On the seventh day of Christmas…

It’s the last day of the year! Well, that sure snuck up on me. This is the reason I blog. It makes it so easy to look back over the year in one place (that isn’t a physical journal that will not be where I want it when I need it.) I love to look back over the girls’ pictures on their blogs, especially around their birthdays and other special occasions. For now, though, I’ll take a look back over 2012 for the Bindels.

Our church got a new building.

I got a new car.

Elizabeth started at a cool preschool, and Caroline started second grade, and both have teachers I would have designed myself if I could have!

I have been working even more and enjoying it while struggling to balance home, kids, work, and volunteering.

We had a couple of rough spots medically, with Caroline’s tonsillectomy and my biopsy, though I hesitate to even write “rough” as what was rough and scary for us is nothing compared to what so many deal with.

We found a great little condo in Port Aransas that will become “our” place for summer trips. We visited family all over Texas a few times, and the girls got a couple of new baby cousins. And we put our season passes to Six Flags to great use with two trips (three days) at Six Flags over Texas and at least four or five to Fiesta Texas.

The girls are at such fun and busy ages. They are pretty independent (or getting there), which makes life easier for us all, and they are busy busy busy with activities.

Life is good.


On the sixth day of Christmas

I opened up my stationery box and saw a list that reminded me of last year’s New Year’s resolution. I was going to hand-write more letters to people. And that list that prompted the memory was where I recorded the letters I sent as part of my resolution.

It had three names on it.

Here’s to a more successful 2013 resolution!

on the fifth day of Christmas

We are home! The crazy road trips to see family we love and look forward to seeing are complete. We will now begin another part of the season I enjoy — getting bored, organizing our new loot, doing fun activities like theater movies, bowling, swimming, and ice skating.

On the fourth day of Christmas

I am so amazed by technology!

I am writing this blog post from my new Google Nexus tablet lying in bed at my dad”s house in east Texas. daily, I keep up via words, voice, images, and video with friends, family, and associates across the country. Thanks to technology, we can visit my dad at his place and my husband can still work remotely. Thanks to technology I can be a stay at home mom while working remotely parttime. I can add edit or an e publisher. I can write educational reviews for apps.  I can edit an online educational curriculum. Three businesses that would not be around but not for technology. I can see my daughter’s homework online. I can find activities to do with my girl online. I can keep up with news, get beauty tips, medical advice, decorating ideas, and recipes. I can play Words with Friends and Draw Something with my family and loved ones and friends at anytime. And guess what else? I just dictated this blog post to my tablet and I just have to go back and fix a few words and then I can publish it. This it is amazing!

On the fourth day of Christmas,

I really aim to see, joy and love in every-thing.

I am writing this earlier in the Christmas season, but I am reminded today especially of how easy it can be to become SAD. Disheartened. Disappointed. We see, especially with social media, how fabulous our friend’s Christmas gifts, Christmas menus, and family gatherings can be. And then, in our reality, we just want a long bubble bath and a nap, without any crap. But, really, having been on both sides of the game, I think the folks who DO have the time for a bubble bath and nap without any crap kind of long for the CRAP, or at least maybe the ones who grew up in the midst of big families and craziness and chaos do.

I watched Christmas Vacation this year, again, as I do every year. And, now, as a mom of two up to her ears in family crazies, I looked at the Elaine from Seinfeld and her guy a little differently. There was a day — several year’s worth of days — that her life is what I longed for … and lived. And now, as I live in the daily chaos of family and instability and LOVE, I see how shallow that life is. And now, I would totally want to be (and, well, dadgumit, maybe I AM) part of the Griswold’s family.) I told John on one of our long Christmas road trips that, when we first married, we were so young. We were responsible, which is, honestly, a big factor in our marriage’s and life’s successes, but we were so so so shallow. Now, we may still be young,. We may still be shallow. But we can at least look and laugh at ourselves with some depth.

