Friday, December 26, 2008

Frugal Friday Linkage

Christmas has come and gone, and I hope that the holiday was all you hoped it would be and more. After a busy and personally overwhelming holiday season, I'm looking forward to getting a little rest and moving into a hopeful new year. May your new year bring peace and be full of blessing. Happy Frugal Friday!

The New Black Friday :: Yahoo Finance

After-Christmas Sales Could Offer Really Big Bargains :: USA Today

Tips for After Christmas Sales ::

How to Make the Most of After-Christmas Sales :: Frugal Living at

Lower Expectations: A 4.5% Mortgage Rate for the New Year ::

Saving My Produce from Certain Death :: Grocery Cart Challenge

Recession Sparks Huge Jump in Shoplifting ::

Frugal Food for Large Families :: $5 Dinners

Double whammy: Spending Down, Jobless Up ::

Nine essential strategies for 2009 ::

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day 2008: A Photo Collage

Click to Enlarge

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 25: Merry Christmas

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

It's the middle of the night, and I'm still up stuffing stocking for the children. Before the hustle and bustle of the holiday sweeps me away, I wanted to pause and wish you and yours a very peaceful and merry Christmas.

I leave you with the telling of the birth of my Savior. Among the Christmas chaos, may you pause to consider the babe in the manger, and the extraordinary gift He is.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:1-20

photo credit:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 24: The Christmas Story

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

We spent much of Christmas Eve home at home relaxing as a family -- grandparents included. Somehow, preparations for Christmas this year became much less taxing than they normally are, or than we anticipated them to be. Today, we did some baking and a little last minute wrapping, but mostly, we just enjoyed hanging out together. At the end of the night, we let the children open a small gift from under the tree -- a preview, if you will. Then, before they went to bed, we took time to read the Christmas story from Luke 2, and discussed the true meaning of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 23: Holiday Redecorating

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

Holiday Redecorating -- While this has not been a tradition before, I have a feeling it's becoming one. All holiday long, I've fought with both the cat and the dog, trying to force them to leave the Christmas ornaments and various other decorations alone. They think stealing the ornaments, eating the candy canes, and ripping into the presents is a load of holiday fun. I wonder who will win this battle in the end.

Milo Fishing for a Snowman

Got It!

The Snowman,
Lost in the Abyss of Fallen Ornaments

Resurrected by the Dog

Monday, December 22, 2008

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 22: Cleaning Frenzy

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

The pre-Christmas cleaning frenzy is nearly as much a tradition as my famous cheeseball or Granny's savory dressing. I really am insane when people come to visit (even small neighbor children), and as I flitted around the house today in preparation for our houseguests, I realized I come by my obsessiveness naturally.

My mom called last night, hoping to make arrangements for the kids to come help with some holiday baking, and the thought of that (and perhaps some Soft Scrub fumes) caused me to recall all the time I spent cleaning at my Granny's house before any major gathering -- including Christmas. She'd call my mom to bring me over at the beginning of my holiday break, then give me a little pocket money to dust all the knick-knacks, polish the plant leaves, sweep out the mudroom, and reorganize the sequin collection in her craft room -- all sorts of obsessive chores that didn't make a difference to the happiness of the holidays, and chores just like the ones I frequently and irrationally obsess over now. It's all becoming so clear to me now!

photo credit:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 21: Worship by Candlelight

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

On Sunday, we worshipped by candlelight together with the children. They love the Christmas service, and for more reasons than just being allowed to hold a candle with minimal panicking by me. This year, though, Bub nearly lost his candle mid-service.

He became very interested in the melted wax and began tilting his candle to let it flow down onto the drip guard. I watched him as he tilted his candle this way, then a little further that way, and back again. He began tilting his candle more and more, not really making a scene, but then the accumulated wax began sliding off the guard and toward another woman's beautiful coat draped on the chair in front of him.

