Christmas At Our House

Twas the morning after Christmas at quarter past 9,
All the children were still snoring, including the canine.

I could go on and reinvent an old classic, but I think one line will do.

Our Christmas was different this year.

For the very first time ever my children woke way too early. My kids are not morning people. They sleep in. On Christmas, however, they were awake at 4:15! Gah! We told them to go back to bed; they didn’t. Mark, the baby, and I all stayed in bed until a more reasonable hour.

C-Dog tried to sleep under the tree. Silly boy.

C-Dog tried to sleep under the tree. Silly boy.

Really, it all started on Christmas Eve. The children and I carefully followed Santa’s course on NORAD. The anticipation was heavy and the chatter was nonstop as I made the last of the Christmas goodies. Each child opened a gift; a new ornament for the tree. We read Christmas stories and THE Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. Bug played his guitar and the others sang carols. We put out cookies and celery (we figured the reindeer are sick of carrots) and the kids went to bed. They were so anxious and filled with excitement though! They had trouble settling. How fun to be a child and have such wonder!

Zen tracking Santa on NORAD

Zen tracking Santa on NORAD

My children get stockings that are not filled with candy for allergy and cost reasons. They were happy to receive bouncy balls, silly putty, bookmarks, and holiday socks.
They each received a toy, a useful item, and a special gift from Santa. Santa gifts were pretty amazing this year. They all had a hand-crafted element. Santa took great care.
C-Dog got his reindeer bell. A very heavy and solid bell that Elf declared as genuine. They also got one gift each from my parents (much needed clothes) and a group gift from Mark’s parents (Magic Fort for all our indoor and outdoor building needs, lol). The family got a new game. This year it was Scrabble. Sunny Day got a new Frisbee. The minimal Christmas is far less stressful and clean-up is a breeze. They were all happy and the day went on quiet and peaceful as they happily played. The weather was pleasant so they spent time out back. mid-afternoon Elf sat down and before we knew it she was sound asleep! We had to wake her for our meal.

Santa gifts!!!!



Elf zonked out on the couch. This is what happens when you are too excited and can't sleep at night.

Elf zonked out on the couch. This is what happens when you are too excited and can’t sleep at night.

Zen was an utter delight. Last Christmas he was too little to know what was going on. This year he was wide-eyed and filled with awe. It has been fun to watch his reaction to decorations and lights. He spends a portion of every evening simply sitting in front of the tree and just looking at it all lit up.

Through out Christmas day we nibbled on the many goodies I had made through the week. Gluten-free chocolate crinkle cookies, fudge, coconut crack, coconut shortbread cookies, chocolate pomegranate clusters, and dairy-free old fashioned butter mints (Oh my stars these are insanely yummy!).

Mark and I spent the day in the kitchen. I found a delightful bread recipe that is safe for every single person. We also made spinach lasagna; traditional and gluten-free. Elf loves spaghetti, but we never make it. Her safe spaghetti is very expensive for the entire family so we save it for special times like Christmas! She was thrilled. For dessert we had Peach Crisp.

It was a quiet and peaceful Christmas. This was probably one of my favorites. How has your holiday season been?


Gingerbread Train

In an effort to make memories many families make gingerbread houses for the holiday season. I saved up and opted for a train. I also opted for a pre-packaged kit because, even though we can’t eat it, it is cheaper than trying to make a gluten-free version that might not even work.

I brilliantly opted to set up the train station (hee hee, see what I did there) while Zen napped. He usually naps, at the very least, an hour but usually 2-3 hours. My plan was perfect.

The kids and I set out. I squirted out the Royal Icing and the kids built the train. We started decorating and the train was turning into a masterful work of art. Our hands were sticky with sugar and we were laughing and suddenly Zen was in the kitchen with us. No one heard him wake up. No one heard him make his way over to us. He is stealth-like. Next thing we know his hands are grabbing all the candies faster than we could say “Stop eating our gingerbread train!”

Our peaceful decorating turned into a crazy scene of “Fast! We need to finish this before he eats it all!” Between squirting frosting, flying shreds of coconut, and candy being pried from chubby baby hands we finished the train….mostly. It sure isn’t pretty any more. It is wilty and a bit sad, but it was fun and we laughed a lot. Score 1 for memory making!

