Happy Holidays, from Kingdom Twindom and Shutterfly!

Shutterfly and I go way back. Waay back. Like, when-I-was-fifteen-and-wanted-a-group-picture-of-me-and-my-gang-blown-up-into-a-wall-poster–I-turned-to-Shutterfly way back. Even in the [gasp] ’90s, they did a great job. Don’t quote me, but I think it was Shutterfly who first adopted that little warning feature that tells you if your photo quality is appropriate for your photo size. I really, really depend on that feature!

I can’t believe I can’t find that poster, btw.

Then, in ’04, when it was time to order prints of my wedding renewal photos, Shutterfly made the photo book and all of the prints. Shutterfly made Papa Bear’s Father’s Day present this year, too. I’ve never been anything but thrilled with their results and their prices.

So, when the folks at Shutterfly asked if I’d like some freebie Christmas cards, and some to give away to you, I didn’t really have to think about it. YEESSS!

Well, I did have to think about the pictures for the card. Shutterfly offers an almost insane variety of pre-designed holiday cards…and all you have to do is drop in your photos and edit your text (it’ll tell you if your text is the right size for your card)! If you didn’t find anything you liked last year, look again. They have hundreds of new cards for 2011!

The cards vary to allow for anywhere from one to nine photos. I ran the kids outside and lucked out with a super cute shot, so I opted for a one-photo card.

I plan on sending this one out in time for Thanksgiving…as a Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year card.

Me, I just say “Happy Holidays”. Ha.

If you wanted to get more specific, you could search through their entire line of Thanksgiving cards.

Or, even if you’re feeling a little scroogish, you might want to go all out with birthday cards or thank-you-notes!

That’s why I’m thrilled to offer three (3!!) of my readers a promo code that’s instantly redeemable for 25 free cards (somewhere around a $50 value for each!).

Wanna win? I’m going to pick one reader (at random.org) from the blog comments, one reader from the Facebook comments and one from the tweets. For three chances, feel free to comment in all three places! What you comment is entirely up to you, just make sure to mention this contest in your tweets!

Go. And Happy Pre-Holidays, everybody!

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Before the Lights Went Out

We took these pictures…

Papa Bear had made a quick run to the store, so the movie was waiting to be played…the $1.99 Amazon rental, cause I think Enchanted just might be Papa Bear’s favorite movie.

The popcorn was popped and the chocolate was piping. My fingers were poised anxiously over my crumb ridden keyboard…I was combining work with pleasure, which is my usual thing. But in this case, the impromptu late afternoon movie was a ploy. I was desperate to finish a project, one I’d been working on [halfheartedly]for a few days. I’d already asked my client for an extension, and it seemed as if that would be cutting it close. I had about twelve hours to finish, but most of those hours were meant for sleeping.

It was snowing outside, so the popcorn, hot chocolate and blankets all seemed beautifully organic and unplanned. Of course, so did the pop, burr, snap of the power outage.

After the wailing and gnashing of teeth, the explaining to the two year old that the t.v. was temporarily broken as was everything else he wanted to do, and the inevitable finding of the candles, we redeemed the night with eleven chapters of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by candlelight. We heated chili on a propane stove and picked at cold bulgogi. Tiny Dancer announced that she’d been dreaming of just such a night for her long and entire life. That led to my five minute desire to become Amish. But I snapped myself out of it because I just couldn’t stop flipping the superfluous light switch upon entering the bathroom.

After carrying the last sleeping child (well, Papa Bear did that, my night vision is the stuff of legends…and not in a good way) to bed and covering them with extra blankets (cause no heat in a snow storm is no good), I turned on my laptop in an attempt to race the poor battery life and finish my project on time. Papa Bear sat on the couch while I typed away. We exchanged candlelight and LCD glow glances…power outages are really only good for one thing, and that wasn’t on the menu. Instead, when we heard the microwave beep, assuring us that someone was out there in the cold and darkness working hard to fix the problem, we cheered and clapped like the Facebook and Netflix junkies that we are.

Somewhere around midnight, still in darkness, Papa Bear went out to heat up the van. We both knew that I had about 40 minutes of battery life and two hours of work. Our AC adapter made the van my only source of electricity. Papa Bear headed to bed so he could wake up early and plow snow, and I stepped into my snow boots for my sad little trek to the van.

Lemme tell you, I can work really quickly in the cold, especially when I’m pretty sure that the boogie man men (namely, one of the two men that I live with) are going to pop up outside my frozen windows at any moment. I finished in record time, and with a freshly charged battery, I trudged back inside to proof my work and head to bed.

