Thursday, January 29, 2009

Weekly Review

In the school house...

We've been busy this week continuing to double up on school while taking care of Princess Bethany the Tonsil-less. She has turned into quite a Princess indeed. It may take us another week to undo the spoiling!

Ashlyn's been spending extra time online making new blogs-one just for communicating with her best bud who lives about a half hour away and one where she's posting a story she's writing (and would like to get published). It's great timing for our language arts lessons on imagery, character, plot and the like. I love seeing her live out a language rich lifestyle. She's a natural at all things related to words!

The big girls are both studying ancient times and we're especially into Egypt right now. My grandma bought us tickets to see the King Tut exhibit so hopefully we'll get to schedule that soon.

We're using a science book I love, love, love. Apologia is known for it's outstanding upper level science curricula, and a few years ago they brought Jeannie Albright on board to write science for the elementary level. I read it to all three schooling girls. This year we're studying the flying creatures of the 5th day (of creation). The current focus is on birds, so we've become official birders. We've learned the names of several varieties that come to our feeders and we're planning on attending a Purple Martin meeting to learn about this beautiful bird & how to attract it to our yard.

As for me...

I'm so very pleased to report that three months postpartum, I've experienced no depression. This tells me that the struggles I had after Jaika's birth were more based in the crazy situation of going from a husband in college but home most of the time, sharing the load to a husband working 2 jobs and going to school-and adding a new baby. It was just too much to adjust to.

I am working through my goals of not eating refined sugar (brown, white, high fructose corn syrup) in 2009. I've only accidentally had a glass of sweetened tea. Whoo hoo! One month down, 11 to go. I'm also planning to see a pain management doctor for my carpal tunnel. I need to add more exercise and I'll be on track.

Here are some things heard around our house this week:

Hope as we're making suet for the bird feeder: "Mom, what kind of seed is that?" Bethany: "I think it's leperseed." You know, as in the skin disease, lol.

The piano teacher mentioned a little boy who played a Mozart piece at the fall recital, suggesting Hope and Ashlyn use the same book. Hope said quietly to me, "I don't want to play Noah's Ark!"

We were playing "Go fish" during school-Bethany insisted that we play even though I was working with Ashlyn & Hope. We ignored her, so she dealt the cards and just started asking us if we had angelfish, swordfish or tuna. As we looked around, we noticed that each of us had a vastly different amount of cards. I only had 5, Hope had 8, Ashlyn 4 and Bethany had the rest of the deck to herself. I called her on it and she said, "I get all de tards betauze I'm the do-rector (director)." I used to be the director of the PRC so she gets that it's the "boss".

Finally, one last thing. I have to share that my dad casually told me he loved me at the end of a phone call he initiated this week. He's told me before, but usually only if I say it first or if it's a warm & fuzzy holiday or something...I was touched for sure.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Today in our town sleet has covered the ground. Schools are closed for the second day in a row. It's not beautiful and snowy, but if you squint really hard it looks like it :)

Because of my public school upbringing, snow days are ingrained in me. It's a little hard to get moving in the allgirlhomeschool school house today. My longings are to put on some beans (done!) and curl up under the blankets with a great read-aloud. Yet the school schedule beckons me. We're behind schedule and even though it's 42 degrees outside, summer is around the corner and I'd like some time off then.

Instead of completely abandoning the schedule (which is fully appropriate at times) today we're enjoying the road less traveled. We are starting out by sketching the view from our dining room window, trying to capture the icy look. Our bird feeders are empty so we'll probably roll some pine cones in peanut butter & birdseed. Maybe put on some classical music. We've already looked up winter poems to add to our sketches. While we eat lunch I'll probably go ahead with some items on the schedule but not obsess about checking each box today.

This evening's activities have been cancelled, so we'll take that time under the quilts to read Mountain Born, one of my favorite books about coming of age.

These are the days the girls will remember, not the days mom checked off all the boxes.

