Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Junie B Experience: Learning to Lighten Up

I'll admit that as a parent I've become a bit of a slacker with the third child.  Blame it on years of parenting experience, reality or age.  I allow her to "do" things that I never allowed her elder siblings to do. Now I'm not talking here about big things or dangerous things nor have I slacked off on moral or value issues.  I'm still tough as nails on TV, movies, clothing etc.

I've given in on Junie B Jones.  Miss M was never allowed to read those books.  The grammar it is atrocious!  A few years back you would have thought that I was evil mother for not allowing Miss M to get all the books she circled in the Scholastic Book Order.  We read real fiction books. Classics.  Little House, Maddie Books, Beverly Clearly and the like where the grammar was real, the kids were cleaver but not sassy, and the overriding theme was wholesome.

The problem is that Junie B Jones books are just the perfect length for Miss A to read on her own and she loves them. A few months ago, Miss A and I read out loud the Junie B Jones book Handsome Warren and lets just say everyone else in the house wondered what was so funny.  Miss A and I were laughing so loud as we laid on her bed.  Miss M ran up the stairs to see if everything was alright.

Now I'll admit when I read out loud the JBJ books, I correct the grammar. I read the "right words" when there are words that Junie makes up.  We use the sassy attitude and sometimes the mean spirit that Junie has towards her friends/parents as teaching moments.  Miss A lives in the real world and she knows how kids can be, so she's not learning anything new.  We realize that Junie B often does things that aren't the best, that she tricks others, or laughs at them behind their backs. 

Which leads me to the final thing we did on Thanksgiving Break; Miss A and a I and a bunch of her friends went to see the play Junie B Jones Jingle Bells Batman Smells.  We had a great time. The actress who played Junie B was hilarious and the girls all had a great time laughing at the antics of Junie B.

Of course, we've now read the Jingle Bell Batman Smells book and laughed again.  But my favorite of all times is seeing that, by reading these silly books, Miss A is even more interested in reading the books that I love so much.  Having the joy of reading sparked by these books has been worth giving up the rules just a little.

I'm thinking that Miss A will find a stack of classic children's literature under the Christmas tree this year to keep that spark alive!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tree Lighting, Santa Visit and Almost Famous....

Our Friday of Thanksgiving Tradition never goes out of style.  Seeing a huge Christmas Tree lit up for the first time just gets you in the mood for Christmas.  The sparkle of the lights and the big wide eyes of my children gets me every time.  Watching Mr. J experience this event for the first time made it even more special.  The wonder and joy.

The boys were thrilled to find that their school was actually part of a big map of the city in the train station.  Small world.  There were cookies to decorate or more accurately overdose with sugar and frosting with a dose of chocolate milk to wash it all down.  Ymmmm

Bestemor and Bestefar found us a fabulous spot to see the big event, and we were thrilled to be the scouts.  My only complaint while I held our place in the Santa line was that I had left my book at home.  It was a long line and I'm not one for waiting patiently unless I have something to read!  I might just have to learn how to use P's Nook so I can "take it with me anywhere."

Mr C's only request was that we not take pictures of him on Santa's lap.  He planned on asking Santa for a laptop and all rights to the photos.  Mr J on the other hand asked for a Ferrari.  Amazingly, at the same time C asked for no photos, a camera crew showed up from a local TV station and started filming Santa.  When I told them that Mr J was from South Korea and this was his first visit to the Train Station (or downtown in anyway), they wanted to interview him.

Sadly, the footage of the interview must have ended up on the cutting room floor.  Thankfully, we have photographic evidence ourselves to prove that we were "almost famous."

We ended the day with a pizza party at the hotel swimming pool room and enjoyed watching the kids "swim off some steam." A perfect start to the Christmas season and a great "new" twist on an old tradition.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Puzzles and Bingo and Turkey Oh My!

Thanksgiving Crew: This fun group of kids, tweens, and teens made for a great day of game playing, football watching, puzzle creating and feast eating.  Our guest Mr J and the cousins' guest Mr D fit into the family perfectly. 

