Friday, October 26, 2012

It's that time again...

My dear sister, a good friend and I were having a " virtual calendar party" (we were skype-ing together to fill in everything important on our awesome calendars for 2012 ( I recommend either More Time Moms or Amy Knapp).
Anyway, they were commenting on how great my Christmas organizing is, which, truthfully, surprised the heck out of me. I am organized the same way a 20 year veteran of AA is sober--by working at it every day! It is not my natural state, but I have found and implemented some great tools, and I guess it is paying off.

So, I decided that I will share some of the things I have learned, with you, my dear readers. I hope it helps you have a blessed, peace filled Holiday Season.

First is the Christmas Countdown. Yes, already! It is the key to a peaceful Holiday and Christmas Season. Everything comes down to a firm foundation.


The Big Holiday Countdown:
Schedule these on your calendar, and work on them for 15 minutes every day.

Get Organized Week
Week 1:
Next to last week of October
 Make or update your Christmas Planner.

Reality Check Week

Week 2:
Last Week of October
 Take a long, hard, realistic look at what you want, what you need, what you can afford, and what causes you stress. Make your plans fit your reality.
 Make a holiday budget.
 Set up a holiday housework plan.
 How are you doing Christmas Cards? Do you need to schedule a photo shoot?
 If you are mailing cards, you can divide the Christmas card list into five groups. Write and address one group this week.
 Decide how you will shop for gifts. Will you divide entries on the master gift list into five groups, and buy one-fifth of the gifts each week? Will you do most of your shopping online? If you know what you are buying, you may want to set aside the money and do most of your purchases on Black Friday. Even online merchants have great deals (and you don’t have to fight crowds, weather or car seats!)
 Conduct family wardrobe check/size inventory.
 Take inventory of your gift closet now, before you shop for holiday gifts.
 Make sure you are focusing on Flying, and good health habits to cushion you and your family from holiday stresses.
 Make a tabletop check;. Inventory serving pieces, table linens, china and flatware.
 Schedule family haircut appointments.
 Inventory stocks of wrap and mail supplies.

Gifts and Giving Week
Week 3:
First Week of November
 Reevaluate your gift giving priorities and budget. Plan gift shopping accordingly.
 Will you do your main shopping in brick and mortar stores, or online? If you are making gifts, do you have a realistic plan for getting them finished in time to ship, wrap and give?

Get Cooking Week
Week 4:
Second Week of November
 Make a realistic plan of what you will have time, energy and money to cook.
 Plan and calendar special holiday cooking times (remember that less stress=more fun, so don’t get all freaked out perfectionist on this!)
 Plan to purchase a few special ingredients each week to ease the budget crunch!
 It’s also time to get out/plan advent calendars, and to make your decoration plan (so next week’s activities will go smoother!)
 Family Home Evening Activity can be an Advent Calendar Kickoff!

Decorate Week
Week 5:
Third Week of November
 Plan to do your decorating in little bits. 15 minutes a day is a life and sanity saver! Plus, it really makes it more exciting for the kids. And, as always, less stress=more fun!
 Since this week is Thanksgiving, plan your Family Home Evening Activity to be a Gratitude Activity.

Celebrate Week
Week 6:
Fourth Week of November
 We start Candle Time
 This is the time to really focus on Family Read Aloud time with special Christmas Books (our Favorites are: A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss, and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson. They are all short enough that you can read all 3 aloud during the next few weeks).
 Make an effort to collect and play the best possible versions of great Christmas Music. There is so much incredible music available for Christmas (both secular and Holy). Don’t waste your brain with the crap available on the radio.

After you have cruised through the first six weeks, you should have everything (mostly) under control, so you can focus on the celebrating!

Candle Time is a tradition that was shared with my family when I was a teenager. Some dear friends gave us a beautiful taper candle and a sheet with a devotional reading and scriptures for each night of December. Now we light a WHOLE BUNCH of candles, and gather together each night (I had to reassemble my own list of scriptures and devotionals, and I am still trying to perfect it!)

