Crafty Christmas Crap and Other Stuff!!

Well it is that time of the year again. The Holidays!!  It’s not my favorite time of the year mostly because it is hard on the children and not so great for the staff either.  The children have serious emotions that they have to deal with, like spending Holidays with people not their family.  Possibly memories of previous not so great Holidays with their families, or a host of other things.  We as staff have to deal with the added difficult behaviors of the children as a result of the Holidays, and for some of us there is the “Dog & Pony Show” associated with reaching out to donors through a number of PR events.  It is a whole lot of work.

I was planning on just going through the motions this year, put up the same decorations as last year, do the minimum and just get by.  That plan probably would have worked had we not moved into a different cottage this summer.  We had 6 years worth of decorations that we had acquired piece by piece (mostly from the thrift store) that all had a place.  Problem was they just didn’t work right in our new cottage so I wanted to put up the mandatory Christmas tree with white lights and bag the rest but my wife didn’t like that plan.  She thought we needed a bit more, so we have spent the last three days being creative.

I had to do the normal stuff like, completely replace all the lights on the pre-lite Christmas tree we bought two years ago, because when I plugged it in this year only about a third of the lights worked. After an hour of messing with it, I was able to get half of the lights working.  Quick trip to Wal-mart for new LED lights, and 5 hours later everything worked great. 

The kids tree, they will decorate it tomorrow after Church.

The kids tree, they will decorate it tomorrow after Church.

I then worked on converting our second tree that used to go into our family room into a corner 1/4 tree to fit in our dining room.  We have always had two trees, the official approved cottage tree for open house and a tree that the kids decorate.  The kids tree is primarily decorated with ornaments that they had made at school through out the years and other decorations that have been with the cottage for years.  Once a child places an ornament, that is where it stays.  We leave the creativity solely to the children and have had to live with lopsided trees in some years.  The one year we were the baby cottage most of the decorations where on the lower third of the tree, as they have gotten older things have been spread a little more evenly. 

I also created a miniature Jimmie Johnson NASCAR tree,

My Tree

My Tree. It stands about 12" tall.

 complete with flashing battery powered LED lights.  A Christmas Ficus Tree, battery powered LED stars for the Nativity set, complete with a star salvaged off the old tree topper angel.  Glued push pins on the back of the peace sign letters so I could mount them in an arch and not leave big nail holes in the wall.  All in all, things look pretty nice and it didn’t kill me, though I thought it might about 4 hours into winding lights on the tree.

Our two kids that got a Thanksgiving visits came back today and I made it through bed time and the crying six year old that misses her birth mom.  She sees her mom twice a year, and it is very tough on her and us when she comes back.  We will deal with it for the next month and then really deal with it after her Christmas visit.  She should only make us pay for a month or two after that.  I had the additional blessing of having all the other kids stuck in the house most of the week because of rain.  On the bright side I was able to make it through my first low-carb holiday meal and even lost 2/10ths of a pound this weekend.

A starry Night

Tomorrow is our first Christmas party, Thursday is Open House, Friday is our staff Christmas party and then a whole bunch of other stuff.  Only 25 more days until relief and then I can hide out in my house for the remainder of the Holidays, come back news years eve. Can’t wait.

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Holiday Food Drive

Hell-oween is over, which means it is now officially the holiday season.  This is the time when society really gets into the giving mood.  A time of fundraising, toy drives for children in need, and food drives for those with less.  Working in a children’s home for over 12 years, I have come to look forward to the holidays, because we are often recipients of many food drives.  It is the time of the year when our diet becomes a little less institutional, when we and the children get to experience some foods that normal people can buy at the grocery store, without having to buy it out of our own resources to share with the children in our cottage.  Unfortunately it is also the time of the year that people use to clean the garbage out of their pantries. 