Nana loves to have puzzles ready for us to put together.  This years' selection was a little challenging, but thankfully we brought along a puzzle expert; Mr J .  Miss A had spent a little time helping Nana get ready for the feast and had her Nemo puzzle all finished and ready for us to admire.  Of course, we had to get a picture of this great accomplishment.  I'm not sure Mr J was as convinced he needed to pose for a picture with his 2nd completed puzzle of the day, but I twisted his arm.

The newest addition to the Thanksgiving frivolity was the Bingo Game that Nana had all ready.  Once the kids heard there were prizes involved, they were all in.  I'm thinking a few of these kids must sneak out on Friday nights for Bingo Games at the Catholic Church.  They had some "hot cards" and were winning snacks and candy right and left.

I, of course, was busy knitting away as I have a few Christmas projects I'm working on and that calendar keeps slipping away from me.  It was fun to observe all the hustle and bustle and know that my kids are storing away memories of fun family times.  What a blessing it is to have both sides of the family gathering together once again. 

For my husband, the best gift that this Thanksgiving brought was a victory over A& M.  Too bad the 118 year tradition of these two teams meeting has to end, but he would say at least the Horns pulled out a win.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving: Zoo Trip

By the time Tuesday rolled around, we were all ready for a little break from reality.  It was time to create some new memories and enjoy some holiday traditions.  In other words, Thanksgiving Break was a godsend.

Mr C and Mr J were game for anything over the weekend and Mr J said that sharing a bedroom with just one guy after months of bunking with forty was a treat.  In fact, by the end of the weekend, he might have said that sleeping on our trundle bed was like heaven!

Since our weekend guest had not seen much of our fine city, we decided to try to show him some of the best. First stop was the Zoo. In all honesty, first stop was a Mexican Catana with some of the best tacos in town, but I'm not sure that it constituted the best the city had to offer as it was only tacos.

Mr J told us that his last visit to a zoo was when he was five years old so he was in for a real treat.  The weather was a little chilly; but thankfully most of the animals we wanted to visit were part of inside exhibits.  It can't get any better than walking through a Jungle when its cold outside.  J told us that he was really impressed with the Sand Dunes in the Desert Dome, the orangutan house, and the fact that the Zoo was so large.

It was so much fun to see the Zoo through J's eyes and experience the exhibits and animals for the first time all over again.  It was amazing to watch the lions, tigers and bears with eyes of wonder.  Miss A said that she wishes we could go to the Zoo every week.  She loves the animals and would spend hours just "hanging" around the jungle or climbing on the "apes."  Miss M thought it was so much fun to be the tour guide and show Mr J her favorite spots to watch the monkeys or where her mother always makes the kids take a picture.

We had a fabulous first day of Thanksgiving Break and know that the fun was only beginning.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Balcony Girls: Come On Ring Those Bells!

Bell Ringing Take One.  Our family loves to "Ring Those Bells" during the Christmas season and we already have the date set on our December calendar, but the Balcony Girls really wanted to ring bells too.  Of course on the date we chose, a few were unable to attend, but our small but mighty enthusiastic crew covered two sets of doors at a grocery store on one of the busiest days of the year; the Monday before Thanksgiving.

Did I mention that it was "Free Turkey Day!" It is the day when if you buy a ham you get a free turkey.  Lets just say the crowd was bustling.  During our three hour shift, the girls were enthusiastic, crazy silly, and very festive.  There was singing; Gobble Gobble Turkey Song, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and some form of Turkey Blessings.
When another mom showed up to lend support and brought extra kids along, the competition between the two Red Kettles grew intense.  I was just thrilled that all it took to "wind" this crew up was Hot Chocolate and Cookies!  I'm sure the Kettles were getting more action due to the cute factor of these girls.  Charm might be deceiving, but when you use it support a good cause it can't be all that bad can it?

Nothing brings you greater joy than giving back and, to see the faces of the balcony girls that afternoon, you could tell they were catching that spirit of giving. 

My takeaway from the day is that next month when I ring bells - I'm wearing my snow boots!  My tootsies were cold even if my heart ands spirit were overflowing with warmth and joy.

Of course it was freezing.  Windy. Cold. 
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

We Gather Together? It's All the Same.

