Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas Photo Dump

(backdating to go in 2013 archives)

Whew! We are back from ten days of celebrating Christmas with all of our families. We had a great Christmas, highlighted by the fact that we did NOT have the stomach flu! It's all about perspective, and once you've had the worst stomach flu of your life and infected your entire family over Christmas, every other year is going to seem pretty great.

Lots and lots of photos...

First up - an extended family gathering at my mom's house. Katy and cousin Nate playing piano.

My cousin Abby's boys play so well with my kids - it's always fun to get them together.

Anna gears up for her first Christmas!

Standing in the back next to Opa is his daughter Mary and her boyfriend Craig. My grandparents are sandwiched in the middle of the pack (notice Granny without a neck brace - yay!), on the floor is my cousin Abby with her husband Stan and her boys Gabe and Nate. And next to David is my aunt Bonnie, then of course Mel, Oma, and my whole gang. We were only missing my Uncle Neil who unfortunately had to attend a funeral that day.

Great Grandpa spent quite a bit of time training my "future engineer" to fix broken toys.

We made a trip out to Wildlights at the zoo with Oma and Aunt Mel. It was nice, but it also reminded my why we haven't gone in a few years. It's a lot of work to bundle everyone up and keep track of 4 kids in the dark and keep warm and fed and get home before meltdown and find the nursing station to feed your poor baby. This is one of those things that will be SO much easier in a few years.

This girl really was a trooper, considering how cold and late it was for her. She loved chewing on the knot in her hat.

New tradition? We've not decorated cookies in the past because the task seemed too daunting to me. But someone told me about these pre-cut frozen cookies that you just pop in the oven and bake and then decorate - let me just tell you - they were delicious!! The kids had a ball decorating.

We made up some plates to take to neighbors and sent Katy and David out to deliver. They did a great job.

After Christmas Eve service at church - I love this dress because her sister wore it, too. I didn't get to participate in much of the service (nor have I for the past several months) because Miss Anna will not go into the nursery, and she's way too loud and active to stay in. So I was in there for the music but then in the cry room the rest of the time.

Oma brought over The Night Before Christmas to read. Katy also read aloud the advent book of the Christmas story (it's a bit long).

Setting out milk and cookies.

I took a picture of Katy's letter to Santa, but I can't post it because she says her last name and address. But I want to remember this sweetness so I'll write it here:

Dear Santa, 
I have been relley good this year. My name is Kathryn [last name]. But pretty much evry one calls me Katy. I have a big family. I have two brothers, one sister, a dad and a mom. I live at [address]. 

You know, Santa. I want to let you know what I need to work on. This is what: bragging, tattleing, and saying excuse me [instead of interrupting]. But I've been good in ways two. I bought gifts, work hard in school and I have always been star student [school's term for no misbehavior]. 

Now all I have to tell you is what I want for Christmas. Well, I want a big art set and Rainbow Loom please. Please give my brothers transformers.
Love, Katy [last name]

7am, Christmas morning

Luke loved his Angry Birds sleeping bag and slept on it for all of our travels that followed.

Oma had gotten the kids' matching jammies for Christmas morning. Katy's playing with Anna's one and only toy gift.

Christmas evening, we went back over to Oma's house to exchange gifts with them and have dinner - I didn't get very good pictures, but the kids continued to have a blast.

Oma gave the boys a set of tractors and they quickly discovered that the wheels come off. That was all they did the rest of the night.

On to Kentucky, where the cousins wasted no time demonstrating how to make Rainbow Loom bracelets in the top bunk.

And here it is - the gift of the year! (And yes, she's winking on purpose)

Another theme was nail decorating - here's their salon - David got toenails that looked like soccer balls.

David mid-jump to launch the stomp rocket. I think this gift was technically for Luke but David looooves it. With 4 kids close in age, it all runs together who got what.

Feeding ducks during a trip to the park.

Taken just before Luke fell into the water. He only got his feet wet, but it scared me half to death. I got it on video, too, although you just hear me yell "Luke!" and can't see him go in. The water was less than a foot deep, but still.

A new adventure - we've never taken this whole crew out to eat before.

They did SO well because it was very very VERY busy and we were there for over 2 hours. But the food was excellent, and I think everyone had fun trying a new place.

I could not believe how well this baby did. She sat in this high chair for over an hour eating every little morsel we put in front of her. Eventually I got up and walked around with her, but then she sat back down again and continued eating!

A little bit of silliness while we sing an early Happy Birthday to Anna.

Love this picture. Look at this baby checking out her birthday candle - precious face.

Not sure at first...but not bad afterall. (For those of you coming to celebrate Anna's actual birthday - I hope you don't feel cheated out of the first cake experience. I'm thinking this was a good warm-up so she'll be ready to really smash the heck out of her next cake.) 

