six word Fridays: Reason

It stands to reason this season
there’s a little more to it
than presents, vacation time, and decorations.
Yes, fancy luminations brighten the night
and those odd shaped surprises intrigue
(bet you wonder what’s wrapped there)
But I remember a time when
Christmas included church prayers at midnight – –
When we sat in our jammies
In the soft lit sanctuary together,
an elder thanking God for all
requested, received, and even what’s denied.
I wondered then, ‘Why praise Him ?
You didn’t get what you wanted
And so-and-so got more.’
Now, I see what he had.
What was needed, what was good:
Parents, children together in God’s house,
The family, in whatever form, complete.
I miss those evenings long passed.

** inspired by “reason” for Six Word Fridays at My Memory Art

Thanksgiving aka “Happy Thank You!”

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I figured I’d skip posting the usual “here is our spread” and “here we are stuffing ourselves” photos and just share the ones from the morning.
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Review: Portable North Pole

Disclosure: I received complementary Portable North Pole products in exchange for this review. Of course, all thoughts and opinions are all mine.

Sing it with me — “Santa Claus is coming to town…. he’s making a list, checking it twice. Gonna find out whose naughty or nice. …”

My sons been preparing his Santa’s gift list for some time. In fact, he dictated the whole thing to me and it was printed in Shining Faces Children’s Magazine. He’s certain of all the fantastic things he wants to get, but somehow he never remembers that receiving Santa’s gift requires good behavior. It’s a tough concept for my five-year-old to grasp. And if ever I inquire about his daily behavior in school, he answers with absolute honesty and assures me “I’m trying, Mom.”

Enter the Portable North Pole, where parents (or family and friends) can purchase gentle reminders to be good in the form of personalized videos and letters from Mr. Claus.

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I was given a $25 credit to PNP to sample their products. That value included a letter, video, and phone call.

personalizing letterFor each product, prompts lead me through personalization. And they’ve thought of nearly everything with their questions. For the Letter from Santa, a picture can be added and I could select from a variety of comments about my child’s daily activities.
I just placed my order, so I’m hoping shipping is fast enough to get the letter here before Christmas.

book infoI chose a Christmas Eve video for Ya that reminds him of his accomplishments this past year and to continue to work toward specific behavior goals we’ve set. The program allows upload of personal photos and confirms pronunciation of the child’s name (we had to use “my friend”). Santa’s record book – of Ya’s wishes, behaviors, and significant events – is pulled from the shelf where it’s filed with his siblings’ books.

Of course, Ya won’t yet appreciate seeing their names because his reading ability is still developing.

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I was pretty impressed with the mini movie I received. Santa is approachable, his voice is encouraging. And the set is reminiscent of stories of the North Pole. I’m sort of excited to share the video with Ya.

And finally, there’s “Santa’s Call Center”. There, I was prompted to generate a personal phone call from Santa. We don’t usually answer unknown numvers, so I’m not sure how this call will go through. It says, though, I can schedule the time. Like the video, I answered several questions to ensure the call message was one we needed Ya to hear.
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I chose a message to play for his next August birthday. It’s a call that comes close enough to the new school year to make an impact when he begins again.

PNP has a pretty nice concept that seems to reinforce my objectives as a parent to raise a productive and polite child. I could certainly see continuing this video and letter tradition for as long as my kids believe there’s magic in Christmas.

And as a bonus? PNP donates 5% of all online sales to a Children’s Hospital close to the buyer’s location. According to PNP, the company collaborates with over 40 regional Children’s Hospitals in the U.S.

If you’re interested, you can check out a sample on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/PNPSanta

Coming to a mail box for YOU

It’s that time of year again – – time to peruse the shelves for Christmas and New Years cards with sweet sentiments some poetic person penned for a major card company.  As with most years, I’ll shuffle through many lovely cards in search of one with a little pizazz – you know, glitter or lace for mom, or something with a little funny for Dad and my brothers.  Grandparents and other close relatives will also get a card, but it’s usually from a boxed set with a generic statement of love and blessings.  And yet, no matter how nice the card looks or how right on; the sentiment, I know these wont be the cards cherished and kept past the season.

Dilemma: do I invest in these temporary tokens, tuck in a loose photo before mailing, and accept that the cards will be tossed with the used wrapping paper? Or should I get ambitious and make my own cards?

I’ve created our holiday cards before – pondered over which family photo (or combination of individual photos) to include, and then picked from a small selection of cards available.  A few adjustments of the text, a color or font swap, and viola! Total possible customizations complete.

This year, I’ve found a new card company; or rather, it found me.  Enter  Minted.com – a fantabulous site with CHOICE.
Mint’s statement says it offers “the best in indie design from a global community of independent designers.” And that’s the truth. I spent a lot of time selecting a card, calling for second (and third) opinion, and then seeing something even more appealing to add to the considerations.

