Friday, December 30, 2011

three and a half

I took this photo of Aria today 
and thought I might as well do an Aria Update to go with it!

at age three and a half

  • The other day she had an "accident" on the bathroom floor, and when I asked her what happened, she said:  "I just ran out of time!"   She is completely 100% potty-trained and has been for about a year now, but lately she's been waiting until the last second because she doesn't want to stop playing, and then when she just can't hold it anymore she RUNS to the bathroom...and well, let's just say that the "I just ran out of time!"  excuse is very accurate!
  • Although we have built her a toddler bed and it is set up in her room, complete with new bedding and pillows... she still won't sleep in it.  Her excuse is something different each night:  "But mommy, I'm afraid of the dark!"    "But mommy, I'm afraid of the Grinch!"   "But mommy, I'm too cold in there."   "But mommy, my bed isn't cozy."   Rich and I are the wimpiest parents on the planet because we just cannot kick her out of our bed.  We just ... can't.   We can't!
  • She got a two wheeler bike for Christmas and has learned how to pedal and stop and steer.  Soon we will take the training wheels off and she'll be on her way!
  • When we drop Andrew off at preschool during the week she gets excited and tells me that when she "gets bigger" she will go to Andrew's school.  I send my kids to preschool when they are four years old, so this means that she "gets bigger" next July.  I am not ready!  She may be ready, but I am not ready! The thought of my last "baby" going to preschool makes my heart hurt.  I'm a wimp, I know.  But I'm just not ready!
and then, she {snapped}

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Elf on the Shelf failure

I'm sure most of you know about the  popular Elf on the Shelf by now.  For those of you who don't, here is a photo of the little dude:

He comes with a book that you read to the children, and the story explains how Santa sends one of his elves to "spy" on them during the day, and then at night he flies back to the North Pole to report to Santa on their behavior that day.  You are to name your elf, and then look for him each morning, because when he flies back the next day he always sits in a new spot in the house.   The fun part of this "tradition" is when the kids look for the elf's new hiding spot each morning.

Okay, so after hearing all the wonderful things about this Elf on the Shelf tradition, I decided to buy one for our family last Christmas.  Our elf was given the name "Peter" by our then four-year-old Andrew.   I read the book to the kids two times, to be sure they knew and understood the "rules" -- the main one being that you never, ever, ever, ever touch the elf!  Never!  or he loses his magic.  Yes, it says that in the book.  

The first few days that Peter visited us, he was doing his job just fine.  But then as the days went on, Peter's true colors began to show and we realized that we got ourselves a lazy elf!  On most mornings, the kids would wake to find Peter sitting in the SAME EXACT SPOT as the day before!

"Why didn't he move to a new place?!!"
"Did he forget to fly back to the North Pole last night?"
"Did someone touch him?  Is his magic gone?"

Okay, truth be told...I hated this little guy and his stupid Christmas tradition right from the start.   It's like having to be the Tooth Fairy every single night!  The pressure! I mean, come on... as if us parents don't have enough to remember each night before going to bed, but we are supposed to remember to switch the Elf to a new spot in the home every night during December?  It just wasn't happening in this household.  I tried to remember, I really did! But I just couldn't do it every night. 

Anyway, so that was last year's stress  fun.    I believe "Peter" changed places a total of seven or eight times, total.  I felt the mommy-guilt like crazy, but did my best to cover up...saying things like:  he must really, really like that spot...and yes, of course he flew back to the North Pole last night; doesn't he look tired to you? ....and no, I'm sure no one touched him.  Look how high up he is!

Christmas Eve is supposed to be the elf's last night with the family.  On that night, he is to fly back to the North Pole, give his final report,  and stay the entire next year helping to make Santa's toys.  Then next year he returns to the family during the month of December to Spy & Report once again.  So, that adds yet another stress responsibility for us parents:  On Christmas Eve, after we stay up half the night wrapping and setting out the presents, we not only have to pretend to eat the cookies and drink the milk that was left out for Santa, being sure to leave crumbs and just a little milk at the bottom of the glass, but we are now also supposed to remember to grab the elf and put him AWAY for next year --  AWAY so that the kids do not accidentally FIND HIM during the year.  Because if THAT happened, well...wouldn't that be a disaster?  How would you explain that? 

