Saturday, January 14, 2017

Saturday Syndrome

I... need... motivation.

I'm planning on not leaving the house today but I feel like there are one billion things to accomplish here. I better go make a list and a pot of coffee.

Ooh I can write, "post to blog," on my list and check it off first thing.
Ahh then I can write, "make pot of coffee," and check that off.

Most boring blog post ever!
Check.

Happy Saturday everyone!!!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Two week spending report


Two weeks in, almost. January has been cold (duh, right), icy, and busy. 

Yesterday little Abe SHOULD have had his first swimming lesson since summer. He and my husband went to the YMCA. Little Abe got all ready, changed, showered, they sat down at the pool and then someone told them that lessons were canceled because school had a snow day. I guess you could call it an ice day. Almost all the snow melted Wednesday and we'd had freezing rain all night. The whole world was covered in a VERY slick blanket of ice and so, No school. We didn't know school was canceled.

I'd bought a small toy for Abe Wednesday if swimming lessons went well Thursday. (My child is very shy with strangers) My husband gave him the toy even though lessons were canceled. Well, that was a waste of $6. Anyway, that's a long story to report $6.

The spending categories I record here are as follows:
  • Groceries 
  • Food out 
  • Pets
  • Stuff 
  • Toiletries
  • Clothing
  • Christmas
  • Gifts
  • Cleaning and house supplies
  • Garden


I think everything I spend money on fits nicely into these ten categories. I assign Christmas and Garden their own categories only because I'm interested in seeing where those two things end up each year. I guess you could call those special interests.  The only things I don't tally here are car expenses, educational expenses, and health expenses. Oh, and of course bills. Everything else I spend money on gets reported here. My husband's spending on himself is not included.

So far this month I've spent in the following five categories:

Food Groceries $164.20: an average of $12.63 a day
Pets $29.15: an average of $2.24 a day
Stuff $10: an average of 77 cents a day
Toiletries $24.93: an average of $1.92 a day
Cleaning and house supplies $44.93: an average of $3.46 a day

Average daily spending for 2017: $21.02

Looking at the short list of categories I'm happiest to report that there's been no spending in the food out category over the last thirteen days. No coffee shop coffee. No pizza (except homemade). No food or snacks out. That's always a fun accomplishment.

The other thing to note is high spending in toiletries and cleaning supplies. I have stocked up on some things this month but the stock up makes me so happy. Being the frugal gal I am there are some things I hate buying not on sale when they run out. Toilet paper (which I have not stocked up on yet) and laundry detergent are two of the biggest annoyances. Whenever I have to purchase either of those things full price because we've run out I get so beyond annoyed. I've gotten a pretty good stock pile of laundry detergent this month at a pretty great price. There won't be any full price last minute detergent buying here anytime soon.

A portion of the toiletries spending this month is face soap for my husband. He uses a certain kind/ brand and I never know when he's out (and don't think to randomly buy soap for him). Basically I almost always end up buying face soap for him full price. We now have four containers of it from a pretty good sale so I think he'll be set for awhile.

All in all, I'm really happy with this month's spending so far. Groceries is a tad bit high but we haven't eaten any food out. So I'm calling that a total win. Pets is right on track. Stocking up on toiletries and cleaning supplies. We've a free bag of dog food from finally hitting the buy 12 get 1 free deal. And there would be spending in the Christmas category but I  purchased $35 worth of stuff on clearance with an $11 store reward making it all free. Great way to start the year!

You know one thing that is kind of strange, despite inflation and adding a person to our family our average daily spending on food groceries has been pretty darn close to an average of $12 a day for over five years. Hmm, I guess I aptly named this blog oh so many years ago. Hehe!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

I am happy

This year feels weird. It feels hopeful but weird. Maybe it's just the way I'm interpreting the fresh feeling of newness that virtually every January holds. After all we're only eleven days in and I've been focusing not on cleaning my home, nor on losing weight, or any other respectable task but instead I've been focusing on laughter. I imagine that could give this brand new year a feeling of hopefulness. Whatever the case it has one.

My husband and I seem to be on the same page in many areas. There's nothing normal about that. When they say opposites attract they were talking about him and me. There's something really fresh and new and revitalizing about this place of strange unity. I feel like little Abe is at a place, at an age where so many huge new beginnings lie before him. He's getting so smart so fast. He's getting so aware so fast. He's able to do so many things so much more fully. It's mind boggling to witness. I'm in awe of him.

Also, in terms of myself I feel so calm. I think my job was giving me so much anxiety for so long, and my health suffered as a result. Now that I'm feeling content and peaceful in my daily life I can feel my back pain decreasing. I can feel strength finally starting to build up in my back after so long of feeling almost cripple (something I try and not speak of often on the blog). I'm finding more motivation for little things, granted that has a lot to do with back pain decreasing. It seems that progress can now be made in so many areas that have been stagnant for a long time.

