(From Russ) We are always looking for ways to fight the consumer mentality that overwhelms our society. And Christmas provides us a unique opportunity to be extra focused in that pursuit. So with this, my first blog, I would like to let you know the top three ways the Miller Family has simplified this holiday season.
#1: Give Used Gifts A few weeks ago we were at Toys-R-Us looking for a gift for a cousin. Noa was super-interested in this small electronic drum that was $22. We decided to get it for her. Next Jackie went in to Once Upon a Child and found a stand up music table for $10 (regular $50). This was going to be Noa’s “big gift of the year.” While she was gone, Noa played with a water bottle in the car with as much excitement as she had with the drum from the toy store. So, when Jackie got back in the car with Noa’s new used gift, I went back to Toys-R-Us and returned the drum. It was a proud moment.
#2: Give things your kids need and use the wrapping as their present Noa doesn’t care about what’s inside the box as long as there is a bow on the outside. I am convinced that her absolute favorite gift would be if we wrapped wrapping so that after she got tired of one bow, she could open the box to find an entirely different bow to play with. So this year we (rather, Jackie) wrapped things like a warm fleece she will need for Michigan and much needed new pajamas. And Noa just loved that wrapping.
#3: Give Library Books Yes. That’s right. In the spirit of simplicity (and “going green”), my precious wife gave me library books. Our “big gift” to each other was to have our yard landscaped. So, instead of spending $80 on four landscaping books (which, she knows, would have made me despise them), Jackie checked them out and wrapped them. For the next nine weeks (as long as I renew them twice online), I get to enjoy these priceless (literally) treasures before I have to regift them back to their original owners. That, my friends, is the way it’s done.
(this is Jackie) I thought of 2 other incredible tips that Russ forgot to mention… #4 – Dollar General I’ve driven by this store so many times and just realized a few weeks ago that this store is awesome! They even have Oreos for $2 (way more expensive in the grocery store)! Anyway, there’s a wealth of toys in there and we found so many great stocking stuffers for Noa. And, while I’m thinking about it, I need to go back and get those Oreos…
#5 – Happy Meal toys The other day I was at Wal-Mart and just needed a cheeseburger happy meal. This is actually a great deal if you don’t want any of their HUGE sandwiches accompanied by the GIGANTIC fries and GALLON drink. Anyway, I was about to tell the lady that they could keep the toy when I realized I could wrap it up for the girl. To my delight it was a little My Little Pony, which Noa looked at for about 3 seconds. I’m so glad I didn’t pay big bucks for it! I guess this only works if you're the one eating the happy meal though. It would be pretty mean and a little weird to take an older kid's toy away from them only to hide it until Christmas.
#6 - Old Cell Phones I said I would only mention 2, but the great ideas just keep coming. In light of Noa always grabbing our cell phones, we decided to wrap up one of Russ' old ones and put it in her stocking. She loves it! She carries it with her when she's crawling around. Actually, any old electronic device would be a great gift for a kid because 1. they're basically useless, and 2. kids have WAY better imaginations than we do...
So, Nanny and Pappy decided to do something a little different this year at the family Christmas Eve party. Rather than handing everyone a card with money in it, all the grandkids had to choose our own envelope (out of like 32, I think) and the base amount was $50, but a few envelopes had more in them. Only one envelope contained $100 (we found this out later). Noa picked #2 so she was the second one to go. We let her hover over all of the envelopes and she honed in on, and grabbed up her own. Like the high rollers in Vegas, she definitely had a way about her and evidently knew what she was doing. We opened it and *BAM* Girl got the $100! Is she funny or what? Merry Christmas to Noa Jane!
Today I want to celebrate Russ and hope you will too! Take a moment to comment and wish him a Happy Birthday and tell him how wonderful he is or share a fun story... he would love it!
Things I love about Russ Russ and his car The other day I cleaned Russ’ car out. I’ve always known Russ has a little clutter problem, but this was beyond belief. I found an array of garbage strewn about, but some specific things I uncovered were an empty Triscuit box, a plate, a glass, a cup, 2 coffee mugs, a travel coffee mug, 3 newspapers (still in the bag), about 15 burned CD’s – some in paper cases – some just floating around the car, crumpled up Chic-Filet coupons, a Diet Pepsi can (I’ll claim that one) and 19, yes 19 water bottles – mostly full of water. All this junk was highlighted by the spilled white paint (now dry) in the backseat, and a funky baby powder scent that the detailers accidentally sprayed in the car. The crazy thing is, I don’t think Russ even notices. The paint spot has been there for years, and the baby powder lives on even though the car was detailed more than a year ago. He shamelessly drives around town, picks people up from the airport (even guest ministers!), and simply loves the fact that his car is totally paid for. I am a little concerned about the water bottle collection (we’ve already talked about this), but for some reason I think I would be more concerned if his car was always spotless… it’s just not him. ☺
Russ and coffee Russ has always liked coffee; very strong coffee. I used to go to Utica Square in Tulsa and visit him when he worked at Starbucks. I think I drank coffee just to visit him. While I could care less about good coffee, he's definitely particular about it, perhaps because he was a Barista for a while, perhaps because he just knows what he wants. Anyway, one day recently, he came out of Starbucks with an Iced Carmel Machiatto. I was surprised as his usual order is just plain old drip coffee. I asked, "You wanted a Carmel Machiatto, huh?" He emphatically responded, "Oh, only because I had a giftcard! I would never ever pay for this!" Something about this made me laugh and I know Russ and I can be a bit too frugal sometimes. A Carmel Machiatto is sooo yummy, and also complete rip-off (is it over $4 for a Tall?), and while he rarely enjoys a special drink like this (even though he likes them), I know he would buy me a $10 drink if I wanted it. I would have a hard time paying that for a drink, but you know what I'm saying. Anyway, the house wouldn't be the same if we didn't have a pot of coffee going in the morning and late afternoon. I give him a hard time about being an addict, but I actually like the fact that he's cofee-savy. It suits him.
