Sunday, November 29, 2009

NaNoWriMo Update!

That's right! I won! I wrote 50,000+ words in a month. I actually really like the story that developed in this novel even if I'm going to have to rewrite and edit almost everything I wrote. This was a great exercise in persistence, which has never been my strong suit. I can't believe it! I actually did this!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Things I'm Thankful For

-Funny little girls
-Smiley baby boys
-My thoughtful, hardworking husband
-My kooky but very interesting father
-My kooky, but very interesting mother, sister, grandparents and other family
-My kooky but very interesting friends
-Sunny, warm days in November, when by all rights it should be cold and snowy
-A hot cup of coffee, an organic pumpkin ginger muffin and some theraputic knitting
-42,000 words on my novel
-New friends
-The return of my cat shadow who was missing for 6 weeks
-Fabulous neighbors
-Christmas shopping that is wrapped up before Black Friday
-Naps, and the husband that makes them possible
-Parents who understand that we don't need a million blinky light toys and thoughtfully purchased Rosetta Stone Latin software and personalized bookplate stamps for the kids instead
-Two incredibly good parent teacher conferences
-Candy cane hunts, snowman building contests, kicksledding by the full moon, organic food dinners and candlelight walks in the woods all within walking distance of my house
Life is good.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Prayer Tree

So this is the Prayer Tree I talked about in my Advent Conspiracy post. I really kind of stole this idea from my friend Lisa, who every year in the fall, leading up to thanksgiving, makes a Gratitude Tree for her three kids. The idea is that if, by Thanksgiving, you've got a month or so of really mediating on what you are grateful for under your belt, you begin the Christmas season with a better attitude.
As you can see it's just a simple brown paper tree taped to the wall. I have a jar of leaves I made out of scraps of scrapbooking paper (construction paper is fine too) and every day at dinner we sit down and talk about what we are thankful for, who we are concerned for that we'd like to keep in our prayers, questions we have that we'd like guidance on and other good stuff like that. Then we write it on a leaf, talk about it, pray about it and put it on the tree. This picture was taken about a week ago on the first day the tree was up, but it is now full of all kinds of pretty leaves. It's really been a great conversation starter for us and really helped the kids (and maybe the adults too) to think beyond their own wants.
Plus now that the fairies have moved back inside for the winter, it's a great little shade tree for their winter home.

Friday, November 20, 2009

So Proud

The girls have really taken to our Advent Conspiracy challenge. Earlier in the month we had discussed giving each of the girls a Christmas allowance so that they could buy their brother and sister each a gift. The girls were really excited about that idea and quickly decided that they were going to give each other each a headlamp they had been wanting for a while.

After the Advent Conspiracy talk, however, they decided that they really don't need the headlamps, and there's nothing James really needs, so they should pool their money and buy things for people who really need it.

So this is what they bought baby James. A dozen baby chicks to give to someone in a developing nation. They were so excited about this idea that they decided to give their saved allowance money in addition to their remaining gift money and pay for the care of an orphan child for a month. It was so cool to see them so pumped up about doing something good for others.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Advent Conspiracy

This year my church is participating in The Advent Conspiracy, a movement started by a group of pastors from Oregon to reduce the commercialism of the Christmas season and bring it back to it's original intention, celebrating the birth of Christ. I'm really very excited about this. The idea, as it says on their website, is to worship fully, spend less, give more and love all. I mean, who couldn't get behind that!

When we first had our oldest, Cheyenne, five years ago I felt kind of bad that we'd likely never have the resources to give her (and eventually her siblings) the kinds of magical, gift filled Christmases I'd had as a child. While I was deeply comitted to the idea of Simple Living at the time, Christmas had always been such a time of anticipation and wonder for me that it was one area I was reluctant to simplify.

In the end, I am a practical person, however and with Zach working construction and getting laid off shortly before Christmas each year, it didn't make sense to spend a ton of money when what we had needed to last until spring. It turned out to be the best thing for us. We've found other ways of making Christmas a magical experience for the kids, ways that don't rely on big expensive gifts.

This year, though, I want to take it further and really get into the spirit of giving. I think this fits in with my Year of Temperance quite well. I look around at everything I have and it makes me want to go out and do good for the world. I am so incredibly lucky. My kids are so incredibly lucky. We have such a beautiful, wonderful life.

