Friday, December 31, 2010

2010--Out with a bang!

I just wanted to pop back in to let you all know that today has been one of those rare days when all of the planets are aligned and I have been able to...
  • Sleep in (until almost 8:30!!!!)
  • Clean the kitchen
  • Make homemade rolls
  • Make a grocery list (which I then e-mailed to my FABULOUS husband, who is going to the store for me!)
  • Prepare/clean up breakfast
  • Play/paint with the big kids
  • Play/do therapy with Roo
  • Fold laundry
  • Make deviled eggs
  • Make lunch
  • Clean the kitchen again
  • Read with the big kids for about 30 minutes
  • Make the bed
  • Fold more laundry
  • More play time with Roo
All by 1:30 PM!  And I haven't lost my temper with my children at all!  OK, well, a little bit, once... when Monkey wouldn't let me go potty in peace... but that was it, I swear!

Somehow I still feel like I'm forgetting something... Oh.  Shower.  I haven't done that yet.  Eh, well, you can't win 'em all.  ;-)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  The zoo is now closed for the holiday weekend.  See you in 2011!  :-)

Christmas, Part 2

A few more shots of our busy Christmas weekend...

On Christmas Eve we have several traditions--going to church, reading the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2, wearing Christmas PJs from Nana & Papa, etc.  And let's not forget...
...milk & cookies for Santa (Lamb is making chocolate milk because she's says that's his favorite.)...

...and writing him a letter to leave out with the cookies.  (He always writes back, too.)

We woke up the next morning and found... empty glass of milk (and only 1/2 a cookie left!)...

...and full stockings.

I love this hat!  Thanks, Santa!  ;-)

Lamb's #1 Christmas request: A dolphin pillow pet!

Monkey only asked for ONE THING for Christmas: A remote-contol Team Umizoomi car.  But there was just one problem--that toy doesn't exist.  Team Umizoomi is a new show on Nick Jr. that Monkey absolutely LOVES, but there are NO toys based off of the show yet--you can't even buy a DVD of the episodes or anything.  So we got him a very cool remote-control car, and he was still VERY happy with it.  :-)

After spending the morning at our house, we headed to my mother-in-law's for the afternoon for round 2!  :-)  A great time was had by all...
...ending with a sleepover in their brand-new sleeping bags!

On Sunday we headed to my parents' house for Round 3.  By then...

...Roo was exhausted.

But Lamb absolutely loved her new Barbie castle.  (Can I tell you how much I always wanted a Barbie castle when I was a little girl?!?)

And Monkey... WELL, let me make a little correction to an earlier statement.  Monkey only asked SANTA for one thing (the Umizoomi car), but there was ONE other thing that he really wanted.  And THIS was it.  Stinky the Garbage Truck.  He was ECSTATIC.  Thanks, Nana & Papa!

We ended Christmas Day with a gathering with Mr. Fantastic's grandma and extended family.  But our Christmas isn't done yet--oh no!  We like to s-t-r-e-t-c-h out the fun as long as we can!  :-)  Last night we had dinner and exchanged presents with my father-in-law and his wife, and our final Christmas celebration will actually be on January 8, with my birth mom.  Whew!  It's a marathon in our zoo.  But a very worthwhile one.

So from our family to yours...

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Reflections, part 1

Merry (belated) Christmas!!!  I wanted to post more last week, but I was AMAZINGLY far behind.  In fact, Mr. Fantastic and I were up until midnight on Christmas Eve wrapping presents for Christmas morning.  NUTS.  This was the least prepared I have ever been for Christmas.  Fortunately, though, I was able to take it in a stride and enjoy it, even with the late night prep.

So I would like to take a few minutes to share our Christmas with you.  As I told you before, we used Lamb's snow days to make some crafts, and here are the proud artists with their creations...
A snow scene (Well, Lamb's is a snow scene.  Monkey just threw a bunch of glitter glue and cotton balls on a piece of paper.  ;-) )

Working on a Christmas workbook I found online...

Hand-puppet reindeer with handprints for antlers.  Monkey decided to use a blue pom-pom for a nose and call him "Bluedolph."  :-)

And then, just some fun snapshots of my little Baby Kangaroo as we got ready for the Christmas fun...

More to come of our actual Christmas celebrations, but I must run for now.  See you soon!

