RT

RT

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Topic of the Day - Resolutions (First Posted in 2010), Post-Christmas Post with Pre-Christmas Pics, Tuesdays with Judith, Tater Tot Sausage Breakfast Casserole Recipe, Crockpot Hot Vanilla Recipe AND Pinterest Stuff (Unusual January and February Holidays to Celebrate with Kids)

Good Thursday morning!

RANDOMNESS #1 - TOPIC OF THE DAY - RESOLUTIONS - I wrote this post December 28, 2010. I'm going to re-post it this year because I still feel the same way about New Year's Resolutions!

Since the year 2010 (or 2011) is in our very near future, I thought we might talk about goals. I'm not a big advocate of the New Year's Resolution. I never have been. I think it must be the word "resolution." It sets you up for failure. You can resolve to change something beginning January 1 and ultimately fail by March 1 of the same year. Yuck.

In my way of thinking (Code for I'M THE ONLY ONE WHO THINKS THIS WAY IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE), the word "goal" is so much better. I can set a goal and if it takes two or three years to obtain the goal, I'm okay with that. I don't feel like a failure. I don't feel like I've let myself down. I just keep plugging away at my "long-term" goal and eventually, one day, I'll get there. (Or at least that's what I tell myself.)

Case in point, my Christmas card goals. It took years to get 65 Christmas cards. It took years to get 75 Christmas cards. It's going to take years to get 100 Christmas cards. I don't care. Don't get me wrong. I do want 100 Christmas cards at some point, but I'll be just as thrilled in 2021 to meet that goal as I would be if I met the goal in 2010 (or 2011... the count stands at 71 in case you're wondering).

I've had several goals over the years. Mike says my goals make absolutely no sense, and are therefore useless... but I enjoy them. I'm going to go against my better judgment and share a few with you today. Since I can't see you looking at me like I'm an idiot, it will make it easier.

I had a goal when the kids were little to NOT lock them in the car while it was still running... and they were buckled in their car seats. I know wonderful mothers who have done this. It's not a reflection on them. It's just something I wanted to shoot for... and I made it! (DO NOT ask me how many times I slammed my purse, hand and/or foot in the car door before it closed to help meet this goal!)

I had a goal my kids wouldn't have ear infections... ever. (I know you have that look on your face right now. You know the one. The "Belinda is an Idiot" look.) I realize this has nothing to do with my ability as a mother or nurse or whatever. I just thought it could be something to shoot for. And I thought I had made this goal... until one day when Josh was TEN YEARS-OLD.

"My ear hurts," he complained.

"Did you fall on it," I asked.

"No, it hurts when you pull on it and when I go to bed at night." Hmmm. What in the world could that be? I took him to the doctor.

"He has an ear infection," the doctor said, not even looking up.

"What? Are you sure?" I asked.

"Yes. I'm sure."

"Well, what do you call it when a ten year-old has an... you know... ear thingy?" I couldn't even bring myself to say the words.

"An ear infection," he answered slowly.

"Is there another name for this 'condition' when they are this old? Something in Latin perhaps?"

"It is an EAR INFECTION."

"Could it be swimmer's ear?" I tried again.

"It's January. Has he been swimming?"

"No. So for it to be swimmer's ear it requires him to have actually been swimming... recently?"

"Is there a problem?"

"No. No problem at all. But technically, if he isn't running a fever, we kind of caught it BEFORE it actually became an ear infection. Right?"

"He has an ear infection." Goal not met. It took me a long time to get over that one.

Here are a few more goals I've talked about (at great length) on A Simple Life. Let's see where I stand in meeting these goals.

1. I want to go zip lining. (Nope. Not yet!)

2. I want to swim with dolphins. (Hmmm. I'm sensing a pattern here.)

3. I would like to create 500 scrapbook pages this year. (Wow! According to my checklist, I've only created 130. However, there are still a few days left in 2010. Don't call me! I'm SCRAPPING!)