And I'm excited. I'm excited to live each day as it comes. I'm excited for every tiny beauty. I'm excited for all things new. I'm excited for the joy that can be had in simplicity. I'm excited just to be. There's a really lovely calm amidst the excitement and I think it's what they call happy. I am happy.

_____________________________

Food groceries $8.11 (Mon & Tues)

Average daily spending for 2017: $20.87

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The hoarder and the aftermath

Two doors down lived a hoarder. In just a few short years he filled the entire house with things, floor to ceiling. He filled the entire garage with things. When the three story home and garage were packed to the brim he began to fill the backyard with things.

The hoarder rode a bicycle around town all day and brought back loads of street corner finds, dumpster finds... I don't think he purchased any of his hoard, or at least not much of it but he spent seemingly his every waking hour on collecting.

Despite how important the things seemed to be his home began to crumble. Weed trees along the edges of the house and garage started to grow into the roof. Portions of the hoard barely contained in the front porch began to push out windows. The hoard had officially taken over. That's when the city stepped in.

The city cleaned up the outside hoard two times, billed him for it, and then I hear they put a warrant out for his arrest for not meeting a court date. He moved out when he got in trouble. We (the nosy neighbors) don't know where he went but I've seen him riding his bike around town with bags full of things dangling from the handle bars. I can only assume he's now collecting at a new residence.

I know his sister took responcibity at one point. I'm not sure if she was trying to get him out of trouble but for several weekends in a row she had a dumpster brought to the house. Men who worked with her husband were hired by her to clean out the kitchen. Several dumpsters later the kitchen was emptied.

I watched as the bank put a foreclosure notice on the front door. Weeks later, now in the frigged cold of winter a group of people are clearing the house out once again. I don't know who they are, if they bought the house at auction, if they were hired by the bank or the city; This time they're getting rid of everything. From morning to night for the past three days they've been filling big black garbage bags with the hoard and throwing them into the backyard. It's been awhile since the backyard pile was in place but the enormous pile of black bags is familiar to us neighbors, even though they've a very different purpose now.

Not once, as far as I know, not once did the hoarder himself get rid of anything. He collected. He stored. He worked feverishly to fill every inch of the home with stuff, with things, to insulate it with collecting. Yet now, tireless hour after tireless hour, through the smell (I've seen many face masks sported over there), and the filth, through the horrible neglect and pointless piles the collection has been removed by so many different people who I can only guess detested the chore.

The whole scene hits me in a strange way since I spent eleven years of my life in a home that collected its own hoard. After the bank foreclosed on that house it was demolished. But I can still remember the stench. So many of my childhood relics were lost to that house. I despised that place. I'm glad it's gone. But watching the scene two doors down I can't help but feel bad for the hoarder. I honestly feel really bad for him but somewhere inside I'm also furious at the disease, I'm furious that so many other's have had to clean up his mess. There's no reason for it. There's NO good reason these people should have to be wasting hours of their lives over there, with those big black bags, and dumpster after dumpster. Something about it infuriates me.

This is where I take the scenes I've watched play out two doors down over the past few years and think about myself. I can't help but wonder if there's anything that I collect, anything that someone else has to clean up after. The first thing that comes to mind is how ridiculously opinionated I am towards my husband's family. It's almost as if I collect opinions that I won't let budge, opinions that do taint me like the hoard pushing out the windows on the front porch at the hoarder house. And I think my husband is the one that has to clean up after my collection. Maybe clean up isn't the right expression but in a way he has to deal with the weight of it. How much time do I waste on things that don't matter, things that just create messes and who ends up dealing with it in the end? Honestly though, that's just the first thing that comes to mind. I hope I'm not collecting things that others will ever have to clean up after.

__________________________________________
Sunday spending
Food groceries: $28.48

Saturday, January 7, 2017

First week behind us (Spending update)

This felt like a really expensive week. I had to purchase dog food yesterday BUT it was the 12th bag in the Buy 12 get 1 free cycle so I picked up a second bag for free. Our food groceries spending averaged out to $10.44 a day but I spent an additional $12.88 on cleaning and household supplies (Rite-Aid purchase not tallied here). 

Not included in the average daily spending (because I don't include "education" type spending) are the swimming and gymnastics classes I signed Abe up for at the YMCA. Yikes! Expensive but worth it.

