Monday, December 9, 2013

Focus on Jesus?

While cleaning and packing after Christmas,
I found that the
very well played with nativity scene

had changed it's focus.

Instead of all of the pieces facing the new baby Jesus.

They were almost all facing the


A lone caroler singing Christmas Carols.

I was struck with the thought ...

how often do we get so

Wrapped Up

in the

entertainment of our holidays.

That we forget what the real focus is all about?
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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

FREE Christmas Activity Fun Pages

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We plan to have a big family Thanksgiving meal on Thursday ... so far there are 34 or 35 adults and 21 or so kids.   So we've got to come up with something for the kids to do.   I found so many fun things, I decided to do a few posts for others to find something for their kids to as well.

Many of these could be used as "activity place mats" for the kids while waiting for dinner or snacks.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Wish Lists and Gift Giving

I posted this essay in the Fall of 2010 on my personal blog, when I found it again, I thought it was good enough to post again on my Homeschooling blog.   And while I haven't played Farmville in like ... forever ... most of this essay is just as true for me today as it was then.


I'm going to be philosophical today - for a little while - and I'll probably make many people really mad and offend others.  I'm sorry, please don't take it too personal - I'm just trying to sort my thoughts.  Story was sitting here trying to figure out my Myres Briggs letters ... she says I'm a Master Mind.  A thinker and a planner.  Yep, pretty much.  So if you think this is weird - just chalk it up to the ramblings of a "mad" scientist brain.

Anybody who knows us well, knows that we've had some very hard years.  We lived in CO and the Ref had the same job for 12 years.  In our past 10 years of marriage (out of 23), The Ref has only twice had a "wonderful" job.  The first time he held the job for 5 months, long enough for us to sell our house and move ... before a mass layoff caught us by surprise, and after months of job hunting, we moved in with his parents.  Then he was layed off 2 1/2 years ago, and a year later ended up with a great job that needed security clearance - but because of the events after we moved down here, nothing ground shaking or unusual, in fact everyone who knows was shocked "they threw a flag at that?", he was considered high risk - since he had a single flag on his security report - just one (as far as we know).  After a month of being there and driving home on the weekends, he came home to stay.  That weekend - my mom died.  We were expecting Sunshine in the fall.  Anyway, our budget always has been very tight - and we do our best to be good stewards of what we have been given.

Every year I ask people, "What can we get you for Christmas?" ... and every year, most of the people I ask either ask for stuff we could never afford or say, "Surprise us!"   And they end up with a knick knack that we find at the last minute.  Ref's not big on shopping except last minute anyway.   But I really want to show you that we love you and care about you - and I do want you to like what I give to you.  In the past, I've made soap, painted gourds, made Wisteria wreathes (twisted the wreaths myself too), tie dyed shirts, Punch embroidery pictures, given nice things from our wedding gifts that I didn't have room to store, put Christmas tea bags in tea cups when I had far too many in our little house. ... Don't YOU remember what you give for gifts?   It was with lots of love that I made those - and hopes that you would actually like them.

Yesterday, I was reading Flylady, and she made a good point.  By asking you what you want, we are first of all trying to be good stewards of our money - and not waste it.  It really is God's money - and I don't want to  use it buying garbage or clutter that you will have to take the time to return or will throw in the garbage or send to Goodwill a month after Christmas.  Granted, I'm all thumbs and often make my own gifts - so you can't return it or send it to Goodwill for the most part.   So secondly, I'm trying to keep from cluttering up your house - especially if you are like me and I don't want to offend you and so I keep all the little things that you give to me.  But am I being a good steward of my space and time?   I want you to be happy with what you get - and I assume you want us to be happy too?  Thirdly, I don't want to waste either of our time - me making or hunting for a good gift, or you taking the time to return or dispose of something you don't like or can't use.   Fourth, I find the holiday's to be a MAJOR source of stress.  I would rather just hand out money to everybody and be done with it really ... but I feel really silly giving everybody a $1 bill or a stack of pennies or dimes.   Somehow it seems less cheap to give you a Hershey candy bar, than to give you that dollar.  It just does, maybe it's the pretty package?  But for sure, there is a lot less stress in knowing you like a jar of planter's peanuts or Extra Butter Popcorn, than buying that and hoping you like it.

I know - It's the thought that counts.  But just a little bit - by giving a gift that is unwanted and unloved - aren't you being selfish by not wanting to get to know me / us enough to give something that will make us smile and get excited?  Because I would really like to get you something that you DO like - even if all I can afford is your favorite candy bar or a box of tea or coffee.  You are right - the thought does count - and thinking about that persons likes and loves and space when you shop shows that you really were thinking about THEM and not just who you can dump your "garage sale find" or "90% off special" onto.  People DO DO that you know, even if at this point you are thinking, OH, THE NERVE!   I'm not saying anybody in my family actually does that.   But still, does the gift say, "I was thinking about you!"... or "You were an afterthought and this is what was on hand".    And I'm really not talking about carefully home made gifts that the giver spent HOURS making, only to have the receiver dislike it just because they wanted a fancy gadget - we all know the "Grandma, I didn't want a hand knitted from alpaca wool in my favorite color (that I wrote down last year) sweater ... I wanted an Ipod!" ... attitude.

