Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Joy of Christmas Card Photos

Any of you who take family photos for the Christmas card know what I'm talking about when I say it takes the patience of a saint to get a decent photo for the Christmas card. You know, one where everyone actually looks happy and like they like each other. We like each other, really, we do. It's just trying to get everyone to like each other and look good doing it all at the same time that's hard. Especially with two dogs. Good grief! Am I a glutton for punishment? Don't answer that.

So, on a lovely fall afternoon, at the urging of my eldest daughter who actually LIKES doing Christmas card duty, we set off for a yonder field for a Christmas photo of the children. Mike and I have each gained 50 pounds and we have bad haircuts so we don't want you to see us. No, not really. We just didn't feel the need for everyone to see us in a photo every single year so for those of you who receive a Christmas card from us, this year it's just our beloved children.

Trying to get a great photo with dogs on the scene is a challenge. I know I've already said that, but it bears repeating. Just so you could appreciate my struggles, I have included a few photos that we didn't go with. Daniel's dog, Theodore, aka the "gray flash", is in practically every photo, dashing here and there and having the time of his life. He's a pain in the patootie but he's so darn happy all the time that it's hard to get mad at him. (I will not mention my reaction to finding my wicker chair in the screen porch disturbingly covered with chew marks last summer. It was a very bad scene. His happiness would not save him that day...)
It's done now and really was not as difficult as I am making it seem. It was a lovely afternoon, Daniel was willing to run for the second camera when the batteries went dead on the first one (What a guy! It was a ten minute jaunt back to the house.) and with the wonders of the digital camera, I was able to take enough good photos to have a few to choose from. The photo we ultimately chose was very "unposed" but shows a more casual, candid shot of my beloved three offspring.
In the meantime, the ones we didn't choose make me laugh and remember our fun day out of doors that we all shared. Moments like that are precious and I'm grateful for them because the older I get the more I realize how fleeting they are.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Poverty is the Mother of Ingenuity

If poverty is the mother of ingenuity, then giving up shopping is the father of creative decorating.

Did I tell you I love decorating? I love decorating. It's a fun way for me to tap into my creative side and it usually isn't too expensive or painful for the inhabitants of my home although it can mean extra work for a certain someone, namely my husband. He usually helps with my creative brainstorms, sometimes grumbling, but at least it gets done. He is aware of a certain aspect of my personality that is, um, some might say, determined, which causes him a certain amount of anxiety. By this I mean he knows that I may try to do something on my own that I have no business doing. In the end it will cost him more time, money and aggravation than if he just did it for me. So he mows the sliding hill, our trails that we walk on, cuts down the dead trees that aggravate me (although I am still waiting for the stumps to be ground down...) and more.

I have planters that I keep out all year and change the plants or decorations with the seasons. I love to create a welcoming entry into our home. In the summer I fill my planters with plants and strive to keep them alive and looking good. In the fall I use pumpkins, chrysanthemums, leaves and twigs to embellish our home. In the winter I have purchased greenery like Spruce tips to fill the pots and urns until spring finally returns.

Well, I did a lousy job of keeping the Chrysanthemums alive this year. It's not all my fault as one poor plant and planter kept getting abused and knocked about by errant basketballs. In my way of thinking, boys having fun shooting hoops is more important than a perfect looking home, so the basketball hoop stays. However, before you nominate me for Mother of the Year, I confess to moving the basketball hoop to another corner of the driveway in an effort to save my poor flowers. It's a mobile unit, thankfully, and all was well until a giant windstorm came, knocked the blasted thing over and mangled it. We hope it can be salvaged, but I digress. My plants are now safe from basketballs, at least for the time being.

I do not like sickly looking or dead flowers and that is what I was gazing upon a short time ago. Even if I could go on a wild spending spree I would not buy any flowers at this time of year. It's November for crying out loud. I grabbed my pruning shears and snipped a bunch of scrub brush with pretty red leaves and plunked them in the pots that had held the Chrysanthemums. They looked great until all their leaves withered and curled and fell off. I left them in the pots for texture and added some bright (fake) fall leaves I happened to have on hand. It's a win/win. I'm still having fun decorating and it didn't cost anything!

I wanted to try something different with the urns by the front door and while I was out walking with the hounds, I saw the makings of a rustic weed arrangement. I know, it doesn't make sense. I spend a lot of time trying to get rid of weeds in my landscaping and here I am, cutting and dragging a garden cart full of weeds to use to decorate my front porch. Crazy woman or a cheap decorating genius? Depends on who you ask!

I had a great time putting everything together and so far, so good. I'm afraid that a good, brisk wind will scatter the cattail seeds hither and yon, all over the yard, but we don't have a swamp for them to take root in so I think I'm safe.

Fall was easy, I've got abundant materials to work with. Winter will be a little harder. I love my Spruce tips and everyone I know with Spruce trees, including my husband, wouldn't think of letting me denude their tops just for an evergreen arrangement. Hmmmm... Think, think, think, as Winnie the Pooh would say. I've got a little time and I'll let you know what the crazy decorator comes up with. Heh heh heh...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

No One Said This Would Be Easy!

