Wednesday, December 23, 2009

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

So, it's the eve of Christmas Eve, and things are starting to take shape. We're in that crunch time moment of wondering if everything is going to get done.

- Presents are about 75% wrapped and under the tree.

- Stocking stuffers are prepared.

- Most of the crafting is done.

- My sister, brother-in-law, and niece have arrived in the state.

- My sister-in-law arrived Monday and has planned an incredible menu for Christmas day.

- The roast beef is thawing in the fridge.

- The weather is perfectly chilly and without snow - just the way I like it.

- Both boys have been singing the snippets of Christmas songs they know.

- I am thoroughly sick of the Made in Oregon radio commercial.

- Max is claiming to need glitter. Tomorrow. Blue and green and white.

- The house is a disaster and I have no time to whip it into shape.

- I'm craving some time to just sit and stare at the Christmas tree.

We're almost there. Hard to believe that in 48 hours it will all be over. Well, until our next Christmas with my family on Sunday....

Here's hoping that all is going well as you move into your celebrations! Merry Christmas Eve's Eve!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A minor miracle...

Today the most amazing thing happened.
For over an hour, both boys played independently.
I sewed.
Another Christmas present was finished.

Ta Da!

*Check back in a week for some crafty goodness to share, once things have been gifted to intended recipients!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A rare Sunday night...

Most Sunday nights are a combination of wistful longing for another day of weekend and the mad panic of getting everything ready for the week. They stress me out.

But, not this one. This was the first Sunday of Winter Break. We needed to celebrate.

The first step was dinner. Max wanted pizzas, so we decided to throw our first "Make Your Own Pizza" night. Both boys loved painting their tomato sauce on the Boboli crusts (yeah, next time I'll try homemade) and then piling on the toppings of their choice. Max just wanted lots of everything, and ended up with a 2.5 inch tall pizza. Luke liked to put the toppings on, but then ate them immediately - only about 2 of his pineapple pieces made it to the oven. The results were enjoyed by all, and it was great seeing how much the boys enjoyed the process.

After dinner we piled into the car to go check out Christmas lights. Being new to this area we decided to just stay around here and cruise the neighborhoods. We were well rewarded. Max loved to narrate and point out every house we went by that has any lights. Some were even given the high praise of being "cool". The best were given the "Oh wow! That's awesome!" award. Luke mostly oohed and ahhhed. I took notes on how I want to improve ours for next year. We drove around for about half an hour just enjoying the time together and the energy put into the holidays by our neighbors.

A good time was had by all.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A night downtown...

One of the things that we decided that we definitely wanted to do this Christmas season was spend an evening downtown. We knew that it wouldn't happen if it didn't get on the schedule, so Thursday became our "Downtown Evening".

The boys and I picked up Dan at work, and we headed on into town. On the way we stopped at Laurelwood (a brew pub with a play area) for dinner. It was great - the boys played while we waited for our food, we all ate in relative peace, and they we left. It's been a while since a meal out as a family went as smoothly.

Arriving downtown, both boys were instantly captivated by the bucket-drumming street performers. Max even got the chance to do a little drumming himself. It's amazing how much noise someone so small can produce with a stick and a bucket when surrounded by tall concrete sound reflectors! The lights on the trees glittering off the wet pavement, the general sense of excitement in the air, the laughter of the kiddos - all picture perfect.

One of our big reasons for the evening was our visit to the Santa at Macy's. The line was about 30 minutes long, but the decorations and making our list for Santa did a great job of keeping everyone occupied. Even when we were third in line and Santa needed to take a break to go feed his reindeer, Max and Luke hung in there like champs. Right in front of us was a young teen whose parents were paying him to sit on Santa's lap - they all joked about it, but it was a great reminder about how quickly these years will go.

Any time we have asked Luke what he would like for Christmas, all he has said is Santa. That, and "hold Santa's hand". But, as these things often go, the reality of Santa was too much. No lap for him. In fact, he now says, "Santa very nice, Santa scary." He did give Santa a little fist bump before we left.

Max, on the other hand, was totally ready. He hopped right up there, spoke loudly and clearly, and asked for another firetruck. Yes, Santa brought Max a firetruck last year. And we also got another one at a consignment sale. But our dear Max wants yet another. In fact, as he told Santa, he wants, "a noisy one for outside and a quiet one for inside." Santa listened very seriously, and talked with both boys for a few minutes. Overall a great experience.

Then we went down to Pioneer Courthouse Square and saw the B-I-G Christmas tree. Both boys loved seeing it, and had just as much fun running up and down the long ramp into the square. Much laughing, chasing, and reveling in the moment.

