Monday, November 25, 2013

Christmas Countdown!

It's that time of year again!  So excited to begin our Christmas Advent countdown.  I have hauled out the boxes I made last year and I'm busy planning and stuffin' them with ornaments to hang [we will decorate the tree over the course of December with the boys adding a few each day], activities to do, a few little treats and knick-knacks.  In the spirit of NOT accumulating, most things are just re-purposed, used, or cheap one-day-use items like glow sticks.

Why do I do this?  
To fully enjoy the season, teach my kids about generosity, learn about the true Christmas story and rather than buy them a bunch of things, plan a bunch of family and community togetherness activities.

This year's list:

  • 1. Decorate the house while listening to Christmas music.  Set up our nativity scene!
  • 2. Give-away-day! Purchase two toys (kids can help pick them out) to donate to the Langley Christmas Bureau, drop off clothes for donation with Night Shift street ministries, write to our compassion child, and see if there's any toys that the boys can decide to part with [still looking for ideas of where to donate].
  • 3. Make homemade hot chocolate mix and homemade marshmallows to give away in jars to appreciatesome special sweet someone's in our life.  Silas is gonna love mixin' up the powder!
  • 4. Make a fabulous craft for grandparents [can't link to what we're doing because they check my blog!]
  • 5. Put together some packages of love to send in the mail.  We're also hoping to attend this fabulous Christmas production written, produced, and directed by dear friends of ours: This Isn't Christmas.
  • 6. Fun nativity activity sheets.  You HAVE to check them out.  Free download and looks perfect for preschool aged like Silas.
  • 7. Celebrate Jason's birthday with a breakfast at our favourite local restaurant [Wendels], chopping down a Christmas tree (and decorating it!) and them heading off the Maple Ridge Christmas fair and parade.  It's free!  Our boys have never been to a parade so it should be a blast!
  • 8. Christmas train craft!  Daddy gets to assemble a fun christmas train with the kids.  See how it goes...
  • 9. Christmas ornament making day.  I bought a fun little kit from Michaels and I'm hoping to make these as well as some cute birdfeeders [which aren't really ornaments, but they will adorn the trees outside our house, so they still count!].  Some will be for giving away, some for keeping.
  • 10. Snowman pizza for dinner with cookies and milk: while watching a Christmas movie in our jammies!  I'd love any ideas for age-appropriate Christmas movies!
  • 11. This one I am so excited about: homemade gingerbread playdough!  That way we can do the best part (decorating the little men) over and over again and don't have to worry about the mess in the kitchen!  Silas is going to package up some for a few of his buddies as well which we can deliver.  Gonna spruce it up with some glitter and decorate with whatever beads and gems I can find.
  • 12. Snowflake party day!  I have snowflake stickers, we'll make and hang some basic snowflakes, and I'm hoping to attempt one of these, just for kicks.
  • 13. Stamp and mail Christmas cards [here's hoping they are actually done by then].  The kids get to decorate the envelopes with an assortment of stickers.  Jason's work Christmas party is that night too!
  • 14. Outing day!  Haven't decided yet but we might try go up to Grouse mountain for part of the day, go sledding at Seymour, or hit up Burnaby Village Museum or Christmas in Williams Park.  Lots of activities to try, who wants to come?
  • 15. Check out the Stanley Park Christmas train. I haven't gone since I was a kid and I'm sure it will be a win for the boys.  Thought this might be the year to try since they both seem to be continually obsessed with trains...[let's see if we can get tickets].
  • 16. Make some fake snow!  NOW, I know all the rest of you Canada folk are laughing right now because in your neck of the woods there is simply NO need to make your own pretend snow...but you see, snow if very rare down on the coast and there is no assurance we'll even get any!  SO I'm going to make a fun sensory bin of fake snow [saw it at strongstart for the first time] and I've bought the boys some fun pretend scenery, sparkly Christmas things and some mini-dinosaurs to throw in there.  Can't wait...
  • 17. Snowman pancakes for dinner by candlelight.
  • 18. Peppermint party day.  Hoping to have our life group Christmas bash on this day so I'm planning to make some yummy peppermint treats. Like this incredible apple dip and this peppermint bark.  Silas will enjoy mashing candy canes and watching the bark melt in the oven.  
  • 19. Visit the German Christmas market downtown Vancouver.  We checked it out last year and it was great fun! (Too bad I can't have the mulled wine).  Got a groupon this time for 1/2 price- Carousel ride included! 
  • 20. Make nativity scene gingerbread houses!  [Why have I never thought of this before?]
  • 21. Cookie baking for neighbors.  Always a hit.  Can't wait to try out these cookies this year [they remind me of Dr. Seuss.  Don't they look delectable?]
  • 22. Christmas music dance party.
  • 23. Get the kids hot chocolate and drive around at night looking at Christmas lights. Warm up by the fire to read Christmas books [I plan to buy a new one for them every Christmas so this is probably when I'll put that one out.  Planning to buy this one...such a great book by such a great author.
  • 24. Hang out with dear friends in our yearly Christmas Eve Fondu.
  • 25. Family. Worship.  Games.  Food.  Fellowship.  Celebrating the whole reason we've been counting down to begin with: Jesus.

