Category Archives: Cub Scouts

S’Mores Cupcakes

With the start of the school year, we are back in full swing with Cub Scouts. I love to blog about Cub Scouts because it is such a big part of our lives and has been an incredible experience for our whole family. The Scouting program is awesome and I love sharing all of the fun and important stuff we do with all of you.

This past weekend, our Pack got together for a lesson on the Scouting principle of Leave No Trace. Leave No Trace means just that. It focuses primarily on camping and outdoor activities but the underlying principle applies to all areas of our lives. Take care of your environment; whether it is the outdoors, your school, your home, your room, the park, the movie theater; you get the idea. Wherever you go, whatever you do, be mindful of the environment and how you have an impact upon it.

And ALWAYS leave a place better than you found it. Which means sometimes we have to pick up after others too.

Rather than just talk about it with our Scouts, we wanted them to experience the lesson first hand. The best lessons are often learned by seeing and doing. So this past Saturday, our boys and their families spent a few hours cleaning up along the banks of the Salt River.

The lower Salt River is a major recreation site in our area and unfortunately, not everyone respects the privilege of enjoying such a beautiful place. A LOT of trash gets left behind. It was important for our Scouts to see first hand how even a little waste has a big impact when the effects of so many visitors is combined.

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They worked hard and cleaned up a lot of trash.

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We are very proud of our “Bear” and his understanding and respect for nature and the need to care for and protect the environment. He is passionate about it. Now, if we could just get that same passion to carry over to his room.

After all of that hard work and a lot of hand sanitizer, it was time for a treat. It was way too hot to roast marshmallows (and open fire isn’t allowed right now) so I decided to improvise and turn Scouting’s signature dish into a cup cake.

S’Mores Cupcakes

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I love to bake from scratch and have some wonderful chocolate cake recipes from my grandmother. But there are times when practicality wins out and you just have to break out the cake mix. I adapted a recipe from the cookbook “The Cake Mix Doctor” by Anne Byrn and came up with a yummy chocolate cupcake, perfect to feed a lot of hungry Cub Scouts. Three batches yielded 60 cupcakes. If you don’t “overfill” as I tend to do, you might just get 24 cup cakes in a batch.

Cup Cake Ingredients

  • 1 package Milk Chocolate cake mix
  • 3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/3 Cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Cup Cake S’More Toppings

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  • Graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 Bag of jumbo marshmallows, each marshmallow cut in half
  • Graham cracker pieces or mini graham crackers for garnish
  • Chocolate pieces for garnish

Cup Cake Directions

In pure cake mix fashion, put all of the ingredients together in your stand mixer and blend it all on medium to medium-high for a minute. Scrape down the sides and blend for another minute or until well combined and smooth. Line your muffin/cup cake tin with paper wrappers and fill each 3/4 of the way full.

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Then sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs (about a teaspoon each). I made the first batch with the graham cracker crumbs placed in the bottom of the wrapper and the batter poured on top. It didn’t adhere to the cake like I wanted so I opted to sprinkle the crumbs on top.

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Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

I love how they look with the graham cracker crumbs on top.

Next … the fun part.

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Set your oven rack, two spaces down from the broiler and then turn the oven to the broil setting.

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Put your cupcakes on a sheet tray and place a marshmallow half on top of each one. Place the marshmallow topped cupcakes under the broiler for 1 minute and 45 seconds. That is the exact amount of time my oven took to perfectly toast the marshmallows. The time needed in your oven may be different so keep an eye on them.

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Finish the cup cakes off in true S’Mores fashion with wedges of graham cracker and chocolate. The crackers can go on right away but let the marshmallow cool a bit before you add the chocolate or you’ll have a melty mess.

The boys and families of our Pack spent and afternoon doing our part to clean up a bit and leave things better than we found them. But our day wasn’t all hard work. Yes, there were yummy cup cakes but did I mention there was a also helicopter?

