Thursday, December 31, 2009

Merry & Bright

We took the kids to a waterpark in a nearby town this afternoon. It was such a nice change of pace, and all the credit goes to my husband, who not only suggested the idea a few days ago so I could wrap my brain around it and be prepared, but also packed the kids all up along with the requisite gear. Also, he didn't totally freak when he came upstairs (after getting all those kids and bags in the van) and found out that I'd just finished taking a shower. WHAT?! A girl's gotta shave.

Anyway. I brought Adam's swim stuff along, but he started wailing the minute we stepped into the water area, so I figured that was a bad idea. I did swim for a bit while he sat half comatose in his seat, but then decided that I was better off dry. He and I headed to the family shower room (2 toilet stalls, 4 shower stalls, all with doors! It's so great.) to change clothes and get a fresh diaper on him, and then ducked into a changing room to nurse.

While I was in there, a herd of kids entered. A herd of kids and ONE mom.

These are some of the snippets I overheard (italics are Mom):

"The least you can do is help! Mom paid $35 for you guys to go swimming, and you sit there and do THAT! That's just naughty." Quick math - that's 5 kids.

"I have a matching swimsuit and towel!" - "Yes..."

"Mom, where are my goggles?" - "In the bag."

"I just knew that today was one of those days that is not going to go well..."

Coins drop on the floor - "Just put it here in my disaster of a purse." - "It's not a disaster, Mom!"

"Mom, where are my goggles?" - "In the bag!"

"I have a matching swimsuit and towel!" - "Yes, I know you do!"

"Oh, the ice cream got all over..." At this point, I'm almost laughing. But she doesn't know I'm there at all, so I keep veeerrrry quiet.

"Being a mom is hard work. You'll understand that when you have kids."

But this was my favorite part: "I have a hearing problem - everything sounds 10 times louder to me than it does to everyone else. That's why I get so upset when you guys yell." Hmm. That sounded feasible until I walked back into the swimming area and was blasted with noise as soon as I opened the door. And there was the mom, sitting quite calmly at a table blowing up inflatables. I think her hearing problem is called I'mtheMomitis.

The whole situation was very amusing to me. Not only could I totally relate, (and I only have 3 kids!), but I was thinking back to being a kid. Inevitably every mom has a bad day or ten, and the kids are all, "I really don't care how or why you are crabby, I just want to get away and do my fun thing!" Because there may be ice cream all over and disaster in the purse and who knows what else, but WE GET TO GO SWIMMING! And that is the only thing that matters. Of course!

I stayed in the changing room until they headed out, just to save that mom the embarrassment of knowing that I'd overheard so much. I just hope that they all ended up having a better afternoon!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


As I've explained before, Aaron and I give the kids three gifts for Christmas. Of course, this doesn't include all the goodies stuffed into their stocking, or the haul from the rest of the family - don't worry, they are sufficiently covered with new stuff.

One of the gifts they get from us, I make myself. A few years ago, Leah got an ABC album, with family for almost every letter. I've been saving a coordinating album for Ben, and decided to do this one with his favorite things. The side benefit (hopefully) is that it will help him learn his letter. We'll see how that works out.

"S" is for snow and swing, and "T" is for Thomas the Train, and tickles! Most of the photos were ones I already had, but I did take a few deliberately - Apple, Umbrella, Quilts... but the photo for Vikings is probably the oldest. Ben is about 18 months old, wearing his Vikings outfit.

Leah's gift has also been floating in my head for awhile. She loves playing dress up, especially (and predictably) princess. We have had a series of crowns in the house, but they are all fairly temporary. Thanks to this nifty blog, I made her a more permanent headpiece. All the rhinestones are sewn on, as well as hot-glued.

My friend Crystal at Two Peas makes some phenomenal tutus, and Leah has been dying to own one. My version is not quite as elaborate, but it'll do for something that gets shoved into a suitcase for storage. (You could totally make this yourself. Sew a piece of elastic into a circle, cut strips of tulle, and tie them on. Wonderful! ps - use tulle on a roll and save a year of torment.)

And for some reason, Leah is infatuated with wands. The shorter ones are sturdier, and also pose less risk of being turned into a weapon by a brother.

