Tuesday, January 31, 2017

My New Plant

We had an eventful and uneventful weekend here.  Justin had his tonsils out on Friday morning so he hasn't left the house since.  If you aren't aware, tonsillectomies for adults are more traumatic than they are for kids because the tonsils attach to the side of the throat as you age. He can't lift more than 10 pounds for two weeks or drive on his pain meds.  So we haven't been doing much but our routine is quite strange.  The kids don't know what to think of Daddy being home all day watching TV on the bed.  He said it feels better today so that's good but the swelling is still there and also the risk of the incisions opening which would require a trip to the ER so I really don't want him to go overboard. 

Yesterday his office sent a delivery from a florist and instead of a bouquet it was a live plant. 


Would you look at that tropical beauty.  Of course, we know whose plant this is really going to be...mine.  The florist didn't even include a tag with any information about what kind of plant this is!  I had to ask my favorite hometown florist and she told me its a Bromeliad.  They need indirect sunlight and water once a week.  I can handle that, I think!  I have had a lot of florist plants in this house and they rarely survive so I hope I can beat the odds with this one. 


The red part is the flower and I read that you are supposed to cut the flower off (with a sterile scissor...sure...a sterile scissor...I'll get right on that...) once it dies and continue to care for the plant and it will grow babies or "pups" which you can remove and replant.  Hmmm...it's going to look like a subtropical USDA zone 9-11 wonderland in here if I succeed!  This plant is probably wondering what it is doing on the border of zones 3 and 4. 


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Milo's Signature Phrase

As the weeks pass I have watched Milo's babyish-ness slip away slowly.  Yes, there are many months left of diapers and cribs but I packed away the 12 month clothes yesterday and put the 18 month clothes in his drawers (all of Ben's old 18 month clothes have been sitting by the changing table in a box for two months and I rifle through them whenever I want to find something.  A lot of them are summery and Milo has received a lot of new clothes so I haven't really had to dig in to the box yet except for pajamas and onesies).  I even sorted through the 24 month box to get some Carter's onesies out because they run pretty small. 

He is starting to talk more and it's really cute.  I am trying to remember the older kids' first words and phrases of choice around this age (besides "Mama Mama Mama" 10,000 times a day) and I remember Ben saying "ball" over and over again.  He also said "Hold Ben" and "Up" a lot and he talked about "choo choos" all the time.  Tessa would say "Hold You!" when demanding that I hold her and she talked about her Pacifier and blanky a lot.  I used to take a shower when she napped and always had wet hair when I took her out of her crib and she would say "Mama take shower?" when she saw me. 

Well, this won't come as a shock to anyone who has little kids but Milo's first phrase of choice is "I want snack".  He walks around saying "I want snaaaaack" 100 times a day.  I don't know if he knows what it means but I think he understands it has to do with food.  He just hears it repeated nonstop from his brother and sister every day so I guess I'm not surprised.  It's cute coming from him although the snack BS is one of my more annoying parenting "things".  It's like you can't go anywhere without them and if you don't haul around a bag of snacks everywhere you go people are shocked.  I generally don't pack snacks for short outings out of the house for shopping and such.  This snack business is a new fangled notion.  Correct me if I'm wrong Mother, but I don't remember chowing down on a snack every time I had to go anywhere with my mom and we did indeed go everywhere with her.  I do remember getting to buy candy at the grocery store checkout pretty regularly (and guess what...my brother and sister and I were never overweight!  Shocking!) but now a regular sized candy bar or bag of M&M's costs $1.50 so I don't think that is a good habit to start with the kids.  I'm not looking forward to the healthy/non-allergen/non-homemade snack restrictions next year for Kindergarten.  Fruit snacks and granola bars are not allowed because they have too much sugar and they aren't healthy.  I guess the beloved Gushers and Dunk-A-Roos of my elementary days are obsolete now.  At Ben's preschool the snack and lunch is included in the exhorbitant cost which is a relief. 

