Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Skinny on the Elf... He Lives On...

Okay, I confess: I couldn't kill him off. I just couldn't do it. Although, I did enjoy a week long break from Elf-Shenanigans.

We discovered that his secret mission was to collect broken toys, bag them up, and leave them with a note for our son on Christmas morning. My boy tends to be rather rough on his toys. This was a fun reminder to take care of the toys since Santa's elves work hard all year to make toys for children all over the world. He got the point and vowed to take better care of the toys Santa gave him for Christmas this year.

Okay, back to not killing the elf. Our elf. Handsome Little Elf. HLE, for short.

HLE DID get a promotion. He is now a liaison between scout elves and toy-maker elves to effectively communicate what toys children are wanting toy-maker elves to create.

This solved two problems for us. First, my son wanted a toy that hasn't even been invented yet so HLE will be working closely to remedy issues like this. Second, because of HLE's new title, he can only visit for a couple days before Christmas each year.

Okay, so it really solved three problems. Now, I only have to suffer through Elf-antics for a couple days instead of a whole month! And my children weren't devastated that he was gone for good but rather, happy for HLE moving up the ladder in the Elf-world.

Oh, and during that week with HLE away, we were all able to re-focus on the real meaning of Christmas. The chants for HLE began to fade as we filled our days with Christmas books and crafts reminding us that Jesus is the reason for the season and that the greatest gift we give is love.

In the end, this was a good change for our family. I simply caution you to decide if the Elf on the Shelf is for you and your family. You might love having an elf in your home... but set up your rules ahead of time to keep it from becoming overwhelming.

For another fun twist you might enjoy, consider what this family does with their elf on the shelf.

But whatever you decide, have fun and do what is best for your family. We did. :)

Smile :) donnamusing

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Elf Must Die At Some Point, Right?

The elf must die... or at the very least, he MUST go!

It started innocently enough. In 2009, a co-worker bought an elf on the shelf for her son. I thought it sounded weird and creepy. However, she said that her son would behave for the little red-suited creature. And that is when the temptation started.

Maybe this will work for our son. Maybe this little, cute, adorable, rosy-cheeked fellow would be the answer to my prayers.

(Side note: I'm pretty sure God doesn't use lies and scare tactics as miracles in our lives.)

After the temptation, then there was peer-pressure. This may very well be the only time in my adult life that I've caved to such an adolescent pitfall.

"It'll be fun," they said.
"Your kids will love it," they said.
"It can be a new family tradition," they said.

A new family tradition. They got me. We were adopting and our family needed some traditions of its own.

So, during my lunch break one day, aforementioned co-worker joined me as we drove out to pick up our new elf.

He was cute, in his creepy, eyes-never-quite-looking-at-you way.
But very fake looking. His hands and feet came to a point. Were my kids really stupid enough to fall for this?

I rushed home, hid him on a shelf, composed a letter and sent the kids to the mailbox. They came running with the companion book and letter from Santa announcing that he had sent a special elf to our house and the book would explain the rest.

My kids were ridiculously excited and spent an incredible amount of time talking to HLE. The kids named him Handsome Little Elf and call him HLE for short.

The first few days were fun. Where could I hide him that would be a little harder than the day before?

Then, one morning, my son came to me terribly upset.
He explained, "HLE didn't write to me on the board."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"I asked him questions and asked him to write me the answers on the board."

You have got to be kidding me! 
Now, I have to eavesdrop on elf conversation.

Certainly, finding just the right spot for him to hide is bad enough. And, the responsibility of remembering this chore weighs heavily. But now, this.

Christmas came and HLE hibernated in a cardboard box for eleven glorious months.

Then, some yuppie moms decided to up the ante and ruin it for the rest of us. The elf needed to do mischievous acts. Wallow in a bowl of marshmallows, write on picture frames with a washable marker, leave secret messages, dance with Barbie, steal the last cookie, poop out a Hershey kiss, and leave hidden messages around the house.

And God forbid that HLE take a day off and just hide in the cupboard. Blasphemy. 

The chants came:
"HLE, hide somewhere hard tomorrow."
"I drew you a picture. Can you draw me one back?"
"I have questions. How old are you? Will you ever die?"
"Will you really leave if we touch you?"
"How does Santa make it around the world in one night?"
"Can you stay all year long?" (HECK TO THE N-O!!!!!!!!!)

