Friday, November 28, 2008

Book Review: Little Women

I love "Little Women." I've been basking in the glow of its wonderfulness since I finished it a couple weeks ago. This is the first book I've wanted to study deeply and write about since graduating from Utah State 10 years ago (no, this isn't that). It is on my list of books I want to study for the rest of my life.

In a very small nutshell, this book is about values, and most especially, family values. I found the simple teachings to be deeply refreshing.

"Learn to know and value the praise which is worth having."
"Watch and pray, dear, never get tired of trying, and never think it is impossible to conquer your fault."
"Trifles show character."
"A woman's happiest kingdom is home, her highest honor the art of ruling it not as a queen, but as a wise wife and mother."
"Principles...may seem like prison walls to impatient youth, but will prove sure foundations to build character upon."

Mrs. March is a wise mother in every way. One of my favorite passages comes after Meg has been out with friends and overhears her friend's mother gossiping about the "plans" Mrs. March has put into play for her daughters by encouraging them to be close to their wealthy neighbor and his grandson. Meg is upset by the assumption, and upon arriving home and discussing it with her mother, she eventually asks her if she does have "plans" for them.

"Yes, my dear, I have a great many; all mothers do, but mine differ somewhat from Mrs. Moffat's. . . I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and good; to be admired, loved, and respected; to have a happy youth, to be well and wisely married, and to lead useful, pleasant lives, with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send. To be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman, and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful experience. . . My dear girls, I am ambitious for you, but not to have you make a dash in the world--marry rich men merely because they are rich, or have splendid houses, which are not homes because love is wanting. . . I'd rather see you poor men's wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace."

Mrs. March's words, actions, and example were perfect to help her daughters reach that vision. Her wisdom and teaching to help them reach it were so pure, I underlined just about everything she says. Her determination in this shows by how firmly she has trained herself. Apparently she had a temper of her own like Jo's, till she finally decided "I must try to practice all the virtues I would have my little girls possess, for I was their example. . . The love, respect, and confidence of my children was the sweetest reward I could receive for my efforts to be the woman I would have them copy."

Funny, the week after I finished "Little Women" I read a little snippet about an article where the author calls it not only "stale" and ranks it with other "badly written" books, but he also says it's "a little creepy." No, I am not bitter. Just sad that those of lesser vision don't realize the beauty of this book.

I could say much more about it, but suffice it to say, I definitely definitely definitely recommend it.

P.S. Just found this review that has a lot of good points as well.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Christmas - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

I don't know about everyone else, but we have a lot of STUFF here. Which is, of course, why I origianlly posted the Christmas question to those moms. I found these ideas to be extra creative in regard to that problem.

Here are some excellent 'no clutter' gift ideas.

o Food items are good (my kids love to get their own box of cereal or other treats that we don't frequently buy wrapped under the tree).
o For birthdays this year we've given all the kids season passes to Lagoon. So, a membership to somewhere is a good gift.
o One year I gave my husband a weekend away together as a gift. We went and stayed in a hotel one night, went to dinner, had tons and tons of time to talk uninterrupted. it was great.
o Last year for my husband's birthday, I bought us tickets to see a comedian that he really likes. It was a lot of fun for us. There are so many live shows, kids concerts, etc, around that you could find something like that for everyone in your family. For teens, movie passes are always appreciated.
o A magazine subscription isn't bad because you can then donate the magazine to your drs or dentist's office after you've read it (remove your address label.)
o Some people suggest service coupons (ie: I'll clean your room for you..., etc), but I find that no one uses them. I'd prefer to actually do some secret services throughout the month and then put an anonymous note under the tree saying your Secret Santa did all these things for you in the month of December!
o Last year for Christmas we gave our kids 6 months of video game rental at Hollywood video. They have a program where you can have one (or two)game out at a time for however long you want. The kids love it because they can try all the games they want for the same price. Hollywood also has an MVP program for movie rentals where you can have 3 movies out at a time and kids like that one as well.


