Monday, December 15, 2008

Making Gingerbread Cookies with the girls

One of the finished cookies

We used premade gingerbread dough and then rolled it and cut out shapes -
the kids still had fun and it saved me some time!

Olivia, Abby, Emelyn
"Mom, you think of everything!"
Said after I brought out the food coloring so we could make red and green icing!
Just had to throw this cute face in!
He climbed on a stool and pulled cookie cutters down and
made a general nuisance of himself to his sisters!
And it begins!


So I haven't been on blogger in awhile. Everyone who told me about facebook is right - it is addicting! I love catching up with old friends and keeping up with new also. So don't start telling me how great MySpace is because I don't need another online addiction! :) Seriously, I'll get back to posting real soon. I have tons of great pictures of Daniel you'll all enjoy. Besides, I still love blogging - since I have no time to literally scrapbook - this is my virtual scrapbook! And it will transfer to a 'real' scrapbook someday in the future.

Hope everyone is getting excited about Christmas! I will be doing some secret Christmas things this week, baking cookies (choc chip with m&m's), and of course, finishing up my wrapping! Oh and mailing Christmas cards! I got them all addressed last night. And honestly, they did turn out pretty well after all. Next year, I'll just be better prepared! :)

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Card Tips

So this is the first year that I am sending out Christmas cards with pictures of the kids on them. (Actually this is the first year I am sending out Christmas cards, period, in a very long time!) At any rate, I have learned some things along the way.

What NOT to do when sending picture Christmas cards:

1. Don't work until you are sweating to make your card perfect and then get to the online checkout and find out that it will actually cost you twice what you expected because you aren't buying 800 cards and the shipping cost for the measly 75 cards you want to order is 35% of the total price! (Rather make a lame card first and go to checkout to see what actual cost will be.)

2. Don't go to the next site mad because of previous hassle and just choose the first card you see because you will realize later (after it arrives) that the card doesn't actually portray the joy of the season that you had dreamed it would.

3. Don't scour every Christmas card that comes in your mail and think, "Oh! Why couldn't I come up with some clever little sentiment to put on our card?" ... "What? I didn't put the date on it - how are people going to know that these are my kids in the year 2008 when they are rummaging through old shoeboxes of cards 20 years from now? How am I going to know??" ... "Should I have put our last name on the card? Can't people see it on the return address on the envelope? Am I sending this to anyone who wouldn't know us without our last name on it? Why am I sending it to them anyways?" Don't do this. It will only upset you further.

4. Don't think that just because the card looks good in the tiny little preview they give you online that it will look that good when you actually receive it. Note: blurry pictures look amazingly clear in the preview, and the fonts do seem to match.

5. Don't take a picture of the fancy expensive picture you bought and then use the copy you took to make your Christmas cards out of. You will realize later it could be a copyright issue. You will probably feel guilty and then you won't enjoy your Christmas cards at all. And you might secretly worry that Santa will put coal in your stocking as penance.

6. Finally, don't let yourself stress about Christmas cards. Just stuff and send. The worst that can happen is your friends won't put your kids on their fridge. You'll get over it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Emelyn's Christmas Concert

Being a third grader now, Emelyn was able to join chorus this year. She has to go to school an hour early one day a week for practice. She has had a great time though. They put on a musical, "The Incredible Reindeer" last night. She was an elf, her favorite of the wintertime legends. She had a couple lines, and of course, sang with the rest of the group. We were very proud of her!

Emelyn and BFF, on first row of risers, singing

I'll tell you though. This totally took me back to my choral concerts as a kid. I can remember the excitement of heading to the school - the outfit, the cold air, the warm auditorium as it filled with people, standing (always) on the bottom row of risers, stomach full of butterflies, giggling with the girlfriend who stood next to me, and looking out (around the piano, which always seemed to be right in front of me) to find my parents in the crowd. I remember loving to sing, and beaming at the applause at the end of the night.

As I watched Eme up there, all these feelings came rushing back to me. And I was so happy that she was able to experience it all too. I watched her with her friends and took pictures of them also, rejoicing over their triumphs on the stage as if they were my own children. I realized that these are the kids she will be growing up with. These kids will be in lots of my photos of her over the next 10 years. I looked around at their parents, who are my friends, and just thought how exciting it is to be settled, to be starting out this journey together, to watch our kids grow up and experience life together. It's a very, very special gift.

Before the show, Danny and his good friend, Izzy

Getting ready to say her part

Emelyn and BFF

Daniel, cheering for his big sis

Daniel's First Birthday

Daniel turned one on November 30th. I'm just a bit late getting his pics on here, but that's ok. You will still enjoy them, I guarantee! :) He had a nice quiet birthday. Garr's mom and sister were here for Thanksgiving, so they were here for the morning of his birthday. We made baked ziti, french bread, and homemade applesauce for his dinner (he loved it!) and of course, cake and ice cream afterwards. I guess I don't have to worry about him being one of those boys who loves to get filthy - he didn't like the icing on his hands much. He kept trying to wipe it off on the side of his tray!