Let me pause my rant to say this. The marketing on this little guy is impeccable. You can buy a birthday outfit for him so he can show up on your child's birthday just to check in on him. You can buy matching chef aprons so the elf can wear his while you bake Santa's cookies. You can even have a transgender elf by leaving a skirt out for him and then he magically becomes a girl elf. The list goes on.

In the midst of all the elfishness, my kids are no longer focused on the true meaning of Christmas. I can't take it anymore. Christmas is NOT about a free-loadin' elf looking for a good time.

This is our fourth year and sorry kiddos, but it's the last.

So far, HLE has been super lazy. He showed up on the 8th in our Christmas tree. 9th- hiding in the manger. 10th- on a shelf. 11th- clutching a sword on the wall. 12th-hanging from a curtain rod. 13th- hanging from the other side of the SAME curtain rod.

At this point, my kids are begging HLE to do something fun. Anything other than just show up somewhere. There's even whining and complaining that he hasn't even hidden in a cupboard this year. Because sitting out in the open is so four years ago!

Well, HLE ain't got no time for that!

Instead of HLE, this is what my kids found when looking for him today.

This is just preparation for the final good-bye. The big adios. Maybe HLE will get a promotion to oversee all the scout elves in our region. I'm still working on that.

For now, HLE is camping out on the top shelf in my closet. Maybe I'll bring him back in a week to share the big news.

This mama is done with the elf.

My advice. Read this carefully. DO NOT START THIS TRADITION!

There are a bazillion better traditions out there.
Some of my favorites that we do are decorate a gingerbread house together, bake a birthday cake for Jesus, bake cookies for Santa, watch classic Christmas movies, and we buy a book for our kids every Christmas eve and read it to them.
That last one is my favorite.

I wish you all much success with the passing... I mean, promotion of your elf.
If you have done such a thing or are contemplating it, please leave a message on my blog. We'd all love to read it.

Keep an eye out on my blog for the final good-bye from HLE.

Okay, I feel so much better now!

Now, off to bake bread and make Christmas Pretzel M&M Hugs with my kids. Something fun and delicious. Not menacing and annoying.

Smile :) donnamusing

Monday, December 2, 2013

How to NOT make an Advent Calendar... or Something Like That...

It all started innocently enough. Yesterday, I had planned to have hot cocoa with my kids and maybe watch a Christmas movie, but then I saw it- a facebook post of my friend's son holding up his Advent Calendar. Suddenly, I remembered that ours had broken last year.

I can do that, I thought. Pssh, it'll be easy, the creative voice whispered inside my head.

In a couple of clicks, I found myself on pinterest perusing all the lovely options. I chose an easy one. Soon I would have my own mini muffin tin Advent Calendar to enjoy with my kids. And what's even better is this was going to be Fun! 

As most adventures go awry, I didn't bother with directions... Seriously, it's a collection of decorative circles with magnets on the back. What could go wrong???

After lunch, I gathered all the necessary tools and took over the kitchen table as I prepped my kids for the super-awesome craft that their super-awesome mom had planned.

It was all a ski slope from there.
For starters, I didn't have a shape maker to cut the perfect size circle which meant I had to cut circles the old fashioned way... with scissors! And my kids didn't want to help cut the circles.

I even learned how to tie a bow on a fork for my eighth day.

I started with card stock and scrapbook paper and we began gluing away with the most evil, non-helpful glue known to man. (Just wait for it!)

Finally, after getting all of our designs done (except for the numbers and 3D elements) it was time to add the magnets on the back. I had some sheets of sticky magnets... except all of the sticky had worn off so I retreated to the glue.

After gluing on the magnets, I began to notice that our cute little circles were beginning to curl up on us. But never fear, that's what old dictionaries are for, right? At least I attempted to flatten them with the old beasts.

After an hour or so of that, I called my troops back to the table. Well, one of them showed up. My son was beyond bored at this point. My daughter and I started to add the numbers and final embellishments. That is, until she got bored, too. She actually said, "I think you've had enough kid time, do you think you could finish this by yourself?"
Thanks a lot, daughter. Leave me in the trenches... This is all for you, you know.

At some point in the six o'clock hour, my son came to me and said, "Mom, I'm not trying to complain but I'm starting to get hungry."

