Signing Off

I’m going to surgically remove myself from the computer desk for the next few days (except to edit photos, because not editing photos would be ridiculous!) and spend some time with people in real life. You should do the same. Maybe I’ll see you there!

I hope your home fills up with joy and laughter, and may all your holiday dreams come true.

Merry Christmas

– Jennie

An Elf Apology

Looks like Timmy had a change of heart and decided to abandon his alliance with Loki. And just in time for Christmas…

An Elf ApologyYesterday I had the brief privilege of taking a few photos of Connor, our newest little Miller cousin. He’s super tiny and so precious, and have I told you how much I LOVE HOLDING BABIES? Gosh, I miss it so badly. I don’t miss toddlerhood or even those latter baby months, but I definitely miss newborn sweet baby goodness. There is nothing like it.


connor 3

connor 6We technically have two more days of school, according to the schedule I sketched out in August, but… raise your hand if you’re ready to be done.

Raise your hand

Timmy crossed over.

Something happened to Timmy. He’s gone rogue. One day he was being all cute and cheerful hiding in the homeschool room and then the next day he’d apparently teamed up with Loki. We’re not sure what they were doing, but the Avengers didn’t like it. When we got up Sunday morning, Timmy and Loki had been bound.


Avengers AssembleIt was quite alarming! We didn’t know Timmy had it in him! Loki is very persuasive, so when they somehow broke free by Monday morning, all the Avengers had been captured and trapped in a pitcher.

Timmy and Loki team upChuck and I are certain Timmy will return to his sweet Elf ways by Christmas, but based on this morning’s scene, I’m not so sure. This time, the Army caught him.

Telling Timmy a secretNaturally, Timmy’s predicament didn’t keep Jackson from whispering to him his Christmas wish list. I’m pretty sure I heard him say web shooter.

The Tree

I’ve been taking photos of the tree for a week now but haven’t been satisfied with most of them, mainly because until yesterday afternoon I didn’t have a tripod. But then Santa came early and brought me a tripod, and then I couldn’t stop myself.



It may look like the tree is leaning to the left, but no worries! Chuck nailed it to the wall.

Ten feet


Can I get an amen? This morning feels like I’ve got a toe on third base and I’m about to run to home. And I don’t even like baseball.

Last night, after a successful game of hide-and-seek, we finished up a Christmas cartoon we’d taped earlier this month. When the credits rolled I felt a little sad. It’s always like this. The Christmas season rushes in and we work to decorate our homes, shop for gifts and prepare to collapse on December 24th. Then it suddenly becomes a week away from Christmas Eve and you realize there isn’t much time left at all to just enjoy it. Both weekends between now and Christmas are busy – albeit with holiday stuff, but still – and then we’ll skate through Christmas too fast and be left with the post-Christmas blues.

And then you’re left staring at all the stuff you put up in your house and realize it’s going to take so much effort to take it all down.

Do you sense my poor attitude this morning? Yeah, me too. I’m working on it. More sleep would help. I’m also going to go hold a baby this afternoon, so that will SURELY help. Holding babies is super fun.

Fortunately, the boys are enjoying the heck out of their Christmas season. They’ve maintained a sweet excitement about it, which has helped me tremendously. Christmas really is so much more joyous with kids.

Timmy seems to be having fun, too.

Timmy in the china

Timmy playing dominosMerry Weekend to all of you. I hope you’re soaking in every second.

The Miller Family Christmas Tree

Rusty Griswold: Dad, this tree won’t fit in our back yard.
Clark: It’s not going in the yard, Russ. It’s going in the living room.
(courtesy of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation)

And so begins the chopping down of our Christmas tree.

First, a little background. We started going to Santa Land Christmas Tree Farm in 2005, when Jeremy was a toddler.

Santa Land 2005With a new addition to the family, we went back to Santa Land in 2006…

Santa Land 2006…and again in 2007.

Santa Land 2007Right before we moved to Texas in December 2008, we went to Santa Land and chopped down a tree to take with us.

Santa Land 2008We strapped it to the hood of the car being pulled by the moving truck. It lasted through an ice storm. Yes, it looked like a dead body.

Taking the 2008 tree to TexasIn 2009 we purchased a tree from a grocery store parking lot because there aren’t any Christmas tree farms in West Texas that we knew of. By 2010, we knew we were moving back to Tennessee, so all of our Christmas decorations were put in storage. When our house had not sold by December, I spent several weeks on do-it-yourself decorations in lieu of a Christmas tree. (Examples here, here, and here. Also here, here, and here.)

