Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The "Real" Christmas

I had a 'first' today in my classroom.  Each year near Christmas, I always ask the same question.  I have asked it every single year for 12 years.  Just to get the ball rolling.  I ask...

"What is the real reason we have Christmas?  Why did it all start?"

Every single year.....until this start shouting about it being Jesus' birthday.   They know about Mary and Joseph, the barn, the manger, the wise men, the shepherds, the star.....most could go on and with the the beautiful details.  Of course, there are always some that aren't familiar with the story, so the kids who know the story backwards and forwards are able to give all the details so that the story gets told to the class.

I am usually just the moderator.  The kids can almost always tell the whole thing.

But this year, when I asked the one mentioned that it was Jesus' birthday.  The kids excitedly exclaimed that Santa would come.  I wasn't shocked initially by the responses.  I am talking to five year olds.  So I reworded the question.

"Yeah, I know that Santa comes and brings gifts...but what else?  Why do we celebrate Christmas?  Why did Christmas ever get started?"

The kindergarteners excitedly proclaimed that we have Christmas to open presents and get surprises and have a Christmas tree.

Oh dear.

I tried several other questions to draw it out of them with no success.  I was thinking by this point that they obviously are not understanding my point here.  It's gotta be that I am saying it the wrong way.

So as to not confuse them any further, I asked.....

"But whose birthday is it on Christmas?"

Finally, finally, a little girl answered that it was Jesus' birthday on Christmas! 

I sat shocked at how far down the list the real meaning of Christmas had fallen.

And since we were discussing it and they asked questions.....of course I was obligated to tell the whole story.  Thankfully, after I started telling the story, several of the kids memories of the story woke up and they were able to add in some of the details and events of the birth of Jesus. 

All the Christmas 'stuff ' is fun.  The crafts, the gifts, the food, Santa, stockings, the songs, the lights and decorations....I love it ALL.  But I hope, that we aren't burying the real Christmas under all the other 'stuff'.

Monday, November 28, 2011

We're All Waiting on The First Snowfall....

  It's only November.....not even winter yet.....but we are all peeking out the windows hoping for snow.  Hoping to wake up and see something like this......

The meteorologists predict that we will get some snow flurries over night.  It is suppose to begin in our area at around 9pm.  It is 8:59pm as I type this.  I have already peeked out the window about ten times.

You can't really explain the excitement of snow to someone who lives where snow falls frequently. 
But, when you live in an area that may get only one light 'dusting' a year, any promise of snow is exciting. 

Although we got over our fair share of snow in North Alabama last year, we still anxiously await morning to see if we will have a beautiful, white powder covering our yard tomorrow.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It's Not The Turkey's Fault

I've always heard that turkey makes you sleepy.  And that is why everyone gets sleepy after the Thanksgiving feast.  It's the tryptophan in the turkey's fault.

These kids here.......

They didn't even eat the turkey. 
They ate the ham.

So what's up with the napping?

My kids NEVER nap in the car anymore. 
And they were 3 for 3 on the way home from our Thanksgiving lunch. 

I don't get it.
It's not the turkey's fault.

It must be some sort of conspiracy against the turkey.

I bet the pig is behind it all.

Friday, November 25, 2011

All They Want For Christmas Is.....

Today is Black Friday. 

Black Friday holds years and years of hilarious and fun memories with my Mom and sisters.  We go together every year.  We go to the same town, the same stores, and eat lunch in the same restaurant.  By the end of the day each year, we have Mom's van packed to the ceiling with Christmas gifts.

Three of the four of us do not like to shop.  At all.
I would even say I loathe it.
But on this day.....this Black Friday....
....and ONLY this day....

I LOVE it!

I love laughing with them.  I love when one of us finds a good deal that we know someone on our list will love.  I love the thrill of scratching someone's name off the list because their gift has been bought.

This is just a teeny part of my list. I am happy that lots of names are already scratched.

I love spending the day with them.  I love every minute of it.

Although I was able to conquer a large portion of my list already,
I still have all of this to go......
The boys lists have no scratches.

