Christmas eve, is our time to remember that Christ and our Church are at the center of this season of giving and love. Everyone who was home attended church together. "Mommy" would miss her first Christmas Eve ever with us. But on a positive note, she and the granddaughters arrived the next day. Our church family has become very important to us, and celebrating the birth of Christ with them this year was more special than ever.
I had every intention of keeping up with blog activity during the holidays. I ran from sun up to sun down. Have I mentioned that I am getting too old for this. Sometimes I think the kids keep me young and sometimes I think they just wear me out! Christmas Day was spent as if we were in a Wave Pool at an amusement park. The first wave hit and gifts scattered everywhere. Packages were distributed and opened. The boys, as usual received Nerf guns and proceeded to sneak attack all later arrivals. There were quite a few ambushes involved. Clean up after the first wave was accomplished.
As soon as the clean up was done, the second wave hit and more gifts were distributed and opened. Lots of laughter and talk and great company. Biological and adopted family were all present. Wave three came in. Clean up again and attempts at getting dinner going. "Doc" took the lead and I followed up with the main dish.
Just in time for dinner, wave four arrived with scarcely enough time to catch our breath! Dinner and the clean up from that is always eventful. We cannot have dinner cleanup without someone monitoring every detail of the work that each child contributes. We wouldn't want to do one ounce of work more than anyone else, but if we can get away with an ounce or two less that is fabulous.
The final wave was small and came late in the evening, but it completed our family. Merry Christmas to all!
So back to the tree stories.... As we gained a larger home and more space, we brought in one or two balled trees. The space for a tree in the main living room was large and there was no way we could find a balled tree large enough or enough people to carry it in. We had to decide if we wanted to plant a tree in the living room and cut a hole in the ceiling or switch to a fresh cut tree. The fresh cut tree won, but not before fighting one heck of a battle.
We love our fresh cut trees. The smell of fresh pine in the house at Christmas is unique. As the number of ornaments grew so did the size of our trees. Besides that, "Doc" keeps picking them BIGGER AND BIGGER! The first year we put up a larger tree, we brought it in, set it up and it was gorgeous! All the lights and ornaments sparkled. We went to bed for those sugar plums dancing in our heads. When out in the living room I heard such a clatter! Okay, bad take on the poem but I did hear a loud crash that woke me up and believe me it takes a lot to wake me up! I distinctly remember thinking, "I hope "Mommy" just fell over the railing and that it isn't the tree. We can fix her!"
"Doc" and I jumped out of bed and found that the tree had indeed fainted. I cried a little because I lost some of the ornaments that hung on my grandmother's tree. We stood it back up and watched it carefully. In the morning, "Doc" noticed that it seemed to be leaning again. At lunchtime he came home with ropes and the next thing I knew we had secured the tree to beams in the house. It is bad enough when this happens once, but the next year we had a larger tree and a repeat incident. I fooled the tree though, I had put my grandparents' ornaments in a crystal dish. But anyway, the ropes came out again and the tree was tied up! This year we got a little more creative and hung ornaments from the ropes. I especially remember Santa in camouflage parachuting.
By year three, we thought we could outsmart the tree. We put the tree in a corner and got a new tree stand. Don't you know that it toppled again! It did lean toward the corner though averting horrible disasters! Alright, now what because our trees are getting BIGGER every year. It must be the tree stand! So "Doc" combines heads with "Mommy's" future father in law. These two together came up with a plan and built the "Tree Stand from Hell". It is solid steel and takes three to four men to bring it into the house, which is perfect because it now takes three to four men to bring our tree into the house!
I must admit, we have not had a tree fall since we got our super stand! But there are plenty of tree stories coming!
This week is dedicated to Christmas trees. We have certainly had our ups and downs with them. "Doc" and I both love the scent of fresh pine in the house and get real trees every year. All you conservationists out there are probably going nuts, but listen. I have learned from living in the woods, that you have to prune trees out on a regular basis to keep the forest healthy. I am convinced that this is what happens with tree farms. This is their livelihood. They want the trees to go on and on for many years. Besides Mr. Conservationist, how much bad stuff goes into fake trees, and what happens to the materials when they get thrown out.
Now, for a few years we tried to bring in "balled" trees so we could plant them outside after Christmas. There are a couple of inherent problems with those. First, they can only be inside for a relatively short period of time. I believe it is ten days. It is impressive how quickly those trees get acclimated to indoor weather. It reminds me of our dog Chester who has spent all eleven years of his life outside. This is his first winter inside and we will never get him out of the house again. In fact, he has taken my place in bed, but that is another story. Anyway, these trees are incredibly heavy with that large ball of dirt around the roots, so you either have to bring it in with the tractor or a ton of muscle. Third, is the problem of what to put it in. We ended up at the local farm store and bought a large metal tub. A lot of work for ten days and only a couple of our trees survived the transplant to the great outdoors.
So we continue with our live trees. "Doc" was great with that until I started adding trees to fill the house. We are up to three now. Remember though, we have collected 32 years of ornaments plus all of the ornaments that the kids have. We will cover ornaments later. We do have an enormous tree in our living room. They are usually 12 to 15 feet tall or more. And we do fill them with ornaments. It is a family project to decorate the tree. Friends have started to join us just to watch the show.
The biggest battle every year is getting the lights on. It is no one's favorite job. "Doc" is trying to pass the legend on to the boys and they are deliberately sabotaging his efforts. They do such an awful job, that I usually get angry and start taking them off and replacing them. Seriously though, who puts on a whole string of lights without checking them. The condition of the lights will be covered later this week too. But anyway, all the trees are up this year and another set of memories has been added to the collection. More later.....
