Tuesday, December 30, 2014

For Jackie

Yet again I find myself on here to work through some things.  I could have written about all the awesome food I've been making this week (and I still might, it's been good), or how BOTH of my girls are suddenly reading. (um yes, 4 year old Louise too, her sister's been teaching her when I'm not around, I'm astounded and delighted), or how amazing Christmas and Ainsley's birthday in Minnesota was (it's the first year we didn't declare "next year we're staying home!" on the way back, seriously it was that good).  But now I'm prompted to write by something more serious and sad so here I am.

I learned today that an old family friend passed away.  He was 26.  Younger than my youngest sister, the youngest of four too.  His family lived across from mine growing up.  They moved away when I was in 2nd grade to Massachusetts but somehow their family has always felt so close.  I was just shocked today when I learned about the car accident.  I'm still just dumfounded and speechless really.  So many things are running through my head.

Tonight after I got the call from my mom I cried for a moment in the kitchen, dinner bubbling away on the stove.  I've been so stressed out, I'm ALWAYS stressed out.  Suddenly none of it mattered.  After dinner I went the the computer and booked our tickets to Florida for March.  I let the girls stay up a whole half hour late because they were having so much fun reading to me that I didn't want it to end.  I marched upstairs three times, HAPPILY, post bedtime to help Ainsley sound out a word in a new story she's writing, to find Snowflake Bear and itchy Naynay for Louise.  That last time I just kissed their sweet heads and breathed in their smell.

Growing is so hard, but to not grow?  I don't even want to imagine it.  It's been hard for me coming out of that cocoon of young adulthood, shedding my invincibility and opening myself up to all of the hardships and scariness that this life can hold.  But I am alive and my children are healthy and my husband with his manly scruff and his shining eyes and his endless patience for our antics could not be more perfect.  It can be so nauseating to hear "soak it all in every moment", but it's entirely true.

Tonight I remembered the spirit of a young man who I really knew so briefly but who left an impression on my heart.  I felt patience and calm and love that I haven't felt in a while.  Tomorrow I will hold on to that and kiss my kids again and again and be thankful for each breath that I take, every single moment I have, we have together.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


It's almost time for Christmas!  Now that things are mostly done and we're just days away from departure I can finally let myself relax a bit into the holiday.  It's actually going to happen!

Louise was sick this week.  Thankfully not the flu like everyone else, but a bad cold that's wiped her flat.  Poor thing.  It's made for a much different week than I had imagined.  No time to run last minute errands or work on secret projects.

On the flip side I've had lots more time for fun with my kiddos.  Lots of baking that I didn't think would happen, crafting too.  Tonight or tomorrow we plan to drive around looking at Christmas lights before bed.  Somehow even with less time to do it all, it's getting done and we're enjoying this special season.

AND!  We got a new camera!  Our poor Nikon J1 had been dropped at LEAST 3 times (I'm sure much more than that) and was finally not functioning.  Ian's phone takes awesome pictures but I still felt like we needed a working camera.  I did lots of research and we ended up with the Nikon Coolpix L830.  We just got it last night and I love it.  Just wanted to put a shout out out there in case anyone is in the market for a new camera. (and it was under $200!!!! budget friendly was VERY important for us)

I'm still figuring out some settings but the zoom is fantastic and I'm mostly just excited to have photos again!

I hope this final week finds you all excited and relaxed and enjoying your loved ones.  See you after Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Bit More

I'm trying to find time to blog more again.  I miss it! It's hard!
If I thought life was hard with two little ones and baby I had no clue how hard it'd be with a kindergartener, a preschooler and a toddler who only takes naps in his crib 4-5 days a week.  Life is just crazy full right now.
Felix is finally amazingly sleeping completely and totally through the night.  We put him down at 7 he sleeps until 6.  It's just the best thing in the whole world.  And he's adorable and funny and talking and taking off his pants and sitting on the toilet.  He is just the best little guy I can imagine.  I can totally forgive him for falling asleep in the car every damn time I drive to get Louise from school.  I seriously can.
Louise is just the best.  I am so loving all the alone time I get with her in a day.  She is funny and sweet and so easy going.  She asks the best questions and always reminds me that life should be fun and easy, don't stress so much mom!  She has decided that she does NOT want to go to kindergarten next year, after months of definitely wanting to go, no questions asked.  It's making this tremendous decision that we have to make in May a bit more difficult.  Everything I know about early child hood development and my sweet girl is telling me to give her another year of preschool while society and this face paced world is telling me she should go, of course she should go, she's old enough isn't she? (by FIVE days!!!) Man, parenting is SO much harder than I ever imagined.

