Christmas day!

#64~Make Callaway Gardens an annual Christmas tradition.

Just managed to get this in under the wire this year.  I had almost resigned to not doing it, but Sam is a man of true conviction.  We trekked to Callaway on Thursday evening after a night of Christmas pictures, and dinner in the van from McD's to board the 9pm trolley ride through the Fantasy of Lights.  Abby loved it.  Ben enjoyed pointing out the speakers hanging in the trees (typical).  Sarah did not enjoy it.  Not one bit.  Better luck next year!

#67~Make 10 homemade gifts.

We made these for Ben's teachers.  Does that count as two or one?  (wink, wink)  Abby and I are also going to finish another set of homemade gifts tonight (hopefully!).  It's a "token" gift that ended up being A LOT more work than I thought it would be!  More on this later...you know, after they've been given!

#86~Eat at 10 new restaurants.

Given our propensity to dine out, especially at the holidays, I can't believe this is the first new restaurant experience.  Sam and I ate at Momma Goldberg's Deli just around the corner from my office for lunch last Thursday.  I might be partial given my obsession with sandwiches, but that Momma's Love just melted in my mouth.  Two thumbs up for this place!  Bonus...you get a reusable souvenir cup with drink purchase.  I love me some plastic restaurant cups. 

As you can see, I cannot cross any off the list at this point, but I am definitely making progress.  And progress, friends, where lists are concerned is nothing but good.

The Mom Things a day early...My Christmas gift to you (ha!)

You fixed breakfast for dinner, only to realize you have about 1 inch of syrup in the bottle, which is CLEARLY not enough for your condiment-loving family.  Who goes without syrup on their waffle?  You do.

After a week (or more) of consecutive late nights and early mornings on your part, you crash in a useless heap on the couch at 8:30, not to move again until you hear your husband leave for work.  If someone needed you in the night, you slept through it. 

It never ceases to amaze you how the same child can so willingly lay down for a nap, but so violently oppose bedtime at night.

You completely understand why they're called "smart" alecks.  Some of the things they come up with in retort (however rude and disrespectful) are downright brilliant.  (Just for fun, here's more on the phrase smart aleck.)

There's no way in heck you're ready for another baby, but holding a newborn never fails to give you the itch.

You've answered the door to a solicitor on a Saturday morning sans make-up, with hair disheveled, mismatching pj's on, and a kid in Ninja Turtle costume at your side, only to be asked if the man or woman of the house was home.  Yeah, lady.  You're looking at her.

You've braved Walmart at Christmastime.  'Nuff said.

You have become immune to tattling.  Things like...Mommy, Abby threw an ornament at me...Mommy, Ben kicked me...Mommy, Abby splashed me...Mommy, Ben took my blankie and threw it at me...mean nothing to you.

You thank God for your kid's teachers daily.  You have one kindergartner and find that difficult.  Imagine having twenty.

You always thought boarding school was cruel.  Then your daughter turned 3.  Turns out they won't accept her for another ten years or so.  If either of you make it to then.

Thank Goodness Cookies Won!

Best Christmas Treat?

  8 (36%)

  5 (22%)

Hot Cocoa
  0 (0%)
  1 (4%)

Candy Canes
  1 (4%)

  7 (31%)

I was beginning to lose faith in my readers. Cookies are OF COURSE the best Christmas treat! ;)

Happy Treat-Eating!

A Lil' List Update - #71 & #73

I scratched two more tasks off of my list since my last update.  If you read my Advent Calendar post you may have noticed that I (cleverly) slipped in some of my list tasks as each day's activity.  One of the activities was to make playdough snowmen.  We did that.  Well, Ben did that.  Abby took some creative license with her "snowman".  At any rate, we used homemade playdough to play.  So, #71 (Make homemade playdough) gets crossed off.

As a side note, Sam can't believe I never did this as a kid.  I guess I had a deprived childhood.  Maybe my mom's not so craftsy?  Feel free to ask her why Julie and I lived such sheltered childhoods next time you see her.  I'm sure she'd appreciate it.

