Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas!





Posted by PicasaThough I was not a perfect performer in Haphazard Happenstances Christmas Blogging Challenge, the challenge did get me back into the habit of updating my blog, which makes me happy. I already have several posts ruminating in my mind for the coming week. But first, here is a bit of my Christmas Joy -- the first ever St. Julian's Live Nativity. I wasn't sure about having it this year, as I thought we should wait until we were in our own space. . . which last Christmas I though would for sure be by now. (Easter, people, Easter is the plan now!) But we have so many kids, and I (selfishly) want my girls to participate in this kind of thing. So we went for it! Oriental Trading gowns provided the base for the angels, shepherds, and Mary and Joseph. Dish towels and fabric scraps served as shepherd / Joseph head pieces. Mary's mom make her beautiful head piece. I found the animal costumes on ebay since I hoped even our babies could participate at least for a photo. The ties for the headpieces were a great deal -- a whole ream (or whatever the word for it is) in the clearance bin at Hobby Lobby marked 1.99. I took it to the clerk to see if that meant per yard. I told her that I felt silly even asking as I'm sure it did. . . but since the whole thing was shrink-wrapped together, I thought I'd check. She took it and asked and came back to say, yep! The whole thing for 1.99! Score! That make the ties for ten shepherds, though we only needed five this year. We can also use rope next year. The angel wings were also a project I stressed over. I made a pattern out of some poster board we had at home and tried them on the girls. They were big and floppy and didn't seem like they'd hold up well. I talked to another mom at church and she said that she thought Michaels or someplace had thicker poster board -- not the foam -- but something that sturdy. So, I checked. No dice. But as I perused the aisle, I found paperboard cutouts of different shapes -- flowers, hearts, and BUTTERFLY WINGS! Perfect. And guess what -- six for $2.99. And, being Michaels, they were buy one get one free. I stapled dollar store garland around them for angelic effect, and we used more garland bobby-pinned to heads for the halos.

The kids were adorable! I am glad we did it and look forward to even bigger next year! For our little starter church who meets in the evenings at another church's facility, I'd say a Christmas Eve pageant of nineteen kiddos is pretty spectacular.

(and did I mention that I am soooo excited that we will be in our own space around Easter?)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Six Flags

We splurged and got family season passes for 2012 to Six Flags. Buying now, we get access the rest of 2011 plus a free parking pass. The girls love roller coasters, and there is quite a bit for them both to ride. We went with my sis and nieces this week and will go with John next week. We'll make a few visits this summer, too!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I'll hunt you down. . . it's a family trait

When I hunted down (really not that hard to do with the Internet's power) the address to a house in Round Rock with cool Christmas lights that had "gone viral" on the web this weekend, I was proud of myself for putting to use my headhunting skilz. The more I thought about it, though, I realized that the skills that made me a good headhunter were the same traits that  made my dad an awesome repo man. I hope he's happy to know he taught me something that was quite financially lucrative for me. :-)

You see, my dad was a credit representative for GMAC. That's fancy talk for repo man. He was good at his job. Really good. He was creative and persistent and unintimidated. I love to hear some of his stories (which he does not share often, I think out of respect for people's privacy) of how he found people hiding from their creditors. One of my favorite stories is of how he tracked down a woman who had been renting a trailer from him who skipped out on a few month's rent. When he knocked on her door (at her new secret place), I think she about peed her pants to see him standing there asking for his money. "How'd you find me?" she asked. My observant daddy replied, "Your porch swing." Amazing, isn't he?

Well, I never did anything so insightfully impressive, but I didn't mind following multiple leads to get tidbits of information from varying sources to find the right extension for the right hiring manager for a job req. Or using resumes and voice mail systems to find the right candidate in the right company at the right time for a client. Creativity and persistence.

Now, my skilz might not bring in commission checks that allow us pay cash for a brand new vehicle anymore, but they did give us a few minutes of holiday fun! And I'll share a little with you.



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Do you want perfection, or do you want peace?

As I was about to kick myself for missing another day of December blogging, I read these words on a blog I have recently started reading. DO YOU WANT PERFECTION, OR DO YOU WANT PEACE? We can overschedule and try to create all these wonderful, Pinterest-inspired experiences for the holidays, but if it takes away the peace (and sometimes the enjoyment), then it isn't worth it.

