Friday, November 23, 2012

Quest for the Perfect Christmas Tree

     Today is the infamous Black Friday.  No shopping going on here. Instead we bundled up and headed into the Caribou-Targhee National Forest for our first experience with cutting down our very own Christmas tree!

The trail. The picture does not do justice to how steep it was.
      The trail leading up the mountain was crazy steep and the ground was frozen.  We did our best to make some distance between us and the parking area, but it wasn't long before the cold, thin air was burning our lungs and the kids were slipping on the path so my husband and the older boys took a detour to the closest tree that would meet our height restriction while I stood with the younger three kids on the trail.

Canon and Ephraim on the mountainside.


John with the winning tree!

     If getting up the hill was tough, getting back down to the van was down right treacherous. I had Nicola wrapped against the front side of me so she could be bundled up in my coat, but Doyle wanted to hold my hand and I was terrified that he was going to pull the baby and me down the side of the mountain, so John ended up taking him down while I stayed with the tree, the axe, and the shotgun.

John and the kids headed back to the van.

Tree loaded up on the van.

     We had to stop a few times on the way home to tighten the tree down because it kept wanting to shift around, but eventually we made it home and quickly set to work getting it all trimmed with big cool white bulbs and blue and silver ornaments.

Doyle and Hickory in front of the tree.
I got our ornaments at Wal-Mart and the cool spiral hooks I got at Big Lots. Aren't they pretty?
Say cheese!

       How did you spend your Black Friday? Were you part of the hoards of crazy shoppers? Did you put up your tree? Did you sleep off the turkey hangover??

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

the Jesse tree

     Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I should be washing dishes and making desserts in preparation for tomorrow, but instead I thought I'd take a moment to talk about Jesse trees. A lot of my friends are making the plans for Advent activities and I always ask/suggest that they do a Jesse tree and usually they have no clue what I'm talking about. I first heard about the Jesse tree from some homeschooling moms about four years when I was looking for way to put more focus on Christ during the Christmas season and was completely smitten with the concept.
photo of our Jesse tree half way through Advent 2009

     A Jesse tree is an Advent tree that uses daily devotions with corresponding ornaments to tell the story of God's rescue plan from Creation to Christ. There are lots of different reading plans out there, some that begin the first Sunday after Thanksgiving, and others that begin on December 1st. You can buy the ornaments, or make them yourself. In the past, we've always used the plan from Reformed Church in America which has devotions that contain the scripture passages, a short reading, talking points to encourage family discussion, and a short prayer as well as the symbol ornaments that you can print out and either color yourself or have your kids color to go along with each story. This year however, I'm trying a new plan that exclusively uses The Jesus Storybook Bible which is by far my most favorite children's bible ever, of all time, and if you don't own it- get on amazon or to your local bookstore and snatch that baby up now!

     Full disclosure that I did not come up with this plan. I found it on another blog: here. But I want to repost the plan here just in case something happens with their blog later on down the road and the page gets lost in cyber space, or erased or something. Here is the date, the story, the suggested idea for the ornament, and the biblical passage. How we usually do things is we start with an empty tree and each day we read the story, talk about it, hang the corresponding ornament on the tree and say a little prayer.