I reached over to touch his hand, hoping to silently convey the message, "You'd better cut it out, or you're going to ruin this lovely coat, after which you'll have to find some sort of child labor opportunity to pay restitution because there's no way I'm funding the negative side of your wax fascination." That's not what he understood. He thought my hand touching him meant, "Sit down," and so he did.

When I motioned for him to stand back up, he was still so engrossed in the flicker of the flame that he did not notice how near he came to setting said coat on fire. He leaned in so close while standing up that I audibly gasped. That broke his gaze, he got my message, I slid the coat down onto the woman's seat (away from all flames), and we left the church building completely intact. Whew...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 20: Lights Tour

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

To celebrate Christmas today, we took a tour of the Christmas lights in our neighborhood and in some neighborhoods around our church. I had dreams of a beautiful lights collage, but it's quite difficult to take pictures in the dark while driving down the road. This is the only house we stopped in front of -- one in our neighborhood with lights blinking in time with Christmas music on the radio. How do they do that? Seriously -- anyone know?

We finished the evening with Frosties from Wendy's and a sleepy little Gracie dozing in the car.

Friday, December 19, 2008

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 19: Changing Plans

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

I'm a planner. I have a planner that I live by. I rely on my planner so much that I refuse to make commitments unless the planner is open in my hand, and once a plan is penciled in, it's mentally very hard for me to change it.

The Christmas plan is the mother of all plans. Last year, we hosted my family for several days, so in preparation for this year, I began planning menus and activities far in advance. I stocked the freezer with supplies for large meals, and brought in an extra bed for the scrapbook room.

But then, my brother Dustin and his family went through some difficulties, including a week-long hospital stay for his daughter Rae Lynn, who was frighteningly ill with pneumonia and RSV. After a roller coaster month, he called to say they weren't going to come for Christmas. The objective at Christmastime was merely to spend a little time together, and with 1/4 of the party not coming, it was time for some changes to the plan.

We'll still have a full and busy Christmas. as we're expecting James' family, my mom and some friends on Christmas day. The major change: we won't have a houseful of guests during the week prior. On the 26th, we'll head to Tulsa to see my siblings and their families. Several days worth of a visit will be reduced to a couple of hours at best, but we'll get to spend time all together where we otherwise now would not.

photo credit:

Frugal Friday Linkage: Christmas 2008 Edition

Ah, Christmas. Such a wonderful time of year -- and such a black hole of time consumption. Every wonderful little thing takes up a wonderfully large amount of time, and lately, I seem to be losing track of everything. The socks -- where did I put the socks? The baking powder, wasn't it right here? Where'd the cat go -- who lost the cat? It's bad. I'm only now, six days before Christmas, posting the Christmas cards and hoping for the best.

One thing I didn't want to forget this week was the Frugal Friday linkage. I've run across some articles and blog posts this week that I wanted to share, so I began linking up in a post set to upload automatically -- and then I forgot to finish it. So, very early this morning, an unfinished Frugal Friday post was up long before me. When I woke up and realized what had happened, I pulled it down to finish it. So sorry for the Christmas confusion.

(This isn't a link, but rather a reminder than Linens 'n Things closes for good this weekend. Last weekend, the whole store was marked at 50% off. I'm sure by now, things are at 80-90% off. Great for last minute gifts!)

Holidays Can Cost Less, Yet Mean More ::

Christmas for $100: A Gift Guide for the Unemployed ::

Best Gifts Under $5 :: Frugal Living @

Best Gifts Under $10 :: Frugal Living @

Cost Saving Ideas for Christmas :: Kelly @

Skimp On The Unimportant So You Can Spend On What Matters ::

How to Break from the Traditional Christmas Dinner ::

Frugal Living (Article Collection) ::

Meet the Family who Live on $44K a Year — Debt-Free ::

Thursday, December 18, 2008

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 18: Reindeer Poop and Other Holiday Treats

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

Part of the fun of the holiday season is candy -- buying it, making it, eating it. The kids are probably allowed to have more candy at Christmastime than at Halloween or any other time of the year. Maybe I'm just in a giving mood, maybe I'm disoriented by all the twinkle lights, I don't know. I just know that the kids have figured out that if there's a reindeer stamped on the Snickers bar at the checkout, there's a real good chance I'll say yes.

