Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Literary interests on PBS...

PBS has lately been in a cycle of "Contemporary" Masterpiece shows. But the Classics are back! In this post I'm referring to our local Prairie Public dates/times, so if you have a different PBS station, check the listings here.

First off, Tess of the D'Ubervilles will be shown in two parts, starting Sunday the 4th at 9pm. The Book Club has thrown that title out as a possible read, so maybe this will be some motivation. I've read it in the past, and I know I enjoyed it, but it was so long ago...I look forward to the next couple Sunday evenings! And so does Aaron, I bet.

Before the Great Knee Injury of 2008, he would spend Sunday evenings playing basketball. Now the poor guy will be subjected to my TV viewing tastes - or be forced to play Guitar Hero for a while. Choices, choices. Maybe a bit enticing to the gentlemen out there is the fact that Tess is played by Gemma Arterton, from the Bond movie Quantum of Solace. Yep, she's a babe.

After Tess is done, Wuthering Heights will start, again in two parts, the first on Sunday the 18th. Now folks, this may sound sacrilegious for a classics-lover to say, but Wuthering Heights has never been a favorite. I even gave it a second chance and read it 5 years after the first time. Still, I couldn't really see what Cathy saw in the (frankly, crazy) Heathcliff, besides the fact that he's really hot. All the casting folks make sure of that, you can bet. In fact, Heathcliff is played by "British heartthrob" Tom Hardy. Let's see if this helps me understand his appeal any!

Tom Hardy is also in Oliver Twist, also on the Masterpiece schedule, along with David Copperfield (starring 10 yr old Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe! Ooh, that mention should get me LOTS of Google hits!)

One last plug for PBS. I noticed a name I recognized on the line up for Austin City Limits. On Saturday the 17th, Idina Menzel with be on with Josh Groban (and Ravi Coltrane, btw!). Menzel is ONLY Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West in the soundtrack recording of Wicked. Folks, she has an amazing voice. (And, she's married to Taye Diggs! This is what I learned from Wikipedia. They were in Rent together.)

ALSO of note on Austin City Limits is the show on the 31st - Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova are on! There's actually a movie about their music, this little thing called Once, which has won some awards or something. One called an Oscar, I guess.

All in all, I'm excited about the next month's prospects for television. Now, to call the cable company...we fear the D-TV changeover will leave us channel-less, even with the "boxes"...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sew Busy...and resorting to puns.

Call me an over-achiever - my husband certainly does. My kids get 3 gifts for Christmas from Aaron and I, and I really try to make one of those. In the past, there have been: a family ABC scrapbook, flannel board, hooded appliqued towel (lame gift, I know, but Ben was 18 months old!), and a huge stuffed floor pillow. This year I made Ben this very cute crayon roll. I stole the idea from my friend Crystal at Two Peas. She sent me a blog with directions to make my own, so I'm sure you can find it too. I'm not going to link, though! If you want one, you can buy one from Crystal: just go here.

I bought the fabric last spring on a fabric shopping trip with Crystal. It, and several other pieces, lay dormant in my fabric box until I started to get desperate in the last couple of weeks before Christmas. I had no clue what to make a 2 1/2 year old boy. The huge stuffed animal will be coming next year. No time to scrapbook. What's a mom to do? Call Crystal, that's what.

I love the cord adaptation, and also the last-ditch choice of using contrasting thread. It makes the crayon pockets easier to see.

Now the only problem is that Leah REALLY wants her own. I have fabric for her, too, of course, but that will take at least a few more weeks of procrastination.

And speaking of procrastination. I've had all the materials for these aprons for a couple of years. I kept being afraid that Leah would be totally disappointed with them as a gift. This year I prepared. We discussed the fact that she would only be getting three gifts, and then later I told her that I was making one of them. This helped with the fact that I had to work on them while she was around, and needed to chase her out of my craft room several times.
Anyway, both of them were completed within two days. "Easier than I thought" is SUCH a nice present for moms under a time crunch. They turned out super cute (see below) and I think Leah likes them. And of course, I've promised Ben a smock of his own.

That purple apron is super big, but I didn't want her to grow out of it! This last photo is Ben insisting on posing and showing off his new Thomas train. Isn't he a big boy? This is becoming very evident to me.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


I had good intentions, really I did. I fully intended to post during the Christmas holiday. But, as you can see, (even Aaron was surprised that Tuesday was my last post!) I took a vacation. So sue me. I was enjoying time with my family eating lots of good food. I'll do a whirlwind post, just to catch you up.

Christmas Eve -
Finished the two gifts I was making for the kids. Finished wrapping presents (3 per kid really helps cut down on this chore) and actually ran out paper. I had to use my wedding paper stash, which worked fine. Chopped squash for dinner while Aaron bathed the kids, then headed to church for rehearsal. Leah was basically a prop in a skit about the 14 service projects our church has been participating in up 'til Christmas. She and pal Anna represented the free childcare provided last Saturday - too bad their parents forgot to pick them up! (Just in the skit, folks. Hold your horses on calling Social Services.) At the end I ran up and grabbed them, saying, "We thought you were with your fathers!" thereby establishing myself and Anna's mom as both neglectful AND separated from the dads. I think it was pretty clear that it was just fiction. Hopefully!

