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.