The moral of the story? Oh, you already know it. Never put off til tomorrow what you can do today in a snowstorm.

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In Response to Praise

I’ve considered myself a quasi-serious blogger for about three years, now. I still haven’t learned how to translate those fantastic posts, that I compose in excited eloquence while spreading peanut butter on bread, into a form you can all read and enjoy, though. I still haven’t figured out how to make a living (full or part-time) at this blogging thing. I still haven’t spent one danged day caught up on my e-mail.

But, apparently, I’ve become a master at convincing my readers that I’m some kind of Betty Crocker (if Betty Crocker were a saint). Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing like a thin layer of false humility spread on very dry toast, and the things I write here are true. I do believe that motherhood is changing me for the better. And I do believe in serving my family with abandon and forgiving with the same grace I seek from my Father. It’s just that I’m so far from my own ideals that I’d be embarrassed to run into you at the grocery store, some days. Like two days ago, for example, when I dragged/carried/coerced/bribed Baby Bear through every isle while he yelled, “I’m not on your team!”

I’ve never had a two year old quite like this one.

Like this morning, in my bedroom/school room*, when I growled and fell rather violently against my bed because Cuddle Bug, when given three options, decided that twenty-eight should come immediately before eighty-two.

*which hasn’t been this clean since this picture was taken

My reaction made her cry. Which made me cry. We spent the rest of the morning using towels to sop up the floor. 

Actually, that’s a lie. We didn’t flood the floor with our tears. Baby Bear flooded the floor by climbing up on the washer and pulling the drain hose out of the drain. I didn’t notice, because I was busy worrying about the possible concussion he sustained whilst falling off said washing machine.

My home is crazy…crazy loud. We laugh and we dance and we act out the Little Bunny Foo-Foo song. But we also fight, and yell...and sometimes we have to yell just to be heard above the madness.

Like today, actually, when Tiny Dancer hit her head while jumping off her bunk bed. I pretended not to give a whiff because I’d told her not to jump. But I was forced to go in and at least check on her due to completely unwarranted “Call the ambulance!” style screeching.

I don’t mean to hide these normalcies when I blog. I guess they just don’t seem all that interesting to me (being such a common occurrence and all). I want to inspire you, but I would never want to deceive you.

Know that I love Jesus.

Know that I love my family.

But please know that I’m not a person to look up to, unless, by some happy coincidence, my looking upward is inspiring to you.

And, if that’s the case, let’s keep looking upward together!

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Aspens as Sermon Illustration

This morning, our pastor described the local Body of Christ as a grove of aspens. After the service, Papa Bear suggested that we drive around for a bit.

Aspens are not individual trees, so much. Aspen communities share the same root system.

What affects one of them, affects all of them. But they are rarely not strong enough to survive it…even to thrive.

Scars and all.

Aspens must have sunlight to flourish. Full sun. They dislike shade. They never reach much to the left or the right. They’re all about height. Aspens reach for the sun.

They are the first things to regrow after a forest fire.
The fire lets in more light.
And, after all, they were never really destroyed. Their source of life lies deep under the burnt surface.

Aspen groves grow thick to provide shelter for the weak and preyed upon.

And when their leaves have fallen and the grass is covered with snow, their bark provides food for those they harbor.

I haven’t been part of communities that fully fit this description. But I’ve been lucky enough to come close. And I don’t know about you, but I think it’s inspiring (and breathtaking) to know what God had in mind.

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Papa Bear’s Rancher’ Pie

One of Papa Bear’s favorite meals is a beef shepherd’s pie (rancher’s pie). Right above that on the list is probably brisket, and up there with them is beef pot pie.

This is a combination of the three, and it all came about because I said, “I had a dream that I made a shepherd’s pie with a crust,” and his eyes lit up like Christmas morning. And then I found half a brisket in the freezer (cause, when I buy a brisket, I usually cook half and freeze the rest).

I cooked the brisket on low heat, overnight, like I usually do (just salt and pepper to season). We picked off the brisket a little throughout the day, and then I chopped up the rest and simmered the pieces (and carrots, onion and garlic) in brown gravy. I allowed to meat to simmer for about an hour while I peeled, cut, boiled and mashed seven potatoes.

I covered the baking pan in a simple pie crust, pricked it thoroughly and baked it slightly at 375 degrees and then filled it with the meat and veggie filling. I topped the entire dish with mashed potatoes (with butter, salt, pepper, milk and a cup of grated cheese), and baked the pie for 30 minutes at 375 degrees (and then broiled to brown).

Might I suggest a salad on the side?
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