After the Christmas Eve service, we went home to have dinner with my mom and dad. Mom brought a delicious salad, and my chopped squash was baked and added to risotto, which is delicious, but not necessarily a great dish to make when you are short on time. Something in the crock pot may have been a better choice, seeing as we didn't get home until 6pm.

The kids went through their stocking gifts and probably would have been totally happy with just those - let's just say I tend to go overboard on the stockings. Ben slept with his new Thomas train, and I read Leah her Fancy Nancy book before bed. And to all a good night!

Christmas -
The kids actually woke up at normal times, and I made Cherry Strudels, which the kids didn't like, but my family gobbled up later. We opened presents at our house, and watched Ben fall in love with his first train set. Leah adored her new Princess Leapster game, and her OWN Leapster. (Thanks, Ebay!)

Then we headed up to Mom & Dad's to open even MORE gifts with them and my sister Ruth and BIL Tim. And eat more food - like salmon frittata, for one. That's right, folks, when my mom and I get cooking, there are LOTS of dishes to wash.

Dudes, my mom gave me a rocking chair! Aaron got a very artistic golf doorbell! Ben, all of 2 1/2 years of age, got a remote control Catepiller bulldozer! With it's own soundtrack! Leah got a box of ribbon and buttons, with various art supplies - may not sound impressive, but she was ecstatic. She has already cut and snipped a couple of collages out of them.

Then we watched Shrek the original on Mom's new 40" flat screen TV. It's quite the piece of technology, they tell me. The kids watched the whole thing, and Leah wasn't even scared by Dragon- at least, not after I told her that Dragon ended up being their friend.

Once we got home, Ben took a nap of a entire half an hour. I started prepping for dinner that night, our traditional holiday dinner of appetizers. I made Curried Leek Soup and Tomato Bacon Cups , and had take & bake ciabatta bread with dipping oil. Mom made some amazing marinated shrimp, along with some kind of pita chips with topping, and a variety of her cookies. Yum, yum! Then I whipped everybody's pants at Trivial Pursuit - the 20th anniversary edition, which has some completely random, totally obscure questions, and then some as difficult as "What is your favorite color?", as Tim said. And also, as Ruth said, I only won because brother Aaron wasn't playing. Which gave the rest of us smarty pants a chance to shine! (Aaron & Kate, we really did miss you!)

Day after Christmas -
Shopping! Target was first - lots of pretty Christmas stuff at great prices. But NO wrapping paper, which as I stated earlier, I really needed in order to replenish my supply. All that was left was a few damaged rolls. I zipped over to JoAnn's to get fleece to make a hat for Leah, and found the mother lode. I also got snow pants at another store, and then a Christmas present for myself - an immersion blender! Should have had it for that leek soup I made the day before, darn it.

Aaron took the kids sledding while I shopped, and all had fun. We had a delectable turkey dinner with Tim's mom Joann and stepdad John's house. Ben was exposed to FOUR dogs, all indoors, and at least 3 of them rather eager to say hi. He was quite freaked out for awhile, but by the end of the evening he was doing rather well. Aaaand then he filled his pants with some vile poopy, which I treated like the toxic substance it was. Really, you should have been there.

We had some friends visit this morning with their new baby, and just hung out and cleaned up a bit after all the festivities. After a pancake dinner, we gave the kids baths, and then threw them into their pajamas and then into the warmed-up van for a drive to took at Christmas lights. Then I had a questionable parenting moment, as we ran both the kids into the grocery store - no coats or shoes. You know, sometimes I see parents with kids in their pajamas out shopping, and I wonder about the parents. That was me tonight.

So now you are caught up. Tomorrow, (or Monday!) I'll give you some details about the possible kicking of this baby of mine. Whoo hoo!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

She's a Softie

Today was awesome for me. This morning, my pal Tara and I performed the mighty Kid Swap - she brought her two boys over and went to do some shopping by herself (with her baby...she's a busy gal!). After an hour and half she returned, and I took off. I spent some quality time in the Target aisles, picking up the last of my Christmas gifts. Then I blasted through the grocery store, finding everything I needed! I kept making the mental note, "Bacon Bits are with the salad stuff," which saved me at least 15 minutes of searching.

After lunch, we (Mom and I) frosted while Ben and Leah did most of the decorating. And boy, did those cookies get decorated. The trick with those two is to grab the cookie off their plates before they cross the line to overdone, but most of the time we were too slow. Ben kept getting ahead of us and wanted to decorate unfrosted cookies. Leah enjoyed eating all the extra sprinkles off the plates at the end. She asked Ruth to pass her another plate, in a voice that sounded frighteningly similar to a crack addict's.

A word about these cookies we decorated - the recipe is my mom's sour cream cut-out cookie recipe, which she's asked me not to post on the blog! I made a double batch. Towards the end of the dough-mixing process, I realized that I've probably never made a double batch before, because the dough was climbing out of the bowl! I had to dump it all on my cutting board work area, divide it in two, and mix the last half of the flour in by hand. Knead, dump flour, knead again, try to roll out, dump more flour.... and repeat. Then cut out all the shapes and bake...The entire process took about 2 hours.

I'd had enough of the kitchen, so we ordered pizza for dinner. Then had friends over to watch Wall-E, a gift from Aaron's sister Stephanie - Thanks, guys!

