Wednesday, December 28, 2011

{A Few of My Favorite Things} - Handmade for the Holidays

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!  I know we did...and now I can't believe that the New Year is just a couple days away!  As the holidays draw to a close, so is my "favorite things" series.  I hope you've enjoyed it! 

The last thing I want to share is my favorite handmade gifts that were either given or recieved this year.  I love handmade items for several reasons - they are unique; if you are the crafter, you may save some money (though not always!); if you aren't the crafter, you are supporting someone else's craftiness.  I love to support small and local businesses! 

Some of you may think I'm a bit belated in sharing these ideas...but you can always keep them in mind for birthdays or other special occasions or, better yet, plan for next Christmas NOW!  It's never too early, especially if you want to try to make something!

Here's what we loved:

Hat, scarf, and mitten set.  Every year one of my gifts to my daughter is a hat, scarf, and mitten/gloves set.  I love to accessorize in the winter with fun hats and scarves and I'm training her to do the same!  While I typically look for a cutesy set from Gap, Old Navy, or The Children's Place, this year I tried a little something different...I custom ordered her a knitted set from Scoggin's Noggins.  I discovered Sarah Scoggin and her talented knitting skills through my friend Anne's blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy, when she won a custom-made hat.  It was great to have the freedom to choose the exact colors I wanted (to match Libby's winter coat perfectly!) and pick a style.  And it was a big hit with Libby, especially when I told her that it's truly one-of-a-kind and that someone had to work really hard to make it.  (Thanks, Sarah!)  Check it out:
Libby in her "modeling" pose for her Mommy's blog :)
As if the owl hat wasn't great enough, we both (Libby and I) lucked out and got matching hand-crocheted hats from my friend Michelle as a Christmas gift, which I also loved!

Handmade ornaments.  This year, at my friends' annual ornament exchange my friend Stacey changed things up a bit...she went handmade!  A lot of work went into her fabric decouppaged ornament but it's something that I'll always remember when I get that ornament out over the years to come.  Stacey's daughter even made her own version to pass on to Libby so we both got one!  I'm thinking that next year I will have to get some pointers on how to make them so we can give it a try.  In the meantime, I've got a button ornament in the works (Yes, I started it before Thanksgiving, and no, I never got around to actually finishing it - maybe next year!).

My ornament from my friend, Stacey                                        Libby's ornament from her friend, Maggie

Guess Who: Family Edition.  Remember that popular board game from the 1980s, Guess Who?  If you don't, check out the game section at Target or Wal-Mart - it's still around but has changed a bit since the original version.  Anywho, I can't take credit for this was another discovery on Anne's great blog (Thanks, Anne, for all your help this Christmas!).  I ordered a "vintage" version of the Guess Who game and replaced all of the fictional characters with real people in Libby's family!  It was fun (and challenging!) gathering up the photos that I needed (It takes 24 mugs!) but the end result was definitely unique and a lot more fun than the regular version!  I hope that her dad's family enjoys it!  I would love to post a picture of the final product but feel it's best to protect their privacy.

Pinterest, Pinterest, and more Pinterest!  In case you can't tell, Pinterest is my latest-and-greatest favorite website.  While I've regained control of my life and am no longer wasting away hours upon hours in front of my computer as I divulge in all the craftiness, oddities, and delicious recipes that make up my favorite parts of Pinterest, I still love to frequent the site when I have some spare time.  For me, it has inspired my inner creativity.  Before the discovery of Pinterest, I rarely found the time or energy to attempt handmade.  But I can honestly say that I have been more crafty (and had more fun with it!) since discovering this amazing website.  Kudos to Pinterest this Christmas for giving me the ideas to refurbish a Pringles can to hold homemade cookies, to make cute button ornaments (still in progress, as I mentioned above); and for helping me find a unique gift for Libby's uncle!  Can't wait to see what Pinterest inspires me to make (or buy!) next year!

This year I hope that my creative side continues to grow - Libby and I both enjoy being crafty and it makes for great mommy-and-me time!  Do you have any project or craft ideas we should try?  What are your favorite handmade gifts?  Please share - I may need to try them in 2012! 

Have a wonderful and safe New Year! 


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

{A Few of My Favorite Things} - Christmas Food!

Over the last week, it seems that everyday when I've come into work, there has been a different sweet treat awaiting us...peanut butter balls, fudge, red velvet cake, cookies, peanut brittle...the list goes on!  Something about this season seems to bring out the baker in everyone!  In fact, just tonight my daughter and I baked our first gingerbread house...not that we haven't decorated one's just that in the past we always just bought the gingerbread house kits, where the gingerbread is pre-made.  But this year, we bought a gingerbread mix and, using a pan I bought on clearance after Christmas last year, we made a giant gingerbread cookie in the shape of a house.  It turned out fantastic and I think we've started a new tradition!