4. Much like my "No car accident before I'm 50" goal (which was annihilated this past summer when the Big Gold Van rear-ended a car), I still have the "No ticket before I'm 50" goal. I've been stopped on five different occasions over the years, but I've always gotten off with a warning. I tend to cry very easily when I see blue lights in my rear-view mirror. And just so you know I'm not pretending, it really does upset me to the point of tears when a police officer gets out of his car to reprimand me for my sub-par driving skills. Those tears are real, People. (So far, so good. I'll be 50 in August, and still no ticket!)

I'll probably get one today because I put an exclamation point behind that last sentence. I don't think I'll ever be accused of being too cocky. Thanks to the local Police Department, I stay pretty humble.

UPDATE - As of 8:28 a.m., December 29, 2016, I have still not gotten a ticket. FIST BUMP!

RANDOMNESS #2 - Oxford Christmas - As is our tradition, we spent the Saturday before Christmas in Oxford with Mikie's family. There were kiddos aplenty which, if you've known me five minutes or more, made me very, very happy.


Aunt Ro Ro and Judith before we left for Oxford.


Courtney and Judith in front of our little tree.

Courtney does a good job of matching her little family clothing-wise for holidays like Christmas, 4th of July and Thanksgiving.

She speaks one of my love languages!


There were five great-grands running around the Faulkners' home (ages 18 months to almost nine), and I am happy to report they all played very sweetly with each other...

Which some might call a little Christmas miracle, but I like to refer to it as good parenting!

Who am I kidding?

They were all just trying to please Great-Aunt Belinda/Nana B!

And it worked!


I could take pics of this little boy all day long...

But I probably wouldn't be his favorite great-aunt if I did.

Handsome, handsome Micah.


Roxie and Santa Josh.


Blurry, but sweet.


Matthew is a huge reader.


Do any of you remember the first time you played Candy Land?

For me, it was about a million years ago.

A classic.

Just like me!


Lauren taking a selfie with Roxie and Uncle Mike.

RANDOMNESS #3 - Tuesdays with Judith - I use these bears as part of my Christmas decorations in the living room, bedrooms, etc.

Judith loves her some stuffed animals, so she moved all of them into the den...


And watched a Christmas cartoon with her new friends.



RANDOMNESS #4 - My Christmas Eve - This year, my immediate family celebrated Christmas together on Christmas Eve. We had a brunch...

Some of it homemade (Tater Tot Sausage Breakfast Casserole, Fruit Salad and Crockpot Hot Vanilla...

And some of it store bought (Jack's Biscuits and Gravy and Panera Cinnamon Crunch Bagels).

All of it was pretty good!


Next year, Miss Judith probably won't touch the tree.

This year, there was just a little touching of the ornaments. The tree was never in any danger of toppling over, and the smile on her face never went away.


The thing about riding Uncle Austin and Daddy as horsies...

If Judith doesn't hang on for dear life, the fall is going to be very dangerous.


Some people got circus tickets (and noses) in their stockings.


Some people played with the curly ribbon.


Some people took a break from the Christmas festivities to read in the reading corner for a little while.


And some people played this game.


Oh, yes. We did!


Judith hasn't heard the stories yet.

Uncle Austin was a BIG coloring nut back in the day.




Courtney, Judith and Josh.


FYI... Austin and Melia will not be attending the circus this year because of the new baby and all.

So they get to go to the theater this summer.

And maybe I will get to keep the baby!






I have no words!

Tater Tot Sausage Breakfast Casserole

You will need the following:

2 pounds hot breakfast sausage
1 (30 to 32 ounce) bag frozen tater tots
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
8 eggs
2 cups milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large skillet, cook sausage until no longer pink. Drain fat.

3. In a large bowl, toss together tater tots, cooked sausage and cheeses. Pour into a lightly greased 9" x 13" pan.

4. Whisk together eggs, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and milk. Pour over tater tot mixture.

5. Cover and refrigerate at this point if baking later.

6. Bake uncovered for 50 to 60 minutes, or until eggs are set.

NOTE - This was really tasty and easy to prepare ahead of time. I'll be making it again and again.

Crockpot Hot Vanilla Recipe

You will need the following: 5 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup hot water
6 to 7 teaspoons Torani French Vanilla Syrup (I used McCormick's Organic Vanilla Flavoring, and it worked great.)

