Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Vacation

I have never really understood people taking "blogging breaks" and especially the part about making an announcement about it.  Just blog or not, I always thought.

But the open-ended blankness of days (or weeks!) -old blog posts sitting here on my own blog leave a sense of guilt and stress hanging over me.  

The blog has ceased to become fun, and has become a burden.

Therefore, I am officially declaring myself on blogging vacation, to enhance my enjoyment of family and the holidays, without the obligation of blogging about it all.

Wishing a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours, and I'll see you all back here (I think) in January!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Great Christmas Countdown

We're trying something new this year, and so far, it is a raging success!

I like success.

I searched long and hard for an advent calendar that 1) was cute, 2) was quick & easy, 3) would be a good visual for Alan for how many days were left until Christmas, 4) would contain a surprise or surprise activity for each day.

I finally decided 3 out of 4 ain't bad and went with this:

The cute scrap-booky number squares came as a free download (that I would really, really like to share here but haven't been able to find it again anywhere! :-( Sorry.).  They printed 6 to a page.  I printed them on cardstock, glued each one to a piece of solid green paper, then laminated them.

You could do anything you want with them.  I chose to arrange them in this tree shape and tape them to my refrigerator.  

Every day we take down that day's date, switch the tape from the green side to the number side and tape it back up. 

By the time Christmas day rolls around, we'll have a solid green tree on our fridge!  Ta-daaaa!  And hopefully we'll get around to making a big yellow glittery star for the top before then. :)

So... item number 4 - "contain a ... surprise activity for each day".  I couldn't figure out how to link those two together, so I didn't.  Making them separate just adds to the fun, right?

Beginning December 1, the first thing the boys do every morning is check the "surprise stocking."  It's really catching on big time, so much so that this morning Dale came and asked me while I was still in bed if he could check the stocking.  It's like  Christmas morning every morning!  Dale has mentioned several times how much he loves it and asked if we can do it again next year.  

And what is in this stocking?  Here's so far:
1 - A handful of ornaments. We put the boys' tree up in their room this day.

2 - Hot chocolate packets, with Christmas mugs sitting nearby. Breakfast treat!

3 - Two jingle bells and two lengths of yarn, with Polar Express book (from Library) sitting nearby.  Made jingle bell necklaces and watched The Polar Express on tv that night.

4 - Two big Christmas bulbs.  Put up the outside lights that afternoon.

5 - Box of old fashioned peppermint sticks and two forks, with Little House in the Big Woods storybook "Christmas in the Big Woods" sitting nearby.  Read the book and had 'pancake men' for breakfast just like they had in the book.  (They also received peppermint sticks in their stockings in the book.)

6 - Various spices and a recipe.  Made ginger cookies.

7 - Peanuts Christmas books.  Read the books and watched A Charlie Brown Christmas movie (borrowed from Library).

8 - Measuring cup, food coloring, glitter. Made Christmas playdough. (With glitter!)

9 - Six piece clue puzzle I made and printed from the computer.  The answer to the puzzle: We're going to Daddy's Christmas concert at school tonight!

It's been so fun putting a little bit of Christmas into every day!  Seeing what we've done so far, I definitely want to put in more nativity activities (ooh, that's fun to say! ha!) and more book-related fun, too.  Any suggestions?

How are you celebrating the season?

Monday, December 6, 2010

He picked out the hat himself.

This afternoon just before we went out the door to go out to the post office I looked at Alan - really looked, and saw he looked like such a little ragamuffin!

It struck me as really funny, and I wondered if anyone at the post office noticed how much like a little street urchin my boy looked.

We decided to take a few pictures when we got home.

You can see he was feeling a little camera shy.  (Yeahhhh, right.)

Then we traded places and he took a few pictures of me.

In this order.

I didn't crop anything.

He did that for me when he took the pictures.

Street urchin ragamuffins don't make the best photographers, apparently. 

But they sure are cute!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Did Cinderella have a swiffer?

My Grandad has been batching it for several weeks as my grandmother has been back and forth between the nursing home and the hospital.  

I went out to their house this afternoon to "help" him get ready for an aunt and uncle that are coming in for a quick visit. 

