Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas

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We had an amazing blessed Christmas. The kids were full of wonder and joy. Here is a play by play.

Christmas Eve day - My parents and sister arrived along with a dusting of snow. The sky was a steely gray and all of a sudden it felt like the dead of winter. Thanks to Jeff's dad we had a roaring fire with some lovely wood that he had brought us a week ago. Jac and Mia were wonderfully entertained by Aunt Daphne and Papa and Gee Gee. They played chase games and generally showed off for an hour or so. We had our traditional Christmas Eve fare for dinner, which are appetizers. I made meatballs and seared tuna and we had a veggie tray and a meat and cheese plate. Followed up by some Christmas cookies and chocolate, everyone was well fed.

Christmas morning - It took awhile to get the kids to bed, of course. I remember it being impossible to fall asleep on Christmas Eve as a kid. Amazingly enough, we all slept in on Christmas until 8:00 am, which is absolutely unheard of. It was lovely and eventually I had to whisper in Jac's ear, "do you think Santa came last night"? That roused him, he was going to go straight downstairs but I told him to wake up Mia.

The two of them carefully walked downstairs, unsure of themselves. They came into the "cars" room (we call our front living room the cars room) and saw all of the presents. They were a bit overwhelmed. They got over that pretty quickly and wanted to dig into gifts. We all got into it and it went pretty quickly. There wasn't a huge amount of coaxing in order to get them to open their presents. They got hung up on a couple that they wanted to check out, I believe Jeff had to read one of the new books to Mia before she would move on. All in all, it was a wonderful morning.

Jeff and I went to noon mass and it was wonderful. We were able to find a seat easily and the contemporary band made the music beautiful. The snow was falling pretty fast while we were out but not enough to accumulate. For Christmas dinner, we had ham and cheesecake for dessert our Carey family tradition.

All in all we had a fantastic time with our family and a wonderful Christmas. We are so blessed to be able to provide what we do for our family and it is overwhelming at times to realize that many are not this blessed.









Over the weekend we were able to spend a couple of days with Jeff's family also. We had some very interesting conversations that I will be thinking about for awhile. We exchanged gifts and ate well. Jac and Mia love playing with their cousins and try and keep up with all the older kids. I do hope that your Christmas was wonderful as well.




Update - We got our electric fence fixed yesterday for a very reasonable amount. Our collar works and I got a quick lesson on how to train for the fence. Jeff talked to the manager at the rescue group and he asked if we would be interested in taking Casey for the weekend, as her foster family is out of town for the weekend and she will be boarding at the rescue. We of course are very interested and so will probably have a furry guest for the weekend! She does have to go back to the rescue next week to finish her heartworm treatment and we will still need to have a home visit. But all in all things are falling into place very quickly. They would like to see Casey with us as she is a good fit for our family. I have a feeling that after the weekend we will all be madly in love with Casey.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Update on the Pet Situation

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I'm back! It was a wonderful holiday and so much fun and love was given and received. It was nice to see most of our family and spend a lot of quality time talking and playing games. We can talk about all of that later. Right now, here is an update on where we stand with the dog situation that I wrote about before Christmas.


Jeff and I tend to procrastinate, or at least it may look like procrastination from an outsider looking in. However, once a decision has been made we both go forward full force. On our way to Christmas at Jeff's family we stopped at a Golden Retriever Rescue and met a few dogs. We were able to see one dog in particular that we were interested in, Casey. Here is a picture of her. Casey is a young female, probably less than two years old, they think she was probably someone's pet but they never claimed her. She came in heart worm positive and is still receiving treatment. Casey is a wiggly girl who has a wonderful thick blond coat and is just happy to see people. She was great with the kids, and it was nice to see they weren't scared of her at all. Although they did learn quickly to stay away from the tail, it can be pretty weapon like when Casey gets excited.

The first think we have to do for the rescue group is address our fence. We have an electric fence that is broken, so the company is coming out to fix it this afternoon (although now it is snowing, not sure how that works). Then the rescue has to do a home visit and make sure we aren't running a puppy mill here. We have been through all of this before, it may seem crazy to non dog people, or even non rescue people. But these dogs have been through so much and the rescue group's objective is to find them a forever home where they will be indoors and part of the family. The group wants to find homes for these dogs, but their goal is to improve the situation of the dog and ensure a good fit. For instance, they would never give us a 90 lb boy who has so much energy and muscle and needs a five mile run every day. With a four year old and a three year old, it just doesn't make sense, and they understand that the likelihood of the dog and the family being happy depends on how well suited we are for each other, versus does the dog look cute online or whether or not we always wanted a boy, etc etc. Our wishes are important but not nearly as important as the needs of the dog. If only all decisions we made in life were so well thought through with an advocate on the other end.

