Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas Recap Before I Forget

Here we are on the other side of the big day.  Christmas.  As the days have passed it is starting to seem like so long ago.  I saw this funny illustration on FB from a funny blogger I follow and it is so true. 

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I really don't know what day of the week it is.  And I really did eat WAYYYYY to much cheese in all its forms over Christmas.  It was a nice few days though.  We left home the 22nd and returned the 27th, which was one day later than originally planned because...blizzard!  There was a Christmas blizzard this year.  It started raging on the 25th when we were at my parent's farm and a whole lot of people ended up sleeping overnight.  19 people to be exact.  Yeah, you read that correctly.  Fortunately, no one has any boundaries.  For real.  My sister and cousins and I sure don't have any, my mom and her sisters don't have any and Justin and my sister's husband and my cousin's husband all went to college together and lived in the same fraternity house and, come to think of it, my dad and my uncle also did so...

So, here are few pictures.  I didn't take many because the kids were often distracted by other things or I was distracted by other things.  Sometimes, I tried to catch a nice photo opportunity and as soon as I pointed the camera the main subject ran away, like the picture below.

I noticed Milo, gazing up in awe at the tree.  It was the perfect photo to show off on social media...too bad I wasn't quick enough. 

On the 23rd, it was the calm before the storm and the weather was really warm (I'm referring to wintertime warm here...35 degrees) so the kids went sledding.  Justin pulled them around in a little sled train.  Me and Milo even went for a ride and there is a picture but it is on someone's phone so I have to hunt it down.  Then they went downhill sledding and I was so proud.  They both trudged up the hill several times without a whine or a complaint. 

Here is Milo with one of his gifts from his cousins. 

Here is Tessa visiting with Santa on Christmas Eve.  This picture is actually nicer than our mall Santa picture...this very picture. 

Showing Dad what she got.

Here is Milo on Christmas morning wearing his two small Christmas pajamas.  It's still a cute picture though.  There was no fantasy perfect Christmas morning picture.  The other kids this my parents' basement with their toys.  Ben was already sitting at the card table putting together the Lego police semi we got him. 

While we were in Eastern ND experiencing some snow but mostly treacherous icy roads and wind our own city three hours away was getting buried in a foot of snow, which has already happened twice in the last month.  Oooh boy...fortunately the snow removal people had already come when we arrived home on the 27th.  They left a three foot wall of snow along the side of the street and an actual glacier sized pile of snow on the vacant lot at the end of the cul de sac.  From the street below it actually looks like an avalanche could tumble down at any time. 

Ben is testing out his new kids snow shovel here!  Fortunately, the front of our house doesn't accumulate drifts like the people across from us but the backyard...well...

This is the backyard.  Under that window high drift is our grill.  It's in there somewhere! It is hard to believe that six weeks ago we were hanging out back there in t-shirts, telling ourselves we better get the toys and patio furniture inside one of these days since it was November already!   I feel bad for the meter reader who has to come next time. Snow is piled about three feet high against the door on our deck as well.  I guess we won't be opening the patio door until March (if we're lucky)!  I prefer to send the kids to play in the snow out there but there is just too much.  They could get lost back there.

It is bad around here.  I ventured out around town yesterday and resumed my usual YMCA routine and we went to the mall last night and there are streets all over town that are not plowed yet and even the main streets have had a very hasty job done (I am NOT bashing the city workers.  I know they are doing their best).  You never know when your usual turning lane or passing lane will be gone, covered in snowbanks.  The picture below was taken last night when we were downtown and pulling out of a carwash at a gas station.  Pictures don't do it justice...

Many sidewalks are almost like tunnels! 

So, overall, it was, as Clark Griswold says, "a good, old-fashioned family Christmas"!  We went to church on Christmas Eve and the church had a Mary and Joseph in costume with a real baby come out during the kid's message.  The kids got to frolic in the snow with their cousins.  There were piles of gifts endless types of cheese for me!  We saw a lot of family members.  Although many family members have expanded to having their own family gatherings and it is not possible to fit in gatherings with everyone, I still get to have Christmas with some of my cousins at the age of 33 and it is great to see our kids playing together.  I think everyone, even if it has been years or decades since they had a Christmas like those they remember in their childhood, still returns to those days in their memories on Christmas like the locally famous Marilyn Haggerty column where Marilyn zones out from the chaos of her kids and grandkids and returns to the farmhouse where she grew up and sees her parents and siblings around her. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Stockings Are Hung..Or On the Floor...

