Joy under the tree

Marvin had been unusually tired the week leading up to Christmas. Thinking it was just busier than normal at work or something, I dismissed it until one night I woke up and he was missing from our bed. I went looking and found him outside, working on something in the garage!
I asked him about it the next morning and he only smiled and said, "You'll see".

We didn't celebrate Christmas when I was a child. My parents belonged to an unusual religious sect and celebrating any holidays, Christian or otherwise was strictly forbidden. Even though we started celebrating Christmas when I was in high school, it was never truly "magical" until I had kids. On Christmas mornings now, Adult Shelly suddenly disappears and Marvin has one extra kid on his hands!
He always goes the extra mile to make sure there are surprises galore for me, saying he wants to make up for my missing out as a child.

Thursday morning, there was the mysterious garage project, about the size of a large ottoman, with wheels peeking out, parked beside the tree wearing snowman wrapping paper. As the boys sorted through their presents (very few this year, in keeping with the economic crisis), they and I realized that the large, wheeled "thingy" was marked for them, not me! They asked to open it right away and I chimed in because I was dying to see what it was that kept Marvin in the garage in the middle of the night for a week!

As they ripped off the paper, I saw what it was. In complete disbelief at the craftsmanship and creativity, I whispered to Marvin, "Did you build that?" and burst into tears. He had built the boys the most beautiful Lego table I've ever seen. More like a chest, it had a top covered with the Lego platforms, finished trim work, a deep storage drawer on gliders, and casters for portability. He had purchased bulk Lego lots on eBay and filled up the drawer, complete with a stocked tackle box for little extras (hats, swords, wheels, etc.)

Later, out of earshot of the boys, I asked him why he hadn't let me in on the surprise. "My favorite part of Christmas", he told me, "is seeing the light in your eyes. I wanted you to be surprised, too!"

I'm tearing up again, writing this. This man I've been blessed with is so selfless, humble, and loves me more than I'll ever imagine. Except for the grace of God, I'm truly undeserving of all this richness in my life.

We like to say, "Oh, Christmas isn't about the gifts, it's about family." Well, here's a bit of blunt honesty: it IS about the gifts. It's about taking time out of our hectic lives to acknowledge the most incredible gift we've all been given, a Savior to bear the weight of our sins. It's about spending our time thinking of others, what we can choose give them that will bless them in a unique way. It's about giving our children the opportunity to participate in the biggest, most important birthday party ever, and about teaching them how to give to others. Giving our Lord praise for His gift and giving our love to our loved ones.



Wordless Wednesday


Joyful Souls

Ever wonder exactly why it is that Christmas time seems to evoke smiles from even the grumpiest clerk at the DMV? Why is it that people are more likely to leave a generous tip and say, "Oh, but it's Christmas!" How come suddenly everyone wants to give new toys to parentless children and donate funds to local churches that they've never attended?

I was driving my kids somewhere (when am I not doing that?) a couple of days ago and was enjoying the festive feeling around me, smiling to myself, when this realization crept into my heart. Even if we are skeptical, at best, about the virgin birth of our Savior, our souls can't hide from the shining truth that is on the front lawn of every neighborhood church during this time of year.

That tiny baby in a manger, our mighty God willingly becoming helpless, Jesus incarnate, here to save the sinful human race. The truth of the unfathomable sacrifice the Father made of His Son, giving the One to save us all.

I like to think that every year on Christmas, heaven's windows and doors burst wide open, the Son's face shines on each and every one of us, faithless or faithful, sinner or saved, and we all get a special opportunity to do something significant, something that would seem impossible during the other 11 "ordinary" months of the year.

Won't you take this opportunity during the greatest celebration on earth to reach out to someone else? Give a little extra in the offering at church, donate something brand new to a local thrift shop, serve food at a shelter on Christmas Day, or simply bow your head in prayer for those less fortunate.

May your families find the peace, joy, and grace of our Savior.
Marvin, Shelly, Alec, Benji, and Ava

Handmade pt. 3

Here's the final throw I made from that cheap, $40 haul I made at the Salvation Army. I bought all the sweaters I found in the right colorways, and these just happened to all go together. I probably could have used a couple more for this one, but it's pretty big as it is. This is now at Brittany's house keeping her and her babies warm. Britt, when you read this would you count how many sweaters are in it and leave a comment? As usual, I forgot to count and don't remember...
Someday I'll get around to making myself one...can't wait!