So after today we should have a working fence, cross your fingers. And luckily the previous owner's left all of the collars for the device so we don't even need to purchase those. Then over the weekend we will head to the rescue again to get a home visit scheduled. I hope to meet Tia also while we are there this weekend. Here is her picture. My only concern is that we will fall in love with both and end up with two Goldens. (We do have two electric fence collars!)




Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Get Your Rest

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It is going to be a fun couple of days little girl, so get your rest.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Yummy Stuff - Peanut Brittle and Zucchini Bread

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So many great recipes for the holidays.  Here are two that will become staples in my house.




Peanut Brittle
Mom's Best Peanut Brittle by Allrecipes.com

Ingredients

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 cup peanuts
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon baking soda

Directions

1.Grease a large cookie sheet. Set aside.  Make sure to measure out your peanuts, butter and soda ahead of time so that you can keep stirring while you are dumping these in.


2.In a heavy 2 quart saucepan, over medium heat, bring to a boil sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in peanuts. Set candy thermometer in place, and continue cooking. Stir frequently until temperature reaches 300 degrees F (150 degrees C), or until a small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water separates into hard and brittle threads.


3.Remove from heat; immediately stir in butter or margarine and baking soda; pour at once onto cookie sheet. With 2 forks, lift and pull peanut mixture into rectangle about 14x12 inches (lifting and pulling didn't work so well for me it is really helpful to poor this on something that will cook it quickly, either glass or marble.  Also, pour it thinly so you can do less pulling.); cool. Snap candy into pieces.
 
Yield: 1 pound of super yummy brittle!
 
Zucchini Bread
by The Muffin Lady, Linda Fisher
 
Ingredients
 
2 cups grated zucchini (including the peel)
1 cup oil (I substitute half the oil with 1/2 cup of flax seed with enough water to soak through)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cardomom (I didn't have this and didn't include it in the recipe)
1/3 teaspoon mace
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds (optional)
 
Directions
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the zucchini, oil, eggs, and sugar.  Sift together the dry ingredients and gradually add them to the zucchini mix.  Blend in the nuts.  Bake in a 4 by 8 inch loaf pan for 45 minutes.
 
Yield:  8-12 servings

My kids call this "cornbread" when I use the flax because it is ever slightly grainy on top like cornmeal tends to be.  But this is really moist and lovely.  I would like to eliminate all the oil next time I make it and add in some applesauce. 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Stress and Christmas

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It's like Peanut Butter and Jelly or maybe more like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  I don't understand people who at least don't have a little bit of stress around the holidays, it's un-American.  I know for certain that come December 26th ish (maybe the 29th because this year we are doing a post Christmas gift exchange with Jeff's family), regardless, somewhere after Christmas in January perhaps I will sleep much better than I am sleeping right now.  I believe that even Santa, in all of his cookie eating and list checking is probably not getting to sleep immediately at night either thinking of all the things that must be done the next day. 

Last night I wrapped most, not all, of the presents.  I don't, obviously, wrap my own gifts that Jeff has bought for me.   But I wrap pretty much the rest of the gifts that are to be given by The Carey's.  I was so proud of myself for doing it early, not waiting until Christmas Eve.  I didn't want to wait this year, because I knew I would have other things to do on Christmas Eve.  The staging for the kids had to be done, the cameras charged, breakfast premade in the fridge ready to pop in the oven, Christmas lunch to at least have been prepped, Chrismas Eve Mass to be attended and obviously Christmas Eve festivities. 

There would be no wrapping on Christmas Eve. 

Jeff came into the room, probably to sneak a peak at his gifts, and said - "wow, you are wrapping on the 19th, not the 24th".  He said it with sarcasm and didn't look altogether too complimentary.  Well, my response was reserved, I could have said all manner of things that would have ended with "coal in your stocking!" but instead I said in a very mature tone, "I am trying to minimize my stress".  Which is exactly what I was trying to do!

This is the response I got.  "Stress?  Stress!   Why would Christmas make you stress?  It is my time to de-stress!"  

Well, the first thing I have to say to that is Bah Humbug.  I am trying to do less, shop less, worry less, clean less, cook less, eat less, everything less in order to make sure there is time to worship more, play more, sing more, love more - you get the drift.  But, I admit, there will still be a bit of stress.  I am not on a desert island with palm tress blowing in the wind and yes, my name is Dawn Carey - there will be stress.  Does this man not know me?  Have we not been married for almost 10 years?  So, instead of helping me wrap a few gifts, buy a few presents, plan a few meals, I get harangued for stressing out about what I still have to do in five days time.  Bah Humbug to that. 