I say "help" all quote-like because there really wasn't much for me to do.  The dishes were all washed.  The laundry was all folded.

I swept a few crumbs out of the floor and did a couple of other light jobs, but I was obviously there more for moral support that physical labor.  Never mind the fact that the boys went home with pockets full of bubble gum and a ziploc bag full of cookies, and I had several newspaper inserts and coupons stuffed into my purse.  

It wasn't until I got home to my own crumby floors and dirty dishes that I realized: My 70+ year old grandfather is keeping a neater house than I am.

I'm not sure if this says more about his housekeeping skills or the fact that 2 boy-kids and a baby inhabit this house.  I am also not sure if I want to investigate that thought any further.

And with that, I am off to bed.

May your sleep be sweet and your house be clean!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Regrouping... (and I don't mean 'carry the one')

Today was one of those days...

One of those days when things keep going not-quite-right.

When attitudes need a lot of adjusting - both mine and the boys.

When distractions and delays can't seem to stop popping up.

Sometimes on those days it seems like once I've gotten off on the wrong foot I mis-step  my way through the rest of the day unless I find some way to reset myself.

And I hate to admit it, but I often forget to 'reset' until things have spiraled so far down that I am desperate for a fresh start.  And then God is gracious enough to remind me of one of the following ways to start over.  (He was probably reminding all along, and I didn't hear him until I was desperate!  But that's a discussion for another day, hm?)

The point is, sometimes one (or more) of the following does the trick to help us regroup and start over when we are having 'one of those days'.

 - Literally start over.  I have been known to reset the family at the beginning of our written schedule for the day, if we are using one that day.  No matter what time it is, we erase the written-in times and put in new ones.  Things may get missed later on, but the fresh start does wonders - just like rebooting your computer when it gets all wonky!

 - Hide and seek.  If it is my attitude that is a problem more than the boys', it is helpful to hide in my room (or my closet, but - shhh - don't tell my boys!) and seek God's help.  I am afraid I am a slow learner, because on the worst days I have to play multiple rounds of hide and seek.  But God is good, and he always answers.  I don't know why I am still surprised, but I often am surprised when joy naturally bubbles up where tension was just before.

 - Smile!  It feels so silly, but sometimes just putting a smile on your face can change everything.  This is the method I found myself using today.  In the middle of helping the boys clean their room and starting a load of laundry, I stopped barking orders and pasted a smile on my face instead.  Alone.  In the laundry room.  It felt so funny that I may have giggled, just a little bit.  And I kept smiling, even though (or maybe because) I felt like a smiley housewife-in-heels from a 1950s laundry soap commercial.  Not that I've seen many 1950s commercials.  But you get the picture.  If only I'd been wearing my pearls.  

How do you regroup when it all goes bad?

Monday, November 29, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like....

Like so many of you, I love, love the Christmas season.  Even so, my enthusiasm and participation vary from year to year.

In some ways, this year is shaping up to be a big year.  

How so, you say?

For one thing, we've already put our tree up.  That's early for us... I usually wait until December.

I've also been searching for quite a while for a countdown calendar.  We'll use it to countdown the days to Christmas day, and at the same time, discover a surprise activity for the day.

I finally decided to go the simple route and downloaded large printable numbers on alternating green and red backgrounds.  I ... umm... seem to have lost the original location of those, seeing as how I just spent the last 10 minutes looking for it.  Oops.  If I find it I'll let you know.

Or I may use this Christmas tree printable instead (I've already enlarged it in photoshop).  Or hey! Maybe we'll do both! 

One of my purposes in a countdown calendar this year is to put a little bit of Christmas every day.  So we are enjoying the season, and celebrating all month long.  Hopefully we'll create a month of memories and lessen the build-up to One Big Day.

Several times a day, every day since Saturday, when we assembled and lit the tree, Alan has put his hands together and exclaimed, "today is Christmas!"

After correcting him for the umpteenth time that Christmas was 'days and days away', I realized maybe he's already got the idea I'm trying to go for.  So finally, instead of correcting him, I am agreeing with him.  

Alan's right:

It's Christmas!

