Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

Ahhh, Thanksgiving.  It's always been a favorite holiday of mine.  As I have become a "woman" and a mom instead of a "kid" (these classifications have nothing to do with age but more with a person's stage in life) my enjoyment of the day has diminished a bit.  During my childhood Thanksgiving always meant a gathering with family and antics with the cousins.  There were exceptions, but many of these gatherings were at our house on the farm and there was often snow and there would be outdoor fun, which usually included sledding behind some sort of ATV or our old snowmobile and ended with kids of various ages strewn across the yard as we were tossed from the sled. We would make our Christmas lists for my grandma and when we were in elementary school this included circling toys in the JC Penney catalogue.
Isn't that a nostalgic image?  Those two inch thick fall and spring catalogues were so fun to look at. The girl's section generally showed me what I would be wearing for school or summer that season because good old JCP was one of the only stores that had a good selection of kid's clothes in the 90's in Grand Forks.  Target had clothes but they were not as fashionable as they are now and Dayton's was an option but for selection, style and affordability JCP was it.  Kids don't know how good they have it with Old Navy, Kohl's, updated Target, Children's Place and the Internet.  And, although those catalogues were full of fun nothing could beat the Christmas edition with it's fabulous toy section.  And yes, that says $4.  I always remember ours came in the mail so I can't imagine my mom paid for them but maybe you just got on a mailing list when you shopped there regularly. 
 Back to Thanksgiving...wherever we were we would make a Christmas ornament or craft (the last one we made when I was in grad school might have been charms for wine glasses!) and if we were with my dad's side (and we usually were if I remember correctly) my grandma always gave all of the grandkids a new Christmas ornament.  We kids always managed to entertain ourselves by putting together little skits and performances or playing games in my grandparent's basement or upstairs at the farm.  As we got older the antics transitioned into hanging around and gossiping and drinking wine but the holiday was always enjoyable because I wasn't really doing any work.  Of course, my sister and I (I seem to remember my brother being exempt) would help with cleaning and dusting before the family gathering and made sure our rooms were in order but on the day of I don't remember doing much beyond driving to the gas station in town to buy ice or doing some light food preparation like buttering lefse or slicing buns.  And there was plenty of time to get my yearly fix...
It's not Thanksgiving until you zone out to the Macy's parade! 
Now, there is no more holiday slacking because I have a kid demanding my attention nonstop.  I barely had a moment to sit and watch the parade or do anything else festive and the commentary and show tunes were drowned out by screaming and whining.  The extended family has all branched out further with marriages and kids so now it's just us again and our kids are the next generation of cousins but they are all too young to amuse themselves while the adults work in the kitchen or be sent to play outside.  Also, now that I'm an adult I feel like I should be doing more work to contribute to the production of the meal but because of the kids I really can't.  I never get anything done ever.  I started many tasks on Thanksgiving only to be distracted and not finish them. It's all quite infuriating.  Oh, and since I am about 20 lbs overweight and none of my jeans fit except one oversized and stretched out pair I didn't feel very good about stuffing my face with abandon and eating five different desserts so that aspect of Thanksgiving was not indulged either. 
Before you dismiss me as an ungrateful complainer who shouldn't have kids if all I am going to do is whine about them please understand that I know these years will pass and soon the holidays will be more enjoyable again.  The toddler years really are a time to just keep moving and not be dismayed that almost everything you do is not going to be fun. At least not in the same way it was before. But it shall pay off in the long run when they can understand how holidays are fun and special occasions. 
Due to the previously mentioned constant distraction and inability to get things done I took very few pictures of the weekend.  We had two dinners on Thanksgiving with each side of our family.  The gatherings were small.  At my parents' house it was us and my brother's family and my grandma and uncle and at Justin's parents' house we were the only guests. 
Here is Milo hanging out with my grandma.  I caught him giving a "side eye"!

Here is Tessa having her Thanksgiving dinner!  She and my brother's one year old had dinner early so they could have their naps.  She really loves stuffing. 

