Jessica
This is too funny! My friend, Jocelyn, blogged this with her family and we just had to share. If you make one, please share it. Merry Christmas!

http://www.elfyourself.com/?id=1117710275
Jessica
If I had to pick one hour that I truly look forward to every year, it is Oprah's annual "Favorite Things" episode. I know, I just lost a little respect in some of your eyes, but I can't help it: I love this show. I like the fun Christmas music and all of the decorations. I like seeing all of the fancy "things" and getting a peek at what Oprah's life might be like. But what I looovve is seeing all of the audience's excitement when she gives away the stuff.

Each year Oprah chooses a few of her favorite things and recommends them as Christmas gifts for our friends and loved ones. (Please don't send me any comments about corporate sponsorship. I won't let you ruin the holiday fun.) The great part is that she gives one of every favorite thing to each audience member, so they walk out with thousands of dollars of really cool stuff! As you can imagine, people go nuts. So nuts that I even got caught up in the excitement and found myself literally jumping up and down in my living room, and I wasn't getting a single thing!

Since chances are slim that I'll ever get to be in Oprah's Favorite Things audience, the best way for me to be a part of the frenzy is to make my own favorite things list. So here are some of my favorite things, all of which I'd recommend as Christmas gifts for your friends and loved ones.

Jessica's Favorite Things 2007

1. Kellogg's Special K2O Protein Water - I first tried this water when my sister-in-law brought it to the hospital when I birthed Azlan. I have been hooked ever since. Seriously, I drink at least 4 bottles a week. It comes in 3 flavors, but my favorite is the Tropical Blend. It does have 6 grams of sugar in it, but it also has 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein. You can get it at most grocery stores, but you'll probably have to look in the diet foods section near the pharmacy. Expect to pay $6 for 4 bottles.

2. Bath and Body Works Sleep Pillow Mist - This aromatherapy pillow mist has a Lavender Chamomile scent that is so relaxing. I promise that I fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly when I spray it on my pillow before bed. I've even used it on the boys' pillows if they seem unusually restless or when Patriot's afraid of monsters (then we call it "Good Dream Spray"). It costs $10 for a 4 oz. bottle. They actually have a whole line of these sleep products, but this is the only one I've tried.

3. "The Christmas Box Collection" by Richard Paul Evans - The Christmas after 9/11 I needed to be reminded of the good in this world. I was wandering through the bookstore and God led me to this book. I have read it every Christmas season since then. It is a collection of three fiction stories about the joys and trials of the Parkin family set in Utah in the 1900s. It's really about the love of a family that sees them through the phases of life. Although it is not overtly Christian, it does reference Scripture and the true meaning of Christmas. In paperback, it lists for $7.99 and is well worth it.

4. "When My Heart Finds Christmas" by Harry Connick Jr. - This CD is simply Christmas in classic Harry Connick, Jr. style. He sings lots of your favorite Christmas songs, including secular and religious, but adds his own arrangements. The band that accompanies him is great. This CD is an oldie but a goody and you can still find it at Amazon for $3 used.

5. Sony Kitchen CD Clock Radio - This CD player mounts under your kitchen cabinet and plays CDs, AM & FM radio, and even gets the audio from broadcast TV stations. Plus it has a remote. It's pretty old school compared to the digital, flip-down TVs and Bose systems that are available for your kitchen, but for us simple girls it does the trick. I listen to mine almost every day while I make dinner. According to Sony it retails for $79.95, but I bet you could find a sale.

6. Fisher & Paykel Intuitive Eco Washing Machine - For you big spenders out there, I know the TV commercials will tell you to buy a diamond or a Volvo, but your lady will thank you every day she uses this washing machine. Besides having one of the highest Energy Star ratings and being one of the most complex pieces of technology in our home, it is so user friendly. This washing machine senses the type of clothing in the load and adjusts is agitation accordingly, so it will automatically spin harder for a load of towels than a load of delicates. It also senses how full your load is and adjusts the water level. It's final spin cycle rotates at 1000 rpms, so your clothes are practically dry before you put them in the dryer. It comes loaded with dozens of presets including sanitizing sheets or towels after you've been sick, washing your comforter, cleaning the sand out of beach clothes, and washing sports clothes and equipment. My in-laws gave us this washer as a gift when my old one broke this summer, and the appliance man was able to give us a great deal because it had a dent on the side. But if you have the money, it's worth it. It retails at Lowe's and other appliance stores for about $800.

