Thursday, December 31, 2009

We Now Have Mountains Here? and other Funny Things We've Seen and Heard this Week.

Winter Break has been filled with some hilarious moments...some a result of the "blizzard" and others because we've been trapped inside so much I've been able to hear my children talking constantly.

Miss A thinks the huge piles of snow in parking lots and at the end of our driveway are beginning to look the Mountains she saw this fall in Colorado. I've pointed out that while they look inviting and "cute" and will be here until Spring, they are far from fun! In fact, if the one at the end of the driveway gets any bigger, we could lose sight of the street for months.

We went to the Indoor Water Park this week. Why oh why do you ask? Because until last week, Miss A could not get her ear wet and we promised we'd go once she got the all clear from her doctor. So along with most of the city, our whole family went to swim, slide and spend one hour in line for lunch. Just kidding on the lunch line at A&W, it was more like 1:10 minutes wait.

The kids had a great time and we all left feeling water logged and chlorinated to the gills. The funniest part, however, (besides the people) was driving to the pool in a winter coat, swimsuit and flip flops. C commented it wasn't really all that different from our summer trips to the pool and lake considering we were wearing sweatshirts on the 4th of July.

Yesterday, the kids went up to the elementary school for some good sledding on giant hills and I sat in the car watching them giggle, laugh, and throw snowballs at each other and their friends. I'd brought along a book knowing it could be awhile. Miss A made it about 45 minutes and then asked to come into my warm car. She was mostly looking for snacks and hot cocoa which is not something in ready supply in a Honda Odyssey. However, she cracked me up when she said why don't you just take me home and then come back for the big kids, later. I said then we'd just have to come back, she told it would be OK to just leave her at home alone since she's old enough to watch herself.

Sadly, she is the most responsible one sometimes and would probably be OK. I said no way; I can't; I'd get in trouble with the law for leaving a 5 year old at home alone. Not to worry was her reply, I'll visit you in jail and bring you diet Pepsi.

Finally, the thing that cracked me up the most this week was our shopping trip on Monday to "buy" a few things with gift cards that would burning holes in our pockets since Christmas.

Miss A and Miss M had gift cards to their favorite Girlie Store and Mr. C had one to the Sporting Goods store. We decided to take care of C's purchase first as he's notoriously quicker and then the girls and then have Hot Cocoa at our favorite Coffee Shop. C covered his two favorite summer sports, fishing and golf, with his gift. The girls, as usual, took "forever" to decide on some new clothes and a new Webkinz for each of them.

M and A both wanted to go to Claire's too just to see what was "new" and C quickly shooed them away saying that they could open their own store with all the "lip stuff" they have at home. Miss A said, "That's OK. I now have Dr. Pepper lip balm too, I just got it." Somehow I think she missed the point.

Over Cafe Mochas (C) kids Hot Cocoa (A) and Carmel Hot Apple Cider (M), we discussed while it is fun to shop together, it is just as fun to be together sitting and visiting. M and A just looked at me like I'd lost my mind and C just shook his head and said, "Mom, they just don't get it do they."

I'm thinking Mr. C is going to have a rude awakening once he hits the College Years (aka the Dating Years) and sees that Girls love to "just shop."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Taking Down Christmas...

I talked my husband into taking down the Christmas stuff yesterday. We have plans for New Years Eve and New Years Day and I just couldn't imagine taking it all down next weekend...or maybe I couldn't stand the thought of having it all up any longer.

Christmas is over right? We've spent nearly 5 days trapped in this house due to the "Holiday (we say Christmas) Blizzard of 2009" and I was sick of looking at our tree, stockings, and various little doo dads. I'm not really an accessory person. I'm kinda of minimalist and having all the extra trimmings in our house gets to me after awhile.

I love the weeks leading up to Christmas sitting by the tree with all the lights off save those on the branches. I love to look at the stockings my great aunt loving needlepointed and think of the all the hours of work and all the hours of fun getting just the right gifts to go inside. I love to see all the presents under the tree and imagine the look of joy and excitement on the recipient's face. I even love all the little things that come into our house each Christmas season such as new ornaments, new little chocolate treats from friends, and the fun cards and pictures from afar.

But now, days after Christmas, it loses it's luster. It starts to look like clutter to me.

