30 Day Giving Challenge Day 3 2012

The House of Hills is once again participating in the


Our goal is to give something EVERY day of the month. Big or small, every give is a gift to someone! Join the giving with us. We’d love to hear what you’re doing.

Day 3 brought yet another opportunity to share some yummies with those we love.

Don’t those look good? I will admit I ate a couple. I love me some chocolate chip cookies. Before you ask for the recipe, please know that I use the recipe on the back of the Nestle bag of chocolate chips. Always have. The only modification I make is that I use butter-flavor Crisco in place of actual butter. And, I might add a little bit more vanilla. I don’t really measure things like vanilla.

Where were these delightful cookies going? To retreat with my drama girl, Mags.

She and her troupe (aren’t they the cutest group of kids) headed up to the mountains for some bonding time. They are all going to sleep together in one room. Well, let’s admit it. They’re not going to get much sleep.

Doesn’t that look like fun? Craziness I say. Mags did get there early enough go grab a bunk. She was pretty excited about that.

One of the coolest things they do at retreat is pick their buddy for the year. This year, they’re calling them “Bubble Buddies.”

That’s my girl with her Bubble Buddy. I’m not sure what they’re doing. But, it sure looks like they’re having fun!!

A HUGE THANK YOU to all the drama mamas (and dads) that help organize this weekend every year. It is an AMAZING experience for all the kids. I mean seriously, I wish I could share every picture that has been uploaded to Shutterfly already, and they’re not even home yet. The moms in charge are AWESOME!

I sent cookies. It was the least I could do.

Follow the 30 Day Giving Challenge on Twitter and Facebook.


30 Day Giving Challenge 2012

It’s November 1st. What does that mean in your house?

Well, I mean besides that fact that you’re trying to figure out what you’re going to do with all your kids’ Halloween candy. I mean a person can only eat so many Butterfingers before they explode. Don’t ask me how I know this.

But really, what does November mean for you and your family? For most of us here in the U.S., it means being thankful, listing our blessings, family time, turkey.

At the House of Hills, November means GIVING. For the last two years, we’ve participated in the 30 Day Giving Challenge. I tried to document every day in 2010 and in 2011, but I always seem to slack off once we get past our BIG GIVE, my Operation Christmas Child Birthday Party. I’m having that earlier in the month this year. Hopefully, that will give me enough energy to make it to the end sharing with you each day how we gave at the House of Hills.

The thing is we are a giving group at our house. It’s the way we are wired. We all get excited when we’re able to give a small gift, help someone, or just give our time in some way. Because it’s not that hard for us, we sometimes aren’t intentional about it. Then, it can fall by the wayside. We love the 30 Day Giving Challenge because it recalibrates our giving senses. It makes us look for ways we can help others—ways we might have missed if we weren’t being intentional.

There are so many ways to give and love others, but sometimes we need help thinking of them. When I posted last month that I never went into a teacher conference empty-handed, I got amazing responses that basically said, “I’ve never thought of that. Thanks for the idea!”

We want to share our giving ideas with you this month! So check in each day to see what we did to give. And, you can check out the 30 Day Giving Challenge Pinterest Board that several bloggers are working on together.

Whether you’re able to give every day of November or maybe just one, I challenge you to play along with us. You’ll be thankful that you did.

What’s the best “give” you’ve ever received?


The Not So “Drama” Mama

I’ve been a “Drama Mama” for over a year now. It’s not a role I ever thought I’d have in my life. I mean sure, I wanted to be a mama – since I was old enough to know I could be one. And, I figured when I gave birth to a mini-me there was going to be some drama. But I never saw myself being a “Drama Mama.”

The mom that drives hours every week just so her child can get to rehearsals and shoots. The mom who sits and waits and sits and waits and waits some more while her child performs. The mom that willingly works wherever she can pull out her laptop so that her child can experience everything there is to experience about the theater. The mom who seriously needs to learn how to french braid, but can do some awesome stage makeup.

I’ve become that mom.
And, I like it.

I like it because I’m able to watch my child totally consumed by something she loves. I like it because I have watched my child grow in ways I never even thought of. I like it because I get to see my child use her God given talent to teach others about His love. I like it because when I watch my child perform she is full of passion and joy and confidence. It’s really amazing.