Monday, December 20, 2010


Good Monday morning everyone!  Happy week of Christmas!!!!  I am so darn excited for this week, I can hardly stand it!  I would be more excited if I actually had even just ONE present wrapped... but I don't... so I'll just look forward to wrapping presents as part of my Christmas week!  :-)

Today I have a very special treat, something that I have been looking forward to for a while now.  :-)  I have already introduced you a little bit to Patti, through her amazing fundraiser/giveaway for Olga, a little girl with Down Syndrome who is looking for a home and family.  Through her blog, Patti was able to raise over $11,000 for Olga in a week!  And she is now giving away an iPad--and other great gifts--in another fundraiser!  This one is for Olga AND another beautiful little girl named Kareen.  If you haven't already checked it out, please consider making a donation--and getting an entry or two into the giveaway!  Seriously--it's an iPad, people!

ANYWAY, back to the interview.  I first "met" Patti through A Perfect Lily, her blog that is a series of letters to her sweet baby girl who has Down syndrome.  It was so beautiful to get this peak into her life and her love for her daughter, and it was reassuring to have a friend going through the same things we are.  But Patti also blogs at Notes From Home, where she talks about life with ALL TEN of her children.  Yeah, TEN.  And did I mention that she HOMESCHOOLS them all?  And has a baby girl with Down syndrome?  And does amazing things for children around the world, like raise $11,000 in a week?  Yep, I'm giving this woman a cape for Christmas.  I think she's super, and she's definitely my hero.

So since Patti is such a fabulous woman, I wanted to give you all a chance to get to know her as well.  Here's what she had to say...

(PS - If you're a friend of Patti's who is visiting, thanks for coming by!  Stick around and visit the zoo while you're here.  ;-)  To hear more about our journey, start with Roo's story.)

1. Tell us a little bit about Lily. When was she born? How did you find out that she has Down syndrome?

Lily was born on January 16th, this year. She was 3 weeks early, to the day, and she was a whopping 5 pounds 8 ounces and 17 1/2 inches.

At our 20 week ultrasound, Lily showed some markers for Down syndrome. She showed a possible av canal defect (which either resolved itself, or God healed it!), short femurs and arms, enlarged kidneys, and she was measuring small. We chose not to do the amnio- I didn't want to put her at risk - and we did not find out until she was born that she did indeed have Ds. I have to say- nobody really thought she had Down syndrome. We had so many friends who told us stories of scary ultrasounds, was hard to believe that these markers really did mean something. However- without sounding too "out there"- deep down I believed she did have Down syndrome. My pregnancy was so different- she moved so slowly, and I never felt the large, sweeping movements...I knew something was different.

(You can read Lily's complete birth story on A Perfect Lily.)
2. How has having a child with Down syndrome changed your life?
Nothing has really changed in our day-to-day... except having a therapist come to our home twice a month. And initially there were a lot more doctor visits, a stay in the NICU... but right now our lives are the same. Having said that, I don't think anybody in our family or those around us can say that they haven't been affected by Lily's birth. She has opened our eyes to a whole new world--we treasure each milestone met, we have a new heart for people with disabilities everywhere, we are now consumed by the children on Reece's Rainbow who are left in orphanages simply because they were born with an extra chromosome. We are immensely enriched by all that Lily is--she has turned our little family upside down with love.

3. What do you wish you could tell the still-pregnant you about life with Down syndrome?
It's a beautiful thing. Don't grieve. Not one second. Get over yourself ;) Would I say that to a pregnant woman right now? Never. I think grieving is a normal thing, but I also realize now that it was wasted time- Lily is my greatest gift, next to salvation, and she is the light of our lives. If I could take the Pregnant Patti Past and show her our lives today--I think she would be so flipping ecstatic at what was going to happen to her life because of Lily- she might go into labor. So... probably not a good thing there's no such thing as time travel :)

4. I first “met” you through Lily’s blog, but she is far from your only child. Did you always know you wanted to have a big family (10 kids!)? What is your favorite part about having such a big family?
I never planned on having a big family. Each baby just cuter and cuter, so I just kept asking my husband... please just one more??? And now that we've achieved perfection in Lily... well... I guess... we're... done. But I said that 5 babies ago.

My favorite part about having a big family... wow... too many blessings to list! I guess it's the real-life learning that takes place. We are all learning on a daily basis that life is not all about "self." Hard to be selfish and greedy when there are only 9 toothbrushes for 11 people. Just kidding. Sort of. I need to label those things.

