Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Marathon 2011

We have returned from an eight-day Christmas marathon in which we visited with all 3 partitions of our family and really had a wonderful holiday. I think my kids would say that this has been the best week of their lives. Lots of family, fun activities, holiday treats, special events, and of course...the gifts.

Once we got home, we spent two days doing eight loads of laundry and purging through shelves and closets to be able to neatly put away our new toys (both kids' and parents'). Now I'm trying to wrap my head around starting a normal week tomorrow. Eeesh! I took a gazillion pictures, so here's a little glimpse of the week. (I feel like I have fallen off the photography bandwagon and I need to apologize as the quality of photos has taken a downward turn. Hoping to improve again, I should add that to the New Year's list.)

At home on Christmas Eve, ready for church. My mom, Greg, and sister Melanie joined us for the weekend. My mom likes to give gifts, and I do too, so it's crazy kind of fun on Christmas morning.

My mom brought my old coat for Katy to wear to church - she made it for me - circa 1982?

I LOVE this moment captured - this is what you see if you open the garage door and say, "C'mon, Lukey! Time to go!" Poor guy's worst fear is getting left behind.

Putting out cookies, milk, and notes for Santa.

At our house, everyone contributes to everyone else's stocking (grown-ups have them too). The result is that the items may not all physically fit into one's stocking, and when you pull out that bubble bath or lottery ticket - you don't know who may have given it. This year I also made post-it labels because I'm the only one who can remember whose is whose.

Stockings with bedhead!

One of the perks of Christmas morning is getting chocolate first thing.

Shout out to the consignment shop where we got 75% of the kids' gifts this year.

The biggest hit for Katy this year? A doll named Chloe from Oma - she came in a Girl Scout uniform, but my mom had also sewn her a wardrobe. I am shocked, because Katy has not been a doll person before now - but she LOVES this doll. Carries her around everywhere and changes her clothes and brushes her hair. Cute. She has also loved her lego set and non-fiction videos.

You might as well try on your new digs. Luke and I both got rain boots, and Katy got an umbrella. Rain really affects our school drop-off and pick-up!

David was introduced to the world of Superman - a book, a costume, and an action figure. Maybe he'll branch out from his cars.

A wrap-around generations canvas for Oma!

The kids have gotten into building train tracks lately, so an expansion pack that I got on clearance 6 months ago was perfectly timed. It's really fun to explore the new possibilities.

Skip forward to Dayton with Grandpa and Grandma Sue (Aunt Mel again, too). We went downtown to see a train set.

The escalators were equally popular.

We also visited a set of historic department-store-window Christmas displays.

Luke is battling David for the title of Family Cuddler.

The year of the argyle sweater.

The kids had a blast at Grandpa and Grandma's. Katy and David got the new experience of sharing an air mattress - but they did great! We watched Polar Express, which I think may be the first full-length movie we've all watched together? (Besides Cars, of course. I'm not that sheltering, they just haven't been interested.)

New state - this is Kentucky! Grammy's gift to all the girls (9 of us altogether!) was a trip to the nail salon. It was a fun girls' morning out together.

We stopped into Grammy and Papa John's travel agency to see the great map. COUSINS!!!!!!!!!!

We went bowling, but I had a hard time taking pictures because I was chasing Luke all over the place and trying to keep him off the floor (yuck).

It's becoming a tradition: people disappear in turn to work on a thousand piece puzzle.

The kids spent hours (and hours and hours) playing with their cousins. Board games, outside (we saw 60 degrees!), hide and seek, performing "shows," etc. The trip was actually quite relaxing for me because the kids were so entertained and just disappeared for long periods of time.

As the oldest cousin, Kimmy always gets her picture taken holding the baby cousin! But she's really good at it.

Thank you, dear family, for a wonderful week! Now back to reality. :)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A hiccup...for perspective

At the beginning of this week, I was feeling somewhat overwhelmed with to-do lists, but also excited with anticipation. We had a schedule full of fun activities for the week leading up to Christmas, including 2 class parties, a girls' night, an out-of-state friend visiting overnight, and my sister's annual Grinch-watching-gift-wrapping-par-tay.

We started off as planned: errands completed, zoo trip, class party #1, Brian's friend Joey arrived and I left them at the house for the evening while I met the girls at Cheesecake Factory. This was a special occasion because Abigail was back from Colorado and we were all anxious to hear how her new life was settling in out there. We laughed, we sympathized, and we ate. Specifically, I ate chicken enchiladas and half a piece of Hershey's chocolate cheesecake.

