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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Good-bye 2008

I'm sitting here at my computer, after just putting E and B to bed.  Rick stayed at the party at the Breese's.  He'll pick D up from his party at midnight and K is spending the night at her friend's. I'm all alone and the house is quiet!  I plan on ringing in the new year in my dreams ....

I was just thinking of some of my "favorites" from this year ...

1.  My most favorite thing is the happiness of my family.  I have a great husband and awesome kids and I am so thankful to the Lord for answering my fervent prayers!!

2.  I am loving my house, even the upkeep of it.  It's so peaceful.

3.  I have loved the opportunities I have had to make money this year .. working for JBF and babysitting the twins.

4.  I LOVED LOVED LOVED Christmas this year with my whole family!!!  I loved all of the birthday parties and Halloween hoopla and holiday parties!

5.  I have loved watching my older two thrive in their middle schools and my little two excelling in their preschools.

6.  I love that Eli is talking so well and has been healthy!

7.  I have loved my favorite products that I have talked about this year ... Lil Critters Immune C vitamins, Swiffer Dust and Shine, the SudaCare vapor plugs ... all of these have made my life easier and still work AWESOME!

8.  I have loved the friendships I have and how God has shown me how to have peace.  (Don't worry friends, I love you more than #7 .. I just didn't want to have to retype, etc.)

In our family we always come up with a "motto" for the year.  There was "More Fun in '07", "Living Great in 2008" and this year it is "Living Fine in 2009".  We had a lot of fun in 2007, lived a little too great in 2008 and now I am looking forward to "fine living" in 2009.  I'm looking forward to defining that.

Well, if I hurry I can get to sleep before the new year arrives.

Happy New Year to you all!  May you have a blessed 2009 and may your living be "fine."

Menu Plan Monday ??

Well, I know it's Wednesday, and not Monday, but with the holidays and New Year, I'm just now needing to go to the store and plan meals. Today's post will "showcase" my meal plan for tonight through next Monday .. then we'll get back on track!

Wednesday ~ Chips and salsa/queso

Thursday ~ Chili, chili dogs, frito chili pie

Friday ~ leftovers (and lots of em!!)

Saturday ~ hamburger helper (it's on sale and it's Saturday!!)

Sunday ~ soup and grilled cheese sandwiches

Monday ~ turkey tetrazinni from leftover Christmas turkey

I didn't say my meals this week would be exciting ... but here they are!!

I'm going to the store today for my first attempt at a weekly grocery budget of $75 per week, instead of $125.  I need to remember to factor in milk in that number!  One way to help with "snack" costs, is that I have let each of the kids pick one snack to eat that week, that has to last them the whole week.  But, it's only theirs and they don't have to share.  I'll buy a large box of goldfish and fresh fruit to supplement.  Wish me luck!

Tomorrow I'll be blogging about my grocery trip .. stay tuned!!

For other great meal plans, visit here.

If you find you would like a recipe (for something that actually requires one), then comment and I'll get it to you.

Friday, December 26, 2008

An Amazing Christmas!!

Yes, I do believe this was the most amazing Christmas we have ever had! After a rocky start to our Christmas break (the boys having to have a total of 8 vaccines ... yikes!), things dramatically improved when I took them all to Putt and Jump for the better part of 2 hours on the 23rd.

On Christmas Eve, Rick worked until 3 p.m. and the kids and I cleaned house. I was REALLY excited about Christmas this year because for the first time my whole family was coming to spend the holidays at our house in Oklahoma. We usually celebrate Christmas Eve with Rick's family (Julie, Milt, Tommy and Angela). But this year we were adding 5 more to the mix, plus 2 dogs. I wanted everything to be PERFECT! Kyndal was annoyed that I was making such a fuss, but I was just so excited! (And, I knew we would be packing up on Christmas night to head out to Missouri and wanted a clean house before we left.)

Tommy, Angela and her friend, Nick, showed up with the enchiladas at about 4:30 pm and my family arrived shortly thereafter. We waited for Julie and Milton and then tore into our traditional "Feliz Navidad" celebration of enchiladas, tacos and chips and salsa. After devouring our dinner, we sat down to watch the kids open their gifts and then played some cards and cleaned up the kitchen (1st time).

Then we took our reindeer dust (courtesy of Grandma Aleta) out to the yard so the reindeer were sure to find our house. When we came inside we realized that we had a message on the answering machine. It was from Santa Claus!

We watched A Christmas Story (1st time), and then the Nix family headed home. We cleaned the kitchen again (2nd time) then started getting ready for bed.

We settled Grandma and Sonny into Brynne's bed, Aunt Rhonda into Eli's bed, Aunt Krissi and Sophie into Kyndal's bed, Papa on the couch, Kyndal and Rylee on the floor in the tv room upstairs and Dawson, Eli and Brynne into Dawson's room. Eli and Brynne were so excited because they got to bunk in Dawson's room. (As I read this I realized I needed to add that Sonny and Sophie are dogs .. that sounded weird.)

