Friday, December 2, 2016

How to Plan for Children's Christmas Gifts Without Stress

G, 2 years-old, celebrating Christmas 

It is the hap-happiest time of year, right? Then why do I always feel so stressed trying to decide what to get my kids for Christmas or worse know what to tell family members when they ask what my kids would like? For the past couple of years, we have had a plan which I think works very nicely.

I give my 6-year-old the Target toy catalog and a marker. I tell him to circle things that he wants. I tell him that there is no guarantee that he will get the things he circles but that I would like to know the things he likes best. Once he has circled the things he wants I sort through them and make my own list based on things I think he would really like, we think are appropriate, and level of cost. Then I make a list of the things we will get him and the things to tell relatives if they ask.

Let me back up a bit here and talk about how we do Christmas in our household. We are not big on Santa (the boys know the gifts are from us not Santa) but still try to make the holiday as magical as possible. By the way, we also talk to them about not being the anti-Santa kid at school. We gift each child 3 gifts only with a few small things in their stockings.

The three gifts are based on the idea of giving gold, frankincense, and myrrh as the wise men brought Jesus at his birth. We discovered this idea on a podcast or blog a while back. Yes, we know about the controversy that three may have been the wrong number of wise men but we do three anyway.

The gold gift is something your child really wants and is the most valuable. We discover this from our Target method above. The gold gift could be a new bike, a nerf bow and arrow (in our case this year - shhh), a Barbie Dream home--just something they'll love!

The frankincense gift has to do with something to help them grow spiritually closer to God. Like a new Bible, worship CD, Christian kids video, etc. I like to go walk around Mardel and look for something I think they would like. I think this year we will be getting this for G. Again shhh!

The myrrh gift is something for the body. We do shoes, clothes even underwear, but fun superhero underwear of course. Anything they need for their bodies that they don't have at the time.

The three gift limit really helps when I get bombarded with all the cool stuff at the store or browsing online. Since we follow this plan it really makes the holiday season a lot less stressful. Not to mention the benefit for our budget.

How do your kids come up with their wish list? I would love to hear how your family handles gifts to your children?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Missing Teeth in Downtown Seminole, OK

Parks Drug Store Front Sign
Parks Drug in Downtown Seminole, OK which recently was destroyed by fire. 

Have you ever heard a downtown referred to as a mouth full of teeth? Well, part of those teeth in Seminole, Oklahoma went up in smoke recently. On October 2, 2016 five buildings were destroyed by fire on Main Street in downtown, our old neighborhood. Thankfully, the building we used to live in was not damaged, but our hearts go out to those who lost so much.

We lived on the second floor of an old bank building for two and a half years in downtown Seminole. G and I would walk up and down Main Street almost every day. He loved riding his bike on the bumpy sidewalks. We relished the old charm and community feel of living in a commercial area. There was an amazing thrift store, a delicious bakery, classic sandwich shop, and library all within blocks of each other.

Child riding bike on downtown sidewalk
Bike Riding in Downtown

Sadly the old Park's Drug Store caught fire on Sunday. It took 4 other buildings down with it. Over our time spent there, I would peek inside the drug store window hoping to spot an antique treasure.

My mom told stories about her childhood when she would go to the drug store, sit on the bar stools, and sip her fountain drink. I longed to take my children there to experience the same delight. During our time in Seminole, the drug store was closed which is too bad because it would have been a lovely addition to the downtown experience.

Walgreen Sign in Downtown Seminole, OK
Walgreen Agency sign on E. Oak Ave. in Downtown Seminole, OK

So many downtowns in rural America are going downhill or dying due to the competition of big box stores, online shopping, and the flight of youngsters. I love the idea of living in a place where you can walk to get a fresh cup of coffee or wave to the shopkeepers as you stroll down the sidewalk. Maybe I'm an old soul, but I think that kind of life has much appeal today.

Historic Bus Station Cafe Sign
Bus Station Cafe on E. Broadway Ave in Downtown Seminole, OK 

In recent years, Seminole Main Street, Inc. has been working hard to revitalize the historic downtown, but there is still so much to do and this fire was a tremendous setback. I know the people of Seminole will rise to this challenge, but I also know that it is okay to take some time to mourn the loss of buildings that held so many memories.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Inspiring Quote

"Evil men do not wait for permission to create what they imagine but good people keep responding to the future as if we have no control over what is coming into the human story. We need to realize it is time for us to embrace our responsibility." 
- Erwin Raphael McManus 

Here is where I heard the quote if you would like to listen. The TedX talk is titled "What Makes Us Uniquely Human?"