5. Over the past several months, I’ve learned that “I don’t know how you do it!” can be a rather annoying sentiment. But literally, how do you homeschool all of your children? How do you teach children at different ages/ability levels at the same time? How/when do you do all of the regular household stuff like laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, etc?
I am still learning, ha! We try to get the house ready for the day before we start home schooling. I can't function in chaos. It comes undone as the morning rolls along and I yell "five minute clean-up!" and everybody drops what they're doing to pitch in. My older boys are very good at getting their work done without much help from me. We use K12 online curriculum, so this helps. We have an intense chore chart. Every kid has a zone that they are responsible to keep clean and organized. Does everything always run smoothly? Nope. But we aim high and get good results, even if they aren't perfection. I wish I could say I'm Michelle Duggar, but... most days I just feel like Lucille Ball.

6. What made you decide to homeschool?
Our children were previously in public school. Things gradually deteriorated (moving to a small, very liberal town contributed!) and we switched to a private school. The economy took a down turn, our bills mounted, and voila...home school. I do believe it's a great thing- but it is not for the faint of heart. Or illiterate. Just sayin'.

7. What tips do you have for teaching our children compassion?
Don't shield them from real life. Expose them to those less fortunate then themselves. Show them Reece's Rainbow. Teach them to give--and live it. Pioneer a church in your home :) Open your home to people who have no place to go for the holidays. Have deep and meaningful discussions about how good they really have it. And PRAY. Seriously, my number one prayer for my kids: God, give them a heart for You, and give them a heart for people.

8. Your children span a large age range—Lily is still an infant, but your oldest and his wife have foster children of their own! How has your parenting style changed over the years?
I think God is helping us to see that the little things really do matter. A 3-year-old insisting on wearing mis-matched clothes that do not fit may be cute. But it is not cute at 13. So stand your ground now, and establish early on--this house is not a democracy. It's a dictatorship. KIDDING! But really--we have a lot of rules and a LOT of love. Imbalance in either area is not a good thing. So I think we are a bit more strict... and we have also learned that children need so much more praise than we realize.

9. How do you foster good relationships between your children?
Zero tolerance for bickering. We always try to nip it in the bud. We have lots of family meetings when we feel the atmosphere in our home is shifting. We have a buddy system--older children help their buddies with things like brushing teeth, tying shoes, etc. I think this really helps foster the getting-along thing. Jackson always calls his buddy "Buddy" instead of Tyler..."Buddy- can you get me some more milk, please?" Of course, we do have to switch buddies when we see them getting on each other's nerves!

10. What is the biggest lesson you have learned as a mom?
I can't be a good mom without God's help. Daily. it doesn't matter how good my intentions are--if I do not pray and rely on God's grace--I'm sunk. Second lesson: if I don't take time out for me...I will fall apart. A very hard lesson to learn, because as a mommy I want to put my kids first. But if I don't get away and refuel... I'm going to suck at being a mommy. Can I say that as a pastor's wife? I sure hope so.

11. What other tips do you have for us moms of young children?
Hmmm... have a stash of chocolate hidden somewhere for those melt-down moments. It really does help! And remember--this is just a season. Just blink and they are all grown up and not "needing you" anymore. Jason if you're reading this--I'm sorry I didn't let you put gel in your own hair when you were a kindergartner--come back home! Bring Naomi and the kids too!

12. How did you meet your husband?
A very long story, but I was dressed as a Madonna-wanna-be on Halloween... the party I was at got busted by the police (pre-Christian days)... my friends and I drove to Gelato's Italian Ice Cream shop in Scottsdale, Arizona to get some ice cream. We were killing time til the police left before we went back to the party. Sam was a manager at Gelato's... I got some ice cream, we left... and in the car I told my friends "I want to have that guy's babies." And the rest, as they say, is history!

13. How did you become a Christian?
I ended up getting a job at Gelato's... because I just fell in LOVE with their ice cream. hehe. Six months later, Sam gave his life to Jesus--I was so convicted, because all of my life I claimed to be a Christian, but I knew I was a hypocrite. I pretended to be a "good person" but deep down I knew I wasn't right with God. So here was Sam--a very experienced sinner :) and he was telling ME I needed to get saved. I was mad and self-righteous--but God dealt with my heart over the course of a week. I was so uncomfortable, knowing that there was a "me" nobody knew. I went to church with him that Sunday... the pastor was preaching on being a hypocrite. I thought for sure Sam had told him all about me. (The church was over 250 people but I just knew that pastor preached his sermon based on my life.) When the opportunity was given to respond for salvation, I went forward for prayer. Hardest thing in the world for a nervous little 17-year-old girl who was extremely absorbed with what everybody thought of her. But I prayed--and Jesus radically changed my life!