Sure Zen made the moment crazy, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. He made us laugh a lot. He got to be a part of the process. It is OK he pulled wheels off and took the roof off and made the train tip over. We all had a fantastic time and that is really the point.

Merry Christmas!

It may not be pretty, but it was lots of fun!

It may not be pretty, but it was lots of fun!

Christmas Decorations on a Dime

OK. OK. I spent more than a dime. However, I did manage to take the first step in achieving the holiday decorations I have always wanted. I see pictures of all these picture-perfect houses that look so joyous and beautiful. I am realistic though. I would simply like to achieve a coherent theme on a budget. There are so many color schemes that are gorgeous; blue and silver, red and green, gold and white….
I decided on a traditional red and white. It feels happy and festive to me.

First up was pulling out what I already had and taking inventory. Next was a trip to the local dollar store and last was a trip to a discount fabric store. I went with the attitude that I would spend under $20 because that is what I had very carefully saved over the last few months. I also went knowing that this was just a start. Next year I will add more.

Kitchens are hard to decorate. At least for me they are. I do not like clutter on my counters. It overwhelms me. That means nic-nacs are not an option. My kitchen is very small with very limited wall space so wreaths and pictures are also out. I decided to dress up the cabinets. I used ribbon, tape, and flowers. This was by far my most expensive decoration, however, it also was a complete room. I spent $12. I could have bought bunches of flowers and used wire cutters and cut them, but I really liked that these flowers came with clips on them. These will last longer and, to me, was worth the expense. My kitchen is a red and white festive zone and the only thing I did was decorate the cabinets! So simple!

2 rolls of wired ribbon and 10 flowers with clips. I opted for the sparky red poinsettias and white magnolias

2 rolls of wired ribbon and 10 flowers with clips. I opted for the sparky red poinsettias and white magnolias. This was where most of my budget went. Total $12.

Next up was our window seat in the living room. I have 3 pillows on it and I wanted Christmas pillows. Instead of buying new pillows (a huge expense) I found this idea on Pintrest. I only looked at fabric that was $1 a yard. That seriously narrowed down my choices, but I found some nice fabric that works perfectly. I needed a bit more than a yard each for my pillows so the cost was just under $4.


Under $4 for a completely different look and a festive feeling!

We have an electric fireplace in the livingroom. I love the idea of a gorgeously decorated mantel, but I only had $4 left to my budget so I used what I already had on hand. I will tackle the mantel next year; something to look forward to.
I am still quite pleased with how cute it turned out though. The village was a Christmas gift years and years and years ago from Mark’s grandmother. The table cloth is a vintage piece my mom handed down to me. I added a large silver star ornament and my nice hard cover of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to give it a more complete look.

Next year I will work on decorating the fireplace.

Next year I will work on decorating the fireplace. Total cost $0

I have a bookcase in the livingroom and there was one major design flaw; it is home to 2 purple vases. Vases I refuse to put away because I love them. I already had white, silver, and blue florals arranged in them; red did not look good with purple. I used my white Christmas table runner that is embroidered with red poinsettias and the snowmen someone gave me 11 years ago. I added crystal votives from my wedding and my grandmother’s picture (removed for this post and for privacy). It may not be a red and white showcase, but it works so nicely and is so beautiful I will not change it next year.

I used items I already had on hand. Total cost $0.

I used items I already had on hand. Total cost $0.

Years ago my very talented aunt made me a gorgeous bottle. It is displayed on a shelf across from my couch so I can look at it every night.

My favorite Christmas decoration; hand-painted by my talented and beautiful aunt. Cost $0

My favorite Christmas decoration; hand-painted by my talented and beautiful aunt. Cost $0

The stockings are hung with command hooks (spray painted gold to look nicer) on the wall and out of reach from Zen and Sunny. There is a simple “Merry Christmas” sign on our front door. The trees are decorated. We have a few other random decorations hung about. I spent less than my budget but taxes ate that up, so really I spent exactly what I planned and a lot less than most people do. I achieved a coherent look and the house looks lovely and inviting. I can’t wait to add to it next year! Who knows, maybe one day I will have a picture-perfect Christmas house. For now I am happy and content.

