A very different kind of Thanksgiving

Growing up, Thanksgiving was always a time to get together with lots of friends and family.  Big crowds, lots of food, lots of talking and a few people falling asleep on the sofa after too much turkey and pie – good times, although often exhausting!! 

Now that Rob and I are on our own away from our families, it’s our turn to be the hosts.  We love to cook and entertain, so we are looking forward to hosting big gatherings for the holidays as well as many sport-watching events. 

Unfortunately, Hubby isn’t home for Thanksgiving this year so Lovebug and I are on our own.  We’ve been extremely blessed and have had several offers to join other families for Thanksgiving, and we were planning to join some friends but yesterday we changed our minds.

Why?

Because sometimes as a parent you just have to make the hard calls! Lovebug and I have been extremely busy the past couple of months between traveling to visit friends and having family come visit us.  We’ve been WAY off of our normal routine for a couple months now, and it is catching up with us!  Lovebug thrives on routine, and gets all out of sorts after too many days away from it.  Yesterday as she and I were both extremely emotional (for no apparent reason), we realized that we were both feeling the effects from all the go-go-go and needed a break.  It came out that neither one of us was looking forward to being around a big crowd of people without Hubby, or about all the shopping and cooking that would be required.  Lovebug expressed to me that she was uncomfortable about being at someone else’s house with all the noise & people.  In fact, she was showing a lot of anxiety about it. 

The fact that she was feeling this way even though she’s been to this friend’s house many times and she’s very comfortable there, was a sign for me to pay extra attention to her signals and figure out what her body needs.

With her SPD, she is easily over-stimulated when there are lots of noises, smells, & sights to take in.  When she’s well-rested, well-fed, and well-exercised, she can handle these crowded times for a while, as long as she also has some time to recover afterward.  Lately, her body is extremely tired from all the things we’ve had going on.  She’s also super excited about Daddy coming home soon yet sad he’s not here for Thanksgiving, so that throws her body off a bit too as she tries to handle all the emotions. 

So, we decided to make our own special Thanksgiving here at home! After we talked about it and had a plan, it was obvious in her body language how much relief she felt.  I immediately felt a weight off my shoulders as well because I know it will help her “recharge” while giving us some special time together.  We are both super excited about our new plan for our first Thanksgiving on our own.

 

Here is our new low-key plan for Thanksgiving 2011:

* Get up and watch the Macy’s Day Parade in our PJs

* Do Thanksgiving crafts

* Cuddle up on the sofa and read lots of books

* Eat homemade chicken nuggets, french fries and mashed sweet potatoes (Lovebug’s requested menu) – why not?

* Start decorating for Christmas

* Watch Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving

 

The day after Thanksgiving while all the Black Friday shoppers are rushing around the stores, we are going to head to the movie theatre for the new Muppets movie!  We’ll also spend some time baking and working on a puzzle.

Sounds like a great idea to me! 

Christmas Gift Challenge: Give more, Spend less

Yes, I know it’s not Christmas time yet, and I’m all for waiting until after Thanksgiving…but, I know many of you will be doing some big shopping the day after Thanksgiving, so I wanted to get this posted before then.

Last year I wrote about my Top 10 list of low-tech, low-cost gifts that kids will love!  A couple  years ago as a family we made the decision to cut way back on the gifts we gave each other so that we could focus more on giving to charities and families in need instead.  Our daughter was our inspiration as she has one of the most generous spirits I’ve seen in a child.  Christmas is about celebrating Jesus’ birthday, not our own, so we want to celebrate in a way that honors Him.

This year, I extended the cut-back to the grandparents by way of a “Christmas Challenge”.  Here is the challenge that I sent to them:

Christmas Challenge & “Wish List”

Ok, grandparents! We have a challenge for you that we hope you will accept.   In keeping with our family’s “motto” around Christmas – we like to focus on “Giving more, Spending less” and this year we are focusing on spending less money, but getting things that are meaningful to people. 