This is probably my last post until after Christmas.  We are leaving Thursday and tomorrow I plan on making food/burning spritz cookies all day.  Some of you lucky people may have already received our Christmas card.  I have last minute gifts to wrap tonight which probably won't happen until 10:30 p.m. because Tessa will inevitably fall asleep in the car at 3:00 p.m. today when we pick up Ben and then not fall asleep until late.  At least I will have my reliable paper ripper and scissor pouncer to help me at that late hour.

He sure loves to lay on things.  If you receive a present with small claw marks in the paper just pretend you don't notice, OK? 

Among the mountain of boxes we received on Saturday was a special one that was not from Amazon like the rest.  I decided to order the kids Christmas stockings.  We have two matching generic ones that we got for a shower gift but since then I haven't provided stockings for the kids.  We are never home on Christmas anyway and they haven't been old enough to notice.  Last year my mom refurbished the cute felt ones my grandma made for her and her four siblings when she was a kid in the 1960s and continued to make for the spouses and then grandchildren so now they have stockings there.  They are so cute.  They have sequins and other embellishments on them.  She would hang them on this little 1950's style wood wall divider in her house and it was just covered with stockings by the time I was spending Christmas there. Coincidentally, my dad's childhood stocking is also felt with little sequins and gems on it.  His is blue felt and the white cuff on the top is cut to look like icicles.  Felt was the material of choice in those days I guess. They are all much smaller than the monster sized ones you see in stores now.  There's no denying it...we love a lot of crap including in stockings!  Anyway, Ben and Tessa started noticing and asking which of the two we have were theirs.  I have maintained this fantasy that I would make my own for them someday and they would have unique ones like no one else has.  Kind of like my beloved childhood stocking. 

I'm not sure when this was taken but based on the presence of husband stockings I would say it was in the late 2000's.  My mom still has the pattern from whatever hokey early 80's craft magazine it came from. I happen to know now from personal experience that log cabin style blocks are a lot of work so I probably wouldn't have made this type of stocking but I thought I would do something unique.  Well, I faced reality and decided it probably isn't happening anytime soon.  Don't tell my felt sewing grandmothers.  My mom already gets it because sewing seven more matching appliqued quilt stockings like these for the grandchildren also wasn't happening anytime soon.  So I got down to business and started searching online while trying not to think about how a factory worker in China is mass producing them instead of me.  I fantasized about Pottery Barn ones but they are usually $25 not including the embroidery or shipping.  I was going to do it anyway since the kids will probably have their new stockings for a lifetime but I was happy to discover they were on sale for $12. SCORE. They finally showed up and I was so excited to display them with the clearance snowflakes weights we bought a few years ago along with the Elf on the Shelf perched nearby.  They think he brought them which was kind of my plan but now I want to take the credit for it.   

The snowman and kitten princess or ballerina or whatever that is are perfect for Ben and Tessa.  Milo may or may not love trains when he decides what he likes but a train is a classic Christmas image so I thought it was a safe bet. 

Ben immediately tucked his favorite little friends into his. 

Tessa loves hers and kept it by her all day yesterday and asked if she could have it again today. 


He will appreciate it in a year or two. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

It's Christmas Time in the City

Here it is, five days until Christmas Eve and a few days until we pack up and depart for the Christmas...or excuse me...winter holiday weekend (eyeroll).  I vaguely recall a time where it seemed like Christmas would never come and every day on the paper chain or advent calendar was longer than the one before it.  I believe those days were during a time when I didn't have to do anything to get ready for Christmas besides wrap a few presents whenever I felt like it.  Those days are gone.  We have spent every weekend of December at football games and Justin has been gone a lot for work.  He is also going out of town for work this week.  When I heard this news last week I realized there were things that just wouldn't be happening with our current rate of progress, including sending Christmas cards (they have been here for about a week) and wrapping any and all gifts. Most of them came on Saturday when we were gone because UPS has been delayed for weeks since our double blizzard hit earlier this month so I couldn't wrap them anyway.  There were so many boxes piled in front of our house that my neighbor called with concern and asked if she could put them inside for us and they ended up storing them in their garage.  We don't live in a pedestrian traffic area so she was more worried about the extreme cold than thieves. 