No? Ohhhh, there was a helicopter!

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Our Wolf Den Leader is a Sheriff’s Deputy and he arranged quite the surprise for our boys. For all of us, actually. When he told me he was setting up something cool, I was just thinking a few sirens and lights. Nope. There was a helicopter.

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Of course the boys LOVED it. And they deserved it. Hard work always has its reward!

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I know one little boy in particular who was in heaven!

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Really, does it get much cooler than that?

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We also had a visit from these deputies who patrol the river on ATVs. Very cool too! In fact, I’m pretty sure they have their own action figures. Well, if they don’t they should.

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The perfect spot to watch a helicopter take off!

A special thanks to Rob and our friends from the Sheriff’s Department for the work you do to keep our community safe and for so graciously giving a little of your time to make a kid’s day.

You guys rock!

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My Boy is a Bear

Yesterday, the Boy Scouts of America voted to lift a ban on openly gay youth. Read the article by Miranda Leitsinger and Jason White of NBC News by clicking the link above.

Scouts is a huge part of our life. My boys are still very young so we are involved in Cub Scouts which is for first grade through fifth grade boys. At the end of fifth grade, Cub Scouts cross over and become Boy Scouts. We love the values and skills that Cub Scouts teaches as well as the friendships and fun it offers!

I was David’s Tiger Den leader when he was in the first grade and I am now the committee chair for our pack working to coordinate the dens, plan pack events and keep paperwork in order. It adds a bit to my already full plate but it is worth it. I love my boys and I love what they are learning through Scouts. I love Scouts.

I also make the cupcakes.

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Nathan isn’t officially a scout yet but he loves “Hub” Scouts and can’t wait until he becomes a “Tiger” in first grade.

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I can’t imagine someone telling him he couldn’t be a Scout because he was different or he wasn’t what they deem acceptable. His heart would be broken.

This post is not about debating morality or gay rights.

It is about compassion.

I am thankful and proud to be an American. I believe in the constitution and the principles this nation was founded on and am deeply blessed to enjoy the freedoms that we have in this country.

Those freedoms are for ALL. Whether we agree on everything or not. You can disagree with me. It is okay. Many people I love and respect will disagree. I will still love and respect them. My heart is led to err on the side of compassion and love. To welcome and walk along side my neighbor. Some details I will leave to God.

America needs Scouting! Boys need Scouting. We need to be reaching out and sharing the adventure, not pushing people away.

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David and some of his “Wolf” buddies.

Tico Perez, the BSA national commissioner summed it up well when he said “there were divisions about how to serve kids. If we have disagreement, if we have discomfort, we are going to talk through it. America needs Scouting. Our singular focus moving forward is serving more kids in Scouting, and we believe this resolution is going to do that.”

One parent had this to say “we’re very disappointed. I will compare it to a funeral.” His son expressed concern about being allowed to remain a Scout. “I hope I can continue,” he said. “It depends if my parents feel safe to let me stay.” I find that so unfortunate and very sad and I hope very much that he gets to continue on his journey as a Scout.

A boy scout who is gay is not a threat to my boys.

Allowing my boys to think they have a right to be exclusive or elitist or can turn their backs on people because of differences is the threat.

It is my job to teach my children what we believe and it is my job to teach them to walk in love.

It is my job to “show” others what I believe in the way that I act and live my life.

I will teach my children about a dream where people are judged by the “content of their character”. Remember that dream?

I will teach them to be compassionate, even in disagreement.

Every night at the dinner table we ask each of our kids “how did you show your Jesus today?”

How did you show love, compassion, humility, grace, mercy, hope?

How do we “show our Jesus” if we exclude, push away and turn our backs?

I think yesterday, the Scouts “showed their Jesus” and I may just start sportin’ one of those “I’m proud of my Cub Scout” stickers on the bumper of my ride.

Which is a mini-van. Oh yes, I am a Scout mom.