Week 1:
Baking Cookies & making simple candy. This actually extends through most of the week, but we try to keep it fun and enjoyable, not stressful and dictatorial!

Week 2:
Taking Cookies to the Neighbors!
I hate to admit how long it has taken us to get to know all of our neighbors—but anything is better than nothing, so don’t beat yourself up for past “less than perfects”!

Week 3:
Drive around town looking at the lights.
It is nice to have a deliberate, planned time to do this! Then we come home and have (urgh, gag!) eggnog (which my children & Hubby LOVE). And maybe some of the yummy cookies we have made!

Week 4:
We always go to my Dad’s house on Christmas Eve for the Nativity. This is a family tradition that goes a long way back—there are pictures from the 1940’s of my mom’s siblings (and cousins) dressed up as angels, shepherds, etc. The youngest baby is always cast as the baby Jesus (which means we have alternated between tiny, sleeping infants and toddlers who were ready to jump out of the manger and mug the wisemen for the gifts). After Grandpa finishes reading the Christmas Story from Luke and Matthew, we all gather and sing Christmas Carols.

More details to come!

I got most of the inspiration and ideas for this from

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Weekend Update (NOW--completely Dennis Miller Free!)

The promised update on the less-than-fun happenings on Saturday. I was hoping that My Favorite Gentleman would be able to come home on Saturday night at least. (Having him arrive home at 8 or 9pm on Saturday, and leave again at 3 or 4pm on Sunday is less than ideal. However, it is nice to be able to spend a little time together--maybe get to go out on a quicky date (we go to Walmart, usually—or sometimes the hardware store!)

BigGirl and LargeBoy got to go to a Stake Youth Activity at on Saturday (I am not totally sure of everything they did, but they reported they had a good time, and I know they had pumpkin carving, and used 100 pumpkins!)

SmallDaughter and I go everybody dropped off where they needed to go, then went grocery shopping. When we came home, I realized I could not put fresh groceries into that manky fridge, so I started cleaning it out. Sadly, I managed to break one of the glass shelves (who thinks glass refrigerator shelves are a good idea, anyway!?!), and since it was safety glass, it exploded into thousands of sharp little pieces, all over the kitchen!

While I was trying to clean it up, SmallDaughter was trying to cook herself some food (in her stocking feet!) and when I wouldn’t let her use the stove or be in the kitchen (the kitchen that was covered in tiny shards of broken glass!), she had a HUGE tantrum. (FYI—I had already cooked and fed her 3 eggs—she was not really hungry!). There was a huge amount of screaming and sobbing, then she got quiet. I went to investigate, and when I got into the bathroom, I found her standing on the toilet, holding a bottle of red nail polish! (!!!!)

She took one look at my face and held the bottle out to me! I put it up high, but realized that I could smell polish, so she had probably unscrewed the lid. I reached up and grabbed it, but only got the lid, and the bottle part dropped, hit the lid of the toilet and bounced, sending sprays of nail polish everywhere! (so, technically--I did it to myself!) It looked like a murder scene. Even more infuriating—I was wearing my brand new ($4from the thrift store), very cute shirt, and my brand new $40 pants—which were both “hosed”. Urgh.

I started to clean things up with my ½ bottle of nail polish remover—which quickly revealed how many tiny, not noticeable until you get remover in them cuts I had acquired on my hands! That stuff stings!

Then I got a phone call from My Favorite Gentleman, saying that he wouldn’t be able to make it home after all. That was the last straw. Lots of bawling ensued. I took SmallDaughter to the Dollar General, where we bought 3 bottles of nail polish remover, 2 rolls of paper towels, and a box of Little Debbie Fudge Rounds. I got everything cleaned up (and in the case of the Fudge Rounds, polished off!) (except the shirt, which just went straight into the trash), and felt very glad the day was over!

The Halloween Update: I am making my 4 cute nieces Smurf costumes!

