>How much money have you wasted on Christmas?

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I was just reading a post over at Wife on a Roller Coaster about Christmas presents and it made me think of past years in my house. The gifts that we spent entirely too much money on and weren’t played with. See, we want our kids to be happy; and we know that money and material things don’t buy happiness, but it’s so easy to spend the money on the kids because watching their faces light up on Christmas morning is the best feeling in the world. The one argument I like listening to is when they are fighting over who had the best Christmas. THAT makes it worthwhile… or so I thought.
Ten years ago C was obsessed with Thomas the Train. We knew he would love to have a set because he always played with the one that was set up at Toys R Us. Finances were tight, and we couldn’t afford the set at Toys R Us, so we went on eBay and found it (brand new) for $500. It came in a giant box shaped like Thomas. Of course, he was excited, he played with it for a couple days and it wound up in the corner of his bedroom. Did you read that??? A couple of DAYS!!! $500 was a lot of money to us back then, heck, it’s a lot of money NOW!
Two years ago Santa brought Z a cell phone, a nice one; the Alias 2! Sure he was happy to get a cell phone but a couple months later he started hounding us for a Droid which didn’t end well. I gave in a couple months ago but it turned out that Droid reception was terrible and I had to trade it for a Blackberry which just proved how spoiled he truly is because he refuses to use the Blackberry “because it’s not a Droid”. RRRR 
Last year B got a microscope that looked like a giant eyeball. It wirelessly transmitted the picture to the TV. Cool huh? Well, he looked at some grains of salt, and then it went into the toy box never to be used again. There was also an artist’s easel that came with paint, markers, crayons, pencils and rolls of paper. The tray got stepped on after it was buried under wrapping paper and broke. $60 down the drain. I think they may have used the markers, but I’m not entirely sure about that. Oh yeah, there was the RC helicopter that crashed on the first flight and got stuffed in the attic ($200). I could go on, but it’s just more of the same.
Every year we try to outdo the year before. It wasn’t a conscious thing, but I recently realized that is exactly what we do. I had bought a few things already, but they’ve been found so I have nothing so far. Thinking about what Santa is going to bring is just stressing me out because I’m tired of wasting money on things that they don’t play with.
I was thinking about the purpose of Christmas and how it’s not about the presents. I want my kids to know this and I think they do but I’m not 100% certain anymore. One of these years I want Santa to bring them money with a note that says that they can spend it on whatever they want but it CANNOT BE FOR THEMSELVES. They can buy gifts for anyone they want, spend what they want, but it cannot benefit them at all. I think this is a good idea. Of course I will make sure that they all get an equal amount of presents by pushing them in certain directions if need be but I think this could help them think of Christmas as more of a time of giving rather than the day they get a bunch of gifts for themselves.
Maybe this is something that we’ll have to do once they all stop believing in Santa. I don’t know, maybe it’s a stupid idea, I just want to try something different because what we do year after year doesn’t seem to be working so well.
I’m curious, do any of you have stories of gifts that weren’t as popular as you thought they’d be?
 
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>Frustration

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Talk about being frustrated. I just spent 2 friggin hours playing with the internet settings on my router only to have it mysteriously start working when I put it back to normal settings. Why it didn’t work in the first place I’ll never know. The reason it was so important to have internet was because I have to send my teacher a printout of my online coursework transcript. Due tomorrow. So, yeah, I was stressed. And now I’m not. So, that’s good right? Well, except for the fact that I am typing on the ridiculously tiny keyboard of my son’s NetBook. These things are stupidly small. I mean, seriously, I know I have fat fingers, but how can anyone type on these things? My big ole 17″ laptop is in the shop. I brought it to Geek Squad today with my external hard drive and the guy suggested that I leave it with him to be fixed. Only 3 weeks on this miniature piece of #&%*#($&.
In happier news, we got our real tree today. I decided to decorate it in red, white and blue. I bought solid strips of LED lights, so I have lines of color running through the tree. With red, silver and blue garland and white snowflake ornaments. It’s my first theme tree. We put our 7 foot fake tree in the dining room because that is multi color; so I couldn’t have it within eyesight of my real tree.
While the boys started off helping me decorate, I wound up finishing while they danced to a new Kinect game; Dance Central. I even got in on some of the action after I was finished with the tree. It’s quite a workout. I then made homemade whipped cream for hot chocolate and we all consumed the same number of calories we just burned. It was fun though.
OK, so I am beyond done with this little keyboard, I have backspaced more times in this post than I did last year on my computer. RRRRR. Going to bed, have a great night!