The most fun we've had with candy purchases this year we had at World Market. We were browsing there recently, buying coffee and stocking stuffers, when we happened upon the aisle of poop. My kids are six and eight, and they both think anything that happens in the bathroom is hilarious, so when they were eye level with shelf after shelf of reindeer poop, elf poop, pig poop, Santa poop, and so on, I thought they might die from all the hilarity. Good mother that I am (ahem), I told them how gross they were being, but when I saw one package stating that the product "did not contain actual poop," I couldn't stop myself from laughing... or from buying. We came home with a reindeer that pooped cola-flavored nuggets.

Later on, we made our own candied pretzels with vanilla, chocolate, and peppermint chips, and topped with Christmas tree sprinkles.

Showing Off the Supplies
(Don't worry -- we didn't dip those pretzels...)

The Pretzel Toppers

Dipping the Twists

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 17: A Christmas Carol

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

I considered squeezing one more holiday play in, taking the kids to see the same performance of A Christmas Carol that my friend Amy took her kids to see a few days ago. Instead, when James left town today, the kids and I opted to change into Christmas pajamas, pile into my big bed, and watch A Christmas Carol featuring Patrick Stewart.

It was a good idea in theory, being all snuggled together, enjoying a Christmas show. In reality, though, it was a snooze-fest waiting to happen. I watched two-thirds of the movie with no problem, but my eyes grew so heavy at one point, I thought, "I'll just close them for a minute." Next thing I knew, I awoke to Gracie squealing at the ghost of Christmases to come.

I assured her the characters in this Dickens classic were no more real than Cam Jansen or Ralph S. Mouse, and I rubbed her back to comfort her. Moments later, she'd fallen asleep. At the next commercial break, before she was deeply slumbering, I woke her up and guided her to bed. Bub and I moved our viewing to the upstairs couch where I continued to fight sleep and lost. At the end of the movie, I woke up long enough to discuss the film with him and tuck him in, and was promptly off to dreamland once again.

Next year, we'll see A Christmas Carol in public, and hopefully stay awake.

photo credit:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On Honest Scrap and Being Honored

After only 560 posts and a year and a half of countless blogging hours, I was recently honored with my very first blog award -- The Honest Scrap Award, as you can see. It's about time someone recognized just how awesome I am. (ahem.) As recipient of this prestigious award, it's now my responsibility to let you in on ten things about me.

1.) Though I consider myself to be a very honest person, and though I think I'm quite honest on this blog, completing a list like this is a real challenge. I can blather on and on about a whole host of egocentric topics, but when I'm forced to put said topics in list form, I stumble about. What should I list? Is this more honest than that? I second guess every single thought that pops into my brain. Then I just compile a list of nonsense and go with it.

2.) I was painfully shy as a child. I mean it. I don't think I looked anyone in the eye from about second grade until my sophomore year in high school. I might have kept up with the timidity at that point, but it was then I began honing in on my love for the Language Arts. I had an amazing English teacher -- Mr. Judd -- who began helping me develop skills as a writer. He took me seriously where no one had before. Also, I began writing for and editing the school newspaper, and it's very difficult to interview someone when you can't bring yourself to talk to them. Overcoming that shyness was a process, but when I think about it now, about how there's no longer a bashful bone in my body, the severity of my shyness surprises me still.