14. What is your favorite Christmas tradition?
All of it--I am so into Christmas, I start playing Christmas music in July. I seriously love every little tradition we have--and there are tons! But I think this year we have started what will be our very favoritest-of-all tradition--finding a baby on Reece's Rainbow and getting them home. Right now that means fundraising. I hope some day it means rescuing one ourselves.

15. How do you teach your children the real meaning of Christmas?
See answer 14 :) We have tried for years to instill in our children that the birth of Jesus is what Christmas is truly all about. We talk about it, read the Christmas story in Luke, we sing songs about it at church, we do a Christmas play based on that fact... sometimes it seems we are fighting against a very materialistic and self-centered culture, and we're not totally getting our message through to our kids. But I believe that living our lives every single day of the year, mindful of the fact that Jesus came here to do one thing: die for us... is the best way to teach our kids the real meaning of Christmas.

16. What is your favorite Bible verse?
Psalms 127:4,5
Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior's blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.

Thank you, Patti, for your time & your wisdom!  :-)  Now go read Patti's blogs and tell her I sent you, 'k?  :-)

And did I mention, Happy Christmas Week?!?

Friday, December 17, 2010

But wait--there's more!

One more big "thank you" to everyone who donated to Olga and entered Patti's giveaway at A Perfect Lily.  Over the course of a week, Olga's fund went from $78 to over $11,000!  That is HUGE!!!
But wait--there's more!

Read more about it on Patti's blog, but it appears that multiple families have made inquiries about adopting Olga!  Praise God--this girl may be getting a home!  A.MAZ.ING.

But wait--there's more!

Through the grace of God and the generosity of people around her, Patti is doing a 2nd fundraiser, this time for both Olga and a little girl named Kareen.  And this time, the grand prize is an iPad and a $50 iTunes gift card!  Wow!  Already other prizes are starting to be donated as well, so please please don't miss this!

PS - Long before she became such an awesome advocate for these children in waiting at Reece's Rainbow, I wanted to introduce you to Patti.  And on Monday, I'm going to get the chance to give you a little peek into her head.  Tune in Monday for my interview with Patti!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Thank you--and there's still time!

So I just checked in to Patti's blog to see how her fundraiser for Olga is coming.

You're never going to believe this.

In the past WEEK since Patti has shared Olga's story with us all... she has raised

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to any & all of you who have contributed to Olga's fund.  I am amazed at the difference that ONE PERSON can make when God puts a passion in her heart.

Thank you from me, thank you from Patti, thank you from Olga's future family, and thank you from Olga.
If you haven't donated to Olga's fund yet, there is still time to do it AND be entered to win an iPod Touch or one of several other prizes being offered on Patti's giveaway.  Please be a part of this great movement for this little girl.

Phonics lesson…

…from a 3-year-old.

This morning Monkey asked me how to spell "whale." "W-H-A-L-E," I told him.


"Mommy, I don't think you heard me right. How do you spell 'WHALE'?"

So I told him again.

"No, Mommy," he patiently explains, "'Whale' ends with 'l'. Listen: 'Whallllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllle.'"

At this point, I was impressed that my educationally-neglected-3-year-old had figured this out on his own. But I explained to him that it ended with the 'LLL' sound but actually had a silent 'e' on the end.

So then he asked, "What sound does a regular 'E' make?"

"E says 'eh'," I said, "like 'elephant.'"

Another pause.

A big sigh.

An eyeroll.

"Mommy." Another sigh. "'Elephant' starts with 'LLLLLL' too!"

Monday, December 13, 2010

A (Snow) Day in the Life...

Welcome to the Midwest, where we've had a snowflake or two fall in the last 24 hours.  I don't actually have any pictures of the outdoors today, but every single person I talked to today compared our current weather to being in a snowglobe.  It wasn't just snowing, it was blowing.  A lot.  And snowing a lot too.  And it's not done yet.

So I wasn't surprised when my day was kicked off by a call from our school district saying that Lamb could stay in her jammies today.  (OK, so that's not exactly what they said, but that was the gist of it.)  The only thing that surprised me was the fact that the call came at 5:45 AM.  A snow day!  Yay!  Who knew that I would be as excited about it as my child?

Lest you think, though, that I used this day as an excuse to be lazy, that I just sat around in my dirty, smelly sweats... that is just not true!  I got up bright and early (OK, 8:00), took a shower, and put on CLEAN sweats.

The kids and I made "snow day pancakes", an idea that I shamelessly stole from a friend (Thanks, Megan!  They really do taste better on a snow day.), and then I dressed them all up in their Christmas outfits to take pictures for our Christmas card.  Yes, I curled Lamb's hair, dressed them all up, put on clean shoes & socks, the whole deal... and never left the house with them.  But I think the results were worth it...

