December 16th - Gold Stars

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Sarah tells us a terribly sad story about one of her friends today.
It literally made me cry.

Start Quote
Her mother maintained star charts for each of her eight children.
Every Sunday night after dinner, the past week's reckoning would occur in the dining room as the gridded charts revealed who had excelled at 
homework, chores, personal hygiene, and behavior 
- and who hadn't.

The striving for gold stars was supposed to be a motivational game.
However, accumulating gold stars under duress wasn't fun for [her],
despite the fact that she excelled at everything and was a model "good girl." 

For her, the pressure of constant evaluation was excruciating. 
Opening the cardboard box was a psychological and emotional 
stretching on the rack of self-respect.

But gold-star days are very different 
when we give them to ourselves.

When you give yourself a gold star...
the star twinkles, winks, and whispers "Good for you, girl!"...

The extraordinary days don't need gold stars.
But ordinary days sure can be brighter with a shiny, five-pointed pat on the back.
End Quote

I love gold stars.
I think the world needs more glitter and sparkles.
No one else can appreciate you and all that you do, well, they can,
but it's not the same.
It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, 
do you think you deserve a gold star?

If you are alive, and you are trying to be better every day,
then you are doing awesome.
And you deserve to give yourself a gold star.
Or two...or three...heck, a whole bunch.

Gratitude Journal

1) Sleep. Robbie basically watched the kids all day and let me sleep. I was out.

2) Family. I love when cousins and grandparents come over. We watched a movie, decorated the tree, ate grilled cheese, and they helped me clean the kids rooms. They are more awesome than anything.

3) I did not burn down the house when we broiled 9 grilled cheeses on a cookie pan.

4) We've been re watching The Office for I don't know how many times while I finished my blogs, and tonight we're finishing it up! It's amazing.

5) Treasures from thrift stores that my mother-in-law finds. She found another Simple Abundance book. So awesome.


December 15th - Reading

Friday, December 15, 2017

I love reading. 
I could read all day every day.

Start Quote
In real life there are women who read and women who read too little.
There aren't women who read too much because this is an impossible feat...

Any time of the day is perfect for reading.
Any place.
Any excuse.
Reading is the last refuge for addictive personalities;
there are no bad side effects from reading too much...

Books...turn us.
Turn us on to our passions and to pursuing our passions.
Turn us into authentic women.
When a sentence in a book resonates within, 
it is the voice of your authentic self.
Listen to what she's trying to tell you...

Everything you've ever read, loved, and remembered
is now a part of your consciousness.

What is once cherished can never perish.
End Quote

My favorite authors are Orson Scott Card and Ayn Rand.  
And I love Lee Child, and C. S. Lewis...
And I'm too tired to think of any more.

Sarah is wrong, there is at least one time that is not a good time.
Right now, because I'm going to bed because I'm exhausted.

Gratitude Journal

1) Piano 2017 is over! Woohoo! The recital was awesome. I'm so proud of my students.

2) Robbie for coming and helping me set up for the recital. And he also came home during lunch because I couldn't figure out how to turn off the stupid smoke detector that kept beeping and I was about to have a conniption.

3) My family. I invited them to my student's recital, and they came to support me. I'm so grateful.

4) My aunt and cousins, they watched the kids during the recital. When I dropped them off, my three kids screamed bloody murder and they had to literally be dragged kicking and crying into the house.

5) It's Friday! I'm so ready for the weekend.

December 14th - Rituals and Traditions

Funny how Sarah is usually right on point in my life.

Today she talks about loss, and how for some reason the holidays are the hardest for those who have suffered a recent loss, whether through death or divorce. 

Start Quote
Perhaps one of the reasons...[we] experience difficulty during Christmastime is because, deep in their hearts, [we] think holiday traditions belong only to perfect Norman Rockwell families. 

The first time...[she] opens the ornament box alone (if she even bothers to pull it out), she experiences such a sense of loss she may decide not to continue the holiday rituals she once treasured because the comparison of Christmases Past with Christmas Present is too painful.

"What's the point?" she says.

The point is that we all need the reassuring and healing messages that treasured rituals provide. "One of the most important aspects about family traditions - rituals that families continue to do year after year - is that traditions have symbols and families need symbols," Dr Steven J. Wolin...explains: "You bring out the old glass, you sing the old songs, you say the same prayer, you wear a certain outfit, you set the table in a certain way." These are the unconscious moments of family ritual that become emotional security blankets to be tugged on in times of stress. 