This is what gave me my biggest dilemma last year:  where to hide our elf?  I couldn't put him in the Christmas decoration box, because I knew without a doubt that I'd forget he was in there and one of the kids would find him when we were decorating the house next December.   So I hid him in a really good spot, a place where the kids would never find him.

Now fast forward to this year:  We finished decorating the tree and the house, and then one of the kids asked, "I wonder when our elf will come?"  and right away I tried to remember where I hid that guy.  I could not remember!  I searched every inch of the house.  No elf.  Every day the kids asked me, "Where is our elf?  Isn't he coming this year?"  and I'd say, "Oh, I'm sure he'll come.  Maybe they are just extra busy at the North Pole and he's needed there right now."

Days went by and still no elf.  I kept assuming that I'd eventually find him, and after a while the kids stopped asking for him.  Mommy-guilt BIG TIME!  I thought that I should just buy another one, and I planned on it, but things just got busy and I'd keep forgetting to.  Before we knew it, it was December 24th and one of the kids said, "I guess our elf isn't coming."  and oh, I felt so bad.  I really did.  DARN THIS STUPID ELF on the SHELF thing!!   So I explained that maybe the elf goes to another family on some years.  And then Andrew said, "But WE named him Peter.  He's ours."

Ugh.  I had nothing else.

However, the excitement of Santa's arrival took over and the elf was soon forgotten.  The kids woke up to presents galore and we had a very nice Christmas despite being Elf on the Shelfless.

It's now four days after Christmas, and today Rich and I took on the oh-so-fun job of cleaning out our closet; getting rid of old clothes, going through the shelves and the drawers, sorting things.   After about an hour of this, I decided to take a quick break and went down to the kitchen.  Rich stayed to finish up his side of the closet.  After about two minutes or so, I  heard him calling my name.  But because I had just sat down at the kitchen table, I didn't feel like going back upstairs to see what he wanted.  Since he only called my named two or three times and then stopped,  I figured it couldn't have been too important.

Then all hell broke loose.  

A.J., Aislynn, and Andrew came running down the stairs, top speed, shouting, "MOM!!  MOM!!"  and they ran into the kitchen.  I could see that Aislynn was in tears.  In A.J.'s hand was our elf.   

"Look what dad found in his sock drawer!!"
"Dad touched him!!
"You can't touch him or his magic will be gone!

Everyone is upset.  Including me.  My immediate thoughts:

a)  Ugh! so THAT is where I hid him!
b)  Damn my 42-year-old forgetful brain! I hate getting old!
c)  WHY did Rich give the thing to the kids when he found it!
d)  WHY didn't I go upstairs to see what he wanted!  If I had, he would have given it to ME instead of the kids!

So I grabbed the elf, marched upstairs to find Rich still sorting through his drawers.  He stops to look at me and say, all cheerfully, "Hey! I knew you were looking for that thing!  I found it in my sock drawer."   He was proud of himself.

"WHY did you show it to the kids??!!!!"

He looked so pathetically confused.  Seriously, had he no clue about our Elf on the Shelf ritual last year?  How could he not know!

"What? Why?  I shouldn't have?"

"NO!!  You can't TOUCH the elf or his magic goes away!  How am I going to explain THIS to the kids?"

So then he got defensive.
"I don't know the stupid rules to that thing!  Don't blame me.  You are the one who hid it in MY sock drawer!"

He had a point.  And I was mad mostly at myself, anyway.  No use beating him up about it.

So I went back downstairs to face the crying children.  Well, was mostly Aislynn who was distressed about it.  Both A.J. and Andrew were handling it pretty well.

"Here's the thing, guys..."  I began,  "The elf doesn't lose any of his magic when he is touched AFTER Christmas Day!  Today is the 29th of December.  He's going to be fine."

Aislynn:  But what was he doing in Dad's closet?
Me:  Maybe he chose that as a hiding spot, and then got shut in a drawer?
Aislynn:  Do you think he's been in there all that time?
Me:  I bet he was.
Aislynn:  But when Daddy opened up the drawer to get his socks, why didn't he come out?
Me:  Because Daddy was there, and you know he can't move or fly when people can see him.  So he had to wait, but then Daddy shut the drawer before he could get out.  So he was just stuck there day after day.
Aislynn:  But how did he fly back to tell Santa that we were good?
Me:  I guess he didn't.
Aislynn:  But then how did Santa know if we were good or not?

