This Christmas Will Be. . . .

a very special Christmas for me!

My tree is up!  And I’m aware that it’s leaning.


I can hardly believe my eyes!  It would be safe to say that Ox hates Christmas and because of that my holiday spirit dwindles a little each year.  This year; however, I caught him playing Christmas carols just before Thanksgiving, which has been a HUGE no-no in our house for as long as I’ve been with him.  Yesterday, he mentioned that his sister’s family was going to town with their truck to pick up a Christmas tree and it would be a good idea if we followed and had them haul ours too, so “we don’t have to deal with strapping it to the roof of our car later.”  Wow! I’m in shock.  I asked if he was beginning to like Christmas and he replied, “No.  I’ve learned that a happy wife is a happy life.”  And right he is!

The smell of pine in our house is driving me to tidy up and get ready for some baking.  Ahhh! Christmas baking.  Time to pull out the cookbooks and get my line up of holiday cookies.  Speaking of cookies, did you know ThePioneerWoman has dubbed this week #CookieWeek on Twitter?  Good ol’ P-Dub wants to make sure we get our fill of recipes for the holiday season.  That’s why I love her.

And because I’m in the Christmas mood–with a little encouragement from my cousin who has her cards in the mail on the 1st of December (honestly, who does that?) –I’ve got my cards designed and ordered.  Now, addressing and stamping them is another story.  Don’t get your hopes up; I may have an early start on them, but they might come as New Year’s cards.

Bright Merry Story Christmas 5×7 folded card
Get custom photo Christmas cards online at Shutterfly.com.
View the entire collection of cards.

For the Love of Popcorn

When I was about three years old, my mother was standing at the stove patiently popping kernels in a pot of butter so she, my older brother, and I could enjoy a heaping bowl of popcorn while we sat down for a movie.  I watched her intently, my excitement building with every ping and pop as the kernels burst.  She poured the fluffy steaming batch into a large bowl asking me to settle down as we headed for the couch.  She sat between my brother and I with the bowl on her lap, and when the signal was made to start eating, I shoveled the first handful into my mouth.

Mmm! The fluffiness, the butter, the salt; I couldn’t get enough of it.   And in my state of popcorn euphoria, I did the unthinkable–I put my feet right in the bowl.  Ahh! The fluffiness, the butter, the salt; I wiggled my toes and squealed with laughter.  It was a moment of pure bliss, until I was so rudely ripped from the couch receiving a spanking in mid-air on my way to the ground.

After a bit of scolding, my mother handed me the bowl of “stinky feet” popcorn and retired to the kitchen to make a new batch.  My brother sat there glaring at me in disgust while I quietly enjoyed my bowl of popcorn and the butter and salt between my toes.  Putting my feet in the popcorn was a short phase I had to grow out of if I wanted to live through the rest of my childhood.  Sadly, I gave it up and forgot all about it until I was 21.

My oldest son, at the age of two, was sitting on the couch with me watching a movie before bedtime.  He scarfed a handful of popcorn and with a full mouth, managed to say, “I really love popcorn, mama.”  To which I agreed.  Then he looked up at me ever so sweetly and asked, “Can I put my feet in it?”  Wow! It was as if all time had stopped.  Where would he get such a ridiculous idea?  I grinned and said, “No, but it was good idea.”

A few weeks ago, we received our rather expensive order of Cheese Lover’s popcorn from the local Boy Scouts.  It now comes in new resealable packaging, which I love.  As I’m sitting at my computer quietly working on projects, I’m interrupted by an unfamiliar sound.

*crumple* *crumple* *giggle* *giggle* *crumple*

Off to the kitchen I go to find my 17-month old daughter sitting on the floor with a bag of popcorn.  I move toward her to take it away and realize that she’s put her foot through the unzipped opening and she’s kicking around, giggling.

What’s with having an urge to put feet in popcorn? I’ve pondered this question a lot over the past week.   I’ll never begin to understand how such a peculiar idea could be genetic.