Garr let the girls blow the candle out for Danny

As soon as Garr brought the cake to Daniel, he reached out and grabbed some icing.

Trying to get the icing off his hand

He didn't care for the cake, but he loved the chocolate ice cream!
Garr and I got him the drum you will see in the pictures. He loves it. He loves to beat the drum and chew on the drumstick (I think he imagines it is a lollipop!) I ordered it from Plan Toys - excellent quality; I highly recommend their toys. (And Amazon is the best price I have found.) Anyways, I actually gave it to him a few weeks before his birthday - you know, to make sure he liked it, - and then took it back to wrap and give him on his actual birthday. :) Yes, I'm mean like that. The drum is a special gift because Garr's first instrument was the drums and I am hoping we will keep this toy for Daniel's kids to play with someday too.

So as I'm wrapping his presents, I'm just sitting on the floor and crying - tears just streaming down my face. I had such a hard time the day of his birthday. My last baby, my little boy, already a year old. Already on his way out of babyhood. Already beginning to step away from Mommy. Oh. I have to stop or I am going to start crying all over again. He is such a sweet, sweet boy.
Happy Birthday, Daniel!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My new haircut

After Daniel got his hair cut, I got mine cut too. I had Garr take a couple pics to share with you. You can see our Christmas tree in the background (and our messy living room!).

First Haircut

Well, now that Daniel is a year old (oh my goodness I don't think I've shared his birthday pictures yet! I will try to do that tomorrow), I decided it was time for him to get a "big boy haircut." The shampoo girl at the salon was wonderful and took tons of pics for me. I will try to choose my favorites to share. Daniel did great. He sat on my lap - there were times I had to hold his head still because he liked to watch Amanda (our hairdresser) and see what she was doing. They bribed him with a blue dum-dum lollipop and he loved that.

"The Before Picture"

"Our Little Man!"

Monday, December 8, 2008

Updates and some Merry Reading

This morning, as Liv was getting dressed in the bathroom, she tripped over noticed the mountains neat piles of dirty laundry on the floor. She held her jammies up for me to inspect and simply asked, "Light or Dark, Mommy?"
Yes! I will have her sorting and washing laundry before she can do multiplication.

I am really thankful to live so close to a children's hospital. Everyone is so kind and helpful there. And I love, love, love that they love, love, love children. It makes getting surgery or any kind of specialized treatment so much easier to deal with.

Olivia has to be sedated to have some dental work done at the end of this month. Read: we tried going to our normal ped. dentist and she kicked and screamed so much that she will have to be put under to have her cavities filled. I don't know what gets into her. My older girls practically beg to go to the dentist - they love it (I think it may have something to do with all the prizes they get...) But it puts Olivia into an absolute panic. She says she can't breathe and she literally fights off 3 adults on her own. Of course, couple her absolute fear of dentists with her absolute LOVE of candy, and we have a problem!

Daniel will be going to the children's hospital this Friday to get tubes put into his ears. Hopefully this will stop the dreaded ear infections that have been plaguing him since July. He has had 9 ear infections in 5 months. This makes for very little sleep for both him and me (and lots of sleep interruptions for the other members of the family). Please, please let this work!

We got our Christmas tree put up on Saturday. I miss not having the glass balls on the tree - I like how they reflect the lights. I just didn't think it was wise what with the little boy grabbing ornaments off and chewing on them. Definitely not a good year for glass balls! Even up high, I have this fear of him pulling the tree over on himself in his haste to get an ornament off and chew on it. We also had to move the gingerbread ornaments up - they were a bit too tasty for him!

I am still loving reading the Christmas stories to the girls - they look forward to it also. I have read two more since I last blogged so I'll tell you a little about them. First I wanted to mention that my girls are still talking about The Legend of the Candy Cane. We had a great discussion about it again on Friday night. They remembered all the symbolism and what it meant. We got into a deeper discussion about the shape of the candy cane being like a shepherd's staff and what that means to us as Christians. It worked out really well that the last line of Eme's Awana memory verse last week was "We are the sheep of His pasture." They had a good time describing sheep (dumb!) and describing the shepherd (kind, patient, caring, etc).

After that we read Mr. Willoughby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry. This was a fun, whimsical book. Mr. W gets a really really big Christmas tree - so big that it doesn't fit in his living room. So he cuts the top off and has it thrown away. But someone takes it and makes it her own Christmas tree, but it's too tall, so she cuts the top off and throws it away. And on and on. I think you get the point. It is very cute though and I so enjoyed the rhyming throughout the book. Rhyming books are my favorites for read-alouds. This would also be a great book to start a discussion about recycling and helping those less fortunate than ourselves.

Last night, we read The Legend of the Christmas Tree by Rick Osborne. This story teaches how the traditional Christmas tree began and also how it relates to the story of Jesus' birth. I learned some new info from reading this and again, it was a sweet story. I would like to find other books that talk about the history of the Christmas tree because I think there is even more symbolism than this book touched on. (although it was very good and in depth.)