1. Combine sugar and hot water in large pan. Stir, and bring to gentle boil.

2. Transfer mixture to crockpot. Add milk and vanilla.

3. Stir, then cook on high for 2 hours {or low for 4 hours}, or until hot.

4. Pour into mugs, then top with whip cream and add a cinnamon stick.

NOTE - This was great. It's on the menu for next year's brunch, too.

Pinterest Stuff

Unusual January and February Holidays to Celebrate with Kids

January 4 – Trivia Day
January 8 – Bubble Bath Day
January 14 – National Rubber Duckie Day
January 17 – Kid Inventors Day
January 18 – Winnie the Pooh Day
January 19 – Popcorn Day
January 24 – Compliment Day
January 28 – National Kazoo Day
January 31 – Backwards Day
February 1 – National Freedom Day
February 4 – Thank Your Mailman Day
February 6 – Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day
February 11 – Make a Friend Day
February 17 – Random Acts of Kindness Day
February 20 – Love Your Pet Day
February 22 – International World Thinking Day
February 26 – Tell a Fairy Tale Day

Have a wonderful rest of the week. I'll talk to you soon.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Pics from the Christmas Tree Farm, Two Different Tuesdays with Judith, Palisades Christmas, Blog Linkage AND Pinterest Stuff (Memorable Christmas Traditions)

Good Sunday evening!

RANDOMNESS #1 - We went on our annual Christmas Tree Farm adventure this year, and we were four strong... Mikie, Me, Austin and Roxie.

Pine Hill Tree Farm. We've been coming here for the past 22 years for all of our Christmas Tree needs, and so far, it has never disappointed.


Everything from wearing matchy-matchy clothes (totally unplanned)...


To visiting the very sleepy reindeer...


To the ever-so-fun tossing of the Christmas tree from the giant brother to the smaller, yet determined to catch it, younger sister.


Ahh.

Good times, good times.


Year 22 is in the books, People!

RANDOMNESS #2 - Yes. A few Tuesdays ago, Judith and I did our regular "thang" and hung out at a park.




Fun, but not at all Christmasy!


This past Tuesday, Aunt Ro-Ro was home, and we decided a Christmas Carousel ride would be festive.


Judith did NOT like the up-and-down reindeer carousel ride.

In fact, she dismounted her steed very quickly mid-ride.


And to get her mind off of the scary up-and-down reindeer, we made our way to the equally festive Mall Choo-Choo Train.

She liked it better, of course, but still no giggling or jabbering.


Roxie and I are firm believers in "getting back on the horse," but in this case, we tried Judith on the sleigh part of the carousel.

As you can see, she was totally relaxed and her fear of carousels is no longer an issue.

Christmas success!

RANDOMNESS #3 - This past Friday night, we attended our annual Palisades Christmas Party in Oneonta.


Roxie was all decked out in her festive sweater dress and socks.

And, yes. It really jingled.


Roxie, Courtney and Judith.


Josh making sure Judith didn't get too close to the fire, but still stayed toasty warm.


Sawyer won the award for Most Rockin' Santa Hat.


And Judith gave Uncle Austin a little extra lovin' for giving her countless shoulder rides.

Little Girl may not like riding up and down on carousel horses, but she most definitely isn't afraid of heights.


My cousins, Abbie, Tyler and Adam.


Parents-to-be Melia and Austin.


Cousin Monica and Justin.

All in all, it was a very pleasant evening. The fireplace was perfect.

The food was good.

The annual walk around the park looking at millions of lights delighted all ages.

And ending the evening with a giant game of Pictionary was fun, too.

As you can imagine, keeping the Christmas traditions going with several people no longer with us is difficult, but introducing our old traditions to a new generation is exciting and having some new guests made everything a little better, too.

Blog Linkage - It's my favorite blog post of the year. Click Nesting Place under My Blog List and scroll to the bottom of the page. You will see icon after icon after icon of homes participating in the Christmas Tour of Homes 2016. Take your time and ENJOY!

