Category Archives: December

New Year’s Resolutions and and update on “Brian”

UPDATE: As many of you saw on social media, Caitlin LOVED the enormous Yeti bear! She has named him Brian much to my chagrin. I’ve never minded the name Brian, per say, but when my daughter tells me she’s going to “sleep on Brian tonight” it kinda wigs me out. She’ll understand in a few years so for now I keep my opinions to myself and let her sweet innocence prevail. She is so proud of this bear and anyone that has come into our home has had to go up to her room to see it for themselves. She and her friends spend hours in her room playing with him. “How do you play with a stuffed animal that big?” Well, from what I hear downstairs it sounds a lot like running and jumping on him. We’ll see how long he lasts. He takes up about half of her room so I’m wondering when the novelty of Brian will wear off. Hopefully not until college seeing that it took Caitlin, Kyle, and 4 of her friends to get him upstairs. I wished I had snapped a pic of THAT! If Ross Gellar were there, he would’ve been yelling, “PIVOT! PIVOT! PIVOT!” All in all, I think this will go down as her favorite Christmas ever. (The video of Caitlin seeing “Brian” on Christmas morning is at the bottom of this post in case you missed it on social media.)

Ok, moving on to the matter at hand.

New Year’s Resolutions.

Are you the kind of person that makes them every year? Or do you skip it so as not to feel bad about not keeping them by the end of January?

I used to never make resolutions but I’d say in the last 5 years or so, I’ve consistently made resolutions every year. Maybe “resolutions” isn’t the right word; I make goals at the beginning of the year. I think this is partly due to my husband. When Kyle got into sales many moons ago, he would make goals at the beginning of the year for work. Then it kind of turned into making personal goals also. Then he sold me on the idea that it’s important to write down your goals because it offers more accountability and you’re more likely to meet them, yada, yada, yada. He’s a brilliant sales guy.

My goals for 2016 were to publish 2 books and floss every day. I met one of those and the other, well, it lasted until March. And I just heard a couple of months ago on the news that some dentists came out and said flossing doesn’t really matter. I highly doubt the validity of that but it makes me feel better about not flossing.

I remember one year writing like 2 pages worth of resolutions/goals in my journal. Bless. I had personal goals, writing goals, parenting goals, marriage goals, financial goals, and the list went on and on. And many of them started with “Every day I will ________________.” This is failure waiting to happen. The only thing I can actually guarantee I will do every day is eat, sleep, and breathe.

This year I’m keeping it simple. My goals this year are short and sweet. They are fairly trivial in nature and one of them even has a time cap. Drum roll please…

  1. Use only my iPhone calendar and get rid of the paper calendar.
  2. Write more consistently (2 blog posts a week)
  3. No social media for the month of January.

That’s it. And I will tell you the first one will be the hardest for me. I adore a paper calendar! I like to see my whole month laid out because the more I see it; the more likely I am to remember it. Alas, I’m making more appointments on the go and it would be easier if all my junk were in one place. So for any of you planning anything with me that requires me to show up, I would be so appreciative of some grace if I forget. Changing systems is HARD. It’s like re-training my brain and this old brain isn’t good with new tricks.

As for #2, writing more consistently helps my writing to become better and generates more ideas, so setting a goal to do it more seems like a no-brainer.

And the “no social media in January” is for my mental health. I need a few less voices in my head so I can hear my own. And since I won’t be on social media, I won’t be posting as much about when I have something new on the blog. If you want to get my blog posts sent straight to your email so you don’t miss any, just sign up here! A good way to contact me in January (and all the time) would be via email: courtneypallen216@gmail.com. Would love to hear from you guys!

2017 is gonna be a stellar year. I can feel it in my bones!

As promised, here’s the video!

-Courtney

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter!
Follow me on Instagram: @thecpallen
Can’t get enough? Click here I’ll send these straight to your inbox!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Christmas, I love you but I quit.

img_6072

I want to quit Christmas. Does anyone else feel me on this? I’m so done and over Christmas shenanigans and I haven’t even started the baking yet. Maybe I should’ve baked first so the sugar could take me to my happy place then I would not be over all this Christmas.

Believe me when I tell you, I’m no Scrooge about Christmas. I adore Christmas. I love the lights, the music, the decorations, the baking, the gift-giving, ALL OF IT. I love it. Maybe my mood has to do with trying to sell a book at the craziest time of the year (The month of May runs a close second), or that we’re doing some home renovations, or that my kids still want to eat everyday and have clean clothes and do activities and need help with doing life because they are only children for goodness’ sake! I’m over 2015 and am ready to tap out. Anybody with me?

All the aforementioned things may be factors in my current attitude, but I think the truth is I’ve become a victim of the world’s view of Christmas. I’ve bought into the idea that even though you have a lot going on in your regular life, you need to make sure you buy all the presents, make all the goodies, attend all the parties, decorate all the rooms, do all the Advent calendars, watch all the Christmas movies, and make all the memories with your kids…ALL WHILE REMEMBERING THAT “JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON.”