Milo spent some time watching the NFL and I noticed that he and Justin had coordinating shirts on. Gray plaid is always a good choice!

My family is really bad about taking pictures and I always regret not taking more so I insisted that my parents take a picture with the kids before we left.  The kids decided that it was a good time to shove their hands in their mouths. 
After we got to Grand Forks that evening Tessa was in a tantrum-y mood because we woke her up from her car ride induced nap at 6 p.m.  Holy hell, never again will we do that.  She cried and whined for the rest of the evening.  Justin's mom had birthday presents for her and she cried because she wanted to open them and then she cried while opening them.  She does love her new baby now that she has recovered from her little meltdown. 

On Black Friday Ben and Justin's mom went to a movie and the rest of us ventured out to the stores.  We tried to go to Sears but there were no shopping carts left and we didn't have a stroller so that didn't work.  Then we walked around the mall where I saw a kitten that looked just like Allan at the pet store.  I hope the right home finds him.  I don't approve of pet stores but I hope the right person chooses that cat!
On Saturday we went back to the farm because my sister and niece were there.  She was trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to take a Christmas card photo of her own disagreeable toddler so I had her take a picture of Tessa and I in front of those very nice pine tree arrangements my mom bought from our town's florist but Tessa wasn't really interested.  I still like the picture!  It makes me smile and roll my eyes. Of course she planked her body and cried!

Now it is time to get ready for Christmas.  We will see when we actually get the tree or any other decorations set up.  Ben asked about the tree all evening because my mom put theirs up this weekend.  This could get challenging. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Well, I Did It...

Out in the world, Christmas is already everywhere.  The stores are festooned with decorations, the malls are setting up the Santa Clause habitat and I saw some decorations on the city street lights today.  I happen to really enjoy this even though I do also love Thanksgiving and don't overlook it.  There is even a cornucopia in our house!  Yes, a horn of plenty!  And it will be on full display with gourds and pumpkins and my turkey Beanie Babies from the 90's until after next week.  Of course, people are irritated that it's "too early" for Christmas but hey, it's five weeks away (yes, I have overheard people in stores saying this within the last week) and I don't think that is too early to start anticipating such a fun time of the year. 

In this spirit, and also because I have the Amazon Prime trial that I previously mentioned, I found myself looking at some "Holiday (of course they wouldn't dare say Christmas) Hot List" and the recently popular "Elf on the Shelf" was on the list. 

If you use social media and have any friends who have small children, which is almost all of my friends on social media, you have seen the Elf on the Shelf show up around Christmas the last few years.  I don't know who came up with this idea but I wish it were me because now I would be rich.  I also don't know when it started but I remember imploring my co-workers with kids to explain it to me back when I had a job in 2011 after seeing it all over Facebook. 

It comes with an elf doll and the story, which apparently tells of how the Elf on the Shelf is sent by Santa and each family has their own.  I'm not sure when he or she arrives but it is either right after Thanksgiving or on December 1st.  They give it a name and it becomes a tradition that returns year after year.  He sits in the house and moves to a new location every night so the children know he is watching and reporting to Santa about if they are naughty or nice.  I think this is why it is so popular.  It is a way to invoke Santa to get good behavior from your kids. 

Of course, parents started having a bit too much fun as they repositioned their elf every night and soon social media was filled with daily documentation of elf antics.  Here are a few examples I found on Pinterest (not from people I actually know). 

Some are cute ways to go above and beyond setting it on shelves or in the Christmas tree branches like this one where the elf is reading to other toys:

200 Elf on the Shelf Ideas:

Or hiding in the fridge wrapped in a blanky...that's very cute!

Elf on the Shelf in the fridge wrapped up in a towel. Because he misses Santa and the North Pole:

But then there are these types of ideas, where you make a huge mess in your own house. And I'm sure the kids are cleaning that up...not!