Pinterest Stuff

Memorable Christmas Traditions

Kindness/Service Elves - I recently went to a women’s activity at my church and someone suggested kindness or service elves. These are similar to the ever-popular Elf on the Shelf, but each day, the elves leave an act of kindness or service they hope the kids will do that day. It can be anything from smiling to everyone at school, making their sibling's bed or taking cookies to a neighbor. I love this idea because it focuses more on helping your children do good. The lady who mentioned it said once they started doing this, she felt her kids' greediness and bickering started to melt away.

North Pole Communicator - This is something we started using this year, and it is SO fun! It’s a product we bought from Hallmark, and it’s something we’ve really enjoyed doing every day. Basically, each day from December 1 to December 25, you can call the North Pole and talk with Santa, Mrs. Claus or one of the elves. The person you are talking to is obviously a recording, but it is created very cleverly so when you answer a question, their response is pretty spot on to whatever you say.

Ornaments of Christ’s Names - This is something I mentioned in my post about ways to keep Christ in Christmas, but I think it’s worth mentioning again. I absolutely love the biblical names of Jesus ornaments. There are 12 ornaments and each one has a biblical reference on it. It would be fun to put one on the tree starting 12 days before Christmas, reading the reference and then end on Christmas by reading Luke 2 as a family.

Christmas Book Unwrapping - I wrote a post about the best Christmas books for children a few weeks ago, and I mentioned this tradition. Basically, you wrap 25 Christmas books and put them under the tree. Each day leading up to Christmas, your family gets to unwrap one and you read it as a family together. This is a fun way to make use of all the Christmas books you have accumulated over the year, and I think it’s something the whole family can enjoy.

Open a New Game - This is an idea my sister started doing with her family, and I think it’s a great idea! On Christmas Eve, the family opens a new game and they all play it together.

Cookie Baking Day - While I make cookies all season long, it’s kind of fun to set aside a day or two where everyone bakes yummy treats together! You can do this to make plates to deliver to friends and family or just for the family.

White Stocking - This is another tradition I mentioned in my keeping Christ in Christmas post. It’s something my mom started doing several years ago, and I can’t imagine Christmas Eve without it. Throughout the month of December, there is a simple white stocking that hangs on the mantle. Everyone is encouraged to write down something that is their gift to Christ or something or someone they are thankful to have in their life. On Christmas Eve, my mom reads them aloud. It’s anonymous, but we always have fun trying to guess who said what.

Sleeping with Siblings on Christmas Eve - We did this for many, many years. When I was younger, it was especially fun, because we would stay up chatting in anticipation for the next morning. I have so many fun memories doing this, and it is definitely something I will encourage with my children! I usually ended up on the ground, because I was the youngest, but I was totally okay with it!

Sitting on the Stairs - When we wake up Christmas morning, we don’t just run down the stairs to see what Santa brought. Everyone goes to my parent’s room to sing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and then we go and sit on the stairs. My dad goes downstairs, usually says something like, “It looks like somebody’s been here,” and starts a fire. I can smell the fire, and remember the feeling of anticipation on the stairs just thinking about it. After the fire is lit, he comes to the stairs with the video camera, and everyone runs down the stairs, down the hall and into the family room!

12 Days of Christmas - I’ve mentioned this a lot on our blog, but it’s such a fun tradition. Pick a family who you want honor during the 12 days leading up to Christmas. They can be someone in need, or just a family you want to make feel loved. We did this a lot growing up, and we did it anonymously. I loved when I was the person who had to “ding dong ditch” a family.

Christmas Bucket List - There are always so many different Christmas activities going on during December. While you can’t do everything, at the beginning of the month, you could sit down with your family and come up with a bunch of different ideas of what you want to do during the month.

Have a wonderful week before Christmas. You may see the Big Gold Van out and about this week. If so, stay clear. I'm in "let's finish Christmas mode," and you don't want to get in my way!

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda

P.S. I have some pictures from our Oxford Christmas celebrated this past Saturday for my next post. Here is a little preview!


Matthew loves Judith...

And the feeling is pretty mutual.


Believe it or not, I like to capture "happy" when it is totally and completely spontaneous, too. Not just "smile for the camera."