For goodness sake.

I cannot.

Gosh we’re good at adding unnecessary things to our plate, aren’t we? I love baking at Christmas. And I love watching Christmas movies. I love having a Christmas tree in my living room because it just makes it feel magical. But somehow it has turned into, “I’ve got to go to 20 different places and 30 different websites to get everyone’s presents! I have to get on the baking because the kids are almost out for Christmas break and I ALWAYS bake something for the teachers! The kids will be crushed if I miss their “holiday” parties; I have to go! I have to get all my Christmas decorations up so I can tell people I have all my Christmas decorations up! I’ve got to get the red nose and antlers on my car so people will know I’m pretending my car is a reindeer…oh wait… no, I don’t EVER need to do this. I need to find the perfect outfit for the Christmas parties I’m going to! I’ve got to get the kids to the mall to see Santa and get their picture made! Shoot, we forgot to read our Advent calendar, now we need to read 6 to catch up! Then I’ve got to remember to post everything I’ve done with my kids during the Christmas season so people can “ooh and aah” over what an amazing mom I am! Don’t forget!!”

YA’LL.

THIS IS LUDICROUS.

No wonder I’m tired. Did you read how many “I”s are in that last paragraph? 17 . Whew, I’m beat and I haven’t even done all those things.

I’ve made Christmas into something it’s not. I’ve made it about me and what I’m doing to make it perfect and magical. Bless my heart.

The most important, perfect, magical thing I should be doing this Christmas season is taking the time to worship the God who gave us His Son. That’s it. Why is that so hard for me to remember?

Christmas is our call to worship. That’s what the angels and shepherds were doing the night Jesus was born. That was the reason the wise men loaded up their stuff and made the trek to meet Jesus. To miss the opportunity to worship is to miss Christmas. And I think that’s why my soul is weary and I feel such unrest. I’ve been giving my worship (time, attention, efforts) to things that are life-sucking rather than life-giving. I need to find my way back to the manger. I need to sit in awe of the gift God gave to me, and the rest of the world, so long ago. My soul is never more rested than after time spent with God. So today I’m pumping the brakes on commercial Christmas. I’m going to go curl up in my favorite chair and pour over the words in Luke 2. I’m going back to the manger. Who’s with me?

-Courtney

Want a copy of my new Christmas book The Forgotten Ornament? Go on up to the Purchase tab at the top of the page and get you one!!

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter!
Follow me on Instagram: @thecpallen
Can’t get enough? Click here I’ll send these straight to your inbox!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

The One Thing I Want To Do In 2016

“I never knew how strong I was until I had to forgive someone who wasn’t sorry, and accept an apology I never received.”

I’m not sure if @pastorralexander actually came up with this or got it from someone else but it sums up in one sentence what would’ve taken me a thousand words to write. My brother showed me this quote the other day, not knowing that I had been writing about this very thing in my journal. It articulates everything I’d been trying to put into words the last month or so.

While we’re reminiscing over 2015 and thinking of goals/resolutions for 2016, this one’s mine: forgiveness. That’s my number one goal for 2016. Just like the quote says, the person I need to forgive isn’t sorry nor will I receive an apology from them. And that in itself is what makes forgiveness far more difficult. I want this person to be sorry. I want this person to want my forgiveness. They don’t. So what am I supposed to do with that? Why is it necessary that I forgive if the other person doesn’t feel they need it?

I’ll tell you exactly why it’s necessary: forgiveness will set me free. If I can choose to forgive then anger and hurt won’t control me anymore. I will hopefully be able to move on. There will be scars from the relationship but they won’t be open wounds anymore. Forgiveness will help me heal.

This might be the hardest act of love God has called me to do. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Forgiven people forgive people” like that’s some easy task. Then I remember what Christ went through to forgive me. He absorbed all the sin and darkness of the world into Himself then hung naked on a cross for hours before His soul was released to His Heavenly Father. This isn’t even telling of the brutality He went through on His way to the cross. Forgiveness isn’t easy. Forgiveness is like love; it’s a choice and sometimes, it’s a hard choice. It is an act that is performed in contradiction to how I’m feeling. In Romans 5:8 the Word says, “-but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He died for us before He received an apology. He died for us when we weren’t sorry. He didn’t hold forgiveness in his fist waiting for us to earn it. He just gave it because that’s what God does. He doesn’t wait for us to come around; He opens His hands to offer us grace we don’t deserve nor do we earn.

So this year, I’m going to try to choose the hard thing every day. I’m going to choose to rise above my feelings. I’m going to ask God to take captive my angry thoughts. I’m going to try. Then when I’m weary from trying I’m going to have to go before the Lord and tell Him I can’t do this on my own and I need His strength to do it for me. I know there’s peace on the other side of forgiveness because I’ve experienced it before when I first believed in Jesus. 2016 may look a lot like God prying open my hands to share the gifts He’s graciously given to me.

I’ve got a lot of learning to do in 2016. What do you want God to teach you in the New Year?