We are busy, busy as I'm sure you all are this Christmas season! Keep it merry! =]

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Merry Reading!

I love to read to my girls. But by bedtime, I am usually tuckered out myself and ready to get everyone asleep ASAP! Plus now that the older girls read to themselves 15-30 minutes a night for school, there just doesn't seem to be as much time for me to read to them. I decided this month, though, that I want to make a concerted effort to spend focused time with my girls each night, and to spend this time reading to them. I ordered a bunch of Christmas books from the library (yes, Trish, this is why you can't find the ones that you want!), and I plan to read one Christmas story to them each night this month. I will try to share the books with you on the blog, in case you want to read them with your kids. I love hearing about great books from other people.

Last night, we read "God Gave Us Christmas," by Lisa Tawn Bergren. This was a great book to start off with. It talked about the real meaning behind the Christmas celebration. It also mentioned Santa a few times, but focused on the generosity and giving spirit that he brings to Christmas (this was well written - it did not discount a child's belief or unbelief in Santa). But it kept the primary focus on God. It had beautiful illustrations and seemed right on level for Olivia. Abby and Eme enjoyed it too. I believe it is the second or third in a series so we will be checking out the others soon.

Merry Christmas and Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas Values

So Christmas is on the way! And I have my Christmas shopping 99% completed (and half of it wrapped too!) But I worry that I did not get the kids exactly what they want. I worry that all the stuff they are getting won't make them happy if they didn't get that one thing. And I worry, and I worry, and I worry. Silly, isn't it? To worry so much over presents. But I do it every year, no matter how much I try not to. And I know I'm not alone - I have friends who worry over the same thing. It's even harder when you have multiple children, same gender, and so close in age. You want everything to be equal - same number of presents, same type of presents, same cost of presents. You know that on Christmas morning, someone is sure to say, "Why didn't I get that? I want one too!!"

(Really, this makes my kids sound terrible! They are not whiny, greedy, ungrateful children - most of the time =). But they are children. And so I worry.)

For instance, I got the two older ones this crafty thing (they read my blog so I have to be careful :).) So I thought I should get the younger one something equally crafty. But after I bought that, I decided against what I was going to get for the older two because it would mean they would have 12 presents, and Olivia would have 11. So yesterday, I'm looking at the gift for the youngest and thinking,

"Wow this is really cool. I bet Abby would really like this too. Maybe I should go get her one. It's only $6 with a coupon. I could just run out Saturday and pick it up for her. But if I get that for her, what will I get for Eme? And if I get Eme and Abby another gift, then I need to find something else for Liv..."

Seriously. I was upset over this - mulling over it for hours. I called my BFF to see what she would do. Which just made her want to run out and get one of these crafty things also. Actually get two, b/c she has two girls. And then it occured to me. It's so simple, so DUH!

Abby has a birthday in the spring. I could wait and if she really likes it, get it for her birthday. In fact, all of my girls will have birthdays again next year. (duh) It really wouldn't hurt any of them to wait for something they like. It would be, like, a good experience for them. Wow.

How is it that this concept of them waiting and not getting every single thing they have ever wanted on Christmas morning didn't occur to me? I mean, it has because sometimes we just can't afford what they want. But on the little stuff... 'I mean, it's only $6'... We want our kids to "have it all." But really, while we're pushing all this stuff at them - what are they really learning - what values are we teaching them?

(BTW - I don't go crazy - I have kept my shopping to less than $100 per girl, and much less for Daniel - as in, we are wrapping up hand me down toys for him :). But still, I know there is this desire in me to give them every single thing they could want. )

Maybe the best Christmas gift I could give my kids is the one where they learn the value of going without so someone else doesn't have to. A relative of mine is spending their Christmas money to send a mom dying of cancer and her 4 kids to Disney for Christmas, rather than buy gifts for their grown children.

Maybe the best gift would be the value of learning to save their own money to buy something they really want. In this credit ridden society, maybe it would be good for them to experience the pride of saving to buy that special item. (They'd probably take better care of it too)

Maybe the best gift I could give them would be learning the value of "less is more." We don't always need more to be happy. Less clutter means more time and energy to enjoy life.

Or maybe I could give them the value of my time. A coupon book good for 'an extra story with Mommy,' 'a wrestling match with Daddy,' 'a game of Scrabble with Grandma,' 'a trip to the park with Grandad,' etc. Rather than a bunch of stuff, maybe some extra time spent together would be even better.

I'm not saying the kids shouldn't get anything for Christmas. I'm just trying to gain a better perspective of gift-giving. When I think about Christmas as a child, my parents couldn't afford a lot of stuff, but I always enjoyed what I got very much. I sometimes got a little green over what a few of my friends might receive, but it wasn't that big of a deal. I still have great Christmas memories. And I valued what I had all along - my parents' love for me and for each other - over all the "stuff". And God's love for me too. I need to focus more on showing that to my kids this Christmas season - my love for them, for their daddy, and for our God. Rather than my love for stuff.