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Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

Can it really be the last day of 2009? I know that I must say this every year but this year really has gone by too quickly. Looking back it hasn't been a year that will stick out in my memory as being extraordinary but it was a good year because we all are healthy and happy.

What do you typically do on New Year's Eve? We haven't ever celebrated it by having a party or doing anything grand. Some years we stay up until midnight and other years we go to bed as usual. Sometimes that happens as you get old and boring. :) This year we have plans of getting take-out pizza and a movie, and the adults will have a little wine. A low-key evening that will be special just for the fact that we are all ready to ring in a new year together.

Are you the the type that makes New Year's Resolutions? I always try to change a few things every year and think the best way is to make a resolution. I don't get depressed or discouraged if I happen to not stick with them, but just knowing there is something new I which I want to work on in a new year helps me usually stick to it. My goals for the new year fall into many categories, which are:

A Healthier Home: Meaning healthier food, healthier cleaners, organized work spaces, scheduled bedtimes for each child, and manly just a home that runs much more smoothly. I will be starting out slowly and will update you on my successes.

A Healthier Body: This applies to each family member, which will involve a healthy diet and more exercise. We do fairly decent in these areas but there are a few things we can improve on.

A Healthier Budget: I must toot my own horn and say I already have a good budget which I mainly stick to. This past year grocery store prices have risen, along with gas, electric, and city bills. I need to go through my budget and redo it to accommodate those increases and do better about sticking to the budget so that I have extra each month to stick into saving.

That list may sound like a lot but most of it is already things that I have been working on and just want to continue to improve. I also have goals for this blog. I don't want it to be "just" another mommy blog which talks "just" about the kids and our daily life. I hope for my readers to learn, and also to teach me. That is why I have started some themes, such as Frugal Friday which will hopefully show people how to save money here and there and also Wholesome Wednesday which will be discussing different "wholesome" views. I enjoyed the comments yesterday and was proud that whether you agreed or disagreed with me or one another you all did it in such a nice way. :) So there will be changes coming in the new year on this blog, which will be changes for the better! Are there any specific changes you would like to see?

What are your new year's resolutions?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wholesome Wednesday

You may have noticed in past weeks that Wednesday posts have tended to be about nutrition or other various wholesome information. I have decided to declare my Wednesday posts to be "Wholesome". They may end up being about nutrition, medical decisions I have made (whether that be about vaccinations, natural birth, and the like), weight loss, and a variety of other topics.

I think today I will start on a topic that involves medical decisions. A topic that can make grown men squirm in their chairs. Circumcision. As with homeschooling, there seem to be three groups of people when it comes to the topic: those who think it is the only way, those who are completely against it, and those who could care less one way or the other. I fall into the middle category.

While I would not consider someone who does circumcise their boys a horrible mother I do think it is unnecessary and more of a cosmetic procedure than a medical one. Many countries agree with me on that and do not cover circumcision under their insurance plans; if a parent wants that procedure for their child they have to pay for it out of pocket. There has been talk of insurance companies in the US dropping that coverage as well, but so far it is still covered.

I am against circumcision for the fact that it causes a baby a great deal of pain. Some hospitals do not administer any pain killers or numbing agents to a child being circumcised. And those places that do still see that the child is in immense pain during the procedure. The foreskin of the child is still fused to the glans of the penis at birth, and will not retract until later in life. So the first step is to force the two apart, which has to be a very painful thing. There are various ways to circumcise but the fact of the matter is that it all involves removing a piece of the baby's body in their most sensitive area.

Many will voice that it is the most hygienic thing to do. That infections of those who are not circumcised are more common and that it is impossible to keep the area clean. Apparently God made the foreskin on a male for a reason and it does have a purpose. Among other reasons for the foreskin, it keeps the area covered and protected from outside irritants and especially in the young, keeps the area clear from soiled diapers. I see it no different than females, and I am sure we are all against female circumcision, which is still being done in other countries. A woman can very easily get a UTI or other infections if they are not kept clean, and so good hygiene is important for women. The same can be said for any male, whether they are circumcised or not. Good hygiene is an important part of life and I am not going to circumcise my boys just in case they are complete slobs when they get older, just as I wouldn't do that to my girls. The actual chance of a serious infection in an uncircumcised male is very slim, but the cases of serious infections in an infant that was recently circumcised is well documented. Pros and cons must be weighed on both, but I hate to hear the reasons of parents circumcising their children because "it is dirty otherwise" is a truly false reason to do so.

"Because I want them to look like their father" is another reason parents decide on circumcision. I think this one is another silly reason. I'm sorry, but a young child typically doesn't notice differences in their parts to their parents. And even if they do, there is still a huge difference between a child and their parent which is apparent to any child who is noticing a difference. Until that child is a teenager or a grown man they will NOT be looking the same as their father whether they are circumcised or not, and at that age I really hope they are not comparing each others private parts.

AIDS and STDS. There have been a few studies that say circumcised men are slightly more protected when it comes to AIDS and other STDS. Is this not a completely unreasonable reason to circumcise? If my child is choosing to have unprotected sex with a person who he is unsure of their health history, he better be choosing better protection than just a circumcised penis.

Circumcision is on the decline in this country, with statistics pointing out that around 60% of male babies in the US are circumcised, meaning that 40% are not. It is being called a cosmetic procedure in most cases and doctors, if asked, will tell you that with the majority of boys it is a preference issue...there is no medical need for a circumcision. My doctor has said "Good for you!" during the physicals of my boys.

I do not want anyone to feel defensive if they have decided to circumcise their boys. But I am stating my reasons for why I feel it is unnecessary in the majority of cases (yes, there are a few cases where an infant, or even an adult, may have a need to be circumcised). Those are my views and the reasons my husband and I have decided against it for our boys. As with anything, I urge parents to look into each and every aspect of their child's medical decisions and not just go along with what the doctors say. Many parents assume that if doctors recommend it that it must be the best thing to do, which is not always the case. Before anyone has a boy I think it is best to read both sides of the circumcision debate and decide why it is/is not best for their child.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Welcome to my home...after you!

Winner of the "Name That Photo!" contest was Rich. Not just because it was the only entry, but also because I found it hilarious! Why? Because Joe does tend to "live" in cupboards. When I take a shower he almost always clears out the cabinet under the sink and crawls into it. So that caption fits perfectly!! Thanks for such a cute one, Rich!

Joe at Grandpa and Grandma's house on Christmas Eve...getting into the cupboard that they don't have locked! Name that photo, with a chance to win, well, the privilege of knowing you won. :)

Bits & Pieces

My thoughts are more random today than usual so I will be giving you little updates on our recent happenings.

Becca received a Melissa & Doug dollhouse for Christmas. She has been playing with it as it is intended. Jacob has other ideas though and makes it become a haunted mansion for his Scooby Doo characters to play in. Joe thinks it is a house for him and trys to climb inside of it countless times a day.

The puppy is feeling better.

Though this face looks grumpy that is just how she looks, especially when I try to take a picture. She hates the flash and often hides when she sees me getting the camera out. There were no repeats of Sunday night and I awoke to her smelling fresh in a clean kennel, so her sickness must be past. She has been running around and acting completely back to normal.

