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FAMILY/ HOME/ Kids/Family/ Simplifying

Everyday Family Dinner Buffet- Style

Dinner Served Buffet Style

{breakfast for dinner -local organic eggs, whole -wheat french toast, nitrate-free bacon & green smoothies }

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know I am a big fan of serving up our everyday family dinners buffet- style.  It has been fun to share some pics of our simple family dinners with you. It sure is easy to quick grab my phone, snap an insta photo & post it. I get so much inspiration on Instagram and love having a place to gather and share our everyday moments.

Dinner Served Buffet Style

{kale & lentil salad with coconut bacon, coconut crusted chicken, mango dipping sauce & pineapple}

Serving Dinner

I don’t know about you, but setting the table can get old and monotonous, especially on busy nights where just getting a simple homemade dinner in the mouths of my loved ones is a feat in itself. I have 3 teenage girls who often are coming and going, even at dinnertime, so it is nice to just set out a stack of plates, utensils, & cups; then quick set out the food for each family member to help themselves.

Oftentimes we ARE able to sit at the table and eat together, and even on these nights, I still like to have everyone come in the kitchen to help themselves buffet-style, then carry their plate, fork, napkin and self-filled cup to the table.  I have a small glass table in our kitchen that is perfect for setting out food buffet-style, and a larger table in our dining room where we have room to sit and eat as a family.

Dinner Served Buffet Style

Why Serve Family Dinner Buffet-Style?

~it keeps food mess in the kitchen where I already need to clean up from making dinner

~I don’t have to carry food into our dining room

~I don’t have to set the table

~everyone is responsible for getting their own drink from the stack of cups

~there is no clearing the table, except for each person bringing their plate back into the kitchen when finished

~if we have to eat at different times as a family, the food is in the kitchen, ready to be reheated for whomever is arriving late

~it keeps condiments close to the refrigerator, easy to grab, set out & put away.

Dinner Served Buffet Style

{super simple noodles & sauce dinner–with a very naked salad! Super simple is ok!}

Keeping Dinner Simple, Efficient & Beautiful

I’m all about keeping life simple and doing my best to live slow, but when it comes to getting dinner made and my people fed, I become all about fast, although still try to keep it simple.  Really, efficient is a better word than fast, but I have become pretty fast at whipping up dinner!

There is certainly a time and place for making a great tablescape and slowly setting the table & presenting beautiful food for the ones you love; to pass & savor & enjoy.  But I find during the busy teenage years, for most of our dinners, simple & efficient is good enough.

I do still love beauty when it comes to presentation, so even when setting food out buffet-style, I will light a candle and place my utensils in a mason jar, use pretty napkins & put a vase of live eucalyptus or dried flowers out. These are things I have set out anyway, so it really takes no effort at all, and as you can see from the above photo, I’m still not above serving food out of the pan & saving myself from having to do extra dishes.  Even service from pans can be beautiful if served with love and a lit candle!

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Doing Things In A Non-Traditional Way Is OK

Doing things in a non-traditional way is ok. Simple is ok. Breakfast for dinner is ok. Using prepared foods (like the pancake puffs above) is ok.  Serving from the pan is ok. Apples don’t have to be in cooked in a beautiful cinnamon sauce, just sliced and bare is ok. If you don’t have time for salad toppings, serving naked greens is a-ok!  Oftentimes, the more simple the food the more healthy it is.  A bowl of berries for dessert instead of berry crisp is easier, more simple and more healthy! I still love my berry desserts but tend to save them for the weekends while keeping things pretty pure and simple during the week.

Living simply for me is often a letting go of what is perfect or what I think the standard should be, and just being ok with what is.  Right now, what IS for our family right now is this…I’m running my girls around instead of making cinnamon caramel sauce for my apples, and that my friends, is ok!

FAMILY/ Featured/ Kids/Family

A Family Update

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{photo taken by Jenna Spurlin}

I recently wrote a post titled My Journey From Hobby Blogger to Influencer, and talked about how this blog is my recipe binder, my memory keeper, my cancer journal & a place to connect with such a great and caring community.  It has certainly become something very special to me and my family over the years. It is especially comforting as a 2-time cancer survivor that my words and our memories are in a place where my 3 girls could easily access them and know the things I think about and am passionate about.