Also, I FINALLY signed up for Rite-Aid's plenti points program and placed two orders online (with free shipping). I spent $44.93 on various toiletries and $32.05 on laundry detergent. I earned two $20 rewards and used one. Thus I'm deducting the $20 from toiletries which now come in at $24.93. Everything purchased from Rite-Aid was on sale so including the $20 in plenti points that I used, my savings rate was around 60% for the two purchases combined. I'm pretty happy with a 60% savings rate.

Food groceries: $73.08
Cleaning and household supplies: $44.93
including: Trash bags
Index cards
LOTS of laundry Detergent
Light bulbs
Toiletries: $24.93
dog food: $29.15
(free bag)

Total for week one of 2017: $172.09


Average daily spending for 2017: $24.58

This was definitely an expensive first week but I did some pretty good stocking up (not on food) and got some pretty great deals.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Noticing Laughter (Goal update)

Laughing more in January has thus far turned out to be a great goal. I'm not sure how much more I've laughed but I'm definitely noticing each time I laugh. Noticing the act seems to be making each occasion more meaningful. I'll be in the middle of cracking up over something hilarious and the thought does go through my mind, "I'm laughing really hard right now. I'm happy." I know that sounds kind of stupid, but I've been saying for years that when I take note of something, the something becomes more meaningful and more impactful. 

If I drive by something truly lovely on the way to work, the lovely thing is more impressionable by far when I devote a few moments to it. When I acknowledge to myself how lovely it is, when I realize that it is making my day more beautiful, when I express (even to myself) the gratitude I feel towards that beautiful moment then the beauty fully impacts me and stays with me for a long time.

I'm noticing the same with laughter. This month since I'm focusing on it each occasion has been more impactful and more uplifting to me. I can sit here, six days into the month and recall laughing hysterically on several occasions. I don't remember the last time I laughed hysterically before this week but that's not to say it's been a really long time I just never took note of it in my mind before. This week I laughed really REALLY hard with a co-worker at something really silly she said. We could hardly stop laughing. I don't remember having so much fun at work. We dragged it out so much that we'll probably both laugh every time we see a paper clip for ages to come. On Monday little Abe and I danced like fools in the kitchen to some crazy indie music. We may as well have been Aborigines with our "special" moves but boy were they funny and did we ever laugh (and exhaust ourselves). Throughout the six or so songs we fell on the floor laughing more than once at our funny moves.   

I have been working at the list I posted earlier of ways to focus on laughter this month:
  1. Read funny stories, funny poems. We've read funny stories each day. I'm really enjoying this part of the goal.
  2. Watch funny movies. We watched "Pets," which I didn't think was super funny but little Abe thought it was hilarious and I found myself laughing at his laughter.
  3. Tickle regularly. I need to add more tickling to the month. My kid LOVES being tickled and it always makes both of us laugh.
  4. Tell jokes. Nope
  5. Discover/ sing silly songs Nope
  6. Document on the blog one moment of laughter each day. I fogot that I was going to do this. I  have written about laughing a few times in the past six days so I think I'm okay with this one.
  7. Remind myself to laugh. When I notice myself laughing in my head I intend to remind myself to laugh out loud  Yes. I've thought something was funny MANY times over the past week and I have told myself to laugh. It's sad, but what can I say I'm a very serious person.
  8. Take photos of laughter. This one is actually very sad. I think my camera might be dead.
  9. Play more often. Hmm, no, we haven't worked on this. I forgot this was on the list too.
  10. Make time to be less serious. Wow, no. Actually, dancing like a crazy person in the kitchen should cover this one.
  11. Read a book(s) about laughter... or just quotes, haha! Yes. This one's pretty easy for me.
I love January's goal. Laughing more, or at least focusing on laughter and noticing each time I do is really fun. I'm absolutely laughing every single day and I can't say if I was or wasn't before. Just the fact that I know I'm laughing every day, that I remember things that made me laugh, and that I know I'm enjoying life makes me feel accomplished.

July 2016
Happy



Thursday, January 5, 2017

Why do all the hangers need to match?

This is what results when I end up stocking hangers at work, contemplating why there are so many different options of hangers to purchase, and then feel an overwhelming desire to buy all new hangers for the closets in my home.

Why do all hangers need to match?
Does clothing get offended or feel neglected due to hanger inequality?
Do coats and jackets organize a strike
When closets are stocked with hangers of different color and size? 
Why are there decorative pillows for every season and holiday?
Are sofas across America all sobbing and writhing in pain,
"Give us variety! Give us change!
We need to be trendy! We have statements to make!" 
Why do decorative storage bins even exist?
Yet store shelves are stocked with every size, design, color and pattern there is.
Do items being stowed, stored, and stocked away need validation from fancy containers?
Does stuff begin to feel self conscious when packed away? 
Money. Marketing.
Economic growth.
Fiscal brain washing.
Better. Newer. Trendier please.
Updated. Renovated. Anything to put egos at ease. 
No! The madness must stop.
I can no longer take this.
Get out of my head.
I refuse to buy new hangers.
I'm using old mismatched ones instead.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Midweek spending rundown

Last few days spending rundown

I spent the $11 store reward on Christmas clearance:
Two bottles of soft soap with snowmen on the bottle
Two rolls of wrapping paper
One bag of bows
Two Christmas crafts for Abe to do next year

The total savings on the above items was $24 and I used the $11 reward making them free.