Speaking of extreme cold, we (me and Justin and Ben) tailgated on Friday night when it was -10 degrees outside not including windchill.  We do have a tent and outdoor heaters but still...the drafts still get to your feet.  I didn't get any good pictures from that night except two...

This was one of a series of really bad pictures I took of myself when I was walking in to the dome.  There was a big NDSU logo projected on the side of the building.  Well, I took my glove off to use my phone and (for real) my hand was instantly numb and turned white(er than it already is).  And the wind was hitting me and just as I took the photo they turned off the projector.  Definitely not worth the ten minutes of tingly fingers and capillary refill that I had to experience once I was inside. 

And the other is my mom and my aunt looking all festive. And that's it.  As you most likely know, we lost the game for the first time in six years and there will be no trip to Texas.  It feels weird but I have an underlying relief about not trying to arrange childcare and frantically book overpriced airline tickets for three weeks from now.  Also, we had already purchased a set of eight tickets for the game which we were able to sell online on Saturday night so that is a relief. 

We returned home as early as we could manage yesterday to try to fit in every Christmas prep activity we could.  Justin went to his office to print address labels and I frantically stuffed over 100 Christmas cards into envelopes and I dropped them in a mailbox after a trip to Walmart to buy any and all baking and food prep items I would need for the week. 

Last week, Justin tried to surprise us with a visit to the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train, which mainly stops in obscure railroad towns on the line.  It stops and certain towns and a car opens into a stage and they have a little concert and a food drive to go with it. 

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That's a stock photo.  Isn't it magical though? I have been wanting to see this for a long time.  Well, guess what.  It was delayed an HOUR AND A HALF!  We were in a small town where we don't know anyone when it was -15 outside with three impatient kids.  Of course, the only option was to leave.  I'm still annoyed by it.  You can't delay something like that an hour and a half.  People stand around outside waiting for it.  So last night we made it up to the kids by visiting our neighborhood crazy Christmas house. 

These people live a few blocks from us.  I don't want to know how much work all this nonsense is.  I'm glad someone feels compelled to do this because I sure don't.  I love to look at it though.  They have a tunnel of lights over the sidewalk, a Ferris wheel (which you can see wasn't operational last night.  I'm sure the blizzards weren't easy on this whole display), a ski lift leading up to the roof, and various other displays.  They even had a Christmas village set up behind a glass case. 

I guess Milo was a bit annoyed by having to stand on his own. 

It was freezing out at this time although when we woke up this morning it was 28 above zero when last night it was -10.  I am always fascinated by the way the weather can change so drastically.  30 degrees would have been nice in that tailgating parking lot on Friday night! 

Here's another picture of the house.  It's a modest ranch.  I don't know where they keep all these decorations.  They must have a storage unit or something.  It was no magical Christmas train but at least it was something. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Santa Visit

I mentioned last week that we were going to visit Santa at the mall on Thursday evening.  We headed to the mall in the late afternoon before the big after work rush and there wasn't a line.  All three kids were optimistic as we approached the Santa scene.  Well, Milo was in a good mood although he had no idea what was going on.  Tessa insisted she was going to be happy because last year she was crying and she still talks about how she was sad every time she sees the picture from last year on the fridge.  Well...

I guess it's a typical Santa photo with young kids.  Milo started crying immediately and Tessa could barely keep her composure for some reason.  In the picture it looks like her body is photoshopped on her legs or something.  Strange effect.  At least the kids only asked for their usual predictable toys so we don't have a last minute surprise this year like Ben and his garbage truck.  It's always a good idea to visit Santa a few weeks before Christmas just in case...

I find myself reflecting on the Santa pictures from the past few years.  Five years, specifically.  Wow, a lot can happen in five years.  Let's take a trip through the years, shall we?