I think the crazy eyes mean that she likes it.

The neighbors are not forgotten - I didn't put it on my list of Christmas projects earlier, because this year I decided not to make a special goodies just for the neighbors - I just made a double-batch of cookies I was already going to make. The packaging is the fun part - my philosophy is to give a small selection of something especially delicious, and then make it look gorgeous. This year I even included the recipe, so I'll give it to you, too! These cookies are awesome, and so simple!

Chocolate-Dipped Cranberry Cookies

1 c. shortening
1c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 c. coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
2 c. (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T shortening
1 ¼ c. chopped walnuts (optional)

In a large bowl, cream shortening & sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture. Using paper towels, pat cranberries dry; stir into dough. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 in. apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 11-13 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.

In the microwave, melt chocolate chips & shortening; sitr until smooth. Dip cookie halfway into chocolate misutre; sprinkle with walnuts if desired. Place on waxed paper until set. Yield: 3 ½ dozen

What gifts did you make for friends/family?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Bliss

One of my least favorite things about Christmas is how it seems to end so abruptly. Yes, I know that's kind of like answering "What's your biggest fault?" with "I am too dedicated,", but it's true. On the 26th, everything goes on as usual - stores open, people bustling, regular TV programming...but I like to savor the peace and specialness of Christmas Day.

Which is why this year was awesome. Not only was Christmas a Friday, essentially extending the holiday right through the weekend, but a blizzard dumped 17" of snow on us, and then blew it around for a little bit. Even us hardy North Dakotans know better than to attempt too much during those types of conditions, and since there was immobilizing snow on the roads, and some vehicles were covered...well, the city was forced to slow down. There was a long list of closing and postponements for Saturday and even stores opened later, so they could get the parking lots cleared out. It was wonderful.

We have dug ourselves out, thanks mostly to my dad hauling his snowblower down here...twice...and Aaron is on the hunt for one of his own. Most of the family have returned successfully to their own homes, and I just bought another carton of eggnog, and some eggnog creamer as a bonus. There are plenty of cookies left, new games to play, and I don't have to take Leah to school all week! Let the vacation continue!

Tomorrow I have a high school friend and her five daughters coming for an overnight, and I'm hosting a tea party for the girls in Leah's class on Wednesday afternoon. So there will be lots of entertainment, as well!

What part of Christmas do you hold onto a little longer?

Friday, December 25, 2009

It has come to this.

It's 10pm on Christmas Day. The kids are in bed and the husband is playing his new Wii game.

Me? I'm drinking eggnog and eating cookies. Yes, I glanced at the clock, and then decided to completely disregard common sense and any concern for my gastro-intestinal system.

I may be a Christmasholic. And I have no problem with that.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Settling Down for a Long Winter's Nap

We are in the final hours now, my friends. The siblings and their spouses (and a baby!) have all arrived safely from their various destinations. The chili has been made and eaten, with enough left over for lunch tomorrow. Well, for a few of us, anyway!

I got vacuuming done today, along with laundry finished and put away, bathrooms cleaned, and sheets changed. All because of the cup of coffee at breakfast and raw, nervous energy. Plus, what ELSE was I going to do? Rest came in the form of sitting with Ben until he fell asleep and took a 45 minute nap, and then watching some television with him after he woke up (in a ferociously evil mood. You do NOT want to wake that boy.)

The vacuuming didn't really need to be done, but I knew that if I didn't do it today I probably wouldn't get around to until next week sometime. Plus, my nephew David is a year old and I wanted to eliminate any items that might make their way into his mouth.

I can't wait to see the kids open their presents! Especially Leah with her new tutu and crown. Photos will follow, hopefully some in her pjs with the first try-on! I'm going to be remembering that God sent his son some two thousand years ago because He simply loves us, not because we were good (yeah, most DEFINITELY not because we are good!) What a present! And my enthusiasm should be that of a five year old's for a pink tutu.

Now is the time to relax, keep the dishwasher going, and refill the cookie tray. To absorb every ounce and moment with my family and stash it away in my head for those spring days when it seems like forever since I've seen them all.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The thumbs, they are a-twiddling.