I also picked up two boxes of cake mix and two containers of frosting on Christmas clearance originally $5.68; I paid $1.64. Normally I don't buy frosting or cake mix but I couldn't pass it up. Little Abe and I will make one set soon-ish to bring to my moms. The cake mix has red and green sprinkles in it so I'll save the second set to make at St. Patrick's day, for St. Patrick's day cupcakes.

I spent $11.12 on groceries yesterday.

My husband spent $7.99 on two turkey breasts today. (He's insane and I can't believe he spent so much money on basically two meals) Normally I don't include my husband's spending in the average daily spend BUT the meat is totally a regular grocery item and our dinner so I can't not include it.

That brings our total spending so far this week/ year to $73.70.

Average daily spending for 2017: $18.42

Tonight I think I'm going to run out and return deposit bottles and pick up eggs and maybe milk. I guess it will depend on how many bottles I can scrounge up.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Snickering at a Duckling

Since I'm hoping to include more laughter than usual in this month's repertoire Little Abe and I checked out some funny children's books from the library. One that was recommended by our favorite librarian* is called "The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog." It's written by Mo Willems and my son thinks it's hilarious.

The Pigeon as featured in several of Mo Willems' books finds a hot dog and is about to enjoy it when a little duckling comes along and asks what a hot dog tastes like. The Pigeon then faces the struggle of whether or not to give the hot dog to the little duckling who has never tasted one. The pigeon is very loud, expressive and does not want to share. The funniest part though is the really silly voice that I always use for the duckling. When the duckling says it's simple one liners like, "So, it doesn't taste like chicken, then?" little Abe can't help but laugh and laugh and repeat the little bird in the same silly voice.

Upon first read I'm not sure how funny either of us found the book. My son had a big smile on his face throughout but I don't remember if we laughed. We've since read it many times. The characters are growing on us. The silly duckling voice gets more amusing with each read and the Pigeon gets, dare I say more frustrated about the hot dog dilemma each time its revisited. When all is said and done the pigeon splits the hot dog in half and shares with the small duckling and the book ends with the duckling saying, "Hmmm... needs mustard."

Already this month I've learned a few things, I've learned that something that isn't so funny at first can certainly become so with a little bonding and I've learned that stubborn pigeons and tiny ducklings can be hilarious (especially when funny voices are involved).

Spending today:
m&ms and water at work $1.87
Light bulbs $4.28

2017 Average daily spending: $26.48

_________________________________________________
*Our favorite librarian doesn't know that she's our favorite librarian and just this moment I realized we should make her a card, or little Abe can draw her a picture with a note thanking her for her unique kindness and wonderful helpfulness. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Let the spending begin!

Last year got away from me mid year and I mean really got away from me in terms of tracking spending. When my husband and I changed jobs, woah! It turned our world upside down.

A new leaf has been turned over today (metaphorically) and I NEED to get back to good old habits. Today I made a trip to the store and bought food, garbage bags, laundry detergent, and index cards.

Groceries: $38.20
Trash bags: $4.49
Detergent: $3.49
Index cards: 62 cents
Total: $46.80

Today's trip brings this year's average daily spending to $46.80 a day. Haha, that's kind of a funny number to report for the $12 a day blog. The trip today earned an $11 store reward so I'll use that next time I shop.

Well, there it is. Hopefully I'm back on the wagon. (geesh, how many idioms can I fit into one post?)

Starting with bread and laughter

I'm starting off the new year with a book, home baked bread, and blackberry jam. And yes, I am laughing.

A few days ago my husband asked if I'd thought about New Year's Resolutions. It was a funny question because as far as I know he's never made one before. I said of course I have, I'm going to laugh more in January. That in itself was funny because I knew what he was asking; I knew that he was suggesting we go on a "diet" together. He thinks I'm incredibly quirky and my answer caused him to laugh rather hard. After laughing at me he filled me in on what "New Year's Resolutions" was code for in his lexicon.