So I must stop and mention our trip from Kentucky to Dayton, where we were going to celebrate with my Dad and Sue. Our van had been vibrating off and on for the past several months, but hadn't done it much lately, and we had never gotten it looked at because it's a logistical nightmare to have the van in the shop (we can't all fit in the Corolla, so we can't drop the car off and come home in another vehicle, and then the whole time the van is in the shop, I don't have a vehicle and we can't fit in Brian's car.)  So you can guess - the van's check engine light came on and the vibrating took a significant turn for the worse, when we still had almost 3 hours left in our trip. Brian was nervous to stop (what if it wouldn't start again? And it would take 2 vehicles for our family to come and pick us up), so we drove-thru for lunch, ate in the car and googled the problem on Brian's phone to see if it seemed safe to keep driving. Short story is that we made it, although it was a little stressful. We took it to a mechanic in Dayton (of course my Dad knows one, he knows everyone), and it took them until late the next day but they were able to fix it for less than $500. We were so relieved because the van is getting to the age where super expensive repairs start to make you wonder if it's worth fixing. But for now, we are just thankful to have our van back on the road and functional. Hoping that it hangs in there for another year or two.

I got to stop in and see my friends Cindy and Dutcher for a bit while I was in town. Cindy's holding her new baby Amelia and I got to see Jen's son Will for the first time in ages. The both live on the west coast and are so dear to me.

We had a nice celebration with Dad and Sue - although some of my pictures didn't turn out very well for some reason. Making Rice Krispie treat trees.

David was THRILLED about this Switch n' Go Dino. We had to send some things home with Aunt Mel because we were packed to the gills. David called her first thing the next morning to ask when she was going to bring over his Switch n' Go Dino.

Making loom bracelets wherever we go...and David playing a new map game.

Aunt Mel keeping Anna happy while Brian and my Dad installed new closet doors and we waited on van news.
Thanks everyone for a great Christmas! We are truly blessed to have all of you in our lives.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pre-Christmas Round Up

Our first Christmas celebration with some of our family begins tomorrow, so it seems like a good time to wrap up what's been going on around here.

The pattern lately is that we have a decent amount of activities in the evenings and some on the weekends, but the kids and I are home during the day most of the time. Especially Luke and Anna, of course. I can't believe how quickly Anna's birthday is approaching! She crawls like a madwoman, cruises, stands without support, and puts every loving thing she can find in her mouth. She's been cutting several teeth and wants to be held most of her waking hours. She's starting to wave and say something that sounds like bye-bye. She's completely precious and keeps me busy.

Until the middle of the month, we weren't sure if we were going to see Santa. His status seems to vary in this house from day to day. I think Katy knows the truth but wants to keep pretending so she doesn't ask any questions (very unusual for her - she is constant questions). David straight out asked me before Thanksgiving and I have always said that I wouldn't lie if they asked. So I answered his question truthfully and asked what he thought really happened and he guessed correctly. Add to that that Luke is terrified of Santa and Anna won't even let grandparents hold her and I figured there was no point. But then I remembered the line up of annual Santa photos that my mom has in my baby book, and decided that I did want a photo. So we went. And now David is talking like he believes? Also...it's not super convenient to take kids to see Santa after you've finished shopping for them.

The line was so long. We felt limited in our choice because we wanted to go on a certain night. So we ended up at the mall and it was not a good experience. We waited 40 minutes, they said taking your own photos was discouraged, but then looked at me like I was crazy that I wanted all 4 of my kids in the same photo. The picture they took was awful (we didn't buy it). But I can't really complain when this is the best that I got...

We couldn't get Luke to go near him so eventually they coaxed him into a rocking chair. And I don't think Anna realized that a person was holding her, it was almost like a chair I was putting her in. But once she figured it out, we were done.
Daddy and David Selfie

We took our Girl Scout troop to see the ballet The Nutcracker.   This was our biggest outing of the year, taking them downtown and attending a workshop before the show that explained the ballet and allowed them to see costumes up close. Lots of parents went along, which was great, but it was still a lot of work to coordinate. And of course it ended up being bad weather and roads, too.

The show was really neat - I had only ever seen it on TV, and I didn't realize that every ballet company has it's own rendition, so the one we saw is original to our city. Pretty cool! 

Katy and I before the show.

(posting this one because it's dark and you can't really make out faces)  Our troop has grown this year - there are even 2 girls missing from this photo!

We went to see the trains at the big library with Beth and Kate and crew.  This group has grown, too!