Then came a BIG ONE.  #73~Host a party at the homestead.  Saturday night, we hosted the Young Married Sunday School class Christmas party.  If I might say so myself, I think it was a huge success.  The turn out was amazing (31 adults, 22 kids...all 6 and under).  We ate.  We laughed.  We got to know each other better.  Some of us probably went home and took some Excedrin.  (With 22 kids, the noise level did escalate.  Note to self - Next time put down some more rugs or even wall tapestries....HA!)  I had a wonderful time.  I think my only errors were forgetting to put out the coffee creamer and failing to give a tutorial on our newfangled coffee maker.  It doesn't really look like a coffee maker...  I can just envision it now.  "Okay, everyone, gather round.  Before you start socializing and having fun.  Here are the instructions on how to get coffee out of this thing."  Oh yeah.  My parties are a riot.

I am ashamed to admit that I took not one single picture of the momentous event.  But I am proud to say that I wasn't stressed about it at all.  (The party, not the pictures.)  I have a propensity to worry about my kids at all times.  I think the fact that it was at my house allowed me not to stress about them.  I foresee more gatherings at our house in the future.  (That is if anyone wants to come back!)

And a word on the kids...they were simply AMAZING.  Not mine, but all of them.  Ben was elated to have some boys to play with.  They must've run up and down the hallway hundreds of times pushing cars from one bedroom to the other.  By the time everyone was leaving, he had sweat just dripping off of his forehead.  Abby had no meltdowns over sharing her toys (hooray!).  And neither did Sarah.  (Hey, it could happen.)  Maybe I was too engrossed in other things to notice, but I didn't hear a single argument between the children throughout the evening.  They just played together SO well.  It allowed us adults the rare opportunity to chat.  I hadn't realized how much I lack that until I got a taste of it.  So thanks, kids.  You guys rock.  We had games available, but we all just opted for conversation.  How nice is that?

That brings the 101 list total of completed tasks to 12.  Only 89 to go!

Two signs your son is...smart?

We always knew Ben was a bit "academic".  From infancy, instead of looking at the mobile in his swing, he'd watch the hinge, as if trying to figure out how the thing was working.  In toddlerhood, we'd take him to the zoo, and he'd marvel over the animal's water sources, barely glancing at the animals themselves.  He has *always* asked a million and one questions.  I guess that how they get to be so smart, huh? 

At any rate, we always knew he'd be our intellectual one. 

Last weekend, Grammie came for a visit.  With her, she brought a copy of My First Dictionary.  She just had a hunch he'd like it.

She was right. 

He has carried that dictionary around for a solid week.  Everywhere we go, there goes the dictionary.  My son is literally reading the dictionary. 

The other sign isn't quite so, umm, nerdy.  For whatever reason, the DIY network was on the tv last Friday night.  It was airing a show called Finders Fixers.  The host was trying to figure out the source of a plumbing back-up in a newly renovated house.  I truly do not know why it was on that channel, but after a few minutes, I looked up to find Ben sitting just inches away from the tv, cross-legged, completely engrossed in/mesmerized by the show.  Sam and I chuckled at him.  It wasn't an hour later, he came back and asked me if I could turn on the DIY network for him again.  He proceeded to watch Disaster House, 10 Grand in Your Hand, and something else throughout the course of the weekend. 

This I can get on board with.  Especially if it means we get a break from Power Rangers.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

No doubt about it, the holiday season is here.  It's full steam ahead with the cookie & candy making, present buying & wrapping, friends & family visiting, all that stuff.  It would be a missed opportunity if I didn't throw out there that all of this is and should be secondary to the real reason for the season.

With lights adorning houses, trees aplenty, and the smell of baked goodies in the air, I can't help but remember some of my most prominent Christmas memories from days gone by.  It's always been such a magical time of year.  Everyone just comes alive.  There's such a spirit of giving and good will.  It does my heart right.

Since my life feels like a big to-do list right now, I will be flashing back in the form of a list.  (You are surprised by this.  I know.  I never make lists.)

Here goes...a Top 10 list of my favorite/most-prominent Christmas memories:

10.  Since we got married, we have split the holidays between the Maryland family and Sylvania families.  It's a long drive, but it's the only equitable way we can figure.  And it's worked for us so far (ask me again in 2 weeks).  At any rate, one of those Christmases, we left Baltimore on Christmas night around 6:30pm.  We were somewhere-in-South Carolina in the wee hours of the morning, searching for coffee.  We'd pulled off several exits in a row and nary a gas station was open.  I started panicking only to see a Waffle House with lights on and cars in the parking lot around the 3rd exit.  A big shout out to Waffle House coffee to-go for getting us safely to Sylvania that Christmas.

