Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Wishes

We've been busy at the FamilyMusings household getting ready for Christmas. This is the first year that Charlotte starts to get what Christmas is all about so I haven't had much time for blogging.

Before I sign off until next year, I'd thought I'd just share a few tidbits with you...

First, some excellent posts that help explain the way our family deals with the Santa vs. Jesus issue.
Second, remember when I blogged about taking a stay-cation. Well, fate smiled on me and in a completely unrelated event, I won 2-free nights at a local Holiday Inn by entering a Facebook contest. My parents will use 1 night tomorrow. Here is my winning comment:
My daughters, Charlotte (2) and Mary (3 months), are the light of their grandparent's eyes. When Charlotte sees her G-ma and Grumpy, no matter where we are, she runs right over to them with a cheer in her voice and gives them the biggest leg hugs ever! They don't even have time to scoop her up. She is that fast.

Now that Charlotte is old enough to understand Christmas, my dad would give anything to be there on Christmas morning to see how her eyes sparkle by the light of the 3' Christmas tree that is the perfect size for our small home. But that small home means he is going to have to wake up before 3 am to make it here in time to see his granddaughters on Christmas morning. He is self-employed and money has been tight this year.

If I were to win, G-ma and Grumpy would be able to stay overnight in Lakeland with us and his old bones would be well rested when the 5:30 am Christmas morning starts. They'd also be able to join us for Christmas Eve services the night before, something that would be especially meaningful to my mother.
Third,  um, what was the third thing? Oh, I don't remember... the last few weeks have been a blur! But we have been decorating and doing lots of crafty stuff, even if I haven't used my camera much. I wanted to do a post sharing all of my nativities with you, but I guess at this point it will have to wait until next year. Maybe by then my collection will be even bigger.

Fourth, I have a really neat blog series planned for next year that all the parents around here are going to want to join in on... it is all about journaling the legacy of our lives so our children and grandchildren will know us better one day.

And fifth, I hope all of you have a very merry Christmas! We'll be baking a cake tomorrow to celebrate Jesus' birthday and will be sure to save you a slice! C'mon over!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Angel Breakfast

Each year, our church hosts an Angel breakfast a few weeks before Christmas. We attended our first one this year. The purpose of the breakfast is to encourage parents to keep Christ in Christmas.

Charlotte had the chance to make some angel crafts, including this stamped bag. I am so glad she didn't get that red paint on her dress!

Another angel craft we made with a dishtowel, pot holder, and wash rag. It was simple to make and will be a lovely gift for some special teachers and nursery workers in our lives. Though the assembling of the angel was over Charlotte's head, she still found something else to put over her head.

Mary was with us too of course, but didn't seem so thrilled about wearing her angel costume.

During some down time between the yummy pancakes and the art projects, Bruce entertained Charlotte with their new game - "I've got your nose!" I am sure I don't need to explain the rules to you...

Monday, December 07, 2009

"Excuse Me Mommy"

Tonight in the car, Bruce and I were having a conversation about the church service we had just left when from the back seat, I heard Charlotte say, "excuse me Mommy."

After I finished my sentence with Bruce, I looked back and acknowledged Charlotte and told her I would be with her in a moment, once Daddy and I finished our train of thought.

She seemed okay with that, but not for very long (about 10 seconds, after all she is still 2 years old!,). She soon said "excuse me Mommy" again.

Once I was done with my sentence, I looked back again and asked her what she needed.

"I need you to stop talking to Daddy," she replied.

"Why do you need me to stop talking to Daddy?"

"So you can talk to Charlotte Moon!"

15 Tips for Moms to Make Christmas Special

Responding to pastor and blogger Mark Driscoll's 16 tips for Dads, here are my top 15 tips for Moms in how to make the Christmas season special for your family.

Instead of stressing out about the money your family will or will not spend on Christmas gifts, make plans NOW to ensure your family uncovers and celebrates the true meaning of this holiday. Don't fall into the same patterns of the years past (except for those treasured family traditions) and make sure you don't miss out on how your children will enjoy Christmas differently now that they are a year older.

