Happy New Year {Giveaway}

This giveaway has now ended. Winners will be announced soon!
I thought about posting my best posts and pictures of 2009 like so many other bloggers are doing.
But y’all. I didn’t get out of my pajamas until 2:30 p.m. yesterday. I’m working the lazy this week.
So, I thought a giveaway (a great one at that) would be just as good!
These pictures have one thing in common.

Can you find it?
Hint: Follow the red arrows.
Some good guesses might be…my pasty white skin, my love of denim and Disney…
(This has nothing to do with this post, but I have decided next time to actually watch my little girl open her presents on her birthday and to open my eyes during pictures. You could call them resolutions, if you will).
Answer: I’m wearing my favorite necklace from The Vintage Pearl.
It’s the Eclectic Necklace. (I traded it for advertising months ago).
Here’s a closer look, but I don’t know who those children are:
eclectic necklace Product Image

It’s a New Year. And The Vintage Pearl and I are starting it off with a bang and giving away TWO $50 gift certificates to TWO winners!!
I also love this bracelet:
circle of love bracelet Product Image
Erin of The Vintage Pearl is making one for me to review!
Leave a comment and tell me something you plan to do in the New Year!
Oh, and HAPPY NEW YEAR, Y’ALL!

WFMW-SwagBucks


I hope you guys had a wonderful Christmas and are ready for the New Year!

I’m just ready to stop eating. And I will, as soon as I find my self control. I seem to have misplaced it. *Cough*
I’ve been hearing about Swagbucks off and on for several months. I signed up probably 6 months ago, but didn’t get it and didn’t do anything with it. I didn’t really take the time to investigate it.
And then, the week before Christmas, I heard that two people paid for all of their gifts with Swagbucks (like hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars in Amazon gift cards, purchased with saved Swagbucks!) Suddenly, I found the time to learn about it with some help from Twitter friends!
Now, I am hooked. (Especially since it doesn’t require any more Internet time that I normally use). In just two weeks, from consistent use (no tricks or secrets, really), I’ve earned over 100 Swagbucks! I made Swagbucks my home page, so I have to type in my usual URLs. I’ve earned several, just for going to my own blog!
You can easily join (for free) and start earning your own Swagbucks today! How does it work: It’s very simply a search engine that rewards you for searching. Instead of using your regular search engine, you use the Swagbucks engine or even more handy, download a great toolbar that’s right at your fingertips.
Every once in awhile, while searching, a Swagbuck or two or five will be awarded. These can be redeemed for prizes or Amazon gift cards.
And that’s it, easy! I’ve quickly learned that if you invite friends and family (no blog, needed!) and they sign up, it increases your Swagbucks. I’m not much of a salesperson, but I sincerely want to help people pay for Christmas next year!
If you have a blog, you can post a button to help people sign up (like the one below) to encourage your readers to sign up and then they can encourage their readers and so on:
Search & Win
Remember, this isn’t an overnight money miracle. It’s a slow, steady consistency that pays off in the end. My goal is to save my Swagbucks for the entire year and pay for Christmas next year!!
I think this is a great goal for the New Year.
Please remember *NEXT WEEK* is a themed WFMW: BACKWARDS Edition! It’s your turn to ask a question of your readers!
Thank you for joining me for WFMW! {You can read the guidelines here.}

Have a Works-For-Me Wednesday tip you’d like to share? I’d love for you to join us! Please note that the links will close at 9 pm CST tonight, in order to keep away the spammers!

