A Very Merry Christmas

As our family celebrates the 12 days of Christmas, I don't feel it is too late to wish you a very, merry Christmas!  After all, it is only the 4th day of Christmas. 

Today was Nick's first day back to work in two weeks and we sure do miss having our guy around :(  It's hard to get back to real life. 

Celebrating Christmas with Super Busy at Home's Family!

But this is what we are doing today...just chillin'.  It is so nice to have these days of no where to be and nothing to do.  To stay in our pjs or sweats all day and have some really deep relaxation.  I am trying to soak all of this in since we start school Monday and will be on the run again before we know it!

This Christmas was so magical!  My cousin, Andy, stayed with us and it was so nice having him around and having lots of family pop over to just hang out.  That is what Christmas is made for!

Celebrating Christmas with Super Busy at Home's Family!

This photo is from our ugly sweater party!  It was a small group this year but we had so much fun laughing, snacking, and watching our traditional movie of Christmas Vacation.  Memories!

Christmas morning I woke up before the children to make some coffee and get myself prepared for the mental anguish of the wrapping paper blizzard that would ensue. 

I know you know what I am talking about here ;)

Celebrating Christmas with Super Busy at Home's Family!

Check out our Christmas tree!  Santa came!!!

The kids were so gracious about their gifts and it was so fun to watch them open everything they got from us and then from Santa.  They loved all of their toys and since have been having a blast playing with everything!

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Here's Calvin with his lego bible.  It is so fun!

Celebrating Christmas with Super Busy at Home's Family!

Here's Emma with her weaving loom!  She asked Santa for it and has played with it every single day!

After the kids opened their gifts I insisted we take some family photos.  This year the kids had REALLY wanted us to all have matching pjs.  Let me tell you, that is easier said than done.  Has anyone else endured this nightmare? After 3 pairs of pjs we landed on matching pjs from Burt Bee's Organic Cotton collection and we LOVE them! 

Celebrating Christmas in matching pjs with Super Busy at Home's Family!

Of course we had to take some silly photos after we FINALLY got a good one!

Celebrating Christmas in matching pjs with Super Busy at Home's Family!

I think this one is adequately silly, don't you? 

Nick and I got one another some pretty great gifts too!  Nick got me an Erin Condren planner (I've wanted one FOREVER!!!), he also got me some le creuset kitchen items, a ton of wool socks, and spent way, WAY too much Shearling slippers for me.  When I scolded him he said "you're always here doing so much for all of us.  You deserve warm feet."  He is just the sweetest man!

I got Nick a big tv for our bedroom...he's wanted one FOREVER and I was so excited to actually surprise him with it...I've had it hidden in my dressing room for months!  I thought for sure he had discovered it but he hadn't and I was so tickled to surprise him.  I also got him some cubs memorabilia from their big win!!!  this year.  And I got him the book The Secret Garage, about praying for your family. 

We've had the best holiday, not to mention all of the wonderful gifts our families gave us!  We received some amazing gifts...my camel for my nativity, awesome travel mugs, and more! 

We hope you and yours are having a very merry Christmas season and that your days are merry and bright! 

Merry Christmas!

This Year's Christmas For Real

So this is a behind the scenes I'm going to be honest post. 

This holiday season is not going as planned.

Picture me, early November, all curled up on the couch dreaming of how the holiday would be after Thanksgiving:

I'd get my decorations out before Thanksgiving to have time to mull over what I wanted to use, what I didn't want to, yada, yada.

Everything would be decorated and the bins would be put away by the end of the Thanksgiving weekend.

From there, every day we would make a magical recipe and would store them away to give for gifts or in anticipation of the big day.

I would tidily wrap 5 gifts a day and would be done by the week before Christmas so I didn't have to bother with last minute things.

All of this was just a big, fat wrong.

Wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Wrong. Wrong.

And wait for it...

wrong.

So here has been the reality.  The week before Thanksgiving my grandmother passed away, which I wrote about here. She had been sick, she's in a better place, but somehow there has just been this fog.  I know you can't rush grief or getting over someone being gone but it just feels hard.  And foggy.  Some days I just want to stay home. And what should seemily have taken me no time (in my mind) and been done by now is still languishing around.

