Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lessons Learned in 2008

As 2009 moves in on us, I thought I would take a moment to note the lessons I have learned in 2008.

There are really really GOOD people in this world ~ Total strangers have banded together, in response to my "All I Want for Christmas" blog, and started work on my bathroom. Free of Charge. In their Free time. How nice is that? My friend Sarah, and her hubby Jeff, attend One Community Church here in town, and Sarah got her small group to give this to us as a gift. I can NEVER repay this group for doing this for me out of the goodness of their hearts. All I can do is pay it forward somehow. When the opportunity presents itself for me to do that, I will. As they make progress, I will post on it. Look for more on that subject in the future. Religion gets such a bad rap in the press, but I plan on correcting that soon. These people ROCK! Thank you Sarah for being such a good friend to us!

No matter how much money I make, I will always be broke ~ Before I had kids I made a decent salary and still managed to be broke, most of the time. I still work, though the type of work has changed dramatically, the salary has remained about the same. I don't work outside of the home, but run a daycare from my home. The money I save on gas, clothing, lunches out, childcare for my kids, etc, pretty much evens things out for me. Not to mention the tax deductions I can take for operating a business from my home. Bottom line is the same, I am still broke. I am convinced that if I made a million a year, I would STILL be broke.

Family counts more than anything ~ they are the ones who will stick by you through thick and thin. I have had some baaaaddd moments that all started right at the very beginning of 2008 and my family really stepped up to help us out this year. I only hope that one day I will be able to return the favor.

Question things, but never be afraid to take a chance ~ A few things have come up recently that made me ask a lot of questions. I won't divulge because Chris has asked me not too. It involves my child. We had to make a decision about the best way to handle a situation and after asking a lot of questions, we decided to dive in head first. It turns out to be the best decision we could have possibly made. Total turn around in the life of one little boy that I think will help him excel in his life. Had I not been willing to take that leap of faith into the unknown, I would have been doing him a HUGE injustice.

Hope you all learned something from 2008 and that 2009 brings you lots of opportunity to grown and change for the better! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ho Ho Ho, 1 day to Go!

OK, I know, that was pretty cheesy. I am a bit stressed by the events of the past several nights. My kids have REFUSED to go to bed. They normally go to bed at 8pm, without fail. Lately, it has been more like 10-11pm for some reason. I am stressed because tomorrow Chris and I have to play Santa, and I would really rather it not turn into an all nighter. Had enough of those in college, and they about killed me then. No telling what would happen to me now! Maia's dollhouse should be a cinch to assemble, (I hope I don't eat those words later), but Harrison is getting the Playmobil Circus, and if you know Playmobil at all, you know that it has TONS and TONS of little tiny pieces that make Polly Pocket look Giagantimous. And they are all attached to the plastic framing that you have to break apart and follow the instruction booklet to put it all together. Uggg. If they don't go to bed, Santa may skip our house. At least that is what they are being told. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Open House

Welcome to the Toler House! Here is how we decorate for Christmas and some of the stories behind the decorations. Enjoy!

The outside of my house at night. Couldn't get the hubby on the upper part of the roof to hang lights this year. Maybe next...

I LOVE Gingerbread themed decorations, so, I just HAD to get this to put on the porch wall to greet visitors as they approach the front door.

A wreath, made by me, welcomes you at the front door.

We hang this Hallmark Advent felt calendar on the back of the front door each year. My kids love to come down first thing in the morning and put on the days ornament.

The sofa table. Please ignore the crumpled blinds at the windows (lets not even talk about the crumpled sofa cushions). CATS and KIDS!! One day, I will have a nice new sofa. One day. In the meantime, I need to find a good slip cover.

A close up of the Santa and gingerbread decorations on the sofa table.

My Partylite snowmen decorations from back in the day when I was a rep. for them. Harrison's dinosaur peeking out is a bonus!

The mantle and fireplace where the man in red makes his entrance. Our stockings are hung by the chimney with care. I am hoping that one Christmas morning, I wake to a FULL stocking...

I thought this was a cool close up of the angel on the mantle, complete with lights.

My favorite, the Nativity.

This is another more modern Holy Family tealight holder that I really like. It has since been moved from the mantle to another location in the house.

