Thursday, December 31, 2009

I Had A Vision

Have you ever heard of a vision board or a dream board? Essentially it's a board or piece of paper or card stock that you fill with visual reminders or pictures of your goals or dreams. Now, as much as I love to write, I am horrible about maintaining a journal. And I simply cannot abide New Year's resolutions because I never keep them and I don't like beginning the year by planning to fail. So last year I decided to make a vision board for myself.

It was an easy process. I simply found images and words that spoke to me and represented the ideas or things I wanted to try or focus on in the coming year. I didn't put pressure on myself to get it done by New Year's day either. I was mindful for a few weeks toward the end of December and the beginning of January about the things I wanted on the board. Then, one day in early January, I sat down with a stack of magazines and tore out pages with pictures and phrases on them that would represent my dreams and areas of focus. Then after arranging them in a way that was pleasing and made sense to me, I glued everything on and placed it in a place where I would see it everyday.

For me, the arranging and layout was purposeful. I grouped things together that I felt belonged together, like travel words and pictures went in one spot, art, music, books in another. But really, one of the things that I love about this is that there are no rules. What goes on the board and how it goes on the board is entirely up to you.

Did I try or accomplish everything on my board? No. But that's not really the point. The point is to keep your plans and dreams visible so that they don't fall by the wayside or get pushed to the back burner of your life. I found this remarkably helpful. I placed the board in my mudroom where I saw it several times a day. And as I looked it over the last few days, I realized that I had really accomplished alot more than I dreamed I would when I created the board. And those things that didn't get done? Well, I'll be taking a second look at those. Maybe they'll be on the board again. Maybe not. Maybe some of the things that did get done will go on the board again. Maybe not. We'll see.

Either way, I'm looking forward to seeing what will happen in 2010. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It's Always Something

Anybody who owns a house knows that there is always work to be done. It's always something--either something you planned on, like a room addition/renovation or tiling a mudroom or finishing a basement, or something you didn't, like a water heater giving up the ghost and flooding your basement with several inches of steamy hot water which you discover 30 minutes before your nearest home improvement store closes and you end up making a mad dash there in order to purchase a wet vac because being a newbie homeowner, you have never had occasion to need one until now. Whew! And yes, that totally happened to us in our first home. We happened to be painting a bedroom and couldn't figure out why the windows were steaming up. I mean, sure it was Minneapolis and sure, it was the dead of winter, and sure, we were young and smokin' hot, but steamed windows seemed strange. We thought, in our naivete, that the paint fumes might cause something of the sort, but it did seem a tad too much steam. It wasn't until my husband went down into the basement to clean the paint stuff and yelled that I realized what was wrong. Yep. blown water heater. Good times.

My point is, that when you own a home, there is always some sort of project from the simple to the more challenging to keep you occupied. And this home is no exception. In fact, this home seems to be the rule.

We bought this house a little over a year ago. We had sold our home, in a slow market, in a remarkable 60 days. The only problem was that we didn't have another home and we had a quick closing. We made an offer on an older home that we had been looking at for well over a year. It was roundly rejected. As were our counter offers. (Rest easy. Our bruised feelings were less bruised when we discovered that that house went for about what we paid for this house. And we wouldn't have gained a whole lot of equity with that house.) So we were in a dilemma. We had no home. Fortunately, while we were technically homeless, we weren't friendless. Good friends of ours let our whole family move in with them for about a month while we were waiting to get into our current house. Even better, we are still friends! But our new house? Oh. My. Word.

Our "new" house is about 8 years old. But those years should be counted like dog years. The home was a distressed property, owned by a bank and in some serious disrepair. From what we've gathered (from the neighbors who like us) the family that lived here went through a divorce. Then, they were upside down in their mortgage. The homeowner didn't pay his sewer bills and our city, in all it's wisdom, put a bubble block on the sewer pipe. This caused sewage to back up from the main floor toilet. Now, this mess was already cleaned up when we bought the home, but the hardwood floors were warped and there was mold. Also, because the power was turned off, the sump pumps didn't work so the basement flooded. Twice. They fixed it the first time. Or so they said. There was mold so bad in the basement that you couldn't walk into the house without a respirator on. My husband and his brother spent the better part of a week tearing out the nasty drywall and insulation from the basement and cleaning up the mold. Then we had to have it professionally cleaned and the smell removed. About 800 square feet of hardwood flooring on the first floor had to be removed. We lived with plywood subfloor for about a month before my husband and dad laid the new hardwood. We lived with plywood subfloor in the mudroom until last week. But now, the main floor is (except for the trim in the mudroom) finished. Well, except for painting the living room and dining room. Which will happen. Someday.