Further more from a working/website perspective this has made it so I have nothing to say. No fun Christmas tutorials over here. No house tours ready from this gal.  Unless you want "today I put on jeans and not leggings, and you can too" then yesterday I totally nailed that.

But the sad truth is that as I was wallowing.  Because that's what it's been, wallowing, I realized that maybe I'm not the only one wallowing.  And maybe that's the beauty from ashes that God pulls out of all of this and wants to use. 

This isn't our first Christmas that things haven't gone as planned.  It's not always happiness and sunshine over here folks.  There have been Christmas' where the tree fell over. Where we had no money when it certainly seemed we should. When there was no work and we had no money and it made sense we had no money.

But somehow God works through those tough times.

And I know He will work through this.

Everything will come together in His time.  I just have to give myself the grief and time.  To cry over the Christmas card I got from Grandma last year I found that sent me to grief all over again.  And the crying when I unwrapped the Christmas ornaments from her. It's all there.  All under the surface.  And I just need the time.

So I apologize to you readers.  I had a really great "Christmas countdown" series planned with games and strippers and rides and fun.  Well only one of those things was included but I digress...

Instead I am here with real life, living real, feeling real, hurting real, healing real.  And it's going to be okay. 

I hope that whatever you are going through this Christmas, your hurts, your pains, your money issues, the betrayals that you've been hurt with, the shocking news you just can't bounce back from; that that is the message of hope that I can share with you:

"It's going to be okay."

Forgive me for being absent.  Love you all.

Christmas Tree 2015

Last year we had a great time getting our Christmas tree.  You can read all about it here

Our old c7 bulbs died and we had to buy new LED bulbs.  Don't get me wrong, I love them and they're pretty but they just aren't the same.  Here's our picture of the tree last year. 

I had the hardest time trying to explain this to people but while the lights were almost annoyingly bright the tree was dark. Do ya know what I mean?

 So this year this is our tree.  

It pretty much looks the same except this year it's a little glowier.  What's my trick?  Those cheap white twinkle lights.  We took 2 strands of white twinkly lights (100 bulbs per strand) and wrapped them around the trunk of the tree.  Our tree is 9 feet tall and the 2 strands worked great.  So we kept those strictly on the inside of the tree and then on the outside we put our fancy dancy LED lights. 

And this is the result.  I'm loving it!  

Our tree decorating and chopping has been a bit weird this year.  We always go the day after Thanksgiving.  But this year it was rainy and gross so we didn't go until Sunday. So we shopped Friday, decorated the house Saturday, and Sunday we were ready to get the tree.  

Most of us were ready.  This guy was just sleepy or sick or off or something.  He just was not feeling it.  

Here he's standing next to our fire pit.  My in-laws rent us a fire pit every year and we have a tailgating type party with food and drinks and good times. This year friends stopped by and we saw lots of people we know, it was so much fun! 

These kiddos have my whole big heart. Here we are on the tractor tram ride thing. Off to get our tree! 

After searching and searching an searching we found our tree!  It took lots of looking and walking and hunting and backtracking and grumbling but we found it!  And this was the best picture we found because Nick's parents were off looking for their tree, Emma wanted to be with them, so it was the three of us hunting for the perfect tree.  I've gotta tell you though, it was super weird and cray having a picture of just the three of us.  

This adorable guy has the biggest heart and decided that this year it was his year to cut down the tree!  He was so careful with the saw and was all business about it.  

He was trying so hard but it wasn't long before he asked for his Daddy to help.  These guys are so cute together!  

This is a picture of Cal getting to push the tree over.  He yelled "Timber!".  There are some days when I forget that he has Autism.  These days remind me that Autism is something like being left handed. It doesn't define him, it is just part of who he is.  We're not dragging it behind us like some type of cumbersome burden but rather it's just him, pushing a tree over and laughing.  

And just as easy as that we are ready to go!  