Day Four:

Funny Elf on the Shelf Ideas (30 Pics) I used to have a green elf like this - bought him in a market in Sydney over 30 yrs ago... didn't know the story - thought he may have been a leprechaun! Wonder where he is now?:

No thanks.

And then there are these types of scenarios, which look labor intensive and like kind of a waste of time:

Elf on the Shelf idea - Elf makes his very own Christmas tree:

But anyway, the weeks to come will hold lots of people showing off their superior elf positioning abilities and also lots of people complaining about how annoying those other people are and people who hate the whole tradition because it takes the focus away from the true meaning of Christmas.  Remember the years before the Internet when you could just do something because you felt like it and never had to know what everyone else thought?  This is the new world of parenting!  Lucky us!

I decided impulsively to order this thing because I always imagined I would be a mom who tried to make Christmas a special time of year.  I loved advent calendars and green and red paper chains with a star or a cross at the end and church and school parties and holiday basketball tournaments when I was a child almost as much as the big day itself and this is kind of the same idea. Also, I like the idea of my kids believing in the magic and goodness of Santa for the few short years we have before they develop the logic to figure things out. 

Oh, and of course I want the easy way to encourage good behavior!  So this package should be arriving today.  I promise I will not do daily updates about what I come up with for the Elf every night but I might do a few!  And one might be this:

20 Elf on the Shelf Pics That Will Make You Laugh Out LoudI don’t think that’s what they meant when they said ‘make sure you brush.’:


Monday, November 16, 2015

Tessa is 2!

It was Tessa's birthday yesterday.  She is two and let me tell you, she acts like it!  Yikes!  It's fun to see her grow and turn into a kid instead of a baby though.  Her language is really taking off, she is showing readiness for ditching the diapers and she eats and feeds herself which is nice for me.  She loves to play with Duplos and Legos and all sorts of other choking hazard type objects like marbles.  She loves to wear her jacket or a sweatshirt and she loves "clips" such as the ones on the high chair or in the stroller.  Fortunately, car seat clips are kid proof so she is still safe in there! 
It's hard to believe that these pictures were already taken two years ago. 
It makes me think of this poem that was on our flyer at MOPS a few weeks ago.  I had seen it before but it came at just the right time...

The Last Time

From the moment you hold your baby in your arms,
you will never be the same.
You might long for the person you were before,
When you had freedom and time,
And nothing in particular to worry about.
You will know tiredness like you never knew it before,
And days will run into days that are exactly the same,
Full of feeding and burping,
Whining and fighting,
Naps, or lack of naps. It might seem like a never-ending cycle.
But don't forget...
There is a last time for everything.
There will come a time when you will feed your baby
for the very last time.
They will fall asleep on you after a long day
And it will be the last time you ever hold your sleeping child.
One day you will carry them on your hip,
then set them down,
And never pick them up that way again.
You will scrub their hair in the bath one night
And from that day on they will want to bathe alone.
They will hold your hand to cross the road,
The never reach for it again.
They will creep into your room at midnight for cuddles,
And it will be the last night you ever wake for this.
One afternoon you will sing 'the wheels on the bus'
and do all the actions,
Then you'll never sing that song again.
They will kiss you goodbye at the school gate,
the next day they will ask to walk to the gate alone.
You will read a final bedtime story and wipe your
last dirty face.
They will one day run to you with arms raised,
for the very last time.
The thing is, you won't even know it's the last time
until there are no more times, and even then,
it will take you a while to realize.
So while you are living in these times,
remember there are only so many of them and
when they are gone,
you will yearn for just one more day of them.
For one last time.

It's hard to fathom sometimes that I will indeed miss these times but I know it's true!

It's crazy that all three of the kids look the same as babies! 
The transitions are happening all around.  Last Friday night we rearranged and Tessa now sleeps in a twin bed.  She was already in a toddler bed so it wasn't much of a transition at all. 