Christmas just doesn't seem complete without the sweet treats and overeating!  :)  Here are a few of my favorite Christmas foods:

Oreo Balls.  If you haven't discovered these balls of yummy, Oreo goodness, you are truly missing out!  They are fairly easy (once you have managed to finely crush the Oreos) - all it takes is 1 package of Oreos, 8 oz. of cream cheese, and chocolate bark (I prefer white myself).  Mix the finely crushed Oreos and cream cheese well and form into small balls.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or if you're in a rush, as I usually am, pop them in the freezer for about 15 minutes).  Melt your chocolate bark and then, using a toothpick, dip the balls into the chocolate and place on wax paper to harden.  Or if you want to really impress people, use some decorative sugar or sprinkles to top them before the chocolate hardens.  Everyone I know seriously loves these and one batch makes quite a bit - makes for great gifts!

Christmas Tree Cakes.  Am I the only one out there that loves, and even looks forward to, Little Debbie's Christmas Tree Cakes?  They aren't homemade by any means, but I just LOVE these things.  Normally junk food is off limits in my theory is that if I buy it, I will eat it so I just don't buy junk food.  But once a year, I make an exception with these little guys.  I don't know what it is about the creme-filled cakes and the green sugar granules, but I really can't resist them!
image via Google images 

Sausage Balls.  Another easy favorite, these disappear quickly at our family's annual Christmas Eve gathering.  All you need is a roll of sausage, a package of sharp cheddar cheese, and 3 cups of Bisquick.  Mix all ingredients together and roll into balls.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until browned.  They are good anytime but they are definitely best when served warm!

My Mom's Grit Casserole.  If you read my Thanksgiving post, you know that I was really looking forward to my mom's grit casserole at Thanksgiving...and I was let down!  As soon as I walked in the door to my parent's house, my mom made her confession to me - she had failed to make my favorite dish!  But she promised to pull through for Christmas so I'm anxiously awaiting our feast!  I realize that many people don't care for grits - either because of the texture or the bland taste.  But I'm telling you, grit casserole is pretty amazing and just might win you over if it's fixed just right!  I'm a Southern girl at heart and was raised on grits so I wouldn't know what it's like to not enjoy them!  Mom's casserole recipe is as follows:

6-8 servings grits, cooked
1 stick butter or margarine
2 eggs
1 (6 oz) roll of Kraft garlic cheese (which happens to be next-to-impossible to mom now creates her own combination of garlic and cheese which I would share but I have yet to perfect myself!)
Approximately 1 cup of milk

Cook grits per directions on package.  Add butter and garlic cheese; let melt.  Blend thoroughly.  Break eggs into measuring cup; beat slightly.  Add milk.  Add mixture to grits.  Stir until smooth.  Pour into 9x13 dish.  Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until edges begin to brown slightly and crust forms. 

Let me know if you try any of my favorites this Christmas!  And please share your own favorites...'tis the season for baking! 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

{A Few of My Favorite Things} - Christmas Songs

image via PhotoBucket

With only a week to go, the sights and sounds of Christmas are everywhere now.  And I can tell you that it's  no different at our house!  As soon as we wake in the morning, Libby or myself (although she usually beats me to it!) get straight to the Christmas tree to turn on the lights!  And anytime we are  home, I have our satellite tuned into the "Christmas Message" music station.  Nothing gets me quite in the spirit like the music does!  So here are a few of my faves:

Beautiful Star (by Emmylou Harris).  Definitely a country-Christmas-kind-of-song, this is one that I grew up listening to.  I have wonderful memories of our family decorating the house and traveling together with this song playing in the background.

Christmas Canon (by Trans Siberian Orchestra).  A beautiful mashup of two of my favorite stand-along songs, Carol of the Bells, and Pachelbel's Canon, it brings a sense of the beauty of the season through its melody.  My soul quiets whenever this song is played.

I'll Be Home for Christmas (by Amy Grant).  There are so many versions of this 1940s song, but this is my favorite thus far.  At times I feel tears coming to my eyes as I'm reminded of all the people who have family members that can't be home for Christmas.  As for me and Libby, well, "I'll be home for can plan on me."

O Holy Night (by Jackie Evancho).  Between the lyrics and the music of this song, it's hard not to be awed by any version.  I once made an attempt at this song myself at my church when I was in high school but 10 year old Evancho's version definitely puts mine to shame!  (YES, I said 10-years-old!!!)She reaches the high notes with a power that's hard to believe!

Angels We Have Heard on High (by Point of Grace).  This isn't your typical Angels We Have Heard on High.  While most of the lyrics are true to the church hymn, they have also added some to make this version of this song very unique and catchy.  The first time I heard it, I immediately purchased it from itunes...and maybe even played it on repeat for a while!