I reminded him, my tone had changed a bit, that 90% of his and the rest of the houses Christmas was being accomplished by MOI!  I realize that he works and I do not.  And it has not been pleasant of late and that he really looks forward to taking to some time off and spending quality time with the family.  But still, if he has so much free time on his hands that he isn't even thinking about something to do with Christmas, do I have a list for you! 

Not for sympathy, more for evidence here is a bit of a list for next week.
First of all, we will have guests.  That means a toilet or two must be cleaned (or the whole house, however you want to look at it.)
Guests mean more food, even if it is hotdogs and chips (which it most assuredly will not) you still have to go shopping for said food.)
Christmas Eve, Christmas Breakfast and Christmas Dinner must all be planned  (they are all but planned, just finishing touchs and I need to think about the shopping and prepping).
Cookies, candy, desserts, etc must be baked and delivered to friends.
The rest of the packages must first be received from UPS (at least all are purcashed) and wrapped.
Christmas cards must be addressed (admittedly this could have been done a long time ago and is simple procrastination) and mailed.
Children must be entertained, fed, bathed, rested, clothed, wiped (both ends) and cuddled.
Children must be taught the real meaning of Christmas.
Christmas specials that only come on once a year, must be watched!
I absolutely have to get to the gym a couple of times otherwise this extra five pounds will consider taking up permanent residence.

I am not sure what your list looks like, but this is what I recommend.  First of all, ask your dear, dear spouse who seems to have been born with no stress in his DNA, if he could alleviate one or two of these items.  Second, look at this list sternly and decide what is not a priority and eliminate something if not two somethings.  Third, say a little prayer and have a drink of wine and maybe just maybe this lovely blessed Christmas will be a little less stressful and a lot more Christ like. 

Friday, December 18, 2009

Four Year Old Performance

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Jac's class performed a Nativity musical (I was skeptical, I mean 20 four year olds acting out the nativity?, but they did a great job and it was age appropriate.) I had asked him about the play back at the beginning of December and he got very upset with me because it was supposed to be a surprise. So I had no idea what his part was until the day before and then he got loose lips and spilled the beans. Jac was the wiseman who brought gold, he was very excited about the whole thing. He knew everyone's role and he sang all of the songs. Very cute.

Preschool Performances

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Here are some pics and a clip of Mia's Christmas party. Mia's class sang Christmas songs and were just all around entertaining. The big guy came to the party also. Jac was quickly on his lap and then Mia followed once big brother was safely snuggled up. They both looked suspicious though! The clips is short, only a minute or so.

video

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ten Reasons Why We Need A Dog

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There are many projects on The Carey "to do" list for 2010. But none so important as the "get a dog" item. Our first and last dog as a family was Trooper. Anyone who ever met Trooper loved him, he was amazing. He was protective and goofy; he played and was like a puppy even when he got older. He was naughty and hysterical when caught doing something wrong. He was our first furry friend and Jac still recites his name when talking about "our family"; Daddy, Mommy, Jac, Mia and Trooper. I so miss having Trooper in our family. Trooper died in April of 2008 and it officially is time to continue the dog legacy in the Carey household.

Here are ten reasons why we need a dog.

1. I don't walk barefoot in my house unless I have just swept. A dog would help with the serious crumb situation. I understand there will be hair, but at least hair is soft and doesn't stick to your feet in way that makes me want to put on a pair of socks.

2. Some friends of our recently had a break-in, information that I truly did not need to know. (I have nightmares and cannot watch horror movies, or really even scarey thrillers. So a real life horror story is bad news.) A dog is an excellent alarm system and will set my REM back on track.

3. I need a real reason to go out in this frigid weather. I would prefer to bundle up in 13 layers of clothes and blankets in front of the fire, but a dog would get my booty outside burning those Christmas cookie calories.

4. There is always someone to greet you when you come home. I love the crazy tail waggers and all the ways they like to greet me. Nothing lifts your spirits than pulling into the driveway and seeing a wet nose pressed up against the glass!

5. Dogs help reduce the risk of my children developing allergies. I think Jac is well on his way to having allergies, if he isn't already there. According to this article in USA Today having a dog in the house with young children helps boost their immune system and reduce seasonal allergies.

6. The scientists at NewScientist say that a dog is "superior" to a cat. Not trying to rile all of you cat lovers out there (sorry Teresa), but the fine scientists have proven it is true!

7. There are so many pets who have been given up by their owners simply because they cannot afford them in these tough economic times. I can give a pet a forever home and I should!

