Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Braggin' Rights

I started writing this post last week, but then I got distracted with Christmas. I have videos, but I haven't figured out how to get them on my computer. We knew Daddy was excited about the Mizzou-Illini game so we all dressed up in orange and blue before he got home from work. The boys and I made signs to welcome him, as well. Tornado was very adamant about our signs saying things like "Illini fans, enter here" and "Illini fans party entrance, this way," complete with an arrow. Ryan pointed out later that it was very typical for Tornado's sign to be directional as he loves everything map-related. Dash's sign was very impressive, too. He started out drawing a picture of a basketball, then made the basketball have a face, then drew a whole basketball family. I asked him what he wanted the basketball to say, and he exclaimed grandly, "The Illinois show!" I don't really know what he meant by that, but it was very cute so that is what I wrote.
After supper, Ryan watched the game with the kids coming in and out occasionally to cheer. I tried sitting there for a few minutes in support of my husband and what he loves...but honestly it's so painful for me to watch sports (besides tennis) on television. I just can't take it. I think I should have earned enough points wearing his orange t-shirt when I'm really a Missouri girl at heart. It's actually good that I'm not a sports fan in that way so that I don't have an opinion of what team our children should be raised on.
I made milkshakes, and Ryan made popcorn, and we all exchanged high fives when Illinois pulled out a victory, 75 to 59. Sorry, Uncle Matt.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Let It Be Christmas

I had a few last minute shopping errands to run early on Christmas Eve, then it was on to the celebrating. Actually, first Ryan and I cleaned house while Googie and Papaw took the kids to the park that afternoon. Yes, my dreams for a white Christmas were dashed as it was warm enough to play at the park without even bundling up too much. Oh, well...maybe next year. We went to a local field of lights that you pay $5 to drive through. The kids loved it. Then you park and go inside and watch the fabulous electric train that took up the entire room. They really loved that, of course.
Tornado was pretty agreeable about sitting with Santa. Dash went along with it because he knew there was a candy cane in his future if he did. This is as close as he would get.

And this was as close as Sissy would get. Why are kids so afraid of a jolly man who's going to stuff their stockings with presents? He does have a whole lot of hair on his face.
There was also a craft table set up, and the boys made snowmen. Tornado wanted to keep his, but Dash was very adamant about going back in and giving his to Santa. There's a sweet, kind heart lurking under that tough exterior after all.

I got my pictures out of order. Here is our midday snack on Christmas. I got the idea from veganlunchbox. I mixed Simply Organic French Onion Dip mix with Tofutti sour cream for the dip. We ate the whole thing.
We left Santa a glass of soy milk and vegan snickerdoodles and lemon wafers. He loved them, of course.
Add ImageTornado was talking about the scavenger hunt all day...actually for weeks. "It's time for the scavenger hunt yet?" I was just having a conversation with my friend Lori the other day about how hard it is for me to withhold information. She said she won't tell her kids about fun activities until the moment they are going to begin. I know this is wise. I know it. I know it. I just can't help myself, though. I can't help talking about all the exciting things we're going to do the week before. I can't help showing them projects. Then, of course, they won't stop talking about it and begging me to do it immediately, and then that drives me batty having to say "not yet" all the time. Why won't I learn my lesson? I'm a child; one day, I'll grow up. It wouldn't really matter in the case of the scavenger hunt, though. It's one of Tornado's favorite activities of the year. It is right up his alley. I had about 30 clues this year, the biggest yet. He's usually so disappointed when it's over, but I think this year satisfied him. I wrote the clues on the back of photos that are like the ones in Highlights magazine - the ones you have to look closely to figure out what they are. It was fun to watch them run up and down the stairs, all over the house. Even Sissy led us to one I made a lot easier for her. It was a picture of her shoe basket. Of course, she knew where that was. I scribbled out the rhyming clues only a couple of hours ahead of time so I admit, they were pretty lame and cheesey. For example, one picture, close-up of a child on a Christmas picture that's hanging on the pantry door, read, "This is something close-up on something a bit bigger...if you eat a lot of what's behind the door, you'll be a pigger!" Yeah, seriously, I was in a rush to finish them this year; I never said they were award-winning. The good thing about my kids, though - the cheesier, the better. They think it's funny. Their new matching pajamas and house shoes were found at the end of the hunt - along with baby Jesus and the angel. Tornado was insistent that the angel also be hidden. He always does that - one year, it was the cow. I said it was okay; the angel could be watching over Jesus. I make the last clue say something about the real meaning of Christmas.
Here are the boys, finding a clue under one of the decorative trees...after the kids got into their pajamas, we cuddled on the couch and read Christmas books. When I offered them a snack before bed, they immediately declined and went to bed ON THEIR OWN. They always want a snack before bed. They always delay bedtime as much as possible. It was amazing. They knew the quicker they went to bed, the quicker it would be time for presents. Ryan and I stayed up until about 1:30. He had to put together the boys' four wheelers that day, then finish up with Sissy's kitchen set that night. I had to wrap stocking stuffers and put them in the stockings. My parents asked him why he waited until the last minute to undertake such a project (as if they never procrastinate, ha). He told them I wouldn't let him put it together yet. For the record, I never said that. He had asked once if he could put it together and lock it in her bedroom. All I said was he'd have to put it in the attic or something; I couldn't have her room locked all week. When he was grumbling about all the many pieces - and yes, there were A LOT of pieces, I reminded him that I had waited all my life to give my daughter a kitchen set and all the grumbling was taking away from that joy. Okay, actually I might have said I'd waited all my life for another kitchen set, but that's what I really meant.