However, there’s a side of the “Drama Mama” role that’s selfish too. You see, where there is one drama mama, there are more drama mamas. We’re ALL sitting and waiting. We have a common bond, and we kinda enjoy each other. What you see on TV… ya, that’s not real. What’s real is a group of women joined together wanting what is best for the entire troupe. What’s real is a group of women who work hard to make sure the show is the best it can be and that EVERY child shines. That’s real. And, I love it.

Yesterday, a local news station filmed a rehearsal at Mags’ studio, Off Broadway Dance. It was a special rehearsal called for 7:45AM on a Monday morning so that they could be filmed and interviewed. The reporter was hoping to a have a few kids there for the story. EVERYONE showed up (minus two who were devastated they couldn’t be there, but had prior commitments). Not only did they show up, but they were EXCITED to be there. They couldn’t wait to share their passion with this reporter. They wanted her to see what they LOVE to do.

And, show her they did. The drama mamas were oh so very proud!

To see the news story click here.

I think the reporter was a little surprised by the lack of drama in the “Drama Mamas.” What she found was a group that acts like a family, each member having something unique to give, and everyone better because of the group.

Is your child involved in a group activity? How has it grown him/her?

Top Ten Tuesday : OCC Party

For the last two years I’ve thrown Operation Christmas Child box packing parties.

In 2010, we packed 89 boxes.

In 2011, we packed 110 boxes.

The 2012 party is coming up, and we are in full prep mode for this year’s fun!

We’re making lists and doing some online ordering and getting the word out about the party.

As I prepare for the big day, I wanted to share the Top Ten things I’ve learned about throwing an OCC Party.

1. Determine what type of party you want to have. Are you having a birthday party for one of your kids and letting friends pack boxes? Or, are you having a birthday party for yourself (like I do)? Then, you’re going to want a birthday party theme, with party balloons and cupcakes. Are you just having a OCC party? Then, you’ll want a Christmas theme. I always have Christmas music playing, apple cider in the crock pot, and red and green balloons.

2. Be clear on your instructions for what guests are supposed to bring. If you’ve already got the boxes, then they don’t need to bring them! You can order party supplies easily through Samaritans Purse. If you are providing some of the things to go in the boxes, let them know. I try to get some things donated by friends and family each year. They’re my birthday presents. I let my friends know that they don’t need to bring certain items, because I already have 100 of them.

3. Provide a way for your guests to pay for the shipping. It costs $7 per box to ship an Operation Christmas Child box. That $7 either needs to be in the box or you need to pay online and print a label. I provide envelopes and cash for my guests. Then, they can write me a check for $21 and we can put $7 in each box. Or, they can go on my computer (or theirs if they plan ahead) and pay the shipping online. They print out a label to put on their box that allows them to know where it is delivered. How fun is that?

4. Know where you are going to drop off the boxes. Once you’ve packed all the boxes, you’ll need to get them to Samaritan’s Purse. There are drop-off locations all over the country, just visit their website to find one near you.

5. Collect things for boxes all year around. As soon as my Operation Christmas Child party is over, I start collecting for the next one. I now have two big tubs in the garage full of things we’ll use for this years party. Shop clearance sales after holidays. Hit the Dollar Spots at Target and Walmart.

7. Have a note writing station. Can you imagine being able to talk to someone half-way around the world and telling them that God loves them? You can, through a shoebox. Be sure to have a place where your guests can write personal notes to put in each box. And, don’t worry about translation. Somebody on the other side of the world will help with that.

8. Make sure the box is REALLY full. It should be about to burst. In fact, you’ll want some rubber bands available to hold boxes closed. Make sure you box doesn’t have extra packaging in it. Take those matchbox cars and Barbies out of their boxes! You will find that some people are exceptionally good at packing a box. It’s like a big puzzle. Those people that are good at it… keep them around for the whole party.

8. Have a basket of supplies. You’ll need baggies for soap, rubber bands to hold boxes closed, tape to adhere the girl and boy labels, scissors for opening packages, pens and more. Think through everything your guests might need and make sure it is available to them. You’re also going to need more trash bags than you can imagine.

