December 25, 2019

The Best Christmas Gift Ever

Jerry had to work today, so we celebrated Christmas yesterday instead. He works in a factory that runs 24/7/365, so occasionally he gets hit for holidays. We are very used to it, because he's been working there since 2002. Thankfully, my kids never believed in Santa (just my personal choice) so we didn't have to try to explain that one ;)

I have been sick the past few days (again!) and it's annoying. This time, I just have a sore throat and I've been blowing my nose almost constantly. I was sick at this time last year, too. My friend Audrey's dad died on Christmas, and I couldn't go to the funeral because I had bronchitis and was having terrible coughing fits.

Anyway, aside from the annoyance of having a cold, Christmas was great yesterday! This year, I wasn't feeling too sure about gifts for the kids. Usually, I am super excited about something in particular to give them, but Eli's wish list was nothing but Rubik's Cubes and Noah's was nothing but socks (I'm not joking about the socks--he loves novelty socks, and those are his "thing").

Eli collects all sorts of different Rubik's Cubes and has solved all of them, so he's always looking for new ones. He has two obsessions--Rubik's Cubes and squirrels. A couple of days ago, I was still just feeling unsure about what I'd bought for him (several Cubes that were on his list), so I decided to look for one more gift that would be more unique.

I searched on Amazon for "Rubik's Cube", thinking I'd find a cool shirt or pajama pants or something. And then I saw it. The most perfect gift I could possibly have found.

A hoodie with a picture of a squirrel solving a Rubik's Cube!

When I saw that, I was SO excited and bought it immediately (it was due to arrive on December 24, which is when we were going to celebrate Christmas, so it was cutting it close--but I love Amazon). While I was looking, I asked Eli what he hopes he gets most--and he said it was something that he would never get because it's too expensive, but his pipe dream would be to get the 13x13 Rubik's Cube.

When I saw the price ($260!), I told him I was sorry, but he was definitely not going to be getting that for Christmas. He laughed and said he never expected it, but he'd just put it on his wish list anyway.

After he said that, I started thinking more about it. Eli is a REALLY all-around good kid. He's super grateful for everything (he even thanks me for dinner every night) and he never gets an attitude with me. He's the most compassionate kid I've ever known, and if there was ever a kid who deserved a special Christmas gift, he was certainly one of them. (Remember this heartbreaking story? I still get sad when I think about it and would have given him the world back then if I could!)

So, I looked on eBay to see if I could find it cheaper, and had no luck.

Finally, I just ordered it from Amazon (the guaranteed shipping marked it arriving on the 24th). Not only was I crazy excited about the hoodie, but to see his face when he got the Rubik's Cube would be worth the insane cost.

I had invited my parents over for dinner and to watch the kids open their gifts. For the last few years, we've had the rest of the family over on Christmas morning, but since we were doing Christmas yesterday instead, we thought evening would be nice. I cooked a lasagna (I need to post that recipe, because it's amazing), and while that was baking, we opened gifts.

The first thing Eli opened was the squirrel hoodie, and he kept exclaiming how PERFECT it was. I literally couldn't have thought of a more perfect gift for him. He loved it! Noah opened his socks (I bought several pairs and put them together in a box). I got him a Kindle Paperwhite, too, and some other things, but he said his socks were his favorite, haha.

Since Eli and I share an obsession for squirrels, he picked out a great gift for me, too--a pair of squirrel slippers! I always keep a pair of slippers at the back door for when the squirrels show up for their nuts--I can slip them on quickly and go outside to feed them. I love the slippers he got me!

And Noah actually MADE his gift for me, which I love. Handmade gifts are the best! He (with the help of my dad) built an amazing bird feeder:

I think I'll put it in the front yard to avoid attracting hawks again (when we had a bird feeder in the backyard, the hawks were attracted to the birds--and since the squirrels hang around there, too, I had to stop feeding the birds after seeing a hawk go after a squirrel.

Jerry bought me a sewing machine, which may sound odd, but there is a story behind it. A couple of months ago, I was helping Eli work on a project for school. He had to make a diary that appeared to have been written by a kid who survived the Holocaust. It had to look old, and one of the requirements was to have a fabric cover (such an odd request for an 8th grader!).

We cut up paper grocery bags to the size of a journal and he used those as pages. We crumbed them up and then flattened them out to make them look old. Then we made a fabric cover and I planned to use my sewing machine to stitch the pages and cover together.

Jerry went to retrieve my sewing machine from my closet, and while he was bringing it into the dining room, the latch must have been loose on the cover, because the cover came open at the bottom and the sewing machine fell out and slammed on the floor, breaking several pieces off of it. I was super upset--I loved using my sewing machine and I used it frequently! Jerry tried fixing it, but the pieces that broke were irreparable.