8. Mia was only 18 months when Trooper died and doesn't really remember him. I want her to have a pet to remember.

9. I need a dog to snuggle with when Jeff is out of town. The first business trip Jeff took after we got Trooper turned me into a "my dog will never sleep with me" girl to a "come here boy, come here boy - it's okay you can come up" kinda girl.

10. But the biggest reason why we need a dog, is just love. You really can't get enough love for you or your family!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cookie Exchange - Pressure for the Perfect Cookie

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As a transplant stay at home mom, let's just say it hasn't been super easy to make friends in a city where I swear no one leaves. Everyone was born or raised here and they are still best friends with their preschool classmates, just try breaking into those circles. I am not the most social person, I tend toward being a good listener and a confidante. I am not usually the first person you think of when deciding to plan a party. But I have really been working on my friend list. That all being said, when I do get an invitation I get pretty excited about it. (I could really use a book club invite, for all of those locals reading!)

I am going to a cookie exchange this week in the neighborhood. My back door neighbor invited me (second year in a row). Last year, I brought a shortbread cookie with a ganache stripe on top. Yummy, rolled and cut out like Christmas trees they were really cute, but a lot of work. Shortbread really has a tendency to be brittle and I scorched one batch, so to get 4 dozen I had to pray over the cookies that they would make it until the day of the party. Jeff kept eating the pretty ones, I had to inform him in a not so nice tone that he would be making new cookies for me if he wasn't careful. He could have the deformed, burnt and broken cookies but the beautiful golden cookies were for the ladies at the exchange.

Last year's party was during the day and I had Mia with me. She managed to poop while we were there so I had to change a poopy diaper at the party (thank goodness the host is a grandmother of a zillion little ones and was completely wonderful about it). Most of the ladies who came were a bit older than me, which also put me at ease a little. And the cookies that came, although all were very yummy, they weren't slaved over. Most were drop cookies or thumbprint cookies, which of course are super yummy but don't require blood, sweat or prayers. (One lady did bring pizzelles which seem very labor intensive.)

So this year, I am choosing the yummiest "winter" cookie I know that is attractive but EASY. (Did I mention I have a 4 year old and a 3 year old?) Here is the recipe for Sorghum Cookies (sorghum is molasses and it gives them a richer taste, it is almost like a dark, rich sugar cookie). So yummy and they store well. They are the perfect chewy cookie with a hot drink or cold glass of milk. My mother makes this every year along with many others that are delicious. I am also leaving the guilty three year old at home as the party is in the evening this year. So she will be off in Dreamland if I keep my fingers crossed just right by the time I get home.

I will post a picture of them when I am done. Said cookies are still sitting in all of their glorious ingredients in my cabinet and refrigerator - they need to get busy! And for the love of skinny jeans, halve this recipe before you make it. Unless you are going to a cookie exchange you do not need 8 dozen of these cookies!

SORGHUM COOKIES

INGREDIENTS:
SHORTENING 2 CUPS
OIL 1 CUP
SUGAR 4 CUPS
SORGHUM 1 CUP
EGGS 4
SODA 8 tsps
FLOUR 8 CUPS
CLOVES 2 tsps
GINGER 2 tsps
CINNAMON 4 tsps
SALT 2 tsps

Mix ingredients in order, shape into ball (1 lg tsp )similar to a peanut butter cookie. Place on cookie sheet, flatten with a glass bottom dipped in sugar. Bake at 350’ for 8-10 min, until golden brown. Bake longer for crispier cookies.
These store well covered or frozen.

Makes 108 cookies - around 8 dozen.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

God and Dog by Wendy Francisco

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I know I am probably late on the uptake here, but my mother and father-in-law sent this to me and I had to share just in case someone who reads hadn't yet seen this. This is a fantastic song and video by Wendy Francisco. Pull out your tissues if you love dogs! It makes my heart ache a little for Trooper.



video

Wendy Francisco has a website, you should check it out.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I want to rock and roll all night and party every day!

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Well, I actually heard those words, or at least a toddler version of them. Last night everyone was behaving quite nicely for bedtime. We have implemented a new bedtime routine and after about a week we finely seem to be on track. In the past Jeff and I have taken turns on putting kiddos to bed. Every other night for about a year we have had a night of cuddles and then the next night you get to sit back and watch bad TV or surf the Internet to your heart's content.