Today I made a bowl of  popcorn.  I ate some.  And then I put my feet in it.

It’s simply the joy of doing something absolutely ridiculous.


Getting Back on Track

Today I sat down and thought of 10 words I would use to describe myself.  This exercise was a real eye-opener in how my doubts and negative thought reflect on the way I view myself.

Worn, Scarred, Fat, Weak, Tired, Lost, Forgetful, Judged, Kind, Appreciated

The only good thing I saw in myself is kindness, but I can be just as judgmental to those who have hurt me.  If it weren’t for my loving husband and the adoration of my children, I probably would never feel appreciated.

I sat here thinking, “I don’t want to be this person.  Most of the time I feel like I’m happy, do I not smile enough?  How am I all of these terrible, negative things? ”

And then it hits me, “You are NOT all of these things.”

Looking back on the last 5 years, I often wonder how I came from this healthy mom with a high self-esteem

to this unfit, negative version of myself that’s over 60 lbs heavier.

Did I not see it coming?  Surely I noticed my pants were becoming snug and my clothing size was changing, but why didn’t I do anything?  It didn’t seem like much change at all when I only gained 10 little pounds that first year.   But why didn’t I do something when I gained another 10 pounds the year after that?  Or when it became a vicious cycle year after year?  The answer to that is one I’ll never know.  However, I do know that I can continue “wanting” to change it or I can just get off my ass and do something to change it.  Ugh!  The thought of that actually makes me tired already. It’s going to take encouragement.  It’s going to take will power.  It’s going to take a lot of positive thought and love for myself.

Love for myself . . . Let’s start over with those words, shall we?

Kind, Appreciated, Loving, Beautiful, Talented, Creative, Positive, Happy, Forgiving, Thankful

What I say and think about myself directly affects who and what I am.  Focusing on negativity is going to keep me down this same path, in this rut of self loathing and personal  insecurity.  I not only want to go back to that happy, healthy, loving person I was, I am going to get there.  I know I may stumble along the way, but I CAN do this.  I WILL do this.  For me.

And to better myself and my health I’m going to cut out soda.  I’m starting to cry inside, honestly. Living  in a small rural town with unfavorable water conditions, I grew up drinking nothing but Kool-aid and soda.  I’ve always been addicted to it.  I can only think of four times in my life when I wasn’t– all three of my pregnancies and during the time of my happy, healthy self shown above.  I tried to quit this addiction not too long ago and ended the 9th day with a big, cold, refreshing, fizzy bottle of Coke.  Now I’ve got Ibuprofen in my corner for withdrawal headaches and I’m going to make it longer than 9 days.  That’s what I keep telling myself.  Any encouragement to do so is appreciated!

So today starts affirmation and elimination.

Affirmation:  I am kind, appreciated, loving, beautiful, talented, creative, positive, happy, forgiving, and thankful.

Elimination:  Getting rid of my addiction to the one thing that consumes me:  Cola.

Green is the NEW Black

If you’ve seen my Facebook page, you know that my favorite bargaining site of the past few months is Thredup.com.  I stumbled across the site through a Facebook ad and have fallen in love with the whole idea of swapping online.  Why?  It’s simple, cost-effective, and I no longer have a build up of used clothing I keep meaning to take to the thrift store.

Outfit and shoes from Michelle Messer (Michelle M.)

How it works:

  1. Join the Thredup community and Thredup sends 10 medium flat-rate boxes to you.
  2. Dig through all of the gently used clothing your children have outgrown, inspect it for holes, rips, tears, stains, broken zippers, missing buttons, etc.
  3. Wash all of the items considered to be in good condition and sort them by size.
  4. When your boxes arrive, roll your clothing and stuff them into the box until the box is full without entirely busting at the seams.
  5. Login to your Thredup account and follow the steps to list the box.
  6. Someone picks your listed box and pays a total of $15.70 ($5 + shipping) to Thredup.  This covers the cost of the shipping rate and a $5 web/service fee to the company.
  7. When your box is picked, you will receive email confirmation with steps to confirm and send your box.
  8. Print the shipping label, tape the it to the box, and either drop it off at your local Post Office or schedule a pick up and leave the box at your door.
  9. Each box you send adds to the Swap Balance number of boxes you can pick and purchase for yourself.
  10. Pick a box, pay for it, and your first swap cycle is complete.

