Saturday, December 22, 2012

Teen Angel {Abby's Birthday Retrospective}

When Abby was an every-other-weekend kid, we would read American Girl books out loud to her before she fell asleep.  Some nights we got through two or three chapters, some barely one.  But it was what we did every other Friday and Saturday night.  It was a good thing that there was a Half-Priced Books in our neighborhood because we read a lot of American Girl books.  So it was no surprise that her deepest wish was for an American Girl doll.

 Uriah and I had been on the fence about it for months before her 8th birthday, knowing that we would be celebrating her birthday over the Christmas holiday, we didn't want to combine Christmas and Birthday presents.  We couldn't decide if it was going to be a very fun toy if she only gets to play with it two weekends a month, adding on top of that the explanation that this particular doll would be an Kansas City toy only.  We finally decided that, regardless of how much she would or wouldn't play with the doll, we were going to get her one.  We had decided on the Kirsten but as it turns out they were in the process of retiring the doll and when I tried to order it that fall, I was told they wouldn't have any more until the following spring.  So back to the drawing board we went.  I didn't want to get her a look-alike doll, I wanted it to be an original American Girl, and while Felicity was one of our favorite series, we finally decided to go with Kit.

 There is nothing as awesome as watching a kid open up a gift that they have truly wished for in the deepest part of their heart.  Abby was so surprised and so excited. She nearly fell over she was so happy and that doll did not leave her side – awake or asleep –  for the remainder of the weekend - or for months afterward.

Abby turned 9 shortly after she came to live with us full-time.  It had been a tough summer and fall, so we wanted to keep her birthday relatively low-key.  Abby, however, doesn't like to do anything low-key.  She wanted to celebrate her last year as a single digit in a big way, so we compromised and invited the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins over for cake and ice cream.  I don’t remember what we got her.  I remember only that she wanted a jell-o cake with pink sprinkles and our little apartment was loud and bursting at the seams.  And that everyone made the effort to be there, cementing, at least a little bit more, that Kansas City was her home. 

For Abby’s tenth birthday, we did it up right, after all  two digits deserves a big celebration.  Compounding the fact that Uriah and I had just gotten married and we’d just told our families we were expecting a baby, Abby’s tenth year was going to be chock full of big changes.  We got dressed up and took her out to eat at whatever restaurant she wanted   She chose the Cheesecake Factory, and although she pouted for a minute because we made her order off the kid’s menu, she couldn't even finish all of her dinner.  But trust me when I tell you, she sure saved room for cheesecake!

When Abby turned 11, Uriah and I decided to do something we never do – we pulled her out of school for an afternoon with just the two of us.  Considering that a new baby had entered our lives and turned everything upside down, it’s not surprising that Abby was feeling neglected and overshadowed by her new baby brother.  We took Finn to daycare and proceeded to make the afternoon as much about just Abby as we could.  I got tickets to a kid’s production of Junie B. Jones: Jingle Bells, Santa Smells at Union Station in Kansas City and then we took her out to lunch.  And this time we let her order off of the adult menu!  The best part was her face when she came into the office and saw us waiting for her – I'm pretty sure she thought she was in trouble!  I think she was equally surprised that we pulled her out of school (I forgot to pack a change of clothes for her, so she spent the afternoon in her school uniform) and that we didn't have Finn with us.

Last year was probably the crappiest birthday we've ever celebrated with Abby – only because she was sick.  Actually, first Uriah got sick so we had to postpone her birthday party with her girlfriends, which turned out to be a good thing, because Abby got sick that weekend, too.  She’s wearing her jammies in all of the pictures opening her gifts (because we had to celebrate a little!) and she mostly looks pale and faint  She spent most of the day sleeping, actually.  She did manage to eat part of a cupcake (she insisted) but I don’t think she really enjoyed it.  We were able to have her girlfriends over the following weekend, which was, as luck would have it, the weekend that Finn had his tooth pulled, so the girls were on their best behavior and had to keep their late-night giggling and chatter to a whisper!

And so here we are at 13.  The teenage years.  She’s not the impressionable little 7 year old girl who loves Polly Pockets and could spend hours playing Barbies.  Now she could spend hours singing Taylor Swift songs and painting her nails and reading (actually, the reading part isn't any different than when I first met her!).  She’s got opinions and an attitude large enough to fill a circus tent.  As we’re only hours into these ominous teenage years (and to be perfectly honest, she’s been at school all day) I guess only time will tell what this year will bring for us.

Happy (belated) Birthday, Abby.
Don’t forget to do your homework.  And clean your room.
Most of all, though, let’s make this a good, good year.

