Category Archives: special occasions

If you give a mom a camera for Christmas….


She will hug you and know that you are a special person!

Then you’ll both have fun learning how to use all the settings.


Nikon D3500


Then you’ll spend a couple days trying to connect to her ancient laptop.

Then you’ll learn what all the buttons do.

Then you’ll try it out on the full moon.


Then she’ll take lots of photos of you and your friends.

Then she’ll go for a hike and take pictures of dad and trees.

Then your little brother will make plans to use it to make a video of himself riding his dirt bike.

Then she’ll want a telephoto lens to take bird photos.

Then she’ll need a new memory card and USB cable and case and photo storage website and ……..a trip to the mountains to take photos!

Merry Christmas!


My week in photos (and a few words)


Somehow I managed to get on the trails four days in a row!  Hiking with hubby after Thanksgiving. The crunchy , leaf-covered trails were a delight to my soul.

My daughter and son are both sick. Here she was getting a ‘vest’ treatment’, in which the vest inflates with air and shakes her lungs. In the middle photo, they were moving the chicken house so the chickens can peck up all the the grass in a new spot. And that’s my tired pooch, Ellie,  after a busy day of running and barking.

I had trouble concentrating on schoolwork this week. So I took the kids hiking. The trees are so colorful! And it was fun watching my kids play on the playground for a few minutes. Teenage boys are tough to understand sometimes, but we often have very interesting and open conversations when we go hiking.  We covered 4 miles that day and some deep topics.  Whew.

Thanks to a Facebook friend, we got tickets to the Houston Zoolights event and even thought it rained that day, it stopped and we went. My daughter doesn’t respond to much, but she loves colorful lights! Highly recommend.


I wasn’t planning on Cyber Monday shopping, nor did I shop on Black Friday except for my groceries, but I happened upon a super 1/2 price deal on some running fuel ( sugar) and got this box of goodies. The other photos is the traffic on the highway. Thank God for Google Maps and alternate routes!


Having Joyful Holidays on a tight Budget

This time of year things can get very stressful for those of us who live paycheck to paycheck or with very little discretionary income. All year we manage to squeak by each month by with lots of prayers and various thrifty methods, but then along comes the expensive months. Higher electric bills, sick kids, winter clothes, unexpected repairs and lots of things can make it very difficult to buy Christmas gifts and pay for the many related costs of celebrating the holiday season. Some years may be better or worse, but for some of us,  being poor is just the way it is. We don’t usually complain about it, we accept it, and we make it work, but this time of year can cause guilt, shame, embarrassment and depression for those who wish they could provide more for their families. More than one person has committed suicide for this very reason, feeling like a failure during the holidays, which is a terrible, terrible thing! So many are working so hard to provide for their families and yet inflation and taxes and stagnant wages and other uncontrollable factors keep them from improving the bottom line. Let’s get to the tips. Here’s some music to listen to while you read.

If we make it through December by Merle Haggard 1974

1.) For the married couples. In most couples, one person is a spender and one is thrifty, even if they are on a very tight budget. It is of utmost importance at this time of year that the couple come together and communicate. Is there any money AT ALL that is not budgeted for bills and living expenses? If so, how much? Then, being careful not to cast blame for the situation, discuss where the money could be spent so that everyone can be happy. This means you may have to be willing to compromise! Remember that at THANKSGIVING, we are to be thankful. And at Christmas, we celebrate Jesus, not presents or fancy decorations or fancy meals. If you really love your spouse, you will not burden them with guilt in these thankful, joyous occasions. You can also put your heads together and get creative with ways to celebrate and have fun.  If you are Christians, this is a great time to PRAY together.


2.) Avoid using credit. Trust me on this one. You will regret it later. Better to save credit cards for real emergencies. I understand the temptation. Payday loans, title loans, high interest credit cards are a TRAP.  If you don’t have the money now, how will you have it later to make these payments? Something else will probably eat up that money you think you might get later. Then you will be in worse condition than before. Pay day loans are the worst and should be illegal. Instead, consider selling things you don’t need or things you make to sell, or maybe get a second or third job. I think that’s way easier said than done for most of us. But first see the next tip.


3.) Don’t buy it. This is my number one tip. If you don’t have the money, don’t spend it. I should probably put it first in the list! How can you achieve this? Turn off the TV and radio and throw away all advertisements and catalogs! Stay far away from the mall or department store or craft fair (unless you’re selling and making money) or other places that call ‘Buy me! Buy me!”. Don’t even walk down those special aisles in Walmart! In a few weeks, all that stuff will be on sale, if you REALLY need it, or it will be dropped off at Goodwill by people who didn’t like their gifts or got newer models. That’s part two of this one, wait until after the holidays and then go buy a few carefully selected items if you have the money. But don’t buy stuff just because it’s on clearance!