Are you box checking today? Is there something you've been wanting to indulge in but haven't taken the time? Maybe today is the day!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bethany's Big Day

Bethany in the playroom before surgery

Brave Bethany had her tonsils & adenoids removed today. After experiencing this common surgery, I will no longer think of this procedure as just no big deal. It is a big deal when it's your child. Thankfully, CooksChildren's Hospital sees it that way, too.

We started out our morning with the alarm set for 4:15 am. We left home at 5:30, arriving at Cook's in plenty of time to nurse Audrey before we went in while Bethany snoozed a while in the car. We were greeted in surgery check in by our friend Shelly's Aunt Carol, who took care of Bethany as we prepared for surgery. Bethany was great, such a trooper! The anesthesiologist blew Bethany's mood with his bold presence in the room and abrupt speech, but she recovered when she saw the huge playroom (aka waiting room). You'd think it was any other day, except the play date pals all had on hospital issued gowns.

The best part of the day was the giggle juice time! Even though Bethany, with much dignity, proclaimed she would not act silly, she indeed did. I have video for any future boyfriends :).

Even though she felt drunk, I still knew she still wanted me with her when she said, "I'm sorry you can't stay with me." However, she gave me great kisses and waved bye to the camera.

The surgery was very fast and Dr. Strange was out assuring us that Bethany was fine in no time. A nurse stayed with her as she woke up then they brought her to the step down unit to recover with us. When I saw her, she was crying and scared and I could tell her tears weren't fresh. My heart broke and I wondered if we'd made the wrong decision to do this. My mind started racing with thoughts like, "Well, she only snored really bad when she was sick...we probably could have waited for her to grow out of this... maybe it wasn't worth this pain."

With the oxygen mask to get her oxygen levels up to normal

Those thoughts crept back into my head many times in the next couple of hours. She was so miserable, tearful and in pain-and asleep. She'd wake suddenly, be her little miserable self, then go back to sleep. Thankfully she ate right away but her oxygen levels weren't staying up when she slept. We ended up staying several more hours, not going home until about 3:30.

Princess Bethany with all her recovery room gifts-watching a Barbie movie

Finally a wagon ride! That's her "Apple" horse who also got her tonsils out today!

Now, she's on the couch and doesn't even care if I exist. She has her sisters and two Barbie movies, what else could she want? Her sisters have spoiled her with a bed full of balloons, new PJ's and all the doting she can handle. Friends brought over a meal and goodies for Bethany. She jumped off the couch and proceeded to play Barbies in the kitchen floor.

I asked her how she felt about today just a bit ago. She said, "Fine." When I dug deeper and asked if she was glad we did the surgery even though it hurts, she said, "Yes, betauze I dot to be with you."
Some other great quotes from today:

"Is my blood pressure okay?" When they were putting the pulse/O2 thingy on her finger.

"Will dey wet me take my tonsils home? Can dey put dem in a box?"

"I want to ride in the wagon. It has cup holders, see?"

"I need more warm blankets." Princess Bethany discovered the luxury of toasty flannel blankets!

"Uhmm, do dey know I tan (can) walk?" When they insisted she not walk alone all day, she began to suspect they really didn't realize she had the ability!"

"Mom, I'm sorry people have to stay here all night. We need to pway for dem."

There were some great people who made today so much easier-our parents for watching the other girls (and my mom stocked our fridge & pantry with all Bethany's requests!), Jennifer for coming with us to hold Audrey, Dr. Leslie for being our consultant-oh and for telling us where to get those ugly hospital pacifiers Audrey loves! Summer, thanks for the meal, I sure didn't feel like cooking tonight! My big girls blessed me as well-on their own accord, they spent their money to buy Bethany treats. When Beth, Audrey, Shane & I were in Target, Bethany wanted to buy gifts for her sisters waiting back at home. I love how they love each other-but that's another post :)
Thanks to all of you who prayed for our BB. It means so much to us.
Peace Out.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Just a note-I'll be taking an internet break the rest of the week. I'll be back this weekend with an update on Bethany's sugery at the least.