Image result for dunk a roos
Oh my stars...those were so good...I guess nothing is stopping me from having the adult version of these, which is a pack of graham crackers and a can of premade frosting which would probably cost less than half a box of the prepackaged kid version.  My Freshman year college roommate and I did that once...it's fun while it's happening but not something anyone should make a habit of doing! 


Back on the subject of Milo, another amusing thing he does that I don't remember the other two doing is he sings the ABC song.  He just walks around the house and sings it at any time.  It's not perfectly clear but the tune is correct.  It's so cute.  Have you ever noticed that the ABC song and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star are the same tune?  I never did until I had children.  Also, wisdom says that most kids say "no!" before they say "yes" but he says "Yaaaaah" in response to everything.  Its quite nice!

Ok, I'm going to eat some frosting now. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Rainbow Beans and Kindergarten Registration


I often wonder if I do enough for the kids on a daily basis.  I know I do enough as far as necessities for survival and they are always presentable when we go places and they get fed and have hygienic living conditions.  But I see what other parents do and I know there are families out there who don't "do TV" or who do "homeschool preschool" for their kids and I definitely fall short in those areas.  There is ALOT of TV watched in this house and the kids see a lot of stupid commercials and say they want everything they see.  My snacks are often processed crap like teddy grahams.  I regularly deflect requests to play games or help with puzzles because I am "working on the computer" (sometimes I really am doing work but not always!) and I often just clean up their messes myself because I don't have the energy for a battle.  But every once and a while...I TOTALLY AMAZE MYSELF!  One of those days is today. 

This morning I was at a friend's house with a some other moms and kids and she was telling her son no, they couldn't get out the rainbow beans.  Rainbow beans?  My kids love playing with various commodities.  Corn, beans, it doesn't matter!  Apparently, you can die white beans with food coloring and she had some extra beans and she gave them to me. 


Of course, we had to dye the beans as soon as we walked in the door of our house.  You place the beans in ziplock bags and add around fifteen drops of food coloring and shake them up.  Then you spread them out to dry for several hours. 


Oh yeah...check out those rainbow beans!  I'm even excited to play with them!  Each kid did four colors and the turquoise in the middle there was my creation.  I looked at Pinterest and there were lots of articles about making these and apparently the color stays intact after they dry and they last for a long time.  I can't wait to find these strewn around the house for the next several months. 

We had a crazy weekend around here.  Justin was ice fishing at Lake of the Woods with college friends (They go every winter and know they there was no alcohol, gambling, or tobacco involved so don't worry...) so I was home alone with the crazies for three nights.  I am used to being on my own with them but this time I had to do the unthinkable...tackle a kids pool party with all three kids.  Yes, another weekend and another hotel pool adventure.  It was for Ben's friend from school and he was so excited and talked about it for weeks so not going was not an option.  It was OK.  Ben swam around the pool on his own with his friends really well in his lifejacket so I mostly only had to worry about the younger two.  I was exhausted after that adventure but the kids had fun and it was fun to get together with the other preschool parents.  If I had been able to just take Ben I could have kicked back with a few beverages but...maybe next time.  I wish I had some pictures from swimming but I wasn't able to use my phone while holding two little kids.  I saw a few the other parents took and Ben has the biggest grin on his face in all of them so it was worth it.

Another thing, and this should actually have its own post but I am getting behind...we registered Ben for Kindergarten last week!  In my childhood I don't remember a registration for Kindergarten.  In my hometown, and I actually didn't attend Kindergarten there but my brother and sister did, they had a "roundup" day but each class had on average 15- 20 students so it wasn't a big deal.  Here they have probably 2,000 kids starting kindergarten next year so they have a several week long appointment event where you go to the central public school office and fill out the paperwork and set up your bussing needs.  Ben was at preschool when I scheduled ours but I had the younger two kids with me and Milo chose that time to act like a horrible toddler for the first time ever.  He screamed, cried and tried to run away the whole time and the lady could not even read my handwriting on the forms because I was wrestling with him while filling them out.  At the end of the appointment Tessa started crying for no reason too.  There were several other families there and they were all staring at me with the pitiful look people give moms with multiple kids in public places.  But anyway, he is registered.

