Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 12 of 2012

What an amazing year we have had!  I thought I would share with you the top twelve most viewed posts throughout 2012...and what our little Eli was up to this Christmas!

2012 Top 12 Most Viewed Posts

Here is the list, starting with the #1 most viewed post.  I have included the link directly to the post for your ease of review.  Enjoy!  I was very might be too!

2.  Probably the only post with no pictures...coming in at #2!

Without further below to see what our Elf on the Shelf, Eli, was up to this year!

(**If you are viewing this in your email then you will want to click on this link
to go to the website and view the slideshow.)

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Final Response

If you only know me through this blog then I will do my best to bring you up to speed on something that I felt needed to be said based on a rash of comments that ensued after a post I put on my personal Facebook page.

As I entered the checkout line in Wal-mart yesterday what I saw was nothing new to me.  A twenty-something mother with her baby in a carrier tucked down in the stroller.  Her items were neatly arranged and separated with paper checks on each stack.  I quickly surveyed the situation trying to decide if this was going to be one of "those" checkouts or not.  I decided she seemed really organized and this one would go fast.  Then I surveyed the cashier.  A grandmotherly type who had no business working that close to a freezing open door with a gentle smile and a steady hand.  Yep, this was the line for me.

I quickly unloaded my cart full of cold medicines for every age in my home and gave the mom a smile.  In just moments up walked some ladies who knew her and they began a conversation that was, quite frankly, rude to the cashier who was trying to make sense of the 4 or 5 checks being used to pay for items on the belt.  She glanced at me with warm blue eyes that said, "I am sorry."  Mine responded with, "It's ok."  However, this behavior went on  for quite a few minutes until the cashier could take it no longer, as there were issues with what the mom was buying with these funds.  As I stood and surveyed this interaction, turning away five different buggies to other, faster lines, I decided I had had enough.  This scene looks the same in South Carolina and Texas.  I pulled out my phone, responded to a few text messages, checked our bank account, looked at my email, and then opened my Facebook.  By this point this was borderline ridiculous.  So...I quickly punched out, "If it takes you four WIC checks to get your food at Wal-mart, why are you carrying a $200 diaper bag and have acrylic nails? I will never understand this."  This was the shortened version of all of her "amenities."  I plopped my phone back into my purse and stood some more.  By now I am sure she was noticing the "really?" look on my face that I could no longer hide.  This surprises none of you I am sure.

In just minutes my phone begins to buzzzzz that is the indication of responses to posts on Facebook.  I pull it out, still waiting, and yes, responses of similar disgusts.  What followed actually blew my mind.  In two years, 186 blog posts, and over 10,000 blog views I have never had a response so passionately about anything.  And then it came.  Posted by a "friend" on Facebook.  "Maybe it was a gift from a rich friend. Tis the season to judge."  Believe or not, I didn't respond to this right away.  Thought about not responding at all.  But I did.  Here is what I said, "Oh (name)...if only I were that naive...."  This is not what I wanted to say at all.  I am older and wiser and trying to hold my tongue, unlike my 16,17,18,19, etc....self.  So, here is what I have to say to that.  

Dear Rich Friend,

Be a damn friend.  This means that you look your "girl" in the face and say I know it is rough right now, so instead of the $200 diaper bag that you put on your registry I am giving you what you need.  Diapers, wipes, and formula.  You don't need those nails, highlights, fancy diaper bag, or new sneakers.  Those don't make you a good mom.  If you need to feel better about yourself after having a new, sweet baby then I will give you an in-home spa day and paint those nails the prettiest shade of red you have ever seen.  I will get the best damn box of color you have ever seen and won't get a smudge on your forehead.  If it is a bag you need then we will come up with something and you can get the fancy one later on.  And those sneakers you have been eying.  Forget it.  If you have shoes that have soles, your good.