And I'm still working on the post about forgiving ourselves-it's a hard one!

Have a great rest-of-the-week!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tips from a Working Kitchen

The kitchen in my house is not just for looks. Next to the kitchen table, where school work is done, there's no place where more work takes place than in my kitchen. Although I've followed a lot of these practices since I was a newlywed (thanks to my Type A personality) they are now my lifelines.

Make your kitchen practical. Spices near your work station (you know, that piece of cabinet space where your mixing, spreading, and cutting takes place), big utensils near the stove, and like items grouped together.

Keep it clutter free. If you have to work half an hour to clear a spot just to make dinner, you're going to end up at McDonald's drive through-again. Even just keeping one area clutter free & wiped down will make you feel better.

Make a menu. Yes, it's a must to make menu plans for each week. Wandering aimlessly through the grocery store aisles wastes time, mental energy and money. You'll just end up back there tomorrow to pick up that one item you need to make dinner. Of course, you'll spend $20 when you only meant to pick up a can of cream style corn. I leave the kids with Daddy and Audrey, my list, my mp3 player and I go to the store. It's almost enjoyable!

Plan your eating around your week. I make out a menu that takes into account the week's activities. I plan my more exciting meals for Shane's days off. Wednesday nights just get a "back up meal" in case Awana & Life Group fall through (we all eat at our respective Wednesday night places). Easy meals are planned for days we'll be out of pocket all day.
Now, shop for your menu. The goal is to not go back to the store during the week. Shane almost always makes one little trip for me midweek, but my goal is to eliminate that. Organize your shopping list for your path around the store. It's frustrating to back track the aisles.

I'll admit that making a menu is my least favorite task of the week. I've found a few solutions to that. One is which is a site that offers a weekly menu plan & shopping list for a minimal fee. I've also just made a list of my own dinner ideas, spending the afternoon flipping through cook books. My newest plan is to use to build several weeks' worth of menus & shopping lists, leaving space in each week for our own family recipes.

Look for ways to grow in your kitchen. Maybe you've never done a menu plan, or cooking from scratch appeals to you. Why not try it? We've not had boxed cereal at all this month, which challenges me to cook a nice variety of healthy breakfasts. Using my new dutch oven and griddle are part of my growing right now as well. I'd like to learn to can someday.
Cookbooks are a lifesaver for me. I'll post soon about the treasures I've found. Until then, make your kitchen fun again! It feels so rewarding to put together a wholesome meal for our families. If you decide to stretch yourself a bit, leave a comment to tell us what you've done or feel free to leave other tips from your kitchen.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Week in Review

In an attempt to be a little more focused in my blogging, I'm going to save my family updates, stories and so on for the weekend post(s).

We can't all live the luxurious life and enjoy High Tea in our pajamas on a Monday, but I did get to eat lunch at a little bistro with an old friend (a friend I was close to 15 years ago-whew I'm getting old!). I was also surprised with fresh flowers delivered to my door on Tuesday. They were from my aunt who came to see us last weekend. Very sweet of her-oh and the girls have moved the flowers to their room each night so they could wake up seeing them on their new table I bought at a flea market.

This week was a great school week. It was hard, but very productive. Since we were so behind schedule because of all the medical issues in November & December, we've been doubling up since starting back last week. This essentially means reading two chapters of the Bible daily, four or five pages of poetry, two chapters of history for Ashlyn and about four pages for Hope (plus the other subjects). Not bad, but I'm burned out by the end of the week!

Often Hope complains when we read something she's already learned. This makes Bible reading a joy (not!), since she's heard many of the stories over and over again. I was pleasantly surprised to entertain many questions from her this week as we studied Noah. Her discussion prompted this question from Bethany: Why did God let all the babies and their mothers die in the flood? Ughh, what a question!

Hope's quote of the week: I think there should be an 11th commandment: you should not steal your sister's Barbie and mess up her clothes.

