Tuesday, December 24, 2013

(W)Rap Artist

Christmas Eve is also my mom's birthday, so this day has had a hint of sadness since she passed away almost 19 years ago.  There are so many things that come to mind when I think of my mom and Christmas, but I have the most memories when it comes to wrapping presents.

I remember how quickly she could do it herself, always perfect in the amount of paper she used and the amount of ribbon she pulled off the spool.  Her organized mind was evident in the pre-torn pieces of tape she would have stuck to the back of her hand, or stuck to the side of the table where she was wrapping, ready for immediate use at each fold of the paper.  I noticed she never tried to wrap an odd-shaped toy or mug or whatever without putting it in a box first - this ensured the neatness of the package.  And she never left a present without a bow - she had a bow maker when she wanted to be fancy, but she wasn't beyond using the stick-on kind.  She just wanted it to be nice.

When I started choosing presents on my own to give to others, the first thing my mom did was to teach me how to wrap them properly.  Of course, teaching me to use the right amount of paper and ribbon involved lots of eyeballing, which I was bad at doing.  Many times I'd cut too much or, even worse, too little.  In the latter case, my mom told me to save that piece that was cut too small, because inevitably there would be another gift of appropriate size to use it on.  I still make that mistake to this day, so if you look inside the tubes of gift wrap in my closet, you'll find many rolled scraps meant not to go to waste.  Folding the corners on the present wrapping proved to be even more of a challenge.  Whereas her corners were always so crisp, mine left wrinkles and bulges that made the gift look like it needed a facelift.  But she assured me that, with practice, the corners would get more snug and the edges more flat.  After 30 years of wrapping my own presents, she was right.  And, per her example, I never forget the bow.  For any of you who have received a wrapped present from me, you know my fallback is curling ribbon.  Curly is about as fancy as I get.

Now in no way am I against gift bags, in case you were wondering.  I just feel like I'm honoring my mom when I wrap at Christmastime.  I value what she taught me and I don't want to forget it.  And I think the way I wrap presents is a good reflection of my mom:  simple, considerate, and nice.

"And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."  Luke 2:7

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

4 Minutes

Every minute counts in a house with six people.  We do our best to start our days with some quiet time with the Lord in Bible study.  We have to be efficient in our daily work and make sure to leave room for quality time with each other.  On school days there needs to be time for all (ok, most.  Some?) subjects, and after school we need to be aware of the clock in order to get the two oldest boys to basketball practice on time.

After stopping at a few stores after school and on the way to practice today, I just HAD to make time for coffee.  We stopped at Starbucks, and, after ordering a grande Christmas blend, I was told it would be 4 minutes till the brew was done and the barista asked if I wanted to wait.  I looked at my watch and we STILL had 30 minutes until practice.  I had to take the twins to the restroom.  Jonah and James had to go, too.  We had time to wait, so we did.  Then I got my coffee.  :o)

I had promised the kids I would get them a snack on the way to practice, so after Starbucks we drove through Wendy's and I placed four orders of the six piece chicken nuggets.  I got my total and pulled up to the window and paid.  At that point, I found out that only three of the four orders were ready.  The cashier told me it would be 4 minutes before the last order would be finished cooking and asked if I wanted to wait.  I looked at my watch and we ONLY had 20 minutes until practice.  I also figured fresh nuggets would be super hot and that it would take too long for them to cool.  We didn't have time to wait, so I got three orders and was refunded for the fourth.  Jonah ate 4 nuggets and the other three boys had to share the 14 remaining.  I know that meant 4.6 each, but they were bummed at not getting all 6 and their own nugget container.  But they still got their snack.

So now I'm wondering if I gypped my sons.  We arrived at basketball practice 5 minutes before it started.  As I sipped my coffee, I saw the look of disappointment on all of their faces.  I felt bad for the extra 4 minutes that I took, and now I realize it should have been spent on them.  Let's see... if I do my math correctly, I owe them 1 minute each.  In that minute I can't go back to Wendy's and give them their own 6 chicken nuggets, but I can give them a 60 second apology filled with hugs and kisses.  Now THAT would be time well spent.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Shop Till You Drop

Back in the 80s, I loved going to the mall.  Like all teenagers, I had the most fun hanging out with my friends and going to my favorite stores like Contempo, Wild Pair, and The Broadway.  We would coordinate whose parents would drop off and whose parents would pick up, and it was always exciting when we could walk around on our own and didn't have to be chaperoned by an older sibling.