Our challenge to you (and it’s one that we are doing as well), is to give Lovebug a gift that costs $10 or less (not counting shipping).   Yep, just $10!!! You can do it!  It can be one item, or a few items, but just $10 TOTAL.  I PROMISE you that there are a ton of things she absolutely LOVES that cost less than that.  In fact, most of the things she enjoys the most are inexpensive (like cardboard boxes and sticks!).  We have so many toys, many of which never get touched, so we really don’t need any more unless they are the few small toys listed below.

I hope you will consider this a FUN challenge and enjoy it rather than be upset with it.  We are really working with Lovebug this year to pick out a few things for $1-2 for some of her friends too, so we’re talking a lot about how you can get really fun, meaningful things for very little money!   And she’s already expecting this from family too since we’ve been talking about it.  I PROMISE you that she doesn’t care about opening a huge box, or unwrapping lots of things.  She really doesn’t.  She gets so excited over a couple little things, that actually if there is too much some of it just gets ignored. 

So, here is a list of ideas or things to choose from. Feel free to add your own.

· Small (beanie baby size) stuffed animal – especially if of an unusual animal. 

· Shovel, or any digging tool that can be used in the backyard

· Stickers

· Ornament

· Books – the Dollar Tree, or Dollar Spot at Target have lots of cute little board books she still loves

· Foam craft kits – Joann’s or Walmart usually have them, sometimes holiday themed

· Punch balloons – in the party section at Walmart, the ones you blow up and they have a rubber band on the end so they can “punch” them – she loves these! Great for sensory input, and playing outside

· Balls – any balls! Bouncy ones, ones with glitter inside them – Target always has a lot in the kids area

· TOOB sets – These are the little sets of hard animals/people sold in plastic tubes.  They sell these at Michaels for under $10.  She loves these and collects them.  ANY of them are good, even if we end up with a duplicate, she’ll use it.  We only have a few sets, so you’d be good with any of them.

· We do NOT need candy! We have so much already we are getting rid of.  Good ideas, that she loves for treats are: boxes of raisins, individual packs of unsweetened applesauce, or Gluten Free granola bars

· Sensory toys – those squishy balls with “hair” – not real hair, but little plastic things sticking out all over them.   Or bendable/posable toys (think like gumby/pokey – we have those, but things like that), pipe cleaners

· Can of playdough, or package of Model Magic (Michael’s sells individual packages)

· Cute straws

· Fun shaped or holiday theme post it notes

· Silly putty

· Packages of glow sticks, bracelets, etc from the Dollar Store

· Sidewalk chalk – we use up a TON of this and you can get it at the dollar store, we don’t need the fancy kind

· Hot Wheels cars – just the regular, little ones that are sold at Walmart for .99 – she loves those!

· Recycleables! You could send her toilet paper tubes, egg cartons, and blue painters tape and she’d have a blast

 

(As I read this list to Lovebug to make sure it was all things she would enjoy she added, “They could even send me a GIANT cardboard box with nothing in it, and I would love it because I could make things with it!”) – What a great kid!

There’s a good list to get you going!

 

You all do not need to get anything for the grownups, but if you really want to, here is our “Under $10” list.  We’ll save the more expensive list for our birthdays! Ha Ha! (I included this one because my mom’s love language is gifts and she loves to give something!)

  • Coffee Mug, either for at home or a travel one (Not sure you can get those cheap anymore though)
  • Chocolate covered espresso beans (Hubby loves these!)
  • Puzzle
  • Candle – we love any of the food scents
  • Ornament
  • Soft, fuzzy socks for me

 

If you are looking for a great way to give to a good charity, then please choose something from this online World Vision Gift Catalog and buy something for people that need basic food and clean water.  This is a great organization that we have been supporting for a long time with our “adopted” child in a village there.  We will be choosing something from this catalog to purchase as a family.  Will we get a goat? A couple rabbits? A duck? Hmmmm.

Happy Veteran’s Day!

Veteran’s Day is a day to honor and remember anyone who has served our country in the military – past or present.  Unlike Memorial Day, which is to honor those who gave their life for our country, Veteran’s Day honors those that have passed or are still alive. 