Still, with all that is left to do in this house--fix the drywall on the ceilings where the leaking roof damaged them, put flooring in the master bath, laundry room, and kids' bath because they put the vinyl down improperly and you can literally pick up a corner of the vinyl and stuff a small child under it like a rug, paint nearly every room, get new counter tops in the kitchen, work on the landscaping, and finish the basement--this home was meant for us. We gained equity the minute we moved in. I didn't have to change one thing about the family room. The colors were perfect for our furnishings. We doubled the space we used to have. I love this house and even though there are some crazy neighbors, I like the neighborhood as well. But my, oh my. Just looking at list of things to be done wears me out. Still, we're soldiering on. (Yes, I am a melodramatic dork.)

The next project is turning the loft into Mary's bedroom. This home has four bedrooms and a loft. The boys have been sharing a bedroom since we lived in the old house. One of the reasons we moved was because we wanted a home with a basement. The other was because we wanted both of our sons to live to adulthood. Something I grew to think might not happen if they continued to share a room. So my husband, fresh from his success with the mudroom, was gung-ho to start framing in the loft. (That's a total lie. My parents were here for Christmas and my dad was willing to help, so the timing was right. My dear husband tried his best to defer the project. Also, I told him that Mary's room came before the basement or I'd vote myself off this island and my husband really, really wants to finish the basement.)

So the last few days there has been hammering and sawing and pounding and a few words that if your mama heard you say them, she'd wash your mouth out with soap, and lo and behold, there is a room--or the beginning of a room--where once there was only a loft. Mary skips down the hall and says "Look! There's my room!" She has informed me that her new room will be pink. "Just PINK, mom!!!" James, who will occupy Mary's old room which is right across the hall from his current room, is full of ideas about how he wants his new room to look. So far I've heard that he'd like one wall done floor to ceiling in chalkboard paint and that he'd like either Purdue or Pittsburgh Steelers colors. (I know! This came as a total surprise to me, as he is as rabid a Colts fan as you are likely to find anywhere.)

There will be shuffling of rooms and moving of furniture in the future. There will be a lot of painting. There will be sorting of toys and all the detritus that seems to find it's way into my children's rooms. There will be wailing and weeping and gnashing of teeth as I force them to give away things that they haven't looked at, let alone used, in months and they will suddenly swear that those things are their favorite things ever. There will be headaches.

But! In the end, everyone will have a room, and barring me dipping one of my boys in ketchup and eating them for a snack, they will survive until adulthood. And it will be good.

Until ________ breaks or needs repair.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

See? I Told You So!

I may have mentioned that my dog is not a MENSA candidate. Well, if MENSA accepted animals. Even my tags for posts about Tilly say "Dumb dog." So she's not that bright, is all I'm saying. Not like I'm a Soopa Jeeeneus or anything, (MENSA hasn't exactly been beating down my door either) but I'd like to think that while I'm sometimes distracted by shiny things, at least I'm not chasing them around the room.

I give you proof of Tilly's um, limited mental abilities:

She's not so bright, but she is wildly entertaining, incredibly loving and sweet, and is a willing participant in the movies I'm making with my new Christmas present--which is more than I can say for my offspring. Ahem.

Monday, December 28, 2009

What's New?