Here I am, a full two days before Christmas Eve, and ALL my tasks have been completed. The presents are even wrapped and under the tree. Okay, fine - maybe I didn't finish that last project, but the hand print tree is not necessarily for Christmas...I can put it off until January. Along with our New Year's card and letter - I don't even attempt to get those out until after the year begins.

A few friends have expressed wonder and even disgust with me, that I can actually say I'm finished. Believe me, I'm just as shocked. This rarely happens. Usually this time of year I'm in the Christmas Crunch, staying up until midnight finishing things up. Here's how I managed to do it this time:

1) Start early. Thanks to staying at home for Thanksgiving, I had a majority of the house decorating done before December even started.

2)Make a plan. I made that holiday schedule and stuck to it pretty closely. Even if I didn't really feel up to it.

3) Get off your (my) rear. Even *gasp* get off Facebook once in awhile. I know. But desperate times call for desperate actions.

4) Figure out what the roadblocks are, and then eliminate them. My craft room is wonderful, and I love the space, but the sewing machine being down there, with all the sewing that I'd have to wasn't going to happen. So I moved it upstairs, onto the counter overlooking the living room. Ahhh. So much better.

5) Know what to let go. Like that hand print tree, and the Christmas cards.

And here's the end product:

1) cookies - 5 types done. One afternoon each, baking about twice a week. Frosting them with Mom and sister Ruth and kids this week.

2) Ben's gift, an ABC album - Started and pretty much finished it in one night! Ahead of schedule on that one!

3) Leah's gift, a tutu/crown/wand and maybe slipper set (that's at least 2 evenings) - I cut the tulle at Ben's gymnastics class, and then put it together one night, along with assembling the crown, which I prepped another evening. Skipped the slippers for now.

4) sew a stocking for Adam - This one is the shocker. I did it all in one night. Well, one night after I had to re-cut out the whole thing. The first time I ended up cutting it out so that it would either face the wrong direction or have the wrong side out. Anyway - the baby has a stocking that won't throw him into therapy down the line.

5) sew some baby booties for gifts (of which I have made NONE - we'll see how that goes) - It went pretty well! After I figured out that the pattern didn't include the seam allowance, so instead of the first pair being for Adam, they are for the next baby boy to be born to a friend or family.

6) Made an anniversary album for Aaron. Oh yeah! Couldn't put that one on there earlier, but we celebrated our 10th anniversary this past weekend, and I made a special little scrapbook for him. Thankfully he worked the weekend before. That and one morning while Leah was at school was all it took. I LOVE scrapbooking kits.

So there you have it. Now you can all hate me if you want, but I am sitting on the couch on December 21st enjoying some television and Internet. I'm even taking on some extra projects, like baking some Cranberry Orange bread for Aaron's work folks.

What did you get accomplished that you didn't expect? Let's not be too demanding of ourselves, here - shoveling the sidewalk or changing the bedsheets totally counts.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

And the winner is....

I just realized that a very important part of having a giveaway is actually determining a winner. So I put all the names into a mixing bowl and had Leah choose one...and it was Melissa! So lovely, since she was the first to participate. See, folks, the early bird really DOES get the worm. In a completely random way, of course.

If you are completely devastated, you could always purchase your own necklace from Lindsay. She has a stockpile at her home available for purchase.

Congratulations, Melissa! I hope you enjoy your necklace!

Monday, December 14, 2009

What? You want to turn the TV off early?

Last night the kids were eating their bedtime snack, and we heard this (familiar) cry: from Ben of course, "Weah! Weah! WEAH!" Each time louder and more insistent. Then, "Mommy! Weah's ignowing me!"

from "Weah" - "I'm not ignoring him, I just don't feel like talking!"

But no, I did not suggest that she might be sick. Here's why:

Earlier this fall, the kids were having their bedtime snack of cherries. Usually they gobbled up as many as they could, but this particular night Leah said she was done with several still on her plate. Offhandedly, and from another room, I said, "What? Are you sick or something?"

Then there was silence, followed shortly by a wail.

"What's wrong!?!"
"I think I'm siiiick!"
"Why would you think that?"
"'Cause I don't want to eat the rest of my cherries!"