The Mama Who Gave Up All of Those Things to Have Her First of Three Girls 7 Years Ago

Now.  Since we have that far-fetched scenario out of the way, along with what I think of it, let's get to the real point of it all.  This is the problem with America.  The young adults and youth of today think they are entitled to everything.  Guess what?  You are NOT!  You are entitled to an opportunity, not an outcome.  Let me say this again.  You are entitled to an OPPORTUNITY, not an OUTCOME.  We all have the opportunity to make the life we want.  Don't roll your eyes and think some have more opportunities, or better ones then others.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  What this country needs is what my mom calls "tough love."  They need someone to tell them the truth, not feel sorry for them.  Kick them in the ass (sorry mom, that is three now).  Look them in the face, eye to eye, and say, "Life is a bitch sometimes.  Get up, dust yourself off and let's get it figured out.  Have pride for goodness sake.  Work for what you want.  Climb and claw your way out of this thing like your life depends on it.  Because it does.  We are here for you.  We will support you for a short time.  But you are going to support yourself for the long haul.  You will love yourself more.  We promise.  That baby, will be a young man one day, and oh my what a story you will have to tell him."  Why are we so afraid to say this?  What good are we doing these folks by patting them on the back and saying in the softest voice we know, "It's ok honey, I know you are doing your best."  Well, yeah, sometimes they are and that is just fine, but from my view across the Wal-marts of America that is not the majority here.  And because I chose the frustrated, tough love, call-it-like-I-see-it perspective today I got mangled.  Well, guess what?  I did just that.  I called it like I saw it.  And I wasn't judging her.  I was merely pointing out what she was showcasing.  I didn't have to infer, wonder, or presume.  What I said, I saw.  What I wondered I questioned.  I have no judgement except, yeah, she had some damn good taste.  Her diaper bag was too cute, her sneakers I would drool over, and I would love some highlights opposed to my off the rack box of color that I pretend to get better at every month.  But, that girl needs some tough love, not another manicure.

Now let me say this.  As I finally rolled into my sick house after a 35 minute wait in line, and my phone is still blowing up, I tell on myself to Man.  He says, "Oh no."  See, he knows me from way back when.  Way back when the look in my eyes told you fire was getting ready to come out of my mouth.  I comfort him, and say, "It's ok honey."  He says, "You probably know someone on WIC and you offended them without knowing they use it."  This is my response.  First, if you are on WIC, and this offended you, then I apologize to you.  Second, let me say that I have known and do know people on WIC.  One was a young high-school mother that used it to finish school and until she could get her feet on the ground because her parents put a little tough love in her rear and refused to fully support her.  She is a very successful person today raising two healthy children and I am so very proud to have seen her come so far.  I am even prouder to call her my friend.  I have known another friend who would tell me how awful it was to go take her kids and sit in the line to get the stamps each month but she had to.  And she did.  Her husband was working two jobs and they were truly doing everything they could but just needed the boost to get by each month.  She eventually began an at-home hobby that helps support their family, even though she works late into the night to make it all happen.  Neither of these women had polished up nails, fancy cars, $200 diaper bags, or the best sneaker in town on their feet.  But, they had pride, ambition, and resolve.  For these situations, yes, absolutely that is what that money is there for.  Please, use it.  But because you figured out that you qualify and that now means you can go have x,y,and z are robbing yourself and the system.

Lastly, if you truly know me, you know my heart.  Yesterday showed me just who knows me and who does not.  I thank those of you who were brave enough to speak for me before I knew what to say in my own defense.  So, let me say this.  Don't you ever use the Chirst card with me when you have no business using it.  Christians are sinners.  No one is perfect.  Not me and not you.  I sit in a pew more then once a week because I strive to know the Lord and be more like him everyday and I will not have anyone judge my heart but my God.  He knows me by name and he knows my heart.  And that, that is all that matters.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Reindeer Won't Go Hungry

Sorry I haven't been around the blog much this week.  I have been busy.  That might be an understatement.  Yes, definitely.  Today has been my focus for over a week.  That and the whole homemade Christmas idea I had.  And the homeschooling thing I do on the side.