Merry Christmas!

“Houston, We Have a Toddler”

We realized that on a daily basis we are saying some pretty funny things. Zen is definitely an active toddler. He is full of joy and life and loves to be chased. One day, after a very funny “He’s a rainbow again!” My kids and I sat down and wrote out everything said in a day’s time. That’s right, this is all just one day. This is not a complaint at all. We love our toddler and his antics, even when Momma gets frustrated and tired. This is a small season and this post will be a treasured memory for us. I hope you enjoy it.

Off the table, Buddy!

Who left the markers out where the baby could get them! He looks like a rainbow!

Stop eating playdoh!

Don’t pull the dog’s tail!

Can someone help me pick up all this Kleenex. The baby tore the box apart.

Why are there stickers all over the baby’s face?

Off the table you go!

What on earth is in your mouth now?

Where did you get that stamp? Guys, we can’t have stamps out when the baby is awake!

Who forgot to put the baby lock back on the cabinet in the kitchen?

Why is there a pan randomly in the middle of the stairs?

Seriously! Get off the table!

Oh no! He got into my desk and has all the Post-its!

Quick! Close your bedroom door before the baby gets your legos!

Sigh. The baby got to your legos.

The toilet plunger is NOT a toy.

Why are you on the table again?

Please take a nap. Please take a nap. PLEASE, just take a nap!

I’m gonna get you! (squeals of laughter)

Time to change you diaper. No, wait! Get back here!

Stop eating our Gingerbread Train!

What do y’all not understand about keeping markers away from the baby!

Stop giving your food to the dog!

He’s on the table again.

Why on earth are you carrying the trash can around?

Toilet water is not for playing in.

How did you get that orange? Let me peel it for you. Ew! Come on! Please let me peel it.

Don’t pull on the Christmas tree!

I found another ornament in some random place.

Why are you pushing the chair around?

Naked baby on the loose!

Leave Daddy’s glasses alone.

Table. Off.

Don’t put that in your ear.

Get off the dog.

Mommy’s phone is not a toy.

How did you manage to unbuckle the stroller belt?

We don’t throw our food on the floor.

Mom! He’s on the table!

Well, get him off the table then!

But he’s screaming.

Fine. I give up. Stay on the table, just don’t fall.

Um....not sure why he is on his head, but we will just go with it.

Um….not sure why he is on his head, but we will just go with it.

Snowmen Ornaments Craft

The kids have swim instructors/coaches who are incredibly awesome and so I thought a nice Christmas gift was in order. However, there was two issues. One, what if they do not celebrate any of the holidays? Two, I have a very limited budget and we are talking about gifts for 8 people, not including C-Dog’s martial arts instructors.

Hi Ho Hi Ho! It’s off to Pintrest I go! I found a blog, in another language, that showed a really cute idea, so I pinned it. You can look at the pin here. The great thing about this idea is snowmen are generic. They do not represent a holiday. They represent a season.
This idea was even more fantastic because I had everything on hand!

The kids used white acrylic paint and painted the front, back, and sides of the sticks. When they were dry they used Sharpie markers to make faces and buttons. They used orange craft foam from our stash and cut out carrot noses. The dug through my ribbons and picked 3 colors and cut them into scarves. They then went and got coordinating felt from our stash and cut rectangles out of it. They grabbed a ball of yarn and I pulled out the hot glue gun.

I won’t let them use the hot glue gun, so I did all the assembly. I added the carrot noses and scarves first. I folded the bottom of the hats up and glued them. The kids added sparkles to the folded bottoms. When they dried I wrapped them around the snowmen heads, tied them with yarn, trimmed the tops of the hats down and then frayed them. The kids then took a sewing needle and threaded it with a thicker thread, pulled it through the backs of the hats, and knotted them so the snowmen can be hung. I added all of their names to the backs and the year.

The kids made cards and we put everything in little seasonal goodie bags I found at the dollar store (8 for $1, perfect!)

I did not take pictures of the steps, but I plan to and add them later. I wanted to get this great idea out there though, so I hope you are following along OK!