And then there are people like us - our budget is SLIM.  Depending on how many games Ref refs this fall, we may have a few more dollars, or a few less.  The BULK of our budget will go into sending out cards and letters.  I hope we can manage pictures this year - but then, that is one reason I keep this blog, so those who love pictures, like me, have a place to come see them and take the ones you love for yourself (onto your computer) or leave them to come visit when you feel like it.  I'm sure a few are like me, you love the pictures, but with all the hullabaloo, you fail to get the picture labeled and put away carefully - and suddenly you have a picture that you are clueless about who, when, and have this picture.  I'm sorry, but printing pictures is mostly a luxury right now.

We can't afford much, but if you happen to like Hershey Kisses, and I know you do, maybe I can treat you to a bag of them.  Do you have a yearning for Chocolate covered cherries?  Gum?  Candy Corn?  Chocolate Chip Cookies?   Do you really like the soap I've made in the past?  Bath salts?  Medicinal salves?  Candles?    Maybe I have something that is clutter for me, but you would love?  Toys or clothes in nearly new shape that the kids don't need, but would be one less thing for you to buy?   Those are things I can manage - and it would make my heart so glad to know that you will enjoy the gift that is given with a smile.

When I say that we love to get hand me down/ around, I'm telling the truth.  I believe in recycle, reduce, REUSE!  I believe in GREEN living.  Not because of  carbon footprint, or global warming, but because I believe in being a good steward of what I use and I am given ... and I'm may be that way to a fault as I can't bare to waste anything.

So I will provide wish lists - not because we expect anything off of the list or are ungrateful, but because we don't want you to waste your money and time buying and wrapping things that become clutter in our house.  And we will ask you what you like and would want, because we really want you to LOVE what you get.

And even if you get something different, the wish list will give you a good idea of what types of things we do like, and you can better hit the ball park.

I think this should be true of everybody - not just us.  Why are we ashamed to say, "I do have an Amazon Wish List.   My favorite color is yellow, I collect lambs (though right now, only cyber lambs on farmville), I love quilts, sunflowers, and bright happy colors.  I love chocolate and pecan pie and turkey legs.  My dream is to own the new Kindle DX (so I can read books again).  And what I need most is reading glasses. ..... and so on ...  (No, I don't expect to get any of this - unless you play farmville and want to send me another pumpkin lamb?  Just kidding.)"

One of my friends, that knows me pretty well, sent me a picture on my phone yesterday ... a fluffy lamb pumpkin.  It was so cute.  And it really made my day!
His wife slips me chocolate bits and makes me a big salad when she comes over - I feel loved.

So here are a few of the thoughts from Flylady .... that started me thinking about how we (I) do Christmas.

And if you are a close family member and you know I usually try to buy for you ... please give me some ideas!  And THANKS SO MUCH!

Testimonial: De-SHE-ing Christmas Presents
flyladykelly, 10/23/2010 4:45 am

Dear FlyLady,

Our family has always has the issue of being too polite around the holidays.

Whenever one of us (especially my epitome-SHE mother) is asked what we want for Christmas, we always answer "Oh, you don't have to get me anything," and thus get stuck with clothes that don't fit or are "not my style" or trinkets that become just clutter.

Last year (my first year as a married woman) I attempted to lay down the law with my mom. We went through our usual song and dance after which I said, "Ok mom here's the thing. I know I don't have to get you anything, but I want to and if I get you something you don't like, then I've wasted our time and money (my mom HATES waste of any kind lol), so in the next couple of weeks could you make a list for each of you (My mom, step-dad, and 15 year old brother), so I have a clue. It would be one less thing for me to stress about."

After some himming and hawwing she looked at me and said, "Well when you put it that way. I guess it would be easier. When you were kids, I could just peek at the letters you sent to Santa and have an idea what you wanted. It was easier. Ok, we'll do it, but only if you guys will do it too, ok?"

A couple of days later, I received a message from my mom on Facebook titled "Lists" and sure enough, there were three lists of gifts they would actually enjoy. My brother is very active in Boy Scouts and needed some new uniform parts because he'd worn through his old ones. He thought it was "way cool" (LOL) to get them from us. My step-dad (who is IMPOSSIBLE to shop for) asked for ink for his printer so he could print off family photos. My mom wanted baseball card holders and a 5 inch notebook to put them in (they were hanging out in a showbox at the time) and new black trouser socks, yes SOCKS! I would have never thought of any of those things without the lists!

And we were able to use the rest of the list to use as a shopping guide for birthdays for the next year.

This year we're starting early.

My husband's birthday is at the end of October and my mom and I have started writing our "Santa letters" already so we can avoid the holiday rush and actually enjoy this special time of year which we think is "way cool" too.

