Short and sweet my friends. Whoo-Hoo it is almost Christmas. We are finishing up cookies and rocking to some great tunes from the 80s. Oh they take me back. You know I can still remember the song playing when I first kissed my hubby. "Pictures of You" by the Cure. Love that song!! Merry Christmas. You all have a wonderful time with family and friends.
Imagine yourself a young mother with eight children and it is coming up on Christmas. You are struggling to survive the changes that have been handed to you. Your husband has decided he would rather live with and raise the family down the street than to honor you and be with his own children. Imagine yourself at a time when we did not have the safety nets we have now. No food stamps, no means of income. This was the reality that faced my grandmother. This was the Christmas my mother faced as a little girl when her father abandoned them.
This is not however a story of anger but a story of simple Christmas blessings. My grandmother did not let this shock shake her faith. On Christmas she gathered up her children to head to church. After the service, while walking home, my grandmother instructed her children to wait outside a shop where she could see someone working in the back. While the children waited, she approached the man working in a candy store and explained to him that the children out front were hers and that she had no money to buy them anything for Christmas this year. Would the man be willing to let my grandmother have any broken hard candy he was going to throw away as a small treat she could give her children for Christmas. The man agreed and for that one year all my mother and her siblings received was a bag of broken candy for the eight of them to share.
My mother never told me this story until I was an adult. She said this was not a sad story but one of hope. What my grandmother overcame seems insurmountable to me. Often there was not enough food and the Salvation Army provided many a meal for them until they could get on their feet. My mom always felt that this experience was character building. I think she was smarter than I knew. My parents lived a very simple life with no frills but I felt rich as a child. I never knew hunger and always was cared for by two loving parents. A stable home was all my mother ever desired. She was very content in her simple life and I can remember thinking even as a young teen that I wanted a life like my moms. She always seemed content with what we had. Never a need to change what was still usable. Never a rushed feeling in our home chasing busy
So as we race around trying to make everything perfect for the holidays, I remind myself of this story and that it does not take much to make a loving cozy Christmas. A warm home, some delicious food and thankfully we have always been able to provide more than broken Christmas candy. I love to make things special but I know more and more how at some point I just say that is good enough.
I wanted to share this story with you as a tribute to my mom but also to ask that if you pass the red kettle, think of dropping a little money in for the Salvation Army. They are a truly wonderful, selfless organization. 98% of all donations go to help those in need. I have always raised my kids giving donations to them every time we pass a kettle and making sure they know the story of how they helped my mother when she was young and how now we can give so they can help someone else.
For the second year in a row, I spent only cash for all of my Christmas shopping, yet somehow this year I had a harder time covering it all and I even cut back on how much I spent. It seemed as if other things in life really hit us harder this year including all the everyday expenses plus large raises in college tuition for our second daughter. So then came Christmas, and though I am just about done, I am heading out today, early, for the last few items for stockings and some gift cards. I needed to wait until payday like I am sure so many others have.
When I was younger I would just charge everything I didn't have cash for and then cry when the bills piled in. I would over spend and buy way too much for the kids. These past years we have changed our thinking and spend much more carefully. Even though it is hard to always stretch the cash, it is so good to know I will wake up on Dec. 26th knowing I will not have Christmas to still pay for in the New Year. We have cut who we exchange with each year but the list is cut as far as I WANT to go. I still love to give gifts and if we can afford it, then I like to do it.
The kids gifts are mostly practical. No Ipads or anything fancy, Mostly new coats and clothes and of course some toys for Q. If our girls want something like a computer or expensive electronic they have to save for it. We can give them the amount of cash we would spend normally and they can add other gift money or savings to buy it themselves. This is nothing new for us but just what we have always done as we have four kids and never budgeted that much for a single gift. I think this has worked well as the kids have all of their original game boys and ipods that they have bought mostly themselves. You know the old adage, you will take better care of what you spend your own money on. Now don't get me wrong. If I could, I would love to give them these types of gifts, but like I said our budget never allowed for it so this is what we have come up with for our house.
Here is what I did that worked to help pay cash for Christmas but also improvements I need to make:
1) I bought gift cards I knew I would need throughout the year.
2) I have a gift savings account but clearly I need to budget more into it each month.
3) Purchase more gifts earlier in the year.
4) Budget more for those end of year expenses that always hit and I act like I am surprised. You know how that goes right?
My husband and I have committed that after the holidays we are going to develop a new written budget. Together at the table hammering it out. We have some specific goals we want to meet and I don't have much faith that the gov't is going to solve our fiscal problems. I see higher taxes in our future. We want to be prepared for this as best we can. Our expenses are not going down but up, as incomes stay stagnant. Some things are changing for us, and college expenses are rising but we need to prepare for the coming changes the government is going to hand us all next year.
