Tuesday, November 30, 2010

a late thanksgiving post

Our Thanksgiving celebration started out a few weeks back at our church's annual Thanksgiving dinner. It's a pretty big deal. There were about 400 people there this year. Yikes! In the past, Chad and I have had to go separately through the lines to get our plates and each child's plate while the other parent sits at the table with the baby. But then we never end up being able to eat together which kinda stinks. So this year, with an idea from a friend, we had a new game plan. It looked a little like this:
Yes, we do realize Tate is way too big for a baby backpack, but it was the only way our family of five could successfully conquer the line together.

Here was our cozy little corner of the gym where we ate with some goofy friends.
This year, we made it through dinner without anyone puking on the table. That's a pretty huge victory for us.  It would be a lie to say that we didn't almost stop at Applebee's on the way to church and eat there instead.  It sure was tempting when we remembered our Thanksgiving dinners past...

When the real Thanksgiving rolled around, we headed down to Nana and Baba's house. I completely forgot to take pictures of our huge dinner, but trust me, it was delicious.  Mom made the turkey this year and stuffed butter and herbs inside.  Oh yum!

The girls had fun reading books in the new porch.
Addie and Nana made some yummy treats together.

And where else besides a grandparent's house can you decorate your pancakes with candy corn, chocolate chips and sprinkles?

Not at our house, that's for sure. Can we say "sugar overload?!"

Of course, Thanksgiving isn't complete without putting up the Christmas tree (although we did do this the weekend before this year...)

Both girls wanted to put the star on top, so we had to do it twice.

And I've been spending all my free time making hand-stitched felt stockings this year. Stay tuned for my next post to see pictures! :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

organizing my life

I've always been a lover of organization.  But let's face it, when you throw 3 little ones in the mix, plus a puppy and a night job (jewelry sales, people!  Get your minds out of the gutter...), not to mention all the church stuff going on (small group, youth group, Bible study, etc.), it's hard to maintain my desire and NEED for an organized life.

But this past month, I was bitten by the organizing bug.  And it has made my life easier.

To start with, I organized our linen closet.  I know, most of you already have beautifully organized linens, but mine were not so much.  Yes, everything was folded and in somewhat organized piles, but every time I had to dig out new sheets for the 5 different beds in this house, I could never remember which ones were queen, twin, etc.  So I organized all the sheets by the beds they belong to.

I know this no Martha Stewart picture of perfection, but it'll have to do.

Then I made my own labels (think I may need to invest in a label maker..).

I even organized my massive collection of gift bags and wrapping paper on the top shelf.
And then I smiled.

Next, I knew that my grocery shopping arrangement needed some serious tweaking.  I mean, I do love Target and all, but heading out there 3 or more times a week with little ones in tow is not my idea of great economics.  So, I started a new Sunday night routine.  After small group is over and the kids are in bed, I look quickly through the coupons from the Sunday flier and at Target's online coupons and plan out my meals for the week. Then I make up my shopping list (which I made up myself, color coordinated by section in order of my store route so I make sure not to miss anything and not to have to re-circle the store for the forgotten item just when I thought I was done.  I hate when that happens.).
 **Bonus Tip: Target stacks manufacturer's coupons with their own coupons, making for amazing savings!  Plus, I've found that Target has more off brands than Fareway, making for better deals.  (And no, I'm not knocking Fareway, I love that store too and they do have great prices!) And now Target's RedCard saves you 5% on every single purchase.  That's HUGE if you get groceries there!  And no, they are not paying me to advertise that, although I think they should...**

With my grocery shopping more organized, I decided to organize my freezer and deep freeze to maximize the use of our items in there.  I got this awesome "soup file" idea from the Nate Berkus show, so now every time I make soup, I make a double batch and stick half of it in these freezer bags.  The bags are great for quick thawing and don't take up much space in the freezer.  Love it.