Today, on 11-11-11, Lovebug and I joined with other families from Hubby’s brigade for a 5K walk/run on post in honor of our loved ones that are serving.  We gathered for a prayer and the national anthem before the air horn signaled the start of the walk at exactly 9:11 – the significance of course being that it was the events of that particular date that began this war.

To the troops that are serving or have served our great country,

Thank you for your many sacrifices and your commitment to preserving our country’s freedoms.  Thank you for your early mornings, your late nights, your missed holidays, birthdays, and other special events.  Thank you for putting your life on the line in order to help, protect, and bring freedom to so many.  “Thank you” is not enough, but I mean it with all my heart.

To the families of our troops,

Thank you as you too sacrifice many things in order to support your loved one.  Thank you to the spouses for the early mornings, late nights and long days you have as you manage your household and take care of your children without your partner.  Thank you to those that remain faithful to their spouse, who love and support them unconditionally as they do their job.  Thank you to the children who are being brave and sharing their parent with the children of the world.  Your role may be very different, but is equally important.  Thank you.

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To my favorite soldier,

I love you and I miss you dearly.  I can’t wait to have you home again.  In the meantime, I thank you for your willingness to answer God’s call to serve your country – not just once, but twice.  I am honored to be on this roller coaster with you and will always be here to support you and love you 100%.  I hope you always know how much I admire and respect you as a person, a husband, a father, and a soldier.  It is a true blessing to be married to not only my best friend, but also my HERO. 

I love you always,

Your Bride

Halloween 2011

October was a busy month for us! We participated in several Fall & Halloween activities and had so much fun! I can’t possibly share all of the pictures I took, but here are some of my favorite highlights!

 

While my parents were visiting, we went to a local pumpkin patch

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Lovebug had a Halloween party with her Girl Scout troop

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We went Truck or Treating with our FRG

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Finally, we went Trick or Treating with our friends, and Granny stayed at home to hand out candy!

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She insisted I wear her wolf wears!

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It was cold and rainy, so she put on her jacket and got mistaken for Minnie Mouse! Little did people know there was a bat hiding under there.

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Her stash from all the events.  That’s not even all of it, because I already pulled out a huge bag for Granny to take home.  Crazy, isn’t it? We’ll be giving away almost all of it.  She got to pick 3 pieces for Halloween night, and 3 pieces to have later.  We don’t eat most of those candies anyway, but she just has fun doing the activities. 

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I hope you and your family had a safe and happy Halloween!

Homemade Detective Kit

Since Lovebug’s birthday fell right in the middle of her Science Detective Camp I thought it would be fun to give her a present that went along with the theme.  I didn’t want to spend much money because the camp itself was her main present, but I also wanted something for her to open.  I was thinking something homemade would be great….but what?  Then, one day I was surfing around on the web and I came across this blog post describing a homemade detective kit they had made.  I was so excited and went straight to work making my own for my newest detective!

Here is the end result!

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I used a simple photo storage box that I bought at a local craft store for $2.00.  Then I decorated it myself by drawing footprints, and putting my own fingerprints on it.

 

Inside the box was this note explaining what was inside:

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Here are some close-ups of the items:

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1. Detective badge – I bought a “make your own keychain” from the craft store for $.99 and made my own insert.

2. Journal – Found a cute notebook in the $1 section, and glued my cover over theirs

3. Speciman swaps made from a travel size package of Q-tips

 

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4. Evidence Bags – you can find these little bitty ziploc type bags in the beading section of your local craft store.  They didn’t have any small packages when I went, but I got 250 bags for $5.  I’m sure she’ll use them up!

5. Fingerprint lifting tape – just regular tape. Like I said, this kit requires imagination!  However, if you want REAL lifting tape, I found some here.  Might have to try that sometime!

6. Fingerprinting Kit – a pad of “washable” (but it’s not very washable) ink, and some blank index cards

 

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7. Magnifying glasses – I found a package of 3 for $5.  2 of them are “secret” ones that fold out, adding to the excitement.

8. Brushes – Paint section at the craft store.  I think I paid $1.99 each to get decent ones.

9. Flashlight – already had at home

 

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Everything together!