Bethany is scheduled for her tonsillectomy this coming Friday. We're considering spending the night in Fort Worth since we may have to be at the hospital at 6 am (they won't schedule us until Thursday, so it's kind of hard to plan!). She's so laid back about it.

We looked at a house yesterday. To sum it up: Shane & I both thought it would be a great piece of property if not for the house. It was built in the '70's and has not been updated one tiny bit since-except for the dark/drab paint. It would have to be gutted and we just don't have the energy or money for that kind of work. As I look at properties online, I'm getting nervous that our price range does not match our needs/wants. Someone looked at our land, but we've not heard back-is he at the bank or is he on to the next listing? Who knows...but I'm trying to desire God's timing here, not mine. God is never late, but he's rarely convenient either.

Shane's really wishing for some High Tea time at work! It's been crazy there in the Sheriff's Department with about 40 new inmates from a near by county who's jail is being investigated for things you can't imagine (think meth lab in the jail, prostitution of female inmates...)! Last night one of the county employees was arrested along with all his dope cooking buddies-I think Shane said 30 or so people from his house were brought in, along with another large group who were partying at an officer's home. Three cooking stations were found in the county guy's home and he tried to sell an officer a handgun-he was an ex-con so he can't own a weapon to sell...Shane is ready for the weekend!
I've been off sugar for 17 days. It's not been easy, but with my accountability group I've stuck with it. To be honest, right now it stinks. I'm emotionally worked up about the land/house stuff and would like to drown my troubles in sugar...but if I do, I have to jump in the pool!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Check these out

I was just reading on Making Home and saw this link about an abortionist turned prolifer. His testimony is so very vivid. I challenge anyone who is pro-choice to read his story and evaluate his experiences.

Other folks who've been in the pro-death camp but are now pro-life:
Carol Everett-incredible story!
Bernard Nathanson-responsible for over 75,000 abortions, including his own child. You know all the beautiful pictures of the unborn? He's the one who captured those.

Hop on over to Making Home and read through her other links today. There are some especially good ones for married women and how we can bless our husbands and enrich our marriages.

Just a side note here-our family would appreciate your prayers today. We've had someone pretty interested in our land and we're looking at a house today. We want to be in God's timing here. I'll update you all this weekend in a weekly wrap up style post.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Have you ever been driving down the highway and you see smoke off in the countryside? You try to guess the location of the fire and are sure it's on the right side of the road only to go a bit further and realize as the road wound around, the fire was obviously on the left? As you get closer you continue to guess the location only to be wrong again, changing your mind as the road changes directions?

How about this: If a woman loses weight and goes from say a size 22 down to a size 14, she's quite slim and everyone tells her so. But if she were a size 4 and gained weight to be a size 14, she's probably heading to Weight Watchers.

How many issues in our lives are just like that? Our perspectives are skewed. We think we know the truth, but we're deceived, tricked, or simply have tunnel vision.

Once a year, Shane and I attend our Pregnancy Resource Center's fundraising Gala. The month or so before the Gala, we all meet in some one's very nice home for a prayer dessert. Last year we met in a real live mansion. Coming home to a humble abode is a little depressing after a night like that. I could start to believe all kinds of detrimental things such as I deserve a better house, that we need more income to live a higher class lifestyle, that we shouldn't be attending fancy smancy functions because we're too ordinary...and so on. Since I have friends who've seen first hand how some people in Africa and Mexico live, I can instead be thankful that I don't huddle my family under a lean-to next to the dump where we salvage scraps for food. I can even look around my own town and find many people who don't live as comfortably as we do. The key is perspective.

What do you believe about your Bible? About being persecuted? About tolerance? About stuff? Do we even know what it's like to hide a page ripped out of a Bible like it's a sacred text we may never get a chance see again? Do we really think the coworker teasing us for getting out of work on time on Wednesday evenings for church is persecution?