So, that's what I've been up to.  What are some of your best organizing tips?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

super cute Christmas cards

I don't know about you, but I this time of year I always look forward to receiving everyone's Christmas cards.  And I like them even better if they include a photo!  Yes, I know it's beyond difficult sometimes to get that perfect family photo for your card, but some of my favorite have been the ones where all the kids are crying and the parents look exhausted.  That's real, right? And I'm pretty sure we can all capture that shot!  ;)

Anyways, one of my new favorite sites to get cards at is Shutterfly.  They have soooo many holiday designs to choose from.  I mean, seriously.  When I clicked on this link to check them out, the number at the top said "1-40 of 803."  Woah.  So, I did some digging and found one that is sure to be a favorite:

What I like about a card like this is that even after the holidays are over, you can just cut off the bottom and use it to display all year round!  It would look really good in a frame too!

Looking for a great gift for your parents or in-laws?  My mother-in-law actually requested a photo calendar this year.
I made one of these for her last year and it was obviously a hit.  I think the best part is that you can personalize the lower half too and even put pictures on certain days, which is great for those birthday reminders!  
Mother-in-law gift - check!

They also have tons of great photo gifts, which I have found to be the perfect solution for those people you just don't know what to buy for.
I love this photo mug filled with Ghirardelli chocolates.  Place a picture of your sweeties on there for a grandparent, or a fun picture of friends hanging out and give it to one of your friends.

One of the things I love most about Shutterfly is that if you're printing off pictures, you can pick them up at Target!  And since I'm there at least twice a week, that works perfectly for me!  :) 

Plus, orders that are $30 or more ship for free!  Just use promo code SHIP30 when checking out.

So, what are you waiting for?  Head on over to Shutterfly and get your shopping done!


You know what's really cool?  I'm getting 50 free Christmas photo cards just for blogging about this!  You can too!  Bloggers can get 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly:http://bit.ly/sfly2010 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

your really mean sister

This was the conversation in our car after dropping Addie off at school this morning, listening to "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands:"

Millie: Mommy, did you hear that?  They said sister!
Me:  Yes, Millie.  And you're a sister.  Isn't that neat?
Millie:  Yeah, but why is she a really mean sister?
Me:  Who's a really mean sister?
Millie:  The girl in the song.  They said, "He's got your really mean sister in his hands."
Me:  *stifling a chuckle*  No, they said, "He's got you and me, sister, in his hands."
Millie:  Oh.  I like that better.

And yes, He even has your really mean sister in His hands too.  ;)

Oh how I love our conversations.

Monday, November 15, 2010

the one where I almost died. really. (part 2)

This is a continuation from yesterday's post.  For the full story, you'll have to read that first!


So, there I was... grasping with all my strength to the rock, losing my battle with the current, and trying not to look at the deathly terrifying sight below.

Much to my relief, within what was probably just a matter of seconds (although to me it seemed much longer of course), I saw my salvation.  Two boys from our group, Aaron and Brian, had made their way to the rock that I was clinging to.  There were other large rocks leading from the shore to my rock, so they were able to hop across those and make it to me in time.  One of them pulled me out while the other one rescued my canoe.

I was saved.

And it's a good thing.  A few days later when we arrived back at the outfitters, we mentioned the incident and the guide informed us that once a canoe had gone down those falls and wrapped itself around one of the boulders like a piece of aluminum foil, where it remained for several years.

That could have been me were not for Aaron and Brian.

You know, I've thought about this story a lot and how it is so similar to life.

The current in the seemingly peaceful lake is like the sin in our lives that, try as we can, we all get caught in and cannot escape.  It's leading us to the rocky waterfall that is our certain death.

We see the rock and grasp onto that for safety.  I used to think the rock in this story was like Christ, but I was dead wrong.  You see, the rock didn't save me.  I was using my own strength to cling onto that rock, which is what many of us do in our own lives.  We realize that we're sinners.  It's obvious, isn't it, that we all mess up?  None of us is perfect.  So we try with all our might to cling onto our "good deeds" and trust those to save us.  We go to church every Sunday, we give to the needy, we act like perfect "Christians."  Those things aren't wrong, but the problem is that we can't hold onto that forever.  The current of sin is too strong and we're bound to fail.  The rock of good works is slippery and eventually we will all slip off and fall to our eternal death.

No, my true salvation in this story was the boy who pulled me out.  All I had to do was reach for him, putting my faith in him to save me, and he was there to rescue me from my despair.  How silly it would've been for me to deny his help and tell him I was fine holding onto my rock.  But so many of us do that.  We tell God that we don't need his salvation, we're "good enough" and can make it just fine on our own.