Here is 2012...Ben is wearing the same sweater Milo is wearing.  He was only nine months old at that time and apparently hadn't reached the developmental phase of stranger anxiety.  He looks just like Milo. 

Here is 2013.  Tessa still loves to put her hands in her mouth or near her face every time she is asked to look at a camera.  Ben has a black eye too!  I forgot about that!  He was walking up the stairs while carrying a football and fell.  Now he practically leaps and bounds up the stairs. 

In 2014 Tessa would have only been one month younger than Milo is now.  She also looks a lot like him.  She was so cute at that age. 

And last year...this seems like yesterday.  I love the look on Milo's face in this one.  He's like, "Whaaaaat the H3LL?"  This might be the last year of these mall photos.  They almost doubled the price for the cheapest package and they aren't even that good.  There are lots of free events around town.  We just have to fit them in our schedule. 

It makes me happy to see the growth and additions over five years.  Although caring for three kids this young can be draining and some days I can barely make it to the end of the day (which is usually around 10 p.m.) I am reminded that a family is something I have always wanted and for many it doesn't come as easy as it does for us. Christmas can be a hard time for those who are waiting for a child that they want so much and I am grateful for these years of Santa photos. 

After the Santa visit we were walking through the mall and decided impulsively to have Tessa's ears pierced.  We have discussed it occasionally since she was a baby and we decided to go for it.  I wasn't sure since I didn't have mine done until I was ten years old but I know lots of people who have it done when their daughters are infants so I don't think there is really a right or wrong time.  I was worried about it hurting her though.  Her reaction similar to a reaction to vaccines at the doctor.  She cried for about ten seconds and we distracted her with a new stuffed animal and before I could even pay she was looking at all the fascinating girl nonsense at her eye level at Claire's.  They were red the first night and since then they haven't seemed to bother her at all. 

She does look pretty cute...I hope the dumb and more expensive "super fast healing" cleaner they sold me really works.  It's supposed to help them heal in three weeks instead of six.  It has three ingredients, and one is water and the second is sodium hypochlorite which I recognized from my old swimming pool days.  It is chlorine bleach.  The ear cleaner has bleach in it.  I could have mixed a diluted bleach solution in my house for pennies.  Now I'm worried it might drip on my clothes or hers.  I'm on to you Claire's!  I'm telling everyone I know! 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Elf on the Shelf 2016

I haven't mentioned it yet but our Elf on the Shelf is back in the house.  Some people start after Thanksgiving, some on December first and here I started it on December 2nd.  Because I forgot.  If you peruse social media or follow any parenting websites you will know that nothing gets people more riled up around Christmas time than this silly thing.  Some people love it and love to show off what they do with it every day.  Other people hate it and feel the need to write articles and blog posts about how they think it is creepy, annoying and how they don't have TIME FOR THAT!!!  Both groups like to bash each other.  And this is the Internet in 2016. 

I purchased one last year and we only do what the book it comes with suggests, which is move it around to different shelves or high areas in your house.  I haven't yet set up any little scenarios involving flour snow angels or anything that would create extra work for me. The kids, mostly Ben, have fun looking for him every morning (ours is a boy.  You can get a boy or a girl).  When we were unpacking the Christmas decorations, right on top when the box was opened, was a little jacket, still in the package, which I bought on clearance last year.  It's a bomber jacket with a fur collar. 

Yes, they make and sell whole racks of outfits, props and even a reindeer expansion pack for Elf on the Shelf.  Part of the hatred toward this routine is that it is just one more thing to spend money on at Christmas but I bought this accessory on CLEARANCE for 90% off so LAY OFF HATERS!  Ben saw it in the package so I said it was a present for the elf and we could leave it out for him when it was cold.  So two nights ago, I remembered to do it and we left him a little note and he was wearing the jacket the next morning.  The kids were pretty delighted and I admit I think the elf looks pretty cute an cozy in that coat.  It tied in nicely with our blizzard. 

I also should address the fact that the elf is riding on a parrot from Mexico...I did that one last year too and it is by far my favorite elf placement! 