Handmade pt. 2

Here's the promised pictures of the felted wool throw. It took a bit of planning to get the squares (or rectangles) to all match up, but overall wasn't too difficult of a project.
I think I used around 6 sweaters, using the front as one square, the back as one and then cutting the sleeves open and stitching them together to make a third square (or rectangle)
I did what I call a butt-joint (a borrowed carpentry term), and simply butted the edges together and zig-zag stitched them.
It's pictured in it's new home, my dear friend Sarah's house. Merry Christmas, girlie! Hope it keeps you toasty!

Another one in brights and stripes is on it's way for someone else...Hm mm, wonder who it is?
Oh, and Sarah, if you're reading this, could you count the sweaters in the throw and leave a comment so we'll know exactly how many I used?


It's messy in here!

Yep, my house is messy! I'm trying to do the work of about 5 people to get ready for Christmas. We host the family on Christmas Day, so I'm doing extra stuff, like lining valances for our office and filling picture frames.

As if any of that stuff is necessary to ensure the sucess of our meal!

I'm actually waaaay behind on planning for that meal. My menu looks like this:

Sweet Potatoes

Hmmm, not very complete or festive! It will come together, it always does, but in the meantime, I'm letting it get messy in here and trying not to care...(that's impossible but I'm working on it!)

Anyone have any Christmas food traditions to help inspire me?



Today the boys and I made felted wool wreaths. I bought wool sweaters from the thrift store (in the most awesome, vibrant colors, of course!). Then we felted them (wash in hot water with a little dish soap, dry in dryer on high), and I spent some time last night cutting them up into 2x2 inch squares using my handy dandy rotary cutter. I wouldn't recommend trying this with scissors, it would take FOREVER!
Today, I sat them down with the big box of felted squares and a yarn needle threaded with embroidery thread. It takes roughly 60 squares to make one wreath, you can fold the squares triangularly or just leave them flat. The triangle ones make a fluffier wreath and use less wool.
The boys are giving them to their Nana and Grandma and Alec is giving one to his teacher for a Christmas present.
Later, I'm going to be making a throw out of various shades of cream and caramel wool from recycled sweaters. (I'll post pics when it's finished)
(Oh, and for the record, all you thrifties out there- I shopped on the day that everything was 50%off and paid only $40 for 18 sweaters!)


Our tree is one of my favorite parts of Christmas. We wrap it with an inordinate amount of lights and use every ornament we have, so it glistens like a triangular jewel, dripping with color and shimmer.
My mother in law wraps the trunk of her tree with white lights and then the outside branches with colored lights and puts tinsel (stringy silver stuff) on it and her tree looks positively magical!

Colored lights, white lights, or both for you?


Wordless Wednesday

The Reason...


Happy Birthday to Ava's bestest buddy!
We love you, Ozzie!

Hop on over to 4LittleMen and wish Ozzie Nolan a wonderful day!

Reflections on the Potty

I stared at the package in my hand. There they were, all seven of them, each tightly rolled and nestled in a clear plastic bag with pink edges. If I looked closely, I could barely make out the faces of Belle and Cinderella smiling up at me.

"I'm so not ready for this!", I mentally shouted. As I pulled off the tape and unrolled the first pair of underwear, tears pooled. "I'm not ready to kiss her babyhood goodbye", I sniffed.

As I pulled off the tape and unrolled the second pair, I could hear the tires of her car squealing as she drove away to college (hopefully wearing underwear as modest as these).

On the third pair, I went and got some scissors and wondered if she'd have any poopy accidents while we were potty training. Cleaning up smashed poop out of tiny jeans or carseats is one of my favorite pastimes.

When I cut the tape and unrolled the fourth pair, I held them up, thought they looked a little big and idly wondered if they'd live up to the "no ride-up" promise stamped on their bag.

As I struggled to rip the tape off of the fifth pair, I suddenly realized that it had taken me what seemed like 10 minutes to partially open a package of toddler underwear, and hoped that the money we'd be saving on diapers would be worth the 10 minutes of frustration.

By the sixth pair, I was fuming and wondering what idiot decided that it was necessary to tape down the edge of a tiny little roll of cotton AND use a resealable, stiff plastic case for the package. As if.

I yanked open the seventh pair, threw them all into the washing machine and slammed the door.