We have finished this:

We have been visited by some of this:

And we are in the middle of this:

And I am exhausted. But! Thanks to my mom, my laundry is done. For awhile anyway.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An Embarrassment Of Riches

I have a houseful of guests and will receive more over the next day. I have more food than we will be able to consume over the next few days. I have a Christmas tree with too many presents underneath it. I have a healthy family. I have children in whom I take much delight. I have wonderful, loving parents. I have a mother-in-law who, despite all odds, is here to celebrate Christmas with us. My husband and I both have employment that provides over and above what our family needs. I have a dog that makes me grit my teeth in frustration one minute but then makes me laugh the next. She blesses me with her unconditional love. I have a warm home that still makes me think I should pinch myself because I can't believe it's mine. I have brothers and sister-in-laws and nieces and nephews that make me glad to be part of the family I'm in. I have a husband that has seen me at my worst and loves me anyway. And...

And I have a God who chose to put on human flesh; who opted to have the King of Kings take his place in a dirty manger rather than a grand throne; who because of His great love for me came down from heaven and caused my soul to know it's worth. Indeed, I have an embarrassment of riches.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

With A List Like This, Why Am I Wasting Time Blogging?

The stockings are hung. The tree is up and decorated. The house has all the trimming it's going to get. And that's where the things checked "done" on my To Do List end. Let's see...what still needs to be done at Chez Sara before a houseful of people come to bless us on Christmas Eve:

The tile is laid, but still needs grout. And the trim? Well, let's just say it will get put back on sometime in the new year. And that's okay because the 742 metric tons of crap that is in my dining room but belongs in the mudroom will get moved back and cover where the trim is supposed to be.

The 742 metric tons of crap in my dining room needs to be moved back into the mudroom.

Then the dining room needs a good cleaning and Christmasing up.

The house is mostly clean, but the bathrooms and kitchen still need a thorough scouring.

But that can't happen yet because I'm not done baking.

The carpets got cleaned yesterday and so far all traces of doggy accidents have been removed along with other mystery stains. I fully expect some of them to return. Probably in time for my guests to view them on Christmas Eve.

I still have some shopping to do. What? Stop looking at me that way. It's not a lot. I have most of it done, but there are some purchases that still need to be made. If you tell me that you finished your shopping in November, I will stuff my fingers in my ears, close my eyes, and sing "Lalalala! I can't hear you! People like you give Christmas a bad name! Lalalala! We can no longer be friends!"

I'm totally kidding about that last part. Oh, I'll still stick my fingers in my ears and sing "Lalalala! I can't hear you!" but I won't sing the other part. I'll just think it in my head.

And since I still have a few purchases to make, that means that I also still have some wrapping to do. The wrapping, except what my husband purchases for me, is completely done by me. The reason? I love my husband. I do. But his gift wrapping looks like what might be done by a blindfolded, fingerless gnome under the influence of great amounts of alcohol. It's not pretty, is what I'm saying. And he hates to do it, so I take on the wrapping.

I have to take Tilly to the groomer so that she can get Furminated and purty for Christmas. You cannot be a Christmas dog if you aren't purty.

And the neighbors still need their little gifts delivered. After I bake them. Ahem.

Also, I have to cook the Italian beef for Christmas Eve and do some prep work so that I won't have to do it then.

And finally, there's the laundry. HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! You and I both know that the laundry won't get done. We'll just have a Happy Commando Christmas. Now there's an image that I'm sure you're thrilled to have seared into your brain. You're welcome!

I know that things will get done. They always do. In the meantime, do you think that anyone will notice if the Bailey's Irish Cream Cakes that I'm baking are missing some of the Bailey's? I guess if I drink enough of it, I won't care if they notice or not. Heh.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Photo Friday: Run, Run Rudolph!

My thinking is, if you must drive a minivan (and since making a child run alongside a smaller vehicle might be amusing but also considered abusive, I must) then you should at least have some fun with it. I figured that having flames painted on the sides might be a little too permanent. Hence, the reindeer antlers and shiny nose.

It's great. Except for when I forget that they are attached to my car and wonder why people are staring at me while I'm driving.

Now I'll have to be on the lookout for bunny ears and buck teeth come springtime. You that I can be the Easter Bunny van.

Yeah. Maybe not.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Bleachers Are Alive With The Sound Of Muuuuuusic!!