Anyway, today I stepped waaaaaaay out of my comfort zone.  I had people to my house, which I deem "unfinished" and most of them I just casually know.  But here is the thing.  I am dedicated to using this house for my girls.  I am dedicated to cultivating friendships and relationships with people here.  You might meet me and think this would come easy for me.  That is the me that happens when I walk out my door.  The other me, the real me, is a lot introverted, a lot insecure, and could have two best friends and be just fine.  Don't get me wrong, I love the opposite, I just have to push myself to be that person.  So, with a big huge push from Olivia, today was my baby step.  I couldn't be happier at this moment.  Here is why.

I was talking to Olivia about this little idea I saw on a blog I frequent called, Enjoying the Small Things.  She is woman after my own heart.  She puts all of her energy into her babies and I love that about her.  She motivates me to be a better mom.  This was her idea, really.  She calls it the The North Pole Party.  

I whipped these out and we were off and running.  No turning back.  I was doing this thing.  Olivia and I did most of the shopping together.  Man and I did most of the work together.  He was a trooper.  In case I have not mentioned this before, these crazy ideas I have, one week before they are to happen, only go off because of him.  Like when I tell him, "Oh honey, all that stuff in the back of the car?  Yeah.  That is for a party we are throwing in a week."  And he proceeds to reduce his sleep time by two hours every night to work on my craziness.  But, I think he would was all worth it.  The looks and excitement on their faces as they made the reindeer food was priceless.  The way the big ones helped the little ones, tear worthy.  The way the mommas smiled and looked on as their babies painted and played...well, you mommas know.

Oh yes.  It wouldn't be complete without our two best friends, Aubriee and Lexi.

This makes my heart sing.
I love the focus.

How sweet are little boys painting?

Our playroom was full of little blessings tonight.  Joy, joy, joy!
 I really wanted to do this outside on our front porch.  I love that porch.  But it was in the twenties last night so that was not happening.  Ever.  So, I used our dining room table for the reindeer food and craft.

I had a gift bag table that was already loaded with a bell looped on a necklace (the mommas were most happy with this) and a bag of reindeer munch...the human kind. 

 I totally forgot to take a picture of this (the reindeer munch) for you.  I made a huge batch from this recipe and then broke it into small pieces and bagged them with this tag.

Then they added their reindeer food and craft!  A great way to keep up with your "stuff" at this kind of party!

The part that made my day?

Seeing this.

The smile that is worth a thousand words but needs none.

The Mama


Because I was asked about how I display my Christmas cards I snapped a quick picture to show you.

The girls love having them at their level and look at them all the time!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Traditions

Sunday, at 1:30, I shared a tradition with my middle daughter for the first time.  We went to The Nutcracker.  

Since I can remember, I have attended The Nutcracker annually with my mom.  It was a very special occasion in our home.  I always got to wear my Christmas dress, as we dressed like we were going to a gala.  We wore long fancy coats and shiny patent leather shoes.  We parked in a too dark parking lot and walked frigidly up the street where a glimmering cross walk sign signaled us to cross while drivers waited, knowing just where we were headed.  

She always splurged on the best seats, with the best view possible.  We would sit anxiously in anticipation of the first cord to play and when it did we sat frozen in place watching intently like we had never seen it before.  First-timers we were not, but there is something quite magical about The Nutcracker.  Perhaps it is the dreamer in all of us.  The beauty of the music that the dancers bring to life.  The awe-inspiring sets that someone has meticulously created.  It is truly magical.  

When it was over, we crossed into an adjoining hotel and sat eating desserts and talking about each tiny detail.  What we liked, who had the best costumes, which ballerina had the longest most perfect legs.  Girl stuff.  Mom and daughter stuff.  

This did not change until I moved away from home at 22.  It was then that I had to carry on the tradition.  So, I found and bought tickets in our current city, Las Vegas.  At intermission, Man says, "There is no talking?"  First-timer.  We moved to South Carolina not long after that and I then traveled to my mom's each year for The Nutcracker.  It felt good to have my mom take me, even if I was married and grown up.  For me, that is one of the best things about traditions: you get to feel like a child again and again.  

