Friday, December 31, 2010

Stay-cation turned Stuck-cation

I was beginning to despair. The temperatures have been hovering below 25 degrees and the sun has remained hidden behind the clouds.  The wind has been whipping the snow into all kinds of contours.

Snow is fine. Clouds are fine, too.  Just give me some warmth for heaven's sake, and I won't complain.  At least then the bundling up of the kids doesn't take more time than they actually spend outside.

Dean has been home from work.  He's off Wednesday through Monday.  I had the bright idea to head West and find some beaches and big city entertainment. As usual my idea was met with skepticism.  So we decided to have a staycation instead of a vacation. We thought we'd enjoy some relaxed play with the kids and have a few outings. I must admit that the inclement weather ruined our initial plans.  On day 1, we planned to go to the Aquaplex, a YMCA type of place.  Unfortunately, that closed early due to the snow.  On Day 2, we planned to have a family sledding day.  Unfortunately, it was 18 degrees (we are Arizonans, we like to sled in 30 or above).  Day 3 was set aside for the museum and ice skating. I do believe that this may still happen.  As well as the previous day's plans too. You see, the sun is shining! 

Actually, I just realized that it is 3 degrees outside.  Well I won't complain. Getting out of the house is vacation enough.

We have not been sitting at the window and pining all this time, though. I finished reading Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and Dean got through the first chapter of his online course. We had some unexpected company, that was stuck in flagstaff for half the day as the interstates were closed. It was fun to have someone to visit with while we being "stuck".
Also, Connor loves to draw. Dean had inquired about drawing or art lessons for him, but it was advised that we let his creativity take its own course at this young age. So we encourage him to draw, paint, and color. And we marvel over his creations. And we join him.  
On day 1, we pulled out his new drawing book and some paper.

We thought to draw with him, but as it was, he didn't want to miss out on anything, and simply observed and provided commentary, or should I say criticism?  Dad whipped his drawing out in no time. Mine took me a little longer. Connor didn't really care for my drawing. I had to agree with him, though, I had a poor sense of proportion. The poor little doggy's legs had something seriously wrong.  After Dad fixed my drawing by hiding the mutations in a tub, I have to say its a passable drawing. But then again, I'm no artist. 

I'll stick with taking the photographs.

Happy New Year to you all!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

MB Family Snapshots

I enjoy taking pictures for my friends. I recently told one friend that I felt like I should pay her to let me take their family picture. I want the practice. And I learn from it.
This last little photo session I learned a lot from. The main thing being that I need some kind of external flash on my camera to take nice indoor shots. So while I did get some photos, I can't wait to re-do these, so to speak, outdoors where I will have better light and better backdrops.

I love this shot; it's real. Don't you love the look littlest brother is getting from sis? Some of the kids are in their own little world, as kids are apt to be, and all the while Mom and Dad just have eyes for each other.

I've come to realize that the first shot / pose always turns out the best.
This was one of the first photos I took, and nobody is tired of looking or smiling yet. :)

I had to include this one, she is so sweet.

Here's the Mom and Dad of this beautiful family. Aren't they cute?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Eight years ago today...

I said "I do".  
How little I knew back then!
And how young we looked were!

Eight years,
four children,
two degrees
(earned by Dean, but felt by the whole family),
and seven home moves later...

one thing remains the same -
my love for this man.

Actually it has grown.
I am loved.
I am in love.
I am so very blessed.

Have you ever heard the saying that "the best gift a Daddy can give his children is to love their Mommy"?
I'd say it can both ways. Yeah, that's pretty much how I feel right now.
Eight years is nothing, bring it on!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Game Night - Who knew?

Would you like to teach your children patience?
Would you like to teach them how to be a good sport and a good loser?
Would you like to teach them that life is not always fair?

Have a family game night!
From the kids' point of view, what's better than having Mom's and/or Dad's
undivided attention for an hour?  From the mom's point of view, what better way to keep your child constructively entertained and away from the screen while teaching them 
how to get along, among the other things already listed?  
Its a win win situation. :)

Kids love Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land, of course. That's a great way to teach them that life is not always fair, as they can be two spots from winning when they draw Lord Licorice. And Uno is fun game to use for practicing colors and numbers. Kid's Sequence, Matching games, and Ker-plunk have been favorites in this household of preschoolers and a first grader.  Last week, we even pulled out Othello.

