Weird, Wild, or Wonderful Things from 2014

Hey y’all. To wrap up my 2014, I’m reflecting on the good, bad, funny, or just plain random things that happened to either me or my family this year. Hope you enjoy!

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Snow, snow, ice…and yet more snow. This was what the first several months of the year looked like for me and most others from my neck of the woods. Lots of snow. Very cold. Ice storms and many, many days off school for my kids. A tough winter overall, but we made do!

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I taught my first ever grown-up Bible study to a group of ladies from my church this past Spring. Though I am pretty comfortable and experienced in teaching kids Bible lessons, I had never led a group of adults. I would highly recommend this study, and not just to females! Through it I learned a lot, but the thing I most took away from it was that I needed to work on building the “walls” that have been placed closest to me.

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This Spring my Mom signed her and I up for a one day rug braiding class. She knows how I love anything hands-on and that I enjoy learning new skills. It was a fun day of learning an old-time craft and getting to know some other ladies we had never met. (Surprise, surprise: I was the youngest person there.) I took the circle she made and turned it into a cool braided wool basket.

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All five of my children attended some kind of camp this past summer. This is a photo of one of my littlest guys taken by a camp staff member. (For the little guys it was a “mini-week,” a 3 day, 2 night intro to camp.) They all LOVED camp, so we’re already planning on it for this coming year.

We celebrated our oldest son’s 13th birthday.  Though it was back in June, I still feel really weird typing that. Can’t believe I am the Mom of a teenager.(This pic is him at maybe 6-7 months old?) In a few more years we will have five teenagers at one time. Lord help us is all I can say.

We celebrated 15 lovely years of marriage together. Many ups, plenty of downs, and more blessings than we could ever count. So, so thankful for this guy and glad he puts up with me! I appreciate him more and more every year.

A major highlight is that our garden totally rocked this year. We put away tons of fruits and veggies, whether frozen, canned, jammed, etc. Our kids are getting to be excellent helpers with it all.

While browsing the clearance racks at Wal Mart one day, I happened upon THIS awesome tank. I once shared that I had a childhood aspiration of being Wonder Woman, so you know I had to scoop this baby up and wear it! You have no idea how happy it made me that day. Love this shirt. (If you see me sporting the gold headband, a lasso, and gold cuff bracelets along with it, feel free to tell me to tone it down;))

This picture represents one of the Best Pranks Ever in my household. My dear, dear husband is the one behind this freak-o-rilla. He was planning to borrow this costume to be a mascot for a fundraiser at my kids’ school. I didn’t know he had acquired it yet, so he came home from work and parked down the road so we wouldn’t see or hear him. Then he proceeded to put on this thing and creep up to our back sliding door, which was open. I heard a kid scream from my kitchen, came around the corner to investigate, and had the you-know-what scared out of me. He scared every single one of us with this thing. Priceless.

My friends think I live at the school and the kids think I work there. Hmmm, I wonder why?  The life of a PTA president.

One of my greatest joys AND challenges has been stepping up to the role of President of our PTO at school. Our one and only fundraiser for the year is little over a month after the school year starts, so my fall was consumed with this job. I am usually pretty organized and had good people to help along the way, but I definitely had some challenging moments to deal with. However, I think we’ve done some pretty neat things and I am glad to serve the kids/parents/teachers in this capacity.

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This is just a random “weird but cool” tidbit that I wanted to share. A gift given to us from my best friend’s family, this “game” has been a hit with my gang. Made by Jelly Belly, you spin a spinner that points to a certain jellybean you have to eat. It is either really good or really gross, but they look exactly the same. For example, a black one that is either licorice flavor or skunk spray. Juicy pear or booger flavor. Chocolate pudding or canned dog food. You don’t know until you put it in your mouth. I had to eat one that ended up being rotten egg and spit it out! I only had one kid dry heave on me, so I guess that’s not too bad;) Fun times my friend, fun times.

Well, I could bore or perhaps amuse you with many more random things from our year, but I’ll stop there.

Thanks for tuning in, and I hope you have an extra special New Year.

—-Rachel

Creative Ways to Display Christmas Cards

So I have to confess that I literally just put up the Christmas cards we’ve gotten so far late this week. Honestly, with Thanksgiving kind of late this year, we hadn’t gotten that many cards until this past week/week and a half. I also confess that I did nothing creative as far as displaying them. So, if you sent me a card, it is currently scotch-taped to my wall. It’s a chalkboard wall, so I guess that makes it slightly more creative? Maybe?

Anyhow, I thought it would be fun to share some ways others have displayed their cards. (And if you haven’t yet, never fear, no judgement here!)

First off, a cool bicycle rim from Organized Clutter. (Lots of other super cute Christmas ideas on here too!)

Who would’ve thought an old bed spring could be used for this? A novel idea from Sugar Bee Crafts.

An easy little idea from Thyme is Honey. Kind of like my taping cards to the wall, just much cuter.

DIY Christmas & Holiday Card Display

An adorable display utilizing chicken wire–from Lolly Jane.

A pretty use for an old shutter, from A Diamond in the Stuff.