Cherished customs are just as important 
for grown women as they are for children.
End Quote 

This is the second Christmas without Shelby, 
and not gonna lie it's rough.

But the traditions are helping. 
They do feel like a security blanket. 
And doing it for my kids, 
and seeing how excited they are,
it helps make it worth it. 

I don't think it's ever going to get easier, 
but I think it'll get better...if that makes any sense.
Maybe it's the other way around...

Just keeping her memory and legacy alive... 
 I wonder what Christmas traditions and rituals they do in Heaven.

Gratitude Journal

1) Tomorrow is Friday! Thank goodness. It's been a long week.

2) Star Wars was AMAZING!!!!!!!

3) Last two piano lessons done for the year!

4) My cousin. She's awesome.

5) My kids. They're pretty adorable.

December 13th - Santa Claus

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

I don't remember how old I was, 
but I remember when I stopped believing in Santa.
I found Christmas presents in the car because I was being nosy,
and then when I got them as gifts from Santa I about died.

I've had a lot of mixed feelings about Santa
and what in the world I'm supposed to tell my kids?

I love what a friend told me she did with her kids. 
She told them about Santa when they were old enough to understand, 
and she continued with the spirit of it. 

This is the first year in our four years of raising our kiddos
that they're starting to understand even the idea of Santa.
 Jacob is so excited that Santa is going to bring him a present.
 He's convinced it's coming in a green wrapped box.

Start Quote
Children of all ages have a deep desire to believe in a 
great, benevolent, and generous gift giver who rewards the good. 
Christmas allows the child slumbering in each of our souls 
the chance to be reborn every year, awakening a sense of 
joy and wonder that even eleven months of doubt, 
derision, or discouragement can't snuff out. 

All that's required of us is that we believe.

Believe in what?
Believe in whatever means the most to you at this moment.
That Love makes it possible to believe in all things, 
especially miracles...
That there is a Santa Claus and you have been 
very, very good this year...
 End Quote

Francis P. Church was a newspaper editor, and in 1897
 he wrote a reply to a little girl who was asking if Santa was real
because her friends told her that he wasn't.  

Start Quote
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. 
They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.
They do not believe except what they see.

They think that nothing can be which is 
not comprehensible by their little minds.

All minds, Virginia, whether they be [grown-ups] or children's 
are little.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist,
and you know that they abound and give to your life 
its highest beauty and joy.

Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus!
It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. 
There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, 
no romance to make tolerable this existence.
We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight.
The eternal light with which childhood fills the world 
would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! 
You might as well not believe in fairies!

...The most real things in the world are those that neither 
children nor [grown-ups] can see. 
Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? 
Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, 
but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the 
strongest [grown-ups]...that ever lived, could tear apart.

Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain 
and view...the beauty and glory beyond. 

Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world 
there is nothing else so real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever.
A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, 
ten times ten thousand years from now, 
he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
End Quote

And there are plenty of arguments for and against it,
but I think I'm for it. 
What would Christmas be without Santa?

Gratitude Journal

1) Two more piano lessons down, only two to go for this year! And two days to go till our recital. 2017 is almost done! I'm so ready for 2018.

2) The dollar tree, and birthday presents and decorations for my New Years Eve/Blog Party! Which, if you've been reading my blog, you are most definitely invited to.

3) Chick fil ah birthday parties.

4) Good friends, especially those who take my children on a whim because I need a break.

5) Cuddling with my children, and just having fun doing the things we do.


December 12th - The Gift Of Yourself

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

"There is only one real deprivation...
and that is not to be able to give one's gifts 
to those one loves most." 

Today Sarah starts with the "one-size-fits-all gift 
that would be absolutely thrilling for everyone on your list: 
the gift of yourself."

Start Quote
Unfortunately, this most personal gift is very expensive,
for it requires large expenditures of our precious, but dwindling, 
natural resources. Time. Creative Energy. Emotion...

This doesn't mean that we DON'T want to 
give of ourselves during the holidays. 
Actually, that's what we're trying desperately trying to do.

Obviously we're not doing it very well.
This is why many of us end up feeling 
depressed and discouraged as we pack away the ornaments. 
[Yep, one year I just cried. And cried. And cried.]
How did Christmas slip out of our grasp, again?

Because we were holding too many things at once:
obligations, promises, should-dos, conflicting commitments.
 "Oh, sure, no problem" is the first indication 
of the discombobulated mind. 

