Adjusting

Since my sister’s death, I’ve started to write about my life growing up.  There’s so much my kids don’t know.  I don’t want the memories to be lost.  Someday I might not be able to recall the special things.  For about the past eleven years, I’ve written the Christmas letter partially to be a history to help us remember the years and keep a copy for us.  I don’t remember where I saw that tip (I think in a magazine), but it’s a good one.  I put in things which are important to me, sprinkle in humor because we laugh a lot as a family, and hopefully the family and friends who receive a copy aren’t bored stiff.  But hey, it’s really for me anyway and everyone reading it is actually eavesdropping.

It’s odd getting used to the fact that I no longer have a sister living.  I haven’t been able to call my BIL yet.  Sis and I didn’t speak frequently.  There’s an age gap of five and a half years and other differences which kept us from being super close.  I’m glad my kids have the closeness that my sis and I didn’t.  It helps that my oldest had just turned four when my youngest was born, and the girls are just over a year apart.  There was a gag gift I almost took to Christmas at Mom’s because it made me think of sis, but then it brought tears to my eyes as I pictured her laughing and flinging it around.

My female yearly was last week and I had to update my doctor on sis and get an appointment to check out a new lipoma in my breast.  I didn’t expect the doctor appointment to nail my emotions, but I should have thought about it.  I’ve got several lipomas and have to stay on top of things because of sis’s cancer.  I’m okay, but each new lump brings a tinge of fear, even though I know it’s probably just another harmless lump.  There’s always the niggling in the back of the brain as the ultrasound is in progress.  (What is she measuring?  Is that bad?  What’s that thing?  Why did she turn on the heat sensor thingy?)

The kids are doing well.  As I said, sis and I weren’t super close and they live several hours away from us.  We usually met at Mom’s, and the kids would all gather in the basement and entertain each other.

I talk about sis more now.  I’ve done the same since Dad died two years ago.  Maybe I don’t want them to be forgotten by the kids, or me, or maybe it’s just how I cope.

Mom has said that she’s ready to go any time.  She just had a physical and said that she’s “disgustingly healthy”.  Her female relatives are long lived.  Her mom and several aunts were in their 90’s when they passed, and one of her aunts saw 103.  Mom’s 75.  I get that it’s been awful for her to lose Dad to cancer, then lose her daughter to cancer just two years later, but she does have six grandchildren to watch grow up, find a career path, marry, have children, etc.  I don’t remind her of that, though, because the last thing I want to do is tell her how to feel.

Life will get easier and tears won’t surprise me one day.  I need to keep writing the memories of growing up.  They aren’t all rosy and sweet but they’re all important.  I had forgotten until the other day that my sister is the one who first taught me to read (the age gap was useful here).  I was four and hadn’t started school, but for some reason we had a couple of “Dick and Jane” books that she helped me with.

Sis showed me that sticking sewing pins in Barbie’s head allowed you to style her hair.

Sis pretended to be a ghost talking to me through the registers of our very old house (Sears Roebuck catalog order) where you can look through the register to the room on the other side of the wall.

She created a “property” line in the forty acre field behind our house and told me I needed permission to cross said line.  (Dad asked what the fabric strips tied to the thorn bushes were for about ten or fifteen years ago.)

Good times.

 

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Odds and Ends

Saturday found me taking on a task that’s been waiting at least two years.  The girls outgrew their robes which I had made for them and they have been sitting in wait to be made over.  I’m trying to tackle my sewing stack, so I sat down for a long work session, pulled off the buttons and strung them together to await another project.  A wise lady on the internet pointed out that saving matching buttons together will save time down the road.  Once the buttons were preserved it was time to cut the (terry cloth) robes up.  I love my Swiffer but hate to pay for throw away cloths, so the day was spent turning the robes into washable Swiffer covers.  The two robes yielded 14, and would have given a couple more if I’d thought out the cutting a bit more.  Next up is a pair of pajamas for me.  You really don’t want the full list of projects in the queue.

The girls and I are battling cold number two.  My eldest still had cold number one when school resumed after Christmas break.  She was coughing by the end of the first week back and now it’s clear that she had picked up new germs.  DD2 has them now and I’m trying to stave them off, but have a sore throat in the evenings.  Yay!