What songs are you tuning into to get into the Christmas spirit?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

{A Few of My Favorite Things} - Christmas Movies

As I type this, we actually have one of our favorite Christmas movies on in the daughter and I LOVE movie nights and they are even more special when the movies revolve around our favorite holiday!  What better way to have a cheap "date night" with your child than a good movie and some snuggling on the couch, especially in this chilly weather! 

Here are some of our favorites:

NOW SHOWING (at our house): Elf.  Kid-friendly and VERY funny, Elf is by far one of our favorite picks!  You can always count on Will Ferrell for some good humor and this time it's actually clean!  It's all about Buddy the Elf, who goes on a journey to find his real father, a business executive in New York City.  Having been raised in the North Pole, Buddy runs into many mishaps with his new family!

The Santa Clause.  Tim Allen finds himself in Santa's shoes (literally!) when the real Santa falls off his roof and needs a replacement.  Such a clever play on words when his son discovers that there is a ladder leading to the roof from the "Rose Suchak Ladder Company" (from 'Twas the Night Before Christmas: When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter...) "just like the poem!"  There are 2 sequels to this movie but none are as great as the original! 

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  Not for the younger audience, this is the movie to turn to if you need some adult-only humor!  My Christmas isn't complete without watching Chevy Chase's plans for a perfect family Christmas go awry in every way possible.  One of my favorite scenes is when one of the elderly family members is asked to say grace.  With my experience working in a nursing home, this really is how our conversations go sometimes!  I can definitely see one of my patients being the "Aunt Bethany" of their family.  

The Polar Express.  The digital film-making used for this movie is remarkable!  If you watch it, note the uncanny resemblance of Tom Hanks in the train conductor (who is voiced by Hanks).  A beautiful message of believing in the spirit of Christmas, this movie is based on a children's book.  There are a few dark scenes which may scare little ones, but overall it's really a delight for the whole family!  I especially love the music!  If you live in a retro area, you may be lucky enough to stumble upon the IMAX version or even a real Polar Express train ride!

A Charlie Brown Christmas.  If you need a reminder about what Christmas is really all about, you can't beat the Peanuts gang!  A few years ago I decided that one of our Christmas Eve traditions needed to be hearing the Christmas story just before turning in for the night.  Rather than read it straight from the Bible, I thought it would catch my daughter's attention better if she could watch Linus telling it through a clip of this movie on YouTube.  And I was right!  She loved it, I loved it - and while it seems a little "non-traditional" to gather around the computer screen to watch a movie clip on Christmas Eve, it's just what we happen to do!  He tells such a heart-warming version of the story that I honestly can't read the Christmas story from Luke 2:8-14 without hearing Linus' voice reciting his monologue: 

The list could go on, really, but if I have to narrow it down, these are my top picks.  I also enjoy some of the classic movies (It's a Wonderful Life; Miracle on 34th Street - both 1947 and 2000 versions), as well as some animated and claymation flicks (the original Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas and you've gotta love Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer!)

What movies do you like to watch to make your holiday complete?


Friday, December 2, 2011

{A Few of My Favorite Things} - Traditions

Happy December!  The most wonderful time of the year is finally here!  Just like a child, I look forward to this time of year all year round.  Now don't get me wrong - I actually hate cold weather and love, love, love the summertime!  But there's nothing quite like Christmas - the traditions, the music that fills the air (and my heart!), the sights, and the heart-felt warmth that comes with the sense of giving, whether it's sharing gifts with family members or sharing time or money with charitable organizations.

In honor of this cherished holiday called Christmas, over the next 4 weeks I will be blogging about a few of my favorite things.  Sometimes it's hard as a single parent to feel like a "real family" around Christmas time.  But all families are whether you're like myself and just a family of 2 or whether you're a blended family of 10 or anything else in between, it is up to you to share this joyous season with your child/children and build memories that will last a lifetime. 

This week I'd like to share a few of my favorite Christmas traditions - I thought this would be a great way to start the series and who knows?  Maybe you might decide to add 1 or 2 of these to your own holiday lineup! 
1. The elf on the shelf.  If you haven't heard of this tradition, you and your kiddos are missing out!  The Elf on the Shelf arrived in our home on December 7, 2008 and his name is Tink.  You can find your own at Amazon here but they are becoming more and more widely available as the popularity of these little elves is gaining and can even be found in mainstream stores such as Target now.  Typically sold as a set, there is a small elf and a book explaining the tradition.  Basically what happens is the elf arrives sometime after Thanksgiving and stays with you until Christmas.  Each night he/she flies back to the North Pole to report to Santa if your child/children have been naughty or nice and then (here comes the fun part!) he reappears in a different spot in your home when he returns!  At our house, Libby can't wait to wake up and see where Tink is next - he can be quite naughty himself sometimes, even spilling M&Ms all over our kitchen table one year!  :)  This year he was running a bit behind schedule and just showed up today and she was thrilled!  It's a great way to keep her behavior in check for the next few weeks but also to inspire her to believe in the magic of Christmas.