Oh my gosh she just went on and on and on.  
And after every lie that I told,  I kept thinking to myself... 

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, 
When first we practice to deceive!

I was just digging myself deeper and deeper, and for what?  For some stupid Elf on the Shelf holiday tradition.

Did I mention that I hate this Elf on the Shelf thing?

Now, to prove that our Elf still has magic and will fly away to the North Pole now that he's out of the closet,  I set him in our Christmas tree and told the kids that we will know if he's still got his magic if he is gone from this spot by morning.  If he isn't here tomorrow morning, I explained to them, that means he flew back to the North Pole.  And then you will know that he's okay!

That seemed to settle them down.  And the drama was over.

Now, before I go to bed tonight... 
  - remember to take the elf from the Christmas tree... because if I don't, and the kids see him there tomorrow morning... they will be convinced that his magic is gone for good. 
 - find a new hiding place for him - one where I will actually REMEMBER when next December rolls around!

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Today I'm linking up with Things I Can't Say

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Remember sweet little Penny?
Yea, she's a lot of work.  Look what she does during the 5 minutes that I wasn't watching her. 
Hmmmm.  With a family this size, we need all the rolls of toilet paper we can get.  So when she shreds a roll, it's nothing to smile about.

Oh, what's that I hear?  You say to keep the bathroom doors shut?  Well, yes...that would be ideal.  But I have nine kids.  NINE.  Chances are, someone is going to "forget" to shut the bathroom door.  What's that I hear?  Another suggestion?  Oh yes, keep the dog outside.  Well, I hear that one, but no thank you.  Dogs are family and belong in the house if the family is in the house.  

Anyway, Penny has to be watched constantly because she's in that puppy stage where she picks up everything, runs with it, and then chews it.  We've lost socks, Barbies, toilet paper, and  one Christmas ornament that was hanging too low on the tree.  Rich has been very patient with Penny, I must say.

Oh, and remember how we were looking for a home for sweet Penny?  Well, we found one.  Right here with us!  Rich gave us his blessing by finally saying, "Okay, fine - keep the dog!"   So maybe he could have used nicer words, but hey, we will take what we can get!   Truth be told, Penny was growing on Rich bit by bit.  I could tell when he'd say things like, "That's a good girl"  to her, and when he wanted her to go to me he began saying, "Go to mommy!"  Once he started saying that, I knew she was IN.  And of course, my insisting that she get in the family Christmas photo... well, that sort of sealed the deal.  It was shortly after that photo was taken that he told us we could keep her!  So it was a very Merry Christmas for us!

I will post Christmas photos soon ~ it's just been so busy with the kids off school this week and last.  I know you all understand! 

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

I love how our Christmas tree looks in the background of these photos :)

linking up with MckMama - Merry Christmas!

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Not Me! Monday

Mckmama- Not Me Monday

It is not me who hasn't even bought one single Christmas gift for anyone - including all nine of my children.  It's not me who is waiting until the last possible second, hoping that the stores do not run out of all that is on their lists.

It was not me who gathered all the kids together in about two minutes to snap this Christmas photo - not me who didn't plan, didn't coordinate outfits, who didn't even bother to do who her own hair but instead just threw a Santa hat on and said, "Oh what the heck!"  because she is fed up that no one is ever home at the same time to take a picture, and this is the best that we could do before someone has to run out the door again.  It wasn't me who completely ignored that one of my children was crying because she got knocked in the face during the shuffle...but instead took the photo anyway due to time restraints and just wanting to get it done!

Oh, and it also wasn't me who photoshopped a Christmas present in the photo to hide the dog's privates because she didn't think that was appropriate to have on a Christmas card.

No, not me! 

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Sunday, December 18, 2011


I have website woes. ~heavy sigh~   For some reason my blog's post page isn't white anymore but instead blends in to the background...which makes it very hard to read. Unless it's only coming up that way for me?  Doubtful.  Something is glitching, for sure.  I wish I knew more about web design. If I did, I would go "in" and fix it.  But since I don't, I am at the mercy of the person who designed my blog's template.  And she's always so busy, I hate to bother her with my trivial stuff.