Then Rick and I went into the bedroom to wrap the kids' gifts .. a full hour's worth! But we had Christmas music playing, sitting in the floor in our pjs, talking and wrapping. It was our first opportunity to just sit, together. Before I went to bed I went upstairs to check on the kids. And I was teary. This was what Christmas was all about. I looked at all those kids, sleeping so soundly, side by side .. and I wanted to cry.

Then I fell into bed and died.

Then at 4 a.m. I heard the most horrible noise ... a combination of a cat screeching and/or a kid crying. I jumped up and ran upstairs (because Brynne had been a little sick) and ran into my dad looking for the noise, too. He thought it was Clifford, but Clifford was asleep on the back of the couch. We went back downstairs and looked on the back porch and there were two HUGE cats ~ face to face. We shooed them away and then collapsed again.

A little blonde girl was at my bed at 7:15 announcing that it was sunny outside! So, the festivities began! Only, Eli didn't want to get up! When I brought him downstairs, the other kids were piled on papa on the couch. They said, "Look Eli, Santa's been here!" He said, "No, it's just Papa."

We gathered around so the kids could open their gifts from Santa. Here they are with their spoils .. and yes, they are spoiled!!

After the kids got through their Santa gifts, we all sat in a circle and opened our gifts from each other. We got some great stuff!!! It's always so much fun!

Some cleaned up while I went to the kitchen to make bisquits and gravy and cinnamon rolls (another tradition.) We stuffed our faces and then cleaned up the kitchen (3rd time). Mom, Rhonda, Krissi and I went for a walk around the subdivision while the kids played with their toys and Rick and dad watched "A Christmas Story" (2nd time).

Then I started my turkey dinner (another tradition). We had turkey, homemade dressing (my first time), dad's homemade noodles, mashed potatoes, rolls, a green bean casserole disaster (really, how do you ruin that?) and cranberry sauce ... YUM!!

Then the Missouri family headed home, without Rylee .. she stayed with us to come back to Missouri with us today. Rick cleaned up the kitchen (4th time)and I started picking up the house. Then I packed all of us for 5 days in Missouri. Since I hadn't spent any alone time with my husband, except for wrapping presents, he and I sat down to watch "Christmas Vacation". THEN we went to bed.

It was such an exhausting Christmas but I was SO happy!! I LOVED having my whole family there to celebrate! It was a Christmas I had dreamed of my whole adult life. I felt more like a grandparent with all her kids home, than a daughter, wife and mother. It was strange. But it was wonderful! I am so blessed, I can't even explain it. So much more happened that I'm not blogging about, because I am sure you are about to fall asleep as it is. But everyone enjoyed each other, so much! I can't wait until next year.

And when I saw mom in Missouri today, she handed me a snowflake apron to wear next year. :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wrapping up the Year, and Presents ...

Starting the first week in January I'm going to begin plotting my new budgeting plans, highs and lows.  On Monday's I will post my menu, On Tuesdays I will do my Daybook entry (just because it sooths me!!).  I'll be grocery shopping on Tuesday afternoons, so on Wednesdays I'll post "What I Got for the Money Wednesday".  On Thursday I'll catch up on any happenings in the Taulman family (which will be minimal compared to the fall season .... ahhhh!).  And, on Fridays, who knows!

By blogging my budgeting I will feel accountable to someone other than myself.  And maybe someone out there will be inspired by what I'm doing and join in.  Who knows.

Today is Christmas Eve .. I can't hardly believe it!  I have so much to do today to get ready for the onslaught of family.  But, I'm giddy!  I am SO EXCITED for my family to spend Christmas here with us this year!  As an immediate family, the Taulmans, we are so happy at this time of our lives and I'm so excited for the excitement that will happen tonight and tomorrow morning! I even signed up to have Santa call our house!  (He actually called yesterday, but I let the machine get it so we can listen to it all as a family tonight.)  Grandma is bringing reindeer dust to sprinkle outside.  I'll have my dad make some reindeer poop to leave out there for in the morning.  That's always fun!!!  This will be a magical year for us.

But in the midst of the magic, there is sadness.  My heart aches for my friend Kim who lost her two brothers in tragic ways in the past few years, one of them just last year.  I know she is missing them and we often forget that the holidays are hard for some.  And just last night, at about 8 p.m., our local teacher and friend, Shona Echols, passed away.  We rejoice that she is with Jesus and is no longer suffering (it was a sudden illness, not long-term), but her husband, children, friends and other family members will forever have different feelings toward Christmas than the rest of us.  Please pray for her family!  I can't imagine being a child who lost their mother two days before Christmas.  What a sad time.  And my little Brynne woke up at 4 a.m. with an earache.  She's had a pretty yucky cold and cough, so I pray her ear is not infected but just have some fluid buildup.

And foremost .. remember that our Saviour, Jesus Christ, was born which is why we really celebrate Christmas to begin with.  Without Him we are nothing and we have no hope. With Him we can do all things, and our hope is eternal.