Other happenings from this month:

- Katy and David are going to do cheerleading and basketball, respectively, this winter through a program called Upward. David, especially, needs something physical to do in the winter to burn energy, and I've heard good things about the program. They've each had a couple of practices and so far they love it. The nice thing is that their games will be at the same time and place.

- Katy had a headache/fever virus that kept her home the last 2 days of school before break. We can't catch a break on winter school parties - 2 years ago I was supposed to help but I was home with food poisoning, last year I walked into Katy's classroom just in time to see her throw up on the floor, and this year she didn't even make it to school. At least David got to enjoy his and Katy's teacher sent home a really nice bag full of fun stuff that she missed. So now she's better and I'm hoping that no one else gets sick as we approach Christmas. Ugh.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Early Winter

Unless my memory is failing me, the last several Decembers have felt more like fall than winter around here. But THIS year, it seems like the dead of winter already. We've had several significant snowfalls, including one snow day and one day that should have been a snow day. Before Thanksgiving I had to dig out all the snowsuits and boots and tried to find enough of everything to fit each child, and now I have made 4 or more trips to the consignment shop trying to replace the things that have been outgrown. (Katy, who wears a size 13 shoe, was complaining that her snow boots were a bit tight. I looked: they're size 10. Oops.)  But the kids are having a blast in the snow, and have even been sledding at the metro park already. Luke LOVED it this year, after being quite timid last year.

I'm sure I'll be singing a different tune in February, but at this time of year, I'm usually ready for a bit of cold and dark. There's something nice about being home at 5:30, and it's completely dark and freezing, so we MUST stay in the house. It's cozy for a change after the rowdy revolving door that is warm weather. But I know it will get old shortly after Christmas.

I posted this on Facebook and someone commented, "He is darling!"  And that marks the 3rd time in recent weeks someone has mistaken her for a boy. Christmas gift idea: hair bows.
Last Friday was a snow day, and I kept thinking how I'd like to make a list of all that we did that day, because it's unbelievable how much activity four children with short attention spans can go through. This is what I remember from that day:
- Katy researching facts about remote islands off the coast of Russia that she found on an atlas that Opa gave her.
- An elaborate Easter egg hunt in the basement with point systems redeemable for treats.
- Two Christmas movies.
- Snow play and hot chocolate.
- Making paper snowflakes.
-  Decorating windows with holiday window clings.
- Turning on Christmas carols while we clean up an enormous Lego mess.
- Mommy trying to order some Christmas gifts online and get shopping lists organized so that I can run out in bits when I have an hour here and there over the weekend.
- Katy reading books to her little sibs.

Anna is obsessed with this push car (which I retrieved off a neighbor's trash pile with a big ol' pregnant belly around this time last year). It's in the basement for the winter, and she will go to the basement door and cry for us to take her down there and push her around on it. Sometimes we bring it upstairs, which makes her bounce like crazy with excitement.

David has become such a big helper, and he's really such a joy to have around. I'm really thankful that he just has afternoon kindergarten, because I like that he's still home with us in the mornings. He plays with Luke and helps me with Anna or with other things when I need it. On Tuesdays, we take Luke and Rebecca (Wendy's daughter) to Tuesday school and then come home and put Anna down for nap. Then David and I have about an hour that's just us. Sometimes we play a board game or do a puzzle, or when it was warm outside we were riding bikes or playing soccer. Today it had snowed again overnight, so when we got home, I said, "Will you get started shoveling the driveway? I'll put Anna down for a nap and be right back to help you."  I don't know if you can tell in this picture, but while I was upstairs, he had done half the driveway! By himself!!

I went and helped him finish, and toward the end he was getting cold. I told him to go ahead and go inside and I'd be right in. He said, "No, I'll help you finish - it will get done quicker and then you can come inside with me." Then we went inside and I made him a cup of hot chocolate and he told me all kinds of things about school. He's a sweet boy. 

This weekend my Girl Scout troop marched in the Christmas parade. It was an experience. First of all, it was freezing, and we had to line up over an hour before we started walking. So by the time the parade started, some of the girls were DONE. Cold, tired, and wanting to go home. Then they put us right in front of this high school marching band, and I'm here to tell you that I felt like I was being chased the entire time. We were trying desperately to stay in front of them, but they were not slowing down! I was walking fast, and the girls were trying to hand out candy and keep up. It was quite stressful to keep track of them, I just kept counting heads over and over and over. But then it was over before I could blink. I think our marching part lasted about 20 minutes maybe? The girls voted to do this for this year, but I really don't think they'll pick it next year. Maybe when they are older...