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And I make a mean cupcake.

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Last week, my boy became a Bear. He completed all of his achievements and graduated from the second grade rank of Wolf to the third grade rank of Bear.

Here are a few photos from our Advancement Ceremony …

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David receiving his recognition and awards from the Wolf Den leader, Eileen. I like to call her Ethel – take a look at my Scout Halloween Party post if you want to know why.

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Part of the Wolf badge ceremony. I sure wish I had a picture of the looks on their faces when they had to drink wolf’s blood. Well it was V-8 juice but I think it may have actually been more palatable to them had it been actual wolf’s blood. I truly thought it was coming back up with a few of them – which would have made the ceremony all the more exciting.

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Our Cub Master and our youngest Scouts, The Tigers, getting ready to become Wolves.

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Our Bear Den getting ready to move up to the rank of Webelo.

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We didn’t promise it would be without peril.

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I love that members of our local Boy Scout Troop conducted our ceremony. They help us out with a lot and it is good for the younger boys to interact with the older Scouts.

If you have a boy of scouting age, I hope you will consider Scouts. The boys can join anytime and will automatically be placed in the appropriate rank for their age. Don’t worry if your boy didn’t start as a Tiger, there is a place for him and he will transition in easily.

If you are interested in learning more about Scouting, please visit the BSA Website or contact your local Cub Scout Pack or Boy Scout Troop. There is also Venture Scouts which girls are welcome to participate in. I promise you, adventure, friendship and fun awaits!

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Look, my boy is a Bear and is beyond excited to leave soon for camp with his dad – who will be the Assistant Cub Master next year because his wife volunteered him.

Lucky for me, he’s a good sport and loves Scouts too.

Cub Scout Cub Mobile – Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!

This past Saturday was the annual Pack 371 Cub Mobile.

Yes, once a year we strap our children into a wooden “go-cart” that is steered awkwardly with the feet, has very little maneuverability, a questionable braking system and is highly likely to be over-corrected and driven into a hay bale or worse, a cactus (yes, I know the singular is technically cacti but it just sounds so weird).

Thankfully, Cub Mobiles do not actually have engines, gravity does all the work; which is enough, believe me.

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Why would any sane parent do this? Because it’s FUN and the kids have a blast!

And Cub Scouts are tough and always up for adventure!

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So every spring, we block off a road, lay out a course, strap our young into a questionable vehicle, load them onto a ramp and let ’em hurl down the street.

Welcome to Cub Mobile 2013

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The Brewer Boys, ready to race!

In Lane 1, Nathan “Shark Attack” Brewer

and in Lane 2, David “Had to Wear my Cool Quad Helmet” Brewer

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But it sure does look cool.

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Nathan sizes up the competition …

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and he’s off. I think his dimpley smile could be seen from space.

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This was his first time racing and he laughed and squealed the whole way down.

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After they launch from the ramp, the boys race to the end (this is another set of brothers racing) of the “track” …

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where should they forget to brake, there is a self-sacrificing dad waiting to catch them.  This particular heroic dad just happens to belong to my kids. Somehow, he always seems to end up in this enviable position, having to catch a hurtling go-cart with a wide-eyed boy who has forgotten where the brake is.

While we do have a few scrapes, bumps and bruises, safety is first and the boys wear helmets, long pants and no flip-flops – in Arizona, you always have to specify NO FLIP-FLOPS when necessary – and the danger is pretty minimal. I was just joking about the “cacti”, those are strategically blocked by hay bales; although those boys seem to do their best to try and hit them.

Really, the greatest danger is to those poor dads who catch the cars at the bottom of the hill. They are rock stars!

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Next year though, we will be adding elbow pads to the list of safety equipment. I don’t have any pictures of David racing because his second run ended in dramatic fashion with a big crash and a pretty nasty scraped elbow. That was enough for him and he was done for the day. Hangin’ at the snack table was a much safer option.