I'm sorta ashamed to admit it, but I can't stand all the Christmas glitz and glitter days or weeks after the fact. Some may think that it's kinda Ba Humbug of me I guess. Instead, I think it speaks volumes of what I think about Christmas. I love it! The real Christmas. The Birth of Christ and the promise that the tiny baby in the manger means to me and my family. Grace and Peace and Eternal Life.

There was no glitz or glamor for the baby in the manger. It's just the real thing. God Among Us.

At the center of Christmas tree right next to the branches is a big steel Christmas nail hanging from a red velvet ribbon. It's there among the branches to remind me that the meaning of Christmas really points to the Cross. Without the Cross and the Nails that hung Jesus there, it would all be meaningless. Sure it would still be a wonderful story about a baby born in a manger 2000 years ago, but without the cross that's all it would be.

Maybe the reason deep down that I want to get rid of the remnants of Christmas and the decorations is that it takes my focus away from the Cross and the Savior and my need for His grace, forgiveness and peace. It makes it seem like the glamour is all that there is. It makes it seem like if I get all "dolled" up on the outside, if my house looks Martha Stewart perfect with all the "right" decorations," I'm worth it. I have it all together. I really don't need a tiny baby to save me from my sins. I can do it all on my own. I know, though, that this is not true. Reality is much different.

Really it's so much more. The Real Christmas lives right in my heart. I can have Christ Among Me every day. No fancy dress or perfect fir wreath needed. Maybe that's why once Christmas is over I don't need those trappings any more.

Oh, and I don't like clutter either.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Blizzard 2009 Doesnt' Stop the Celebrating

T'was the day after Christmas and all through the house....
Wow! Yippee! We can't believe we got a Wii!

There was jumping and jabbing and swinging of arms as the Wii Games were played in full force.. a certain Nana smoked Miss M in Bowling and Miss A is quite good at the Boxing with Brother, but Mom has yet to jump on the Wii bandwagon fearful that she'll have to create a Mi and decide on a hair color.

Miss A in her "boxing" mode. We've almost lost the TV twice! Let's just say she breaks a sweat and if not careful could break the tv, stand and much more.

Due to the snowdrift outside of our house and the lack of plans for Christmas Day, we spent the entire morning opening presents slowly and breaking for a Pecan Roll Breakfast and Fresh Hot Coffee. Peaceful were words not normally associated with the "unwrapping" of gifts, but 2009 gave us a new outlook on the whole process.

This is our back deck.
We had time to ogle over the Norwegian Sweater Miss M got from Bestemor and Bestefar while Miss A got to set up her Dora Tent in the Family Room and, Mr. C flew his new remote control helicopter all over the house. There was time for "playing with the gifts" and learning about our new "toy" the Wii. Mom had time to check out the Pioneer's Women's Cookbook and earmark recipes to try this winter. Dad enjoyed the fact that no longer are there 1000 piece Lego's to work on or castles and dollhouses to erect.

M's Norwegian Sweater...Adorable Miss M and Miss A in the Dora Tent...where they spent most of the day in their pj's.

Granted the "new clothes" the children scored means more laundry for the mother, but everyone was thrilled with their new "loves" from Nana including the adorable Girl Scout Quilt with genuine GS fabric. Now Miss M can sleep with Thin Mints!!

C's New Bedspread M's New Girl Scout Blanket C models his UnderArmour

Our plans delayed for a Christmas Day Dinner with Nana and Papa created a chance to break out the Steaks and Sweet Potato Fries last night. Who knew some traditions are OK to change?

We watched movies and played board games. We've seen some College Football Games and made new memories. The boys have moved 14 inches of snow from the driveway to the the yard and since we've only seen one plow in 3 days we are praying that tomorrow we'll actually be able to see the world outside our own home by going to church.

Making Cookies for Santa A's new Guess Who Extra Game with Animal Faces Too

When Nana and Papa came over today for lunch between storm cells, we enjoyed our traditional Christmas dinner on the 26th and realized that the Christmas spirit lives on. Even during the Christmas (Holiday) Blizzard 09 as the Weather Channel sort of calls it. They are much more politically correct than I.

As Mr. C said yesterday, this could be our best Christmas ever. It was fun, we were able to see family, Christmas Eve worship of the Newborn King and time to relax together as a family.
Now let's just hope we are not expected to find places to fit in more snow on our streets or driveways anytime soon. I'm not sure we can find the room.