2. "Happy birthday, Jesus!" party.  I make it a point to help Libby (and myself!) remember the true meaning of Christmas - a celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  While the entire Christmas season can sometimes seem like a blur of one celebration after another, it's easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle and forget what we're really celebrating.  To get back to the root of Christmas, we have had a small "Happy birthday, Jesus" party every year for the last 3 years.  Each year Libby invites a few friends over and together we decorate a birthday cake and sing "happy birthday" to Jesus.  Since she is older now, last year I decided that I also wanted to tie in some sort of service activity with the party to help my daughter and her friends take part in the giving aspect of Christmas - we should give and make sacrifices just like Jesus did for us when he suffered a death on the cross for our sins.  While I'm not sure what I'm going to have them do this year (any ideas???), last year Libby and her 2 friends painted magnets that I later wrapped and delivered to some of the residents of the nursing home where I work that do not have any family or friends visiting regularly.  I gave the magnets anonymously but I know that the residents that received them were so grateful for that small gesture of kindness. 

3. Ornaments.  I suppose most anyone who celebrates Christmas has a Christmas tree and if you have a Christmas tree, it's not complete without the ornaments and the lights, right?  Well,
 ornaments are more than just simple decoration at our house.  There are several traditions we have that revolve around ornaments so I want to briefly mention each of them.  First of all, one thing I look forward to every year is an ornament exchange with a few of my friends.  We began this tradition in college and this will be our 10th year!  It's a simple way for us to get together and celebrate our friendship over the years and express our gratitude for one another through the simple act of exchanging a gift - and rather than buying gifts for everyone, we each bring one ornament to the exchange and then draw names when we get there to determine whose gift we will be opening.  It's become quite the competition to see who can find the cutest ornament!  Secondly, in order to build up the small collection of ornaments that I had when I put up my first Christmas tree for my daughter and I, I have purchased a personalized ornament for our family every year.  Let me tell you - finding a cute, personalized ornament for a single parent family can be quite tricky!  Most of the personalized ornaments representing a 2 person family represent a couple.  But I've managed to find something each year, even if it's not the most accurate portrayal of our family.  And Libby loves looking at the different ones from over the years.  Not only do we have the personalized ornaments from each year, but we also have ornaments from most of the vacations we've taken.  Looking at all those ornaments brings floods of memories as we pull them out of their boxes and hang them each year.  Lastly, I also buy an ornament for my daughter every year.  The funny thing is, she doesn't even know I do this!  I buy it in secret and have a special box I keep them in, along with a small letter I write her each year explaining what the year has been like, what she means to me, and why I bought that particular ornament for her.  Someday, when my daughter has her own Christmas tree, I look forward to presenting her with this box of special notes and ornaments collected over the years.

4. Operation Christmas ChildI'm not sure who looks forward to this one more - me or Libby!  Every year in November, we participate in Samaritan's Purse's Operation Christmas Child, where we fill a shoebox with toys, candy, socks, books, crayons and paper, and hygiene items to be delivered to a child in need in countries such as Haiti.  Many times the items in these shoe boxes are the only new things these children have ever received.  When the shoe boxes are handed out, the distributors also take the opportunity to share the story of Christ with the children, often a first for many of them.  It's a great way to share God's love!  And it can easily be done on a tight budget.  I'm an avid couponer so have been able to get many free hygiene items, such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, that I set aside for either our use or to donate later.  This year I just pulled my box of "free stuff" out and Libby was able to pick out what she wanted to give.  We also keep Happy Meal and other Kids Meal toys that Libby doesn't like or want in their original packaging, making for easy toys to give to those in need.  And always looking for a good bargain, I buy a few more school supplies in August than what Libby will need because (a) they are cheaper in August and (b) they are great to donate to causes such as Operation Christmas Child!  It's too late to make a box this year (they are always due mid-November), but if you're interested, you can still make a donation by clicking on the link above.  And start setting aside a few things for next year's boxes!

 our 2011 Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes - one for a girl, one for a boy

5. Shopping!  Just tonight I returned from another cherished!  I don't really participate in the madness of Black Friday shopping but I have made it my annual tradition to go shopping the first Friday of every December with the alumni group at Bellarmine University, my Alma mater.  I know shopping is a chore to some, but not to me!  I LOVE it and even more so when I'm on this trip!  For $35 per participant, Bellarmine rents 3-4 charter buses to take a group of rowdy women of all ages to and from an outlet mall near Louisville (in Monroe, Ohio the last 2 years), provides breakfast, drinks, and snacks, as well as some fun entertainment and games en route!  If you're a single parent, you know what I mean when I say I don't get to do much shopping on my to me, having a day where I can spend all day with some great friends doing something that I love is a priceless tradition for my own Christmas and helps put me in the spirit! 