Okay, I've heard that saying plenty of times and have said it to my own family members more than once but I'm beginning to feel the pain of this not-shopping pledge.

I'm starting to get a little worried. I didn't exactly inventory the gifts I had purchased for my darling children and now I wonder: What will I do if I have plenty of gifts for two of my children and the other one has hardly anything? I couldn't do it. The mommy guilt would eat me alive. I'd have to break down and even things out.

The only way I'll know for sure where I stand is to lock the bedroom door and take an inventory. That means diving into my gift pit, aka: closet, dragging out the gifts that I've purchased and figuring out who gets what. I wrote this information down on a list a couple months ago but in my zeal to hide it from prying eyes, I've managed to hide it from myself as well. Clever, huh?

I may even wrap things while I've got them out, if I get a boost of energy, but don't count on it. What's Christmas without a really late night of wrapping and a paper cut or two? If I hadn't given up shopping I'd go buy some gift bags and spare myself the wrapping, but I didn't, so there.

Okay, now that I've gotten the Christmas gift angst off my chest, I have to confess I received a postcard from Kohls, a local department store. I like Kohls. They have a lot of great deals, especially at this time of year. They offer these sale postcards where you pull off the sticker and discover your discount underneath. It ranges from 15 to 30%. I usually get the 15% discount but not this time. I shouldn't have even looked but I just couldn't resist. I got the big one! 30% - Woo Hoo! Yes!! That's 30% off their sale prices, by the way. With this discount they'd be practically paying me to shop there, no kidding! But... I'm not shopping anymore, so my fabulous sweetheart deal of a post card is teasing me... Tempting me... I mean, who knows? I may never get another 30% off postcard. It seems wrong, somehow, to let those barganzas get away. I've been wanting a few household items and this would be the perfect, P-E-R-F-E-C-T time to get them!

I know, you're thinking, "Man, what a weenie! Did this chick think not shopping for a year would be all fun and games? No pain? No sacrifice?" Well, now you know why I am not an olympic athlete. After a close, hard look, it turns out that I don't really like sacrifice and I'm not all that into self denial either. They're overrated, I'm sure.

Okay, maybe they're not. Maybe that's what this goal is all about. Working my way through these challenges with grace and humor. Giving up whining and getting over my petty wants and desires. All my parental pearls of wisdom are going to haunt me for the next 11 months. Talk about a cruel irony! No one said this would be easy, and it's not, but there are things a lot harder and I am fully aware of that. It's time to cowboy up!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lead Me Not Into Temptation...

I have concluded that giving up shopping in the fall, as the holiday season approaches, should entitle me to a special reward. I have my resolve tested on a daily basis just going to the mailbox and getting the mail. We get a lot of catalogs here. I mean a tremendous amount. Who knows how many innocent trees have perished only to end up in the glossy pages of a Restoration Hardware or PB Teen catalog?

I don't want to bore you but I'll give you a small sampling: We are continuously courted by Land's End, Cabelas, American Girl, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, J. Jill, Levengers, Drs. Foster & Smith, Lego, Williams Sonoma, Christian Book Distributors, Art Supply Warehouse, Smith & Hawken and more. They are a tenacious bunch. Even though I haven't purchased anything from their catalogs in ages, if ever, they just keep appearing in my mailbox, hoping against hope that I will break down and buy something, anything!

I used to love getting the Sunday paper and reading the ads that accompanied it. Then I calculated the amount of time wasted looking at stuff that I would probably never buy. When we were demoted to a really poor paper deliverer who forgot us some days and missed our driveway others (what fun is it to read a soggy newspaper, when you discover it in the snowbank two weeks later?) I finally bid the paper adieu. Less temptation, more time on Sunday afternoons. Hmmm... I was on to something.

I have contacted the mail preference service that gets your name off the junk mail lists but somehow I manage to worm my way back in to their good graces and the catalogs return. Like a bad toothache they just keep coming back. Some items offered are so expensive as to be ridiculous. Who needs a $1,000.00 fountain pen I ask you? Some catalogs are humorous, like the Duluth Trading Company with their plumbers "bottom" t-shirts. All are nonessential and yet I have a hard time throwing them away. What if I want something from one of them? Once I discovered an entertaining DVD set "Backstairs at the White House" that our family really enjoyed. I'd have never known it existed if I hadn't seen it in a catalog.

Still, I need to ditch the catalogs lest they weaken my resolve. I'm throwing up the white flag and surrendering! I will have to send my children to the mailbox until the holidays are over. I don't know if I can resist the temptations that await within!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Blogger Babe

Yep, that's me. Blogger Babe. Not as in, "Whoa, what a babe!" but rather, "Whoa, what a techno doofus!" I don't know much about blogging. If my eldest daughter (who also has her own blog, The White Way of Delight) hadn't set me up, I'd still be stuck at trying to embed my profile photo or set up some other crucial aspect of my blog. Thanks, darling daughter, for my very own bright, shiny, new blog.

I'm an old time journal keeper from the dark ages and have journaled for over thirty years. I save all my journals but I don't normally re-read them. I'm sure I would cringe to read my very self absorbed thoughts. If, in your generosity you assume I mean journals from my youth, you're sadly mistaken. I sometimes cringe if I happen to read what I wrote last week.

