Saturday, December 22, 2012

And the winner is . . .

Twas the Saturday before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that Mimi and Papa soon would be there.

Nothing like a 4 day wait for a book giveaway, right? 

We're slightly out of our minds here. In the recent past I have managed to commit every cardinal sin of Christmas that I wrote about in one of my last posts, and I am hoping that the arrival of my parents today will help calm things down a bit. I know that seems counterintuitive, but they are wonderfully laid back, unassuming, and slow paced people, so it will do us some good.

Other than a few stocking stuffers, I actually think I may be done with the shopping--the thorn in my side every single year. If I had my way, Christmas would be nothing but the music, the food, the traditions, the concerts, the plays, the parties, the family gatherings, the readings, the church services, and then everyone would open one present on Christmas morning. Because I don't enjoy shopping, and I really don't like to think about Christmas when we're in the middle of back to school, Halloween, and Thanksgiving (it's like listening to Christmas music in July--ick!), I put it all off until after Thanksgiving, and then I'm always, ALWAYS, rushed for time. 

And even though I did 98% of my shopping through like I do every year (an Amazon prime membership is the only way to go--everything arrives for free within 2 days), I still feel tainted by the spaztic commercialism that seeps into malls and other retail establishments at this time every year. I try to keep it simple, I really do. Only stockings and 3 presents each, I say. In my heart of hearts, I actually want a Little House on the Prairie type of Christmas where the children squeal in delight over their oranges and peppermint sticks, but alas, it is Christmas 2012 in modern America. And since I rarely shop at other times of the year, I can become overwrought with a desire to make up for the lack of giving during the rest of the year. I fear I may have gone overboard. Again. ("Overboard" is relative to the person, of course . . .)

And then there is the over eating. I may or may not have engaged in "stress eating" by consuming more than my fair share of Lindt truffles yesterday (and my own homemade ginger molasses cookies the day before, and  . . . you get the idea). As soon as I get off this computer I'm going to run on the treadmill and then promptly make myself a green smoothie. I am highly motivated NOT to gain the requisite "five pounds of Christmas" knowing I'm going to be on TV in a few weeks. Yes! Me! On TV! I'm mildly ((read wildly)) freaked out about it. Video cameras have the same effect on my as they did Cindy in that one episode of Brady Bunch where she finally got on her favorite game show as a contestant and then froze up. (Do you remember that one?) 

Finally, the over scheduling. I spent about 6 hours combined on the phone two nights ago as well as yesterday morning trying to get my parents to us in a timely manner (and with their luggage) after their flight was cancelled from Denver to Salt Lake on Thursday night. Did you know you can't really talk to someone on the phone at the United counter in the airports? The phone number you CAN call takes you to India. I'm not positive about this, but pretty darn sure after speaking to about 77 Indians out of 78 phone calls during those 6 hours. It was a frustrating experience to say the least. (My children have never heard me talk to another person like that. I'VE never heard me talk to another person like that! It was a really bad combination of inclement weather, human incompetence, and my own PMS.) But my poor parents are finally flying in (on a different airline--down with United!!) this morning at about 9:30m (in the clothes they have been wearing since they left Des Moines on THURSDAY) and guess what? Our tickets to see A Christmas Carol are for 11:30am. Will they want to take a shower, or go see the play? Will their luggage have even arrived yet? Ah, the joys of the holiday season . . . 

Now that you've indulged me, on to the good stuff: 

I used an online random number generator (because how am I supposed to choose?) and the winner is #12: Karen! Lucky for both of us, she is one of 3 people who made a comment that are super close to me in proximity, so I will be able to hand deliver it right to your door! Congratulations!!

As for everyone else, please go buy and book for yourself anyway! (Thanks, Scott . . .) You will not be disappointed! And for those who are truly are in a financial pinch (because many  people are these days), check out the payment philosophy on the Power of Moms website or consider getting the e-book for a mere $6. 

Merry Christmas, everyone! While I have about 10 posts ready to go (in my head and in iphoto), I don't know if I'll get back to this computer before the big day. And hopefully you won't get back to yours either! Christmas is a time for family, and I plan to enjoy mine as much as possible. (Until they start driving me crazy, and then I just may retreat to my master closet to blog, like I'm doing right now. :D)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Book giveaway and a free POM program

Okay, I can't believe I haven't tried to promote this more since I spent I don't know how many hours working on this little project, but it's high time.

As many people know, I've been involved with The Power of Moms organization practically from it's inception. (The first Power of Moms board meeting was just me, April, and Saren at Saren's house back in October 2009.) From early on, we talked of writing a book "someday," but we didn't start on what ultimately became a gargantuan project until about two and half years ago. It was at that point we fine tuned The 12 Powers and organized them under the broader categories of Peace, Purpose, Order, and Joy. (Proud to say that was my little brain child.) Not wanting to overburden any one mother, we decided to invite 12 mothers to head up one chapter each (writing the main essays for their chapters), and then held a writing contest through the website to get supplementary pieces for each of those same chapters.