So, that's my list this year. At the end of the day, things are just things and are not measures of the love we have for each other. Ultimately, my favorite things in life can't be bought or sold. But gift giving and receiving sure is fun!
Jessica
With Thanksgiving only a week away, many of us are planning our menus, scheduling our family visits, and making our shopping lists for next Friday. I'd like us all to take a moment to remember the real star of Thanksgiving: the turkey.


Take this Turkey Trivia Quiz and let me know how you do. I got 9 of 20 right.
Jessica
I forgot that we'd figured out how to do video with our camera, so we actually have some video from Azlan's birthday. We haven't figured out how to edit it, so you're just getting the raw footage, but I thought this would be fun for my first go at posting video.

If I can figure all this out, I'm joining Oprah on YouTube.

Here is Azlan opening presents.

video

And here he is after eating cupcakes. I call this "Sugar Rush."

video
Jessica
Our family has completed "Birthday Season 2007." Between mid-October and the beginning of November, we have five birthdays, which makes for a whirlwind of cake and presents (and hopefully explains why I've not been blogging much lately). Here's how the celebrations go:

October 17 - My sister-in-law, Ashley, has her birthday. Ashley is such a sweet spirit and gathering with her friends was a relaxed, fun evening and a great kick-off for Birthday Season.

October 18 - Patriot, my oldest son, turned 3 this year. The Saturday before his birthday we had a "Go, Diego! Go!" themed party for him. A few of his little friends came over and pretended to be "Animal Rescuers" through the different games we played. It was a good time for all, especially Patriot.

The day of his birthday we had special birthday waffles with candles in them. He got to choose what he wore that day, so he was dressed in his Chad Johnson uniform. He also got to choose what we did for dinner, so the whole family was off to Chuck E. Cheese. We ended up having a great time! See more pics from Patriot's birthday here.

November 1 - My birthday. I really had a great day. My mom took the boys for the day, so I went for a bike ride on the Loveland Trail, met Matt for lunch, did a little shopping at TJ Max, then came home and slept through Oprah. Mom made us meatloaf and mashed potatoes for dinner -- yum! Then the McKee family came over to eat birthday cake that evening. It really was a great day.

November 5 - Matt's Uncle Donnie's birthday. This was the first year we've lived near Uncle Donnie and have been able to celebrate with him. Uncle Donnie has really added a lot to our family in the few weeks he's lived up here and we're so glad to have the chance to get to know him better, especially Patriot, who really adores Uncle Donnie.

November 6 - Azlan, my youngest son, celebrated his first birthday this year. I don't remember Patriot's first birthday being as emotional for me as this one was. I really struggled with making this day appropriately significant, but I think it turned out nice. The Saturday before we had the family over for an Elmo-themed party. Azlan loves Elmo. I mean, really loves Elmo. It is so funny the way his face lights up when he sees Elmo. So we decorated with all of our Elmo toys and made some Elmo cupcakes, which he greatly enjoyed (as you can see). Everyone wrote Azlan a letter that we'll keep in his memory box until he's older. That was nice. He opened presents and generally had a good time.

The day of his actual birthday was again filled with family. Azlan and I got to spend the afternoon together, which was kind of full circle for me, remembering where I was and what I was doing a year ago. All in all, I feel really good about the big first birthday. See more pics from Azlan's birthday here.

We ended our birthday celebrations with a trip downtown to see The Wiggles live. Let me tell you about big times: this was a big night for our family. Patriot studied every movement, every word, every song at this concert. He is an observer and takes weeks to process the things he sees. Azlan enjoyed every moment in the moment. He danced and clapped, pointed and laughed, as if the whole show was put on just for him. Matt and I actually enjoyed the show, too. It was witty and fun, plenty of slapstick and even a few jokes for the adults (at one point Murrey started playing "Stairway to Heaven" instead of "Play Your Guitar with Murrey" -- it was a riot). This concert was a great way to wind up Birthday Season for our family.

In some ways I really like having a Birthday Season. Logistically, it's kind of nice knowing that for a few weeks I will focus on birthdays, and then have a break before the next birthday rolls around. However, I discovered a danger this year: It is far too easy for me to lump all of these birthdays into one sum of a few weeks instead of giving each birthday the individual attention it deserves. I think I'll do better as the years go by.