I have been challenged often in the last few years to take a step back and check my perspective. Let's walk in truth together as we evaluate issues in our lives that might need attention-or even less attention. This is the only way to live-with honesty and contentment.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Forgiveness Yesterday

This post has been in my head for a few weeks, but I couldn't get it structured how I wanted it, so it's just going to spill out. I think someone needs to hear this today.

I've seen how unforgiveness can warp itself into bitterness. Shane and I see this demon eating away at someone we both love. We see it in the easy tears she sheds, the cocooning, recluse-like lifestyle she leads and the absolute refusal to bring the issues out in the open. As far as we see, she isn't aware that unforgiveness has eaten away at her for almost forty years. She's lived with it, nursed it so long she doesn't even realize it's robbed her blind.

A few years ago I had a friend who went from the "red headed baby lady" to a close confidant. We met when she brought fetal models to the pregnancy center I was getting off the ground. Eventually she took a job there, making us co-workers who drank homemade kefir together on our breaks. We were often found together outside of work thrift store shopping, cooking out with the families, or daydreaming about marrying off our kids to each other's offspring.

Then one day out of the blue it all came crashing down. I won't go into details here, but just know that it was like a light switch. One day we were on and the next day the lightening struck and we were off. There was large conflict which became one of the stickiest, messiest situations of my life. In our last conversation that day, we left the ball in their court for future discussion and closed the door.

I cried. I recounted it all. I cried more. I prayed. I read the Psalms and the words about enemies made me cry even more. I was confused and hurt and no longer even trusted my self to make right decisions. I questioned everything. When my heart settled down as the weeks went by, I still thought about my friend and the pain every. single. day.

As time went on, I just wanted to hear from her. I had been asked by Shane to honor the "ball is in their court" part so I had to just be quiet and wait. I had a tape set of hers and wanted to mail it back with a card but didn't know what to say so it just gathered dust. I let myself hope at holidays or birthdays that something might come from her. After maybe two years or so, I had just about given up reconciliation.

One hot summer day while waiting for the girls to finish their piano lesson, my phone rang. The number was vaguely familiar. Oh my! It was HERS! That was one of the best days of my life.

She called and we small talked. Then she cut to the chase and said she would like to talk. She had heard I was pregnant (with Jaika) and didn't want to miss any more of my life. She came over to visit and we cried and rehashed a little and cried some more.

That was over two years ago-is it coming up on three? Our husbands (maybe just mine) aren't "there" yet, but that's okay. I'm seeing progress just the same. We have to be on purpose about seeing each other since we no longer work together and live almost an hour apart, but we're doing it.

The bottom line is this-I knew that once we were reconciled, it wouldn't matter if we didn't continue the relationship, I just wanted peace between us. It's icing on the cake that we have built our friendship back up.

Can you see a difference my friends? The cancerous bitterness that fills us when we don't reconcile verses the sweet peace that floods our hearts when we do? In the Bible, Joshua said he would choose life. Can you see which choice leads to life? It sure isn't the one that changes you from the inside out as parts of you rot away from the bitterness!

If it is within your power, choose life. Make the step towards reconciliation. No one said you have to have the long term relationship with the person (that isn't even healthy all the time, it's not in my first example for sure), but make your peace. That person may be waiting with baited breath each Christmas to see if you've sent a card as a proverbial olive branch.

I know this post is long, but hear me through one more example. This weekend Shane & I got short with each other just like last Saturday (this happens when you attempt to read the Word together each day, Satan doesn't like it). We were really angry with each other but after an hour or so apart, my anger faded and I saw the pattern of our weekend being under attack from the enemy once more. I went to make amends but he wouldn't have it. He stewed until the next morning at church. We talked in the cry room but by that time, our weekend was about over. Score one for the Father of Lies.

If you're the one wronged but someone asks forgiveness, please show grace and mercy. Life is too short to nurse the wounds! Let them go, you'll do better without them. They don't help you, they only eat away.