For Christmas, though, we scored!
Quality family time coming right up! 

Monday, December 27, 2010

A busy weekend, but one I wouldn't have missed

Christmas was...wonderful.. and busy.
Some year I will figure out how to slow down the whole holiday season since each year it seems to go by all the faster. I hardly pulled out my camera.  I only regret that while sitting here on blogger.

Thursday morning, the day before Christmas Eve, we let the kids open their gifts. They were much too large to haul down the hill with us, so my kids had three Christmases. Aubrey loved her doll house, and spent much of the day arranging furniture and families.  The boys were busy all morning too, building legos and setting up train tracks. They just didn't sit as still as Aubrey did.

Most of my photos aren't post worthy.  Shooting excited children indoors without flash does not lend itself to very crisp or clear photos. With wrapping paper flying and hands and bodies twisting and turning, you get a photo like below.

A new camera is on my someday wish list; although I have no idea yet which camera will take better indoor pictures.  I think I need a smaller aperture so I can get a faster shutter speed? And can a good camera shoot at a high ISO without a whole lot of noise?
Actually, I know what single thing would solve the problem - light. I need larger windows in both my house and my mother's and anywhere else I choose to photograph my kids.

The rest of the weekend was busy with our Christmas Eve morning tradition of sledding, cousins playing, gift opening, game playing, riisi piirakka eating, carol singing, visiting, cookie eating, very late bedtimes, more gift opening, and Christmas Day services, all during which my camera stayed in the bag. Oh well. I can't be present and behind the camera with so much going on.

It was wonderful to be with family.  Dean and I are lucky; both of our parents and most of our siblings live in the same town. Its only during the holidays that we agonize over having both in town, because it is then that we have to choose whose party to miss out on!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wishing you all an Arizona Christmas!

Arizona Christmas Song
(As I heard by the Native American artist Arvel Bird and Kimberly)

Oh, it's Christmas morning and the sun is shining.
There's no trace of snow on the ground.
All the presents are opened, kids are outside playing.
It's Christmas in my Arizona town.

I wouldn't trade any sunny Arizona day
for all the snowflakes in the Rockies.
And Santa sure is glad, he knows the weather won't be bad.
Why don't we name him Monte Arizoney?

Grab the bags, lets go golfing,
Take the dogs a walking,
Play a set of tennis, or two.
When the night gets quiet, we'll just light the fire
and have another outdoor Bar-B-Que.

Yes, we might be boasting, 'cuz we're nice and toasty,
there's nothing else that we'd rather do.
We send you greetings, 'cuz we know you're freezing,
and wish a Merry Christmas to you.
But now its time for a dip in the pool!

Even if I don't live in Phoenix, and even if sunshine currently is a distant memory... 

(The weather man is forecasting sunshine and 56 degrees by Christmas Eve! Jealous?)

Enjoy the rest of the week with all the last minute shopping and preparations.  

Have a very, merry, wonderful, meaningful, and peaceful Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Alfie the Elf Update

Alfie has continued to surprise the children (If you have no idea what I am talking about, catch up here, We have an elf).  I am happy that he has done all three things I have hoped for.  First off, he has kept the kids busy during school break. Yesterday, Alfie left a gift in the mailbox - three books tied with a ribbon.  All day yesterday, the kids were busy with those activity and drawing books. Alfie also has made the weeks up to Christmas more fun.  On Saturday morning, we found a package of powdered donuts, I mean snowman poop, tied with his signature ribbon. The kids were beyond thrilled to get to eat those before breakfast.