Tonight we are planning to head to the mall and visit Santa.  I often can't get around to posting on Friday when we are going out of town but I will try to share those pics as soon as possible so cool your jets everyone!  I KNOW people sit and refresh this page, just waiting for new content.  Yes, I'm sure...

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Bilzzard Round Two

Well, I can't believe it myself but I am sitting here stranded in the house with a preschool boy who needs to be in preschool at home driving everyone crazy for the second time in a week.  If you can recall, school was cancelled last Tuesday (and also Wednesday but Ben doesn't have school on Wednesday) and almost everything in town is closed and the plows have even been pulled from the city streets until tomorrow.  I usually enjoy a good blizzard as long as its not ruining major plans like getting to a wedding or New Years Eve or Christmas but when you are stranded with three little kids you can't enjoy the usual activities like kicking back with some movies and the Internet or getting long neglected projects done around the house.  It's just another day except you are stuck in your house and missing another day of preschool and swimming lessons that you are paying for that probably won't get made up like public school does.  Justin did get to work although I hope he leaves early if the plows have been pulled from the streets.  And this time it's not 30 degrees outside so frolicking in the snow probably won't happen.  Well, anyway, enough complaining.  At least Justin is not in a different state this time so I will have another adult to share this experience with. 

I have Ben's school pictures to share.  For some reason the school didn't use the usual LifeTouch provider so they didn't get done right away in September or October like other schools.  They were done before Thanksgiving and we got the proofs last week.  They were due today with absolutely no exceptions so I don't know how that will work out since no one can turn them in.  There were four background choices which were all a bit outdated in my opinion so I chose the one that would blend with the orange shirt and they are...OK...As far as how Ben looks they are really nice but I'm not crazy about the setup. 

We are ordering the smallest package, so don't worry grandparents, you won't be stuck with a big old 5x7 of any of these!  I was hoping to have the wallets to slip into Christmas cards but that probably won't be happening with this delay. 

Come to think of it, they are not much of a step up from the crazy early 1990's backdrops from our old school photographer that took all of my childhood pictures starting in 2nd grade...

There was always the plain black or blue, some kind of green or autumn leaves and then a...wildcard...usually some digital type of thing which I guess must have been kind of advanced for the times.  This was second grade.  Give me straight teeth, eyeliner and mascara and some jowls and I would look exactly the same! 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Decking the Halls

I am so happy right now.  I just deposited Ben at school after leaving the house for the first time since Sunday night.  School was closed yesterday too, as well as many stores and offices until yesterday afternoon when the city started functioning again.  Justin has been gone since Tuesday morning so I have been on kid overload.  I planned to go to the Y to exercise with the younger two but, of course, I forgot my shoes since I usually wear them if the ground is dry but I was wearing boots this morning.  I needed a break from the constant chatter and kid talk and whining and incessant cartoons in the background so I put them in child watch anyway and read my book for 45 minutes.  My only adult contact was with the neighbors yesterday when we were outside shoveling snow off the driveway. They were probably like "OK, lady, enough talking, I've got stuff to do!"  My neighbor even brought over a sled and took some pictures for me when my phone died.  Cute snow photo opportunity almost lost!  That was a close one...I like it even though I am wearing my oldest and grossest sweatpants, a United Blood Services freebie t-shirt my dad gave me because it was too small for him (he donates many pints of blood every chance he gets and I have never donated once) and I hadn't washed my hair or put on makeup yet.  I was a sweaty mess when I got inside because this is some very heavy and wet snow.  I am sore today.  I guess my half-a$$ed elliptical machine routine could be more challenging...

Our cul de sac pays a private snow removal company as part of our association fees and they have been here three times this week.  The main street by us is an emergency route and our old street was also an emergency route so I kind of forget about the chaos the people who don't live on main streets deal with.  I saw a lot of people stuck this morning on those streets and neighbors trying to clear their own paths with shovels and snowblowers.  Not everyone drives a tank like me!  Oh, I love my Expedition in winter.  It can plow through anything.

So, what have we been doing since Sunday night?  Besides going insane and being bored?  Well, we deocorated like crazy people.  As in, I frantically tried to get it done quickly to get breakable things placed safely and the kids ran around like crazy people throwing decorations everywhere.  They were so excited though so I tried to go with the flow.