We tried to watch Kung-Fu Panda with the kids a couple weeks ago, but it was too scary and we quit about 45 minutes into it. Should have known better, since it was rated PG and had kung-fu in the title! Aaron and I finished it another time, and were glad we stopped when we had.

Anyway, Wall-E is rated G, so we tried again. Once I coerced Ben to come sit on my lap to watch instead of standing in the hallway, things were fine...until the conflict of the movie was at it's peak (Wall-E is stuck in the big plant holding contraption on the ship, and Eve is trying to rescue him while the Captain is battling the autopilot). That's when Leah demanded that we turn it off and started crying. And I realized she's exactly like me...she wasn't really scared, just emotionally involved. I tried to reassure her that it would end happy, and didn't she want to see how?

She came and sat with Aaron and managed to get through the rest of it, with a few comments from me on how funny the humans are in the movie - they can't even walk on their own feet! How silly is that! She cried a little after it was done, just like her mother -she was still processing through her thoughts and feelings.

Hopefully we all get some good sleep tonight, with no bad dreams to interfere...it's all a big experiment, this parenting thing.

No photos today...sorry! Maybe tomorrow? I have a ton of cookie photos I want to share in one post.

Merry (almost!) Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Let the Leah Love continue...

As promised, here is a photo of Leah from her dance recital. They were supposed to be Hawaiian girls - the headpiece and lei may work, but I don't know about the white leotard & tights - even Leah thought that was off. Also, their "skirts" were pastel chiffon ribbons...a far cry from grass. But whatever. They were rented, and we didn't have to buy them.

As I anticipated, Leah was the girl on stage making sure she had her steps correct (even though I screwed up her big chance at stardom) and kept her eyes pretty much glued to her teacher in the wings. She was also trying to direct another girl towards the end of the routine...my little know-it-all. I don't know WHERE she gets it.

It was Leah's idea to pose by the stockings, which I did make myself a couple years ago. Mom made this amazing dress for her to wear this Christmas, and informed me that she'd like to have all her granddaughters wear it. She's ambitious, that lady - she's already aiming for multiple granddaughters!

I love that it is different from the other little girls' Christmas dresses out there - no chiffon, no tulle, no glitter - but lots and lots of ribbons! I also especially love the Asian feel it has, from the Mandarin collar, and the turned cuffs...it's just unique.

Also, I actually styled Leah's hair. You can't see it here, but she has two little red bows on pigtails at the back of her head. Soo cute. Leah's Christmas program was Sunday, and she sang delightfully. There's nothing like a choir of 4 and 5 year olds to choke up a mom.

Ben, on the other hand, suddenly came down with a serious case of the bashfuls, and fortunately I am a helper in his age group, so it was okay that I sat with the kids and held Ben on my lap for their whole section. He refused to open his mouth OR do any of the signs, and even grumped at me when I tried to "help" him. Oh well. (And yes, I KNOW he's only 2, but there were several other kids his same age up there both singing AND doing actions...little buggers.)

And on the topic of stockings (yes, we were on that topic!) Aaron and I each have our own right now, but I'm debating whether or not we should retire ours and turn them over to Ben and Leah. Then, I wouldn't have to make another one for the baby, AND we'd have an extra for a possible 4th! Or, I could just suck it up and make another stocking already.

Folks, I am in a crazed state the last couple of days. Posts may be scattered this week, but I'll try to at least get photos up. I feel like this is the week before our 4-H Achievement Days (or the county fair, to other 4-Hers out there) with all the baking and sewing that is going on...that never happens the other 51 weeks of the year.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Read and Review, please.

I wrote this post almost a year ago, and almost every day I get somebody who found my blog by searching "Space Aliens restaurant" in some form. Apparently I should blog more about popular restaurants and/or retail establishments.

I've really had only a handful of negative comments in my short blogging career, and I got another today - on this same post. Apparently it hits the nerve of lots of ex-food service employees.

Finally, I wrote a response in the comments. If you would like, go back and read it and tell me what you think - was I unfair, or do my complaints seem warranted? Are the anonymous (of course) commenters just bitter or do they have a point?

I'm not going to change the post, but I may be willing to add an update, if you, as readers, feel it justified.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Leah Love

My darling little girl. I'm not sure where the red hat came from, but Mom brought it over a couple years ago, and I found it just before we walked out the door to church the day these photos were taken.
This was going to be Leah's Christmas dress until Grandma Claudia (Mom) took over...you'll have to wait for photos of THAT work of art.
Also, photos from the dance recital will be up next week. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

I'm so organized.

Yesterday I missed the dress rehearsal for Leah's dance recital, which is tonight. Oh, I was at the place at the right time. Just on the wrong day - the rehearsal was WEDNESDAY, not Thursday.

The news of which, while surrounded by Aaron, the kids, and my mom (who can't see the actual recital) made me dissolve into tears. Did I mention that we were in a middle-school cafeteria, filled with kids busy at after-school activities? I'll blame that on pregnancy hormones, but the mis-scheduling is all my fault.

For some reason, I cemented it into my brain that the rehearsal was Thursday. Not quite sure why, of course, but a month ago I wrote it on the calendar for that day. Even though Aaron took a phone message from the teacher on Sunday evening saying that class was cancelled for the next day, and that she'd see us Wednesday...I actually assumed that it was SHE who was mistaken. That's how confident I was in my error.