Dad and C getting the driveway ready for Visitors. Where will we put all this snow? It could be spring before we see our grass again.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Celebrating the Hustle and Bustle Too Often Pushes the Christ Child Away

We are preparing for another "blast of winter" right in time for Christmas. Let's just say we won't be dreaming of a "White Christmas" as we'll have the real thing.

As a result, the stores are busting with people. None of them look too happy. Granted, I've not seen any real pushing and shoving, but the look on some peoples' faces could scare small children. No one looks like the Holiday Spirit is really flowing through them!

Yesterday, Miss M was trying to "secretly purchase" a gift for her brother. As she stood in line with her hot little cash in hand, two separate adults cut in front of her. She didn't really notice until another mother and her child tried to do the same. When we left she said, "some people aren't really happy about Christmas are they mom?"

At Target later that afternoon, I was finishing up my Christmas shopping and getting groceries when I ran into even grumpier people. A lady in the Produce section huffed and puffed at me when my cart was left over by the asparagus while I was bagging apples across the aisle. I jokily said, "Guess I need to take my cart with me" and she did not laugh.

In the stocking stuffer aisle, I asked an employee who was taking down Christmas stuff if he was really putting out Valentine's candy already and he just huffed at me. I'm just doing my job.! I wished him a Merry Christmas to lighten the mood and he did not seem pleased.

My checkout person looked about ready to collapse, sad, depressed, and at her whit's end. When I asked how her day was going she said, "not well, everyone is so crabby." We joked about the "real Christmas spirit" and how lacking it is today. I told her that too often I think people are crabby about not "getting Christmas perfect," not getting what they want out of the "holiday," and not meeting their own expectations and those of others.

As she rang up my purchases, I thought about how often I get upset that I'm not making Christmas perfect in our house. How my decorations aren't perfect. My wrapping job is not fancy and the gifts aren't exactly what everyone wants. I'm not baking pies or giving out Christmas cookies to all the neighbors.

But the Spirit of Christmas, the Christ Child born in a manger, His spirit is alive and well in our home. From the Nativity in our Family room to the Jesse Tree ornaments on the kitchen counter to the Advent Wreath on our table, He is here! Christ among us.

We celebrate His birthday this Christmas. Sure, we still get the gifts, the food, and the Rice Pudding surprise, but hopefully this Christmas He'll get the Praise and the Joy and the Peace. At a "Happy Birthday Jesus Party" yesterday afternoon, C said the prayer before Lunch. His words nearly moved me to tears. He asked God to remind us that He is what this Christmas is all about, to remind us not to lose that part of Christmas this year.

Too often in the hustle and bustle of the days before Christmas, we lose that little baby in the manger...please God help "this family" keep that in our hearts first!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gifted Hands: Movie Recommendation #2

As promised, I want to give you the information on the second movie we watched last weekend as a family and not only thoroughly enjoyed, but were moved and inspired by the man behind the story.

Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story is the true story of young man who overcame obstacles in his life to become to a world renowned pediatric neurosurgeon at John Hopkins and went on to win a Presidential Medal of Freedom. It is a touching story of a mother's love for her children and desire to raise them to become intelligent, strong and contributing members of society.

Sonya's Carson's determination and gusto is inspiring. The fact that she was not well educated herself and supporting her children on her own while challenging them to read books and write essays about them brought tears to my eyes. She really was willing to do the best for her children and spur them on to things greater.

Dr. Carson's life story and his grace and faith throughout his life are inspiring. Knowing that he is a man of Faith and Medicine at the same time is such a great message for my children. It is nice to see that it's possible to be a person of great faith and moral character while also a person of science, intelligence and wisdom. God's wisdom and Man's Wisdom are not contradictory, but they are great in conjunction with each other.

Watching yet another movie about people overcoming obstacles to achieve great thing gave our children a glimpse into real life. A chance to see that hard work, determination, character, faith and love from family can make you into something great.

Ben Carson has a book out with the same title: Gifted Hands. I'm thinking this is going to be required reading for a certain boy and girl in our house this winter.

Finding movies that reinforce life skills I want my children to pick up and doing it in such a way that isn't preachy or sappy really works. I love that we can spend quality time watching a heartwarming movie together and still learn lessons. That's perfect family time.