I have much to do today .. cleaning .. cooking .. a trip to Old Navy .. wrapping presents.  So, I'm off.  Enjoy your time with your family!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Simple Woman's Daybook for this week ...


FOR TODAY December 22, 2008

Outside my window... it is cloudy, dark, cold, windy and dreary.

I am thinking ... about my friends who are having struggles with their marriages.

I am thankful for... my husband who loves me and who really works at making me happy.

From the kitchen... we'll be having a crock pot dinner tonight.

I am wearing... jeans, tennis shoes and a baseball shirt (and my new orthodic shoe inserts because somewhere along the way, I got old!)

I am creating... a clean house today.

I am going... to take my two boys for their well-child checkups this morning and am dreading the vaccines they have to have!  Sure wish those came in a pill!

I am reading... The Good Woman by Danielle Steel

I am hoping... that the boys do okay today.

I am hearing... "Star Wars:  The Clone Wars" playing in the living room.

Around the house... it is very quiet because most of the kids are still asleep.

One of my favorite things... planning birthday parties, is DONE for this year!  With the exception of the most important birthday .. Jesus!  I am now preparing for it.

A few plans for the rest of the week ... today we will go to the doctor, and then to do something fun as a reward.  We'll come home and start cleaning the house "like someone's mama is coming for a visit" .. because mine is!! :)  Then tomorrow we will finish our Christmas Eve family preparations.  Our home will be invaded by my mom and dad, sister, niece, favorite aunt, two dogs, Rick's sister, our brother-in-law and other niece and nephew for a fun evening!  Then we'll have a great time on Christmas Day as a family eating and opening gifts and hanging out!  The day after Christmas we will head to Missouri to stay with mom and dad and have another big family Christmas dinner with my mom's family and my brother and sister-in-law.  We'll head back home early next week.

Here is picture thought I am sharing

To be inspired by other Simple Women, visit here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Has it Really Been 5 Years ????

Five years ago was one of the scariest and joyful days of my life! I went into the hospital to be induced. After the baby's heartrate dropped below 20 bpm twice, and after I started having unexplained bleeding, my doctor decided it was time to get that baby out QUICK! With not even enough time to up my anesthesia, I was ushered into the operating room. A few minutes later I delivered my tiny 5 1/2 pound baby boy, Eli Jackson. Just hearing him actually cry made me break out into sobs! (That and the fact that I could feel the surgery .. I said that it felt like a roast was being carved and I was the roast!!) But he was precious .. perfect .. an answer to prayer!

That was on December 22nd and Christmas Eve was just two days away. I was devastated that Eli would not be able to be Baby Jesus at church that night, as was planned, and even more devastated that I would likely not be home for Christmas. But by sheer determination, a lot of drugs and an awesome doctor, I went home Christmas Eve afternoon ... to a houseful of family scheduled to come over for dinner that night. God Bless Julie and her preparations! Thankfully we have photos, because I was a zombie in the corner chair most of the night.

Our little Boogie Bear is 5 ... WOW! For those of you who know us, you know what an absolute blessing this child is to us! I'm not sure what Rick Taulman would do without him. With the delays he started out with, he amazes us every day with the improvements in his speech and social skills. He's amazing and we love him so much!

This morning me and all the kids got up and went to Chik-fil-A in our pjs for their "free breakfast" promotion. It was fun! He had a cinnamon roll. They had Christmas crafts and a free goody bag.

After breakfast we headed to the movies to see "The Tale of Despereaux". It was okay .. a little dark for a kid his age, I think. But he seemed to enjoy it.

Then we came home to play for the rest of the day. Grandma got him a card that plays the Star Wars theme .. he loved that! And we got him Hulk punching hands, a new bike and some Hulk underoos. He also got the "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" movie at his birthday party last week.

For dinner we had lasagna and breadsticks .. his favorite! And then finished off the night with cupcakes made by Kyndal.

As you can see, we were in our pjs all day .. even at the movies .. even mommy! It was awesome!
But now mommy is exhausted! And Christmas celebrations start in two days!

Menu Plan Monday

I've joined a group of bloggers that post their meals on Mondays ... thus "Menu Plan Monday". For those of you who are dying to know my weekly menu plans (NOT!), here they are. May they be an inspiration to your culinary planning ...

MONDAY .. frozen lasagna and "Olive Garden" breadsticks (It's Eli's birthday and he loves this!)
TUESDAY .. crock pot chicken
WEDNESDAY .. Feliz Navidad! It's our annual Mexican Christmas Eve Dinner with Rick's family
THURSDAY .. For breakfast, bisquits and gravy and Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. For dinner, the FULL turkey dinner!
FRIDAY - SUNDAY .. We're heading to mom and dad's, so whatever they'll feed us!!!

Just know, this week was already planned a couple of weeks ago, before I decided to become a frugal mom again.  So, I am excited to see what January holds in the way of menus on my new self-inflicted, drastically-reduced grocery budget.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Programs and Parties .. All in One Day!!

Today Eli and Brynne had their preschool parties and Brynne had her program (that was on the fly because we were out of school on Tuesday).