May the Peace of God which passes all understanding be with you the rest of this Advent and into the Christmas season.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Toy declutter




I did a major toy purge and rotation Friday. Really, the playroom was out of control with things just tossed in. Really, knowing I was about to reorg and purge, I took to just tossing things in there the past week. I got rid of several items, including a few large ones. I moved "building" type toys that have lots of small pieces (Lincoln Logs, Legos, puzzles) into the closet on a shelf. I figure that way, they are less likely to get pulled out when lots of kids are here, which is when they end up strewn all over. Not pictured here is the Apple //c that John set up for Caroline to learn a little programming. She's in there now "coding." <3

Since Caroline is home only in the afternoons on weekdays  (and usually has ballet or piano or plays outside then), the playroom is mostly for Elizabeth. She loves playing with babies. She loves imaginary play, so she has a dress-up corner, a reading corner (that ends up being where she puts all her babies to bed), and a shelf with other toys. That American Girl doll on the top of the shelf is Caroline's doll, Molly. Elizabeth plays with her more than Caroline does, though. But Elizabeth is getting her own American Girl Bitty Twin doll for Christmas.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent Meditation and Rejoicing!

First, since I'm linking to my church's blog here, I want to share that we are getting closer and closer to something I've been praying for -- our own space! Lovely space! Space close to my home! We expect to have our first service there on Easter. Alleluia!

On of the seminarians at church spearheaded putting together daily devotionals for Advent, written by members at our church. Mine was today's.
http://stjuliansaustin.blogspot.com/2011/12/december-16th-readings-psalm-95-and.html

As for our family's Advent traditions, I have scaled back from what we've done in the past (with nightly readings and songs and activities.) Instead, I am reading various children's books of the Christmas story with the girls (mostly Elizabeth) throughout the week. Each night, we light our Advent candles at dinner and sing a Christmas carol related to that week's candle (Hope--O Come, O Come Emmanuel; Peace--Silent Night; Joy-Joy to the World!; Love--Away in a Manger.) This is a unique Advent in that week four is a full week since Christmas falls on Sunday. We made our Advent prayer chain again, and are praying nightly for a person we've written on the link. The girls have really enjoyed nights that we've prayed for someone specific to them (teachers, classmates, etc.)

I did bring out the baby Jesus for the nativity set, at Elizabeth's request, but both John and Caroline insisted we put it back away until Christmas. We did. Elizabeth still has her Little People nativity set with baby Jesus in it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Parties, Performances, and Pee -- Oh my!

I think this is the busiest holiday season of my life! Two kids in various programs (really, mostly ONE of them -- what will life be life in three years when they are both over-involved in extracurriculars?

The letter P is a good representation for the month of December 2011 in the Bindel household.

Parties -- birthday parties, school parties, class parties, work parties, church parties (notice those are ALL plural. True!)

Performances -- choir performance(s) -- we skipped one; ballet performances; preschool performances; church pageant (can that count as a performance?)

and Pee -- because my days are filled with "Do you need to go pee pee?" and "I NEED TO GO PEE PEE!" or my least favorite "I already went pee pee." I overheard Elizabeth singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer the other day. ". . . as they shouted out to pee!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Happy Anniversary to the ones that made me :-)

Today would be my parent's 43rd wedding anniversary. They only got to enjoy 22 of those years, but in that time, they showed me what a good marriage is. And as my sister celebrates her 15th anniversary in a week and I my 17th in less than a month, I think this is one thing that mommy and daddy can consider themselves successes at.

Some things I learned:

1. You are a united front -- in a successful marriage, it is no longer him and her, it is "us."

2. Separate interests are fine but should not be the majority -- She can have her thing. He can have his. Every now and then. Most of your down time should be together, at home, as a family.

3. It is OK to marry young as long as you GROW UP TOGETHER. My mom was a senior in high school and barely 18 when she married my dad. I was a senior in college and 21 when I married John. Did they stay the same? Did we? No way! But we've grown up together. We've changed together. We've grown closer as we've grown up.

4. As gross as it was when I was 16, it is wonderful that my dad could not pass my mom in the kitchen without grabbing her butt.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

You're either a planner or you make fun of planners

Or at least that's how I feel sometimes. I am a planner. It's survival because I do not do well under stress and pressure. I feel, though, that I have found kindred spirits in my planner nerdiness with my meal swap group. We are about to celebrate two years of swapping dinner.