3.) I have an issue of numbness in my feet. I really have little to no feeling at all there, and what would be considered "feeling" can more be equated to that prickly sensation felt when a body part falls asleep. I've seen a neurologist and have had an MRI and a CT scan, but so far, the cause is officially undetermined. That lack of feeling coupled with my clumsiness leads me to believe there's a good chance I'll lose a toe someday (and maybe without my knowledge). As a result, our cat, who has a propensity to attack my feet, cannot sleep in our room. This lack of feeling really isn't a big deal. I've learned to live with it and to keep it in check. As for my potential to lose a toe, if I'm honest about it (which is the point, right?), I'm less concerned about the balance issue that comes with losing toes, and I'm more concerned about the aesthetics of my feet in flip flops.

4.) I have an unusual affinity for Conversation Hearts. I think they're the candy for all occasions, and I would personally buy and eat them (well, the white ones) all year long. I mean, how hard would it be to change the shape of a heart into that of a pumpkin or a Christmas ornament and stamp the chalky deliciousness with sentiments like "Boo" and/or "Noel?"

5.) I especially enjoy manipulating my children. It's for their own good.

6.) Sometimes I find random things stuck to my butt.

7.) I love going to museums, and I love taking my children to museums. The only thing lovelier than a beautiful piece of art is watching a child grow to appreciate it.

8.) The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost is my very favorite poem ever, ever, ever. It's so inspirational to me on so many levels, but it primarily reminds me of my decision to become a Christ-follower after railing against Christians for so many years. Both the initial decision and the continued decision to step out onto that lesser-traveled path really does make all the difference in my life.

9.) I nearly died along with my son Zachary. (Not literally, but it sure felt like I might. Thank God I didn't.)

10.) I now have a modified uterus. I secretly like to think that makes me a little like the Bionic Woman. Now, if only it could make me run faster.

I'm passing the Honest Scrap blog award on to:

My friend Marcie, who is quite possibly the most honest person I know.

My friend Lisa at the Cowen Family blog. I can't wait for some juicy details!

My friend Karen, who's just not busy enough. (Yeah, right!)

Tara at Think Out Loud. I admire her openness and vulnerability.

Molly at the Shockley Family blog whose posts on adoption inspire me.

Happy Mommy, a blogger I've grown to know and love and do HTML for.

Renae at Life Nurturing Education -- I love her blog and her tweets.

The Rules:

1. Post 10 honest things about yourself along with the award picture.
2. Tag at least 5 other honest bloggers that you know as well as me.
3. Have fun!

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 16: Christmas Cards

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

I love getting Christmas cards, and I really don't mind sending them. This year, though, probably 63% of the people I know moved. I've been on the hunt for current addresses, and instead of sending out cards in waves (as I probably should have done), I've held onto them to send all at once. Time is tick-tocking away. If you've moved and haven't gotten a request from me for your new contact information, or if we're new friends and I don't know where you live, or if you read this blog and want to be on my holiday card list (tee hee!), please e-mail me with your address. (Click here for link.)

As for the Christmas cards, I didn't think I had a suitable picture to use when it came time to print, so I drug the kids out for a photo session on an unusually cold Texas day. As if that wasn't bad enough, I didn't let them wear their coats. Then, I hauled them to Sam's Club and made them wait patiently while I clicked through thousands of pictures still on my memory card and fiddled with the various card designs. After all of that, I decided to scrap the pictures we'd just made and go with one from Hawaii.

The Rejected Photos

photo credit:

Monday, December 15, 2008

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 15: Ornament Exchange

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

Tonight, as part of our monthly Bunco game, we exchanged Christmas ornaments. My friend Randi, who is oh-so-creative, had everyone bring an ornament and leave it at the seat where they started the game. Then, in typical fashion, we rounded from table to table based on our wins and losses. At the end of the last round, we got to take home the ornament left at the chair where we sat.

My friend DeDe (who is way behind on blogging) took home the ornament set I brought, and I took home a cute gingerbread house ornament from Kendra, a longtime friend undergoing some major life changes.