Brynne's preschool had been practicing their Bible verses and songs since school started. They sang "Away in a Manger" and "Jingle Bells".

Little Miss was very serious about her responsibilities in this program! She didn't mess around! She did sing, but only with great concentration!

After her program, her class got to eat Happy Meals from McDonald's and then decorate sugar cookies. I just don't think she enjoyed her cookies very much ...

Brynne and I had a good time together as usual! Here she is holding the book she opened in the class book exchange.

After Brynne's party we went to Eli's at his preschool. Unfortunately for Eli, Brynne was "involved" in everything he did. He really didn't mind, but everything really was a joint effort. His class had three centers. They played "Pin the Carrot on the Snowman", made bead candy canes and decorated their treat sacks. Then Mrs. Dunkerson read them a book and they had a snack. Today they are having a pajama party where they will get to watch a Christmas movie, eat popcorn and drink hot cocoa and open their books in their class book exchange.

Let's just say Brynne had a busy day!

I'm pretty sure she just fell over. Rick said he thought he would probably be able to take a picture of me looking like that if I sat down.

Fun day! You know me, these are the days I live for!!!

Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap

Thought I would share some of my favorites over the next few days.  

This is one of my favorite recipes, and with the exception of Dawson, everybody loves it too!

Chicken Stirfry

2 boneless chicken breasts cubed
1 package frozen deluxe stirfry veggies (or fresh, if you have the time)
1 can Golden Mushroom soup
6 T soy sauce
1 T garlic powder
(1 extra can water chestnuts .. because we love them!)

Brown cubed chicken in 1 T oil, add all veggies and cover until cooked.  In separate bowl, mix soup, soy and garlic powder.  Pour over chicken and veggies and heat through.  Serve over rice. There you go!

I make a double batch because it is FABULOUS for leftovers!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow Day #3

When I am stuck in the house for days on end, literally without even stepping outside once (even to get the mail ... I had Dawson sled it down to me yesterday), I start to get antsy and I start "thinking".  I am also sure it's because of the time of year.  I always get a little bothered by the excess we experience with Christmas, but this year it has really weighed heavily on me. When you ask your kids what they want for Christmas and they really can't come up with anything, but you spend your limit on them anyway, having to work really hard to come up with something they might like, then you've hit that disturbing "excess" I'm talking about.  I've been reading other people's blogs, total strangers, women who take their home budget and simple living to a level I haven't experienced.  And, although it's challenging, it seems so peaceful!  It inspires me!

Seven years ago (yes 7!!!), when I quit work, we had an extremely tight budget!  It was so tight that frugal living was an absolute necessity!  And you know what, I enjoyed it!  I was even pretty darn good at it .. an inspiration to others!  And we NEVER went without, even one day! During that time God blessed out efforts and we were able to pay off an incredible amount of debt.  I remember thinking at that time that even if we had more money that I would never let up on my strict budgeting.  But, guess what, I did .. we did!  We built our house that put us over, we became complacent in our spending, lazy in sticking to our budget .. and we are regretting that now, especially with the economy the way it is!  Gas prices and food prices have eaten us alive.  Couple that with some medical bills and continued home improvements and it doesn't add up to a very good situation.

Now, don't get me wrong .. Rick and I are blessed beyond measure with his job and ability to make extra money, and paying our monthly expenses is not an issue.  But getting that debt paid, that debt that's creeped up again, is an issue if we continue to live in excess.

If you know me at all, you know that I'm a planner, I'm stubborn and I love a good challenge! I don't like to be told what to do, especially told I can't do something.  So, I've got an itching to do something amazing with our budget!

Every two weeks I receive cash to divide up into several categories:  groceries and household, clothing, activities, lunches (school, primarily), allowances, hobby.  I try hard to stick to those budgets.  However, if I go over in one I am really "good" at just borrowing from another, etc. That's not really sticking to a budget!  And it doesn't ever give me an opportunity to save my surplus from each two week period.  For instance, we don't need that full clothes budget every two weeks.  But, I always manage to have it spent, even if it's not on clothes.  And then when summer hits and we need new wardrobes for everybody, I don't have any money saved.  But, if I would just take that budget during downtimes and save it, we'd have plenty.

And, with our increase in income over the years, I have allowed our grocery and household budget to double.  Yes, grocery prices have increased pretty dramatically, but we don't really need that much in our grocery budget if I just planned like I used to.  I still plan meals every two weeks, but I've gotten lazy about ad-matching, using coupons, planning meals around ad specials, etc.  

I have not been a good steward of the money that God has entrusted me with.  And I am ashamed of that.  By being more frugal, I could save money, and family vacations, etc., would be easily paid for, and those debts would get paid off quickly.

Now, I am not saying I am dreading  this.  In fact, I have a new mission, a new goal ... and I'm PUMPED UP!  I actually plan to share my successes, and failures, here on my blog.  I just haven't formulated my plan yet.  I'd like for it to have some consistency, some purpose.  So bear with me as I start this journey.