More great no clutter gifts - annual passes to zoo, museums, etc.


We've all heard of regifting, but this family takes the cake.

How old are your kids? When my daughter was very young we would sometimes wrap up toys she already had but that she hadn't played with for a long time or that we maybe put away in storage and forgot about. It was nice to know that we could cycle her toys this way.

As she got older and more aware of things we ended up doing something different. One year my husband lost his job in the fall just before Christmas and I knew I wasn't going to have any extra money for Christmas so I told my daughter that we were going to pretend that our home was a shopping store and we were going to go shopping for Christmas! She had a lot of fun with this. We completely played the role and she and I walked from room to room shopping for presents to wrap and put under the tree. When she was shopping with me we were looking for things for dad, and then she would have another day where she shopped with dad and would shop for me. Dad and I also would shop for each other and also for her. She had a lot of fun doing this. We ended up wrapping things that we use every day and also things we haven't used in awhile. It was funny because we ended up wrapping dads watch so we could give him a
watch for Christmas and he didn't even realize it was missing, LOL. We also wrapped his wallet! It was fun. We wrapped things like a pair of socks, pair of jeans, shoes, food in the house like a jar of peanut butter, can of beans and so on. We got pretty creative.

Over the years this is a tradition we ended up keeping. Even on years when we have had plenty of money to spend, we would still do the "shop around the house" thing. I have tried to keep Christmas a low key thing when we buy gifts so we only get a few new gifts each year instead of a huge pile of gifts, but if you ever come to our house on Christmas Eve it will look like we have spent a fortune because there will be a ton of presents wrapped under the tree. The thing many wouldn't know is that over half of those presents are things we already owned.


What a fun tradition! Started out as a way to have things under the tree, and probably something that will carry on for years to come as just fun.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Christmas - Three Gifts

These moms all talk about their family tradition of giving their children 3 gifts each year. Each one has a little different take on how they do that and why.

Two years ago we changed our who buying patterns for Christmas. Thinking of the 3 wisemen that brought gifts to the baby Jesus, we too have gone to just 3 items for each child in the family. A gift of knowledge, meaning, and usefulness.

I really think out the gifts now. A gift of knowledge provides something to learn of or from. For young ones it may be a puzzle and for the older kids a computer game, or scriptures, or a new book.

For the gift of meaning, it might be the gift they really want (within reason) or one of pure thought. Maybe they want to learn to sew, so maybe sewing kit or a sewing machine. For my 19 yr old, we gave him an iron, as he likes his clothes most tidy, and this was something he wanted. My daughter, 17, got an lds cd. For me, I wanted a coat.

For the gift of usefulness some got socks, or a new handmade scarf, or a blanket. My little boys got pajamas.

We have found that changing to this new way, that the kids really appreciate and love their gifts, rather than them being shoved aside as they open other things and then ending up under their beds a few days later.


I know what you mean! What we have done for the past 4 years is to give each child 3 gifts - symbolizing the 3 gifts given to the baby Jesus. One gift is their "gold" gift and the main large gift that they want (bike, dollhouse, kitchen set, etc.). Another gift is a gift to share with the family (game, art supplies, tickets to a performance). And the last is a gift of need (new fun bedding, clothes, etc. ) We also give new pjs on Christmas Eve.

I can't tell you how much easier it has made my life to do it this way. But the best thing is that it has brought a more simplistic feel to our Christmas and allows us to focus more on the real meaning of Christmas. The kids know that they will only have 3 gifts under the tree and they consider this very seriously when they let is know what they want. Plus, they are so grateful for what is given and they really use what they get. They still get gifts from family and friends so they aren't ever deprived, which was my big concern when we first started this.

This has made our Christmas so much better and I have spent more time with my family and less time shopping. We also save money by not buying something just to have more under the tree.


