Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas Joys: Decorating Grandma's House

Often the Saturday after Black Friday becomes "Decorate Grandma's House Day."  Daddy helps hang lights on the outside of the house.  The kids help assemble and decorate Grandma's tree.  The village gets set up, and re-setup, and re-setup throughout the Christmas Season as the kids move pieces around.

The kids seem to enjoy decorating everything at Grandma's as much as Grandma enjoys having stuff decorated.  Grandpa exercises his patience as much as possible in letting the kids decorate in the way that only children can.  Eventually, over the course of the next few weeks, the kids will get the fireplace mantle, the coffee table and every conceivable horizontal (and some vertical) surfaces of Grandma's house decorated for Christmas.  I think it is more fun for them even than decorating our own house.

One of the greatest joys of the Christmas season is the way it seems to have of bringing generations together, of uniting the child in all of us.  It somehow even manages to make cranky mommies sit back, smile and say "Now that looks like fun."

To top off our Christmas decorating fun, the kids made pine cone "Christmas Trees" to add to the village.  The photo above shows a house with two of the "trees".  Below is a picture of all 5 "trees".

Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Christmas Joys: Black Friday

It is easy this time of year to get bogged down in the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  I often find myself more stressed than joyful as we finish Thanksgiving and begin the Christmas season.  My husband often gets so overwrought at the materialization of Christmas that he gets rather blue.  For this reason, years ago I determined that I would spend from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Day making as many memories and joyful moments as possible.  I desire to make the gift giving as little a part of the holiday as possible, not because it is evil, but because it so easy for it to overtake the true joy of Christmas.

The first Christmas Tradition in our family is Black Friday.  Yes, we do go shopping while it's still dark!  Many years ago, my husband, mother-in-law and brother-in-law and I and whichever children we had at that time, first began joining the insanity.  For many years we got up at 3:30 or 4:00 to be at the stores at 5:00.  More children joined the family, but we kept going, seeming a little crazier each year.

Then came the year when we just had no reason to go, no great deals, no desire to venture out.  That year, when I had nearly decided listening to the crying and whining (mostly the kids') was not worth it, I overheard my kids talking about how excited they were!

"We get up at like 3 in the morning, go get Krispy Kreme donuts, and go shopping!"  I knew that we had to go, even if we didn't want to .

Since then, the last 3 years, we have done Black Friday only for the kids.  Truly.  They begin talking about how much fun it is weeks before Thanksgiving.  I don't have the heart to not go.

So we kick off each of your Christmas Seasons with the official Black Friday.  Now, however, we leave in the dark (7:00).  Krispy Kreme is closed, so we have to get donuts elsewhere.  We shop until shortly after lunch, come home and nap.  It's really about the fun, not about the shopping.  The kids whine much less, and we all seem to enjoy the day gearing up for the celebration of the birth of our Savior. 

Merry Christmas!

Please share some of your Christmas Traditions.  Check out other interesting posts at Raising Arrows where I have linked this post. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Saddest Thing I Ever Heard

Write On Wednesdays Exercise 25 - I heard a song on the radio during the week and I thought the lyrics would make an interesting prompt for WoW. So, write the words "The saddest thing I ever heard" on your page, set your timer for 5 minutes and write the first words that come into your head based on the given prompt.

It was the saddest thing I ever heard.  The two chipmunks were chattering away.  "Did you see the size of that van?" 

"Yes!  It came out of nowhere!"

"It carreened around the corner, kids flaily out the windows, screaming in the summer air!" The first chipmunk responded.

"Before he knew what was happening.... It was all over so fast!" The second chipmunk wailed into his little hankie. 

"I told him.  I told Jerry not to pick nuts on the other side of the street.  I've seen that crazy lady, all those kids, that big van flying down the road before.  Are you kidding me?  I'll never cross this road.  No way sir!"

"But, but, but... But Jerry was just too young to die!" The second one wailed some more. 