We will also be following a nativity reading plan for the last 7 days before Christmas [and will play with the nativity scene we've set out, pulling out new characters each day]. 

We also started a new tradition this year and bought an adorable turtle Christmas ornament from our trip to Hawaii. We hope to buy one or two ornaments every year - to remind us of particular events, holidays, or other things to remember God's faithfulness to us.

One final thing I'm working on?  I keep all of our Christmas books stashed away throughout the year so I will probably wrap these up and on random nights, let them unwrap a 'new' one for bedtime story.

Sound like fun?


If any of the above dates you are free, or if any of those activities interest you, please come.  We are flexible!  We'd rather do any of these things with friends and family than by ourselves.  

Monday, November 18, 2013


Is it possible to be nesting at 21 weeks pregnant?  My mind is going so frantically that I cannot even focus for a few minutes at a time.  I am plotting and planning and moving things and throwing things away, desperate for less.  Does anyone ever feel like their 'stuff' starts to sit heavy and weigh down on their shoulders?  The time it takes for me to move and shuffle 'things';dusting, rearranging, and organizing, is simply not worth having those things to begin with.  

How to make the switch to living more simplistically?

I read this blog and was inspired, but simultaneously overwhelmed.

We are trying to accommodate another life in our home, which is already full.   In a lot of ways, we'd be happy with more space, but we are not that interested in taking on a bigger mortgage and a heavier load on our finances.  We want to make do, for now.  But that means that furniture simply has to go.  Shelves simply have to be built, and our home is in desperate need of a space-efficiency renovation.  Yet, who has time for that?  We have a list a mile long of little projects that would make our home more livable that just get shelved weekend, after weekend.  Curtains to hang, dresser drawers to fix, rooms to be stripped of their extraneous possessions and organizational accouterments to be built.

I'm going crazy.

I don't think it helps that there is currently a mattress on the floor of my living room, an unusable freezer in my garage and boxes of too small boys clothes hoarding our closets and shelving.

Stuff.  Stuff.  Stuff.  

I think we need to sell half the stuff we own and do not use as it simply stresses me out. Yet, there's this other side of me that, in the hopes of being economical, that I keep just in case we might use them.  Empty peanut butter jars, empty containers, empty boxes, extra sheets, extra clothes, clothes 10 sizes too big for the boys that I'm keep for that day.  But is it really economical?  It might save a few bucks in the end but my emotional stress and time spent in upkeep, costs something, doesn't it? 

