Still celebrating!


My family is headed out of town for the weekend, to continue our Christmas celebrating. I'll be taking a blogging break until we return and I have some pictures to share next week. Happy New Year!

Snow... finally!


I woke up to my daughter singing "Praise God for making it snow!" After our green Christmas, everyone was excited to see the white stuff arrive. It was a heavy, wet snow - perfect for making a snowman. Here's my daughter, son and husband, along with neighbor Sarah making a snowman in our yard. You can see the finished product at the top of this page.

Fun times in the snow!

Christmas Celebrations, continued


We hosted my husband's extended family on Christmas Day, following church. 14 people. Plenty of food. Plenty of gifts. Plenty of Christmas joy. :-)

The food was served from my hutch and a side table. Believe me, our family never goes hungry at gatherings like this! There is always WAY more food than is necessary. Ham, two kinds of potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, corn, rolls, green bean casserole, and at least 4 kinds of pie for dessert, in addition to other cookies and bite-sized sweets.

Here's our tree (and notice the lack of snow outside the window - my daughter was especially bummed at having a green Christmas this year). Envelopes always get put on the tree, while the gifts go under.

My son was playing peek-a-boo with someone across the room while waiting to open his gifts.
My son received this Hot Wheels truck that loops and drives upside down. Very cool. My brother-in-law had to check it out for himself.

After the planned activities were over, my husband, brother-in-law Brian, niece Hannah and mother-in-law played dominoes together.

I am thankful that we have a house that works well for hosting gatherings like this. I'm also thankful for my husband's family, who all live close-by and all get along fairly well... for being family! :-)

I love Christmas!

Christmas Celebrations!


Our immediate family celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve Day this year.

We spent time in the morning around the piano, singing Christmas carols - one of our favorite things to do as a family. My usually shy and quiet daughter can really belt out the tunes, when I'm playing and singing with her.

We talked through the Christmas story. With my son turning 4 recently, it was neat to see the nativity story come alive to him for the first time. He got it this year. He knows the main characters and can recite most of the storyline. His wonder and excitement fueled my own wonder and excitement over the familiar stor

Mid-day, we opened our gifts, allowing the kids plenty of time to play with and enjoy their gifts. Traditionally, we give just 3 gifts per person - usually one is practical (like clothes), one is educational (like a puzzle or books) and one is fun (like a toy). This year there were 4 gifts per person. My husband received some t-shirts, long-johns, and a pair of jeans. The kids and I picked out this 15-in-1 game set for him also. My daughter especially was SO excited about this gift (partly because she really enjoys playing board games with Dad). I think this was the first time that she experienced the joy and excitement of giving gifts. She was seriously more excited to see Dad open this one gift than she was about opening her own gifts. I was so proud of her maturity. And yes, we've already played at least 4 of the 15 games in the 2 days since Dad opened the gift. I received a pair of slippers, a small frying pan (perfect for one egg), and numerous bath salts and lotions. My daughter also made me a special card. I also maintain that one of my Christmas presents was a gift from me to me: my free Kitchenaid Mixer.Here is my daughter with her 4 gifts. The new bike was definitely her biggest and best gift. She's been riding a too-small kids bike for over a year so it was time for an upgrade. She is so excited to have a big bike now. She also received a set of 6-books (for her to read during our upcoming holiday travels), a package of socks, and a pottery wheel. She is fascinated with watching people make pottery so I knew this gift would be perfect for her, allowing her to make her own clay pottery at home.
Here's my son with his gifts - a set of pajamas, a pair of snow boots, a Lego kit and a wooden block puzzle-thingy (will be an educational thing for him to work on while sister is "doing school"). He really enjoyed the Lego kit - which has a semi cab and trailer made out of Legos, as well as a toy store. All 4 of us worked together to make the semi and store for him to play with. He's loving Legos these days!

We had a very nice Christmas celebration this year. Good attitudes prevailed. Although I can't capture it in a photo, there was a focus on Christ's coming more than on gifts we were receiving.

A very merry Christmas indeed!

Merry Christmas!



Works for Me Wednesday - Christmas Card Prayer List


Christmas. In a matter of days it will all be over. Decorations will be taken down and new toys incorporated into the old.

I want to encourage you to keep your Christmas cards around a little bit longer and do something productive with them. Pray!

Each year we put all of our Christmas cards up on a door or a wall for all to see. Who doesn't love receiving Christmas greetings, family pictures and letters of what this year held?!

After Christmas, we take the cards down slowly... one per day, actually. We take one day to pray for that family. We re-read their card or letter and look again at their picture. We consider what needs they have and pray for them.

Last year I added the element of actually sending a hand-written note or letter to each family, telling them that we prayed for them and letting them know that we love and appreciate them. Another idea would be to call them on the day you are praying for them. I heard back from many of them, as they expressed appreciation for this tradition and were blessed by the prayers and notes.

So consider how you can be an encouragement to your loved ones, after the holiday cheer has worn off and the winter doldrums set in. Reconnect. Pray. Thank God for the loved ones He's put into your life.

