Friday, December 28, 2012

Start Your Christmas Shopping Now!

I've never been an early shopper, and lately I haven't done much shopping at all. But this week, with one year ending and one beginning, I'm formulating a plan.  My plan is to buy things each month for Operation Christmas Child.

I'm excited to say I'm helping with a packing party in January at church.  Yep, January.  It's early, and those boxes will sit still for a while, but come November, they'll be added to a large pile.  As a Christmas gift, one of my school parents gave me a donation for OCC, and I'll be using that money sooner than I thought to get some items for this middle and high schoolers' event.

I cannot wait!

Last night, I went to Target to go through their clearance items and Dollar Spot area.  I focused on my goal of building boxes for 10-14 year old boys, and so while there I picked up a few things.  A few girl things fell into my little basket too, but that's okay.  I didn't go nuts, I kept my age range and environmental impact issues in mind--for instance, no markers this year.  I found some coloring and sticker sets, bracelets, and toothbrush sets ($1.48 for two toothbrushes and a tube of toothpaste).

(Poor areas have poor waste disposal choices, markers don't really ever get used up.)

While putting those things away today, I came across a Samaritan's Purse brochure I'd saved detailing how to shop by months.  The guidelines are good ones, so I'll share them here with some notes from me (you know, 'cause I'm such an expert.  Not!):

Seasonal gifts (on clearance, this is my addition based on the above shopping excursion)
Toothbrushes and toothpaste 
(I make sure there is one of each in every box, can't send candy without dental care items!)
Plush toys  (If you're local, I have quite a stash, and I'll share!)
Hats, gloves, scarves 
(on clearance by then)
Boy toys
Girl toys
Boy clothing items (socks, T's)
Girl clothing items (socks, T's, flip-flops)
School supplies 
(Always send a sharpener with pencils, and only buy Crayola crayons!)
Soap and hygiene items 
(No liquids!  I hope to knit a washcloth for each box I pack. Lip balms.  Hair brushes and combs, and hair ornaments are fun to buy.)
Hard candy 
(Tootsie products, Starburst, and Skittles are great too!  Avoid Jolly Ranchers, they really liquify when hot.)

To each box, I plan to add Lego, something musical, drawing paper cut to fit in the box, one handmade item and a tennis ball (What boy doesn't want a ball to play with? Tennis balls are less than $2.50 a canister.)

A photo of you and a letter of love must go in each box.  This year, I watched a video of a little girl pouring over the photos in her box, and it made me cry.  

As for handmade items, well, I hope to meet with friends to make something each month!

If you participate with OCC, please, share your ideas.

I think this song will be in my mind and heart all year as I work on this special project.  Watch it, it's contagious..."Some say it moves like a Spirit!"

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve or Christmas Day Readings

Merry Christmas!

Light all your candles and then your white/center candle, the "Christ" candle.

I trust you'll have a wonderful opening prayer for the day we mark the birth of Joy!

Isaiah 9:1-6
Luke 2:1-20
John 1:1-18
Titus 2:11-14

Or, if you have less time due to church, friends and family or other preparations...

Luke 1:68-79 and Luke 2:1-20

A closing prayer.

May we continue to honor, praise, and worship him throughout the year!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 23, 2012, the Fourth Sunday's Readings

There has been some discussion about the order of the candles.  My husband's protestant background said it should have been purple last week with pink for this week.  My friend Maria, who is Catholic, suggested my research was correct with pink for last week.

I have since found sources that reinforce both ideas as correct!  And for those of you who are using different colors, you're good too.  

Light purple, purple, pink, purple (or however you'd like).  This fourth candle is for "love."

Suggested prayer

"Lord, as we draw near to you, we light this candle to thank you for you son Jesus Christ who is the Prince of Peace.  It is he who came to earth in human form, and out of great love for us gave his life on the cross.  All other love is modeled after this act for all of us.  With his gift comes eternal life.  We who live in discord and strife may find great peace in love's promise through him. Amen."

Malachi 3:1-5
Romans 8:18-25
Isaiah 52:7-10
Revelation 21:1-4

Your own closing prayer.

