Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Post Christmas lull ... and good news!

Two days after Christmas and it still kinda' looks like Santa's elves had a party up in here. And I am just now starting to feel like the cookies and candies and cheese and crackers and all that good stuff is beginning to wear off.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. We sure did. It was quiet - on Christmas Eve we made our annual cookie deliveries to neighbors/friends, then went to the candlelight service at church, then hung out at my in-laws' and did our gift exchange with them. Christmas morning the kids slept until a little after 7:30 (a Christmas miracle!) and then the four of us opened gifts and spent the rest of the day just enjoying each other's company. Sam was so happy with his new ski goggles and helmet that he wore them around the house most of the day, thoroughly cracking me up.

More than ever before, I just can't express how happy I am to be surrounded by family and friends this year. We have been blessed beyond measure.

It's been so nice to laze around and do a whole lot of nothing these last few days, but I'm feeling the pull to get back into a routine and get the house cleaned up and all the baubles put away. Just in time, I suppose, as Steve got the call today that he's been waiting for: he's starting a new job next week. Praise God. And that's all I'm gonna' say about that for now.

In other news, for the first time in ... shoot, maybe ever ... Steve and I have plans to go out on New Year's Eve! Neither of us is really into large gatherings of people, but we're going to brave it for one night to go out with another couple to dinner and then to our little town's version of a NYE ball drop. It will be nice to do something with just the adults, and I imagine this will be a bit of an early celebration for Steve's birthday (which is January 6th and by that time he'll be in Pennsylvania working).

I'm looking forward to 2012. This year has been a great year in many ways for our family, but I'm ready to leave some of the struggles behind, take what we've learned from them, and put some positive energy into making the year ahead even better than this one.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quiet time.

It is rare for me to be awake before everyone else. And in this house there is really nowhere to go that I don't run the risk of disturbing others' slumber, so I tiptoe around, sort some laundry, feed the cats, and pray I get just a few more minutes of the peace I so enjoy.

I am more of a night owl than an early riser, but I do so appreciate these mornings when I wake earlier than usual, and with a sense of purpose. A friend said the other day, "God woke me up early to spend some time with Him." That's how I feel this morning.

Often around this time of year - despite my promises to myself that I won't - I get a bit frazzled and caught up in the busy-ness of the holiday, and while I never forget the reason we are celebrating, I do sometimes lose my focus for a bit. It's never long before I hear that voice in my head telling me to still myself, calm down, take a breather. So I do just that in the early morning hours: I steady myself. I sit in the dark and stare at the glow of the lights on the Christmas tree. I count my blessings and give thanks. Or sometimes I just sit. And do nothing. Which is harder than it sounds.

I hope that in these last few days leading up to Christmas you are able to take some quiet time, too. Reflect on the gifts God has given you. Give thanks for your family, friends, home, health, job ... whatever is meaningful to you. And move about your day with a sense of peace.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Shopping day!

I have been too busy to post this week, but don't cry for me Blogland because busy is a good thing. My daylight hours have been filled with gift wrapping and baby sitting and a load of laundry here and there ...

Wait. No. No laundry. I think I might have made dinner the other night, though.

No worries. Steve has been filling in those gaps splendidly. He is particularly a great cook which is half the reason I married him. Ha!

So today I have nothing scheduled which means I need to make the most of my last day sans children. And that means shopping. I'd rather wrap 100 more gifts. (And people, that's saying a lot because I have wrapped just shy of three billion gifts this week.)

But wait. Most of what I buy today will need to be wrapped. Drat.

After today the kids will be home for the holidays and we'll be baking cookies and playing games and watching It's A Wonderful Life and if you believe it will be all fun and games I have a bridge somewhere in the desert to sell you.

No playing in the snow, even. 'Cause there is none. I've put in a request for a white Christmas, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. We live in Michigan, it's not too much to ask really.

Snow or no, we're gonna' do our best to enjoy the next couple of weeks together. Let's hope a vacation from school means the kids will sleep in. I can dream, can't I?

Have a great Friday, everyone! Nine days 'til Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Clean Slate Sunday: 12.11.11 edition

God is working on me.

It's difficult to articulate exactly how, but I can say it caused me to smile to myself this morning in church when I discovered one of our lessons was one of my favorite sections of verse.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (NKJV)
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

Through a combination of hearing or reading familiar Bible passages I know and love and digging deeper into those I'm not as familiar with, God is working on me.

Through the people I cross paths with and the things I see and read and experience, my heart is changing. Growing? Maturing in my faith? I don't know. Just ... changing. In a good way.

I've always said I am a work in progress. What I meant was that I am constantly working on bettering myself and becoming the best person I can be. Now I really feel like I'm not the only one at work here, and that's pretty cool.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Like a kid on Christmas morning.

I had trouble sleeping last night. Too much caffeine, maybe. Full moon shining through the skylights, maybe. But mostly because my mind was racing with excitement. I had spent a couple hours few minutes on Pinterest (hellooo, time suck) (proof: I just opened up the page to copy and link the address and spent 5 minutes there. Psh.) looking at all kinds of ideas for little baking projects and fun crafts to do with the kids while they are off for Christmas break. They are done with school after next Friday which leaves several days before Christmas to keep them busy.

I found some neat recipes for edible "gifts in a jar" and easy chocolate-dipped whatever-you-can-think-of with lots of little goodies sprinkled over them. Sam and Rachel both enjoy spending time in the kitchen, so I'm really looking forward to it. So ... if you stop by our house around Christmas this year you'll definitely get your sugar buzz for the day. Zing!

