Monday, November 30, 2009

The Magic of Christmas

Last night as I went to bed, I was filled with Christmas spirit.  My weekend has been full of moments that we only experience at this time of year.  Our 5th annual trip to Bronner's in Frankenmuth, Michigan on Saturday brought out the warm fuzzies.  Anticipating my sons' visit with Santa Claus left me smiling from ear to ear.  My children's eyes sparkled as we walked amongst the crowd while soaking up every bit of Bronner's Christmas decor on display and available for purchase.  Busy but joyful, this atmosphere is one of the many signals that the holiday season is upon us.

Our visit with Santa Claus was priceless.  I've kicked myself for not having a video recorder out and ready at different times, but this was not one of them.  Santa gave us a moment that we will always treasure, and will be a wonderful addition to our annual Christmas dvd gift for family & close friends.  Let's just say that my boys will behave a little better, or be on the lookout for elves that will be reporting back to the big guy in red.  Santa's jolly laughter could be heard during our visit, which only enhanced the experience for me and it put a toothy grin on my face.  He took the time to listen to both of their wish lists and remind them of how they need to behave, especially at Christmas time.  Before we headed out, Santa handed 2 special ornaments, of the Nativity scene, to O & M and wished them a Merry Christmas!  We all thanked Santa and wished him the same. 

We purchased our items and headed out into the unusually warm Michigan night.  Photographs were taken at some of the Bronner's hot spots before we climbed into the car and drove to the South side of the store.  My family ooh'd and aah'd over the beautiful Christmas lights, especially a set that looked like fireworks or snow falling, before parking near the Silent Night Memorial Chapel.  Honestly, this is one of my favorite parts of our annual trip.  We've seen this beautiful chapel in the falling snow and on a crisp clear night, such as Saturday's.  Each year, as we walk up the chapel pathway and enter the small quiet room, I feel the Spirit of God with us.  In that moment of peace & tranquility, I take the time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, and remind my children of it as well.  M was just an infant on our first annual visit to this place, which left me a little misty as I watched both of my children sign their own names in the guest book this year.  At times we linger, at times we stay only briefly, but each time is a wonderful memory I will hold in my heart.

Yesterday, Sunday, I sat down during the evening hours and began working on a Christmas gift for a friend.  This gift involved getting a bit crafty, and I began to really enjoy myself.  While listening to the audio book Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner, I let my creativity take over.  What a wonderful way to spend the evening.  By the time I finished the gift, I loved the result so much that I decided I will make another one, personalized of course, for someone else on our holiday gifting list.  My Christmas crafting  left me feeling relaxed, inspired, and full of Christmas spirit.

How was your Thanksgiving?  How did you spend the weekend after Thanksgiving?  Are you feeling the joys of the season or the stress?  I hope your holidays are blessed & full of love!  P.S. I shall bring back the nerd next week! 

Blogger's Soundtrack
Aly & AJ * Greatest Time of Year
Amy Grant * A Christmas To Remember album
Christmas Can't Be Very Far Away (one of my favorites)

Monday, November 23, 2009

New Moon Monday Medley

My husband and I recently discussed the nature of my more recent blogs.  It was decided that I've hit a more serious note and need to liven things up a bit.  He had me 100% convinced of this when he started chanting, "Bring back the nerd! Bring back the nerd!"  Okay, he actually didn't do that... but I'm sure he wanted to.

For your reading pleasure, I have revamped the Frank Sinatra/Ella Fitzgerald classic Blue Moon, along with the intro of Just My Imagination by The Temptations.  Please enjoy my Twilight Saga: New Moon inspired medley.  * Spoiler Alert:  New Moon movie/book spoilers ahead!!!

New Moon Monday Medley

New Moon, he left her standin' alone
With still a beating heart, without a love of her own
New Moon, Jacob knew how to be there for
He knew Bells needed a man more
than the vamp who walked away from her door
And Edward suddenly appeared before her
The one with pale skin that's so ice cold
Bells heard Jacob whisper "please adore me"
And when with him Jacob was sunshine gold
New Moon Bella's no longer alone
With Edward still in her heart
With a wolf boy of her own
And then Alice suddenly appeared before her
"Edward's gone to the Volturi to die!"
Jacob didn't just whisper "please stay with me"
And when Bells left Jacob just phased to go
New Moon now Bella's racing alone
To get to Edward in time
Before he shows off his stones
(That's diamond skin people! Get your minds outta the gutter! Come on!)
New Moon now they're no longer alone
With the Volturi ticked off
They barely made it back home

*insert medley segway music here*

Each day through my wolf eyes I watch Bells as she passes by
I say to myself, "Your such a bloodsucker."
To have a girl like Bells
is truly my dream come true
Out of all of the monsters in the world
she belongs to you...

But it was just my imprintation
running away with me
It was just my imprintation
running away with me...

