Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas 2014

Yesterday was Christmas and I didn’t blog about it then but I can blog about it now. The reason why I didn’t blog about it is actually two things: I spent a majority of the day on my feet and doing stuff (except for the occasional rest) and also, I spent that day with my children. I did want to blog about Christmas yesterday, but I was not able to do so because the computer was unavailable. And I’m totally fine with that! I enjoyed my time with the children. It was good to spend the day NOT on the computer and with my family. (Though I did use my smartphone to share pictures on Facebook! Had to get those pictures out there while it was still Christmas. Actually, it was after 11 p.m. when I did that!)

We had such an awesome Christmas this year. It was just perfect. I was sad because I thought about our dog, who we were having our first Christmas without (we did go out to his grave to wish him a Merry Christmas), and some other people who were gone. My mom and others. I did light a candle for all of them, but I was still a bit sad because I missed them all.

But it was still a beautiful day.

The day started at 7:30 for me. I actually woke up at 5:30 and spent 2 hours trying to go back to sleep, but I was just too excited about the day and got up at 7:30. I took a bunch of “before” pictures and tidied up the house. I also made coffee – and enjoyed a first cup of it before everybody woke up. I also spent time texting family and friends to wish them all a Merry Christmas. Then I made breakfast: Cinnamon rolls, eggs and bacon. I think the smell of bacon woke up Jesse, because after I was done cooking, I found him walking through the hallway. When he saw me, he smiled and lifted his arms and said, “Merry Christmas!” It was sooooo cute. We woke up the others and Christmas officially began. Jennifer played Santa this year and we were excited by our gifts.

And we got some awesome gifts, too! Jennifer was thrilled to get some items on her Christmas list – Doctor Who stuff (a DVD of Season 7 as well as the Fourth Doctor scarf) and the novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – and Jesse was happy to get stuff on his list too – like the Pajanimals and a VERY LARGE stuffed snake.

I also got some things from my list, too – as well as some other stuff!

Here is what I got for Christmas:

Movies (X-Men First Class, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Insidious 2 and A Christmas Carol)
New purse
2 gift cards to the bookstore (I’m going book shopping! Woo-hoo!!!)
Starbucks gift card (Thank you, Kathy!)
New poetry book
Large candle
Snow globe with a snowman in it
New book (Thank you, Millie and Allison!)
Ginormous box of chocolates
Collage picture frame
Family collage that Jen made (I LOVED it!)
Chocolate bar

But the BIG thing we got for Christmas? A new computer!! YAY!!! We were all excited and happy about it. (Well, hubby knew about it all this time because he built it, but he was pleased at how well it worked.) I am so glad we have a new computer now. I am not using it YET – I still have to transfer all my files to it – but will definitely start using it soon. It has updated software on it as well as other spiffy new things I am going to have to learn how to use. It will definitely make my researching and publishing efforts a lot easier! No more crashes, no more freezing up and no more problems getting things to work. At least, I hope not! Jesse will be happy he can play games on it again and NOW I can sign him up for some educational sites.

One of our friends came by on her way out of town and we exchanged gifts. It was nice to see them! Hubby also went with Jennifer to another friend’s house and took him cookies; he sent back a plate of homemade cookies, fudge and peppermint bark! That was awesome! (And very yummy!)

We also watched a bunch of Christmas movies throughout the day. Well, they were on the TV and we pretty much grabbed them in bits and pieces as we went about the house. One of the movies we had on was The Munster’s Scary Little Christmas. It was good without being cheesy. We also watched Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever. Jesse LOVES Grumpy Cat and he enjoyed watching this movie. He thought it was awesome.

We had a ham dinner for Christmas, just like every year. The ham was delicious! We also had mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, carrots and dinner rolls. It was quite a feast! And for dessert, I made a chocolate cake.

Our Christmas this year was amazing and we were all really happy. I am so glad it went well. I am also glad I did the things this month that really showed the spirit of Christmas, like giving and helping others. When we watched the movie A Christmas Carol, the part where Scrooge said he would keep Christmas all year really made me think. If only more people thought to show the spirit of Christmas -- kindness, forgiveness, generosity and compassion – all through the year, and not just in December. Maybe that’s a thing to try for in 2015. With all the chaos, protests and murders going on in this world right now, especially during this month, let’s try to show the spirit of Christmas throughout the year for next year.