This post is one that I am writing just to capture this season in life. I find myself with 3 teenage daughters and I wonder where the time has gone? When did this happen?

I don’t write as often about my girls now that they are teens.  It is a delicate thing, letting their stories be THEIR stories & not oversharing.  I will be doing a dance with this delicate sharing in some upcoming posts where I will write about a teen parenting class I have been taking.  It has been so good and has really helped me embrace these years and realize just how wonderful they can be.

But for now, I’m just going to share these family photos with you and try to take a ‘word snapshot’ of my 3 lovlies and their sweet lives.

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{photo taken by Jenna Spurlin}

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Teagan

My firstborn. My overachiever. My hard worker. My heart. You can find her most nights leaning over textbooks with pens, pencils, a water bottle & snacks diligently studying. She is 16 & a sophomore in high school, is a cross-country runner, & is super involved as a leader in her youth group. She has always chosen great friends to hang out with & is wise beyond her years. She is very self-aware, knows her strengths and weaknesses, has a beautiful thinking brain, does not like a lot of emotional fluff, & finds humor in so many things.  She usually has a smile on her face and I marvel how it rarely goes away…she has this amazing ability to smile even while talking. It is her default face and it is beautiful.  I find myself trying to hang on to every moment, as I know we only have a couple of years left with our girl.

Colsie

She is my red-haired beauty & my hero at age 15. Life has given her some great obstacles the last few years but she has come through them with grit, perseverance and a resilience that I am just in awe of.  She is incredibly creative and musical and has a love for instruments including the violin, guitar & piano.  She has a soft heart that cares for others.  She is very in tune with the emotions of others and will be the first to ask “are you ok?” when she senses something is wrong. She, too, has a wonderful friend group & is truly a great friend to others.  I have always called her my creative, caring, kind, quirky Colsie & even as a teenager she still is all that! She will frown at that ‘quirky’ word, but I love that she is unique and delights in things that are not always mainstream. Case in point? She is going ‘hammocking’ with a friend after school today. She saved money to purchase this awesome portable hammock,  (affiliate link) and she and her friends will just take their hammocks and ‘hang out.’ It cracks me up.  They are also going to take some photos while at the park, as Colsie is a very gifted photographer.

Avery

Avery is 13 and in middle school.  The strong will that we saw when she was young has chilled out into something so wonderful. She is the perfect balance of soft and strong. It is quite remarkable to watch. She is a very determined, gifted and self-motivated student, a great soccer player despite the challenges that having asthma brings, is a super talented baker & loves watching recorded tv with her Dad. She is not one who needs a ton of friends. She is a good friend to a select few, and truly just loves being at home with her family and ipod. She is a friendly introvert. She gets that beauty is fleeting, even at a young age, and I wonder if she knows how beautiful she really is? She is a bit of a tom-boy, but one who always has her nails polished with quite impressive DIY designs. She plays the piano & usually practices without needing a reminder.  Avery loves one-on-one conversation and will often come sit on my bed in the evening just to talk, or will become quite chatty at the breakfast table each morning, which makes me smile.  She lives for holidays, as they give her an excuse to bake something great or come up with awesome gifts for those she loves. She also values family, as her favorite place to be is at her Grandparents house, jumping on the trampoline with her cousins.

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So there are my girls in a nutshell, at this stage in life.  Notice there is much positive and no negative, which is not reflective of how it really is. Yes, there is so much beauty and positive, but there IS a reason I’m taking a teen parenting class! The teens years can be hard as kids are discovering who they are and parents are learning how they must parent differently, and how to let go. There are personality differences which can create much static and drama, especially with 3 girls! We are not the perfect family, so far from it…but I do feel like we are all learning how to love well & I know God will continue to show us how to do that, despite all of our differences & shortcomings. This is my daily prayer. We have come through a lot together & I celebrate that!