Unfortunately, many of the items we receive are not fit for consumption.  This last Friday I was excited to be able to serve “Manwich” sloppy-joes to my kids.  I cooked up my ground beef, drained the grease and grabbed my cans off the shelf.  I got out my can opener, loaded the can into it, and gave it a good squeeze.  When the blade pierced the metal, instead of there being a sucking sound from breaking the vacuum, there was a blowing sound as fermented tomato blew all over my shirt.  Not to be deterred I tried the second can only to have the same result.  I then looked at the date on the cans to find they had both expired over two years ago.  Since I was a quick thinker, and not at all interested in serving “tomato paste and dry mix” sloppy joes again, I found a packet of taco seasoning and served taco burgers.  Turned out to be a great thing, and once they got past the idea of taco meat on a bun, the kids thoroughly enjoyed them, but that’s not my point.

My point is this.  Are you really benefiting anybody by donating food that you wouldn’t serve to your family?  Should it be ok to use the holidays as a time to clean out your pantry?  I don’t think so.  I have to admit that at one time, I was guilty of the very same thing.  I quickly became reformed when 15 years ago my daughter was born 6 weeks premature, my wife had a stroke giving birth to her, and I lost my job because I had to be home taking care of them.  That Thanksgiving and Christmas we would have eaten ramen noodles, were it not for the Boy Scouts Food Drive.  It was then I realized how wrong I was to donate my junk to those in need. 

I was very thankful that the next year I was able to be a giver rather than a receiver and I gave with a huge difference from previous times.  I went through my pantry, picked out my favorite foods and donated them to that year’s Boy Scouts Food Drive.  I have even in recent years gone out and bought special food just to donate to food drives.

Please give if you can, there will be even more in need this year than in other years.  But when you give, give like you would like to be given to, because it very well could be you on the receiving end one day.

It Has A Bunch To Do With Perspective!!

I currently have a really bad cold.  My head is congested, I have trouble breathing, my nose is rubbed raw from having to wipe it and my cold medication is really making me jittery.  On top of that my schedule seems overwhelming, it feels like I am running all the time and we have to eat supper in the dining hall. 

If you have read my blog at all you know I hate eating in the dining hall.  It is institutional food and it is so loud that it makes the play-land at McDonald’s seem like church.  On top of that, some of the other houseparents aren’t very strict about teaching good eating habits, and will let their children eat desert as an entree and bacon bits covered in ranch dressing as a vegetable/salad.  It is very frustrating for me when my kids see that and constantly ask why they have to eat a balance meal.

However, last night’s meal was an opportunity to teach me that I need to get my perspective on many things in order.  We work at a Christian facility, so one thing we always do is say grace before the meal.  We take turns as cottages saying grace and this week one of the housedads from another cottage has been praying.  To give you a little background information on this housedad, I would have to describe him as very pleasant, and rarely do I ever see him frustrated or annoyed. A stark contrast to me.  I am often frustrated and though I wouldn’t consider myself as unpleasant, I am very direct and a little uptight.  I try to use humor a lot, but my wife says I am a smart aleck.

Anyway, back to his prayer.  Winter is beginning to set in and yesterday was a cold miserable day, but when he prayed he gave thanks, “for the cold and different seasons, so we won’t get bored with the same temperature.”  He was thankful for the, “colorful changing leaves that are so beautiful” even though his cottage is primarily responsible for raking them up.  He was thankful that we could all be together to share this meal, even though its so chaotic and loud, it’s like eating at the race track. 

It would seem that he has the ability to look at bad things and see the positive.  Maybe that is the solution.  Maybe I just need to lighten up and look for the positive.  What about you?

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Today is election day and I have to tell you that I am very excited!!!  Not because I think my candidate is going to win, but because so many people actually care enough to participate in the process.

This could be the largest turn out for an election in my lifetime and it excites me to know that so many people will be willing to stand in line, possibly for hours, so that their vote can be one of many to decide our country’s leadership.

When this election is over there will surely be those that think the majority is made up entirely of idiots and that our country is headed for certain doom.  And it very well may be, but at least it was our choice, which is more than many people around the world can say.

Others will celebrate and see it as a new day for our country, and it may be.  It will none the less be historical.  We will either have our first black president or first woman vice-president.  Either way it is exciting to know that we are becoming more equal in our society.

Go and VOTE!!!  If you don’t vote, you have NO right to complain, because it could have been different if you had.

See you at the polls.