And I would appreciate your prayers.  Although I love a good bargain, I also love to shop!  So, I want to get some healthy control over this, and I'll need help to make that happen.   And, who knows, I might even inspire you!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Simple Woman's Daybook for This Week


FOR TODAY December 15, 2008

Outside my window... my 14 year old daughter and her friend are sledding down our iced-over driveway.

I am thinking ... about taking a shower.

I am thankful for... a happy family.

From the kitchen... I can smell coffee and waffles.

I am wearing... my jammies, robe and slippers .. it's a snow day here and COLD!!

I am creating... zucchini bread today.

I am going... NOWHERE ... icy and cold and my husband took our 4WD vehicle to work!

I am reading... House (still)

I am hoping... that the kids can go back to school by Thursday so they can enjoy their holiday parties!

I am hearing... my teenagers screaming as they slide down the driveway.

Around the house... there's laundry to be done, beds to make, kids sleeping, kids watching cartoons, things to do ...

One of my favorite things... happened this weekend .. we had an awesome family weekend!

A few plans for the rest of the week ... hopefully to go back to school! To attend holiday parties.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...
I will cherish, all through this season, the wonderful time our family had at The Christmas Train this year!! It was truly special and what "family" time is all about!

For other Simple Woman's Daybook ideas, please feel free to visit:

Slip Slidin' Away

It's Day 2 of being iced in .. but at least we have power!!

Yesterday the kids were thrilled to be home! Even though there wasn't any snow, our driveway was a solid sheet of ice! Kyndal and Dawson got sleds from Santa last year and never got to use them even once. So, they were outside and ready pretty early. It was SO COLD but they sledded for a little while to try them out.

Kyndal and I finished our Christmas baking, and she went next door to babysit. Dawson was bored, already!

Later in the afternoon, Kyndal and Dawson, the Gardner girls and the Bonds all gathered back outside for more sledding. It was so fun to listen to them screaming as they shot down the driveway. They had so much fun! Dawson, Kristina and Ethan were outside for about three hours. As we suspected, we have the perfect sledding hills at our house!

Since we're home today, too, I suspect they'll be back out it later. I'm not sure what I'm going to do today. It's really too icy for Eli and Brynne to go outside, but I might have to break down and take them out for a while. They were really mad I wouldn't let them yesterday.

Julie's coming over today to pick up some coats for her school's coat drive. I think I'll make some zucchini bread before she gets here so we can have a treat.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Great Weekend!

Being a "blended" family, we certainly have our struggles.  Of course, all families have them! Sometimes weekends are tough because we are all crammed in one place with our competing personalities and things don't always go the way I would like.

But this weekend has to be one of the greatest weekends we have every spent as a family! Things have been so great with us for a long time, but this weekend I was really able to just sit back and look at what lots of hard work and lots of prayer causes to happen!

Like I said earlier, we went to The Christmas Train on Thursday night and just had such a great time!  Then on Friday evening we just hung out at home, while Kyndal babysat.  We skipped a Christmas party to get ready for Eli's birthday party on Saturday.  Rick helped me get prepared and I made the brownies, decorated the table, set up the games, made the pinata.  It was fun! Rick and Dawson ran into town for a bit and, from what I hear, looked at every pet at the pet store before coming home!

On Saturday we had the time of our lives watching Eli enjoy is birthday party!  Everybody had a good time!  We came home and just spent the rest of the day and evening together.  Rick decided to take Kyndal to the movies and shopping, so they were gone for a few hours.  Me and the little guys, and Dawson, just hung out at home.  

Then yesterday we had a great morning at church.  Kyndal and I went grocery shopping, baked some Christmas goodies and worked in the nursery at church last night.  Then after everybody went to bed, Rick, Kyndal and I watched the finale of Survivor.

I know it doesn't sound that exciting to most, but to us it was a priceless weekend .. a nice prelude to the holidays!  I have such a hope and joy at the coming of Christmas!!!

Brynne, on the other hand, was just worn out!!
 She fell asleep still in her towel after her bath before we could get her dressed!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Can We Build It?? Yes We Can!!

Today was Eli's birthday party. This is the first party we have ever had for him, because he has not really been the social type until here lately. At the top of his list of invites was mommy, daddy, Kyndal, Dawson and Brynne. He wanted to invite Hayze and his friends, Logan and Cole, from school. Cole wasn't able to make it. Eli was so excited for his party, because he has had to sit through all of the other kids' parties since school has started. He just kept saying the last couple of days, "Is it my turn now?"

Several months ago I came across the idea for a Construction party. Eli's never really been into construction .. I'm sure he would have rather had Star Wars ... but the ideas were too cute to pass up!

Our local Lowe's has free Build and Grow clinics for children two times a month. Being a thrifty mom, I arranged for us to all meet at Lowe's at 10 a.m. to build gingerbread houses. When you do the clinic you get a free tool apron and goggles ... SCORE!! The kids all really enjoyed it, especially Brynne! I think she may be a construction worker someday, during her breaks from the Hunting Network!