But most importantly, Alfie has helped my kids learn about giving.
On December 16th, Connor pulled a note tied with a red and green ribbon out of the mailbox.
The note said, "Christmas is about giving. Find some way to give to someone in your neighborhood or community."
Connor immediately thought of their handmade gift boxes, and said "We already are!"
Hmmm, I had to point out that they were giving those gifts to people who didn't live in our town.
That evening we discussed ways to reach out and give.  The mall had a Law Enforcement Toy Drive that collected toys for the needy, and our local Safeway had a Help us End Hunger Drive that collected food for the food bank.  Our children decided that food was a better gift.

On Friday, they dug into their piggy banks and pocketed some of their money.  At the grocery store, my kids picked out two pre-filled bags to donate and handed over their cash, then placed them in the food bank box.  The bags came to $11.55, and the three kids had enough to buy both with their own money.

Thank you Alfie, for helping my kids learn an important lesson.
Oh, and thanks for the gingerbread house kit you left this morning! That is some more busy fun!  But my kids are still waiting for a picture of you...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Where's my slippers and my coffee?

Blah.  It's an overcast, cold Monday.  I almost wish that I did drink coffe! I just want to crawl in a hole until Friday, and almost until after Christmas.
But that's scrooge-ish.  So I won't crawl in a hole.

Instead I will rock my baby to sleep.
August 2009
I love that he calms down when I sing to him, and lately I've been singing "Silent Night".  How sweet is that? We wrap up in our fuzziest, warmest blanket and snuggle close.  Sometimes I get through two verses before he stops crying and fighting sleep. Then I sing it again, even though he is already in slumber land.  Many times my own eyes get heavy as his warm little body relaxes against mine.

I remember the days when I rocked Connor and nursed him to sleep, then took a nap with him in the rocking chair. Ahh, I miss those days; they seem so long ago.
But then I would not have these other children calling to me that they are ready for the next page in their activity book.  So I cut my cuddling time short with my littlest one and I'm now off to do math with Brant, do some pre-K activities with Aubrey, and exclaim over Connor's drawings.

Till tomorrow.

Friday, December 17, 2010

One Performing Child, One Proud Mom

What is it about watching your child perform?
Why is it that we, the parent sitting in the audience, feel so proud to have birthed (if you are the mom:)), raised, and loved that child?

Connor gave me a huge surprise today at his school program.
I knew he was going to be a bear in the program, which was called "The Mitten". When he went up on stage, I had my video camera ready.  My eyebrows rose to the ceiling once he started singing.  Dean and I looked at each other in surprise and grinned, then turned back to watch our firstborn finish his little solo. What a stinker! He didn't tell me he was going to sing!!  I bet a video of us parents would have been comical; Dad on the edge of his seat craning to see it all over the baby's head and Mom's smile splitting from ear to ear behind the camera. I had planned on uploading the video, but for some reason blogger won't load it.  :(  I'll keep trying.

This bear is kind of quiet and timid (he had to be told to move closer to the microphone when it was his turn) but I still think he is the greatest bear around.

The whole program was really cute and put together very well (kudos to the music teacher who had to organize four first grade classes and who knows how many Kindergarten and Second Grade classes).  We loved all the songs and everybody's cute white mittens.
If you've read The Mitten storybook, you know that Nikki asks her Grandma to make her some new white mittens.  Grandma warns here that it will be hard to see them against the white snow, but Nikki persists so Grandma gives in and makes them anyway. One mitten does get lost in the snow. It is found by an animal (I forget which one found it first) who crawls inside for warmth.  Soon another animal comes along, and another, until it is filled to bursting.  The bear then sings a song about how warm the mitten looks, and tells them all to "move over, move over". He has to show his claws and teeth (rather timidly) to be let inside the already crowded mitten.

Finally, the last animal, a mouse, squeezes in the mitten.  All is fine until the bear sneezes! 
No more mitten.

The whole cast got a huge round of applause as the performers bowed and bowed again,
and I do believe our clapping was the loudest!

Afterward, I think that Donovan found the bear to be pretty great too.

On our way home, we kept our eye out for a white mitten lost in the new fallen snow.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

We have an elf.