Jared and Mackenzie were just happy...

And I love that.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Tootsie

Good Friday morning.

NOT RANDOMNESS - The Facts About Ovarian Cancer (First Posted in 2011)

My Mom has ovarian cancer.

She asked me to talk about it on the blog to help raise awareness, and, of course, I agreed.

Mom's story began one year, four months ago. She went for her regular check-up, and the doctor discovered a tumor. She had not been sick prior to going to the doctor. Except for a few "things" most women experience from time to time (fatigue and bloating), she had no clue she would walk into the doctor's office for a check-up and walk out of the same office diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Today, I'm going to give you some of the facts regarding ovarian cancer.

Each year, about 22,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. While it is the ninth most common cancer (other than skin cancer) in women, ovarian cancer is the fifth highest cause of cancer death in women. Most women who develop ovarian cancer are older than 60. It is found more often in white than African-American women.

The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague or like other conditions. This may make it hard to diagnose. It often has spread to other parts of the body when it is found.

Because of this, it is nicknamed is "The Silent Cancer."

I want to give you a complete list of the symptoms, although you may have one or more of them at a time.

General abdominal discomfort or pain (gas, indigestion, pressure, swelling, bloating, cramps)
Bloating and/or a feeling of fullness, even after a light meal
Nausea, diarrhea, constipation or frequent urination
Unexplained weight loss or gain
Loss of appetite
Abnormal vaginal bleeding
Unusual fatigue
Back pain
Pain during sex
Menstrual changes

These symptoms do not always mean you have ovarian cancer. However, it is a good idea to discuss them with your health care provider if they are new symptoms, last more than a few weeks and/or occur numerous times a month.

As I stated before, my Mom had no idea anything was wrong.

Needless to say, she is an advocate of regular check-ups, early detection and awareness... and as her family, we have become advocates, too.

Mom's Personal Story

In May of 2011, Mom went for her regular check-up. At that time, her doctor discovered the cancer. As I stated before, my Mom was not sick. She was living an active life. She was not in pain. She had bloating and she was more tired than usual, but neither of those "symptoms" raised red flags.

And that is how ovarian cancer works. By the time you have "unusual" symptoms or pain, the cancer has usually spread.

She had exploratory surgery a couple of weeks later, and the cancer was officially diagnosed. She had Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer.

After she recovered from the surgery (five to six weeks), she began chemo treatments. The treatments were scheduled three weeks apart, and except for one of the six treatments, Mom stayed right on schedule.

Except for the cancer, her health was excellent.

She finished her last chemo treatment in November of 2011... and she checked out "cancer-free."

However, with ovarian cancer, it is important to have three-month check-ups for two years after treatment. This cancer reoccurs often, and early detection is vitally important.

Nine months from the end of her first round of chemo, Mom had her third three-month check-up. A pet scan revealed the cancer had returned, and within two weeks, she had a new port put in and began another round of six chemo treatments. This set of treatments is scheduled to finish the week after Christmas... and then she'll begin her three-month check-ups to make sure the cancer doesn't return over the next two years.

Many of the women who have treatments the same day as my Mom are having their second, third, etc. set of chemo treatments for ovarian cancer.

Skip Ahead from 2011 to 2016...

In February of 2016, Mom had her last chemo treatment. After 75+ rounds of chemo, there were no other options for her other than clinical trials. (She researched the trials, and after much thought, consideration and prayer, decided not to pursue further treatments.)

In April of 2016, Mom's doctor told her she probably had about six months to live. She eventually told me and my sister, but asked us not to tell anyone else. It would be God's decision when her life would end, and not a timeline given to her by a doctor.

The cancer continued to spread throughout her abdomen and lymph nodes...

And she continued to set goals.

She wanted to celebrate Easter with her family.

She wanted to have another birthday.

She wanted to meet her great-grandson, Sawyer, born July 31, 2016.

She wanted to take another fall trip.

She wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family.

She wanted to attend every celebration and event in between along the way...

And she did.

Up until eight days before her death, Mom was driving her car and taking care of her 95 year-old mother (MamMa).