Wait.  If I’m not making money off my clothing, how do I benefit from this?

  • Get rid of your used clothing without making an effort to go to a thrift store and drop it off.
  • Find joy in knowing someone else is using what you no longer need.
  • Help your budget by saving money on clothing expenses of growing children.
  • Belong to a community of women who love to swap and are both supportive and friendly.

Using Thredup’s Family Savings Calculator, I find that I will save an estimated total of $1,894 this year. I absolutely believe it seeing how quickly my boys grow along with having a baby in the house.

In the month of October, I cleaned out my daughter’s closet and dresser to find that she had barely anything left to wear.  No dresses for church, no pajamas, one pair of shoes in a toddlers size 5, and the list goes on.  I jumped onto Thredup and started browsing.  Within two weeks I purchased four boxes of clothes, each containing name brands such as Gymboree, Children’s Place, Old Navy, and Osh Kosh.  All of the boxes had over 10 outfits a piece and every item was what I consider New Without Tags.  One of the boxes contained a Tom Arma Signature brand monkey costume for Halloween and I paid $11.70 for it because I had a $4 credit from Thredup!  In all, I received two pairs of Robeez shoes, a pair of white dress shoes, one pair of tennis shoes, a pair of pink TrumpetToo brand penny loafers, three dresses, numerous long sleeve and short sleeve t-shirts and onesies, seven pairs of jeans, countless knit pants, and five pajamas all for less than $65!  My daughter is now set for clothing from sizes 12 – 24 months.  I recently snagged a Golden Threads box containing three brand new Threadless Kids t-shirts for my oldest son; a box full of books for 4-5th grade reading, including three Diary of a Wimpy Kid books we needed to complete the series; a box of three brand new pieces of Lia Sophia jewelry from a member who was getting rid of her consultant overstock–each piece is at least twice as much as I paid for the entire box; and a box of four DVD’s for children, one of which had never been opened.  Mom’s are coming together from all over the place to swap more than just clothing.  Thredup encourages swapping related to mothers needs, maternity, and everything for children.  With Christmas on the way, they’ve created a specialty section for toys.  I’ve seen Wii games, DS games, Leappad learning software, and sets of Legos and Trios swapping left and right in the last month.

How to choose a good box:

Sometimes, a member doesn’t follow the Golden Rule on swapping and we find ourselves with a box of. . .well. . .second-hand crap.  It happens to the best of us, but Thredup support does their absolute best to take care of us even if that means giving back a little credit to buy a new box.  I’ve learned to be very particular about who I pick  from to avoid the downer of buying a bad box.  Here are my suggestions for you:

  • Follow the Facebook fan page and visit often.  It’s a great place to see pictures of box content, see current member reviews, and sometimes drama and spats that show the true color of some of Thredup’s not-so-great members.  You’ll quickly learn who offers the best boxes and can favorite them in your Thredup account so you know when they’re posting new boxes.
  • Read descriptions and brand names carefully and ask questions.  If you have a question, use the discussion section on the box listing or try to look for the person on the Facebook wall.
  • Ask for pictures.  Thredup doesn’t allow pictures to be posted with each box listing for a variety of reasons, but they do allow us to leave links in the description for our boxes posted to Thredup and post albums of pictures to the Facebook wall.  Use this to your advantage.  If someone refuses to send you pictures or gets an attitude about sending  pictures, don’t pick from them.
  • Post your needs or wishes to the Facebook wall.  Many of us can help you out and are willing to post custom boxes just for YOU.
  • Consider Pro membership.  Pro allows us to see and pick boxes within the first 24 hours of their listing.  You’ll miss out on a good selection of boxes without this benefit.