Are you getting ready yet?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Little Turkey

I stumbled upon a tutorial for a super-cute turkey shirt recently.  The example shirt was full of pinks (surprise, surprise) but the blog author assured the shirt would be cute in boy colors, too.  I agreed, and decided I wanted to make one for Tyler.
So I did!

I bought the onesie and matching pants at Wal-mart.  The turkey's body is corduroy and the feathers are all regular cotton from my scrap box.

The weather has been extremely mild this week, so it's worked out great to have a short-sleeved shirt.  And, we're getting all the wear out of it we can before it turns all brr and chilly on Thanksgiving day.

This shirt is also cute worn with corduroy pants, and is just right for emptying Mama's kitchen cabinets and stealing donuts.

Little turkey, indeed!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Poll

Hey everybody!  I am curious about my readership here on the ol' blog.  

So, please, take a minute and answer the one question on the top left.  No sign-up required!  Just select your answer and click 'vote'!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Happy Birthday, Alan!

  Little boys are treasures
Who are worth their weight in gold
And charm everyone around them
From the time they're hours old.
They're Mommy's little darling,
They're a special pal to Dad,
And they bring the very happiest days
A family's ever had!

I decided for Alan's birthday post I wanted to write a little poem for him.  But wanting to and having the mental tenacity to actually do so are two different things.  So I grabbed one from the 'net.  That doesn't ruin it for you does it?  

At any rate, my middle treasure is 4 years old!

Happy Birthday, Precious Boy!  I love you!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

To-do, to-day, to-did, ta-da!

Yo blog world.  What up?  I am currently in one of those 'there aren't enough hours in the day' phases. Come to think of it, aren't we always in that phase?  

My want-to-do and need-to-do lists are both running over with notes to be written and a thanksgiving sewing project to make.  And there are a few things on my Done! list I want to share.  Including the story behind that magnificent cupcake you see above.  Isn't it a beauty?

But, surprise, surprise, we are on our way out the door, again, so all the doing and blogging will have to wait.

What is at the top of your To-Do lists today?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Everybody say 'Cheese'!

We finally got around to a long-awaited, much anticipated, highly-delayed photo shoot of the boys today.

I am ever-so-blessed to have a mom with a kickin' camera and the willingness to spend the biggest part of a day aiming it at my boys!

We were a little rushed because of pending rain, but we got enough good shots to make it worth all the effort.

And I do mean All. The. Effort.

But, as a fun little bonus for All The Effort, we get shots like this! 

And this:

And this:

But, in the end, we did end up with some good pictures, and everybody still loved everybody else. 

Umm... almost.

(And, yes, hopefully I'll be sharing the good shots too, after I get some more editing done.) :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Flashbacks, and walking in someone else's shoes

Tyler randomly popped up with a fever yesterday.  No other symptoms... just a fever that's stuck with him for 24 hours and counting now.  It's kind of odd around here for a kid to have a fever and for us to be doing... well, pretty much nothing about it.  We got so conditioned to acting fast and understanding fevers to mean serious sickness.  But, so far, it looks like it's just a kid thing, and we are praying it stays that way.

Getting out thermometers and tylenol always makes me think of Alan anyway, but last night I got off on another trail down memory lane...

In our Children's hospital, vitals are checked every 4 hours.  This meant 3 times in a 12 hour shift a smiling 'tech' would knock on our door, pulling a blood pressure machine with her.  She would un-velcro a blood pressure cuff from the bed and wrap it around Alan's arm.  Then she'd take a thermometer from the end of his bed and stick it under the same arm and start the bp machine.

Blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature would all finish reading about the same time and she would write them down on her notepad to enter into the computer later.  

Of course, all this time, she'd be chatting with us or, more likely, playing with Alan.  He was just a baby then, you know.  The long days got pretty monotonous, so having a tech come in for vitals was very much like having a visitor and we were usually glad for the diversion.


Because you see.... vitals were checked every. 4. hours.  And that included throughout the night.  

The first check usually came around 9:00.  Knowing it was coming, we tried our hardest to keep Alan awake for it.  Most of the time that wasn't too hard.