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  1. TidyMom {Girlfriends Guide to Blogging}
  2. Awesome Cheap Make – up!
  3. This Side of Eternity (Knowing what does NOT work)
  4. Mom Squad (New Years Eve Family Activities)
  5. Star Cookie TREE and cookie garland!
  6. target="_blank"> Quick & Easy Kid Art Display (MillerMix)
  7. Cranberry Bliss Bars ~ just like at Starbucks!!
  8. Gift decorating ideas & TRADITION ideas for kids
  9. HoosierHomemade (NYE Countdown Goodie Bags)
  10. Bake at 350 {PRINCESS cookie flavoring}
  11. Kirsty@Momedy : Your 2010 Fitness PLAN!!
  12. Julie From Inmates (Random Things That Work For Me
  13. A TIMELESS Tradition for KIDS
  14. Spending $100 on groceries for family of 7 (Beauty
  15. Smockity Frocks – Managing Computer Time
  16. FishMama (New Years Cake)
  17. Good (&Cheap;) Eats – Sour Cream Onion Dip – no mix
  18. ElizabethG (Favorite Kitchen Tips)
  19. Garibay Soup {Best 10 years of YOUR LIFE!}
  20. Eat From Your Pantry Challenge @SCM
  21. Home School Dad (Cool Use for a GPS)
  22. Putting My Food Budget on a Diet in 2010
  23. Creative2xmom (Curious George Birthday for Cheap)
  24. Such The Spot – New Years w / kids
  25. No – Burn Baking {Joy @ Five Js}
  26. Cooking Up a Family – Clean The Grim Kids Leave
  27. Catherine (Cut the credit)
  28. Team Giles – No Pudge Fudge Brownies
  29. Ann Marie @ Household6Diva (New Blog Button)
  30. Diann @ The Thrifty Groove – Christmas butter pats
  31. bright and blithe (the best blogging book)
  32. GROCERY CART CHALLENGE (homemade PB cheap & fast)
  33. Newlyweds (4 Christmases)
  34. Adventure Mom Janna – Training Teenagers
  35. Organize & Decorate Everything (organizing beads)
  36. Sunnymama (indoor snow)
  37. Alea@Premeditate dLeftovers (stretching your pantry)
  38. Se7en and the New Year Tree Party…
  39. Get Organized : Quick & Cute Zippered Felt Pouches!
  40. Moms in Need of Mercy (Making Do W / What Youve Got)
  41. Creating a Marriaage Plan
  42. Frugal Avon Chick (Date night at home)
  43. Organize & Decorate Everything (craft room)
  44. ORGANIC AND THRIFTY : Finding a Holistic Doctor
  45. Smooth morning school run routine
  46. Stop and Smell the Chocolates (Blue Cheese Spread)
  47. 52 in 52 Mom in the Photos Project! (Bonnie)
  48. mistie
  49. Stop Unwanted Catalogs in 2010!
  50. Mari (meal planning calender)
  51. Tara @ Feels Like Home (coffee table picnic)
  52. Frymanfour leftover candy canes and cards
  53. Giveaway Central – Save Money On Holiday Gifts!
  54. Shoe Box oStuff
  55. Fairion – Handmade Holidays
  56. Mom Tried It (mitten organizer)
  57. Lisa @ Sweet Sweet Reality (My Favorite Tips)
  58. Common Cents Mom (The UnResolution)
  59. Little Lizard King – Tiffany Blue Bathroom
  60. Green Christmas at Diapers and Hair Dye
  61. Kristen @ Hope Abound : Coupon Trading!!
  62. Amanda@ TrentTribe (Inspiration – Swipe File)
  63. The Duklings (Must Haves for Homeschooling)
  64. In Everything (future Holiday Survival Tips)
  65. Mother Hen (MckLinky Works for Me!)