"What garbage!" I think. Who wrote this awful, meaningless junk? Oh yeah, heh heh, that would be me. On the other hand, journals are great at helping me remember events from days gone by. Things you never think you'd forget, like your youngest using the word bushkatuckered to express his exhaustion. What a cute word! I'd completely forgotten all about it until I ran across it in an old journal. I know, I know, it should be in his baby book right? Bwaahahahaha! His baby book is pathetic! He'll be on a counselor's couch someday with a serious case of Third Child Syndrome. Poor thing. He's only nine, it's not too late to fill in a few pages in his baby book, is it? Don't answer that!

So, I've got a few boxes full of old journals. I should take a few noteworthy excerpts from each and then burn the rest. There is so much incriminating evidence in those old books that should never see the light of day. Self centered ramblings, heartbreak from failed relationships, outrage over perceived injustices, rants against my (so-called) insensitive husband and many, many questions and tears for my Heavenly Father. It would be nothing like, say, Elisabeth Elliot's journals that would be uplifting and edifying with something meaningful for the average reader. My journals are more like a place I go to purge my emotional junk. My family is blessed because the trusty journal stands in as a filter between my boring, sometimes ridiculous, occasionally thoughtful musings and the (usually) rational me they find in the morning when they get up.

If you're suddenly stricken by the fear that I intend to toss my journal writing and dump all my junk on you poor unsuspecting blog readers instead, fear not. I might be a Blogger Babe but I'm not that crazy - most days.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Not Shopping While Going to Sam's Club

Ok, I admit, it was a foolish idea to go to Sam's Club at the very beginning of my non-shopping experiment. I seem to fall under a spell when I walk in that store. I inevitably walk out with at least one item I hadn't planned on buying. Not today. I was determined to return an item and purchase a few groceries and nothing more.

Well... the return went relatively smooth but as the children and I walked through the store, skiing helmets caught my eye. Our family downhill skiis and I insist upon the children wearing helmets and I wear one too. Anyway, my youngest outgrew his skiing helmet last year and so there we were, in Sam's Club and what do we see but winter sports helmets. They had his size and he liked the style, they were righteous, dude! (Just thought I'd throw a little snowboard vernacular in there for you.) It's definitely a mandatory purchase because I value that precious little head of my wild and woolly skiier who just told me his number one goal in skiing this year is to do both a front and a back flip. He's fearless!

So of course the helmet was thrown in the cart. Next we hit the dogfood aisle and from there it added up fast. Throw a few groceries in the cart and I knew we'd break $100.00. Ugh.

I also had to purchase a few items for the art class that the children and I go to on Tuesday mornings. Two brushes and watercolor paints. I'm having a blast in that class, by the way. It's in St. Paul and they let me attend even though I'm a homeschool mom instead of a homeschool student. I love it.

All told, we did $129.89 in damage today. Sigh. I'm hoping for a better day tomorrow and just to be on the safe side I'm not going back to Sam's any time soon.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Beginning of Our Adventure

What happens when you tell your family of your grand idea to give up shopping for a year?

A - They jump up and down in enthusiasm, yelling "goody!"

B - They think you've gone over the edge, telling you you're crazy.

C - They start searching for a time machine, looking for transport to October 31, 2010.

If you guessed A then you're a bigger optimist than me. B would be more accurate, although my children may just consider C, too.

Actually, I've been thinking about giving up shopping for a year for some time. I read a book about another woman who did it a few years ago. I've also seen a few articles and blogs dealing with the same idea. It seems that plenty of people are feeling the need to cut back on their spending habits.

I don't know that our family spends any more time shopping than other families but I have been feeling the need to make some changes for a while. For better or worse, I am the main procurer for our family: groceries, personal products, clothing, household and educational items - you name it, if we need it, I buy it. It seems as though there is always something that is being added to the never ending shopping list.

Lest it sound like I am an unhappy captive on forced shopping trips, I confess to enjoying them a little too much. Especially for books. I have a great affection and appreciation for the written word. Just ask my husband. He helped lug the many, many heavy book filled boxes from our old house to this one when we moved here almost five years ago and I've only added to my collection since then. My bookshelves are getting pretty crowded though and I've begun to ask myself when is enough, enough?

It's not just books, either. We're a family of five and all of our closets are filled to capacity. Be it clothes, kitchen appliances, toys or books, we have more than enough of everything. I dislike clutter and I'm beginning to feel crowded. I want to simplify. I want more than just space in my home. I'm seeking space in my life.

After much thought and deliberating I decided that giving up shopping for all but the necessities for a year would be an interesting challenge for all of us. I decided on November 1st as our start date because I've already done the majority of our Christmas shopping for this year. With our budget feeling the pinch of the downturn in the economy I had started shopping last summer to spread out the expense of purchasing Christmas gifts. I figured, no time like the present, so we're not waiting but just jumping right in.

It's far too soon to tell how things will go but I'm hoping this experiment leads to less materialism, less time spent shopping, fewer bills and greater peace, ingenuity and appreciation for what we already have. Check back in and see how we're doing!