What a special moment my mom and I shared when we took Olivia to her first Nutcracker performance.  She was 4.  We did it just like when I was young.  I don't think we stopped smiling for days.  Just the look on Olivia's face and the way she sat in awe of the ballerinas.  I will never forget that moment.

So, Addison turned four this year.  It was her turn.  A right of passage was in front of her and she was beyond thrilled.  While we could not make this happen in North Carolina, in the same way we did for Olivia, I did my best.  This is a tradition I feel honored to carry on.  So Mom, I hope I did you proud.  

After traveling an hour to get there, I treated the girls to lunch.  

 Then I drove to the theater and parked a block away, so we could walk the walk.  

 Addison selected her Nutcracker ornament to commemorate her first show, just as you did with Olivia.

 At the close of the show I drove them for ice cream.

 And we talked about every tiny detail.

 I missed you mom.  But as you have expressed to me before...

"Memories are the lightest things to carry with you."  And I have them. And I thank you.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Crafty, Craft-A-Rama, Craft-A-Rific...Nevermind.

I love being crafty.  I love being crafty with my girls.  My girls love being crafty.  My girls love being crafty with their mom.  It's really a win-win.  :)

Every Christmas season I try to make some type of ornament with Olivia and Addison.  Something a grandparent will hang on their beautifully adorned tree like it is the best ornament they have ever seen.  Grandparents are good for that.  But, this year, as I was browsing through Kelle Hampton's blog, Enjoying the Small Things, she had a post about some ornaments she and her girls made this year and I knew I had to make some of my own.  

I picked up some sand when we made our afternoon jaunt to the sunny beaches of December.  I won't rub that in.  It was December...and we were at the beach.  Anyway, I filled the bucket with a plan in mind.  I made Man stop off at JoAnn's on the way home.  Spent way too long looking for the ornaments before I asked where they were.  Thankfully they still had them and I was up and running.  Sort of.

You see.  I can't draw.  I am a perfectionist.  I was afraid the recipients might not have a clue if Olivia just free-handed them.  She is fairly whimsical.  I am not.  So I did what any good mother would do.  I Googled the animals I thought I had a chance at and even gave Olivia a shot.  I know.  I know.  I am trying.

I think you might be impressed.  Man was.

I traced them in pencil and then went over them with a black coloring pencil.

The girls put the color to them with water colors.

I should tell you I used heavy card stock paper to minimize the wrinkling that can occur with water color.  I was pleased with the outcome.

After you cut the animal out you will put some clear drying glue on the back, bend it enough to fit through the opening and slowly lower it into the plastic ornament with your tweezers.  This is tricky and tedious.  Once you get it in the ornament, lightly position it and then use the tweezers to press it to the back of the ornament.

Silky white sand, gathered on a sunny December day, was funneled into the ornament and secured with a touch of glue to keep the lid from pulling off.  E-6000 to be exact.  Swear by it.  
Kelle decorated her tops with craft paper.  I did one and decided that I was not patient enough.  I was doing way more then two people.  Please forgive me.  But, the one I did turned out pretty cute.
This was lots of fun for all of us; and, what a fun gift for the girls to give their friends this year.  You still have time...gather up the supplies and you have an afternoon craft that your kids will love!

---The Craft-A-Rific Mama...or something

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Are you guilty like me? You don't have to be.

Truth : Forever and ever I have always put up my daughter's clothes at season's end.

Truth : I never thought twice about it.

Truth : I have three girls so they definitely will get used again.

Truth : Clothing three girls is getting pricey. 

Truth : It will only get worse.

Fact : I must stretch the clothing dollar.

Fact : I am going to do it using our summer wardrobe.  

Fact : You can too.