What puts you and your family in the spirit of Christmas?  Do you have any unique traditions?  Or any ideas for our service aspect of the "happy birthday, Jesus!" party this year??? 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

It's Turkey day!

I can't believe it's Thanksgiving already!  With the help of Thankful Thelma, Libby and I have tried to spend the last couple weeks remembering and being thankful for the many blessings in our life.  Here is my personal top 10 list (in no particular order):

  1. My daughter.  I know, I's pretty much a given if you're a parent that you're going to be thankful for your children.  But they have a way of touching our lives in a way that no one else can.  All you parents out there --- you know what I mean!
  2. My home.  I'm so thankful that my daughter and I are able to sleep with a solid roof over our heads on soft beds under warm blankets in a heated house.  It's easy to overlook the fact that some of the comforts that we take for granted are luxuries for other people. 
  3. My job.  I'm so blessed to have a job in this day's economy.  I know so many people that have struggled or are currently struggling with unemployment.  I honestly and truthfully love what I do - I help people get better!  What's not to love about that?!  But I know not everyone is lucky enough to be in a position where they can do what they love.  I'm thankful that I can.  And I'm thankful for a new opportunity that's just crossed my path as of last week I became a consultant for Tastefully Simple and am looking forward to my new adventure with a fun little "side job!" 
  4. My friends and family.  I have amazing friends and family!  Some I don't get to see as often as I'd like but with true friends we can always pick up right where we left off.  If it weren't for my awesome friends and family, I never would have survived my unwed pregnancy.  From fixing dinners to putting together baby furniture to "coaching" me through labor to volunteering to watch my newborn baby so I could quickly return to school, I had a strong support system to pull me through.  I am also so thankful that I continue to have a good, working relationship with my daughter's dad and that his family is basically like a second family to me, constantly opening their home and their hearts to me and my daughter. 
  5. Music.  This may sound like a petty thing to be thankful for but it can sometimes make or break me.  Music has the power to bring forth waves of emotion through powerful lyrics or memories that have become intertwined with particular songs.  A couple years ago the car I was driving had no radio, no CD player, nothing - it had all quit working and I was too cheap to buy a new stereo knowing that I would soon be buying a new car.  I remember the first time I got into my new car and drove to work with the radio again - it seriously made my day!  There's nothing like a little boost from K-love in the morning! 
  6. My church.  I have found a home in Southland Christian Church and have developed friendships with so many amazing people.  My daughter and I both look forward to church every Sunday (she used to cry when we missed a Sunday!) and I love walking away with real-life applications.  I'm also so thankful that we live in a country where I can freely attend church and read my Bible without persecution.
  7. DayBreak.  This could be considered part of my church experience but it's played such a huge role in my life that I have to count it as a separate blessing!  DayBreak is an 8 week program for single moms (from all walks of life - divorced, widowed, never married...) that I had the opportunity to go through at Southeast Christian Church and it was really life changing for me.  It helped me "let go and let God" and free myself of the weight of guilt that I had been carrying.  Just recently I got to be part of bringing DayBreak to my church in Danville and serving as a co-coordinator for the program was such an awesome privilege.  I enjoyed meeting all of the wonderful women who participated and volunteered with the program - what a joy to work alongside each of them!
  8. My health.  I work primarily with an elderly population but occasionally I see someone that is my own age.  It's humbling when I work with those patients that are my age because my health is something I so often take for granted.  I complain because I have a sore throat or because I'm having an eczema flair-up but imagine not being able to walk...or living in physical pain everyday...or losing a limb.  I'm thankful that I get to see these situations so that I can remind myself how blessed I truly am. 
  9. Food.  I won't deny that I love food!  And this is definitely a day to be thankful for it!  I haven't had my Thanksgiving feast yet (we celebrate on Friday) but I'm sure many of you have.  Some of my favorites for Thanksgiving are my mom's grit casserole and (the Honey Baked Ham version of) sweet potato souffle (Sorry I didn't share this link in time for you to try it on Thanksgiving but maybe you could give it a whirl for Christmas!).  I typically don't really love sweet potatoes but whether you like sweet potatoes or not, the sweet potato souffle is hard not to love!  In fact, I think it warrants sharing this video with you that I saw on the Today Show...

And lastly...
YOU!  Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy life to read a little bit about mine!  This blog is still only a few months old but I hope that it will grow and that I will be able to reach out to other single parents (or just parents...or single people...or whoever wants to read this!) and maybe together we can make this journey called life a little bit easier.