After we built our houses we came back to our house for treats and games. I had the fortune to happen upon construction-themed resin plates and cool see-through glasses at Target several months ago, $1 for two plates and $1 each glass. So I picked them up as extra party favors! We decorated the table with a black table cloth and caution tape. For the centerpiece we put a big, really old, metal Tonka dumptruck in the center of the table and filled it with brownies for dessert. At each place setting was a construction hat. Above the table hung construction signs. After eating brownies and opening gifts, we headed upstairs for the first of two games.

Our first game was a wrecking ball game. We stacked up large cardboard blocks and put three numbers on it. We hung a tennis ball from the ceiling, taped to a string, and the kids pretended to "wreck" the building, trying to hit the number Dawson called out. Then we headed to the garage. In the garage was a blow-up pool filled with dirt. In the dirt, plastic tools were buried. Each of the kids' parents were given a sheet that had certain tools photocopied on it. The kids then had to dig in the dirt and find the tools on their sheet. They got to keep the tools in their tool apron to take home.

Before coming back inside we did the caution cone pinata. I made an orange cone pinata and attached caution tape strips to the bottom. One of the strips pulled a trap door that released the candy. It worked out that Eli pulled the last strip that was the right one. Rick shook out the candy and the frenzy began!

To end the party, we had purchased a stand-up photo cutout from I took pictures of each of the kids, and we're going to use them as our Thank You notes. It was cute!

All-in-all it was a really fun, and calm, party! Eli said his favorite part was building the gingerbread house. We plan to do more of those clinics. It was really fun!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Elves .. Disco Style!

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Remember to pause my playlist at the bottom so you can hear this disco music.

Also, who's the creepy elf???

A Night at The Christmas Train

We had THE most amazing night at The Christmas Train last night!  Let me just tell you that we could not have had a more perfect night weather-wise!  It was a little less than 40 degrees, clear and no wind.  It was cold (but you want it to be cold because it's a Christmas town) but not too cold that we were miserable.

We went this year for the first time since 2001.  Rick's sister, Julie, and her family (Milton, Tommy and Angela) went with us.  It was really special to spend the evening with them.  And, it was nice to have a couple of extra strong backs to carry Brynne around!!

We started the night off at the big playground they have installed.  I was afraid that was all we were going to see!  But, then Rick took Eli, Brynne and Dawson to the carousel while Kyndal, Angela and I went to wait in line for the wagon ride.  The kids loved that!  They took you out through the woods and had large billboards with "The Night Before Christmas" on it that we read outloud as we passed them.  Brynne's eyes were wide open with excitement!  Eli just had fun counting the page numbers on the billboards.  Seriously, that was his favorite part of it!

We stopped off for a picture in the horse-drawn carriage in one of the restaurants, then headed to the LONG line to ride the train.  It actually only took about 25 minutes to wait in line, and the kids were so great!  But it was worth it to see the reactions out of the kids!  Eli and Brynne loved the train ride and Dawson was overtaken with emotion as to the presentation of the complete story of Jesus.  It really affected him!

Our last stop was to see Santa.  Eli told Santa he wanted a little green car and a "little something else" that sounded like a bad word and shocked us all for a minute, but then we realized he said "tracks" .. like in train tracks.  Brynne followed up and said she wanted a "little yellow car".  They should be easy this Christmas!  Both little ones sat on his lap, which totally surprised me, and we even got Kyndal and Dawson to crowd in for a picture.  It was awesome!

We grabbed some hot cocoa and headed home.  We didn't get to bed until almost midnight.  (K & D are not too happy to be up getting ready for school at 6:30 this morning!! ... sorry!!)

This was one of those nights where everything just went so perfectly!  Everyone had a good time and enjoyed each other!  I really couldn't have asked for a better time for all of us to spend together as a family.

Now the negatives.  Eli had a little bit of a cold yesterday and by last night he was MISERABLE! I really hope he feels better today and gets better by tomorrow so we don't have to cancel his birthday party!  I will probably keep him home from school today.

The Christmas Train was closed for a few years while they did renovations.  I really wish they would have left everything alone!  They have completely taken away the old town feel by paving the streets.  There didn't seem to be as much emphasis on the town, but more commercialism with a modern play structure, carousel and modern theatre for the message.  And the Santa .. let's just say he must have been a "helper."  When we went in 2001 Dawson walked out (at age 5) and said, 'Whoa, that was the real Santa.'  I felt like I was at Silver Dollar City.  You used to ride the train to Santa's Village where you could see Santa, walk around and look in all the stores, and then ride the train back to the town.  At the end of the train ride you went into an "old" theatre to listen to Christmas carols being sung by an old-time choir, then they did their message of salvation.  Don't get me wrong, it was still fun and cool to see and I loved it.  But I don't understand why they made all the changes.  That part was a little disappointing.  All-in-all, however, it was one of the best things we have done as a family in a long time.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Goodness, I've been sounding a little bi-polar on my blog lately, huh??  Up one day, down the next, up the next, down the next.  Welcome to the Christmas season!!  That's sad, isn't it???