Today I told Ava to be sure not to pee on her princesses. No accidents again, but she's napping with a diaper. My boys were really slow to get over the sleep-wetting thing, hopefully she won't follow suit.

I love potty training. Not.

Fresh cranberries, orange juice, some eggs, lotsa butter...AND whipped cream!
Interested? Click here for the recipe. I must warn you, though, it took me the ENTIRE day to make...


Heavenly Peace

Today was so peaceful. I think somehow knowing that we didn't have to face the "trauma" of another school day made us all happier.

Alec was his old, silly self again. He played kindly with Benji all morning and Benji, in turn, was kind to Ava. Around lunch time, Benji went to play with a friend and Alec and I spent time doing math and making Flubber while Ava slept.

Alec, Benji and Daddy are at a Cub Scouts meeting tonight at the local firehouse. No worries about getting home in time because tomorrow is a "school day", no stress for me to hurry and pack Alec's lunch to save time in the morning, no obsessive clock watching this morning or this afternoon to worry about drop off and pick up.

My hope is that all this peacefulness will trickle down and soothe Alec's nervous immune system, and calm his jittery nervous system. He did so well today when I asked him to do his math homework. He sat right down and finished it right away without jumping out of his seat the usual ten thousand times.
Today has made me think twice about homeschooling...

Any successful homeschooling mommas out there care to comment?

p.s. the best part of all of this was that I was calm enough to put Ava on the potty all day! She had NO ACCIDENTS! This is a first in our house, my boys peed all over the place! Please, God, let her be my easy one!


Crosswise and Crazy

Look closely, do you see a 7 year old's boxer-clad bottom? Alec's pants fell down while he was putting ornaments on our tree because his pants are STILL too big, even after I took the waist in about 2 inches!

I love December. I love our warm house full of twinkle lights, I love the smell of our Christmas tree, I love the cozy, quiet talks about baby Jesus, I love the excitement buzzing when the kids open their gifts, I love our Christmas Eve fondue tradition, and I love not being able to sleep that night because I'm as excited as a little kid!

I don't love the multitude of extras I've had to accomplish. So many that the laundry sits wrinkled on our bedroom floor, dirty dishes sit on our crumb-crusted counter, and the van feels like home.

After last weekend's flurry of a birthday, a train ride and an unexpected day out of town, I spent the week preparing for this weekend. We had a church group party, a work party, and another birthday party. I wouldn't say that I don't like to party, but, well, you get the picture!

On top of all the holiday hustle, we're taking Alec out of school starting tomorrow until school resumes in January. He's had health issues and academic issues and we're trying to give him enough time at home to fully recuperate so he can start fresh. We're hoping to eliminate the "not-feelin-well" variable so we can get to the bottom of the academic stuff.
I'm starting to see the many flaws in the traditional academic setting and it is reaffirming my desire to homeschool even more. That's a whole 'nother post for a 'nother time...

Now it's time for a silent night...


Trains and Terrific Traffic

We rode this train

Alec got bored

Ava got really bored

but Benji got REALLY excited when he saw Santa coming!

We've been wanting to take the kids on this train ride for a while and decided that this was finally the year. I'm not sure why an hour and a half drive to take a two hour train ride sounded fun, but we were all excited.

We somehow missed the turn onto the interstate in the town the train was in, so after taking back roads to get there we missed our 11:00 departure by 15 minutes. Arrrgh! They told us that our tickets would be good for the 2:00 departure. Oh sure, that's great; the kids won't be disppointed, we won't have spent $50 for nothing, etc. Except for the fact that I had planned on using the rest of the afternoon to make the food for Ava's party the next day and tidy up the house.

We killed the time letting the kids run wild in the toy section of the local WalMart, and then found a place to eat (a not so yummy) lunch. We made it to the train early enough to get a seat on the coach car that had very cushy seats and a bathroom (whooooopie!)

The two hour ride was, shall we say, comfortable and bland. The visit from Santa and his elf with a candy cane was the 30 second highlight of the trip.

The drive home was a nightmare. What should have taken us just under an hour and a half, took us over three hours. We crept along at 35 miles an hour seeing nothing but tail lights, icy roads and police and ambulance flashers. We must have passed at least 6 police-attended accidents. I had lots of time to plan my attack on the messy house and lack of party food while I was trapped in the front seat!