This project cost me the frugal amount of $1! Here is a picture of the finished snowmen.

homemade snowmen ornaments

homemade snowmen ornaments


A Visit to Bass Pro

My mom came to visit in November. There was so much I wanted to do with her and there is a lot we never got to. One thing we did do was go to Bass Pro in Springfield. She has been wanting to go for quite some time and I was thrilled we finally had the chance to get her there.

If you have never been to Bass Pro then you need to know it is more than just a store. It is a museum and wildlife zoo also. You can see alligators, numerous fish species, ducks, and turtles. You can watch a scuba diver feed fish. There is an ammunition museum. You can learn to fish. There are numerous educational opportunities including homeschool classes and the elite WOLF program. The WOLF program is open to fifth graders in Springfield who qualify and fill out an application. They are picked via lottery. It is really  neat program that many hope will expand. There is so much to do and it is getting bigger. They have been under construction for 6 years now. They closed Wonders of Wildlife the summer we moved to MO. It is slated to re-open in March 2015. I am super excited for the opening. Check out their website to learn more.

So I brought my mom to Bass Pro. She was in awe, as I knew she would be. It is massive and impressive. Here are some of my more favorite pictures from the outing.

C-Dog taking a rest in one of the many trees inside Bass Pro

C-Dog taking a rest in one of the many trees inside Bass Pro

If you do not like mounted animals than I would not recommend a trip to Bass Pro. We found the lion especially impressive.

If you do not like mounted animals than I would not recommend a trip to Bass Pro. We found the lion especially impressive.

Elf and C-Dog checking out the turtles

Elf and C-Dog checking out the turtles

And now for my favorite picture of the day…..

The bear is eating me!!!! No worries, this is me being silly and my mom happened to snap the picture just in time.

The bear is eating me!!!! No worries, this is me being silly and my mom happened to snap the picture just in time.

Christmas Wish List

My mom came to visit in November and we took advantage and brought her to Silver Dollar City in Branson. We were blessed with season passes this year.

We love Silver Dollar City. I especially love it at Christmas time. Nothing beats an Ozark Christmas. The lights are spectacular and the shows are top notch. We arrived at SDC and headed straight to the character meet and greet area. We were meeting Bumble and Rudolph. Later that evening we would meet Santa.

When the kids were done they saw a lovely little area where they could make a list for Santa. Most got mailed before I could read them, but I managed to snag C-Dog’s and I have to admit I got chocked up, but I thought it was just a passing moment.

C-Dog's letter to Santa 2014

C-Dog’s letter to Santa 2014

Later that evening we came back so the kids could meet Santa. I was sure C-Dog would tell Santa that he wanted a new Lego set or some other toy. When faced with “the big guy” one usually forgets about others and starts rattling off their favorite toy wants. I really don’t expect anything other than that. Instead, this is what I overheard.

Santa: “What would you like for Christmas?”
C-Dog: “I don’t really need anything. I have everything I could ask for. A family, a home…”
Santa: “There has to be something you want.”
C-Dog: “I just want everyone to be happy. I want kids to have homes. I don’t need anything else.”

Santa: “You know what. You are going to get a great gift picked special by me.”

They talked for a bit longer; longer than typical. The person taking pictures, my mom, myself, and Santa were all quite teary by the end.

He then handed C-Dog more candy canes than any other kid gets.

I added a top hat to C-Dog. He actually owns one and wears it quite a bit.

I added a top hat to C-Dog. He actually owns one and wears it quite a bit.

We all learned a lesson right then. We can talk about the true meaning of Christmas and we can talk about giving to others, however, we are still a materialistic world. The bright spot is there are people like C-Dog to bring us back to the bigger picture; helping others and being content with what we already have.

C-dog has an amazing capability to empathize deeply. I often compare him to Mother Teresa. Her love for people was staggering. C-Dog is following in her footsteps. This year my wish is for all of us to follow in their footsteps.

Merry Christmas

Conversations With Princess

Princess says “me” instead of “I” when talking. I never really felt the need to correct her because I figured she would hear us talking correctly and she would pick up on it. As her fifth birthday approached, and she was still talking in her endearing baby talk, I realized I needed to start correcting her. Every time she says “me” instead of “I” I repeat the sentence correctly. Most of the time she will repeat it back to me correctly. I never told her to repeat after me, she just does it. I count it as a win and pray it sticks.