It is cold here and going to get colder this week. Temperatures will be falling way below zero for several nights and I shiver just thinking about it. We still have a bunch of snow on the ground, which will probably stay until Spring. Ahhh...just thinking about Spring warms my heart and soul, but we have awhile yet to get there.

Because it is cold out I have been using my time indoors to go through drawers, closets, toy bins, and bookshelves. I have a large bag to take to Goodwill and several bags of things to store for our Spring garage sale. I never realized just how many clothes the kids have and have been sorting through and getting rid of anything that they don't like, because I want to be able to get the drawers shut! It is a pain putting clean laundry away when you can't shove anymore into the dresser.

I am now off to take a shower and get ready to take Jacob to his speech therapy and to run a few errands around town. I may have to check a few stores out and see if any of the Christmas items are more than 50% off. After Christmas shopping is more fun for me than before Christmas shopping!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Not Me! Monday

(If you are grossed out by vomit, I advise you not to read on!)

Yesterday I did not awaken and walk downstairs only to stop at the bottom of the steps and wonder, what is that smell? I did not find out a few seconds later when I realized that the dog had thrown up all over in her kennel in the middle of the night. It was not all over the whole kennel and herself. While I washed the kennel she did not proceed to throw up all over the dining room floor. After her bath I did not lock her in the bathroom for much of the morning.

As I washed out her blanket in the washing machine I did not find little bits of bones scattered in the bottom of the machine and I did not blame the kids for feeding her their leftover chicken bones (chicken bones are a big no-no for dogs). When I told hubby this he did not say "Oh" with a guilty look on his face...and I did not realize at that point that it was he that fed her the bones.

I did not keep her away from all food for the day, only to find her eating food that evening that hubby set out for her (again, feeding a sick dog is a big no-no), only to find her throwing up again a bit later.

I was not awakened at 3am this morning by my hubby who said the puppy got out of her kennel and there was vomit all over. It was not I, with a 19 month old toddler who awoke at the same time, who had to go clean up the mess and the puppy, AT 3 IN THE MORNING! Because wouldn't a good husband let his wife sleep and clean it up himself when he was the one who fed the dog the bones in the first place, and later gave her more food for throwing up?!

I did not sleep in a little late this morning, only to come downstairs to a puppy who had managed to escape her kennel once again and had thrown up cat food (hubby left the cat food out this morning?!!!) all over the living room, office, and laundry room. I assume he also saw her out of her kennel this morning and saw the piles of vomit, but proceeded to go to work instead of clean them up. I did not spend over an hour washing the dog, the carpets, and the kennel out this morning.

With a face like this:

How could I be mad at her? But my hubby?! That is a whole other story. He is the one who will be in the doghouse when he arrives home from work today.

*Note: I understand bone splitters from chicken bones can be serious. I am watching the dog carefully and if she exhibits any serious symptoms she will be rushed to the vet's office. For now I am giving her Bio-Sponge which should help calm her digestive tract and gave her small pieces of bread to adsorb anything in her stomach. She will be off food the rest of the day and have limited amounts of water, but will be watched closely for dehydration or listlessness. *

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Getting Back Into the Groove of Things

Am I the only one that feels a little burnt out after the hustle and bustle of the holidays? It takes all month to prepare for one day and in an instant that day has come and gone. Add into the mix my husband's birthday which is the day after Christmas and you get two very busy treat-filled days. Then it is all over and time to get back to the real world, which always involves a lot of wrapping paper pickup, toy packages that need to be put in the recycling, toys that need to be organized, and a whole host of other daily life chores.

I'm almost there though! I did a major sweep of the house last evening and have a bag of wrapping paper to set by the curb. All the cardboard and plastic wrappers are picked up, toys are in a box ready to find their new spots in the toy room. Laundry is being washed, folded, and put away.

Despite my whining it was a wonderful Christmas spent with family. We never did end up getting the blizzard like conditions that had been predicted all week, we just stayed wet and rainy with very little ice to deal with so that was a blessing. We were able to make it to church and to my Grandma's house.

Christmas is just different when you are the mother. Once you become a mother you comprehend that it's your job to piece everything together and make a day seem extra special. From the decorations to the food to the gifts to scheduling the events of the day...it all lands on you! Sometimes that stress of making sure everything is perfect for everyone else can make you feel a bit in the bah humbug spirit yourself. I experienced that stress more this year than any before. Whether it be leaving my two youngest at home with daddy so that I could actually visit at a family gathering, only to have the oldest continually say she was going to throw up but that no, she didn't want to go home to having others make it clear that children are bothersome (yes, they can be, but no, you actually can't tell their mothers that without yourself looking like a grinch). While I tried my best to make this season low key and less commercialized I feel like I failed with myself because I was stressed out to the max and just didn't enjoy it. It gives me ideas on what not to do next year but it makes me feel as though I missed the mark this year. Or is this just the weekend after Christmas letdown speaking? How are you feeling today?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Happy 32nd birthday to my husband!

Friday, December 25, 2009

For Unto Us A Savior Is Born

May you and yours have a very Blessed Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What is Important?

Thinking about the birth of Jesus brings to mind everything surrounding that story. It brings to light that God chose a poor woman to birth our Savior. This woman gave birth to her Son in a barn, surrounded by animals. It doesn't sound very glamorous, does it? But God chose the perfect one to have His child, and knew that both Mary and Joseph would raise Jesus as He should be raised.

God could have chosen a very wealthy and high powered woman. But He didn't. It makes you realize that God does not favor those who are rich or with power. He favors the humble, the poor, the handicapped, and the sick. The ones who are considered worthless or beneath, by some people's standards. The Bible makes it clear that "the first shall be last and the last shall be first". That illustrates perfectly how the world thinks much differently than God. Look at how restaurants, designers, and even us "mere humans" fawn over movie stars just because they are rich and famous. They are treated as though they are above everyone else and more important than others. All because of their money and power.

Yet, God chose the mother of His Son to be Mary, who was no one out of the ordinary. Because money and power do not make you a good person, or a good parent. Money and power do not make you more wise or more important. Money and power do not make you happy. Money and power are not good things according to the Bible. Which is why God choose a woman, who may have been ordinary in her time, to raise our Savior. Because of who she was and what was in her heart.

By thinking on this one may grasp the concept that it really is the simple things in life that count. Being a millionaire or a "big success" by today's standards means nothing. Look at how unhappy it can make someone (think Tiger Woods, for instance). I would rather work at McDonald's and just barely squeak by while having a happy, loving family to come home to than work in a big corporate office and spend the majority of my time there while letting someone else raise my children and come home to a big empty mansion each night. If that makes you happy, than so be it, but that scenario would not make me a happy camper.

I read an article about a local restaurant, one of the oldest in our state. It has had famous people pass through it's doors, being a local landmark and all. But the owner of the restaurant said something in an interview that stuck with me. "All our patrons are important to us and we treat them all as equals because after all, no one is more important than anyone else." I wish we all could stick to this mantra.

This Christmas I hope we can all realize what makes us happy and rejoice in the simple things in life. We are not to treasure our earthly goods or successes, but rather build up our treasures in heaven. I think we all can use a little reminder of that every now and then.

May you all have a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sweet Summer Memories



Last Minute Christmas Preparations

The gifts are wrapped, the house is decorated, the cards have been sent, and the goodies have been baked. The final preparation for being ready for Christmas is getting the house clean. That is the hardest part of all. It was once said that "cleaning with children in the house is like shoveling during a blizzard". I have to agree.