>Holding it Together for the Brother

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I have a lot of important stuff saved on my external hard drive. I have word documents, excel spreadsheets and pdf files from YEARS and YEARS ago. After years of college following the PreMed path and then switching to Nursing I have files and folders from school filled with papers I’ve written and assignments I’ve completed. I have 14 years worth of pictures of my children, school art projects, report cards, etc. Videos documenting drastic changes in our family over the last 4 years in three different states. Financial documents including taxes, bank statements, the closing paperwork on our houses, etc. Very important information that I canNOT lose. For this reason I bought a Terabyte External Hard drive a few years ago so I could periodically back up my computer and keep these precious files safe. 
At least I thought they were safe… until tonight. Tonight my brother brought his girlfriend over. They wanted to watch some videos I had taken a few weeks ago. I hooked up the computer to the external drive, plugged in the HDMI cord so I could display it on the TV and we watched the videos. They were hungry. The girlfriend made mention of it a couple times. So, like the good host/sister I offered to order pizza. While I’m in the kitchen ordering pizza she jumps on my computer. I come out to the living room and she closes my computer, stands up and twists around to put the computer on the chair she had been sitting on. 

CRASH!!!
My external hard drive crashes to the floor.
The little blue lights on the front go out.
I calmly walked over to the hard drive, picked it up and my brother says “does it still work”? I said I was sure it did even though I feared the worst. He insisted on checking it out, I didn’t want to because I knew I was going to have a very hard time hiding my emotions if I found out that it was in fact broken. The girlfriend then says “yeah, plug it back in, we need to know if we need to buy you a new one or not”. Really?!?!? You mean to tell me that I can just go to Best Buy and just randomly pick up a new drive with ALL MY PICTURES, VIDEOS AND DOCUMENTS PRELOADED?????
I plug it in, the lights come back on, I see my files, I begin to feel better…. until I try to play a video. No go.
My brother was very concerned, I truly felt bad for him. So I tried to make him feel better by telling him that it was probably just my computer acting up again. I told him that it was probably Windows Media Player and that the videos on my computer probably wouldn’t play either. I then told him this was a perfect excuse to buy a new wireless drive. He told me to try playing something from the computer. It worked fine.
This wasn’t good. He said “Lin, I’m so sorry”. I told him not to worry about it and I changed the subject. Shortly after that they left. As I came back in the front door after walking them out, my three kids met me at the entrance to the living room and Z asked “are you mad”? I asked him why I would be mad and he said because of the hard drive. I explained that even though I am very upset I don’t want my brother to feel any worse than he already does. I am not protecting the girlfriend, I am protecting him. It wasn’t his fault and I don’t want him to be concerned about being unable to replace all that I MAY have lost. I’m still hoping Geek Squad can fix it tomorrow.
The boys and I had a talk about the way family works. We take care of each other even when it isn’t easy. There is nothing that can be done tonight. I will take it to Geek Squad tomorrow, hopefully they can retrieve the info. But for tonight there is nothing anybody can do. So why ruin my brother’s night by getting upset about this; it was an accident and it wasn’t even his fault. I think the kids understood this, although I appreciate their concern. I didn’t realize they understood how important it was. If nothing else I hope they learned a lesson in how I expect them to treat each other. Nothing can replace family. Nothing is worth MORE than family. Material things may be nice, but family is what’s important. My father used to tell me that one day my brothers will be my best friends. He was right. I will stand by them through anything, no matter what. I expect my boys to do the same and I remind them of the bond they have and my fathers wisdom frequently. Actions speak louder than words though, and I think this is a good example of what my father was tryign to say.
Oh, and to top it all off, I managed to maintain my calm and I STILL HAVEN”T SLEPT YET! I’m going on 39 hours now. I am going to bed, and I am not going to think about the hard drive. Let’s just hope the Geeks are on their A game tomorrow; I can’t lose all that information. I CAN’T!