But by 1:00am, we were usually enjoying some well-earned, hard-fought SLEEP, and I didn't care how sick my baby had been 3 days ago, he hasn't had a temp in 48 hours and is FINE now thankyouverymuch and can you just take his vitals later? Mkay, bye.

But no.  Most of the time I would wake up the instant the door opened and the hall light would seep in, even though it was dimmed for the night.

This would be a good place to point out that, not surprisingly, some techs were quieter than others.  And some were more efficient than others.  But even for the best it was a challenge to keep Alan asleep for all that measuring and maneuvering.

If it was a tech I liked, and that had a chance of keeping Alan asleep, I'd usually get up and stand by his bedside to assist.

If I knew it was someone likely to wake him up anyway, I'd just lay there 'possuming, waiting and watching for it all to go bad.  If I was particularly short on sleep and grumpy I'd lay there fuming.  Other times I was more kindly and patiently waiting for her to do her thing and get gone so I could nurse him back to sleep.

It was a sad sight really.  It was usually the younger ones, those closer to girl than woman that woke him up.  And granted, they'd try.  They'd pat and shush but I knew it was all in vain.  Once he was awake, he was awake.  And ... if I wasn't particularly short on sleep and grumpy, I'd feel sorry for them.  But a few times I just let them squirm.

There was one woman, my very favorite, who could almost always get in and out without waking him up.  Usually she worked days, but sometimes, ah, every once in a while, she worked nights.  I always knew we were more likely to get a better night's sleep when Maria was on.  Deborah was my second favorite.  She was pretty good, too.

All this to say, last night I woke up at 3:30am.  The last I had known anything about Tyler and his fever was when I put him to bed at 9:00.  I really wanted to leave him sleeping, but the thought of him possibly laying in there burning up with fever was too much to bear, so I quietly opened his door and took a look at him.  My hands were useless.  They had been bundled up under the covers with me... I don't know... maybe I'd even been laying on them.  So, thermometer it was.

He stirred some as I held his arm against his side, but then the thing started beeping it was done.  LOUDLY.  I couldn't shut it off or the reading would go away, so I ran into the next room to read it in there.  With it beeping the whole time.  And, of course, Tyler was awake and crying from the first beep.

So I scooped him up and rocked and nursed him, thinking back to all those nights of vitals, and admiring those techs and nurses for all of their skills and tenderness taking care of my other baby.

And wishing I had a name badge with a mini-mag-light hanging from it. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Let me check my calendar...

The whole family was up at least an hour earlier than usual.  The sky was just beginning to lighten from night into day, and a definite chill was in the air.  Everyone had on long sleeves and a pair of warm socks.

I had already been working on food for later in the day, and a cinnamony breakfast was cooking in the oven.

We all sat in our pj's enjoying each other's company.  The boys played together blissfully in the floor, which was littered with new toys and the packages they had come in.

Sound like Christmas morning, yes?  That's exactly what we said to ourselves, as we lived out the above scenario... yesterday morning.

The whole family was up at least an hour earlier than usual - Hello, morning after the end of daylight savings time.  Surely we weren't the only ones early to bed, early to rise the last couple of days?

a definite chill was in the air - No, it isn't quite December weather, but slowly and surely we are making the transition from fall to winter.  Just a few days ago we had our first frost!

I had already been working on food for later in the day - Christmas dinner, Sunday dinner... I don't know about yours, but my family likes to eat at least 3 times a day, 365 days a year.  Yesterday I put stuffed peppers in the crockpot to enjoy after church.  I wish I had the time and foresight to use my crockpot every Sunday!

a cinnamony breakfast was cooking in the oven - With all that extra time from being up so early, I decided a hot breakfast was in order, even if it was Sunday and I was cooking lunch already.  For the second time this week I mixed up a batch of cinnamon raisin biscuits and then topped off the finished product with a powdered sugar icing.   Yummy!

The boys played together blissfully in the floor, which was littered with new toys and the packages they had come in. - All this bounty was a result of the final installment of Alan's recent Make-A-Wish experience.  He had a sort of 'bonus' party Saturday where we acquired yet a few more John Deere toys.  These are the toys they were drawn to early Sunday morning before their eyes were hardly awake yet.