A special deal for you:

From now through December 15th, you can use the Thredup button in the far right sidebar of my blog and receive Two Months FREE Pro Membership–this offer is available to new members only.   Come join me on Thredup!

7 Things I’m Thankful For

Ox in his turn out gear.  I love me some of that!

Our beautiful children even when they’re not sleeping.

An Amish Heater to help combat sub-zero temperatures.  Does anyone else see the irony in this electric heat source?

Holiday sales for a child who likes to save his pennies.

A fabulous meal and the time we spent together in the kitchen making it.

Pumpkin Pie.  Mmm.

Jello!  And I haven’t put my feet in it . . . yet.


A Secret About A “Secret” Recipe

When I was a sophomore in high school, I helped my mother frost sugar cookies for a fundraiser my older brother was a part of.  The batch of cookies given to us were a bit flat and rather hard, so we baked some from our own recipe.  While they cooled, we whipped up buttercream frosting and prepared the piping bags.  I brought back the most beautifully decorated, soft, fluffy cookies the school had ever seen.  Seeing how wonderful the new sugar cookies were, orders increased by the dozen each day until the fundraiser ended.  To make things easier, I gave my mom’s sugar cookie recipe to the fundraiser advisor.  She planned to bake the cookies so we only had to worry about frosting them.  A great idea, right?  Wrong.  I was reamed for passing out a “secret” recipe that belonged to someone’s grandmother’s grandmother. . .blah, blah, blah.  I STILL hear about it every holiday season!

A few years back I asked my mom for the recipe to which she replied,

“Well, no one has it anymore.  Someone walked off with it.  If you ever find one like it let me know.”

Part of me thinks this is just paybacks for sharing such a wonderful recipe.  Then again, we haven’t had sugar cookies around in years.

I’ve been on the lookout for good sugar cookie recipes for a while now.  Two winters ago I went through three cookbooks trying to find the right one, but often found myself throwing away the dough because it didn’t taste the way I think it should.  This past week, my husband and I were shopping at the Wal-Mart for our Thanksgiving dinner items and I picked up a bag of GV powdered sugar.  I flipped it over to see if there was a recipe.

Nope.

I put it back and grabbed the C&H brand.

Voilà!  I found it!  THEE sugar cookie recipe!

What?  The sugar cookie recipe?  The one that was somebody’s grandma’s grandma’s?

Yes.  Here it is labeled Amish Sugar Cookies, and as far as I know none of us are or ever were Amish.  Maybe the real secret was that my mother always substitutes unflavored Crisco for butter or margarine in all of her cookie recipes.

Oops!  Did I just spill that too?  No?  Oh, good.  I was afraid I’d have to hear about that forever too.

So what is this recipe, you say?  It’s a secret.  It was somebody’s grandmother’s grandmother’s Amish grandmother’s recipe.  You’ll have to buy a bag of C&H Pure Cane Sugar to find it.

No, I’m just kidding.  You can have it.

Amish Sugar Cookies

1 Cup granulated sugar

1 cup powdered sugar

1 cup butter, margarine or Crisco

1 cup cooking oil

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350°F

Cream sugars, butter and oil.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Combine flour, baking soda and cream of tartar.  Stir into sugar mixture until thoroughly blended.  Dough will be very soft.  Refrigerate dough until chilled.  Drop by small balls onto greased cookie sheet 2″ apart.  Flatten slightly.  Bake 10-12 minutes.

I Love Me Some Commas

I have a pocket full of commas and I love to use them.
WARNING: I may or may not know how to use them.