Well, lately, Jeff's night has turned into, "I want mommy", being sung from the rafters which is quite frustrating for all involved. So last week we talked about it and knew we had to do something to fix this problem. There were fits being thrown and kiddos getting into to trouble every other night, simply because they wanted their mommy right before bed which doesn't seem like too much to ask. Now we are both involved every night for the bedtime routine. I get a break after dinner to sit down and relax for an hour or so and Jeff is responsible for the routine of bath, vitamins, pjs, teeth, toilet, etc. I swoop in at the end and read a couple of books, say a prayer and tuck in. The tuck in is what takes the longest. Normally it involves cuddling with them until they are drowsy and we turn the wind up into a wind down. Well, that is what I did last night but they were terribly wiggly and I was a bit impatient. So after about 10 minutes of getting no where I left and said I would be back in a few minutes to check on them, but there were to be no parties in the bed. I specifically said, if you throw a party up here I will separate you (they sleep in the same bed by the way).

Ten minutes later there were some serious giggles, thumps and an occasional scream. I went up there expecting the worse, and of course was not disappointed. I said, okay let the crying begin, I told you no parties! I picked up Mia and took her to her room, and she said, "I want to party or be in your bed!" Let me repeat that, "I want to party or be in your bed!" I couldn't keep a straight face, I was laughing too hard. I know that I will hear those words when she is 15, "Mom, leave me alone, I want to party!"

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Steven Levitt is My New Hero

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I am trained in marketing; I have my MBA from a reputable university.  I am an intelligent woman who often sees publicity, advertising and any media attention for what it is, shameless marketing.  Even the heart wrenching news stories that captivate us are really just a marketing ploy to get us to "buy" or watch the local news or click on a CNN link online.  We are bombarded with marketing and advertising all of the time, any time we leave the house, read a magazine, watch TV or go online.  We get phone calls, emails, snail mail and people knocking on our door.  You would think that I would have been able to spot it, but I didn't.  I was duped by fear along with a lot of other people.

I just finished reading SuperFreakonomics by Stephen Levitt and Stephen Dubner.  I also loved Freakonomics and highly recommend it; it is shocking and thought provoking.  I read them both at the speed of a romance novel.  They are well written, interesting and funny.  However, I was again shocked when they dropped the bomb on me - car seats are frivolous expensive extraneous gear that we have been programmed by the car seat manufactures to cling to in our safety induced stupor.  After the age of 2, the crash tests reveal that an adult seat belt is as good as a car seat or booster seat.  Although I realize it is illegal to not use these devices, we are actually not benefiting our children AT ALL by using car seats or boosters after children reach the age of two.  Now some people are going to simply not believe this, but I challenge you to read this book.

Not only have the manufacturers duped us and our legislators into believing we need car seats and boosters up until the ripe old age of 8 in the state I live, but they also have duped many of us into buying the top of the line.  We spend money on something that does not contribute anything to the safety of our children, actually giving a false sense of security.  We all know that parents are suckers for safety items, don't even get me started on toilet seat latches and baby knee pads.  But I must say this is a travesty.  I spent a lot of money on my son's first car seats.  His forward facing car seat that he used was at least $50 if not $100 more than a basic model.  What could I have done with that $50?  What could we all do with that $50?  Not only that, but then we all must purchase boosters, at least when I bought my first booster I no longer had the financial luxury available to buy the top of the line. 

This is tantamount to drug companies selling us drugs that we don't need or to the diet industry selling us on the next fad diet or exercise equipment.  When we would be as good or better off without a product that is being pushed on us infuriates me.  There are so many reasons to not spend money on extra stuff, when our hard earned dollars could go toward future education for our children, paying down a mortgage or giving to a charity (or heck, just buying a new pair of shoes, at least you know what you are buying).  This lesson has made me put back on my marketing pants (that I haven't worn for awhile) and be hyper aware of the salesman that is constantly trying to sell me a refrigerator in the arctic. 

There are a ton of other reasons to read these books.  Global warming, global cooling, teachers and Sumo wrestlers who cheat, reasons to not use realtors, drugs, sex and rock and roll.  I promise it is all that and a bag of chips.

Levitt has a blog that is marvelous.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

But will people think she doesn't have a mother?

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My house is the tale of two children. I am sure that many people have experienced this. You start raising one child and think to yourself, wow, this is really hard. Then you are blessed with your second child and everyone tells you how much easier things will be with the second. (For all of those mommies that have just had a second, wink-wink, it is easier, please don't be discouraged by this post!) And don't get me wrong there are aspects that are easier. I actually have more "Dawn" time now that my kids are four and three because they play quite well together and there are really very few instances of blood shed. Also, I do feel that the pregnancy and the infancy time period with Mia (my second) were easier, partly because you just don't have time to wallow in any self pity. You already have a child and it becomes less about you and more about them. The sleep deprivation is less of a shock to the system the second time around, you are at least aware that when people say things like "just make it through the first six weeks" they are either giving you the punch line to a joke or they hired a night nanny after six weeks with their own newborn. It really should be, just make it through the first 18 years and you will be fine.