Last night we attended my seventh grader's winter band concert. Scratch that--her first ever band concert. In our current school district, you can start band in 6th grade. Due to various things like a partial year of homeschooling and moving schools, Maggie didn't have the chance to start band last year, so she started this year. In her school of approximately 1,000 7th and 8th graders there are five bands: beginner, concert, varsity, symphonic, and jazz. So, there are lots of kids in band. Lots. Guess how many are in her beginning band? G'head. Guess.

Did you guess more than 100? Well if you did, you'd be DEAD. WRONG. There are 11 students in the beginning band. E-l-e-v-e-n. And they have been playing a band instrument for somewhere around 18 weeks. And they ROCKED, I tell you. (Of course, I think that the alto saxophones were by far the best, but I might be a wee bit biased.) The beginning band went first and played three songs and aside from a little problem with the rhythm in one wee section of the first song, they really surprised me. I mean, I don't know if you've ever actually listened to a beginning band, but usually there are an awful lot of squeaks and squawks and sometimes precious little that can actually sound like music. But this group has worked really hard and had some really good instruction and they did a great job.

Maggie was kind of nervous as she and her fellow alto sax player had to play several measures all by themselves. Yeah, they were a sax section of two. They played well and she seemed to have fun. She later laughed about the band's trouble with the rhythm and I told her about how our 7th grade band, in which I played the flute (poorly, I might add) mutilated "Alexander's Ragtime Band" making it sound more like a round than it was meant to. I told her that someday at her own child's band concert she would relive that moment just like I did and it would be fabulous. But in her memory she wouldn't be wearing a plaid wool skirt, ruffled shirt with a ribbon tie, and Yo-Yo shoes (remember those?!?) like I was in mine.

The other bands were great as well. One of the bands played a selection called "Santa at the Symphony." It was a mash up of classical music (Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Beethoven's 5th, etc.) and some old standby Christmas music (Jingle Bells, Silent Night, etc.) and it was really wonderful. Then the jazz band played a couple of songs. In one, they had 14--that's right, fourteen--students who wanted to solo. Not only that, they improvised their solos. That's some pretty great stuff, right there. Junior high students who not only want to do a solo in front of parents and peers, but they have the guts to make it up on the spot. Oh, and they were great! I suck at improvising in nearly any shape or form, so this was quite impressive to me. And it made me remember sitting through my older brother's stage band concerts. Folks, I had a big ol' goofy grin on my face all through that song.

Also, I am a soft-hearted cupcake because I almost cried. I have some weird freakish thing that developed after I had kids. (Yes, I am totally blaming them!) I cannot watch children perform music of any type without getting weepy. I don't know why. There is just something so pure and joyful about it that it puts my tearducts into hyperdrive. So there I was with a big ol' goofy grin on my face and my eyes were about to start leaking. It was then that I was glad my daughter couldn't see me because I knew that she would have been mortified in a way that only a 13 year old can.

Finally, the symphonic band played and that's when Mary looked at me and said, "Wow! Listen to that! Real music!" I laughed and shushed her and enjoyed their selections. They closed with a sing-a-long and I nearly wet my pants. There is nothing quite like hearing a band of junior high students accompany a gym full of children and adults while they sing "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas." It brought back so many memories and it (along with the very cold temperatures here) put me in a Christmas mood. In fact, as we were waiting for the bleachers to clear, I was standing there singing and just reveling in the joy of the evening.

Aaaaand then my husband tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Hey! No singing! Concert's over!"

Party pooper.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


It was a busy, busy weekend. It involved several short trips with short people to very crowded stores, a rather longish trip with a tall, handsome person to very crowded stores, cleaning, cooking, tile, and a teenager with upper respiratory crud. Good times. Do I know how to live it up, or what?

I also made some discoveries. These discoveries involved um, let's just say, things that were not helpful or didn't end well. I'll share with you what I've learned because I'm helpful and live to make your life easier. And if I know what doesn't work, then I can be like those flashing signs on the interstate informing you of trouble ahead so that you may avoid the problems. You're welcome. What can I say? I'm a giver.