9.  Because of the traveling, Santa comes to our house early.  We write him a letter asking special permission for that.  Two years ago he brought Ben a pedal-car that he was just absolutely elated about.  It was cold that morning, but he didn't care.  He was wearing his fleece footies, and went straight outside.  This picture makes me smile.  That's pure joy.

8.  White Christmas 2000 ~ You might think we got a lot of white Christmases in Maryland, but not really.  This one is "fresh" on my mind.  I remember Julie & Jon returning from Ft. Leonardwood, Missouri with Trooper.  And man, that dog loved snow.  So cute.

7.  Just before Christmas 2005, I got a call at work.  Ben had a fall at daycare.  Since Sam was closer, he went to check on him.  He'd fallen off a bookshelf and gotten a nice shiner.  Just in time for Christmas!  (I can't believe that's the best picture I can find.)

6.  I don't even remember how old I was, but I remember that computer.  I remember walking out into our living room on Christmas morning to find a little wooden table (pulled out of the attic) with a sheet over it.  Our first computer...a Tandy.  Man, I loved that thing.  What a super nerd.

5.  For as long as I can remember, my parents have hosted a Christmas brunch.  And every year regardless of the temperature, my mom would send my dad out to the shed to cook sausage for the following mornings festivities because she "didn't want to stink the house up".  He'd watch his little black & white tv, bundled up in a hoodie, and I'd go out there and sneak a piece (or a few).  I thought it smelled GREAT.  But then again, I might be a carnivore.

4.  We didn't have cable television growing up, but we had an extensive VHS tape collection...which included holiday favorites A Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation.  If it was any time during the month of December, chances are my dad was watching one of these (and he still does).  Whenever I hear the word "glue", I think of "You used up ALL the glue...on PURPOSE."  And whenever I see the word "Fragile", I think "Frah-geel-lay...that must be Italian."  The majority of my Christmas interactions with my dad involve discussion of these movies and riotous laughter.  Mostly on his part.

3.  The Christmas Eve candlelit services at MRBC will always hold a special place in my heart.  Without question, I feel God's presence every time I'm there holding that candle, singing Christmas carols...notably Silent Night...without musical accompaniment.  Just our voices.  It's amazing.

2.  When I was ten, I spent the entire second half of December laid up sick.  I had strep throat and mono on Christmas day.  I woke up long enough to open presents, and in a moderate state of delirium, headed back to bed.  I remember that I got the Aladdin soundtrack and a dry erase board (which I desperately wanted), which I toted back to my bunk bed.  I laid there listening to the music from Aladdin dozing in and out of consciousness, when my mom came in to check on me.  I incoherently babbled something about termites eating my bed (I remember saying it, but I have no idea what it meant), to which she said, "Jennie, you're talking out of your head" and left the room.  That was my 10-year old Christmas.  Funny thing is...I remember it fondly.

1.  Perhaps the funniest Christmas memory I have is coming home from running errands with my mom to find Julie holding up the Christmas tree.  We always got a giant, freshly-cut Christmas tree that we put into a too-small tree stand.  I think we all knew it was precarious, but evidently Julie saw the tree about to fall from the kitchen and caught it.  Without knowing what else to do, she stood there, for who-knows-how-long, holding the tree up.  Talking on the corded phone pulled in from the kitchen.  Let's just say she wasn't too happy when we finally got home.  But thanks to whomever it was that helped her pass the tree-holding time on the phone! 

I know you all have your own memories of the holidays, which are surely as unique (read: random) as my own.  I'd love to hear some of them if you care to share!  And as always, thanks for reading!

Merry Christmas!

The Mom Things - 12.09.09

You rarely clean windows because, come on, who really has time for that anyway...BUT, you go so far as to *like* it when there's that solitary perfect tiny handprint right in the center of the glass.  There's just nothing quite as sweet as a little handprint.  Unless, of course, it's of the greasy, smeary variety.

You've seen the same exact scene from any given childrens movie dozens of times, but have never seen the the whole movie in its entirety.

If it weren't so awesome that your son can read, you'd almost lament the fact that you can no longer resort to spelling things as your parental code language.

