Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Making a List, Checking It Twice

This year I am making a list.  And I'm going to check it twice.  Maybe the song isn't talking about making a list of things to buy but a list of things to do.  At least that's what my list is about.
Anyone else ever feel like this about Christmas?  :)

Last year I tried to be more organized. I shopped all year 'round and really felt like I had a leg up...until it got a little too close to Christmas and I realized that I had let my ego of being ahead get the best of me and I found myself way behind way too late to fix it.  Basically I shot myself in the foot by convincing myself that a year worth of shopping meant that I was done.

But I was far from done.

So I took the feelings that I had from last year and used them to kind of troubleshoot my faults to be prepared for this year.  Here are things that always catch me up and the solutions I've come up with so I don't have these things hanging over my head:

*Christmas cards-I always put these off, have lots of cute cards, and then am struggling at the last minute to get them out in the mail amidst all of the other tasks going on.
SOLUTION: I'm already addressing them to get in the mail the day before Thanksgiving. I can wipe my hands of them and sit back and relax.

*Decorating-Every year I have the best intentions.  I am going to make amazing displays around the house, people will ooh and aah and it will be amazing.  But it never happens.  I always have Nick bring down our decorations and then 5 bins end up sitting in a corner, just waiting to be unloaded up until the very last minute.  This year I'm not doing it.  Not gonna do it.
SOLUTION: While we are sticklers (my husband is) about not decorating until after Thanksgiving, I was able to have him bring all of the bins out of the attic.  I am going through them the days before Thanksgiving: weeding out what the kids are too old for (training dishes, board books), and paring down the bins we need to decorate with by getting out things I know we will not be using and putting those things together.  I tend to get really nostalgic once that tree's up so sitting in my craft room doing this really helps me to think don't need, need, don't need, don't need.  Trust me folks, this works :)

*Christmas Shopping- I've always been okay about shopping Christmas early, but early was November, maybe October.  I always ended up thinking I had bought more than I really had and ended up going on massive shopping sprees at the end.
SOLUTION: I have taken a clue from my favorite person, my Aunt Jan, and have shopped all year.  I've made a detailed list of what I've gotten for who including how much I've spent along the way to make sure I don't overspend.

*Christmas Budget-I always tried to spend money but with the massive shopping trips I took I was ruining my budget at the finish line.
SOLUTION: To be honest I don't have an overall Christmas budget.  I try to buy items as cheaply as possible  (with coupons, clearance, sales, etc) and it always seems to work out.  An example is for one child I bought 13 items and spent $42.00.  The retail value of those items was about $184.00 so I saved a lot of money!   $42.00 is within the range of what I am willing to spend so I am okay with that.  I keep an eye on my spending throughout the year so I am aware of what I've spent.  What I do budget for is the month of December: Christmas tree, dinners, cookie making, stamps, gas going to extra places: it all adds up...we set an amount to stick to with all of those categories.

*Gift Wrapping-Am I the only person who hates the whole "staying up late wrapping gifts until the break of dawn on Christmas Eve" thing?  This year I've decided no way, no how am I doing that again.  My problem being that the place I wrap presents is also known as our homeschool classroom which makes it a little tricky to get things wrapped, and then not touched by inquiring little hands :)
SOLUTION: Gifts are going to be wrapped ahead of time and then taken to any houses they are going to that are not mine.  We exchange gifts at my grandma's and so any gifts that go there are going there immediately.  That way there's less to keep track of here.  Once those are out of the way I will start wrapping the gifts that stay here but aren't for our kids.  Those we have room for in our classroom while still doing school.  After we start our Christmas vacation the kiddos won't be in the classroom and I'll be able to wrap the kids gifts without them spying them :)  Whatever works for you, the point is make a number and wrap that number of gifts per day...5 is my number.  5 gifts a day gang :)

*Taking/Making Food-I love cooking but when I am asked at the last minute to bring a dish or appetizer, I freak.  When I freak I spend way too much on stuff I know no idea how to make and get so nervous.
SOLUTION: I've thought of what people usually ask me to bring and what I am comfortable taking to places.  I usually make appetizers or desserts. So in November I found a sale and stocked up on crackers and cream cheese for making cheese balls and dips.  I also stocked up on cocoa powder and add-ins for brownies and cakes like peanut butter, nuts, toffee pieces.  With these things on hand I'll be able to whip up something relatively quickly without the fuss of running out to buy ingredients.

So I hope this helps you all with the dreaded Christmas tasks.  I came up with this list for myself when I noticed that Christmas was starting to feel more daunting than darling.  And I don't want that.  This year, with these items checked twice and under control, mistletoe will be the only thing hanging over my head!

Merry Christmas to you all!

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Morning Sunshine!

Good Morning!  I hope you enjoy this video this morning!  

We live here in the good old midwest, I am proud to say, and yesterday as you may have heard, we had storms rip through.  So I am thinking lots could use a little pick me up right now.  

We got the children's school pictures taken last week and I am over the moon with how they turned out.  Love these kiddos so much! I'm still having a love/hate relationship with these children growing up so quickly!  

Friday evening my cousin Andy arrived.  He is the children's favorite uncle and they have been having so much fun with him!  He's their Funcle :) We've been busy catching up, laughing, talking, and having so much fun together!  