Ha ha!  I jest, of course.  That is NOT our Christmas card photo.  Here it is:
Oh, I got you again!!  I am just on fire tonight, folks.  Seriously, though, here are my lovely little ones...

And no, I don't have any pictures of Roo by himself in his Christmas finery, because he was DONE by the time I took the few pics that I did... so I put him down for a nap, and when I got him up, I forgot about getting more pics and just changed him into something that I didn't mind getting baby food/poop/puke on.  So I'll have to get some pics of him when they wear their Christmas clothes to church.

Anyway, in order to actually get the munchkins to cooperate with the picture taking (and by "munchkins" I mean "munchkin", and by "munchkin" I mean "Monkey"), I had to bribe them with TV time.  So after the pictures we (and by "we" I mean "they") threw their PJs back on (because I never got out of mine), and we watched some of those old Christmas classics--you know, the one wear Dora and Swiper have to go back in time so he can learn the true meaning of Christmas, and the Team Umi Zoomi where they fix Santa's toy machine... Oy.

And then it was time for some more Christmas fun.  Last year we made a gingerbread house, and honestly... it was a disaster.  The icing had to dry between each step, so it took FOREVER, and it didn't hold up too well and I'm not very good at that kind of thing anyway... It wasn't pretty.  Literally or figuratively.  So this year I got a gingerbread train kit, and thought we'd give it a try.  Well, today was the day!
The kit came with this handy tray to build it on.  It actually helped a lot, although it doesn't look the best sitting on the plastic tray...

"No, Mommy!  I can do it myself!"

We've got the structure up--now it's time to decorate!

All under the watchful eye of our supervisor!

Two proud builders with their finished product!
Santa didn't come with the kit, but we thought he made a nice addition.

The M&Ms didn't come with it, either, but what's a train without cargo???

My "plan" is to cover the rest of the plastic tray with frosting that I have in the fridge so it looks like snow-covered ground instead of a white plastic tray that says "E-Z BUILD" on it... but we'll see if that happens.  Already, though, it is a 1000% (and yes, I mean one THOUSAND, it's not just a typo) improvement over the house from last year.

And that was pretty much our day.  Throw in some on-your-own time for the big kids while I folded laundry, a second round of pancakes for dinner (yep, we were on a health food kick today!), baths, and some Little House in the Big Woods, and you've got yourself one fine snow day.

Did I mention that it's still coming down?  I wonder what we'll do tomorrow...

PS - If you haven't entered to win the iPod Touch yet, the giveaway has been extended until Thursday because she's getting so much new publicity!  YAY!  Olga now has over $6,000 in her account--what a fabulous difference we are making for this little girl.  Please donate AND pray that the right family will find her.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Weekend Zoo: Firstfruits

When Lamb was born I was chomping at the bit to hit every milestone.  "When will she...?"  "How soon can I...?"  "Do you think she's ready to...?"  I hardly had time to enjoy what she was doing, because I was already preparing for what was up next.

When Monkey was born, I did better at savoring the moments.  I let him take the lead on what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it.

With Roo, all expectations are out the window.  I'm not sure how much of this is because of Down syndrome and how much is because he's the third child in five years.  Hmmmm.  I wish there were some way to objectively measure that.  Anyway, I am just really enjoying every little minute with Roo, every development that I see.  On Thursday, for example, the boys and I were laying on the floor, and I was playing with Monkey, tickling and growling and playing like little boys do.  And it was like a light went on for Roo... and he wanted to play too.  He started growling and reaching up to grab my hair and laughing.  It was AMAZING.  It was the first time that I have seen that look on his face like, "I GET it!"  If I hadn't been laughing so hard, I would have cried.  I think that's one of those moments that will be forever etched on my Mommy Heart.

And as part of this live-in-the-moment mentality, we have also been slow to start Roo on solid foods.  Lamb had her first cereal the day that she turned four months old, since that was the soonest that our pediatrician recommended.  Monkey started at six months, because we saw the benefits of waiting.  But for Roo... he's just so little, and he really didn't seem ready, so we waited.  In fact, it's been less than a month since he had his first cereal.  We started when his OT was here, so she could help with any muscle tone issues with his mouth/tongue, but he did great.  So we've slowly been introducing new foods to his diet.

