Friday, November 26, 2010

Thank Heaven For Little Boys

Shhhh! Don't tell! I'm supposed to be putting away the fall decorations and putting up the Christmas decorations and here I am, on my blog.

I put the Christmas music on and have been perusing the house, looking at what needs to be done. There, in the middle of the living room is my son's Rockenbok set up. The first thing through my mind upon glancing at it was, "He's got to get that picked up and put away so it doesn't interfere with my decorating." That thought was quickly followed by the Holy Spirit whispering in my ear, "How long do you think you're going to have Rokenbok in your Living Room, anyway?"

The truth is, my children, like all children, are quickly growing up. My oldest daughter is 17, our middle daughter is 14 and Daniel is 10. The years don't slow down as they grow older. If anything, it seems like we're on warp speed. I fight my longing to hold on to my "babies" with all my might with my responsibility to give them wings. Usually responsibility wins the day, but it's not easy.

So, what's the big deal if there's Rokenbok taking over my living room, legos in the family room, laundry in the laundry room (and everywhere else) and dirty dishes in the kitchen multiplying like rabbits? It's a season! A season that goes all too quickly. I'm thankful that I've been reminded of that this morning.

I'm going to go decorate now. Around the Rokenbok.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Packer - Viking Football Game!

We had great seats, Row 11 on the end zone.

My now officially "football loving" girls. Note Emily wore my
cycling jacket in hopes of catching a cameraman's eye!

That's Aaron Rodgers, Packer QB getting ready to hand off
the football. He had a great game!

Emily and I, cheering for opposite teams.
(Don't ask me why, she's a Viking fan!)

The final score. The fans were chanting to fire Childress,
the Vikings head coach. He was fired the next day!

Mike's supplier very graciously gave us four tickets to the Packer - Viking football game last Sunday. Mike and I have gone a few times (tickets all from this same supplier!) and we've always brought Daniel. This time he opted to stay home so the girls came with us and experienced their very first professional football game.

They were not really that excited about going but found it to be a great time, even if we were surrounded by Viking fans. The game started out loud but I noticed the decibel level decreasing markedly as it progressed. That's because the Pack was dominating the Vikes my friends! :) It was a sight to behold.

We left a couple minutes before the game ended in an effort to beat the crowds and as I walked up the stairs I thought to myself, "that's probably the last time I'll ever see Bret Favre play football." Based on his performance that day it might not be such a bad thing. :(

Anyway, it was a fun day for all of us. We're very fortunate that Joe chose to share his tickets with us. Thanks Joe - and, GO PACK GO!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Christmas Shoe Boxes

My handsome boy with his shoebox.

Leah and her shoebox.

Emily was a little giddy. Perhaps it was the Christmas
music but we can't be sure...

Mission complete!

Getting silly!

Too much fun!

It's that time of year again. With Thanksgiving fast approaching and Christmas nipping at its heels, we've got to prepare our Samaritan's Purse shoeboxes!

This has been a family tradition for a long time, probably about 15 years or so. How it works is that you fill a shoebox with essential items and a check to cover the shipping costs and bring it to church to be donated to a needy child somewhere in the world.

Each of our children fills a box with soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, flashlight and batteries, comb, brush, hair binders, socks, markers, crayons, writing and drawing paper, small toy(s), stickers, hard candies, gum, soap, washcloths, pens and pencils, erasers, glue sticks, scissors, pencil sharpener and more. We always use a reusable plastic box with a lid so that they will have a place to store their special things.

I usually pick a lot of the items up during the back-to-school sales in late summer because it is so much cheaper then. The rest we procure during the fall until the beginning of November when it is time to package it all up. It can be tricky trying to fit everything into the box but that's all part of the fun. It's a big event around here with certain rules we must follow:

The packaging must take place after dinner.

Everyone is allowed to pick out their favorite Christmas CD to listen to which must be played obnoxiously loud. This year's picks: Christmas With The Chipmunks, Sarah McLachlan: Wintersong, Jo Stafford: Happy Holidays, The Carpenters: Christmas Portrait.

We must sit on the floor in the living room.

It must be done all together.

We must laugh and have a really fun time.

Okay, I just added that last one in for good measure, but we always DO have a lot of fun with our shoebox packing event.

My children usually include a photo of our family or themselves and a letter. Emily has been pen pals for 6-7 years with a girl from Macedonia who received her shoebox one year! What a special friendship that has grown to be. :)

The boxes have now been transported to our church and will soon be on their way to a child far away to bring love, hope and joy from our hearts to theirs!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Holiday Planner

Ta Dah! My new Holiday Planner binder!
Dividers with pockets
There's the calendar, looking deceptively empty...