-Courtney

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter!
Follow me on Instagram: @cpallen216
Can’t get enough? Click here and I’ll send these straight to your inbox!

Tagged , , , , , ,

Draw Near

It’s taken me all day to write this post. I know I need to finish it but in order to do that I have to go somewhere I don’t want to go. I have to allow myself to sink into the dark place. I’d rather go on about my day and not think about it or pretend hard things don’t happen. It’s so much easier to write light and silly stories. They make me feel good and I hope they make you laugh even if it is at my expense. But several of you have told me you like this blog because it’s honest and real. The honest reality is that life on this side of heaven can be brutal.

There is a family in my community that just lost their 2 year old son. I don’t know them personally but we have mutual friends. The cause of his death was an accident that could’ve happened to anyone and he was gone in less than 2 days. It makes me sick to even think about it. I don’t even want to write about it. It’s too hard. It shakes around everything I believe and leaves me wondering. How does God choose our story? Why do some people get seemingly good ones and other people get tragic ones? What is He doing? Is He really good after all? I hate that when horrific events occur I hurl these questions at God as hard and as fast as I can. Faith is so much easier to explain when everything’s great. Ask me what I think about God when my kids are healthy, my marriage is good, and I’ve got money in the bank. But that’s not faith at all, is it?

This family has been so heavy on my heart this week I can barely give them a thought and the tears come. We’re not supposed to lose our children. Children are the light of our lives so it’s to be expected that when they are taken from us all we’re left with is darkness. I can’t imagine this kind of darkness. It’s unfathomable.

So many people are praying for the Heard family and I am among them. People are praying for all the things you pray for like strength, comfort, rest, peace, etc. and these are all amazing things that God says He offers us. I’ve even prayed those things for them too. But the more I let myself go to the dark place, the more my prayer for them has changed. I find myself praying 2 words: Draw near. The Word says God is close to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18) and I believe that’s true. I imagine it something like this:

Sitting in a dark closet, alone, completely devoid of light. Then God crawls under the door. Draw near. He doesn’t burst in because the light would be too blinding. He doesn’t want to hurt their eyes so He comes into their darkness. Draw near. He sits next to them in silence, just listening to them breath. Knowing this is all they’re capable of doing but it means they’re alive. Draw near. This may go on for a long time. Even if they don’t acknowledge Him, they find comfort knowing that He’s there. Draw near. Then at just the right moment, He lights a match. It’s a small flame, not too bright. They are finally able to see what’s around them. They’re finally able to see the door to leave the dark place. Draw near. They can choose to stay or they can choose to go, either way He’s with them.

 

I pray God is in the darkness with this family who’s endured so much loss. I pray He is cozied up next to them, listening to them breath. And I’m praying that in His time He will light a match so they can find their way out. I have no answers for this kind of tragedy. Many times I can sum up obscene heartbreak because it is the result of sin in our world. But this didn’t happen because of sin. It was an innocent accident. I can’t wrap this one up with a bow. I can’t tie up the loose ends. I’m only left to pray and trust His plan is bigger than my understanding. Some might say that sounds naïve. I say what else do I have? Faith in God is the only hope I’ve got in this world so I might as well cling to it with my everything.

If you have a minute, would you mind praying for the Heard family? They are dear to so many and their loss has affected more people than they know. Thank you in advance for going before the Lord on their behalf.

-Courtney

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter!
Follow me on Instagram: @cpallen216
Can’t get enough? Click here and I’ll send these straight to your inbox!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

A Little Christmas Note to Self

Dear 29 year old self,

It’s Christmas Eve. You are about to set out the presents from Santa for your precious little children. It’s the most exciting part of Christmas Eve. You can feel the anticipation building as you wait for the kids to fall asleep. You need them to fall asleep so you can start assembling the Cozy Coupe for little Blake. He’s only 1 but you’re sure he’s going to love it. Kyle is putting together Caitlin’s new bike which actually proves to be easier than the Cozy Coupe, much to your irritation.

It’s at this moment that, me, your 35 year old self, needs to interject. You have no idea but in just a few moments you are going to feel like the worst mother in the world. You are going to feel like a failure. You are going to say the F word. I know it’s shocking because you can’t even imagine what could go so terribly wrong that you would go from joyful excitement to utter devastation. It’s about to happen just try to calm yourself and keep perspective. You won’t but I thought I’d mention it anyway.