We are counting down the days until Thanksgiving around these parts. We are beyond excited for our houseguests and have been marking down the days on the kitchen chalkboard.  Not only are we looking forward to Bestemor and Bestefar's arrival for a visit, but this year we will be having a new guest in our home.  Mr C is bringing home a classmate from Korea for the long weekend.

I'm not sure that Jin Seo has any idea what he's getting himself into.  As Mr C told him when he found out that he was an only child; "I'm sorry I have two sisters, hope you survive."  In reality, we can hardly wait not only to have Jin Seo share in our Thanksgiving traditions, but to get a glimpse into a different culture for a few days.  As Miss M pointed out, we already have the German, English and Norwegian traditions at Thanksgiving, now we'll get a little Korean on the side.

Today, when I needed a little encouragement in the midst of a trying week, I had posted on the bulletin a little verse along with the countdown.  I love the song "We Gather Together" and had written the following "We Gather Together to Ask the Lord's Blessing; 7 Days."

A little while ago, I noticed that Miss A had decided to write her own message (above) her only change "I switched Lord to God, its easier to write."  I love how she taken the liberty of changing "ask the Lord's Blessing" to "celebrate God's blessings."  Her version is right; we are celebrating the blessings He's already given us. 

She's also chosen to take a day of the countdown, it's day six now in her mind.  Gotta love her enthusiasm.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bringing Home the Trophy: Dance Season Begins

On Saturday, Miss M's Dance Team won 1st Place at their first competition of the year.  M was thrilled to have returned to the world of competitive dance. I was happy for M and pleased that while I still cringed at many of the dances, costumes and suggestive moves, Miss M's studio did not "play that way."  Thank you Miss K and Miss A for again showing that it is all about the dance technique and choreography and not about shaking your booty on the dance floor.

Miss M was out of bed early on Saturday morning.  She was unable to sleep because she was so excited.  This girl loves to dance.  All the time.  She loves hanging out backstage and being with her friends, practicing and practicing, and being part of the team.  There is no doubt when you see this girl's face light up on the stage that she belongs there.

I'll admit that I am far from a Dance Mom.  In fact, while I enjoy watching M and her studio dance a lot of the time, I was busy knitting away.  I texted my husband a few times that I was shocked with the dance moves, the costumes, and the music selections of some of the dance teams.  No sixteen year old girl should be on the stage in Lingerie "dancing" to the song Life of the Party. I averted my eyes and thanked God that M was backstage and Mr C and my husband were at home. 

The funny thing is that Miss M and her friends saw some of the costumes and were amazed at how little material was involved in the making. 

I could go on and on about this part of competitive dance which is the part I despise, but this post is about Miss M and I how proud I am of her and her team.  They danced their hearts out and they loved every minute of it. So did this Mom.

Oh, and trust me Miss M was told to "wash that gunk of your face the minute you get home, you are 11 years old and there is no need for makeup."  Then we went with Miss A and Dad to see the movie Puss and Boots. You are only a kid once and I like to keep that way!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

My Ever Grateful Table

I am blessed this month to host another Dayspring Inspired review.  This time it is for their Ever Grateful line of products.  I was thrilled to receive a Table Runner that not only celebrates Thanksgiving and our gratitude to God, but looks stunning on my table.  It's the perfect size for both my kitchen and dining room table (72 inches by 14 inches) and its two sided design shows off perfectly with any fall decorating.

The message on both ends of the runner is "Let There Be Thankfulness to God" and this is really my prayer this month for our family and for our country.  Displaying this message on my kitchen table everyday reminds me to turn my heart toward thankfulness daily, not just at Thanksgiving.  What could be more important than that!

We had company for dinner this past week and it gave me the perfect backdrop to use this table runner as the "centerpiece" for my table. I was able to use my "old" white tablecloth and napkins and they looked fresh and new with this beautiful runner.  All I did was add a few little touches and repurpose some left over ribbon as napkin rings.  Stunning.

I have always loved Dayspring Cards and Gifts, but their new lines of home decor are among my favorite.  Not only are they beautiful, they allow you to have God's Word and messages of faith throughout your home. What a great witness for your guests.