Today is a good day, and tomorrow I'll have more pics.  We are going to The Christmas Train tonight and I'll have tons of festive, old-time Christmas pictures.  It should be fun!  I hope we don't freeze to death!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I don't know about you other wives and mothers, but I do what I do for my family because I love it!  I personally do it because I know God has called me to this ministry in my home.  But, Satan lurks ...

Before I know it I have allowed myself to become selfish and all of a sudden I am thinking, "Doesn't anybody care about me?  About how I feel?  About what I want?"  

I am feeling that way today.  I feel like if I hear one more person say, "I want ...", that I am going to scream!  And it doesn't even have to be by way of words, but just an attitude.  Maybe I'm imagining things, but it sure seems like everyone around me is pretty absorbed in what they want and needs me to fulfill that want.  The sad part is that I love doing it .. I just don't like being made to feel like it's my job.

I guess that selfish part of me just wants someone to pay attention to me and give me what I want, without having to ask me what that is and have me tell it.  I guess I just wish someone paid close enough attention to me to really just know it.

I know that there is one who does ... it's God.  He promises me that he knows every hair on my head and provides for my every need.  All I have to do is ask.  I just want to be that strong today, when I am feeling weak, to boldly ask for what is already mine.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook


FOR TODAY December 8, 2008

Outside my window... it's a blustery day

I am thinking... I should be finishing laundry, unloading the dishwasher and starting dinner preparations.

I am thankful for... my husband.

From the kitchen... calls my dishwasher full of clean dishes needing to be unloaded.

I am wearing... my gray Old Navy logo shirt, comfy jeans, my favorite silver tennis shoes and my hair in a pony.

I am creating... mini Christmas trees for the kids' bedrooms.

I am going... to regret playing on my blog all afternoon.

I am reading... House.

I am hoping... for a meaningful family Christmas.

I am hearing... "Cars" playing in Eli's room and an airplane flying overhead.

Around the house... it's quiet.

One of my favorite things... is having a cup of coffee first thing in the morning.

A few plans for the rest of the week: To start making lists of things I need to prepare for the holiday events and to finish preparations for Eli's birthday party on Saturday.

Here is picture thought I am sharing... see the picture of our house below .. LOVE IT!

For other Simple Woman's Daybook ideas, please feel free to visit:

It's Beginning to Look at Lot Like Christmas!

I DID IT!! I got my Christmas decorations up! (I only have to put together the kids' little trees for their rooms). The house looks great! I always enjoy it so much when it's done! And now I'm excited for the Christmas season. Yesterday the weather was BEAUTIFUL! I know God created that day just for me, because I'd be outside hanging garland and bows and such. Rick put out our mechanical deer that I insisted on last year. As soon as they were operational, Brynne ran to the garage to get her gun. She needed to shoot the deer. I guess I can be thankful that she won't have any trouble fulfilling the task of the Proverbs 31 woman who "brings her food from afar." She'll just go out and shoot dinner. To hear the video you'll need to go down to my Playlist and pause it, or you'll hear my music over her talking.

In the video she tells the deer, "This is my island!" She is referring to the "island" in the middle of the rock creek that runs down our property. The creek is "Eli's Creek" and the island is "Brynne's Island."

She actually did this little routine without knowing I was watching her. I was just taking pictures. When she realized I had taken pictures, she wanted to "hear it". She thought I was videoing. So, she recreated the scenario for me to tape it. At the end she says, "I'm ready" because she didn't know I was already recording.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Last night we got to meet up with our former childrens' pastors, Daniel and Lori Smith, and their kids at Incredible Pizza in Tulsa.  It was so nice to see them .. we miss them so badly! Dawson was thrilled to get to see Pastor Daniel.  He's never recovered from him leaving us! We had a good time playing games and hanging out with some families from church:  The Highfields, Caruths, Pipkins, Blakesleys and the Hughes family.  The kids had a blast and it was just good to see Daniel and Lori looking so good.  

This morning Kyndal, Dawson and I, and many others, worked at the Angel Tree distribution that our church sponsored.  That is such a neat event and the blessings we receive from giving to those families cannot be measured!  It even managed to put me in the Christmas spirit!  

When I got home Rick had brought the tree down from the storage room and it was twinkling and pretty. We pulled in the tubs of decorations and I cranked up a Christmas station on XM. Rick went outside to finish the Christmas lights and I started putting up decorations.  I still have garland to hang up the stairs and garland and bows to hang outside.  But, for the most part, I'm done.  Our house looks great so far!  I always love the way it looks when we're done, I just dread getting started!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Remember the Hurting

There are trees to decorate, gifts to buy, parties to attend ...

There is so much busyness during this season!  But let us not forget those around us who are hurting, really hurting.  I can think specifically of two young mamas who lost babies in the past 2 months, one just before she was due to be born and one to SIDS when she was 4 months old. I can think of at least two marriages, in my immediate group of friends, that are teetering on the edge of defeat.  I can think of at least two people who have spouses with life-threatening illnesses that have debilitated them to the point of complete reclusion.  And the spouses and children of those two are suffering, badly!