(I believe the order will be Cute-Niece J = Papa Smurf, Cute-Niece N = Brainy Smurf, Cute-Niece A = Handy Smurf, Baby Cute-Niece L = Smurfette AND I found an awesome robe for their Daddy to be Gargamel today at Goodwill!).
LargeBoy is doing his own costume, and BigGirl is still trying to come up with an idea!
It seems likely that SmallDaughter will be…Mike Wazowski (because when you have a perfect costume, why mess with it?). However, I will need to do a little mending on the costume, and superglue the hat, because they have both had some hard usage during the year!

This morning, I forgot to set my alarm clock and totally slept through seminary. Much more embarrassing when you are the teacher!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Depressing moment of the week--NOW with even MORE Depressing!

Yesterday (Monday), I was in the Thrift Store, buying 4 smurf blue shirts for my niece's Halloween costumes (wanna' guess what they're going to be?)--and when I got to the checkout the cashier asked me if I had a Golden Buckeye Card. Yep, the seniors card that I have 20 years until I am eligible to receive!

Sigh. The weekend must have showed on my face.

More about the weekend soon. It will make you grateful for whatever you dealt with!

Wednesday Update:

I just got a call:

Voice on the Phone: "Mrs.________, I would like to let you know that we can supplement your Medicare Plan, and provide diabetes care supplies and incontinence supplies directly to your home with no cost to you:!

Me: (in my head: What the crap!?"), out loud: I'm only ___ years old! I don't qualify for medicare! And I don't have diabetes! (I am not even going to discuss incontinence with a young whippersnapper over the phone!).

Big Sigh.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Busy, busy, busy!

Blogging has gone out the window because I have been so awesomely busy. I spent most of a week working for the Board of Elections, mainly stuffing absentee ballot envelopes. (It wasn't as exciting as it sounds!).

Then, on Thursday we got SmallDaughter off of her school van and drove into town where we rented a car (since I do not trust the green van, and it has been making a suspicious “clonking” noise—more on that later!). We loaded everything into the rental in the pouring rain (the rental was boring, except that it was a “ key-less push button start” which was pretty weird!), and drove over to Pennsylvania (about a 4 hour drive), where My Favorite Gentleman has been working for several months.

We got to stay at his motel with him, where SmallDaughter had a GREAT time, because they had a pool—perfect for her, only 3 feet deep all the way around. We had breakfast (also perfect for her, scrambled eggs, sausage, hash-browns and toast—she ate every morsel, and scrounged bites from the rest of us!) BigGirl and LargeBoy really liked that the diner in the motel (where we had breakfast) had a jukebox (3 songs for $1), so we ate to the strains of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, “Sultans of Swing”, and “Duke of Earl”. Then we went to run errands, and when we came back SmallDaughter swam for 4 hours. I did My Favorite Gentleman’s laundry. After we got some lunch, she went swimming again!

After My Favorite Gentleman got off work, we drove for an hour to the cute town where my dear Aunts live, and went to our Family Reunion. It was really fun to see and spend time with so many Anderson Cousins.

On Saturday, the whole group of us went to “Living Treasures Animal Park” which is a nifty cross between a petting zoo and a zoo. You can feed almost all of the animals, and you are close up and personal (and it is clean and well designed, too!). Because we took The WonderDog, all of the big predators came REALLY close to the glass to check us out! Literally “Lions (a male and a female), Tigers (an orange and a white) and Bears (just one, but he was big!), OH MY”!. Also, alligators, boa constrictors, llamas, camels, ostriches, goats, ponies and lots of different monkeys. And what was the scariest? The peacocks (of course!).

Afterwards, various other grownup types stayed with the little kids, and the other adults went to a State Park to see the historic mill and do some hiking. It also happened to be the Heritage Festival, so we got to go on a hayride, (with Abraham Lincoln!), visit with reenactors, see (and hear!) the cannons, etc!

On Monday night, my sister M and her hubs (with the 3 cutest little boys) drove in from NY, and we had a fun day on Tuesday (mostly cleaning and getting things ready, with some YouTube mixed in!). My sister A and her hubs and 4 cutest little girls got here around 6ish, just as we were leaving for the park. It was a truly perfect evening. The leaves are all turning beautifully, but it wasn’t too cold, we had the entire playground to ourselves and all the cousins (and dads!) had a riot!