The toddler bed was converted back into a crib and is now in Ben's room.  He is excited to have Milo stay in his room but I haven't been able to handle moving him out of the bassinette yet!  He's just a baby!!!
Back to the birthday celebration, we didn't have a big party or anything.  My parents came on Saturday morning and we watched the NDSU football game and then went shopping and then had pizza and cake.  I decided to make a cake shaped like a Duplo block since Tessa has been into them lately. The sound of Duplos being dumped all over the floor is all too familiar!  That is as far as the party theme went but at least I tried!   This is the before:

More pictures of the finished product later...
Tessa got some nice presents.  We got her a stuffed Curious George since she likes the show as much as Ben does and sometimes they fight over his stuffed George.  Hers is wearing pajamas and holding a blanket which is really cute. 

She calls it "Jammie George". 

My mom found her some cute pajamas with "Paw Patrol" characters on them in addition to a new backpack with a kitten toy attached and a new blanket.  I somehow ended up with an Amazon Prime trial this month so at the last minute last week I ordered her two sets of Duplos. One is an ice cream cone set and one is a sandwich shop set.  They have been popular with both kids. 
Just what we need around here!  100 more small objects to litter the floors!

Here is Tessa snuggling "Jammie George". 
Ben had a rough time with seeing Tessa get presents.  My mom brought him a little something but still...He has learned about when his birthday is at school and I suppose by now he has seen his classmates have a few and he kept talking about when his birthday was coming and how he would let Tessa open one of his presents.  I bet you will, kid, I bet you will. 

So here is the cake.  It turned out OK only because my mom ended up frosting it for me after the sides started crumbling while I was trying to spread the frosting.  I put the cake pieces in the freezer to firm them up but I guess they weren't in there long enough.  Who knows.  The color I was trying to recreate was something matching those two bocks on the plate.  I put them there to prove that such colors exist in Duplo form.  In my youth they only came in the standard primary and secondary colors!  The color I ended up with was more of a 1990's mauve with a hint of grey to it.  Just what every toddler girl wants!  

How do you like that cake pedestal?  I had the idea at the last minute when I noticed how the cake was compact compared to the usual sheet cake.  My great grandmother was very devoted to cake plates apparently, and they appear in many old birthday photos from that side of the family.  It didn't matter if you were a teenager taking a break from working in the field during wheat harvest to pose for a birthday photo like my great uncle here,
or a young version of my grandpa posing on the steps of their newly built farmhouse,

or a two year old (also my grandpa).
If he had a cake pedestal on top of a regular pedestal for his 2nd birthday then I guess Tessa can have at least one pedestal! 

This particular pedestal plate was given to us by Justin's grandma who recieved it as a gift from his mom and dad years ago.  It's the first time I've used it!  Maybe I will rethink the shape of my cakes in the future so we can use it more!  In this picture we were trying to get Tessa to hold up two fingers.  She wasn't getting it, although she is really good at counting in general and can count into the teens. 
Last night, on her actual birthday I tried to get the three kids to pose together for a picture in their pajamas before we had some leftover mauve Duplo cake.  Miss Two Year Old wasn't having it though. 


The bro's were pretty cute though!

OK, we're done here!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Reflections on Veterans Day

It's Veteran's Day today, as everyone knows.  By some miracle the house is kind of quiet and "Saving Private Ryan" is on for an afternoon showing on AMC.  For some reason it is being shown from 1-4 p.m. instead of during prime time viewing with limited commercial interruption like it should be on Veteran's Day.  This evening they are showing both Karate Kid movies.  Huh?  "Saving Private Ryan" is one of my favorite movies that I could watch again and again.  It is kind of an odd addition to my list which mostly includes National Lampoon movies and 1990's/early 2000's high school movies.  If I could choose any movie that I would be proud to have been part of it would be this one.  Although, there isn't a single female in the cast except for Mrs. Ryan who doesn't have any lines and is only onscreen for about one minute (although it is a powerful scene at the Ryan farm in Iowa and the I can easily imagine the scene unfolding in the farmhouse I grew up in) and the secretaries in the typing room at the beginning. Right now it is the "calm before the storm" scene where the soldiers have found Ryan and they are in the ruined city of Romelle waiting for the battle to start where Ryan conjures the memory of his lost brothers and Tom Hanks' hand shakes in anticipation of what is coming. Very dramatic scene.

