Holiday giving

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The Professor & I at our recent family photo session

I was raised in a family with big Christmases. I mean really big. My mother loves to give gifts, it’s her primary love language and so she’d save up and spoil us rotten on Christmas morning. It wasn’t all expensive stuff, just thoughtful and a lot. It was wonderful, I’m not gonna lie. But the other thing my mom did was she always gave to families who didn’t have as much as we did, and she included us in this so that we were aware of not only how blessed we were, but also that there were other kids out there who had next to nothing.

Flash forward to my own adulthood and I’ve done the same. Whether it’s an angel from a tree at a local store, Operation Christmas Child or just from word of mouth, I always try to give something to a family or at least a child who doesn’t have anything. I’m trying to instill this in my girls as well so they are aware that there are others around them that won’t wake up on Christmas morning with a house full of new toys and clothes.

I can’t help but think of my own girls and how their lives could have been so very different had we not at the opportunity to adopt them. My girls could have been angels on a tree in the grocery store, or on a list that someone at your church handed out to ensure they’d receive presents. It’s hard not to think about that sort of thing. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that instead they’re here in our house, in our family and I can spoil them rotten. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are families out there who have nothing and this time of year that nothing has got to seem even bigger.

So how about y’all? Do you try to do a little extra this time of year to help those in need? 

Thanksgiving week

clip-art-thanksgiving-turkey-free1It’s Thanksgiving week here in the United States which means that most of us are either getting ready to cook, travel or host visitors. We’ll be having turkey day at my brother’s house so it will be my big ol’ family all together in one house – that’s my parents; my brother, his wife & their 2 girls; my sister, her husband & their 2 kids and then The Professor, myself, Busybee & Babybee. Not to mention two cats and a Great Pyrenees. Thankfully my brother’s house is sizable and can handle the crowd.

The women in my family all divide up the dishes so that not one person is in charge of cooking everything. It makes it nice to share in the duties and we all get to visit & look at Black Friday ads while we’re cooking. The men generally watch football during this time. You know, typical American family activities.

I always make the sweet potato casserole because it’s everyone’s favorite. I’m not even gonna lie, it’s ridiculously good and frankly should just be in a crust because it might as well be a dessert. But my favorite is my mom’s cornbread dressing and I can’t wait to get my first bite of it. So what’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish? 

Here’s my sweet potato casserole recipe…

4 cups sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed (2 large cans)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
¾ cup melted butter
1 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp. Nutmeg
1 tsp. Cinnamon
2 cups marshmallow
1 cup coconut

~Praline Topping~
1 ½ cup crushed corn flakes
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
¾ cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 400°. In large bowl, mash potatoes. Mix in sugar, eggs, butter, evaporated milk, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Fold in marshmallows. Add coconut. Bake 20 minutes.

Mix the topping ingredients in a small bowl then crumble onto the casserole and bake an additional 10 minutes.

When It’s Cold Out, Special Memories Can Warm You

It’s a BRRRRRRRRRR kind of day here in typically sunny Florida.

Okay, so I know there are people snowed in up north. Kids are off from school. Some offices and businesses are closed. Folks are already skiing or sledding or building snowmen.
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But down here in the Sunshine State—land of sandy beaches, waves lapping the shore, seagulls drifting on the wind—winter jackets don’t make it out of the closet too often.
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So, when I say it’s a “bitter 41 degrees” outside this morning, that bitterness is relative. I’ve got friends in the northeast corner of the US who’d love it to be 41 where they live as they bundle up and head out the door. Another friend lives in New Mexico and she’s posting pics of her snow-covered house doing a darn fine impression of a scene on the front of a Christmas card. I got shivers just looking at her post.
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But while this Florida girl isn’t too keen on living in a snowy, icy, bone-chilling place, I do think it’s fun to play in the snow. And I wouldn’t mind spending a day on the ski slopes, then heading back to a warm cozy lodge for hot chocolate and a blazing fire in the fireplace. I’ve been known to plop down on the snow and make a snow angel or two. And my family has risen to the challenge when our neighbors pounded our door with snowballs—a definite call to arms initiating an intense, laughter-filled snowball fight in our front yards.
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With Thanksgiving around the corner and December holidays not far behind, my nesting instinct starts kicking into high gear. Baking, gift buying, gift wrapping, family get-togethers, gingerbread house building, carol singing, mugs of hot chocolate, old memories shared, new memories made.