Is there someone you need to talk to as a new year is upon us? Don't walk through this new year with this over your head. Don't put it off. It's worth being the most important thing on your to-do list. It's worth it. Do it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Spiritual Life of a New Momma

When I say new, I don't mean new. No, I'm not using the latest Bethyism, I mean there's a new baby in the house. She may be number 1 or number 10, it's all the same.
I usually thrive on routine and loose schedules. Having a newborn throws my schedule out the window for the first few weeks. Actually, we have a routine, it's just a somewhat lazy and unpredictable one.
Enjoying a scheduled predawn quiet time ain't gonna happen! In the past I've had a lot of guilt about that-not conviction, but guilt. As we've added more children, I've learned to be more flexible (in everything, not just this area). Here's what I've done to not just survive spiritually, but thrive:
1. Remember there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. If you're a mom to a new baby, God's grace covers that special time when your eyes are blurry with fatigue, your hair is in the latest bed-head style and you still have yesterday's PJs on.
2. Worship the Lord in a different way-when you marvel at the tiny toes and the little coos, praise Him!
3. Meditate on scripture you already know. Pray the Lord will bring past memorized scripture to your mind or read through the Psalms for inspiration. I like to think on Psalm 139 about being fearfully and wonderfully made. Not only is the new baby evidence of that, but the entire miracle of the new life created, the marriage bond, the birth process, and the beauty of adoption are all wonderful things to think on.

4. Get a bite of the Word when you can-Nursing has always been a good time for me to read. You don't have to study Romans right now, but do read something. One mom put a small Bible in her bathroom drawer and read a verse or two each time she used the restroom. Tuck some Bibles around your home for easy access while caring for your newborn.
5. Pray as you go. Even if I'm not spending an hour in Bible reading and study, I can sure pray, pray, pray! I pray as I work throughout the day-in the shower, as I do dishes, when I lie down, when I drive. Praying for others outside our home while I feel especially tied to our home in the early days helps get my focus off me and back onto the world around me.
6. Get back into church. While we don't drag our newborn all over town, we do have a priority on church and our family of believers there. One of the first places we do venture out to is church. Sure you have to get up a bit earlier and you sometimes feel like a pack mule by the time you get the baby, her bag and all your own items into church, but it's worth it to get some spiritual food. While it may be a temptation to drop out of all church activities, remember that you need to continue to invest in your spiritual life since parenting will bring all kinds of challenges. However, cutting back on some extras may be necessary, so pray with your husband about it.

7. Get plugged in online-listen to programs from either right on your computer on download onto your mp3 player. I have utilized my mp3 player when resting, on our first walks together (Audrey in the stroller), while doing housework & even while at WalMart.
8. Get the praise music flowing! In the house or car, it's a simple way to incorporate worship into your day.

Don't stay gone too long. While I know God gives grace to mothers of babes, don't get to the point where it's an excuse. For me, with this baby, the two month mark was a good time to get back into the daily habit of study. It will probably vary with each mom and baby. You'll know when you're ready, don't delay!

Also, while this is geared towards moms with babies, it surely applies to families with any major disruptions. Remember-God's grace, not condemnation!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Bethany Date

I took some of my family out in public today. You never know what will happen with this crew... Bethany had an appointment with an ear, nose & throat specialist early this morning. We drove about an hour and a half in the freezing rain to get there, but that didn't deter us! We had plans for the day-it was a Bethany date!

I mentioned lately that I wanted to draw this child out more. What I've learned is that it takes NO effort if she's alone. I had her in the car by ourselves recently and she chattered the entire time. Today was no different. Never mind the 3.5 hours of stories and songs I put on my mp3 player for her (at her request even), she wanted to talk today. And talk she did. Well, until she fell asleep (which was good, we needed a break!). What a blessing it was to be with her today! This will be an easy resolution to keep-it's very rewarding to hang with our BB. As a side note-I think most people who seem hard to draw out are very worth investing the time in-so if you have someone like that in your life, pursue them!

