Friday, December 9, 2016

Christmas Preparation and Thanksgiving Fun

I have had this blog on my to-do list for 2 weeks now and my kids won't cooperate...this is an easy facet of my life to neglect.  The rest of my charges make a lot of noise when I ignore them.  

We have had a very eventful couple of weeks, so this will mostly be a picture update!  There's always excessive hustle and bustle that seems to overtake my world beginning at Thanksgiving.  It's a welcome busy.  I love this season! We typically cut our Christmas tree down the weekend after Thanksgiving, but this year we got an early jump because J took the entire week of Thanksgiving off and we knew we would be out of town the weekend we usually take on the task.  So, off we trekked on the day before Thanksgiving to find our perfect tree and I believe we definitely succeeded.

The ONE!

Look how cute he is...and the Swagger Wagon looks pretty good hauling. :)

We got home and decorated.  Another fun year...I always forget how at the ripe age of two, this must feel like the first Christmas in Ella's little mind.  I doubt Ella Forever remembers much if any of last year's celebration.  She was fascinated by a tree indoors and once lights went on, she was hooked.  As always, with 5 kids, a couple of dogs and 2 excited cats parading through the house, our decoration process was a "controlled" chaos. I turned around at one point to find J standing expectantly under the kissing ball he had just placed.  He pulled me in close and I could barely make out his whisper as kids squealed with delight and others fought over ornament placement rights.  His whispered speech to me was something along the lines of, "this is complete craziness, but I wouldn't have it any other way."  Me either...I am so glad we are on the same page.

Ooooooh...Aaaaahhhhh!  It is lacking a star because ours broke, but it has since been replaced. :)

The following day we made the short trip to my Momma's and Stepdad, Jim's and had a fabulous time with his immediate and extended family (who I will claim as MY extended family at this point). Good food, lots of good conversation and plenty of joy.  I had so much fun that I completely neglected my paparazzi duties, so I got a picture of Jillie Bean with her special-occasion-curls and Bitsy, who was Jillie's most favorite companion for the day and a picture of the kids' table.  You will have to use your imagination to fill in the blanks.  

The following day we drove up to J's parents' and had a wonderful time visiting with them and his brother and sister and nieces.  We were planning on driving back on Saturday, so we invited J's Ma and Pa to accompany us on part of our journey for lunch at the Brookville Hotel in Abilene.  J's Mom suggested while in the area we also go to the Museum of Independent Telephony, also in Abilene, so we did just that.  The kids were fascinated by the OLD phones and that they had to be connected by wires, but they could have played with them for hours.  They also had an old carousel that we got to ride on behind the museum as well as several buildings set as a historical perspective of life in the early 1900's.  We visited a very teeny tiny house that would have been comfortable for an average family at the time, an old grocery store, barn and a one room schoolhouse.  It was a neat little trip!

Don't they look adorable...breaking the rules and trying to sneak up the stairs that were NOT to be climbed?
Despite how serious that middle row looks, they are the class clowns!

Our family elf usually appears sometime on the day that our tree arrives in our house, but for some reason this year, he didn't show.  One of the kids pondered out loud about his absence on Saturday after we had returned home and I admitted that the question was valid.  Where WAS that elf?  Thank goodness he showed up the following morning and came bearing the gifts of matching jammies for the whole fam!

Not sure how I scored this one!  They're all looking at the camera...and smiling!!!
And, of course, we have not forgotten the reason for the season.  Our kid-friendly Nativity has had lots of activity this year as Ella Forever has completely fallen in love.  A day or two after it had been on display I came in to find this sweet little scene in the picture below as Ella was tinkering with it.  I was amazed at her understanding of it all and asked her if she had lined up everyone in front of baby Jesus to which I received a resounding, "Yeah!"  I was so impressed...until I was uploading pictures to this blog and X-Man strolled past, chuckled and said, "I set them up like that."  Way to rain on my parade!  It was cute anyway and it has been really fun watching a baby crazy Ella swoon over baby Jesus at every turn.  

Our first lighting of this year's Advent wreath
I have worked hard these last few years to slow down and really focus on the miracle of Christmas...stopping and really taking in the magic as seen through my children's eyes has been the reward.  Our gift giving is a lot slimmer these days and I have let go of the pressure to over-gift and over-commit and in simplicity we have discovered so much joy. And so we continue to prepare for the special day that awaits!  Merry Christmas!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Revival...