As Kyle begins to bring presents down and set them up, he says solemnly, “Court, um, you bought the Guitar Hero that goes to a PlayStation, not the Wii. It’s the wrong one.” WHAT?!?!?!?! That can’t be right! I checked! I was certain I had bought the right one! I looked at it and sure enough, it was the one for the PlayStation. I felt like I might be having a panic attack. This was the ONE thing Paxton really wanted. His ONE big present and I had screwed it up. I’m pretty sure this is when I said more cuss words than I had ever said in my entire life. I’m not proud of it, Mom, but it happened. Kyle went straight into fix-it mode. He was going to go to Walmart and get the right one. It was 11:30 at night. On Christmas Eve. Apparently even Walmart closes at some point during the holidays so that wouldn’t work. He then had the brilliant idea to call his brother, the gamer, who happened to be at his parents’ house in Murfreesboro to see if he had his guitar from his own Guitar Hero game. By some Christmas miracle, he does. (Don’t worry, Jordan, I won’t tell them how old you are J)

This is another moment I, your future self, need to pop in. Precious 29 year old self, it is all going to be ok. Don’t make Kyle drive in the pouring rain to meet his brother. I know you feel like a complete and total failure because you got the wrong thing but, for the love, you are not a gamer! You know Super Mario Brothers and that’s it. You can take down Bowser but other than that you know nothing. Cut yourself some slack here. He’s only 6 and he has plenty of other presents to play with. I know, I know, it’s the big one that you messed up but I’m here to tell you he won’t even care.

When Kyle asks you what you want him to do, you hiss at him, “Do whatever you need to do to make sure Paxton is going to be happy when he gets up tomorrow.” Wow. Strong words. You’re practically seething. So Kyle leaves to meet his brother while you wallow in self-disgust. When Kyle gets home, you decided to leave a note for Paxton from Santa saying he ran out of Guitar Heroes for the Wii so he brought Uncle Jordan’s to play with until his parents bought him the right one. It’s unbelievable the tales we tell for Santa.

IMG_2883

Christmas morning comes and the kids are stoked. They run downstairs to see what Santa has brought and squeal with delight over their new toys. (Actually, my children did not squeal with delight. Our expectation of their reaction on Christmas morning always far surpasses what we get from them. They’re happy, they just don’t squeal or yell or run around the house in excitement. Just once I wish that would happen.) Paxton is excited about his gifts and he doesn’t care that he has to borrow Uncle Jordan’s guitar. He was actually more excited about the silly bands in his stocking. Seriously.

IMG_2886

(I need not even mention the tube TV sitting on a chair. These were hard times.)

Ahem, 35 year old self here. See? Paxton loved it anyway. He didn’t even care that he got the wrong one and had to use his uncle’s. But here’s the kicker, you don’t know this yet but he will barely even play with Jordan’s guitar. It’s just not as awesome as he thought it would be. So much so that you end up returning the wrong Guitar Hero and not even buying the correct replacement. And get this: Paxton doesn’t care. If he had asked for the new one of course you would’ve gotten it, but he doesn’t. He lost interest after day 2 or 3. All that self-loathing for nothing. If you could just learn to have a little grace for yourself you wouldn’t waste so much energy being disappointed with yourself when you mess things up. Perfection is for Jesus, grace is for you. Until next time younger self…

 

Much love,

Your older and wiser self

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter!
Follow me on Instagram: @cpallen216
Can’t get enough? Click here and I’ll send these straight to your inbox!

Tagged , , , , , ,

Secret’s Out

IMG_4405-3

I had to write this down last year because I knew I wanted to wait and share it this Christmas season. It was just too good. And too bad. It was all the wonderful awkwardness wrapped up in one conversation. Feel free to laugh at my expense. It’s okay, I’m a big girl.

No, I don’t want to forget what happened a few days after Christmas in 2014. It was a tragedy. A loss of innocence. At Christmas time in 2014, all my kids were believers in Santa Claus, to my knowledge. My oldest might’ve been playing us for fools but he never admittedly denied Santa’s existence. The younger two were all in. My daughter wrote no less than 5 letters to Santa that year, couriered by our elf, Henry, every time. She even had this to say to me about it.

C: “Mom, you know how I KNOW Santa’s real?”

Me: “How, honey?”

C: “You and Daddy would never get me that many presents.”

Me: Sigh. (feeling like a mean/good parent)

So a few days after Christmas, I’m getting my clothes on in my room and Caitlin walks in. She says, “Mom, what’s this?” She held out Kyle’s phone and on it I saw a picture of the parts to the basketball goal “Santa” brought. I had posted a picture of it on Instagram on Christmas Eve telling Santa he had his work cut out for him. Why do I always try to be so dang jokey?! So after I posted the picture, I deleted it off my phone because I DIDN’T WANT THE KIDS TO SEE IT.

Curses you iPhone with your Photo Sharing! Kyle would’ve had to delete it off his photo stream for it to be off both our devices. Curses!

There I am, frozen, not knowing what to do or tell my sweet, innocent daughter. So I did what any good parent would do. I turned the question back on her. I say, “Well, what do you think it’s a picture of?” So smooth.

“I think it’s a picture of the basketball goal we got for Christmas but Santa said he brought it. I asked Paxton and he said Dad put it together. So which is it?”

Craaaaaaap. She’s quicker and smarter than I give her credit for. Why couldn’t this have been Blake. Sweet Blake would’ve believed anything I told him. And Paxton? What the heck, dude? Why you gotta sell out Mom and Dad like that? PS when exactly did you quit believing in Santa? This would have been a vital tidbit of information to know. Being the good parent I am, I chose to, again, put the ball in her court. “Well, what do YOU think?” Like butter, I’m so smooth.