Blessed To Be Busy

All Dressed Up for the Church's Christmas Pageant

in front of the Beautiful Christmas Tree on the Altar

It's been a fun but busy week around these parts, add the last week of school into the mix and it's been done right crazy busy.
We've had a Band Concert with C in which we got to listen to the Jazz Band for the first time. They played Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and rocked the house. Mr. Trombone is getting better every year and his cheeks puffed out just a little bit less every concert. They no longer look like they might burst! I'm so proud of what a great musician he's becoming.
Miss M had a Christmas Dance Recital in which she made her debut performance with her old studio. Let's just say it's nice to back to a studio where "dance" is the focus and I didn't get embarrassed watching anyone "shake" on stage. The music and costumes were adorable and, in our Politically Correct culture, it's nice to go to a Dance Recital at Christmas time and hear Christmas Music. Yeah!! M also sang her heart out at the Christmas Program at Church and is anxious for next year when she'll get a speaking role and really "act."
Miss A had two big performances this week. First was her performance at the Church's Children's Pageant and then yesterday came her Preschool Christmas Program. She looked so adorable in her little red velvet dress with white fur collar and, of course, she had to wear her "sparkly shoes" as it was a "fancy time." She's overcoming her shyness a little bit and we are getting to see a little of her everyday sparkle on stage. Of course, her favorite part of both performances was the "snacks" afterwards.

Yeah for mothers and grandmother's who make Christmas Cookies. This mother does not and she's grateful her kids get to nibble on Holiday Cookie Creations without making them herself.

C and A all ready for customers to the Red Kettle; M and Uncle C and Cousin N manning the 2nd Bell at the other door. C was the only brave enough to wear the Red Apron that Announced "I'm a Bell Ringer" . Nana and Papa even brought some huge Bells with them so the noise outside was loud!

Finally. last night was our annual Bell Ringing time for the Salvation Army. Every year we sign up the family for a three hour shift ringing bells outside our favorite Grocery Store. The kids bundle up and we take turns standing outside singing "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" and sending people inside to eat in the Grocery Store's restaurant.
Last night, we had the "whole family" aunt and uncle, cousin N and Nana and Papa. It was crisp and windy, but in the upper 20's so, while we were far from toasty, we were able to keep our spirits up and spread a little Christmas Cheer with only red noses and frozen toes. On the way home, M said that "was fun and I feel like we really did something for someone else." That's really our goal. Teaching our kids that it's fun to "give."
Next on our list is making Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls to give to neighbors and friends. It makes enough pans that we'll have some stored up for the next few weeks, too! Kinda like giving and receiving all at once.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Winter Driving Conditions Scare: Thanking God

M had four teeth pulled yesterday and two spacers put in her mouth so it was not a stellar day in her book.

Even the fact that she got to miss out on a day of school didn't make up for the fact she was fearful and in pain. She was a real trooper throughout, but I think she's glad it's finally over!

The roads yesterday weren't stellar either. We had some freezing rain, mixed with about 1/2 inch of fresh snow before school. C was disappointed that they didn't think to "call it off " and have yet another snow day. Driving to Preschool was a little dicey. M and A couldn't believe all the traffic and the slow moving cars going up the hills near our neighborhoods.

Being my father's daughter, I quickly decided that neighborhood streets were the best choice from the pharmacy to Preschool and if I could have made it all the way to the Dentist by neighborhood streets, I would have. However, slow and steady, we made it on time for our "Dental Dread" appointment.

M came thru the "surgery" well, and why she looked like a chipmunk with the gauze in between her lips and talked like one too, we were ready to get A from school and get back home.

About 1 mile from the Preschool, we had to drive down a street that is a four lane divided major thoroughfare. It is, however, surrounded by farmland and tends to get a little slick due to the wind whipping across the prairie grass. (Yes I do want to break into song about a OKLAHOMA, but that's not allowed in these parts, my husband despises OU. He's a UT man remember)

I was going about 25 miles an hour and the next car nearest me was quite a ways ahead. The car behind liked slow and steady too and keep her distance. We were traveling northbound in the curb lane.

Suddenly a car traveling Southbound and in the curb lane (going about 40 plus mph) lost control slid over the next lane, jumped the huge median in the middle and starting coming right at my mini van. Never before have I seen such look of terror in another's person face; the air bags deployed on that car, they came within 15/20 feet of my front end but...All Glory to God I was able to stop the car without hitting them and move over enough into the far lane to miss their rear end as they went up the embankment on my passenger side of the street.