Cub-Mobile-3Meanwhile, Nathan was bouncing himself silly in the bounce house when he wasn’t running up and down the track playing “first responder” at every crash. Giving the thumbs up signal to let us know the driver was okay. He cracks me up.

In the end, a good time was had by all and no Cub Scouts were harmed, well mine was but he’ll live and he has a great story to tell. And, just in case you’re wondering, we did not just close down a city street. Well we did but we had permits and official barriers, which did not stop a few angry neighborhood motorists from expressing their disdain at our great inconvenience to them. I’m guessing they won’t be buying any Cub Scout popcorn at our next fund-raiser.

All I can say to that is …

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and we’ll be back next year.

So, aside from a scraped elbow – incidentally, he would not allow me to put a band-aid on it this morning; he said it was fine and he didn’t need one. I, however, know the real reason – cool points with his buddies; boys, particularly 7 and 8 year old boys, are very impressed by all things scabby and gross. My son will be a hero today. Who am I to stand in the way of his glory with band aids and infection preventing precautions.

Anyway, as I was saying, aside from a few minor injuries,

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a couple of maintenance issues

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and a small zombie apocalypse,

Cub Mobile 2013 was a huge success and a whole lotta’ fun!

Thanks to all of the incredible Pack 371 parents who worked hard to make it a safe and awesome event for some pretty darn great kids; zombies included.

Pinewood Derby Part III, Race Day!

PWD3-6This day has been months in coming. RACE DAY! Weeks and weeks of planning, countless hours of preparation and toil and finally, RACE DAY is here! Okay, truthfully about 3 days of planning and preparation and just a little bit of toil – just keepin’ it real – but none the less, it is RACE DAY!

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The Wolf Den is ready.

And yes, they are about the cutest, sweetest bunch of Cub Scouts on the planet.

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The track is set.

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The cars are placed and ready to race.

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The spectators (daddy, Nathan and grandma – Sara is helping with concessions and socializing as  big sisters do) are anxious as they wait to see just what the Great Devourer is truly made of!

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The tension is palatable.

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And one little brother, having moved to a better vantage point, is holding his breath hoping that his big brother (whom he normally wants to beat at EVERYTHING) wins, just this once – or at least until he’s racing too in a couple of years.

So, how did it all turn out?

Well, the Great Devourer seemed to have a mind of its own and jumped the track and then lost a wheel. The pit crew (daddy) raced in and repaired the wheel for a 3rd place finish in the next heat; to which Nathan shouts “OH NO, David LOSE!”

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But still gave his brother the thumbs up after mommy reminded him that it is okay not to be first.

And in fact, despite not being first, David did win.

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He won the “Flat Tire Award” (a bag of chocolate covered donuts) for jumping the track and losing a wheel in spectacular fashion!

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And by judges vote, he won for “Most Original Design”.

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I just have to say how proud I am of my sweet boy; not just because he worked hard on his car or won an award but because he was a true sportsman, cheering his friends on and showing genuine excitement for their success. I am proud of the maturity and grace I saw in him amid the disappointment of his car not performing as well as he would have like. I am proud of the young man he is becoming and how he reminded us that you don’t have to win to be a winner!

Pinewood Derby Part II

A little bit of planning, sawing, sanding, filing and painting and just like that … a rectangular block of wood has become a snake. Actually, a race car in the shape of a snake.

PWD2-3But not just any snake, this snake is the “Great Devourer” inspired by a LEGO character. And not just any Lego Character, a Lego NINJAGO character.

PWD2-10To my eight year old, the sun rises and sets Legos, particularly Lego Ninjago. So we weren’t even a little bit surprised when he informed us this year’s Pinewood Derby Car would be the “Great Devourer”. “We can do that? Right dad?” And so the creative process and collaboration between father and son began and a block of wood became something more.