I couldn't be happier about the ornament I received. I have a feeling that for the next few years the holiday season will be difficult for Kendra, a reminder of how her life has changed. I'm so blessed to have her ornament hanging on my tree, serving as a prompt to pray for her throughout the season, hopefully making her burden lighter.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 14: A Home Depot Holiday

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

My mom works for The Home Depot, and we got the benefit of family perks at this year's Christmas Party. Her store held a private party at Adventure Landing in Dallas. The video games were set to free play, all the attractions were included, and a delicious Tex-Mex buffet was provided. We drove go-carts and played Laser Tag and Mini-Golf. Then, James and I left to catch a late night showing of Four Christmases while Mom and the kids braved the bumper boats and several more turns on the go-carts.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 13: Slipper Sock Saturdays

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

A most enjoyable part of this time of year are those days when absolutely nothing has to be done, and today was one of those days. I love this mid-part of the month. All of the Christmas gifts I'm responsible to buy have been purchased, wrapped, and placed under the tree, and James rarely shops before Christmas eve, so today was a lazy day. We slept in, went to the Cracker Barrel for breakfast, then went shopping for fun (to PetSmart for holiday dog treats, and to the Sprint store to figure out the Instinct).

Later, I met my friend Amy for a belated birthday dinner and a good night of girl talk. Afterwards, I tagged along while she finished up a bit of her Christmas shopping and began her collection of Fiestaware.

Friday, December 12, 2008

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 12: Kid Christmas Parties

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

You know, when we considered homeschooling this year, the very common issue of socialization came up -- how could we insure that our children would have opportunities to socialize, to grow as part of a group, etc. We were proactive about becoming involved, and clearly, the lack of socialization is not an issue for us at all. Two days this week were spent celebrating the holidays with friends from a couple of the homeschool groups we belong to.

At the first party we went to, the kids played relay games, video games, ping-pong, and musical chairs. They had a story time, and they decorated Christmas cookies. They sang karaoke. They ate snacks at tables filled with excited, giggly children, and then they did it all over again. I enjoyed spending time with some of the other parents discussing Christmas gift options, Advent celebrations, and schooling plans for the new year. At the end, the kids went home with goody bags stuffed to the brim with holiday trinkets and toys.

Gracie's Karaoke Debut

(she sang "Our God is an Awesome God," which just happens to be the fastest song in all of Contemporary Christian Music. Very difficult.)

The next day, we joined another group of friends for another party where we ate delicious snacks and painted porcelain ornaments. For a small fee, we could choose from a variety of shapes and sizes, and all the materials were supplied. Both of my kids painted small crosses. We shared a table and paints with my friend Lisa and her sons Ian and Trevor. Myles sat across the room with other friends.

When the kids were done decorating ornaments, we gathered them to be fired in the kiln. Then, the kids went on a hunt for Baby Jesus, who'd been "swiped" from the nativity set. Trevor was the first in our group to find Jesus, and was later awarded with a prize.

Ornament Selection

Painting with Our Pals

On the Hunt

The Big Winner!

Frugal Friday Linkage

Christmas is fast approaching and money is on all our minds -- perhaps this year more than ever. In light of a financially trying time, it's easy to become overwhelmed. Instead, enjoy some Frugal Friday Linkage and save.

Advent Resources :: The Simple Mom

Make Memories, Save Money - 10 DIY Gifts :: Today @

30 Holiday Cookie Ideas ::

Christmas Gifts for $5 or less :: The Grocery Cart Challenge

Viewers Weigh In on Making the Most of the Holidays :: CNN Living

You Can Be Generous When You're Broke :: Northern Cheapskate

Saving on Shipping Packages :: Sense to Save

Gifts from the Post Office : Lower Shipping Costs ::

Gas Prices Near 5-Year Low :: CNN Money

Even Google Gets Frugal in the Recession :: Time Money

Americans' Debt Shrinks - 1st Time Ever :: CNN Money

Secrets of 6 Top Financial Advisers :: CNN Money

Thursday, December 11, 2008

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 11: Crafty Clothes

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, we invited our neighborhood friend Sarah in and the kids made holiday tees. We used solid colored tee-shirts and various shades of fabric paints and markers to achieve the look.