As Mark Driscoll says, "Our children grow quickly and if we miss the sacred moments God opens up for us to connect with and bless our families, everyone suffers and we set in motion generations of missed opportunity."
  1. Mom, you need a holiday plan to make sure each child knows they are loved despite the busy-ness. What is your plan?
  2. Mom, childhood memories of Christmas seem to come back more easily, whether good or bad. What memories do you want your children to have of THIS Christmas?
  3. Mom, what community events are you planning to participate in this Christmas? When is your town's Christmas parade? What about Santa's Workshops and snow events? 
  4. Mom, Christmas traditions can be sacred or fun. Some can be both. What sacred and/or fun traditions does your family have that point to Jesus?
  5. Mom, are you grumpy about the spending on gifts this year? Either because you don't feel you have enough or because you feel the creeping excessiveness of it all? How are you going to control it all to find joy in the real reason for the season?
  6. Mom, experiences often make better memories than gifts. So why not follow our recent giving tradition and give an experience instead of a gift? Tickets to a show? To a game? Coupon book?
  7. Mom, you are most likely the gatekeeper of the family's schedule. Are you over scheduling your family? Is there time marked on your calendar to just rest and enjoy one another? To whom or to what do you need to say "no" to?
  8. Mom, particularly when children are young, they look to you as an example of generosity. They probably spend more time with you than any other person. How are you going to demonstrate a generous spirit this year?
  9. Mom, do you have one on one time planned for each of your children? A special date with your daughter to have tea? A set apart time with your son to help him shop for his girlfriend?
  10. Mom, are you decorating for the holiday? This is the first year I've put up any Christmas decorations in a long time. And I was motivated to do so by my daughters. I want them to feel the specialness of the season and know that something is different about this holiday.
  11. Mom, does is smell like Christmas in your house? Does it sound like Christmas? Find a candle and a Christmas CD and relax at home a little.
  12. Mom, what special snuggle times will you enjoy with your children? You can introduce them to the classic Christmas movies like It's A Wonderful  Life, Charlie Brown Christmas, and Miracle on 34th Street.
  13. Mom, have you talked Dad into taking a drive to look at Christmas lights? Get some hot cocoa ready and bundle everyone up for a trip out around town.
  14. Mom, this is a great time to get real about Jesus with your children. Try to have a kid safe nativity they can play with on their own. Teach them how to act out the nativity story with their kid-sized set. Let them play Sunday School with you and retell the story to you.
  15. Lastly, Mom, repent of having a Martha attitude. Are you a servant like Jesus to your family?
This isn't meant to be a To Do list for Moms and to make you feel guilty. Each of us will have something that we can and should improve upon this Christmas to make it special. It isn't going to be everything on this list. It might even be something completely different.

What are you going to do different this year?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Giveaway: Ginky's Glorious Green Growing Garden

This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to Rachel, comment #1 for winning.

Have you ever read a book that just filled your mind and soul with delight? A book so artfully written that it just flows off the tongue? Now, have you ever read a children's book that did that?

I have.

Several weeks ago I was visiting with a friend and picked up a copy of Ginky’s Glorious Green Growing Garden. The author was my friend's mother, Tammy O'Donnell, a former educator and current education consultant. From reading this book, it is clear that O'Donnell has a pure love for language and the way it can wrap around our heads to create a vision of another place.

"Ginky’s Glorious Green Growing Garden is the third book in the series, following Grandmommy’s Dress-Up Box (2006) and Grandmommy and the Great Shoe Tadoo (2007).  The first two books are dedicated to the mothers of Tammy and her husband Larry, whose memories the family cherishes and wants to pass along to their grandchildren.

"Ginky’s Glorious Green Growing Garden , the third book, continues to honor those in the family circle by presenting Larry (whom the children dubbed “Ginky”) in the role of farmer/gardener, and the book is dedicated to the memory of Larry’s Hoosier farmer father, Lloyd O’Donnell. Boys and girls alike will be charmed by the antics of the two children, Selah and Asher, who answer Ginky’s call for assistance in tending the garden on an April afternoon:

“They knew garden work leaves you dirty and stinky,
but would not miss a chance to spend time with their Ginky..”

"The trio tends to plants beginning with A and continuing through Z in a family project that draws them closer through hard work and fun as the children develop character and “stick-to-it-iveness”—

“We don’t mind the symbols of hard work done well. The gloves helped a little, but the blisters will tell.
Working the soil proves a universal fact—
Hard work and persistence are still a class act.”

"At the request of educators and parents who have bought the books in the past, Tammy has added lesson plans for using the book to teach higher-order thinking skills and to relate topics to subjects other than reading.  The book also includes a picture glossary for children to reference as they identify plants throughout the book.  And they love to find the mouse hiding on each page!"

Once I had stood in my friend's kitchen and read the book cover to cover, I knew I needed a copy. Fortunately, the friend knew I had a blog and talked her mother, the lovely author, into giving me a copy not only of this book, but her first two books as well. And then, she gave me an extra set to give away to one of you, my equally lovely readers.