My plan is to add the readings from 1 Corinthians 13, but instead of "love," I will read "Jesus."

And then, because it's my husbands new favorite song about Jesus' love for us, we will listen to this song:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 16, 2012, the Third Sunday's Readings

 Photo credit, Connie Schaible

Light the last two weeks' candles, and then light the pink candle for "joy."

A suggested prayer:  "Lord, Father, God, we light this candle to thank you for your son our savior Jesus Christ, who brings us great joy even if the darkest of times.  We who have walked in the shadow of the valley of death have found life in the resurrection of Jesus.  This abiding joy holds fast within us. We give you thanks and praise in the name of Jesus Christ, because he lives and reigns with you in your glory.  Amen."

Isaiah 9:6-7
John 1:19-34
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Philippians 2:1-11

Your own closing prayer, but as I type this, I'm thinking and praying the song lyric, "If we ever needed you, Lord it's now, Lord it's now..." 

Unscripted words are hard for me right now, with all that's going on, but he will understand our prayers even if ineloquent, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans."  Romans 8:25-27.

Alternate reading for little ones:
Luke 1:26-45 (when reading this with children, I use "am not married" instead of virgin)
and, if you still have a captive audience,
John 1:19-34
In the Luke selection, Mary meets Elizabeth--John's mother, and in the John chapter, John the Baptist is proclaim Jesus' reign.  It's a great way to remind kids (and myself) that Jesus was born to save us.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gifts for Teachers

    This is a post that I've run twice on my old blog.  Please, give it a look see if you have kids in school...One update:  all the things I've seen as suggestions for teacher gifts on Pinterest are cute and thoughtful, but times anything cute by 20 or 30, and you'll just see a lot of, well, useless stuff.
     This is one of those risky posts.  One, I may seem greedy.  Two, I may seem presumptuous.  Three, I may seem judgmental or demanding.
     You can tell me shame on me after you read it.
     I always got my son's elementary teachers Christmas gifts.  I wanted to.  I liked to.  Even when money was tight, I thought it was important to scrimp elsewhere and spend a bit on them.  They, each and every one of them, were important to my son and his learning.
     (In middle school, Mac selected the teachers he wanted to buy for. We used to give them lottery tickets! I should have done more for all of them.)
     It's been my experience some of my students give me Christmas gifts.  It's been my experience that some of you wonder at what to give your kids' teachers.  Since some of you have asked me for suggestions, I'm giving them.
     I keep EVERY gift of writing I receive.  That's the best gift.
     My class usually selects a service project to give to and I ask that the kids give to it instead of me.  (Admittedly, when they did this at Mac's elementary school I gave to both, service project and teacher.  I had to.  I couldn't ignore the teachers!)  This year, we hope to bring gifts to the Elder Day Center.
     Here comes the risky stuff...
     When it comes to choosing a gift for your child's teacher, realize your child is one of 20+ kids who may be sharing a present with the teacher.  Avoid trinkety things, even though some can be quite touching to receive. Twenty plus trinkets is a lot of stuff.  Multiply that by 20+ years of teaching, and you've got an episode of Hoarders in the making.
     When I was single, I lived in a tiny condo.  I couldn't keep much.  Right before I moved, I went downstairs and visited a retired teacher who had kept EVERYTHING any student had ever given to her.  Her unit was beyond cluttered--and that was in May, who knows how many teacher ornaments she pulled out in December.  Yep, she bordered on a hoarder.
     One teacher I know once got 17 candles for Christmas.  Seventeen.  When something like that happens, I donate the duplicate gifts to a local thrift store.