Since then, God blessed me with four sons, which brought my desire AND my ability to go to the mall to a screeching halt.  My boys are classic boys, born with the absence of the "shopping" gene and double the dose of the "runs around stores" gene.  At the mere mention of the mall, they begin a tirade of complaints, and I am positive that they the only humans who literally melt into useless blobs upon stepping into a Macy's.  But over time, I have come to accept and somewhat agree with their opinions on mall shopping.  It can be crowded and parking is usually bad.  I no longer understand the teenage culture, so communicating with a cashier who has to pull up his saggy pants every 30 seconds, or with a salesperson who asks me to wait as she finishes her texting, is a bit frustrating.  

As a result, I have come to enjoy online shopping.  Maybe a little TOO much.  It's so convenient now to scour the internet for the exact item I want, or to compare prices and item descriptions with just a few clicks.  I know blogging about internet shopping is nothing new (I might as well tell you about the advantages of push-button phones), but with the comings and goings of four boys, I have my favorite sites:

Bradsdeals.com    Justin discovered this site a few years ago for Black Friday deals.  This site actually updates the most recent online deals every few minutes, so checking it every hour or so always produces something new.  It covers all categories of items, from clothing to home items and jewelry to electronics.  I always check this site first when I shop online, but I must admit that the main thing I look for on this site is a great deal - impulse shoppers beware!

6pm.com    If you didn't know already, 6pm.com is the outlet for Zappos.  They have some of the same current items as Zappos, but the selection of sizes or colors may be fewer.  They do have a wide selection of clothing and shoes from past seasons.  I've been wearing lots of the same clothes since the 90s (fine - the 80s), so finding a bargain from something that came out last year is still a bargain worth buying.  Also, 6pm.com always has special sales to celebrate certain holidays, and, from experience, sometimes it's worth it to wait a few weeks for an item to be reduced even further.  6pm.com is a hit and miss, but they usually have new things on sale every few days.  Shipping is not always free, so that's something to wait for, also.

retailmenot.com    This site is growing in popularity, as it provides extra discount codes for online sites.  If I ever order anything online, I always check retailmenot.com first for any other code I can apply.  I have also used this site a few times to double check whether a retail site is legit.  If I can't find it on retailmenot.com, I don't order from that site. 

ebates.com     My friend told me about this site that is all about rebates.  Before I make an online purchase, I check retailmenot.com, THEN I check ebates.com.  Ebates.com lists cashback percentages and once you sign up, you can shop the regular sites through the ebate link and you'll automatically earn money back if the site you're shopping on has an ebate offer.  This is a great site because it doesn't require racking up points and you don't have to get others to sign up (but if you do decide to sign up, let me know because I get a bonus).  :o)  I have already received two checks in the mail, and ebates.com gives you a running total of your rebates due and pays out quarterly.  Free money?  Yes, please!

So there you have it:  how to shop wisely and quickly while saving money AND making money.  I no longer need to be in the mall where, as a mom, I'd mostly focus on my kids not getting kidnapped.  I have changed out the company of my junior high friends for the company of my sons, and, ironically, I now have them to thank for making my shopping experience the most efficient and it's ever been.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Joyeux Noel

"Kalat" is the tagalog word that means "litter" or "something spread about".  I am NOT a fan of kalat, but with four sons it's something very difficult to avoid.  Dirty laundry can be kalat, Pokemon cards can be kalat, and Legos strewn on the floor is MAJOR kalat.  This explains why I am not a big collector of anything, really.  I don't care for souvenir spoons (like my mom did),  or for giraffe-related sculptures, or magnets in the shape of the states.  I like that I don't have a "thing" where people would always give me "thing"-related stuff to fill up some kind of display cabinet for which I don't have any room anyway.

But if you look closely just at our Christmas tree, you'll see I come fairly close.  Every year I like to buy a new ornament for the tree.  Not one that I had bought the year before on the day after Christmas at like 95% off.  No, I mean to buy an ornament during the current season, when the stores have their best decorations out, and these decorations are still fully glittered, haven't been stepped on, the designs are still intact and they're not broken.  Oh, and the ornament has to have the word "Joy" on it.  (I know the one pictured above doesn't say that, but it's because I haven't found my special ornament yet for this year.)  :o)

As a big fan of the writings of C.S. Lewis, I remember him describing joy as something only of God.  Whereas happiness is the result of beneficial situations and is a feeling that comes and goes, Lewis stated that joy itself is complete pleasure in the Lord.  It is immune to the sway of emotions.  Joy does not change because it is not of us but of God, who never changes.  The Psalmist writes "In Your presence is the fullness of joy."  (Psalm 16:11)  Is that not what we celebrate at Christmas?  The birth of Jesus Christ gave man the ability to be in the physical presence of God.  It exemplified God's love for us, that He came to earth to live like a man but also to be able to die for our sins.  I know that sounds simple, but aren't the simple things worth celebrating, too?