It was a wonderful evening. I'm so glad that we did it - and it's definitely going back on the agenda for next year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Catching up....

We've been so busy enjoying the season, that I fell a little behind around here. Sorry about that. But really, isn't that the goal of it? Being in the moment?

Wednesday was book club night. Back in July the moms from my playgroup decided we needed to get together as grown-ups more often. Our option of choice? Book club one month, mom's night out the next. This month we were discussing Push of the Sky by a local author, Camille Alexa. But, as always, it's mostly just an excuse to hang out and chat. This time we also had a little cookie exchange.

I am beyond lucky to have these women in my life. Parenting is so much easier with a village, and they are a large part of my village.

So, ladies, if you're reading? Thanks. And I don't care how late the school nights are - it's worth it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Tuesday List of Randoms:

1. My classroom got heat today for the first time in a week and a half - it was wonderful!

2. Tonight was the night for making buckeyes, my favorite "Christmas" cookie. Yummy.

3. Dan made a delicious chocolate mousse pie.

4. Tonight we were the noisy family in the library. The librarian actually rolled his eyes as I had to chase after Luke while we were at the check-out. I just wanted credit for being there.

5. Book club is tomorrow night and I can't wait to see the girls.

6. Our Twelve Days of Christmas swap continues to be so much fun.

7. I'm praying for improved health (or at least answers) for my sister and brother-in-law.

8. The Blazers won tonight, which makes any night better.

9. Hershey Chocolate Mint Truffle Kisses are amazing.

10. I've got way too much chocolate on the brain and in my house.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Right now...

I'm sitting here at the kitchen counter, reading emails and checking Facebook. In the background I'm listening to/watching my favorite Christmas movie of all time, White Christmas. I just finished dipping my first batch of truffles in chocolate, and the boys are asleep in their beds. I'm hoping to head up and do a little sewing upstairs while I finish the movie. After a long day at work, I'm trying to revel in the push that Christmas gives me to do the things I love.

I also need to make a confession. I haven't gotten our Christmas card together yet. I hope to do it tomorrow night, but am also realizing that we may be looking at a New Year's card instead. So, please accept my apology for their lateness and know that we are indeed thinking of all of you. Please don't cut us off your list quite yet!

Merry Monday. And good night.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

You HAVE to check this out!

I know, I know - two posts in a morning? I must have lost my mind! But I have just seen the most amazing, inspiring thing.

I have a dear friend Emily who has a fabulous blog. She is a mama first but also is a professional photographer and fantabulous crafter. This last week (in the midst of a move, by the way) she has provided us with a week of genius crafty tutorials. Singed fabric floral clips, a beautiful banner, a wallet for driving toy cars, reusable snack bags, and the most amazing mailbox ever all grace the pages of her blog.

Seriously? You have to go check her out. And leave her some love - we all need it after a big move. And if you do? You just might win something.

Here she is:
Emily Southerland

This morning...

One game Max really enjoys lately is playing "Bookstore". (Yeah, I know, I know. His dad and I couldn't be more proud.) He gathers a bunch of his books, sets them up in a nice display on our stairs, then invites us to shop. The prices are determined by the value he personally assigns to the book. If it's well loved, it might be sixty dollars and one hundred cents, or even a google. If it's not, a common 55 cent bargain can be found. He's also got the salesman patter down - talking up each book as he lays it out.

But my favorite comment of the morning? Today all books about Jesus are free, "'cause they're so important". Love it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The storm that wasn't...

We were supposed to get a winter storm today. Snow and then freezing rain. That's our usual dreaded combination, and it leaves us stuck in the house. And to be honest, I was looking forward to it this weekend. I figured we could go outside, take a few cute pics, and then curl up on the couch for movies and popcorn.

But it didn't happen. The storm passed us by, and all we got was some misty rain. The roads will be slick in the morning, but that's probably about it.

We had a great day anyway. One filled with time together and lots of playing. Dan and Max made a giant blanket fort - one of the best I've seen. Luke and I went to the fabric store and found the perfect elements for a couple of Christmas presents. I got to cut out a pattern, make a quick gift. Dan bottled his second batch of beer. The boys chased each other all around the house, had a blast with some great skin crayons, and ended their day with a bubble bath.

There's still a lot to do before we are ready for the holidays. But we are sure taking advantage of any excuse to enjoy the time. Even if it didn't snow.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Family viewing...

It's rare for all four of us to gather around the TV to watch the same program. About the only thing that will do it is a playoff Blazer game. But that's exactly where we found ourselves tonight.