I feel like my overall tone with her on here is a bit negative, at the very least dismissive.
I know a lot of you saw my post about the amazing book I found on Facebook.  I'm still diving in.  It's helped a lot to feel like although this is so incredibly hard with her it is normal and it's ok and we're not completely screwing her up.
But friends she is a very tough child to parent.  She is indeed MORE of all those trying things about children.
Just today when I went to pick her up from school she was melting with exhaustion (I can tell within moments of seeing her face at drop off how our whole afternoon is going to go).  She REFUSED to walk the four blocks to our house.  The windchill was in the teens, we were walking our two neighbors home.  She would NOT walk you guys.  So I grabbed her hand firmly and pulled her along.  I pushed our double stroller with my left arm alone and kept a smile on my face for our neighbor girls who are the sweetest things imaginable.  We made it but Ainsley spent a full 45 minutes in her room fuming that I'd ruined her life.
This is just one incident.  This happens almost daily, somedays many many times.
Its' so hard because it clouds my enjoyment of my child.  When I worry how she's going to wake up, how her day at school was, if me suggesting an outing when she's not in the mood for one will send her completely crashing.  It's a really hard way to live.
But I'm learning to focus on the good with her.  Hone in on what a magnificent kid she is.  How in her first report card her teacher spent a whole paragraph applauding her creativity and attention to detail in her drawings, what a good friend she is and how delightful she is to have in class. I know all of these things about my girl, I do, but i just can't hold on to them when she's throwing an all out tantrum for two solid hours because I told her she couldn't wear a high necked blouse under her long sleeved velvet dress to the nutcracker, because I love her and knew she'd be too hot.
See the truth is in parenting it is the little stuff.  Of course there's love and hope and all that jazz, but there's also getting out the door in the mornings, and meal times, and getting dressed and going to activities and learning and working, and when all of that is an all out war?  well it sucks and it wears you down pretty damn fast.
So two days ago I was finally ready to admit that we had a problem.  I'm willing to accept that my girl is wired differently, but I'm not willing to accept it ruining our days.  Ian and I have found some peace and our girl, our whole family is soaring a bit because of it.
I share in case you and your family are going through something similar.  Perhaps you're too scared to take that first step and admit something is off.  It's scary but once you have you can finally move forward.  Forward, in front of all that crap, is a great place to be.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fun Weekend

This weekend was our big holiday weekend.  Well, the big one before the actual holiday.  We were booked solid and I'll admit I was weary of us all making it through it one piece (I am NOT a booked solid kind of a gal).  But it was all fun stuff so we took a big breath and dove in and had a blast.

Saturday morning I took the girls to Louise's preschool's cookie walk.  We filled one box to the brim of delicious festive cookies and headed home to attend our neighbor's birthday party.  They had a WAFFLE TRUCK outside feeding guests which was pretty much the best thing ever.  Santa came too.  It was an awesome party. Then I drove the girls up to Ainsley's elementary school for their cookie walk and craft fair.  We didn't end up buying more cookies but the girls each painted a porcelain nutcracker to hang on our tree and I have them each $5 to spend on a craft (they found some adorable crocheted booties to fit their dolls).
I should back up and say that Saturday morning we gave Ainsley her big birthday present, Julie, the american girl doll.  We've started this tradition of giving her some birthday presents on the day of her birthday party to spread it out a bit.  It's a very fun tradition and one that she very much enjoys.  She carried that doll EVERYWHERE that day.  She couldn't love that doll more.
Back to Saturday.  After Irving's craft fair we went to pick up Ainsley's birthday cake.  I decided to buy a bakery cake for the first time and it was worth every penny.  It's from our local bakery that I get our bread at every week and it was SO good and very festive with the bow and arrow on it for my girl's Merida birthday party.
That afternoon we crashed a bit and got ready for Ainsley's party.  I was so thankful that her friends could make it seeing as i was so last minute with plans.  I was really trying to convince her to have a January party so that we could invite more people and more people would be able to come but she was insistent.
We painted faces, put on celtic tattoos, played pass the parcel and did a treasure hunt for the bows and arrows (their favorite!).  We then practiced archery and played a little straw javelin throwing game.  Next up was cake and present opening.  It was a whirlwind and went by so fast.  We had fun!
I went to bed at nine that night.  Wowsers were we all tired.
This morning we took it easy.  I attempted to get some sewing done in the basement and lost my marbles when a buttonhole wouldn't work so Ian took the kids to the park and I went for a 3 mile run.  It felt SO good.  I am so thankful for the 50 degree weather today for that awesome run.
Then we all fancied up and met friends out at brunch before going to see the Nutcracker.  I almost thought that we wouldn't make it when Ainsley lost it when I told her she couldn't bring Julie after a LONG battle getting dressed but we did and it was so fun.  I LOVE the nutcracker.  It's such a fun way to celebrate the season and get all fancy for a change.
Now that Ainsley's birthday party is behind me I'm focusing full throttle on Christmas.  I have a small list of handmade gifts that need finishing so I'm taking it one thing at a time.  Wednesday is Ainsley's school holiday concert and classroom party which I'm excited for and in between after school activities and school I'm very excited for the fun this week holds.
I hope you all have enjoyed your weekend!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Gifts