"Poor Jerry, he never stood a chance, not against that van driving momma." Replied the first chipmunk.  "That just goes to show you, the nuts aren't always crunchier on the other side of the road."


This was inspired by certain events that transpired today.  Whether I was the one overhearing the chatter of the chipmunks or the momma driving the van I will leave for you to ponder.  I decided on a humorous take, as I was in no mood for anything sad today.  Thanks for reading!

Please take some time to check out other Write On Wednesday stories. 

It's That Time!

Christmas is coming.  And with it comes the joy and dread of Christmas gift buying.  My greatest joy on Christmas morning is watching the faces of my children as they open their presents.  They are excited over the simplest things.  They simply and truly love dearly every single item they open.  For about a day. 

Every year I stress, plan, shop, think, worry, plan, think, worry, shop in an effort to buy great presents for my 5 (now 6) children.  And every year I see the joy with which they open their presents and it is all worth it.  Until planning time arrives the following fall.

That is when I begin wondering what I'm going to buy them this Christmas.  And I remember the things they loved last Christmas.  The things I haven't seen them play with in 6 months.  They things they've lost and don't remember or broken and forgotten.  The things they so loved, yet now are never touched. 

And that is when I begin to get distraught.  I am not a great gift buyer by nature anyway.  So trying to buy Christmas gifts for these children really stresses me.  Largely because I see the way we have too much stuff already.  And I see that they don't play with nearly anything from last year.  And I see that there is so little value in what they actually get.

So this year I am trying to think about shopping for things I might not usually.  I am thinking of buying more Christian books and games, more role playing games (dress up, etc.) and more board games.  We own, or have owned, nearly ever toy ever.  Most of them lie broken or disheveled and dispersed throughout the insane toy room.  I hate to add to that, yet I delight in that look of joy.  I don't want to raise materialistic children, yet the joy of gifts is an amazing sight to see, and it delights me to give that joy to my children.

Later in the week, I shall blog about the Christmas Traditions in my family that add to the joy of the holiday.  Gift giving is great, receiving is fun, but there are so many other ways that we try to make the Christmas Season enjoyable so that the gifts are but a small part of the bigger scheme of Christmas.

Merry Christmas!  And remember, in the end it's really only about The Gift, the birth of our Lord and Savior, don't let the stresses of the season steal His Joy from you!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Family Closet

I was so excited when we moved into this house.  We had 5 kids and were leaving a 2 bedroom house for what is essentially a 5 bedroom house (though not "legally").  I was thrilled!  At long last I would have a library!  As book nut, teacher and homeschooling mom, a library really excited me.  My husband wanted a family closet.  I insisted on having a library.  He decided against arguing with me.  He let me have my way.  After a year or two, I saw the light, rearranged the entire house, moved the baby into her sister's room, turned the small nursery into a small library/guest room and turned the library into a family closet.  I hate it when he's right.

So, as my Large Family Organization post, I want to share with you the ever evolving plan for my family closet.  Currently we have 4 dressers that 5 kids share, a table for folding (which becomes a horizontal surface to stack stuff) and we had a portable "wardrobe" that I bought on clearance.  It broke.  My fault entirely, but it broke.  To help me, my husband installed 2 closet rods and the kids were instructed to hang up whatever they wanted.

My children decided to hang everything (yes, everything, my 11 year old found a way to hang his underwear and socks).  So now they each have a section of closet to hang their clothes in. I can't believe how fast they put away their laundry now!  I've been folding it lately and putting it in their stacks.  I realize that we need not fold and I need to return to my previous laundry plan, with individual baskets.  Why fold when it is going straight to a hanger?

Since this seems to be working so well, I am evolving the plan.  I think I shall keep 2 dressers (12 drawers) assign them each 2 drawers for socks, undies and jammies.  Then I think we will hang at least 3 more rods so that there is more room for hanging clothes.  A hamper for dirty laundry, a set of drawers for sheets, a tub for blankets and baskets in the bottom the closet for shoes and I think it will make a much more usable space.   I think I will even move the adult clothes in there, once I get it organized.