No matter what I do, nothing gets done. I can get to the bottom of the hamper and by nightfall that thing is full again. I can have all the dishes washed and ten minutes later there are more to do. A room can be picked up, vacuumed, and dusted and an hour later it looks no different than before.

My two oldest are at the age where they can be of some help and pick up after themselves. Becca has been known to even wash some pots and pans and help with laundry. But even with the "help" of the children it is just impossible to avoid the daily tasks that need to be done in a houseful of little people. Especially when these little people are at home all day; there is no break where the house can stay clean while they are at school or at daycare. My husband has been known to come home to a disaster of a house and remark "What did you do all day?" HA! What a foolish, foolish man to utter that question! He gets bombarded by my list of what I did accomplish that day. He then gets a play-by-play account of why those same things are now undone, and is listed the name of the child that did it. He gets to hear how I didn't even get to eat lunch because I was too busy, or didn't get a moment alone to go to the bathroom. And I worked all day just to have it look the same by the end of the day!

I'm sure all mothers can understand this phase of life. Even the older mothers must surely remember what it was like when all the children in the house were little. I keep reminding myself that as the children get older I will have more helpers, and less toys. Let's hope there is a noticeable difference today and tomorrow showing all the work I put into cleaning!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Changes

Yes, you have come to the blog that you were looking for! I am in the process of changing things around and redesigning this site so please bear with me, as well as provide me with your honest feedback.

One of my goals for the new year is to make the blog layout more professional and get it to where it is more user friendly. Why not start when we are stuck home in the middle of a winter storm?! While I liked the layout before, it did seem a bit crowded. I am no computer expert and it wasn't until last week that I figured out how to link a website and how to schedule a post to appear later, instead of instantly. Yes, I am a little slow when it comes to computers.

Please, share your thoughts on this work in progress. What changes would you like to see? And on a side note, are there any specific topics that you would like to see addressed in the coming days?

Is Santa Real?

In our house the answer is both yes and no. We do not give our children gifts from Santa Clause. We do not repeatably stress the fact that Santa is watching them. We do not bring them to the mall to sit on his lap and get a photo. My children do believe in Santa though. Watching Christmas movies and hearing Christmas stories just automatically make a child believe in Santa and I see no harm in them doing so. At this point, when my daughter asks a question about Santa, such as "How does he get in the house?" I just ask her how she thinks he gets in the house. This is how it was when I was growing up. My parents didn't tell us Santa was real but they let us believe it. I don't even recall how old I was when I realized that he wasn't real but I think deep down I always knew it and the experience of realizing there was no Santa wasn't traumatic. It is similar to the Tooth Fairy, Fairies, Unicorns, and the like. You just assume those really exist until you reach an age when you realize they don't. If one of my children were to come out an ask if Santa was real I wouldn't lie. I think by not telling my child one way or another about Santa we are not betraying their trust, but are rather letting them believe in something magical until they realize themselves that there really is no such thing as Santa.

I do tell the children stories of St. Nicholas. He was real, and is who "Santa" is based on. St. Nicholas was a very generous man who did kind deeds and left small presents in the wooden shoes that were left outside the doors at night. We celebrate St. Nicholas Day each December 6th by leaving the kid's shoes on the porch and filling them with little treats. While they know St. Nicholas lived a long time ago, they also aren't sure if it is mom and dad or St. Nic putting those treats in their shoes. And they don't ask. When they ask, they will be told that we are just recreating the special thing that St. Nic did, but I see no harm in them believing in a little magic for the time being.

We do make sure the focus on Christmas is not about the magical or the make-believe. Maybe that is why Santa is no big deal in our house, we could live with or without the idea of him. It is the birth of Jesus that we focus on. They know that it is the birthday of Christ that we are celebrating. And while we know that by Biblical accounts Jesus was probably ( or most certainly) not born in December, it is a symbolical symbol of his birthday, if one must get technical. We tell the story of His birth, we speak about Him and point out all the nativity scenes when we drive around looking at lights. We attend mass on Christmas (with the terrible weather headed our way I hope that we can make it to church this Christmas!). After all, THAT is what Christmas is all about!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Not Me! Monday

It wasn't me who handed each child a grocery bag and told them to stick all the garbage in the van into the bag before we went to pick up my mom and younger siblings for an out of town trip. I wouldn't have put off cleaning the van for so long that both those grocery store bags were filled by the time they were finished. In my defense, it has been so cold here lately that I haven't spent any extra time outside, not even to clean out my van.

When I got home late on Tuesday night from my TOPS meeting I was not so tired that I just ran to Pizza Hut to pick up supper. It would be totally counterproductive to go to a weight loss support group and then eat pizza afterwards. So I would never, ever do that!

I have not been bribing the children to eat all their food at mealtimes with a reminder that they can choose a Christmas cookies if their plate is clean. This would mean that I am not in control of my children and must offer them rewards to do what I want. This would also mean that several cookies a day are disappearing from the freezer and that we *may* be running out of them at a faster pace than planned. We better have enough to make the goodie trays I had planned on.

Do you have any "Not Me! Moments" from this past week?

Winter is Here!

Just the other day I was thinking how I am already tired of the cold and snow. How I am tired of winter and already looking forward to spring. And then I realized that it wasn't even winter yet, it was still officially autumn! What a depressing realization.

Today is the first "official" day of winter. It is also the shortest day of the year. It seems like the first hurdle to get over on our way to spring. Every day now we will have a bit more daylight, even though that may just mean a few seconds more every day it does mean something.

I often wonder why we have daylight savings time and why we set our clocks back in the fall. The days seem so short and the nights so long. I am one of those people who is affected by the lack of sunlight and often experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in the winter months. I do get motivated and have a lift of spirits when the sun is shining and pouring into our windows in the winter months. Even if it is freezing outside, the appearance of sunshine can always boost my mood. In the Midwest, in the middle of winter, the bright sun is a rare occurrence. I have heard of special lights that help beat SAD, but have not run across any myself. What seems to help me a little is taking fish oil capsules; it has been said that Eskimos (who experience winter weather almost all year long, it seems) rarely suffer from SAD because of all the omega fats and oils in their diets. Taking the fish oil is not a complete fix for me but it does take the edge off it.

I may become one of those rare persons who enjoys winter when I am older. If I could putter around my house and read books, write long letters, work on puzzles, and catch up on my movie watching it may actually be an enjoyable season for me. But in this "season" of my life I have three little bundles of energy who bounce off the walls when it is too cold to go outside. Three little munchkins who get bored of staying inside, and crabby, and get a big case of cabin fever. The times when we do venture out we have to bundle up in layers of clothing, which means once we come back inside their are snowpants, mittens, hats, coats, and boots to pick up and put away. There are puddles of melting snow all over my floor. There are frozen hands that need warming and tummies that need to be filled with a snack and a mug of hot cocoa.

What is your favorite season? What do you do to fill the long months of staying inside during winter?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Memories

Today, as I baked cookies with my daughter and thought about making our own family traditions, I started to also reminisce about my own Christmas memories as a child. What I vividly remember are the days leading up to the big day, not the day itself.