I felt rotten. Not only had Aaron driven us all over there in the frigid temperatures, then had to drive around the parking lot for 5 minutes trying to find a parking space (school pick-up is NOT something I'm looking forward to...), but we had to carry both kids across the huge lot into the building and wander around with them looking for "the right place". We found it, of course, but there was a concert going to be in there in a couple hours, so of course! we didn't recognize anyone. And then my mom drove down from the other side of town, looking forward to the adorableness that is her granddaughter in a leotard.

But really, the worst part was the feeling that I had let Leah down. The poor kids is 4 years old, performing in her first dance recital, on a stage for the first time, and not only did she miss the class before the big show, she missed the (hour long) rehearsal, too. I can only hope that she is completely oblivious to her predicament. And she maybe was, before I started bawling like a baby. Talk about a counter-productive reaction.

The ironic part is that even if I HAD remembered the right day, we still wouldn't have been able to go, since Aaron took my van to work on Wednesday, and the rehearsal was at 4pm. And in that case, I'm sure I would have been very frustrated (you can bet on it!) and probably angry with Aaron, although it wasn't his fault.

Maybe blessings come very, very deeply disguised sometimes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Next thing you know, they'll be asking for liver and lima beans.

The other day we were all driving home from somewhere, we had the following conversation:

Leah: Are we doing anything else fun today? (this is a standard ANNOYING question, which usually makes me threaten to have her scrub floors all. day. long.)
Me: Well, you and Daddy are going to the dentist later this afternoon...
Leah: Oh YAY!!!
(Aaron and I exchange highly amused glances.)
Ben: Church? Church?
Me: No, Ben, we're not going to church today.
Ben: Proceeds to throw a fit as if we'd refused him candy.

Let me explain why my kids love the dentist and going to church. It can be summed up in just a few words: princess toothbrush, lots of friends.

Our dentist (Skari, of Lundstrom & Skari) has totally got kids figured out, because not only do they give them a character toothbrush at the end of the visit, but Leah informed us that she had cookie dough toothpaste for her cleaning and a banana split fluoride treatment. AND then she got a sticker and a pack of Trident gum as a prize. How could she not love going?

Ben LOVES church. In fact, when services were cancelled this Sunday because of the blizzard, he was heartbroken, and came up to me every hour asking, "Church? Church?" I finally had to make up a little game called, "Nobody's there!" We eat dinner there Wednesday evenings before Awana, and it's literally the highlight of his week. Even if he doesn't actually eat any of the meal.
Who cares about food? There are friends everywhere! Let's go play! You shove me, and then I'll shove you! WHEEEE!

Off the topic, here are some other things Leah has said lately:

To her grandma: "Sometimes in the evenings I like to sit on the couch under a blanket and look at books."

To me, after taking a golf tee out of a basket on the desk this morning: "Mom, why are these called tees?" (I don't know - ask your dad.) "Maybe it's because of the tee boxes." (Hmm, maybe...) "Or maybe these were named first, and they named the part of the golf course after them?" (Ding ding ding! We have a winner! I was pretty proud of her thought process.)

On getting ready to head out this evening: "I really don't like wearing my sneakers with tights. They make me look like I have clown feet!" I reassured her than no one else would think that unless she said it. And what do you think was the first thing out of her mouth when she saw friend Anna at church? Clown feet, of course. Middle school is going to be so much fun.

Ben says all the names of his Sesame Street ornaments - Ernie, Elmo, Cookie- except Big Bird, which he refuses to even try. He is, however, saying more useful words such as "help", and "hot", and "marker" and "drink". And these little words help oh. so. much.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day 3 and counting...

Today was the third day in a row that I haven't left the house. It wasn't so much because of the snow, but because Aaron's car is dead (and parked on the street...oops) so he took my van to work. Thankfully, my Tuesday morning Bible study is on Christmas break, and I didn't have anything else really planned.

And also, thankfully, we moved into this great house. Spending 3 days cooped up inside of our old house usually resulted in a very crabby Liz who needed to leave immediately after Aaron's return from work. Or at least after dinner. But now, there's so much more space for the kids to run that they are not underfoot quite as much, and besides. There's that much more cleaning/picking up to do, also.

Anyway. It's probably actually a blessing that I've been required to stay home, because I have a lot of holiday stuff to accomplish around here, and I'll keep procrastinating if possible. Here's what I got done today:

1. Laundry

2. Finished and ordered TWO digital scrapbooks - one each for my grandma and grandpa (they are not a pair!)

3. Baked a double batch of candy cane cookies with Mom. I don't know why you would ever try to make them by yourself. Leah helped us with the rolling out.

4. Helped Leah finish her bread ornaments. Which included giving her (and Ben) paint with glitter mixed in. I mentally gave myself 10 points for bravery. And I gave Leah 20 points for not throwing a fit when 3 off the 5 original ornaments broke. Ben ate one of them.

5. Made and baked a double batch of Peppermint Meltaways - future gifts for neighbors. Still need to be frosted.

6. Dinner, clean up, kids to bed...that normal stuff. Still counts, though.

Aaron borrowed a snowblower from a co-worker/friend, so our driveway is finally a double again. What a guy - he's been at it all evening, between getting boards to load the blower, driving across town to pick it up, and then actually using it...
Here a few of the photos I took yesterday:
Yes, that little white car across the street in our currently-useless 2nd vehicle.
PS - Just half an hour ago we got the car into the garage, pulling it into the driveway with the van, and then pushing it into the garage. Aaron even managed to save the license plate by putting an extra roll of carpet padding between the two vehicles. Clever! Now, let's just hope he can get it started.