But guess what?  I've learned how to make a blog button ....

Sunny Side Up

and a "grab my button" box....

Sunny Side Up;

Oh yes, I'm proud.  You are darn right I am.  Because I am majorly web design challenged.  So for me to be able to do this is HUGE!  Huge, I tell ya!

So here it is, Sunday the 18th - and would you believe I have not bought ONE Christmas present yet?  Well, believe it.  Because I haven't.  I haven't even been out there looking. I haven't been on, either.  I'm just a no-shopping-waiting-until-the-last-minute fool, is what I am.  Ah well, it isn't the first time.  Probably won't be the last.  

That last week of school before the Christmas break almost killed me.  Everyday there was something extra going on.  Thursday was especially busy. I had 3 school functions to attend: Avery's choir performance, Andrew's preschool performance, and Audriana's high school choir concert.   Then at the end of the night I had the annual Gift Wrapping function at my church.  In between all of that I had the usual stuff going on.  It was busy.  I guess that explains why it's been so long since I've posted anything.

 Andrew was dressed as a shepard boy for his Nativity play

We had a homeschool Holiday Party on Friday, and Santa arrived to sing songs with all the kids! How fun!  And afterwards, each child had an opportunity to tell him what they wanted for Christmas this year.  Aria said, "A purple bike, a new Barbie, and sparkly shoes."

I just love how this Santa brought Mrs. Claus along!

Even though I have not shopped yet, I am definitely getting into the Christmas spirit.  The house lights are up and looking good, our tree is making the house smell wonderful, and there is Christmas music playing 24/7 in our home.  I love this time of year!

Aria has been playing the piano for us lately, along with singing Christmas songs.

So serious!  She's concentrating on her song. 

I love how the tree sparkles in the background.

So you know what else is making my Christmas cheery and bright?  Penny!  Oh yes, the dog.  She is doing much, much better!  Thank you to everyone who wrote in advice about what to do about sweet Penny.  I'm happy to tell you that she is doing the nervous/excited pee very seldom now.  She's so darn cute, and I'm getting attached.  So are the kids.  Rich has not been home much due to working a lot of overtimes, and he won't be please when he sees just how well she's adapted to our household, and how much everyone loves her.  Like I said, he really doe not want another dog.  I'm hoping that the longer she is with us, the more she blends in, until finally he doesn't even notice her.  You think that might happen?  Hey, it's possible.  What I'm really hoping for is for Rich to fall in love with her, too.  It's Christmastime...and small miracles can happen during this season, so you never know!

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Monday, December 12, 2011

tree trimming traditions

Some of my friends have these amazing Christmas trees.  I'm talking the kind that you'd see in a  Martha Stewart, Better Homes and Gardens, or House Beautiful magazine, complete with the coordinating ornaments and fancy ribbons.  And while I admire those beautifully decorated Christmas trees, and sometimes even plan on "doing it that way next year", the truth is this:  I don't think I could ever give up all the handmade ornaments and personalized decorations that we have on our tree every year.  

I have nine children, and each one has made many ornaments over the years, and each special piece deserves a spot on our Christmas tree.  Always.  They will never be "bumped" for something more fancy.  And we just can't get a tree that is big enough to fit all of our children's ornaments and the fancy stuff, so each year I have a "kid" Christmas tree, and each year I am very pleased with it.

Every child has their own "Baby's First Christmas" ornament, and some children have the famous "hand print" ornament, while others have special ones that were made just for them.  These alone take up about half of the tree!   Even I have my special ones, like the "Mom To Be" ornament, given to me back when I was expecting my first child.

Every year I also get an ornament made for our family, with all of our names on it.  Rich's mom used to do this for us, too, so the collection we have of these personalized name ornaments takes up about 1/4 of the tree.

Aria was the one chosen to put the angel up on top of the tree.  Of course she needed to stand on daddy's shoulders to do it.

She really got into the decorating this year.  Last year at the age of two, she didn't quite know what was going on.  But this year my three year old knew exactly what to do, and she sure hung her share of ornaments.  And then some!