And Mia is actually easier, she has a sunnier more optimistic disposition. Not that that is better or worse, she just is a little less frustrated and more easy going than Jac. She also sleeps better, very rarely waking up in the middle of the night.  But she is also completely addicted to TV and anything electronic and I know that is a battle just waiting to be waged. My real challenge with Mia is her independence. I am not sure how independent I was as a child, but as an adult before I had children I prided on my ability to do things myself and not need anyone's help. Now as a mother in a new city, finding myself in unfamiliar waters I ask for help at least weekly if not daily. (That is a whole other blog post, asking for help is actually a wonderful gift we can give each other.)

Yes, she is an independent woman, I actually appreciate it. No matter how difficult it is to watch as she massacres a tub of butter in order to slather on a 1/2 inch slab of butter to her bread that is now torn to shreds, I understand that this is innate in her and my trying to help would only hurt her self esteem. Not to mention the fact that I am quite sure there will come a point when I am buttering Jac's bread, dressing him, putting on his shoes, etc and Mia will be doing all of these things herself. Not only does she already have the will, she is developing the skill because she practices doing these things herself all the time.

My biggest hurdle to overcome was so eloquently put by a mom of Mia's classmate. She has one of these fiercely independent little girls herself who is now five.  She said, "but I worry that people will think she doesn't have a mother." And that is really what it comes down to, our pride and worrying about what other people think. She has had more years to practice at it than I have, but she is strong enough in her own parenting that she allows her child to choose what she wants to wear and how she wants to wear her hair. Needless to say, there are times when she looks a bit bedraggled. But their house is more peaceful, less fighting about hair combing and matching clothes and more time to worry about what really matters. It all comes down to me being proud and not wanting people to think that I actually chose for Mia to wear her pajama top all day with a large rat's nest in the back of her head. I don't believe this will get any better as time goes on, but as long as the clothes are modest, should this be an issue in our lives? Eventually, she will want to comb her hair, peer pressure and all of that. And as far as wearing your pajamas all day, I think most of us have been guilty of that at some point in our lives. Soceity is pretty accepting of toddlers being toddlers, let's see if I can be also.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Meaning of Christmas

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One of my goals this year has been to introduce some traditions that really help the kids understand the meaning of Christmas.  Not focus as much on the getting and more on the giving and helping aspects.  I have a ton of ideas and only so much time before the big day actually arrives. 

We have been reading a scripture from an Advent calendar each day, and Jac is always very excited to find out what is behind the little window.  We also have been lighting an Advent candle each Sunday.  Both of these are things that we can continue as the kids get older. 

I like the idea of a Jesse tree, a birthday party for Jesus, a good deed manger and many more.  What are some of the traditions that your family has for Christmas?

By the way, on a totally secular topic.  Our elf Paco is doing great, he has been flying back to the North Pole EVERY evening which is true testament to what a devoted Daddy Jac and Mia have.  (Someone has to remember, and I tell you, it isn't going to be Mommy unless I write a note!)  I have used Paco's name to strike fear into the heart of both my children on several occasions, a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do.  Bedtime has been going smoother, "you need to go to sleep so that Paco can go ahead and go the North Pole", I guess my children are considerate enough that they don't want him flying about too late at night.  At least three meltdowns have been avoided because, "what will Paco have to report to Santa tonight"?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Oh That Elf

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So I had heard of The Elf on the Shelf from some of my neighborhood friends with young children. They were pretty enamored with the little guy. I pretty much knew the gist of the story, you buy an elf he comes to scout out your children for Santa and in return you get some cute memories and maybe a tiny bit better behavior right before the holidays.  I really under estimated the power of the elf.

I had already decided to buy some other things for Christmas in the way of decorations and such so because I had heard of the elf later decided it just wasn't in the budget. I had planned to have some elves visit the house anyway, and did just that when I caught Jac and Mia being especially good one morning. (Check out the blog post that talks about their visit.)

However, my good friend in Dallas sent our family an elf as an early Christmas present. The package arrived at such a serendipitous time, that I instantly knew this elf was going to become part of the family. Jac was melting down, he has recently being going through a growth spurt and eating everything in sight. I had made some zucchini bread and allowed them both to have one piece at around 4:30pm but had said that was it before dinner. It is highly irritating for both Jeff and I when they don't eat anything for supper. So our normal cut off is 4pm but I made an exception on this day because the zucchini bread was chock full of healthy stuff. (I plan to write a post about this recipe because it was so yummy.) Jac started to throw a fit and I decided to go get the mail in order to give him some breathing room to hopefully cool down.  