I love seeing what other people give for Christmas so I thought I'd document this years giving here.

I feel like this year is the year I finally "got it" with the gifts.  Every single thing I'm giving feels good.  I like that feeling.

For Ainsley's birthday she's getting Julie, the american girl doll, from us.  I've had the doll for months and months as I saw a posting on our mom mail (like a local craigslist) for a new in the box doll and another outfit for about 35% off retail sometime late this summer.  Ainsley latched onto Julie somehow through paging through the catalogs.  I can't believe my luck that we got her for such a steal.
We're also giving her two other outfits for her doll that I got on a summer sale online and a beautiful flannel nightgown from the american girl store too.
Just today I added one last gift.  A hardback copy of Heidi.  I couldn't resist when I was at our bookshop.  I'm so excited to read it with her.

For Christmas we're actually giving the girls the exact same things (aside from their santa gifts).
Lap desks from hearth song filled with new art supplies from stubby pencil studio and activity books by Usborne.  I was so excited to find that I could special order some Usborne books from our local book shop.  They are so good and so hard to find.
Their other gift is a box full of winter fun.
Activity "wand"
Pogo Jumper
Ball Slider
I also got them mini walkie talkies and a voice changer (much like this one) from a fun local gag gift/toy shop.
I'm so excited for the hours of fun these toys will bring this winter!

Felix's santa gift from us was a bit agonizing.  He really needs so little and I'm on a very need based plan with toys in our house.  Then it occurred to me that we really don't have an awesome ride on and it's kind of the quintessential toddler toy.  Then I found this radio flyer ride one that converts to a scooter and I was totally sold.  I can't wait to see my tiny guy's face Christmas morning!
Felix's other gifts from us are these blocks and this pop up toy. I just got the blocks in the mail and it's all I can do to wait to give them to him.  They are amazing!

I'd share what I'm getting for Ian but he (very) sporadically reads this blog so no dice there, though I'm REALLY REALLY excited for his gift.

Another favorite gift this year....

Preschooler friendly goods from montessori services.  I LOVE this online shop. I do one order a year from them around this time for fun little things for the kids.  This year I got snow shovels and a new pouring pitcher, mugs for their christmas stockings, pumpkin knives and plastic cutters.  A cousin of ours is getting a whole set of child safe knives and cutters for play dough and cooking fun.  It's one of my favorite gifts!

I'll share more after the gifts have all been given.  I hope you are all having fun delving this season!

Christmas Fun

I cannot believe that there are only two weeks until Christmas!  This season has simply flown, it always does.

These first weeks of December have been full and mostly good.  This year I am loving the ease of the holiday season.  Projects and plans come more easily to me now than they did in my first years of parenting.  The girls are big enough to really get into it and be independent and zealous in their celebrating ad preparing.  Now the trick is fitting it all in!

The days go so fast with Ainsley in school and Felix and Louise napping away the afternoons so after school time is crunch time!  I'm thankful that I moved Louise's gymnastics class to Friday mornings so that we have one more afternoon free to be together and have fun.

This week we checked many "musts" off of our holiday prep list.  Cookies for cookie walks, paper garlands, and a gingerbread house.  We've even resurrected our post dinner bundled up walks with hot cocoa and Christmas stories by the light of the tree.

This weekend we have two winter festivals, three birthday parties (one of which is Ainsley's!) and brunch and the nutcracker on Sunday.  It's going to be so full and fun, Im trying to prepare as best as I can so we can enjoy it fully and still be ready to hit the road the following weekend for Christmas in Minnesota.