First thing: excuse yourself 
from every evening meeting for the rest of the month.
Only accept social events that you really want to attend...

On the first day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves:
The gift of my Undivided Attention
On the second day...The gift of Enthusiasm
 On the third day...The gift of Creative Energy
On the fourth day...The gift of Simple Seasonal Pleasures
On the fifth day...The Gift of Tenderness
On the sixth day...The gift of Good Cheer
On the seventh day...The gift of Beauty
On the eighth day...The gift of Communication
On the ninth day...The gift of Surprise
On the tenth day...The gift of Wonder
On the eleventh day...The gift of Peaceful Surroundings
On the twelfth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves:
The gift of Joy...

Be ready at all times to give those you love the simply abundant gifts of Spirit. If you do, they'll give you Christmas gifts you'll never forget: happy smiles and contented hearts. And you won't want to exchange them. 
End Quote  

Undivided attention, enthusiasm, creative energy, simple seasonal pleasures, tenderness, good cheer, beauty, communication, surprise, wonder, peaceful surroundings and joy.      

To my true loves.
Robbie surprised me with an early Christmas gift. 
I hate surprises. But that is no excuse, I was a total jerk. 
I blame being tired and depressed and not liking learning how to do knew things, but those are still just excuses. 
You didn't see how sad he was that I wasn't excited about his gift.

Ladies and gentlemen, we can do better.
Because it matters.
Because we love them.

Gratitude Journal

1) Finishing a project! Hello sparkly, jingly Christmas wreath.

2) Going over to a friends house to help and visit. It's nice.

3) Two friends coming over and helping me clean. That is also nice.

4) Not being alone today. One of my friends not only came over and helped me clean, but she brought me chocolate. And not just any chocolate. Good chocolate.

5) Today is the anniversary of my sister's passing. Not going to lie, it hurts. It hurts a lot. But I'm so grateful for my family, my friends, my testimony and faith, my God and my Savior. I cling to my belief that because we are sealed together we will be together forever, throughout all eternity. That death is not the end. I'm so grateful for this time of year, even though it now has sorrow mixed with joy.

December 11th - Talent Of Gift Giving

Monday, December 11, 2017

"Giving presents is a talent;
to know what a person wants, 
to know when and how to get it, 
to give it lovingly and well."
-Pamela Glenconner

Start Quote
Now that we've accepted that gifts are the center of Christmas,
deciding what to give and how to get it comfortably and affordably
deserves some reflection, especially considering that there are only
fourteen shopping days left until Christmas.

Keep in mind that Christmas will arrive on December 25 
whether we're ready for it or not.

That frantic?

In that case, promise your authentic self that this is 
absolutely the last time you'll shop, wrap, and send
 all your gifts in the space of four weeks. 

It took nine months to orchestrate the first Christmas, 
which is exactly what you're going to aim for in the future.

Next year, you swear, it will be different.
But in order for that to happen, you're going to have to get started on it the last week of December. That's just when you're absolutely sick of Christmas, of course, but that's also when you can get next year's wrapping paper, cards, and holiday novelties at bargain prices.

In addition, there are regular sales throughout the year.
Keeping your eye open for bargains year round, as well as bearing in mind the special interests of your family and friends, will permit you to gather Christmas gifts at a leisurely pace and at the best prices months in advance. You won't find delightful, affordable gifts in department stores at the eleventh hour...

Always work from a list of people you give gifts to,
noting their hobbies, personal passions, treasured collections, and sizes. Don't try to carry it all in your head; free up some mental RAMs with written reminders. 

Try to keep apparel gifts for kids to a minimum; they grow in such spurts, it's virtually impossible to get the size right. [Remember things bought on sale are usually not returnable.] It's also difficult to keep track of what's in and what's out with kids; presents aren't supposed to make everyone miserable... [If you're going to do handmade, DO NOT START NOW]. 

If you're buying or making Christmas gifts ahead of time, you need a place to put them. Designate one closet, cabinet, trunk, or drawer as the gift repository. A gift-cache is a sanity saver during the year; gift gathering can become a joyful simplicity...

Since you already have your gift wrapping stashed away, you don't have to wait to wrap them in a frantic flurry; you can wrap them creatively and with pleasure. Make your wrappings part of the gift...Label your wrapped gift; who it goes to and what it is.
End Quote

Gift giving can be so much fun.
But seriously, let's all start in April next year.
A little at a time goes a long way.