On the way home, Beth and I stopped at Target and I finished my Christmas shopping (one gift for Brian and stocking stuffers). I came home to find Brian, Joey, and Melanie kicking back with some beers and some laughs. We got to bed late.

And then I woke up at 4 in the morning and ran to the bathroom. It was one of those situations in which you are looking at the toilet and the trashcan and trying to decide how you're going to make this work. I usually appreciate someone holding my hair in that situation, but I told Brian to stay out. It was that bad.

Then I laid in bed and ran through all the best and worst case scenarios in my head for the week to come.

Best: it was something I ate tonight, and is therefore not contagious. I will be better by tomorrow and we will continue with all of our plans.

Worst: this is the start of The Stomach Bug that Ruins Christmas, in which we spend the next week passing it throughout the house, and I have to choose for each of our carefully laid out plans whether to give my entire family the stomach flu or miss Christmas celebrations. It took us a month to schedule the next 8 days of visits and travel in order to see everyone at Christmas, so it's not like I can just push it back a week.

I stayed in bed that morning while Brian (and Joey) stayed home from work with the kids. I felt much better by noon, so they took Katy to school and went in to the office. (Katy was late, she forgot her book-in-a-bag AND her library book. Sometimes I forget all that is involved in getting a kid to school) Mel came back and took David to Katy's class party, and Luke took the longest nap he has taken in a LONG time.

I chose not to share the news with the girls from our night out, because I decided that if the tables were turned, I'd just rather not have that paranoid thought in my head for 4 days leading up to Christmas...that there could be a small chance of catching a stomach bug. Hopefully by the time you all read this, it's been long enough that you won't be worried - love you ladies! :)

So now it's Christmas Eve, it's been over 72 hours since I was sick, and at this point it appears that we have a Best Case Scenario on our hands. *knock on wood and prayers already sent* No one else has been sick, and I read some things online that lead me to believe that it was likely the chicken enchiladas at the restaurant that made me sick.

But I don't place blame in what caused it - I really didn't mind being sick at all as long as I didn't have a nasty bug that was going to spread to the whole family and ruin Christmas! And if it did anything for our week, it helped me to slow down, appreciate the people who are here, and be SO thankful if we are able to make it Christmas morning without any further gastrointestinal incident. My mom, Greg, and Melanie are here and we're ready to party! Let's do this thing!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas is Here-ish

We had our first Christmas celebration already with a family get-together at our house. The best part was catching up with family that we don't see very often and watching our kids play with my cousin's kids. They LOVE to play doctor and the boys enjoy running wild together.

Nate wasn't in the mood to cuddle up with the others.

You know it's a good day when no one wants it to be over.

We also had a lovely evening with friends seeing the lights at the zoo. It was a great night - the weather was perfect (for December), it wasn't crowded, the lights were beautiful, and the kids had a blast. It really put us in a festive mood.

The key to beating the crowd at zoo lights is to get there at dusk.

Classic Frank. We love this kid.


What's wrong with this picture?

Coolest part of the night: Santa dove into the aquarium for the daily feeding. You should have seen the looks on the kids' faces.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Please tell me I'm not the only one...

Some kid activities: I love. I enjoy reading stories to them and playing card games and taking walks and talking about all of their endless questions. I love to do puzzles with them and play sports and go swimming.

But there are a few activities that for whatever reason...that part of my brain does not connect and they drive me bonkers. The first of these that I noticed when the kids were little(r) was blocks. Sit me down with a pile of blocks and I feel like I am being punished. What am I supposed to DO with these things? I can make a tower twice and then I'm done. And I have zero creative capacity for building structures without a pattern set before me.

The other one that drives me crazy this time of year is a living room full of tunnels and forts. You know the kind: all the couches are pushed into the middle of the room and the pillows and blankets are placed just so to create a perfect labyrinth of tunnels and crawl space. Brian often sets these up for the kids and they LOVE them. But then Brian leaves for the day and within five minutes the kids are all "MOMMY!!! It's broken! Fix it! Luke messed it up!!! The pillows!! They're all WRONG!!!  Fix it!! MOMMY!!!!" Except that I cannot fix it - no matter what I try, it's not quite right and the tunnel no longer exists and every fiber of my being is screaming "I just want to put the couches back where they belong!!! Everything is out of place and it JUST ISN'T RIGHT!!! Please, please, PLEASE can we put the couches back now?!?!"