Dec 1 - Creation (dove): JSB pg 18-27 based on Genesis 1-2
Dec 2 - The Fall (fruit tree): JSB pg 28-37 based on Genesis 3
Dec 3 - The Flood (rainbow): JSB pg 38-47 based on Genesis 6-9
Dec 4 - Tower of Babel (tower): JSB pg 48-55 based on Genesis 11
Dec 5 - The Promise to Abraham (stars in the sky): JSB pg 56-61 based on Genesis 12-21
Dec 6 - Abraham and Isaac (ram): JSB pg 62-69 based on Genesis 22
Dec 7 - Jacob, Rachel and Leah (stalks of grain): JSB pg 70-75 based on Genesis 29-30
Dec 8 - Joseph (rainbow coat): JSB pg 76-83 based on Genesis 37-46
Dec 9 - Moses and the Burning Bush (burning bush): JSB pg 84-91 based on Exodus 3-13
Dec 10 - Moses and the Red Sea (split waters): JSB pg 92-99 based on Exodus 14-15
Dec 11 - The Law (stone tablets): JSB pg 100-107 based on Exodus 16, 17, 19-40
Dec 12 - Joshua and Jericho (trumpet): JSB pg 108-115 based on Joshua 3 and 6
Dec 13 - David's Anointing (David the shepherd boy): JSB pg 116-121 based on 1 Samuel 16
Dec 14 - David and Goliath (slingshot): JSB pg 122-129 based on 1 Samuel 17
Dec 15 - David the Shepherd (lyre): JSB pg 130-135 based on Psalm 23, 51, 2 Samuel 7
Dec 16 - Naaman (heart): JSB pg 136-143 based on 2 Kings 5
Dec 17 - Isaiah (crown): JSB pg 144-151 based on Isaiah 9, 11, 40, 50, 53, 55, 60
Dec 18 - Daniel in the Lion's Den (Daniel and a lion): JSB pg 152-159 based on Daniel 6
Dec 19 - Jonah (fish): JSB pg 160-169 based on Jonah 1-4
Dec 20 - The Prophets (party hat): JSB pg 170-175 based on Nehemiah 8-10
Dec 21 - Mary and the Angel (angel): JSB pg 176-179 based on Luke 1-2
Dec 22 - Journey to Bethlehem (scroll): JSB pg 180-181 based on Luke 1-2
Dec 23 - John the Baptist (shell): JSB pg 200-203 based on Matthew 3
Dec 24 - The Shepherds and Wise Men (three wise men): JSB pg 184-188 based on Luke 2
Dec 25 - Jesus is Born! (baby Jesus): JSB pg 182, 190, 192-198 based on Luke 2

     Another nice thing about the Jesse tree is that you can easily adapt it to suit the age of you children. Use whatever storybook bible you have or read the actual scriptures from whatever translation of Bible you prefer.  If you have preschoolers to elementary ages kids, Truth in Tinsel might be a great plan for you. If you have teens or just prefer the flowery style of Ann Voskamp, you can try her Jesse tree plan.  If you don't want to make the ornaments or hunt down individual ornaments in stores, you can buy Jesse tree kits on amazon.

     Have you ever heard of Jesse trees? Do you do them with your kids? Let me know!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

On the mind of a new mom: Losing weight and getting fit.

     I'm not really sure how to begin this other than to say that this is no judgement on anyone else, not on anyone's weight or size, measurements or eating habits. It's just about me and how I feel about my own body. I also want to say that in now way do I think I look bad or ugly at the weight and size and measurements that I currently have. That's not really the point. The point is that I don't want to just say, "Well, I've had all these kids and this is what five pregnancies do to a gal and it's just the way things are and I'll just live with it." It's more about the slippery slope of putting on more and more weight as I age and attempting to take preventative measures so that 10 or 20 years from now I'm not at an unhealthy weight that will be that much harder to lose. So I'm setting myself a goal.
     I got married at 19, about three months before I turned 20 years old. I was 113lbs and my measurements were 34-26-36. (Ever since I learned to sew at 17 I've kept track of my measurements.) Well, a month after I turned 21 I had Canon, and then 12 months later I had Ephraim. After he was born, John left for Iraq and I joined a gym so I would have something to do. Thanks to pilates and the eliptical I quickly got back down to my pre-mom size and thanks to weight training I was a fit and trim, too! (Because believe it or not, you can be skinny and still be flabby. Lack of body fat does not equal having toned muscles.) Then John came back from Iraq and 9 months later we had Doyle and I never quite got back down to my former size. I hung on to an extra 7-10 lbs and then got pregnant again and had Hickory and hung on to another 7-10 lbs from that pregnancy. When Hickory was 6 months old I had the enormous surprise of getting pregnant with Nicola and there was another 10 pounds.
     Now, I know it's quite common and some might even say normal to hold on to some extra weight after having a baby, and especially after having five babies but I am just not down with that. If I surrender those 27 pounds, how much easier is it going to be to shrug off putting on more weight as the years go on and my metabolism slows? As it stands I'm a mother of five and I don't plan on having any more. I really didn't plan on having that fifth one, but it is such a lovely blessing to finally have another girl in the house. I'm still out numbered, but at least I'm not totally alone anymore. lol. I've also always said that I wanted to be done having kids by the time I reached 30. Well, this coming January I will hit 29 and I'm stoked to be going into the last year of my twenties. It's been a great decade, but a tough one as well and I'm glad to have a new chapter of life happening for my 30's. So mindful of that I want to enter my 30's in the best shape I can. I was a certain weight and size when I entered my twenties and I plan on leaving my twenties the same way, five kids or not.
     When I got weighed at my first check-up with Nicola's pregnancy I was 130 and as of this morning I am 129! Woot woot! I'm not really exercising at all right now. (I was doing P90X for about a week or so, but it was taking me over 2 hours to get through a 1 hour dvd because of having to stop to take care of the kids, and I can't just work out after the kids go to bed because the older boys' room is below the living room and the creaking floor from me jumping all around keeps them up.) Right now, I'm just watching my caloric intake with the MyFitnessPal app on my iphone (but you can also do it online through their website if you don't have a smart phone.) It's REALLY helped me to take notice of what I'm eating. I think I'm also going to see if there's room in the budget to join a gym so that I someone else can tend to the babies while I work out. That way I get some time to take care of myself, Doyle gets to play with some other kids his age, and the little ones won't be getting neglected.
     It's isn't only a weight/size issue though. While John was in Iraq and I had turned into a gym rat, I just felt better. Exercise helped me so much dealing with the stress of taking care of everything while John was away. I also had so much more energy and enthusiasm and the more I worked out the more I wanted to try new things, take on new challenges and even just spend more time outside. I miss feeling so excited about life and wanting to get out into the world and DO things. I think my whole family could benefit from that.
     So there you go. Currently I am 129 pounds and measure 36-30.5-38 with a goal of 113 pounds and measurements of 34-26-36 (though I wouldn't mind hanging on to those extra inches up top!) I'm not sure how things are going to go over the next few months with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, but we'll see! Maybe it's crazy to think that I can be the same size at 30 with five kids as I was at 20 with no kids, but I'm sure if I work hard enough I can make it happen!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Flying the dork flag: crazy Christmas lady