Tonight we introduced the boys to one of our very favorite Christmas shows: How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The old Boris Karloff one, not the Jim Carey version. It's still just as wonderful as it was when we were little - and the boys were transfixed.

It these kinds of little moments shared together that make the season slow down, help us to appreciate the time.

And the songs get stuck in my head for days. Love 'em.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Starting the clean-out

A few years ago, my family decided to create individual online wishlists for holidays and birthdays. While "off-list" gifts are fabulous and very appreciated, these lists gave people an idea of somewhere to start. A couple of weeks ago I started to work on lists for the boys. And then I ran into a problem.

We've got too much stuff. Trying to find things to put on the boys' lists was really tough. They are both so very fortunate to have a LOT of toys. They also have a mama who is pretty picky about the kinds of things we have in our home (we avoid licenced characters, lots of plastic and electronic toys for the most part). What I realized is that it is time to do some cleaning out of things we are no longer using.

On the way home today Max and I were talking about our excess of toys. We also were discussing the fact that there are lots of children who are much less fortunate. And you know what? He came the conclusion I was hoping he would. Yup. We should give some of our toys to kids that don't have any.

So, after dinner tonight, we decided to get started. We began by tackling the toy box full of stuffed animals. The boys got to choose their favorites and put those back in the box. The "leftovers" were then lined up and we set a number that they thought they would be reasonable for keeping. There was some heavy discussion, negotiations, and trades. But at the end, we had a small bag for donation. The hardest part is letting go of my attachment to some of them.

This weekend we're tackling the playroom. I hope I'm a little better at letting go - because the boys have got the right idea....

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

House of Boys....

My sister called tonight. And about three minutes in, I'm sure she wished she hadn't.

You see, I live in a house of monkeys. The screaming and squealing and hooting and hollering is one thing. My delightful brother in law could hear them - and neither the boys nor my brother in law were on the phone. And the noise? Only rivaled by the climbing and rolling and leaping and wrestling. If they aren't monkeys, then they are certainly puppies.

Some days it's more than I can take. But today all I could do was laugh. It's the utter joy and delight that they find in this activity. The laughter that accompanies it wells from a place utterly deep in their bellies. All I can do is watch out for flying limbs and unruly drool.

While the youngest is just starting to grin and proudly announce, "I tooting!", the oldest is now finding great humor in all things potty humor. Especially at the dinner table. And don't tell him I told you, but my dear husband seems to find amusement in this behavior also.

It's a strange planet. But I'm glad I live here. It challenges me to take greater risks, play a little harder, and cheer louder than I thought possible.

And if you need a good scream, you're welcome to my House of Boys any time.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December 8th...

Confession time: I have written and erased three posts tonight. My brain just isn't here. It could have been zapped by the staff development morning followed by the teaching afternoon. Or perhaps it was dragging two boys around the outlet mall for an hour earlier this evening. Maybe it's the weather/mood/shampoo/whatever. But tonight I'm just going with a list of random things I'm thankful for:

1. Heat. There isn't any in my classroom - which makes me all the more appreciative that I have it in my car and my home.

2. Max - this morning he described the Wise Men as "the guys who work with Joseph"

3. Luke - he came and cuddled with me this morning, and tried just have his little face touching as much of my face as possible

4. Dan - he's been great about little surprises lately. Yesterday it was the new Jimmy Buffet album loaded into itunes.

5. Sunshine - hey - it's not raining, which I know I'll really appreciate soon enough

6. Anything chocolate and mint. Enough said.

7. Schedules that allow our little family to have dinner together nearly every single night.

8. Creative energy floating in my head - even if I'm not getting to act on it, I'm glad it's there to keep me going.

I hope that all of you had a wonderful day, and that I have more for you tomorrow. Peace out.

Monday, December 7, 2009

December 7th....

Today was the start of something magical. But it involves a little background. So bear with me - I'll get there, I promise.

Before Max was concieved, I found myself a member of Babycenter, a website/store/community centered on all things baby. First as a member of a "Trying to Conceive" board, then a Clomid Support board, and finally a birth board - August '05. On the birth board I became a part of close group of women from around the country (and the UK).

When I got pregnant with Luke, I didn't think I would join another birth board - a "been there, done that" feeling, if you will. But somewhere during the first trimester I was really wanting to connect with others who were having the same joy of expecting that I was. So I ventured over to the November '07 board. And the rest, they say, is history. I became part of another very special group of women from around the country.

One thing that we had in common was a love of all things crafty. Last Christmas, many of the women decided to do a gift exchange with crafts and treasures and sharing of traditions. I didn't join - I was far too intimidated. But once the gifts started to be opened and shared, I realized I needed to man up - and there was no way I would miss another one. Since then there have been a couple of other swaps - Valentines, Mother's Day, and and Artist Trading Card swap.