As the warm breeze of summer began to push further south, and out of my little northern Florida town, I realized I was not as prepared as I should have been.  Of course the younger two girls have all of the clothes, plus some, that Olivia wore.  So, the main issue was protecting Olivia from the sudden Fall snap.  I have been more interested then ever in kid's style and style in general as it pertains to mixing up a wardrobe.  I challenged myself to use most of her summer clothes with a few items thrown in to "warm" them up.  I would say I have done pretty good.  She hasn't complained and it is a bit refreshing to wear some of the lighter summer colors in the cold, frosty winter.  I took a few photos along the way to show you what I did.

The red pants and shoes were the new items.  Both tops were from last year.  Love double sizing!

You will remember this outfit from the knee-high post.  

The knee-highs were the only new item.  Three-quarter length shirts are my friend.  They should be yours too.

You will remember this outfit from here when it was picture day and I had no clue what they were going to wear.  And the cold air was blowing...unexpectedly.  I picked up the white shirt last year on clearance at Old Navy for $2 and I already had the leggings.

This was fun and a stretch for me.  I picked up the cute star sequined sweatshirt at The Children's Place outlet at the end of the summer.  When she put it on it was a little short for me.  So, I threw on the blue and white striped tank top from the summer and the green skinny pants from the spring and we were off and running.  This might be my favorite so far.  ;)

On this particular day I thought I was a genius.  I needed to do laundry really bad.  I had to take pictures of the haircut so all of you could mourn celebrate with me.  And she was going to her American Girl book club meeting, so she had to be cute.  Of course.  Did I mention that I needed to do laundry really bad.  Then I saw the grey cardigan and five million light bulbs went off and then I prayed for the entire eight steps I had to take to the dresser that there would be grey leggings...and there were...from last year. new cardigan picked up on clearance at the end of last winter and we had a new outfit!

Hopefully I have sparked some ideas for you to use those summer clothes!  A budget-friendly idea is just perfect for this holiday season!  Oh...and always, ALWAYS, always buy off season...if you can.

---The Recycling Mama

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Little Accountability

I got to thinking the other day about my list.  The New Year's list.  The one that laid out everything that had to be accomplished be December 31, 2012.  You can find the entire post about it here.  

I thought I should take a look back at it and be somewhat accountable.  Here goes.

1. Help me lose baby weight...especially by June 2, 2012 when my "bestie" gets married!
Very happy to report that this was accomplished way ahead of schedule thanks to Weight Watchers.  First time for me and I will never turn back.  I lost the baby weight and more!  Amen.

2. Get new flooring installed ASAP.  All while he sleeps in the house and my three babes run crazy through the halls.
There is one word to describe how this went.  Disaster.  Great result but I will never, ever, ever hire Home Depot again.  Ever.  I would like to formally apologize to Lowes.  I still love you.  You just didn't have the product I wanted.  That won't matter next time.  Never again.  Ever.

3. Figure out how to lose love handles that never existed before.
Thank you Weight Watchers and will power.

4. Travel to Florida to see where in the world we want to live, where Olivia can go to school, where Addison can go to school, where they can go to dance, how far we will have to throw a rock to hit the ocean, HA...details!
Home purchase accomplished in two days and we were on our way to summer vacation.  School was a bust.  Dance is awesome.  We live 30-40 minutes from the ocean.  Might depend on who is driving and which beach we are visiting.  :)

5. Oh my, the Oreos keep staring at me.
They are not allowed in my house anymore.  Except there are some here right now.  It was in the name of a school project.  Maybe.

6. Plan a fabulous bridal shower for my "bestie" to be thrown in Columbia, SC but planned for from Texas!  Hmmmm?  It's ok, I like a challenge.
Thanks to a fabulous eatery and bakery in Columbia, SC I had very little stress...until I almost missed the flight because Olivia had to go to the bathroom at the same spot that every Nascar loving fan was passing through to get the the track.

7.  Get on the elliptical machine every day from here to June.
I so did not have to do this compliments of Weight Watchers.  Thank you Lord.