Well... in addition to doing things more slowly, I'm also kinda throwing the rules out the window and going with what feels right.  So we haven't started much in the way of jarred baby food, but the other day I thought it might motivate Roo to use his arms/hands if he had something yummy in them.  I put some banana in his Baby Safe Feeder.  Have you seen those things before?  I highly recommend them.  They are great for pretty much any kind of food you can stick in them, and even ice cubes for teething.

So this was Roo's first banana.  He seemed to get the idea...

...In fact, there was no tearing that thing out of his hand/mouth.  :-)
  Yay for new milestones and for a growing baby.  :-)

PS - If you haven't yet entered to win an iPod Touch by donating to Olga's fund, there is still time.  But the contest ends TODAY, so please do it this morning!  I am just amazed at how much money Patti has been able to raise this week, and I am so excited at the prospect that this could help Olga find a family.  Thank you in advance for what you are doing for her.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

An amazing woman with a great giveaway

I am writing with tears in my eyes.  I mentioned recently that I have been thankful for the people we have met through Roo's Down syndrome, and today I want to tell you about one of them.  OK, I'm using a broad definition of the word "met" here... Patti is an absolutely amazing woman... who I've never met in real life.  lol  But she has a beautiful little girl with DS, and she (Patti, not her little girl!) blogs at A Perfect Lily (and also Notes From Home).  You will have a chance to get to know Patti a little better soon, as she has very graciously agreed to let me interview her (Thanks, Patti!), but for today I just have to tell you one incredible thing she is doing.

It has only been a few days since I mentioned Reece's Rainbow, since I let those sweet little babies into my heart and asked you to do the same.  Well, today Patti is giving you a chance to make a difference in the life of one of the Reece's Rainbow children--and giving you a chance to win an iPod Touch in the process.  If you go to Patti's blog and donate to Olga's fund, you will be entered to win the iPod!  (There are other ways to gain additional entries--the details are on the blog post.)  Already, because of Patti's campaign, Olga's fund has gone from $78 to over $3,000!  Is that incredible or what????  Talk about one person making a difference.

So to Patti, you are an amazing woman of God and I am so blessed to be getting to know you.

And to the rest of you, please go to Patti's post and consider donating to Olga's fund.  You are doing a GREAT thing for a little girl who is facing life in an institution, and you have a chance to win a fabulous prize in the process!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

LOL/LOL: Christmas Gifts!

Oh look! Thanks to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and Mr. Fantastic's continuing recovery (He's already in bed!), it looks like I might actually get this post up tonight after all. Whew! SOOOOO. Here's the story:

YAY!!!! It's time for Christmas! I love Christmas and everything about it. I love teaching my kids about Christ's birth and what a beautiful and amazing gift He is to all of us. I love singing Christmas carols with them. I love nativities and advent and the manger and the star and the perfect simplicity of the whole thing.

And I also love decorating, baking, Santa, shopping, wrapping, you name it. I love it.

But today we're here to talk about presents!!!! I love buying presents for people. Am I being a little over-the-top gushy on this post? Well, you know what? That's just tough—you're gonna have to deal with it. Anyway, for me, getting presents is fun and all, but there's not really anything I need anymore. I do enjoy opening a nice, thoughtful gift, but some of the most thoughtful gifts I've found are donations to a cause that I care about, or a gift through an organization like our church or Compassion International or something like that.

Buying for other people, though, is one of the great joys in my life. For our extended family… well, I have to be a little bit careful here because some of them are reading right now (Hello!), but I can spill on a few things that aren't exactly secret anymore. Mr. Fantastic and I like to do some photo gifts, and for the past few years have made photo calendars and ornaments for the grandparents, a tradition I am certain we will continue this year… although I haven't actually started on anything like that… But those are really neat gifts, especially the calendars, which I have tons of fun putting together. (They're a bit time-consuming because I don't just make one and then order a bunch… I "custom-make" them depending on who is getting them, putting in different pictures, birthdays, etc.)

We don't exchange presents with my siblings anymore, which I miss, but financially it is probably better this way. We do, however, buy for the kids in the family. That is fun, but a challenge. I have 5 nephews and 1 niece, ranging in age from almost 7 to almost 12. Four of them are getting a Scholastic gift certificate from us (the other 2 are homeschooled, so I wasn't sure if that would work for them), but that's just a small thing I was going to give them along with their bigger gift. I think 2 of the boys are going to get DS games from us, something I just determined about 15 minutes ago, but I am clueless on the rest of them.