I have a problem with buying stuff just to have stuff, too. We started three years ago, I think, with wise men presents (Jesus only got three presents so that's all my kids need, too). We ended up with this plan: one for their body like a football or quilt, one for their mind (like a book or telescope), and one for their spirit like a quiet book for church or CTR ring. It helps keep me from over buying impulse items.

We do something similar, we do 3 gifts one for gold, frankincense and Myrrh. The gold is their big main present, something they really WANT. Frankincense is Spiritual, and Myrrh is something they need, usually an outfit, undies, or socks. I even wrap them to color, Gold is gold paper, Frankincense is white or silver, and Myrrh is a cranberry or red/mulberry type color. Then they get their stockings, full of fun things. I try to do games, books, girls get some fun jewelry, usually chapstick and pencils fun things. They also get a few treats. Then every Christmas Eve Mrs. Clause brings PJ's and a book, this is a tradition of my dh's family.

Even with 3 presents, with 7 kids (8 this year), that's still ALOT of presents!!


We are Christians, so we give gifts in the tradition of the three gifts mentioned in scripture. Meaning, each of our children also receive three gifts. One gift is more costly, one gift is one they maybe really want or ask for (and that's a big maybe), and one is a theme gift

For example on the theme gifts, my oldest daughter was interested in beauty products for hair, make up, etc. She's in drama and truly uses this stuff. So I bought her a bunch of make up and a hair straightener and curling iron, etc. I bought them through out the year and just kept adding them to her theme box. Most of my children (five out of seven) are artists, so I usually get them something they can do with their hands, and then I do try to get something close to what they wish for. Stockings are my favorite part so I put lots of little things in there that I know they will like receiving like candy or pairs of earrings. I have one daughter who loves beading and gosh those things are expensive. I can put a gift card or small amount of beads in a Christmas box in her stocking and I have at least contributed to her stock that way.

We try and fill our holiday with tradition more than anything, which can help us in the long run where gifts run short for our family, even intentionally.


In November, just before the present-buying-chaos begins, we have a family lesson (FHE) where we sit down with the whole family, talk about the original/true meaning of Christmas and about how blessed our family has been that year. We then buy each child 3 presents, as well as little stocking items. Each present has a meaning. I will try to find the official explanation, but basically they are each wrapped in their own color (red, green, gold) & have their own meaning (gift of necessity, gift of learning, gift of meaning) and make reference to the gifts of the Magi.

I like the kids to make a list of things they would like, just to give me an idea if there is something they really want or the name of a CD they have been wanting, etc. The gift of necessity is usually like clothing, blanket, or something for their bedroom. The learning gifts have been things like a guitar w/ "learn to" DVD, chess set, learning game, science experiment stuff, etc. The gift of meaning is the gift they have been longing for.

Our kids were open their gifts slowly, taking time to look at or play with the item before moving on.


We tend to buy a lot of "family" gifts. Each boy (I have 3) gets one gift from Mom and Dad and then one gift from Santa. Then they get "boy" gifts. Like a pass to the dino park, or a movie they all would like. Santa always brings a family game for all of us. Christmas is very small at our house but we make most of our gifts. Like snow hats, sweaters, quilts for the beds or one year the boys all worked on a sled with Papa to "give" to each other. We also pick a charity to give to. Last year we made hats on the knitters looms and gave them to a homeless shelter.

Also we use cloth bags to give our gifts in, then we don't have paper mess either.


This mom had theme ideas for four gifts instead of the three.

Something you want, Something you need, Something to wear, Something to read.


Smart. Smart. Smart. These Christmas suggestions gave me the most to think about.