His name is Alfie.  Have you ever heard of Alfie the Elf?
Let me back up a little.  With the school winter break coming, I am already brainstorming ways to keep the kids busy, out of my hair, off the computer, and away from each other's throats.
Last week, I came across this post over at Tara Whitney's blog about Bernard, their Christmas elf.  He helps the kids count down the days till Christmas by leaving something for them each day until Christmas Day. Genius!

I promptly sent in a request for an elf of our own. But I had a specific request... I wanted Alfie, because my kids love him. They have listened to "Alfie the Elf" on our "Wee Sing for Christmas" CD so many times that we all have the song memorized.  "Alfie the elf, was Santa's helper. Alfie the elf just loved to try, but when he worked for dear old Santa, Alfie the elf could only cry..."
This year, Alfie didn't make a delivery (a box of 20 Christmas cookie cutters) until yesterday, the 15th of December.  Perhaps I will be more on the ball next year and get my request in sooner.  Nonetheless, he has created a lot of excitement in our household.

Alfie shares a trait with Bernard; they are both bossy.  Yesterday, Alfie instructed the kids to make sugar cookies.  The kind you roll out!  You'd think he'd consult me first! I think he wanted my kitchen table, the floor, and all of the kids completely covered in flour so he could get a good laugh!

Actually, we did have a lot of fun. Alfie made our annual tradition a little more fun with his gift.

Donovan ate every piece of dough he could get his hands on (and how do you like his new fave toy? Roar!!!). Brant had the most fun kneading the extra scraps as if it were bread, resulting in warm, soft dough that was difficult to roll out again.
We can't wait until to tomorrow to frost them.

And, we are anxiously awaiting the next delivery from Alfie.
Oh, and Alfie, if you are reading this, Connor has requested a picture of you so he can see what you look like.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A special gift

This is a very special gift, that you can never see.
The reason it's so special is, it's just for you from me.

Whenever you are happy, or even feeling blue.
You only have to hold this gift, and know I think of you.

You never can unwrap it, please leave the ribbon tied.
Just hold the box close to your heart, it's filled with love inside.

This poem is printed on card stock paper, tied with a ribbon, and wrapped around a little white box that has been decorated with stickers and glitter.  Actually, there are three boxes, decorated by three children, waiting to be delivered to three recipients.  

I hope I haven't ruined the receiving of the gift by posting this, but I thought it was such a cute idea that I had to share, and what better time than a week and a half before Christmas?

I found plain white jewelry boxes at Michaels for 99 cents each (if you have no craft store nearby, try a jewelry store).
Give your kids the plain box and any crafting supplies on hand - glitter, sequins, stickers, buttons, paper, etc.
Print the poem on sturdy paper, hole punch one corner, and have your child sign their name.  Wrap the box with ribbon that has the poem attached and let them deliver their special gift with a hug.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Is this day done yet?

It's been a long morning, and I'm out of sorts after hauling a screaming child 
through the grocery store check out.  

I'm relishing the quiet, eating some forbidden Dove milk chocolate truffles, 
and looking at this photo of my kids, which is in a frame above my computer screen.

I have very beautiful children.  What blessed gifts they are. 

I'm feeling really guilty that I hollered at them today.

Thank goodness for nap time. I think it is just as vital for the mom as it is for the growing child. 
Now I can greet them with a smile when they awake.  
After all, who can stay crabby after looking at these cherubic little faces?

Children and Sign Language

This morning, my baby signed to me that he wanted a bath.  I hate telling him no when he signs.  Every time he uses sign language I try to give him what he wants, because I am so proud that he is communicating with me rather than crying or screaming.
Donovan signing bath

My baby is 16 months old now.  He has been signing for about 3 months.  His first sign was 'eat'.  He has added 'bath', 'all done', 'where?', 'more', and 'airplane' to his signing vocabulary.  
He can say some words: me, baby, mom, truck.  I'm sure the signs will fade away as he learns the verbal word for each of those as well. But even though the signs we use are very basic signs, they have opened up a whole new world of communication that wasn't possible at his early age without them.  

Did you know that infants develop the fine muscles in their hands (gross motor skills at about 6-7 months) before they develop those required for speech(at 18-24 months)? They are equipped to communicate with you before they can talk!