If you listen I would love to hear your thoughts. What was your favorite quote?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Book Suggestion: A Memoir about the Beauty of Friendship

Nobody's Cuter than You Book Cover. Two girls swinging on tree swings.

If you experienced any of these things in high school or if any of these things make you happy then read this book:

  • Sonic drinks
  • College football 
  • Enjoyed gas station powdered donuts on your drive to high school 
  • Were consistently late to first period in high school because of your need to stop for donuts
  • Used a personal check to pay for the above said donuts
  • Have a strong desire for cute bangs but can never get them
  • Drove around stalking boy's houses that you had a crush on in high school
  • Road trips are your favorite
  • You have some of the best memories because they were shared with your friends

The book is Nobody's Cuter than You by Melanie Shankle. It is a memoir about the beauty of friendship. I laughed, I cried, I related to her stories and struggles. Feels like you are hanging out with a good friend.

I downloaded the audio book from the library. I love listening to audio books because I can do 2 things at once such as dishes and book, workout and book, walk and book, laundry and book, etc.

What have you been reading or listening to lately?

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Today is the Day to Start Creating

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about creativity and how much I enjoy it. How much I need it. How alive it makes me feel. That is one of the reasons I have started blogging again. A creative outlet.

When both of my boys turned one and a half I started working part time. With my first child, it was for a property management company in Los Angeles. I really enjoyed the job. I had an office separate from our apartment and only one flight of stairs away. 

During that time, I learned the discipline of working during nap time. It was also fulfilling to take G around with me to show apartments, buy balloons for an open house, or just help with paperwork. 

Now that D is 19 months--here I am again. This time, I am thankful for more flexibility. We are more financially secure at this time, thanks to this and a hard working husband, which makes it easier to transition to an unknown path such as blogging. 

I have no idea what will come of these posts, but I have a deep desire to get my thoughts on paper, er screen. For a couple years, I didn't have much of a desire for anything so when God began growing this desire the next step had to be action.

Here we go.

Inspiration for Taking this Leap:

I want a confetti drawer.

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” - William Wordsworth

Blogging impacts your life.

The dark ages are over. 

A fellow twin shows me that dreams can come true.

This community has always encouraged us to create, to love, to do something.

Little girl, you can do anything.

Her work ethic inspires me and shows me how much can be accomplished by working during lunch.

Because I sang this song in high school choir and it has stayed with me all these years. 

"If you follow your dreams, though the road seems lonely 
Follow your dreams, no matter how far. 
Give it your best, you’ll find success 
if you just keep your eye on that star." 

And here is one more. 

"It's not about how fast we get there, 
it's not about what is waiting on the other side, 
it's the climb." 
- Miley Cyrus

What dreams do you have inside of you? I would love to hear.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Trader Joe's Opens Today in OKC!

Trader Joe's sign in Oklahoma City, OK
OKC Trader Joe's Under Construction 
Ever since we moved to Oklahoma I have missed Trader Joe's. While living in California I shopped there weekly for most of our grocery needs. The place makes me happy. The cool graphics on the packages, the delicious food, and the super friendly staff make it so enjoyable. Did I mention the sample area with the tiny cup of free coffee? My happy place. 

Trader Joe's sample Coffee with cute baby
Trader Joe's in Tulsa, OK on Opening Day 2015
When we moved to Oklahoma I never thought the day would come that we would see a Trader Joe's or that I would live 11 minutes from one. The liquor laws in Oklahoma are a bit archaic in that they limit the alcohol content that can be sold in a grocery store. For this reason, I didn't think there was much hope of seeing one move in anytime soon.  

I know that nothing is perfect and I am bound to find disappointment in things like the bread getting moldy too fast, not being able to find cream of chicken soup (an Oklahoma staple), or just general disappointment at a frozen entree I was putting all my hopes into. BUT in general their stuff is amazing; it's healthy, innovative and inexpensive.  

One of the things I am looking forward to most is the feeling you get when you are enjoying your grocery shopping experience. I love that they are always producing new products, always at the cutting edge of the food scene making it accessible to the budget conscious consumer.

Trader Joe's opening in Tulsa, Oklahoma Fruit section
Wrangler's Spotted at Trader Joe's opening in Tulsa, OK
When living in California my food choices and how I fed my family really began to change. I know Trader Joe's was a huge part of that transformation. Having access is half the battle. OKC has had Whole Foods for several years, but Trader Joe's is different. It's less posh and more common man but in a more hip way. The price point at Whole Foods really pushes a lot of people out the door but I think most will be able to find affordable options at Trader Joe's that will keep them coming back. 