     Anything "teachery" or "appley" isn't the best plan.  Being a teacher defines who I am.  Absolutely.  I don't need to decorate with or further adorn myself with my job--I wear my job with my exhausted expression and my colored fingers--dyed by overhead marker on a good math day!
     Lotions or similar can be allergenic.  Avoid.
     Avoid jewelry unless you are familiar with the teacher's style.
     Services, a gift of a manicure or pedicure would be such a welcome indulgence!
     Never give a mug.
     I get mugs even though I drink only diet pop (I wish I could say water) in front of my kids. One year, a mom said, "I almost got you a case of diet Pepsi."  I wanted to say, "And you didn't because?"
    Gift cards are wonderful.  To get a gift card to just about anywhere?  What a treat!
     Class gifts are great. Things for the class.  Ask your child's teacher what she needs.  Some teachers spend a lot of their own money on their classrooms.  Games in my game closet and books on my shelves have been given to me by students and enjoyed by many.
     Class gifts are great.  Collect five dollars or so from each kid and get something from the class.  A gift card to TJ Maxx, Target, a restaurant.  My first year in 5S, my 29 kids collected (with the help of a mom), and I received gift certificates to the teacher store, a bookstore and dinners out.  After Christmas, I brought in much of what I bought, and we had Christmas all over again!
     Two years ago, I had a mom who sent in a personal questionnaire and had me answer all sorts of neat questions about what I did for fun, my favorite colors, and favorite foods.  I felt so cared for!  She wound up giving me a thoughtful gift of payment for one month of Netflix and some movie watching snacks.
     Snacks...just like any holiday, too much food is, well, too much food.  So unless it's something special and homemade, maybe not.  I share mine at my family Christmas celebrations, but I usually wind up throwing some things away because we can't eat them fast enough.  I hate that.
     A few from a trusted kitchen are perfect (these were from a friend, 2012.)
 Pretend you are buying for a male teacher.  Most of the gifts on this list that we get too many of are never given to our male peers. Because they are hard to buy for, they get more practical things.  Sometimes, we women teachers are a little envious...
     Truth, it IS the thought that counts.  I can tell.  My kids love me to open their gifts in front of them. They are excited.  And when it comes down to it, really gets down to it, that's all that really matters!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

December 9, 2012, the Second Sunday's Reading

Light last week's candle, and then light a second purple for "peace."

A suggested prayer:  "Lord, Father, God, we light this candle to thank you for your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world.  We were like sheep who went astray, but now we have found the way to you through Jesus.  We offer up thanks and praise in the name of Jesus Christ, because he lives and reigns with You in Your glory.  Amen."

Micah 5:2
Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11
Isaiah 2:1-5
Matthew 3:1-6

Last week we added a closing prayer, unscripted, as I'm certain many of you did too.

Extinguish the candles.

Alternate reading for little ones, Mark 1:4.  Since that's so short,  you might was to peruse the above readings and pull out one or two.  The little girl I'm doing this with is in fourth grade.  She described the Bible as being "about God," in the Old Testament and "about Jesus," in the new.  So we talked about Jesus also being in the OT, and how He was found in Isaiah (last week's readings).

Peace to you all.

If you haven't yet joined our Advent event on facebook, please do!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

December 2, the First Sunday's Readings

Light a purple candle for "Hope."

A suggested prayer:  "Lord, Father, God, we light this candle to thank you for your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world.  We who have sat in darkness have seen a great light, the light of Jesus, our salvation.  We give you thanks and praise, all in His name.   Amen."

Isaiah 11:1-10
Luke 1:26-38
Isaiah 7:10-14
Matthew 1:18-24*

Extinguish the candle.

I will be doing this with a fourth grader I know each Monday with the hope her mom will continue on Sundays during winter break, and because our time is short, I am doing an alternate plan:
Isaiah 9:1-2 and Isaiah 60:2-3

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Our Advent Door

For his 60th birthday, I collected cards and letters from people who love Brad and I tucked each one in an envelope, one for each of the 24 days of April leading up to and including his birthday.  He truly rushed downstairs each morning to open each day's gift, and the folks who sent them would check, "Has he opened mine yet?"

It made his special season wonderful and personal.

I wrote in my last post about our Advent wreath tradition, and this year I've incorporated a card a day into Advent too.  Using 25 days of Bible verses I located  here after a google search, I've made an Advent calendar door.  During a quick trip to Michael's I found these gold envelopes and little gift stickers.
Sorry for the blur, school nights don't allow for pictures perfect.
I cut card stock of red and green alternating for each envelope, and on each card I wrote the subject on one side and the corresponding verses on the other side.