The girls wanted reindeer on their shirts, so we stamped them with painted feet and hands. Then they decorated them with hearts and lights and gave them names like Rudolpha and Pepperoni. Bub said he was too ticklish to have paint applied to his body, so he painted a snowman on his shirt. The misplaced purple package is a clever cover up for a painting mishap -- a big, brown glob that looked remarkably like reindeer poop.

Stamp Your Feet


Painting Pepperoni

Too Ticklish to Touch

Jack Frosty the Snowman

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gracie'th Firsth Christhmasth Gift

Gracie is six-and-a-half years old, and probably the last of her same-aged peers to have baby teeth held firmly in place. She's waited and wiggled for so long that we wondered if spontaneous tooth loss would ever happen for her, or if the dentist would have to get the ball rolling. Fortunately, no intervention is necessary -- tonight, Gracie lost her very first tooth!

As she brushed Saturday morning, Gracie noticed that she had a "wobbly" tooth. For days, she wiggled it with her finger and pushed it with her tongue. She let me touch it a few times, and even invited strangers to check it out, but she wouldn't let her Daddy pull it for anything. She was scared of the potential pain and/or bleeding. So the tooth remained until today when, after eating crispy-crusted pizza for dinner, she squealed, "My tooth fell out in my hand!"

No pain, minimal blood, and money to come -- with a first lost premium. ($5!) To quote Gracie, "It'th like getting my very firsth Christhmasth gift!"

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 10: "Gingerbread" Houses

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

Shelly (Rebecca and Ben's mom) invited us to join a group of homeschooling families from her church for the annual "Gingerbread" house decorating party -- a party where no actual gingerbread was involved. The houses were actually fashioned from graham crackers hot-glued to milk cartons. We had the large cartons with the side spout for pouring -- hello, chimney! -- where others used small fabric softener cartons or school-sized milk cartons. There were houses of all shapes and sizes. Everything else about decorating was the same as if done on a house of gingerbread, though the icing was merely for aesthetics and not for structural support.

Children came to the party with houses already prepared. At the party, we were given bowls and bags of a simple icing to spread or pipe as we wished. Everyone who attended also contributed to the decor buffet. I brought sprinkled peppermint chips and animal crackers, but other decorative items included pretzel sticks, sugar wafers, spice drops, chocolate stars, licorice whips, candy canes, colored marshmallows, cinnamon imps, and all manners of leftover Halloween candy. There was something for everyone, except one preteen who wondered why no candy present resembled blood.

The party was so simple. No snacks (besides the candy) were provided, and people sipped from the church water fountain as they grew thirsty. The only work I could see taking place was table set-up and icing preparation, and then clean-up following. Invitations were primarily extended by word-of-mouth. It was such a fun experience, we're already planning to attend next year. I may go so far as to host a party for my own homeschool group!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 9: Rudolph at Casa

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

On the ninth day of Christmas, we joined a group of homeschoolers to see Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer at Casa Mañana. It was a fun Christmas production, and we enjoyed the company, as usual. Gracie and Bub are becoming quite close to a couple of kids from this group, a brother and sister set named Rebecca and Ben. The kids are all the same ages, the family lives in our neighborhood, the girls cheer on the same squad, we see them at events and parties, and we each make an effort to invite the other to other homeschool functions we wouldn't already be attending together. I'm enjoying the new relationship, and I'm very excited to watch the kids' relationships grow.

Monday, December 8, 2008

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 8: The Nativity Story

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

On the eighth day of Christmas, we watched The Nativity Story as a family. I love this movie -- it is so beautiful, and the story line follows scripture quite closely.