I thanked Jesus right there that He'd spared M and my life. He did. Had I been going just a fraction of a kilometer faster at any time in my journey I would have been directly in the path of that Toyota 4 Runner. I know without a doubt I would have been killed, and most likely M, too. It was coming that fast, with so much gusto that we would not have been able to stop it's force.

Praying and Praising all the way to Preschool pickup, I told the Preschool teacher that I would gladly pay any late fee for being 15 minutes late for Miss A. While I had told them I would most likely be late and they were very willing to help out, I wasn't really grateful for the ability to be late until that exact moment that I didn't know if I'd be showing up at Preschool ever again.

Poor Miss M I think the look of terror on her face at the moment was worse than the Dentist could ever have been.

At dinner, we were thanking God for His protection and His provision that allowed us to see death, but not taste it. Never before have I felt so grateful for those "moments" when you can see clearly the hand of Jesus. Protecting us, keeping us calm and allowing us just one more "moment" this side of heaven.

Really I need nothing more this Christmas. I've just gotten the greatest gift.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Get Yourself to the Movie Theater Today: The Blind Side

We don't go to the movies all that often. We normally wait for them to be on DVD so we can watch them at home (my husband can sleep through the chick flicks without feeling too bad.) However, my parents convinced us to go the the Blind Side and take our 12 year old son along. They even threw in free babysitting for the younger sisters. Who could resist?

The Blind Side could be one of the best movies I've seen in years, maybe even decades. The crowd to watch the movie at 7 pm. on a Friday was huge, and throughout the movie, nobody left to get anything. They just sat and watched this wonderful story unfold.

What a wonderful story of one woman's courage to step out of her comfort zone and completely change one young man's life. I was clapping, laughing, and crying at the way Leigh Ann wrapped her life, family, and determination into the life of a boy from the "wrong side of town" and as a result changed Michael Oher's life forever.

I'd love to share more about the movie and the story of Michael Oher who went from a homeless, deserted young man to a NFL football player all because someone took the time to make a difference in his life, but I don't want to spoil the story for you.

If you have not gone to see this movie, do it today. Don't wait for the DVD and don't wait for it get to the cheap movie theater. It's well worth the price of admission. It's a football/Cinderella story that gives you a warm feeling in your heart. It gives you hope about race relations, people from desperate situations making it out alive, and finally, it might just stir a little something in you to want to invest some of your own time in the lives of others.

After the movie, we talked with C about grace and gratitude and stepping up and doing the right thing. Things he knows about already, but movies like this reinforce those type of values. They encourage your spirit.

Tomorrow, I'll share the story about the 2nd Movie we saw this weekend (a DVD no less) that our whole family loved and did even more to encourage our spirits.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Surviving the 3rd Snow Day In A Row

It's quiet in the house right now. The kids are out enjoying the snow; building forts in the deep piles of snow and making giant footprints all over the backyard. I used to love the look of snow, the vast white field of snow which almost looked like sparkling diamonds and crystals. I use to view snow as something that should be looked at, but please don't make tracks in my snow.

Then I had children.

Now, I realize that footprints, sled tracks, and snowmen mean that children live in my house. Those tiny treks through the snow are a sign that laughter, giggles, and lots of cups of hot chocolate exist in my home. Something that 13 years ago I could only pray for, cry for, and long for is now a reality in my home and in my heart. I am a mother.

Yesterday, when the school district called to say they were calling off school for a 3rd Day in a row and just weeks before Christmas, my heart sank at first. I had plans.

Now, when I look out over the footprints, snow forts and marks all over our fresh fallen snow, I think, this is why I wanted to be a mother. So, that on snow days we could stay in PJ's and watch Hallmark movies together, we could offer to help our neighbors with the big snow drift on their driveway, and I could use our dryer over and over again in a day with dirty clothes, wet gloves, hats and coats.

I'm realizing more and more that these days are precious. Moments to cherish. They are the kind of days we'll talk about years from now and I won't remember the wet laundry room floor. Instead, I'm remember the messy marshmallow faces and the cans of Redi Whip that flew out my house!

For that I am grateful.