Friday, December 21, 2012

All Elf-ed Up. {Elf on the Shelf: Days 1-12}

  1. Reginald VanWinkle arrives with a letter from Santa and delicious (cheap, waxy) donuts.  He must be on a North Pole budget.  Finn kept telling me (read: yelling) that he was just looking!
  2. RVW changes the milk in the refrigerator red and green.  I could not handle having an entire gallon of milk turned red or green, so they each got their own little cup and straw.  Abby couldn't find him all morning and was allegedly getting very annoyed.  We learned that red and green milk does, in fact, make tongues red and green.
  3. Reginald inspects the Christmas stockings to ensure they will be fully functioning for Christmas morning goodies. 
  4. Reginald lets all of the animals out of the barn.  He did give the sheep some snuggles, though.  Finn immediately relocated RVW back to the little Christmas tree so that he could play with the farm.  I didn't get on his case for touching the elf because he moved him and then didn't touch him again.
  5. Reginald brings the Merry Madigascar movie - and proceeds to watch it with Gloria, Melman, and Alex (no zebras to be found in our house.).  We have now watched this movie 100,000 times.  Finn has taken to wishing people a Merry Julianuary.
  6. Reginald fishes for goldfish crackers.  With an ice fishing pole and a very real hook.  I do not recommend using dangerous things with your elf, but we told Finn to look with his eyes, not with his fingers and nobody was impaled with a sharp hook.
  7. Reginald makes an obstacle course out of aforementioned delicious, cheap donuts.  He borrowed Barbie's seldom-used motor scooter for his antics.
  8. Reginald brings breakfast to be eaten out of new snowman cereal bowls.  He hung around all day and watched the initial Christmas cookie dough making.
  9. Reginald makes a race track out of masking tape for Finn's cars.  I think that this was my favorite morning...Finn came downstairs looking for Reginald and he kept exclaiming  "He's playing cars with me, Mama!  He's playing cars with me!"  Also, I don't know why we didn't think to make him a race track with tape before.  He played with it for days (until we had to peel it up to wash the floor!).
  10. Reginald hung out in the "B" of the Happy Birthday banner on Abby's birthday morning.  Again, Abby couldn't find him in the morning and told me she happened to glance up while she was eating her breakfast and there he was, staring at her.  She was kind of creeped out.
  11. Reginald makes a snow angle in the flour.  It is not easy to get flour off of the felt suit the Reggie resides in.  As an added bonus, Finn loves to run his cars through the flour and make tracks, so the angel didn't last long and there was flour all over my kitchen.
  12. Reginald brings some new Christmas books and reads with all of Finn's best friends.  The fun part was putting Finn to bed with Bear, Kitty-Kitty, Grover, and Nigel and then sneaking in there to untangle them from Finn's little arms and sneak them downstairs for story-time!  He was so excited that morning that all his friends were together reading about Santa!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...or not.

{ 2010 | 2011 | 2012 }

We finally got around to decorating our tree last night.  You know, 6 days before Christmas.  Better late than never?  I've decided that we'll leave it up at least until January 6th (Little Christmas, when the Magi visit Baby Jesus) and we'll celebrate with three little presents for the kids to help them remember Christmas all year long.  What those three little presents will be, I'm not sure yet.  I have some ideas, though, and they did not come from Pinterest this time!

Finn and I returned Monday from a whirl-wind trip to Kansas City where we spent time loving on the newest, teeny-tiniest member of our family.  We went with my youngest sister, and as she is gainfully employed, her time away is limited, so it was an incredibly fast weekend trip; I didn't get to do or see everyone and everything that I wanted to (next time, I promise!) but I did spend an inordinate amount of time holding that sweet smelling baby.  Finn travels like a champ (probably because we've been grooming him from week 2 of life to make the trip between Minnesota and Missouri).  I, however, am starting to feel the effects of 20 hours in the car in a 72-hour span.  And although I still have laundry galore all over my house and empty Christmas totes to take downstarirs and general straightening up to do, it was totally worth it.  I can confidently say that my new nephew is the cutest baby I have seen in two and a half years!  And my sister is amazing.  She is already an awesome mom and I feel really lucky to have been able to share that early time with her and her boys.

So now we have Christmas to prepare for.  A very small, quiet Christmas with just the 4 of us since Uriah has to work on Christmas day.  This is a novelty for us, we've had only one Christmas in our own house with just our little family in all the years that we've been together. The last time this happened was the Christmas before Finn was born; Kansas City had a huge snowstorm and we couldn't go anywhere.  It was awesome.  As much as I will miss my family this year (and I will! A bunch!) I'm very much looking forward to Christmas Eve mass at our church and dinner on our wedding china and staying up late with my husband to put together some awesome gifts and then waking up Christmas morning to find Santa has come!

Between now and then, though, we need to get rid of the laundry piles, go to the grocery store, finish making Christmas cookies and generally make our house less of a tornado and more of a welcoming Christmas retreat!  I'm going to get on that...pinkey swear.