With my children, I didn't start signing until about 10 months or later, but you can start signing to them as early as six months.

Contrary to common belief, babies that sign do not learn to talk any later than non-signing babies. Studies even show that babies who sign, speak earlier than those that don't sign.  
If you use sign language along with verbal speech, the baby is connecting the sign to the spoken word.  None of my children were late talkers, in fact some were early.

I was not interested in a baby that could speak before others, however. I was interested in a baby that could tell me what he wanted/needed thereby reducing frustration on both our parts. 

SWYB_book.jpg When I started signing with my first-born six years ago, I followed Dr. Joseph Garcia's method and book Sign with your Baby.  As the sign2me website states, this book has "clearly-illustrated ASL signs. Filled with anecdotes, practical guidelines, and humor, SIGN with your BABY offers an effective way to teach parents and infants how to communicate through sign. Author Dr. Joseph Garcia helps you recognize when your child is receptive to learning, recommends which signs to teach first, and shares ideas for games that can be fun and useful when introducing new signs. With 145 clearly illustrated ASL signs, this book enables you to choose and teach the signs that will be most beneficial to you and your child. You'll be amazed when your baby signs!"

This book uses signs based on American Sign Language(ASL), and recommends only using ASL signs.  I'm of the opinion, though, that other methods and signs work just fine.
For example, I sign 'where?' to my son using the ASL sign after I hide an animal under one of eight doors on a puzzle.  He responds with the classic 'where' sign of both palms up, shoulders shrugged, and an inquisitive look on his face, then proceeds to look under each door until he finds the animal.  His sign is still valid, because we both understand the sign and he is consistent in using it. He can communicate.

When I sign with my babies, the older children start signing again as well. The kids translate Donovan's needs to me all the time, and sign to him themselves.  
Some pictures from 2006 when Aubrey was the baby communicating by sign:

Signing with your baby takes dedication.  You might sign for two months before your child will sign anything on his own.  But it is definitely worth it! When he/she signs his first sign you will be elated and amazed! Give it a try if you have a little one.  You'll decrease frustration and increase the bond between yourself and your baby.

Some great websites if you are interested: and

Monday, December 13, 2010

My e-card

I love the month of December, especially in the state of Arizona.
Yesterday, we took a trip down the hill to Prescott Valley, and it was a beautiful mid-60's day.  We went on a walk around Lynx Lake and marveled that it really was the middle of December.  Since I left the camera in the car, I'll have to describe all the snap shots I took in my mind:
the sun shining on Donovan's fuzzy peach head while riding on Dean's shoulders, the still,still water with the vivid reflections of sky and pine trees, my babies face as he watched the ducks and geese flocking around a woman with a piece of bread, Aubrey in her eclectic, colorful outfit holding Denise's hand, skipping to keep up, Donovan tucked like a kangaroo into uncle Russell's vest, Brant riding on Dean's back saying, "We are good hikers, Dad!"

Another reason I love December - I love the anticipation of opening the mail box and finding what looks to be a Christmas card inside, then seeing who it is from and ripping it open.
Its so fun to display all the greeting cards that come in the mail, and see photos of loved ones and how friends' kids have grown, as it seems like 80 percent of the Christmas cards I receive are photo cards. 

This year, I am not sending my cards out by snail mail :( but by e-mail.  
So, to all my blog readers and friends:

Interested in the story behind this photo?  Read about it here, A Tale of an Attempted Photo Shoot.

Friday, December 10, 2010

To Santa From Mom

I've been a good mom all year. I've fed, cleaned and cuddled my children on demand, visited the doctor's office more than my doctor and sold 62 cases of candy bars to raise money to plant a shade tree on the school playground. I was hoping you could spread my Christmas list over several years, since I had to write this letter with my son's red crayon on the back of a receipt in the laundry room between cycles, and who knows if I'll find any more free time in the next 18 years.