     So, I know it's just barely November, but I am already SO STOKED for Christmas. I've already talked about my plans for our tree, but I'm obsessively looking at Christmas decor and crafts and images on Pinterest for inspiration.

I'm in love with this very vintage inspired Christmas tree. I love the more mid-century modest than modern look of it, with the big colored lights, gobs of tinsel, and popcorn garland.        

This tree reminds me so much of my grandmother. She loves blue lights and I remember her tree looking very similar to this one.

Nothing says vintage Christmas like bubble lights! I'm glad they make safer ones these days. I'd like to avoid setting my house on fire.

I think a steeple style tree topper would be an excellent finishing touch. Don't you? I've seen lots on Etsy in a variety of price points.

     One thing that I love that will NOT be on our Christmas tree at any point in the near future are glass ornaments. No Shiny Brites for me. I'm going to have to settle with soft and shatterproof ornaments for several years to come I'm sure. I'm also on the hunt for some fabric to make us all new stockings. I'm not sure if Hickory even has one, and I know Nicola doesn't have one. Might as well start from scratch so they'll all match. (Yes, I care about them coordinating with each other. How could I be a fan of the 1950's and not like things that are "matchy matchy"?)

     What is your Christmas decorating style? Do you like vintage like I do or do you like the more rustic/primitive style? Do you like things understated and elegant, or do you want your house to be visible from space Clark Griswold style? If you don't know who Clark Griswold is, shame on you.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Democracy in action!

I took the younger three kiddos with me and voted today!!! While I may take issue with our two party system and our antiquated electoral college, being able to vote is a privilege that many people, especially women, around the world don't get to enjoy. So no matter what side you're on, exercise your right lest it be taken away!

Monday, November 5, 2012

stranger in a strange land

     Being in Pocatello, Idaho might as well be a foreign country as far as I'm concerned. The landscape is different, the climate is different, the size of the town is much different, and I swear that even the people up here look different though I can't really put my finger on how precisely they do. Another thing that is very different is the culture. Prior to this point, I have always lived in the "Bible Belt" of the southeastern United States. Now I find myself living in what's called the "Mormon Corridor". There is an LDS church on every block and the other day while grocery shopping I saw a section of shelving dedicated to emergency preparedness, which is a nod to the 75% mormon population of the town.