I got the mail and noticed that we had a package at the side door. I grabbed the box and ran inside. The kiddos were instantly intrigued about the box. I said, let's open it carefully and see if there is a Christmas present in here. I saw that it was from Kerrie and assumed that it would be the first present we could put under the tree. The present was wrapped and it had a big note on the box that said "Open This Now". Hmmm, very interesting. I opened the card and it gave a bit more information saying that we needed to open the package now and that hopefully we would start a new Christmas tradition similar to the one her family had just started. (She seemed maybe a bit dismayed at her choice to start the tradition and maybe a bit concerned about our wanting this tradition also.) I wasn't positive but I was pretty sure the package contained an elf. So in we dug, as dinner was ready and we were just waiting for Daddy to get home I needed a serious distraction.

And distraction is just what I got. In the box was a lovely book about the elf and the elf himself of course. Before we got the elf out, I wanted to read the "instructions" so we sat down and read the book together. The book gave all of the details about the elf and exactly what his job entails. (Read more about him here.) The kids bought it immediately, it makes me a little frightened at exactly what they will believe!

When Jeff got home we sat down to name him, as the book instructed. While we were trying to figure out what his name was, Jeff touched him. You would have thought that he had picked up a bomb. The kids had allowed me touch him to get him out of the box and to put him on the mantle. But after that, the book said not to touch him or the magic might go away, so he was off limits. Mia actually left the room very angry with Daddy, I am sure that she thought the elf would no longer be able to fly to the North Pole that night. (Come to find out that the magic only starts after you name him so, no worries, Daddy will be getting more than coal in his stocking.) After much discussion between the three of us, Jac came up with Paco. We all voted and our elf is Paco the Mexican Elf, oh my.  
He did fly back to the North Pole that first night, and the second night, although I think that I need to put a note on my bathroom mirror to remind me to move him each night because Jeff actually remembered to move him at about 2am last night, thank goodness. It could have been a disaster if he had forgotten entirely. I think that is why Kerrie is a bit dismayed at her family's new tradition, because we can't forget about Paco. The devastation would be monstrous if they thought that he hadn't gone to talk to Santa one night.  Both Mia and Jac were ecstatic, and really I promise they were crazy with joy, when they realized that he had indeed gone to the North Pole, given his report and flown back to our house only to sit in a different spot and wait for them to find him.  Wow - if someone had dumped a truck load of puppies off at our house I am not sure we would have gotten a better response.  I already thanked my friend for the elf, but I want to thank her again for giving us so much joy and happiness with this crazy little elf.

It does creep me out a bit that Paco is moving around the house. The last two mornings I have wondered where I will find him, sort of like a stealthy pet that likes to hide (my roommate in college had an iguana that liked to hide in our closets on top of the hangars!). Regardless, Paco is here to stay, at least until Christmas comes. I will give you more updates as we get to know Paco better over the next few weeks.

Do you have The Elf on The Shelf? If you have Santa believers in the house, I highly recommend him.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Book Review: The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

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I highly recommend this book for anyone in a relationship - any relationship. I feel that Gary Chapman's theory could be applied to any relationship you are struggling with or that you would like to move to a deeper level.

The writing is just so-so, but Chapman is very genuine and he tells lovely stories about some of the couples he has helped. It is an easy and quick read and you can skim through parts of it to make it faster. The important parts are where he describes each love language and where he gives examples of how couples have missed communicating to each other in those languages.

The book describes how each of us has a preferred love language. A love language is a way of giving and receiving love that makes us feel loved by another individual. Chapman breaks down love languages into five categories: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts and Physical Touch. It is interesting to note that many times we give love either in the way we want to be loved or in how we were loved most as children, but unless we are lucky and have a happy coincidence we aren't loving our mate in the way THEY need to be loved. I love that Chapman uses a gas tank as an analogy for how loved we feel. The love tank is a nice visual, when spouses speak to each other in their love languages, their love tanks fill up!

There is a quiz at the end of the book to help you understand what your love language is; this is what we did on the drive to my parent's for Thanksgiving. It was kind of fun doing it together. The interesting part of course are the results and interpreting those results.