DD2 is struggling with her school work – the sensory processing frustrations again.  There’s only so much I can do and honestly, some days her frustrations and their outward manifestations drive me crazy and I have no patience for her.  I have to give a little physical distance at those times so I don’t yell at her.  She probably feels that I’m shunning her.  How do I make it clear that she has the tools – she’s been working on this for six years – learning techniques and moving forward.  It seems as if it’s all stepping backward and I can’t place the net right behind her or she’ll never be ready to soar on her own.  Maybe she’s sensed that the net is moving and doesn’t like it.  I just need wisdom on how to guide her through her education and her sensory processing issues.

My son still struggles with spelling and handwriting, and math has been a bit of a roller coaster this year.  He’s not thrilled about it, but I’ve printed out a spelling workbook for him to do a page of each school night and I’m trying to help him with pre-algebra (he doesn’t truly want help).  He’s not too crazy about extra work, but I want him to start doing handwriting pages for me as well.  Part of me feels that he was let down a bit by his elementary school teachers in the area of spelling and handwriting.  I’m the one who discovered that there was an actual issue with spelling – not just lack of caring/laziness.  I’m not the one receiving continuing training in education.  Part of me whispers that I’m already home schooling one child, and if I have to provide all of this supplemental work why is this child in public school?  DH really wants the kids in public, though.  It was tough for him to admit that DD2 needed home school and if I wasn’t a teacher he wouldn’t have supported that decision.  Just keep pressing on and hope it helps.

My sewing really does threaten to topple on top of me.  I need chunks of time for it and by the evening I’m either a zombie or taking kids to Bible study or sewing.  That doesn’t mean that I’m not zombie like during those activities, just that I’m a zombie away from home.

Our family vacation is being planned.  As usual, the destination and most of what we’ll do is decided by DH.  I like our trips for the most part, but would really like to have hiking featured a lot less.  I’m all for nature walks, but inclines and I are not good friends.  Dad tried to get us into hiking as kids and I had a hard time with it even then.  It’s not unusual for us to have people pass us on the way up the mountain, then pass us again as they are returning and we’re still going up.  What’s really fun is when I need the family to stop for me, then as soon as I reach them they’re ready to continue and I have to remind them that I’ve had no rest and I’m the one who most needs it.

A couple of years ago we were about to head out for the biggest hike of the trip and DH FINALLY picked up on the fact that I wasn’t happy about it.  Sometimes it takes the equivalent of a ton of bricks to fall on his head.  I ended up in tears sharing how scared I was of the looming hike, and his response was that it was three miles shorter than the one he really wanted to do (it was still six miles with over 1500 feet of elevation change).  I guess that was supposed to make everything all right.   My stomach was so upset that it ended up cutting the hike down to a 3 mile round trip.  I don’t know how much of this upcoming trip is made up of hiking, but it sounds as if it’s at least half of the days.

I’d really like to get away by myself for a couple of days this summer doing something that I want to do.  I’ve joked with DH before that I’m planning to go away for a conference, but he just comes back with “Your employer doesn’t cover those.”  Ha ha ha.  He doesn’t understand why I have a hard time hearing about things such as him floating on an inner tube on a lazy river attached to the very nice hotel’s pool while at that very time I was on two hour’s sleep dealing with cutting a visit to my parents short to run a child (3 hour ride home) to the doctor, race to the medical supply office just before closing, then wait another hour to get medicine while the kids are becoming more and more cranky and hungry, then trying to bribe a two year old to keep a nebulizer in place for 20 or 30 minutes.  Huh.  Wonder why it’s so hard to hear about lazy rivers and complete relaxation.  That particular example was nearly ten years ago.

Last spring I ended up in the hospital for a weekend (nothing serious, just slow test results) and when I came home the counter held two full loads of dishes for the washer (empty when I left, still empty upon return), the fish hadn’t been fed – I don’t know how they were still alive, and the cat box hadn’t been scooped.  All I heard was excuses.  If it hadn’t made me so angry, I would have cried.

Well this ended up being a huge vent.  That was not intended.  Okay, let’s see what positives we can end with.  We’re able to take family vacations and see new parts of the country.  I am able to identify things my son needs academic help with and then proceed to help him.  DD2 is making progress in dealing with her sensory stuff, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.  DH doesn’t mean to be insensitive to me and over all our marriage is a good one.  That weekend in the hospital taught me a few things and next time there’ll be  a chore list.