I'm spying a few fun Christmas items that I might want to add to my decorations this year.  Be sure to check out their website for some great items for your home and family.

Finally, in the interest of full disclosure, I must disclose that I was given this Table Runner from Dayspring at no cost, all they asked in return is that I give a honest review of the product.  All comments and pictures are mine alone.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Stop Sign Incident: Body Shop Version

The stop sign incident is now fully in my rear view mirror (love that car humor), but some of the life lessons I've learned are still fresh. 

Thankfully, after a trip to the body shop, my "new" van looks as good as before and the physical evidence is no longer.  I'll admit I'm so happy to have it perfect again. For a few weeks, it was almost like my hood was laughing at me.  I might have even closed my eyes each time I walked in front of the car. Call it avoidance, but I think of it more as protecting my damaged heart.

The office staff at the Jr. High says that while the "incident" will always be a part of school lore, they hope it doesn't stop me from bringing my famous chocolate chip cookies to spoil them.  I think I might have told the secretary that calling me the 'stop sign lady' might take her off my Christmas Camels list. Not that I'm petty.

I will say that the grace and kindness I've received from my husband has been a real blessing.  Not once did my insurance agent husband raise his voice or call me on the carpet for such a "dumb act" of driving.   Even when I told him the final estimate price, his response was "it's just an accident, no harm" and he was willing to give me his car for the three days I was "carless.'  Of course, he did get to drive around in a Honda Accord Coupe in pristine condition thanks to a kind coworker.  I think he only put about 15 miles on it, but he loved every minute of his return to youth.  He used to drive a Acura Integra before kids and I think there are days he really misses the sport car life.

I was also humbled by how kind and honest the Body Shop workers were,  Not once did they laugh at "how" I ended up in their shop.  They not only gave me assurance that my car would look good again, they said I was fine to drive it for a few weeks until I could fit the repair into my schedule.  Their price was nearly 100 dollars less than the competition and that was before I told them they had come highly recommended from our old body shop friend who had retired.

Driving away with my van last week, I was shocked that the car smelled like a new car again; the seats and floor had been vacuumed and they had left me with a box of Russell Stovers Chocolates as a thank you. While I hope I won't be needing their services anytime in the future (please God), it's nice to see such honest hard workers who go above and beyond.

I'm chalking this whole experience up as a learning lesson in grace, patience, kindness of strangers, and the need for stop signs to be permanently placed in curbs and sidewalks.  They just don't belong in the middle of the road.

I'm just saying.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans' Day: Thank You for Your Service

In honor of Veterans Day, the Girl Scouts at our elementary school led the entire student body in a Flag ceremony and Pledge of Allegiance followed by a moment of silence   It was a moving experience to stand among 600 young children in perfect silence in gratitude to those who have given all for their freedom.

Let's be honest, there might have been a few tears rolling down my face when I thought about the gravity of what some in our country have "given"by  not only in laying down their lives, but for the mothers and fathers and wives/husbands who have sacrificed so much for me.

On days like this, I'm so proud to be an American and so grateful to God for all the blessings He has poured out on our Country.  Thanks be to God.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Little House is still a Big Part of our Family

It's been a few months since we took the girls to the Little town on the Prairie, but we are still talking about our trip and enjoying bits of Laura in our home. 

Miss M had to give a presentation in school on a famous person whom she admires.  At first, she was thinking of Taylor Swift, but after awhile she changed her mind and chose Laura Ingalls Wilder.  "There is so much to admire about Laura.  Her whole life was an adventure."  Miss M said and I agreed.  She focused on how different the Little House television series was from Laura's real life.  She wrote about how the show started out pretty accurate, but as the years went on the plot included made up characters and events.  Miss M pointed out that Mary actually went blind in real life way before she did on the show!

Of course, "we" had to put in a few hours of research watching the Little House series on Hallmark Channel, finishing up the books, and reading lots of websites devoted to Laura's life.  Miss A has now become a great fan of all things "Laura" too, and we often watch a little bit of the show before school.  The other day, Miss A told me that she wishes she'd lived in Laura's day.  However, when I explained what "all" that meant; chores, no TV or computer, sharing a bed with M, and oranges and red mittens for Christmas, she did change her mind.