Today social media is filled with people paying tribute to the veterans of all ages in their families.  I'm not from a military family so all of the veterans I would honor served a long time ago.  My grandpa on my mom's side was a veteran of WWII.  He was still in high school when it started but served toward the end and my other grandfather was 14 when it ended so he didn't serve. Justin and I both have uncles and great uncles who served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.  On my side, our family's only casualty of war was my grandma's brother who died in the early days of Vietnam.  The family got word while my grandma was in the hospital giving birth to my aunt and they kept the information from her as long as they could.  

When I first started realizing the implications of war as a young student I was and still am moved by the patriotism and courage of the young people of the past.  They enlisted in masses to fight in WWII and they were barely older than I was..  I couldn't help but imagine the people I was in school with as soldiers and it made us all seem really privileged and safe.  I recall my social studies teacher giving the boys in the class the talk about how they had to sigh up for the selective service at the post office when they had their 18th birthday and it seemed outlandish that the country would have to resort to that ever again.  Well, that was 1999 and we all know what happened two years later which made the draft seem less of a relic of the past and more of a possibility.  Fortunately, I don't think it will happen and now...we are too old!  I looked it up a few months ago because something I saw on TV reminded me of it and I asked Justin if he was too old for the draft and he said he didn't know so I looked it up.  They answer is yes, unless there is another catastrophic world war where all the men in their 20s' and late teens are being used they could call people in their 30's.  But probably not.  And they start with 20 year olds.  I was looking at WWII statistics just a moment ago and more 20 year olds were killed in the war than any other age by far.  According to my random Google source, 14,095 twenty year olds died and only (ONLY...I use that word not to diminish their importance) 9,705 twenty-one year olds and 8,283 nineteen year olds died.  It must have been an unsettling time to be a 20 year old American. 

Anyway, today is a good day to think about such things because making that sacrifice is serious business.  What would have happened if tyranny (Hitler) won?  Thinking about all of his crazy ideas coming true is like imagining a horrifying post-apocalyptic movie plot.  The WWII veterans are diminishing in numbers at a very fast rate and the Vietnam guys are now becoming the old guys who fire the guns at funerals and march in parades to represent the Legion posts. While many of them shared their experiences and many stories are recorded to teach future generations not to repeat the mistakes of the past (it's why we learn history in school, for all of those unenthusiastic students who ask why they have to learn this!) I have to wonder about the things they didn't every tell anyone about.  Thinking of them makes me feel kind of inadequate, like I could do more for others to benefit society to pay forward what they've given me but I don't know what would be enough. Nothing really compares.  And in that thought, I include not just men who fought but women who were "picking up the slack" at home, raising families alone, working in jobs they never imagined doing and making the best out of rationed goods.  It seems that they were a different breed and that a woman my age in those years was so much more of an adult than I am now.

Oooh...the scene at the end where the planes fly in and save the day just before Tom Hanks gets blasted by a tank is happening...goosebumps all over!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Newborn Pictures

We had newborn pictures taken for Milo a few weeks ago and received the disk last week.  They sure are cute, although I wish the older two would have been more cooperative.  They both smiled nicely for their individual pictures but for the shots with all three they were all over the place.  The following are my favorites. 

I love the ones taken with the braided rug!  So my style!