So it's the first day of a brand new 2017, he's at work. I'm up early. Little Abe is sound asleep in bed and I'm starting the New Year exactly as it should be, with all the little joys I could conjure up: a book in hand from the library that I've been enjoying the past few days, fresh home baked bread that little Abe and I worked most of the day on yesterday (if you can call waiting four hours for the loaves to rise, working on), and homemade black berry jam made from blackberries little Abe and I picked last summer with his Papa at his Great Grandma's blackberry patch. As for the bread, one thing I thought yesterday before the year began to officially draw to a close was that I should have baked more bread in 2016. I quickly remedied that by getting out the loaf pans, loads of flour, the yeast, ect; and baking bread to end the old year right.

Perfection if you ask me, a quiet beginning to a New Year with so many things that fill my heart with joy: books, bread, and berries. Oh yeah, and if you hadn't figured it out already I'm laughing because none of it (beside the book) fit nicely into my husband's New Year's Resolutions. Hey, I'm sticking to mine!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Thankful for 2016

I'm so very thankful for the contents of this past year. There were of course some things that were less than ideal. I think I spent less time with friends this year than many years past. Although, I did spend much more time with one of my many friends, a tender sweet soul who lives a few blocks away, has a son of her own who is close in age to little Abe, and she watches my son on Monday's when my husband and my work schedules overlap. So maybe in the grand scheme of things "friendship" time actually balanced out.

I'm also very out of shape. I did a horrid job of keeping track of spending for the second half of the year. The budget also suffered. And I would have liked to spend much more time with extended family. All in all, I think the list of "less than ideals" for 2016 is rather short and for that I'm thankful.

But, to return to where I began I'm very thankful for 2016. I'm thankful that my family is in good health, and specifically that both our aging dogs are still with us. Last Christmas Eve (2015) our eldest dog was diagnosed with diabetes. He was horribly ill and we thought we'd lose him (one month after saying good-bye to my precious kitty of 13 years). The insulin, syringes, and many vet visits to treat the diabetes this past year have been a financial burden but our boy Bozzy is in very good health, holding out like a trooper and I can't express my gratitude at him still being in our lives. I'm under no allusions about him no longer being around sooner than later but as of now he is still here. We love him as much as ever. His eye sight is barely remaining (from the insulin) but regardless he is very healthy, happy, and he is ours. I'm thankful for a year of life.

It can be bittersweet watching a young child, your only son, your "baby" growing like a weed, or shall I say like a tomato plant. I look at my son who seems to grow two inches taller each night in his sleep and I'm not sure where this young man came from and where my baby boy went to but I am so thankful for his growth this past year. I'm thankful to have been witness to all the things he learned, to all that he experienced. I'm thankful that my once baby can now count to 50 (and is on his way to 100), knows all of the letters, letter sounds, and can write his own name. I consider it a blessing that we read 970 books together this year. I'm constantly amazed at his witty conversations and the world of imagination that he often lives in. I'm thankful for a year of growth.


I can't say that it wasn't a whirlwind of discomfort but I'm incredibly thankful for mine and my husband's job changes this year. With a high level of terror I walked away from my job of 12.5 years, a job with rapidly increasing stress, disorganization, and frustration. I honestly dreaded leaving for work each day. I dreaded the weekly new projects riddled with poor instructions and ridiculous time constraints. The new job is one, for the past six months, I haven't once dreaded going to. I'm already making more money then I had been, work a consistent set schedule close to home (which is the exact opposite of what I had been doing), and I feel highly appreciated for the work I do. The change is night and day different in every way possible (except that the actual work of both jobs is very similar). My husband is a million times happier in his new position at a different store and we still haven't need for childcare (except for 1.5 hours on Monday). I'm thankful for a year of wonderful changes!


As far as all of my own little projects go, I'm so thankful for this year's garden, my third go at it. It was again overflowing with fun and so very fruitful. I feel I learned a lot more through this year's gardening experience AND my life was so much more enriched through it. Another project I'm quite happy with this year was my attempt to take at least one photo each day. The file on my computer containing all the selected photos has just over 300 pictures in it. Thus, I clearly came short of my goal but it's a project I will definitely repeat in the new year. I LOVE looking back at the photos spanning the year. I have multiple photos of little Abe playing with his friends, visiting with his relatives, multiple photos of him and me, of him and my husband, of all three of us (and the dogs), of little Abe doing projects, crafts, ect;. We have photos of the many places/ outings we went on. There are so many photos I would have not taken if it weren't for the point of having a photo for the day. Possibly more than any other THING I acquired this past year I'm thankful for the collection of photos that document the life we lived in 2016. I'm thankful for a year of fun and enriching experiences.