As much as I wanted to pre-read some of the verses, I did not.   Day one, Saturday, holds a card that reads "Sharing" on the front and John 3:1-21 on the other.  You can go ahead and read that if you'd like, just don't tell me what it says.  Yet.

Really, they're gold.

It's kind of bland now but as cards are read, the red and green will peek.

From a design standpoint, I was thrilled with the gold envelopes when I came across them, but I may spend 2013 looking for something with more oomph.  Regardless, I am excited at the prospect of sharing time in the Word with Brad each evening, and for that the wrapper matters not.

It will make this special time of year wonderful and personal.

May you usher in Advent well.

P.S.  Brad decided we should turn all the cards to make the door more colorful, so after our first reading tonight (Christmas is for Sharing, John 3:1-31), we did just that.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Preparing for Him


It's almost here.  I have some ideas.  One I'll share now, one closer to the end of the week.

Two or three years ago, Brad and I started sharing the tradition of an Advent wreath.  It brought us closer to God, quieted us down, and we had some great talking prayer times after we did each week's reading.  Its value impossible to calculate.

This past week, I decided to start an open facebook group to encourage others to share in this practice and/or to share their own Advent wreath traditions.

If you haven't seen it, or if you've seen it but haven't yet joined, please click on over and say you're with us.  The idea of many family and friends, and even a stranger who found this group via Pinterest, sharing readings each Sunday evening simply causes us to feel united and closer to God.

Be there with us?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Shopping for Chicks On Line

For many reasons, I ask my students to work on service projects with me or on their own at the holidays in lieu of giving me gifts.  Parents seem to like this idea, the kids get into it, but still, some present me with presents.  Last year I received some truly meaningful gifts--most notably two donations to local food pantries, and a gift of ducks through World Vision.

From my Nick and his family came this gift that helped others and warmed my heart.  What a memory that gift made.  I like to think it continues to make an impact on those who received the ducks--eggs for food, ducklings for more eggs, eggs shared with neighbors, families growing stronger and seeing God at work in their lives all because of a thoughtful gesture.

This year, Brad and I received the World Vision gift catalog, and we decided he would "give" his grandkids chicks for Christmas.  Living so far away from them, it's hard to know what they're into, and like most kids, they are generously gifted at Christmas from all sides.

I don't know that his giving chicks to his grandkids will be something they value this year, but I'm hoping it makes an imprint on their hearts.  Seasons from now, I hope they'll remember and maybe one day willingly pay it forward, just as Nicholas' gift caused me to.

Check out the catalog. Perhaps a goat, cow, duck or chick is in your loved one's future?  There is such a great variety of things to choose from:  food for family, soccer balls for school, a bike for a girl to get to school, school supplies for American children, meals...

A note though, the website can be finicky.  Be patient with it!

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Own Mike Holmes--part two

All day Wednesday, with breaks for client calls and follow-ups on an active contract, my dusty husband continued to work in the garage.  He's out there as I post this.  The reinsulation project continues.  He is loving it.  He's exhausted but having fun!

Just like when I watch Holmes on Homes, it really bugs me to know that the other homes in our neighborhood are built the same.  Grrrr! (As well as Brrr!)  As I walk into other rooms this cold morning, I now get why they're chilly--wafer thin insulation.  Sigh.

The project has taken on a life of it's own, and Brad is willing to be thorough.  In the meantime we live with our bedroom furniture pushed all together.  We're a while off from the mudding and taping.
Silver columns in our living room (not moved for yesterday's company, my family dealt with them just fine.)
I can be patient, because besides being warmer in a room I love the most, there are other plans in the works.

This light will be going, a donation to Habitat's ReStore.  Can you say builder cheap?
He plans to use this new "toy" for the crown moulding in the bedroom AND to frame out our builder grade sheet mirrors in all three baths:

In time, perhaps he'll create a built-in for the living room using that saw to trim it out, This photo is from the model, ours will not have the wall above, at least that's the thought at the moment...
After that, new paint in many rooms.  I will finally have to decide how to decorate our bedroom. 