>Taking a break from baking

>So much baking… ugh, my lower back and shoulders are screaming for me to take a break. So, here I am.

I surprised myself by making the best cookies ever, Chocolate Peppermint Cookies click the link to see the recipe, if you like chocolate and peppermint, you HAVE to try these. Yummy! My diet is not going to be adhered to tomorrow, I can promise you that.

Anyway, this is what I have been working on:

Yeah, I made a few appetizers that are in the freezer, and I promise I will make the veggies, but the most important, best, most fun part of the meal is my cookie buffet. There are two more plates of cookies but they have to be made the day of, so those aren’t in the pic.
All right, back to the grind, I have to get the meatballs ready to be baked in the morning. I am trying to do all the preparation ahead of time so all I have to do is throw the sides in the oven tomorrow.
I hope everyone has a nice Thanksgiving.

>Weekend Recap

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It’s been a crazy few days. I am trying to make cookies and side dishes ahead of time for Thanksgiving. I tried to make a schedule but I’m not following it real well. I have managed to get a few things done but not nearly everything I wanted.
Here’s a rundown of things that have happened or problems I’ve encountered:
Z found all the Christmas presents I had gotten so far and then blackmailed me by threatening to tell his brothers what they were getting if I didn’t give him one of the gifts. What sucks is that it wasn’t even a gift for him; it was B’s present. Ugh, so now I have to return them and buy new things.
My washer/dryer was supposed to come yesterday and I desperately needed them. I have been slacking on the laundry because I was so excited to get the front loaders. I have baskets and baskets of dirty laundry, so much of it that Z has no more clean pants and socks are becoming scarce. Well, Best Buy called and said that the washer was in stock but the dryer wasn’t going to be in until the day before Thanksgiving. They agreed to come out as scheduled with the washer though, and I figured that the washer will spin the clothes so much better that my crappy dryer SHOULD be able to dry them without too much issue. I was right (thank goodness).
This thing is awesome. I am so happy. It sings a little song when I turn it on. It has a timer so I know exactly how long each cycle takes and it’s a big display so I can read it from the front door without going all the way down there. The clothes get so much cleaner too. And the spin cycle is ridiculous, the clothes are practically dry when they come out. There is a funny smell inside it though and the clothes smell a bit like plastic right out of the washer, but after the dryer the smell is gone so I can’t complain. The only thing is that I wonder if the dryer will have a funny smell too, in that case the first few loads should probably be towels and socks; at least until the new smell goes away. Regardless, I am super friggin happy. I love my new washer. And I know I will love the dryer too, I can’t wait for it to get here.
I called Best Buy about the power cord for my computer, they had said it would take 2-3 business days for delivery, but it’s been 3 weeks. Anyway, they are going to send me (free of charge) a power cord and a new extended life battery. WOOHOO, can’t wait for that!
My mom came down Thursday night and stayed here overnight to help me get the kids on the bus Friday so I could go to Clinical. She wound up staying until today which was nice. She kept me company while I baked cookies and started freezing the side dishes for Thanksgiving.
Speaking of clinical, I can’t believe the semester is almost over. It feels like it just began. Our teacher said that our careplans are so good that this will be the last one we have to turn in. That is awesome. They take up so much time; I understand the importance of them but 19 pages is a lot. We actually only have two clinical days left, because we have the Friday after Thanksgiving off. It’s crazy to think that this time next year I could be working as an RN.
So, I wound up making a Maple Cookie recipe that I found in a Martha Stewart magazine. They turned out super yummy. I was surprised. My mom loved them so much that she got up in the middle of the night last night and chowed down. She apologized, but honestly it was more of a compliment than anything else. I sent her home with a bag of them to share with her husband and my brother. I think I will send the rest in a care package, I know he will like them. I will just make another batch for Thanksgiving. The recipe is here, I strongly recommend trying it.
My mother in law called the other day; she told me she was sending me a gift certificate to a fancy restaurant; she wants me to use it on R+R. I told her that the boys and fancy restaurants don’t mix well. She told me that I should leave the kids home and just go with my husband. I tried to explain that we don’t go out alone. We have never gone out without the kids. Sitters were too expensive and we didn’t live near family; so after 12 years of marriage we have never been on a date. She told me that “it’s called romance” and that I should “add some to the marriage or it will never last”. SERIOUSLY?!?!?! I told her our marriage was fine despite the lack of dates and tried to explain that we actually enjoy going out with the kids. We may not go to fancy restaurants but we have fun… as a FAMILY! There was no getting through to her. She insisted that it is necessary to do this type of thing once a week (while he’s home, I’m assuming). It’s hard to take advice from a 67 y/o divorcee who has not been able to keep a boyfriend for more than a couple months the entire time I’ve known her. Of course I did not say any of this though. She was not letting up, and she began insisting that I drop the boys at her house when we go. So, I told her that R+R is such a short period of time that I don’t think it’s fair to steal a whole night from the kids. They are just as excited to see him as I am, spending one of the precious nights of R+R with their grandmother is not going to be fun for them. If we were to do something like that it would be after he’s home for good; not during R+R. We hung up soon after that because she began to get upset with me and I didn’t want to get yelled at. I’m curious to know what other people think, is going on dates routinely a necessary part of marriage or is family time a good substitute?
The timer is going off on the oven; back to baking for me. This wound up being a much longer post than I had anticipated. Hope I didn’t bore you all with my rambling. Talk with ya soon.