4.)Do not equate your self worth or showing love with giving the perfect gift. We all know that person who is so good at choosing, or even making, gifts that light up the face of the person receiving them. We want to do that, too! Those are the creative, crafty, and usually, more spendy, type of people. Good for them! They are important. But so are you. You have other good qualities! Share your sense of humor, your handiness, your listening ear, your musical talent, your cooking expertise, or just your friendly personality with those around you. Everyone appreciates a fun person, a good storyteller, a helpful person, a good cook, someone who makes them laugh. Some of my favorite people live very simply.

5.)If you do have a little money to spend, consider the following non-traditional places to shop. Goodwill or other thrift stores. Garage sales. Ebay and other online auctions. Craft shows. Facebook marketplace. Just be careful to check the price and make sure you are getting a good deal, including shipping. Dollar General and Family Dollar often have some low priced gift items if you don’t mind a lesser quality.  The modern tradition and belief  that we must give store-bought , new items was created by people that sell those items! Be independent. Give whatever you want to give. It can be fruit from your trees or flowers from your garden or pecans from the trees in the park (I would love that!).


6.) If you have NO money and are barely making the rent and having gas to get to work, consider checking with some local charities or churches for toys for the little kids. Or, maybe barter with someone whose kids have extra toys. Wrap it up, they don’t need to know it’s used. For adults, most of us are fine without getting anything and especially do not want anyone to spend their bill money buying us things. I know I’d rather hang out and eat a festive meal with my family than anything else! Another idea is to look around and see if there might be something in your own house that you would like to pass on to someone, in other words, re-gifting. It’s okay! In fact, some things are really nice to give, like books, movies, CDs, household goods, nice clothes.

7.) You don’t need to spend a lot, but it’s more festive to at least have a wreath or tree and a few lights or some candles. Thrift shops always have holiday decorations. Garage sales are great for that, too, but it might be too late in the year for that if you are reading this in November.  If you have school aged kids, ask them to draw some pictures and hang them up. Or maybe they will bring home some artwork they made in school that you can display. Pick up some pine cones and coat them in glitter glue. Make paper snowflakes. One year we made a snowman out of bags of plastic bags! Another time we made long chains of construction paper rings.


8.) You have to eat anyway,  so take advantage of the annual buy a ham and get a free turkey deal or whatever your store offers . One of our stores offers a bunch of free items with the ham. It’s worth the price of the ham. Buy two if you can and freeze one. Now is the time to do some pie and cookie baking and other treats and consider that part of your holiday celebration by letting the family in on the fun, even if they do make a mess! Rice krispy cereal treats are cheap and you can add red and green sprinkles or use the colored cereal if they have it. Be careful not to overspend on recipes that have expensive ingredients. Sometimes you can substitute cheaper ingredients or just leave things out. Home cooking is USUALLY cheaper but not always , so count the costs. But if the cooking is the entertainment, it might be worth spending a few bucks more than the bakery pie.

9.) Don’t buy gifts. Just get together with friends or family as much as possible during this time of year. Enjoy food, music, whatever you like to do. It is enough. Be thankful. Count your blessings! Love your family! Some will not be alive the next holiday season. Do not sit at home because you can’t bring gifts to the party! Go to church and community events, like parades and Santa visits. Choirs and nativities. Look on Facebook or in your local newspaper to see what is happening and just do it, even if you have to go alone.

10.)Remember the reason for the season. Jesus!

Some of you probably have better suggestions than these. I did some internet searches before writing and I felt like many of the articles suggested spending a lot rather than saving a lot. My goal was to encourage those who might be feeling paralyzed with anxiety or depressed over not having a lot of spending money.  It’s easy to assume that everyone else is spending more than you, but remember there are millions of us barely making ends meet.  In fact, many of us on tight budgets are actually doing way better than a lot of people. Let’s encourage each other, take away the pressure to exchange gifts at family gatherings and be thankful for our many blessings.



Reader Request Friday! And Happy Birthday to my son!

As suggested by I am asking YOU , the reader, what you would like me to write about. 007 was a good sport and answered my questions about who he is and I am going to play along. I will try to write something interesting if I can, doesn’t have to be about me, especially since I write about myself most of the time. Submit your requests and if you see a request you like, just LIKE it and I’ll count that as a vote for that topic. Then I’ll post it next Friday. Thank you for reading my blog!