I hope you've had a blessed Thanksgiving!  I'd love to hear what you're thankful for today.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Choose JOY!

Last Sunday our church sermon really hit home for me.  (You can find links to watch or listen to it here.)  It's something I think we all know but could use a reminder from time to time.  Each and every day we have to decide how we are going to live our life - Are we going to be bitter?  Are we going to be angry?  Or are we going to choose joy for our day?  For our life? 

I've pretty much always been a glass half-full kinda gal myself.  But just like anyone else, I have my days.  As a single parent, it doesn't take much for me sometimes to feel sorry for myself.  In fact, I feel like last week was one of those weeks...feeling a little too stressed and a little too alone to manage everything that was on my plate.  I know I'm not alone.  Everyone gets overwhelmed at times.  But I think it's different if you're single and even more so if you're also a parent.  When you've got a little person to look after, you don't have time to wallow.  We have to wake up and glue a smile on our face because we've got someone that's relying on us.  And that, my friends, is challenging! 

In the words of best-selling author Angela Thomas in the introduction to her book, My Single Mom Life: Stories and Practical Lessons for your Journey, "All the other families seemed to be a man and a woman with some kids.  Whole families...Never mind what kind of families they are in private; the families with a man in their pew look put together, and we are so obviously single.  Many days the ache of that unfair comparison won't seem to go away.  And being a single-mom family can make us feel that we're relegated to live a second-class life.  Crippled.  Limping.  Just doing the best we can with the scraps that remain.  Many times I feel the ache, but refuse to live like a crippled woman.  I am a single mom.  My children and I have been through it.  But we've also been blessed beyond reason.  I am choosing to live in the blessing."

In the early stages of my pregnancy, I will admit - I was no happy camper.  I was angry, disappointed, sad...basically every negative emotion you can name, I had it.  But my story changed when I began to accept my circumstances.  I didn't realize it at the time but looking back, when my journey of acceptance began, I made a choice.  I chose joy.  What will you choose today?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Meet Thelma...

If you read my most recent post, Christmas on the brain..., you know that on my "to do" list this week was creating a "Thankful Tom Turkey," which I'd seen on the blog Living, Laughing, and Loving. Well, it's been a CrAzY week in our house with too much to do and not enough time...nonetheless, we spared enough free-time to work on our turkey and it turned out to be quite a masterpiece!
"Thankful Thelma"

I had planned on naming our turkey Tom (because who doesn't name a turkey Tom???) but considering we are a house full of girls, we had to think of something a little more Thelma it was! She was crafted from various scraps of paper (because I RARELY throw scrap papers away - you never know when you might need them!). Libby and I shared the feathers and secretively (because keeping it secret was part of our fun!) wrote on the back the things we are thankful for. Now Thelma is helping us to count down the days til Thanksgiving...each day we are going to "pluck" one of her feathers and when they're all's Turkey Day! The best part is reading what we are thankful for each day. Not to mention, it makes Thanksgiving seem all that more exciting when you have a feather to "pluck" every morning in anticipation!

Just for kicks, I thought I'd share with you that the Corduroy Appreciation Club has deemed today to be "Corduroy Appreciation Day," since 11/11/11 is the date that most closely resembles the appearance of corduroy. (I just learned that yesterday, courtesy of my favorite radio station.) Can't say that corduroy really made it on my "thankful" list but I do enjoy it from time to time. So happy corduroy day to everyone!

Before I sign off for the evening, let me just say that one of the things I am thankful for is OUR VETERANS! Thank you to anyone that has sacrificed to serve this wonderful country that we are so blessed to live in. And to those of you that have lost husbands, brothers, sisters, fathers, children, etc. while they were fighting for our rights - my heart goes out to you and your family.
My favorite veteran - my Dad (Vietnam vet)
To those non-veterans and anyone who does not share in the appreciation of corduroy, let me just say this - Happy Friday!!! Enjoy your weekend!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Christmas on the brain...

Ahhhh...November is here and things are about to go into full swing.  I heart the holidays! 

image via Photobucket

Things are about to get a little crazy around, more crazy than usual (because things are never calm and collected at our house!) - with multiple Thanksgiving meals, decorating, shopping, and as many Christmas celebrations as we can cram into one calender!  As much as it stresses me out sometimes, I love EVERY STINKIN' second of it!!!  After all, it is "the most wonderful time of the year!"

This week, Halloween decor gets boxed up and the Thanksgiving decor comes out!  (By the way, Libby is "embarrassed" that our Halloween stuff is still up - she said so on November 1.)  But that's just the interim, the "filler"...what I really can't wait for is busting out the Christmas decor!

In the meantime, we do have a few other fun things on our Thanksgiving "to do" list...