I have to mention my man before closing this family update.

My Todd.  

Steadfast, loyal, loving, wise. He serves all of us ‘girls’ with humility & consistency. We all know we are his priority & that he would do anything for us. He spends his days working hard for our family and never complains.  He is in full-time ministry and does work every day that is meaningful and makes a difference.  He lives for family nights and junk food on the weekends, and the occasional date night with ME. I am a very, very blessed woman and I’m so thankful to call him mine!

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If you have made it to the end, then I must thank you for reading this.  I am so very thankful for this space to record things that matter to me, and the fact that you come along with me in that means the world to me! Thanks for reading New Nostalgia!

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What about you? Are you a parent to teens? What are you learning? Got any tips for me?

 

DIY/Crafts/ Featured/ FUN/DIY/ Seasonal

Snow Day Memories & 3 DIY Snow Paint Ideas

Snow-Paint-Collage

Have you ever made snow paint? It is one of the easiest DIY’s we have done & is lots of fun too!

We are on day two of blissful snow days. I’m wearing the same pajama pants that I wore all day yesterday and you would all just laugh at me if you saw the state of my crazy hair. It is 10:30am and even my husband is still walking around in his pajama pants, so we are truly taking advantage of the forced slow that snow brings!

Snow days are so different now that my girls are older (16, 15 & almost 13). I found myself reminiscing about snow days of old, and I remembered a few photos of one particular snow day from 2013.  My Avery was 10 and was so very excited to stay home from school. Those were the days when she was young and snow was magical & she couldn’t wait to get out in it. I dug the pictures out to keep the memories alive on this blog & to share them with you!

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I vividly remember my Avery waking up that day in her snuggly jammies with a cozy bathrobe wrapped around, but still her feet were bare.  Is it just me or do naked toes on cold days drive any of you other Mama’s out there nuts? To see naked feet on a snow day just makes me shiver.

“Put some socks on those cute feet, you are making me cold!” My kids have heard me say this more than once on cold winter days.

That morning, Avery made a list on the white board she kept in her room. I love that she made plans that took action. Now, during the last 2 snow days, the action is less as she lays in her bed with her ipod and Netflix.  I do know those cute toes got a coat of polish yesterday, so I guess that counts as movement!

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She did come our from her room yesterday afternoon and baked some cookies.  I can always count on my Avery to get in the kitchen on the weekends or days off of school to bake something yummy.  She LOVES to bake.  Back in 2013 on that fun snow day, we baked brownies while waiting for the afternoon sun to warm the day up a bit.  Look at that brownie batter all over her face! Now, the only mess is in my kitchen after she is done baking, but not on her face. Both are precious moments, though, and I know I will miss that messy kitchen someday, as much as I miss mess on her face!

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We continued to pass the time by making paper snowflakes. My goodness she was so adorable! I loved that stage with adult teeth but child face. So cute! Soon she will be getting braces on those teeth and look very much like the middle schooler that she is. Now if I want snowflakes, I make them myself. This is the first year she has not been too into crafty things. She is growing up!

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I snapped a picture of her boots warming by the vent.  She outgrew those long ago.  She now is in the stage of her feet staying the same size for more than a few months at a time. A blessing, as adult size shoes are about double the cost of children’s shoes.  She now wears the same size I do.

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DIY SNOW PAINT IDEAS

Before she went out into the snow, we decided to make some DIY Snow Paint. This is so simple to make. It is just food coloring and water.

~Fill squeeze bottles halfway with water.

~Add drops of food coloring until desired shade is achieved.

~Put your finger over the hole and shake to mix.

Kool-Aid Snow Paint

~Fill bottles up with water.

~Add a packet of kool-aid

~Shake to mix

~Enjoy the fun colors that smell wonderful!