Well I think that is it for now. Hope these pictures and the video get your week off to the best start it can have!  

Love to you all! 


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Monday, November 4, 2013

The Babies Aren't Babies Anymore :(

I know all mother's go through this so I'm just going to say it...I hate these babies growing up!  It's hard and sad and heart-breaking all at the same time it's exciting and fulfilling and heart-warming.  

 These babies of ours are 5 and 7!  5 and 7!!!  I just can't believe it.  I look back at these pictures and am so saddened by how quickly the time has fled.  Where did my babies go?  When did they stop being babies?
 And this teeny little guy...well, he's going to be 6 in January!  Six!!!!  Where did the time go?  This is truly startling.  We will never again have a four year old, or a new little baby in the house.
I miss the chubby cheeks.  The soft little curls they both had.  I miss their new smells.  
And as hard as it is, I'm so thankful for silly pictures.  Because I can remember the silly smiles and giggles that came along with the pictures, the softness of their skin, their cuddliness.  It's amazing to me what pictures bring back to the mind.  It's all in there somewhere just not in the forefront of my memory.

Now, off to stop these little ones from getting any bigger! :)
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Friday, November 1, 2013

Crushing Comparison


It's one of the worst habits I have.  

Every day I seem to try to compare our lives to others around us.  

I try to homeschool like others I see...in blogs, in friends, in some imaginary perfect world my mind seems to create.  I try to keep house like books, commercials, and magazines suggest.  I try to be a wife as soap operas, movies, and reality television hints at being.  

I try to do these silly, foolish things because I compare my life to others.  I compare what I have and how I act to how they are and what they have. 

And suddenly within an instant of seeing what people make on pinterest, the perfect lives they display on facebook, the blogs that tout the amazingly patient homeschool mother, suddenly my life just doesn't seem good enough.  My abilities don't add up to what is required to be a good wife, mother, teacher. We don't have good enough things, I don't keep our house decorated as well as I should.  My husband's not romantic enough.  My children aren't well behaved enough.  

Comparison takes our joy. It takes our happiness.  It makes us miserable about a life that should make us happy down to our very core.  

We are after all so blessed beyond measure. Blessed with things and love God gives us that we don't in any way deserve.

By comparing my life to others I diminish God's ability to give me what is perfect for our situation.  In a way comparison is throwing back into God's face what he has given us.  Saying it's not good enough.  That what we have in mind surely must be better than what he came up with.  

And seriously, when put like that, how dumb does it sound?  

I decided to blog about this when I came across some articles on Pinterest titled things like "20 things to do to be happier each day"  or "4 things that will ruin your homeschooling".  I'm not linking to them because there is absolutely nothing wrong with those blogs and are written my wonderful women.  

But the bullet point each article contained that said something generic like "don't compare your life to others" left me wanting more of an explanation.  I mean, that I know.  I get it.  But the hard thing for me, the obstacle I struggle with is, "how do you stop comparing?"  How do you make your views and your life be good enough for you?  

To stop comparing, these are some things I have done:

*Take a Facebook break.  I think the time period you do this for, well, this kind of revolves around your habit of checking it.  Do you check it once a day?  Maybe go a week without it.  Check it every hour?  Even going a day without it could break your cycle of dependency on finding out what everyone else is doing.  Even sub-consciously you may be sizing yourself up to everyone else without even noticing.

*Make a gratitude journal.  I began doing this after reading One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp and it has so truly helped.  Writing simple and yet complex blessings God gives like "light slanting through autumn leaves outside kitchen window" gives me a profound new viewpoint which helps me to see the every day as a gift and to actively seek out and establish blessings for what they are.  

*View yourself in a better light.  I so often find fault in myself.  The other day a mom was talking to me while Emma was in ballet class.  She complimented me on how well behaved my children are.  I found myself, in looking back to be a humiliating way, talking about how it's because I have them on a schedule and then proceeding to tell her how it's so bad that their on a schedule and how they now depend too much on their schedules.  Rather than accept the compliment I had to distort and twist it until I made it into something bad that I do.  How weird is that?  So seek what you do, and what you do well.  Find things that you are good about and bask in them rather than try to find fault in yourself.  By doing that we can stop wanting to be like others.  

*I read a book recently that said something like "quit comparing your outtake reel to someone else's highlights video".  Do you get that?  I had this problem especially with Facebook.  I would look at someone else's photos of their perfectly dressed children from their most recent photo shoot and suddenly the last bit of confidence I had while sitting in my cruddy sweats on my discount couch in our dusty house, crumbles and I feel inadequate and poor and a failure as a mother.  All because I saw a photo.  People often times only show what they want you to see.  You don't see the bad, the ugly, the tired, the fights.  But so often you are shown their best while you're in your worst. Sound familiar?  By remembering that their best is not the only side of them can help you to stop comparison and to remember that they are broken people in a broken world too, just like you.  

I hope this list helps you.  I have gotten a lot better at comparing our life to the lives of others I see.  I've been able to say to myself "okay I may not be able to do that but there are lots of other things I am good at" and just leave it at that.  I hope today you can squash any comparison going on in your mind and you can store up the joy you have in your heart because of the life God has blessed you with.  

Happy weekend sweet friends! 

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