*Jacob phases out*

Yes, Bella belongs with Edward but I'm still Team Jacob!

What do you think?  Is this a hit or what?  Have you seen the movie or read New Moon?  If not, are you planning to?  Of course, I must ask...  Team Edward or Team Jacob?

Have a wonderful blessed week & happy Thankgiving!!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hectic Holidays & Holiday Blog Hours

'Tis the season!  You know, the season for food, friends, family, and festivities.  Not too mention stress, dread, and exhaustion due to some of the previously mentioned holiday staples. 

I find myself beginning to embrace the overwhelming tasks of the upcoming holidays and wonder if I am biting off more than I can chew.  Normally I have most of the Christmas gifts well underhand, but this year I have unpredictably put off purchasing presents until this month of November.  I was wise enough to pick up a few crafty holiday items after Christmas last year.  These will come in handy, as my boys typically do a homemade gift for grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

Thanksgiving is on it's way in 1 1/2 weeks.  We are preparing our home for family visiting from out of state.  Plans of a possible dessert party for the evening of Thanksgiving are underway.  The days are quickly winding down, 10 days to go to be exact.  From that point on, things don't slow down one bit.

How many of you are counting down to Christmas?  If you haven't figured that out yet, it's only 39 days away.  As you are well aware, I'm a crafty mama.  Which means that my holidays are filled with homemade gifts and fun projects.  Bring on the overwhelmed feeling mentioned above. 

As crazy as things may get, I still wouldn't trade my seasons full of sewing, baking, and other general crafting activities.  My homemade holidays will always be full of great memories to share with my children.  I hope they will do the same with their kids someday. 

With this being the busiest time of year for just about everyone, especially Santa, I've come to the conclusion that something has to give.  Through the seasons of thankfulness and Christmas cheer, I will be cutting back on the amount of blog postings each week.  You will see a blog post on every Monday, but Meet Me On Monday will be more random as it was originally described.  I'm hardly at work on my WIP (work in progress) and have officially dubbed my Wednesdays as WIP Wednesdays until I'm able to make a vast amount of progress on it.  Which brings me to Fridays.  Fridays are going to be unpredictable-- yes I know this is just a more interesting way to say random.  Unless I have something really exciting or interesting to say, I probably won't be posting on Friday.  I'm referring to this as Holiday Blog Hours.  When January 2010 rolls around, I'll be the first to throw the confetti in the air and get back into the regular swing of things.  Regular blogging hours should return at that time.

How are you planning to keep up with the hectic holiday schedule?  Is your Thanksgiving filled with and abundance of food, family, and fun?  Do you wait until the last minute to do your Christmas shopping?  Is your calendar full over the next 1 1/2 months?  Do you have to cut a little out of your normal schedule to handle the heavy holiday load?

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Learning Curve: Lyrical Lessons

Music is a big part of my life.  As a singer, I've learned from other artists by observing their stage presence, listening to their unique sound, and absorbing their lyrics.  One of the most fun and inspiring influences for me is a powerful song.

Instead of talking about the many things I've learned through the wonderful world of music, I'd like to give you a short list of 10 songs with a message. These are not my top 10 favorites, but instead random songs that I've found, or have been suggested to me, and a little tid bit of meaning.

God won't let you go.

High school isn't everything and you don't know who you are going to be yet.  Have patience. Dream big.

Hope Now by Addison Road  (thanks for sharing this song MB!)
Life can be rough, but faith & hope can get you through those hard times.

Be yourself & trust your own voice.

Things don't always turn out the way we expect them to, but that doesn't mean you should give up before you try.

Those you love will always be a part of you...

The one you love is still out there... and Michael is sad he hasn't met me yet. *wink wink*

Um... don't give up... because Josh Groban can hear you. 

The most important message here....  Don't do bad things or Taylor Swift will write a song about you.

Love and loyalty are powerful gifts to be shared and can bring you through the darkest times.
This can be a beautiful wedding song by the way!  I sang this one to my husband at our wedding.

There are many more songs, in all different genres, that speak to people.  Often, you will find that most walk away with different meanings to the same thing.  Just as no two people are exactly alike, everyone has their own thoughts and ideas. 

What did you take away from the songs above? What songs (listed above or not) have you heard and gained something from?  Do you feel that music is a powerful learning tool?  Are there any songs that you have heard and just want to share?  Do you share a strong lyrical message with your children or loved ones?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Learning Curve: People of Influence

Our first experiences in "the learning curve" involve people, lots and lots of people.  Typically, our original teachers are family.  Moms, dads, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles... well, you get the picture.  During our youngest years, these people are most often our biggest cheerleaders in learning the basics of life.  Influence begins here as well.