Oh goodness. I tried to tell her that she wasn't, but the wailing continued, so I got out the thermometer to prove it to her. Then she got carried up to her room and some extra babying from Mommy (to make up for her poor suggestion).

From now on, I will ONLY be suggesting things like, "What? You feel like eating your entire dinner?" or "What? You want to play nicely with your little brother?" or "What? You're tired of singing the months of the year song?" (I'm serious. She has got those months DOWN FLAT!)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Graduation may be a close second.

There are milestones in the life of a family.

- First baby
- First holidays as a real family, not just a couple.
- Potty training.
- Giving up of naps.
- First dentist appointment.
- First ER trip.
- First day of school.
- First Christmas program.

And then there is the REALLY meaningful milestone: When the kids "helping" actually becomes helpful.

Ya feel me, mommas?

(I am sooo unbearably white. I know it.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sir Six Months

Hey, don't forget about the necklace giveaway! Just a couple days left!

Our little guy is 6 months old this week. In honor of the occasion, we treated him to his first taste of gourmet (or Gerber) rice cereal.

This picture really doesn't even do his reaction justice. You can't hear the gagging, and his eyes aren't watering yet. Yes, the cereal is very thin. Yes, we tried adding something "sweet" - peaches. I've tried to get it into his mouth every day for 6 days now, and just yesterday and today did the gagging stop. In order to get him to actually swallow it, I've started sticking his pacifier in his mouth as a chaser, watching until he swallows, and then try it again.

I know it's sick and twisted, but I figure eventually he'll learn to eat with having the nuk between every bite, and his way he at least gets used the sensation of cereal on the back of his throat, which seems to be the problem - the texture, not the flavor.


Last night Adam slept through the night without nursing! From 7pm - 7:30am! I did go in at 1:30 and put his nuk back in his mouth, but this is a definite improvement. Our pediatrician friend sarcastically said that it MUST be due to the fact that he started cereal...that whole one bite that he swallowed the day before. Yep, that HAD to be it.


Mr. No Solids also officially has two teeth, the bottom fronts, and I think he's working on the top two also. This is just another family baby standard that he's destroying, along with being under average size and having brown eyes. My other two kids didn't get teeth until 8 months, and Leah only had two at one year!


No rolling over yet. This isn't shocking, as the other two were a bit slow on this milestone, also. (Actually, the fact that he's following the established pattern maybe SHOULD shock us!) Besides, the kid's thighs probably weigh a couple pounds themselves, so hauling them over is quite the job.


A big improvement in Adam's photogeneticness is that the camera flash doesn't make him open his eyes wide in shock anymore! So it seems that the deer-in-the-headlights photos may be on their way out. Shucks. The kids, they grow up so fast.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

June weddings are so overdone.

Leah says to me today, out of nowhere: "Caleb (a boy in her class) knows who he's going to marry!"

Me: "Oh yeah? Who is he going to marry?

Her: "Me!" I should add that she had a huge grin on her face, too.

I'm not too upset. Caleb is a nice boy - but he had better not honk for her from the driveway.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The line also includes rears.

Hey, before I get going, don't forget about my very first giveaway going on this week! Details here!

The other evening, we were all headed out to the van when Ben tripped and fell flat on his face. Of course he started wailing. I got Leah into the van while doing the triage questions on the boy: Are you okay? Where did you get hurt? And then proceeded to put him into his carseat and buckle him in, while he was still expressing his pain.

Aaron said, "Gee, I admire your sympathy!"
I said, "Look, my sympathy ran out about 3 cryings ago."
"Ha - boy who cries wolf."
"No - he really honestly is crying about 20 times a day."

Remember the other day when I told you how this same child nearly broke my nose while giving me a hug? Well, I'm not the only one he injures on a regular basis. There is a reason why his (and most boys of his age, let's be honest) shins are covered with bruises.

So he gets hurt a lot - falling down, falling over, trying to jump UP steps, and of course, being attacked by Leah. Most of the time it's accidental - like the time she kicked him down the stairs. Yes. You see, he was hanging on her legs while she was going up, and as she tried to shake him off, he got a little too close - and down he went. Oops.