Let us just not forget that decorations are a pain to put up, and a bigger pain to take down ... that gifts are given and received and forgotten ... that parties are, well, whatever they are to you ...

Just please take time during this season to pray for those around you that have serious issues going on in their lives, and be sure that you are being grateful for the good times you may be having.  And when you're giving, don't forget to give to what counts.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

It's not THAT bad!

I hope you liked my last post .. I couldn't resist!  It's not that bad around here!  (And if you didn't notice, that's not even our house .. thanks for the forward, Linda, that was very funny!)  Actually Rick hung half of our lights a week or so ago.  They are glowing brightly right now.  We still need to finish them, but this weekend's weather is supposed to be decent, so we'll get to it.  I'll post more later today.  I need to go work out!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas Decorations Have Begun

Rick got our Christmas lights up and finished today.  Told you we were the Cranks!

Christmas with the Cranks/Taulmans

It's December 3rd and I don't have the first Christmas decoration hung.  I go through this every year .. total dread and exhaustion.  If you don't know this, all four kids' birthdays are between the start of school and Christmas.  And, I am not a believer in mediocre birthdays!!  So far we have had a full-blown backyard beach party, corn maize experience and 80's murder mystery dinner. Eli's birthday party is a week from Saturday and it's a construction theme.  As you can imagine, we're not just throwing up some decorations!  

By the time I plan and execute birthday parties and purchase gifts for the kids for their birthdays, I'm pretty wiped out!  Then the word "execute" starts to take on a whole new meaning!  Like I said, it's December 3rd and no decorations have been hung.  I am grateful the tree is fully-decorated in the storage room so that's one less thing to do.  Seriously, you would think I could have hauled it downstairs by now!  The up side is that my Christmas cards are done, printed and waiting for labels to be attached and I am so close to being done (I accidentally typed "dong" just there .. which is what I feel like) with my Christmas shopping.  

Rick and I were accused of being the Cranks this year because we plan to boycott almost all Christmas parties we have been invited to.  And we usually also squeeze in a family birthday dinner with Rick's sister and family.  But this year, instead of that, we're going to all go to The Christmas Train as a family.  We haven't been since the first Christmas after we moved here. Kyndal was 7 and Dawson was 5.  They have been requesting that we go again, and I think Eli and Brynne will love riding the train, seeing the North Pole and Santa and all of the other cool things.  I'm really looking forward to it.  Now we can just only hope the weather cooperates.

Maybe, maybe, I'll decorate the house this weekend.

Monday, December 1, 2008


I love Thanksgiving!  It's one of my favorite holidays.  Maybe that's why I get so irritated about Christmas because everyone seems to look over Thanksgiving.

We spent the holiday in Windsor with my family.  We eat and eat and eat and relax and spend time with family.  I really enjoy it.  On Thanksgiving day my dad makes a traditional turkey dinner with his famous homemade noodles .. yum!  We spend time with an ecclectic blend of family members.  We watch football.

I enjoyed my time with my family so much.

Black Friday

Well others can complain about how horrible it is to shop the day after Thanksgiving, but I personally had a great day!  Of course I think perception and expectation have a lot to do with it! No, we didn't get to Kohl's at 4 a.m. or Walmart at 5 a.m.  And we weren't willing to trample someone for a couple of dollars off (in all seriousness, I hope we are all praying for this poor man's family).  My mom, aunt and I took off from Windsor Mo. at 6:30 a.m.  We stopped at Walmart in Warrensburg, getting there around 7 a.m.  Sure it was busy, but not horrible.  And we got what we were there to get without much trouble.  Then we headed to Kansas City.  We went to some less-busy stores first .. Hobby Lobby, Gordman's, Old Town Pottery.  Then we headed to more busy stores like TJ Maxx, Target, Toys R Us and Kohl's.  We never really ran into any horrible crowds or lines, with the exception of Toys R Us.  But, they had it so streamlined that we were seriously only in line for about 10 minutes even though the line was to the back of the store.  (The economy is obviously shaky!!)  In all we shopped about 10 hours. But we had a nice lunch and a great time together!  I completely finished my Christmas shopping, with the exception of one thing here for Dawson that I didn't want to have to transport back to Oklahoma. But I'm almost done!  More than anything I just enjoyed the day with my family.  My sister and niece met up with us later in the day.  And, we just had fun.  

Now I need to put up my Christmas tree and decorations and address my Christmas cards. I actually kindof dread that every year.  I love the way it looks when I'm done, but I don't enjoy the work that goes into it.  I am thankful that last year we hauled our tree upstairs, fully decorated, to the storage room.  Now all I have to do this year is pull it down, re-apply some fallen ornaments and fluff it.  Then I'm done!  Yea!  I'm a scrooge, I know.  I guess I really just don't see the point in all of the hoopla over decorations.