During their years in school, students are not taught much about things like budgeting, credit card use, banking, or checking accounts. Now I know there are life skill classes, business classes, economics classes, etc., but nothing that teaches you that day to day living, common sense type of stuff. And to be honest with you, I am not sure the schools should teach things like that. But then, again maybe they should; because as I have said before adults today do not have much common sense or "mom-sense". Many don't want to be parents; they want to be "friends" with their children. Let's be honest, how many adults do you know that even balance a checkbook anymore. Most just check their balance on-line.
Trying to be a responsible "parent", I opened savings accounts for each of the kids when they were born, and saved money each week for college for each of them. When they were little, a children's company had the idea for a "pretend" checkbook for kids. I would pretend to be the bank, and we would log allowance and chore money into their checkbooks. They would write me a check if they wanted to use some of their cash. When my kids turned 16 I went to the bank with them and opened a joint checking account. I figured it gave me two years before they went to college to teach them how to manage their banking and finances. It did not go as smoothly as I hoped. Allow me to give you the kid by kid rundown.
"Mommy" understood the concept immediately. She knew there was a savings account and that her spending money was in checking. She got a debit card to purchase gas for her car and other items. She is a little "OCD" like her mother, and managed her cash like a champ. She still does to this day! So, number "1" got it, this is easy! What a genius I am with this great plan.
Then came "Calvin" and he blew the whole process right out of the water!. We struggled with the concept that you could use your debit card for debit or credit. It didn't really matter to your account which way you used it, the money was still taken out. He was convinced that if he said he wanted to use his debit card as a credit card that no money in his account was touched. After three or four overdrafts in his checking account and many puzzled looks on my face, plus a trip to the bank, he finally got it. I believe that the last time he balanced his checkbook was 2006.
"Mini Me" understood the process as well as "Mommy". Maybe it's a girl thing. She loved the independence of managing her own finances and really did well. Then she got married. Doing all of that in a partnership with someone who doesn't get it is a whole new story! Her account has been overdrawn more times since she has been married than it ever was when she was single. Oh well, it will be good practice for her to train "The Admiral" and give her experience when she works with her own children.
"The Blonde" blew my "girl thing" theory right out of the water. She believed that you could spend money you didn't have as long as your intentions were good. I will never forget the day that she was upset for getting charged for an overdraft. She readily admitted to spending more than she knew was in her account. "But I only went over by $1.00 and I was planning on making a deposit tomorrow!" She has gotten better over the years, but not without several overdraft experiences. She is my star pupil when it comes to balancing her checkbook, after taking my remedial course.
"Pook" is a bit of a miser. He is extremely aware of where his money comes from (us!) and is really good at budgeting his expenses at college. He got his first overdraft the other day but it was because the bank held a check that he deposited for 24 hours. I was pleased at his distress, and it has given him the opportunity to learn how to go into the bank and deal with professionals. He still doesn't balance his checkbook, but he checks his balance daily.
My last shot at getting the job done is "The Surprise". After several "emergency" trips to the bank to cover his account we had a meeting, which means he listened and I yelled and threatened. He and his brother were given instructions, AGAIN, on the accounting package that they have and told to log everything so that deductions are simple at tax time when I need to know their school expenses. Deposits into the account will be made on Thursday and only if they call by Wednesday. So far so good.
You may want to know how I am so in tune to all of their accounts. Remember, these are joint accounts. And, oh yes, they were linked to my savings account so that when they screwed up it came out of my account. They did it enough times as a group that the government cancelled my savings account for too many transfers. My reaction to that is a whole other story! Please teach your children about finances! If you don't know how to do it, learn too!!!!!
There are a lot of reasons to get on your knees. The first one I think of is to pray and thank God for the gifts that he has bestowed upon you. Even when there is hardship, be thankful. I know that is hard to accept, but it is sometimes the difficulties in life that help us to grow the most. I was thankful to have the entire family together Thanksgiving weekend. It seems like we never had less than 20 people in the house at one time. I am thankful that I stocked up at the grocery store. They used up everything from bread to toilet paper. Time for another trip to the store! I am thankful that we have almost no leftovers. And, I am thankful that I have some peace and quiet this week. No offense kids, but I must be getting old! All the activity exhausted me.
You can also get on your knees to talk to your small children or grandchildren. They seem to respond best when you are eye to eye with them rather than towering over them. A large adult; not that I am calling myself large, can be very intimidating to someone who is only four feet tall. A voice booming down on them from three or four feet above their heads can sound very scary. It is interesting to see the world from the perspective of a small child! No wonder they get into trouble! Everything is in their view.
But the best reason to get on your knees is because of the surprises you will find. I dropped something in the kitchen while playing with my grandson and was startled at what I saw under the cabinets! I like to think that I can keep a pretty clean house but OMG!
The baseboards have things splashed on them. The dogs' hair seems to creep under every opening available. Once I looked, I couldn't stop myself! I looked under furniture and found toys, headbands and more dog hair. I am embarrassed to admit that before we got married, my future mother in law hid a gift under our couch. I did not find it until after I was told to look for it. I found things that I had lost, and things that I had not lost.
Unfortunately, the one thing that I did not find is cash! :) Oh well, I have riches beyond belief with a wonderful family. In all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, don't forget to be grateful for the simple things. Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.
Wife, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, Nurse, Grandmother, Friend...that's me in a nutshell!