9. Food! Make sure you’ve have munchies for your guests. I usually go with Christmas party favorites like sausage balls, meatballs, veggies and some Christmas cookies. If you are going to have little people, be sure to have some Goldfish and pretzels. And, don’t forget the drinks.

10. Have fun! It’s a party! Make sure everyone is having a great time.

My Operation Christmas Child party has become one of my favorite days of the year. I look forward to it all year around. I smile from ear to ear the entire day. There is nothing better than sending Christmas to a child to experience it for the very first time.

Update: I started an Operation Christmas Child Pinboard to help you get other ideas. And, there is an Operation Christmas Child Virtual Box Packing Party going on!

Have you ever packed a shoebox?

 Linked to Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings.

I don’t get much face time…

Yesterday, I sat down to write a quick blog post after my Instagram and Twitter feeds received lots of feedback on a picture I had posted.

I had taken a gift to my child’s parent/teacher conference, and my friends thought it was a great idea. It appeared blog worthy, and I wanted to share other thoughts on how to honor a teacher since parent/teacher conferences are this week in my county.

I apparently hit a nerve in a multitude of people because my blog had more traffic than it ever has in its entire existence last night. I was really excited. People were sharing what I had to say. I must have said something of value. Then, I got a comment that wasn’t exactly supportive.

The commenter basically alluded to the fact that I am letting teachers raise my child. When I first read it, I was offended. But, then I pondered. The commenter has every right to write his/her opinion. I can delete it if I really want to. I have that power. However, what was my reaction telling me about me? I feel that whenever I’m offended I need to look at the “why” in me. Why does that bother me?

The more I pondered, the more I realized that I truly don’t think I’m letting teachers raise my child. Yes, she spends seven hours a day with other people influencing her. Yes, I allow and even encourage that. Because that is what’s best for our family right here, right now. It’s not what’s best for everyone’s family. It might not even be best for our family six months from now. But, right now, that’s where we feel God has led her to be.

Here’s the thing. She’s ten. I was home with her full-time for the first two years of her life and then working at her preschool (often with her) for the next two. While her foundation was being built, I was in every piece of it. Her dad was in every piece of it. God was in every piece of it. Then it was time to open the door and let her shine her light.

She is a beacon for the Lord. Her joy and confidence and all out love of life shower everyone around her with God’s love. When it was time to decide where she was supposed to go to school, God led us to send her to public school. Has it always been easy? No. Has God convicted us to change the plan yet? No. Are we open to His changing the plan? Always.

In yesterday’s post, I said “I don’t get much face time.” And, I don’t get as much as I used to. But, I think that’s okay. The time I do get is rich with conversation and love. It’s time that we cherish as a family and try not to waste. She’s at a stage in life where she’s becoming more independent, her own person. She shouldn’t need me as much. She needs to trust herself and her God to lead her. Her dad and I are now touch points. We’re safe places to come to when she needs help and is trying to figure out how to deal with something. Her foundation is strong. Now, she just needs us to help her smooth out the rough edges that come with being a tween. But the journey is hers. I don’t need to be in her face all the time.

My girl starts and ends her day with me, her dad, and her Heavenly Father. The time in between she knows we are all there with her, but she’s doing it on her own.

And, isn’t that the goal?

New Blogger in the House!

Last week, I told you that I had applied to be on the WDWMoms panel. We haven’t heard anything from that. Not that I really expect to. But, a girl can dream right!?

When I applied, it brought up a family discussion about what they do and what kind of questions they answer. Maggie looked at me and said, “I want to do that for kids.” Well, after explaining to her that their wasn’t a Kids Panel, she decided to figure out a way she could help kids plan their trips to Disney.

For the House of Hills, the planning of a trip to Disney is half the fun. We LOVE spending hours watching videos, listening to podcasts, searching online and just discussing what we’re going to do on our next Disney trip. It’s part of our everyday lives. One of Maggie’s favorite podcasters is Lou Mongello over at WDWRadio. She decided to write Mr. Lou and ask if she can write about going to Disney from a kid’s point of view on his blog.

On our way back from our Labor Day trip, she used Hubby’s iPad to write a letter complete with example posts and then asked me to email it. I complied.