  1. pennypinchinmomm a (no eating out for 365 days)
  2. 3 Things to NOT pack away!
  3. Sandra – Use those photo Christmas cards!
  4. Marsha@Taste and See (keeping track of leftovers)
  5. Tiffany@La*T*Da (New Years Day Gift Basket)
  6. Green Baby Green Mama – (Keep your baby warm)
  7. Hallee the Homemaker – Adjustable Measuring Cup
  8. Cara : Easy All Whole Food Macaroons!
  9. Homemade Detergent ROCKS!
  10. Keeping Similarly Sized Kids Clothes Organized
  11. Cheryl@SomewhatC runchy – wrapping leftover turkey
  12. Top 10 Reasons to Create Cleaning Schedule (@HM101)
  13. Barbecue stain removal (Stain – Removal – 101.com)
  14. jodi (toys goals coupons sewing)
  15. Brandi (For Swollen Glands)
  16. Things to do with kids when its cold outside!
  17. Songberries / Cookie Tip&Recipe;
  18. Heather @JustDoingMyBest – Christmas Light Storage
  19. Karen @ Mommy Im Home (Words to live by)
  20. Ceiling Fan Decor / Blessing (ilovemy5kids)
  21. Kris @ Eclipsed (Doubling Chicken Breasts)
  22. Saving Money at California Stores
  23. Rachel @ Trial & Error – – Free TV
  24. Weird Unsocialized HSers (Mid – Year Evaluations)
  25. Jenny@Southern Kitchen (Birthday Party Gifts)
  26. Cute & Easy Glitter Silhouettes @ somewhat simple
  27. Homeschooling Hearts&Minds; (family album history)
  28. Bring on the Lloyds… (dry erase marker off walls)
  29. Greta – bday party favors @ after Christmas prices!
  30. EnviroBecca : lucky coins for hurt child
  31. Kay (custom posters / command adhesive)
  32. Holly @ A Mommys Blessings (Heartburn remedy)
  33. Johnlyn (Maintain Your Weight)
  34. From The Trenches Of Motherhood
  35. Simply Practical (feeding a picky toddler)
  36. Snowman @ sit relax and read
  37. Alan @ mak
    eadiff21 (Shortcakes)
  38. The Fifth Street Palace
  39. Recycled New Years Centerpiece out of a lunchbox
  40. Custom rubiks cubes @ Second Street
  41. Planning for What I Missed This Christmas
  42. A little time can save you a ton next Christmas!
  43. Mandy @ Pennies and Blessings
  44. Taking the Day Off Before Vacation (Acting Adult)
  45. LaVonne (Extra Presents)
  46. The Nourished Life : 7 Reasons to Eat More Fat
  47. Skizzles Corner – save money & reduce waste
  48. A Slob Comes Clean (Projects vs Progress)
  49. French Door makeover from The Little Green Bean
  50. Keli @ Feeding Four – Eat More Fruit
  51. A Young Wifes Tale (Organizing Wrapping Paper)
  52. Annie Kate (Considering New Years Resolutions)
  53. The Davidson Den is Doing the (Cloth) Diaper Thing
  54. Paper Glue Etc. (Lets Keep Christmas Alive)
  55. The Prudent Homemaker ~ Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
  56. Paper Basket on the Stairs
  57. The vegetarian experiment.
  58. Chili Powder in 5 minutes
  59. New Years Hats @ Second Street
  60. When Did My hair Turn Gray (Stain Removal)
  61. Mom2ThreeAdopted Sibs (Gymathtics)
  62. Are We There Yet? (20+ Bible Reading Plans)
  63. Mommies Coffee Break (Quiet Time)
  64. Simplify and Find Balance {The Mother Huddle}
  65. New Look / Exterior Paint