The three older kids sat back this year and let the younger ones decorate.  Audriana handed the ornaments to the kids, and Afton took the pictures.  Tony sat waaaaay back -- at work.  He had to work on the only night Rich would be home, so he graciously gave up the tree decorating this year.  I saved all of his personal ornaments for him to hang on the tree when he got home.   Everyone has to put their own ornaments on the tree.  That's our tradition.

I also let my kids hang all the ornaments on the tree themselves.  And I do not rearrange to space them out better.  I want  my kids to know that whatever spot they chose on the tree was THE PERFECT SPOT.   After all, their little feelings are much more important than the Christmas tree's!

In the end, our tree always comes out perfectly decorated.  Better Homes & Garden worthy?  Probably not.  But it makes my heart happy, and the hearts of my children, and that's what it should be all about!

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

I need to learn how to say NO

Rich has been at work for the past five days.  So it's been just me and the kids.    It's been a bit crazy and very busy,  but what else is new, right?   The kids were getting impatient about getting our Christma tree, and I kept putting them off with  "let's wait for daddy to get home"  but after a few days of that, I decided not to wait.  

So, being that Tony works for Home Depot, one day while he was at work I sent him a text:  Bring home a tree today.  A big one.  

and then he texted back:  Ok.

For some reason it didn't even occur to me that he wouldn't have Rich's truck.  How would he be able to bring a big tree home in his little convertible Volkswagon?  


I love this kid. 
 He's a  just-go-with-the-flow type of personality.
Mom said to bring home a tree, so he did.  No questions asked.

So now we have a tree up in our living room, the lights are on it, and we just need to trim the tree with ornaments.  (We will wait for daddy to be home to do that!)

And since I've decided that our home isn't busy and crazy enough, enter Penny....


Our neighbors are moving.... 
and cannot keep their "Penny" anymore.

 I didn't want to see her spend the Holidays in the animal shelter.

So I said we would take her
and keep her until we can find her a home.

She's just under a year old.

She is not house trained.  At all.

She jumps up on everything, including people.

And she is at that one-year-old puppy-hyper stage that is oh so sweet 
and yet oh so exhausting at the same time.

But oh my gosh, she's so cute!  I'd love to keep her.  She's be great company for Milo.  The two get along great.   

But the worst thing about Miss Penny is that she pees whenever she's excited.  Which is ALL THE TIME.  For all you dog lovers out there, what do you DO about THAT??!!!   I can't have PEE in my house and on my floors and carpeting all the time!    Yet, I don't want her to be outside all the time, either.  What to do?  Anyone have any suggestions or tips for me?  

If I can get this dog to mellow out some and to STOP peeing every dang second, Rich just might let us keep her.  Right now, he is NOT happy with me.  Nope, not at all.  You could even say that I'm in the dog house right now, which is a first.  Usually it's the other way around!   Rich has told me time and time again that he doesn't want another dog.  He believes that another dog will be a headache and thinks that one dog is enough for us.  Two dogs = more food, more destruction, more poop, and it's harder to travel when you have two dogs.  All good points that I cannot argue with.  

But still.  Look at this face.

Could you  have said NO to a face like this?

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Rent your college books and help save a child

Okay, who out there is trying put a kid through college, or maybe you  might be enrolled in some college classes yourself?  In any case, saving money is always important, right?  Something we all like to do, if we can.  And aside from the tuition, what is the next biggest expense while going to college?   Books!  Buying the books each semester can really add up! Our son Tony is in his second year of college, and his math book this semester was $200!  Two hundred dollars for a math book?  That's crazy.  And to think we have eight more kids to put through college!

So I just discovered an online service where you can RENT your school books!  What a cool idea, right?   I thought so!  With you can save anywhere from 40-90% off of the bookstore prices, you get FREE shipping when they ship it to you and when you ship it back to them,  and you can even highlight in the textbooks. They offer flexible renting periods, you can "search" for the book you are looking for right there on their website,  and best of all .... they donate a portion of their proceeds to Operation Smile.

What is Operation Smile?  Well, I'm glad you asked.  I'm going to tell you a bit about that, too.