During this Christmas season we want to focus our efforts on looking for need and filling it. I want us all to get into the habit of stepping up to the plate and making good things happen for others. I want us to spend more quality time as a family and more time focusing on teaching the kids about the wondrous and miraculous event that was the first Christmas.

Some of our plans:

-Make a family gift to AFINNET, a charity close to our hearts and the heart of our church. Bishop George and Father Michael who run this charity are two of the most good-hearted people I've ever met.

-Actively look for small ways to help people. Hold a door for someone. Watch the neighbor's kid for an hour while she goes to her parent-teacher conference. Visit the elderly. That kind of stuff.

-Play the Generosity Game

-Storytelling around the fireplace

-After dinner advent ceremony

-Prayer tree (I'll be blogging about this later in the week)

-No Toys in 2010 Challenge (I'll be blogging about this too)

-Lessons and Carols at our church

I think this is going to be a very fun Christmas. I have areas, like my crazy Christmas party, where I'll go all out, but for the most part I really love a more paired down holiday.

Friday, November 13, 2009

National Novel Writing Month Update

21,063 words so far! This has been much easier than I expected, although a bout of H1N1 last week really slowed down my progress. I am still on track, although I'm a little afraid to go back and read what I write while I had the flu. I was a little loopy at the time. Oh well, National Novel Writing Month is not about writing a masterpiece, it's about getting something down on paper and I have certainly done that. I can edit in December.

Monday, November 9, 2009

I Have Parted Ways With My Sanity

It all started with these beauties. I've been browsing at the Bake it Pretty Website for a while now daydreaming about actually learning how to decorate cakes and I stumbled onto these, the Vintage Village and Magical Forest cupcake topper sets.

So I bought them. That's right. I spent $30 (including shipping) on cupcake toppers. So of course, now I actually have to do something with them because otherwise there's really no way to justify a purchase like that. So I thought about it and decided that I'm going to throw a Christmas party for my kid's new school friends and the cupcakes will be the star of the show.
Picture it. My dining room table lit up with white Christmas lights on top of my vintage Christmas table cloth. Fake snow strewn across the table and little Christmas village cupcakes strategically placed to resemble a fantasy Christmas village. But wait. You can't have a Christmas village without a tree. A big one. Right in the middle of town square. But I hate storing things long-term, so I want something edible. Enter, the Cookie Star Christmas Tree.

Now, I may actually print that off and take it to my friendly local bakery to see what they would charge me for something like that, but if not I'm probably just going to go ahead and attempt it myself. Well, now that I have the Christmas tree and all the little villagers, I need an actual Village. You know, at least a church and some houses.

And an ice skating rink, which I'm planning to make out of a circular mirror. And Christmas music. And hot chocolate. And egg nog. And maybe A Charlie Brown Christmas to watch on DVD. And you know what, I told the kids my grand plan so now I'm really committed. It's going to be spectacular. You know, if I'm still awake to enjoy it after all that work. Oh well. I put on a holiday tea for 100 people last year at my church when I was 5 months pregnant. This couldn't be any harder than that, right?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Way to go Barbie!

It is now officially jacket season here in Minnesota, and along with that comes the frequent reminders (to both parents and children) that coats belong on the hook and books belong in the shoe closet. One member of the family seems to have gotten the message loud and clear. Way to set the standard Barbie!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Another Christmas Gift Completed

This set of napkins and pretty handmade (by someone else) soap is my Christmas gift for my friend Janelle. Janelle and I were best friends in our mid teens and then something stupid that neither of us remembers caused some sort of fight and we drifted apart. Over the last 6 months we've reconnected and it is so much fun to have her back in my life. As we' said after the first time we got together again, "it's just like old times except we're not nearly as screwed up." What can I say, high school was not kind to either of us.
I invited her over for coffee, with my mom's pretty German coffee set, of course, and gave her the present early. Her birthday is the week of Christmas, so I want to keep the birthday and Christmas gifts separate. I just love this pattern, and the soap turned out to match almost perfectly.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Adventure Begins

So two days into National Novel Writing Month and I'm feeling pretty good. I've managed to write just over 10,000 words and they don't all suck. I am at the very least entertaining myself, and I've managed to give the kids and the husband their basic quota of love and attention at the same time. So what if the dishes are still in the sink. It's the price you pay for greatness. Or in my case, adequacy.