So I don't consider my "joy" ornaments "kalat" because they're always contained in a specific place:  on the tree.  And I don't have them out year round, either.  But if I can ignore the dirty laundry for a moment, keep the Pokemon cards in their tins and maneuver around the Legos underfoot, I'll make my way to our Christmas tree whenever I can, searching for the reminder of the real meaning of this holiday and the joy we are all to find in it.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


In the spectrum of parenting, I'd like to think I fall in the "strict" section.  My boys have chores they must complete daily, some even after each meal.  They are expected to take care of one another, occasionally make meals for one another, and even clean up after each other.  Four sons in the house can make lots of messes, so I expect them to help in keeping the house neat.

...except when it comes to cups.  The pic above is only about half of those that get used on a daily basis in this house.  Our collection is a myriad of superhero-themed tumblers, small vessels left over from the toddler years, and the coveted logo cups from kids' meals at "nice" restaurants.  And there is where the problem lies.  My sons use SO MANY cups.  At mealtime they each use a cup.  That's 12 cups per day right there.  Then there's snack time, water breaks after wrestling time, and "I don't want to do schoolwork so I'll get up for a drink of water" time.  Honestly, I can't keep track and I just can't keep up.  I know if I asked them instead to just wash a dirty cup, they would either a) insufficiently wash the cup or b) take WAY too long to do it.  So, my sink looks like this early in the day and looks twice as bad by the end of the evening.

I blame Islands.  When we eat there and the kids need a refill, the servers don't take back the cup they're currently using.  Oh, noooo.  They bring back a whole new cup!  Sometimes we've left Islands with eight new cups to add to our collection!  I have even thought to myself "We're low on plastic cups.  Let's eat at Islands tonight!"  I also blame their friends' parents for giving away goodie cups and not goodie bags at birthday parties.  They never want to get rid of those because they're souvenirs!  And I blame Target.  Who can resist the clearance section of kids' dinnerware?  Why let someone else walk home with that last Lightning McQueen cup that only costs $.50?

This means I am an enabler.  I am not dealing with the problem of too many cups.  I am allowing our cup use addiction to get out of control.  I need help.  If you know where I live, I am crying out for intervention.  Come take away all the plastic cups.  Make us use the nice glass ones.  Show me what the bottom of my sink looks like.  Teach my boys how to wash dishes correctly.

I look forward to the day when I can be rid of this vice, open my cupboard and see exactly six drinking glasses.  Ok, maybe 12, because of company.  18...?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Proud Daddy

What looks like a group of little CalTrans workers picking up trash on the side of the freeway is, in fact, the twins' soccer team at their game last Saturday morning.  They are wearing orange pinnies to differentiate them from the opposing team who had the exact same uniforms as they did (Who planned THAT match up?).  If you look closely, you'll also notice that some (namely MY) boys are wearing full on pants AND sweaters AND jackets with hoods on top of their uniforms because it was cold and rainy.  You can even see a few drops of rain falling in the pic.  And when I say cold, I mean it was in the 40s cold.  The boys were almost soaked to the bone.  I kept waiting for the ref to call the game, but quarter after quarter he just called water breaks until finally we all heard the desperately awaited three whistles, 40 minutes after the game started.

Justin has long declared that soccer is a "real" sport because games are played in the rain.  But I watched this game as a concerned mother, worried that the welfare of her babies was in danger.  I was so sad as they were brought to tears by the pain of their cold, red hands, exposed to the freezing air.  I was sure they would end up sick the next day.  I just wanted to wrap them in a blanket and take them home, give them a long warm bath, and treat them to a steaming cup of hot chocolate.  I wanted their misery to come to an end.

Justin also watched with concern, observing as his twins sons played the same sport he played as a child and throughout high school.  He mentioned to me memories of playing in the rain and having to persevere.  So with the twins, he stayed positive despite the inclement weather.  He cheered his sons through the rain and through the cold, and I know he was proud that they finished the game despite their team losing.  