Making the traditional sugar cookie cutouts with the whole family and then decorating them was always a favorite. It was an all day experience with watching mom mix the dough, then waiting for it to chill in the fridge and keeping watch so that dad wouldn't sneak little bits of the raw dough out of the fridge (which he always managed to do). Once it was finally chilled enough it was time to roll out the dough, press the cookie cutters into it, and bake it. We often managed to sneak little bits of raw dough ourselves as we cut out the cookies. Why is it that raw cookie dough is better than a baked cookie? The decorating part was always the best part. And then getting to choose which cookie we wanted to eat after all that work was such a major decision. This tradition has been carried down to our children.

Driving around town and looking at all the Christmas lights was another tradition that we couldn't do without and looked forward to, while listening to Christmas carols on the car radio. Again, another tradition that my own children look forward to. Tomorrow evening we will be stopping at the convenience store to pick up some hot cocoa and then drive around, finding the best lights in town.

Christmas Eve seems to be the best day of all. We always had trays of cheese and crackers, plates of cookies and goodies. The lights are turned down low and candles are lit and we read the story of our Savior's Birth. This tradition has continued and we still experience a special Christmas Eve at my parent's house each year. It has evolved to include a movie, some gift swapping, and a little wine. But the immediate family is always there and that is what makes it truly special.

When it comes down to gifts there are just a few that stick out as a child. One is the first year that we moved to a very drafty, cold, cold, cold house in the country. The upstairs was not heated well and my room was freezing cold. Ice would form on the windows and I can still recall often "drawing" little scenes in that ice. That year I received such a warm comforter and remember that because I still have that comforter, which Jacob uses on his bed now (but will be getting a replacement this Christmas with his own Toy Story comforter). I was around 10 years old when I received that comforter, so it is 17+ years old!

I also remember a box under the tree that was addressed to our cat, "Meow". Meow was a stray that had shown up at the house mentioned above soon after we moved in. We hadn't been in the market for a cat and didn't have the money to feed a cat. She was an excellent mouser and caught all her food, though in the colder months she would get a little lean. I remember this box being from "Sandy Claws" and when I opened it it was filled with cans of cat food for her. I was overjoyed that we could feed her "real" food. I fed her one can a day until the supply was gone. Though that present was not one for me, it was one of my favorite presents because it was for "my" cat and something that she needed.

I remember saving up my birthday money (which happens to be in August) and buying my first Christmas gifts for my family. I was probably around 8 or 9. I remember buying my older brother a small gumball machine, my dad a trial size bottle of "Old Spice" and my mom a small set of individually wrapped squares of bath melts. As my mom unwrapped the gift Christmas morning I realized I had left the $1 sticker on it and was so embarrassed! I don't recall what (or if) I bought my younger brother and sister anything, they were so small at the time I probably figured they wouldn't care if I didn't get them anything.

It is the simple things in life that I hope my children remember as they later look back on their childhood. Christmas is an especially magical time of year, but not for the presents, but rather for the spirit of goodwill and giving that we often see this time of year more than any other. My children have not asked once for any particular item or asked what they are getting. I hope that as they grow older this will continue and they will not see Christmas as a way to get more toys, but more as a magical time of year to enjoy traditions with family, do for others, and celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Just Because


Babies = Big Bucks?

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I've heard it been said many times,"My husband and I are waiting to have a baby until we are financially secure". That is all good, except what if that point never comes? What is the end goal - money to buy clothing and food, to have the whole college fund already in motion, to have a good retirement fund? Sometimes we can plan all we want and never seem to get anywhere, and sometimes we can have faith that God will provide.


Many of us wouldn't be here if our parents had waited to be "financially secure" before becoming pregnant. Many of us probably weren't even "planned" by our parents. And while I don't recommend being reckless and popping out baby after baby if one is financially, emotionally, or health-wise unstable, I do think that sometimes the biggest blessing is the one unplanned. I don't think babies need to be as costly as most reports make them seem.

First of all, babies do not need all the gadgets that parenting magazines and baby shower registries promote. All my babies have had a wind-up swing, a stroller, and a car seat. We co-sleep so had no need for a crib. Changing tables seem to be a waste of space as we change on the ground or on the bed. All the other high tech gadgets are not needs.

I breastfeed exclusively. My children have never had a bottle or formula. This saves thousands of dollars and also saves doctor visits as breastfed babies tend to get sick less often and get less ear infections. As a matter of fact, all three of my children have never had an illness that required the use of antibiotics and have never had to go to the doctor for an illness. Broken arms and stitches, yes, but no sick visits. I understand that there are women who try to breastfeed and are unable to do so or that a baby has severe allergies or other issues where they are in need of a specialized formula. But many women don't even consider breastfeeding, and I feel that it is not as promoted as it should be. The formula companies make it seem as though formula is just as good as breastmilk and that is completely untrue. Breastmilk is specially designed for that particular baby and changes as the baby grows. While a mother should not feel guilty is she is unable to breastfeed for one reason or another, I think those that don't even consider breastfeeding their babies have no leg to stand on when they are complaining about the high costs of formula.

Clothing. The majority of our baby clothes come from garage sales and hand-me-downs that I saved from the previous child. I then sell the clothing for about as much as I spent in the first place, so we break even on the clothing.

Diapers. In the warmer months we usually use cloth diapers. This saves a considerable amount of money. Otherwise, I look for coupons and sales and stock up. Last spring when Joe was born Walgreens had a wonderful deal on diapers and combined with a coupon out of their pharmacy book and a coupon which printed at the register I was able to stock up on 60+ packages of diapers in various sizes (as well as Pull-Ups) for about $1-$2 per package. This deal lasted for several weeks so I did not wipe the stores clean, I just picked up a few packages each time we went to Walgreens. I still have stacks of these diapers in the closets upstairs. I recently ran out of the size 4 diapers so have to buy a few packages but hope Joe will be in a size 5 soon, and several packages in that size are stored away for him.

(This photo is of all three children with their stacks of diapers. It was showcased in the coupon/refund magazine "Refund Cents".)

Food. While a baby won't eat solids for many months, they do eventually get around to it. Baby foods are expensive and not as necessary as Gerber would like you to think. You have the option of making your own baby food or you can start out with easy digestible table foods. My children don't even try solids until six months of age. At that point they may go through one or two boxes of Rice cereal or oatmeal. I then move on to just plain mashed bananas. Then when they master that they start to eat a little food off my plates at meal times...squished peas, cooked carrots, mashed potatoes, etc. By age one, when they need more nourishment than just breastmilk they are used to eating most of the food that everyone else at the table are eating. And as the babies grow they turn into children and we haven't found that our food budget has increased much with three small children. I'm sure when they reach teenagers it will be a different story, but I still think that with a creative mind in the kitchen you can really stretch those food dollars.

College Funds. This will either get a strong reaction or none at all but I am one of those parents who feels that if the child decides to go to college that they can apply for scholarships, grants, and pay for it themselves (gasp!). I know many students who have gone to college only because it was expected of them and squandered their education and didn't take it seriously. And while there are many more who had a college fund set up for them and did go to college and did take it seriously, I think that one would be more apt to think long and hard about their major and try their hardest in school when they are the ones paying for it. It doesn't hurt a student to work part-time and go to school and it doesn't hurt one to apply for scholarships and grants. I don't think that a college fund is a necessary fund when having a child, anymore than a car fund or house fund is for a child. We tend to appreicate more those things that we worked hard for and earned ourselves.