Tomorrow I'm going to share with you the first 12 days of our Elf on the Shelf.  I did really good following my calendar at the beginning, but then we went to Kansas City and somehow I got a little lazy, so this last week has been a bit lame, but Finn still loves looking for Reginald every morning, even if he is only hanging from the chalk board with a naughty and nice list!

Happy Thursday, friends!
Only 5 days until Christmas!
Wishing for some snow here, but I'm quite certain we will have only a spotty-White Christmas!

And P.S. -  Can you even believe how big Finn has gotten in those Christmas tree pictures?  I can't (but then, I mostly live in denial!).  I think he should still be my teeny-tiny boy baby instead of the ball of energy that he has become!

And P.P.S - I just noticed that I never did finish/post Abby's Birthday Retrospective.  Saturday will be a day devoted to our teenager (my list of things to accomplish just got longer!).  I saw last night that she had the movie 13 Going on 30 in the DVD player and I had to smile!

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Best Christmas {song list} ever.

Once, a long time ago, my sister and I found ourselves home alone for Christmas.  Our parents had headed south to celebrate in Kansas City, and I had to work around that holiday, so I didn't have the time off.  I'm not sure if Emily had to work, too, or if she just chose to stay back with me so I wouldn't be all alone (cue sad music here for poor me.).  At any rate, we had, quite possible the best Christmas ever*.  We pulled out the sofa bed in the living room and proceeded to watch every Christmas movie we owned.  We made steak and lobster for our Christmas dinner.  We did not get out of our jammies.

And we created, arguably,  the best Christmas mixed tape ever.  Okay, fine.  It was a CD - it was 2005 after all, but a mixed tape sounds so much better!  It is a CD that I look forward to pulling out every year, although this year it is starting to show some wear (some of the songs are skipping; I think the disk has been compromised   You can really cue the sad music here!) but we still listen to it; Finn and I dance to it almost every evening as we make dinner.

  • Mele Kalikimaka - Bing Crosby
  • Santa Baby - Ertha Kitt
  • Oh, Holy Night - Celine Dion
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Jessica Simpson
  • Merry Christmas/Cannon in D - Trans Siberian Orchestra
  • Home for the Holidays - Perry Como
  • Charlie Brown Christmas
  • It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas - Bing Crosby
  • Winter Wonderland - The Carpenters
  • Baby It's Cold Outside - Zooey Deschanel & Leon Redbone
  • Where are you Christmas - Faith Hill
  • Merry Christmas, Darling - The Carpenters
  • Hanukkah Song - Adam Sandler
  • White Christmas - Home Alone version
  • Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree - Brenda Lee
  • All I want for Christmas is You - Mariah Carey
  • White Christmas - Bing Crosby
  • It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas - Alvin & the Chipmunks

Now, obviously some songs are repeated, but it's the entertainers that make the song - Alvin & the Chipmunks version of It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas is just as awesome as Bing's!  And I challenge you to judge Celine Dion's Oh, Holy Night.  I would add Dolly Parton's Hard Candy Christmas and I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas by Gayla Peevey.  

What's your favorite Christmas song?  Is there something you look forward to hearing every year that I can add to my play list?

And also, here are my kids, since I know some of you (side eye to my sister) only come here to see them.  They are weird.  I thought I'd share their weirdness with you to get you through the weekend.  

We're going to make some Christmas cookies, listen to our Christmas songs and hunker in for a big old-fashioned snowstorm that is (allegedly) headed our way this weekend.  Abby's birthday is Monday.  She's going to be thirteen.  You will probably find me hiding under my covers for the next 6 years, but only after I write about the previous 5 years that I've shared with her.  You can see it here on Monday - or, as Abby likes to call it - AbbyDay.

*This year might be the best Christmas ever if new Baby Cousin shows up before Jesus' big day...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Winter walks & the best Hot Cocoa in the world.

We had our first real snow over Thanksgiving weekend.  Of course, it’s all melted now and we are left with patches of dirty snow lining the streets and a yard too cold and soggy to play in.  But Christmas lights are starting to light up our streets and so the early onset of evening takes on a twinkly orange and red and green glow.  It makes the lack of snow a little bit cheerier.

Last week, though, when we did have snow, I took Finn on a quick walk down to the break wall to check out the waves.  When the wind is just right, and if the waves are big enough, we can hear them in our back yard.  It was snowing lightly (or so it seemed at the time) and I though a quick walk would do us both good.  We bundled up, retrieved the sled and started walking.  The whole walk is about a mile round trip if we don’t walk out to the end of the break wall (which, for obvious reasons, we did not do.) and Finn chose to pull the sled for most of it.  He’s turning into a very good walking partner.