But today began our Twelve (Thirteen) Days of Christmas Swap. There are two teams of women who each made 13 gifts and sent them around the country to their team. Each day for the next thirteen days I have a little gift to open. Today I got to open a perfect little package containing lip balm and soap. Tomorrow's had to be refrigerated - curiosity is piqued!

It's these little bits of magic...the surprises...the thought that a friend I've never met from halfway across the country sent me a perfect gift. Can you beat it?!

(Oh - and here's the blog if you want to follow along with our Twelve days of Christmas)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

St. Nicholas Day...

And what a gift it was....

Every once in a while we are all given a day where things just go right. I swear it's to help you through all those days that just, well, don't. (Greg Oden, anyone?!) And today has been one of those blessed days for me.

After getting to sleep until almost seven, Max and I got up and put the ornaments on the tree. He was a great helper - I don't even need to secretly rearrange his once he goes to bed. While Dan went to visit his mom, the boys and I headed to mass - Luke in the nursery and Max with me. We came home to finish the tree, eat lunch, and nap (for the boys). While both boys rested, I was able to put up the rest of the decorations. When Max got up he went outside with Dan to put the lights up. We rounded out the evening with a fire in the fireplace (Thanks for the wood, Mom and Dad!) and soup with homemade biscuits.

We also started a new tradition to celebrate St. Nicholas Day. Max and I talked about how St. Nicholas is known for his generosity and helping people in need, and how important it is for us to do the same. To honor this day, we tried to help those who need it (this year we stayed small for today - helping others in our family when needed). And as a fun bonus? "St. Nicholas" gifted Max and Luke with their very own hot cocoa mugs. While I may never remember to leave the shoes out on the right night, I hope to remember to encourage our family to give to others in need each holiday season, in the spirit of St. Nicholas.

I hope that your day was wonderful and joyous too! What fun holiday traditions are you enjoying this season?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Happy December!

December is my favorite month of the year. I'm totally a summer person, but there is nothing that beats the magic of this holiday season. The intense push to enjoy each moment and make every day special and celebrated really jives with my desire to live intentionally.

Ali Edwards does a great December Dailies Album, and Jessica Sprague has a great holiday class (Holidays in Hand). Every year I have wanted to try some sort of daily documentation of this month. I am trying my best to be realistic - a beautiful album isn't in the cards for me this year. But blogging? I can do that.

So, starting today, I am going to do my best to document something every day for the next few weeks.

Why start today? Because Christmas officially came to our house today.

Hands down, my favorite holiday decoration is the Christmas tree. And living in the middle of about 1000 Christmas tree farms, they are plentiful. Today we went to a new tree farm to continue our holiday tradition of cutting our own tree.

[Sidenote: Growing up, our family had a wonderful tradition of going out to the woods to cut our Christmas tree every year. While the trees often left a little to be desired, the time to play out in the snow as a family was wonderful. Mom's chili, roasting marshmallows, running around in the snow, and falling asleep in the car on the way home - heaven. But once Dan and I got married, and my sister was in college, tradition had to change. Dan and I found that tree farms still gave us an "event" to celebrate getting our tree without the guilt of killing a poor tree from the forest]

The weather today was perfect - sunny but cold. Christmas weather without being soggy. Both boys chased each other through the dense field of trees, and we even got in a little hide-and-seek amongst the grand and noble fir trees. After discussion of what kind of tree would need, we (Dan always is kind enough to just let me choose the one that I want) found our tree. It is a giant (9-10 ft) noble fir with its own fair share of personality. This tree farm was full service - once we chose our tree, one of their guys came out and cut it down and tied it on our car for us while we enjoyed some cider on the porch next to a roaring fire. Max even got to make a little ornament while we were hanging out. We will definitely return next year!

While we were at the tree farm, I started to see just how special this Christmas is going to be. This year Max is four and Luke is two. Are there any ages more perfect for experiencing the pure joy of all the best the season has to offer? Their eyes light up at any sight of a Santa or Christmas lights. Max is really starting to be interested in the Christmas story (although tonight he asked if Jesus was a girl - think there are some serious holes in his catechism. And upon finding out the Jesus was a boy, the reply? "That's what I was hoping. What a good idea of God's."). While they aren't ready for The Best Christmas Pagent Ever yet, the Polar Express and many other stories are at the ready for encouraging blissful dreams. And they want to believe in all that is good and joyous.

And I'm going to do my best to help them find it.