Last year, for our first Christmas back in Tennessee, we visited a local farm and went back to cutting down our own tree. It was a lovely tree, but we ended up wishing we’d just driven down to Santa Land.

So that’s what we did on our way back from Atlanta on Sunday.

Santa LandThis photo was not cropped at the top. The tree really is taller than the camera’s field of vision.

The Miller TreeIt hung a good three feet off the back of our car.

Ten feet

I cannot blame my husband entirely. That would be misleading. However, I will say that Clark, I mean, Chuck was very keen on getting a tall tree to suit his very tall den. The only problem is that even with a six-foot ladder I cannot reach the top. (Never mind the fact that I ran out of lights!) And my Christmas tree topper, that tiny Old St. Nicholas directly behind Jeremy’s head, is too small to fit the top branch.

Clark's tree

The good news is that I trust Salem will continue to steadily watch the tree on the off chance we’ve brought home a squirrel.

St. Nicholas Day

We all survived yesterday, which is a Christmas miracle. Most of the time, my boys are pretty incredible. Jeremy and Jackson are praised continually in public about their fabulous behavior, their manners and helpfulness. At home, it’s a different story, not just for them but for all of us. We tend to let our real personalities show in the place we feel most comfortable. It’s no different with kiddos. Fortunately, for the sake of their lives, both attitudes improved by evening and we were all able to enjoy a peaceful goodnight.

So, that brings us to St. Nicholas Day. We aren’t in the habit of celebrating saints, but it feels appropriate to recognize the life of the real St. Nick during the Christmas season. We read about him last night before bedtime and the boys placed their shoes on the front porch in anticipation of his “arrival.” They understand that this is just the fun part that piggy-backs the real story that occurred in the third century.

St. Nicholas Day

St. Nicholas “brought” the boys some pretty cool things! Too bad their mother isn’t smart enough to figure out the magic tricks.
St. Nicholas Gifts

The Christmas Season begins

We’re hitting all the angles this Christmas, from religious to silly, and we’re taking them all very seriously. We read scripture every morning in celebration of Advent, but only after the boys have searched the house for Timmy.

Timmy's spots

We also have an Advent house with 25 little doors, and inside each tiny compartment I slip a small piece of paper. Some mornings bring a piece of candy or a coupon for one-on-one time with Mom or Dad. Sometimes it’s just a reminder of how much they are loved, and other times it’s a special gift. For example, on the first day of Advent I gave the boys each a new Webkinz, which rocked their little socks off. To ensure the secrecy, I had to make SURE they wouldn’t open the December 1st door without us there.

Advent houseThough all of our interior and exterior decorations are up, we are still without a Christmas tree. Years ago we started the tradition of cutting down our own tree, which was suspended while we lived in Amarillo since there aren’t any tree farms in the area. Last year we found a local farm with good trees, but it didn’t measure up to the wonderful farm we used to visit while living in North Georgia. Rumor has it we might just take a little road trip.

In keeping (mostly) with the Four Gift Rule, my Christmas shopping is complete. I wrapped everything last week and ALL of the gifts fit in ONE Rubbermaid container. That has never happened before now and it actually makes me feel good that we’ve not overdone it.

The Sticky Nativity Situation

We’ve rolled Advent into our homeschool schedule, which I did last year so it’s not particularly new information for the boys. I don’t remember how detailed our lesson got last year but I certainly don’t remember being so uncomfortable about it. On Friday I read aloud scripture from both Matthew and Luke and then read the nativity story from a children’s Bible storybook to pull it together in kid language. The boys listened intently, and per usual, Jeremy interrupted a few times for clarity.

On all three accounts I glazed over the word “virgin.” Something in my throat prevented me from saying it, and then my jaw clenched and I fumbled over the word. I just wasn’t ready to say it and then explain it, which is exactly what would’ve happened because Jeremy picks up on every detail.

I also had trouble reading the parts about Joseph wanting to divorce Mary quietly, because obviously he thought she had been unfaithful and I certainly didn’t want to explain THAT to my kids either.

This is a bit of a dilemma because Mary’s marital and virginity status is essential to the story. Her role as the mother of Jesus is so important, but so is her supernatural conception of the child. But do I really need to say “virgin” to my nine year old? And if so, how to I explain it without starting sex ed in third grade?

I welcome your input because I really am asking for help. I feel like they are missing a big piece of the cosmic puzzle by glazing over the incarnation, but something in my Mommy bones just can’t say the words. When we were talking about Mary giving birth in a stable, Jeremy gestured to his stomach and nether regions to clarify (as I knew he would), “So she, you know, pushed the baby out with animals all around?”  My entire body cringed as my nine year old described childbirth.