She looked at me with those big blue eyes and said, “I don’t know…that’s why I’m asking you.” My precious Caitlin, if only you had a better mother. A mother that had read one of the 537 ways to tell your kids about Santa. They’ve only been posted on Facebook and Pinterest a gazillion times. Better yet, I could’ve been a mother that came up with a clever/gentle way to break the news to her daughter that her parents have lied to her for her entire existence about the man in the red suit. If only.

As her beautiful eyes stared at me, seemingly burning a hole into my heart, I knew the jig was up. So with my head hung low and slumped shoulders, I just told her, “No, Santa’s not real.” Then I went into some blubbering about how there used to be a St. Nicholas and the spirit of giving and blah, blah, blah. The sad part was she knew more about the story of St. Nicholas than I did. I’m the most wretched mother in the universe.

C: “So you and Daddy give us those presents?”

Me: “Yes.” (shame,guilt,shame,guilt)

C: “Well then…who ate the cookies for Santa?”

Me: “Me.” (shame,guilt,fat,shame,guilt)

C: “What about the carrots?”

Me: “That was me too.” (So that was a bit of a fib. See, the carrots had been sitting out for a while so they got tossed in the trash. I just didn’t have it in me to break her little heart into more pieces.)

C: “What about Henry?”

(This was the nail in the coffin. You have to know that Caitlin and Blake were insistent on searching for Henry the Elf the minute they got out of bed in the morning. Caitlin wrote notes to the Elf, asking if he had a family and friends. Bless.)

Me: “No, honey, Henry’s not real. Me and Dad were the ones that moved him around at night. Why do you think there were some days he was in the same place as the day before? We forgot to move him.” It’s not like her opinion of me could get any lower so I just went ahead and ripped that bandaid off. Why oh why did God entrust these little people to me? I’m the worst.

As I’m sitting there with her wanting God to strike me with lightning before my daughter turns into a puddle of tears, Caitlin looks at me with a twinkle in her eye and asks, “Do the boys know?” That’s when it dawned on me. I had a shot at redemption. I had clearly underestimated her love of knowing things her brothers don’t know. I had found my angle. So I looked very seriously into her eyes and said, “No, your brothers don’t know. Only you. So this is a very BIG secret and a very SPECIAL secret. You have to promise not to tell them.” That child was beaming. “Ok, Mom, I can keep a secret.”

Then she went on her merry way. She now gives me little looks every time anyone mentions Santa. The girl loves keeping a secret from her brothers. I’m just glad she wasn’t completely heartbroken and mad about her parents lying to her for the last 8 years. She doesn’t seem bothered by it at all. I’m sure it’s one of those things that will come out later in counseling. Maybe I should go ahead and put my kids’ future counselors on my prayer list.

Update for 2015: Caitlin now hazes me about Henry the Elf’s hiding places. She passive aggressively comments on how “easy” he is to find then gives me a little look. Such a gem that Caitlin. I wouldn’t trade her for anything. She’s constantly keeping me on my toes.

Any of you have any funny Santa stories? If so, please share in the Comments section!

-Courtney

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter!
Follow me on Instagram: @cpallen216
Can’t get enough? Click here and I’ll send these straight to your inbox!

Tagged , , , , ,

The Calm Before the Chaos

December 1. It’s here. The first day of the last month of the year. The day you realize you haven’t done one bit of Christmas shopping and now Christmas is in a little over 3 weeks. The day you feel like you need to get on the Christmas decorating or it will be too late and you won’t want to fool with it because it’s so much trouble to get everything out. The day you remember you are supposed to start some sort of Advent calendar with your kids but you forgot to buy one so you’re going to be behind. The day you have to get out that wretched Elf and start remembering to move him every night. The day anxiety sets in.

Let’s just take a breath, shall we?

How are we going to find rest in December? Between the baking and the decorating and the shopping and the parties and the things we do all month long so our children will have beautiful Norman Rockwell memories of Christmas…I’m getting overwhelmed just thinking about it. And let’s not even start on how social media will attempt to make us feel inadequate all season long. People posting pictures of beautifully decorated trees and perfectly wrapped packages. The posts of cute Christmas cookies that the children “helped” make. Let’s be honest, the only thing they let the kids help with is maybe going to get the ingredients. Then there’s Pinterest Elf. I hate him the most. All of his little adventures every night that will be sure to make it to Facebook and Instagram make me want to go crawl in a hole because it’s the third day in a row that I’ve forgotten to move our Elf. Our Elf’s biggest adventure is making it to a different room.

There’s got to be a way to find more rest this season.