May you, on this fourth day of Christmas, see the humor of your life’s situation.

On the third day of Christmas,

my Lord gave to me…

a class filled with Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

IMG_3615In the Godly Play classroom these last few weeks, we’ve been getting ready. And I have thoroughly enjoyed two activities we’ve shared during these weeks. first, I used an idea inspired by Pinterest and Hobby Lobby bargains to create canvases to display on the wall above our Christmas shelf. I found the canvas with a dove outline on clearance at Hobby Lobby, and I used a few other blank canvases to display the words of Advent. I used blue painter’s tape to “write” the words, HOPE, LOVE, and JOY for three of the weeks of Advent, and then I let the kids paint over the canvases and let them dry before removing the letters. The words and images now decorate our wall above the Christmas shelf — a wonderful way to get ready for the Christmas season. I also bought a kit from Magic Cabin this year for an Advent activity that I really did not think would be *such* a hit. But the kids totally enjoyed making their own beeswax candles. And in our home, we burned our mismatched candles throughout Advent, and the girls really enjoyed lighting their creations each night. For others looking for response activities in a GP classroom, I highly recommend these. And even if my girls didn’t make them in class at church, we’d do these at home again. Easy, fun, and meaningful!

On the second day of Christmas…


my God gave to me, a fun and loving fam-i-ly.

I am so so so thankful that my girls have the posse of cousins they have — on both coasts of the family. John’s family is bigger and thus gets more attention in that way, but my sister and I are — well, we’re sisters, just like my girls are sisters — and there ain’t nothing like a sister. So of course, the cousins from sisters must be super close. We’re heading out today to spend a few days with my sister and her girls, and we returned this weekend from visits with cousins (from both sets) on John’s side. My cousins were such a part of my childhood, and I still love my cousins now (and get to keep up with some thanks to Facebook.) Same with John’s cousins. I went to a Christmas party last week at a friend’s new house — a beautiful and HUGE home and we then rode together to get groceries later in the week and talked about family and cousins and such. I told her how we jammed all fifteen of our “little” family in to Granda’s new garden home — happy and comfortable in all one thousand square feet of it (even with two adults and five of the girls sleeping over there, too). She remembered family get togethers at her grandma’s SINGLE-wide mobile home, which made me remember the same. And it just helped me see that it doesn’t matter how big or how fancy or how well-decorated our homes are that matters. It’s putting our loved ones, our families, together in them that really matters.

I thank God for my family and for places to gather with my family.

Merry Christmas!

As I told the kids at church last night, despite what the stores say, Christmas isn’t over. IT JUST STARTED! Merry Christmas! I am thankful for the respite of Christmas after a very busy Advent (and, to be honest, secular Christmas season.) We do try as a family to keep Advent as a period of preparing and awaiting the Messiah, but we are easily caught up in the chaos of “Christmas.” Now, though, the school holiday parties are finished, the cookie and ornament exchanges are done, the performances are completed. We can rejoice in our Savior’s birth and look for his glorious second-coming. I am especially excited this year that Caroline’s school break coincides with the full Christmas season. We will head to my dad’s house tomorrow to spend some time with my family and then come back home to rest and reorganization and fun for the rest of the Christmas season. Then we’ll celebrate Epiphany with our church family on January 6th before Caroline returns to school on the 7th (our anniversary!) We’re celebrating Elizabeth’s birthday early on the 5th and have to figure out when we’ll celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary that weekend, so while restful, these next two weeks will still be eventful. I also like to close off the Christmas season with an Epiphany gift for the girls, so I’ll fit in a little shopping, too.



24 things — my mid-Advent list

1. I’ve been pretty remiss in blogging lately. I have three freelance clients / projects going on right now plus volunteer work, like the school yearbook and PTA board stuff and teaching Sunday School. I don’t want to be all “I’m so busy!” because I’m not overly busy. I’m just full and won’t take on anything else right now, but I’m not missing out on sleep or anything. But I will say, as I’ve told my husband: I’m basically working a full-time job with eleven hours of childcare a week (which I have increased to thirteen for the month of December).

