Friday, December 27, 2013

A Lovely Christmas

Christmas was really lovely this year. There is something about spending it with just our little family that makes it special. It gives us the ability to really focus on one another and make some good memories (in a more quiet and less frantic way). I mean, I like getting together with friends and extended family, too, but this way is nice. Especially since our 'little' family isn't really so little. :)

I really wanted everyone to be able to enjoy the entire Christmas Eve dinner, so that meant making my very first gluten free stuffing and rolls. I'm happy to announce that it all turned out smashingly. In fact, the stuffing was my favorite part of the meal. I think I'll try a new gluten free roll recipe next year, but these were perfectly edible. The picture isn't great, and the plate needs green, but you get the idea:

At first I was really bummed that we couldn't get a big, real tree this year, but then our little humble tree began to grow on me. We tried to keep everything simple this Christmas, so the tree ended up being very fitting. And my Grandma's old tree skirt made it look just right, I think. 

The kids let us sleep in until about 8:10 on Christmas morning before they got too hungry and requested breakfast. We made a change in our traditional Christmas breakfast due to the gluten-free needs (we all missed the bran muffins), but everyone happily ate the gluten free pumpkin scones, chicken and apple breakfast sausage, and cheesy scrambled eggs. We also broke out a container of frozen peaches like we used to have when I was a kid. 

Once breakfast was eaten and the dishes and kitchen cleaned, it was time to see what Santa brought. I made the kids wait while I took photos and Instagrammed them. Mean, I know, but it's all about the anticipation if you ask me. I was just helping the kids enjoy the best part of it all. 

It was a lot of fun watching the kids as they opened the gifts that Santa brought. Santa did a great job of bringing each of the kids one thing from their list. As a result, everyone was happy. Santa even brought me a medicine ball. He knows me so well.

Edith got the blue sweater she asked for plus a few other small things she was excited about. I could tell she was faking her excitement when she opened the toothpaste, but at least everything else was a hit:

Big got a stuffed alligator that can open its mouth. According to him, Santa got the exact alligator that he had in mind when he wrote it on his list. It was clearly Big's favorite gift of the day. Way to go, Santa.

I didn't get a picture of Bud with his favorite Santa gift, but Santa got him an awesome chess set. He has been enjoying playing chess at least once a day with his dad since he received it. Definitely a hit.

I think the funniest and most successful Santa gifts of the day were those received by Ginger. Just so you know, Ginger has been absolutely obsessed with marshmallows and unicorns for the past little while (and she loves crazy socks). So, Santa gave her some unicorn socks. Awesome. 

And then she found out that Santa had also given her a little stuffed unicorn:

And then, to top it off, she unwrapped her new phone case. Who needs a new phone when you can just cover your old one with a case like this? Yes, it's a unicorn pooping pretty marshmallows. Absolute perfection.

I think Ginger said it's her best Christmas ever. 

After practically a lifetime of wishing for one, Pen finally received a flat iron. Even without making a list this year she managed to score something she's been hoping for. I'm so happy that it made her happy. Her hair has been gloriously flat ever since. 

Everyone received some things they needed, some books to read and something fun, but we still managed not to overdo. I love that feeling. I hope we can manage to do the same every year because it makes Christmas really enjoyable when there are no regrets at the end. I love being with my family as we celebrate. I love them.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Gearing Up

It's hard to believe it, but Christmas is going to be here in just a few days. I figure I need to do a quick recap on our lives as of late before I have to cover our Christmas celebrations. I just know that if I get behind I'll be toast.

We got home from our Thanksgiving trip to Arizona and not long after were gifted with this:

Perfectly fine with me. Although, the snow was really heavy and I'm pretty sure I strained a few things while I was shoveling. It made the warmth of the week before even more appreciated, but also made the snow more fun because it was such a change. Plus, it covered up the unlovely brown we are surrounded by around here during the winter. Snow is most welcome. The kids were happy to help shovel and play (and they look so darn cute in their snow clothes!).

We also took the time to put up our Christmas decorations and snuggle up to read our fun Christmas books. I love this time of year.

There were more trips to the orthodontist than usual over the past few weeks. When I was by myself you get this:

Luckily, I had a charming companion to photograph the next time around.