It didn't even occur to me until now that the folder I got had a "roundup" theme.  I guess it's universal. 

They did fortunately have amenities for kids at the appointment.  There were markers and paper on the tables and Tessa colored this picture.  The lady asked what she drew and she said it was "rocks with ropes tied to them". 

She's a strange one, isn't she?  The cutting was done to the paper after we were home.  Ben and Tessa are both into scissors right now after Ben started bringing paper snowflakes home from school. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hotel Visit

Everyone who has or has had young children knows that a night in hotel is no easy feat.  Between the upheaval of routine, the extra crap you have to haul in, the questionable cleanliness of the floor they drop everything on and the screaming and crying it can be a stressful event.  Regardless of all these factors we have stayed in hotels with our kids many times.  The first time was when Ben was two weeks old for a wedding and we stayed in three hotels before he was two months old.  After that I lost track.  Regardless of the woes of parents, Ben and Tessa LOVE hotels.  We stayed in one for my cousin's wedding in November and they are still talking about it.  We stayed in a hotel on Saturday night before my niece's baptism the next morning and they asked over and over how long it would take to get there.  They were ripping their clothes off to change into swimming suits as soon as we entered the room. That night they laid in their bed like they owned the place. 


Tessa got Justin to buy her a huge Shopkins pillow at Walmart on the way to the hotel. 


Ben picked Legos for his treat but now keeps talking about how he wants a pillow.  Figures.  This particular hotel had a full sized water slide.  There was a HUGE birthday party happening there with lots of kids and even more obnoxious adults so the water slide and pool was kind of overwhelming.  It was a typical no rules enforced hotel pool and as a former lifeguard I get nervous in those situations.  The good thing was that no one cared if you doubled up down the water slide, which was always a huge NO at the pool I worked at before but at least we were able to slide with the kids.  The bad thing was that the other kids there had no concept of appropriate water slide wait time and they would just jump on and come out at the end practically landing on top of you. Also, I almost got hit in the head with a  ball five times because these people were playing catch with multiple balls across the pool.  When we were going to leave the shelf of pool towels was empty and no one who worked there cared or did anything about it so the whole hotel, including the second floor because the party was set up on a balcony, was covered in water.  It was a mess. They did it to themselves I guess. 

But, of course, the kids were oblivious to all of that nonsense and had a great time.  They are still talking about the hotel and yesterday when I got out of the shower I found them like this:


I asked what they were doing and they said they were pretending to sleep at a hotel and they were going to a wedding. 

This our first night away from the house since Christmas so we finally got to really spy on Allan with the Petcube camera.  Here is some night vision footage of Mr. Creepy Eyes not sleeping on the back of the couch. 


I always wondered where he sleeps when we are gone and it turns out, at least for that night, he sleeps on the ottoman close to the top of the stairs with his head facing the stairs.  He waits for us!  I felt bad because a big hard cover book was left on there so he didn't have much room.  Now I know to put a blanket on there for him next time.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Milo at 15 Months

I realize my little Milo doesn't get as much blog action as the older kids did when they were babies.  It's probably because I've seen it all before.  He sure is cute though.  He walks everywhere now and he is starting to like specific toys and books.  He often comes toddling up to me lugging some huge board book in his arms and thrusts it at me and climbs into my lap.  It is so cute even at the times when I don't feel like reading the same book for the 10th time that day (not that I need to read "Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See"?  I know it by heart!)  He likes to bring people things to show them and if you say "thank you!" he just keeps bringing more and more and he gets excited and claps.  He also likes to destroy what his siblings are working on.  His baby charm is becoming ancient history.  Instead of being asked if they can hold him constantly I regularly hear screams of, "NOOOOO BABEEEEE! MILO WRECKED MY ______" Fill in the blank with any number of things from farm setups to puzzles to towers to legos. 