This morning was another example that her baby talk is still habit, however it had me in fits of laughter.

Princess: “Me hungry but me don’t know what me want.”
Me: “I am hungry and I don’t know what I want.”

Without missing a beat, sly grin and twinkle in the eye she replied,”You already ate.”


Oh boy! I am raising a girl of wit! She wins this round. I concede. We will try again later. For now I will make her some millet and then send her outside to play.


Jan Brett Visits

My name is Andrea and I am a children’s book addict.

I absolutely love children’s books. When I was teaching preschool I was always ordering the latest and greatest books by my favorite children’s authors. Eric Carle, Jan Brett, Bill Martin Jr, Kate DiCamillo, Jane O’Connor…there are too many to name them all.

I have quite the collection. This has proven to be a good thing since I now have 5 kids.
You can imagine my joy when I learned Jan Brett would be in Springfield, MO promoting her newest book, The Animals’ Santa.

Jan Brett's tour bus

Jan Brett’s tour bus

The Animals’ Santa is as fantastically illustrated and written as all her other books. In the story Little Snowshoe wonders “Who is the Animals’ Santa?” He goes through the list of possibilities before finally learning who it is. The magic behind it is captivating and this is definitely a “must” on any Christmas reading list and is sure to become a classic.

Friday December 5 I loaded up the kids, hauled them to the library and stood in complete happiness as we listened to Jan Brett talk. She even brought a fluffy little friend who garnered many “Awwwwws” from the audience. She showed the kids how to draw Little Snowshoe and offered helpful hints, such as focus on the eyes when drawing and what her favorite markers are. She then sat for hours signing books for all of us crazy fans.

Not the best quality, as I was toward the back.

Not the best quality, as I was toward the back.

It isn’t every day one gets to meet one of their favorite authors. I am thrilled we had this opportunity. This is definitely a memory they won’t forget.

Christmas Trees

I like Christmas decorations. A lot. I guess it is better to say I love them. I especially love Christmas trees. I love the lights and the twinkling. White lights or colored lights, it doesn’t matter. I love the pretty ornaments and the sentimental ones.Store bought and homemade. Real trees and fake trees. I seriously love Christmas trees! I guess that is why Elf is one of Santa’s elves.

Each year I have numerous trees. I have a small one for those small ornaments that seem to get lost on a big tree, I have a fake tree, and I have a real tree. The real tree is for me and I like it to be a themed tree (color-coordinated). This is the tree that will have white lights.

We have a medium-sized unlit fake tree. I don’t like pre-lit trees. We learned the hard way they are a pain and once the lights die you have to replace the tree. We stick witht he unlit ones. Our fake tree is the kids’ tree. They decorate it with colored lights and all the mismatched ornaments they have. This year was fun because it was the first time Zen helped.
He clapped and high-fived me after he placed (or threw) each ornament onto the tree. He didn’t care that I went after him to actually hang each one. The big kids loved remembering each ornament. “Oh! I remember this one!” “Hey, where is the puppy one?” “Look! This one used to be Mommy’s and now it is MINE!!!” “Sunny!!!! Stop eating the tree!”

That last one was said by me about our real tree and it was said several times. Dang dog.

Yes, much fun was had. I treasured up each second because I know that in a blink of an eye life changes. I thought it would be fun to post pictures of the kids decorating their tree. I hope you enjoy these.

Oldest and youngest

Oldest and youngest

My 2 middle kids

My 2 middle kids

Oldest kiddo

Oldest kiddo

My littlest girl

My littlest girl

The youngest 3

The youngest 3

And the completed tree looked fantastic! Drum roll please!

A happy mismatch or ornaments full of memories.

A happy mismatch or ornaments full of memories.

Merry Christmas!
May all of you have special memories this month.

**About 10 minutes after I wrote this Zen pulled both trees down. Yes, both. We always anchor our trees (and furniture) and somehow talked about it but then forgot to follow through. Thank goodness no one was hurt; scared but not hurt. This is my reminder to you that if you have little ones, even if they are visitors, that is is always best to anchor trees! We lost some ornaments, but it really could have been much worse.
This is life and it is messy 🙂