This one is simple, but I absolutely love it above the bench. Check it out, along with some other beautiful ideas, at The Painted Parsonage.

25 Ways to Display Christmas Cards

We don’t have an open stairwell in our house, but if we did, I would be tempted to display my cards in this way. (From Martha Stewart.)

25 Ways to Display Christmas Cards

Love this cute idea using a wire tomato cage–from Family Fun’s website. My kids would really like attaching cards to this.

Bring an element of the outdoors inside with this branch tree. Hang cards on the branches using a bit of twine. (Source: Shutterfly)

There’s tons of other ideas out there, but these are a few that really caught my eye. Who knows, maybe I’ll try one of them next year??

Merry Christmas everyone!

How We Do (and Don’t Do) Christmas

Today I am digging into my blog’s archives and bringing up this little article again. It’s one I wrote last year right before Christmas day and I totally hold to it still. Happy reading!

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I realize that every family has their own traditions and ways to celebrate this season. The signs of Christmas are everywhere as it is less than two days away.

Lately I’ve been pondering this and thinking about how we celebrate Christmas as a family. Please don’t take this post as a personal assault or think I’m getting all judgmental on you. Really, I’m not. Try not to judge me and I won’t judge you, okay?? However, I am really fed up with how commercialized Christmas has gotten and, to be completely transparent, fed up with parents who have bought into this and spoon-feed their children the commercialized version of Christmas.

So, before I go on a huge long rant about Santa, Elf on a Shelf, and people going in to debt to buy their kids a bunch of junk they don’t even need, I’ll just share what we personally do–and don’t do.

What We Do:

-Each child gets around 3 gifts, not a whole pile. Usually I give them each one main thing they really want, followed by two small items they need or something just for fun. (Just as an example, we are giving Andrew a Plasma Ball that he had been asking for, along with an origami book and one other small item.) They also each have a stocking with a couple of little items, usually something like stickers, a new toothbrush, or candy.

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-On Christmas Eve, we attend our church Christmas Eve service. It is typically about an hour long and not late at night. At the service there is usually Bible readings, special music, and we also have communion together. After coming home, the children get to choose one thing out of their stocking to open.

-Christmas morning we typically have a nice hot breakfast before opening any gifts. One or two kids will help Daddy cook for everyone. Our kids are always early risers, so they don’t really get up earlier than usual.

-Before opening gifts, I like to have someone read out loud about the birth of Jesus from the Bible.

-When opening presents, I sort them into piles. Each kid gets to open one gift, then the next one will open one, and we keep going around until all are eventually opened.

-The rest of Christmas day is spent visiting our families and enjoying meals with all of them.

-This next one is new, but something I know some other families do: My children requested just the other night that we make a Birthday cake for Jesus and sing to Him. Sure, I said, so I guess we’ll be baking a cake on Christmas Eve.

What We Don’t Do:

-Make a huge deal about presents. Sure, we exchange them, but the emphasis of our celebration is not about getting stuff. It’s just not.

-Spend a lot of money. I just shake my head at how some Americans indulge their children in material things, but especially on the holidays. I shop ahead during the year, hunt for sales, and even buy yard sale or thrift store items if I think it’s something they will really like. We have never gone into debt or seriously compromised our budget due to Christmas shopping. And yes, we have 5 children and one income. It can be done.

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-Santa. Or Elf on the Shelf. I grew up in a household where Santa was pretty much forbidden. No Santa anything. My parents are absolutely wonderful and I thank them for not putting an emphasis on Santa, but instead placing it on why we really do celebrate Christmas. I won’t go off on a huge tangent about Santa here, but I could. I won’t, and I’m not judging anyone who does do Santa with their kids. I’m not quite as strict as my Dad about Santa and we do have a few Santa decorations and stuff that has been given to us, but we make it clear that Santa is just a pretend character based on a generous man who lived long ago.

-Try to make things perfect. This one’s mostly for the Moms out there. It’s great to try and make things nice for your family. Things like magazine articles, blogs, and Pinterest make me want to have everything “just so” for the holidays. You know exactly what I mean–a perfectly decorated house and tree, perfectly wrapped gifts arranged just right, a perfect Christmas card to send out to friends and family, a perfect array of Christmas goodies and succulent holiday meal, and a sparkling new outfit to wear on Christmas day. Really, do you ever wonder if we just set ourselves up for disappointment when thinking this way? We are imperfect people and nothing is going to be picture perfect when we plan it that way. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s just not. I have gotten lots better about this over the years. Seriously, you may just laugh if you saw my kid-decorated artificial tree, not-too-decked-out halls, and non-planned Christmas outfits. But you know what? It suits me just fine and I have embraced my more relaxed approach.

That’s my “in-a-nutshell” version of how we celebrate Christmas. Basically, we try to not emphasize what this world can give us and focus on what God already gave us, over 2,000 years ago.

Nativity Scene

The one perfect gift. Jesus.

God in human form, sent here to save us from our sins. All of us imperfect people, undeserving of His grace and love. Not even able to fathom His love for us.

Emmanuel, God with us.

May you have a blessed Christmas and, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the season, remember why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.