However, I might cheer the fact that tomorrow is back to normal. Too much of a good thing isn't really a good thing is it?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow Day in Pictures

As we prepare for Day Two of the Blizzard of 09... here are some photos from our afternoon in the snow.

M and A on the new sled; making a path down our front yard. In their words the sled was "super fast and awesome."

C helped me shovel the snow, but wanted it all piled on one side of the driveway for fort making. Today the wind took care of making it's own "drifts."

Inside the snow fort, plenty of room for all. Look at those huge flakes.

M took an inside the fort picture so we could have a look at how perfectly formed and packed the snow was. I'm thinking C has a future in igloo building!

School is out again today, but with a windchill in the -20's I'm thinking this will be an "inside" day with movies and crafts to keep the natives entertained. Dad gets shoveling duty this morning, since I shoveled three times yesterday before 1:00 when he hubs called it a day and worked from home!

Guess we complained too much about the lack of snow earlier this fall/winter. I'm keeping my mouth shut from now until March about the weather and just taking what God gives us!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Predicting A Snow Day!!

The weatherman is predicting a snowstorm or a blizzard or maybe just a dusting. Who knows. It all depends on who you listen to and when. The Weather Channel, our local ABC, NBC or heaven forbid the local FOX station that looks like it hires high school students all seem to have a different opinion.

But if you are my children you are convinced that school will be cancelled tomorrow.

Here's what my three are doing to insure that school is out....

1. Wearing PJ's inside out
2. Flushing the toilets 3 times before bed
3. Doing all their homework
4. Renting movies from Family Video so we are ready
5. Throwing an ice cube on the back deck right before bed.

Mr. C recommended we twirl around 9 times and flush the toilets at the same time in every bathroom just to cover our bases.

Here's what their mother has done to prepare for a blizzard and three kids stuck inside for days

1. Stocked up on Marshmallows and Hot Cocoa
2. Braved the crowds at the grocery store to insure we had milk
3. Ready to pull out secret stash of Christmas Crafts including a Gingerbread House
4. Purchased yarn to make some more kitted kitchen dish rags and a few new scarfs
5. Have a big bottle of Margarita Mix to use for Margarita Chicken Skewers for dinner and maybe a tall glass of frozen margaritas too!
6. Plan to go to bed extra early and set the TV for 5 a.m. when they announce school closings.

Really hoping for a smart weatherman to go ahead and call off school tonight!

Now I realize that Christmas Break is just around the corner, but I'll admit there is nothing like a Snow Day when you are suppose to be doing something else like school, dance class, etc. Like C said today, who needs snow on the weekends!

UPDATE: School was cancelled at 7:45 pm tonight. Let the celebrations begin!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Funny Things I've Heard and Seen Lately

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the season, I wanted to remember a few of the funny moments that caused me to stop and pause....

1. A house in our neighborhood goes "hog wild" over holiday decorations. Literally, very holiday from Halloween to Easter to St. Patrick's Day their house is decorated. This is especially true at Christmas. Our family, in fact, calls this house the "Crazy About Christmas (CAc)" House. True to form, this year they have up hundreds of decorations including lights, blow ups, and hanging ornaments from trees. Lots of things on the roof, hanging from the fence posts. Do you get the picture.?

Across the street from this "Crazy About Christmas House" this year is a new display. A green tarp with these words in Bright Lights: DITTO with an arrow pointing at the CAC house. Priceless.

2. My husband and youngest daughter had lunch the other day at the Mall and then walked around a little getting Christmas Ideas. After walking by a Kiosk selling "Dead Sea Lotions" and being asked repeatedly if my husband would like to buy some for the lady in his life; Miss A looked at her dad and said, "what's his deal?"

3. At family advent devotions this week, the was talk about the Jesse Tree's ornament depicting lots of stars. The verse that matched it was about Abraham and God's promise about his descendants. Miss M was quick to remember the bible story, but the next day as we reviewed the previous days she went through her list of Bible Men trying to remember Abraham's name; Noah, Adam, Jonah, Moses...finally she gave up and so you know the one!

4. Nana is having her annual tea parties with the granddaughters and their friends in the coming weeks. Miss A's is a Christmas Tea over lunch on Monday and Miss M's is an after school Tea Party. Big brother C volunteered to come serve as host and pass out treats etc. Nana was quick to realize the motive was for the food. C smiled and said that's true. Last year, I got food and didn't have to work so forget the offer, I'll just take the food!