And Mom, you should be able to back out without getting stuck...again. Sorry 'bout that.

Looking forward to Day 4 of the Great Indoors...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Our Blizzard...and not the yummy kind.

It seems that I've been doing an awful lot of craving for terrible food. If it's junk, I want to eat it. But yesterday, even though the Dairy Queen was advertising it's new value menu (2 items for $3! 3 items for $4!) and that sundae and hot dog looked mighty good, I couldn't have gotten it anyways. All the Dairy Queens in town were closed.

We had a big blizzard yesterday. Did you hear about that?

One of my dad's (20 some) cousins sent an email today that said something to the extent of: Back in the day (grr!) blizzards were no big deal. We hunkered down for awhile, dug ourselves out, and went on with life. Now they seem like such a big deal.

My answer to that is: That was before CNN and The Weather Channel had us on the national news, highlighting the fact that we had the worst weather anywhere. (That may not have been true - I'm just guessing. We don't have cable.) Notoriety has a lot to do with our "woe is us!" attitude, I think. Also, the fact that no travel was recommended for the entire state.

Yesterday was really truly terrible. Very cold, very windy, lots of snow...most of us stayed inside. But my husband? Poor Aaron had to go to work, and made it there and back for dinner. Today he had the day off - along with half the city, we're trying to dig ourselves out. And we don't have a snowblower. Aaron debates every year, but decides that we'd really only use it about 3 times. And that's fine...until one of those 3 times hits. Like yesterday.

We dug out half the driveway, enough to get in and out. The other half, the half covered in a 3 foot drift, will have to wait until we can borrow a snowblower.

Also, all the snow from our backyard is now in a large pile outside of our back window...right on top of where we'd left Ben's dump truck the last time he played with it. Oops.

What did we do yesterday? I'll make you a list:
1) Church and Christmas program after were cancelled/postponed. Ben is distraught.
2) Kids watched too much PBS while I spent too much time on the computer.
3) I made chocolate Malt-o-Meal for breakfast. One of my true comfort foods.
4) Discovered a new game that Leah loves - "hide" 10 cottonballs around the room and have her look for them. This kept her busy for an HOUR. Moms, take note.
5)Lunch and naps as usual.
6) Leah and I cut out shapes from white bread to make ornaments. Must let dry till hard.
7) Made a trial batch of cranberry cookies.
8) Ruined said cookies later by making the chocolate to dip them in with rancid Crisco. Now I know that shortening can go bad. Good thing I only dipped half the bunch.
9) Kids to bed, and started a digital photo album for my grandpa. Half way done by bedtime!

So, we relaxed and had some productivity. Today is more of the same, with Aaron out running errands now. In the van, since his car died when he parked it on the street yesterday.

Yes, there was a lot of publicity about this storm. But pretty much we hunkered down and are digging ourselves out. By tomorrow it will be life as usual, although we will have a new topic of conversation to discuss over our coffee. I can't imagine that THAT part is too different from post-blizzard days of generations past.

Defending Obama

I rarely verge into politics on this blog, but I saw this article on Facebook this morning, and oh, maybe being cooped up inside during a blizzard has skewed my perception, but it seems that the expectations for President-Elect Obama may be a *tish* high.

Along with reversing global warming, which is now a "ticking-time bomb", here are a few other things that are on his plate, starting in January:

1. Restore the economy, ending the looming recession.
2. Pull all US troops out of the Middle East and simultaneously establish an Iraqi republic.
3. Eliminate corporate greed and corruption in America.
4. Eradicate racism.
5. Quit smoking and become a role model for all smokers.

Should be easy. Six months should be plenty of time to take care of it all.

Poor guy.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Just Practicing

This was Ben the other day, just hanging out with his new sib body double. I loved how he set the bottle there, just in case she got thirsty.

He actually lay like this for quite awhile. First, he had the baby on his chest. Then, he insisted that I cover BOTH of them with the blanket, and stayed that way while I retrieved the camera and took the photo. And Ben just doesn't lay in one spot like that for longer than 10 seconds very often. Must be some important chillin' going on.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Maybe I'll just let the photos do the talking. At first.

Hopefully you've caught on by now. SOME of you have been trying to anticipate this announcement, but I'm going to say it anyway: WE'RE HAVING A BABY!
I'm officially 14 weeks along (out of 40, for you younguns'), and the baby is due at the beginning of June. Both the kids are excited, which is very fun. Leah was rather ambivalent about Ben's arrival, so it's gratifying to see her get all giggly about this baby. Ben has always loved babies (although not necessarily when Mommy's holding them...). He was very interested in the doctor measuring my uterus at the last appointment.
At our 10 week appointment we had the internal ultrasound done, and it was amazing! At Ben's checkup at that point, we basically saw a blob and a heartbeat. This time we saw arms and legs waving all over the place! Very cool.
And, real-life friends out there who are feeling very much left out in the cold, don't worry. We didn't even tell my own parents, who live in town, until after the 10 week appt. Aaron's family and my sibs were told over Thanksgiving. Only this week have we started to tell local friends. There are a couple of reasons for this:
1) I have rather uneventful pregnancies, especially in the beginning before rampant heartburn sets in. When people ask how I'm feeling, I feel a little bad disappointing them with "Fine...just fine!"
2) And all those lovely people asking how I feel can really make a pregnancy seem like forever.
3) We told most people right away with both Leah and Ben. Since this poor third child will probably have little fuss made over her/him, I figured I'd try to do something different - and keep my mouth shut for a bit! It was a test of my self-control, really, to not say anything until now. After I shared the news and how far along I am with one friend, she said, "That's amazing!" and I knew exactly what she was talking about - it's truly amazing that I haven't slipped and said anything much earlier.
So there you have it. Finally.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Again, with this Christmas thing.