>Recipes – Blog Style

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Thanksgiving is right around the corner, holy smokes I don’t have much time! I went to the store today to purchase the ingredients for the cookies and spent just a hair less than $200… ON COOKIE INGREDIENTS!!! I must be out of my mind. I plan on making about a billion and a half different varieties. Why? Well, I guess just to make things harder on myself, my life wouldn’t be complete if I weren’t tearing my hair out and clinging to my sanity for dear life.
I am going to make things early and freeze them to take the pressure off last minute cooking. Anyway, the reason for this post is to let you all know that I have begun a second blog. This new one will be all about recipes and the chaos that comes with preparing a holiday dinner for a large family. I didn’t want to clutter up this blog with recipes, but I want to document the process with pictures of the baking process and final outcomes so I can either add it to my permanent recipe book or ditch it.
So anyway, if you are interested (I can’t promise that it will be super entertaining, but I sure will try) come on by and check me out. There is something about seeing that big fat 0 next to the word followers that makes me a little sad when I sign on to that blog. So, come on, help a baking challenged girl out. I need the support, haha.

>Wisdom comes with age

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I had the most amazing clinical day. My patient celebrated her centennial birthday some time ago, and she was completely lucid! She cracked me up, although she was extremely hard of hearing and could not understand me at all (my voice was “too soprano” she could only hear “baritone voices like that nice looking doctor in the hall”. haha she really was a character.
She asked me a lot of questions but because she had trouble hearing me she would try to guess my answer. I would shake/nod my head and we would laugh when she would get it wrong.
When I first walked in to her room she told me that I looked “educated”. She said “I can always see it in a person’s face, it’s this look that you wear, it looks like this” and she made a serious face with eyebrows raised. I laughed and made a funny face at her and she said that even doing that I STILL look educated. So I took off my stethoscope and she said “ok, now you look dumb”. Too funny.
Everytime I left the room she would tell me that she was going to stay right there until I came back and that I need to stay beautiful.
She asked me how old my mother was; I suppose that was her way of approximating my age. I told her 57 and she went on and on about what a spring chicken my mother was and how she must be loving life right now. Then she drifted off into her own thoughts. I listened to her lung sounds and continued my assessment. A few minutes later she said “being old isn’t fun, I feel so needy and I don’t want to be”, she explained that she was a farmer’s wife and she used to be a tough lady. Now she needs help to sit up. I wish I could have explained things to her better but she couldn’t understand me and it was just too much to write on a piece of paper for her. Prior to the surgery she was almost completely independent. I don’t know that she will get back to that point, nobody can know that for sure, but I think she needs to believe that right now. I stopped what I was doing and held her hand for a while; I knew she was thinking about her life because sometimes she would smile and once I think I saw a tear form in one of her eyes. She really was such a sweet lady.