Magic Snow Paint

~spinkle areas of snow with baking soda

~fill squeeze bottles or spray bottles with vinegar & a bit of water

~add food coloring for color & shake to mix

~have kids find the ‘magic snow’ by spraying the snow and watching for a bubbling reaction of the baking soda and vinegar

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Avery had fun that day painting snow, but the highlight of the day was when a local news crew saw her shoveling and stopped to ask her a few questions. They featured her snowman & asked her why she liked shoveling. Her answer? “Because you get to help out your parents and..it’s just FUN shoveling!”  Aww…be still my heart.  She told me today that even though she looked cute and composed, she was a little freaked out as they didn’t ask us to interview her and just started filming. We still have it locked and saved on our DVR. I need to figure out how to get it off and save it another way! It was fun to watch again today as a family. Her little voice was so sweet.

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After her big interview, she came in to warm up… with an icicle?!? Love the pink cheeks & the willingness to pose for a photo.  I find that my teenage girls are now much less likely to let me take their photo.  Now I just steal their instagram photos and use them as my own when needed, knowing they are already approved for the public.  Or pictures like the one below, where they are prepared & ready to smile!

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{Christmas 2015}

As much as I miss my girls and their younger versions, I am cherishing every moment of them as teens, as I know there will be a day coming where I will miss their teen version! I am so very thankful to be here, to be their Mom in every stage they go through. I love my girls…oh, and that man in the middle? He’s not so bad either!

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Do you have snow days in your part of the world?

What do you love to do on snow days?

Do you have littles or teens? How do you enjoy every stage?

SNOW-PAINT-HEART{for your pinning pleasure}

FAMILY/ Kids/Family

Surviving Summer

Colsie-2015{My Middle Girl-Colsie}

My 3 girls are now 15, 14 & 12, and boy does life feel suddenly different.  Well, really not so sudden, but definitely the past year since my oldest started high school.  I noticed it during the school year, but we still had structure to our days which made the change a bit easier.

This summer though?  I feel like we are just sort of surviving.  At least I’M feeling that way.  I think my girls are having a good summer.  I’ve struggled though.  Mostly because of health issues I’ve been having, but also because I find myself thinking back to the days of 3 little lovelies who were quite easy to entertain and loved going to the library, the park, the zoo, & swimming every chance they could get.  I remember our summers being clear and each day a chance to explore or do a craft or have a lemonade stand with their neighbor friends, or swim all day.

Now that they are teenagers and pre-teens, life is so different!  I know you Mom’s of teens know what I mean.  Gone are the days of cheap fun at the zoo or park.  Now their activities involve rides. Drop off’s and pick up’s.  And money! Teenagers are expensive!  I have found it has been quite an adjustment, one that I’m trying to embrace.

Teagan-Driving{My Teagan, Driving!}

My oldest started the summer off with driver’s education.  She had to be there for 3 hours a morning, 5 days a week for 2 weeks, then one more week of driving with an instructor.  She now has tennis every afternoon for an hour 1/2, 5 days a week.  She is also a cross-country runner and needs rides to the trail for practice several times a week.  These are just her activities and does not include her church life and social life.  She’s a busy girl and I’m a pretty proud Mom.

Todd-Avery-Soccer{My sweet husband and my soccer player, Avery}

My middle girl and youngest also have their own set of activities.  Violin lessons, tutoring, soccer, & swimming.

I’ve struggled this summer with juggling all of the things they are involved in and want to do, and trying not to neglect one while running another around.

If you add all of the doctor’s appointments and tests that I have had lately, and a kitchen remodel going on right now (our office is a makeshift kitchen) life can feel pretty unsettled and busy!

I know I am not alone in this feeling and that our schedule is pretty typical of most family’s.  I also know that I am very blessed to be at home and be the one to run my girls around.

Speaking of being blessed, this is my solution to surviving this busy summer.  To count my blessings.

Blessings:

It is amazing that we are actually, finally, getting our kitchen upgraded!  New countertops, cabinets, sink, faucet, refrigerator and flooring!  My brother-in-law is doing it for us and he is an awesome presence to have around.

It is amazing that my girls are all healthy and doing well this summer.  Emotional and physical health is a huge blessing.

It is amazing that I have access to all of the doctors and tests that I do, and that we have insurance, and that so far my tests results have been negative and normal.