While I like to take credit for the twins' good looks and their ability to articulate incessantly (and sometimes unnecessarily), I must give credit to Justin for the determination and perseverance they showed last Saturday morning.  Now that I think about it, playing soccer in the cold, hard rain is also crazy, so for sure they get THAT from their dad.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


One of the major stereotypes about homeschooled kids is that they are not socialized or that they don't have proper social skills.  I know my own kids may not be socially perfect, but they have enough sense to say "Please" and "Thank You" most of the time.  And as far as I know, they don't put buckets on their heads and spin in circles to avoid conversations, and they'll gladly tell you their current interests or even ask about yours.

Because of this, I was happy to host the Christmas party for the 6th-8th graders in our homeschool group.  The party had the usual fun stuff:  an ornament exchange, chocolate pretzel making and games.  There were five girls and six boys in attendance, and while the goal was for them to have fun, MY goal was to ensure that my son isn't weird around girls.  When I was 11, I already had a handful of crushes on boys in my class, and I showed it by punching them, ignoring them, or acting like I hated them.  I want my sons to know that it's OK to act regular around girls - to treat them with respect and courtesy but also to be friendly with them.  I want them to know that girls are not aliens, like beings completely different from them who don't deserve their attention.  And right now I want my eldest son to understand that if the Lord wills that he be married someday, he needs to be friends with the girl first.

I am happy to say that the party was a success.  In his usual style, my son freely talked about the latest episodes of Lego Chima one moment, and in the next he was confidently instructing all 10 guests and leading them in a game of Apples to Apples.  All the kids acted like you'd expect 6th-8th graders to act, even making messes and not cleaning up after making the chocolate pretzels.  Although all the boys and girls who came may have their awkward moments, I'm assured that they know how to conduct themselves properly, and I pray that my son is friends with them all for a very long time.

I forgot to mention that "C.L.A.Y" stands for "Christ Loves All Youth", but with my party I'd also call it "D.B.W.A.G.":  "Don't Be Weird Around Girls".

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Drivers Ed

I taught Drivers Ed tonight.  No, I didn't pick up a part time job - I simply had to drive to church.  With the twins.  In traffic.  And as I maneuvered into the fast lane, one of them asked why the lines on the freeway looked different.  Thus began the slew of questions, and because the interrogation lasted for 20 miles I am completely unapologetic for my snarky answers:

One of Them:  What's the difference between the solid line and the smaller lines?
Me:  You can't cross over the solid lines, but you can cross over the broken lines.
Them:  Why haven't you switched lanes yet?
Me:  I'm waiting for the carpool lane to open up so I can get in it.  The lines are still solid.
Them:  Well, the lines on the other side aren't solid.  Why don't you get in those lanes?
Me:  Because I don't WANT to get in those lanes.  They're slower because most people only have one person in their car.  I'm SO lucky I have the two of you with me so I can get in the faster carpool lane.
Them:  Yay!  We get to go faster!
Them again:  Ooo, that car crossed over the solid line.  What's going to happen?
Me:  Well, if a policeman sees him, he'll get a ticket.
Them:  What's a ticket?
Me:  It's something they get from the policeman that they have to pay for because they broke the law.
Them:  You mean they have to give the policeman all their money?
Me:  No, they have to go to court where there's a judge who decides.
Them:  So they give the JUDGE all their money.
Me:  NO.
Them:  So that guy is going to get a ticket?
Me:  Probably not.  I don't think a policeman saw him.
Them:  Why not?
Me:  Because there WAS NO POLICEMAN THERE.
Jed (to Jack):  But God saw him.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Let Me Count the Ways..."

Now that I'm using the Bob Jones University curriculum for phonics for the twins, today I had to ask myself "Seriously, how many ways ARE there to read the "long a" /ā/ sound??"  I never paid this much attention before!  So here are the ways:
1. when "marker e" is at the end of the word, making the first vowel say the long sound, as in "gate"
2. when two vowels are together in a word, the first one does the talking and the second one does the walking, as in "mail"
3. and in today's lesson, it was about the "-ay" ending, as in "way"

I don't know why I had to tell you because you probably already knew.  Duh.  Actually, if you have yet to teach this to your kids, just show them this post and the pic above.  Boom - you're done.  And you're welcome.