 

 

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Why Home School Kids Don’t Fail

Recently, I read a wordpress blog where a soon-to-be-retiring teacher was letting off some frustrations.  One comment she made was that she never heard of a home schooled child failing.  This was not meant in a positive manner, as she was speaking to a fictional parent of a failing public school child.  I didn’t want to start a war with the author or try to hi-jack her post, but I would like to air the home school side of that statement.

For those who aren’t familiar with me, I am from a family of teachers on both of my parent’s sides, including my father.  I got a degree in earth science, graduating from the school’s education department.  I taught before having children.  I have two children in public school and one who is home schooled.

Before we withdrew our middle child from public school, there were a slew of problems.  She has sensory processing disorder which wasn’t diagnosed until near the end of fourth grade.  At the point of diagnosis, she had already been in private counseling for nearly a year as we knew something was going on with her, but thought it leaned toward temper issues.  Private occupational therapy began right after diagnosis – we had wonderful insurance coverage and an established confidence in/relationship with a local therapy center for children due to my son’s speech issues.

The school didn’t like that DD2’s treatments were private and not through the school, which caused conflict.  The school didn’t listen to my husband and I.  We were asked the same questions every time we were called to the school (mostly me).  One day the principal called my husband instead of me – DH called me as he needed to cancel a meeting and arrange a few things before getting to the school.  I got to the school to find the principal leaving (this is about 5 minutes after I hung up with DH).  DD2 was not being sent home, the principal had not planned on speaking to DH, yet DH was called to the school to evidently make the point that calling me was ineffective.

I’m drifting from the “failing” point.  During her fifth grade year, DD2 often turned in assignments with blanks or question marks.  They simply got marked as zeros and life moved on (failing).  I get it.  Public school can’t address each individual need.  Again, I grew up with public school teachers all around me and I taught in public school before having children.

Let’s see what happens on the home school side.

DD2 was withdrawn from public school just before the end of first semester.  We hadn’t thrown out any of her school papers yet, so I went through them and re-wrote every question which had been left blank or answered with a question mark.  This happened mainly in daily math and English warm-ups.  When DD2 did the re-written assignments (she was not told they were re-written), she did fine.  Often she got 100%.  The difference was the environment.  The difference was that her teacher, me, was able to address her individual challenges.  It turns out that she felt too intimidated to ask questions in p.s. and would shut down instead.  She also couldn’t bring herself to skip a question when frustrated, which would lead to the end of time and a fail.

Home school parents, of those whom I’m aware, don’t accept incomplete assignments.  The child is held responsible for the work.  It’s a lot more realistic to be held to it when you are the only student, or one of a handful instead of being a face in the crowd whom the teacher simply doesn’t have time to single out.  It’s hard to fail when your worst effort is not accepted.

Fast forward to today: DD2 is now a sophomore and is still home schooled.  She would probably be doing poorly in public school, although she loves learning and is smart as a whip.  This is not just my motherly view.  Non-relatives have observed her brains at work.

Why is public school not the fit for DD2?  Because it’s way too loud, for one thing.  She can’t handle all of the excess noise and schools today seem to allow much more than in days of my youth (personal observation of several different schools, not just relayed through DD2).  For a sensory child, p.s. is a nightmare of sensory overload.  The next time you’re in a school, look at the walls.  They are covered with brightly colored posters/assignments/rules/etc.  There isn’t a blank wall in our middle or high school, nor was there in the elementary.

P.s. was social torment for DD2.  Anyone who’s ever been to p.s. remembers how merciless kids are toward anyone different.  I don’t care how many thousands of ‘no tolerance’ policies exist, kids will always pick on the different and they are smart enough to not get caught in the act.

Especially once children begin switching classes every 50 minutes, a p.s. teacher won’t necessarily have the exposure to the child to see the big picture challenges.  My daughter hates open-ended questions and will start to stammer when asked for her opinion of what she just read.  This would be a fail-and-move-on in p.s. because they don’t have time to get to the root of the problem.  Here, I see her work across the subjects and can identify and target those problems.

In p.s, kids obey the bell.  In home school, kids have more flexibility.  I’ve worked very diligently to get my daughter to be able to set a subject aside when it’s frustrating her.  That’s still difficult for her because she wants to conquer the subject, and walking away for a time feels like defeat.  She’s still learning (accepting) that this strategy is effective.  On the flip side, she might really be in the zone on a particular subject and not be ready to put it down at the end of 50 minutes.  That’s okay here too.