Miss M did a fabulous job on her project, putting together both a creative and in depth display board and a great power point.  Not surprisingly, she came home with an A and kudos from her teacher for going above and beyond.   Now, she's trying to come up with a way to go to Missouri to see Laura and Almanzo's homestead.  A girl can dream.

I love that a great family vacation has now become such a big part of our family life.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Balcony Girls: Sweet and Sour Words

I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but I'm loving the Balcony Girls materials and walking along this journey with a special group of girls.  Our meeting topic on Monday was gossip.  Whooza.  If that doesn't hit home with a group of preteen girls (and their leader), I don't know what would. 

Junior high can be rough.  The comments and rumors that go around in a typical day can eat away at a young girls self esteem. My goal for this meeting was to help the girls stop the gossip and to help them think of ways that they could end a conversation that was going "sour" easily.

We played the game "telephone" while the girls were working on their fleece blankets for badges and it was hilarious the way the words changed as girls whispered ear to ear.  I think at one time the phrase was "I like kicking soccer balls" and by the end of the line, the new phrase was " Cantaloupe is a yellow fuzzy ball."  Nothing like seeing how words can get mixed up as they spread.

What I really enjoyed was seeing the heart of these girls; they get it. They know that words can hurt and that half of what they "hear" at school is nothing but gossip and false truths.  It's hard to see through gossip when you are eleven years old because it sounds so fun and innocent, but these girls really grasped how much it can be sour.  They grasp how words can pierce and things can quickly snowball out of control  Many have been on the bad end of the gossip and hurtful words.  Each girl had great ideas on how to stop a bad conversation and how what might sound like caring is really gossip.  These balcony girls have deep insight.

I loved it when the girls asked if that's why the snack was Dreamsicle Slushes since they were both sweet and sour; just like gossip.  Words that might sound sweet and really meant to be sour.  Are these girls the best or what.

To keep it real, they did complain a little this week.  They couldn't believe that I expected them to cut out their own fleece blankets. They thought I would do the hard work for them like I have before. I told them I full trust in them that they could lay it out, pin it, cut it and tie the knots.  I believed in them.

I think it was my own daughter who said that I sounded so sweet saying it like they were growing up, but it was a little sour that they then had to do all the work! Love these girls.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cornicopia or Hodgepodge Whatever You Want to Call It...

Just for the record books or in my case the scrapbooks that keep sitting on the craft table starring at me, here are few real life things from the past few weeks that I want to remember. None are all that exciting, but they are the glimpse of our day to day life that I don't want to forget in the years ahead. It is in list form because it's easiest and doesn't require complete sentences!

1.  P and I celebrated our 18th Wedding Anniversary on Sunday November 6th. Amazing. We enjoyed a great date day on Saturday when we went to the NU Game and saw the Huskers lose to Northwestern. Shocking.  I told my parents I don't think I've been to a winning Nebraska game in years. We tend to go every year around our anniversary or when they played Texas.  Maybe the team should ask me to stay home next year!  It was a great day for football and we had so much fun talking without interruption.  Score, I even knitted on the car ride.

2.  Our actual anniversary was spent at church and then at a pancake benefit for one of Mr C's classmates families.  I hate Pancakes and all Breakfast food, but ate some as it was for a good cause. My husband actually tried to say it was like taking me out to eat!

3. Mr C wakes up about 30 minutes before he needs to go to school each morning.  He calls this his "transition to awakeness time" and its crucial for him.  He also wakes up each day and says "I think I might dress up today?"  Hello, he has no choice; its his uniform.  Sadly, he's grown a little more lately and all the dress pants we bought him in October are beginning to look short. 

4.  Miss A was helping me the other day before school to sort the dirty laundry.  She loved it. The piles of colors and whites were so fun for her make.  She did everyone in the family's overflowing laundry basket.  She told me not to ever do this again without her help.  Where is that enthusiasm from the other children.  No one offers to help put it all away when it's clean either.