First, I'm planning on creating our very first "Thankful Tom Turkey" (idea courtesy of Living, Laughing, and Loving - one of my new fave blogs!).  If he's cute enough, I'll try to post a picture of our masterpiece!  :)

Christmas pictures!  I'm taking the day off from work on Tuesday to get our pictures made by my wonderful friend, Amy Raney!  She does some great work and I can't wait to see how they turn out. 

We've also got to find the time to write to Santa!  I know, I know, it sounds early...but if mom wants to get an early start on shopping, she has to know what is on Santa's list (I wouldn't want to buy her something that he's already bringing her!).  Each year, Libby writes a letter (in years past she has cut and pasted from catalogs) and we mail it at Macy's.  They have a wonderful program that is pretty heavily advertised where Macy's donates $1 to the Make-A-Wish foundation for every stamped letter to Santa they receive in their Santa mailbox. 

Once the letter is written, it's time to shop!  I love shopping just as much as the next girl but really don't care for the post-Thanksgiving Christmas crowd.  While I may brave the crowds on Black Friday for a handful of great deals and steals, I'm hoping to get most of my shopping done early.  This weekend I'm hitting the stores, hopefully sans Libby! Goal is starting and finishing all of my non-online Christmas shopping in one day. Wish me luck! (As a side note, I'm hoping to do more online shopping and also support more "cottage industries" this year rather than supporting the big name stores - thanks to the advice from my friend, Anne, at Modern Mrs. Darcy.)

And that's just this week!  Mind you, all of these "extras" will be on top of our usual hum-drum of work, meetings, church functions, swim practice, errands, maintaining the house (with my new cleaning schedule!) AND maintaining my sanity.

How are your pre-Thanksgiving/holiday season preparations going?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A week of firsts...

I live in the small town of Danville, Kentucky, which is known around here as the "City of Firsts" (you can read more about our historical town here).  It seems quite fitting, then, that we are always celebrating "firsts" in our home. 

We all start out celebrating the small things with our babies, like first words, first tooth, first steps, etc.  Then as they grow, the "firsts" start to come farther and farther apart - first day of school, first time losing a tooth, first soccer game, first date, etc.  But nonetheless, our children our constantly gaining new experiences and every now and then, so are we!
Over the past week there were two big "firsts" for us - one for myself and one for my daughter...

My "first" this past week?  I tried a cleaning schedule for the FIRST time ever and LOVED it!  In fact, I loved it so much that I have no idea why I hadn't succumbed to a cleaning schedule before!!!  As I've recently buffed up on my blog-reading, it seems I've read multiple times about how vital it is to have a cleaning schedule in order to maintain a clean home.  I first read about this novel idea in All You magazine, which referenced the FLY Lady website, and her claim to fame in which you can spend just 15 minutes a day to maintain a clean home.  The more I read, the more I liked this concept!  But being as Type-A as I am, I couldn't just jump into her cleaning schedule at any old time...she has monthly projects and different rooms to focus on each week and it all seemed a bit overwhelming for me and my occasional, whenever-it-needs-it cleaning routine.  But then I began to run across other blogs with their cleaning schedules like Clean Mama (who shares tips for 31 days to a cleaning routine), and Organizing Made Fun (who shares on how to "fake" an immaculate house) and reality began to sink in...I'd been doing things wrong all these years!  For at least the past 6 and a half years (basically since my daughter was born), I have been cleaning on an as-needed basis, cramming most of my cleaning and ALL of my laundry into one day!  This past week I had a trial-run of my own cleaning (and laundry!) schedule and guess what?  It was great!  With breaking all my chores into small tasks over 5 days, I didn't even notice the 15-20 minutes of time that I "lost" each day and by the time the weekend rolled around, I was actually ready to enjoy it!  In fact, we had company this weekend and it was so wonderful and freeing to invite them over without fretting over getting my typical whirlwind cleaning done!  If you don't have a cleaning schedule, I HIGHLY recommend it! 

My daughter's "first" this past week?  A concert!  I spent a small fortune to take her to her first concert to see Taylor Swift on her Speak Now tour.  Our seats were nowhere near what you would call "good" but the show was still amazing!  And Libby was so excited to see one of her favorite singers, even if it was at a distance!  And, quite frankly, so was I!

It may seem trivial that I mention that this was Libby's first concert but the memories we made last night, listening to Taylor and sitting with our friends, will last a lifetime.  And I couldn't help but get a little teary-eyed when Taylor sweetly sang one of her newer songs, Never Grow Up, and I held my "baby" girl in my lap who is growing up way too quick right before my eyes.  (If you haven't heard the song, please take the time to click on the link and listen to the lyrics.)  No matter how much she grows up, she will always be my little girl and I will always make time to celebrate new "firsts" with her.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Worms for breakfast, anyone?