You've learned to start early teaching your kids how to be gophers for you.  The morning routine goes a lot faster when you have a couple of  youngsters running around retrieving things like socks, baby bottles, dirty dishes, etc for you.

You start to feel really sorry for Kate Gosselin and her grocery bill the way you run through bread, eggs, and milk.  And you only have two kids who eat "real" food at the moment.

You can't find your daughter, so you know to immediately look up.  She has probably skillfully climbed to the apex of something very tall in the 30 seconds she was missing.

It's been so long since you got any sleep that you don't even realize you're tired.  Tired is a way of life.

Superficial as it is, you were relieved to find out during your last visit to the school that your bookworm, somewhat nerdy son is actually quite popular among his classmates.

You eavesdrop on your kids' conversations with Santa to get gift ideas.  Then you get nervous because you have NO idea what "Dora Tippytoes" is.

You totally understand all of those "unfair" rules your parents imposed on you (i.e.-no dating until 16, early curfews, no concerts) because you're gearing up to use them all.  Thanks for the ideas, Mom & Dad.  ;)

Dead Chickens EVERYWHERE

I realize I haven't flashed back on a Friday in a while, so I'm taking the liberty of doing it now.  On a Tuesday.  I can't say for sure why I thought of this particular event, but I suppose it's because early December is the first time I ever traveled to Georgia, and it happened during that long ride down here.

My mother was blessed with the gift of gab.  She passed it on to Julie.  Me, not so much.  Conversation is work for me, but I'm (very slowly and in my own opinion) getting better.  Already I've digressed.  Dangit.  If you know my mother, close your eyes and try to imagine her on a 12 hour car-ride, having to sit still, and with nothing to occupy her but her thoughts.  If you don't know my mother, think of the person in your life who talks more than anyone else that you know.  Then close your eyes and imagine that person on a 12 hour car-ride, having to sit still, and with nothing to occupy them but their thoughts.


Such was the case on our first trip to Georgia for Mercer's Scholar's Weekend.  I, on a very random whim, decided to apply to this little old school way down in Georgia, and furthermore came to compete for a scholarship all the way from Maryland in December of 2000.  The trip was mostly unmemorable.  It's a dull ride down I-95.  For 12 hours.

Joyce was gabbing away.  My dad was fighting with the windshield wipers that kept randomly turning on and off without prompting.  I was no doubt listening to CD's with my headphones on.  All of the sudden my mom exclaims, "What's with all of the dead chickens on the side of the road?"  That was enough to get my attention so I looked out the window to see white tufts laying all across the median and on both shoulders.  My dad asked, "What?  What chickens?"  She pointed out the white things.  Chickens, undoubtedly.

My dad looked at her and said, "Joyce, those aren't chickens.  That's cotton."


Yeah, we're not from the South.  (And my mom has since gotten glasses.)


Sam's Secret to Patience and a Christmas Tree

Last Tuesday night, as item number one on this year's advent calendar, the kids and I decorated the tree.  Sam observed as I tried to lay out the non-breakable ornaments for Ben & Abby to hang on the tree before they could race me to the heaviest glass ones available.  They certainly tried.  And they succeeded.  Two broken ornaments later (which I still consider a small price to pay for a tree decorated almost entirely by a six and three year old), it was done. 

About halfway through the decorating, sometime between the first and second ornaments shattering, I looked to Sam with a plea of help in my eyes.  He looked back at me and said, "I would have lost my patience by now."  I laughed at the irony of the statement because he is CLEARLY the more patient of the two of us.  After telling him I thought so, he said, "Only because I pick my battles wisely."

Hmmm.  So *that's* the secret.  Sorry kids, next year I may go it alone.  (wink, wink)  Or at least wait until the younger one(s) are in bed!

Here are a few warning/pointers for those of you who plan to decorate a Christmas tree with small children:

1.  They *really* like the fancy bulbs that have their own boxes.  They are drawn to those.  Hide them.  Before you even begin decorating.  Don't even let them see the satiny little treasure boxes.  These are without question the ones that will get broken if you don't. 

2.  It helps to make a line-up of soft/unbreakable ornaments so they still have the illusion of  being able to choose which one they put on next.  "Yes, Abby, dear.  You can pick ANY of THESE ornaments you want!"