I welcome comments and suggestions that will help me plan or better utilize this area.  Also, cheap ideas for storage are always welcomed.  Don't forget to check our Raising Arrows today for more ideas!

Monday, November 7, 2011

We are learning to make fire

The Write On Wednesday Rules: Get creative with the writing exercises - there isn't a right or wrong. Please do try to visit the other members of Write On Wednesdays and leave a comment of support and constructive criticism. 

Write On Wednesdays Exercise 23 - Write the words of Margaret Atwood at the top of your page "We are learning to make fire". Set your timer to 5 minutes. Write the first words that come into your head after the prompt. Stop when the buzzer rings.

The boys looked up.  They couldn't believe what they had just heard.  Did they really hear the words come out if the old man's mouth.  Yes, he had said "We are learning to make fire."  What did he mean?  The boys were excited.  They didn't know what to do, what was going to happen.  They knew only that their mother was going to kill them and that the old man was promising them something exciting.  

Looking around the dark cave, watching for any glimpse of their mother, the oldest boy repeated the man.  "We are learning to make fire?" 

"Oh, yes.  It has been outlawed way too long.  Few remember the way, not many know how it is done.  I, I am one of the few.  I am old.  When I am gone, so too shall be the knowledge of man's fire."

"Mother says fire is a fairy tale.  She says man has never used fire.  She says it is dangerous."  The younger brother responded to the old man.  He was very nervous, and very excited.

"It was outlawed right before I was born.  My father taught me, despite the law forbidding it.  I have no sons.  Now, I shall teach you."

Please visit WoW to read other great stories.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Reason # 731 That I Love My Life

I could go on for hours about why my life is awesome.  Honestly.  Sure, it's not perfect.  I have many problems, but really when compared to the blessings, they don't amount to much.  But tonight I want to share with you one specific awesomeness about my life:  My friends.

I love my friends.  But mostly I love that my friends have kids that my kids love as much as I love their parents. When I was growing up, my parents had friends, I had friends, but my friends' parents didn't even know mine and if they did, they weren't really "friends".  Even in the small community in which I lived, it seemed our lives were separate in that area.

I don't know if this is "normal" or if it's a "church" thing or a "homeschool" thing.  I honestly hope many, many others are blessed in the way that I am.  My kids love to play with the kids of my friends.  Any group of my friends can get together and our kids will have a good time.

For example, tonight my friend Amanda (from Cooking Three Handed) had a  birthday party for her 5 year old.  She also has, currently residing in her house, a two year old, an infant and a slew of dogs.  Despite the fact that the oldest is 5 and I have 3 older than him, my kids LOVE going to play at their house.  They LOVE having the kids over to our house.  Another friend came with her kids, much the same ages as mine.  Her older children also enjoy playing with the younger ones.  They all play elaborate games, usually including all age levels, happily!

Now, don't think this means we don't have fighting and whining.  We do.  We have to stop bickering, enforce toy sharing, and generally discipline children throughout the course of the night.  But what strikes me as really cool is that when asked who they want to have at an event, birthday party or whatever, it is ALWAYS someone whose parents are my friends.  And they always want the whole family.  They usually don't ask for one of the 5 or 6 kids from a given family, they ask for them by family. 

I would love to hear from others outside of my little world.  Is this a common experience that other families share?  It is amazing to me, but I love it.  I know the day will come when this isn't always the case, but I love that when it comes time for a birthday party and I get to see my friends, too!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Things I Know - The Second Law of Thermodynamics

It's Friday!  Friday is Things I Know day!  This week I shall be telling you what I know about the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

I know that physics isn't my strongest subject.

I know that some really smart people discovered that over time if energy is not added to a system the quality of matter and energy will deteriorate over time.  Entropy is a gauge of chaos in a system.  As unusable energy is lost, there will be an increase in chaos and randomness.