2. We’re keeping our family Advent pretty simple this year — lighting our Advent candle at dinner nightly along with singing the hymn for the week (Hope = O Come, O Come Emmanuel Peace = Silent Night; Joy = Joy to the World; Love = Away in a Manger.)

3. Our new holiday decor outside features Advent candles. John created candles out of wood and lights. We have our two purple candles lit up now, and tomorrow, the pink candle will go live. I like it. I do wonder if only the Catholics and Episcopalians on the street know what they are, though.

4. I must say that I really dislike this whole Elf on the Shelf trend. I considered writing a whole blog post about it, but that would just come across as judgmental and preachy. For those who want to do it, great. But, I told some friends at dinner this week that I have five reasons for disliking the elf. 1) It’s all marketing. You see that book and elf in stores all over now, and families feel like they “must” buy one. $cha-ching$. 2) It doesn’t fit at all with our family’s methods for teaching our children. We want them to “be good” for “goodness” sake, not for gifts, y’know. 3) It doesn’t fit with our religious views on gifts, either. We give gifts at Christmas in remembrance of the no-strings-attached gift of grace that God gave us in His Son. I don’t like attaching behavior strings to the gifts I give my kids (which, of course will never compare to God’s gift to us.) 4) It sets up that whole mommy-competition thing. Just look on Pinterest or Facebook, and you’ll see what I mean. and 5) It’s creepy.

5. I have finished my shopping. And I went to Target on a Saturday (without kids, at least!) I am so so so thankful for online shopping.

6. I am not a big football fan, but this has been a good month for some football! An Aggie got the Heismann, and my brother-in-law’s team, the Rider Raiders, made it all the way to the 4A Div II semi-finals. (And they went into two overtimes in that game!)

7. We are putting family over functions, and I hope we always will. I want the girls to have as much time (or more) at home enjoying the holidays with us and with family members as they do going-going-going. Caroline (unhappily at first) missed a birthday party at Main Event last night so we could decorate our Gingerbread house and go look at lights last night. And we are going to miss other events to spend the weekend with family. I treasure our times with our extended families.

8. The girls and I did some serious baking and candy-making yesterday and today and we have more to go! We have our Gingerbread house, which is going to get its own point, some graham cracker toffee, peanut butter balls, and sugar cookies. We’ll make something again Monday and Wednesday next week for events and delivering to neighbors.

9. In my spirit of keeping the gift-giving simple, we bake for the neighbors, and I give gift cards to the teachers. I loved getting gift cards from kids when I was a teacher. And as a middle school teacher, where kids had five other teachers, I thought even a five dollar gift card was generous. We’ll give Caroline’s teacher a $25 Fandango gift card, which I was able to have printed with a picture of her and Caroline together. CUTE! And I got Tropical Smoothie gift cards — $5 gift cards for Caroline’s specials teachers and $10 for Elizabeth preschool teachers — for the rest.

10. The girls don’t read this, so I can share their gifts. Caroline is getting a nerf-like archery set, a remote-control helicopter, the Caroline: American Girl book series, a Hexbug and habitat, a matching outfit for her and her Molly doll, and a doll trunk. They’ll share a set of castle blocks. Elizabeth is getting a plasma car, a My Generation 18-inch doll, some Hello Kitty items, a Hexbug and habitat, a matching outfit for her and her new doll, and a doll trunk.

11. The fun of decorating the gingerbread house is the icing and candies. So this year, I bought a prebuilt house. And it was all fun and no stress.

12. Caroline’s school choir sang Christmas carols at a Texas Stars hockey game last weekend. The girls and I went to it while John ran the Lights of Love 5K, which we all went to last year. I think we may stick with the Lights of Love in the future. The hockey game was fun but crowded, and it was a late night for a short performance.