I can't help but feel guilty, especially when I see these, that we never did newborn pictures for Tessa.  Ben had them done at Sears, and they were not as cute as this, but at least he has them.  Oh well, I guess I have a few years before she realizes the slight! 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

School Pictures

School picture day was always a fun but kind of stressful day  that rolled around every fall.  In the really early grades, I don't remember caring much about how I looked but it was always fun to wear a favorite outfit or fun necklace that day.  As we got older and entered the later elementary school grades I remember being stressed about my hair.  It was hard not to be with the precision skill that was required to fix the many ways we wore our bangs in the 90's!  If you were having one of those bad bang days and your stiff sky high wave or poodle curls were acting up or looking off kilter your picture day was ruined!  Sometimes there wasn't enough hairspray in the world...

In middle school and high school of course there was the dreaded acne to deal with.  I never had very bad skin but even one blemish was a problem.  Also, I am prone to red marks on my neck and chest if I scratch an itch or have any other minor contact with those areas so I was always worried about that.  And of course, every girl insisted with modesty that they looked terrible and would probably need retakes.  When the proofs came back every girl insisted she was getting retakes but no one ever got retakes!  Regarding boys, I don't remember any of them giving a crap or doing anything to go above and beyond in the grooming department for picture day.  Must be nice. 

I wish I had some school pics scanned of myself but of course I don't.  I have plenty of my parents and grandparents but none from my childhood!  I love to look at them though.  This custom is one that could, I suppose, become obsolete since we all have cameras in our pockets that are with us everywhere we go and digital photography makes it easy to take nice pictures of our kids whenever we want.  There is something special about these simple portraits though.  It's fun to see people at that age, trying to look their best in whatever fashions were popular at the time and see their hair and features as they change or stay the same through the years.

This one is quite special.

This is my grandma on my dad's side in 1st grade and the reason it is special is because it is the first known picture of her taken as a child.  She was 6th out of 7 kids, although I don't know if any of them had baby pictures taken, and like most families they didn't own a camera and couldn't afford a photographer in 1937.  So this was it!  It is so different now.  It makes us all seem downright vain.
This is my dad in some year of middle school so probably 1971 or 1972.  That shirt is very subdued compared to the huge collars, crazy prints and ridiculous bow ties that would fill the year book by the time he graduated in 1976 but it stands out to me because his hair is still straight. 

 My brother and sister and I all had straight hair until right around this age...sometime in late elementary school.  Around 6th grade is when my hair started flipping out in all directions at the end and by 7th it was fully curled.  The following newspaper clip shows my dad as a senior in high school in the fall of 1975. 
Whoa, right?  This was found in my great grandma's scrapbook recently.  That's not a perm. I wonder what happens in those years?  You could say hormones, but I would think then it would be different for girls and boys.  Also, it didn't happen to my aunt and uncle.  It was a strange recessive gene surfacing from the ancestry.  See, look...this is me in 5th grade...

And when I was 19...

It's crazy.  I wonder if it will happen to my kids?  I don't know if it would be lucky or not?  Now that my hair is straightening again (this HAS to be because of pregnancy and hormones) I kind of miss that wild mess that I used to have. 
My mom's dad was a high school teacher for 40 years so he had his photo taken on picture day sometimes.  I remember how most of my teachers would only sit every once and awhile for pictures so their photo in the yearbook would be the same for several years.  There were always those (always male) teachers who would use the same picture for, like, 20 years.  In the 90's their old portraits from 1978 were still being used!  It was funny.   

This is my grandpa's portrait which is clearly from the 1960's since it has some elegance to it and lacks polyester and crazy prints and the suit is not pastel blue or brown. I like the glasses.  It reminds me of my mom's favorite school picture day trauma where she had just started wearing glasses and was horrified by the sight of her pictures when they came back.  I wish I had that one scanned but I don't!
What all this reminiscing is leading to is the arrival of Ben's first school portraits this morning!  It is kind of strange how we are supposed to order them.  There are sheets in various sizes already printed and we can buy what we want and send the rest back in the envelope and order extras online if we want. 

They are pretty cute, I think, even if his smile is not the most natural!  I can't believe he took direction and put his hands in his pockets like that!  Although this is far from the first image of him on film (or memory card or whatever you would call it these days) it will still be one to treasure!