He had his 15 month doctor's appointment this week and we learned that his weight, height and head circumference are all in the 46th percentile.  I guess 46 is his new lucky number.  I will remember that for his future sports jerseys. 

Here are a few pictures of him.  I have given up hiding background junk. I did finally banish that stand up excersaucer in the background.  It feels like a new living room.  The only thing it was being used for was restraint during desperate times and it was almost always sitting in the way so it's out of here! 


A baby holding a baby.

Milo really likes the little flowers that come with most Duplo sets.  We have quite a few of these in our collection.  You can see he was filling up the little trailer with them in this picture.  That same night he threw a (still funny and cute because he's only one and has cute baby curls and chubby wrists) tantrum because he was trying to hold six at once and his hands aren't big enough.  I felt bad for him but it was funny. 


Here are the bros in a peaceful moment in their new sweatshirts from Christmas. 


Then it quickly descended into roughhousing. 


Someone is always on the floor...


Here Milo is pushing his cute little combine.  The header is piano keys.  What will they think of next? At least there is some room to push it among the scattering of debris in the hallway, which at that moment included a Hello Kitty Happy Meal toy and a freebie calendar from a Chinese restaurant.  What the H. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Getting Fit

After Christmas I found myself the new owner of a Fitbit Activity Tracker.  I have family members who run actual races and they own various running watches and heartrate trackers but I never really thought of such an item for myself.  I have heard other people talk about them and their daily steps and I never really worried about how many steps I was taking either.  Step counting reminded me of the ill fated McDonalds promotion back when the Atkins Diet was all the rage and they advertised "adult" Happy Meals containing a salad, a bottle of water and a free pedometer.  Oh PLEASE MCDONALDS!  Who would go to McDonalds for a crappy salad and a bottle of water?  We all know that whole thing didn't last. 

Anyway, one thing that intrigued me about fitness tracker users was how they knew about their sleep cycles.  This was interesting to me because I wake up a lot in the night and sometimes I feel like I hardly get any sleep at all due to all the interruptions.  I was ready to test out everything so on Christmas day afternoon I hooked the watch to the charger, added the app to my phone and synced everything up.  It took awhile so I forgot about it until I was about to fall asleep that night.  I ran downstairs to get it and passed out after a day of stuffing my face and drinking wine.  The next morning I was informed that I slept for seven straight hours with one waking and two restless periods.  Not bad at all considering I went to bed really late and was awakened earlier than I wanted to be. 

As the weeks have passed since Christmas I have noticed some trends.  First, I NEVER sleep eight hours.  I rarely sleep longer than seven hours and a few minutes and I often sleep six and a half hours.  On nights when the kids don't wake me up at all I usually wake up once on my own.  Tessa has a cold right now and has been waking up whining on and off all night long for a few days.  Last night she woke me up five times. When I saw that my first thought was, "is that all?"  It felt like I didn't sleep at all. 

As far as activity, the recommended amount of steps each day is 10,000.  Supposedly the average American office worker takes around 2,500.  The Fitbit defaulted my goal to 8,000 which can be changed but I haven't changed it.  In the days after Christmas I wasn't reaching that goal very easily unless I went to a store or the mall.  Well, once the usual routine set in there was a big change.  The first morning Ben had school I had 1,500 steps by the time I dropped him off at 8:30 a.m. Holy moly.  I returned my usual YMCA schedule and decided I wanted to...gulp...run on the treadmill to really push my heart rate and see what kind of shape the Fitbit told me I am in (average to good for a woman my age) and by lunchtime on every weekday last week I already had the 8,000 steps for the day.  It seems silly but it really does make me feel better about myself and more energized.  And, although I have avoided all treadmill running for a long time I acknowledge what every regular runner knows...it really can lift your mood.  I usually use the elliptical machine which has suited me better during these years of pregnancy and nursing but the level of exertion is just not even close to the same. 

So, I'm getting a kick out of this thing.  If night comes and I haven't reached my stair climbing goal of ten floors I take a few laps to meet it.  If you sit around too long and aren't going to reach at least 250 steps per hour, it vibrates and says, "wanna stroll?" and tells you how many you need.   