Here are my wishes: I'd like a pair of legs that don't ache (in any color except purple, which I already have) and arms that don't hurt or flap in the breeze, but are strong enough to pull my screaming child out of the candy aisle in the grocery store.
I'd also like a waist, since I lost mine somewhere in the 7th month of my last pregnancy. If you're hauling big-ticket items this year, I'd like fingerprint-resistant windows and a radio that only plays adult music, and a refrigerator with a secret compartment behind the crisper where I can hide to talk on the phone.

On the practical side, I could use a talking doll that says, “Yes, Mommy,” to boost my parental confidence, along with two kids who don't fight and three jean skirts that will zip all the way up without the use of power tools.
I could use a recording of Tibetan monks chanting “Don't eat in the living room” and “Take your hands off your sister,” because my voice seems to be just out of my children's hearing range and can only be heard by the dog.

If it's too late to find any of these products, I'd settle for enough time to brush my teeth and comb my hair in the same morning, or the luxury of eating food warmer than room temperature without it being served in a Styrofoam container.

If you don't mind, I could use a few miracles to brighten the holdiay season. Would it be too much trouble to declare kethcup a vegetable? It will clear my conscience immensely. It would also be helpful if you could coerce my children to help around the house without demanding payment as if they were the bosses of an organized crime family.

Well, Santa, the buzzer on the dryer is calling my name, and my son saw my feet under the laundry room door. I think he wants his crayon back.

P.S. One more can cancel all my requests if you can keep my children young enough to always believe in Santa.

From Dr. Laura's book In Praise of Stay-at Home Moms (which I highly recommend).

Thursday, December 9, 2010

When it comes to cooking...

I am no chef.  I can follow a recipe, or alter it if I don't like it, but no dish I've ever made is completely my own. Sometimes I alter a recipe if I don't have all the ingredients on hand, but I can't say if it ever turns out any better or as good as it should have.

I am making turkey loaf - this is a new one (ground turkey was on sale at Fry's).  I like that its a full meal in one dish.  And an interesting one at that.

before being cooked

Ground turkey mixture (which contains rice), cheese, broccoli, cheese, turkey mixture. Interesting.
The only thing is, in the turkey mixture, it calls for 1 Tablespoon of beef bouillon. 1 Tablespoon!
Do you know how much sodium is in 1Tbsp of beef bouillon!?  2700 mg!!!
Is ground turkey just so bland that they had to add a bucket of salt to give it some flavor?
The daily recommended amount of sodium is less than 2400 mg.  Okay, okay, sure, you slice the loaf into 8 pieces, but I still think that is way too much sodium.  

So I just put 1 teaspoon of beef bouillon in.  I'm good at altering. 
I'm not good at altering for the better taste, I have no idea how it will turn out.

I'll let you know in an hour and a half.

At that same time I'll also let you know if my husband has enrolled me in a cooking class.


I feel like I need to post a Christmas recipe.  This is not a Christmas recipe. Unless you eat pizza on Christmas Eve, then it could be a Christmas recipe.  We've had bagel bites on Christmas Eve before, but not pizza, and not stromboli.
We love homemade pizza.  I love it because it is something all my kids will eat.  Each time I make it, I slip in a few more veggies and each time my picky ones eat it, they get a little more accustomed to the green stuff.
I also throw a little bit of wheat flour and flax seed into the crust (a little trick I learned from my M-I-L); its more filling and it makes me feel like we're eating healthier.
I could make it every week and the kids wouldn't complain.
However, I was running out of creative ideas as far as pizza and my kids go.
So last week I tried Stromboli, and I don't think my kids will let me go back to regular old pizza again.

It's fun to make, and just as easy as pizza. Try it some time!

The recipe:


1 loaf frozen bread dough, thawed 
  or pizza crust  (I love PW's pizza crust)
Italian seasoning
4 c. shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese
toppings of choice, such as salami, ham, sausage, red onion, bell peppers, spinach

Roll out dough into two 10 x 15 inch rectangles on floured surface. Sprinkle dough with Italian seasoning. Cover each rectangle with 2 cups of cheese, and all your toppings. Press toppings gently into dough. 
Starting with the long side of the rectangle, roll the dough into a log shape.  Seal the end by pinching the dough together.
Carefully lift onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and allow to rise to 30-40 minutes.
Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, or until lightly browned.
Allow to stand for 10 minutes before slicing thickly.  Serve with warm pizza sauce.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Wish Lists and Keeping it Real

This year, I have gotten more questions than last about the whole Santa thing.
"Does Santa really fly, Mom?"
"What does he do if there's no snow?"
"How does he get into our house?"
"Maybe he gets on an airplane to deliver presents to Alaska."