I'd been looking on Facebook Marketplace for another machine, but my heart just wasn't in it and I didn't want to spend the money to buy a new one.

Most of the time, I have some sort of idea what Jerry is going to get me (if we buy each other gifts--we don't always do that). But when I opened it, I was so surprised! I laughed about it, but it was perfect. Jerry knows nothing about sewing machines, but he did research on it and ended up picking out one that I probably would have chosen myself! And he was able to get a flash sale on it on Amazon, so it was $50 cheaper than it's currently listed.

My other machine was 20 years old, and things have changed a little on the machines since then, but it looks simple enough to figure out. I'm going to have fun working with it, and I'll have to think up a fun project.

Ever since Jerry's had this issue with his stomach, and throwing up all the time, he's been talking about drinking protein shakes for breakfast and/or lunch because the liquid is easier to digest than something solid. (All of his tests have come back normal, so we're back to square one with figuring out what is wrong with him.)

So, I had the idea to get him a more convenient way to make shakes to take to work with him. Our blender works great, but it's not very convenient when making shakes to go. I remembered the old Magic Bullet blenders from the infomercials way back when, and I looked it up on Amazon. There are lots of newer versions, so I compared them all and ended up buying this one with a couple of extra to-go containers.

I hoped he'd like it, and he seemed excited about it. He made a shake last night and said it was going to be much easier to make and take shakes that way. I bought protein powder and lots of frozen fruit. Hopefully it'll help with the stomach symptoms. (You can see the blender in the background of Eli's photo below.)

Anyway, after we opened gifts and were sitting around chatting, the UPS truck FINALLY pulled up with Eli's Rubik's Cube! I quickly wrapped it (I didn't want to give it to him unwrapped). And he was even more excited than I'd hoped, so it was perfect. He immediately got to work scrambling the cube so that he could work on solving it. I told him we needed the proof that it was scrambled:

At around midnight, I noticed that there was still a light on near the boys' rooms, so I went to check it out. I figured Eli fell asleep with the light on (as he often does), but he was still awake working on his Rubik's Cube! I told him good luck, and I went to bed.

This morning when he woke up, he showed me the cube and said that he stayed up until 1:30 AM, but he actually solved it! I couldn't believe my eyes.

(In the photo behind him is the headboard I made a few days ago, so I will post about that soon!)

Today, the kids and I are just going to have a "chill" day (I'd like to work on some of my blog posts for the week--I have several things I want to write about as "end of the year" updates and goals.)

Tomorrow, we are going to Brian and Becky's for Christmas at their house, Friday we are doing Christmas with Jerry's family, and Saturday, we are doing Christmas at my parents' house because Jeanie and Shawn will be in town. Lots of celebrations! :)

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!

(Random tip for Christmas time: Ever since Jerry and I started doing our zero-sum budget plan, we use our credit cards to pay for everything and then we pay it off each month, as I explained in this post. We use the cards to get the benefits--cash back--and I hoard the cash back until Christmas. That way we don't have to use our regular budget toward Christmas. We have several hundred dollars saved up to spend on Christmas, and it never really felt like we were setting aside money! It just comes from the cash back on the credit cards. I'll have to write an updated post about the finance stuff--I've been using credit cards to actually save money in the long run, and it's kind of awesome!)


  1. I’m saying this as the mother of a 9 month old who also loves living within my budget BUT considering you could afford the cube and you don’t have tons of Christmases left where you can so easily surprise and delight your kid, you absolutely did the right thing! It’s a Christmas he and you will never forget. And I’m blown away he solved it already! (My baby isn’t there yet so we kept gifts simple and quality - wooden toys he can play with for the next 3-4 years. But someday I hope to get him a surprise he also never imagines we’ll be able to afford.)

  2. Back in June my husband attended a finance conference with his mom & he came home implementing the suggestions of percentages going to different savings accounts (long term savings, education, giving, etc) I absolutely loved that come Christmas time we had money sitting in our "Give Account" to use as Christmas money. My husband & I agreed that this year was the best yet as far as budgeting for Christmas - because the money was there & it didn't impact the rest of our budget. Anyway, Merry Christmas! I can't believe Eli already solved that Rubix cub!

  3. What an awesome Christmas! And your kids are so amazing! I hope you have fun at your upcoming Christmas celebrations too!

    PS I'll be eagerly awaiting that lasagna recipe ;)

  4. What awesome and thoughtful gifts! I love the squirrel/Rubik's cube sweatshirt...what a great find.

  5. I love this post! Your boys are so great. I'm so glad your family's Christmas was so special!! I'm excited to read more about your budgeting.


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