5. Decorating the Christmas Tree this year was rather comical. Let's just say after 16 years it's time to replace our artificial 9 foot tree. It's not what you would call level and in all reality the branches are starting to turn brown, just like a real dying tree. Didn't know that happened with artificial trees! Hubs maneuvered, fangled and worked hard to get the tree standing up right and level at the same time.

C suggested maybe we should just go out and get a new one right away, but being ever practical, my husband quickly said "no way, I just invested hours getting this one up and lit so it's staying for the season! We are keeping it and waiting for N After Christmas sale to get a new one."

6. Miss A has a tendency to think quicker than she speaks and will often have words mixed up. For instance, as we lay down for good night prayers, she will say "down I lay me" instead of of "now I lay me." Lately, I've also noticed the phrase "that's for good" when she means that something bad is really alright. Not such a bad way to look at it really.

Amazingly both are starting to eek out of my mouth, too.

This family...they really keep me laughing.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Homemade Caramels: WFMW Christmas Gift Idea

*** Edited: Instructions revised. It's only 1 cup of Karo Syrup. The cream you add in two different times: 1 cup with the sugar and syrup-bring to boil and then the 2nd cup once it's reached a boil you add slowly to the boiling mixture.

Christmas Gift Giving can be a little overwhelming when you add in all the School Teachers, Coaches, Sunday School and Pioneer/Confirmation Teachers when you have with three kids.

Not wanting to leave people out or burden our gift giving budget with $5 here and $5 there for everyone, I've starting giving out Homemade Caramels in cute little gift bags along with a handwritten note of thanks/appreciation. Depending on the relationship with the teacher, I will throw in a gift card to a local Coffee House for Hot Chocolate or participate in the group gift. I just like the idea of recognizing these individuals myself and the influence they have on my kids.

While the process of making the caramel's is a little demanding, the skill involved is pretty basic.

All you need is a big pot, a candy thermometer, and lots of waxed paper for wrapping. Oh and about 2 hours of time. I bring a book and kitchen stool right up to the stove and declare it "me time."

I must give credit to my sister in law for the recipe and idea...thanks! I've been giving these to my son's team of teachers in both 5th and 6th grade and a few cried at the end of the year when he moved to 7th grade team. He thought it was because they would miss him, but I knew that they were sad to lose the caramel's at Christmas!!

Homemade Caramels Recipe
2 cups Sugar
2 cups Warm Cream (I heat it up a little in microwave-not boiling)
1 cup Karo Syrup (light or dark depending on preference)
1/2 tsp Salt
1/3 cup Margarine
1 tsp Vanilla

you can add up to 1/2 cup of nuts (I don't)
waxed paper for wrapping ( no perfect way to cut into squares; I've heard you can buy pre-cut at Michael's Craft store, but we just cut away pieces to fit the caramels)
buttered 9 x 13 pan for spreading out the Caramels

In Large Pot combine 2 cups sugar, 1 cup of the cream, 1 cup syrup and salt in pan. cook on medium until boiling-stirring constantly.

Pour in the other 1 cup of cream slowly to boiling mixture- just enough at a time to keep the boil going

Cook 5 minutes longer then stir in margarine 1 tsp at a time stirring and letting it melt completely between additions

Turn heat to low and stir occasionally until the temp is 235 degrees for soft or 245 degrees for harder Caramel.

Remove from heat and add in vanilla

Pour into a buttered 9 by 13 pan- Let stand 10 minutes before they cool completely you should cut them into pieces- I use kitchen scissors or very sharp knife.

Cool to Room Temperature before placing in a waxed paper wraps. You can easily double the recipe if you desire and I've even been known to run two pots of double recipe at the same time.

**** edited: For Teacher Gifts I put together about 15 caramels wrapped individually and place in a Christmas Treat Bag and attached a card. This year I found cute little Red Buckets in the Target Dollar Aisle and plan to put them in there with some tissue.
With 6 team teachers in Junior High and then a 4th Grade Teacher and two Preschool teachers plus Sunday School etc...One Double Batch with make enough, but no extras so I usually make two double batches and have plenty for all.

Making Caramels for Christmas Gifts works for me and my family. For more WFMW posts about Christmas Gift Ideas be sure to check out We Are THAT Family

Merry Christmas and Happy Caramels!!