I gotta say, though, Marvin really came through! We skipped church in the morning *gasp* and he spent the morning vaccuming, baking cookies, keeping Ava out of my hair, and directing the boys to pick up their stuff. Wow what a great husband! Thanks honey! Couldn't have done it without you!

Ava's party was great, we were ready in plenty of time, everyone had fun, and Ava was her usual silly self, yelling, "NEXT!" after she opened each present, and shouting, "Goodby, everyone!" as people left.

I can't believe she's two.
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smells like the 80's!

Ava (and the rest of us) spent the weekend sniffing the head of her Strawberry Shortcake baby that we got her for her birthday. That smell sure brings back memories. Like the one my huband had; he used to snatch his sister's S. Shortcake away and yell, "Strawberry Shortcake, Huckleberry Pie, throw them in the oven and say goodbye!"


Ok, I promised myself I wouldn't be back on here till Monday, but I just had to post about this:

My ***Very first review for Meeup*** (woo-hoo!) just went up over at my friend
Lacie's Peanut Butter and Pickles site

I'm so excited to have her promoting my carriers for Christmas!
She reviews fun, practical and affordable necessities for momma-hood.

Stop by and check it out, enter one of her giveaways, and get inspired for gift ideas for the mommy on your list.

Happy Birthday, Ava!

(I have no birth story to tell here; all my labors are scheduled and induced because I have such large babies. We just pack our bags and head off to the hospital like we're going on vacation or something. It's weird, and not something I think I could ever get used to)

I remember the morning I went in to have you, I was really excited. We had found out you were a girl, and I couldn't believe I was actually going to be the mother of a daughter. I was induced at around 10:00, and you were born at 2:30.

We laughed when we saw how big you were (my doctor said you'd be a tad smaller than the boys, but you were bigger), and we laughed when Alec saw you and said, "Mom, I'm afraid she's going to be Asian!" because of your dark hair and very dark eyes.

Your name means "full of praise" and that's how my heart has been since you were born. You are so beautiful and funny. There are no shortage of pictures of you with a huge smile on your face.

You love to give "huggys" and kisses to Alec, Benji and Daddy. You love me by imitating my every move. That's a lot to live up to, and sometimes I'm scared that you'll imitate my faults, too.

I know that I"m the perfect momma for you and you're the perfect little girl for me. I pray daily that God will give you a soft heart to love Him, listening ears to hear His wisdom, gentle hands to do His work, and quick feet to follow His direction.

I love you, Baby Grace! Happy 2nd Birthday!
Love, Mommy


Busy, busy, dreadfully busy...

...you've no idea what I have to do! (anyone with little ones who watch Veggie Tales will chuckle!)

I'm hopped up on Tylenol and Sudafed to help me ignore my cold while I:

decorate the house for Christmas, go to the post office to return a coat and some jeans, order our Christmas cards, plan the menu for Ava's birthday party on Sunday, make my grocery list, bake 4 dozen cookies for a fund raiser at church, wipe Ava and Benji's drippy noses, pick out, put up and decorate the Christmas tree, take a train ride with "Santa" and my kids, go caroling at a nursing home with our Cub Scout pack, bake cupcakes for Ava's party, throw Ava's party and clean up afterwards..oh, and I guess I'll have to fix breakfast, lunch and dinner several times in there...

See you all on Monday!


stuff and nonsense

Any one else ever get really, really stupid and cranky during that "special" time of the month? I'm enjoying my week of cotton-headed angst, complete with a toddler with a cold!

I'm freezing cold (another thing that I really enjoy during my "special" time), and sitting here staring down the P.I.L.E. of sewing waiting for me on my work table. A Meeup carrier for a review, three unlined valances for my office, a mound of red fleece for the curtains in the boys room, a naked pillow form that needs to be covered. OH, and I musn't forget the 4 H.U.G.E. rubbermaid containers sitting in the middle of the floor in the office containing the fluff and stuff that make it Christmas-y around here.

We got the outside decorations put up over the weekend, and I'm going gung-ho on the indoor ones, trying to get them finished before Ava's birthday party on Sunday. Shouldn't be a problem, except for the fact that I can't seem to stop wiping Ava's nose or changing my er, well, you-know-what, long enough to even crack the lids on those tubs.

Don't get me wrong, this is N.O.T. a "poor-me" post...just tryin' to keep it real!

Anyone else out there throwing twinkle lights and tinsel at everything right now?

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