Wishing you all an enriching new year in 2017!
Happy New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Abner

A normal rambling of my son (uttered while sitting on the couch watching TV and writing his name with a blue marker on a blank sheet of white paper):

You know what?
I like my own name.
You know what I like the most of it?
I like the letters of it. I really like MY letters.
I'm proud that I have my own name.
I'm happy that I don't have to share it.

He adds so much joy to life.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Laughing January Away

Looking towards 2017, I decided instead of New Year's Resolutions I would attempt themed months. I'd like January to be devoted to laughter. Once I decided that I'd like to start the year off with considerably more laughter I started to notice just how little I actually laugh.

I'm a first born of four to parents that divorced when I was young. A first born that took on way too much responsibility at too young of an age. A first born that takes life considerably more seriously than probably need be. Did I mention that I'm a first born?

I've noticed that I laugh in my head. At times there might be some laughter behind my closed mouth smile. I laugh a little if something is really funny. Very rarely do I laugh boisterously, and generally it's when I'm incredibly tired and my inhibitions are very low. I've noticed that I actually force laughter with my son fairly regularly. He takes a bit of pride in how humorous he is and he can get offended at people not noticing his hilarity. Often I'm too unfocused, or too foggy, or... they're all lame excuses; I find myself laughing at him on purpose and I need to work on being in the moment with him more often.

I'm looking forward to January, to a month of laughter. Right now my brainstorm contains a list of ideas to work at laughing more often:

Read funny stories, funny poems
Watch funny movies
Tickle regularly (Little Abe relishes tickling)
Tell jokes
Discover/ sing silly songs
Document on the blog one moment of laughter each day

Remind myself to laugh
-when I notice myself laughing in my head I intend to remind myself to laugh out loud
Take photos of laughter
Play more often
Make time to be less serious
Read a book(s) about laughter... or just quotes, haha!


I think I want a more detailed list but this is my brainstorm AND knowing me this will likely be my only list for the month. Is anyone else in denial about 2017 only being four days away? I can honestly look at the calendar and still totally not believe it.

On that note, I hope y'all can make the most of the rest of 2016!!!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve Ninja Hunt (and Our Christmas Card)




Each morning of December before the 25th little Abe wakes up to open a brown paper bag with a number on it. I have the 24 bags hanging from a strand of lights strung around the perimeter of the dining room. Each bag contains a Bible verse, a piece of candy, and sometimes a small toy, or craft, or sticker. Today we opened the last bag but this one was quite different.

There was one tiny lone ninja inside with a note. I knew that the reaction upon finding one of his tiny ninjas in the bag would be one of intense confusion and probable frustration but I went with the plan anyhow. The little ninja's note reads: Could you help me with a Christmas wish? Please find my six missing friends? I know they have a treat for you if you do. Merry Christmas kind gentleman."

After I read the tiny little note to him his face lit up, still a little suspicious of the change he started to slowly walk around the house. All doubt was thrown to the wind when he stumbled upon the first tiny ninja standing on top of a Hershey miniature candy. I'm continually amazed at what little joys you can create for a small child. Seven quarter machine ninjas I collected from his bedroom, six little Hershey's miniatures, and a house lit only by Christmas lights: the perfect Christmas Eve morn!

Now for the unveiling of this year's Christmas card: 



Like I said, a bit goofy, a lot of photo shop, six different pictures cut and paste together, and several different drawings by the little boy, my family sends you Christmas greeting from the beach at Lake Michigan. (I drew the camels. He colored them in. The star and gifts are entirely by him.)


Merry Christmas to you all!!!

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Christmas Let Downs (don't fret: this isn't a grouchy post)

I woke up with a sore throat and I think I might have a fever. Two days before Christmas and once again (this seems to be somewhat of a reoccurring holiday tradition)... I don't even care. This Christmas season has been really great. Has there been too much stress? Yes. Has there been the usual rush, rush, go, go, go? Yes. Has work been crazy? Of course. But none of the stupid stuff matters because Christmas has been great.

This year little Abe and I have made the most of our holiday traditions. We've anxiously done a countdown each morning. We've enjoyed a few different wonderful advent calendars. We've baked several batches of Christmas cookies together. We've made cards for loved ones together. And sent them out in the mail. In today's digital age I think real mail (like the kind that has handwriting and return addresses from people you actually know) has an even more magical aura to it. We've read Christmas books together every day and talked about the birth of Jesus. We've focused on little ways to give to others all month long. And I think we've very much appreciated the gifts others have given to us.

All three of us have gone sledding in the spirit of Christmas fun, watched Christmas movies together with hot cocoa, played in the snow, and gone gift shopping for friends and family. We've listened to Christmas music over and over and over some more. We've been to one family Christmas party, one Christmasy dinner with friends, and, oh yeah we went out of town Christmas shopping with little Abe's Grammy.