It would be a better parallel if my rescuer had to give his own life to save mine.  And a terrible death at that.  Which is exactly what Christ did for us.  He saw we were headed to our certain death (yes, I mean hell) and the only way to rescue us was to give His own life for ours.  His own perfect, holy life.  All we have to do is put our faith in Him alone to rescue us.  Nothing we could EVER do on our own can save us.

We need Him.

So, sorry to be so "preachy," but I guess I shouldn't apologize for just wanting you to rethink where you stand.  It's the single most important decision you'll ever make.  It effects your eternity.

Are you clinging onto your own good deeds, hoping they will save you?  Or have you reached out for your one true Savior who loves you enough to give His own life for yours?

I beg you... reach out for your Rescuer.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son.  That whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life." - John 3:16

Sunday, November 14, 2010

the one where I almost died. really.

The white water rushed below me, crashing wildly against the boulders leading the path down the falls.  My legs curled tightly around the seat of the aluminum canoe as my arms clung onto the slippery rock.  I was literally hanging on for dear life.

(I don't know if this is the right falls or not... I couldn't find a picture, but this is what I thought it looked like.)

What led up to this precarious position I found myself in?  Well, a lot of stupidity on my part.  Read on.

It was the summer after my sophomore year and we were on a canoe trip in the Minnesota/Canada boundary waters with my youth group.  It was a treacherous trip for a bunch of "city kids" like us (if you can compare small town Iowa to a city...), but I felt superior in my canoe skills since my dad had built a canoe with my uncle and I had been out in it many times.  So the mention of a week long trip canoeing and camping in the middle of nowhere with no civilization anywhere in sight?  Piece. Of. Cake.


It was hard.  It was tiring.  It was full of leeches.  Lots of leeches (Right, Holly?).  It was day after day of paddling, paddling, portaging, paddling, setting up camp, preparing food over a fire, doing "business" in the woods and waking up only to tear down camp and begin more paddling.

But it was also fun.  Fun doing new and different things.  Fun bonding with friends over tired, aching arms and checking out our newfound biceps.  Fun bearing each others' burdens as we each had our own times of feeling empowered and helpless.  Fun sitting around the campfire and talking about how awesome our Creator is and singing His praises together.

The day of the above incident started out like the rest.  My canoe partner for the day was Eric, which made my day since he was a strong farm boy and would make my job of paddling a little easier.  We worked well together and the day was going great.  We had heard there was going to be a small waterfall that we'd have to portage around and were looking forward to getting out and enjoying watching the waterfall for awhile.

When we got near the falls, we pulled off to the side where we assumed everyone else would be pulling up to portage. Eric jumped out to relieve himself in the woods and I took my lifejacket off and waited for Eric to come back so we could begin our portage around the falls.  But when the other groups showed up, they pulled farther up the shore and hollered down to me that the trail for the portage was further ahead.  I figured I could paddle the canoe by myself the 50 or so feet that we needed to go and then Eric wouldn't have to get back in and could just meet me down the shore.  However, I forgot how ridiculously stupid it is to try to steer a canoe by yourself from the front.  Had I been in the back, there would be no story here.

I pushed out from the shore and realized I'd have to back up a little more to paddle around a piece of land jutting out between me and my destination.  As I backed up, I must've gone a little too far and the back of my canoe got caught in the current, which until that point, I hadn't realized was that strong.  The water looked deceivingly peaceful.  I dug my paddle down deep and paddled as hard as I could, but that was all in vain.  I was stuck in the current and I couldn't get out.  I heard my friends and my dad (he had come as a sponsor) yelling at me from the shore, telling me to get out of the current.  Trust me, I was trying!  I wasn't planning on going down a waterfall that day.

I was approaching the waterfall faster and faster and my heart was pounding harder and harder and the people back on shore were screaming louder and louder.  What in the world was I going to do?!  I had no time to think, just paddle.

And then I saw it.  The big black rock jutting out at the top of the falls.  It was my only chance.  I steered the canoe as close to it as I could and as it approached, I threw my paddle into the canoe and reached out for the rock.  But it was wet and slippery and I didn't know how long I'd be able to hold on and how long I'd be able to keep the canoe with me (we needed this canoe for the rest of our trip!, providing that I survived this event).  The sight of the rocky falls below me was terrifying and I was losing my fight with the current.