So what am I buying the people in my house for Christmas this year?, you ask. Well, in our house, we have a 3 gift rule. It started when Mr. Fantastic and I were engaged. I'd like to say that it is significant because of the three gifts Jesus received from the Magi, because that sounds really good and deep and spiritual. Actually, that first Christmas, Mr. Fantastic was adamant that he wanted us to just buy each other one gift—not just that year, but every year. To be fair, his intentions were good—he was trying to fight the consumerism-side of Christmas that tries to convince us that we must show our love for each other by buying lots of gifts, no matter how meaningless. He wanted us to focus on being thoughtful, not on buying stuff. But I, being the quiet and complacent type that I am, refused to go along with that. (I've learned a thing or two about submission in the past 10 years…) So we finally compromised and agreed on one gift per Christmas celebration. That particular year, we had one celebration with my parents, one with his mom, and one with his dad. Three Christmases. Three gifts. And even though we were married by the following year and only gave each other gifts at our own home, that number stuck—and we've given each other 3 gifts ever since. We hold the same rule with our kids, and we hold Santa to the 3-gift rule as well. (More on that in a minute.)

The 3 gift thing does tend to get stretched—and not just by me! For instance, someone might buy a shirt, a pair of pants, a necklace, a pair of earrings, and a purse for the other person (NOT saying this actually happened… like, say, LAST YEAR or anything…), wrap them all individually, but then tape the packages together and tie one big bow around them and present them as ONE of the three gifts. It's been known to happen. Oh, and all bets are off when it comes to stocking stuffers. Last year I crammed those babies full to overflowing, and Mr. Fantastic gave me a look that I'm pretty sure was intended to say that I may have pushed that just a little too far. But I pretended not to notice.

As for Santa, we are very blessed in that my parents provide the Santa gifts for our children. This really frees up our gift budget, which has been a huge help. For reasons that are too complicated to explain here, my parents also send the majority of their gifts to the kids here to our house to be opened on Christmas morning, so we just randomly pick 3 of them (per child) to be from Santa, and the rest are from Nana and Papa. Santa is, as I said before, limited to 3 gifts per child, because we decided we didn't want him to be cooler than Mommy & Daddy. Nana & Papa (and the other grandparents), on the other hand, have no such restriction. Everybody already knows that grandparents are way "funner" (to quote my dear Lamb) than parents anyway, so why fight it?

So back to this particular Christmas. This year there was one special thing Mr. Fantastic and I decided to do for the kids for Christmas—we're going to redo their bedrooms. Currently, Lamb and Monkey have bunkbeds in the room that was originally Lamb's alone. We knew that the room arrangements were temporary, so we didn't do any decorating, we just threw Monkey and a few of his toys into the otherwise very girly room. But now we're going to move Roo into that room with Monkey (because it's the bigger of the two kid bedrooms), and move Lamb into what is currently the nursery (a smaller room, but with a gigundo closet). So we're going to re-carpet, paint, decorate, the whole she-bang. Now… what that looks like in terms of presents to be opened on Christmas morning… I don't really know. We already have beds/bedding for them, and even several of the decorations. I'm thinking about maybe just giving them each a can of paint to open—just the base, without a particular color mixed in—and explaining to them what we're going to do. I will probably be in charge of the paint colors and decorations in the boys' room, but I really want Lamb to have lots of input on how she wants her room, so I don't want to move too far forward without talking to her about it first. So that's going to be a fun gift/project.

And for the two bigger kids, I have also been determined to get them scooters for Christmas. Luckily for me, Toys R Us had the ones I wanted on sale big-time on Black Friday! So that took care of gift #2 for the big kids.  (These aren't the exact scooters that I got, but they are similar.)

Now this is where it gets a little sticky. I don't know if it's a girl thing or an oldest child thing or what, but I always have an abundance of gift ideas for Lamb, and a hard time coming up with ideas for the boys. I bought her a T-shirt and sweatshirt with our school logo on it, so I am thinking that's going to be her 3rd gift. However, I really want her to have a Bible—a real Bible, not the little kids' story Bibles that she has now, but the actual real text of the Bible. Any of the grandparents would be very happy to give that to her, but I kinda want her first Bible to be from us. So maybe I'll sell the school spirit shirts to one of the grandparents instead. I don't know. And yes, that's a great thing about our parents as well. They are very willing to just let me buy stuff I want for the kids, and then just buy it off of me as part of their gift. And since I have found some particularly great deals this year that I just couldn't pass up, I have quite the stash from which they can shop…!

If I have too many ideas for Lamb, I have the exact opposite problem when it comes to the boys. Yes, Monkey loves Hotwheels and trains and sports and all those boy things, but none of those feel especially special, you know what I mean? He has been asking a lot for a remote control car, though, and I found this really cool one that I got for a steal, so that will probably be his third gift.  I don't think this is the exact same one, but it's close...