I can handle the lack of self-control. It's the overabundance of tears that gets me.

The boy cries about everything. Today he started crying because Leah made a scary face at him. I can't even remember everything that starts the water works - it's just that if anything upsets him, that's the way he expresses himself. Fortunately, he still very much believes in the power of mommy's kisses. Although I do draw the line - no kissing the feet. I compromise by kissing my fingers and then touching the owie.

It's that sweetness that makes me smother that child with kisses even when he's NOT injured.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

You know you want it.

This weekend I hosted an open house for a friend of mine, Lindsay, who is passionate about the plight of orphans in Africa. So passionate, that she and her husband (and two boys) are hoping to move to Kenya next year to be house parents at an infant home! I can't even fathom this, honestly.
Lindsay was helping another organization, Children's HopeChest, to raise money to build a kitchen for a community of orphans in Uganda. Brandi and Vince, from CHC, were selling aprons and paper-bead necklaces. The necklaces were handmade by women in Uganda, and every single one of them is gorgeous.

See? Even in this weirdly sideways photo you can tell that these things are great. And, well, I hinted at a possible giveaway earlier last week, so I thought I'd carry through. (Despite Aaron's plea not to "become one of those blogs that always gives away stuff!" He sometimes has objections to odd bumper stickers, or any outward personalization of a vehicle. Okay, maybe I get that one.) But, I'm going to make you work for this freebie.

What's nice about this particular style of necklace (and there are shorter ones, as well as longer multicolor ropes) is that you can wear it doubled, like so:

or long, like thus:

This style sells for $15 from the HopeChest folks as a fundraiser.

For your chance to win it, follow this link to Children's HopeChest's website. Then leave a comment and tell me one of the services that a ministry center provides to the orphans.

This giveaway will close at midnight on Friday! So spread the word, and you could add a new pretty to your jewelry box...or someone special's!

ps - one entry per person, please! Thanks!

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Aaron and I finally watched the new Star Trek movie. You know, the one with Sylar from Heroes as Spock? That took a bit to get over, let me tell you.

I have never really been interested in Star Trek. Occasionally, I would see a few seconds of an episode while flipping channels, and it always seemed like a foreign language to me. I never could keep track of who was good and who was bad, and what the heck was going on in the first place.

But my loving, wonderful husband is a fan from way back. Not necessarily a Trekkie, per say, but a fan. Spock is his favorite character, and if you know Aaron, that probably won't surprise you too much. There's no end to the number of romantic comedies and straight-up romances Aaron has sat through with me, (Let me qualify this right here. He HAS flat out refused to watch two Netflix movies with me, making me resort to watching them while scrapbooking because I DO NOT watch movies well by myself. And what were those movies? The Queen with Helen Mirren, and Dreamgirls. So you may or may not sympathize with me.) so I figured the least I could do was sit through this ONE movie with him. He even delayed seeing it in the theater until we could watch it at home together. Mostly because he couldn't find anyone to go with him at the time, I think.

So we are sitting on the couch, and I find myself getting actually involved with this movie! The plot is at least five times that of Transformers 2. And then the Enterprise starts to go into warp speed for the first time. It's one heck of an experience, mostly because it caused our DVD player to shut down completely. Twice.

After Aaron got it working, we continued on, enjoying the sparring between Kirk and Spock, and the funny mixed with the action and tension. I wasn't even bored enough to go look for goodies - of course, I had brought a selection of about four things out before we got started.

Then the Romulan drill got so powerful that it AGAIN shut down our DVD player.

Another recovery. And another blow out, this time, permanent. Accompanied by a popping sound.

After tearing the DVD player apart to retrieve Netflix's disc, we resorted to the much smaller TV in the living room. Some of the impressiveness of universal drama was diminished, but the story was still compelling. Aaron was opposed to the romance between Spock and Uhura, which we never in the "older" stories, but you know me. Any spark of sweetness makes a movie more interesting to me!

I could actually get into this Trekkie stuff. Maybe. Especially if the boys are cute and funny.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The pain, it's real.

Having kids is painful. And I'm not just talking about the childbirth and labor part, or the emotional "I hate you!" part. I'm talking REAL pain. On a regular basis.