After the carving, sanding and fine-tuning came the paint job and then weight placement. Pinewood Derby cars can be no more than 5 ounces in weight but you want to be right at 5 ounces to ensure it is as fast as it can possibly be – my kitchen scale came in very handy.

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The wheels are the next step and take a bit of work to make them fast. A little bit of science, a few tricks learned from the internet and other dads, a sprinkle of pixie dust (or in this case, graphite powder) a lot of pre-race spinning and the wheels are ready.

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The Great Devourer is finished and I have a very proud and excited boy in the house – his son is pretty happy too!

PWD2-4All ready to pack up and head over to the weigh-in.

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PWD2-7David and his buddy Ryan anxiously await the Great Devourer’s official weight.

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Exactly 5 ounces!

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Car #6, impounded and ready to race!

Pinewood Derby Prep, When a Block of Wood Becomes Something More

It is Pinewood Derby time around here. Consider this the Indy 500 of the Cub Scout world.  My middle guy and his dad have been working hard on his Pinewood Derby Car; taking a small rectangular block of wood and whittling (or sawing and Dremeling) it into a unique and hopefully fast race car.

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But truthfully, it doesn’t really matter how it looks, if it is fast or if it wins.

Because what they have really being doing, what it is really all about, is spending time together. Deepening their bond. Making memories. Teaching. Learning.

That is what really matters.

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What could possibly mean more to a little boy than to have his small hand engulfed in the hand of his daddy as he helps him guide the saw and shows him “how to do it”.

“No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.” – Abraham Lincoln

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When his father’s actions say …

You matter to me. Your interests matter to me. I am busy but I am not too busy for you.

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When his guidance and patience send the message …

I am here to do what you can’t but I will show you how to do what you can.

And trust you to do it.

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When his teaching shows that with a little teamwork, cooperation, and persistence a plain block of wood will become something amazing.

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When the gift of his time reminds his son …

You are part of a team. Loved. And your dad is on your side.

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” John 5:19

“Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime”

My blog has officially been neglected. I can’t believe it has been ten days since I last posted but as usual, Christmas has gotten away from me. My efforts at planning, preparation and time management were just not enough to accomplish all that I piled on my plate. This is not unusual. I am a work in progress. The good news is despite one visit from Monica (read about her here)  and a few sleepless nights, I truly had a wonderful and blessed Christmas. Now, after a couple of days to regroup and renew, which included a much-needed “Castle” marathon on TNT, I am back and am excited to share some of the highlights of our Christmas.

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For us, Christmas starts immediately after Thanksgiving when the trees, garland and lights go up. I love decking the halls and tend to over do it (shocking, I know) but it is always festive – not always finished, but festive none the less. Christmas-Decorating-3

The Christmas Tree(s). My husband likes colored lights and I like white lights so we compromised long ago and decided to do two trees. Is that truly a compromise? A fancy tree with white lights in the main living area and a fun and festive tree with colored lights in the family room. Truth be told, I love them both.

Decorating the family room tree or “kid tree” as we now call it, is a big family tradition complete with hot cocoa and Christmas songs on the radio. Just as my mom did when I was a kid, I put up the garland and the lights and then daddy and the kids hang the ornaments (and then I move the ornaments to more suitable locations after they go to bed) …

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Nathan has the honor of putting the star on top of the tree, with a little help from daddy of course.

Along with decorating, there is always a lot of baking to be done this time of year. A LOT! This year, I baked for friends, for charity, for parties and for family and neighbors. The good new is when you bake so many cookies, after a while, the last thing you want to do is eat one. I wish the same could be said of french fries.Cookies

We also enjoyed lots of celebrations and parties including a couple of birthday parties right smack in the middle of all the hustle and bustle – but that is for another post.

We enjoyed giving to others.

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You are never to young to experience the joy of giving.