One of my favorite things about Ginky’s Glorious Green Growing Garden is the alliteration throughout. O'Donnell really outdid herself with this A to Z book, which is unlike the vast majority of A to Z books I've read with Charlotte. As an example, here is my favorite line from this book:

"Queen Anne's Lace is the Quintessential center
Of a garden that quiets your soul when you enter."

How many children's books do you know that use the word 'quintessential'??? And still manage to be unpretentious? Even though O'Donnell uses big words, they don't seem threatening and can really stretch a reader's vocabulary because context clues do exist to help them figure out the meaning. There are so many more things I could say about this book and the delightful conversation I had with O'Donnell about it, but I know you all really just want to know how to win a copy for yourself!

I have 1 complete set of Tammy O'Donnells' books to give away.

How to Enter: There are four ways to enter and you can do any of them you like, for up to four entries:
  1. Leave a comment telling me what your favorite flower is,
  2. Subscribe to my RSS feed, and leave a 2nd comment telling me you did so, or already are subscribed,
  3. Link to my giveaway on your own blog, leaving another comment with the permalink to you post, or
  4. Share this giveaway on Twitter and leave a 4th comment letting me know you did (copy & paste this suggested text: Win a complete set of author Tammy O'Donnell's books from @FamilyMusings
That's it. 4 ways to win and 1 lucky winner. This giveaway will end at midnight on Sunday, December13. Read all contest rules here. And I promise to pick a winner and ship this out in time for Christmas gifts IF you let me know in the comments that you plan to give these books to someone as a present.

If you'd like to order your own book, or an entire set, contact Tammy directly for a personally inscribed book. At this time, these books are only available from the author directly. Tammy O’Donnell can be reached via email at or by phone/fax at  863-956-8583.

Tammy asked me to add the following - I do like to speak to groups like public libraries, writers' conferences, church groups, nursing homes, etc.  As long as I have an opportunity to sign and sell, and depending on the nature and purpose of the organization, I don't necessarily charge a speaking fee.

Rainy Day Boredom

I posted once before that on rainy days when we are stuck in the house, I like to have a photo shoot. During the rain this past week, Charlotte wanted to try out her new silly face for the camera. What do you think? Is it silly?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Mary is 3 Months Old Today

So much has happened in the last three months, yet it feels like just last week I was bringing home Mary from the birthing center. The biggest thing that has happened though is that I finally am in love with Mary.

I know that sounds weird to say, but it just took me longer this time to get that feeling of not wanting to put her down or be away from her. That feeling of just wanting to soak her all in until I can't stand it anymore.

I wish I had more pictures of her to share, but I haven't been finding much time to get the camera out these days. So Mary, if you are reading this someday, please don't be mad at your sister for having hundreds of pictures in her first three months, first the less than 100 I have of you. Okay? I promise I love you just as much, but my time is a bit more divided these days.

Now, a brief update on how therapy has been going... Mary has been taking her bottles for the last couple of weeks without any cheek or jaw support. So, Nikki (her ST) and I decided it was time to move her from the low flow nipple with 1 hole to a slow flow nipple with 2 holes.

After the first few gulps, she started choking and coughing again and I suddenly realized how far we had come. She used to do that with every bottle. Nikki began pacing her a little to see how Mary would respond. First Nikki stopped every 3 swallows, then every 4, then every 5. After Mary finished 2 of her 3 ounces, she was pacing herself and finished the last ounce with no problem. She was a fast learner. At home, I've had to do the same thing, pacing for the first 2 ounces and by then, Mary can regulate the last ounce herself.

As for her strength, there are some minor improvements. I saw an adorable picture of 6-week old Cousin Rebekah last week doing a cute mini push-up and that too reminded me that Mary does have some work to do still to catch up. Mary now hates tummy time so it is getting harder for me to find the internal motivation and strength to deal with 10-15 minute melt downs almost every time we try it.

Pictures -
Top Left: Mary napping because seems to be the only time I have my camera out at home!
Middle Right - At the Lakeland Parade
Bottom Left - With second cousin the day after Thanksgiving

Lakeland Christmas Parade

It really feels like Christmas is upon us now. I have my Thanksgiving decorations put away and my Nativity scenes up (pictures to come) and we've attended our first Lakeland Christmas parade.

Charlotte was allowed to stay up extra late (3 hours after her normal bedtime!) just for this special event and having her there made it so much more fun.