Okay, just five more minutes, kids!

After making dinner, I stopped to take a photo of how far we'd come.

Not bad, right? Well, I thought it was decent. Still, it took too much time, but decent nonetheless.

Decent, that is, until I lifted it to hang it up.

The magnets worked fine but the designs were too heavy and the weird gel glue began to make the paper curl. I wish I had thought about my double-sided photo tape.

Here's a view of what they looked like from the side.

Um, yeah. That's kind of disheartening after all that work.

That's okay. I'll be able to fix it tomorrow, I attempted to console myself.

Today, I decided to conquer the project once and for all. The sad news is they were in even worse shape this morning. Many of the magnets had already come apart from the paper, leaving behind a dried gel glue residue. You have GOT to be kidding me. Deep breath, it's okay. 

I tried to use the photo tape and put the magnets back on.
Didn't work.
I ripped all the magnets off and threw them in the garbage.
Spirits lifted slightly.
I attempted to use photo tape over the dried glue to just adhere the circles.
Go ahead and laugh.

This meant war.

Okay, what is stiff enough to get the curl out of these things?
I tried adhering them to a manila folder and laminating them.

But I couldn't do that with the pieces that had 3D images and guess what? I had just made them heavier.
What. A. Joke.

This was supposed to be fun and done yesterday. And I hadn't even considered what to put in the tin slots yet and I was already a day late.

Time to face the music and count my losses. I REALLY didn't want to do that but what other choice did I have. I might lose the battle but not the war- I would have an Advent Calendar to hang on the wall if it was the last thing I did... okay, maybe not that far, but I'm a pretty determined chick!

At last resort, I headed over to etsy and found a set of adorable PRINTABLE perfectly sized, already decorated, just print on your own card stock, designs for the LOW price of $2.00!!!!

And here is a much happier result. No funky glue. (that glue has been trashed, might I add)
No magnets, just one double sided photo split on the back of each one. No crinkling. And it is hanging up! Yay!

There's just one more thing. I still have to put the goodies in the tin. I'll do that tomorrow. I'll only be two days late by then.

Smile :) donnamusing

P.S. Check out Flip Chick Designs on Etsy to find your own SIMPLE project. Don't do it alone. Don't reinvent the wheel. Spend the $2 and get it done in a fraction of the time.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Disney Do's and Don'ts- Food

If you are like me when it comes to traveling, you pack food.
When Matt went to Uganda, I packed him entirely TOO MUCH FOOD and he was able to leave organic poptarts (yes, they exist), gatorade packet mixes, Clif Bars, and many tasty but unhealthy treats for the outreach team, there.

But, we are talking about Disney. I must admit that I packed food to save money... even though we signed up for the Disney Dining Plan. I wasn't really sure what to expect and I didn't want to spend an arm and a leg every day on food.

So without further ado, here is my first "DO!"
DO the Disney Dining Plan! We had so much food and saved money. It was ridiculous. The plan we chose included one table service meal, one quick service meal, and one snack per family per day. Included, we each received a refillable souvenir mug to use at our hotel. However, even though the fine print says it the chip-embedded cup will only work at your hotel, at this writing, that is not true so fill 'er up at other resort locations. (more on that magical mug in a minute)

DO use the table service meal for character dining when traveling with children, or if you are just young at heart. These are the pricier meals but order whatever you want, with the Dining Plan you've already paid an upfront fee so no need to stress over cost.

In Epcot, I highly recommend Akershus Royal Banquet Hall for the little princess in your life! All of Disney's classic princesses come around and meet you at your table, sign autograph books, and take photos. Not to mention that Cinderella might catch you up on what Gus-Gus is up to or Ariel might ask if you've seen any pesky sea-witches, feel free to ask Snow White about her little friends, Aurora won't fall asleep at your table, but Belle might speak of dancing with the Beast. Each day, one Princess greets you as you enter the Hall and takes a picture with your little princess or your entire party. During the meal, your photo is brought to your table in a decorative sleeve. (This is part of your dining experience.)

In Magic Kindgdom, have Breakfast with Pooh and Friends. Again, each character will make a special appearance throughout your dining. There is even a parade that your little one can take part in, marching with the characters through the restaurant.