And we remembered what had been lost …

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Two of the little boys killed in the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut were Tiger Cubs in the local Cub Scout Pack, one of the first responders was their den leader, one of the lost teachers had been a Venture Scout and three other scouts lost siblings that day. We remembered them at our Cub Scout Christmas Party by taking donations and cards and letters of sympathy and well-wishes.

As we remember what has been given …

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We also celebrated ongoing traditions and started new ones, like our first year with Noodles, the elf on the shelf.Bob-the-Elf-Rock-Climbing

This is Bob, the imposter elf, rock climbing on the fireplace. You can read about Noodles and Bob here.

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A gift from Noodles when he departed Christmas Eve. Watch for his final Christmas Post for 2012 as he will share the last of his antics and adventures while visiting with us.

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Dressed up and heading out for Christmas Eve services.

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Comfy and cozy in Christmas Eve pajamas and new slippers.

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Opening gifts Christmas Morning.

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Santa even left a little something for Gracie.

So much to be thankful for and so many things I want to remember about this Christmas.

Nathan’s first eggnog and the pure delight that washed over his face as he smelled and then tasted, exclaiming “mmmmm, it is sooooo good! Like bubble gum milk!”

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Funny guy.

The generous hearts of my kids as they showed immediate willingness when asked to give up Christmas gifts and instead spend the money to help others. How they were still filled with joy and understanding as we talked about that decision Christmas morning and remembered why there were only a few presents to be opened.

Christmas Eve services when it was announced that our church met our goal of digging 8 deep water wells and feeding ALL of the vulnerable children and orphans in one of the poorest and most ravaged regions of Malawi Africa. And when it was revealed that at last count we were actually tens of thousands of dollars over the goal, my son said “WOW! Now maybe some of those children can even have seconds!” He knows that to them, life is one cup of porridge each day and his heart was hoping some might get to have another. It truly is better to give than to receive.

The beautiful Christmas stockings my sister Dana made for my kids that were just like the ones our grandmother had made for us. Look for this story in a future post.

Nathan talking to my mom on the phone and asking her why she hadn’t come home for Christmas because he thinks her home is or at least should be with us.

My deconstructed Christmas Eve dinner because I just couldn’t do it ALL. Another future post.

The hugs and thanks of elderly neighbors for the gift of a simple plate of cookies and of being remembered. I need to remember to visit them more often.

There are also a few things I have learned this Christmas …

We gave up a lot and we didn’t miss any of it, kids included. We can give more.

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If you don’t open the damper on the fireplace, merry and bright become stinky and hazy.

No one notices or has less of a Merry Christmas because you were never able to finish the outside lighting and finally gave up and boxed it all back up and put it in the garage. Let it go.

When you have two little boys, two scooters are better than one – luckily, David was easily convinced that it would be a good idea to spend his Christmas money from grandparents on a scooter of his own.

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Yes, we ride scooters in flip-flops and Wellies.

Burgundy mushrooms are definitely worth getting up at 6am to start so they can simmer in butter and wine for nine hours. Pioneer Woman’s Burgundy Mushrooms.

The answer is five. Five years old is the age when you finally work up the courage to ask Santa for the scooter and monster truck you are hoping for instead of bursting into tears and burying your face in your mom or dad’s shoulder while clinging to them for dear life when he asks you what you want.

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At five years old, you are a big boy.

If I can’t get my family to eat brussels sprouts that are baked in a creamy cheesy gratin then I am NEVER going to get my family to eat brussels sprouts. Brussels Sprouts Gratin with Carmellized Shallots.

Hot cocoa is best with a little bit of fresh nutmeg grated over the whipped cream.

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I know this as well, next year I may or may not improve my time management skills. I will probably be exhausted again and over do it and despite my best efforts, Martha may try to take over and Monica might even show up a time or two. I also know that despite all of that, I will continue to seek the true meaning of the season and will be ever grateful for the Savior who came and died that I might have everlasting life. I am imperfect. He is not.

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Merry Christmas.

May you find peace and contentment in these last few days of the season. God Bless.