3.  No amount of suggestion will stop them from hanging the ornaments from the very tip of the flimsiest limbs they can find.  It's instinctual.  They are born to do this.

4.  If you have multiples of a similar-looking ornament, like crocheted snowflakes, they will inevitably end up representing a blizzard in one very low, very concentrated part of your tree, as such:

5.  You'll see something like this, and won't be able to help but smile.  Sure the ornaments are on the ground, but darn it, they're hooked on to a limb.  And not even the tip of one!  Maybe they *did* hear those instructions!  There is hope for next year after all!

6.  Pick your battles wisely.  Though, I think in the end a family-effort at decorating the Christmas tree is worth it. 

~~~Merry Christmas~~~

As for the favorite Christmas movie...

"Miracle on 34th Street" wins by a hair (or since it's gross to say that, it just wins by one vote).

It's a Wonderful Life
  2 (11%)

A Christmas Story
  4 (22%)

Christmas Vacation
  0 (0%)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  4 (22%)

Miracle on 34th Street
  5 (27%)

Something else not listed
  3 (16%)

In case anyone wants to know the "correct" answer (aka Jennie's answer), it is A Christmas Story. This movie reminds me of childhood, watching it OVER and OVER with my dad who never stopped laughing while it was on. I'm not exaggerating. When the joke stopped being funny, he started laughing in anticipation at the ones that were coming up. I love this movie too. It's a classic.

It's a Wonderful Life would be the 2nd answer. I think of it as one of my alltime favorite movies, but I watch it throughout the year. God Bless George Bailey.

Happy Christmas, all!

P.S.- If you were a "Something else" person, please tell me what it is.  Now is your chance!

Halfway to #70...The Advent Calendar

#70 on the (in)famous list is Make An Advent Calendar Each Christmas.  I had HUGE aspirations for this year.  I read an idea two Christmases ago in a the Southern Living Christmas book that I just HAD to do.  Lo and behold, I procrastinated until November 30th and I was in a tizzy.  The two-year old idea will have to wait one more year.  In the interim though, I think this year's calendar is pretty darn neat.

I saw the idea somewhere...after frantically googling "easy advent calendar ideas for kids".  So I apologize to whomever originated the idea, blogged about it, and I'm failing to give due credit.  The idea was not my own, though I wish it was.

At any rate...this is it:

The windows were cut out of magazines (a task that Ben handled with mastery).  I then glued them onto cardstock, and cut around them with a razor knife.  I glued another layer of cardstock behind the windows, and under each one wrote a Christmas related activity that we would accomplish on that day.

For example...on December 5th...

I thought this would be more meaningful than "here's a piece of candy to eat because we're one day closer to Christmas".  I think it's working, and Ben is all about it.  (Abby doesn't really care one way or the other.)  It's also a way to make sure we do something fun and Christmas-y every day.

So, don't tell the kids because each day is a surprise, but here's what's on board for each day.

1.  Trim Tree
2.  Read "The Grinch"
3.  Make Paper Snowflakes
4.  Attend Singing Christmas Tree
5.  Eat Pancakes with Santa
6.  Make Playdoh Snowmen
7.  Make Christmas Tree-Shaped Crayon Melts
8.  Get a Snow Ball from Snow-Biz
9.  Watch a Christmas Movie Together
10.  Make Teacher Gifts
11.  At Dinner, Tell What You Love About Each Family Member
12.  Christmas Party!
13.  Make Pinecone/Peanut Butter Bird Feeders
14.  Eat Breakfast for Dinner
15.  Drive Around and Look at Lights
16.  Dance Party to Christmas Music
17.  Calloway Gardens!
18.  Camp by the Tree
19.  Make Cookies
20.  Deliver Cookies to Neighbors
21.  Sing Carols
22.  Stay Up One Hour Late
23.  Eat Dessert First!  Yum.
24.  Wrap Presents
25.  Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus!

Notice how I got some of the other list items in there?  Sneaky sneaky.

Made a List...Checking it Twice (and obsessively every day)

The Christmas season is here.  I'm already tired...and I love it.  But Christmas season this year has afforded me a lot of opportunities to do list-related things, so in checking my list twice, I'm referring to the 101 List, of course.

I have completed two more tasks since my last update.

#36 - Support CBC's Singing Christmas Tree

As the request of Brother Owen, there was no flash photography at the performance, so you'll just have to take my word for it that it was amazing.  I have no idea how those singers weren't terrified and/or claustrophobic at the top of the tree, so MAJOR props to the highest and middle-most ones.  I am checking this off because not only did I support them with my attendance, but I supported them with baked goodies for the cast party (chocolate crinkle cookies), and by bringing Ben to all three performances so he could sing with the children's choir.  I hope to help them tear it down this week. 