A Flutter-baby in Florida

Kelly here: Be kind to your family and friends. Ask for a list and provide one to them.

Set your shopping budget and then compare the list to your budget. You know you will be giving gifts that will be used and appreciated.

It is better to Speak your Mind Now Than Whine Silently Later
flylady, 10/25/2010 5:49 pm

Dear FlyLady,

My stepmother and I rub each other the wrong way, but we do get along most of the time. For the past 3 Christmas's, I've being doing what Flylady suggested and asking people what they actually want for Christmas. My stepmother has come up with things I would never have thought of giving her - certain brands/colours of sewing thread, wheels for her patchwork cutter, stamps and notepaper/envelopes, travel sized handcreams, emery boards etc. All small inexpensive items but what she wanted. Last Christmas she said that she loved the fact that I asked her what she wanted and actually listened and got her what she asked for.

This week - in October! - she came over and handed me a small container with one patchwork pin in it. Then she smiled and said that she knew I would soon be asking what she wanted for Christmas, so she was letting me know in advance as she thought of things.

So FlyLady has not only changed how I think about Christmas, but how other people think as well.

Thank you Flylady.

Sarah - Flying in Australia


FlyLady here; No one loves a martyr not even you! Ask and you shall be given. I want you to take 5 minutes right now and make out your simple wish list. Share it with your friends and family. We don't have to act the martyr. Don't forget to fill your own stocking too. It is always fun to trade up and share with a friend. You fill her stocking and she fill yours. That way you can be surprised. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Painting with Shaving Cream

Blast from Our Past :  Sept. 3, 2009

What happens when you mix a bunch of little kids – with a squirt of shaving cream – and a few drops of paint?

DSCI3244 DSCI3217 DSCI3218 DSCI3219 DSCI3220
I thought I said Little Kids?
Pony didn’t want to touch it, but enjoyed herself after I squished her hands into it.
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Sister’s boys joined in and had a blast too.
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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Story's Newest Book! - THE ANKULEN

Hello there! Story here commandeering my mom's blog. (Don't worry, I have her permission!)

Anyways, I'm here to show you the cover for my newest book, The Ankulen, which will be out September 5th. It's a delightful little story, if I do say so myself, and I really can't wait to share it with the world.

Fifteen-year-old Jen can't remember her imagination. She knows she had one once, though, and honestly, she'd like it back. It's been eight years. One day she finds a young boy who claims to be one of her imaginary friends and that her imaginary world is being eaten by a hydra-like monster called the Polystoikhedron. He helps her find the Ankulen, a special bracelet that had given the ability to bring her imagination to life and together they embark on a quest to find friendship, healing, and perhaps even some family.

This will be my fourth book, and my first full-length novel. Mom actually hasn't read it yet, though I've asked her to, but everyone who HAS read it has quite enjoyed it.

If you have a goodreads account, you can head over here and mark it as to-read.

I shall be having a blog party on September 6th in honor of the release, in case anyone's interested in heading over to my blog and taking part. It's going to be a lot of fun with a giveaway, mad libs, a quiz if I can put it together, and even some worldbuilding.

Kendra E. Ardnek  is the eldest daughter in a homeschooling family of four. She has been making up stories since an early age and published her first book, Sew, It's a Quest, when she was sixteen.

When she isn't writing, she's usually knitting, crocheting,  making swords out of paint-stir sticks, or looking up random facts. You can follow her writing adventures on her blog,

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

On a Whimm: Tea Time Thursday - Ladybugs (with Strawberry Ladybug Tutorial)

On a Whimm: Tea Time Thursday - Ladybugs (with Strawberry Ladybug Tutorial):
"Strawberry Ladybug Tutorial
Chocolate (I used a huge Hershey Kiss that the kids were given for Christmas - just melted it down. The same would work with a chocolate bunny from Easter!)

This caught my eye because Story LOVES ladybugs and LOVES strawberries. Something to put in the next party or something we could take to a church function sometime. They are SO CUTE! Click on the title to check it out.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Morning Visitor

Blast from the Past :  May 16, 2009

It was a Blue Jay.

Isn't he cute? Flew back and forth peeping into our bathroom window and pecking at it for over half an hour.

I think we scared it away laughing with delight.
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Monday, June 10, 2013

H is for Holy Hands


H is for Holy Hands

First we talked about what we should NOT do with our hands.

Things like
Making Big Messes
Tearing things up
and other things that 3-5 year olds related to.

My group came  up with a LONG list ...
so I'm pretty sure I was
not the first teacher to discuss this with them.

Next we talked about things we SHOULD do with our hands

Cleaning Up
Eating with Manners
Careful School Work
Help Mom
Help Brothers and Sisters

Finally, we talked about what GOD wanted us to do with our hands

Lift Our Hands in Praise
Do Good to Others
Praise God
Help Others
Read the Bible
Sit Quietly in Church


We traced the kids hands,
and let them glue their hands at the top of their H.

To show lifting their Hands to God to  use.

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