I hope you all are enjoying the season as much as we are!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Food and More Catching Up

Cooking has not been spectacular for me lately.  I can hardly remember what I made the week before Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving itself was awesome with about 10 side dishes.  I made a corn spoon bread which was great and a green bean casserole with homemade mushroom sauce.  Homemade mushroom sauce is my new favorite.

This week food is a bit all over the place.  I spent about $40 more than normal on groceries just to stock back up so at least I feel prepared and have options.

Ground Beef Quesadillas with Corn
  It's genius to stuff quesadillas with taco meat mixed with refried beans then bake them.  They were so good.

Baked Cod in foil packets with Baked Sweet Potatoes and Roasted Cauliflower
   Roasted cauliflower is a new family favorite.  We devour a whole head easily.  Perhaps time to double that recipe.

Arroz con Pollo
   finally make it after watching Martha cook it a few weeks back. Can't wait!

Spaghetti and Garlic Bread

Bun brats and red potatoes

Veggie burgers and corn

This weekend I'm baking all of the cookies for the cookie walk so I can just freeze them and forget about them.  I'm making a batch of red and white pinwheels rolled in festive sprinkles, decorated gingerbread, peppermint bark, and sugar cookies frosted red and sprinkled with hundreds and thousands.  Should be fun!

Even though I just wrote about the past few weeks  I had a few random photos that didn't fit in but I still want to document so here they are.

Felix and sisters shoving their faces with pink fruit dip (essentially cream cheese and raspberries).  I let each of the girls pick a meal to cook while Ian was away and this is what Ainsley made.  It was delicious and incredibly messy.

Ainsley cut her own bangs, again.  They were JUST getting long enough to tuck behind her ears.  I am so incredibly annoyed.

Louise and her art.  This girl paints every single day at school and beams smiles as she shows me her masterpieces.  Her big smiley people fill our house with her joy.  I love it so much.

I'm delving into Christmas making.  A sweater vest for Felix (now complete except for buttons)

All my goodies ready to go.

My little morning maker helper.

I'm most excited about the girls' Santa gifts.  All that Louise wants is a minnie mouse doll that she can dress up and change, bows and all.  It doesn't exist in the retail world, at least not in plush form.  So I'm making it happen.  I bought a 19" minnie doll from the Disney store and carefully detached her bow and dress, bought ribbon and fabric and am making interchangeable outfits and bows that will attach with velcro.  Those dang ginornmous white hands of Minnie's are making it tricky but I'm optimistic I can do it!

For Ainsley we were just going to give her Merida's bow and arrow set from Brave but she's been talking off and on about really wanting magic Elsa gloves and is SO into performing Frozen I'm revamping a bit.  I found a nice set of coronation gloves on Etsy for much less than anticipated and jumped.  Just yesterday I went to the fabric store with Felix and bought two yards of lush stretch velvet and fancy clasps to make her a flowing cape.  I plan to have her letter from Santa explain that the gloves and cape are the ones Elsa discards on her trek up the mountain and if she believes enough there may just be a little bit of magic still caught in them.  
Christmas magic is the best.

I bought new curtains!  It's remarkable how much simple curtains can completely change the feeling of our house.  If you're on the fence about investing in nice curtains just do it.  It's pretty much changed my life.

clearly didn't tidy up for these shots

I bought a new nativity set.  Merry early Christmas to me!  My reasons were three fold.
1. The kids were slowly ruining my old nativity set.  I love it but it's not meant for children.  Those figures break so easily that I had to constantly take them away from them.  It was breaking my heart and so frustrating for both them and me.

2. I really wanted a beautiful set that the kids could actually play with.  My mom gave us the Little People set back when Ainsley was little and they love it but mother Mary is nowhere to be found and I wanted something more aesthetically pleasing for me.  Plus two kid friendly nativity sets in one house is not a problem with me at all. I LOVE the nativity scene.

3. Umm, I'm a big adult and am realizing that if there's something that I truly want that we'll use over and over again for years and years it's worth the investment, sooner rather than later.   Now my children and I have many years to love this set. Plus I got a wicked good deal on it.

And if I had a fourth reason it'd be that Felix is as into it as his sisters (Ainsley almost succeeded in smuggling Mary and Jesus into bed with her last night).  He carries around the animals saying "wha dis?" I tell him and he promptly makes the corresponding animal noise as loudly and triumphantly as he can.  It's going to be a great Christmas season.

So there, I think we're finally mostly all caught up.  Happy Wednesday all!