DD2 has difficulty asking for help.  P.S. teachers don’t have time to ferret out the kids who have issues like this.  Fail and move on.  Home school can be tailored to get through the problem.  From the start, I’ve made DD2’s work largely independent.  She knows where I am and has to seek me out with questions.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t observe/listen to/ keep track and jump in when needed, it just means that I’m putting her in a situation where she needs to work on her problem.

I am not trying to paint a picture where public school is evil and home school is the shining example of all that is good in the world.  I am tired of home school being belittled and sneered at.  There are good and bad teachers in p.s.  I’ve personally had and seen both.  There are good and bad home school parents.  Again, I’ve seen both.

I know that there is a general attitude in the p.s. world toward home school.  I’ve heard the comments from teacher’s lips before I was married or even considered that I would one day home school.  I saw my p.s. father’s attitude change as he saw my daughter grow after beginning home school.

Tolerance is a buzz word these days, especially in public school.  How about a little open-minded thinking toward alternative ways to educate?  After all – isn’t it really supposed to be about the children?

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Recovering

School and work are back in full swing and it’s not been the easiest route.  My eldest and I both caught DD2’s nasty cold over break, and spent the last 4 days of the vacation parked in front of the tv with our best zombie impressions going 24/7.  We’re both on the upswing, but this cold doesn’t give up its hold easily.  It was wonderful to realize this morning that my throat didn’t feel as if a baseball was sitting in it.  Part of me almost wished we’d had strep throat, because at least then you get antibiotics and start to feel better rather quickly.  I’ve had strep throat more than 15 times, so it’s bad when I’m wishing that were the alternative.

The doorbell rang yesterday morning about 7:35 am, just as I was out of the shower and starting to dress.  I told my daughter to see who it was and lo and behold DS stood at the door.  The bus hadn’t come and he didn’t know what else to do.  Fortunately there was still time to get him to school.  I had to call and find out what happened because this bus has changed three times so far this year (once without notice so DS missed the bus home that day) and I wouldn’t have been surprised if the pick-up time had changed without notice.  (It was mechanical)

DH worked in the basement a bit over break.  It was warm enough (with a space heater) to cut Pergo in the garage.  Don’t cut it inside your house.  Ever.  DH cut it in the basement for the first two areas and the house was permeated with a fine haze of particles which came up through the duct work.  The wall in the work room had changed color due to the amount of dust on it.  He’s been working on finishing the basement for about twelve years.

People have asked why I don’t jump in and work on it.  I simply reply that I was told I was spreading dirt incorrectly on our landscaping – which I take care of.  He almost got the rake thrown in his face.  I stay away from his projects as much as I can.

It’s time to go be a zombie for a short while.  I’m getting more work done each day and feeling better each day, but this cold is still zapping me out enough to interfere with life.

 

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After the Ball is Over

All of the gatherings are finished and the kids have finally gotten all of their gifts to their rooms.  Holiday treats still fill the counter.  MIL brought three kinds of cookies and two tins of hard rock candy and left all of it for us to finish.  We made sugar cookies and splurged for pistachios and cashews.  There are rolls left over from going to my mom’s.  Of course there was chocolate in the stockings and our newer tradition of a can of Pringles for each child.  They love having one all their own and I can understand that.  I watch for a good sale starting in September and they put in their flavor request.

The Star Wars game (Pictopia) went over well.  DH and I like it because it doesn’t last too long.  Our middle gets stressed easily and has only seen the movies once (she thought she was scared of them and would hide when the other two watched one of the movies) but she did as well as the other two.  They’ve had a blast with it.  DS also received a Star Wars trivia game and that one is hard.  It wants info that I didn’t even know existed.

Going to my mom’s was emotionally tough for me.  All I could think was, “She’s (my sister) supposed to be here”.  I haven’t called my BIL since the funeral because I just can’t seem to.  I found a little joke that sis would have loved, but didn’t take it because I would have been bawling thinking about her.  It was good to see everyone.  My youngest nephew was getting on my son’s nerves, as usual.  My nephew doesn’t seem to know when someone’s had enough teasing and my son can have a short fuse.  The nephews had a new game that all six could play and they had a good time with that.