As we learn easily by example, the people around us can be teaching us without even being aware of it.  This portion of the learning curve can be good or bad.  For instance, children who grow up hearing their parents be polite often pick up this trait without needing constant reminders.  A negative influence can be anything from hearing a family member swear or seeing a parent being abusive. 

We've all heard of peer pressure, right?  How many of you picked up a bad behavior from a friend while growing up?  Have your own kids come home from school with a new "trick" or "fun word" to share?  This is yet another way that we learn from others.

Today, Veteran's Day, we should all stop and take a moment to learn from those who have made a sacrifice for our country.  Men and women alike have served and fought to honor and protect a great many people.  In fact, some have made the ultimate sacrifice.  What can we learn from the many Veterans?  My own list is as follows (but not limited to):  honor, respect, sacrifice, strength, compassion, dedication, loyalty, friendship, duty, and patriotism.

People are everywhere, so the opportunity to learn from those around you is everywhere. There are also many ways for people to learn from others. You can learn from someone by asking questions, observing, or listening. 

Take a moment to reflect on the example you set for others.  Who is learning from you?  Who do you learn from?  What is your strongest way of learning?  Is it by example or asking questions?  Do you have a story to share about something you learned from another person?

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Learning Curve: Not A Book Review

Lessons in life are everywhere.  If we are open to it, we can learn from a great many people, places, and experiences in life.  This week, I would like to focus on a few aspects of "the learning curve."

Books bring us an abundance of perspectives in numerous topics.  Every author has his or her own voice on his or her own subject matter.  Writers have their own messages to convey to the reader, fiction and non-fiction alike.  Whether they want to make you laugh with them, cry with them, or help you relax and unwind, an author has his or her own way of getting you to do so.

When you are looking for a book that holds a chance to help you learn and grow, do you typically go towards the self-help section?  Maybe you find lessons in a person's memoir who has experienced what you have also gone through.  Personally, I've found that I can find a message in almost any book that I read, including fiction.

Recently, I read The Accidental Bestseller by Wendy Wax and discovered a strong friendship between four women who met at their first writer's conference.  Woven throughout this story was a little insight into the world of publishing.  I will not give any spoilers, but I came away feeling as though I got a little peak into the writing industry.  Not too mention, I enjoyed the story and the quotes at the beginning of every chapter.

One of the most moving stories I've read in a long time, was The Shack by William P. Young.  Again, no spoilers, and this is not a book review.  It's tricky to talk about this book and not give it all away, so let me keep it very simple.  I learned from the issues that the main character had to overcome.  When I reached the end of this story, I walked away feeling a strong sense of peace and a desire to recommend everyone read it!  Regardless, I learned a great deal from it.

What I'm getting at, is that you can learn a lot from books, and not just text books, how to, or self help.  The next time you finish a book, ask yourself the following question.  What can I take away from this book?  Even if the only lesson you gain is... Reading that book helped me unwind!  I need to read more often!  Apparently, you can even learn a few lessons from your dog through a book.

Have you learned any lessons from reading a book?  Are there any book titles you want to share that held an important message for you? 

Friday, November 6, 2009

Germ Busters

As I opened my eyes this morning, it hit me.  Today is Friday!  Hooray!  TGIF!  Woo hoo!  Woot!  *insert your own personal happy dance or excited exclamation here*  I'm breathing a big sigh of relief at this very moment.  My oldest son, O, has been through 4 days without breaking out into a fever and made it through 3 full days of school (well, after today that is) this week!  My youngest son, M, kicked the fever quicker than O did and is doing well today. 

With good health on the rise in our home, I still am unable to let my guard down.  Germs are still attempting to hang on in places unseen to the human eyes, of this I am certain.  As I go into action mode, I grab my favorite weapons for just such a battle...  Lysol & Clorox wipes!  Let's just hope I make it out of this one.

Have you figured out what my day and upcoming weekend hold in store?  Yes, that's right, the cleansing of the palace.  Without it, nobody can truly be safe.  As the safety and health of my family is at stake, I must leave you with this very unimportant and silly blog.


I apologize that this blog was posted so late today.  My day was full of turbulence.  It doesn't help that the pilots of this bird miscalculated on the decent, as they picked their noses, and landed me in a field of cow manure... you know... a bunch of bull cr*p.

Check back Monday for some insight on a few things I’ve learned recently through reading books.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Motivated By Competition

Competition can be a powerful motivator.  It's everywhere.  The ambitious drive of competition can be found in a goal that you set for yourself, team and individual sports, board games, the workplace, amongst siblings, education, and many other areas of life.  Although it can become a negative in some cases, I often find it to be a positive portion of my life.  When I set a goal, I find that the competitive part of me is compelled to complete it. 

Of course, competition can take a turn for the worst. How many little league or high school sports have we seen get out of hand, mostly due to aggressive and overly ambitious parents? What about professional athletes and ability enhancing drugs? Look at some of the super star celebrities that took their goals too far.  Even a weight loss goal can lead to eating or exercising disorders.  There has to be a balance to the competition in our lives. It's not worth hurting anyone over, including yourself.  Remember to play by the rules.