Yes, children cost money. Is it the estimated 1 Million+ (from newborn to age 18) that many studies have cited? Not for the majority of Americans. Everything, even raising children, can be done on a budget.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Downsizing

We live in a country where bigger is better and the more you have the better you are. Or that is what they want you to think. They being the marketing companies and anyone in a business selling something. Trade in, upgrade, get something bigger and better seems to be the motto. Computers are ancient after a year or two, cell phones have turned into mini handheld computers, cars should be traded in every few years, and the list goes on. I don't buy it, and don't buy into it either.

This is also the time when the "we are exhausting our earth's resources" people will quote over-population and the need to not procreate or limit ourselves to one or two children. And yet, the houses are getting bigger and the families are getting smaller. It has nothing to do with the number of people being born but rather the fact that we are consuming products and taking more of the earth's resources per person than ever before. "We" are greedy and always unsatisfied with what "we" have. As in "we", I do not mean everyone, but rather society in general.

I try to avoid this whenever possible. I generally "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." My mom laughs at me because I still have a pair of pajama boxer shorts that I wore as a teenager...and still wear them every summer! Why not, right? We live in a small house with two bedrooms (though the playroom loft and office can be turned into bedrooms at some point) and one bathroom. This was the average size of a house in 1890 when this house was built (and the house has even been added on since, so was smaller when originally built) and families back then tended to have much larger families than today. Our cars are always bought used and when we "upgrade" it is to a ten year old vehicle instead of a 14 year old one! :) Our only cell phone is a pay as you go phone, with no extras such as texting or camera. We have no cable and "make do" with the limited channels that we get, which are free.

What is my point, exactly? That it is possible to live without these things! I know some teenagers (or even some adults) who would "absolutely die" without their cell phone and texting, or without cable. But guess what? You really don't miss what you never had. The reason I didn't take advantage of a bottom dollar price on cable this summer is because I knew we would get used to having so many channels and miss it when the price rose after a year. That is how they sucker you in and get you hooked. I, personally, can find something much more worthwhile to spend that $40 a month on rather than tv. I also find that with such limited channels we not watch television as much, and therefore spend more time as a family and doing more hands-on activities such as reading, writing, drawing, and using our imagination. Same with video games...except for a V-Smile game that their Grandma gave them and they have played maybe five times, we do not own a video game. Even the Wii, which is more interactive and physical, is still not the real thing. Instead of playing tennis in front of the television I would prefer my children to be out in the fresh air playing actual tennis.

This past year we have seen what the "bigger is better" has done, financially. People bought houses (and were approved for loans!) that they couldn't even afford. Credit cards are maxed out on "wants" instead of needs and families are struggling to pay the bills each month, but do have big flashy diamond rings or French manicured nails to make them feel better. I am not against these things, per say, but am against putting those things on a credit card if you don't pay it off in full each month. Wants and Needs are not the same.

The fact of the matter is that if you can afford those things, great! But we as a whole could fix a lot of problems in society by just doing without some things, whether we can afford them or not. The majority of what we have in our life is not necessary. They are extras, wants. We all deserve some wants in life, but when these wants start to get blurred into needs are when we are in trouble. These lines do seem to be getting blurrier and blurrier. If our teenager can't cope without her cell phone for a day than that is a problem. If we can't pay our electric bill but manage to go get our hair done that week, that is a problem.

I love being able to stay at home with my children. I also give up a lot of wants to be able to do this. But in going without I realize even more that it really, truly is the simple things in life that count. I have everything that I need and how could I want for more?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Good Deal!

Can you believe I just bought this adorable toy for Joe's 2nd birthday (which isn't until May but it never hurts to buy in advance!) for $14.00? (This sells at Target for $100!)


How? Well, I had a $25 Amazon credit saved up from my Swagbucks. It is on sale at Amazon here for $38.99 (which includes shipping). So after my credit I owed just $14! Wow, I really think he will love it. If you are interested in it check soon as the proce tends to go up and down on Amazon. If you want to purchase directly from Amazon look for the place on the right hand side where you can add it to your cart from Amazon. *UPDATE: It looks like the price has gone back up to $99 but if you are interested in one keep checking back!*

Say Cheese!

Did you ever notice that when you have a child pose for a photo and ask them to smile
that their smile gets stranger...
and stranger...


and stranger as you go?





Monday, December 14, 2009

Not Me! Monday


Wow, is it really Monday again already?! Last week went by so quickly that I can barely recall all the things I did, much less the things "I didn't do"!

It wasn't me who called Jacob's speech therapist last Thursday to cancel his class. There really was no reason whatsoever except that we awoke to no hot water (simple fix...the hot water heater was turned to the off setting) and I didn't want to leave the house without a shower first. What mother would do that?

I did not start the Christmas baking off last week with a batch of almond bark pretzels, thinking they would stay hidden in the freezer. I did not notice yesterday that the bag is half gone...and I still have not figured out who has been sneaking them! (Seriously, it wasn't me.)

I did not make a much needed run to the grocery store on Friday without a list (gasp!) only to find that the store was beyond crowded. So crowded, in fact, that I got flustered and ended up just picking something up for supper. I do not get flustered by crowds of people...not me!

When I dug the van out last week from the 10.5" of snow that we received in the minus 20 degree windchills I did not think I got frostbite on my hands when I all of a sudden couldn't feel them and then had horrible burning while they were thawing out. Because I never would have chosen the thin, barely-there gloves over something much more insulating. Not me!

On Saturday when hubby took the two oldest to a movie and toddler fell asleep I did not plop on the couch and watch a movie from beginning to end! With an hour to myself I would be cleaning or reading or writing, not vegging out in front of a movie!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Baking

Today was spent in the kitchen making our yearly double batch of Christmas cookie cut-outs. Mixing the dough with the hand mixer that I just bought killed the motor before I was even half way through (I really need a KitchenAid Mixer!). No wonder I have done without a hand mixer for the last three years, they can barely mix anything!

I spent about two hours in the kitchen rolling out the dough and using Christmas cookie cutters. This was a project that as a child we all did together with my mother but I just don't have that much patience, listening to fighting about who gets to cut next or who wants which cookie cutter. Plus, a two hour project would then turn into a four hour project! Never fear though, I saved the best part for the children:
DECORATING!!!
Joe got a little nutty by the end and was trying to pour the sprinkles directly into his mouth. We ended up with over 100 cookies and will be using them in goodie trays and for our own eating.

I enjoy baking during the holidays but am a bit behind this year, all I have made so far are the cookies showcased above and some almond bark pretzels. I plan to also make molasses cookies, chocolate mice, fudge, and maybe puppy chow or Chex Mix. I was planning on gingerbread men as well, but I'm already tired of the rolling and cutting so think I will skip those this year.

What are some of your favorites that you just can't go without during the holidays?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Homeschooling

I have been intending to write a post about my reasons for homeschooling for some time now. Just yesterday, a blog that I am an avid reader of, had a homeschooling discussion. So while my thoughts are fresh I will put my reasons down on paper (err...I mean, screen).

It seems that there are three groups of people when it comes to homeschooling - those who believe it is the only way, those who believe it is harmful to children, and then those who really have no opinion one way or the other. I do not believe that it is the right way or the only way that a child should be schooled. But I do believe that it is the right way for my family for the time being. I am not dead set in my ways that I would never consider sending my children to school if they asked or if homeschooling wasn't working out, but for now I know that homeschooling is right for our family.