The kids and I have a tradition each year of making gingerbread houses at Grandma's house. Harrison's is on the left, Maia's is on the right, and I made the mini houses in the background and the foamie decorations. They sit atop the TV.

A close up of Harrison's house, struck by an avalanche. He got a bit carried away with the frosting.

Some of my Foamie creations. I have found a new calling in life. To create foamies! I have never had so much fun in my life as when I made these!! All my friend, who thought it was terrible that I made them and not the kids, said was "aren't they for like 3 and up?" I don't get her point...

Maia's house. She could not have gotten any more candy on hers or the roof and walls would have caved in.

Because I am anal, my Mom bought me my own houses to make so I wouldn't harass the kids about theirs. I know, SAD. Hey, I have a degree in fine arts, what can i say?? The house on the right is a johnny house, complete with moon above the door. It really was just a house, but it looked like an outhouse, so that is what it became!

Another Foamie creation. Part of the gingerbread scene.
The gingerbread decorations had multiplied this year so they also adorn the top of my piano. These, however, are not edible.

Cute little gingerbread cookie people are part of the piano village. I know, I am getting a bit carried away with all the photos, but I was having fun!

Ahh, it wouldn't be Christmas without the tree, complete with cute kitty Amos sitting on the tree skirt. You can just make out his white face. My favorite is the candy garland I got for $.50 a tube at Lowes one year.

Some photos of my favorite ornaments and the stories that go with them. I really had to restrain myself here because this was getting quite photo intensive, but here are a few.

Of course, I LOVE this ornament of my two angels done a couple years ago.

This ornament reminds me of Harrison catching snow on his tongue...
Harrison, catching snow at the Christmas Parade last week.
Maia's 3rd Christmas Ornament. Perfect because she IS a Princess. See this post.
This one represents Chris, my hubby the skateboarder and Harrison who LOVES Scooby Doo and Skateboarding.
This was my favorite ornament as a child, and now hangs on my tree. Yep, I was an 80s child.

The dining room table. Clean for once...

Now, your Holiday treat for visiting my page...

Heavily frosted and decorated sugar cookies made by myself, Chris and the kids. No recipe here folks, just a box of...

... sold at Target for $7.99, comes complete with cookie cutters, frosting and cookie mix. Just add water! Tastes great and half the cost of buying all the ingredients yourself! Yep, I am a slacker. Shhh, no one else has to know...
Our Private Visit with the man in red last night! Thanks Diane! (Maia was upset because she could not remember what she wanted for Christmas and forgot her list!)

Merry Christmas from Our Family to Yours!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Maia as Teacher

Maia has been quite the little teacher lately. She taught my Mom how to draw a reindeer a few days ago, and then repeated the exercise with Chris that night. Mom got an A+ Good Effort mark on her paper, and so did Chris, but he also got an "X" by his name because he was talking during her instruction (to me no doubt!). Too funny. When we went to school for TCM's Winter Fanfare we noticed this on the wall outside of Maia's classroom. I had to laugh.

Mrs. Webb, Maia's teacher, said she did a great job teaching the class how to create Rudolph by giving her classic, very specific, step by step instructions. That's my little superstar!! I also noticed this on the wall, created by Maia, illustrating that the class can write sentences. I definitely see a future artist in the making!
I just LOVE the cheesy grin on the cat. Notice, the purple lines indicate where space should be. I think she has EXCELLENT handwriting for a kindergartener!!

Maia sporting the reindeer antlers at TCM's Winter Fanfare!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Just Call Me Scrooge...

Before you start reading, I must warn you that this post is filled with negativity. Sorry people, it is just that time of year for me. Ba Humbug!

I typically don't like this time of year. I do, but I don't. There, now if ALL makes sense! The reasons are many. First, there is so much pressure to buy gifts and give the perfect gift to everyone. I don't have the money to buy gifts for people and that makes me feel bad and icky. I like to give gifts and when everyone else in my family is exchanging gifts and giving me a gift and I have nothing to give in return I just feel bad. REAL BAD. I am 36 and I don't think it is asking to much to be able to get a little something for people who have done so much for me. BUT, our finances pretty much dictate that we cannot do this and it sucks. I also hate dragging out so much holiday crap, ie. decorations, and having to somehow try to make my house look festive when all I really want to do is leave them in the boxes and pretend it will all go away. My house is a mess and dragging out another mess to add to it just doesn't make me all that happy.