It is amazing that my husband works so hard and allows me to be at home to take care of our girls and my health.

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“Contentment doesn’t mean you are happy in the hard times.  It means you are satisfied with life because you know that God has things in control. “

Oh, give thanks to the Lord for He is good, and His steadfast love endures forever. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phillipians 4:13

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How is your summer?  Are you a parent of teens? Can you relate to all of the rides it requires?

FAMILY/ FUN/DIY/ Holidays/Parties/ Kids/Family/ Leaving A Legacy/ RECIPES/ Sweets

My Avery Turns 12 + Cakepops!

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Oh if the whole world could know my Avery Rose!  I cannot believe she is 12 years old.  My baby…a year away from being a teenager.

She has been a joy her whole life, even during her 2’s & 3’s when the stubborn streak in her could turn a simple grocery shopping trip into the best lesson in humbleness for me as her Mom.

Now that she is 12, I rarely see that stubbornness used in negative ways, but boy do I see a strength in my girl that is going to take her far.  There is a resoluteness about her, a grounded-ness that shows the world that she is more concerned for others than herself. She has not gotten caught up in trying to impress those around her with artificial-ness, but instead shows her love through deeds and  gifts…most of which are homemade, whether through the arts or through her amazing ability to bake.

She lives for a celebration, whether a holiday or a birthday, because that is where her gifts thrive.  She goes around this house, usually in a sneaky manner so to ‘surprise’ those she loves, and will go all out in her creations to signify that what we are celebrating at the time is important.  She will spend hours on Pinterest coming up with ideas of what would be the best way to love on her family, and will come to me, perch on the end of my bed in the evenings when she has the most of my attention, and whisper her best laid plans. She shares with me as I am the one who has the car keys to get the supplies she would need, and she knows I too, love to love others in this way.  There is always a carefully drawn-up list of all that will be needed, and discussion led by her of how to make it the most frugal.

My girl had to take the reins in planning her own birthday this year, as I have been down and out the past 2 weeks with medication side effects that I won’t bore you with in this post. I will say it was severe and knocked me down harder than I have been knocked down physically since my chemo days.

Because I was not well, Avery was extra independent in her birthday planning, but still would come and sit at the end of my bed to fill me in on updates, as that had become just about the only place she could find me the last 2 weeks.  She was so sweet in reassuring me that she didn’t mind making her own birthday treats and plans.

We celebrated her birthday this past Sunday, and the day could not have been better.  The day before, my symptoms had let up in the early evening enough for me to get my girl out with her list and to buy her birthday supplies.  It was sweet time with her, the day was warm and it felt so good to get out. I was slower than usual, and honestly, the forced slow pace made the time even sweeter.

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She had her list in her hand and was on a mission at Target, and I followed with my heart just bursting with pride for my girl. She chose some fun chevron napkins that had a color in them that matched some leftover party balloons we already had at home.  She chose some Starburst candies to sprinkle on the table, careful to get the kind that had wrappers to match the napkins.

Her birthday plan was to come home from church, eat one of her favorite meals with lots of treats, then go with the family and a friend to a place in town called Defy Gravity.  It is an indoor trampoline park that is fairly new in town.  I loved the plan.  It was simple and doable.  I prayed that my stomach would feel well enough to watch my lovlies and their friends bounce up and down.

With her list in hand, we bought all the groceries we would need to make her favorite sandwiches.

Here was her menu plan:

Baked Ham & Cheese Party Sandwiches

Potato Chips

Strawberries

Mini Cans of Sprite

Cakepops

I saw her eyeing some fun easter mini-cupcakes, and she had been so sweet about being frugal that I told her to grab them.  They came a dozen and would be perfect to stick 12 candles in.  Her eyes and face lit up at my suggestion, and that alone was worth the artificial color and ingredients, plus the $2.99 they cost.

She scoured the dollar section for some treats to make treat bags for her friend and sisters.  She looked over some super cute treat bags, then said she didn’t need the fancy bags that cost over 3 dollars.  She came home and made her own adorable treat bags out of brown paper sacks and washi tape. Again, my heart almost burst. What a sweet, creative, frugal girl.