When people saw her, she was well-dressed, accessorized and wearing make-up. I heard people say time and time again, "You look so good."

The picture at the top of the page was taken only two weeks before her death during our Thanksgiving celebration at Palisades in Oneonta. Her mother, kids, grandkids, spouses and two great-grandchildren were in attendance.

The union of two, Harold and Tootsie, has grown to 18... and is still growing as we speak. (Great-grandchild number THREE will be here in a few more days.)

Mom died Monday, December 5, 2016 after a five year, seven month battle with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer...

Which, by the way, she won.

I would like to thank everyone for their prayers, phone calls, cards and texts over the last few days. It has been greatly appreciated.

I would also ask you to continue to pray for my grandmother and all of the grandkids as they begin living life without "Grandmother." She had a daily relationship with her family, and they are most certainly going to miss her earthly presence.

That being said, they also know and are happy she is spending Christmas 2016 with Granddaddy this year.

It has been a long time.

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda
Firstborn Daughter of Harold and Tootsie Smith

Friday, December 2, 2016

Tuesdays with Judith, Thanksgiving Thursday, Black Friday, Iron Bowl, Blog Linkage, Facebook Stuff (Christmas Attractions Everyone in Alabama Needs to Visit), Pinterest Stuff (Acts of Kindness AND Celebrate Advent)

Good Friday morn!

RANDOMNESS #1 - Tuesdays with Judith - Mike took a few hours off a couple of Tuesdays ago, and we took Miss Judith to Moncrief Park. This is the same park I took her Daddy to many moons ago, but there have been some really cool additions since way back when.


I am loving this swing for two.

So fun.

So easy.


We got her to stop swinging long enough to crawl through a few tunnels on her way to a slide.


And while the slide was fun...


It just wasn't a swing!

RANDOMNESS #2 - Thanksgiving Thursday - We had two Thanksgivings this year. Thanksgiving Thursday was spent in Oxford with Mikie's side of the family.


Mackenzie and Micah were present in their festive Thanksgiving garb.

Oh, how I miss the days when my kids proudly wore clothes with various and sundry woodland animals stamped upon them.

Heavy, heavy sigh.


Hide-and-Go-Seek turned into a game of tag.

Just so you know, Roxie won.


Micah rocking the curls.


Austin and Melia.

This time next year, the turkey clothing in my family is going to be all over the place!


Micah after the game of tag.

Don't worry.

We didn't run him until he broke out in a sweat.

The kid had a little spillage from his water bottle.

RANDOMNESS #3 - On the way home from Thanksgiving, we spotted an old barn...

And, as luck would have it...

There was a red tree growing beside it!


You know what that means, don't you?


Photo op!


I am thankful for old gray barns and red trees.

Oh, yes, I am!

RANDOMNESS #4 - Black Friday - As is our tradition, we went shopping at The Galleria for Black Friday, BUT instead of spending the night at The Wynfrey, we shopped, saw a movie, ate at Steak 'n Shake...




And spent the night at Amy and Monica's so we could watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix.

I am happy to say, we made it through two of the four episodes.

So, so good!

RANDONMNESS #5 - Iron Bowl - The next morning, Roxie and I got up a wee bit early and headed home because SOME people were going to the Iron Bowl.


That's right.

These guys went to the Iron Bowl.


It would appear Mike and Josh didn't get the memo about the mandatory "silly" pose for the second photo.


It would also appear that taking a hard-core Alabama fan to the Iron Bowl with a bunch of hard-core Auburn fans might not end well.

It might not end well AT ALL!

RANDOMNESS #6 - THIS WAS FIRST POSTED IN 2009 - Do you ever listen to the John Croyle commercials... You know, from the Big Oak Ranch? They have had a commercial during the holiday season that really made me think. I'll have to paraphrase a little bit. Mr. Croyle asks the question, "What do your kids see as the most important thing in your life?"

Then he tells a story of a little boy who was asked that question about his Dad, and he answered, "My Mom. My Daddy loves my Mom." John Croyle then goes on to say what a good job that Daddy has done showing his little boy the priorities of life... God, Family and then Others. When this set of priorities is out of order, so are our lives.