Children who are born with a cleft lip or a cleft palate are faced with challenges many of us cannot ever imagine.  Many have difficulty eating, speaking or even smiling.  If a child is born with this condition here in the United States, chances are good that it will be fixed in infancy and will never be an issue for the child.  But in many parts of the world, this surgery is not available, or even if it is most parents cannot afford it.

An infant with a severe cleft palate will not be able to eat properly and might die, while those who are able to survive their deformity are subjected to ridicule and teasing during their childhood, and in some cases are kept from socializing, hidden away from society, never playing an active role in their community.

Operation Smile is an organization whose goal is to fulfill a child's greatest wish:  the chance to be normal.  They mobilize medical volunteers across the glove to treat children with cleft lips, cleft palates, and other facial deformities, and they also leave a legacy of trained medical professionals, surgical equipment and professional partnerships to help carry on the work after their team of medical volunteers has left.

What a wonderful organization, don't you think? If your child was born with this deformity, wouldn't you want this operation for her?  I know I would.  And we are no different than other parents around the world who only want the best for their child, too.

I think it's great when a company donates  to a wonderful cause such as Operation Smile. So if you know anyone who might want to save money next semester by renting their books instead of buying them, share Campus Book Rentals with them.  You never know how many children you will be helping when you do!

* Although all opinions written are mine, I did receive compensation to write this post.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

what happens when I'm in a hurry

You know how sometimes you are in a major hurry and you are trying to get things done and you don't notice some of the things going on around you because you are too focussed on the things you are trying to get done?   Or does this only happen to me?  

Last night I had Alex with me as I ran a few errands.  It was getting close to 8:00pm, and I only had about ten minutes to do what I had to do, so to say I was in a hurry is a major understatement.  The last errand of the night was a quick stop at the grocery store to get some milk and bread and a few other items.   

As I hurried into the grocery store, I said to Alex, "Quick - grab a cart and follow me."  So then I hurried down the first aisle not looking back, pulling this and that off the shelf and handing them off to the side or behind me for Alex to grab and put into the cart that he was pushing.  I was so hurried and so distracted that I hardly glanced at him, and would quickly go on to my next stop, grab another item, hand it to him, and it continued this way for about two minutes or so.  Finally we got to the milk aisle and I could hear Alex following close behind with the cart, like he had been the entire time.  I stopped at the milk section, opened up the glass doors and pulled out two big cartons, and because they were too heavy to just hand back to him, I turned to put them into the cart myself.  Only then did I notice that my funny-guy Alex was pushing one of those kiddie karts, and all my groceries were just about overflowing out of it.  

I was laughing so hard!  To think he had been following me around the store the whole time with that thing, and I never even noticed!    He just looked so silly, I couldn't stop laughing.   You normally see two  and three year olds pushing those kiddie carts, not preteens!  Alex had to hunch over to push it.  Finally, when I could breathe again, I said, "Alex!  Why did you grab that thing?!!!" and he said, "I don't know!  I thought it would be funny!"    We were both laughing so hard and giggling about this until it was time to check out, and even in the line I couldn't stop laughing.   

Life Lesson: No matter how rushed or busy you are, sometimes you just gotta take time out to be silly!  Thanks, Alex, for reminding me of that!

I've got to take him on errands with me more often.  The kid has a sense of humor!  I sure do love my twelve year old :)

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super proud of my five year old

So Andrew surprises me sometimes.  Last night at Kung Fu he volunteered to lead the class.  He was the first to raise his hand, and the instructor called on him.  I was beaming with pride as I watched my little guy lead the class in their Eight Basic Stances routine.  I am so HAPPY that I had my iPhone video going at the time!!

(if you have the time, watch it twice:  once to watch Andrew at the front of the class, and a second time to watch Alex at the back who keeps looking at me, not happy that I was videoing him during Kung Fu.)
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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I'm a bit behind...

We are already seven days into December.   My Christmas Tree might not be up yet, and the Christmas lights might not be hung outside, and our Christmas decorations might still be sitting in boxes in my living room waiting to be unpacked...

But by golly, we got our Christmas Countdown Chains done today!  Hallelujah!!

Let the Christmas Season begin!

Christmas Countdown Chains
Just Do It!

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