Thursday, December 29, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Sorry, I guess I am a little late on getting this done!  My Christmas was fantastic!  The week leading up to Christmas was kind of nuts, but the actual Christmas time with family was wonderful.  I think it was the first Christmas in 9 years where nobody cried.  Someone is always crying at Christmas.  The kids are tired, over stimulated and usually have a hard time understanding the concept of unwrapping a gift but then not opening it right away and playing with it.  But this year....they all 'got' it.  They all enjoyed the magic of Christmas and even told me that it wasn't just about the presents, but about Jesus.  Nice to know that they are getting that so young!

I love making hand made gifts.  The only problem is that it is very time consuming.  Worth it, yes.  Lots of late nights, yes.  This year I made 4 large purses (one for each teacher at school, one for my mother-in-law and one for my sister-in-law) and then 2 mini purses for my nieces. 

Ashlynn with her purse

They all turned out really cute, but they take a lot of time!  I also made 3 pairs of pj's for the boys (just pants and then bought shirts and appliqued on them).

Not the best picture I realize, but the best I have

I also made 3 santa bags.  These were my favorite.  I found the idea in a pottery barn catalog a few years back and tucked them away in a file for the future. This year, I pulled it out of the file and did it.  It was pretty easy and they turned out amazing.  I am not sure the pictures do them justice.  I would love to give you a tutorial on how to make them, but I am too tired to do that right now.  If there is an overwhelming response, I will do a tutorial in a future blog.  Here is the only step you need to know: start the project BEFORE December 23rd.  I didn't follow this advise!  It lead to some quick work at the last minute.

Yes,  I realize that all of these say Luebcke on them.  They were a gift for the Luebcke and Fillhart Families.  I had to finish them before Christmas eve so they could put them under the tree so Santa could fill them with goodies.  Of course, I made one for myself as well.  They looked so cute under the tree.

There is nothing like being in the mountains on Christmas morning.  This is what the 5 kids came down to on Christmas morning.  It was bea-u-ti-ful!  It is always a pain to get up there at midnight on Christmas eve, but being there on Christmas morning is such a joy.  Wish we could spend that time with our WHOLE family, but having smaller separate get togethers is nice too.  Not so overwhelming.

Now I have begun the digging out process.  I am trying to de-Christmas the house and put together a new Lego room.  Makai got his own room for Christmas.  He has been sharing with Tanner for the last 3 1/2 years, so now that Jameson isn't a baby anymore (sniff), Makai gets his own room.  I will post before and after pictures later!  Makai was pretty excited about his room.  He says it was his favorite gift.  He also got all sorts of fun things to go in his new Lego room.  He didn't get what he wanted most though.....

We are so blessed and received so many wonderful gifts.  The two greatest gifts: spending time with the people we love the most and the best gift anyone can receive.......the gift of life through Jesus.  I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas and that you all receive the gift of Jesus this season!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Utterly Frusterating!

Have you ever lost something?  I mean REALLY lost something.  It is one of the most frusterating things.  This one, is not my fault.  I, however, am the one STILL looking for it.

The Mission: Find Tanner's D.S.
The Time Frame: Must be found before Christmas
The Place: If I knew that I wouldn't be writing this right now

I AM AT MY WITS END.  I have spent more time looking for this $%&*#(@ D.S. than almost anything else.  It has been missing for almost two weeks.  I will be the first to admit that my house isn't that neat.  I have three boys.  It can be perfectly clean and within an hour look like a bomb went off.  Total dissarray.  Therefore, why clean?  Just kidding.  I do try to keep on top of things, but it doesn't always look that way.  I noticed the D.S. was missing last Monday (and was able to trace it to the Thursday before), and since then I have been looking for it here and there.  15 minutes here, 30 minutes there, in the car, in the Christmas stuff in the basement, etc..  An hour and a half yesterday..... and still nothing.  I think I might be going mad.

Here is the problem.  Tanner. loves. his. D.S.  It is his love language.  When he is naughty, just threaten to take away the D.S. and voila! behavior changed.  And....he is getting several D.S. games for Christmas.  How do I deal with that? 