My daughter and I made these lovely cinnamon-sugar "worms" for breakfast yesterday.  We need to work on our form - they don't quite resemble any "worm" that I've ever seen!  Ha!  But despite the poor craftsmanship, they sure tasted delicious.  "They taste just like a cinnamon roll!" she exclaimed after her first bite. 

We got the idea courtesy of Highlights magazine (which, by the way, she loves!).  Their recipe called for a roll of refrigerated pizza dough which you could then cut and roll up to look like worms.  I decided to cheat a little and use a roll of refrigerated breadsticks instead.  You roll them in wax paper that has been sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and then add mini chocolate chips for eyes.  Such a cute, clever, easy, and YUMMY idea!  And of course I added some spray butter for a little more yummy goodness!  :) 

It's little projects like this that I wish I would make more time for.  I'm the type of Mom that gets know how it goes a single parent, we do it ALL!  I constantly have a laundry list of things to do, places to go, projects to finish.  And you know how in the book, The Night Before Christmas, they have "visions of sugar plums" dancing in their heads?  Well, not I!  I constantly have visions of chores, to-do lists, errands, you name it!

The problem is, I need to slow down.  I know I need to slow down.  We all do!  Moments like yesterday when my daughter and I exchanged smiles and laughter as we made "worms" for breakfast are priceless!  Even though it was a little tough on my type-A personality to watch the messy kitchen unfold before me (cinnamon and sugar on the floor, sticky fingers, melted chocolate chips on my daughter's hands), every second is worth it because these are the things that matter to her.  Our kids don't care how clean the house is or whether the laundry is piling up - they care about the quality time we spend with them.  As for the rest of it, I can just add it to my never-ending to-do list!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My story

I've contemplated creating a blog for single parents for quite some time now and have finally brought it to fruition...I look forward to sharing my knowledge and my heart with my readers and hope that I can make your journey through single parenthood a little less "lonely." 

I suppose I should start out by explaining my own journey to single motherhood.  About 7 years ago, I was living the good, free-spirited college life.  Typically a "goody two shoes," I had finally let myself go, so to speak.  It was a summer of drinking and partying and the best part was I was doing it alongside my high school crush!  Things seemed so good.  It all changed when I made a fateful decision to go to Florida with him and his friends to celebrate our last "summer of freedom" before we all became victims of grueling grad school summer schedules.

Without going into detail, I'll just say that I brought home a little souvenir from that trip in utero.  I shared my fear with my hs crush that I could potentially be pregnant and we were both mortified.  I didn't want to take a pregnancy test because I truthfully didn't want to know.  But, as we always do, I had to face reality...I went to a free pregnancy clinic and my fear was confirmed - I was pregnant.  I met up with my hs crush that afternoon to break the official news to him in person.  Sharing that news with him made him become someone I'd never known before.  Instead of stepping up to the plate, which is what I'd always known him to do, he ran the other direction.  If I wasn't going to give the baby up for adoption, he clearly stated that he could not stand behind me.

Devastated, I seriously contemplated placing my baby up for adoption.  But deep down, I remembered that growing up, all I'd ever wanted was to be a mother.  These weren't ideal circumstances but this was still my child and, while I think that adoption is very noble and I know several families that have been blessed through adopting a child, I knew that I couldn't house a baby in my own body for 9 months and then hand her to someone else.  So I made the decision to become that "one and lonely parent." 

It was the best decision that I've ever made but also the scariest.  I didn't have an easy pregnancy - there were fears of a fetal heart defect (thankfully it was eventually ruled out), pre-eclampsia, and bed rest - but it was all worth it.  I even went through a period of deep shame during the initial stages of my pregnancy, humiliated by my own actions that led me to become pregnant, ashamed to show my face in front of family, friends, and church when the news was out or when I could no longer hide the growing bump I was sporting.  But that baby made me re-evaluate my life and my priorities.  My partying days came to an abrupt halt as soon as I found out I was pregnant and I began living the life that I should have stayed on track with in the first place.

On March 22, 2005 my beautiful daughter was born and my heart melted.  It was just me and her versus the world.

Life hasn't been rainbows and butterflies since, but I've come to realize that I'm not really as "one and lonely" as I once thought.  Over the years, I've been comforted by meeting so many other single moms and dads and hearing that they too have battled through their own difficult journeys.  I have also learned that just because someone is married, it doesn't mean that they aren't lonely too.  Unfortunately, many people feel "alone," even when they are in a relationship.

I believe that everything happens for a reason and I now have a tremendous passion for helping other single parents come to the realization that we aren't truly alone - we have each other and we have an amazing God who is looking out for us.  And by telling our "stories" about our own journeys, we might just be that little boost of encouragement that someone else needed to hear.  If you haven't told your "story" or at least written it down, I encourage you to do so.  In fact, why not share a brief version of your story here?