I also liked the part where Marley’s ghost said, “Mankind was my business!” This is very true. Sometimes we forget just what kind of impression we leave in this world because we get caught up with ideas like “business is business” so we treat people cruelly (and lose THEIR business!) or we get caught up in vanity and forget to judge a person for their heart or their character or their deeds instead of their looks or lifestyle or their money. Or, like Scrooge, we get caught up in wealth, or the pursuit of wealth, and lose friends, people we love and/or the REAL things and experiences that no amount of money in the world could ever bring.

Yes, that movie certainly has a lot of important messages more people should take heed to.

I am also glad I did the Christmas Cookie Run this year. Last year, I just could not do it. I had an emotional breakdown because I missed my mom so much and just cried for days. I was not up for it last year. But this year, I think my mother would have wanted me to do it. Mom would have approved. And I think in some way, she’s happy that I did that this year. I certainly missed those who were no longer with us, but I think they were there in spirit. And I certainly hoped their spirit was even more at peace knowing that we had such a wonderful day.

It was probably the best Christmas ever.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Picture with Santa

Today I took Jesse to the mall to get his picture taken with Santa. I really didn’t want to go anywhere because traffic has been crazy. When I took Jennifer shopping on Saturday, the traffic was chaos. In fact, we saw a 3-car crash on the freeway. So, yeah, wasn’t really looking forward to going out again. But Jesse really wanted his picture with Santa so I took him. I wanted to bring Jennifer along, but she wasn’t feeling well. She stayed at home and pretty much just slept. (We still have one more cookie drop-off to do, then she’s going to do her own cookie drop-off, AND we have two people left to deliver gifts to and we had hoped to get that done today but she just wasn’t up to it. Maybe tomorrow.)

Before we left for the mall, I made sure Jesse ate lunch first. He’d eaten a big breakfast this morning but I wanted him to eat lunch because I knew we’d be standing in line for a long time. I told him we would not be able to leave the line to get something to eat. After he finished eating, I instructed him to wash up and comb his hair. I didn’t want to leave too late in the day because I didn’t want to be stuck in line until the mall closed a la A Christmas Story so I made sure he got ready to go real quick.

Just before we left, I got some extra money in case the cost of the picture had gone up since last year. Gas prices may have gone down recently, but it seems like the price for everything else has been going up! So I had to prepare for that.

As I expected, traffic was insane on the way to the mall. It was crazy on the way back, too. (I almost had a panic attack when someone cut in front of me on the freeway!) When we got there, Santa was on a break and due back in 15 minutes. We got in line all the same. I kept Jesse occupied with a game on my phone, silently grateful that smartphones can have games on them AND that he can have his own account on there for his games. Jesse did get hungry while we waited in line (I don’t think that boy ever gets full!) but I assured him he could have something to eat after we got home. Finally, it was his turn to have his picture with Santa. Thankfully, the cost of the picture had not gone up. It had actually gone down by $3! Yay! I was relieved, knowing just how hard a lot of people are having it this year and that someone just barely surviving on a monthly paycheck would not have to pay an arm and a leg for their child to have a picture with Santa. I have been there so I always think about people in that kind of situation. I know how much this kind of thing means to a lot of families.

After Jesse had his picture taken, he got a free cardboard elf hat and a lollipop. He was happy about that! I was happy with the picture. It was a good one.

After we got home, Jesse had his snack and I shared his picture on Facebook. I am glad we got to do this this year. I know that kids eventually outgrow having their picture taken with Santa (like Jennifer has) but I don’t think Jesse is ready to say goodbye to that just yet.

Monday, December 22, 2014

A very productive first morning of Winter Break

Whenever it’s vacation time or there’s no school, I make it a point to sleep in. Hey, I get up EARLY during the school week to get the kids up, fed, dressed and off to school, I kinda want to grab those opportunities to sleep in when I can!

Not so this time around. The year is almost over and I need to get some things DONE! The kids may be on vacation but I am not. (Isn’t it always like that for moms?) (Isn’t it always like that for writing parents??)

Today was the first day of Winter Break and I got up right at 6 a.m. Four hours later, I took stock of everything I’d gotten done and was pretty darn surprised I’d gotten so much done in only four hours!

Here’s all the stuff I got done by 10 a.m. – AND before the kids woke up!

1. Did some bookwork (I am getting a book ready for submission next month)

2. Wrote extra stuff in said book (more spiffying up!)

3. Read emails at all email accounts (replied where needed)

4. Read the news online

5. Checked bank accounts (this is a daily habit)

6. Sent out Christmas ecards

7. Read an AWESOME short story in a new anthology I'm reviewing

8. Had my two cups of coffee (I always try to enjoy that first cup of coffee in the mornings before the kids wake up and the craziness of my day begins)

9. Ate breakfast (Yeah, I know, I should’ve waited for the kids to wake up to have breakfast with them, but I was STARVING! I did sit with Jesse while he ate his doughnut.)