I spend a lot of quality time with Edith, of course, and usually one of her companions joins us in whatever we're doing. On this day, Ernie sat with us while we ate lunch. When I asked Edith if I could take a picture of her with Ernie she said, "Ernie?" and gave a little chuckle. "I thought it was Jason." 

Edith and I went to see the boys in their Christmas concert a few days ago. For the first time in about a gazillion years we only had to go to one program. So nice. A Christmas miracle, for sure. It's necessary to get there early because seating for the programs is always a little cutthroat, so we had some time to kill before it started.

The Christmas program was great. Big was very aware of where I was with my camera, not that you can probably tell. Ha! 

I tried to get more pictures of him singing, but most of the first graders' songs had so many actions that they came out too blurry. 

Bud was very aware of where my camera was, too, but he opted to go the playing-it-cool route. I had the hardest time getting good pictures of him because he was right behind his teacher as she led the music if I tried from one side and behind two ginormous heads in the audience and the tall girl in front of him when I tried from the other. People who sit behind me must be so grateful my head is small…

I sure do love my boys.

Yesterday we went to the huge Christmas party put on every year by Rophone's side of the family. It was a ton of fun. Big finally sat on Santa's lap this year (the same age that Bud also got over his fear) and Edith wouldn't let me touch her or talk to her for about 2 hours after I took her within a few feet of him. I guess she wanted me to leave her somewhere far away when I asked Santa for the candy cane she wanted. My bad.

After ages and ages of not seeing them, we finally got together with my sister, Art, and her family last night. We had them down for dinner and it was so fun. Art made me a Christmas gift (even though she didn't have my name) which I absolutely love. It's so, so cool. 

I love how it has an 'M' on it for our last name and that it's an original work of art. I know I'll be the only one that has one. Thanks again, Art!

Today Rophone and I are celebrating our 19th anniversary. Wow. I love that man so much. He still makes me smile, makes me swoon, and makes me proud to be his wife. I can't wait to see what the next 19+ years brings. 

Now, Christmas can come.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Christmas Lists!

Yup. It's time for one of my favorite posts of the year. Time to showcase the kids' Christmas lists. You will notice that Pen didn't make a list this year. These days she's feeling pretty skeptical about most things in life, I'd say, and said she "..didn't see the point." in making any requests. Okay then. The other 4 kids were happy to jot down a few items for consideration. 

I always remind the kids that they will most likely receive the standard "One thing they want, one thing they need, one thing to wear, one thing to read" (with exceptions made for books and clothes if they need a bunch of stuff), but I encourage them to kind of go for it with their lists. It's important for Santa (and parents) to have a lot of options.

Edith still seemed concerned about appearing too greedy, though, so she kept her list simple. She dictated each item to me and then announced she was done. No dragging things out or changing her mind. That girl knows what she wants.

She used the other side to test colors. Edith is pretty particular about what shades of color she'll use in her art. I had to write the list in blue because her favorite color is was blue. Last night she said it was green and today it's red. Hopefully she'll still be happy if she gets a blue sweater. 

Big wrote his list in letter form and it's a bit tough to follow. He realized that and wanted to rewrite it, but I love it so much that I wouldn't let him. I reassured him that it was perfect. It's just so him, and I think it's the first year he has written it all on his own without asking me how to spell anything. I can translate if anyone has questions.

I just really love Big's spelling of 'duct tape' and how he announces the end of his list. I think it means he would love to receive all 8 or just 5 things from his list, but since 8 is listed first he'd probably prefer that. I just love that he went for it and wasn't afraid to make mistakes. He's definitely becoming more confident in his writing.

Bud's list is so great this year. It ranges from the practical like "shirts" to the no-way-in-hell like the iPhone 5s. I love that he thinks of others with #10 (it seems that our family members have been trading off being sick way too much this fall) and with #9 (it's nice that he thought of others, but a HOUSE??). My favorite is #11, though, because I know he's totally serious. We have a green smoothie for breakfast pretty much every morning, but I know he'd like them for snacks, too. It makes me smile.

Ginger really went for the moon with her list. 

The list is so her. Number seven is meant as a joke, mostly, unless her blood sugar is low. Not too much teenage angst with Ginger yet. (Knock on wood) I'm kind of hoping she'll get the unicorn instead of the one-piece Superman jammies, but you know how Santa can be.