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Memorable Christmas Snapshots

1. This is the picture I snapped right before she knew. I got caught holding the stockings the bag with my mouth full of Santa food:

2. My hubby reading the real Christmas story on Christmas Eve is one of my favorite traditions:

3.
4. My daughter and her iron foot sewing tiny pockets and bean bags and capes for her dolls.
5.

6. The Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls (enough said, really, but I have to tell you as my hubby and I were dumping two cups of butter and two cups of sugar onto the dough stretched across our table, my hubby said of The Pioneer Woman, “This woman is seriously messed up.”
In a totally delicious way.
7. Playing The Nativity with my 3 year old who has insisted on being called Mary for the last four days (She even let me be the coveted Angel once).

8.
9. On our after Christmas shopping trip to Old Navy for $10 jeans, my hubby found a mannequin hand on the floor. He taught my son how to pass time while Mom shops.

Hope your Christmas was merry and bright. Up next: A New Year!
P.S. I’ll be posting Works for Me Wednesday (WFMW) late Tuesday night if you want to join in. I’m also getting ready to send out my January Family Room Newsletter, so watch your inbox.

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A Christmas Lesson

My firstborn is an overachiever. She works hard at everything she does. This is good and sometimes frustrating. Because who can excel all the time?
In school, she just completed a three week Recorder session in music. This was the first time in her nearly 10 years that she’s ever picked up an instrument, much less learned to read music.
[I am probably the most unmusical person in Texas. Let me put it this way, I took piano lessons for 2 years and never found Middle C.]
My daughter loved playing her Recorder.  She played it constantly during those three weeks (and I took a lot of Ibuprofen). 
A couple of times a week during the session, each student tested (similar to Karate) and received a “belt” (a colored piece of yarn) tied to the end of the Recorder. Each color signified a level, which is a big deal in the fourth grade.
The last testing day, my daughter missed a note. She was given a second chance and she missed it again. 
She didn’t get her “black” belt. (Only a few kids did and I think most of them played the piano or some other instrument).
Oh, the tears and devastation this brought my girl. (Hello, hormones).
I didn’t know what to say. In the scope of life, this isn’t a big deal. But she felt so proud of herself for all she’d learned, talked about playing a Flute or Clarinet someday and raised her self esteem about 2.5 notches.
And then I had an idea, “Why don’t we find some Christmas songs and you can practice them for the next three or four weeks and give a little concert for our family at Christmas. You can even dress up!”
I saw the glint in her eyes and smiled.
My good friend, Robin, emailed some of her Flute music and I bought more Ibuprofen
There were a few more tears shed over a particularly difficult note, in which, unmusical as I am, insisted that a note on the Recorder cannot be broken! “It’s a hole.”
I recorded these songs during one of her practices. I am very proud of her…not so much for the music she makes, but for not giving up.
We both learned a lot from this lesson.
I hope your Christmas is blessed and you enjoy a wonderful time with family and friends. We’re staying close to home and looking forward to it.
I’m taking a little break until next week. Merry Christmas, from our house to yours.


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No WFMW Tomorrow

Hi y’all!
Just wanted to remind you that there won’t be a WFMW tomorrow, the day before the day before Christmas.
But THERE WILL BE a WFMW on the day before the day before New Years (Dec. 30) because I said so. (Actually, we don’t do much around here to ring in the New Year and I’ll be ready to get back into the swing of things!)
Mark your calendars for the next THEMED edition on the first Wednesday in January (6th). We’re going to do a BACKWARDS version (where instead of posting a tip, you post a question and ask for tips/answers)!
Happy day before the day before Christmas Eve to you!



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Jesus Needs a Pink Blanket

I love this Season. 
The festive colors and glittering decor; the annual traditions (like looking at Christmas lights in the expensive neighborhoods) stir childhood memories. 
[I also love the break from school (we slept until 8:20 Sunday morning and even later on Monday), lazy mornings, watching Christmas movies in our pajamas and my kids shaking their presents under the tree. (Um, if they guess correctly, it’s okay to lie, right??)]
The world celebrates a day.
We celebrate a birth.

I love Nativity scenes. The silent animals worshiping. The flowing gowns of humble servants on bended knee. The perfection of the scene: clean, crisp, every piece perfectly groomed.  
(the Nativity I got for my birthday -it took us much longer than I want to admit, putting it (puzzle) together!)

I used to merely decorate with my collection of Nativity sets. I would arrange the Wise Men, adjust the Angel, ask little hands to stay away from the fragile Holy family.
Last year, Baby Jesus lost a thumb and half a finger. I’m pretty sure I yelled at the careless hands. What an oxymoron: I want them to know Him. I want them to honor Him with their attention during this season that forgets His birth, but I make Him untouchable.
When I am old, I want to pick up this piece from my Nativity and remember why Jesus only has four fingers and a broken thumb.