Is it about the education aspect? No, not for us. I believe that the majority of children who go to school get a good education. I do appreciate that homeschooling allows more freedom to tailor the teaching towards the way the student learns or specifically what the student is interested in, and can better monitor when a child is falling behind, but for the most part my reasons for homeschooling are not about the education.

It boils down to the fact that I do not want someone else raising my children. I also do not want my children to be so highly influenced by their peers at such a tender age. While there are children who are able to come into their own and blossom and not succumb to peer pressure in school, it is rare. It happens in site of school, not because of it. The majority of students tend to follow the crowd and go with the flow in order to fit in. A video that a high school student from our local high school posted on YouTube showcases that point exactly. He asked students what they hoped for for their school, or wished, and the majority of the students pointed out that they wished all the students would accept others for who they are, not have the cliques that they do, and stop being so mean. That video highlights exactly why I do not think highly of peer pressure or school situations. Students in group situations like that are mean and controlling. You either fit in or are the outcast, very few fit between those lines.

I do not want to thrust my child out when he/she is still learning about who he/she is to see them being influenced by other children with completely different morals and values. While I am not planning on brainwashing my children to conform to what I believe, I do plan on teaching them my morals and values, as any parent should. They won't be in a bubble and will learn about other's viewpoints and other beliefs around the world, but they will be raised with a Christian upbringing. And when they are old enough they can form their own beliefs and values they are free to do so, but will hopefully have a strong foundation already built. I don't think that learning swear words or what sex is about on the playground is appropriate. I don't think that being made fun of for what you wear or how you look makes you stronger. I don't think that being obsessed with boys at a young age or dating at age 14 is "just being a kid". I don't think that going to wild parties or experimenting with alcohol, drugs, or sex as a teenager is just part of growing up. And children are immersed in this in a school setting. Yes, many children will graduate high school unscathed and a stronger person, but many won't. Do I expect that all homeschoolers turn out as moral and superior human beings? No, but I don't see as many homeschoolers following the "in crowd".

It's been said many times that a child that is homeschooled doesn't know what the real world is about and that you have to be a part of that world to be able to deal with it. Huh? Really? Is the real world all about a room of same-aged peers? I thought the real world was about people of all races, religions, and ages. Homeschoolers tend to be able to interact with people of all ages and feel comfortable talking to an 80 year old woman or a ten year old kid. While public schoolers can also achieve this, I find it more common to see them only wanting to hang out with their friends, otherwise, being stuck at home is "booooooring" and so "uncool". If we truly want to use the anthology above, then would it not be productive to say that we should stick our husbands in a house with beautiful half-dressed women for hours on end, day after day and just totally trust that they are strong enough to avoid the temptation? Or do we realize that the way to help someone stay strong (whether it is our children, our husbands, or ourselves) is to avoid temptation in the first place?!

Are my children going to be isolated and have no public schooled friends? Of course not! Will they be subjected to temptations and certain situations during their growing up years? Certainly. But by the time that they have to face those situations I hope and pray that they will been strong enough in their convictions to say no. And they won't have to think about a whole classroom of peers haggling them if they do say no. I like to think of the anthology of the gardener: Does he plant his little sprouts directly in the ground to deal with the hot sun, strong winds, and pounding rain? Or does he tend them in his greenhouse, introduce them slowly to the weather, and only plant them outdoors when they are strong enough to shoulder the storms?

This is my view of homeschooling and peer pressure. This is why I feel homeschooling is best for us. Do not take it personally thinking that I think everyone else should be homeschooling or that public schooled kids are bad. I know many parents who are confident that their children can be in a school setting and set a good example. I know many parents who think certain things a child or teen does is just their rite of passage into adulthood. And that is okay with me, I think the choice of education and parenting are up to each individual family. This post was not to point out why homeschooling is superior (believe me, I understand that there are very bad examples of homeschoolers out there as well!), but only pointing out my reasons for choosing it for my family. I would be interested in learning your reasoning for choosing the schooling path you did for your children.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Frugal Friday

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Stocking up on items when they are on sale is a very easy way to save money (and time!). You would think that this would be a no brainer but it's ridiculous how many times I have heard someone in the store mention "You should buy more, it's on sale!" only to have a person answer "I don't need anymore right now." Okay, maybe you don't need more right now but I am sure that at some point you will be needing more cans of corn, or extra tubes of toothpaste. If it is something that you use on a regular basis then stockpiling it when you find it at an excellent price or on clearance combined with coupons is the very best way to save money on items that you would use anyway.

For example, when I was at Super Target last week I found 3 lb. bags of apples for 99cents a bag. That is only 33cents per pound! I bought three bags, but wish I had bought more when I heard the storage tip of wrapping them in newspaper and storing them in the basement...they last months this way! They also had 10 lb. bags of potatoes for $1.99...how often do you find potatoes at 20 cents per pound? I was in a hurry and my cart was full so I only bought one bag, but wish I had gotten several more as we are already more than half through that one bag. If I had been in a savings mindset I would be well stocked on potatoes and apples for this winter. Lesson learned.

I also use coupons and combine them with sales or clearance prices and get items for pennies or even free. That, combined with the large gift baskets that my parents put together for us for Christmas (which include razors, lotion, deodorant, and many other health and beauty items) mean that I rarely have to pay full price for these items. It is wonderful when we run out of something to go to the cupboard and pull an extra out instead of running to the store for one little thing.

I don't mean that you should buy every package on the shelf or buy by the case full. But if you find an item that you use regularly on sale, and know that you will not see this price for some time, than stock up on it as much as space and money will allow. Whether that be 5 cans of vegetables, or 20 cans stock up with enough to last you until the next sale.

Another frugal tip, is especially on my mind this week. Saving money on your heating bill. Our natural gas costs tend to just keep going higher and higher. It gets expensive heating a home, especially when the temperatures outside are so frigid and the heat seems to be running constantly. We have saved on our gas bill for several years by keeping the thermostat turned down. We go to the extremes really, and usually have ours set at 63 to 64 degrees during the day and 58 degrees at night. I understand that this is much chillier than most even want to tolerate. Quite frankly, we have gotten used to it and if we start feeling cold we just put on another layer of clothing. We now find this temperature quite comfortable and feel HOT when we go into a store. Our heating bills are much less than those around us. We had an energy audit when we first bought our house. The man was surprised at what we keep the thermostat at and complimented us on it. He said the majority of the homes he goes to are roaring hot and the residents are walking around in shorts and t-shirts and then have the gall to complain about their high heating costs and see if they can get assistance for it. If you don't want to go so low, you can still save money by setting your thermostat down a little at night or if everyone is gone at work or school during the day set it lower. A programmable thermostat will do all this work for you and I guarantee that you will see a difference with your first bill.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

SNOW!

I promised pictures of our snowfall, but am disappointed that the ones which I took yesterday (you know, during the storm!) somehow disappeared from my camera when the batteries died. So you will have to settle for the two photos below.

This one shows the front yard and my cold little van. It was a huge chore digging the van out this morning, it seriously was covered head to toe (or is it top to bottom or hood to trunk?!).

And here is our backyard.