8. Put house on the market... while living in it with three kids and a hubby sleeping in it during the day.  Oh yes, this will be fun.  Oh, not to forget the dog.  Hmmm...hadn't thought of that.  Maybe we need to attach the "hunting trailer" to the back and strap the dog on there?  Or maybe that is not legal...wait this is Texas.  There is lots of animal hauling around here.  
This was not fun.  At all.

9. Finish Start curtains for Allye's room so she knows she is here to stay.  
They were and still are gorgeous.  Hers were the only ones that made the move to the new house.  I am starting to think I was crazy for doing that.

10.Quit staring back at the Oreos.
Only every time I walk into the pantry this week.

11. Celebrate Nate finishing his Master's Degree!!!!  
What an awesome accomplishment!  We celebrated over a nice dinner with my parents and he unwrapped a highlighted map of the U.S. that showed him the spots he could choose for an ultimate hunting trip!

12.  Travel to North Carolina, by way of Destin, FL, for my "bestie's" wedding.  A car trip, many many days cooped up together, three kids, and a husband.  Hmmm?  God, I promise to live right forever if you will make that a smooth trip.  :)
All I can say is a baby who drinks bottles and still sleeps a lot makes for a much easier trip.

13.  Buy a new house.  Preferably one that holds all of our "stuff" comfortably.
This beautiful home that Man bought for me is more then enough and we feel so blessed to live in such a wonderful home and neighborhood.

14.  Pack up our current house and pray it stays within the allowed weight limits.  Maybe I should just start praying the military is kind and forgiving, 'cause we are going over, there is no denying it.
Somewhere along the way Man decided we needed to move ourselves due to many technicalities with the military.  When do those not exist exactly?  Anyway, it wasn't as bad as we thought until it didn't all fit.  The good news is that we actually had to make a certain weight to get full reimbursement.  That wasn't a problem.

15. TIVO more shows so the elliptical is more enticing.
I love TIVO.  I taped lots of shows and watched them from my bed as I ate a Weight Watchers ice cream bar.  Have I mentioned that I love Weight Watchers?

16.  Convince my girls that it is ok to leave behind their play-set, Daddy really will build another one. Note to self: Provide extravagant pictures of a new set...Daddy needs a challenge in the carpentry area.
We live in a cul-de-sac.  Our yard is not exactly "fit" for a playground set.  We have other plans.  They require our neighbor's help...apparently.  I have seen the "loose" plans for this and slightly concerned would be how I would describe this.

17. Love on Daddy lots...'cause this might be the only way to get the above mentioned set.
There is love in my eyes when I am questioning the details of this plan.

18.  Invite family to come visit the beach...(have play-set ready to put together when they arrive).
I am not good at this.  You are welcome any time.  Consider this your warning: You might be put to work.

19. MOVE our family of 5 (plus one dog) back across the country.
The five made it and our sweet dog found a new home and now has a sister that plays with her all day.

20. Plan and throw three kid birthday parties within 30 days of each other.
I survived.  I am not sure how.

21. Find something to drink that melts away pounds.
I think we are clear on this one.

22. Take our "bucket list" trip to San Antonio.
The Air Force would not cooperate on this one.  We will still accomplish this one day though.

23. April- The "in-laws" are coming. 
A fun trip to the Bahamas with them instead.

24. Praise GOD every day that he finally gave us a child that sleeps!  Thank you Lord! 
I am happy to report that she is still a sleeper.

25. Paint the elliptical pink.  Maybe it will be more appealing that way?
Man was not going for this under any circumstances.

I hope everyone is thriving this holiday season.  I am deep in the trenches of things made by hand.  It makes me smile.  A lot.  


On a side note.

Since I was laid up Friday because the stomach bug broke into my house in the middle of the night, I thought I could use that time to look through some of our pictures and get some type of order to them.  Maybe even delete a few hundred.  Over and over I saw what I am about to show you, something most people never show you.  Have you ever wondered how many pictures it takes to get something like this?

 In this case, 8.  

But let me say this...I have many more examples that far exceed eight.  Just thought you would like a peek at the so not chosen ones.

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