So, yeah. That’s a pretty good list of stuff I got done this morning. Of course, I’ve been doing lots of other things today, too. It hasn’t been easy because I hurt my shoulder and despite an ice pack and Tylenol, it is still sore (and getting a bit too painful for me to lift my arm) but I have still gotten a lot done today. I especially got a lot done this morning, and there’s nothing more awesome than getting the day off to a very productive start!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Five good deeds

Every December, I try to do at least one good deed. This particular deed must capture or represent the spirit of Christmas in some way. I always try to include the children in this act, because I want them to grow up feeling compassion for others and to have a giving heart. Giving to charity is so important to me, especially during the holidays, and I want the kids to understand that this is an important time of the year to remember other people who are not as fortunate as they are and to give in some way to help others. I also want them to know that Christmas is an important time to let the people we are close to know just how much we appreciate them, appreciate all they do for us and give something to them in return.

Up until this year, it was usually one or two good deeds we did. But this year, we are blessed with having done five good deeds in helping others for Christmas.

These are the good deeds we have done thus far:

1. Participated in the food drive
2. Gave to a charity
3. Helped a family for Christmas
4. Took cookies to our friends (still doing that!)
5. Gave Jesse’s teacher a Christmas gift

I wanted to also give a toy to the Toys For Tots program but totally forgot about it then I kept missing it when they held it somewhere.

But at least we got 5 good deeds done for the month.

If I ever find out about a Toys for Tots drive going on somewhere close by, I’ll definitely make it a point to get out there! I hope it’s not too late. But if it is, I will look into something similar.

And it looks like we’ll be doing another good deed for the month, too: My neighbor is leaving town until after Christmas and has asked us to keep an eye out for any packages being delivered to her porch. She is worried about them being stolen so we’ll be holding onto her packages for her until she gets back. We are happy to help.

Yay for doing good deeds!

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Christmas miracle

At the beginning of each month, I put together a budget plan to manage my finances. This plan covers rent and the first week of groceries for that month, as well as school-related payments, other assorted monthly payments and gas for my car. My husband and I both have a monthly income, so he takes care of the other monthly expenses. This plan has worked well so far, except that it didn’t really allow for any “surprise expenses.” (That will change once I start using a new budget plan next year.)

And that was a problem for this month, because, yeah, a "surprise expense" did come up.

Earlier in the month, I was thrown into a group activity: A “secret Santa” fundraiser for a friend. Basically, there was a call put out for donated gifts (toys for the children) and money the family could use for Christmas presents. I wanted to help, but I just hadn’t set aside any money for this type of thing. The money I DID have set aside was for the Christmas Cookie Run that my daughter and I will be doing soon, but not for this. So I was pretty bummed about that.

I shared this situation with my husband and Jennifer. They decided to donate their own money to this cause. I was so touched they wanted to help out a complete stranger so that she could have a nice Christmas for her family, it brought tears to my eyes. I was just so moved.

So once they handed over their money, I made the donation to the Secret Santa fundraiser. I was just so happy that we were able to help this family. Coming from a large family where my parents struggled to buy us gifts every Christmas, and one Christmas when a whole fire department “adopted” us and got us gifts, I know just how much it means being a kid and receiving the generosity and kindness from strangers. I know, Christmas isn’t about the presents and it’s more about being together as a family, but when you’re a kid and it’s Christmas, it’s still nice to find a present just for you under the tree.

I am glad my friend’s children will be able to do the same.

(Sidenote: I want to mention the fundraiser ended today and the coordinators reached their goal and raised over $1,000 for this family. Yay!) 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The forgotten appointment

School mornings are always hard for the kids. No matter how I try to get them into bed by their bedtime or how much sleep they get, they’re still really tired in the mornings. We are just NOT morning people! But I get up early, and they get up early, on the school mornings because, yeah, they’ve got school, and I’ve gotta take them to school.

This morning, however, both of the kids were just really, really tired. They seemed to have no energy. Jesse ended up being late for school and Jennifer was going to be late, too, except for something that happened that sorta kept her from going to school at all today.

Earlier this year, I had made an appointment for Jennifer’s annual eye exam. At the start of this month, I knew her appointment was … sometime this month! But I couldn’t remember when. I usually write all the appointments on the bedroom calendar (and the kitchen calendar, if they are school-related). But I didn’t see the appointment for her eye exam on my bedroom calendar.