Along with the difficulties of my husband having grown up without any of the trappings of Christmas, and I with every single blessed one of them, is that we don't want to draw the children's attention away from Christ's birth (which, okay, I KNOW did not actually happen on December 25th. But I'm willing to go with it.). This means we try to cool it with gifts. And by "we", of course, I mean "I".

I settled on 3 being the magic number. That's how many gifts baby Jesus got, right? It's only fitting, then, plus it's easy to explain. I try to make one of those educational and one just for fun, and one...made by me. Yikers. It is definitely a challenge coming up with that appropriate gift for Ben, and he may luck out this year and get all "store-bought" gifts. Leah, not so much...I've had plans for years to make her a frilly dress-up apron and a more practical smock. THIS is the year it actually gets accomplished! YES! Or, maybe for her birthday. Yeah, that would work too.

Um, what about stockings? I asked Aaron when Leah was a baby. Stockings? he said. What are these things you call stockings? Shocked, I explained that they are ONLY my favorite (secular) part of Christmas! But if we don't do Santa, how do we do stockings?

We just have them. No explanation necessary, we decided. The kids would just accept it, just like my sibs and I accepted that every year Santa seemed to either forget a present for one of us (that Mom would have to fetch from her closet) or he'd mislabel a couple, leaving me to open a gift meant for Ruth, or vice versa. Mom was on hand to remedy the situation, of course. No wonder not a single one of us kids remembers ever actually believing in Santa Claus.

I think I could fill 5 stockings with the gifts I have stashed for them, but oh well. There's always birthdays and Thanksgiving.

Wait, what? You say you've never heard of Thanksgiving presents before? Well, what did you think I was going to do with all those other things I want to give my kids? Since Aaron's family usually exchanges their gifts then anyways, and it's actually a more appropriate holiday for gift giving (and being thankful for them!), it just made sense to me to give the kids presents then, too. When we traveled, those gifts were books, DVDs, and the like - things good for passing the time in the van.

This year I had similar gifts, including a larger toy for each. However, Leah seemed to come down with a decent case of the gimmees, and Ben was in the middle of his large-group induced melt down, so I skipped the last couple presents. They'll show up eventually, maybe some day in January or February when we are all stir crazy.

Now, if I can just get Aaron to get me a present or two. Not that Christmas is about presents, of course! But I still like them.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The "holiday" tree

Aaron's brother Josh likes to make comments about worshipping Christmas trees, and Aaron and I and the kids holding hands and dancing and singing around it.

Well, if we did those things, yesterday would have been the day. Although we bought the tree and got it up on Saturday, it took us until last evening to get it decorated. Partly this was because Aaron bought these new-fangled things called LED lights. We both thought, "Great! Longer lasting, less energy...what's not to love?" Um, how they looked. The light is so bluish and sharp, I told Aaron it made our tree look like a bar sign. Not exactly the look we're going for.

So I dug out our last remaining set of regular lights - all the rest apparently died over the long summer/moving season. I'm not the least disgruntled...almost all of them are from our wedding, almost NINE years ago. I'd say we got our money worth...or Mom and Dad did, anyway.

Like the monster truck under there? Nice holiday touch.

Filling in any decorative gaps in the tree are snowflake ornaments, also from our wedding. I'll use this opportunity to explain a few things about our Christmas.

First of all, we got married December 18th, 1999. And we (Aaron) didn't want a red & green wedding, especially since friends had had a very Christmasy wedding the year before. We went with blue and silver instead, with a snowflake motif. It was lovely, and my dad painstakingly hung snowflakes from the ceiling above the dance floor. We left for our honeymoon and came back on Christmas Eve to find that my folks had put a little tree in our apartment and decorated it with the remnants of wedding decorations! And yes, I still have a lot of them, including the ribbon and bows.

We also received several ornaments as gifts, and those all have places "up high" on the tree, as Leah quickly learned that that is where the special (aka, ones that are not toy possibilities) ornaments go. Leah did help put up decorations this year, and it was fun to have her. She did a good job spreading them out, too, with a little direction.

At least a couple years ago I bought these miniature Sesame Street and Dora ornament sets, and finally gave them to the kids this year. It's helped to satiate some of their desire to put on, take off, and play with the tree decor. Once I stopped Ben from throwing the bulbs across the room, that is.

One more thing about Christmas: Aaron's family did not celebrate it growing up (too commercial, not really on Christ's birth, traditions have pagan origins, etc...) although all of his siblings celebrate now with their families. Hence the dancing and worshipping comments (hi Josh!) Anyway, Aaron was kind of a newbie to this whole holiday when we got married, so I agreed that at least we would try to leave the more secular parts out, like Santa. And the easiest and most diplomatic way to do this was to make all our Christmas decorations more like winter decorations...blue and silver. Convenient, since, as stated, those were our wedding colors, and that started our collection.