Discovery #1--When your computer is being wonky, it is not helpful to pound the keyboard in frustration. Sure, it may make you feel better in the short term, but I can nearly guarantee that your computer will hold a grudge against you and then make your life miserable.

Discovery #2--Asking your very tired, very stressed out wife if she is having PMS is a lot like shaking a stick in the face of a rabid badger. Horrible idea. This is a situation that is bound to end badly. I might suggest that a better strategy is to hand your wife a glass of wine, offer to put whiny children to bed, and then discuss how you may try to help ease her holiday stress. An alternative strategy is to keep your mouth shut. It is never a good idea to invoke those three letters, because if she does have PMS, then you may get your face torn off. If she doesn't then she may just lose her mind when you want to blame life stresses on PMS.

Discovery #3--Telling your parent "he/she started it" when they come to stop World War III will not garner you any accolades or get you out of trouble. In fact, it may make your parent slap their forehead V8 style and wonder what kind of future you have ahead of you.

Discovery #4-- Baking a delicious dessert like, say, a Bailey's Irish Cream Bundt cake and then telling your family that you didn't make it for them will make them peevish. And really, you'll hate yourself a little too.

Discovery #5-- Waiting too long to fix dinner for everyone because you are not hungry will only increase the already over-the-top whining and move the exaggerated pleas of "I'm starving" to overly melodramatic stomach clutching and whimpering.

Discovery #6-- You will discover just how much you use a room when it is no longer available to you. For instance, if you are unable to enter or leave the house through, say, a mudroom because the mudroom floor is being tiled, you will find yourself needing to leave the house approximately 7,432 times during the weekend.

And finally, Helpful Discovery #6--Surprisingly, this is something that ended well. Watching Will Ferrell in "Elf" while snuggled in pajammies and sipping an adult beverage of some sort, soothes the savage beast and makes up for all of the discoveries you made. I simply cannot watch a grown man in an elf costume say lines like 'You smell like beef and cheese' or 'This is Buddy the elf, what's your favorite color?' without laughing until my spleen hurts.

Now, my sweetlings I hope you have learned from my missteps. Go forth and goof up no more. At the very least, save Elf on the DVR and keep your liquor cabinet stocked.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Photo Friday: Mary's Song

"My soul glorifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call
me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great
things for me--
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds
with his arm;
he has scattered those who are
proud in their inmost
He has brought down rulers from
their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants
even as he said to our fathers."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Who You Gonna Call? Stressbusters!

This is my no-fail list of some of the things that will make me smile or brighten my mood when I am stressed or feeling blue:

Light a candle. I love the light and flicker they give but I absolutely adore the smell when you put them out. It smells of celebrations and good memories. It never fails to lift my spirits.

Page through picture albums or look at my pictures on the computer. Seeing my family and friends and other photos I've taken makes me happy.

Bird watch. There's just something about sitting at my window and watching the birds that eases my worries. I guess maybe because I know they don't worry because their Provider has promised to watch over them. The birds are always a good reminder for me.

Listen to music. It's very hard to feel poorly when U2's "Desire" is cranked to 11 on the speakers.

Take pictures. When I am looking through the lens, I am focused on my subject rather than myself. Sometimes taking my focus off of me, me, me makes me feel better.

Perform a small act of kindness for someone else. It could be as simple as holding a door for someone or letting the person behind you in the check-out go ahead of you. It's that focus thing again.

Write. I have been known to write pages and pages of stream of consciousness stuff and then run it all through the shredder. It's amazing how freeing just pouring out all of the junk and then destroying it can be.

Call a friend. There's that me-focus thing again. I know that when I call a loved one and find out how things are going in their lives, I will come away from that conversation lighter.

Pray. This may not be the first thing I listed, but sometimes it is the first thing I do.

Nap. Yeah. I love to sleep and sometimes a 30 minute power nap is enough to jump start my batteries.

Clean. I know that I've shocked you with this one. But if I'm feeling particularly under the gun about something, cleaning and tidying a room not only helps me focus by decluttering my space, but it gives me a sense of accomplishment when it may be the ONLY thing I accomplish in a day.