 

She absolutely LOVED it!! She told me over and over how much she loved this, and immediately got to work looking for fingerprints and collecting evidence.  I did have to make a rule that no food “specimens” could be kept in her room after she used ketchup as fake blood and was planning to keep it forever.

Who says kid’s toys need to be expensive? 

4th of July on Fort Bragg

Yesterday, Lovebug and I went to the 4th of July celebration on post.  It was one HOT, crazy day!  I was able to reserve a spot ahead of time by paying $25 for a 10×10 foot space with a canopy tent already set up for me. SO glad I did – totally worth it!  If Hubby had been here, I could have paid the $10 for a spot and set up our own tent, but I didn’t want to mess with that myself!  We had a great spot! We had a front row seat to see the paratroopers free-fall demonstration – always cool! I even got to share it with some good friends and it was so nice having the company!

It was crazy hot though!! Next year I will show up a little later, and with more ICE :)  We took tons of water and food though, so we were good, but I wasn’t thinking clearly and forgot a couple things that would have been a HUGE help.  Hubby’s Camelbak, and our large thermos that I could have filled with ice.  Oh well.  Thankfully they had a large water tank there filled with ice cold water that was available for FREE, so we filled our water bottles many times.

The kids area was NUTS! $7 for "all you can play" got us 3 bounce houses.  There were many more to choose from, but it was too hot (earlier in the day), or the lines were insanely long (later in the day).  Good thing Lovebug was happy with 3, and I consider it $7 well spent for her enjoyment.

Charlie Daniels was one of the performers, and being from Texas, I was so excited to hear him! Hubby and I both love his music and I was so sad that he wasn’t here to enjoy it with me.  As for the actual performance, we didn’t get to see too much, but we did enjoy listening to it.  Since our spot were no where near close enough to see the music stage, we walked over there for a bit to see about getting a couple pictures for Hubby.  We couldn’t get close enough to really see, and it was right in the SUN! After a couple songs, we went back to our shade and listened to the rest of it from there!  That was good enough for me and I enjoyed hearing it live. Had we been in the FRONT, it would have been awesome – I love Charlie Daniels and he plays a mean fiddle!  But, being in the back of the crowd wasn’t so exciting.   Gotta take your pick – reserve your spot with a canopy on one part of the field, see the parachute show and flag ceremony up close, or stake out a spot in front of the music stage.  Depends on your preference.  I was happy with our chosen spot.

Around 8:20 PM, just as they were posting the state flags, it started lightening and the sky turned super dark with rain clouds.  Lots of people started leaving.  We decided to hang on until the flags were done….until the winds went nuts and it started raining!  So, then we headed toward the car.  As we were walking, in the rain, we heard the lady start to sing the National Anthem.  So, what do Lovebug and I do? We stop in the rain, place our hands over our hearts and listen to it.  I figure if she can keep singing, we can wait 2 minutes.   I loved that both Lovebug and I stopped at the same time, and she turned around to tell me to put my hand over my heart just as I was doing it.  I didn’t even have to ask her to stop and show that respect.  Hubby would be so proud!

After that, as we continued walking toward the car in the rain, all of a sudden the rain stopped raining hard and was just barely coming down.  Suddenly we hear this BOOM and look up to see that we now have a PERFECT, front row "seat" to the fireworks show!! It was awesome! We stood there on the side of the road, looking right over the trees and watched the show.  Then, we finished walking to the car, and because of our careful planning on where we parked, we made it home in 20 minutes!  I was thrilled with that since I had heard stories of being stuck in traffic for over an hour to get home, even on post.

All in all, it was a great day!  I asked Lovebug if she thought it was worth going, and she said "definitely!", so I’m sure we’ll go again and I can’t wait to go celebrate with my Hubby next time!

Enjoy the slideshow!

Emily’s Birthday DAY

The day after her party was Emily’s actual birthday, so we got to celebrate twice!  She started the day at Science Camp just like the rest of the week, and then we spent the afternoon at home.  She had received a package from Daddy that she couldn’t wait to open!  He sent her some cute wooden animals from Iraq and included a drawing that he made of the area where he lives.  She was thrilled to get that picture from Daddy, and of course she always loves anything animal related.