I love my kids and I love how their lists (or lack of one) really show their personalities. I can't wait to see what Santa brings from their lists!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Giving Thanks

We were thinking that we would spend Thanksgiving here at home this year, but then got an invite to come to Arizona again. Luckily my brother, Rib, and his family had space available for us to stay at their place so we decided to make the trip for the second year in a row. It was so nice to get away. Staying at Rib's is always so relaxing, too. Their place is set up for the kids to have fun, and the cousins play super well together, so it allows the adults to hang out and relax. So great. 

All of us were excited to make the trip, and the sunset as we approached Phoenix was like a celebration of our arrival. Pretty stunning, even in pictures taken with my phone as the car whizzed along.

Thanksgiving day was spent with Rophone's family over at his sister's house. It's also where Pen elected to stay while we were there, so her Arizona vacation was actually very different from ours. At least we saw her a few times (much to her disappointment). It's nice and relaxing at Rophone's sister's place, too. It makes it so great that the kids have cousins they love to hang out with on both sides of the family.

I managed to do an impromptu photo shoot of some of the kids in the great light by the swing set. I wouldn't say that taking posed shots is my forte, but I think they turned out alright.

Bud felt a little stiff on the swing and decided he might feel more comfortable in a tree. Okay.

Big declined a turn on the swing, and Edith's attempt turned into interpretive swinging. She wasn't facing the correct direction to take advantage of the light, but there was no way I was going to ruin the moment by having her turn around. These photos captured her personality better than any posed photo ever could. I love them.

I love this shot of Edith and her daddy. They love doing things together.

The young cousins!

The 'stache. 

Looking at her dad before she goes down the slide. Being on vacation together is heaven for them. 

Older girl cousins!

The kids had fun jumping on the trampoline. I was fine just as long as I didn't watch them for too long-- having that many kids on the trampoline at once can be a bit nerve-wracking. 

They had a blast jumping with their Uncle Jordo. I laughed when one of the kids asked him if he's an adult and he answered, "No."

They also had fun on the trampoline with another uncle-- I love this set of photos I took while they were playing Duck, Duck, Goose. Big's celebration when he caught his uncle made me laugh. So much joy in that kid.

It was when they started to play Zombie Tag that I had to look away. I think I just get nervous because last year Big fell off the trampoline when his cousin was hitting him over the head with a turkey hat. Everyone escaped unscathed this year, however. I guess Zombie tag is safer than turkey hats. 

The time spent at Rib's house was full of active things to do, too. I think that's what I loved most about this vacation-- the fact that the kids were basically being active from the moment they got up until they went to bed. Perfect. 

We went to the park one morning and it was almost too hot and bright for me. I think Edith may have thought so, too. She was so happy to have a chance to wear her favorite outfit one more time, though, that I think it made up for it.

I especially felt the heat when we participated in an adults-versus-kids soccer game. It was a lot of fun, although I have to admit to being a little sore the next day. The kids had us in their sights, that's for sure. They played hard. I even ended up with a bloody toe! The kids played against each other at first while I snapped photos and it was fun to watch.

Big was a great goalie.

Edith was watching as I wrote this and told me that her cousin is her best friend. They were so cute together.

After all of that hard a play, relaxing a little was good, too.

We managed to get together with a few different friends while we were down there, too. There are a few more we wish we could have seen-- next time, hopefully! I made Rib and Jazz hands bring their family along to Soup and Songs with us. Soup and Songs is a yearly tradition held by an old bandmate of ours. People sing, play music, eat food-- it's a blast. Rib got roped into playing bass since our old bassist couldn't come (okay, I'll admit I threw him under the bus), and Rophone looked so happy and content playing it made my heart thrill. So good to see and participate in. Next time we'll be sure we can spend a little more time enjoying it.

I loved seeing our old friend, Hoolio. We need to spend more time with her the next time, too. Looks like the day after Thanksgiving we'll have to plan on a morning hike followed by Soup and Songs. Sounds perfect to me.

Our kids have had so much fun the past two years that they've decided we need to make going to Arizona at Thanksgiving a yearly tradition. Thanks, family and friends, for making our vacation such a blast. Looks like we may be seeing you again next year!