And one more wonderful character dining is Tusker House, in Animal Kingdom. Indulge in a scrumptious breakfast or lunch buffet while receiving a commemorative framed photo with Safari Donald Duck. Safari Goofy, Daisy, Minnie, and even Mickey, himself will make their rounds during your meal.

DO know that you can choose a bagel, muffin, or pastry item as a snack. On days, when you want a quick breakfast, this is a perfect option. However, if you want a juice to go with your snack, that would count as an additional snack. If you like the idea of having juice with your bagel, choose juice with a quick service meal the day before and save it for breakfast. You can use that magical mug with unlimited free refills during your stay to have an iced tea or soda with dinner.

DO's and DON'Ts on the mug:
DO know that you can fill it with hot or cold beverages. Some folks like to fill it up with hot coffee and sip on it while riding out to the park.
DO or DON'T carry it with you to the parks.What I mean is this, if you are eating lunch at a resort connected to one of the parks, you may want to carry it for that refill. But, if you are eating in the park- like one of the wonderful restaurants listed above- there isn't a refill station, so you'll be stuck carrying it around all day.
DON'T fill up with the wrong beverage, dump it, and try to immediately refill with something else. You can only refill it every two minutes. If you gulp it all down in a minute and a half, the machine will tell you that you have 30 seconds left before you can refill again. (I know, a computer chip in your mug... it's like, the end of the world, or something.) ;)

DON'T over pack your suitcase with food. You are going to Disney, not camping. It is good to have a few things for the plane and if you'd like a certain something for walking around the park. But, I will say that while enjoying the Dining Plan, you'll have more food than you can shake a stick at. Each quick service meal includes a meal, snack, and drink. At the end of the week, we ate double snacks in the park and chose 7 packaged snacks to carry home with us, just so we didn't lose them.

DON'T choose a $1 cheese dip as your snack. We ordered a Mickey Pretzel in Hollywood Studios as a snack and the additional cheese dip would've cost us a snack, and know that two people can easily share one cheese dip (Just break off pieces of your pretzel, no double-dipping!) Seriously, fork over the buck for the cheese dip and bank that credit to use on a $5 goody, later!

DON'T stress over food. I know we saved money by doing the dining plan. One meal at some of the character dining restaurants would've been what we paid per person for a whole day's food allowance.

Oh and one more "DO"... DO expect for your pants to fit a little tighter by the end of the week, everything is delicious!

Smile :) donnamusing

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Disney Do's and Don'ts- Accommodations

Over the next few days, I plan to share some Do's and Don'ts for Walt Disney World. Little nuggets of knowledge we uncovered along the way. I'll start with accommodations.

DO stay at Disney's Art of Animation Resort. It is Disney's newest hotel so it is crisp and shiny. The hotel is divided into four sections, three of those sections are suites decorated with Cars, The Lion King, or Finding Little Nemo. The fourth section, The Little Mermaid is basic double bed rooms.

DO choose the suite if traveling with children. It is just a few dollars more and well worth it to tuck the kids in the murphy bed and sofa bed, then retreat to your own private bedroom to keep the lights on planning the following day or enjoy a late night show together.

DO spend time walking around the resort. Each section is lovingly decorated. There's even a Cozy Cone Motel; the large cones are shaded seating around a half circle pool. The Little Mermaid section also has a small pool but The Lion King area doesn't have a little pool. Not to worry, the Nemo pool is the largest resort pool in all of Walt Disney World. And, it comes complete with spray and playground too.

Now for the DON'Ts...

DON'T stay in Cars Building 1 facing the parking lot. Every night around ten o'clock, huge trucks unload large metal bins with wheels. IT. IS. LOUD. We assume the staff wheel in food for the restaurant or perhaps, laundering services for the hotel. Either way, it lasts for a couple hours and you might as well have your window open. Request not to stay in Building 1 and you should be okay.

DON'T take the elevator. Check to see how close you are to the end of a building. It may be more convenient to walk down the stairwell at the end of the building rather than walk to the center of the building just to ride on the elevator. We actually saved time and footsteps by taking the stairs when we didn't have luggage.

DON'T stress! The entire staff was incredibly helpful from the moment of check-in, to making reservations, as well as meeting additional requests, and the housekeeping was wonderful. You have an entire fleet at your fingertips making sure your vacation is as magical as possible. Also, make sure to tell the staff upon check-in if it is your first visit. You'll receive a "First Visit" button to wear, bringing you special attention through the parks during your stay.