She also received packages from the grandparents and her Aunt Chelle, so she spent the afternoon opening the packages and playing with all her new toys.  

We even snuck in an ice cream cone, just because!

Oh, and Emily was finally able to order her Remote Control Helicopter with Video Recorder! She saw this in a Think Geek catalog MONTHS ago, and has been saving up for it ever since.  She had saved over half of the money, and then the birthday money she received from family members put her over the top.  She is so excited! She gave me the cash, and I ordered the helicopter on her birthday, so now we are just waiting to get the package.

We ended the night with our annual birthday books – “The Secret Birthday Message” and “God Gave Us You”.

 

Enjoy the pictures from Emily’s Special Day!

Emily’s 7th Birthday Party

We had Emily’s party the day before her actual birthday.  She wanted a swimming party, so we used the neighborhood pool on post.  They also have a clubhouse that we were able to use for free, and it was a perfect place to set up! We had to put down a deposit, but we got it all back after cleaning up when we were done.  There was even a kitchen we could use, but I only used the freezer for the ice cream.  I made cupcakes from an all-natural mix I found that had colored (naturally) sprinkles inside – so cute! Then I made pink icing (with natural coloring) for our birthday girl.  She loved it.

We were so blessed to have so many friends join us.  This is the first year we have celebrated without family, and it was such a blessing that we’ve already gotten to know people well enough that they would come to her party!  She had 9 friends there!

The kids had a great time snacking on munchies (grapes, cheese, and goldfish) and running around the room.  The moms had a great time chatting while the kids played.  After a while, the kids could only take so much looking at the pool through the window, so we ate cupcakes, Emily opened her gifts, and then we hit the pool!

It was an awesome day!  Enjoy the pictures!

Happy 7th Birthday, Emily!

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The last couple days have been full of celebrating my daughter! Science Camp, swimming party with friends, then an afternoon playing with new toys! I am so blessed to be called Mommy by this sweet girl.  7 years ago today, she came into the world and changed our lives forever for the better.  God gave us the most amazing gift when He gave us this beautiful miracle child.  It may be my job to raise her and teach her, but it’s amazing how much she actually teaches me! She is a walking animal encyclopedia and wows me with her knowledge constantly.  God also uses her to grow me, stretch me and refine me in so many ways.

I am so thankful!

In the next couple days I’ll get all the pictures, videos, and updates posted but I need a little more time because we’ve been busy having so much fun!

Don’t worry though – the pictures are coming! This year I took tons of pictures because not only are we away from the grandparents for the first time on her birthday, but Daddy is also away for the first time, so I tried to capture as much of it as possible. 

Happy Father’s Day 2011!

(posting this a little early so Hubby can see it when Father’s Day starts on his side of the world)

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Like father, like daughter!

I still remember Hubby’s face when I found out I was pregnant. He was beyond excited! In the delivery room, he was mesmerized with bringing his baby into the world.  Once she was born, he didn’t want to leave her side.  In fact, he almost didn’t!  He went with her to the nursery for her to get cleaned up, while I rested, and when it came time to move me to another room, I had to actually have him paged in the nursery to come back to me.  He was in love!

He still is. 

I am so blessed to be married to not only an incredible husband, but an amazing father.  He truly loves being a Daddy, and she is a true Daddy’s girl! 

I wish we could be together on this special day, but distance doesn’t change the love my daughter and her daddy have for each other. 

Daddy - Daughter moment

Babe,

You are amazing!  You are everything I could have hoped for in the father of my child.  You love her without measure, and she knows that.  She knows that she is beautiful because “Daddy says so”.  She admires you, she trusts you, she loves you more than you can imagine.  She is the amazing girl that she is because of you (and me too!).  Thank you for laughing with her, teaching her, elephant rides, holding hands, camping trips, and all those things that we look forward to doing when you get home!

I love you! Happy Father’s Day, my love!

Your Bride