Robbie just gave me a really sweet compliment. 
He said I'm really good at gift giving! 
And here I am thinking I'm may be adequate...
he just made me cry.

I do try really hard to think of others through the year. 
It's so much fun.
And I love shopping, and crafting, so you know...

You can do this!

Have you ever read The Gift of the Magi?
It is one of my favorites, and makes me cry every year.
Some of the things I learned: sometimes you should coordinate gifts, and if you don't have the money then you don't have the money. I wouldn't want my hubby to sell his most prized possession just to give me a gift, that would make me really sad. And if Robbie spent money we didn't have, I'd be really upset.
That probably isn't the point, but you know...

Gratitude Journal

1) Having a restful Monday. This weekend was exhausted. 

2) Robbie's Anger book, it's so awesome.

3) Two piano lesson's done, four to go! And then a nice long Christmas break.

4) Jacob loves his friends.

5) 20 days left until the end of the year! 14 days till Christmas!!!

December 10th - Gifts

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Start Quote
Christmas is about gifts.
Always has been. 
But we feel uncomfortable with this emphasis on 
gimme, gimme, gimme. 
Buy, buy, buy.
Charge, charge, charge.
We admonish our children to remember the reason for the season,
even though we have difficulty remembering it ourselves 
when we're caught up in the chaos and commotion of the holidays. 

Today let's ruminate on the Real role of gifts in the Christmas story.

Those gifts were wrapped in miracles, 
which is probably why we can't find them at 
malls or in mail-order catalogs. 

The first gift was of Spirit: unconditional Love.
The next gift [was from] Mary. Her Christmas present was selflessness...
The gifts of...Joseph were trust and faith...
The Child brought forgiveness. Wholeness. Second chances.
The angels' gifts were tidings of comfort, joy, and peace, 
the reassurance that there was nothing to fear, so rejoice...
The inkeeper' were compassion and charity...

Three kings from the east...[gave] gold, frankincense, and myrrh,
but their Real gifts were wonder, acceptance, and courage...

Oh yes. Christmas is all about gifts. 
Nothing but gifts.
But such gifts!
Gifts tied with heartstrings.
Gifts that surprise and delight.
Gifts that transform the mundane into the miraculous.  
Gifts that nurture the souls of both the giver and the given.

Perfect gifts. Authentic gifts. The gifts of Spirit...

Unconditional Love. Selflessness. Trust. Faith. Forgiveness. Wholeness. Second Chances. Comfort. Joy. Peace. Reassurance. Rejoicing. Generosity. Compassion. Charity. Wonder. Acceptance. Courage.

To give such gifts. 
To truly open our hearts to receive such gifts gratefully. 

Christmas just won't be Christmas without any presents.
End Quote

I love presents.
I love giving them, making them, buying them, 
and of course getting them. Who doesn't like getting presents? 

I've been in some awkward gifting situations. 
One where almost everyone received gift cards, one where everyone got gifts except our family...well, actually these have happened several times. 

I remember receiving clothing that was nothing like me, I got guitar music one year instead of piano music, I even got a duplicate cd one year and no one would take one of them back...

So I used to be really jaded about gifts.
But after this journey last year, I can't see why you would be.
Now all I can think of is how wonderful anything is that is given to me.
Which is big for me, because I think two years ago 
I went home crying and I cried all night.

Now, I'm just grateful. I'm grateful that someone thought of me.
I'm grateful that I get to be surrounded by family. 
I have so much family I have like five Christmases,
it is truly wonderful.
I am so excited now to give gifts, 
to really think about someone and try really hard 
to get them something that they are going to enjoy 
because I love them and want them to have fun.

Also, what gifts can we give back to the Savior this next year?

Also, do not spend money you don't have.
If Christmas is tight, then it's tight. 
I hope that if you have been jaded by gifts as I have been, 
this Christmas you can find joy in giving and receiving.

Always remember the reason for the season,
and the symbolism behind all the traditions.

Gratitude Journal

1) Church. I love church in December, I love singing Christmas songs.

2) Dressing up just for the fun of it. I wore this gorgeous black velvet floor length dress with red lips and a large sparkly necklace. No picture...I don't know how it always happens, but Sunday's there just never seems to be quite enough time to do everything you want to do.

3) My piano students. I've been helping a few of them on Sunday evenings to make sure they were able to perfect their songs by our recital, and today is the last Sunday! The past couple Sunday's I've spent 1-2 hours helping them, and today I didn't even spend 30 minutes. I showed up, they played for me, and it was perfect. It is such a good feeling, seeing someone progress from "I can't do this" to "I totally got this". 