Play with someone. Sometimes it's a child, sometimes it's the dog, but either way I'm in a better place when the play is over.

Watch television. I don't watch a lot of t.v. but sometimes when I am needing a lift, I can find something that is guaranteed to make me laugh--The Andy Griffith Show, Cheers, Seinfeld, 30 Rock, or even Barney Miller. (I was too young to appreciate this show when I was younger. Cracks me up now, though. I can see why my parents liked it.)

So there you have it. Some of the things I do when I'm stressed. Right now I'm thinking of doing them all. Ahem.

What do you do to help lift your spirits or ease your tension? Does it involve chocolate? If it does, will you invite me?

Monday, December 7, 2009

They'll Fight Over These

So yesterday's post had me lamenting all things home improvement. But it also had me mention Oreo balls. Twice. If you've never heard of these little morsels, I am about to become your best friend. After this post, you will name your children after me. Your children's children will speak of me in hushed, reverent tones. Why? Because I am going to share.

Not physically. I will not be sending you Oreo balls. But! I will show you how I make them and then you can make them too. See how I am affected by this Christmas stuff? I am sharing. And being nice. The cockles of my Grinchy heart are all warm. Or something.

Anyway! On to the good stuff!

First you will need a package of these

and an 8 oz. brick of this stuff.

I know that it sounds kind of weird, but trust me. They go together like peanut butter and chocolate, salt and pepper, cheese and crackers, Oreos and milk, cream cheese and um....anything.

Put the cookies in a blender or food processor and then pulverize them. I usually apologize to the Oreos and I tell them that I love them and that what I'm doing hurts me more than it hurts them and that they might feel "crumby" now, but that the end result will be genius. Yes. I talk to my cookies. What? Stop looking at me like that.

Then add in the lovely, lovely cream cheese and pulse everything together until you have, um a black gooey dough-like substance that you cannot possibly imagine eating. Oh, but you will, my sweetlings. You will. And you will love it!

Next, you will form little dough-like substance balls. Don't make them more than an inch around.(These look frosty, but they are not. This is just the result of a dark kitchen and a hyperactive camera flash.) After you've made a trayful (yes, it makes a lot) put the tray in the refrigerator for awhile so those yummy things can cool down and set up a bit. Because next? Next you will be giving those delicious things a bath. In white chocolate. Mmmmm....If someone gave me a bath in white chocolate I wouldn't know whether to be grossed out or resort to self-cannibalism.

Okay. So. Hello, chilled dough-like balls. Howdy, melted white chocolate.It's time to be formally introduced. Give those Oreo balls a good dunking, let the chocolate drip off a bit and then set them aside to set up.

And the end result?

Mmmmmm......Something that you will have to hide from your family and yourself or they will be eaten before you can say "Wow, that was easy!" These little babies freeze very well. I have a Ziploc bag or two in my freezer awaiting my holiday parties.

Assuming that I'm not too stressed out by home improvement projects that I eat them all.

Home Improvement Hasn't Improved My Disposition

I looked at my calendar and there are 18 days until Christmas. Eighteen. That's two weeks and four days. That's two weekends. Well, for us, it's one weekend, because we will be at a family Christmas for one of those weekends and then family and friends will be here, in our home, on Christmas Eve. And my man and I both have to work. And children have various appointments and programs. So it's really like four days. There are four days left until Christmas. Well, in Sara Time anyway. All I'm saying is, time is short.

And do you know what we're doing here in this old new house of ours? If you guessed home improvement work, you'd be a million dollar winner. If I had a million dollars to give to a winner. Which I don't. And if I did, I'd have totally spent some of it on hiring out this work.

Now I don't want to dis the dear husband, because he is doing most excellent work and saving us cartloads---cartloads, I say!--of cash, but I do want to know what the chromosomal anomaly is that causes menfolk to begin a major project before a major holiday. What is that all about anyway? Is it some learning disability concerning time? Because you know that when they say, "Oh I'll have it done in a few hours/days," you should get your magnifying glass out and read the very fine print between those lines, my friends. You know what that fine print says? It says: "Beware of the aforementioned statement. Your beloved is wildly misled and sweetly optimistic. Project X will take approximately 7 times longer and require 4 more trips to the home improvement store than stated."