I remember one Christmas in particular being so happy with my presents until my friend next door came over to see what I got. Disappointment and 'not enough' set in. I know her family wasn’t wealthy so I don’t entirely know where the feeling came from. Fast forward several years later, with me watching a video my dad had taken that Christmas of each of us kids showing what we got for Christmas. I started showing each gift and it kept going and going and going. And going and going! I couldn’t believe all I received, yet I remembered that feeling that it hadn’t been enough. Isn't that terrible?? I think these moms have hit it on the head.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Christmas - Keep It Simple, Keep it Fun

Several months ago during a big bout of decluttering I e-mailed several of the homeschooling groups I'm on with the question:

"I've been doing a lot of decluttering this year, and I'm amazed at how many things I've paid a decent amount of money for that hardly got used. The idea of buying a bunch of 'stuff' just so there is 'stuff' under the tree makes me shudder. Any big Christams ideas out there?"

Thank goodness for really smart moms! There were so many wonderful replies, but it took me till just recently to read through them all (slacker!). I'm posting them for the benefit of all, and because of length, I've organized them into three posts.

One year we did a "Pioneer Christmas" where everything was handmade, even from their father. We did give books as that is a traditions in our family.

All the decorations were handmade, except electric lights for safety. We made Swedish hearts and pasted pictures of ancestors on them and showed our genealogy starting with the kids pictures and descending down the family lines as far as we could go in pictures. (We color coded families). All this we hung on the tree and told stories of each ancestor during the Christmas season.

My kids thought it was the best Christmas ever and want to do it again.


One year we bought just books for our children. I had them make a list of what they wanted in their personal library and we bought them. I think the kids enjoyed (and still enjoy) those presents more than any they got any other year.


Our kids get one present from us. I know they'll get other things from grandma and grandpa so we especially try to underplay the present part of Christmas.

We LOVE to do service projects for Christmas as the main focus, I buy Christmas stories at DI and we read them, trying to focus on why we celebrate Christmas.

One year I wrapped up all the Christmas books, including the Bible and Book of Mormon and put THEM under the tree. I think I had 20 or so, we opened one each day and read it, ending with the traditional Bible verses. That year was a big hit.


Along that line, we checked out a book this week called "Christmas Stories" adapted from the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. A friend of mine told me she read them to her kids one year and it helped get the perspective that more isn't always better.

I have also found that when you try to do the "big" Christmas, and then say the next year money is tight, then your kids feel let down. Or they begin to always expect the "big" Christmas. If you keep it smaller all the time then they are more appreciative to what they are getting and I think they respect their toys are take care of them more. If you have extra money, then save it.

We also spend less at Christmas so that we have extra money throughout the year to buy those little things for the kids. Like bubbles, sidewalk chalk, water toys, etc. Just the things you pick up throughout the year for fun. This way the kids aren't getting a lump of toys at Christmas and then having to wait a long time for more new stuff. It's kind of like spreading Christmas out through the year.


No name on this one but I think it's so fun!

Santa blows up a whole bunch of balloons and they get spread under the tree and around the stockings. It looks like there is a lot of "stuff" without a lot of cost or waste. My kids have loved playing with the balloons as much as anything else on Christmas.

You know they love the boxes best - toss some balloons into the mix.

Teaser for the next set of ideas - three gifts.

Read more "Talk About Tuesday" with the Lazy Organizer!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bathroom Adventure

In "Goose Girl" Ani tells her story to Enna backwards. I think I'll try it with this one just for fun.

The whole dentist office was happy to see us. Sammy had been rescued from the bathroom! It's an intense thing, messing with doorknob insides that you know nothing about with your child stuck inside. I called to let the office know we were working on getting there as soon as we could. Sam and I poked and prodded upon getting the doorknob off after I passed a screwdriver to him under the door. He was crying and crying about being stuck in the bathroom when I came into the house to see what the holdup was, because the other kids and I were in the van waiting for Sammy so we could go to the dentist. We were even leaving early!

We ended up only being about 7 minutes late. They all thought it was pretty funny. While we were there Carolyn needed a potty break, and after I headed her in the bathroom the receptionist asked, "Did you lock her in?" Ha! Ha!