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minted2Luckily, Minted keeps a record of recently viewed cards, so I could go back and review my options.minted1

I’m sort of smitten with a card called “Complete Love,” which won a design award on the site. Honestly, I was in love with the basic card. But there were options to customize it! Shapes for the card. Card stock (hello, pearlescent!). I can even add a custom backer or interior to include more photos and a longer message.

Then there are the mini book cards. Reminiscent of my wedding magazine, these little square multipage cards are the perfect little mailing that doubles as a once a year gift that I think my family will read and display year round. BONUS?

minted4 I’ve not put the finishing touches on my card project just yet, but when I do, I’ll get a digital proof that’s already been reviewed by Minted staff. Breathe and relax, no stupid mistake is going to ruin my perfect Christmas card (like when I forgot to make an adjustment to the YEAR on a previously ordered card from another company).
I think I just might be sold on the Minted customer service model.minted5

Unlike previous years, I’m not spoiling the surprise on this card, but I assure you it’s one you’ll want to keep.

Oh, and if you decide to make your own? You might want to check out Minted.com yourself. There’s a 15 percent off coupon and free shipping on the site right now.

Or better yet, tell my husband I want him to send foiled card customized for me and our important ladies for Mother’s Day. If you hint about it now, he might just do it.

Good morning, It’s Christmas

Happy birth day Jesus! Today we celebrate your gift to us. I’m feeling mighty blessed with presents already and haven’t even unwrapped a thing from under the tree. How awesome is that?

It’s our first Christmas as a bonafide family of seven! Look at how we’ve grown. I cannot wait to share my year-in-review reflections.

There goes Santa Claus… he killed him

I should probably preface my rant with an admission: I still receive an annual gift from Santa. More specifically, it is a wrapped delight I’d otherwise never get for myself but have coveted for months – years even – and it surfaces under the tree at momndad’s house from “Da + Ma Claus.” Yes, I know it’s something lovingly acquired through some extra saving efforts of my parents, but it’s been treasured long since Santa and the elves became folklore instead of fact.

As for my own children, the Santa tradition has continued. When Chi was old enough to unwrap her own presents (just after her first birthday), Santa paid her a visit. The following year, she helped pick out a Santa snack and left it near our tree. She’s scurried around searching for something to give him a break from his annual deliveries every year since.

It was only natural for Ya to join in the tradition – making his wish list, helping Chi select a Santa repose. And he’s enjoyed celebrating the mystique of this bearded gift giver for three short years.

But this year, a somewhat jaded brother decided to offer Santa and his magical visits with the reindeer a repose of another kind. I am not amused. I am not happy. It was not okay.

Chi was certainly phasing out of the hard core Santa is coming to town cheer squad. It’s neither cool to talk about Santa in fifth grade nor wise to express disbelief should he be real and hear. When he “couldn’t find us” two years ago (when Ya’s grandfather suffered a massive heart attack and we spent our break in family vigil between two states), she became suspect of the jolly old man. Was she a naughty girl? If so, she didn’t know what tremendously bad thing she’d done that hadn’t been forgiven on Christmas morning. She grew temporarily skeptical, but resumed her Dear Santa list last year and was beyond excited to see him honor her request.

There is sort of a rule for all older siblings: do not squash the simple pleasures – the little innocences – of your younger charges. I was the oldest, and though it might’ve given me some sadistic pleasure to throw a dose of reality on my two younger brothers, I had an obligation to protect their beliefs. So I kept quiet when the Easter Bunny became a haunting phantasm at my door, glowing ominously as he peeked in at me and looking nothing like the egg-and-treat-toting happy white bunny smiling in the photos or the little lop-earred bunnies brought in for special event Easter photos. I waited anxiously to see the Tooth Fairy scores as each lost baby tooth after baby tooth while all of mine were already “adult.”

I expected Chi to do no less, and Rico has done me proud in quietly observing the traditions of our little family as he’s assimilated into it.

Was there anything wrong in preserving the magic of Christmas morning for a little longer – – especially now that Cinco is here?

It’s not about religion. My children know full well that Christmas celebrates Jesus’s birthday, that Easter is to reflect on His sacrifice for our sins and His ressurection. I’ve no anti-Christian goal in holding onto Saint Nicholas or any of the other “guardians.” In this scary world, where unstable people acquire guns and open fire on innocents – where babies are stolen, tortured, abused, or killed – I’d like to offer my children a sanctuary. Life in this house may not be perfect, and we may not “have enough” to splurge on the daily I wants, BUT we can make the holidays a little more special than the every days. We can offer love, acceptance, trust, forgiveness, guidance, hugs, kisses, and even adventure.

So for those who cling tenaciously to the belief in Mr. Claus, there’ll be a little present under the tree. And for those who share in the excitment of discovery on Christmas morning, there’ll probably be something special, too. We’re still lining the walk with reindeer feed, and still leaving juice and cookies for the big guy. I’m insisting on it.

“I don’t care if I’m 250; I’m still going to sleep for Santa!
— Chi

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