Leading up to vacation time, I've been working on cleaning and decorating the house for the holidays. We don't have a whole lot of storage space for holiday-specific decor, so I'm getting creative and using things we already have combined with everyday items. For some reason it feels like this year I'm a little more relaxed about getting all this stuff done, and that's kinda' nice. But apparently I can be relaxed and abuzz at the same time because as soon as I crawl into bed at night my mind goes crazy with all kinds of ideas to try the next day. I might get brave and post some pictures of our decor in the next few days.

Beyond that, last night I tossed and turned with excitement about a new prospect I'm finally moving on. For a few years I've been considering creating a gift-wrapping business for folks who don't have the time, don't enjoy, or just plain stink at wrapping gifts. It's something I really enjoy doing, so even if I don't charge a bundle I'll be coming out ahead ... and making a little spending money. A couple of friends have taken me up on the offer and this morning I picked up the first round of gifts I will wrap and then deliver back. I'm excited about getting started.

And maybe something in me knew today would be ... different. We've had a rough go of things these last couple of months and while our family is blessed in so many ways, Christmas gift giving would be tight this year. I had made peace with that. It's not about the gift giving anyway, right? But today we received some unexpected "contributions" to the Christmas budget. Gifts that will allow us to do a little more for our kids than we would have been able to otherwise.

What can I say? I am humbled. Thankful. Fortunate enough to live in a community and have family and friends who will rally to help others who need it. I know this because many times we have been on the giving end. The receiving end is decidedly less comfortable, but no less touching or heart-warming. And the kindness of others is not taken lightly in this house; I believe blessings will be showered upon those who give so generously.

That's certainly been the case for us.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I have a love/hate relationship with dollar stores.

Particularly places like Dollar Tree where everything really is $1.

Last week at the lovely Dollar Tree I spent $5 (plus 30 cents tax) which meant I went home with ... you guessed it: five items.

Here's what I bought. Because I know you're dying to know what people buy at the dollar store.

1. A 3-pack of plastic ramekins (like what your mayo-on-the-side comes in at a restaurant). I bought some of these a while ago for the kids because they don't like their dipping sauces or ketchup or whatever touching their other food. Nevermind that they eventually dip said food into the sauce anyway. Listen, for $1 I found a way to avoid at least one dinnertime grumble, so I'm happy. They're also nice to portion out snacks so the whole bag of goldfish crackers doesn't get eaten in one sitting. Love.

2. Multiplication flashcards for Rachel. Because she had a homework assignment to make or buy some by Monday, and it was worth scrounging around for spare change to not have to make them. Love. Even if they do have Disney princesses on them.

3-4. Wire ribbon! In my favorite color blue ... and I love that the two rolls I picked up are winter-y instead of specifically Christmas-y so I can keep the bows I make with them up long after the holiday. Two dollars got me two different patterns, three yards each. Love.

5. Battery-powered lights. Love!

I've always wanted some sort of wreath or other door ornament with LIGHTS in it.
Here it's on the closet door in our entryway because when I put it on the front door the lights quit working.

I thought maybe it was the cold.

Pretty, huh? Ever since I was a kid I have loved to squint at the Christmas tree so the "focus" becomes the glowing lights ... and a blurry, but colorful background.

Am I the only one who does that?


Anywho, those battery powered lights? Worked for about an hour after I brought them inside. Hate! Dislike very much!

Grrr. Stupid mass-produced-in-China pieces o' crap. Really. I should have known better. Not only did I waste a buck, now I'm contributing more junk to a landfill.

I have now created a rule about the dollar store: NO electronics.

I still love it though. Most of the time.

Are you a dollar store shopper? I'd love to hear about what you seek out ... or if browsing is just a time waster ... or if you avoid the places at all costs.

Friday, December 2, 2011

In which Jen posts another blurry picture ...

... facing the morning sun streaming in through the window behind this chair ... because if I reached to pull the curtain closed it would disturb the creature. And how could I not at least try a shot at the sweetest photo ever?

OK, maybe not the sweetest ever, but hound dogs with their lanky legs and floppy ears sure make good subjects.

I swear I did not make her ears do that.

I'm still trying to figure out how Ladybug got herself into that chair, did her turn around and around and laid down without disturbing the pillow. Smart one, she. You wouldn't know it if you lived with her, though. Aye yi yi.

Remember when I said I was gonna' retrain her? Mmm, yeah. Well here's my update.

The first few days were great. Bug was really starting to chill out. And then it rained. For like, days. Have I ever mentioned Ladybug is also a meteorologist? No joke. She can sense a front coming in and will start whining, acting like she needs to go outside when she doesn't really, and sometimes she'll even put herself in a corner - lying behind the couch with her nose facing the wall.

So not only could I not do anything to distract her from the thing that was causing her stress, I didn't feel like taking her out for our daily walks in the rain, either. I know: pet parent FAIL.

Y'all, the training has not gone fabulously since then. Life happened. We were gone a lot when Steve's dad was in and out of the hospital (leaving Bug in her crate or tied outside), the holiday season is here and Steve is here and that means more visitors than usual (more strangers, more knocking on the door, more voices she doesn't recognize), and as the weather has turned colder we have not gotten as much exercise outside (not only do the people not want to be cold, but Bug isn't a fan of the cold, either).

But all is not lost. We have made some progress. I know when people approach the house I need to either remove Ladybug from the picture by locking her in my bedroom, or at the least put a leash on her so I can control her. And treats are worth their weight in gold. Cheese, bacon, or whatever packaged dog treats we have on hand. I swear she'll recite the alphabet for you if you offer her a piece of cooked chicken. Ya' know what else is awesome? Delivery people and/or contractors who have the patience to play along and let me work with Ladybug while they're here.

"Don't talk to her or pay any attention, just let her sniff you while I hold her leash."

Yes, I'm that crazy dog lady now.

Hopefully I'll have more positive progress to tell you about in a few weeks. *crossing fingers*

Happy Friday!