When I’d hear Mom rattling around in the kitchen I’d go at least keep her company – there’s rarely anything she needs done.  I was a bit surprised to end up receiving a stern message about what ought to be happening in home school (my middle).  I don’t remember how we got on the topic, but it took me by surprise and I assured her that her concerns were already being addressed.  I wanted to tell her that I’m not blind and stupid, and remind her that college degree I have was for teaching of all things.  She’s never really been supportive of home school and now she can’t crab to my sister about it.  This probably won’t be the last stern talking to I receive.

You know, my dad came around to the home school idea and even admitted how much growth he had seen in DD2 (that was told to me just before he died – a precious thing to pass to DD2).  If the life-long public school teacher could put a stamp of approval on this decision, why couldn’t Mom?  She’s even defended the teacher’s actions (dragging DD2 down the hall by the arms when frozen in a sensory reaction).  I just need to get to the place where I can let her words roll off my back.

One of the things I gave Mom for Christmas was an envelope full of Christmas letters.  She’s recently commented (multiple times) that she doesn’t get my Christmas letter.  I told her she already knows everything in it, but apparently family will mention it to her and they’ll get the “I don’t get the letter” statement, so I photocopied every letter since I started saving them, which was a couple of years after starting to write them.  She knows she’ll get the letters each year now.

DH and the kids thought I was crazy, but after getting home Saturday I grabbed shopping bags and headed out.  Things were picked over pretty well, but I still got cards, the blankets which the kids take to the parties for the exchanges every year.  Blankets are apparently really popular in the low cost gift exchanges, and I’d rather pay $10 for 4 than $20!  I also picked up advent calendars for next year.  I didn’t get much candy because the Ghiradelli bark was long gone, and we really didn’t need anything else.

It was a good Christmas: lots of enjoyable visiting (despite the lecture), some family game time, grateful children.  We have ideas for the rest of the short break (crafts, cooking, etc.).  We’ll see what actually happens.  We may all end up so sugar over loaded that we just watch tv.  As long as we relax, it’s all good.

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Wrapping Things Up

Yesterday finished the bi-annual dental cleanings for the kids.  Their appointments were all on different days, which was okay with me because they’re all in different school buildings so this way got them each back to school as quickly as possible.  My son was the last to go, and for some reason he had an awful time yesterday.  He doesn’t have full-out sensory processing disorder, but he does have sensory issues and they seem to have kicked up a few notches since last year.  He’s now 12, so I’m guessing that the increase is due to hormonal changes.  I haven’t been called back for one of my son’s appointments since he ran out of the hygienest’s chair several years ago.  I put the lead apron on him, rubbed his legs, and bribed him with a half hour of computer time if he cooperated thru the remainder of the appointment.

*Gasp*  How could I stoop to bribery?  Easy.  When an essential thing such as a dental cleaning is on the line and I know the problem is not just misbehavior, I don’t have a problem with it.  Also, I don’t have to use it often.

I’m worried that DD2 – who is home schooled – won’t finish her school work in time for Christmas break.  I gave her the green light two weeks ago to work at her own pace (rather than sticking with the day’s assignments) to start break as soon as she finished.  It’s been mostly sensory reaction days these past two weeks, which slows the work down tremendously.  She gets it into her head that she can’t do the work, then it follows that she can’t.  When she gets all twisted up with frustration, there isn’t much that she can do in her school work.  She read the last of her literature today, and that’s my go-to for when she’s frustrated.  She can curl up in a recliner (which usually draws a cat), lay down cuddled in blankets, etc., and it seems to help her come back into focus.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

DD2 checked several language books out of the library yesterday, and I told her I wanted her German and Latin assignments completed before she dove into those new languages to avoid confusion.  That worked to get those topics finished at least.  The problem is that what’s left is chemistry, algebra, and a literature packet (full of those conclusions, inferences, comparisons, and all the other open ended things that seize her up).

DD1 and I were discussing her next driver ed classes – here, you take the main starter class, then after a certain number of hours of drive time you take the second portion, which is two or three days.  We tried to get it finished in the summer but it didn’t work out.  There weren’t enough students for the session that worked for us.  The problem is that with her heavy load of school work, it looks as if the next set of classes will need to wait for summer.