Russ and Noa Nothing makes me love Russ more than watching him with our daughter Noa. Noa Jane is a Daddy's girl to the core and it is definitely because she has a great Daddy. Upon returning from work, he can't wait to see her and when she hears his voice, all she wants is Daddy. One of my favorite things to watch is how he dances with her. You might be getting a picture of a slow, sweet, Daddy-daughter dance, but that's not at all what I'm talking about. They rock out! Noa's got moves! And their infectious laughter puts a smile on my face every time. I'm so thankful for a husband who understands the beauty of family life and I can't wait to have more children with him.
Russ and the church When I first met Russ it was easy to see that he was a gifted person. One specific gift that stands out is his ability to lead people. If you know Russ, you know that he has a knack for telling people what they don’t want to hear and presenting it in a way that somehow brings about change in their lives. I always joke that he can successfully ask anyone to do anything and I have a hard time picking up the phone to order pizza. He definitely has a way with words. The great thing about Russ is that he’s not a manipulative person he’s just that good with people. Russ loves people. When I was growing up I remember my dad (also a pastor) enjoying the “unlovables” the most and I always wanted to marry someone like that. Russ shepherds people in that kind of a way. And while he’s compassionate, he’s very decisive, as a leader should be. I love to run everything by him because he typically knows what needs to be done in a situation. He can weigh the pros and cons like no one I’ve known (half the time I can’t even come up with a list of pros and cons) and I trust his judgment, as I know most do. When we embarked upon this pastoral journey a few years ago I was more concerned about my role than I was his. I was never worried about his ability to lead the church, much less to love the church. He is a good pastor… a good shepherd… a man after God’s own heart.
Russ and food Russ loves food (don’t we all?). This was actually a big connection point for us when we were just friends – our common ground, if you will. While I love eating, cooking is not my favorite thing to do and he really cuts me some slack in my lack of preparation sometimes (side note: I’m not a bad cook, I just don’t enjoy it very much). Anyway, he is such a creative person. I’ll look and look and look for something in the pantry to make and find nothing, probably because I don’t want to take the time to throw it together. He’ll come up with some of the best dishes and actually take the time to be creative with it. This is the most amazing thing to me… the effort… a lot of effort. Every possible utensil is used in the process. The kitchen looks crazy when he’s done. But, he genuinely enjoys it. And although he doesn’t return food to the fridge, and constantly gets you-name-it all over himself, he is a good cook and I love to eat his food. ☺
Russ and housework This morning Noa and I fell back asleep on the couch and when I woke up, I realized Russ had straightened the whole house. While this doesn’t necessarily happen every morning, it happens enough to comment about it. One thing that he almost always does is make the bed. I’ve never really asked him to, and I certainly don’t mind doing it, but it seems to be taken care of before I get to it. Sometimes I’m amazed that he helps me out with those kinds of things because it is contrary to his messy nature (open his desk drawers at work and you’ll know what I mean). I’m the one who has to have everything perfect. But help he does. He still hasn’t mastered the art of closing cupboard doors when he’s done with them, but one day I realized that maybe my job was to be the cupboard door closer, and that’s way easier than making beds. And, if one day he wasn’t around, I would probably open the cupboard doors and leave them that way for a while, just to feel him near.
Russ and his best friend Ummm… that would be me. ☺ I wish every woman had the opportunity to be married to someone like Russ. It was a long time coming, but definitely worth the wait. He takes care of me. He knows me. He sees the best and the worst. Russ is my husband, my lover, my confidant, my friend, my leader, my dream come true, my role-model, my protector, my provider, my priest, my prophet, my helper, my baby’s daddy, my sounding board, my counsel… Russ is my very best friend. He always was. He always will be.
In thinking through the last year or so since we've been in this house, I've realized we need to be better neighbors. We're not bad neighbors - we're more like non-existent neighbors - at least to those right next door and across the street. So... we decided to make CCCCAAANNNNDDDDYYYY!!!! Who doesn't love candy? I got this recipe from Mary and it is yummy. Hopefully we can deliver it all before we eat through all of the bags... they've been disappearing...
We stopped for an M&M break. Okay, we stopped for a lot of M&M breaks...
Here's the recipe if you would like to try it out.