On Thursday, I took the big girls on the “Metro Amish Country Fieldtrip”. We went to Planktown Hardware, which is the store that sells all of the lotion & soap making supplies. I bought: cocoa butter (yum!), coconut oil, kaolin, essential oils, and deodorant tubes and I am going to try making my own deodorant. Then we went to Planktown Market, and got nice bulk type things, and then to Country Fabrics, which is always fun!

We got back about the same time Friend Lisa showed up with her 2 boys, and shortly after that Friend Vanessa and her 2 girls arrived! We played for a little while, then loaded everybody up, and took them to ride the carousel. SmallDaughter was in heaven! She rode a bunny and a kitty, but we got there just before closing, so they only had time for 2 rides!

Next we went to the Harvest Festival that they had at the Assisted Living Facility where our sister V was dancing. She is always a hoot to watch. It was a perfect festival—very low key and mellow, totally handicap accessible, and nothing scary for the little kids. SmallDaughter really liked the maze, petting 2 alpacas and the cake walk. The bigger kids liked the giant rubber band catapult to shoot apples at targets!

After the sun started to go down, we went over to dear Aunt A’s and celebrated my nephew’s 5th birthday. We made a super cute cake, with cookie crumb “dirt”, and sister M found such a clever technique—we printed out a picture of a dinosaur skeleton, put it in a protector page, then traced it with melted white chocolate. After it set up, we just popped it on top—and it looked amazing! (We broke it into pieces to look more "fossil-like").
Nephew informed EVERYBODY that they would be super surprised—because his cake “was all chocolate on the outside (the frosting)—but banana inside! And everybody will be expecting chocolate—but it isn’t!” We were suitably surprised.

On Saturday morning, BigGirl left with Vanessa & crew for the Renaissance Festival that is south of Columbus. They met up with our friend Megan and her family, and she came back with them (Vanessa just went back home). It was fun to see Megan and her super cute kids! We had a good time with them. While BigGirl was wowing the Middle ages in her elf ears, the rest of us set up the movie screen and projector and watched General Conference.

It was really fun watching it with my Seminary Boys—they were really into it. Sadly, we had technical difficulties at the beginning, so we didn’t get to see Pres. Monson’s announcement about changing the mission ages live (we had to go back and watch it afterwards). That means BigGirl will be able to go on a mission in 3 years!

One of my former Beehive girls (who is now at BYU) posted on Facebook: “That moment when President Monson changes your whole life with 1 sentence”. Which I thought was pretty cool. I love how technology is allowing us to truly flood the earth with the Good News of the Gospel and Jesus Christ!

We played fun conference games*, and I sorted pictures as we listened, and it was great until the end of the last Sunday session, when I moved wrong and threw my back out! So instead of all the busy cleaning and catching up I planned to do on Monday, I spent the day in bed, alternating heat and ice packs! I did get in to the chiropractor in the afternoon, so things are better; I just have sore muscles now. SmallDaughter got to go to riding, and we stopped at Kingwood Center to see the ducks. She would NOT go by herself, and kept pushing me ahead of her towards the scary peacock place, but he was not there, so we just got to feed the ducks in peace!

My biggest job this week (besides trying to get the house recovered from a vacation AND a huge visit) is that I have to go buy a car. All of our minivans have reached the point of no return, and a replacement is in order, so by this time next week, you should get more exciting news.

*We had several really fun games, as well as our Conference Notebooks. The most popular by far was having 2 candy dishes (peanut M&M's and Skittles, since I am the candy purchaser!), and each person picked a word (before the session started). Then, each time that word was mentioned over the pulpit, you got a candy. We also played Conference Bingo (I printed off the boards from here), and I printed the smaller children coloring pages and Conference Packets for the middle sized children . We will be playing this excellent Conference Game for Seminary.