And they have a BIG list.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's Expected, But So True.....

It's no surprise that....

I am most thankful for him.....

and him.......

and him.............

 And almost 18 years of moments like this.....
with him.
May God bless you this Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Knots On A Counting Rope

  Carter's first grade class celebrated Thanksgiving today at school.  Instead of just making the traditional handprint turkey, the class celebrated in a special way.  They made "Stone Soup" together by recreating the recipe from the book Stone Soup.  Each child brought something in to help with the meal. Then, they got to enjoy eating it after it cooked all day. 

But the real treat to me today was the class story time.

  Mrs. Posey had asked Carter and his Pop, my Daddy, to read a story to the class.  She wanted them to read the story, Knots on a Counting Rope.

The story is written as a conversation between a young Native American boy and his grandfather.  The boy is asking his grandfather to tell him the stories from his birth and childhood.  The boy keeps interrupting with parts of the story, because the boy already knows the stories by heart.

 Each time the story is told, the grandfather ties a knot in the counting rope.  The story goes, that when the rope is full, that he won't tell the stories anymore.  The story hints at the reality of human mortality.

When I saw the way Carter looked up at him, I had to swallow hard at this part of the story.  I'm glad Carter's grandfather has a long rope.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Girls Night Out at Twilight

 Well....actually, it wasn't really twilight, because dawn was breaking. 

Ha! I crack myself up.  If you didn't realize that was a joke, then you aren't a twilight fan and you have no idea that this past weekend was the opening weekend for Twilight...Breaking Dawn. 

So anyway......

I had a girls night out last night with some of my high school girl friends and a whole slew of other chicks. 

A girls night out is a very rare occurrence for me.  The last time I can remember leaving the boys and the hubster behind was when the first Twilight movie came out.

I may be stoned for my next comments, but here goes.  I do not think Robert Pattinson (Edward) is very cute.  And the chick who plays Bella is very emotionless.  I am annoyed at the choice of characters for the movies, therefore....I am a big fan of the Twilight books, but not as much a fan of the movies.  But even so....I had the most spectacular time last night.  It's good for the soul to spend time with your lifelong friends.
We ate and giggled and oohed and aahhhed and cheered and laughed and had the best time acting younger than we actually are.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Geocaching Is The Bomb Diggety!

   Our family was in the dark about Geocaching. We have recently been shown the light.  We like it much better in the light.  Our family has instantly dubbed geocaching as our new favorite past time. This is why.... 

First of all.......its cheap.  Cheap is good. 
Second of can incorporate hiking into geocaching.  Hiking is good.
Third of learn stuff.  Learning is good.
Fourth of get to keep some neat treasures.  Treasures are good.
Fifth of can burn lots and lots of calories, if you choose the right geocache.  Burning calories is good.
Sixth of get to see stuff like this........

What is Geocaching?
   Here's the gist of it......

People from all over the world have hidden little containers called "caches".  These "caches" are literally everywhere.  I seriously mean it.  They are everywhere.  Even in our teensy town with only one red light and where pizza delivery isn't even available.  The caches are all over the place.  You would never know it and you've probably walked past thousands of them and didn't notice them.

The "caches" are hidden by other "geocachers".  It's kind of like a hide and seek game that is played worldwide with over five million people. 

Each little hidden cache is different.  Some are considered "micro" caches because the container is only big enough for a little piece of paper, called a "log".  When you find it, you sign your name on it and hide it back exactly as you found it so that other cachers can find it.

(Look closely in my hand and you can see the tiny little red container.)

Most of the caches are a little bigger, but still only contain the log to sign.  So far, in the last 2 days, we have found 21 caches.  I would say maybe 12-14 of the 21 were pill bottle sized containers and only contained the log to sign.  They are almost always very cleverly hidden.

The other kind of cache has some sort of "stuff" in it. These containers are bigger and have stuff inside them free for the taking.  The rule with taking something, though, is that you leave something in its place of equal value.  You make a trade.

We have taken out several small trinkets, such as some really old stamps, a pin, a platic toy dog, and a Wii game.  We have left various toys and a gold dollar.  Trading "stuff" is optional, but the boys like it.