1 ½ lbs. White melting chocolate 3 cups Corn Chex 3 cups Rice Chex 3 cups Cherrios 2 cups Stick Pretzels 1 – 12 oz. bag M&M’s 2 cups Peanuts (12 oz. can)
• Mix all dry ingredients together in a big bowl • Melt chocolate (use directions on pkg.) • Mix to coat • Spread onto 2 cookie sheets to dry
If you use plain M&M’s, use peanuts for your nuts If you use peanut M&M’s use cashews Off brand M&M’s colored coating usually melts turning mix an ugly brown color – use real M&M’s.
This is what happens when Mommy doesn't feel like taking Noa back to her room early in the morning... she never sleeps better than when she's in Mommy's bed! I just wish she would sleep this well at 2 in the morning!! Check out this chicken hair!
FINALLY! It has been a while since we were able to go out for dinner and we tried this restaurant in Mt. Pleasant that we had never been to - amazing italian! (I can't remember the name of the place though). I think this is the first date that we've been on where I haven't had Noa on my mind the whole time. It was nice just to hang out with Russ! Then, the other night, as we were decorating the Christmas tree, I remembered that we had left-over cranberries in the fridge and we decided to string them. When I was growing up, we used to string popcorn every year and Russ had never done it. I'm so glad he played along - it all looks great on our tree! And Noa slept the whole time!
Joey, Nikki, and Judah came all the way from Florida to hang out with us over Thanksgiving. We were so glad they came! I'm beginning to notice that they have all the really cute pictures on their camera... Look how happy the girl is!!
Yes, that's the stage we're in right now. Noa goes from one thing to the next trying to climb it. I get so much joy out of watching her accomplish her task (again and again) and feel the same overwhelming pride that she does when she "reaches the top." I just know this girl is going to be walking soon!! Does someone want to come and chase her for a day to give me a break? :) (Side note: Disregard the little Diet Pepsi addiction that is evident in this photo.)
Today I started getting the house ready for Joey, Nikki, & Judah to come visit. I couldn't be more excited to spend quality time with family and friends. I love preparing for the holidays. I've been planning the big thanksgiving meal (which I'm taking on this year!) and as I've been chopping up celery, cubing bread, and figuring out which pans to use, my thoughts turn to years past. Russ and I have so many things to be thankful for - most importantly our Savior, Jesus Christ. May you & yours experience his love and be blessed this Thanksgiving!
We decided to walk down to Ivana & Evie's house to drop something off and we were chilled to the bone by the time we got there (only took about a minute and a half). Winter's on the way! Thankfully, Evie let Noa borrow her hat and blanket since Mommy was a little unprepared for how cold it actually was. Definitely going to have to buy some warmer things for our trip to Michigan after Christmas... Look at how sweet this girl is!
The week before last Russ had a class he was taking in Charlotte, so Noa and I decided to live it up while he was working away. This girl LOVED crawling all over the king size bed! We brought her pack 'n play, but somehow she ended up in our bed. I made the bed all around her and she didn't even wake up! Every once in a while when I look at a picture like this, I'm just amazed how small she is. Like, she's not even as long as one of those pillows on the bed. Weird. What a precious season. :) On a different note... One of Noa's favorite things to do is dangle things. We don't really know what this is all about, but we always catch her with both arms up, dangling something in the air (which had just fallen to the ground when I snapped this picture). She is extremely focused when she does it, and I'm beginning to think that she might be just like her Daddy with the whole focus thing (which happens to be his superpower). This incredible ability to block out anything and focus can be used for good OR evil (you know what I mean if you know Russ). Anyway, I'm not sure why, but I love when she dangles - it always makes me laugh...
Noa and I both love mornings. If you want to see this girl at her best, take the morning shift and let us sleep in! :) Anyway, everyday we laugh and giggle and talk about all sorts of things. No, not politics or the economy... important things like diapers, bottles, spit-up, our favorite colors, Daddy... On Sundays we get to share our morning "cup of joe" as we're riding to church. Noa is almost able to hold her bottle by herself - what a big girl!!!
We love when Lorann and her crew come to town! Yesterday we had so much fun playing with Joshua and Caleb, and they were so nice to include Noa in the fun. I think Noa especially liked pulling on Joshua's face. We tried and tried to get a picture of the three of them smiling (or at least looking at the camera), but you know how those things go... Noa has really been getting around lately! She hasn't transitioned into a full, fluid crawl yet, but she somehow gets where she wants to be. I think it is through a series of sitting up over and over again. She also LOVES to stand. This week as we've gone in to get her after a nap, she's been proudly standing up in her crib! And yes, she thinks she's hot stuff! (Side note: Notice she's totally destroyed the crib bumper- ugh!)
I can't explain how incredible it is to be a mother. No one can. I know all those flower pink cards try to explain it, but I think it all ends up being a little too frilly and dainty. Simply stated, in my opinion motherhood is a gift from the Father, wrapped up in countless little moments in time - both sweet and frustrating - that is unlike anything else. I'm so glad to be Noa's Mommy. She's my girl... Here we have "CeCe Winans" or "Cranks" starting to manifest...