We plan our weekly menus using a google document where we all record what we'll be bringing the next week. Some of us plan out a month in advance (me). Some plan further. Some just go a couple of weeks out. We swapped meals yesterday for the last time in 2011 and will be off for the holidays. I went ahead Sunday night and created the new 2012 calendar through the end of the first quarter. My meal swap friends did not mock me for this, making fun of me for planning ahead as I am so accustomed. They thanked me. Planners of the world unite!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Milestones


My big girl lost her first tooth tonight. I am not normally sentimental about milestones, but this one seems like such a big deal to me. Her little face will be forever changed. That baby smile is gone! I think, though, the reason I feel this more is that we (and by we, I mean Caroline) have been anticipating this for more than four years now. When her cousin Megan lost her first tooth, Caroline became fascinated with the whole concept. She decided then (around Thanksgiving) that she wanted to be a loose tooth the next Halloween. And she stuck with the idea to be a loose tooth Halloween when she was three. Her first day of preschool when she was four, she came home to tell me someone lost a tooth at school that day. I didn't believe her that a four year old lost a tooth, but sure enough, it happened! And guess what happened the first week of kindergarten. Yup, another classmate lost a tooth. (Funny side note: this friend has a heart condition and has some PE modifications. Caroline told me one day that the coaches walked next to this girl when they ran the track because she has a problem where her teeth fall out easily. A little confused.) Caroline's three same-age cousins (who are actually five to six months younger than she is) have all lost teeth. She's been eagerly waiting, wiggling, insisting her tooth is loose, for a year now. And this week, I finally felt it wiggle, too! All weekend, her tooth has been barely hanging on, and today during Sunday School (where I am her teacher), she pulled it! She is so excited. She told me she could hardly sleep.  She'll awake to two dollar coins.

As I was putting the girls to bed, checking to make sure Caroline had put her tooth out for the tooth fairy (she put it next to her bed in her glasses case as John told her it might get lost under her pillow), Elizabeth asked me, totally seriously, "Mommy, does the tooth fairy bring cake?"

Wishful thinking.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

One of my favorite seasonal traditions

Our little family went to see The Nutcracker this afternoon. It's a tradition we started when Caroline was four and Elizabeth almost one -- seeing a local ballet studios production performed at a high school. It's a beautiful, yet affordable and toddler-attention-level friendly performance with some professional dancers and lots of dancers en pointe along with littler dancers, too.

The Nutcracker has been a love of Caroline's since dancers from the Ballet Austin production visited her preschool when she was three and I was pregnant with Elizabeth. She became enamored and would dance at home with her nutcracker. I found a youtube video of the performance, and she watched it over and over again. She determined her unborn sibling would be a boy and that she would dance Clara's part and he Fritz's. Well, she ended up with a little sister that January and we didn't talk much about the Nutcracker again until we went to the next Christmas's production where we saw the Fritz role redefined as "little sister." This year, the bickering scenes seemed especially realistic!

The cherry on the top, though, was that Caroline also got to perform tonight in excerpts from the Nutcracker with her own school's dance troupe at the Zilker Holiday Festival. Elizabeth was disappointed that there was no "little sister" in this production, but I loved seeing my dancer up on stage!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Oh my aching dogs!

I am tired! I try not to be a complainer, especially of the "I"m so busy" sort. I realize I live a life of leisure. :-) But this holiday season has me running crazy!

I have multiple lists going and multiple bags/boxes of materials for the various events I am planning.

There's a bag of supplies for Caroline's class party. I'm the room mom, so I'm the party planner. We're having a snow theme. I got clear plastic ornaments for the kids to make handprint snowmen on. They'll embellish their fingerprints with hats, scarves, buttons, etc. They'll also have an instant snow play station and a snow (cotton) ball throwing/fight station before enjoying their snowman cupcakes and treats. I have everything from my list for this except cotton balls and candy for the take-home bags.

Then there's a box of costumes for the church live nativity the kids are doing. I went easy and ordered the costumes from Oriental Trading, and I sought volunteer help from church members to embellish and alter them a bit. I have made three of the angel wings so far and estimate I need to make about nine more. I also need to come up with something for the shepherd headpieces. I'm thinking dish towels, but I keep forgetting to look for cheapos when I'm out shopping. It is on my list, but for some reason, I keep overlooking it. The angel wings are actually an easy project, thanks to ready made paper butterfly wings I found at Michaels. Six in a pack, complete with elastics to be worn on the back, for $2.99 a pack. And, being at Michael's, they were buy one get one free!  I'm just stapling gold tinsel garland around them to make them more angelic. Along with the costuming piles are the "quiet" activity bags for the kids during the Christmas Eve service. They are about halfway complete. And, of course, my normal Sunday School lesson stuff.

The Christmas gift pile, as of tonight, has been redistributed. The girls' gifts are wrapped (except a couple of items I am awaiting shipment on). Our Bindel name-drawing gifts are halfway done -- still waiting on one to ship, and one needs on-the-spot assemblage. The other two are wrapped and under the tree. I am so thankful both sides of our family have simplified Christmas gifting.

And then I just need to make sure my piles and boxes and bags are moved out next weekend so nobody trips when I host our church's Christmas caroling party. I ran all the way to Costco today (even though I was just there Tuesday to pick up my Christmas cards....grrrr....sometimes my lists fail me!) to order the sandwich trays. This one is easy. No prep work for me. I provide the sanchwiches and space, and our friends bring other goodies. Then we head out to serenade the neighbors. It's great fun.