13. Caroline’s school’s holiday event this year was Chillin’ in Candyland. Her choir performed at it, too, and we all went and had fun. As a PTA board member, I helped at the event and with clean-up, but I must say, the decorating committee did an ah-mazing job!

14. We all went to see Ballet Austin’s Nutcracker last weekend, too. The girls are so totally in to the Nutcracker. Caroline has been fascinated by it since before Elizabeth was born. I was nine months pregnant with Elizabeth when Caroline insisted her new (brother, she said) would dance the little brother’s (or sister’s, as it turned out to be) part to her Clara. Elizabeth has been dancing along with Caroline her whole life, so they know the story well. It was a great time!

15. And Caroline’s dance team will open the Trail of Lights tomorrow night with their rendition of the Nutcracker. She’s a French Bon Bon. They perform at 8 pm. I really don’t know how this is going to play out. She tried to stay up late tonight to “prepare” herself, but she was asleep on the living room floor at 7:58. John has a meeting after church, so the girls and I are going to grab a quick lunch and then all lie down on my bed and read and hopefully fall asleep.

16. We’re light on grown-up parties this year, I think. I had our church’s Ladies Advent Tea today, which was nice, and John and I will go to the Bishop’s Council Advent dinner Wednesday night. I have a little ornament exchange with friends Monday night. But we’re missing his work Christmas party, which is a fun night out. And we’re missing caroling, which we usually host and is a great time. But I kind of like the idea of spreading the parties out. We don’t all need to host a Christmas party. I should get some friends together and divide up quarterly festivities. Hmmm…

17. My favorite hand-me-downs of all are holiday outfits. This year, Elizabeth has Christmas clothes out the wazoo! One of the skirts is actually a skirt that Caroline wore at four and Elizabeth had a matching one that they worn for their Santa picture. I pulled out Elizabeth’s and then searched on etsy to find the same fabric and got a matching one for Caroline now. I guess Elizabeth will wear the same skirt three different times in her life eventually. And the dresses they wore for their Santa pictures this year are doing double-duty. It’s a Hanna Andersson dress that Caroline has worn for the past three years, which we passed on to Elizabeth. And I found the same dress in Caroline’s size on ebay. S-weet!

18. Santa pictures. That reminds me of my two favorite decorated areas — I have festive Christmas framed pictures of the girls with Santa on our bookshelves. I have four pictures of just Caroline and four of both girls taking up two shelves. I love looking at how they’ve grown up! And my mantle is a festive and busy display of lots of Christmas trees in different sizes, textures, and patterns mixed in with the words of Advent — Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. The girls’ stockings hang on either side. It makes me smile.

19. I’m organizing our church’s children’s pageant again, too. I still need to inventory our costumes, but Caroline is going to be a Magi and Elizabeth is going to be an angel.

20. Now that my Christmas cards have gone out, I can share my card secret with the blogosphere. I paid $36 for 75 cards, postage included, and didn’t even have to address, stamp, or mail them! I ordered them from Cardstore.com with a 75 percent off coupon code. I feel like I cheated.

21. I really need to get ahead and my freelance work so I can watch movies after the girls are in bed instead of working. John says they aren’t old enough yet to watch A Christmas Story and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation with me yet. I have to save them for after bedtime.

22. I have Sticky Cinnamon Bun Scentsy burning in my living area now and Cinnamon Bear burning in the bathrooms. My house smells lovely. I’ll switch to Welcome Home, which has Christmas-y spices in it, after Christmas Day.

23. I write all this down here and put pictures of the girls on their blogs because this is my journal and their blogs are their baby books. I truly cherish looking back, so easily and from anywhere, on past Christmases or special events and reading what was on my mind and seeing what the girls were up to.

24. So, you can see, even though I haven’t blogged in a while, I still have a lot on my mind. Maybe I’ll write it down more in 2013.