I know I should be more thankful, and maybe I should revisit my Thanksgiving post after typing this bit of negativity. Maybe I will. There is just too much pressure on everyone this time of year. People are crabby out in public. Lord, the man in Wal-mart that got trampled?? Come on. Lets get real. Was it really worth someone dying over to get to whatever it was that was inside? I can't stand that type of behavior. I may be a scrooge but I would never stoop so low as to act that way in public.

The kids want lights on the house, I want it to look a certain way, and no matter what, it never measures up to what I had in my head. Everyone else's perfectly decorated house just makes me feel inferior. Trying to find the time to get it all done if hard. I had the best intentions of making a go of it over Thanksgiving, but the time got away from us and NOTHING got done. My to do list is a mile long and just adding more (decorating for the holidays, play practice, parades, birthday parties, etc, etc.) just isn't my cup of tea right now.

People ask me what I want for Christmas. Do they really want the answer to that? OK, lets see. If you are reading and you are one of these people, take note...
1. A better financial situation
2. my BATHROOM finished
3. More time together as a family
4. to find a way to reconnect with Chris
6. Some fresh coats of paint in... (pick a room, any room will do)
7. A better financial situation (oh, yeah, i meant to repeat it!)
8. Some kids to keep to help out #7
9. Appliances that actually work without making ungodly noises (stove, oven, dishwasher, TV, computer, washer)
10. For people to get off my back about crap I can't control or change.

I just can't get into the spirit of the season. It has become too much about things that don't matter and that makes me feel like a lesser person because I can't be a part of it due to financial constraints. That is a crappy feeling. No matter how many times I tell myself that "it" is not what matters, society dictates otherwise. I will never be able to measure up in this regard. Unless I win the lottery, and you gotta play to win. Heck, I don't even have a dollar right now to buy a ticket if i wanted too! NO JOKE!

So, if anyone has any humbling words for me that will help me get into the spirit please, please pass them on to me. I could really use it. And, if anyone is looking for a gift to give me, just check out the wish list above. After all, that IS truly all I want for Christmas this year.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ahhh, Day 30

I cannot believe that I actually blogged for 30 days straight! It has been fun and quite a challenge at times. Somedays I just don't have a thing to say. Other days, I do, but I don't know who in the world would really want to read about it other than family and friends. Oh well. This blog is for me as a way to record memories and events. It is not suppose to be anything more than that for me. Some people have very useful blogs and blogs that relate to specific things like my friend Adrienne. Her's is Sewing. Mine is just about me and my family and things that make me go "hmmm" from time to time. SOOOOOO, on that note! I gotta jet people! My favorite show in the world, Desperate Housewives, is coming on in 5 minutes so I gotta go claim my spot on the sofa!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Is That a Muscle I Feel??

Today, we had Harrison's official party at FunQuest with all his buddies from church and school. They got to roller skate and play in the jungle gym area from 1-4. They should all be good and tired tonight! We had pizza, drinks, and cake and opened some gifts, but the real fun was in the skating. Harrison had only been one other time before today, and he did great! Maia did pretty good too, but not as confident on skates as Harrison was. Chris and I also skated. Chris opted for the inline skates, but I prefer to be on 4 wheels. Especially since it has been a while since I skated myself.

Back in the day, my friend Debbie and I were the roller queens. I must say, it is kinda like riding a bike in that you never forget once you learn. The only problem is, this body is much older and heavier than it was in my early years. When I first started I was thinking there was no way I was gonna venture onto the rink where the wood is shiny and slick. I could hardly hold my balance. BUT, the carpet was grabbing the wheels and making it VERY VERY hard to skate without looking like an uncoordinated cow on wheels. Once I got to the rink, it was smooth sailing, er, skating! After about 1 trip around, I was feeling muscles I didn't know existed! Oh, the strain on your shins and especially, for me, my hips. It seemed to ease the more I skated around. I was quickly testing out my "moves" by turning around backward while moving to skate with Harrison and take his photo. Pretty impressive!!! LOL. Just glad I didn't bite it with the camera. I think I skated for several hours all together. I am totally anticipating not being able to move a single part of my body tomorrow.
The birthday boy, just getting started good.
Granddad and Chris help Maia skate.
A rare shot of Chris and I together in one photo! Thanks Tim!!
Maia and her buddy Ryan cling to the wall for dear life.