And as always, Smile :) donnamusing

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Of Broken Vases...

My son is an early riser, to say the least... Imagine how enjoyable that is for grandparents. Well, a few months ago, my son spent the night with his Oma. Oma told him that he could get up at 7:00am and either play with his toys in the guest room quietly or go watch T.V. without any toys until she got up.

Now, I'm sure you realize that when parents and grandparents give direction, it is for good reason. Maybe this realization hasn't dawned on my son, yet, or maybe, he is just sneaky.

At 7:00am, Alec chose his own option, to play in the living room WITH his toys.

When Oma awoke, everything was fine until she noticed some silk flowers on the floor that belonged in her yellow vase. Once she bent down to pick them up, she became aware of something far more peculiar. Her vase was broken.

In a very sad attempt, he tried to hide the broken pieces in the vase and put it back on the coffee table.

What hurts me most about this story is the deception. But when I think about it, I recognize myself. Haven't we all chosen our own path at times, when God has clearly given us a direction. And our own way has brought us destruction. Then, we try to hide it, as if God can't see through our facade.

I wanted to teach my son a lesson in restoration and so we went "vase hunting" with his money. We could not find another yellow vase but found a ceramic vase, similar in size, so we purchased it and some yellow paint from Lowe's. With some teamwork, we were able to create a comparable replacement.

He had already said I'm sorry to his Oma, but I believe that actions speak louder than words. He could never replace the vase that he destroyed... It will never be the same. But he could sacrifice something that belonged to him, in this case- time and money. And takes those steps toward restoration.

Oma graciously accepted his gift, placed her silk flowers in the new vase, and set it on the coffee table. (His apology note remains hidden in the bottom of the vase.)

As a parent, I can only hope that this lesson will stick with him. The point is, whether the vase cost $5 or $50, he broke it because of disobedience and then lied with his actions. But, he took steps to restore not only the vase but also his relationship with his Oma.

Smile :) donnamusing

Ephesians 4:32
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Week in Social Media

Have you ever taken a little break from Social Media and wondered what you missed?
Well, just in case you do ever take a break and feel left out, just read this blog entry and you'll be fully informed in no time.


Politics, Game Requests, and Babies, Oh my! 
My job sucks. My car sucks. My life sucks.
#Meatless Monday
#Meme Monday (Yeah, I went there... but they really don't just show up on Monday) 

Cute puppies. Grumpy Cat.
I'm in debt up to my eyeballs but check out my new car!
Nothing ever goes right for me... 4 days 'til vacation!
If you read my statuses, write where we first met. (crickets) If you don't write on this post, you'll be deleted... (still, crickets)
Is it Friday, yet?

Hey Mike! Mike! Guess what day it is?!
(every other post is a camel)
#Happy Hump Day

#Wordless Wednesday = Flood of Photos

Poster: Today is my Friday! Yay!
10 Friends: I hate you!
#TBT = Newsfeed is swamped with big hair, short shorts, poofy dresses, moms posting their grown-children's bathtub photos, booger pickers... We should just call it "Embarass Ourselves Thursday"

Longest. Week. Ever. 
Hello FRIDAY! 
What are you doing this weekend?
Here we go with the crazy neighbors again, don't they know we have kids trying to sleep? I'll open all our doors and you drown 'em out with the surround sound.
#Finally Friday #Party YOLO 

I'm bored. What's everyone doing today?
Words with friends, anyone?
I just ran a full marathon... twice! 
Look what I'm having for dinner!
Pins Galore: Organize your closet is 572 easy steps! Perfect pie crust every time. 1,000 things to do on a rainy day. Make your own laundry detergent- really, it smells great!
#Selfie Saturday

#Date Night
#First tooth lost

#Getting my church on! verses and songs beat out memes! (Until tomorrow)
I'm not doing nothing all day, except check facebook, of course...
Darn that tooth fairy. I can't believe she forgot your tooth. Don't worry sweetie, tomorrow she'll bring $20 and a new playstation.

Weekend is fading. Monday in sight. Commence whining.

Did I miss anything? Feel free to share.

Smile :) donnamusing