Wednesday, December 22, 2010

O, Come Let Us Adore Him

Have a blessed Christmas, friends!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Celebrating Nathan

Having a December birthday is kind of tricky, isn't it? It's important to me that Nathan's birthday celebration is distinctive from what we are doing to celebrate Jesus' birthday, but this month has been pretty spread out with a variety of activities!

As I was planning for Eric's parents' recent visit, I realized it would be fun to schedule Nathan's party during that time so they could be involved. We had his little party at the local fire station. There were three firefighters there, and they did a great job with the kids. We started out by hearing a fire safety message and watching one of the fireman dress in all of his gear. Then the kids split into two groups and toured two different fire trucks. It was really neat because the kids could explore and sit in them. Then it was time for Nathan's fire truck cake. Last week, Nathan celebrated his birthday at preschool by bringing ice cream cone cupcakes and fire safety coloring books for each of the kids. And Sunday, I took him to his first movie in the theatre--a free showing of this take on the classic children's book.Finally, on Nathan's actual birthday =), we served breakfast in bed, as is our family tradition. He chose donuts and his latest obsession, a clementine! (He asked for chicken nuggets for lunch, and pancakes for supper--plenty of carbs all around!)We also plan to have a little cake and celebration in CO with my side of the family. Quite a happy birthday for that kiddo! Thanks to all who left sweet comments yesterday, too.

Monday, December 20, 2010

FOUR!

Happy Birthday, dear Nathan! We love you so much, and it's exciting to see the many ways you've grown this year.
I plan to post tomorrow or Wednesday with details of the many ways we've celebrated this special boy.
Can you believe I found the same shirt/vest combo (as his one-year pic above) in a consignment store this fall?! I was pretty excited!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Joy Swap Show and Tell

I think swapping is a lot of fun in general, but I have to say that the Christmas swaps are extra special! Long-time blog friend Kim was my partner this time around, and she put together an amazing gift for me.

Inside the beautiful green box pictured below, Kim included festive stationery, decadent chocolates in a pretty jar, hot chocolate from one of my favorite stores, a fabulous music compilation that I've listened to repeatedly, a cinnamon candle, several ornaments (a fluffy snowman, two cute "joy" ones, and two little snowmen with my kids' names--how sweet of her!), some "Joy" tea (I love Tazo and had no idea they had a blend with that name!), a hand towel, mini cookie cutters, shower gel, and the most lovely shea butter that I've been applying multiple times a day to my dry winter skin. Thanks so much, Kim--you were a thoughtful and generous partner!
I sent Kim a picture frame, peppermint lotion, notepad, candle, "joy" star ornament, homemade soap, snowflake socks, vintage blocks that spell J-O-Y, stickers and note paper, mitten ornament, tissues, cocoa mix, and peppermints.
Now it's your turn to show your goodies. Please link up below--thanks for joining us!

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Linkadoos

We only had to bribe them with one Tootsie Roll to get those cute smiles! =)

Here is a menagerie of links I've been collecting to share with you all:

*I'm a fan of Sara Groves' music, and I was excited when I learned that you can download a free recording of some of her songs. She did a holiday concert in an Illinois prison, and continuing with a generous spirit, made the live album available at no cost!

*Eric's not big on cornbread, so I was a little skeptical when trying Amy's renowned pumpkin cornbread muffins. They did not disappoint--we both loved them--and I will definitely make them again this season! I also tried Amy's pumpkin spice latte (same link) with some friends--yum!

*Here's an interesting perspective on 10 things to NOT spend money on this year.

*I haven't bought a can of chicken broth in years because I've either used bouillion or made my own stock by saving the water after cooking chicken. There's a great tutorial here on making your own stock--easy, more flavorful, and free!

*If you want to be inspired or more educated about coupons and grocery deals, I learned via MSM that there are free on-line videos on the subject. I already implement many of these strategies, but this would be a helpful resource for others who are just starting out.

*I've been reading Small Notebook for awhile now, and it is full of gems. The blog's author just wrote her first book, and I enjoyed reading the first chapter here. If you're interested in learning about how to simplify blogging, this would be a great book to check out!
*I recently watched this movie with Nathan, and thought it was well-done and a worthwhile story. The DVD features this song, which I love because it encourages a giving spirit through one of my favorite ministries, Operation Christmas Child. We also watched this newer Christmas release of theirs--another great story!