Our favorite find inside a cache was a "Travel Bug".  A Travel Bug is a trackable dog tag.  It has a unique number on it.  Once you pick it up, you log in the number online and then drop it off in another cache somewhere different.  Then someone else finds it and does the same.  You then get to watch the trackable online forever.  The one we picked up today has been traveling around the country since 2007.

In the past two days of geocaching, we have probably hiked 10 to 15 miles.  The boys can't get enough.  They are not only exercising their bodies, but also their brains.  Seems like the perfect combination to me.

You can choose to find caches that are more challenging and require more energy to retrieve, or you can pick simple caches, many of which are right next to the road or even in business parking lots.

Geocaching sound fun to you?

The only thing you need to get started is some sort of GPS.  Most cell phones have them already on them, or you can use the one from your car to find the ones in towns.  We started with our car one, and quickly decided that we would want a handheld one so that we could do the hiking ones.  You can get a handheld one for about $75.

And you will need to go to ...
to register.  It's totally free and totally awesome!

Get out there and go caching!

Friday, November 18, 2011

I Can't Wait To Tell You About Geocaching!

  Over the last couple of days, our family has discovered something new.  Our love of hiking and adventure....merged with technology and sort of 'treasure hunting'. If you are my friend in real life and already knew about geocaching, then WHY haven't you already told me about this?  If you know nothing about it, then I can't wait to tell you all about it.

More to come later......

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Stars Are Disappearing

  Did you know that that the stars are slowly disappearing from our view?  I didn't realize this until yesterday and frankly, I am quite bummed to learn this new bit of information.

  I was reading some travel information about the trip we are planning for next summer.  One of the activities that I would love, love, love to carry the boys to do is a moonlit hike through Bryce Canyon.  Hiking boots are required and flashlights aren't allowed.  It is led by a park ranger, nicknamed the "Dark Ranger", who points out constellations that are clearly visible in the Utah sky. I have read that doing this is spectacular and that if you will never forget it.  It seems like a magnificent experience.

  While reading about this, I learned that Bryce Canyon is known to still have a "dark sky", which makes for great star viewing.  I also learned that "dark skies" are now very uncommon.  We, as humans, depend on artificial lighting so much that our night skies are lit up all night long....artificially. All of the exterior house lights and street lights prevent anyone nearby from being able to see the stars clearly. The umbrella of light that is given off by big cities prevents residents for HUNDREDS of miles from seeing the stars.

The photo below shows the difference in the same night sky from a city area and a rural area.

  I learned that only about 20% of the United States can still view the Milky Way.  When I read this, the whole dissapearing of the stars became personal.  I thought back when I was a child and can clearly remember sitting out by the pond in my field and looking up at the Milky Way.  I remember my sister and I discussing that the Milky Way kind of looked like a cloud, instead of stars. 

  That's when I realized that I couldn't see it anymore. I can't see the Milky Way from the same field I viewed it from as a child. I hadn't thought about it at all in years.  I never thought about why I couldn't see it anymore.  It never even crossed my mind.  We have almost an entire generation of children who have never seen the Milky Way or viewed thousands and thousands of stars.

We are making our stars dissapear.

  That makes me sad.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I Can Eat All The Cake I Want....It's My Birthday!

  Before 7am, I had already been wished a Happy Birthday by six people and had enjoyed a sleepy Happy Birthday rendition over the phone by my sweet parents.....and I hadn't even left the house yet. 

  When I arrived at school, I was greeted with several birthday cards and some adorable happy birthday wishes from my kindergarten cuties.

  By 8:30, I had a my favorite cake delivered to my classroom that my Mom had made for me.  Mom and Daddy delivered it themselves to my classroom so that I could enjoy it anytime during the day that I wanted.  It was such a sweet surprise.

 At 10 am, I went to the lunchroom with my class and was rewarded by my precious coworkers with the dreamiest chocolate and caramel cake you could imagine.  I lapped it up for dessert and had to refrain from licking the plate. 

This homemade cake makes even a school lunchroom seem like a fine dining experience.