Whether it’s due to grieving my sister, being on the verge of being sick, or something else, I can’t seem to get motivated to do those holiday things expected of ‘mom’.  After getting the main decorations up, I announced that I was finished.  Yesterday I made the hateful cookies that DH demands every year.  He started to say something when he saw them, but I told him I was close to burning the recipe so it was best to let it go.  One of my kids, describing Christmas traditions for a grade school class, cited one of ours was me making candy cane cookies while saying “I hate these cookies!  I hate these cookies!”  Why don’t I just not make them?  I skipped them last year and haven’t heard the end of it.  DH just doesn’t let those things go.  His mom started him on these demonic treats and she hates making them too.

It wasn’t too many years of family life before I realized how much the holidays really stink for moms.  We are expected to put out wonderful food, the house needs a good cleaning if we’re hosting, we’re usually the ones who wrap all of the kid’s gifts, decorating, and basically doing the majority of the work toward making the day special.  When is our holiday?  I think that’s why I like shopping on the 26th so much.  It’s time for me.  I’ve even tried to think of a way to be at the store by 6 am and be back home by 7am to leave for my mom’s house, but I have to be home to keep everyone else on track so we can leave early enough to have time to visit.

Oh well.  Right now I’ll focus on keeping up with grading DD2’s work, the baking to do before Christmas, figuring out what to take to Mom’s, helping DD1 make a snack for her party on Monday, oh…wait…I’m getting myself loaded down again.  Maybe I’ll just wait to go see Star Wars on Christmas Eve and let everything else get done (or not) as it comes along.

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Revising the Plans

I’m bummed.  This year I won’t be able to go shopping on December 26.  We’ll be at my Mom’s with family.  Hmm…now how do I get the good deals I count on each year?  I’m hoping that the store I get my Christmas cards from will put them half off the week before Christmas.  They’re inexpensive to begin with, but I need a lot.  We send out about 60 cards to family and friends, then another 80 or so to church family (including new people and those who might not receive many cards).  Our church has an alphabetized card exchange box, so those don’t need postage *whew*.  Back to the point, I was planning on eight boxes of cards which adds up fast, even paying less than $5 a box regular price.

I’m hoping to find advent calendars half off the week before Christmas.  The chocolate lasts just fine.  My kids are using clearance calendars right now and not one chocolate has begun to turn white.

I’d also like a seasonal tablecloth for the home school/homework table, but that is a wish item.  I’ve got enough stationery for the annual letter, but I always keep an eye out for cute paper.  I’m going to have to shop when we get home, or on Sunday to try to scavenge the dregs I guess.

I’ve been thinking about some of the gift giving ideas I’ve gleaned from others and have been thankful for.  The first one was the tradition of a new tree ornament for each child every year.  DH’s parents had a Hallmark store and that tradition began with him and the Frosty Friends series.  Yes, his mom still gets him the newest in the series each year.  I like this tradition because the kids will have items for their own trees when they fly the nest.

An idea gleaned from the internet was building our son’s toolbox.  Our son has been interested in learning how to build things since a very young age, and he’s only 12.  I’m thankful for this one for a couple of reasons.  My dad picked out the toolbox and bought the first tools for our son—the year before he passed away.  DS will always have the memory that grandpa started his tool set.  Also, he’s been blossoming in his tech class where he’s been learning how to use the power tools.

An extension of the tool box idea is building a ‘hope chest’ for our oldest.  I don’t remember how the conversation led to her asking about hope chests, but at the end of it she concluded that she liked the idea of collecting/making things for her future home.  DH doesn’t have time to build the actual chest, but cardboard boxes hold things too.  The first thing we bought for her took some time to get.  She loves my Wilton cake singles pans that I have for Christmas.  DH and I spent some time searching the internet and had to buy a few of them used and two aren’t Wilton, but she has a set of 10, which serves for one boxed cake mix.  I can’t wait to see her reaction Christmas morning.  She’s probably forgotten asking for them last January.  I found a half price set of Rubbermaid storage containers for her as well.  I think it was  a pre-black Friday special.

I love getting things that won’t be outgrown in a year, and was happy to reach that point with the kids.  DS is starting to build a hiking backpack with this Christmas, and DD2 has been building her supply of knitting needles and crochet hooks for a few years.  A few years back my parents bought decent sleeping bags for the kids.  They aren’t for high country hiking where you always need to think about freak snow, but they’ll serve for most camping needs.

The kids get fun things too.  Well, actually, the things listed above are fun to them.  To round it all out DH and I bought a Star Wars trivia game for the family.  We already have our (matinee) tickets for Christmas Eve, and it will be a relaxed way to spend our afternoon in front of the fire on Christmas day.

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