*This past Saturday, we had a really full day planned, but all of that was brought to a halt with a crazy blizzard. We got at least 8 inches of snow, but some of the drifts are over a foot high! We were bummed to miss out on some of what we'd been expecting, but it really was nice to spend a cozy day at home. I'd been debating about whether or not to make cut-out cookies this year, and the extra time gave us a wonderful chance to do just that. I made a new sugar cookie recipe, courtesy of my Noel swap partner, Lindsey. They were delish, especially topped with my mom's frosting recipe and lots of sprinkles thanks to Nathan's decorating! Here's the recipe if you want to try them:

Grandma C's Caramel Cookies

1 c. brown sugar
1 c. butter
1 tsp. cinnamon and a pinch of salt (I omitted both)
1 tsp vanilla
4 c. flour
1 c. white sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. soda
2 tsp. baking powder

I'm a "dump all ingredients and mix" kind of person, so that's my first instruction. Then of course you roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut into desired shapes. I like chewy cookies, so mine were probably at least 1/4 inch thick, and I baked them for 10 minutes at 350. Enjoy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

An early Christmas

Whew--I didn't mean to be away for almost two weeks, but things have been unusually busy around here!


Eric's parents and sister, along with our niece, Addison, recently visited. We sure packed a lot in during our time together! Here are some pix of the long weekend:


Because we'll be with my side of the family later this month, we celebrated Christmas early with Eric's parents. I love this picture of Natalie after she opened her favorite gift: a baby doll! (Nathan's favorites, not surprising if you know him, were all vehicle-related.) Posing with Grandma and Grandpa before church.

We had a really fun outing on Saturday because a local mini-mall gives free train rides to kids during the holiday season. I think our crew went for 3 or 4 rides!

These two are quite a pair--just 3 weeks apart. =)

Thanks so much for coming, Grandma, Grandpa, Kendra and Addison!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Mommy Manual

Sometime last year, Monica passed on a book called The Mommy Manual. It sat in my reading pile for quite awhile before I finally picked it up, but once I did, I plowed through it. Author Barbara Curtis is the mom of twelve children, and reading this book feels like getting letters from a motherhood mentor.


In the last paragraph of the book's introduction, Barbara writes, "Being a mommy and helping your child realize their potential is the best way for you to realize your own." Wow!


Barbara's background is in the Montessori method of teaching so that plays in to her mothering style quite a bit. She talks a lot about observing your children, which she says makes our hearts more tender to them. Among other things, she suggests observing how each child sits, what frustrates or distracts them, and what satisfies them.


Barbara also encourages moms to see the world through our children's eyes: "To understand kids, we first need to step into their very small shoes, cope with the king-sized obstacles they encounter, and process it all with their unsophisticated thinking." And if we think we don't have the patience for that, she reminds us that "any mommy can become more patient with willingness and prayer."


Barbara challenges us to encourage our child's independence by looking for ways to make things possible for him, because she says it's "an important investment in the future." "The ability to discern between rebellion and the drive for independence is key, because mommies need to be doing two things at once: setting boundaries to curb negative behavior and keep the children safe, and encouraging their drive for independence in a positive direction."


The book includes a section on the keys to gracious character, the first of which is gratitude. "If my children are grateful," Barbara writes, "it will be easier for them to be respectful, honest, compassionate, and generous." (Those four qualities are the basis of the additional keys to gracoius character.) In addition, there is a fun section on Barbara's personal recommendations for read-aloud books, family films, and holiday traditions!


In closing the book, Barbara writes, "Motherhood is something that writes itself daily in our hearts, as we are transformed--growing in grace to become the mommies God wants us to be."


Other notes and quotes:


"They {kids} bring out the best and the worst in you even as you're sifting through the best and worst in them."


"As you find more joy and satisfaction in parenting, your child finds more joy nad satisfaction, too, thus bringing you still more joy and satisfaction."

"We all start out as helpless, demanding, and self-centered little creatures. Growing up is all about learning to think beyond our own needs and desires and learning to meet those of others . . . The gift of cheerful, selfless service is a spiritual distinctive that sets us apart and truly enables our light to shine."

"Seven strategies that build a strong work ethic: start early, accept what you get, know your children, teach delayed gratification, equip them to learn, encourage volunteering, and be a role model."

"A mommy with healthy self-esteem, quiet confidence, and a sense that she deserves respect will receive it from her children."

Have any of you read this book? What did you think?
We have family arriving tomorrow for the long weekend, so I look forward to checking back in next week with pictures of our time together!