Also, Happy Birthday to my oldest son! He doesn’t read this blog, but I can brag on him a little. I have wanted children since  I was a little girl. I finally got one 27 years ago. This boy is special! Well, he’s a man now, but you know, still my boy.  He was homeschooled all his life and I am glad for that because his personality is way too big to be controlled by classroom management techniques. In other words, he’s like me. When I was in school, the teachers were willing to work with my tendency to question or ignore silly rules and not sit still and talk a lot and pretty much do whatever I thought I should do. They gave me little jobs to do, like mimeograph papers and bring them coffee. They also didn’t complain too much when I didn’t go to class as often as other kids. I had a lot of stomach aches and I liked to sleep late.  This kid of mine has always been a night owl. There is no way he’d have functioned in public school schedules! He has learned to be more flexible now that he’s a working adult. But school is like prison nowadays. Comply and show up and don’t be late and sit down and shut up and answer the math question ONLY LIKE THIS and do NOT question us! When my son was just a little kid he sometimes got in trouble with other adults who didn’t know him, but the ones who knew him liked or loved him and saw his good qualities. He started playing guitar with the youth group choir as a young teen and then he played with the adult choir. My husband taught him the basics of guitar and then he pretty much ran with it. He can play most instruments now and is also a music producer for (groan) rap musicians. He was very involved in church for quite some time and attended adult Bible classes with mentors.  His sense of humor and logic has always been above average for his age. From a young age he would get interested in a particular TV show, musician, or actor and learn all he could about them.  The only time I saw this kid struggle was when he went through a breakup after a  long relationship. But I’m happy to say that he is past that and cruising along again. I love all my children, but the first one is always special, just like the last one, and all the ones in between if you’re an overachiever like me. Happy birthday, son!


Did you celebrate Grandparents Day?

Did you even know that  today, the Sunday after Labor Day, is Grandparents Day? I confess that even though I have six children and until recently, they had two pair of married-forever grandparents, I never have done much to celebrate this day. Maybe bought a few cards over the years or gone for a visit to their house. I’m extremely thrifty, remember those six children?,  so I’m pretty terrible at sending or giving cards and gifts for any but the most important occasions. Actually I’m pretty bad at celebrating all special occasions.

I used to LOVE shopping for gifts for people, but then I had the depressing realization that sometimes people( not necessarily grandparents) did not want the gifts, or they worried about me spending too much,  and it just made them uncomfortable. They often just wanted to spend time together without the pressure of gifts. Is it just me or do very few people actually enjoy getting surprises? Unless it’s something you specifically asked for, and then it’s not really a surprise unless they are good at picking up on clues and keeping secrets. Once, my son shocked me with a Garmin running watch for Mother’s Day. THAT was the best gift I had received in a very long time! Then a few years later, he bought me a nicer one. Yes, I really love that kid. 😉 But, HE is very hard to buy for. He is very picky and likes to buy his own stuff, expensive stuff,  and he is very uncomfortable expressing emotions, so accepting gifts is tough for him.

Once you get past a certain age, you either prefer to buy your own stuff, or you really hate clutter from things you don’t or can’t use, such as clothes that aren’t your style or size, or collectible items you really don’t need more of . Considering grandparents have usually been around for awhile, most of them have the stuff they want and need and have very specific taste. When we have given them presents, I’ve tried to make it something useful or consumable or, occasionally,  a homemade item. The one gift that they used for many years and seemed to get so much enjoyment out of was a bread machine, back in the early 1990s when everyone was baking bread. After that we could always expect a fresh loaf of bread when they came to visit.


My sister, mom , dad (wearing the tie), and father-in-law at the nursery to see my newborn. They loved the babies!

Christmas shopping has really become a burden to me. Not only do I have a very limited budget, my children are all past the toy stage and into the electronics, computers and cars stage. I just can’t afford to buy them the stuff they  would really enjoy. In the past few years , I’ve really struggled with what to buy them. Last year I decided it would be a fun idea to take my two youngest on their first plane trip and go visit my sister in Utah during the winter time where they could experience their first real snow. I kept it a secret until Christmas and then did the big reveal. It wasn’t as well received as I’d hoped. We ended up having a good trip, lots of snowy fun , no regrets, but I don’t think they would have said yes if I’d asked them first. I’m seriously considering one big family gift for this year, probably a new TV. Based on the annual Black Friday deals, I’m not the only one who has this idea.


My husband’s parents were wonderful grandparents and they are missed. 

As for Grandparents Day, my mom is the only grandparent still living, and she went to her favorite city, Las Vegas, with friends this weekend. I sent her a text to tell her good luck and that we love her. She is an amazing grandmother and my kids love her very much. Of course, she spoils them, which is totally appropriate for a grandma to do. She actually got up early before she went to the airport so she could make cupcakes for my son’s birthday and sent them via my sister. My mom has been there for me with each newborn and has babysat and loved each of my children. She has supported me through many parenting trials and difficulties , financially and emotionally,  and has even taken care of my disabled daughter . I wish I could afford to pamper her in her golden years.  I hope and pray that she gets very lucky in Vegas because she deserves it!


Good luck, mom!!! She’s an expert at the slots. 

I hope you had a good weekend. Are you blessed with children and therefore have grandparents to celebrate? What gifts do you like to give them? Does gift-buying give you pleasure or stress?