I am pretty sure that the last time he had it was in our house.  It does, however, have his name and our phone number on it, so it could possibly find it's way back to our house.....right?

Come on!  This over worked, stressed out mom needs a break.  Anyone have any brilliant ideas as to where else to look?  I even told the kids (and their cousins) that I would give the D.S. finder $1.  The 6 of them looked for at least 10 minutes (which is like an hour in kid time) to no avail.  Adah did, however, find the missing DVD remote downstairs (it has been missing for over 6 months) and earned herself $.50.  Oh please don't let it take 6 months for us to find the D.S.

If you are bored and need something to fill your time, head on over and join in the hunt.  Tanner may have given up after 10 minutes, but I HAVE NOT!  Please help!

Monday, December 12, 2011

An Odd Combination

Elder bugs and cookies.  Not together.  Just an update on the Elder bugs and some cookie love. 

Note: this update is not for those who are weak of heart, mind or bugs (or you should skip to the next paragraph).  Our last (see previous post) Elder bug is dying.  It. has. been. a. whole. week.  Seriously?  Elder bugs can live without food or water (and barely any air) for a week.  Well "Fatty" cannot.  I don't know about "Climby and "Leafy" because they mysteriously disappeared on Day 4 1/2.  Is anyone else concerned about this?  Now there are Elder bugs wandering around MY house.  I thought I had rid myself of the Elder bugs for good when I moved out of the Coombs' house almost 13 years ago.  Now I know how those little buggers get into my parent's house.....through ridiculously small holes.  I made TINY holes in the top of the lid so the little bugs could get some air.  We are talking the toothpick sized holes.  And they escaped.  I kind of expected that from "Climby".  From the minute we caught him, he was trying to get out, but "Leafy" seemed so content on his leaf.  "Fatty" didn't have a chance.  He is now laying legs up on his back.  I flipped him over twice today, just to be kind, but he really wanted to die.  I am hoping that "Climby" and "Leafy" are in the same position somewhere in which I will NEVER see them.

Let's talk about something more pleasant.  COOKIES!!!!  For the last 10+ years we have a tradition with the Laube family.  We get together every Christmas season and make cookies (read between the lines here:  the ladies slave away in the kitchen while the men watch some sort of sporting event or manly movie and get to be taste testers).  At the end of the night we (I mean ladies) are all exhasted and we go home with 6-7 plates of assorted Christmas cookies.

Last year we made a brilliant play change.  We decided to make the cookies ahead of time and then bring them and assemble plates.  Then we can also enjoy the sporting event or manly movie (I mean watch the kids, assemble plates, clean the kitchen, etc).  Because we made the cookies ahead of time and we weren't dependent on making sure that no one stole the oven from you and that it was at the right temperate, we increased the output of plates per person to 10.  GUESS WHAT?  This year, we each went home with 12 plates loaded with over 20 different varieties of cookies.  Our neighbors and co-workers are going to love us!!!!  Winner for best cookie (in my opinion) was Stephanie for those really sticky, but AMAZING pecan bars.  Maybe it is just because I never get to eat nuts because of my family of nutty allergies, but they were delicious!  Second runner up.......Stacy and the peanut butter balls.  So. good.  Are you all salivating right now.  I am.  

The famous peanut butter balls

Cake Pops.  So delicious.
Assembling.  Takes us a good hour or two with 6 of us working!

You know what made the day/night even better?  Yep, the Broncos.  The Bronco game was the sporting event this year and it didn't dissapoint!  I missed the first 3 1/2 quarters of the game (see above paragraph) but I caught the good part!  That was so much fun!  And it is true....everything is funner (yes that is a word) with a friend.  You can't watch a game like that by yourself.  You need someone to scream with and then high five at the end!  Well....thanks Coombs, Laubes, Stutzmans and Luebckes for being there to high five at the end.