Maybe it's just little boys with their lack of impulse control. A few months ago Ben nearly broke my nose trying to give me a hug.

Oh yeah, he was running at me from across the room, and happened to connect with my schnoz. I literally saw stars. Fortunately, my nose wasn't broken and there wasn't any bruising, but it was tender for a few days. Ben apologized and gave me a hug, and then a couple days later asked if it still hurt, and said sorry again. How can you be upset with such a sweetheart?

Today we had lunch at church, and while I was sitting on a folding chair, Ben was standing between my knees. All of a sudden he boosted himself up on my knees, to get onto my lap presumably. Unfortunately he connected with my jaw. Hard. Saw stars again.

And really, I spent a few moments checking for pain. He must have hit me in just the right spot - I really didn't have any major owies, other than the initial shock of contact.

I was relating this to friend H, and she showed me a quarter-sized peeling mark on her forearm. Apparently, her 7 year old son held a knife between the glass and door of a toaster oven, with the knife against the heating element. He touched it very quickly to his own skin and it "didn't hurt", so he tried it on his mom. (Of course, right? That would be MY logical next step!) And he branded her! Again, a few days later he asked her if it still hurt, and she honestly said that it did. "Sorry, Mom!"

Oy. I'll be stocking up on ointment and bandages now.

Buy an Accessory, Be an Accessory.

An accessory to helping African orphans, that is. I posted here about an open house that I'm having this coming Saturday (9-11am), offering for sale necklaces and aprons. Money raised will go to build a kitchen for 250 orphans. A friend is having an open house Friday from 3-6pm if that time works better for you, and this lovely photographer is also helping out Lindsay and Rachel. Ria Lee is a friend of Lindsay's, and since she visited the village for whom the funds go to, she explains the need much better.

If you'd like to attend either my open house or the one on Friday, please leave a comment or email me.

Here is Lindsay's interview in On the Minds of Moms (and photos including an example of the necklaces - all unique).

Making my list, checking it twice.

Thanks to our slow holiday weekend, I got to pull out all the Christmas stuff a bit earlier than I usually do. And boy! did I have helpers. Leah and Ben were totally thrilled to join me in decking the halls. So thrilled, in fact, that Leah couldn't stop asking, "When are we going to put up more Christmas decorations?" every couple minutes. ALL AFTERNOON. However, they sure were handy to have around when I needed things handed up to me, or ornaments taken out of boxes. They actually WERE helping, doncha know it.

I've had my heart set on filling the house with snowflakes, and thought that it would be a great craft to do with Leah. I did one to show her, and then tried to cut a few more. Tried. They kept turning out more like flowers. No matter what I did, they were not circles. So where did I turn? After my latest issue of Martha Stewart Living failed me (I swear I thought I saw something about snowflakes in there), I went to the mighty Internet. This site proved very helpful! Also helpful, making the snowflakes out of tissue paper. Not helpful? Leah's Type A personality kicking in. She decided to cut all her snowflakes exactly the same. Kind of defeats the purpose, but she would not be swayed.

Most of the decor is up - except for the two tubs of stuff that I bought too much of last year at Target. The after-holiday sales are my nemesis. I have two boxes of ornaments that haven't even been touched.

But I still have many things to accomplish this holiday season. And I'm also Type A. So of course, I made a list.

But I also took it a step further. I made a holiday schedule. For the first two weeks (so far!) of December, I used my weekly calendar to map out mornings, afternoons, evenings and the menu plan for the week. After the necessary stuff like laundry, cleaning bathrooms, and kids' activities, I fill in the fun stuff:

1) cookies - and I make about 5 different types, so that's 5 afternoons right there
2) Ben's gift, and ABC album
3) Leah's gift, a tutu/crown/wand and maybe slipper set (that's at least 2 evenings)
4) sew a stocking for Adam
5) sew some baby booties for gifts (of which I have made NONE - we'll see how that goes)
6) make this cute handprint tree craft which I've had the supplies for for about 3 years

Looking at this list makes me hyperventilate. Looking at my schedule makes me think that maybe I could get it all done. Maybe.