Then I remember the source to all of my rest throughout the year: Time with my Heavenly Father. I’ve decided this month, December, I’m going to make time for rest. Rest for me isn’t going to look like physical rest. No, I’ll be getting up in the wee hours to find it. Something about being up while darkness rules the sky and my house is still quiets my soul. When I go to the Lord before I start thinking about my to-do list I’m able to give Him my most pure thoughts and needs. I’m able to focus in a way I can’t when my family wakes up. I’m able to find rest for my soul. I encourage you to make time for rest this Christmas season. I’m going to get up early but maybe that’s not your thing and you like to stay up late after everyone’s gone to bed. Or maybe you lock yourself in the bathroom while your kids are watching a show. Whenever and wherever doesn’t matter, it just matters that you find the time. Christmas is crazy because we’ve made it into a big production. I’m all for Christmas. I love all the decorations and music and lights but let’s be honest, a baby being born in a barn with smelly animals is about as bare bones as it gets.

Take some time to make much of Jesus.

Reminisce on the hope we have because of what He did for us.

Meditate on His sovereignty and calm in the midst of the storm.

Remember His kindness that draws us in.

Sit under the weight of His love and forgiveness.

Rest.

 

When will you make time to rest this December?

-Courtney

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter!
Follow me on Instagram: @cpallen216
Can’t get enough? Click here and I’ll send these straight to your inbox!

Tagged , , , ,

Christmas through my iPhone

So Christmas happened. And today I’m looking around to the pit that used to be my home thinking, “I’ve got to get it together and put Christmas away.” Instead, I’m writing a post about our Christmas because that’s far less daunting than cleaning up and putting away Christmas decorations. And because they say pictures are worth a thousand words, there will be many pictures. Consider these snapshots, if you will, into our last week and a half. Let’s get started…

IMG_3140

With this much candy in my purse, it’s obvious we went to the movies. I know, I should be ashamed of myself for sneaking candy into the movies. I know I’ve let many of you down. Sigh. Ok, enough of the shaming. We went to see “Annie” and it was such a cute movie! Highly recommend.

Next let’s move on to the baking…

IMG_3149

Rolling out the dough.

I’m not going to lie and tell you it’s always magical when my kids help me bake in the kitchen, but when it comes to Christmas cookies, I do kinda love it. I think it’s because several years ago I relinquished control of what the finished product would look like.

IMG_3143

Decorating.

I had hopes of Martha Stewart-esque Christmas cookies where the gingerbread men actually had faces and candy cane cookies had red and white stripes. Ah, a girl can dream. And unless your child has mad cookie decorating skills and is super OCD, you’re cookies will not look like something out of a magazine. They may look more like ours…big globs of icing with enormous amounts of sprinkles with a cookie hidden somewhere underneath. But guys, these cookies are AMAZING. They melt in your mouth. Well, as long as you don’t choke on the sprinkles. But the soft cookie with powdered sugar icing? Divine. (My secret: add a little almond extract to the icing. Trust me. It’s perfection.) What I loved about cookie making this year is that it was the first year my daughter could pretty much do it on her own. She’s been watching me do it for so long I didn’t even have to give her much instruction. When I said to her, “Man, it’s like you don’t even need me to help you anymore.” Her response? “Yeah, we pretty much don’t.” Always so sweet with her words that one. It did sting a little when she said that but it also made me realize she’s big enough to do things. I don’t have to hover so much. She may not do it exactly like me but she’s doing it. She’s learning. She’s going to do great things. Yes, I got all that from watching her make cookies. I may be a tad sentimental and not thinking clearly but never mind that.

Then after the cookies were made and iced and sprinkled,

I saw this…

IMG_3142

Wowza. 2007?!?!?!?! In case you’re playing catch up, my food coloring has been expired for 7 1/2 years. That’s longer than Blake’s been alive. A good mother probably would have thrown away the cookies and gone to the store to buy new food coloring and made the Christmas cookies all over again. I’m no such mother. And let’s be honest, I’m sure good mothers only use all natural food coloring without the fake dyes that are sold at Whole Foods for a cool $15 per color. Again, I’m no such mother. My kids have ingested this dye for the past 8 or so years and they’re mostly normal. I think it’s fine. Or at least, that’s what I like to tell myself. Moving on…

IMG_3145

And this is what my kitchen looked like for most of the Christmas season. No really. I’m still finding sprinkles in the crevices of the bar stools.

IMG_3146

No break from school is complete without a trip to Chick-Fil-A. Who am I kidding? No week is complete without a trip to Chick-Fil-A.

IMG_3147

Go to your room…

Then there was that moment when all the kids got sent to their room to “think about what Christmas is all about” because they wouldn’t stop fighting with each other. That was a blessed 30 minutes.

IMG_3150

Blake needed a few naps. Kindergarten is hard ya’ll so he needed to catch up on some serious ZZZZ’s.

IMG_3177IMG_3178IMG_3174

Rain, Rain Go Away…

There was roller skating with cousins on a rainy day….there were lots of rainy days this Christmas. I hope this gives you more insight into why my house is a pit. Kids were in it. all. the. time. Ok, I’m lying. It would be a pit regardless but kids didn’t help the situation.

IMG_3154

Then there was that time that all the kids looked and smiled for the camera before going to church on Christmas Eve. It truly was a Christmas miracle!