We got WAY more submissions than we expected and began the long process of deciding which ones to use, editing them to fit our needs and vision, and then putting them all together into what we hope is a cohesive book. The hardest part was probably coordinating with so many people, and also keeping our families first in the process (which is why we missed our first deadline with a publisher last year--they wanted it done right after the Christmas season and we realized it would be impossible) but the best part is seeing the final product and knowing we have a book with the collective voices of 60 mothers sharing their real life experiences and wisdom. It's awesome! (And did I mention that yours truly wrote the first chapter?) Follow this link to read excerpts and reviews.

So I need to do a book giveaway, right? RIGHT? I've never done a giveaway before, mainly because I'm dubious about the amount of comments I can generate considering I only have about 4.7 consistent readers, but I'd still like to see if I can get enough comments to make this fairly competitive. (I actually have Google Analytics and know there are more than 4 of you reading, so come out of the closet today and make a comment, okay?) You can always give it as a gift to a mother in your life if you already have one (Tiffany), are not interested for yourself (Mom--but you want one because there are pictures of your grandchildren in it), or are of the male gender (Martin and Scott). (I like using parentheses.)

The other freebie of the day is a free program on The Power of Moms website  with up to a $20 value, but the offer ends Friday. There is nothing to do to get the free program and absolutely no strings attached. It's just April and Saren's way of saying thanks to The Power of Moms community and trying to get the word out to as many mothers as possible who may benefit from the content and program of the website.

So share the love. Pass this info along. And for heavens sake, leave a comment below for a free book!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Live Nativity

About a week and a half ago we took the kids (on a school night) to what I hoped would be a wonderful Christmas event for the whole family. A local live nativity event we attended 2 years ago for the first time after moving here, I was hoping to go back and experience that same "reason for the season" feeling together as a family.

Unfortunately, half the the valley had the same idea that night, so after standing in line in a parking lot for over an hour and being loaded into a horse trailer to be transported to the main event where we were met by yet another long line, Brandon took the 2 older kids and headed home! I was sad, but I understood that none of them had 3.5 hours on a school night to spare. (That's what it ended up being.) Kate and Will both had homework to finish, and Brandon had a big surgery the next day he needed to prepare for. (I wrote about over scheduling, overeating, and overspending during the holidays for the Motherhood Matters blog last week, and I used this experience as an example!)

Luckily, the little girls were totally up for seeing things through to the end:
 In the horse trailer before Brandon, Kate, and Will turned back around:
The site that made them turn around (that's a line of people):
Onward and upward! The little girls loved petting and looking at all the animals scattered throughout the line:

And then, miracle of miracles, we ran into the family of Rachael's new neighborhood friend. This proved to be very fortunate since we hitched a ride home with them rather than making Brandon come back for us, and because their antics kept us all entertained and happy while waiting in that long line:
More cute animals. I think Rachael was hoping to ride this little goat:
Roman soldiers inside the barn:
 The Three Wisemen:
Doesn't she look like she's smiling?

Wood carvers:

More furry creatures:

Pottery makers (what are they called? potters?):
Basket weavers:
The star over the other barn holding the main attraction:
Carolers (angels) preparing the way:
Now, I don't if the organizers of the event somehow do this intentionally or if it's just a natural, spontaneous reaction from the people in line, but after 2 plus hours of hootin' and hollerin' with a bunch of spaztic, freezing kids begging to go to the bathroom and get hot chocolate, I was stunned by the sudden silence once inside the barn with the baby Jesus. Everyone (small children especially) became instantaneously silent as a reverent hush filled the air and we got our turn to stand at the manger and symbolically adore the Babe of Bethlehem. But I can tell you, for the little ones, it felt more than symbolic; it felt real:
And THAT'S why all those crazy people like us were standing in line forever on a school night. To experience for just a small moment what it might have been like to have been there on that most sacred of occasions over 2000 years ago:
You simply MUST click here for the most beautiful dose of Christmas spirit. If you're like me, music is a huge part of what makes the Christmas season so special. Kate and I are learning this on the piano right now, and I have Will committed to learn it on the cello before he leaves home. Well, they have to do it together as a duet before either of them can leave home. That's the deal, and I'm sticking to it!

13 more days until Christmas!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

2012 Christmas Card Picture

It's been a rough year for trying to pull together a Christmas card picture. You would think I would be more interested and motivated, but I haven't been. Today after church Brandon finally convinced me to just do something casual in front of the tree, so we made everyone put on something red or brownish, put the camera on a bunch of books on top of a ladder step, and hoped for the best. This is what we ended up with.