The whole month of December has been a celebration, not just in preparation but a true celebration. In years past Christmas day tends to feel... it can be a bit of a let down. So much anticipation, so much preparation, so much craziness at times for this one day; one day that just comes, goes, and then... it's done. In years past all the little let downs of Christmas day, maybe not getting the ONE gift you asked for, getting the flu instead, maybe getting into an argument with a relative, or just being thoroughly annoyed and bothered by them, maybe just the day going by much too quickly and you feel not enough was accomplished, so many things can make Christmas feel disappointing. I'm just being honest. MAYBE you've never suffered from the Christmas let downs, but many years past I have.

Right now, two days before Christmas I'm feeling pretty satisfied with how this Christmas turned out. Anything bad that comes from here on, I don't care. My Christmas was great this year! Anything good that comes from here on, well it's just all icing on the deliciously sugary Christmas cake. Feeling pretty darn satisfied. I think I'd better sign off and start wrapping some gifts...

Yes, I got him a clearanced Halloween costume for a Christmas gift.
Yes, I was careless and left it right where he could find it.
Yes, he loves it and wants to wear it Christmas morning to my in laws
and has been living in it ever since he stumbled across it.
Yes, I should have wrapped gifts like two weeks ago and not put it off until today.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

to live deliberately

We're only a few days away from the big event but I'm taking a break from all the suspense by thinking about goals for next year. Me and goals are a funny thing. I tend to only ever make it about half way to my mark but the way I see it, at least when I set a mark I make it half way there. That's better then never setting off in the first place, right?

I'm thinking about assigning 2017 a word and that word shall likely be "Adventure." I'm also dreaming about structuring my goals (haha, yes I just said "structuring" my goals... maybe had too  much coffee already today)... sorry back to my point, I'm thinking about structuring my goals in a Gretchen Rubin type way (you know, The Happiness Project lady). Like, January will be about laughter. I'd set my course for an adventure in seeking laughter. I think that could make for a really fun first month of the year. Little Abe and I could try and find some really funny books at the library. We could watch a few funny movies, make a point to tell silly jokes and tickle every single day, really put our mind to finding ways to add laughter to life.

February is generally a really hard month for me. I start to get cabin fever really bad; seasonal effective disorder. The bitter cold temps combined with lack of sunshine take a super huge toll on me (says the person who dreams of living in Alaska). February should be an adventure in seeking new things; new places, new foods, maybe read a new genre, find some new music. New, new, new!

March could be for friends, relationships. April could be about gratitude. May should likely have everything to do with getting outdoors. I think that's how I want to approach next year. Maybe I'll even incorporate The Happiness Project a little and carry some of each month's adventure theme into the following months of the year. Honestly that sounds like too big of a task to me but I think it'd be worth while to at least give it a shot. Come May little Abe and I would be finding ways to laugh, looking for new experiences, focusing on friendships, gratitude, and getting outdoors. Gosh, that sounds like such a fun year.

It is in the compelling zest of high adventure and of victory, and in creative action, that man finds his supreme joys.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery 

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Cards Are Out!

Victory cry: yahoo!!!

A little late but task done. Not that it was something I was necessarily struggling with or stressed about. It wasn't/ I wasn't. But Christmas cards are a time consuming task I welcome, that I'm always really excited to finally complete. With less than a week till Christmas, this task was more then ready to be wrapped up.

Feeling festive and accomplished
: )

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas Rules (Warning: grouchy post ahead)

Can some one please tell me when Christmas collected so many rules? Maybe it's always been this way. Maybe something is just wrong with me but this year the rules are driving me batty. Granted I've always been a little bit of a rule breaker, not so much in disregarding posted signs or breaking laws but I've never adhered very well to social norms.

1.) Everything must be equal:
If Grandma is going to give gifts to the kiddos they darn well better have an equal number of presents to open. It would be wildly unfair if one kid opened three and another had only one (despite the one being worth the same as the three combined). And she absolutely must spend the same amount on each kid. Heaven forbid one kid receive a gift worth $10 more than another. 
If one grandchild gets four outfits, the others must get four as well. If one kid gets an ornament, they darn well better all get one. Everything must be equal. Everything! Christmas is about nothing if not equality.