I lean more toward snowmen and such instead of Santas, and so far it's worked great. It's also great for my laziness, because since most everything is not directly Christmas related, I can get away with leaving up a lot until March. And I do. Mom's even gotten into it with the dishes she's been giving me:

And guess what? THIS TOO started with our wedding...we got 2 mugs of this design as a gift, and I commented that I liked their versatility. Now I have 8 place settings, and counting!

One great thing about Aaron's folks' issue with Christmas - it's made dividing family time at the holidays remarkably easy. Thanksgiving with his, Christmas with mine. Never an argument.

Now THAT is a Christmas miracle.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

This is what I've been doing the last two days...

I know my last post was, like, 3 weeks ago or something. But I have a good excuse. I've been busy partying.

Okay, so that may not make your Internet time any more enjoyable, but trust me, I'VE been having a good time.

Party #1: Estrogen Fest. Simply put, this is a girl party, without the pajamas and pillow fights. We eat delicious appetizers and desserts, visit, learn about a direct sale business (this year, Uppercase Living with consultant Tara) and have a gift exchange. For the details of that particular item, you'll have to attend - I don't explain in advance!

I've continued this party from my dear friend Christina in Rochester, and added a few touches myself, such at the themed aspect (this time, gumdrops...more later), favor bags including a "collectible" magnet, and a mixer-type game before the gift exchange. It's all very fun, and with this new house, I've been able to really relax and invite to my heart's content (although there are still several more gals to initiate next time...)

The gumdrop theme was decided long ago - at least 2 months anyway. I thought it would be fun and colorful, and seasonal without being obviously Christmasy. It was PERFECT! Until I searched the World Wide Web and could find absolutely NOTHING with gumdrops on it. No fabric, no scrapbook paper, no plates, no napkins. Folks, these items are the staples of my party decorating. I seriously reconsidered my choice.

And this is where my mom came in. Mom agreed that gumdrops were perfect, and all of a sudden, the woman was on a mission. I received about 5 emails sent by her from various crafting websites with ideas for wreaths and other decor. Here's what we ended up going with:

1)Gumdrop wreath on the front door: Found by Mom at an estate sale. If you look closely, some of the gumdrops are cracked. I wouldn't recommend eating them. She also found...

2) Round candles in parfait glasses on the buffet counter. All different colors, and looked really lovely on top of some shiny green fabric.

3) Gumdrop trees. These are dowels with wire run through the center, and a block of wood at the bottom to hold them upright. My Grandpa Henry made them for me (at Mom's request) and then Mom painted them herself. I had to go to 2 different Walmarts to find the buckets of large gumdrops. These suckers will be around until after Valentine's Day.

4) Gumdrop garland. Consists of construction paper circles & regular sized drops. And it's a lot harder to make than it looks. Because you know what? Gumdrops are STICKY. Each time we put our needle through one, we had to wipe it off with a wet cloth. So much fun.

We used dental floss and my circle shape punch from Creative Memories. It, also, will be here until after Feb. 14th. And I've got to figure out a way to keep it for next year, 'cause this is a one-time only craft.

5) Plates & napkins: I found some cute napkins at Walmart that had bright colored polka dots and snowflakes - close enough. Then I got solid red, yellow, pink & green plates. Done and done.

I've started taking photos of the most obnoxious gift exchanged, as well as the most fought-over gift. Here you have it:

This chicken had some competition until Joy started it singing...and dancing. The Chicken Dance, no less. And of course.

Crystal said that when she opened this purse, she knew she wasn't going to take it home. Every one of us in the photo had our hands on this bad multiple times. At one point I took it from one lady and handed it right over to another before ever sitting down. What was the point, I ask you?
Here's the whole gang - all 21 guests, and me, in that crazy printed shirt in front - without a name tag. Made everyone else wear them, though.

Did you remember that there was ANOTHER party? I had our Bible study's "Christmas Coffee" at our house this morning. Fortunately (and deliberately) all of our members were on my EsFest invite list, so they weren't surprised to see that we had the same tablecloth, napkins, plates, and even some of the food!
There's been a flurry of activity around here, folks, but things are going to calm down a bit. Our tree got decorated tonight, and you'll hear about that tomorrow. There are great posts to come! Also, I have a renewed dedication to reply to your comments, thanks to Blue Castle. So hang in there! It's going to be a glorious Christmas season!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Shoppin' the Sales

I think I've mentioned before that Ben loves to analyze the sales circulars. He was in his glory with the Thanksgiving Day paper - and the Black Friday fliers. He was throwing them over his shoulder, looking for the ones with cars or choo-choo's in them. And they don't have to be the actual item advertised - he'll take them in the background, or even printed on something else, like a T-shirt. Really, any form is fine with him.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Now, if only the books would stack themselves...

I went on a shopping trip last night, and while at Kohl's stumbled across one item that was on MY Christmas list for the kids:

Wind-up, LED flashlights. They are quite awesome. I didn't wait for Christmas to give Leah and Ben theirs, simply because my son has been driving me nuts with his requests for our standard flashlight. Which has some kind of a malfunction, because even brand-new batteries will only work if you whack it against your hand a couple times. And even Ben says in sympathy, "Ouch!"

