Happy Fourth of July!

Happy 4th of July!

It’s 101 degrees here today. That’s actual air temperature. I don’t want to know what the heat index is.

We brought our picnic inside and pitied the poor soul who had to stand by the grill and cook it for us.
Juicy Burger, Chips, and Greens
We opted out of the parade later this afternoon – although there’s some talk amongst the kiddos about fireworks just over the border tonight.

But not me.

After celebrating all weekend with my family at the hottest family camp-out in recent history – I plan on enjoying this mid-week holiday in the comfort of my AC.

I’m going to lay on my couch sipping my ice tea fondly remembering the sweat dripping down my back.

Yes – I do mean fondly.
Water
It was a wonderful weekend – despite the heat.

We just had to be more creative to stay cool.

Like spending the afternoon sitting in the creek with my sisters, enjoying all 3 inches of water and talking.

Or sitting around with our feet in the wading pools watching the kids have water balloon fights.

Or – for the more desperate ones – sitting in the walk-in cooler drinking raspberry lemonade.
Hike
Nope. A little heat didn’t stop us from making memories. We just drank more water, threw more water and played with more water.

But now I’m played out.

My couch is waiting, my tea is icing, and I am smiling.

Have a wonderful holiday!

Going Camping…

800px-SparklerIt’s that time once again – the weekend that my children look forward to all year – it’s time to go camping.

We’ve spent the last week finding things, packing them, unpacking and repacking them.

Sleeping bags were aired out, food prepared, camera batteries found.

Towels were selected – good enough so I wouldn’t be embarrassed that they were seen in public – but old enough to potentially get ruined or forgotten.

Lists were made, checked off, remade, and adjusted.

A million little details were taken care of.

All of this for 3 days.

Days full of hot dog roasts, creek wading, and playing Frisbee. These are long days and short nights with mosquito bites and sunburn.

But – we’ll spend those days with each other – no distractions – no i pods, mp3 players, computers, TV, or radio – there isn’t even cell phone reception!

We will eat way too much, laugh till we cry, and make some amazing memories.

Is it worth all the trouble, the time spent preparing, the 3 hour car drive, and the sunburns?

You bet!

I’m just as exciting as the kids are!

Have a wonderful July 4th weekend!

The Creche: A Christmas Tradition

Nativity

One of the things my husband and I bought with our wedding money over 18 years ago was a beautiful porcelain nativity set.

We displayed it every year for Christmas until our first born turned two.

That was the year we realized that while a porcelaim set was very beautiful, it was not very practical to keep little hands away during the entire Christmas season, especially since I was already expected our second child and was exhausted.

I did not want to have a home full of no-no’s for little ones. I wanted them to be able to touch and play with the nativity, act it out, make it real in their little minds.

That year we found a nice little plasticine set on sale at a craft store.

Our little 2 year old sat with Daddy and set it up that night. Daddy told him the story and he carefully set out all the pieces.

He was so taken by it that every day after that, he would go and move the characters around the stable and told the story in his own special toddler-speak.

A new tradition was born.

Now every year we pull out the plasticine set and Daddy sets it up with the children, telling the story of the first Christmas.

The year Pedro was two he was so taken by the donkey that every day he would sneak it out and take a nap with it. Somehow the poor donkey lost his ears.

It now reminds me of the set my parents had when I were growing up. They bought it 40 years ago from a catalog and it has seen many Christmas’s. It has been arranged and rearranged by many little hands over the years, children and now grandchildren.

If you study the picture you will note that there are no shepherds and the donkey is with out ears. All were lost or broken at some point over the years.

They now have a beautiful new Nativity set, hand carved from Israel. But they still display this one over the holidays as a reminder that the Christmas story is to be touched, felt and lived for it to be remembered.

What a beautiful tradition!

Olympic Opening Ceremonies

I am an Olympic junkie.

I watch every event possible, keep track of medals, and follow the news stores surrounding it as if they were life and death issues.

I live Olympics for 2 weeks every two years.

This year will be no exception. As an Iowan, I am proud and excited to watch Shawn Johnson dominate the gymnastics  competition and Lolo Jones hurdle her way down the track.

Our celebration will begin tonight with the opening ceremony. As in year’s past, we’ll enjoy a meal from the host country, Chinese food this year, and then stay up late to watch the ceremonies.

And, as always, I’ll cry when I see our flag entire the arena.

Then I’ll begin my vigil cheering team USA, living, breathing, and enjoying the Summer games of 2008!

Birthdays on a Budget

The Birthday PlateWe have 2 birthdays back to back this week and that can be a real budget breaker. One small way we’ve saved some money is in decorating.

We have very simple parties. My goal is to honor the birthday child, not overwhelm them or wow them. We want our children to know we love them and think they are wonderful.

That takes time and traditions, not a lot of money.

We always hang a few balloons and a large Happy Birthday sign. I have occasionally found some fun decorations at garage sales, such as a plastic Thomas the Tank Engine tablecloth that we’ve used for years until it finally disintegrated.

But one of my favorite purchases was The Birthday Plate. I bought it from Current several years ago when my oldest was quite young and we have it used it ever since.

It’s a sturdy plastic so it can be washed and reused again and again.The birthday child gets to use it for every meal on his/her birthday.

Since it doesn’t actually say “Birthday” it could even be used for other special days- like the first day in big girl undies, or the first time he wrote the bike without training wheels, or just because they need a little encouragement.

The plate cost me less than $10 and has been used hundreds of times. It’s still in great shape so it will see many, many more special meals.

This one plate not only makes a birthday meal something special, it has become a family tradition that will continue on as a special memory long after my children leave home.