Just today, the kids and I were talking about Christ's birth and about the angel who spoke to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherd. Bub asked why God doesn't do miracles today, supposing a miracle is not a miracle unless it includes some sort of angelic visitation. That question led us to talk in great length about all the miracles God does from day to day even still. Watching the movie tonight after today's discussion, eight-year-old Bub was able to see a visual depiction of God's word, and to better understand that not all of the miracles God does are enormous. God, both then and today, does not necessarily move with a booming voice and blasting trumpets. God, both then and today, does the big things in small ways. God whispers to our hearts as He orchestrates the details of our journey.

"And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD.
And, behold, the LORD passed by,
and a great and strong wind rent the mountains,
and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD;
but the LORD was not in the wind:
and after the wind an earthquake;
but the LORD was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire;
but the LORD was not in the fire:
and after the fire a still small voice."

I Kings 19:11-12 KJV

photo credit:

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Auditioning for the Backyard Circus

Nearly as soon as we brought home pets from the shelter, Gracie decided this would be the summer of the Backyard Circus. Auditions for the Hoop Jumper were held today...

Introducing the Hoop
("Mom, can we light this thing on fire?)

Taking the First Step

She did it!

(Sadie would chase her favorite chew toy through the hoop. She actually jumped through three or four times before becoming bored...)

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 7: Messiah

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

Messiah Video Intro from Keystone Church on Vimeo.

Church today was wonderful. Brandon is centering his holiday messages around Isaiah 9:6, explaining the names of Christ listed therein. Today's focus was on Christ as Wonderful Counselor, our help at all times.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government
will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 KJV

Saturday, December 6, 2008

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 6: Children's Parade

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

Today, same as this time last year, we went downtown to the Neiman Marcus Adolphus Children's Parade. As parade veterans, we knew what time to leave the house, where to park, and to bring our folding chairs, blankets, and snacks. We set up camp two hours early, which was early enough to have "second row" seating. It was also early enough to watch some of the parade introduction being recorded for TV over by the Adolphus Hotel, to scope out port-a-potties, to explore the rock garden, and to fight the long line at Starbucks. A group of clowns did magic tricks and organized games of hopscotch right in front of us, so the kids had plenty of play-time opportunities while we waited on the festivities to start.

We wondered if the same clown would call James out of the crowd this year, but no such luck. Still, the parade was a lot of fun, and we just love going. Bub loved seeing both Iron Man and Darth Vader. Gracie loved seeing Pinkie Pie, the My Little Pony float. My friend Randi took her family this year, but we were seated in different areas. Maybe next year, we can park near the bleachers they pick, or maybe they can pick the bleachers near where we normally sit.

Scenes from the Day
(click to enlarge)

What we didn't love about this year was the family right behind us who spent the entire parade in our personal space. Their little girl stood on the back of my chair, leaning onto me, yelling to "Bah-nee" and Santa, clapping her hands over my head, and dropping chips onto my jacket. The son leaned in between my chair and James', resting himself on our armrests. Two more kids hung onto James' other arm rests, while three others took turns climbing on the kid's chairs as they stood to watch the parade. I know the parade grounds were crowded, but these behaviors were over the line. That, or I'm just a very strict mom (which is quite likely).

The Press of the Crowd

Friday, December 5, 2008

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 5: The Nutcracker Ballet

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

Today, we (along with my mom) joined a local homeschool group to see the Nutcracker Ballet at the Will Rogers Memorial Center Auditorium in Fort Worth. I've seen the ballet a few times before, primarily when my niece Chelsea danced in a production for the Tulsa Ballet, but today's Nutcracker experience was a first for the kids.

Having danced before, I knew Gracie would love a trip to the ballet. I was right. I thought Bub might lose interest right away, but he was quite intrigued, whispering questions to one or the other adult flanking him nearly the whole show through. I think we might have to pick up a Nutcracker or a Nutcracker ornament to commemorate the day's events.

A Family Outing

Gracie's "High-Powered Binoculars"
just in time for the show...

Clara and her Nutcracker doll


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