Oh and thanks for the cookies.  All 72 heaping plates full.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Toys for Boys

Tell me mother's of boys:  Do you have a hard time shopping for toys for your boys?  It is hard to find things that aren't too destructive, too loud, too big (like ginormous race track sets)!  I wish in those commercials for hot wheels they would show the reality of the HUGE tracks that they are peddling.  A mom wanting to pull her hair out because their is no room for the track, or it was played with once and now there are pieces of it all over the house, or it was played with a handful of times and now there is no where to store it!  Don't get me wrong, we have our fair share of half built tracks (they reside in the basement and are played with once in a blue moon), but don't we all long for toys that the kids love and that they play with often and that don't take up a whole room just to store them when they aren't in use.

If you are looking for just such a toy, you are in luck!!!  Here is the genius toy at our house.  It is the toy I recommend to ALL people with boys (or girls) or who are looking to buy a gift for a boy (all ages love this toy).  And.....drum roll is pretty cheap!

Hot Wheels Color Shifters.  Ta Da.

What, another set of cars?  We have so many cars at our house!  I am always tripping over cars, why would I buy more?  I know, I know.  Hear me out.  These cars are magical and provide HOURS of entertainment and they are great for winter, summer, spring and fall (I bet by now you are salivating and wishing I would just get to the good part).

These magical cars change colors with water.  They start out one color and then you dip (or submerge, or even spray) it into warm or cold water and.....presto!  It changes color.  Want to change it back?  Dip it into the opposing water.  Easy as pie.  It can be done over and over and over and over.  During the summer it can be a challenge to keep the cold water cold, but ice cubes help greatly (the water does have to be pretty cold in order to work to its full potential).  But on days like today, just add a little snow from the front porch and it is plenty cold.
After: Half Dipped in warm water

Before: with little residual
In the middle of dipping in warm water
Downsides:  I am not going to lie.  There are downsides to this toy (but the good greatly outweighs the bad).  First of all, it can make a mess.  You must come equipped with towels.  It is best to lay a nice thick towel on the surface that they are going to play on (the floor or table).  However, in the summer....put on their swim suits and put the bowls of water outside and NO MESS!

Hours of fun for their little fingers.  You just have to occasionally warm or cool water!

Also, there are lots of fun (I mean that sarcastically) tracks that go with these toys.  Buy at your own risk.  This is coming from the mother that has 3 (yes three) different color shifter tracks in the basement in various stages of building.  I HATE THEM!!!!  But they do make for even more entertainment for the kids.  They are definately played with WAY more often then the normal hot wheels tracks.

I hope you check these out.  They are so much fun.  Today as I was taking pictures, I got sucked in and "had" to play too.  It is mesmerizing!

Also had to share one more "toy".  Tanner is obsessed with bugs.  He loves to read about them, find them, squish them, etc.  He has been wanting to catch some bugs, but it is quite difficult this time of year to find bugs (thankfully).  However, Nana's house always has a fresh supply of elder bugs.  They are these little black bugs with red marks on their backs.  They don't bite, they are just annoying.  Growing up, these things plagued my life.  I have eaten them, drank them, stepped on them, woken up with them on my face, and so forth and so on.  Just ewwwwww.  (Funny story insert that doesn't relate to the post- When Julie and I were young we took great pleasure in flicking these bugs across the room.  It was the easiest way to get rid of them without killing them.  We were lovers, not haters.  While flicking them, we would make the noise that we thought a flick would make.  It sounded like this "Fi (short i)-que".  Sound that one out.  We were pretty innocent kids.  Not until years later when we went back to mom and dad's and flicked a bug and made the "fi-que" sound did we realize what we were really saying.  How did my mom keep a straight face when we were using one of the most offensive words in the English language?  Funny right?)  So Tanner took great joy in collecting these Elder bugs and naming them.  He found a little plastic container and put a spinach leaf in it and poked holes in the top.  Then we went a-hunting.  We found three poor Elder bugs (in about 3 minutes).  The first one was named "Leafy" because he liked to stay on the leaf.  The second one was a wily one.  He was really trying to climb out of that little container, so he became "Climby".  The last one's wings (yes they fly, I know....totally terrible when the fly into your hair or face) were sort of bent in the back and looked kind of big and therefore, he became "Fatty".  Poor bug.