I posted this idea in early January but wanted to post it again now, to catch you BEFORE you throw all your cards out!

Girl Scouts: Christmas Party


Last week my daughter's homeschool Girl Scout troop had their Christmas party. The troop leader planned a very fun event for the girls (and siblings and parents).

Here's my daughter with her friend Kat, just prior to caroling.

My son did some coloring while waiting for the rest of the troop to show up.

We toured some neat local sites and the kids did a craft.

Even the siblings had a craft to do - my son is showing off the beaded candy-cane ornaments he helped make.

Here's my daughter with her craft - a stained-glass type bottle with yummy smelling bath salts.
The Scouts had a gift exchange. Here's my daughter opening her gift.
Lastly we enjoyed a potluck lunch, provided by all the moms. Fun times!
I'm thankful for the many friends we've made this year through Girl Scouts.

Christmas Cookies


It's that time of year again. Time to decorate oodles of Christmas cookies!

My husband's mom and sisters and their families headed to our house one night last week to tackle the cookie decorating. Here you can see my daughter (in the green sweater) and cousin Racquel next to her. Fun times. And yummy too!

Family Photo Friday


Friday is here again! We have a very busy day today with numerous holiday happenings. I'll try to take some pictures to share next week. This week seemed to pass quickly, though my son continued to battle an ear infection and have restless nights. Thankfully he is on the mend and we're all sleeping better as a result.

I have only one snapshot to share this week. On Sunday my son surprised me by choosing to wear this fancy outfit, tie and vest and all. Then he grabbed his blue sunglasses. He spent the day either wearing them as glasses or hanging them like this from his vest. What a cool dude he was... and so adorably cute!

We had portraits of my kids taken a few weeks ago but I hadn't posted these shots of my daughter yet. So here are a few of our favorites.

Growing up, as kids tend to do.

So pretty.

Happy Friday to you

Checking In: End-of-Year Update


It's been many months since I've posted an update, but I think it's time to give an end-of-the-year update on how I've done in inching closer to the goals I set in early 2011.

Spiritual Goal: Read through the Bible this year. Bible reading has gone very well. This is the easiest goal to measure and I'm right on track to finish the Bible on December 31st. Throughout the year, I've been as much as 3 weeks behind in my reading but I've been able to catch up and move forward again. I am seeking a good devotional book that I will work through in 2012, as I will take the year off of the one-year Bible plan. But this year, I'm so thankful that I did this and was regularly amazed at God's timing by having a particular day's reading apply specifically to something I was dealing with that day. I think that as long as we're reading God's Word each day, He will do His part to drive it home and press it into our hearts.

Physical Goal: Lower my cholesterol and lose weight. I have to admit that I've been on and off and on and off the working-out bandwagon so many times this year. Prior to my miscarriage in June, I had a regular work out routine and was well on my way to making this goal a reality. After the miscarriage, though, my motivation took a nose dive and it still hasn't recovered. Fatigue, depression and physically recovering from a miscarriage kept me from my treadmill... a lot. Over the last 6 months, there have been a couple days each month that I've stepped onto the treadmill and even then it's been for a moderate walk but not a fast-paced work out. All that said, however, I have lost weight and I have lowered my cholesterol in 2011! Probably not to the degree I would've if I'd stuck with my plan for the entire year, but my cholesterol has gone from "high risk / needs improving" to "desirable." There is still more improvement needed, but I'm greatly encouraged to see that exercise and portion control CAN make a difference. My ultimate goal is to avoid cholesterol medication, though my genetics are working against me. I lost over 10 pounds this year and have kept it off, despite the lack of regular exercise the last few months. I've also introduced healthier foods (like barley, more beans, more fruits) into my family's diet this year, which is not only helping me with my physical goals but helping us all be healthier overall. So 2011 was a good year, with measurable steps in the direction of this goal.

Character Goal: Exercise more self-control (fewer angry outbursts, reign in my tongue, etc). I have floundered a lot in this area as well. I've had good days and I've had epic-fail days. It's just going to take time to cultivate this fruit-of-the-Spirit in my life. I would say that I've become a bit more humble about it, though. I've had to apologize to my children A LOT this year and generally it didn't take but a few minutes for me to realize the hurt my words/anger have caused and to apologize for it. So perhaps I could say that I've made some progress in this area, at least in terms of being aware of my actions and the pain that it causes others when I don't exercise self-control. I've made some baby steps forward, but I have a long way to go to reach this goal.

"If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time." I decided in January that this was my year to at least aim at something and see how close I could get. I'm glad I set some goals and I'm encouraged to see progress towards those goals, even if it's been slow. At least I'm moving in the right direction and am not at a stand-still.

Now I'm pondering what my goals should be for 2012. Do you have any goals - either from this year or that you want to work on for next year?

Works for Me Wednesday - Marble Painting


A few weeks ago I came across the idea for Marble Painting here. I was intrigued and knew that this something my kids should try. I was so right! My kids loved this and I loved that it was less messy than painting with a paintbrush.
And it is oh-so easy!

Step one: Put a piece of white paper or cardstock into an empty oatmeal container.