So each of the kids got their own. Because as I told one of my friends this morning, what other tool is more conducive to creative, independent play? With flashlights they play explorer and "researcher". They run all over the house directly those beams everywhere possible, and generally have a great time.

All this, and now I don't have to replace batteries OR retrieve them at the end of play OR remind them to turn them off? Merry Christmas to ME!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Oh, he's in for some torture.

I've mentioned before that my children might be polar opposites. Not only do they have different food preferences and completely varied abilities (like, the fact that she's kind of a klutz who talks a blue streak and he's a hyper-coordinated near mute), but it is becoming clear that they may also be extroverted (her) and introverted (him).

Last Thanksgiving at Aaron's parents' house, Ben was a complete nightmare. Didn't eat right, sleep enough, or play independently for more than 5 minutes at any point during the 4 day weekend. He spent the rest of that time clinging to Aaron's leg and whining.

I was hoping this year would be better, since we would be at our own house. And it was. He slept normally, and even napped pretty well.

But everything else was pretty much the same. Less whining and clinging, maybe, and he was glued to me as much as Aaron this time. But still, not a pretty sight. Of course, there were 18 extra people in the house, and even the smallest of them was still 3 times his size. And they all enjoyed watching his every move. So I can't really blame him for the spazzing. But it has taken until today - a full two days after the last relative departed!- for him to return to normal.

It's just that Leah is so different. In a group like that, she sparkles. Jabbers away, laughs, poses for photos, generally behaves like a complete social butterfly. If you've met me in person, you may have a small clue of where she gets this.

Her father, on the other hand, is an introvert. I am an extrovert. This has been a constant issue in our relationship, and now I'm afraid that Ben will also inherit that battle. Lucky him.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Improving My Hosting Capabilites

My Black Friday shopping was pretty much solely dedicated to becoming a better host. Oh, except for that purse I picked up while in line at Kohl's. That was JUST FOR ME.

You know what's ridiculous? That I've been married for eight years and 11 months, and have been having people over for dinner for several of those with only EIGHT place sets of flatware. Now we're a family of four - that means if one other family of four comes over, we're out. Too bad for me, who uses a couple pieces while cooking. So I got another 8 place set Friday morning, along with a set of pickle forks and a set of ice tea spoons.

If you are doing the math, we had 20 adults eating Thanksgiving dinner here - and they all had real flatware! My mom came to the rescue with her 12-serving set and even a few dinner plates. More of those are on my next shopping list.

Also I found warm, fuzzy, queen-sized blankets for $20! Our basement is a bit cool (as basements are wont to be...) and I know Erica is usually too cold. No more!

I missed the Leapsters at Walmart - they were $30, folks. I should have been there at 4am like the normal people, instead of 6:30 like us lazies. While there, I did get a couple of the $9 stick vacuums - and then gave them away to Erica & MIL Bobbie. Since I do already have one and all.

I know lots of people that were much more aggressive, but I'm telling ya'll - it was enough of an excursion for me. And I didn't even get close to Target.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Turkey Has Left The House

We had spaghetti for dinner tonight. Because not only had I ordered groceries online and they're not due to show up until after 8pm, but also because spaghetti is my backup meal furthest from turkey and the fixings, and that's what I needed tonight.

Thanksgiving started for us on Wednesday with the arrival of Aaron's family. His parents, plus 6 siblings, plus 3 of their spouses (not sibs, as previously stated...thanks for the heads up, Erica!), plus 5 nieces/nephews. I fed a majority of them chili for dinner, with rice as my "stretcher". And Lisa broke out the cheesecakes. TWO of them. One with Ghiradelli chocolate.

Thursday was the big day, of course, with my parents making our number 22. NO, I did not do all the cooking. Yes, I was in the kitchen all morning, assisting and locating, and making some great curried pumpkin soup, but I actually didn't step foot in there afterwards - the family is amazing at pitching in and helping. In addition to the two cheesecakes, there were 4 pies and two pans of bars, plus lefse, of course. All sweet tooths (teeths? That sounds weird.) were satisfied.

We had a surprise baby shower for Josh & Erica that afternoon, featuring a stunning diaper cake made by yours truly. It was very fun, and best of all, a total surprise for at least Erica.

Then we ate again. Leftovers, of course.

Friday, the remaining ladies went Black Friday shopping, at varying times of insanity. That'll be a different post.

By that evening, we were left with oldest brother Marlen and youngest brother Josh (and wifey Erica, of course.) We relaxed Saturday after a trip to Barnes and Noble, and I finally cooked new food, corn chowder. Ben had mostly just corn and some banana bread. But alas, this child is also fodder for another post.
Sunday my brother Dave and SIL Jess, along with their soon-to-be-born baby, stopped by for lunch, which my mom so kindly got together for us while we were all at church. And shortly after that, Aaron's sister Lisa and hubby Mike stopped by on their way home from the Cities. They had blown a tire 5 miles out of town, and with their truck loaded with purchases from Ikea. Oops.
So we had a houseful again for awhile, and I loved it. Josh and Erica headed home that evening, and Marlen just flew out this afternoon. The food is all eaten or frozen, and I'm gradually polishing off the olives. Let Christmas begin.