When we got home, Avery got busy making the table festive & blowing up her balloons, then got to work on the cake pops.  I thought she would be in the kitchen for hours making those cake pops.  Well, she wasn’t.  She made the cake part and we watched a family tv show as it baked.  When the cake cooled and it was time to make the pops, I left her alone in the kitchen and hoped she would have good luck.  It was not even 30 minutes later that she brought the finished cake pops up to me.  They were perfect and so cute.  She told me she had read up on how to make the perfect cake pop and how all the tricks that she learned really helped make it easy.

Here is the recipe she used, with tips from my Avery to follow:

Cake Pops

Ingredients:

1 cake mix + ingredients listed on box

1/3 cup prepared frosting

candy melts (available at most craft stores)

6 inch lollipop sticks (available at most craft stores)

sprinkles (optional)

food coloring (optional, to tint candy melt if desired)

styrofoam (to hold the pops upright to dry)

 

Instructions:

Prepare a boxed cake mix as directed on the box.  (Avery used a chocolate cake mix.)  Let the cake cool, then crumble the cake into fine crumbs with your hands in a large bowl.  Mix in about 1/3 cup of icing (Avery used store bought milk chocolate frosting) using your hands.  The mixture should be dense but not gooey.  Using a cookie scoop (Avery used a 1 T scoop) scoop out mixture.  Roll the mixture into your hand and pack it tightly into a ball.  Continue until mixture is gone.  It should make about 18 cake balls.

 

Coating:

Add about 5 candy melt morsels into a small jar and melt them in the microwave.  This will be used sort of as ‘glue’ to hold the cake onto the stick.  Dip your stick into the melted candy melt and quickly stick it into a cake ball at least half way down.  Repeat with remaining cake balls.  Set the balls onto a cookie sheet and freeze for about 10 minutes.

Put the rest of your candy melts into a microwavable jar and melt according to the package instructions.  If you are wanting to color your candy melt different colors, used several different jars and add desired color after the candy is melted.

Dip the cake pop into the jar, evenly coating it.  Let the coating drip off.  If using sprinkles, add immediately before coating sets. Place the cake pop right side up onto styrofoam.  Repeat for remaining pops.

 

Tips From Avery:

~using the candy melts as ‘glue’ is key.  Don’t skip this part!

~smaller balls are easier to work with…don’t make them too big!

~when dipping, just tip the stick in several directions instead of swirling.  This is a more gentle motion that will keep that cake ball on the stick.

~using candy melt coating is key! It easily covered dark chocolate and has the perfect consistency.

 

Avery 12th Bday

Her birthday morning came around and I woke up quite sick, still from side effects of medications.  I sent the family on to the early service at church, and knew I had a couple hours to get myself together as much as possible.  The kitchen was a mess from late night cake pop making, and I still needed to put together the sandwiches.  We had a 12:30 appointment at Defy Gravity and would spend about an hour and 1/2 there, so eating needed to take place between church and jumping.

I prayed the nausea would subside, and got to work.  I did fine until dealing with the slimy slices of ham.  Not the best texture or scent when one feels sick!   I just buckled down and did what I had to do. I took a bit of anti-nausea medication, had a few friends praying that I would feel well enough for the party, and prayers were answered.  I started to feel better just as everyone was eating their sandwiches, and I got to go watch my sweet girl jump and jump and jump! She even let her sisters bring a friend, so it was a lot of fun for everyone.  I am so thankful it all worked out, that I got to go, and that I am here to see my sweet girls grow up and celebrate these milestones with them.

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Avery Rose – I am so proud to be your Mom.  You make me smile every single day.  Keep being you and remember how very much you are loved!

Christmas/ FAMILY/ FUN/DIY/ Holidays/Parties/ Kids/Family/ Seasonal

Favorite Family Christmas Tradition

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Feeling Sentimental

I find myself so sentimental this Christmas!