The snow has stopped and we are now just dealing with very cold temperatures. Last night the windchills were near 30 below zero and today hasn't been much better. We will warm up to around 20 degrees on Saturday so that will be an improvement! So far it looks like we will be having a white Christmas!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Does Blogging Pay?

We are still under a winter weather warning and the snow is blowing and drifting outside as I speak. Later when I go out to shovel the walks I will try to snap a few photos to show you what we are really dealing with right now!

But for now, I wanted to answer the question, "Does having a blog pay?" I did not start this blog for the purpose of making money, but rather to have an outlet for my thoughts, random writings, and just be connected to my friends on a daily basis. There are bloggers who make a very respective living off their blogs. Some bloggers actually make several hundreds of thousands of dollars a year (ever hear of Pioneer Woman or Dooce?). So blogging can make money, but for the majority of the small bloggers it is just a way to get our writing out there and connect with others.

That said, there really is a bit of a financial gain for even the smaller bloggers. Not much, and really not worth it if you are trying to make money, but it is a small enough gain to be like a little bonus for all the work you put into your blog. For example, I posted about Paper Back Swap and two people signed up with my referral (thinking about signing up? Please enter my e-mail address babys_mama "at" yahoo.com when doing so!) and I earned two free credits...which equals two free books for me!

I wrote about Swagbucks, where you can earn "swagbucks" by using their search engine instead of the typical search engines such as Google. I win at least one or two swagbucks a day just by doing a few searches. You can then buy products or gift cards with your swagbucks. You get even more by referring people, as you win as many swagbucks as they do (up to their first 100). I have been focusing on the Amazon $5 gift cards and since signing up for Swagbucks three months ago I have been able to cash in $65 worth of Amazon gift cards! This has been a tremendous help to me during this holiday season and I thank all of you who signed up under me. I hope you, too, are winning a lot of points and don't forget to have your friends sign up under you! If you are interested in learning more about "Swagbucks", click below:
Search & Win

And lastly, is Google Adsense. I decided to put a few ads on my blog because sometimes there are actually good advertisements that offer good coupon offers or helpful websites. I get paid per click on the advertisement and my clicks are fairly low (about 2 clicks per 100 people who visit) but it is enough that it is standing at about $55 in my account right now. You are not able to cash out until you reach $100 but even if it only reaches that once a year that is an extra $100 in my pocket!

I am happy with these little extras that I have earned through my blog but I blog just to blog. I love the fact that friends (and strangers!) find my writing interesting enough to check back again and again. I love having an online "journal" with photos and updates of my life; it's fun for me to go back and read about any given day. It is worth it, even if one isn't paid!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Here in the Midwest we are under a storm watch until Wednesday night. It has been snowing like crazy all day and we aren't even at the half way mark of what is expected. So far it sounds like about 8" of snow expected, which isn't totally unusual for us. Though it has been said that several places may receive up to 12". The worst part is that the winds are supposed to be picking up to around 50mph and we could get snow drifts over four feet tall and have dangerous windchills. Yes, winter is now officially here!

The following photos were all taken yesterday, when we just had a light dusting of snow. The two children pictured had a blast playing, the absent one hates wearing mittens or a hat so went inside soon after he got outside.

I never mind the first snow of the season, especially when it is so close to Christmas. I'm not even minding this winter storm yet. But I did notice that our van doesn't handle snow on the streets very well. And my sister spun around three times today on the main hi-way trying to get home. So the dangerous road conditions are very unappealing.
And the grocery stores? What can I say about how crowded they get whenever a snow, big or small, is expected? Everyone runs out and stocks up on bread, eggs, and milk. As though those are the three staples that will keep you going in a storm. Do they eat a lot of bread pudding when it is snowing out? I, too, ran to the grocery store today. Not because I had to stock the pantry but rather because I figured with the snow and cold it would be a wonderful time to get some Christmas baking done. Today the kids and I have made almond bark pretzels and tomorrow we will work on the ginger snaps.

Whether you are having a blast of winter weather or not I hope that you are all comfy cozy right now and enjoying a peaceful December evening. If my camera batteries aren't completely dead, I will update with photos tomorrow!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Not Me! Monday


Today, instead of confessing my not-so-great moments I will be explaining what my perfect little angels did not do.

My sweet little Joe did not make his own little faux snow playground with powdered cleaners last week. (Please see last Friday's post for the full effect.) He would never do that, and the eldest two never would have helped him do that.

My easy going Jacob did not have a full blown fit at his speech therapy last Thursday and get so upset that we had to leave. He did not bury his head into my coat and not move or talk to the teacher and did not scream like a banshee when I tried to leave him alone in the room to do his work. Not him, not ever!

My Rebecca did not open up a tube of mascara and have her brothers "paint" with it all over the playroom, and themselves. And then lie about her part in it, only to confess later that yes, she did indeed open it and tell them to do that. She would never lie and never think up something like that.

Rebecca did not somehow see her Christmas present in the basement and later say "I know what you got me for Christmas."

Jacob did not lock the puppy behind the door leading to the steps. Since the puppy is scared to go up the steps she did not stay behind the door and leave a little surprise there, which promptly got smashed into the carpet as we opened the door. I did not get upset and only find humor in it when I remembered the scene in "Dumb & Dumber-er" (is that the title?!) where Harry had an experience with a chocolate bar in the bathroom and later Bob Saget went up there and started screaming. Those words were running through my head as I cleaned up the mess.

Joe did not dump an entire cup full of soda on himself while in the car on Saturday when we were out and about Christmas shopping. I did not have to stop at a consignment store to buy him a new change of clothing.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas Is Coming!

If you haven't already noticed, which I'm really sure you probably have, Christmas is just 19 days away. I am usually much more on the ball about things but this year seem to be a little more behind than usual with Christmas preparations. Most of my cards are still not mailed out, I did not get a family Christmas photo taken this year, haven't started with any of the holiday baking, and just started wrapping presents yesterday. The good news? We pretty much finished our shopping yesterday and it felt good to cross that off our list.

And you know what? I really don't mind the slower pace this year. I don't feel hurried and I am able to relax and just enjoy the season. We have driven around in the evening looking at lights, the kids and I have made their Christmas chains (a chain of construction paper, which they tear one chain off every morning and will tear the last one off on Christmas morning). We have been doing family things together and that is what counts, that is what Christmas is about. Each year we are steering more and more away from the gifts and glam of Christmas and focusing more on the meaning of it. It is not about us, it is about Christ and His coming. And I just feel that the true meaning of Christmas has been taken over by greedy souls and hungry stores and turned into something completely different than what it should be.

I'm still getting there, trying to change and focus our family upon what the meaning of the season is about. What are your family traditions that focus on the REAL meaning?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mrs. Manners

Has anyone else noticed that manners are falling to the wayside with this generation? Or maybe it happened a few generations ago.

All I know is that it is rare to see doors opened for the elderly or people with their hands full. It is rare to see one give up a seat for someone older. And it is all too common to see people texting when they should be present at the conversation in front of them. Kids acting foolish and damaging others property in the name of "fun". And the list could go on. I don't know when it started or how it happened but so few have actual manners these days.

When I worked putting the books up at Walmart I had the chance to observe several people. I heard teenage boys yelling out to a young mother "Hot Sexy Mama" and I heard a group of girls saying over and over again in very loud voices "Paging Mr. Penis". Who knows what it meant but it was rude, annoying, and totally uncalled for. I've seen people walk through doors without thinking of the person behind them. The list goes on and on.