Other perks of Trader Joes:

  • They promote reusable grocery bags.
  • They know how to properly bag your groceries.
  • They have amazing dessert options to take to dinner parties.
  • Their picnic game is very strong.
  • If you don't like it bring it back for a refund.
  • They are big on holidays. So many great options to celebrate the seasons. 
  • They have cheap cut flowers. :)
  • Their sample policy. 
  • Kids get stickers.
  • You will start to feel like part of their community after shopping there a while. 
  • I can't express how well they do at hiring. 
  • You will be obsessed with a new item that you can't stop thinking and talk about. 
I'll be there today on opening day. Are you planning to stop by?

We made the paper! We can be spotted in the Oklahoman, Saturday, September 24, 2016 edition and here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Is a Perfectly Organized Bookshelf Overrated?

I spent 20 minutes organizing these shelves. This used to be something I did before we had guests over. No longer.  It's just not that important to me anymore. I'm really not sure why. Maybe it's because I have less time, maybe because I am older, or maybe it stems from something a good friend, Rebekah, once said to me. 

It was at a time when we were remodeling an apartment and I was super self-conscious with having anyone over since things did not look "perfect." Rebekah was so kind. I can't remember her exact words but it was something to the effect of, "Franci, you are the reason I am coming over. I am not coming over for what your house looks like." 

That spoke volumes to me. It is true and it makes me sad now to think how concerned I was about the appearance of my home. Now, I welcome people in and worry little if at all about the state of my house. Yes, I want a beautiful well-kept home, but I want the relationships more. 

So I no longer let a messy bookshelf (or old blue carpet) keep me from inviting friends over. 

Can anyone relate?

Friday, June 3, 2016

First Year of School for G Man

This was an extremely hard year for me. I had been anxious since before school started. I only knew one other family that went to his school and their child was not in G's class. I remember feeling overwhelmed and just scared that he would encounter bad influences, make unwise choices and I guess most of all be harmed in some way.

I know it sounds crazy, but you have to remember I was in the thick of a hormone rollercoaster since my #2 child was just 6 months old at the time. I was a little off balance. I think many people can relate, especially those dropping their kids off at school for the first time. I had been with my baby for 4 whole years, always knowing what he was doing, spending almost every meal and snack time with him, it was hard to let go.

Thankfully he had an amazing teacher, Mrs. Stephenson. She was experienced and very professional. Mrs. Tucker was also in his room as a helper teacher. She was excellent too with hugs and understanding.

All my fears were unfounded when I saw day by day how well he was doing, how excited he was to go and how many friends he was making. He ended up having a great year, excelling in the classroom socially and academically. I am so thankful we did Pre-K although it was rough on this mama's heart.

After I heard him recite this within the first week of school I knew all would be well. 

 A few pictures from the last day of Pre-K. We made it! There were a lot of tears and difficult days along the way, but a whole lot of fantastic days too.

Vanilla with sprinkles from Best Donuts
Kung Fu fighting pose
G and his teacher

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Turning ONE at Disney World

Our second little man turned 1 while on a family trip to Disney World! It was just as magical as you think. The only thing is that I wish he was a little older so he would remember it.

For the party, we decided to have a smaller celebration since the rest of the days were so busy. We had the quick service meal package with two quick service meals per day and two snacks. With the meal plans, you are able to eat at any of the restaurants on Disney grounds that fall under quick service. We decided to go to one of the other resorts than the one we were staying at to celebrate. We choose The Mara restaurant at Animal Kindom Villas. It was in the Jambo house and had beautiful wildlife murals plus a jungle canopy overhead. 

We were able to walk in and reserve a table large enough for our party. I brought a few Mickey themed party decorations to make it feel more like a birthday. First, we all had lunch, then celebrated with a cupcake for the birthday boy and cake for the rest of us. I ordered the cake from our resort bakery which was super easy and convenient. The cupcake was topped with Mickey, oreo ears and all!

He enjoyed opening his gifts. Or maybe I should say ripping the paper as best he could. We gave him this, but I think his favorite gift was the Starwars football from Uncle Trevor and Aunt Elizabeth.

After the party, we walked around the resort, checked out the lobby, saw the pool area, and tried to spot some of the wildlife. It is a gorgeous resort which made me feel like I was back in Africa.

Our family has grown better and stronger because of this little guy. He has taught all of us how to be better people. He is loving, sweet and a hugger. He is never full. He is taking steps. He keeps us on our toes. He is just a ball of cuteness.

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