Sammy is toting it as his first "real adventure." We're just really really glad Erin or even Carolyn weren't the ones that got stuck. Dumb that the screws to get the doorknob off were on the inside. Not so with the new doorknob!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Good, Better, Best on the Blogosphere

I keep up on the blogs I read using Google Reader. When I run into a blog that I think I might enjoy reading more of, usually mentioned in someone else's blog, I'll subscribe to it through there and can see when it's been updated. Quick and easy.

I subscribe to some because they are my family and friends, which are always fun to see updated. There are others that I subscribed to thinking the author and I are at similar times in our lives, and it's fun to see things interpreted a little different through someone else. Many I subscribe to for personal educational value.

After a while it becomes almost a chore to read some of them. When blogs are on their way off my list I actually have a file I organize them into called "Those I Don't Care About." After they go in there, it would take some really good stuff to hold onto it much longer, but when I do unsubscribe there's a little guilt sometimes. Like we (the blog author and I) had a thing going for a while, a real connection (though of course they have no clue about how bonded we were), and I'm just not feeling it anymore. Such is life I guess.

(Stop and ponder about that for a while. Oooooh, life.)

Time IS limited. We simply have to choose what is worth taking up part of that precious time. From M. Russell Ballard, your choices should "expand your mind, increase your opportunities, and feed your soul." Currently I am subscribed to 44, about 13 of which I love to read as soon as I see something updated, some others that are still on the good list, and 4 on the way out.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Modern Art

I have really been feeling my artistic side blossoming lately. I call this latest creation "Earbuds in a Closed Laptop." It's pretty in a way, but sickening in quite another. The contrast and lack of pixels and color can be depressing. The harsh reality of it all makes you question not only why, but how. I think I'm going to be staring at this for quite some time.

For now, I am tethered again.

On a happier artistic note, this is one of the most hilarious pictures we've seen in any book we've read. It is from a story called, "Where's Mary's Hat?" by Barroux. Mary the cow is looking for her hat, asking animal friend after animal friend if they've seen it. On the previous page she asks a stork if he's seen her hat. He tells her, "No, but if you hurry, you might ask the goldfish before he leaves on vacation."

See?! Maybe it doesn't have the effect on you it did on us, but it struck us with full funnybone force. So simple. So funny.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sammy Sammy Sammy

Sammy is such a great kid.

He does cool things like this (airplane built with NO instructions, notice the prednasone cheeks):

and this (he has all the Indiana Jones Lego sets except one, and has been working on some fun Lego videos):

But recently he's had to do things like this:

That's not to mention the colonoscopy (which wasn't too bad either). And blood tests, which don't make him happy. At all. Thank goodness Primary Children's Hospital is such a happy place. He's been such a trooper. So far he's been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (the ulcerative colitis end of it), but Wednesday he was in all day for a liver biposy to see if they can figure out why his blood tests have been showing liver issues.

This guy, Brad, was fun. We learned two awesome jokes from him, and he explained like crazy. He even showed Sammy his heart.

Everything went really beautifully for the most part. He never complained about pain, and slept almost entirely from the time they started the biopsy till we left. He didn't wake up while Grandma and Grandpa Hall were there visiting, or when Dr. Guthery (his doc there) stopped by to talk to us. Even when we left at 8:00 that night he was only awake long enough to get in the car, then he was outcold again. He woke up more when we got home, but one of the meds he was on made him dizzy and he threw up a few times because of it. He was running around trick-or-treating with us Friday.

Now we're just waiting to see what they learned from it all.

Update: Got a phone call from the doc the Wednesday after, and it looks like he's got Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC), so now we're trying to get our feet planted on the proper road ahead. Don't look it up, the things you'll find sound scarier than what we're told will happen (if you do, the doc said that just happens in the minority of cases and after decades of progression), but the big comfort is that we're catching it really early and can keep him good and healthy for a long time.

And for the record, I mainly wanted to add Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis to see what fun it would bring in my google analytics stats.