I know that this Second Law over takes my home, daily.

I know that if energy is not added to wash the dishes, the pile will grow and the difficulty in the washing will increase.

I know that if energy is not added to tidy up the living room, the entire room will be engulfed in chaos in very short order.

I know that if the pile of dirty laundry is not washed, it will get bigger, more chaos inducing and stinkier.

I know that if the pile of clean laundry isn't put away it will spread to all the living areas of the home and begin to mingle with all the dirty laundry creating more chaos trying to determine which is the clean and which is the dirty.

I know that I really wish the Second Law of Thermodynamics would stay out of my home.

I'm linking this up to Things I Know.  Read more about what others know here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Why Paper Plates are Good for the Environment

Today's post:  Paper plates!  Hooray for paper plates!!!  I am nearly in love with paper plates.  And I very nearly didn't know how great they were.  Until I ran out. 

I have 6 children, one is an infant so his dishes are a different matter.  But three days a week I keep two extra boys, because 6 just isn't enough most days.  That said, I daily have lunch dishes for 7 kids.  I try to use paper plates.  This week I ran out of paper plates.  So I persevered and used real plates.  I am not a good house keeper, I am not good at keeping up with basic things, dishes, laundry, etc.  So of course, even with my new larger dishwasher, I am swimming in plates.  On top of lunch plates for 7, (plus me) I have dinner plates for 7 and this morning my children had waffles.  Yay!  They sucessfully ran me out of clean plates.  I put the maximum amount of plates possible in the dishwasher and still have dirty plates. (It doesn't help that last night was Halloween and we were out late and busy preparing so I didn't have time to finish yesterday's dishes.)

So, why do I say that paper plates are good for the environment?  Well, they make a huge difference in the number of dishes I have to wash.  That makes my home environment a lot better.  That makes mommy happy.  Happy mommy makes happy daddy.  Happy daddy doesn't have to stop and buy cranky mommy a fountain coke.  Fountain coke means more money, more styrofoam, more energy to dispense said drink and more gas for daddy's car.  Ok, so that is all a stretch, but it does make for a much nicer home environment and frankly, that is enough for me right now.

This is not so much a Large Family Organization tip as a large family survival tip.  Use paper plates.  (We use them lunch only, actually, and that alone makes a huge difference.)  Check out more tips here.

Holiday World 2011!

Holiday World 2011!

Baby # 6

Baby # 6
Welcome to the world and welcome to our crazy family!

Fort Benning

Fort Benning
We finally made it to Georgia!!!

Just a day at the park!

Just a day at the park!

My Hero!

My Hero!
I don't do dead things. Fortunately for me, God gave me boys!

Much awaited 2009 PJs from Daddy!

Much awaited 2009 PJs from Daddy!
Daddy and Grandma make Jammies every year for the kids, They love it!

Christmas in PJs

Christmas in PJs
Don't I just have the cutest kids?

2010 Jammies

2010 Jammies
Once again Daddy pulled it off. They look cute!

Round 2 birthday parties

Round 2 birthday parties
Cake number 1 of 3 done. I am so not an artist, but I think it came out pretty well!

My Girls

My Girls
Borrowed dance clothes, my girls sure look cute.

Couped up

Couped up
More images below showing the children feeling a bit "couped up" from the long winter!

Chickens: Take 2

Chickens: Take 2
Cute chicks!

The robot cake. I am glad my kids' standards aren't as high as mine!

Tree Climbers

Tree Climbers

Summer Fun!

Summer Fun!
Hi Daddy! Hope you are having fun at work!

This one is so bad, I had to label the cake so you would know it's not a cow!

Dressed for Church!

Dressed for Church!
Come as your favorite Bible character night!

Too cute for words!

If the boy wasn't so tall, I could get a picture of his face!

Establishing the pecking order!