I just realized there's another one:
4. "ey" as in "grey"

So props to my twins for being only six years old and deciphering this minutia of the English language.  And props to you if you know what "minutia" means.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Boiled Chicken Can Be Fab

At the risk of being put on the black list of a dear friend, I am posting her recipe for probably the BEST chicken salad I have ever had.  I have not asked her permission to share it but it's just after 11pm my time and I'm trying to squeak in a post.  I figure I could write a recipe quickly and have it count as my post AND as the highlight of my day.  Two birds, you know?

also known as

4 chicken breasts, boiled and shredded
4 stalks celery, diced
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup (ish) of mayo

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Serve in sliced croissants if you're fancy, in wheat bread if you're healthy, or do what I do and eat it right out of the mixing bowl if you're just plain hungry.

And please don't ask me how many it serves.  All I know is that I have six people in my family and everyone gets fed.  Please don't ask me the nutritional value, either.  All I can say is that it has nutrients which are very valuable.

And yes, it was the highlight of my day and will continue to be until it runs out or unless my husband gives me an early Christmas present.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas List

Does anyone else's Christmas list look like this?

1. Finish off Thanksgiving leftovers
2. Find a home for the pumpkin pie that was brought to your after-Thanksgiving party because it never got eaten at someone else's Thanksgiving the day before
3. Put up a Christmas wreath on the front door
4. Disagree with those who say "just decorate the front door" and convince your husband to go into the garage and pull down all the boxes of Christmas decorations
5. Spend all day creating Christmas cards online because your Groupon is about to expire
6. Forget how to spell the word "Christmas" because you've been staring at it all day making sure there are no spelling mistakes on your Christmas cards
7. Drink a large cup of coffee at 6pm because you're on your way to help with the Christmas choir and play rehearsal at church
8. Wish you had another cup of coffee halfway through rehearsal
9. Come home and eat the last 3/4" piece of baguette someone inconsiderately left in the bread bag
10. Keep your promise and blog before midnight

Hmmm... I didn't think so.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Most Blogger-ful Time of the Year

Inspiration can come from anywhere.  Realizing that it's already December was the inspiration for me to continue my blogging tradition of frantically writing at the end of the year, just so I can "keep up" my blog (like "keeping up" the roots of your hair by wearing hats in between salon visits).  But I told my husband that, starting today, I WILL blog everyday until Christmas - I WILL.  Now I may be falsely assuming that there is still interest in my blog, but if I treat my audience like I treat my husband, I'll just go on and on whether anyone is paying attention or not.

So "Why the picture of the painted nails?", you ask?  (Herein begins the "writing with abandon".)  In keeping with the theme of "inspiration", I was recently inspired to retry new things, the first being to paint my nails.  For those of you unfamiliar, I haven't painted my fingernails for years.  Actually, decades.  No joke.  If my old mind serves me correctly, I think I last had my nails done when my oldest brother got married.  In 1997.  And they were acrylic, so waiting for those darn things to grow out and trying to pick them off was only part of why I never painted my nails again.  And now I am also a stay at home mom.  I have four sons.  I have no maid.  I love to cook.  But I tried to deny these facts and submit to the powers of Pinterest, so I had a friend buy me a bottle of OPI Roadhouse Blues (like the pic above).  The reason I had a friend buy it for me is because OPI is an expensive brand of nail polish and my friend is a hairstylist so she gets me discounts at the supply store and as I said I'm a stay at home mom so I try to be cheap without looking like it.  Anyway, I somehow found an extra hour in my day and actually painted my nails - base coat and top coat and all!  (I know, check me.)  I absolutely loved it, was so proud of myself for doing it, and felt so hip wearing dark nail polish!  (Hmmm, I think using the word "hip" just negated any coolness I just built up for myself.)  Well, as we all know, painting your nails doesn't take away life's responsibilities, so only two days later my nails looked like this:
I should have taken another pic after I finished the laundry that day, but if you can imagine nails with no polish on them whatsoever you've pretty much got the picture.  I was actually hoping to paint them again today:  I wanted the whole "New Look, New Blog" theme, but seeing as it's dinner time and I wanted to squeeze in this post before reheating Thanksgiving fare, painting my nails will have to wait - again.

And since the Christmas season has begun and I must somehow segue from nail polish to the birth of Jesus Christ, I am rebooting my blog with my FIRST EVER CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY!  Just leave a comment telling me how often you paint your nails, and you'll be entered to win your very own bottle of OPI Roadhouse Blues!  I know you're thinking that I'm just going to give you the rest of my unused bottle, but I'm not.  (Winner will be announced on this post on Friday, 12/6.)

So readers, join me in raising a bottle of nail polish as we begin a new season of inspiration!  Here's to streams of thought, unaccomplishable Pinterest projects, and Baby Jesus!