My big question now is what to do with all my sentimental hoarding?  I have about 2-3 boxes of childhood knick-knacks and toys that I have boxed away for that day when I have a little girl (yay, at least that is in the somewhat near future!)  But the truth is, will she even care to see it?  Play with it?  It will carry no memories for her.  Or what about the boxes of letters that I've kept from Jason and I, Christmas cards and notes from family, and my yearbooks?  Good grief!  Yearbooks!  How long have I been carting them around and have I even looked at them again, ever?  Whose idea was it to have them??  And then there's my prom dress and wedding dress and...

Sigh.  Please, tell me a system and method that you use to decide what to keep and what to chuck.  I simply cannot have any more 'things' in my life or my brain is going to explode.  I find it stressful ensuring that the boys wear all the clothes they own, or making sure that I pull out saved toys at the right moment, or not forgetting that I have that kitchen do-dad or gadget that is so useful but also happens to be dusty and broken from lack of use in the deepest recesses of my kitchen cabinets.


I know I should just start somewhere and do one room at a time but we really just need a weekend, or a week to just do the whole house over.  Know what I mean? 

Maybe this Christmas we need to find homes for a bunch of things we don't use. Maybe we should see how much we can sell, so that we can give that monetary value away.  Any ideas are welcome!

Friday, November 15, 2013

It's a...

So we arrived at the ultrasound appointment and by this point, my heart is racing, I'm emotional and nauseated.  I woke up in the night and could hardly sleep.  Is the baby healthy?  Is the baby growing okay? Is this going to be a girl? A boy?  What does the future hold for this family?

I was trying any and every means of preparing myself to NOT be disappointed.  Why would I be disappointed?  "If we had three boys, that would be fine." (I kept telling myself) I was quizzing Jason on the way, "Tell me all the fun adventures we could have with three boys..."  But I was mainly trying to convince my emotions to not get too intoxicated with the idea of having a girl.

All along in this pregnancy I've been feeling like it's different. "It must be a girl," I'd tell myself.  I'm heavier, sooner.  I'm more nauseated.  I'm more emotional.  But online quizzes were only leaving me perplexed and frustrated...oh RIGHT, we can't predict these things (darn it).

Anyways, I digress.

As an extra blessing to us, my high-risk obstetrician gets to be in the ultrasound suite with us.  Which, let me tell you, is amazing.  He can point out different things along the way, "this is good, this here is blah blah blah" etc.  The whole time he kept saying, "this baby has a cute profile!  What an active baby!  Look at all the things we are able to visualize." [All VERY encouraging and anxiety-alleviating].

And then there was a pause.

I'm watching the screen, and suspended mid-air.  The doctor, knowing I'm a nurse, points out some parts on the screen?  "What's that Shannon?"
"I DON'T KNOW," I practically screamed, not being willing to guess because really, who can actually tell what you are looking at on that screen?

"Shannon, it's a girl!"

My heart lept, tears were streaming down my face, and I must have asked him three or four times "are you sure?"

I promised myself I would be equally as excited and prepared to hear the news that it was going to be another boy, but there was a new emotion of sheer gratitude and joy in the knowledge that this family will embrace a little pixie with pink tights and tutus.  Hold me back from shopping people, because this Mama has nothing pink!  Insert "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee"

So thankful.  So excited.  So blessed.  And so perplexed.  What in the WORLD does it look like to have a girl?  I mean, I have no idea!  I feel like a foreigner already.  "A whole new world" is buzzing in my head.

We celebrated with the boys later in true pink fashion (cupcakes) and Silas is already using the words "cute" and "pretty" more than he ever has.  LOVE.  THIS.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Before I'm 30

It's official. I can no longer really remember high school.  I graduated more than 10 years ago. I relate more to those in their 30's and 40's than those in their 20's.  My youth is gone. 