This is my pathetic Sunday afternoon step count as Milo naps, Tessa watches TV in another room and I sit with the computer watching the Steelers and Dolphins beating up on each other.  I did vacuum earlier so that racked up some activity. 

I really like how information is presented in little graphs.  I love graphs.  I don't know what that means as far as personality but it feels a bit uncharacteristic compared to other things I like since I am not exactly meticulous and detail oriented but I love them.  Here are my heart rate graphs from the last week. 


You can see my running activity in the red peaks. On Thursday I was going to swim and manually enter the activity since most Fitbits aren't water proof but I forgot my swimming suit.  You can see the little yellow spike around eight a.m. during the pre-preschool panic.  There are line graphs like the ones above and various types of bar graphs.  You can view long term periods of time as you accumulate days so you can see your improvement.  You can also earn little badges for accomplishing things.  You even get one for walking the mediocre amount of 5,000 steps in a day which I have done every day so far.  Oh yeah oh yeah. 

At Christmas my sister said she would like to see the stats for a toddler wearing a Fitbit.  I can't imagine...it would be steps too fast to count! 

This post was pretty boring...here's a picture of Allan looking like a duck floating on the carpet to spice it up a bit. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My...Presents...

Did anyone catch the "Lord of the Rings" reference in the title?  Hehe...

It is all the rage to distain "stuff" and live a life of minimalism these days.  If you follow any parenting or lifestyle related content on social media you will regularly see articles and blog posts about how families "got rid" of most of what they own so they could life "mindfully", people who took all their kids toys away except for Legos and a few dress up costumes and watched their creativity flourish, fashionable ladies who have strict capsule wardrobes with set numbers of garments for each season and underwear drawers with a few items in neutral colors only artfully placed in little dividers and people who have elaborate toy rotation shelves in their basements where their kids "check out" what they want and then return it before they can have something else and keep all toys out of sight.  The overall point is that having a lot of crap and toys and clothes around the house causes more work because you are always cleaning, organizing and sorting it and you miss out on better things in life.  Christmas and the barrage of consumerism that comes with it really brings out these types of articles and I have read accounts of families not allowing their kids to receive toys and only giving them "family craft" supplies so they can do things together and giving kids "coupon books" for trips to museums and time spent reading books or building with legos and blocks they already owned together (give me a break.  For real, I love reading but if my Christmas gift as a kid was a chance to read a book with my mom I would have been a sad little kid...)  And all of these posts come with self congratulatory mentions about bringing the unwanted and discarded items to charity.  Seriously, can anyone just donate or give or volunteer in a way they feel good about without telling everyone about it? 

OK, OK...so I often find that when people criticize something it is because that thing makes them insecure somehow and I have often admitted my struggle with messes, lack of space, and inability to stay on top of junk pileups around the house.  Does anyone remember my clear top of the fridge and counter resolution from last year?  Well...I would post a photo but it's too embarrassing even for me.  I try and try to minimalize. I have parted with things (I'm talking about you, bar mugs from college) that I really would have liked to keep.  The truth is that I often feel bad about having no room to store one more thing in a cupboard or closet and I am embarrassed about how the house looks.  Part of it definitely has to do with us not having a designated toy room but still...the kids have rooms but everything just ends up being dragged out to wherever I am hanging out.   Last fall I probably hauled five garbage bags, mostly of clothing, to a friend's rummage sale. I recently reconfigured the cupboards in the kitchen and laundry room and ended up with two diaper boxes of junk, ranging from old curtain panels from Walmart that hung in a college apartment to a filtered water pitcher we haven't used for years since we got a fridge with an ice maker.  Over the weekend I found myself cleaning under the kitchen sink and ended with a garbage bag full of empty grocery bags, old sponges and obsolete cleaning products.  I also cleaned my drawers and have a garbage bag full of old socks, t-shirts and tank tops that are only fit for the trash.  But it doesn't matter...it's never enough.  It never feels like it even makes a difference.  This house is jam packed with crap. 