Big parenting moment pause here. Did I think she would end up blogging for Mr. Lou? It was possible. Not probable but possible. Was there a big risk to her self-confidence? Yes. But, if she didn’t ask, she wouldn’t know. As parents, Hubby and I feel like we need to let her try whatever she thinks she can do (within reason of course). We discuss the possible outcomes with her. If she’s willing to take the risk, we’ll back her. And, we’ll be there to hold her if she falls (figuratively or really).

So, I sent the email, and we waited. Every day, Maggie would come home from school and ask, “Did you check your email?” Yes, I live on my email. Silly question really. Finally, I got an email that made her OVER THE MOON EXCITED!

Mr. Lou’s blog editor (whom I’m becoming fast friends with) invited Maggie to be a regular contributor on the blog. Her first assignment was to write an introductory post that told a little about her and what she would be writing about. Then, last Tuesday, my girl’s post went live.


As you can tell by the post, she wants kids (or parents of kids) to ask her questions, and then she’ll answer them in future posts. In fact, she’s writing one right now while I type this. Yes, we’re blogging together. I am SO EXCITED for her and proud of her courage for putting herself out there and just asking.

We have a new blogger in the house. And, I’m pretty sure she’s on her way to being read more than me.

Mags the Monkey

A few days ago I shared how I’ve been a Drama Mama for over a year now. It’s been a fun ride, but I think my favorite show Mags has done is the one she just finished.

She was one of the Wickersham Brothers in Seussical. This has got to be one of the most hysterical and entertaining kids shows out there. If there is someone doing it at a theater near you, go see it.

Here are just a few pics to share the experience with you!

Cast B

A monkey with attitude.

Now she’s after you!

With the proud parents.

Aunt Amy came from Alaska to see the show.

All the W cousins came the last day. They loved it!

Nana came the last day too!

And so did Grandma and Gramps and all the Aunts and Uncles, but somehow we didn’t get a picture of that!

Finally, the best part of a show…. is going for ice cream after rehearsal with new friends.

I’d Like Another Please…

Yesterday afternoon and evening was one of those that a mother dreams of. And, I’m being totally sincere here. It was one of those rare afternoons where apparently neither I nor my daughter were cranky or hormonal. We spoke to each other with respect and harmoniously accomplished a huge list of chores.

I got a glimpse of what a day could be. And I’d like another PLEASE!!

I’ve been thinking about it since she went to bed last night (very obediently during small group without a need for three re-tucks). What was the trick? What did I say or do that made it work? I’m still not sure I figured it out, but I have some ideas.

ONE – I wasn’t stressed about work when I picked her up. All summer long it’s been this insane balancing act to try and get my work done while schlepping her from one thing or another to keep her busy while I’m trying to work. The result was a stressed out mommy who didn’t think she was giving enough to either her job, kid, or husband. I was constantly tense and thinking about the next thing.

Yesterday, when I picked her up at the bus stop, I was focused only on her and getting our after school routine established. I’d accomplished a lot at work and had felt I’d put in a good day at the office, so it was time to wife and mom.

TWO – I’ve gone back to written lists for me and her. My husband and co-workers don’t understand my need to write on paper (lots and lots of paper), but I feel so much more in control when I actually write it down and then cross it off. And yes I will write something down just to cross it off if it wasn’t on the list to begin with.

I’d crossed a lot of my list yesterday. When we got home, she relaxed for a minute and then tackled the list I wrote out for her. I wasn’t having to be bossy so she wasn’t whining back at me. She just did the list and managed to fold two loads of towels, unload the dishwasher, and clean up her room with no complaints.

THREE – I ASKED for her help. When I needed her to help me clean the top of the mirror in the bathroom, I asked her to please come help me. I didn’t boss. I asked. And guess what? She was happy to do it. And then she asked for a dust rag to clean the top of the mirror and lights because “Mom, these are nasty up here.”

We don’t have as many cleaning tasks to do today, but we do have to get to a voice lesson and the grocery store. I’ve already made out her list, and it’s on the counter waiting for us to get home. I’m cranking through my list at work so that I feel like I’ve put in a good day.

I’m hoping and praying that I get another one just like yesterday…

First Day of Fifth Grade

I can’t believe this day is here.

The first day of fifth grade.

The last “first day” of elementary school.