I have a good video of Anna belly laughing at her siblings - really all I want is the audio...but I can't get it to load. I'll try again later.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Holiday game-changer

This very long holiday weekend was the first major holiday since I've been married that we did not a) travel and spend the night somewhere or b) clean and cook like a madwoman because I was hosting overnight guests and large meals. It was a game-changer. We enjoyed Thanksgiving on both Thursday (at my Dad and Sue's) and Friday (and my Mom and Greg's), and we still got to do laundry and shop Black Friday deals and get the Christmas decorations up and also just relax. So great.

Katy came home from school on Monday and proclaimed that she needed to dress like a pilgrim for a PLAY on Tuesday. I love Katy's teacher but communication to parents is not her strength. We had Girl Scouts that night and Brian was having a man-date at the OSU basketball game until 10pm, so at 7:30 the next morning, I tied a piece of felt around her waist and looked up "paper pilgrim bonnet" on Google images. And here you go.

Katy started off Thanksgiving break with a big haircut - she decided she was tired of brushing out her long hair and wanted it short. I think it looks great and it's so much easier.

A big change this year in our daily routine: most of Katy's homework is online. It really is a neat program that saves teachers so much time in copying and collecting and grading, and it also goes at the students' pace and doesn't move on from a concept until she masters it. But it's different to allow her on the computer every day, because we try to limit screen time.

First Thanksgiving at Dad and Sue's. In addition to our family, we welcomed several of their friends whose families are not in town.

I'm realizing that the beginning of this post is quite Katy-centric, but I still want to share this picture of my dad and his friend Fred playing board games. Love it.

Anna did SO well - she napped during the big meal but visited with everyone before and after. She's a mama's girl, and it's a compliment if she's smiling in your arms.

Remember how I just mentioned limiting screen time? Well, part of grandparent spoiling includes allowing them to play games on their iPad. They think this is a real treat.

Aunt Mel does a little Black Friday strategizing. She ended up deciding there wasn't anything she needed that badly and left the deal-hunting to me. To each his own!

So happy to see my grandma.

Every time we take one of these family photos with the timer I end up laughing so hard I have tears running down my face.

After I shopped on Friday morning, we went to my mom's in the afternoon - have I mentioned that it is ONE MILE AWAY? I brought my casserole and my dessert and put the kids in the car without their coats. Game. Changing.
My cousin Abby meets Anna! She's a pro with babies.

If you happen to be reading this on December 3rd, could you say a prayer for my sweet Granny? She has been wearing this brace (even while she SLEEPS) since Father's Day. Can you imagine? She's going in for another scan to see if maybe she has healed enough to remove it, and the biggest prayer is to avoid surgery. She has managed to keep her spirits up and I love her so much and really pray that her neck is healing.  (Luke is sporting his cousin's too big coat in order to go outside, because as it turns out, I maybe shouldn't have been so hasty on the no-coat decision.)

Mom and Greg hosting their first Thanksgiving since 1999. It was delicious and cozy.

Abby's boys and my kids needed to burn off some energy, so out in the snow they went. We actually got about 3-4 inches two days before Thanksgiving, and my kids had even built a snowman and went sledding in the yard in their snowsuits - in November!

Greg's daughter Mary and Craig and Aunt Mel teaching the kids how to Etch a Sketch.

Luke and our fifth child at the moment
I have to mention Simba. Luke received him for Christmas a couple of years ago from his cousins, when I suggested that he would love hand-me-down stuffed animals as gifts (because we certainly don't need to purchase any more stuffed animals from stores, am I right? There are too many of them in the world already.) Simba has spent most nights in Luke's bed along with many other stuffed animals who make the cut, but didn't stand out as a favorite until a couple of weeks ago.

All of the sudden, he is carrying Simba everywhere, talking to him like he's another child, insisting that he has a seat at the dinner table, that he needs his own plate, that he misses Blankie, that he needs a hug/kiss/drink, etc. He "talks" for Simba in this high pitched voice. The best part is that if, for example, you want Luke to go to bed and he is resisting, you can pick up Simba and say in a high pitched voice, "Come on, Luke, I am tired and want to go to bed!" and off he goes. Simba is magic, I tell you.

Finally, we decorated for Christmas and each of the kids selected their ornament. I was going to skip the Hallmark Keepsake part of the tradition because it's so expensive, but when I took them to Kohl's, they still picked the Hallmark ones, and with the Kohl's discount they were much more reasonable.

Fancy Nancy for Katy. This series of books is fabulous, and she just started writing chapter books, which is perfect timing.

David has been really into Star Wars AND Legos lately, and he loves Yoda. This was perfect for him.

I just realized that each of my babies has a photo ornament for their first Christmas.

I debated ordering Simba online for Luke, but it wouldn't have had the correct year. He picked Rex the dinosaur from Toy Story, which is also appropriate - he loves Toy Story (you may recall he got Buzz Lightyear in 2012).
I hope your holiday season is off to a good start!