But...I still can't make myself be annoyed by Christmas.  We have a generous group of family members and we shopped for the kids ourselves and I only returned one toy because it was something we already had in the older version from when the older kids were babies.  I love picking out gifts for (most) people (cough...my dad...Justin...) and I love to see kids opening their new toys.  And, although I know this is tied to my greater issue of being the anti-minimalist, I have no issue with receiving gifts for myself either.  And I got some GOOD ones this year, let me tell you!

First of all, I had no idea what Justin bought me.  I gave him one idea and I wouldn't have expected anything more.  I was pretty confused when Ben blabbed one day, "I helped Dad wrap your present!  It has a cat on it but I can't tell you what it is!"  Well, OK...Interesting.  It turned out to be a Petcube.  A Putcube is a little camera that you place in common area of your house and you can watch what your pet is doing on your phone.

Image result for petcube

The version I now possess allows you to talk to your pet and play laser pointer with it.  Every time we are away from home for a weekend or a trip I wonder how Allan is doing and now I can call him to the living room and see him, all in one piece and safe!  Also, we have been using it to spy on each other which is a bit weird but I, for one, have nothing to hide!

Continuing with the cat theme, back in October or November I was at my parents' house and I went shopping while my mom stayed with the kids.  While strolling through Macy's I stopped when I saw these dishes from the Martha Stuart Collection. 

You are probably thinking, "hmmmm...cat dishes..."  Well, lay off because the one bowl is actually owls but yes, they are cat dishes.  They stood out to me because the cat looks like Rascal, my beloved childhood cat who was a (mostly) outdoor farm cat who was neutered along with his brother.  Rascal lived to the age of fifteen and Buttons, the brother, lived to be nine.  These ages are rare for outdoor cats. Buttons would occasionally disappear for a few weeks at a time but he always returned.  Rascal never went anywhere.  He was just a lazy, neutered male cat who used to help the mother cats around the farm with their litters of kittens.   
















Oh, the "boys"...hanging out in the tractor after discovering a broken door...of course they found the most comfortable and warm seat on the farm!


So now I have two bowls and two cups which perfectly fit the largest preset on the Keurig.  My mom got them and apparently they were picked over.  I checked online at Macy's and they are gone except for the owls.  There was also a dog print.  I guess everyone loves Rascal!  Hopefully Martha listens to her consumers and realizes we love animals!  Martha, if you come across this you should consider orange striped cats for your next collection!

Moving on, still continuing with the cat theme, is my new locket. 


I told Justin I would like a locket and he delivered an engraved on with an "M" on it.  It already featured pictures of my babies:

Oh, I will always love that oddball baby picture of Allan at the shelter!

Well, this is getting long.  I wanted to write about my new Fitbit but I think I will have a post for it on its own along with some New Years' related thoughts on health and fitness.  Wait for it...

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year

Happy 2017 everyone!  I am sitting here at home, still not sure what day it is, (I just checked...it's Monday) and we are sitting in another blizzard.  Yes, you read that correctly.  That is the fourth in one just over one month.  Two days ago, I think, Justin spent an hour outside with his helper children shoveling about three to four feet of snow off our deck and I scooped snow out from between the glass door and the screen.  Then he trudged through waste deep snow to clear off the gas meter since there have been many public service announcements about making sure they are clear because the weight of the snow has been causing gas leaks and now all that work is negated because it looks the same as it did before back there!  Yikes.  It never ends.  This weather is really starting to take its toll on the city. Between the two earlier blizzards, one week after another, and the Christmas fiasco and the already scheduled holiday breaks, the garbage and recycling collection is WAY backed up.  Everyone in town has over flowing dumpsters and garages.  Apparently the landfill has waived it's dumping fee for people who decide to just do it themselves.  Our recycling bin was heaping and there was a mountain of cardboard boxes and plastic containers piled in the garage.  Last night Justin gave in and dumped it himself since, with a new blizzard, who knows when anything will get picked up. 