The beginning of the end.

My baby only has one year left of being a baby.

She’s already teetering on the edge of “tween” even though she won’t be ten until the end of the month. Body changes and the accompanying mood swings have begun. What she looks like is beginning to matter. The comparisons to others has started.

I’m going to have to face it. My baby is growing up.

But she still likes to go for frozen yogurt with Mommy after school.

I’ll take that while I can get it. Love this kid.

Christmas Letter 2011

Merry Christmas from the House of Hills!!!

The biggest news of 2011 was our move into our new home! Last Christmas, we were living in our temporary home (thanks F’s). This year we are celebrating in our little cottage and LOVING it. We’ve got a great neighborhood, excellent schools, and shorter commutes. It doesn’t get any better than that!

This is a picture of our courtyard before we moved in. We loved watching the build process and seeing it become our home. It’s a great house for entertaining (read that as it has an awesome kitchen) so come by any time!

Our Maggie is now a fourth grader. This is VERY hard for Mommy to take as that would be a grade she used teach, and those are “big kids.” The girl becomes more independent daily. (Unless of course she’s sick or tired and then can be found in Mommy’s lap.) Somehow I ended up being room mom this year, but it’s been fun and enjoyable to be back in the classroom some without all the paperwork.

This is the first day of school. She’s already gotten “older” than this. It’s crazy.

In addition to excelling at school, Maggie has become involved in musical theater. This summer she took a week long camp at Off Broadway Dance and played Thomas O’Malley in the “Aristocats.”

She decided she LOVED singing and dancing and being the villain, and was cast as Jasper in “101 Dalmatians.”

She auditioned for an made the company’s competition troupe and is now in rehearsals for “Mulan” in which she is mainly ensemble and has a few lines as a Hun. The troupe has performed several times this fall in preparation for the competition in February at Disney.

David and I continue to keep busy. David is still working at North Point Community Church as the North Point Store Operations Director (and, yes, I just had to ask what his title is). I am still the Editor-in-Chief of the First Look curriculum for Orange. I’m not sure what that title means, but I keep busy and curriculum gets loaded each month! We also started a new small group in March, and have so enjoyed the new relationships. We are both enjoying living closer to our church friends and have entertained quite a bit in our new home.

Here we are at my Christmas party. That man of mine… always making me laugh. We celebrated 13 years of marital bliss this December. So blessed.

We lost my best friend Katie this year. After years of fighting, the cancer finally won. I was with her until the end and honored to give the eulogy at her celebration service. (You can read it on the March 4th entry in her Caring Bridge Journal if you like.) While I (and MANY others) continue to struggle with missing her, we are learning to celebrate her time with us and figuring out how to live without her. We as a family are very involved with her kids and husband. I am so thankful that our move also brought us closer to their home. The silver lining in the pain are the amazing friendships that have formed in our mourning.

My Katie was an awesome lady whose ten years of friendship I will ALWAYS cherish.

We went to Disney TWICE this year! I was lucky enough to go to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration in March. It was AMAZING! We surprised Maggie with that trip via a video David and I made. Watching her reaction was almost as fun as the trip. The March trip was so much fun and just what our family needed at that time. We felt so blessed to be able to go.

Then, I surprised both David and Maggie with a three day trip in November on our way to the beach for the Thanksgiving.

There is NOTHING more amazing than Disney decorated for the holidays. It’s so beautiful. We had a great time, and it was so cool to be able to surprise them both.

Throughout the year, we’ve enjoyed multiple gatherings with friends and family. Maggie’s cousins continue to play an important role in her life, and she enjoys getting together with them often.

These are the cousins from David’s side where Maggie is the youngest (by 8 weeks).

These are the cousins from my side (minus the youngest) where Maggie is the oldest (by 8 weeks). Maggie is especially close to E who is the only other girl in the gaggle of crazy on my side. They stick together on the annual Thanksgiving trip to the beach and at family gatherings at my mom’s.

That’s pretty much all that’s been going on in the House of Hills this year. If you’re stopping by because of our Christmas card, know that I post on this blog all year long. It’s the easiest way to keep up with us!

We wish for all our family and friends (and my amazing readers) a Christmas full of peace, joy, and love.