These cute guys are all throughout the forest and the kids love spotting them as we ride through on the tractor ride to the trees and then back to the firepit.  

And then it was time to eat and warm up by the fire!  By the way Cal here is eating a gluten free cupcake from the King Arthur Flour brand.  They are so super yummy and moist!  

There's my PSA, go buy this cake mix if you are gluten free.  Yum! 

After lots of snacking we came home and got to decorating!  Who doesn't love to decorate the tree? It was so much fun!  We got all of the decorations down before so the kids weren't sitting around waiting for us to find the decorations. 

So there was our Christmas tree experience this year!  

And our 25 day countdown to Christmas started yesterday!  Did y'all get started on a countdown or an advent calendar?  Let me know in the comments, I love all of your ideas!!!  

 

 

 

 

 

Making a List, Checking It Twice

This year I am making a list.  And I'm going to check it twice.  Maybe the song isn't talking about making a list of things to buy but a list of things to do.  At least that's what my list is about.

Anyone else ever feel like this about Christmas?  :)

Can a woman get an amen?

Last year I tried to be more organized. I shopped all year 'round and really felt like I had a leg up...until it got a little too close to Christmas and I realized that I had let my ego of being ahead get the best of me and I found myself way behind way too late to fix it.  Basically I shot myself in the foot by convincing myself that a year worth of shopping meant that I was done.

But I was far from it.

So I took the feelings that I had from last year and used them to kind of troubleshoot my faults to be prepared for this year.  Here are things that always catch me up and the solutions I've come up with so I don't have these things hanging over my head:

Christmas cards

I always put these off, have lots of cute cards, and then am struggling at the last minute to get them out in the mail amidst all of the other tasks going on.

SOLUTION:

I'm already addressing them to get in the mail the day before Thanksgiving. I can wipe my hands of them and sit back and relax.

My 2015 Alternate Solution: I already have a day on the calendar when I know I will have a solid two and a half hour time slot that this kiddos will be gone.  I am using this date as my deadline to have my Christmas cards ordered and here, my address labels and stamps in order, and the hot cocoa ingredients in the house.  I have big plans of sitting down with christmas music on, a mug of hot chocolate next to me, and I can gleefully write them out and be done with them.  Hallelujah!

Decorating

Every year I have the best intentions.  I am going to make amazing displays around the house, people will ooh and aah and it will look and feel amazing.  But it never happens.  I always have Nick bring down our decorations and then 5 bins end up sitting in a corner, just waiting to be unloaded up until the very last minute.  This year I'm not doing it.  Not gonna do it, I tell ya.

SOLUTION:

While we are sticklers (read that as my husband is) about not decorating until after Thanksgiving, I was able to have him bring all of the bins out of the attic.  I am going through them the days before Thanksgiving: weeding out what the kids are too old for (training dishes, board books), and paring down the bins we need to decorate with by getting out things I know we will not be using and putting those things together.  I tend to get really nostalgic once that tree's up so sitting in my craft room doing this really helps me to think

don't need, need, don't need, don't need.  

Trust me folks, this works :)

My 2015 Alternate Solution: I have made bins as I go through things that say clearly on the outside "Christmas Memories" and Nick knows those are things that do not need to come down, just things I want to keep.  That has helped a lot. And this year I am finally going to start decorating (just a smidge) the week of Thanksgiving with the hopes that it will lend us more time to simply enjoy our home and the decorations following the tree being decorated. 

Christmas Shopping

I've always been okay about shopping Christmas early, but early was November,

maybe

October.  I always ended up thinking I had bought more than I really had and ended up going on massive shopping sprees at the end.

SOLUTION:

I have taken a clue from my favorite person, my Aunt Jan, and have shopped all year.  I've made a detailed list of what I've gotten for whom, including how much I've spent along the way to make sure I don't overspend.

My 2015 Alternate Solution: I still don't have all of my shopping done.  A couple of weeks ago Nick and I dragged out all of the gifts that I have already bought and made a list of who they are for.  He then gave me a budget (or helped me rather, he's not a dictator, thankfully) of how much to spend on each person we have left to buy for.  This is proving to be quite helpful as when I am out shopping and see something, if it is within the budgeted allowance I can just scoop it up.  