Not sure that sits well with me. I realize that 30 is the new 20, but I'm still not sure I'm ready to embark on my 30's.  Good thing I have a year to adjust to this idea.  Thing is, I'm not just entering my 30th year.  With age comes layers of life and roles.  It's also my 9th year of marriage, my 7th year as a nurse, and my 4th year as a Mom.  If I just stripped down my life to just my age, I'm sure I would look at 30 and expect different things of myself.  But I'm also responsible to more than myself.  I have a home, I have a family.

Time for a list.

What do I want to accomplish before I'm 30?  Let's be realistic.  I'm also going to have 3 kids by March so anything beyond surviving should be an achievement.  So I'll keep these on the down-low.

P.s. This is where I will formally invite God to rearrange my perfectly laid plans below.  If there is a better way, a way I cannot see; if there is more to be gained from less of my plans and more of Yours, then I choose that.  Mess with me.  In fact, turn these plans upside down for the better, for the best.  I don't want to settle for living for the less abundant life.

1. Get re-acquainted with physical fitness.  For someone who defined myself as athletic for most of my life, these last two years have had me at my lowest point in terms of physical fitness.  I used to pride myself on low-weight-gain pregnancies too and this time around I'm gaining at a rapid pace.  But it's not the weight that bothers me, it's my lack of stamina, my lack of tone, my lack of overall fitness.  It's my lack of priority of physical fitness that really has me bummed. By this time next year I want to find a new fitness passion.  I don't remember really liking running, but I need to either re-discover it, or find some other exciting and worthwhile form of physical fitness that can get me in better shape and a better mental health.  I'm eager for it in a new and desperate sort of way. This mama needs some muscle mass!

2. Set some new career goals.  Shift work is hitting me hard these days, and I've gotten to a bit of a lull in my career.  I'm still passionate about nursing and can't imagine having a more dynamic career.  I love listening to peoples' life stories, wiping the weight of the world off their brows and washing the feet of those who are bound to their beds.  It's the simple acts of nursing that really bend my heart.  But I'm looking for new challenges, new learning opportunities, new areas to explore.  Emergency nursing?  Masters in Nurse Practitioner?  Tropical disease nursing courses online? More teaching at BCIT?  I kind of just want to have a plan by this time next year.  And I hope it includes more education of some kind. Of course, these plans might change with the addition of a third life to my arms...

3. Find a new hobby.  I want to be brave and try something that I will most likely not succeed at. Something that I just want to do.  I've secretly always wanted to learn how to be a drummer, I'd love to attempt a more achievable sewing project, or maybe take an actual photography class.  Or maybe I'll buy a piano and do some new lessons, try my hand at stage-acting again, try a duathlon, or take a cake-decorating class.  I want to just try something new for the sake of trying it.  I'm sick of saying, "One day..." I just want to try one new thing and see if I can find myself a new hobby.  I figure, most of my life I have started extracurricular activities with the aim in mind of mastering them.  I didn't stick with anything, even if it was fun, if I was 'failing' at it.  What if I simply had to goal to do something I love to do- whether or not I'm any good?

4. Do the things that really matter.  More time invested in relationships, more thoughtful and intentional encouraging of others, more serving my family but with a new attitude.  I want to remember and remind myself more often of what really matters and do those things without guilt.  This culture sells me on the notion that the busy-er the better.  The more frantic I look, the more important and valuable what I must be doing.  But I need to find joy in the simple things.  The things that often matter most.

5. Try living without sugar.  At least for awhile.  It's been on my diet 'hit list' and I'm determined to try it at some point.  In fact, I want to actually spend some time this next year really evaluating my body.  What makes me feel best.  What foods make me thrive?  When do I feel most balanced and healthy?  I want to actually study my body and know it better.  I've lived too long just humming along and not really paying attention.

6. Be a camp nurse for a week or two this summer (so my family can enjoy family camp) or go on a missions trip with the kids.  This one is a bit far-fetched, but we can dream, right?

That's as extensive as I've gotten.  The 30 countdown begins...

What were you hoping to achieve before 30?
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