This year, I have stamped and addressed an envelope to Santa Claus, North Pole.
Dean asked Connor if he could see the list before Connor mailed it.  Connor said, "Nope, you have to wait until Christmas to see!" 
Thankfully, he asked me twice how to spell each word and rewrote his letter three times, so I have it memorized. Unfortunately, his list had five items on it, and the gift I've already gotten him is not on his list.

Last year was easy, they talked about what they wanted, and they each got something they had mentioned.  And they were young enough to not be overly influenced by school peers. This year, they've scoured the Walmart and Target toy catalogs for hours and their wish lists have grown. Eeep!  We wish they wouldn't make wish lists.  Then it feels like we have to go out and buy more than we had planned. As parents, its easy for us to want to give our kids everything they wish for. But by giving them everything they want, are we then failing to give them something more important?

I don't want to over-do Christmas.  I don't want our Holiday to be all about the biggest and best toys.

This year, I'd like my kids to really know and believe what Christmas is.
It is hard to teach them when Christmas has become so commercialized.  Don't get me wrong, I love to shop for gifts, put up a tree, and hang a wreath on our front door, just like millions of other Americans.  But the ads make you believe that you have to get your loved one the biggest sparkling diamonds to let her know she's loved, and your kids the latest new toy. The kids in school talk in awe about the new gadgets and electronic toys that they have/need.  Thank goodness we don't have the television to further expand my kids' wish lists and ideas of what the day means.  For many, December means hustle bustle and stress, and January means debt.

This year, we planned on giving each of our kids one larger gift, then a few trinkets for the stockings. That's it.
Or that was our plan anyway, until Connor mailed his letter.  It is hard to see our children disappointed.  I am struggling over what to do about gifts. I feel that this lesson, what Christmas really is, is one of the more important lessons I need to teach my children.  Can they learn this lesson while getting their wishes too?

I want our Christmas to be real.  I want Christmas to be another Thanksgiving - time spent with family being thankful for the blessings we have (that do not include toys) as well as remembering the first Christmas so long ago.  I want Christmas to be about the birth of Jesus, and what that means to us.

How do you keep it real in your household?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Creating in Photoshop Elements

One of the best things about having Photoshop Elements (PSE) is the ability to make your own creations. 

Whether it be a birth announcement,

 a thank you card,

or a fun post card,

you have complete freedom when it comes to design.
It's a lot of fun to start with a blank white document then print a finished product that is exactly what you want.  I love to make photo cards for other people.  Some day, perhaps my hobby will pay.

Also, I like to pretend I'm good at digital scrapbooking.
It involves PSE, so therefore I love it!
Years ago, as in before I had any kids, I tried paper scrapbooking.   
Then I got a digital camera and didn't print my pictures anyway.  
Then I discovered what fun it was do it all digitally.  No mess!
Then I got kind of tired of sitting in front of the computer.
Then I bought a new version of PSE that came with a srapbooking DVD.
Back at it once again!

My first pages were pretty basic.  But I like them.

I like storyboards, in other words - lots of pictures. I haven't been big on flowery sayings and embellishments.

 I've always been of the opinion that two photos on one 12 x 12 inch page is a waste of space, but I gave it a try anyhow.

And I think I like it!
It just might be time to find some other sites besides

Friday, December 3, 2010

Off with whose head?

Excuse me while I get my head cleared and put on straight.
I'm having one of those kind of days, and it just might be one of those kind of weekends (I am quitting nursing my 'baby', and I'm not expecting a lot of sleep).

On a much sunnier note, doesn't the beach sound absolutely wonderful right now?