Not surprising my love language is "Words of Affirmation". I pretty much guessed this after reading the book and before taking the quiz. I am like a peacock who preens after someone gives me a compliment or tries to build me up. And equally so on the negative side, say a harsh word to me and I am a complete mess. The second most important love language for me is "Quality Time". I definitely want Jeff's time, especially after becoming a stay at home mom. With young ones a person can feel like they have done 10 hours of solitary confinement when Daddy finally walks through the door, and if he then browses the mail during dinner and watches 6 hours of football before stumbling to bed - well you can guess that my love tank isn't very full. The most interesting part of my evaluation was that my lowest scoring love language was "Acts of Service".

Coincidentally, when Jeff wants to show me some love, he does something for me. And when he goes above and beyond with an "Act of Service", I had better be pretty darned appreciative and my love tank better be full or he is going to get a bit peeved with me. But the problem is my love tank doesn't get filled up by "Acts of Service". Little does he know (although he should know after we took the quizzes together) that all he has to do is say, "Wow, you look really great today" or "That meatloaf was excellent I really enjoyed it" or "The house smells good, did you clean today" or "I read your blog today and it was really good" (need I go on?)

It gets even more interesting. Upon taking Jeff's evaluation, we discovered that Jeff's primary love language is also "Words of Affirmation"! Which really kind of surprised me, I would have guessed that "Words of Affirmation" was high up, but I would have thought that "Acts of Service" would have been at the top.

I think that why Jeff gives love through "Acts of Service" is because that is how his parents give love. They are amazingly generous with their time, energy and resources to everyone; but most of all their children. He saw this as a model growing up, and it is such a great one I might add, that he now uses it as an adult. What a funny sense of humor God has that he would pick a mate for Jeff like me who not only doesn't really get much out of people doing things for me (I must say that I am so appreciative of my mother and father in-law, I hope they don't take this the wrong way) but also has a love language that actually plays to Jeff's weakness. He has told me in the past that he isn't very good at compliments and that although he likes them, when he gives them he feels that everyone will think he is being disingenuous!

Anyway, back to Jeff's evaluation. His quiz revealed that "Receiving Gifts" and "Physical Touch" tied for second place and that "Quality Time" was on the bottom. I am not the biggest gift giver in the world, it is not that I don't care it is that I don't even think about buying the gift when I am out of town or shopping or running errands. I have to try to do better at this one. And anyone who knows me knows that "Physical Touch" has a time and a place, I am not a hugger, I am not a toucher. When I am busy or in a hurry or just feeling uncomfortable in a situation, I do not want to be touched. Jeff likes hugs and kisses and hand holding, which of course I like - but at the right time when I am comfortable and at ease. We do give kisses before he leaves and I try not to get offended when he does the boob brush - but come on! When I am in a whirlwind in the morning trying to get out the door with two little ones I need him to step off!

I do feel that we should communicate love through all of these languages but be extra sensitive to our mate's primary love language and go out of our way to incorporate it into how we love our mate. I am going to work on "Words of Affirmation" and "Receiving Gifts" and thoughtful "Physical Touch" for Jeff.

I am very interested in reading the The Five Love Languages of Children as I really need some insight into Jac's love language. He is definitely my child whose love tank runs dry.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Funny Jac Questions

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Who is that naughty angel again?
We had a conversation the other day about Satan. I believe he had heard the name somewhere and was asking who he was. Well, I told Jac and Mia that Satan was an angel that did bad things and got kicked out of Heaven. I like to keep the answers short, simple and to the point. But now we have baked down millenia of wrongdoing, heartache and hatred to an angel being naughty. If only we all are judged so harshly.

How big is space, is it forever?
My initial answer was, yes. Then I questioned that. "Wait Jac, when we get home I will Google it and figure out if that is correct." (Sure enough, there is now some controversy. Some scientists are saying space is finite. My question then would be, what is on the other side?) Now both Jac and Mia will use "as big as space is" when something is really bothering them or they are very hungry. "My belly hurts, Mommy, I am hungry. As big as space is!" Wow - that is a big hunger.

While putting together a puzzle with Jeff, Jac asked "why is Turkey called Turkey"?
With all the talk of turkeys, I am sure that he envisions a whole country filled with nothing but turkeys. Jeff said, "I'll Google it". Jac then followed up with, "Don't Google it, Gobble it"! Touche! (For all of you now curious about Turkey, the word can be divided into two words meaning "strong" "owner".)

Why do people get married?
Jeff and I had a different take on this, interesting. I said, "because people want to have a family and want to be together forever." Jeff said, "because they love each other and want to be together all their lives." Jeff thought that was hugely different, I thought they were both spot on!

This was actually a question from Mia after Jac asked the marriage question:

Where was I before I was a baby?
Yowser! Who knew that a three year old could come up with that!? My answer was simply, you were in Heaven with Jesus. She was totally satisfied with that.