The three Toler Men, Harrison, Tim aka Uncle Tim, and Chris.

Harrison doing the limbo. He did pretty good!!

How low can you go?? Harrison was quite impressive...

Chris kept saying how long Maia's legs looked in these bell bottom jeans...

Ryan and Harrison's attempt at being serious for a photo.

This is what we got when we asked them to be silly.

On a side note... After uploading these photos, I must say I am NOT impressed at the quality of them considering I was using my brand new $250 camera. I exchanged it tonight for the same camera because I think it is defective. I hope it works better now. My friend has the same camera and hers works great! Leave it to me to get the bum camera!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Old and New Friends

Today, instead of going out for all the door buster sales and the overzealous crowds, I slept in, then got up and took Harrison to the Dr. for his 7 year checkup, then met two old friends for our annual trip to McDonald's with our kids to chat, play and eat. Seems that lately, beginning at Halloween, is the only time I get to see certain people. I guess we are just all so busy... Anyway, its always fun to catch up with them and see how the kids have changed over the year. Gina and her Family live outside of Charlottesville, so we don't see much of her. Meghan lives here in Lynchburg, but with busy schedules, etc we just don't see each other that much. We do all manage to keep in touch via email, phone calls, and facebook though.

Gina, Meghan, and Myself have been meeting since the kids were babies. Ok, lets back up. Gina, Meghan and myself have know each other since we were babies. If I had a working scanner I am pretty sure I could find some photos of us together when we were about the same age as our kids are now. Probably at the pool, at a swim meet, or something else summer/pool related. We also all went to school together from grade school up through high school. Ahh, good times girls, good times!! Old Friends are the Best!

Lucky for anyone reading this, the earliest photos of our McDonald's get together start in November 2004.

Chloe (Gina's eldest daughter) and Alexis "Lexi" (Meghan's eldest child) in 2004

Miss Chloe in the jungle gym at McDonald's.
Collin (Meghan's son) sitting on Gina's lap. My son, on the floor as usual, in the background. My Saturn in the back background!! I've since graduated to a mini-van.

Lexi and Meghan having some lunch in 2004.

Gina rescuing a crying Maia from inside the jungle gym.

Miss Maia sitting inside the tunnel, Nov. 2004. On this particular trip, she had to be rescued from the tunnels/jungle gym several times by Gina. Usually, crying. At least she is happy here.

Harrison playing with the truck that Chloe and Gina gave him for his birthday in 2004.

The next year, November 2005, we had a new addition to our McDonald's get together...

Holly, (Gina's youngest daughter) was just several months old when we met up with each other.

The crew, minus Collin, who wanted NO PART of this photo. Harrison, Lexi, Chloe and Maia.

I managed to get a shot of Collin playing with Maia. He doesn't look real happy!

November 2006 was a bit more successful in getting all six kids into a group shot! Maia kinda disappears in the back, but she is there!

This is a better shot of Miss Holly and Maia. Aren't they cute!!

She (Holly) is such a pretty child. Love the blue eyes.

We must not have met up in 2007 because I KNOW I would have photos, but cannot find any from the event. These photos were taken today, November 28, 2008. Look how much everyone has changed!!

Maia, Holly, Collin, Harrison, Lexi, and Chloe November 28, 2008. Not an easy shot to get with six very active kids loose in a McDonald's Playland.

Holly, Lexi and Chloe pose for a quick photo. The two sisters could be twins if it weren't for their age difference.

Harrison in the tunnel slide.

Meghan and Collin.

Maia in the tunnel slide. Had to bribe her to get this shot. A Momma will do what she has too!!

Gina playing rescue again, this time with Holly, who refused to leave. Here, she is literally dragging her out of the tunnel slide by her foot. Not the most flattering shot of Maia...

Since our kids are all older now, we were able to get Harrison and Lexi to snap a photo of us together. Three old friends. I really really have to find an old photo and get a scan for comparison. Can't wait to do it again next year girls!