It's funny, but the only place that I have noticed actual manners was at our local farm & supply store. The door is always held open for me and the kids if someone goes before us. When I have been lifting the 50 lb. bags of dog food into the cart I have had several men grab the bag out of my arms to put it in the cart for me. Not completely necessary as I can lift 50 lbs. myself, thank you very much, but it is the thought that counts. I'm not sure what makes that store different, maybe it is that the majority of shoppers there are older men who went through the generation that had manners.

My rant for today is close to my heart though. Thank You Notes and RSVPs. If you are invited to a party or other gathering the only polite thing to do is call ahead to let the hostess know if you are coming or not. I've had the experience of hosting events where very few people show up and it would have been nice to know that ahead of time. So, please, always remember to RSVP if you are invited somewhere. Give them notice as far in advance as possible. And don't get me started on Thank You notes! It is said that you do not have to mail a thank you note if you thanked a person to their face for their gift. I agree. But if you did not have the opportunity to thank someone for their gift (your party was either too crowded so you weren't able to personally speak to everyone or you received a gift through the mail) it is just plain rude not to mail a thank you note. While I think late is better than never, a thank you note is usually sent within three months of receiving the gift. And many manner articles will state not to even use a gift until a thank you note has been sent.

While I do not give gifts in order to receive a thank you note, I always feel like my gift was not appreciated if I don't hear a thing from the one I sent the gift or money to. We sent birthday cards and money to our teenage nieces for several years, never once hearing if they received it. The parents never mentioned a thing to us and no thank you was ever spoken or received. It got to the point where my husband said "Why bother?" and we stopped sending them gifts. If you never send thank you notes a gift giver will eventually give up on wanting to give you a gift. I like giving gifts. I love watching someone as they open up a gift or like knowing that the cash I send can help buy a little trinket for a newlywed's home or help buy something that a recent graduate needs or wants. But if that person doesn't even acknowledge that they received the gift or appreciated it than it isn't so much fun anymore.

Remember your manners, as your mama (or was it your Grandmother?) used to say!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

3 Pounds?!

How is it that someone can gain 3 pounds in one week? Is that even possible if you are instead trying to loose weight?! HOW CAN THAT BE?!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, so I'm really not that upset. It was over Thanksgiving, where I ate pumpkin pie and cheesecake....and then had the leftovers of pumpkin pie and cheesecake. And was too tired to cook on Black Friday so we picked up Pizza Hut pizza. And the other day we were running late after Jacob's speech therapy and shopping so I just stopped at the convenience store and picked up a thin crust pizza there and my kids picked up donuts, which I had to try, of course! So a weight gain was to be expected, though I didn't quite expect those 3 whole pounds!

I am at a healthy weight right now. I have nothing to be upset about except for not eating healthy foods this past week. Even when one is at a healthy weight it is not a reason for eating unhealthy foods all week. I am not obsessed with weight loss and eat a balanced diet, no extremes of cutting out all fat or eating just lettuce everyday or forgoing dessert or a treat. It all equals out to balance. But my trouble sometimes comes from wanting that second brownie, or wanting that second or third helping of pasta and that is where for the last year I have been doing really well. I eat what I need to nourish myself and typically stop at the point of overindulging. But this past week it has shown me what overindulging can do...which is add three pounds of fat in one week! :) So I need to get back on track.

I only want to loose about five pounds and keep it off, but for the past several months I have been gaining and loosing the same four pounds. As I mentioned before, I am already at a healthy weight. I do not consider myself fat or overweight but just have that goal of about five pounds lighter. I already met my goal at TOPS, but still want that five pounds to come off! I was always a very thin person, without even having to try. At age 18, when I got married, I was only 115 pounds - and I am 5'7" so that wasn't exactly a healthy weight but that was just the way I was. I never dieted or restricted any type of food. I never tried to be skinny, I just was. But of course, pregnancy and growing out of adolescence tends to sometimes change one's metabolism, or gaining 30-40 pounds with a pregnancy does the same thing! So after three pregnancies in four short years I just wanted to get back to a weight that I felt comfortable with. What I like about the TOPS group (Taking Off Pounds Sensibly) is that when you set your goal weight you need to get a health professionals approval on that goal weight. TOPS does not let you set an unrealistic goal or an unhealthy one, they want you to set a goal that is healthy for your height and bone structure. It is a sensible group with a sensible way to loose weight. Not dieting, but rather focusing on life changes.

I will never be 115 pounds again and I don't want to be...that is not a realistic weight for someone who is 5'7"! And I do not let the scale rule how I feel in any given day. But gaining 3 pounds in one week has shown me that overindulging is not a good thing either, and it is helping me get back to a healthy eating pattern. I just hope that I remember that for the rest of the holiday season!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My Doggie

I am one of those animal people that you hear about. No, not the ones that are shown on Animal Planet Rescue shows where the house is filled to the brim with neglected animals. I didn't mean that type of animal person. I just mean that ever since I can remember I loved dogs and cats. When I was six years old and my brother was eight we walked around the neighborhood asking people if they had a dog and if we could walk it. Quite frankly, I am surprised that anyone just handed their dog over to some strange little children but there were several who did. I got attached to a little black dog named Jessie and I would walk the three blocks to that house almost daily that summer and ask to walk that little dog. I pretended that she was mine as I walked her. And then we moved to another town and I was "pet-less" once again.

Don't get me wrong, we had the odd assortment of critters, such as a guinea pig, some hamsters, a couple gerbils (that actually froze to death in my unheated room at the farmhouse when I was little...you know those things are desert animals), a rabbit, and even a goldfish (until my mom killed them by shocking them with the cold water when she changed their bowl). But the only real pet I had when I was little was a beautiful white cat that showed up at the house one day. I absolutely adored her, and her five little kittens that she later gave birth to, until one day they just disappeared. I always blamed my dad, thinking he got rid of them. It was only a few years ago that I found out it was my brother and mother who dropped them off at a park late at night. It was because we couldn't afford a cat, or her medical care, but that is still a sore spot for me to this day.

So I always vowed that when I was an adult and had my own home I would have what I wanted. And so I have my children, and I have my pets. Yes, we have five pets. Which really is too much at times, but I wouldn't give any of them up...but I also promise hubby that I won't get anymore. We have the two cats who are older than our own children, and the one dog that we got right before moving from Ohio almost 8 years ago. Then we got the Pomeranian from the pound this past spring and he is a sweet little thing, except for when he zips out of the house and runs around the neighborhood with me chasing him. And last, is my puppy.

I really didn't *mean* to get her. We already had two dogs and that was plenty. But I have always wanted an English Bulldog. And thought I would never get one because they are so expensive. And then running across a website of some breeders of the Olde English Bulldoggs that are very close to us and finding out that they had a little puppy that they were willing to let go for cheap...really cheap. And, while, one thing lead to another and here she is!
Such a sweetheart! Such a pain at times too, since she is still not 100% fully housebroken but doing better every day. The kids love her, the other dogs love her, and the cats just avoid her.

There are pet people and then there aren't. But I'm glad I'm married to someone who lets me be a pet person! And I'm glad I know when to stop "collecting" these animals. Our fur-baby family is complete!

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