I’d forgotten to write it down on the calendar. Argh! And I couldn’t remember where I’d originally written down the info about her appointment. Perhaps some random scrap of paper. So I made a mental note to check the one drawer we have that contains scrap paper, on the chance it would be there.

Now back to this morning. Jennifer told me she was low on energy and she wasn't able to get ready for school fast enough and I ended up getting her to school late. So there we were, in the school parking lot, and she asked me to write her a note for being late. I keep a small notebook of paper in my purse so I pulled it out to write her a note. After I wrote the note and tore it out of my notebook, I saw something familiar on another page of that notebook: Some notes I’d made about Jennifer’s LAST eye exam! I hurriedly opened the notebook to that page and, sure enough, there was the info on her appointment. Her appointment being on December 11th. Then I thought, Hey, wasn’t yesterday the 10th?

I asked Jennifer what today’s date was. She checked her phone and said it’s the 11th. I freaked! I said, “Oh, my God! Jennifer, you have an eye doctor appointment today!”

She tensed in her seat and asked what time her appointment was. I told her what time, which was before she’d get out of school and, like, a few hours from then. She did a double take and looked at me with alarm. “Mom!!”

It was pretty clear she wasn’t going to school today now, after being so late and hardly having much time to be there since I’d have to pick her up early for her appointment.

As I drove her home, I tried to lighten the mood. “Well, at least you’re dressed. And we got to go for a nice drive.”

She stared daggers at me. As if she was saying, “Grr! WHY DID YOU WAKE ME UP FOR SCHOOL WHEN I DIDN’T HAVE TO GO??!!”

I am just glad I found out when her appointment was and that I got her there on time. Even if it wasn’t exactly a good way to find out.

Next time, I gotta remember to put these things on the calendar!

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Waking up with laughter

One thing that often happens after I go to sleep is that I will wake up at 3ish and get out of bed for water (usually in the form of bottled water). I guess I get a bit dehydrated in my sleep.

But that wasn’t why I woke up at 3ish this time around. This time, this morning, I woke up laughing.

Apparently, something happened in my dream that was so insanely funny, that not only was I cracking up about it at the end of the dream, but I woke up laughing. And I lied there in bed, still laughing about it. (I also hoped I wasn’t going to wake up the kids with the sound of my laughter!)

The thing that happened in the dream, it was, like, the third “scene” of my dream.

First, I was working at this aviary. Somehow or another, I had this extensive knowledge about birds and was sharing it with people who visited the aviary. (Wow, I guess my “Birds” board on Pinterest is having an affect on me!) At one point, I was called to fix pipes in another part of the building. As I was walking to that part of the building to do that job, where there was a netted roof over the walkway, it started raining and I got soaked.

Then, in the next scene, I was outside of this house I had been journeying to. I was standing at the front door, knocking. It was dark and it was raining. (More rain in my dream!) Someone living at the house opened the door and I collapsed inside, drenched from the rain and out of breath because my journey had been so long and physically draining. And while I was on the floor, catching my breath, the person who opened the door, along with his family who gathered around, kept asking me, “What’s wrong?”

Then in the final scene – the one where the funny thing happened – I had Jesse with me and we met with my mom. Then my grandmother showed up. We sat down to have coffee (Jesse drank something else). (I have had a dream like this before, where my mother and I would be sitting at this table, drinking coffee and talking. I miss my mother so much but it’s always a nice comfort when she visits me in my dreams. Same thing when I see my grandmother.) Jesse struck up a conversation with my grandmother. At one point, he told her something funny. At first, I was trying to hide my laughter, but my mom saw this and gave me a look like she was saying, “Settle down. We’re trying to have coffee.” But, oh, I just lost it. I started cracking up over what Jesse had said. He had said this thing in complete innocence, he was talking about chickens, but, well, put another way, it was just hilarious. I laughed so hard in the dream and, yeah, I was still laughing when I woke up. (Sorry, Mom and Grandma. Let’s have that coffee another time!)

Well, it took me a while to calm down from that dream. A LONG while. I was laughing about it in bed and still laughing after I got up to get some water. And I was STILL laughing about it when I went back to bed. (I’m laughing about it now as I type this! It was just too funny.)

I am glad that this happened. Sure, it disrupted my sleep, but it sure gave me a good laugh. I went to bed feeling all depressed and sad last night so I’m glad I was able to wake up smiling and filled with laughter.