4) I'm grateful that I don't have to parent by myself. The twins were being terrible again so they just stayed home from church with Robbie.

5) Early bedtime. Picture this, three kids, a four year old and two three year olds, all crying, whining, yelling, and being violent, disobedient, and just plain rude. So we put them to bed after dinner. Jacob passed out right away, and Riley and Chase played quietly in bed until they fell asleep. It was like a miracle. Robbie and I actually got to spend time together, and we didn't yell at the kids. I hope they're not up at the crack of dawn. But then again, I miss them and wouldn't mind some early morning cuddles to start the day.

6) I may have burnt dinner, but I didn't burn the house down. Now if I could just get rid of the burnt smell maybe I could sleep...I'm going to go try Odoban.

December 9th - Christmas Cards

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Oh, my goodness. 
I read Sarah's description of this perfect woman, 
and I laughed.

Hopefully you'll get a good laugh too.

Start Quote
There is a woman at large
- charmed and dangerous. 

She waves her clever hand over a room 
and it looks like a page from House Beautiful.

She waves her creative hand over the fruits of the earth
and a feast appears nightly.

Her thumb is green, her herb vinegar is curing,
her potpourri recipe is sought, her PTA cupcakes are from scratch,
her Halloween costumes are legendary, she still wears size 8.

Her celebrity lawyer husband adores her, 
her five summa cum children think she's laude.

She finished her holiday shopping, 
wrapping, and sending in November.

Now she's turning her attention to making her own 
New Year's Eve confetti...

I know this because I've just received her annual Christmas letter. 
Be forewarned. 
It's speeding it's way to your house.

[We see all these wonderful things now not just in Christmas cards,
now we see them all over all the time.
And let's be honest, these women are amazing.
And we are not saying they are not.
And we're not saying that they should 
stop being themselves or stop sharing.

We're just saying that...]
This woman must be stopped.
She undermines our domestic tranquility.
She threatens the common good...

Many of us react to Christmas letters as if they were 
fingernails on the blackboard of our brains...
End Quote

But they don't have to be. 

Sarah suggests that you start with writing a letter of your own. 
Make it "warm, witty, and authentic". 
If you want to send it out, do it.
If you want to keep it to yourself, that's fine too.
Write about what happened this year, 
what changes you made, how you've grown.

Christmas cards don't have to be a big deal. 
Robbie and I haven't sent them in years, 
not for lack of wanting to do them, just lacking time and money.

And when you get Christmas cards, and you see the perfect pictures with the perfect families with the card you know cost more than $1 plus the envelope plus the stamp...or worse, handmade...
Just be happy for them. 
Remember that every single woman has struggles and trials,
no one's life is as perfect as it seems.

Do you think they're sending you a card in order to 
rub their awesomeness in your face?
They just want to share a little holiday cheer 
and say hello and I love you.

Changing your attitude is difficult, but possible. 
And it makes things like receiving Christmas cards so much better.

"Just remember that your family and friends don't live edited lives.
You needn't either."

Side note, this also goes for if you don't get a Christmas card. 
I think I get maybe 5 a year, and I have always been sad. 
I want one from every friend! I love getting mail.
So this year I'm going to be happy and grateful for the ones I receive, and not let the ones I don't get get me down.

When Sarah says "This woman must be stopped", 
I can't help think she must mean the part inside of us
that can't be happy for someone else because our card isn't "as good."

Gratitude Journal

1) The Ward Christmas Party is over. Thank goodness. It's not that it wasn't good, it's that my kids were absolute monsters. I wanted so badly to get a picture of our family with Santa, since this is the only time I'm making to see him, and because it was free, and we were so close. He had just walked in when I called it quits. I don't know if they had a rule about Santa, and they let the families with nursery kids and sunbeams go first, if they didn't they should have. Hopefully next year they will behave and then we can stay. 

2) Family pictures are over. I can't wait to see them! But I'm so glad they're over.

3) My friend helping me do laundry the other day so I had plenty of clothes to choose from for pictures. I wasn't sure what colors my mom was doing, so because everything was clean I packed everything nice we had for the kids. I can't wait to show you pictures, I was so happy picking clothes out. Purple, blue, gray and red, yay!

4) Five adults vs three kids trying to wrangle them to get ready and smile for pictures, I like those odds.

5) Little girls and cute curly hair.