As soon as we got out of the doctor's office (where she refused to talk, by the way), she wanted to go to Mimi's Cafe for lunch. Never mind that it was only 10 am. We put her off a bit and checked out Sam's first. Here she is being cute as ever over mini corn dogs and fries.

This is how you share a french fry with Dad!
I realized this morning that she probably thought she was actually getting her tonsils out today, and I was right. When I apologized for not explaining it well and asked if she was nervous about today, she said, "No, betaus when I det my tonsils out, I det to dwink a lot of soda." I wish you could have heard her say soda. It came out with an New Yorker's accent. We rarely drink sodas and when we do, we don't call them sodas, we call them cokes, like every good Texan. I reminded her that soda is not good for her and she replied that it was indeed good, "...betaus de doctor said it would make me feel betta." Um, no. He didn't. Nice try.
I've figured out that she's really milking this tonsil thing. Not only is she ordering sodas, but she was playing a game with her sisters this evening and I overheard her say, "Duys (guys) you have to wet me win betaus I'm just a wittle dirl (girl) and I have to have my tonsils out." Oh boy are we in trouble.
Here's the break I was talking about :) She's wearing what she calls her "night cap" so she can sleep. She's so cute she might just get some soda.

PS-I have to share one of her latest Bethyisms. She is in the habit of wanting to replace words with other words as a game. For instance, she might say, "Okay, Mom, when I say the word frog, it really means help." (This is when you can't just nod and absent mindedly agree, she'll bust you every time.) Well I had asked her to do something she didn't want to, like put on her PJs or something like that. She said a hearty, "Oh maaaaaan!". Then she quickly added, "Mom, when I say oh man, it really means yes ma'am!".

Thursday, January 1, 2009

How we saved some dough this Christmas

Given that Shane was off work 3 weeks with Audrey's birth and the complications that followed (most of this was paid leave, but his security work is contract labor, so there is no sick/vacation time), we needed to tighten our thrift store belts this year. Here's how we did it:

I wasn't the hostess with the mostest at our two little Christmas parties we held in our home. I held back on making extra dishes and playing games that required prizes.

We were upfront about our need to trim the list down. We went straight up and straight down the family tree as far as gift giving was concerned. That means we skipped a lot of our siblings, cousins and aunts/uncles. In early December I talked to my brothers and we all agreed, with much relief, not to buy for each other. We only bought for a small handful of friends and except for a batch of Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve for the jailers, we skipped the coworker gifts for Shane.

We skipped a lot of treats for the house. We didn't buy new lights (although I did buy $5 worth of poinsettias that I promptly froze to death-they live on the North Pole in Frosty, why not in a Texas cold snap?). We kept our edible treats simple-hot chocolate, homemade sugar cookies, homemade cheese ball, and one try at a family recipe for date loaf.

We downsized our Christmas card list. Few locals got the 8 cent picture card. We did a letter here on the blog.

I bought ONE roll of gift wrap. I used it on all our gifts, which looked nice under the tree. Since I used most of it, I'll use a different roll next year (already bought on clearance). I think I like this better than keeping several rolls around for years (they never go away and I get so sick of the same smiling Santa with a soft drink).

As always, we kept our gifts simple and buy on sale as often as we can. I shop online anyway, but I think this saves money since I'm not using gas to drive out of town, not eating out, and not running into much else I just have to have.

I am starting this year (as I always plan to, but always fail to) to plan out gifts for next year. I bought a few things heavily discounted for gift giving during the year or Christmas. If I buy just one thing a month, I'll have accomplished much by next Christmas. (Just a note: I've realized that buying odds & ends without a person in mind as a recipient almost always backfires. For now on, if I can't know who I'll give it to, I'm not buying it, even if it's 75% off. Otherwise, it just sits in my gift drawer.)

I know we aren't the only ones feeling the crunch, so how did you keep those December costs down? If you didn't have this issue, let me just give you my address so you can mail me a benevolent check :)