Santa delivered a child’s version the year of my baby’s first Christmas. I don’t tuck it away in boxes destined for storage eleven months of the year. Small fingers carry pieces to the bath, tuck an angel away in a purse and at The Advent, we hunt down and gather them all together again.
I want my children to exchange the word Christmas, not with gifts, but with Jesus. His Name. I want them to know that Christmas is a birthday party for Jesus. And that’s why we celebrate.
Just this week, my toddler decided, “Jesus, needs her a blanket.”
[I didn’t argue gender. I have a three year old. I lose those arguments]. 
She carefully crafted one from pink Play Do.

And I’m pretty sure Jesus loved it.

What is your favorite thing about this week as we countdown to Christmas?
(I’m linking this to a Nativity Blog Carnival and to 5M4M on my Christmas Inspiration!)



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My Wife’s Gift: A Guest Post

I don’t even know where to begin. I adore my wife. She’s real and has such passion for writing and telling good stories. Sometimes I just grimace, wince, and laugh all at once when I read the things she writes. I often wonder how our family can seem so normal and like such a calamity all at once.

Well, I was reminded that this is OUR normal. I took all three kids shopping Sunday evening to Marshall’s, so they could get their mom something for Christmas. Yes, I took the three year old. After all, I said to myself, “Kristen does it all the time.”
As we started down the road, we went over our list of possible presents: pajamas or clothes. Before we ever make it to the store, there is a full blown fight over name calling. Mediation and apologies.
At the store there is much disappointment. The p.j.’s are picked over. We cover the pajama aisle at least seven times, because I am a man, and I am thorough. Nothing. Plan A is ruined and I don’t really have a plan B because I was sure we could find a cute set of long sleeve p.j.’s with pants.
Okay, let’s look at clothing. Same story second chapter. Nothing. During this time the three year old has gone from the front of the cart, to the main part of the cart, to underneath the cart on her tummy. Now I’m pushing her around the store as she lays in the bottom of the cart with her feet dragging out the front.
We head over to the Petites and after another thirty minutes, finally pick something out. Did I mention that we were on a $25 budget? Doable for sure, but takes some work. 
Oh, hold on, the three year old is crying because her feet are stuck in the bottom grid of the cart. As I’m getting everything fixed, “Honey do you need to go to the bathroom? It really stinks down here?” “No daddy.” Two minutes later in a very loud laughing voice for the whole store to hear, “Daddy, I tooted again.”
How does Kristen do this? We have to get out of this store. 
My exasperated son is elated that we are finally going home. My oldest daughter is happy with our choice. No surprise the line has at least eighteen people in it, but it is moving very fast. I concentrated on keeping six hands from picking up everything for sale in the register line.
My oldest pipes up and let’s me know that the three year old’s pocket are filled with the little tags that go on the hangers to tell you what size you are grabbing. I inform said three year old that this is stealing and she has to put them down. “No daddy.” I take them from her and she begins to scream. I give in. Because I know how to pick my battles. And, I chose thievery.
The line moves forward. We are in front of the coke refrigerator and everyone is thirsty. I grab a coke zero to share; open it up and hand it to the three year old. As she is drinking (okay shoot me. I gave a three year old a carbonated beverage. I was desperate, ladies) I stealthily take the hanger tags out of her jacket pockets and place them on a shelf.
“Register five is open.” We make our way to the register as the soda gets passed between the four of us. I forget I have children with me (yeah – total dad mistake) and start paying for the purchase. I vaguely remember telling the three year old she can hold the closed coke bottle, as spray begins pouring over me, the counter, the other two kids and the floor. She was still shaking it when I took it away from her. 
I’m embarrassed and laughing at the irony of being THAT family once again. After cleaning up the floor with paper towels and washing it down with a spray bottle, we finally make it out the door.
My nine year old looked at me, “Dad, I just wanted to drift away because that was so embarrassing.” Me too. I shuffle everyone to the car, ready to get home. 
We were supposed to make one more stop, but I wasn’t ready for round two.
Now, I know why my wife encouraged me to take all the kids shopping for her gift. 
An hour alone was really the gift she wanted all along! 
Lucky her, she got two [hours]!