Roo… well, what do you get the third child who already has all of the hand-me-downs from the other two? For some reason, the Sit to Stand Giraffe really caught my eye, so I picked that up for him. And of course, one of his gifts will have something to do with the new bedroom situation. And for the third… who knows!

And let's not forget about stocking stuffers! Every year we get the kids new toothbrushes and toothpaste. We also get them each an ornament. This year, Lamb's ornament is a beautiful one I got at the Nutcracker. It is Clara holding her nutcracker. It was too expensive for a Christmas ornament, but I couldn't resist it. J Roo's is an adorable baby's-first-year ornament that holds a photo. I want to get Monkey a Batman ornament, but the only one I've been able to find was $18 (more than I paid for the Nutcracker ornament), and I just don't find that to be reasonable! So I'm still looking. They'll probably each get a Wii game in their stocking because I got some of those for a good price too… and maybe a Leapster game, depending on what all I can cram in there…

And then there's Mr. Fantastic. What on earth am I getting my wonderful hubby for Christmas? No really, I'm asking. What will I get him????? So far I've only bought one of his three gifts (and no stocking stuffers). It is a series of photos that spell "FAMILY" in a beautiful frame. Some of the photos are pictures of a letter in a sign or something, and others are things in life/nature that just happen to be shaped like a particular letter. Does that make any sense at all? I feel like I am particularly scatterbrained tonight, so I'm not entirely certain that anything I'm writing is coherent.

He has hinted multiple times that he wants an iPod, but I am still debating about that. I know if he says he wants one, I should assume he wants one… but there's one small problem with that. A few years ago, he hinted that he wanted an iPod… so I bought him one… that then became my iPod because he never used it. Hmmmmm… Right now I'm hoping to win an iPod for him, but I'll tell you more about that tomorrow.

So I'm still chewing on that one. I'll keep you posted. But come on, now, dish: What's on your Christmas shopping list this year? Any good ideas for husbands, nephews & nieces, grandparents? Let's hear it! Post your thoughts in the comments or blog about them and link up here in the comments! And as always, don't forget to read Zehlahlum Family to hear what Jamey is giving her kiddos for Christmas this year!

LOL/LOL: Oops!

Gah!  It's Tuesday! Yesterday's snow day... and the 4 preceeding sick days... really threw me off!  And I've really been looking forward to today's topic, too!  I WILL get you an LOL post, I promise... but it's been a CRAZY day (Isn't it always crazy here?), so it may not actually be up until the morning.  I'm so sorry!  I'll see you soon!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Snow Day, Snow Play

I've been up since 4:30 this morning, and I'm S.P.E.N.T., but I wanted to share my day with you.  Be forewarned, although you probably know by now, that I love to take photos but am NOT a mom who takes really cool photos and Photoshops them and has a fabulous camera and can take all kinds of cool shots.  No, these are just snapshots taken so that we can remember the day, and they serve that purpose well.  :-)  Also know that I had great intentions of having some witty running commentary through them all, but it got lost amid my exhaustion, and Roo will probably be waking me up in about 4 hours, so I'm not going to stay up trying to come up with something new

Today was Lamb's first snow day!  OK, she probably had a couple last year when she was in preschool... but for goodness sake, her preschool was only 2 hours a day, so that hardly counts.  And yes, she hasn't actually been to school since last Wednesday, but this is the first day that we've been HOME and HEALTHY together in quite a while.  So we enjoyed it.

First we decorated...
 I let the kiddos help me decorate our big tree... but I'll admit, I go back and change everything after they leave the room.

BUT they do get their own tree to decorate any way that they want...

... and they have plenty of ornaments to use, too!

And since it WAS a true snow day, we just had to check out the white stuff for ourselves!

Lamb has never been much of an outside kinda girl until this year.  She has always liked the IDEA of snow angels, but I think this may be the first time she's actually done it!

Forget RUNNING in the snow... let's just CRAWL right through it!

It was a great day, and we capped it off with hot cocoa and chocolate chip cookies, which made it even better.

Oh, and if you're wondering about baby Roo, no, I did not take him out in the cold!  Mr. Fantastic was home from work after having a minor procedure done last Friday, so he kept the little guy inside while I was out with the big kids.  It worked out perfectly, especially since Daddy is usually the play-with-us-outside parent.  I'm not a big cold weather person, but I REALLY enjoyed being out with the kids today.

All-in-all, today was a success.  Except for the drawing in pen on the wall part.  But that's another story.