I remember an old Brady Bunch episode in which Mike reworks their bedroom, and Carol says, "Well, now it looks so good, we have to do the hall, the living room..."  I know what she means.   The domino effect of decorating.

As one of my facebook friends said, "You are lucky to have a handy husband!"  I disagree, I am blessed and thankful.  He is at peace in this hobby that's making messes in our home, but soon enough things will settle and all will continue to be well.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Own Mike Holmes--part one

We've lived in our townhouse for about 5 1/2 years, and we love so much about it.  But one thing that's always been a concern is the temperature in the master bedroom.  First steps in, it seems cooler than the hall, but more steps in would lead you to a wall of cold, a discernible difference.

I've been wanting Brad to paint the room for a while, but before doing that he wanted to address the issue of the cold.   He wanted to, as a particular HGTV star says, "Make it Right."

This month it came time, he removed sheet rock in the alcove, the wall between the alcove and window, and the window wall.  He found scant insulation, so he foamed it, replaced the existing insulation, and wrapped it in silver material that reminds me of a padded cell.  Then he and a friend replaced the sheet rock.

Our boudoir, as a work in progress over the last few weeks (he's also been working with clients and such--you know, his real job):
Containing the dust, that's our bed under the black plastic tarp
Original insulation over foam

Silver over foam
Sheet rock
Wrapped window
Obviously, there is mudding and taping to do.  Still, the chill exists.

Part two, come in from the downstairs.  Brad has moved to the garage, where after tearing down the ceiling, so far just on one side, he has determined there is NO insulation around our bedroom window.  So he is repeating all steps from below.
Cutting up the sheet rock he removed from the garage ceiling (photo snapped minutes ago)
Ceiling through a haze of dust
Looking up under the outer wall that houses our master bedroom window, in person, you can see there is no insulation surrounding it.

More to come...other changes in the works that would make this post too long!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving, It's Not My Favorite

     I could write a lengthy blog post about why I've never been a fan of Thanksgiving.  But, to keep your from clicking away due to too much text, I will bullet point it.
  • Parades on TV are boring. When I was a kid, we only had a few channels, so Macy's was it
  • Growing up with all brothers, any TV past 11 a.m. was all about football
  • Went to gramma's where there were no other girls
  • My mom didn't like to cook, so I was not encouraged to come help in the little galley kitchen
  • Dressed like a girlie girl, my tights always were pretty, but also always slid down uncomfortably
  • As a young woman my mom died on Thanksgiving
  • I feel like we have no established traditions from before then or after--though I suppose if I buy the canned cranberry thing and serve it, all will be well.
  • Waa waa waa, right?
     So when Brad and I hosted our first Thanksgiving in 2007, I looked to him to be expert, only to find out (that morning) he had never made a turkey either.  All things turned out well that year nonetheless.  A true reason to be thankful.  Last year, my friend Jenn and brother Jim came over and helped with things.  To save the day they decided to make a rue for the gravy.  I thought rue was French for street, I still have no idea of what it has to do with cooking.
     This year there will only be five of us here for turkey, so cooking should be easy, right?  My brother is bringing stuffing and pie, so as always I have less to do than most hostesses.  Mac wants cheese filled crescents, so he's being assigned that gourmet rolling.  But still I angst.  This will be the first time I've mashed potatoes for Pete's sake.  I'm 52 and I've never mashed a tater!  I'm more of a graze on appetizers all party hostess, so the idea of having a meal ready all at once is overwhelming me.
  The best thing about Thanksgiving is I have a week off of school.  I am going to go grocery shopping today, something else that makes me anxious,  so I opted to write a blog post instead in effort to avoid it.  Martha Stewart I am not.  Meijer is open and here I sit.
     I am a mess.
     Here are my feeble attempts at decorating so far:
You've seen my tree of thanks, but I've added some festive twine to the vase.
Inspired, no?
     Bad blogger that I am, I found this printable on line, but can't recall the source.
The owl was Mom's, so it is a little tribute to her.
The "THANKFUL" banner was also a free on line find.  
I used, twine, grocery bags, and clothespins to hang it.
Note the twine on the candles.
It's a theme people!
This will be added to the buffet that day.
Be sure it will hold cookies (not a banana, turkey, garlic, or bread) AND be festooned with twine.
Impressed yet?
Until then I grabbed a textured platter to balance things out.
I don't think it's working.