This is what happens when your children are adopted and as a result they never see their mom pregnant!

I realize that this is what’s called “parenting out of fear” and that it’s not the best strategy. So, if you have kid language for explaining the virgin birth, please share it with me.

Meet Timmy

TimmyThis is our first year with an Elf on the Shelf, but I’m already loving it. We never taught the boys that Santa was real so the introduction of an elf was a little weird. Jackson has embraced him entirely, but that suits his personality of loving all things make-believe. (He even talks about Santa sometimes, which is curious…) Jeremy is above it because he is too mature for nonsensical things, but he’s happy to play along for the sake of little brother.

Salem thinks we’re completely ridiculous.

Happy Weekend to you, and may all your SEC dreams come true!

Thanksgiving 2012

If there is one thing my sister and I are grateful for it is our boys’ ability to interact with one another as if they see each other all the time and not just twice a year. They love each other so dearly despite the distance. There have never been reintroductions or urgings to play. As soon as these four are in the same room, they are off and running. And then there are major tears when it’s time to leave. As usual, Thanksgiving went  by too quickly.

Photos from the 2012 North vs. South game tomorrow!

Christmas is coming.

The week before last we drove to the redneck capitol of the world Gatlinburg to see the lights. They were lovely, though it was a little hard to discern actual Christmas lights from regular street signage.

We spent Thanksgiving in Chicago with family, during which I took more than 300 photos. (Look for those treasures throughout the week.) Yesterday, when we should’ve been resting and recouping, we put up outdoor Christmas lights. They look beautiful and tasteful, and I’m so thankful my own Clark Griswold wasn’t afraid to get on the roof.

We’ll tackle inside decorations as weeks go on, but for now, it’s time for school and that means I have go drag Jackson out of bed.

Happy Thanksgiving from us to you

I’m taking a few days off to cook, eat, laugh, and enjoy my family. But I hope you have a wonderful time of it in your home, doing the same things and being thankful for all that we’ve been unduly blessed with. Be good to one another and savor the time you have with those you love.

And for a Thanksgiving funny, this Anne Taintor treasure is dedicated to all the moms and grandmothers who will spend Wednesday evening and most of Thursday preparing food for your brood – some of whom may be too picky to survive the day.

Tough love, people. Tough love. ♥

Rethinking Christmas

It’s everywhere now that Halloween is over. Retailers pounce on the first of November ready to suck you into the “season of giving” and I have to physically restrain myself from joining in early. A few years ago Chuck made this crazy family rule about not putting up the Christmas tree until after Thanksgiving and because I choose my battles wisely I’ve not contested it. (Even though I totally disagree, Scrooge.)

Anyway, it’s been on my mind in recent years that my kids are getting too many gifts for Christmas. I know that sounds weird, and in comparison to other families and folks I know the amount of loot my boys get is noticeably less. Still, as they get older they ask for more things and Christmas becomes more about getting than giving. Thanks to the people of Target, who sent their Holiday Toy Catalogue to my house somehow, the boys are now obsessed over what might come their way on Christmas morning. I hear about it every day. They even flip through the catalogue while sitting on the toilet. No lie.

And then I saw this on Pinterest:

It’s almost like a challenge. How brilliant! When the boys were toddlers I attempted a three-gift rule (Jesus got three gifts so you get three gifts) but I failed miserably. I kept finding great deals or little things I knew they’d love to have, and that problem is no different today. Shopping for them is a blast! I’ve already found three or four things for both of them and tucked them away in my closet for Christmas. But now with this Four Gift Rule in mind, I’m reconsidering. Perhaps I’ll keep things tucked away for birthdays or special treats throughout the year, or maybe I’ll give these things away to other children on behalf of the boys. I’m not sure how it will play out but I’m trying hard to listen to the voice in my head telling me to scale it back.

Last year was the first year I made a bigger deal about Advent, which totally debunks Chuck’s argument that Christmas is a day and not a season, which is the foundation of his argument about no Christmas trees before Thanksgiving… But I digress. (I love you, babe!) Christmas is absolutely a season. It’s all about the preparation of our hearts and minds for the birth of Christ, but I’m afraid we’ve conditioned the boys to instead prepare their hearts and minds for the receiving of toys and video games. They might be disappointed this year when all of their hopes and dreams don’t come true under the Christmas tree, but I’m thinking this shift to a less-is-more holiday is necessary.

Remind me of this when I find a massive Lego sale or all the Avengers toys are half off.