Let's's only been a year and a half since my last post, which came about a year and a half after the post before it.  This thing isn't dead, though!  Life with 5 kids, 2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 guinea pigs, 1 snake (and its live food), 25 chickens and a husband has proven to be a bit chaotic and truly gotten in the way of my writing.  And I miss it.  Because of convenience, the last 3 years of pictures and updates on our daily happenings and musings has been posted to Facebook.  Our country internet has been extremely slow, which made posting pictures here very tedious, but J recently found a fix for that and our internet speed, though not nearly "city" speed, is much improved.  Couple that with a growing desire to cleave myself from the time suck that is Facebook and we have the perfect storm for a blog revival.  Mothering and zoo keeping and house cleaning and taxiing and everything else is hard enough on my fragile psyche and the hate and nastiness that has overtaken lovely pictures of growing kids and accomplishments and even what-I'm-having-for-dinner posts has taken its toll.  Facebook isn't fun anymore, so I'm officially done.

Life is good in my little corner, and I am determined to let it continue that way.  I feel like I am surrounded by very wonderful people...I think most of us are, if only people would look up once in a while and take it all in.  The other day, I had to make a run into a nearby town that we don't often frequent for an errand.  After some necessary shopping, my red-headed helpers, Squeaky D and Ella Forever, had gotten pretty crabby and were nearly dying of hunger.  I had promised I would take them to lunch if they would bear with me and so I made true on that.  We ended up in a Wendy's and they were both sitting across from me in a booth as they devoured their chicken nuggets.  D's nuggets were gone in seconds and he was suddenly VERY full and could think of nothing more than the toy that must have come with his meal, but had been strategically hidden in his mother's bag...because this isn't her first rodeo.  Since Ella and I had only gotten a few bites into our meals, I had asked him to please sit up, work on his french fries and tell us about what he was looking forward to in school the next day.  He grumbled and instead began sliding off of the booth seat and under the table, to which I did my best to ignore.  When that didn't get enough of a reaction out of me, he began to slide into the aisle to the side of the booth.  He just so happened to plop onto the floor right in the way of an older gentleman carrying a tray of food, his wife shuffling behind him.  From the corner of my eye I could see his scowl and though he regained his balance and his wife chuckled at the incident, I could feel the annoyance.  I sternly reprimanded D and told him he needed to sit up in his seat as he had been asked to if he wanted the hidden toy after we were all finished.  The older couple sat across the dining room and much to my chagrin, I soon could see the man waving at me from his table. At first I avoided eye contact, but he continued, waving bigger, so I looked up to see him holding out a small Frosty in our direction.  As our eyes met, he claimed they had been given one more Frosty than they had ordered (though there was only one other on the tray) and they both insisted that we take the extra one.  I tried to decline, but they persisted and the man so much reminded me of my Grandpa who just happened to have passed away 4 years ago this week and had been on my mind, that I graciously accepted. Upon returning to our table with the treat, I was greeted with squeals from D and Ella.  I grabbed some spoons and as I was unwrapping them, I suggested that they get up and go thank the couple for doing such a nice thing even when we possibly weren't behaving our best.  To my surprise, D immediately jumped up and trotted over to their table and very stiffly said "thank you!" The woman got up from their table a bit later to retrieve a napkin and as she passed by she laid a hand on my shoulder and said, "you know it's truly does take a village."  No truer words have been spoken.

Our ice-cream gifting couple can be seen in the upper left corner of this pic...if you can peel your eyes away from the giant bite Ella is about to take.

A small gesture...yes, but I took away so much more from the encounter.  I don't know who they voted for or what their religious philosophies are...they were and still are true strangers to me.  And they knew nothing about me other than I had a bratty kid at the moment who was trying (and succeeding) to push every one of his mommma's buttons.  They could have very easily grumbled on and laughed about the run for her money that kid was giving his mother, but instead diffused the situation and turned our little meal on its a very positive way.  It DOES take a village and I am proud to be a part of this one.  In all of our differences we have so much to learn about each other and THAT is what I hope my kids can glean from their upbringing and the village that has a million hands in it. This here is where my focus needs to be today and every day.  So...farewell, Facebook.  Hello, Naptime Monologues.