Because I love to use introductory phrases or clauses, I’m always in need of commas. I use them in lists, dates, addresses, and numbers. Sometimes I place a comma before “and,” but often times I don’t. I like to turn them upside down and use them in the word “its.” I know how to punctuate the word correctly, but usually I won’t. I hear it’s called an apostrophe, but I don’t like it’s name so I just call it an upside-down comma. I use commas, to splice. As a matter of fact, I love me some commas. Get over it.

Another Beautiful Morning

AHHHH!  *pulling hair out*

I woke up at 6 this morning to a whiny, congested, coughing baby who woke my boys up a half hour later.  When she finally fell back to sleep around 8, we woke up 15 minutes later to the sound of the boys punching each other and yelling,

“You Butthole”
“No, you’re the butthole!”
*SMACK*
“Waaaaaa!”
*SMACK*
“MOOOOM, he’s hitting me!”

I bundled them up and sent them outside to play in the snowy, 0°F weather and, for a second, considered locking the door. That thought quickly faded when my baby climbed onto the table and tossed a ceramic casserole dish onto the tile floor.

*CRASH* into a million pieces.

I’m still wondering why Oh What a Beautiful Morning  is stuck in my head.

Is it child abuse to lock your kids out in sub-zero temperatures?  Good thing my daughter dropped that casserole dish.

Time to Release It

The summer I turned 14, I’d gone to Washington to babysit my cousin’s daughter for the summer.  That job kind of fell through and I decided to stay with my aunt, watching her children and wasting away the summer taking random evening trips with her to get iced tea from the Taco Bell a few miles away.  It really was nothing exciting, but my time with her was always so much fun.  Having a new boyfriend back home, I longed to go home, but stayed where I was until summer’s end.

One evening, bored out of my mind and missing home, I slipped out of the chaos of a house with small children and into the peace and quiet of the garage.   Behind a wall of boxes, I sat on the cold cement floor slumped against a shelf containing and vast collection of dusty Hotwheels.  My mind was buzzing with thoughts I wanted to shout out loud–how I wished I was home; how I never understood why I stayed; how much I loved my cousins, but disliked their endless energy; how f u l l my heart felt for this new found l o v e of mine.  I picked up a small notebook and pencil and began to scrawl across the pages for hours.  Releasing my excitements, my wants, my hopes, and life’s lessons I felt I’d learned by that age (which I’m sure was a lot less than I thought at the time.) When my hiding place was finally discovered, I jumped to my feet, crumpled my thoughts and tossed them in the trash, without thinking twice about it, on my way into the madness. My writing was more than a journal entry.  I was writing as though I was speaking to someone–anyone–who would listen.  A blog on paper.

Later that year, I covered the walls of my room in sheets of butcher paper.  I sketched large images of cartoon characters, song lyrics, and thoughts.  Writing on the wall was my favorite way to release my explosion of random thoughts and express myself in a time I felt completely alone and put away.  Throughout my adolescent years, I endured a lot that and it always felt so good to write it down as though someone was listening to me.

As a young single mother, trying to make it on my own, I spent a lot of time working and never spent a dime on things I felt were unnecessary at the time.  Internet and a cell phone were among these.  I missed the start of the blog revolution.  When I finally dove into the world of social networking, I never really felt I had the time to start a blog.  Wait.  I lie.  I was sour that the blog revolution started without me.  I was mad that it’s another one of those, “Why didn’t I think of that?” moments in life.  I started a family blog discussing my personal family goings-on for the rest of the family to see, but it wasn’t the same.  I’ve spent the past year debating a blog and talking myself out of it–I don’t have the time.  I don’t have anything good to say.  No one will find it and if they do, they won’t want to read it.

I’m finally telling myself to. . .well. . .get over myself.  I may not be the best writer, but I definitely have enough to say.  Blogging is a natural part of me.  I’m constantly sitting here telling myself to stop talking as I listen to the rambling one-sided conversation playing out in my head.  It’s time to release it . . . or find myself a spot in the loony bin.