She really made me think about life though. Everything is relative. My mother may not feel young right now, but to my patient she is a “spring chicken”. I may sometimes wish that my husband and I had had a fourth kid because I really wanted a girl, but for my patient she was raising her kids during the depression and they were limited by finances; she always wanted three kids but they knew they couldn’t afford to feed another mouth. I miss my husband right now because deployments are hard and no matter how much I envy my family for never being away from each other for more than a week or two; she outlived not only her husband but almost all of her friends, and as scary/terrible as it is to imagine… at her age it is not impossible for her to outlive her children. My point is, no matter how much I feel sorry for myself there is someone out there who doesn’t think I have it so bad and my in fact consider me lucky.
She was a very wise woman, I feel privileged to have been able to spend a few hours with her today. I did not speak much due to her hearing, but I listened with more than just my ears. She knows so much, and has a century of wisdom.
At the end of my shift I realized I had left my stethoscope in her room; I went back for it but it was gone. I have no idea where it went, I asked a few people and they all said the same thing “stethoscopes have legs” meaning I will probably never see it again. That sucks because it was new and I realllllly liked that one. Not to mention it wasn’t cheap. But oh well, I gained something far more valuable today. I had a patient who has helped me start to realize that things are all relative. I may feel like a stressed out military wife with three sons who drive me crazy, a messy house and a Thanksgiving dinner menu to create; but she sees me as an educated YOUNG girl who she relies on to take care of her while she recovers from surgery. She doesn’t know about the dishes in my sink, the unfolded laundry or the broken cabinet door in my kitchen. She sees me as a strong person. I liked who I was through her eyes. She gave me confidence today. Of course, it may not last long, I’m sure next week I’ll be back to the timid, second-guessing, clumsy bundle of nerves I normally am; but for today I was her student nurse and I am so grateful to have had that experience.

>ICU experience

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Friday was my ICU rotation in clinical. It was pretty good. I enjoyed my time there, but probably should have asked my teacher ahead of time what information was needed for the paper due. I was under the impression that I had to write a short care plan for each patient I took care of, but I wound up helping out with all the patients on the floor that day. I went through each chart and documented EVERYTHING for each patient, in between running between rooms. I was following two different nurses and they both expected me to be helping them with everything; I heard my name yelled more than a few times that day; I ran between the two nurses, but one of them (the nice one that I actually enjoyed following) wound up “letting” the other nurse have me. So, instead of helping administer meds and listening to discussions with the doctors I was being ordered to clean up incontinent patients and setting up rooms for new admissions.
It was a good day though, I did learn quite a bit. I found out (at the end of the day) that I only need the demographic info on each patient, but the paper only has to be on a single patient of my choosing. That should make things easier.
Only four weeks left this semester. It is FLYING by. Next semester I’ll be doing Peds/OB which should be interesting.