Unfortunately, the closer we got to the lake, the less we were sheltered from the trees and homes in town and the harder the wind blew.  We persevered and made it down to the bay to take in the spectacle of the waves crashing up on the rocks, the snow hanging heavy on the air before filtering down around us and filling up the spaces where moments before our foot prints were visible in the snow.  The force of the waves on the rocks caused Finn to jump a few times and as there were no boats in the harbor, he soon grew bored with sitting on the beach (because I wouldn't let him anywhere near the shoreline to throw rocks in).  I wrapped my scarf tight around Finn’s little face, pulled up my hood to block the wind, and turned around to walk briskly back home.

Once we were back and mittens, hats and snow pants were drying on the radiators, Finn requested his new favorite, hot chocolate.  Coming out of his little mouth, the words are a bit slurred and sort of stuttered and it makes me want to pour gallons of cocoa down his wee throat because he’s just so cute when he fills his cheeks full and then tries to smile at me!  This cocoa is nothing fancy or difficult, in fact, when I was growing up, every time we visited my grandma in St. Paul she made this for us.  I like that I can share this special treat with my best boy to warm him back up after a cold walk outside.

I am looking forward to our next snow fall – hopefully in time to give us a White Christmas** and another walk or two in our Winter Wonderland**.

Best Hot Cocoa (In the World Galaxy)

½ cup sugar
¼ cup Hershey’s Cocoa
Dash salt
1/3 cup hot water
4 cups milk
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix sugar, cocoa and salt in saucepan; stir in hot water.  Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils; boil and stir 2 minutes.  Stir in milk and heat.  DO NOT BOIL!  Remove from heat; add vanilla.

Optional additions: candy canes, whipped cream, chocolate chips, marshmallows - big and small, and if you're a grown-up and you're really cold, add a shot of peppermint schnapps to really warm your bones.

**Tomorrow I'm going to share with you the best Christmas play list ever!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Reginald VanWinkle: Resident Elf {Elf on the Shelf}

 We are all elfed up in this house.

True story: Uriah wanted to name our elf Babe Winkleman and Abby admitted that she would have named him Buddy (as in: Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color Will Farrell fame?!).  Finn's choice when I asked him?  Thunderbolt.  Of all of them, Finn's name had the most potential, but I have a firm grip on reality and, obviously, control of this house, so we named him Reginald VanWinkle.  I call him RVDub.  The kids call him Reggie.

Reginald VanWinkle arrived Saturday morning on a small Christmas tree with a bag of the cheapest, most delicous powder sugar donuts and a letter from Santa explaining his duties.  I did a quick world wide interweb search for the best Santa letterhead and some ideas for the letter from Santa.  Turns out I didn't have to look very far because one of my friends is doing this with her girls, too, so I borrowed her letter - it was perfect for what I was looking for, a little bit of Christmas magic, a little bit of Jesus; I only had to tweak it a bit (when I added to the original letter it was 2 pages long; who would have thought I could be so wordy?  It needed to be narrowed down a bit and I edited it down to 1 page!).  So in addition to talking about Jesus being the biggest and best gift and reminding the small humans to be kind to each other and helping others, the letter also gave some of the Rules of the Elf.  For example, RVW watches all day long for good and bad behavior and reports directly to Santa every night and  you can't touch the elf or he loses his magic.  Finn kept yelling at me, "I'm not touching him, Mama!  I'm just talking to him!"  The elf moves every night and in the morning the small humans have to find where he is.  Some days he'll be doing mischievous things, like drinking our pancake syrup or hanging socks and undies on the Christmas tree.  Some days he's just in a new observation spot.

Yesterday morning, for example, he showed up in our refrigerator, having turned a glass of milk red and one green for Abby and Finn.  Abby claimed to have looked all over the house in the morning before giving up and going to the refrigerator to get the milk out for some cereal - and finding RVDub in the process.  Finn, of course, was pretty much told where to look, but he laughed when he opened the refrigerator to find Reggie just hanging out and chose to drink the green milk, leaving the red for Abby.  (Sidebar: Cursive handwriting is so hard!)

It's been well established that I like to be organized (and also I like to not have to think about where I'm going to move Reginald VanWinkle each night) so I made up an itinerary of where he's going to be each morning.  At least once a week he has a gift for the small humans, mittens or a new Christmas CD, but mostly he just does fun things.

I am looking forward to Reginald VanWinkle's Christmas season in our house.  I'll try to post some more pictures on the blog as we work through his itinerary, and I'll probably be posting  more of his super fun capers on Instagram (Do you do Instagram?  I love it.  It's my go-to for pictures these days because it's so easy and fun!) or if we're friends on Facebook, you'll probably see some pictures there, too.

Happy Monday, friends!  Finn and I are still stuck in the house again today trying to get rid of his hacking cough so that we can be healthy enough to head south when the new baby comes.  In the process, we are busy making this house merry and bright!