Just testing the light:
Rachael and Yuki have identical head tilts which could be cute if Rachael didn't look like she's just been hypnotized. And Elizabeth's eyes are a problem:
 Again, Rachael and Yuki have issues:
This one isn't too bad, except Yuki is more interested in getting down than being part of our family picture (go figure!):
Rachael has that deer in the headlights thing going on again, Yuki is trying to escape, and Elizabeth's hair is in her face:
The sun was going down and our house lights weren't cutting it, so I thought I'd try the dreaded flash. There was no way I could get everyone to sit there while I tried to figure out aperture and iso for a better picture, so we just went auto. Unfortunately, good light or no,  Rachael and Yuki are at it again, and the flash is reflecting off Brandon's glasses:
Brandon took his glasses off, but Elizabeth is too forward, and Rachael looks like she needs to use the bathroom:
Now we're getting somewhere with facial expressions, but Elizabeth is still too out front, and for some reason, the puppy isn't obeying our commands to look at the camera:
Brandon forgot to take off his glasses for this one, and Rachael is still straining a smidge, but we were all at the end of our happy face rope by this point. And look! Yuki is actually looking at the camera! And so, I think this is it folks:
Only 15 more days until Christmas!

Friday, December 7, 2012

O Tannenbaum

Ai, yai, yai. 

Something most people don't think about when considering the life of a physician is how crazy busy the month of December can be due to all the people wanting to get treated before the beginning of a new deductible year. I think it may even be especially busy for surgeons who have patients that want to recuperate during the holiday break. Brandon just texted me to say he has no less than NINE vasectomies scheduled for December 28th! Not that either of us are complaining about him having plenty of work, but it does make the already crazy month of December even crazier for the "single" mom at home. 

Should I share that I haven't even purchased a single Christmas present yet? Or done my Christmas cards? Or even taken a picture for the Christmas card? (I seriously think I may stoop to the level of an e-card this year, and I'm not even joking about that.) 

(And did I mention that this gifted program is going to be the death of me? Furrowed brow, shaking head, flared nostrils, pursed lips.) 

But one thing we have done already is put up our Christmas tree. We drove home from Arizona the day after Thanksgiving specifically so we could do our usual Thanksgiving weekend tradition of picking out a real live tree. It took another week to get the lights up, and we did get started on some of the decorations earlier this week, but I'm hoping we'll get a fair amount of Christmas "work" done this coming weekend and finish it up. The only things on the calendar right now are a work party tonight and our church party tomorrow night. 

And snow. SNOW is finally on the schedule! I have visions of being in my pajamas with my laptop and my prime account at my fingertips while snow blows around outside my window and carols play throughout the house. Sounds like my kind of Saturday. 

But back to our lovely little (ahem, gargantuan) tree. 

As I said, we went to our usual favorite tree farm (just a mere 5 minutes from home), got our big stick that indicates the minimum height for cutting, and off we went in search of this year's "perfect" tree:

It was a beautiful day. Cool and sunny. Or "moony" as it were:

After long last (there were more contenders this year than ever before), we came to agreement on this one:

(The consensus may or may not have had to do with some members of the family being sick of looking and ready to go to our traditional after tree hunting meal at Texas Roadhouse.)

The ritual chainsaw massacre followed by a tractor ride to the car. Kate and I had a little talk with the tree, thanking it for sacrificing its life for our holiday enjoyment. We assured it that this was much nobler than becoming toilet paper:

We've had a little bit of snow on the mountain tops for awhile now:

We felt confident in getting a little larger tree than usual since we have rather high ceilings in our living room (and all the trees cost the same amount no matter the size), but it wasn't until Brandon and I worked together to get this baby up on the car top that we started to think maybe it was a little too big:
Sure enough, when we got it home, we realized that trees look much smaller in the great outdoors than they do inside a house! Even one with a high ceiling: 
Does this look like Clark Griswold or what? Ya, it's kind of been a pretty pain:
(And that gray tarp underneath has become a favorite poo poo and pee pee spot for the puppy! Argh!)
Like I said, it took Brandon over a week to get all the lights up. He even bought extra strands in advance this year, knowing there would be some old ones that had "gone bad." Didn't matter. We still didn't have enough! So after making a mid-week trip to Target for more lights, and once he finally came home from the hospital again the following weekend, and after figuring out what was tripping the lights on the upper half of the tree . . . we started decorating. (Now if we can just figure out why half the lights on the exterior of our house are out. This whole light thing is reminding me of that song "The 12 Pains of Christmas". But the end result is worth it, right?

We even made our first batch of Christmas cookies that night: 
(For more about that, here's a link to today's Motherhood Matters post.)

It doesn't seem like much, but I've been kind of pooped lately, so by the end of the day the kitchen looked like this:

And I looked like this:
It's nice to make things look all perfect and rosy for the blog (for myself), but there's always that dose of reality looming in the background. Or the forefront. And our December this year has a whole lot of reality.

It's still the best time of the year . . .

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