Well, I did a gutsy thing. I asked Josh.

"Not counting God, what do you see as the most important thing in my life?" He looked like a deer caught in headlights.

"Is this a trick question?"

"No. It is a simple question."

"Will I be punished if I answer wrong?"

"No. But, you will be punished if you don't answer SOON!"

He grinned and said, "Family."

"Did I get it right?" he asked, smirking.

"You did okay," I responded, breathing a sigh of relief. Now it was Roxie's turn.

"Not counting God, what do you see as the most important thing in my life?"

"Why do you want to know?" she countered.

"It's just a question. Answer, please."

"Is there more than one right answer?"

"I don't think you can get this wrong. It's just your opinion," I replied, starting to get very impatient.

"Will you be mad if I answer it wrong?"

WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THESE KIDS?

"Okay. Okay. The answer is 'family.' Am I right?" Roxie asked with a smirk on her face, too!

I slipped her a $5 bill and told her not to tell her brother!

You may be asking, "Are you going to ask Austin when he gets home?" I don't think so. Right now, I'm pretty happy with the two out of three answers I received. I don't think I want to mess it up. He's liable to say "chocolate chip cookie dough," or "going to the movies," or something else upsetting. Too risky. Too, too risky!

Blog Linkage - If you have little ones, you will love www.plumfielddreams.com. I stumbled across this blog because of Pinterest Stuff. (Pinterest Stuff is where so many good things come from, isn't it?)

Although I don't actually live with young children, I will be visiting it often.

Facebook Stuff

Christmas Attractions Everyone in Alabama Needs to Visit

1. Birmingham - "ZooLight Safari" located at The Birmingham Zoo, features more than one million lights, festive snowfalls and holiday music. A variety of rides are also available for kids and kids-at-heart. The dates for this holiday event are December 9 through 11, 16 through 23 and 26 through 31, 2016 from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.

2. Tuscumbia - Dickens Christmas, Y'all - On December 10, 2016, downtown Tuscumbia will take you back in time. The Sixth Annual "Dickens Christmas, Y'all" Festival is reminiscent of the Christmas classic "A Christmas Carol." It will feature carriage rides, music, vendors and more. You don't want to miss this holiday event.

3. Eufaula - Eufaula is best known for its historic antebellum homes. This year is its 11th annual "Christmas Tour of Homes," which will take place on December 3, 2016. You don't want to miss these beautifully decorated homes. They'll certainly put you in the holiday spirit. Tickets are $6.00 for one home and $30 for six homes.

4. Gadsden - "Christmas at the Falls," located at Gadsden's Noccalula Falls Park, features millions of lights and offers amazing views from the park's walking trails. In addition to light displays, several activities are also offered at this attraction, including cookie decorating and a petting zoo. This attraction starts on November 24, 2016 and ends on December 23, 2016. It'll run from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. each night.

5. Montgomery - On December 1, 2016, the Montgomery Zoo will be transformed into a winter wonderland complete with thousands of brightly-colored lights, festive decorations, carolers and so much more. This holiday event is the annual "Christmas Lights Festival," and it's enjoyed by all ages. The dates of this festival are as follows: December 1 through 4, 8 through 11 and 15 through 31, 2016. The time will be 5:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m., nightly.

6. Theodore - This year marks the 21st edition of "Magic Christmas in Lights," which is located at Bellingrath Gardens and Home, in Theodore. This holiday attraction features more than 1,000 set pieces, approximately three million lights and 15 Christmas scenes. The Bellingrath Home has also been decorated and is available to tour for an extra fee. "Magic Christmas in Lights" will take place November 25 through December 31, 2016 (closed Christmas Day). It's open daily from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $7.50 for children ages 5 to 12. Children 4 and under are free.

7. Mooresville - One of Alabama's most historic towns is so beautiful during the holiday season. It's main event is the "Holiday Home Tour and Progressive Dinner," which will take place on December 10, 2016 from 2:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. During this event, guests will get to tour the 1840 Post office, the 1821 Stagecoach Tavern, the 1839 Brick Church and six beautifully decorated private homes. Tickets are $70 per person.