I was in danger.

(to be continued...)

Friday, November 12, 2010

do you like free stuff?

Well, I do.  So check this out:

Looking for a new cookware set or great bar tables and stools for the den? Check out Family Team’s blog for a great $45 giveaway to CSN Stores!

Seriously, I love H-Mama's blog.  She's such a fun, loving mama to her two beautiful girls.  And you can't pass up this giveaway!  So head on over today!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

a little change...

So I was alerted this morning to the fact that my blog was lookin' funny.  It looked normal on my computer, but not on a few of my friends'.  I guess something was showing up saying I had exceeded my PhotoBucket limit or whatever.  I don't even have a PhotoBucket account, so I did a little research and found out that whoever created my template must've exceeded their limit.  I decided the best way to remedy this would be to just do away with that template and find something on Blogger for now.  So this is temporary until I find something I like better.

I'm sure going to miss my little birdies.  *sigh*

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

goin' skinny...

I said I'd never do it.

My husband begged me never to do it.

But the more I saw it, the more it kinda grew on me.

I decided I did want to do it after all.

My husband caved and decided I was a big girl and could do what I wanted.

He said he trusted me to do it right.

So I did it.

I bought my first pair of "skinny jeans."
How could I resist with a great sale at Target plus a $3 off coupon?!?

I cringed at first when I looked down at my ankles and saw a sight that had been familiar to me in my much younger years.  Could I really pull this off?  I wasn't so sure at first, so my first outing in them, I wore big furry boots to cover them up.  And since I had bought the jeans one size bigger than normal (on purpose - so I could have a little breathing room!), no one was even aware of the bold fashion statement I was sporting.

Yesterday I thought I should try to be a little bolder.  So I headed out to the mall in my skinny jeans, a long sweater (to cover my bum, of course!) and a pair of flats.  I don't even know why I was hesitant about it.  Once I got to the mall, I didn't even remember I was wearing such a "daring" fashion statement.  In fact, I blended in so well with everyone else that I didn't even feel that cool after all.

It made me wonder... How many of you have caved to this fashion trend?  How many of you bought them when they first came out?  Who is still hesitating?  Who thinks I'm so last year?  I'm dying to know!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

here i sit...

...in my car with these two sweeties snoozing soundly in the backseat.

We've had a big day.

Tate needed a haircut:
Can you tell?

So we headed to Great Clips.  I think I could maybe do it myself next time, but this being my first boy, I had NO idea how to cut little boys' hair.  I've cut Chad's, but that's waaaay different.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of Tate's first haircut because I had to hold him tightly while he was screaming (yes, literally screaming) and clinging to me for dear life.  Poor little guy.  Poor hairstylist. Poor everyone within earshot.

So after that traumatic experience, and since we had to be at a doctor's appointment soon and we were starving, I thought we all deserved a little Wendy's.
Tate checkin' out his new 'do.

And yes, that's a fry he's shoving into his mouth.  Don't judge me.  He had mandarin oranges too.  ;)

Millie thought she should show you what she was eating too.  There's a nugget in there.  Sorry.

And there's her "I was just being silly" smile.
Do her eyes look a little pink to you?  Hmmm... they are.  Can you guess why we were headed to the doctor?

 Yes, pinkeye.  Millie was officially diagnosed with it after an hour and a half of sitting at the doctor's office.  We don't have a very good record with longs waits at the doctor's office, but this time we managed to make it through without anyone peeing on the floor.  *whew*

So then we headed to Target and picked up Millie's eye drops (and a few 75% off costumes - hello, Christmas gifts?!)
And this is what I walked out the door with:
Good thing no one caught me stealing that little cutie in there (there's no way I could afford her!).

And on the way home, they both fell asleep within a few minutes.  So I pulled into the garage, kept the kid music playing, grabbed my laptop and brought it out to the car to get some work done while they slept soundly behind me.

Sorry to everyone at Cubbie's last night...  I hope I don't get lots of "evil eye stares" tonight at our Mom's group...