That was two days ago.  Guess what?  Those little buggers are still alive, and sitting on my kitchen table.  Oh the love of a mother.  Only for my children would I keep a little container of Elder bugs on my kitchen table.  Feel free to come and visit (or take them home for a bit).

Can you see "Fatty's" big butt?

No need for toys this Christmas.  Just get a jar, poke holes in it, and come to the Coombs' house and get yourself some Elder bugs.  They are no maintenance.  As far as I can tell, they don't eat anything.  Any bets as to how long they will last?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Saving money....yes please!

Hello Fellow Budgeters,

It seems like everywhere you turn, people are trying to save money.  I am no exception.  I love being a stay at home mom, but it requires us to be a little creative with our finances.  I bet there are some of you in the same boat.  I just thought I would share a few of my money saving tips.  Please feel free to comment and let me know of your favorite deals.

Kids' lunches.  My son NEVER eats hot lunch.  I guess that is okay.  It saves us money and I get to see what he doesn't eat for lunch (as he brings it home again, not smart enough yet to throw it all away so mom doesn't see that you didn't eat your sandwich).  Here is my money saving tip for packing a lunch.  My kids love Sunny D (who doesn't?).  But the individual Sunny D's are $2.50 for 6 of them.  So I bought a six pack and then I wash them in the dishwasher and buy the BIG Sunny D (for $2.50) and then refill!  Voila!  Money saved. Buying juice boxes or little chocolate milks are expensive, but not refillable Sunny D!

Next way to save money this time of year...make your own gifts.  This can be hard if you are not crafty, but I think that there are lots of good ideas out there for all craft levels!  You can make ornaments for family members (salt dough), make calendars or photo books on Snapfish or Shutterfly (they always have great sales if you are on their email list), make Santa hats for your kids (so easy), or for the most advance crafters, you can make advent calendars.  Check out this one my awesome sister made for me last year.  (note: this is not for the beginner crafter.  There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth over this project.  Of course, she made 25 of them, so that didn't help the problem).  But it is AWESOME!  The picture doesn't really do it justice.

The next gift has brought my family SO much joy (and a little pain when there is fighting over it) over the last few years.  This is something that Santa brought a few years ago.  It cost Santa a pretty penny, but it was worth it.  It is our kid's favorite thing about Christmas!  They play with it every day.  So, this is something that will be used for many Christmases to come.  So this money saving tip is, find a family heirloom or tradition to invest in!

2006- The Inaugural Year (Makai age 3)
2008- Makai 5, JJ 6 months, Tanner 3
2011- Tanner 6, Makai 8, JJ 3

I have saved the best for last.  Who loves coffee?  Who loves ridiculously overpriced coffee?  Who loves ridiculously overpriced coffee with all of the fixings?  Me, me, me!  I love Starbucks.  I do not, however, love the price of Starbucks.  Two years ago, a good friend changed my life.  She introduced me to (drum roll please)....the Misto.  Yep.  This is the best kept secret at Starbucks.  Not only does it cost less, it has a LOT less calories!  It is a win/win!  A misto uses regular drip coffee and then adds all of your fancy fixings after that!  So instead of using (really expensive) espresso and then adding a ton of milk and then your highly caloric fixings, they use more coffee and then less milk and then the highly caloric fixings.  So for example let's take my favorite holiday drink: the cinnamon dolce latte.  Regular price for a grande cinnamon dolce latte $4.55+ and 210 calories (if you have non fat milk).  Regular price for a grande cinnamon dolce MISTO......$3.25 and 70 calories (plus the syrup, they didn't have the calories for that).  So, it saves you over $1 per drink and 100 calories.  To that I say......who wants some Starbucks?  So, next time you go to Starbucks, try a misto (with your favorite flavoring) and pick one up for me too!

My favorite ornament
Merry Christmas, and happy bargain hunting!