>My Christmas Presents

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I have never owned a front loading washer, but I have wanted a set since they first started becoming popular. We’ve talked about purchasing a set for years, but never wind up doing it. In fact, two years ago we bought a new set but wound up with a top loader. It sucks. Terrible machines. I will never buy GE again. Nothing but issues since the very first month. Of course, we made the mistake of not getting the extended warranty so after the first year we had to pay for repairs.
This summer I used a clothesline to dry the clothes, but with the temps dropping I can’t do that anymore. My washer doesn’t always get all the soap out and the dryer takes HOURS to dry.
Yesterday I was looking through my mail and found a brochure for Best Buy Reward Zone. We have the Silver Premiere membership because we spent an absurd a modest amount of money last year. So, now we get additional reward points, and special coupons and deals. On one of the last pages they were advertising these:
Beautiful, huh? A 4.3 Cu. Ft. 12-Cycle Ultra Capacity Steam Washer and a 7.4 Cu. Ft. 11-Cycle Electric Steam Dryer. Normal price $2200 for the pair. On sale this week down to $2000. But wait, that’s the normal sale; for Premiere members there is a coupon for………
 wait for it……..
45% off!
So, my new washer and dryer will be delivered in 2 weeks and I was sure to get an extended 4 year warranty on both of them. I absolutely, can not wait!
The only thing I didn’t get was the pedestals because they are $200 EACH, I will suffer through and kneel down while doing my laundry. I just can’t justify $400. I figure my husband can make something when he gets home (even though the salesman said that it isn’t a good idea).
So, I will be doing minimal laundry over the next couple weeks, because what’s the point in stressing out and raising my electric bill to dry all the laundry in the crappy machines when I have THESE coming.
WOOHOO! Excitement!

>It’s Christmas Time at our house.

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This deployment has been hard. I didn’t realize how hard it would be. After going so many years between this one and our last one, well, I guess I forgot a lot of the things that make deployments suck. This summer was the hardest; it dragged on FOREVER. The school year is flying by though, and while that’s great because it means I’m not watching the countdown timer it’s not so great because I don’t have any time to do the things I used to do.
My youngest son used to play the viola. We quit around June or July. That’s really too bad, he had been playing since he was 4 years old but we just didn’t have the time to go to lessons twice a week and practice 30 minutes every night.
The kids and I used to play board games. Nope, not anymore, no time. Homework and laundry take precedence.
The boys and I used to laugh a lot, but even that has been limited lately. Stress, lack of time, etc.
As I mentioned yesterday I decided to go ahead and decorate for Christmas early. I LOVE Christmas and I figured it would help my mood.
This morning the boys and I rearranged the living room to fit the tree in the window, we dug out all the boxes from the attic and discussed outdoor lighting colors. It was a nice morning; we all worked together because we were excited to be doing this.
I went to the store. $266 later I am home with more lights than I’ll ever need, but hey, at least I won’t run out. Right?
I have a giant living room window. 12 feet by 6 feet, divided into thirds. I used single color rope lights to outline each third of the window in red, white and blue. With the thermal backed curtains pulled closed they light up the entire window in color. How patriotic. I bought the candle lights for all the bedroom windows. I put up prelit multicolored garland in my entranceway and started putting out all my Christmas knick knacks. B wanted a mini tree to decorate himself, so we also have an 18″ tree under the TV with over 100 lights on it. It looks like a giant lightbulb, but he’s so proud of himself. It really is kinda cute.
Anyway, as I’m working on getting the last of the candle lights secured on the window sill I hear a familiar sound coming from the hallway. It’s B, playing his viola. I almost cried, it’s been so long since he’s played, but he said that all the Christmas decorations made him feel like playing. Afterwards, we all went out into the front yard to admire our work. We laughed and made jokes and everyone was getting along. ALL THREE BOYS! It was amazing.
We went inside and I told them that I was so happy because I had no idea how a few lights and candles could do so much. B read me a story, then Z read a story. We took turns playing Connect 4, and I taught them a new card game; 52 card pick up. Big hit, let me tell you. I will probably be finding cards for months to come in very odd places.
At bedtime C told me that seeing me happy made him happy too, and that he will help me put up the lights on the roof this weekend. What a kid he is. I guess I didn’t realize how much of my emotions were actually affecting the kids.
Decorating early was a good idea, one of the few that I’ve had recently, but a good one nonetheless.