IMG_3190

So this was the situation after the kids went to bed on Christmas Eve. When I walked into our playroom and saw this, all I could think was “Oh boy, we might be up all night.” It was another Christmas miracle that our children didn’t wake up from the clanging poles and accidental curses. So many curses on Christmas Eve. It happens every year. Unfortunately, my husband and I are not engineers which is pretty much the degree you need to have to put a Pop-A-Shot basketball goal together. We muddled our way through it and actually made it to bed before 1:00am so we counted that as a win. And never mind that “Santa” had to rearrange the whole playroom for this new addition. But in all honesty I kinda like it better. Probably because we did a massive clean out of toys so there isn’t quite so much junk everywhere. The kids had a lot of fun on Christmas “versing” each other in pop-a-shot. Kyle might have schooled me more than once. Basketball is definitely not my game.

IMG_3169

The kids waiting on the stairs before seeing what Santa brought. I know what you’re thinking. “Where did she get those amazing Christmas pajamas?” I make it look effortless, don’t I? Don’t be jealous of my matching skillz. Santa did make it to our house and most of the children were pleased. Then we have that precious talk on Christmas morning about being thankful for gifts you receive and how that Christmas isn’t all about the presents, it’s all about the birth of Jesus and so on and so forth. This is usually met with sighs and slumped shoulders. It’s super fun if you’ve never experienced it. But overall they enjoyed Christmas very much and had a blast with our family.

IMG_3186

This was his favorite present. A gummy bear/worm/fish maker. He was sad Santa didn’t bring it but luckily his Nana and Pepaw came through. It’s probably one of those presents we will use once, maybe twice, then it will sit in our toy closet for a decade. Oh well. He loved it.

IMG_3184

Fantasy Come True.

And if you’ve followed the blog for a bit, you may remember my post on fantasy football. Well, looky who won his first time playing! He was beyond thrilled and his dad was beyond shocked! His sweet Uncle mailed him a trophy with his name engraved on it. When he opened it, he told me he felt like he had just won the Super Bowl. I can’t even. He will definitely be back to defend his title next year. I think he’s been turned into a lifer. Big sigh. Another one bites the dust.

IMG_3180

To top off the Christmas weekend, our dishwasher broke. Or the panel did. Whatever. It doesn’t work and I found out my 21st century hands are not meant for hand washing dishes. My delicate skin turns into newspaper about 3 dishes in. I’m sure I should wear gloves but I resist. Have you smelled the inside of those gloves? Gag. Hopefully the part to fix it will get here soon! Until then we’ll be enlarging our carbon footprint by using all styrofoam cups and paper plates. Sorry Earth. Hopefully, Jesus will come back soon and make a new one of you.

Now, my Christmas gifts this year deserve a post all their own. I thought it would be bittersweet saying goodbye to something I’ve had for so long but the new one is so sweet it was hard to be anything but excited! Stay tuned….

2014 was one for the books. Be on the lookout for my New Year’s resolutions. They’re coming soon!

So now, it’s your turn:

What was your favorite gift you gave this year?

What was your favorite gift you received?

-Courtney

Follow me on Facebook & Twitter!

Can’t get enough? Click here! I’ll send these to your inbox.

Tagged , , , , , ,

#Christmasfails

Have any of you ever royally screwed up a Christmas present? Or had a gift that fell completely flat? Or maybe you thought you got something totally awesome and your kid’s reaction didn’t quite meet your expectation? I think I can feel some hand raises out there over the internets. I know you all will be completely shocked when I tell you; I too, have screwed up several Christmas presents in my day. So here’s my gift to you, dear readers: a couple of my most epic Christmas failures. Hopefully reading these will remind you, you’re not the only one who has ever gotten it wrong. You’re welcome and Merry Christmas.

I’ll start with the first royal screw up. A few years ago, my oldest son wanted Guitar Hero. At the time, he was a bit obsessed with country music. He’s 10 now and into all the sports games. Something you must know about my son is that he’s a gamer. He thinks any male that walks in our house automatically needs to challenge him in a game of Madden or NHL 2K14 (I understand that any moms of toddlers out there think I just spoke in Mandarin. Trust me, these are real things and if you have boys, they might be in your future). He is always up for a video game and if we didn’t monitor it, he would play 24/7. That being said, I was pumped to find Guitar Hero at Costco and I think I may have gotten it on sale or with a rebate or something. Score!