Our family Christmas letters and photos from previous years.
Note the young son who had tired of having his photo taken in
the bottom photo. We thought it was so funny we sent out both!

Photos of my decorating to help me remember what
we've done in years past.

Just in case I need a little inspiration I've included
a few idea pages.

Next section - Cranberry bread spreadsheet

Christmas Card spreadsheet and label forms
with addresses

Address corrections are easily inserted in a
page protector so I don't forget to update our list.

Our list of Christmas gifts given in 2009

There's my holiday helper with my cookbooks
in the kitchen - easily accessible!

With the holidays on the horizon I wanted to share my Christmas & Holiday Planner with you in case it would benefit anyone. I read about making this binder in Family Fun a few years ago. As I am prone to do, I ripped it out of the magazine with great intentions. After waiting only a few years, I created my wonderful Holiday Planner last year right after the holidays.

So, what's so great about this binder and why should you make one? If you're trying to stay on top of all the fun/stress/busyness that the holidays entail, it could bring you through the season with your sanity intact!

I started with a 2" binder, added 5 tabbed pocket dividers and labelled them: Events, Decorating, Baking & Recipes, Christmas Cards, Gifts.

Events: I have a calendar page printed off the computer that is filled with all our Christmas activities. Our party invitations go in page protectors here after they've been added to my other calendars. They are fun to look at and bring back memories of previous years' entertainments. I also have a section of events that we host. That includes Thanksgiving, a holiday we always host for my family, and our Mother/Daughter Cookie Exchange. We're hosting that party for the third time this year and the invitations are going out tomorrow! It's a lot of fun and the girls and I look forward to it. The guys aren't invited but they DO enjoy the cookies afterward. :)

Decorating: I am boring and very happy to decorate my house the same way (for the most part)every year. I decided last year to take a photo of all the decorations and make it easier for me to remember what went where. The photos are fun to look through and I'll continue to add to them as necessary.

Baking and Recipes: This helps me stay organized with my Cranberry Bread baking marathon. I made an Excel spreadsheet and I can easily see who got my world famous cranberry bread. I give away about 80 loaves so that's a lot of baking! It's a labor of love, trust me. I'm considering going to disposable aluminum pans this year in an effort to simplify.

Christmas Cards: No explanation necessary, I'm sure. Good old Excel spreadsheet and label-making program with addresses saves me a lot of time. I have copies of letters and photos from cards we've sent out each year. It's fun to read what we wrote through the years and look at the old photos.

Gifts: This one isn't so crucial but I thought I'd keep old Christmas lists from the children here and a sheet with all the gifts we gave each year. I'm hoping it will prevent duplicates from one year to the next.

So there you have it. Not that difficult or expensive to create and so helpful! I've already referred to it numerous times and we haven't even hit warp speed yet. The Christmas card photos are ordered, gatherings are being planned and I'm looking forward to all the joy the holidays bring and my planner's assistance in the days to come.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Stuffed With STUFF

I have a lot of stuff. In fact, I have TOO MUCH STUFF.

It's a sickness I tell you!

I'm feeling a really REALLY strong urge to do some major house cleaning, as in purging.

I've been listing things on eBay and that has helped. It's such a great feeling to declutter and get paid for it all at the same time. Still, I doubt that everything I've got will be able to be sold on eBay. Some can go to Goodwill or the Salvation Army but, sadly, some of it will probably end up in a landfill somewhere.

What is it about me that clamors for more things? Why am I drawn to yet more books? I just went to yet another used book sale and came home with another box of books! They were a bargain but if I'm completely honest, I don't need any more books. My shelves are almost full.

My pantry is full as well. So's my closet and the mechanical room. Now, I should preface these statements with my definition of full. These areas are tidy and organized but there is not a lot of spare room on the shelves in any of these areas. No stacking on the floor or anything like that, but, BUT... I have more than what I need and the holidays are rapidly approaching which usually results in MORE STUFF invading our home.

Sooooo - I'm looking around and everything is fair game. My family gets a little nervous when I start acting this way but I think it's good for all of us. A little clearing up and cleaning out will end up blessing others, perhaps put a little money in the bank account and give us a little breathing room. The real key, however, is to keep the newly created space and not fill it up with additional STUFF.

It's a big project but I can work at it a little at a time and that is what I intend to do. I'll keep you posted!