     There are up sides to being here, though. John and the kids have never had the experience of having a real tree for Christmas and here in Pocatello, you can buy a tag for $5 from the Bureau of Land Management, drive off into the mountains and chop down your own!! As long as you're on BLM land and not someone's private property or something of course. I'm thinking that will be an excellent activity for Thanksgiving break. Take THAT Black Friday!!! I figure we can go cut a tree on Friday and spend the rest of the weekend making decorations and drinking hot chocolate. I bet Christmas here will be lovely. It's already snowed once and it's supposed to snow on Friday. I anticipate by the time Christmas arrives the mountains will be good and covered. I can't wait to go snowshoeing!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Where's Idaho? Let me google map that...

    Three months ago, things were really really rough. While it was lovely living back in Oklahoma City, near our families and our church, civilian life had certainly turned out to be a "grass is greener" situation. It's so easy for people to say that "money isn't everything" when they aren't the ones who are stressing about how they are going to pay their rent and bills and put food on the table. We were beyond our breaking point. We were broken. My husband, John, was working himself to the bone as a diesel mechanic and doing all that he could, but doing things within our own knowledge and strength just wasn't enough. I began crying out to God on pretty much an hourly basis. I told him how we had screwed things up and that it was all our fault we were in this mess but that we couldn't fix it and we needed Him to fix it. And then suddenly- He did.
     You see, back at the beginning of the year, my husband had applied for a job in the Active Guard Reserve (AGR.) Every army reserve unit has full time people who stay at the unit in addition to their one weekend a month that people typically associate with the reserve. AGR people are considered active duty and receive active duty pay and benefits, but it's not the tedious babysitting type of job that a normal active duty NCO has to endure. Well anyway, weeks turned into months without us hearing anything back and we had both just sort of assumed it wasn't going to happen and had forgotten all about it. Then out of the blue one afternoon, John called me just before his shift and said that he had gotten an email saying that he was being offered an AGR slot!!! I was elated! God was answering our prayers!! I asked if it was at his reserve unit to which he was already assigned, but he said no.

     "We aren't moving to Enid are we?"
     "Uh, it's a bit farther than that."
     "South Dakota?" *chuckles*

     My husband informed me that the position was senior mechanic at the army reserve unit in Pocatello, Idaho. My reaction to that was, "Where is Idaho? I'm going to have to look on the map..." (Obviously Geography was never a strong subject for me.) And then another shocking twist:

     "The email says we have 24 hours to decide and let them know or I'll be moved to the bottom of the list and there's no guarantee that another position will be offered to me again."

     I'm not going to lie. Initially I was crushed at the idea of leaving my beloved Oklahoma City. The place where I thought we were settling down. I had spent the past seven years trying to get us back and now we were going to have to leave!? And have I mentioned that I was 9 months pregnant with our fifth child at the time? I so badly wanted to say no, but I knew that this was God. This was God showing compassion, showing us love, fixing our messy lives.
     By the end of my husband's shift God had really softened my heart and gave me peace about everything. A week later and I was actually excited about going! We hustled to get as much of the house packed as we could over the next few weeks, and on August 31st I gave birth to our fifth child and first daughter, Nicola Jane.
     Was it easy pulling my kids out of school (again), driving over a thousand miles (again), and starting over? Of course not. (Let me just say this- I never, ever, EVER want to drive through Wyoming again for the rest of my life. No offense to the ten people that seem to live in Wyoming...) But here we are. Trying to walk through the doors that God is opening, and embrace where we are.

Cha-cha-cha-cha changes....

 I'm doing a bit of a revamp/overhaul of this blog. No longer does it makes sense to call us the 405 Family since we no longer live in the 405 area code and there's no telling when we'll be getting back to it. I thought and thought and searched for something that would sum up our family and our situation and something that has certainly defined us is how often we move. Now it's true that we are an army family, but not all army families are constantly on the move. In fact, most of the military families that I know hardly ever move. They've moved once or twice if ever in the 8 years that I've known them. However, we have just made our tenth move in 9 years. That seems excessive even by military standards, in my opinion. So what better way to describe our family than a group of travelers? Travelers makes it sound like we are constantly on vacation though and that is most definitely NOT the case. I thought the less used "sojourn" was a little more precise for what we do- never permanently dwelling anywhere, never really being "home" and yet, everywhere is "home." It's more a state of being that we carry with us than an actual place or physical location.

I'll make another post later about where we are now and how we came to be here, but for now this blog's focus is just what we're up to as a family in a new place and the new adventures, challenges, triumphs, and failures that we will encounter here and wherever else we go. Feel free to follow along as we sojourn.