Step two: Grab a few marbles and some washable paint.

Step three: Paint the marbles - one marble per color.

Step four: Drop painted marble(s) into the oatmeal container. Put lid on. Shake!

Step five: Remove paper and admire your creation!

We tried many things - putting two or three marbles in at a time, various colors or all same color. We tried 6 marbles at once with 6 different colors - that one was my favorite, I think.

This project bumped me up a few notches in my kids' eyes! They kept saying " I love this, Mom!" and asking to do it again and again and again. And our time ended with "Thank you, Mom! That was SO fun!"

Marble painting as a simple art project for kids - works for me!

Children's Reading List: American Girls Marie-Grace and Cecile and Lapbook


My daughter is rapidly working her way through the American Girl book collection. She has now finished reading the stories of American Girls Marie-Grace and Cecile.
These two girls are brand new and belong to the same time period - 1853. They are friends and their stories overlap and intertwine. So instead of 6 books about 1 girl (the pattern for all of the other American Girl book series), for these gals there are 3 books about Marie-Grace and 3 books about Cecile - all taking place in New Orleans in 1853.

I did not read these books alongside my daughter, but I did ask a lot of questions as she worked through them. I like the fact that American Girl chose to address the race issue with these girls head-on (Marie-Grace is white, Cecile is a free black girl). This lays some ground work for the next girl in line to study - Addy - who is a slave girl in the south in 1864. I admit that I'd rather shy away from discussing slavery and some of the difficult points in American history, but these books have brought it up in a sensitive way which has helped open up a dialogue for my daughter and me.

My daughter made a lapbook for these girls, as she's done for all of the American Girls we've read about so far. A lapbook is simply a fancy book report or character study. All of the lapbook templates we use can be found here and are free for anyone to use.

Since Marie-Grace and Cecile are brand new to the American Girl collection, there aren't any lapbook materials specific to them, their location or their time period. So we used more of the "generic" templates that can be used for any of the girls and created a few of our own to make specific for these girls.

Here's my daughter with her lapbook cover - her own drawing of the two girls.

Inside page 1 - with flaps describing the personalities of Marie-Grace and Cecile, fashions, fun facts, houses, best friends, a description of New Orleans in 1853.

Inside page 2 - with flaps about pets, hobbies, favorite past times, fun facts, two interesting facts about the year 1853 and a map showing New Orleans.

5 American Girls down and 6 more to go... my daughter has already moved on to the next girl and is on track to finish her books before Christmas.

My Best Deal of the Year


On Cyber Monday I was able to buy something I've been saving up for - this Kitchenaid Stand Mixer. Here's how I got it FOR FREE!

Regular price at is $279.99.

They ran a sale on Cyber Monday, marking it down to $259.99. This item qualified for Super Saver shipping, which means shipping was free.

I had saved up enough gift cards, which I'd earned through Swagbucks to pay the balance. I had been saving for over a year, for such a time as this, knowing that this mixer would eventually go on sale and eventually be mine!

There was also a $50 rebate offer on this model.

In addition, they were giving away a $24 magazine subscription that could be opted-out of, which I did, thus refunding the $24 in cash.

You can see how I not only got the mixer for no cost out-of-pocket but also am receiving back $74!

So I now have a mixer that I'm using almost daily... and loving! And it cost me nothing! In fact, it is almost as if I was paid money to take the mixer off Amazon's hands! You can see why some people call this "shoplifting with permission." I did nothing wrong - just used the deals, rebates and gift cards to turn the purchase of a mixer into a money-making prospect!

This qualifies as my best deal of 2011. Yeah for deals!

Family Photo Friday


It is Friday once again. I must say that this week was a long one for me - busy with extra activities but also my son is battling an ear infection so we've had some long, sleepless nights.

However, here are a few photos from our week.

This is my daughter standing by some of our radish experiments - a school science project. We have radishes in different environments (with vinegar, salt water or regular water to see which grow best), radishes in small foil planters (seeing how they bend towards the sunlight, how they respond to overcrowding, etc), and some radishes growing in the homemade greenhouse (made with a glass jar of water, some paper towels and an empty orange juice box. Lots of fun during this 4-week study... and plenty of learning took place too!

My daughter. She's a gift. :-) And a mighty cute one at that!

My son truly enjoys helping out in the kitchen. Anytime I'm doing dishes, he grabs a stool and works alongside me. This week I was stirring a pot and he brought over a stool to reach up and help. I love his helpfulness... and try my best to encourage it.

Happy Friday to one and all!

My Boy Turns 4


This week my son turned 4! I'm still in shock.
It truly feels like yesterday when we were anxiously awaiting his arrival.
(You can read his birth story here, if you're interested.)
4 years!
What a blessing to us he is!

Here are some shots of my big boy.

Here he is posing with a few of his birthday presents.

And some of his 4-year portraits.

He looks so much like his daddy.

Happy Birthday, my son! I'm so glad to be your mama!

For those of you who love a walk down memory lane as much as I do...

Click here to go to last year's post about his third birthday

Here's a link to the 2009 post when he turned 2

And here is a link to the 2008 post about his first birthday