I think it is because my girls are 15, 13 & 11 years old, and now that they are teens and preteens, I am wanting to just hold on to the few years we have left with them.  I’m really feeling how old they are, as I’ve noticed there are a few family traditions that are just not as exciting as they used to be. Our girls are getting older and naturally the things that excite them change. My oldest is a cross-country runner, so making and eating a bunch of Christmas cookies is not something she wants to engage in, as eating healthy is pretty important to her.  Our puzzle tradition?  I’m stuck doing it alone, as the girls are just too busy or too cool {grin} to sit with Mom and do a puzzle.

Another tradition that has fizzled out, and the one I’m mourning the most, is our ‘Steal-the-kids-from-thier-beds-to -go-look-at-Christmas-lights’ tradition.  They now stay up way too late for us to wake them up and steal them from their beds.  They are also at the age where being crammed in a car together late at night is the perfect recipe for sister drama!

Despite being so sad to give it up, I think back fondly to the many  years we did this favorite holiday tradition of mine. They may not be interested now, all 3 girls would say that it was one of their favorite memories of the holiday season, too.

 

Favorite Holiday Tradition

The tradition started way before the girls were born, when Todd and I were engaged & newlyweds.  His Mom would rent a limousine and Todd, his Mom, his brother & wife and I would relax in the limo while the driver took us around to the best neighborhoods in town to look at Christmas lights.  I remember loving it, and thought it was such a loving thing for Todd’s Mom to do.

When our kids got old enough to have interest, we started a similar tradition.  We decided that some weekend night in December we would put the kids to bed a bit early, then heat the car & steal them from their beds, tell them we were going on an adventure, and throw them -footie pajamas & all- into the car.  They absolutely loved it.

I have so many vivid images of the girls holding on to their Dad, squealing in delight with eyes bright as he carried them to the car.  I was always behind them, capturing the moment with the camera.  If they were not wearing footie pajamas, we would throw on their slippers and they, of course, always grabbed their favorite snuggly blanket, as we always skipped coats.

Holiday-Christmas-Lights-Collage{2010}

Dad’s job was to heat the car and carry them out.  My job was to gather the Christmas music & a small snack for each girl.  I would often take a thermos of hot cocoa for Todd and I and sippie cups for the girls.  Their favorite CD’s for so long was Strawberry Shortcake Very Berry Christmas & The Chipmunks Christmas. We had another one with kids Christmas songs on it –the favorites being ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause’ (which they all would say “Eww!  Gross!!” and ‘All I Want For Christmas Is My 2 Front Teeth’ which drew extra laughter when one of them actually WERE missing their 2 front teeth.

I would usually get snacks from the Dollar Store.  I’d find a fun little Christmas purse or small stocking, and load it up with a package of crackers and some Christmas candy.  They just loved it–especially the sweet treats. Hint: suckers are great.  They keep little mouths busy and the volume of the car down.

Stawberry-shortcake-Christmas-CD{Notice the glass of wine I took with me that year}

As the girls got older, we had to get smarter.  I remember running around the house setting all the clocks back so we could get them to bed earlier.  It became a guessing game every weekend in December, “I bet it is going to be tonight!” they would say…and often they were right.

The image I cannot get out of my brain is the girls being carried out by their dad. Like I said, I got the view from behind, their little legs would be wrapped around their Dad with their fuzzy slippers hanging, their little heads peaking at me from his shoulder.  Those legs kept growing longer every year and his struggle to lift them each year grew.  Even as they got older, he still carried them out so they wouldn’t get snow on their slippers.  It was so much fun!

Holiday-Christmas-Lights-2{“Slow down so I can get a clear picture!”}

The lights were always so great to look at, and we would choose our favorites as a family.  I’ve heard of families having a holiday lights tradition where they would leave a plate of cookies at the house that was voted the family favorite.  We never did this but it is a fun idea.

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Holiday Lights Contest

Do you have a favorite house in the neighborhood?   Do you know someone who goes all out? Is it you?  If so, enter USA TODAY Holiday Lights contest to be in with a chance to win a $5,000 gift card, and help choose America’s 10 best public light displays!