I am thrilled that the project has begun. Really. I am. Because if it is never started, it cannot be finished. (I might have read that on a fortune cookie.) But what was wrong with doing it in oh, say October? Oh yes. I remember. There was football every breathing minute. It's just, well, my mudroom has vomited stuff all over my dining room. You know the dining room? One of the rooms that people will occupy on Christmas Eve? It's the room that is currently housing approximately 7.2 metric tons of crap from the mudroom because the mudroom is getting painted. And new flooring. All courtesy of my very own handyman.

He has worked hard for two weekends painting the ceiling and walls and laying cement board on the floor. Next weekend, God willin' and the creek don't rise, he will install the tile. And then, everything will fall to me. I will have to toss stuff and organize stuff and move stuff back into the mudroom. All while baking and shopping and wrapping and cleaning to get ready for Christmas. This is all in addition to working, shuttling children, and doing my regular cooking, cleaning and laundry. (Who am I kidding? If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that laundry will come last. After I've cleaned toilets with toothbrushes and picked lint from the carpets. Laundry??? HAHAHAHA!!! I crack myself up.) Oh! And reflection. Gotta fit that in somewhere, right?

Oh. Poor little Sara.Woe is her! Yes, I know. I'm having myself a bit of an anxiety-induced pity party. I know that things will get done. I know that I will have to prioritize and delegate and do what I can. I know that I will have to let some things go. (That should be some show--come and watch the Control Freak let some things go!) I know that the people who come here on Christmas Eve will not give a flying fig if there are dust bunnies or smudged mirrors or if I don't get the Oreo balls made. (Actually, if I don't get the Oreo balls made, there truly might be a problem. People wait for those suckers all year. Note to self: let the mirrors go, make the Oreo balls!) My point is, the people coming to our home are coming because they love us and they want to spend time with us--and we them. They are not going to care if my home doesn't look like a movie set. And if they do, they love us enough that they would never say so.

I need to count myself lucky to have such a wonderful home, even if it does need quite a bit of work. I need to count myself lucky that my husband is so very capable when it comes to DIY jobs. I need to count myself lucky that my friends and family are so understanding. (Except when it comes to Oreo balls. They are merciless when it comes to those.) I guess what I'm saying is that I need to build a bridge and get over myself already.

I've heard that ice cream is invaluable when it comes to getting over oneself. So if you need me, I'll just be over here cooking and cleaning and baking and reflecting and getting over myself whilst consuming mass quantities of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Photo Friday: Reflections

This is such a busy time of year. I tend to have high expectations for myself and what I want my holidays to be like for my family. I can get easily distracted by choosing the right gift, adding the right decorations, selecting the tastiest recipes. I can be run ragged by all of the parties and concerts and get-togethers. I admit that sometimes I have been so distracted that I push the purpose of this season to the rear with a blithe "I'll think about it tomorrow" and move on to the next detail on my list.

This year, I am trying hard to keep the focus on the Reason for this season. I am still taking in the sparkle and flash around me, but I'm aiming to keep the worldly dazzle in my peripheral vision. I want all of that glow to shine brightly on The One who came near. This year I am trying to take time for reflection on God's perfect plan and how 2000 years ago He was thinking of me when a Savior was born in Bethlehem. And I pray that when people see me, they see the reflection of that Savior.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Are You Ready For Some Football?

It is our tradition each Thanksgiving, to have a family football game. We are just like the Kennedys, y'all. Except without the trust funds, scandals, and East coast accents. So by "just like" I mean "completely different from except we play football together."

We started our annual football game several years ago when the grandchildren were numerous enough to form teams and old enough to understand how to play. My kids (especially James) look forward to it every year. Almost everyone plays. I haven't for the last few because I am the self-proclaimed Official Photographer. My dad usually is the referee. And Mary hasn't played yet because she is NOT INTERESTED DO NOT ASK HER AGAIN!! My sister-in-law sat out this year because she is pregnant with my yet-to-be-named niece or nephew. But everyone else played--my mother included. She is fun and a good sport. And my husband declared that she could be tackled because she was a grown up and could take care of herself. (I promise, he really does like her.)