Here is the backyard drive as of a few hours ago.  We had about six inches of snow overnight and then there was a lull and now it is fully blizzarding. 


Here is Justin toiling in the backyard a few days ago, making sure the meter stays intact.


Ben worked on his own hole. 

Tessa was outside during this little adventure as well.  I am amazed by her tolerance for trudging around in the snow.  Seeing as she whines for me to carry her out of her room wrapped in a blanket every morning...



This morning I went to the Y before lunch during the lull in the storm and this is what our street looked like.  It is now much worse. I love my tank of a vehicle.  It can bust through some major drifts and climb icy hills without a problem.

Justin has been home for several days due to some unused vacation time and mandated days off (like today).  On Saturday he took the older two kids to a basketball game so I could frantically undecorated the house and box up the Christmas decorations and clean up the mountain of needles the fake tree manages to shed (I thought they were supposed to be less of a mess?)   I normally would enjoy keeping the Christmas d├ęcor up for a few days in January but it has become almost impossible to take it down when the kids are under foot so I had to just do it when I had the chance and, as usual, getting it done is a huge relief. 


Allan got his final fix of artificial pine needles.  He was pawing at the box of the big tree as I was taping it closed.  His love for fake greenery is so weird. 

It's been a nice Christmas/New Years break.  The kids got many new gifts for Christmas and they have enjoyed playing with them over the last few days.  I have not photographed everything they received but here are a few that I have. 


First of all, the police outfit is Ben's Halloween costume so that is not new.  Tessa's cute little skirt and tiara is though.  The weird thing is that, although she likes all of it, the wand is the item that both kids have been playing with the most.  You can't really see it very well in the picture but it includes a magic want too.  You just can't imagine what kids will really take a liking to. 

They received this toy kitchen set, which I have to say, is so much more sophisticated and stylish than the hunks of plastic we used to have.  My grandma made those little aprons for all kids and, to my surprise, Ben likes wearing his more than Tessa likes hers.  This was our/Justin's New Year's Day activity and it was quite a process to assemble.  They have been entertaining themselves with it, which is all I could dream of from a toy. 

Yesterday they made me coffee! 

Tessa has really been enjoying this massive Shopkins...thing...It's a large store with shelves and a sales cart and a massive gumball machine in the middle.  The gumballs open up and you can put shopkins in them.  It came with two "exlusive" shopkins which were a tiny gumball machine and a gumball, not to scale.  I was trying to explain what this was to my brother-in-law and my cousin's husband and one of them said, "so, it's a tiny gumball machine that you put in a gumball and put in larger gumball machine?"  Well, I guess when you describe it like that it seems a bit confusing...but this sort of weird thing is right up Tessa's alley.

In addition, both older kids have been building Legos nonstop, watching some new movies and fighting over each other's new toys.  On New Year's Eve, we didn't do anything exciting.  I was wiped out from my day of undecorating and Justin had spent all day out and about with Ben and Tessa.  I planned to drink some wine and even chilled it ahead of time but it was an older bottle with an actual cork and when the time came I couldn't find my corkscrew so I gave up.  Yep, exciting night.  I could have just picked a screw top bottle instead but then it wouldn't have been chilled.  Ughh.  At midnight we could see the fireworks the people outside the city limits were shooting from our spot on this hill so that was kind of cool.  A lot of parents defensively say they would never go back to their old life on nights like New Years Eve, and I know being 33 and out at a bar full of 22 year olds wouldn't be as fun as I remember it, but I can't say I don't miss those carefree days sometimes.  Mostly, I just miss seeing my old friends. It could be just at a restaurant or something and it would still be fun to be together with the old crowd again. I do believe as we get older fun nights will be more common again.  Possibly when the children can get up on their own in the morning without getting me involved! 

Well, I'm off to either zone out to bowl games or try to clean or organize something and enjoy the last afternoon before we return to the usual routine of work and school again.  And there BETTER BE SCHOOL tomorrow!  Plow that parking lot!