5. Miss M has her first dance competition this weekend.  Its a local event and includes an all day dance convention. She told me that she's so looking forward to this weekend, but she needs me to purchase some more hair spray.  Can't have that dance bun falling out I guess.  For the Saturday event, she told me it's OK if I bring my knitting along, but I need to remember to watch when she performs.  As if I'd miss it.

6. We boxed up our Operation Christmas Child boxes last week and I've never been so excited to think of the boys and girls getting their packages.   Friday night, the whole family went to the Dollar Tree and filled the boxes to the brim.  Mr C picked out some fun things for a little boy and, of course, the girls picked girls their ages to shop for.  It's very hard to go shopping to buy things for others and not leave with anything for yourself, but it was a great life lesson for the kids. 

7.  Finally, we are a little old fashioned about Christmas decorating (at least I am) and won't allow anything up until after Thanksgiving.  I always feel so bad for this non commercial holiday, it gets lost in the commercialism of Christmas.  So sad.  Anyway, I've obviously been too vocal on it.  On the way home from Church on Sunday, Miss A announces that she plans on going to the house on the edge of the neighborhood and tell them you must take down your "Halloween decorations before you put up your Christmas decorations.  Come on people, it's lets not forget about Thanksgiving!"  We kept a close eye on her Sunday afternoon and did not let her ride her bike too far away!

Whew.  I feel a lot better getting all those "things" off my chest.  Now, I can know these memories are safely kept right here and giving me more brain room for Thanksgiving planning.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Creative Bunch of Trick and Treators

I'm not really a fan of Halloween.  I love Fall and I love the idea of pretending and dressing up.  It's the "other side" of this holiday that I don't really like.  It is not only because as a Christian I find many of the secular side a little evil, but because I think the scary side of the holiday has taken over the fun parts.

As a child, I have great memories of picking out a fun costume to wear, having my mom make me a costume (I had a great clown costume and she had one that matched!), or making a costume out of old clothes and dance outfits.  We had a pumpkin or two on our porch and a few Thanksgiving decorations and that was it.

Do you know that Halloween has become the 2nd most decorated holiday?  Right after Christmas.  Really.

That being said, I still allow my children to participate in some fashion in the Halloween festivities, I just really work to make it as acceptable as I can.  I volunteer to help with the party planning at the elementary school, I supervise the costume ideas, and always have them focus on either things they would like to be when they grow up, funny creatures or animals or just plain adorable outfits.  Rarely, if ever do we purchase a pre-made costume. We make them. 

Now before you think I sew and am all creative, I'm not.  We use "real clothing" that can be re purposed later as clothing we wear, use felt and glue guns, cut up boxes, milk cartons or plastic tubs. Whatever is needed.  We use my mother to sew.  We try hard to make costumes that are neither offensive, scary, evil nor inappropriate. 

If you think its easy to find pre-made commercial that fits the bill, you are wrong which is why we make them.  Who wants a hooters looking outfit on a seven year old?  If you think I'm kidding about outfits you should read this article.  Amazing is only reasonable response to all of this.

This year Mr C handed out the candy at the door, but earlier in the week had an opportunity to dress up for his schools' dance.  He went as the Travelocity Roaming Gnome.  Not only did he look smashing, he scored some great slippers as a result and now has soft and comfy clothes to do homework in at night.

Miss M went out with a group of girls as a Spa Girl in a soft and fuzzy robe, new flannel PJ's and a facial cucumber mask.  She looked the part and except for the fact she took a shower after "all that walking," she could have just gone to bed.

Miss A's outfit could have been one of most favorite ever. It's in the running with the Amelia Earhart, NASA astronaut, and Clown Costume.  We called her the Bathtub Girl, but her uncle thought she was the Bubble Bath Girl.  It was super easy and really only required us to cut up a big bucket, blow up a few balloons and add a shower cap.  Miss A now has some sweatpants to wear for BB practice too!

While my family's way of celebrating might not work for everyone, it is what is best for us today.  In our old fashioned way of participating, our kids have fun.  We have opportunity to talk about why we celebrate the way we do and I get to see my kids enjoy a childhood ritual of dressing up and pretending. I hope that part never goes out of fashion.