I love treasuring moment like these, when everyday life creates its own special days!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Circus Tale

The circus came to our town today, and we, being the fun-loving family of young children that we are, were there.  It was the first circus I have been to as an adult.

Seeing as how it has rained for 24 of the last 36 hours, the whole place was a muddy, muddy mess.  See?

Anyhow and who, we paid for two high-priced tickets and two got in free thanks to some coupons I picked up at the grocery store a few days ago.  (That in itself was a pretty cool story, because I go to that store about 3 or 4 times a year!)  We stood around in the mud for a while observing the petting zoo goats and llamas and camels until the big top flaps opened up and we found our seats.

It wasn't long until the lights dimmed, spotlights came on, and out came a pretty girl in a sparkly costume.  Big dramatic music poured out from who-knows-where, and our pretty performer spun and danced from a hoop 20 feet in the air.  And y'all?  I wouldn't admit this to just anybody, but tears sprang to my eyes and I had to stop myself from crying right then and there.  I don't know what came over me.  I suspect the joy of sharing such a simple thing with the people I love so much.  And then, sitting right there in our little bitty town watching a cheap traveling circus, I thought about a local 3 year old boy and my 26 year old sister-in-law, both beginning their own journeys against cancer.  And I was so glad and thankful to be where I was.

Once I got-a-hold of myself and quit boo-hooing, we enjoyed an hour and a half of one circus act after another.  And while we had wondered earlier how the circus could make a profit in our little town, we soon found out.  There was a constant stream of people selling incredibly overpriced sodas and snow cones, popcorn and cotton candy, inflatable animals and light-up swords. Aha.  So that's how they make their money.  Not off us, thankyouverymuch!  As we told the boys, "We came for the show!"

And really, other than one kiddie train carnival ride we passed on the way out, the boys didn't ask for anything extra.  (And no, we didn't ride the train.)

Cheap or not, the show was actually very enjoyable.  We had a great time talking it over and reliving it over our pancake supper when we got home.  Alan sat in my lap for most of the show so he could see better.  Worked out great for me, because I got to hear his commentary.  

For instance, the pretty girl spinning five hoola hoops in 3 different directions while standing on one foot?  Alan says, "I bet Kristin (his aunt) can do that!" 

And then there was the young man from Columbia wearing a LEE-OH-tard of epic proportions (I think I'll never like that color blue again) and bending and contorting in all different directions.  Assistants brought out a plexiglass box no bigger than a fish tank, and I'm thinking 'No way....' when, 'yes-way' he folded himself up inside that box and pulled the clear lid shut.  It was about that time Alan leaned over and said, "Daddy?  Can you do that?"

But the three little words that made every penny and moment worth what we spent came from Dale as we got out of the car at home.

"That was awesome!"

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Pumpkin Patch that Wasn't Really a Pumpkin Patch

... but was still loads of fun!

We met up with friends this weekend for a visit to a "pumpkin patch".

I had never been to one and really wanted to take the boys.  Turns out this place called "The Pumpkin Patch" didn't grow pumpkins anywhere in sight, and if you wanted to take one home you had to *gasp* pay extra for it.  

No way, no how.  

However, pumpkin patch or not, the place had lots to do and we all had fun.  Definitely worth the cost of admission, judging by the boys' votes.

Plus, when you're running around with a girl in a black tutu, how can you go wrong?  Goodness knows we need all the touches of femininity we can get around here!

Instead of pumpkins, hay was the main feature of our afternoon o'fall fun.  In addition to the HAYride (pictured above) we also enjoyed a HAY maze:

...and, the boys' favorite, a HAY mountain:

Other, albeit random, fun included an obstacle course where you could practice your jumping skills...
...or not.

And an old pickup truck for playing and photo-ops.  Something just seems wrong about a girl owning the driver's seat, though:

And about that whole no-pumpkins thing... maybe it was for the best.  Much like Goldilocks trying out chairs, Dale tried out all the photo-spots in rapid succession.  He jumped up from one, where he had chosen to straddle a pumpkin, proclaiming, "That pumpkin was kind of SOFT!"