Please tell me you have one of these things. (And Brian, I love you dearly. Somebody has to be the fun parent.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On my honor, I will try...

Last night we had an investiture ceremony for our new Girl Scout troop, so the girls are officially scouts! They received their pins for being able to recite the Girl Scout promise (in case you need a refresher):

On my honor, I will try
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout law.

The ceremony was for Wendy and I as much as for the girls, because we've both put a lot of work in to get this troop started.  So it was exciting for the girls to give each other the Girl Scout handshake and say "Welcome to Girl Scouts!".

It really is a neat program. They are earning daisy petals to be added to their vest - one for each line of the Girl Scout law. So for example, one week, the activities revolve around "being honest and fair." Another week, "courageous and strong." Another, "to use resources wisely." The 8 girls that we have so far have been really excited about everything and seem to really be learning the concepts.

Everything has it's challenges, of course. Sometimes a parent has a different idea about how things should go. Sometimes it's supposed to rain on your parade (literally), and you have to find the balance between disappointing the girls and ticking off the parents. And sometimes the council keeps emailing you to see if you'll take more girls who can't find a troop, just as soon as you've gotten things organized. But it will be worth it, for these girls.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tidbits: December edition

**I'm really enjoying our December. I'm not stressed or overwhelmed, we're doing many of our usual traditions and trying a few new ones. The kids are having a blast. And we're just chugging along, comfortable in our routine.

**Although there was one week in which Luke was taking only one 30-minute nap during the day, and then waking up 3-4 times per night screaming bloody murder. And this is the kid who requires your UTMOST attention while he is awake. So we were tired that week. But he's better.

**We've had such a lovely warm fall that I've been in serious denial that it's going to get cold. Just in the past week have we pulled out hats and mittens, started driving to school some days, and cleaned out the garage to get the van inside. I figure if we deny it long enough, eventually it will be spring, no?

**I'm about three-quarters done with The Shopping. And I don't even want to rush to finish it because I love it so. But even when it's done...I look forward to January, when all the clearance sales hit. We have some fun shopping in January.

**We saw our usual Santa (and Mrs. Claus) last week, and the kids made their polite requests (David: "a racing car" and Katy: "an Ariel Barbie.") A couple of days later, Katy's school had a winter festival in the evening and Santa was there. They sat on his lap again and David repeated his request and Katy said she didn't know what she wanted. We asked her afterward, why didn't you tell Santa what you wanted? She said, "That was a different Santa, and I don't want them both to bring me the same thing. It takes a lot of Santas to visit all the kids in the whole world, so that other Santa can just bring something for me. I hope David doesn't get two racing cars." Oh. Ok.

**I have never said a word about good behavior correlating with Santa's gifts, or anything about the naughty list. But David told me this morning, "I told Katy last night that I'm going to be nice so Santa will come on Christmas. Being on the naughty list means that you are mean." I know he got this partially from the Dora Christmas special, but it's amazing what all they pick up.

**I'm still giddy about Aldi, you guys. There is a noticeable difference in my grocery budget, and I'm not having to work so hard with all the coupons.

**Yesterday afternoon, Brian and I braved the shopping crowds with the 3 littles in tow, attempting to knock a few items off of our list. We ate dinner in the Target food court (don't judge me), and pushed the kids to the absolute limit before heading home. We stopped to fill the van with gas on the way home, right at Luke's bedtime (he was already screaming before we got to the station). Brian put the key in the ignition - won't start. It's freezing cold, everyone's tired, Luke is crying, and we were having trouble finding anyone to give us a jump. We tried to think of a friend to call - but if the jump doesn't work and we need a ride home - it has to be someone who can accommodate 5 extra people in their car, including 3 car seats. We called the one we could think of who was fairly close, and luckily, before he arrived, someone gave us a jump and the van started. So far today, knock on wood, the van has started several times with no problems. (What was that I was saying about loving to Christmas shop?)

**I'm loving the Christmas cards in the mail everyday. Keep 'em comin'!!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

How to Play Shut the Box, by Katy, age 5 and a half

(Luke gives a cameo, but refuses to say his lines)