Because the parade is such a popular event in Lakeland, I scoped out a spot for us to sit about 4 hours before the parade's 7 pm kick-off. Boy am I glad I did. It was crowded when we finally arrived at 6:15 and our seats were pretty good (just near the judges stand).

I think Charlotte's favorite part of the parade were the floats playing loud music that she could dance too. Many a float rider got a kick out of watching her shake and bounce to their music.

We were also right on the lake and had a front seat for the fireworks show that begins the night's festivities.

Mary was dressed in her Christmas warmest and didn't seem to mind the fireworks noise at all, even though we were so close.

Many of the parade participants seemed to enjoy seeing Mary watch the parade. I even had a special moment with a woman portraying Mary, the mother of Jesus, as she rode past on her float carrying her own baby. It is hard to describe, but I had a Mommy Moment with her in which we immediately bonded over the babies in our laps.

And what parade post would be complete without photos of some of our favorite participants?!

(Click on this one to read the front windshield!)

(This is the woman I had my "moment" with!)

Have you been to your town's Christmas parade yet? What was your favorite part?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Hickory Farms Memories

Have you ever received a Hickory Farms gift basket? I have. Do you remember that experience? I do, and very well. It was just last Christmas and for some reason, receiving a gift basket from Hickory Farms made me feel like a grown up. Because, let's be frank, who would give a kid a basket full of smoked meat and cheeses? These sorts of things are just very grown up gift ideas.

Well, a week or so ago, I received my second ever Hickory Farms gift basket and it reminded me of my first basket of meat and cheese. This time though, it wasn't from a family friend. It was from Mom Central.

One thing I remember about my first gift basket, and was reminded of with this one, is that the idea of eating cheese that has not been refrigerated is weird. But I can get over it because the product is shelf stable until opened.  And though surprised by the taste of it, I especially liked the Apple Pie Cheddar Cheese. Neither of the flavors were too strong to enjoy with the flatbread crackers.

These baskets are easy to send too. Just visit Hickory Farms online and place an order. You can even find out how to APO/FPO shipping.

For a limited time this holiday season, for each Party Planner Gift Box sold, Hickory Farms will donate $5 to Share Our Strength, a leading national non-profit organization working to end childhood hunger in America.  Additionally, for 40 different gift items, Hickory Farms provides free military shipping, allowing our troops across the globe to share in holiday traditions.

"I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Hickory Farms and received a Hickory Farms gift basket to facilitate my review."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Giveaway: Nancy's Appetizers

This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to comment #19 for winning.

A few weeks ago, I received 2 coupons for Nancy's Appetizers. You might have seen these before in your grocer's freezer section.  Nancy (or whomever does the actual baking!) makes cute little quiches and deli spirals (which I am totally addicted too!) I could eat a box of spirals in less time that it took me to write this post. 

As a woman who loves a bargain, I tried to wait until Nancy's Appetizers went on sale before I used my coupon. But that didn't happen (don't worry it was a coupon to try the product for free and you can win one too). So,  I used my free coupon and bought a box of quiches (my store was out of spirals and didn't carry the dessert!). 

A normal woman would probably have served these as an actual appetizer at a party for to make dinner at home seem a little fancier. Not me.  I baked my box up and ate them for lunch with a Diet 7-Up on day. Yummy. But what little cup of baked eggs, cheese, pastry, and veggies wouldn't be? It was a good thing I ate them myself though instead of trying to impress my in-laws. Since they don't come in a tray inside the box, my little quiches got a little bruised up in transit. But not so much that they were destroyed or damaged.

Now that I've enjoyed my Nancy's Appetizers, one of my lucky readers can too. Here's how to enter to win a coupon for a free box from Nancy's Appetizers:

How to Enter: There are four ways to enter and you can do any of them you like, for up to four entries:

  1. Leave a comment telling me you want to win,
  2. Subscribe to my RSS feed, and leave a 2nd comment telling me you did so, or already are subscribed,
  3. Link to my giveaway on your own blog, leaving another comment with the permalink to you post, or
  4. Share this giveaway on Twitter and leave a 5th comment letting me know you did (copy & paste this suggested text: Win a coupon for a free box of Nancy's Appetizers from @FamilyMusings
That's it. 4 ways to win and 1 lucky winner. This giveaway will end at midnight on Sunday, December13. Read all contest rules here.

"I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Nancy’s Appetizers and received 2 coupons to facilitate my review and a $20 thank-you gift certificate."