You can find my posts on the Thrifty Living Series here.
Hey can you believe I have tomatoes? Happens every once in a while where we don't have temps too low. I can pick until Christmas. Amazing. We were pretty cold last night so we will see what is out there this morning. These plants are just volunteers that came up from seeds dropped last summer.
I have kept the garden very full this winter to keep weeds down.
Nasturtiums roaming are threatening to take over.
Look I still have a pumpkin growing and somehow a couple stocks of corn are popping up.
So here is what I am harvesting this month:
Last night my husband had to go back into work. It was the coldest night so far this season. I always pray extra hard that drivers will watch for the guys out working at night. I know he will need his cold weather gear. So while I made a thermos of coffee and a lunch for him, life hummed that beautiful normal hum of life.
The piano music just played preparing for an upcoming competition.
As I finished the dishes from a delicious dinner of calzones and lay the gloves to dry, I could hear my daughter splashing in the tub. Her class had red noses when I came to pick them up. The teacher painted them all and they became a room of Rudolph's. She wore it all day and hated to wash it off.
The sparkly wreaths on the window I know are hung for my pleasure. I just love to have the glow shining in the glass at night. I have purposely continued to keep all news off in our house, shutting out the world. Kids and their parents get enough of the real world when we are out but at home, I want our house to be refuge. They keep reminding me only nine days, only eight days. What a wonderful time of year. I am savoring all the little things.
A plate of cookies and milk brought to my daughter studying for finals. "Mom you don't have to." I know I don't but I want to. Rather sad looking cookies. Not sure why my one cookie sheet makes funny cookies.
My husband asks am I done shopping yet. Almost, I tell him and he assures me it is over soon and I say, "Shoosh!!!!" Even though I may be a bit spread thin, I want to enjoy and savor it. You never know what the future holds so hold on tight to the now.
Cookie baking has begun in our house. The littlest always likes to help. Over the weekend my friend Shelly gave Q this darling apron of her very own. She wore it all day baking away in her little cozy kitchen and even fell asleep in it. I had to take it off of her once she was asleep.
We have favorites we bake each year. Here are some of our recipes for our must have cookies.
There is almost no time that I miss my folks as much as I do at Christmas. So today to give me a gift more priceless than anything under the tree, my hubby took out all my mom's old ornaments and a few delicate ones from our past years and he arranged them all in our china cabinet where I could see them and know they are safe from the threat of breaking. Really? I almost cried.
All the ornaments below were on the trees of my childhood. Some are over 60 years old. I could not buy any now that I would cherish more.
Ornaments from our first year of marriage.
This old crackled beauty is my favorite of my mothers.
See what I saw when I walked in the dining room? Do you ever feel life is so good you just know something is going to happen that will burst it? Now I have been married a long time and know that things do come to our lives that seem to shake us but for right now, this season, I am so truly blessed.
We have our problems like everyone else. Raising a family is hard work but I sure do savor this time of year and all that it holds. The memories we cherish and knowing we will make new ones this year.
I am a child at Christmas. For that one day I refuse to grow up. I relish the gifts and the kids and our dog who somehow knows it is a day like no other and always roams threw the wrapping on the floor on Christmas morn, her tail just wagging going to each of us with her Christmas greeting. Maybe it is that she knows there is always a special treat under the tree for her on the day the humans take all the boxes and rip them apart making a huge mess of the den.
I had a wonderful weekend of simple pleasures. Lunch with my good friends and children running through my house making a mess in every room. It was all good. It was how it should be. A party for a friend's birthday and a day of wrapping today and putting some of the final touches on the house. We are all shaken this week but I don't know about you but I have to put it out of my mind as much as I can. Sadness like that is so consuming. Of course we cannot escape, but my children deserve a life of hope and a wonderful Christmas, not fear and overwhelming sadness. We have discussed it, prayed for the families and reminded ourselves of the blessings we have. We will savor this Christmas I think, just a little bit more.
Sharing with: Cozy Little House
I think we all need to do, on our blogs that is, what we feel comfortable with. I am not going to have Sunny Simple Sunday this week. I think I just don't feel like it right now. I am all for taking our minds off of things when we need to and enjoy the beauty of the season online and at home. For now we are just enjoying a quiet night in watching Christmas shows. See you next week.
I think I just cannot bare the pain these poor families are dealing with. Why so many of these attacks? Why so many sick people? I get suicide I really do. If you are so miserable maybe you cannot deal with life but WHY WHY WHY do you have to hurt so many others? How does a parent ever recover from something like this? And the parents lost whose kids now have to go on without them. I am truly so saddened today.