Often times, a wild card can be thrown into our game, or prize seeking intent.  My most recent wild card consisted of 2 sick children.  When I set my sights on a goal recently, I was knocked off balance by their illness.  Rather than working towards a shiny reward star sticker that I could place on my shirt, I was taking temperatures, giving meds, and trying to contain germs that were attempting to take over our home.  It was a setback, but not something that cannot be overcome.  We have to fall back and punt sometimes, but that doesn't mean we won't reach our goal in the end.

My sons have the competitive streak in their blood as well.  When we want something done, we find that it's easier to obtain our desired outcome if we give them a little incentive.  Let me give you a few examples. 

*When cleaning their room, they move a lot faster if we turn on some music and give them till the end of the last song to have their room clean. 

*Using a calendar print out for each of our sons, we challenge them to be on their best behavior.  A great day equals a sticker on the calendar, if they have too many issues during that day, they go without.  At the end of the month, each sticker is worth a quarter.  The quarters are then placed in three jars, for each boy, labeled Spend, Save, and Give.  At least 1 quarter must go in each, but they choose where the rest of their money goes.

*Our PTO runs a Reading Incentives program in the local elementary schools.  Last year, my oldest son brought home his record sheets and was driven to read until he achieved all of the prizes that were awarded through the program.  The final prize was a t-shirt that pronounced his love of reading.  My eager reader was happy when he was able to wear that shirt proudly, and Mommy was proud too!  As parents, we continued to reward our son for his reading time throughout the rest of the school year and into the Summer.  Our local library's Summer reading program once again brought out the need to read and succeed (in both our boys).

*Currently, a good school year equals a big reward in our home.  Last year, my son was in need of a bigger bike.  After a great year in the classroom, he was surprised with a new bike just his size.  Recently, my husband and I offered a highly desired prize to our oldest son.  If he has another fabulous year at school, he will receive a Nintendo DS system (with parental time limits of course).  As he has been in need (anyone who is a parent knows how children need things that we don't always agree with) of this item for a long time, I'm sure my son will strive to do his very best. 

As you can see, competition can be a useful tool, if you don't let it get the best of you.

NaNoWriMo has commenced for the month of November. It uses our passion for achieving an objective, to encourage our writing habits. National Novel Writing Month is a tool that sets our eyes on the goal of 50,000 written words (a 75 page novel) within the month. For writers who have the desire to compete with themselves, this is a challenge worth taking on, and a practice session for potential future deadlines.

Competition: motivator or destructive?  Do you have a competitive streak?  What are your current goals?  What wild cards have you encountered along the way?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Just Say No... To Germs

In the past week, plus some, we have been living in a germ factory.  At least that's how it feels to me.  Schools all over the area have been closed due to illness.  H1N1 seems to be running rampant amongst our youth, as well as a "respiratory illness" that is accompanied by fevers.  However, our local schools have not had enough kids out sick to warrant closure.  Yes, this all began when I was without the normal use of my vocal chords. 

Just over a week ago, my oldest son started coughing, gagging, and choking.  The next day was the beginning of yet another school week, so I decided to keep him home.  It turns out, it was a wise choice.  He was complaining of his head hurting, and grabbing his forehead, so I called the doctor to set up an appointment.  I feared he was getting a sinus infection, as he suffered from one this past Spring.  In the late afternoon, after my husband had returned home, my O man "tossed his noodles."  Calling the doctor a wise choice?  Yeah, I think so.

The following morning we received a phone call from the doctor's office to let us know that our family doctor was out sick.  Thankfully, one of his fellow professional partners was able to fit us in.  By this time, the dreaded fever had hit and the "I feel miserable & exhausted" look was in my son's eyes.  The good news, my son does not have H1N1.  The bad news, my son has a "respiratory illness" and "may need to be out of school for the rest of the week."  We were told to give him Children's Mucinex, run the vaporizer, and to call if the symptoms changed or got worse.

Over the past week, my son's temperature was a roller coaster.  Just when we assumed he was on the mend, his temp went back up.  It's a trend we were hoping would be broken by the weekend, but of course that was too good to be true.  It only gets better from here.  My youngest, M, awoke Friday morning with a fever as well. 

The television and some rented movies were a constant part of our lives over the past week.  A repetitious menu of plain waffles, dry cereal, and soup was the staple in my children's diets.  Our weekend was not full of trick-or-treating, but an overuse of the Braun ear thermometer.  My sweet boys went from their beds, to the couch, and back again, all week and weekend long.  School is back in session tomorrow, but my sons will be enjoying at least another day of  boredom & sickness.  Let's hope it doesn't last much longer!

Just say no to germs!