The game started with a few warm-ups like Cousin Twirling

and footraces.

Then everyone lined up oldest to youngest to count off for teams.

Then huddled up with their respective teammates. The Turkeys....

...and the Stuffing.

Hey look! Guy Fieri showed up to keep Mary company! Wow, he looks really different in real life.

There were many passes

that didn't connect.

The running game was better.

Especially with trick plays like the old Stuff The Ball In Your Shirt play.

My mom ran the ball a few yards. She ran with her arm out in front of her. She looked exactly like the Heisman Trophy come to life.

There was lots of CHEEZE on that field. See? That's me and my niece/Goddaughter. Let me tell you, we are sooooooo very related.

Yes, plenty of cheez.

Ham too!

James scored.

Sean scored.

Mike was sad. Schemes were hatched. See all those outstretched hands? They missed him by this much!

Mike scored!!

In the end, the game was called due to fatigue and hunger. The score was tied. The Turkeys and Stuffing declared a rematch for next year. I don't know what the result of next year's game will be, but I do know that like this year, it will be filled with lots of laughter--and turkeys. There'll be plenty of those there too.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Countdown Begins

Hey! Didja look at the calendar today?'s December 1st. You know, December--the month my children claim is the longest month of the year? The one where the days fly by and I have so many things to do that the first thing on my Christmas list should read "a clone of myself" so that I can get things done but done in a way that I want them done. And I wouldn't have to tell my clone how to do the things, because, duh! It's me!!

Yeah. Control freak? It has my name by the definition in the dictionary. (Okay, so I don't know exactly what dictionary you'd be looking at to find those two words together, but whatever. It's my blog, so I get to decide. See? Control freak again!!)

Anyway! (Also? You might find my name in the dictionary by the word "distractable." Just sayin'.) December first not only marks the beginning of the longest/shortest month of the year, it also marks the day we start our Advent countdown.

Several years ago, I wanted to find a way to do a little something special each day leading up to Christmas. I wanted to do this for two reasons: it would give us, as a family, a way to spend some precious time together during the season and it would give my holiday-hyped children something to look forward to each day while also letting them mark time for Christmas. I decided an Advent calendar was the way to go. And being insane somewhat crafty and cheap thrifty, I didn't want to pay a million-billion dollars for a calendar I could make myself.

I decided to make my calendar a series of boxes into which I could put a slip of paper. So you know, a calendar, but not in a really paper-like calendary way. (Huh. Spell check totally accepted calendary. I could've sworn I pulled that one outta the air.) This is what I came up with:

I covered match boxes with scrapbook paper. Then I made a list of activities we could do. Some are as simple as "read a Christmas book together" or "have hot chocolate with whipped cream" or "draw names for your Secret Santa." Others are a little more involved, like "Go downtown and see the Tree of Lights" or "shop for your Secret Santa." Some require no action on my part whatsoever--as in, "so a secret good deed for your Secret Santa."

Each year, I go over the slips and change them up as need requires. For instance, some years my kids have Christmas programs for school, some years they don't. And days that I'm free to take them shopping varies as well. Once the calendar is coordinated, I put the slips into the boxes and then put the boxes into a jar.

The kids look forward to taking turns pulling a box out each day and seeing what activity is inside. It also helps them have a visual reminder that Christmas is closing in as the boxes dwindle.

This is one of my favorite family traditions. I have tweaked it to suit our family and have added or deleted activities as interest or time has allowed. I also started out with a much simpler form, with just tags with the activities, but since I wanted something a little more permanent and durable that we could use year after year, this has been a good fit for us.

I know that things will change as the kids get older and we won't need the calendar or use it in the same way. I'm thinking that somewhere down the line, I'll replace the activities with scripture verses that tell of Christ's birth, but for now, I love our Advent boxes and won't change a thing.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go make some slips of paper for our Secret Santa drawing because hey! THERE'S ONLY 24 DAYS LEFT UNTIL CHRISTMAS!!!!