Here's my happy "caroler"...

And the evidence of cookies sent for the performers...I can't lie, I held a couple back for me and my sweet-loving Abby, mostly the rejected looking ones.

#80 - Eat Breakfast with Santa

The Perry Chapter of the Kiwanis and Mahala Clubs hosted the annual Pancakes with Santa breakfast this morning, and we attended.  We got there just in time.  They ran out of sausage right after we went through the line.  (Poor Sam didn't get any as he had to wait at the table with the girls.  I tried to share.)  You might not know this, but my carnivorous kids would MUCH rather have attended Sausage with Santa (and it would make for a better "sounding" alliterative event, but I digress).  At any rate, we got a picture...bonus.  And there were no tears, the surprise of the morning!  Were they skeptical?  Yes.  Frightened?  Not so much.

I've also made great progress on several of the other tasks.  Tonight at B&N we purchased three Dr. Seuss books for Christmas presents for the kids (thanks to the buy 2 get 1 free sale).  By this time next week, I will be able to cross off #73 (Host a party at the homestead), as we are hosting our Sunday School Christmas party.  I voted in the mayoral runoff election in December 1st pursuant to #4 (Vote in all city and county elections).  And on #5 (Take the Professional Engineer Exam), I submitted my application last Monday to sit for the PE Exam in April.  I'm already biting my nails over that one.  Perhaps the most exciting recent list-related task is the advent calendar I made.  I think I'm going to do a whole new post devoted to it.  Because THAT'S how excited I am about it.

Until next time...

The Mom List - December, oh my!

You realize how much your children can mature in one year, when at the first night of basketball practice your son is no longer scared to catch the ball, and your daughter (the spectator) is no longer diving off the bleachers without fear of injury.

You spy your little girl "feeding" your baby girl with her toy dishes and all you can do is smile.

You're not scared of thunderstorms, but your daughter is...so whenever you hear a crack of thunder during the workday, you worry sick about her until the storm blows over.

You sometimes think of your kids as real, live Barbie dolls that you get to dress up and accessorize. 

Unfortunately, your daughter thinks that too, and her sense of matching is not quite on target yet.  Or maybe she's just channeling the 80's.

You have that 'oh crap' moment when you realize your son's foot is almost as big as yours.  And he's six.

You never realized how strong a three year old girl could be until you tried prying her off your leg at morning dropoff time.

There's that one, solitary morning where your kids get up, eat breakfast, get dressed, and get in the car all ready to go without any prompting/nagging/yelling that rejuvinates you for another couple of months.  It hardly even matters that it was totally just a dream.

Being late has become your modus operandi. 

It never fails.  All children in your house will have to poop at the same time...inevitably in the middle of dinner.  (Sorry.  It's uncanny, but true.)

I don't think that's biblical.

Ben is known for asking very deep questions, especially for a six year old.  The ride to school is when he typically comes up with his best questions (thankfully the trip only takes about ten minutes...I fear the things he could come up with with a longer time frame).  This morning's topic of discussion was money.  How much you need to buy a house.  How much you need to buy a car.  Borrowing money from banks.  Interest.  Savings.  What you can get for $13 (the amount of money currently in his wallet).  We talked about all of that.

I saw the opportunity for an important life lesson and so I seized it.  I told him what we *should* do with our money is save some, spend a little, and share some with others who need our help, like those who can't afford food for themselves.  That's what Jesus would want us to do.  He pondered it for a minute.

It was then that Abby chimed in.  I had no idea she was paying attention, since she'd been busy fabricating songs with unintelligible lyrics the whole ride.  ("You like *that* song, Mommy?")  She heard "That's what Jesus would want us to do" and ran with it.

"Yeah, that's what Jesus does.  He shares money.  Jesus *LOOOOVES* money."

Hmm.  No, Abby.  I don't think he does.

Guess we'll need to discuss *that* on the ride home.
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