Can you tell I’m a big fan of the holiday season? Not because of the shopping and present buying, though I do love to gift giving and bringing a smile to someone’s face. But because it’s a time for families and friends to spend quality time together. A time for fun, frolic and smiles.
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I won’t ask about December holiday traditions—that’s an entire blog for later—but instead, I’d like to know what’s the one thing you’re looking forward to the most during the Thanksgiving holiday?

In this high tech world of social media and tweets and Snapchats and Instagrams and all the other apps I’m not cool enough to have heard about yet, there’s still nothing that can beat the feel of two hands held together in greeting. Or two arms wrapped around you in a welcoming hug. Or two lips pressing an I-missed-you kiss on your cheek.

For me, I’m most looking forward to when my family and I’ll gather around the table, clasp hands, and give thanks we’re all together. That’s when I’ll close my eyes, take a deep breath and give the hands I’m holding an I-love-you squeeze.
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And even if it’s just for that briefest of moments, all will be right in my world.

So what’s your special moment, memory or tradition this time of year? I’d love to hear what you’re excited about!

Wishing you and yours many many many blessings! And a warm place to snuggle with your loved ones. ☺
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What Happened to Halloween?

When did Halloween become such a big holiday? It must have happened sometime after I graduated from college and sometime before Princess Galen was born. A couple years ago I realized nearby neighborhoods were just as decked out for Halloween as Christmas.

Cemeteries pop up in yards, pirates dangle by nooses from trees, and zombies stand by driveways. It’s a lot to explain to a little kid. I don’t even know where to begin.

The year before my daughter was born I made the mistake of going to a Halloween party. I wore a twirly dress and fairy wings. My husband put on his cowboy hat and boots. We looked like we’d made an effort. The rest of the people at the party looked like they had been hired by a haunted house. I felt so lame. I also felt overdressed. The women wore nothing short of clothing appropriate for a prostitute.

When did Halloween become about wearing sexy clothes? And why have kids’ characters been sexualized? I think that creeps me out the most.

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Cheer Bear from the Care Bears

Even Sesame Street isn’t immune.

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Big Bird

Where did we go wrong? When did Halloween become more about sex and less about games

2014-10-18 10.27.44and cute kids’ costumes?

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Christmas is Not Your Birthday

In my adult Sunday school class we’re doing a unit on Christmas is Not Your Birthday. I sometimes teach the Three-Year-Old Sunday school, so I’ve missed some of the lesson, but the gist of it is: stop trying to make Christmas perfect and all about you. It’s about a gift we were given and a sacrifice that was made.

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So we have been trying to think of ways to impart this idea to Baby Galen. It’s not easy when, before Halloween, Christmas lights were up at local shopping centers and everywhere you look is a Santa or a Christmas tree. To kids, Christmas is about how much will I get, not what can I do for someone else. But our halfhearted efforts were brought home to us the other day when someone asked Baby Galen what she was going to ask Santa to bring her for Christmas. She immediately whipped out her praying hands and started to pray to Santa. Oh, the horror! My child was praying to Santa Claus. Immediate action had to be taken.
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First of all, we talked more about the real meaning of Christmas and how so many kids don’t have anything. Along with some friends, we chose a needy family and bought gifts for a little boy about her age. We brought food to the food bank. We donated clothes to the local homeless shelter. I still don’t feel like it’s struck home yet. Maybe she’s too young, or maybe it is sinking in, and I just haven’t realized it. She did attempt to pray to Santa again, so that hasn’t sunk in!

What do you do to try and help your kids understand Christmas isn’t just about consumerism?

Shana Galen, Multitasker Mama
I’m Shana Galen, AKA Multitasker Mama (and aren’t we all?). I’m a wife, mom to a four-year-old daughter I call Baby Galen. My parenting motto is, “Keep moving. Don’t pass out. Don’t throw up.” Or maybe that’s my fitness motto? http://www.shanagalen.com

 

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Holiday Grouch?