I don't think I had any idea how busy having kids in three schools would be. When I homeschooled the older three girls, and worked 2 to 3 days a week, I thought I was a busy gal and I was. But the amount of driving with kids at multiple schools and volunteer duties have me busier than I have ever been. When we were a homeschooling family I would start school early in August so I could take the entire month of December off. I would be done shopping by now and gifts steadily being wrapped, and the entire week before Christmas would be for baking.
Turn to this year and school runs right up to a few days before Christmas. I am loving the fun parties they are participating in and the build up to finals, knowing a break is coming. Now though, I find I am only about half done with shopping, have not wrapped a single gift and feel a bit pressed for time here. I don't like changes to my schedule but have tried to embrace this new phase in our lives. I may disappear from the blog if time keeps me busy because enjoying the holiday build up is my favorite time of year. Thankfully my dear husband is off for eleven days and will help with the wrapping. We wrap in our trailer out in the back of the yard. Turn on music and steal away to hang out and wrap gifts together. It has been my Santa's workshop for years. I am saying to myself, enjoy every day, it will all get done. The bigger girls will help me with the house thank goodness.
Tonight we all piled in the car in our jammies and sweats and went to see some lights. I had bought a box of Sees candy suckers (the best) and we all grabbed one for dessert on the road. The lights were lovely, Q was
enthralled. The teenagers, well here is what was coming from the back of the van.
"Those lights hurt my eyes."
"This Christmas music is lame."
"Quiet you are ruining my time."
And from me...
"Pretty sad when the four year old is the best behaved."
And from dad...
"You all are bunch of complainers!!"
We always have a real tree. Artificial for our main tree is not allowed. I suggested one one year and thought they were going to throw me out in the road as the car was moving. Anyway, back to our stand. We have the usual three legged stand with a water bowl but with wood floors I was always so worried about spillage and water ruining my wood floors. I tried putting plastic under there and that was messy. One year I saw the old galvanized tub hanging in the garage and thought what a perfect country accent for our tree. So husband modified the stand by just cutting the legs off a few inches and we know set the whole stand in the tub. I can fill the water bowl with no worries. My husband even put those felt sticky tabs under the tub so it would not scratch the floor.
I can never find a tree topper that I love so we combined a wooden star and candy cane with some berry sprigs found at Target. I love it. Of course hubby did it and I walked in the room and said,"Hey, I finally love the top of the tree. It is simple with some splashes of red."
Our tree is very basic. Lights, family ornaments and a splash of red.
Our main tree is in our front window but I like having a small tree in the den for the sparkly lights at night.
This year I decided to go with woodland theme. I used decorations I had and some little mittens I picked up cheaply.
The woodsy ornaments I have had for years. I thought the punch of red would really be perfect. I have my eye on some more ornaments I want for this tree from my favorite store. I will be in line the day after Christmas to buy them half off. I won't pay full price for ornaments. I just wait and buy them after the holiday.
What says winter more than red mittens. We don't wear them much here where I live but I sure love them.
A cozy Christmas corner. I have my coffee here sometimes and watch the chickens outside.
Our house. What can I say. Loud, crazy and yes, glasses wearing cats. This is my husband's big old boy, Sneakers. He put these funny glasses on him and he just sat there cursing us in his kitty mind I am sure. He used to let the kids push him around in the doll stroller. He is a great cat that drops dead vermin at our door regularly. Getting older, I hope he has many years ahead.
And this guy. Here he is doing what he often does in the house, decorating. It is his birthday today. He is working as he usually is on his birthday. Happy birthday to you. I could never give you a gift that could compare to the gift you gave me when you walked into my life. I am the lucky one.
Now for some highlights from last week:
Ash Tree Cottage always a delight with her charming cottage coziness. Never tire of her photos.
Rosemary and Thyme shared the cutest Christmas table setting. I wish I were invited to sit down and the darling table.
Family Home and Life shared this gorgeous scripture ornaments. They are so pretty. Love all the talented projects you find this time of year.
Okay so now share what you have been up to. Have a wonderful weekend. Link up anything family friendly.
I think the hubby and I have a sickness. We seem to decorate every nook and cranny of our house for the holidays. Even the kids have a tree in their rooms. Small ones, but personal to their liking. I love making it special for them and those that visit my house during Christmastime.
Our little collection of crocks that found their way next to the dry sink is now home to some prim odds and ends. The scruffy snowman holds court over the mish mash but he seems happy there.