     Shucks.  I'm done.  I have to shower and shop.  I have to buy a turkey.  I have to select potatoes.  I have to exchange a least I hope to.  Wish me well.  
     Seriously, complaining aside, we have an incredible amount of blessings to be thankful for--and as I age, that awareness is precious to me.  Also, I plan on wearing a dress with tights that day, so I have no doubt it will REALLY feel like Thanksgiving no matter how the meal turns out.
     If you have gotten to this point, I am thankful for you.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Glue Gun Girls

Starting off with a disclaimer is never a good thing, but here I go.

 I have seen many versions on the web of this design.  I could give credit, but chances are the sites I was inspired by were inspired by others, and I don't want to follow that train of dominoes.  So, this was not my idea.  But I took it and ran with it.

How's that for a couple of jumbled idioms?

Last night, three of my friends came over with alphabet letters, faux berries, glue guns, and snacks in hand for our Christmas craft party.  Many more were invited but could not come, but may I just say, four women with heated devices around one table was just the right fit?

We got to gluing and talking and laughing, and so no photos were taken during the process, but the after allows for some.

I made this:
A few photo details:

A wood letter from Hobby Lobby, $2.49 and made in the USA.
(A rare find in H.L.)
This photo shows the back side.

I bought red berries on stems from Michael's.  
Each stem was $1.99, but they were 50% of,
and I think I used my teacher discount of 15% off that. 
I used only four stems.

The how-to-do-its (as if it's not self-explanatory, hello, it's a craft I did...):
  • Paint front side of letter with red acrylic paint (we did this the night before)
  • Let paint dry
  • Snip berries from stems
  • Hot glue to letter
Interesting observations:
     Erin used a letter that could stand on its own, and she applied bigger shiny red berries.  Katie used a variety of pearlized berries of gold and white along with two shades of red.  Ashley, never having used a glue gun before was quite precise, and her berries were very orderly. (I regret not getting photos, and I will beg them each to post to facebook so I may steal them and augment this post.*)
     In my effort to be random, my hot gluing resulted in a hot mess of glue shnoobly and cobwebs, one of which landed in my margarita. I'm thinking about adding more berries to hide some of the glue blobs. (I was teased that my S may be six layers of berries deep when I am finally done. But I like the lumpiness of it.) This S definitely looks better from a distance!

I may add a ribbon and hang it...

I may prop it up against something and just let it be:
     The most important thing is we had fun and good conversations.  We started a little after seven, and at one point one of us said, "It's almost 11!"  Stunned, we were aware of what a sweet way this was to pass the time.  I love my girls.


Katie's  :)

Erin's Friday night A, and then another

P.S.  Mine, after  more finessing and booger removing.  I love it!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tree of Thanks

Our glass topped dining room table is one of my favorite pieces of furniture in our home, but it often just looks plain.  For fall and leading us into Thanksgiving, I wanted to do something to fill it, so I made a gratitude tree.
Using a vase I had on hand, branches from a bush (the trees nearest to us hold too young to harvest branches), a paper grocery bag, one pieces of white construction paper, and some twine (my only purchase, $1.79 at Menard's), I got to work.
 Brad has added to it without my prompting.

I don't think I need to share a tutorial.  I cut the hearts using a template I made myself, no fancy paper cutting device here, and I left the extras in a bowl for added "leaves of thanks" for our guests and us to add to the tree.  I do think individual branches might be more artsy looking, so next year I'll be on the lookout for some.
Simple yes, but Brad loves it and I think, always my worst critic, I do too.  (Although I couldn't get a good photo of it!)