All our married lives (twenty years now!), my husband and I have struggled to find balance during the holidays. I love the holidays. For me, there is no over the top. For me, if it stands still during the holiday season, I decorate it. You know those women in ridiculous Christmas tress sweaters with actual ornaments hanging off? That’s me. Those women with fake candy corns in her hair? That’s me. Easter egg necklace? Also me.

My husband on the other hand … well, he is perfect in so many ways. He’s handy. He can cook. He’s a good provider. I couldn’t ask for a better husband. But when it comes to holiday cheer? Well, it’s just dismal. He’s like the black hole of holiday cheer. His mere presence actually sucks it out the room.

But an interesting thing has happened around Halloween the past few years. He’s had … well, not holiday spirit, but Halloween spirit. It started when my daughter was three and he wore a Prince Charming T-shirt we’d made him. It’s been slowly escalating ever since. He’s because devoted to pumpkin carving (and uses serious tools!) This year, he’s spent all week working on the boy’s costume. He’s going as a character from a video game and let me tell you, this costume is going to be amazing. I’m delighted by this sudden show of holiday spirit.

But I’m also a little baffled. And distressed.

I came to the marriage pre-loaded with Christmas and Easter traditions. In my family, the holidays are a big deal. At Easter, you die eggs. Lots of them. At Christmas you open presents. Lots of them. And the TV is not on in the background no matter how long it takes. When it comes to holiday traditions in our family, I kind of put my foot down. It seemed like a no-brainer. I love the holidays. He didn’t seem to have an opinion. Therefore we should do it my way.

Now, seeing his newfound love of Halloween, I wonder if he saw my way as my family’s way. Not our family’s way. I wonder if he’s grumpy around the holidays because he doesn’t like the holidays or because he feels like his opinion about them doesn’t matter.

It makes me sad to think he might feel that way. And frankly, I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t mean to be inflexible, but … well, there are things I’m inflexible about. I’m not okay with Duck Dynasty playing in the background while we open presents. I’m not okay handing our kids a hundred bucks and telling them to buy something they want. But this year, I’m going to try to include The Geek more in the planning and execution of the holidays. I’m going to encourage him to play more. Because they are his holidays, too.

But, seriously. No Duck Dynasty.

How do you celebrate the holidays?

Let’s get crafty!

IMG_1250So here we are upon another holiday and if your kiddos are in school or some daycare or Mother’s Day Out program, it’s time for Valentine’s Day parties. Last year when I did this, I ended up buying 2 boxes for each girl even though there are only 10 kids (total) in their classes. The girls wanted the princess and fairy ones, but I didn’t feel right about giving those to the boys in their classes so we got boy stuff to hand out as well. And many of the Valentine’s come with temporary tattoos – I’m not sure how y’all feel about this, but I’d rather not introduce my children to tattoos just yet.

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Needless to say, this year I decided we’d make our own and hand those out. The girls would get to participate and it would mean more than me sitting down one night and addressing all of them for their friends. This way they’d know what they were giving away and they could say they helped to make it. And I thought it would be a fun project for us and for reasons I can’t explain I thought it would be cheaper.

IMG_1253First it was not cheaper. BUT I will say that all of the supplies I bought can be used/eaten at at later date so nothing will go wasted. And we did have a great time. They loved it. I don’t know if those of you with small children have played with the foam stickers, but my girls love them. Even Babybee is quite adept at peeling off the back paper and sticking them on whatever they’re decorating. Busybee even got to write her own name on each of her Valentine, she was quite proud of herself for that.

IMG_1254One of the things I like most about doing crafts with my girls is to see their personalities come out. Babybee is very methodical and precise (pretty amazing for a 2.5 yr old) and Busybee likes to over-do, so her stuff always comes out very decorated. It’s great to see how they create and use their imaginations.

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I found the recipe for the “trail” mix on Pinterest, so I can’t take credit for it, but I used Cheerios, Goldfish Pretzels, Yogurt-covered raisins, Valentine M&M’s and Chocolate Teddy Grahams. I think they came out cute and I hope their classmates enjoy them.

So do y’all craft with your kiddos? Do they enjoy doing arts & crafts?