I am sad that in all this busy-ness, I will only make about 10 minutes of Elizabeth's Christmas party at MDO. John is going to have to take my place and bring her home because her party is from 1-1:30, and Caroline's class party starts at 1:45. I'll need to be set up and ready to go for that group of kids by then, so I'll need to start around 1:15. I'll be there, though, for Elizabeth's Christmas performance at MDO on Tuesday. Saturday, I'll watch Caroline perform twice -- once with her school choir at Breakfast with Santa and again at the Zilker Holiday Tree festival when she dances as a Russian Peppermint in excerpts from the Nutcracker. And in between those performances (and after I volunteer my hour shift at said Breakfast for Santa) the whole family will go see The Nutcracker together.

Fun. Fun. Fun. So much fun, I can only handle it once a year!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

5K!




Our little family participated in our first 5K last weekend. Here in Austin, you can find a 5K (or marathon or half) to run pretty much every weekend! We did the Lights of Love 5K to benefit the Ronald McDonald House in Austin as part of Caleb's Army. Caleb and his family go to our church, and the Smiths have been able to stay at the RMDH in Cincinnati where Caleb goes for his special surgeries. Caleb was born with a condition called Imperferate Anus (IA). He had his first surgery in Austin at just a day old, but in October, he got an anus! He has many more surgeries ahead of him, and RMDH will be a second home to his mom and dad and sisters during those surgeries and recoveries. You can read more about Caleb and his journey on his Caring Bridge site. (Do go read it. His mama writes beautifully and honestly.)

As for us, John ran the 5K in 22 minutes. Not bad, my dear! The girls rode in the double stroller while I walked. We stopped for hot chocolate. We stopped for water. We looked at neighborhood lights. Caroline got out and walked a bit. We petted doggies and talked to other kids. We finished in 55 minutes.


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Diet Coke-Free!

Hello blog,
Good to see you again. My *old* friend, Erica (who happened to turn 39 yesterday! Happy Birthday!) at Haphazard Happenstances, has issued her annual blogging challenge again -- to blog every (remaining) day between now and Christmas. Since my blog has been collecting dust lately, I thought I'd give it a go. After all, I do have a few thoughts I've been meaning to record here for my future reference.

So, without further ado. . . Christmas Blogging Challenge Day One
I have made a change that will save my family hundreds of dollars a year. A change that should positively impact my health. A change that some say may help me lose weight. I have stopped drinking Diet Coke.

Now, that alone is a big deal for anyone, but I will share my deep dark secret. I drank about 64 oz a day of Diet Coke. Seriously. It was a bad addiction. When we traveled overnight, I'd bring my own Diet Coke for the morning. On the way out the door, anywhere, anytime, I'd grab a Diet Coke for the road. It was my "morning coffee", my mid-morning break, my lunch beverage, and my afternoon pick-me-up. I preferred my Diet Coke in the 16 oz bottles. Easier for on the go and much more effective at retaining the fizzy burn on the down gulps. I did not like drinking from 2-liters at all. Once opened, the fizz just isn't the same. If a can was the only option, I'd drink it from a wine glass.

I've cut back before -- during pregnancy and for a day or two at other times -- but even then, I allowed myself one a day.This time, for some reason, I just went cold turkey. I ran out at home, and rather than make a special trip to buy more, I just didn't. For the first three weeks, I drank an orange juice in the morning, water all day, and occasionally wine in the evenings. At Thanksgiving, I opened one bottle of Diet Coke left at my dad's from my last visit. And it wasn't that good. I let John finish it. Now, I don't plan to be a tee-totaler or anything. In fact, this weekend, after the Ronald McDonald House Lights of Love 5K, we were heading home late with sleepy girls and empty stomachs, so we went through a McDonalds Drive-Thru. I ordered a Dr. Pepper. It was delish! I will allow myself the occasional indulgence of a Dr Pepper or Root Beer or lemonade with fast food or at the movies. I will try to avoid aspartame. That is what seems to be the real evil -- more so than caffeine.

I still find myself wanting a Diet Coke, though. It is a comforting ritual for me. Relaxing and re-energizing at the same time. Some foods (mostly junky ones!) just call for a Diet Coke accompaniment. But, it's been more than a month now. And I have done it. Really, this is probably the longest I have gone in my walking years (yes, that long. I got Coke in my bottle. Pictures to prove it!) without Coke. I am proud of myself.

(Now, I just need to build myself up to the challenge of eliminating sugar! No promises.)