Participants Can:

  • Enter the USA TODAY contest by uploading a photo of your own holiday lights display on the USA TODAY website. The winner of this photo contest gets a $5,000 gift card from USA TODAY.
  • Vote for your favorite holiday lights display from a group of 10 pre-selected public organizations. Each voter will also have the chance to win one of two prizes: A $1,ooo gift card or a $1,500 gift card.

 

New Family Traditions

I have been thinking hard about some new traditions we can implement with our girls now that they are older.  I know that they would be into entering in the USA TODAY contest above, as a gift card of any value would be exciting, much less one in the thousands!  They also are at an age where they love giving an opinion and love a good competition.

I know any traditions that involve their friends or cousins would be super appealing to them right now.  Or, sadly, one that involves shopping!

Have any ideas for me?

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

Do you put up holiday lights each year?

 

FAMILY/ Kids/Family/ Spiritual/ Sponsored

Save A Life With A Quarter

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Vitamin Angels for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

There is just something about watching a young child play.

The constant motion.  They can’t help themselves.  Have you noticed?  A child rarely just stands still.  They are either swinging their arms around or dancing from side to side, walking on their tip toes or running when they should be walking.

I have a niece whose default mode of transportation is twirling.  She just twirls and twirls until she gets to her destination! It is a beautiful, uninhibited sight to behold. She is carefree, full of life, &full of joy–just as young kids should be.

Kids are in awe of the world around them and want to experience it to the fullest.  They notice things we adults are to distracted and busy to see.  They walk around with their chins raised up, curiosity getting the best of them, exploring eyes & hands that are just itching to touch everything–especially the things they are told not to!

Children walk around with a spark in their eye & a face as bright as the sun.

But not all children.

There are children around the world whose spark is literally gone from their eyes.  Replaced by dullness. Lethargy. A weakened immune system that causes bugs to get into digestive systems which cause infections that take away precious lives. Lives that can be saved by something so small that it would cost one only a quarter. Yes, Even the smallest gift can change a child’s life

What can a quarter buy?

VITAMIN A.

And Vitamin A Saves Lives.  I know this because I know about Vitamin Angels.

Vitamin Angels helps at-risk populations in need–specifically pregnant women, new mothers, and children under five–gain access to lifesaving and life changing vitamins and minerals.

That quarter we use to flip? It can reduce mortality in at-risk children by up to 24% by providing one dose of vitamin A, twice a year.  Vitamin A supplements are the least expensive solution to addressing preventable child deaths.

Even the smallest gift can change a child’s life

I don’t know about you, but my head can barely wrap around that!  That simple coin that we flip to determine which of my kids has to do the dishes that night — that very coin can save a life! What? Who knew? Awesome!

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Va_take_3

Get involved. Donate now.

Want to help?  Yes, so do I.  So here is an idea.

How about this Christmas, in lieu of giving a gift, you donate to Vitamin Angels in honor of whoever is on your list that you know would get it.  Someone who will understand how this would be a gift that lasts beyond the holidays and someone who would even want to continue the legacy of giving.

When you make a donation you will receive a downloadable or sharable card that shows the donation to Vitamin Angels.  That. Is. Cool.

Just last night I unpacked our Christmas decorations and found 3 mini stockings with each of my girls initials on them.  I now know what I will do with these adorable stockings.  I will make a donation for each of my 3 girls, and put the card in the stocking for them to open on Christmas morning.  After all, this season is all about giving.  It will be the perfect way to get minds onto what really matters on Christmas morning; remembering how precious life is. So precious that the MOST precious life was given, which is the very reason why we celebrate Christmas in our family.

If you want to do the same, Vitamin Angels is having and end of the year giving campaign–which runs now through midnight December 31, 2014.

Visit their website:  http://www.vitaminangels.org

Make a donation: www.vitaminangels.org/gift

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You can also find Vitamin Angels on Facebook

www.facebook.com/vitaminangels

& Twitter  

@vitaminangels

Visit Sponsor's Site

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