8. Huntsville - Two major holiday attractions in Huntsville are the "Galaxy of Lights," located at Huntsville Botanical Garden and the "Tinsel Trail," located at Big Spring International Park. The "Galaxy of Lights" features several animated light displays, and the dates for this attraction are November 24 through December 31, 2016. Huntsville Botanical Garden is located at 4747 Bob Wallace Ave, Huntsville, Alabama 35805. The "Tinsel Trail" is a beautiful display of live Christmas trees for the community to enjoy. These uniquely decorated Christmas trees are lit each night at dusk and turned off at midnight. Big Spring International Park is located at 200 Church St, Huntsville, Alabama 35801.

9. Wicksburg - The greatest thing about Wicksburg's "Holiday Spectacular Park" is that you'll get to experience more than 14 million lights. That's right. FOURTEEN MILLION LIGHTS! You'll also get to experience two fireworks shows. One will take place on Christmas Eve, whereas the other one will take place on New Year's Eve. Kids will love the whimsical Christmas scenes situated throughout the park. The dates for "Holiday Spectacular Park" are December 1 through 31, 2016 from 5:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. each night.

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Acts of Kindness

1. Leave a thank you note and treats in the mailbox for the mail carrier.

2. Take cookies to the local assisted living or nursing home for the staff. 

3. Buy a $5 gift card at a store and hand it to someone coming in on you are leaving the store.

4. Leave a bottle of laundry soap or put quarters in the machines at the laundromat.

5. Tape a bag of quarters to a vending machine.

6. Leave a bottle of water and a snack or a magazine in the nursing rooms at the mall.

7. Leave a Ziploc bag with a travel pack of wipes and a few diapers on a public changing table. 

8. Tuck a few dollars around the toy section at the dollar store or in the various bins in the dollar section of Target.

9. Drop off a plate of cookies at the nurses' station at the hospital.

10. Make "Homeless Blessing Bags" with the kids and hand them out to the homeless you see while out shopping.

11. Tape a bag of microwave popcorn to a Redbox machine.

12. Put a dollar bill in a library book when returning it.

13. Drop off a plate of cookies at the public library, police station, fire station, etc. 

14. Leave a coloring book and a small box of crayons at the doctor's office.

Celebrate Advent

Choose Entertainment Wisely

There’s a lot of junk out there during the holidays. We enjoy the movies and the books and the music, but we try to do it with discernment. For example, we don’t listen to Christmas music on the radio, because most of it is now “holiday” music. We prioritize the specials that emphasize the redemption story we want to focus on. We still enjoy Home Alone and Elf, but if we had to narrow it down to one Christmas special for our family, it would star Charlie Brown. I try to always consider are we deciding what we consume, or are we just absorbing whatever is pushed on us?

Serve Others

Serve our family, serve our friends and neighbors... always look for ways to serve. This can be different for every family. This year it will mean making and delivering gifts to all of our neighbors. As the littles grow older, we will add opportunities to serve. Sometimes we have to search out the service opportunity, but many will present themselves to us if we are looking. This is a great way to teach the kids to focus on others.

Read Luke 2

This is it. This is the point. Focus on it. Celebrate it. Our kids are still too young to read, but as they grow, we will let each read the Christmas story as they learn to read. It will be a privilege passed around from year to year.

Explain Everything

All of the previous ideas do little good unless we take the time to explain the reasoning. As we move through life together, I try to keep up a monologue (which is turning into a dialogue as my oldest masters more words) about what we are doing and why we are doing it. In simple terms, I explain why the song we’re listening to is wonderful, why the second chapter of Luke is our favorite story to read at Christmas and why we are making gifts for our neighbors. If I want them to absorb it, I have to be intentional about making it real to them. We frame everything we are choosing as fun, and while we’re having fun we take the time to explain why we love it.

I hope you and yours enjoy the first weekend of December. Try to do at least one Christmasy thing each and every day of the month... and choose wisely what that "thing" will be!

Sincerely,

The Enchanting Belinda
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