2.) No gifts for the adults:
If you want to buy something for your brother, how dare you be so bold. I mean there's a rule: no gifts for adults. Once that threshold of 18 has been passed, don't you dare. He can't even legally drink yet but gosh darn it he is too old to be getting gifts. I mean how would everyone else feel? I suppose it'd be okay if you showed up to the party early and gave him a gift behind closed doors. Or no, actually you better just schedule a separate meeting and give him a gift in secret. Secret gifts are better because then no one gets hurt. Christmas is about nothing if not covert gift giving. (but it better be a gift that he would be able to afford getting you because if you give him something too expensive his feelings or pride may get hurt; see rule number four)

3.) You better make sure and buy all the kids something they REALLY want.
I mean, if it's not on a list somewhere that they've made, if they haven't specifically picked it out themselves then you probably shouldn't be gifting it to them. Actually, you're best off to have their mom or dad buy them a gift and wrap it from you. You can just give the parents cash under the table. If several phone calls back and forth have not been made before the actual gift giving ensues then something clearly was done wrong. If that doesn't work out just gift the kid a gift card. That way you're sure to not get the gift wrong, not to offend the parents with a stupid gift, and not to see a tantrum from the hurt child.

4.) If you receive a gift from someone then you better give them one too.
This one is just conscience speaking. I get it. I really do. We all feel a sort of obligation when an unexpected gift is given but this rule still bothers me. When I give someone a gift that wasn't expecting anything from me it's generally because I found something for them that really meant a lot to me, that made me really think of them. Or the person means a lot to me and I really want to do something extra special for them. Honestly, if I give someone a gift and they automatically feel obligated to gift something back to me that takes away from the giving for me. I don't like it. I think this rule is sad and the obligation is unnecessary. But we've all heard it said, Christmas is about nothing if it's not about obligation.
And it gets even worse when the money equality thing gets thrown in there. If I give you a gift worth $100 (don't worry, that's not going to happen) and then you feel you need to get me something equally as nice. Spit on that! It's all stupid. Don't get me anything. Maybe that should be a new rule: If you get a really unexpected gift then you're not allowed to return the sentiment.
5.) We no longer say Merry Christmas. It's offensive...

Should I keep going? I could. I know I shouldn't. I'm being a real Christmas downer. This December has been really special. Little Abe is old enough to remember years past, to totally comprehend everything that's going on, to be really excited about things he's been looking forward to for months (Christmas tradition type things). We've pretty much been celebrating Christmas every day this month and it's been awesome but all these rules, OH. MY. GOODNESS. I'm about to explode. I seriously want to be a hermit. My husband is not bothered about the true Christmas spirit of "obligation and fair play" like I am so the frustration has really just been building and building for me. Thus, all you fine folks get to hear my cheery Christmas rant.

You know, the really Christmasy thing to do would be if everyone just bought everyone else a $10 gift card. I buy one for you to Wal-mart and you buy one for me to Red Lobster and so on and so on. That way everyone would get something from everyone and it'd all be equal. Although, I might not actually like Red Lobster, they use a bit too much butter in their food so actually we should just all give each other cash, no more then $10. $10 cash for everyone. Then everyone gets something. Everyone gives a gift, everyone gets a gift. It's all fair. Kind of pointless in the long run but gosh darn it, it would be fair. No feelings would get hurt. No one would be offended. Perfection. Wonderful, pointless, Christmas perfect... I mean holiday perfection! Who wants to get this ball rolling with me? (that's sarcasm by the way... in case you hadn't figure it out. If everyone gave everyone $10 then no one would have actually given or received ANYTHING!)

The Grinch signing off.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Cards

I spent considerably too much time deciding what to do for our Christmas card this year. I enjoy making each year's Christmas card in some form or fashion. I just didn't have a vision for this year until really late. It's been a long time since we did a family photo card so I was leaning towards that, especially considering their growing popularity but I really, really prefer a traditional card. I know, I'm repeating myself now.

Thanks to everyone who voted in the Christmas card poll. The poll is now closed. The results are in and they're a bit skewed because I set the poll to run for nine days but I hadn't realized people could repeat vote once each day. I have no way of knowing (apart from wasting time looking at IP addresses) how many people actually voted and how many people repeat voted.

None the less, it was the first time I posed a poll to the blog thus it was a simple form of fun entertainment for me.
Apart from the two votes for "I don't like Christmas cards," I think 38% traditional, 26% family photo postcard, and 29% zero preference sounds about right. Your votes in the poll helped inspire my family's Christmas card this year so again, thanks for taking the time to vote : )

I decided to use several different photos (six in total), a collage of artwork from Abe, and a ridiculous amount of time with a free online photo editor to compile a "family" photo I then adhered to card stock (I should say, a family photo I am adhering because I'm so not done yet). Long story short, our Christmas card this year is... different, but it falls easily into each category on the poll. For real though, I put way too much thought into absolutely everything. I need a holiday away from my brain.

Okay, back to assembling, writing, and addressing the cards. I'm pretty certain I can get them to almost all recipients before Christmas... you know there are only nine more days left right?