I somehow managed to ignore the chocolate cake from my Mom sitting on my desk in my classroom for most of the rest of the day.

Until about 2:00. 

My class had laid down on their mats for a quick rest time.  The lights were off.  Music was playing softly.  The cake was calling me like a siren singing her love song.

I cut into the cake and the chocolate oozed out of the center. 

For the second time in a day, I was eating a piece of chocolate cake. 

After my second chocolate fix, I was satisfied and high on sugar.

The boys and I headed home and tackled homework. 

With homework complete, the little boys decided they wanted to paint a picture for me for my birthday gift.

They set up the paints and got canvanses and started to create my birthday surprise.

They put a lot of thought and time into creating these paintings.  Saywer's painting is of "The Badlands", which is one of our favorite National Parks.  Carter painted a jungle, which he hopes to visit someday as a family.  They both wanted to paint something from nature, because they know how much I love it.

I sat in my favorite, overstuffed chair and admired their art.

  It was the perfect opportunity to prop my feet up and.....

Have some more cake.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

haPPy erLe Berth Day To Me!

On the eve of my 36th Birthday, I am already being showered with love.

Even Carter can see that my eyebrows are gnarly and that I have a bit of trouble making my hair look styled.

Although he overlooked my large, red prominent nose, I think his art depicts me pretty accurately.

I love that kid.

It's gonna be a great Berth Day!!

Beauty Found...Right in My Own State of Bama!

   I know that I have said it 80 Bazillion times, but there is nothing more delightful to me than enjoying an adventure in nature.  I am constantly in awe of the things God placed on our green and blue rock for our enjoyment.  There are sights on this earth that are truly breathtaking.  So often, our family loads up the boys and drives for miles and miles across other states to find such rare beauty. 

  But this adventure was just a hop, skip, and a jump away. On Sunday, we carried the boys to Cathedral Caverns, which is in Grant, Alabama.  It only took us about an hour to get there and we had such a wonderful time! 

As we were entering the cave, Sawyer grinned and said, "I'm so excited! I've never been in a cave before!" (He really has. We carried the boys to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. But apparently, it was so long ago that he doesn't remember.)

The photo above shows what 100% humidity looks like in the pitch dark with a flash to light up the droplets. 

Besides the amazing cave formations, the highlight of the cave tour was a moment in absolute darkness.  When we got to the farthest point in the cave, the guide asked our group if we would like to experience total darkness. 
If you have never experienced total darkenss, you should find a cave and do it.  At least once.
It was an unusual sensation.
Eerie maybe?

After our cave adventure, we picked up a trail map and drove to the trail head of a hike that we picked.  We chose one that was a mile and a half, because we were pressed for time.  Tucker had basketball practice, which was a total buzzkill to the whole afternoon.

We found the trailhead and started off on the path that was so creatively named....
 Blue Trail.

You can probably deduce the reasoning behind the name.

We walked about half a mile on Blue Trail enjoying the fall colors and the leaves carpeting the trail path.  We joked at how loud our feet were crunching the leaves and that we had absolutely no hope of seeing any form of wildlife because of our leaf crunching stomps.

We all tried....very tiptoe through the leaves without making noise.  This attempt just made us all erupt with laughter and be even louder.

The sign for Blue Trail indicated that we turn left through the woods.  We followed the signs which led us out onto the highway.  The remainder of the "hike" was basically just walking down the road.  Not an immersion into nature.  Not cool.

Some other highlights from this little hidden Alabama gem were.....

This little bridge.....

 Taking about 6 other photos before settling on this one because the other five made me look like I had double chins.  Bradley found the whole ordeal slightly amusing.  He thought the first snap was perfectly satisfactory.  (You gotta be a chick to understand.)

The boys exploring this little footpath while Bradley and I stood above them on a bridge......taking 6 photos of ourselves.

The massive opening of this cavern.  Holy Mackrell! 

 This view!

I know I sound like a commercial for Outdoor Alabama...or for Mother Nature....but seriously.....if you are sitting in front of the telelvison or computer all are missing the good stuff.