Christmas Budget

I always tried to save money but with the massive shopping trips I took I was ruining my budget at the finish line.

SOLUTION:

To be honest I don't have an overall Christmas budget.  I try to buy items as cheaply as possible  (with coupons, clearance, sales, etc) and it always seems to work out.  An example is for one child I bought 13 items and spent $42.00.  The retail value of those items was about $184.00 so I saved a lot of money!   $42.00 is within the range of what I am willing to spend so I am okay with that.  I keep an eye on my spending throughout the year so I am aware of what I've spent.  What I do budget for is the month of December: Christmas tree, dinners, cookie making, stamps, gas going to extra places: it all adds up...we set an amount to stick to with all of those categories.

My 2015 Alternate Solution: This is still true, I don't shop year round with the thought, "I only want to spend $15 on John..." but I do shop and try to get things as cheaply as possible.  Then when we pull everything out and make a list of what we have and what we still need to finish up we make a budgeted list for each person and add all of those totals together to make sure it is reasonable.  Obviously if our total equals $600 and we only have $450 then each person is going to need tweaked a bit.  Also we make the budget based on what I have spent on each person.  If I've already gotten that person some more expensive things but don't have enough then we make a smaller amount available to get them just a few basic things. 

Gift Wrapping

Am I the only person who hates the whole "staying up late wrapping gifts until the break of dawn on Christmas Eve" thing? Of course not!  This year I've decided no way, no how am I doing that again.  My problem being that the place I wrap presents is also known as our homeschool classroom which makes it a little tricky to get things wrapped, and then not touched by inquiring little hands :)

SOLUTION:

Gifts are going to be wrapped ahead of time and then taken to any houses they are going to that are not mine.  We exchange gifts at my grandma's and so any gifts that go there are going there immediately.  That way there's less to keep track of here.  Once those are out of the way I will start wrapping the gifts that stay here but aren't for our kids.  Those we have room for in our classroom while still doing school.  After we start our Christmas vacation the kiddos won't be in the classroom and I'll be able to wrap the kids gifts without them spying them :)  Whatever works for you, the point is make a number and wrap that number of gifts per day...5 is my number.  5 gifts a day gang :)

My 2015 Alternate Solution: I love feeling joy in wrapping gifts:  having time to spend a little longer making a bow or being able to attach a small gift or candy to the outside of the package.  But with having to wrap ALL the gifts at once all of those ideas quickly get tossed out the window.  So I'm reinterating the idea of wrapping a few gifts a day.  If you started December 1st, wrapped four gifts a day and went through Christmas Eve, you would have enough time to wrap 96 gifts and I'm guessing not many people even have that many to wrap. 

Taking/Making Food

I love cooking but when I am asked at the last minute to bring a dish or appetizer, I freak.  When I freak I spend way too much on stuff I know no idea how to make and get so nervous.

SOLUTION:

I've thought of what people usually ask me to bring and what I am comfortable taking to places.  I usually make appetizers or desserts. So in November I found a sale and stocked up on crackers and cream cheese for making cheese balls and dips.  I also stocked up on cocoa powder and add-ins for brownies and cakes like peanut butter, nuts, toffee pieces.  With these things on hand I'll be able to whip up something relatively quickly without the fuss of running out to buy ingredients.

My 2015 Alternate Solution: I have narrowed this down even further to one appetizer I am known for making (my chipped beef dip) and a dessert I love making (pie).  I make sure I have the ingredients for those two things on hand. At.all.times. And then if I need to/want to make something else I still have other ingredients but I pretty much always know what I'm going to bring.

So I hope this helps you all with those delightful Christmas tasks that can become insurmountable Christmas chores.  I came up with this list for myself when I noticed that Christmas was starting to feel more daunting than darling.  And I don't want that.  This year, with these items checked twice and under control, mistletoe will be the only thing hanging over my head!

What are your tips for a smooth sailing Christmas?  Post them in the comments for us all to enjoy!