I did something unusual this year.  I set up my entire Department 56 Snow Village.  I have been accumulating these little buildings since I was a teenager and for several years I didn't set it up at all (apartment living) and for the last few years I have only set up as many buildings as will fit on the buffet below. 

I got carried away after looking at all of them and realizing some hadn't seen the light of day for probably ten years so I gave up more decorating space and set the whole thing up. 

I kind of tried to make a residential and business section...haha.  The grouping on top of this cabinet will probably not be lit because I'm afraid Milo might pull on the cord. 

Notice how that second house is lifted up?  I made a little hill out of notebooks under the snow!  Setting this thing up is such an ordeal of boxes and Styrofoam.  If you a are a minimalist clutter hater you are probably dying right now.  You would faint if you saw  how much precious storage space the boxes take up too.  But I guess we all have our "things". 

Believe it or not, Allan has not been too interested in the tree this year.  I think his newly obtained obesity has something to do with it.  He was wound up and spent a lot of time chewing on the branches when I was setting it up and the first day but he hasn't really messed with it since.  Apparently lots of cats like to chew on artificial trees and no one knows why.  He even gets excited by the box.  It must have a smell that he likes. 

Here is a quick tour of my Christmas decorating. 

Dining room (aka the last corner of sanity in the house) table.  I bought a few strings of those cute battery operated wire lights that are all the rage this year.  They look really nice.  I hope the batteries last for awhile.  I haven't purchased Christmas decorations for myself in a long time but that little tree farm sign caught my eye at TJ Maxx this fall and it was pretty cheap so I bought it. 

All right...the next display is kind of annoying to me because it is crowded and not elegant at all and you wouldn't see anything like it in a Pottery Barn catalogue but since the village took all my display space I fit as much as I could up above the fireplace.  First you see my Christmas tree collection that was actually my grandma's collection that my sister and brother and I gave her as gifts for many years.  Then she moved and gave it back to us so my sister and I split it up.  I added another string of lights to it. 

Next to the trees I set up the nativity scene.  I always put it up here.  Usually, however I don't like to mix sacred and secular themes together in one display but it happened this year. 

Yes, a manger scene, snowmen, Santa, glittery pine trees and snow...all mixed together.  Please don't hate me. 

And speaking of mixing sacred and secular...

I present to you the kids' Paw Patrol advent...I mean holiday countdown...calendars.  Good grief, can people just say Christmas?  December 25th is Christmas!  If a family is not Christian then why would they buy an advent calendar to begin with?  If Walmart doesn't want to get all churchy with advent at least they could have called it a Christmas countdown calendar instead of a holiday calendar.  I will say that these are a good incentive to get the kids moving in the morning. Go to the bathroom, get dressed, then you can have your very poor quality piece of Paw Patrol holiday chocolate!  The Elf on the Shelf should have arrived today too.  Last night I was too burned out from constant talking and childcare to go get it out of its hiding place under the stairs.  I had the TV to myself and several shows to watch (Vikings on the History Channel started a new season last night!) I will do it tonight.  I don't do anything crazy.  It just moves around the house to different out of reach locations. are a few more pictures. I wrapped the railing with a very long string of lights so it is very densely lit.  I didn't plan it this way but I really like it. 

I set the frames with Santa pictures on the piano along with our little boots from Justin's grandma and the always fascinating Coca-Cola snow globe which is a music box that you wind and as it plays a little train travels around it.  It is a MIRACLE that this thing is not broken yet.  My kids have loved it for years.  It used to be in my childhood bedroom and Ben would sneak upstairs just to stare at it. 

And finally another little grouping. 

I got both of those trees at a thrift store back in my kid free days.  The one on the right is not electric.  Or maybe it was but the cord and bulb were gone when I found it.  I suppose I could steal a cord from one of the village houses...There is a bigger version of it that my grandma has and I am always on the lookout for one. And it actually has a built in light and plugs in.  The one on the left has a cord but it is really old and it kind of makes me nervous to have it plugged in. 

I have a lot more pictures I was going to share of the kids with the tree but I think I will share them in another post.  This one is getting long and rambling.