Christmas Eve rolls around and Kyle and I are playing Santa and setting up the kids’ presents. At our house, Santa leaves his presents unwrapped so we were sorting their presents and grouping them by kid. It’s about 11:00pm and we’re finishing up when Kyle brings in the Guitar Hero box. Then he says the 5 words one never wants to hear at 11:00pm on Christmas Eve. “You bought the wrong one.” I didn’t check the box. It was the Guitar Hero for the Playstation, not the Xbox. I could’ve sworn I checked! Curses! Curses! The only things that were coming out of my mouth were curses. I think Kyle was scared for his life because I’m pretty sure some of those words he had never heard me say, you know, because I’m a good Christian #sarcasm. I don’t know if I’ve ever been that angry with myself. Little did I know, this was only the beginning of my downward spiral into self-hatred over botched Christmas gifts. So my husband, in his kindness, asked me what he could do. I told him to do whatever he needed to do to make our son happy on Christmas morning. I’m pretty sure I hissed these words at him. So my sweet hubs drove, in the pouring rain, to meet his brother, who by some stroke of divine intervention had his Guitar Hero with him while he was visiting his parents who live an hour away. While he’s gone I think all I’m doing is seething over my idiocy and inattention to detail. The next morning, honestly, my son barely even noticed the guitar that my husband drove in the rainstorm to get. I think he played it once. It turns out we didn’t even replace the one we got him. I just took it back to the store and my son has never asked to play with it. #Christmasfail

The next epic failure is still a little fresh. It just happened last year. Just thinking about it sends me into heart palpitations and self-loathing. So last year, my daughter put a suitcase on her Christmas list. She just wanted a little one with rollers on it for sleepovers. She showed me the one she liked in a catalog so I ordered it and had her name put on it, because that’s what girls do. Did I mention I ordered it using my phone? That’s important. So, I don’t know, maybe a week later, I got it in the mail. I opened it in private and that’s when the world stopped spinning. I felt like I was going to throw up. My hands started to shake along with my head. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. They had put the wrong name on the suitcase. Well, to be fair, it was only sort of the wrong name. They misspelled it. My daughter’s name is spelled “Caitlin”; on the suitcase it was spelled “Caitilin”. At a glance, it’s barely noticeable…until you notice it. At this point, I am fuming. I call the company as I’m pulling up my email confirmation. When the person answers, I explain the situation and ask how it can be rectified, all the while waiting for my email to pull up. She tells me they can’t take it back since it’s personalized and no they can’t fix it because it will ruin the suitcase (No problem, I’m sure there are lots of Caitilins out there that could use a suitcase from the Goodwill. Yeah. Right.).

So my email finally pulls up and there it is, in glaring black and white. I had spelled my daughter’s name wrong on the order. Yes. You read that right. Let it sink in for a moment. I, the mother, who’s had her daughter’s name picked out since high school, spelled it WRONG. When I typed in her name on my phone it was so small I didn’t even notice I had slipped an extra “i” in there. Isn’t it the worst when you’re angry with yourself? It’s so much easier to be angry with someone else because then it’s his/her fault. Am I right? I got off the phone quickly with the suitcase company and called another monogramming place in town. Guess what? They couldn’t fix it either without messing up the suitcase.

So what was I to do? She really wanted a suitcase with her name on it for Christmas. So I did what any good parent does. I blamed it on Santa. And do you know what Santa did?? He blamed his elves. This is the note left by Santa to Caitlin on Christmas morning.

IMG_3106

 

So, here comes the funny part. On Christmas morning, after looking at all her presents, Caitlin brought us the note from Santa and said, “Mom, Santa didn’t misspell my name.” (Oh little love. Maybe we need to spend more time working on your sight words, or at the very least how to spell your own name). So I feigned confusion because I’d obviously NEVER seen the suitcase or Santa’s note before that very moment. I told her to check the suitcase one more time. As I watched her I saw the realization come over her face. And do you know what that precious little girl said? “It’s ok, I bet no one will even notice.” As I type this, I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes, laughing, because who on earth schleps around a suitcase with her name misspelled on it? Caitilin does. She amazed me that morning. I even offered to get her another one and she said she didn’t want one. She liked her “Caitilin” suitcase. She even told her friends at school about it, which made me feel like a suuuuuper awesome mom. I’m sure when her friends told their mothers there were chuckles all around. She still uses it today. It’s like a constant reminder of failure every time I see it. Thanks, Caitilin. We even call her Caitilin when she uses it. She thinks it’s funny. We’ll see if she still thinks it’s funny when she finds out it was mother dearest who made the error. Do you ever feel like you’re just giving your kids more things to talk about in counseling one day? I’m sure the suitcase will be in the mix of mommy issues (“…and then there was that time she spelled my name wrong on my suitcase and blamed it on Santa…”). Ugh.

So don’t lose heart, dear friends, it isn’t just you that has botched a Christmas gift. I was beginning to wonder what disaster I would create this year then I realized I accidentally threw away a gift card I bought for someone that I had stupidly left in the bottom of a shopping bag. I will never learn. After digging through the trash and realizing the big trash cans had already been picked up, I called the store where I got the gift card. Luckily, I think the store is going to void that one and give me another one. Wish I would’ve thought of that before going through the trash that had fridge leftovers in it. Whew. Crisis averted. Hopefully that will be the worst of it this year.

Care to share your worst Christmas gift fiasco? I’d love to hear!

-Courtney

Follow me on Facebook & Twitter!

Can’t get enough? Click here! I’ll send these to your inbox.

 

Tagged , , , , , ,