And the morning arrives! We had great fun. Of course. It took us hours, and we left the mess strewn across the living room and kitchen for days. It wasn't pretty. Sissy was very territorial of her kitchen set, and we're working with her on that because the boys always want to play with it, too. She crawled right into her doll cradle like it was meant for her. They loved trying on their new dress-up clothes, and they immediately wanted to get dressed and try out their 4 wheelers. Those 4 wheelers deserve a later post of their own; they've had such a good time with them. I prepared our gingerbread house pancakes while they were outside. Googie, Papaw, and Tracy came over to visit and bring extra treats. The kids and I made gingerbread houses out of graham crackers and frosting. We decorated them with pretzels, sprinkles, and leftover Halloween candy that I'd stuck in the freezer. That night we all snuggled on the couch together and watched Jim Carrey's "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," because we had never seen it. It was cute. Did I mention what amazing gifts my husband surprised me with? A dressing table like I've wanted all my life, a PINK iPod, a box of chocolates, scarves, boots, etc. I have the greatest husband, I'm pretty sure.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I'll Be Home For Christmas

I got my pictures back from my parents' family Christmas. Here is the large mound of presents and stockings before we got started opening. I enjoy this picture because I was begging in a high-pitched voice for everyone to smile for the camera, but I had no such luck in any of the ones I took. Winnie had to be removed from the scene entirely because she was crying. Dash and Tornado, lest anyone thinks my children are always well-behaved, are fighting because Dash wanted to hold a stocking and Tornado was afraid he was going to look inside it too early. It's like they're all purposely staring off into space instead of looking at me like I wanted, ha. Believe it or not, this mound is actually about half the size as normal. We pleaded with my Mom to not go overboard this year - there are 17 of us, after all - and she very begrudgingly scaled down. Trust me, she was not happy about it. There was the perfect amount of wonderful gifts for everyone, though.
Mid-opening, the kids engaged in an all-out wrapping paper war. Dash is wearing his pirate gear from Uncle Matt and Aunt Michele.

This is 8 month old Winnie who was missing from the picture above.

This is my handsome father and my pretty momma.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Holidays in Review

Our first "Christmas" get-together was at Ryan's grandparents' house.
Almost the entire
side of the family
was present on Thanksgiving Day, and the kids all exchanged presents. That weekend back at home, I cooked a vegan Thanksgiving meal for Ryan, the kids, and I, and we were joined by my parents, my sisters, and niece. I just realized I never picked up a roll of film from Wal-Mart that includes pictures of Christmas at my parents' house last weekend. Yes, I do have a digital camera, but I take pictures with my Canon, too. I'm still old-school and enjoy dropping off film and getting it developed. Anyway, I do have a picture of all the cousins together. We took many pictures in order to get one good one for my Mom's birthday gift. I've never seen six adults jumping around, making faces, and offering bribes as much as we were that day, to get 8 children ages 8 and under to cooperate. They did very well, considering. The 17 of us enjoyed our weekend, eating, celebrating Mom's and Tracy's birthdays, playing games, and catching up. I love my parents and brothers and sisters and would want to be friends with them even if we weren't related.
I had a girls' weekend this month in KC with four of my best girlfriends - Sarah, Elizabeth, Missy, and Angie, and we enjoyed the lights of downtown. The next weekend, I took a trip to St. Louis for my niece's baptism. We had fun hanging out with my sister, brother-in-law, and niece on Saturday while Ryan went up to U of Illinois with his brothers and Dad to watch highschool basketball games.
I can't even describe the angst I felt while trying to get the kids into our hotel room that night. I was practically wailing in misery and disbelief in downtown St. Louis as we parked in the wrong garage (the parking attendant's fault, not mine) and then got turned around and had to make two trips back into our 14th floor room with winding hallways, while I was trying to lug a sleeping Sissy in addition to my luggage. Thank goodness the boys were great helps pulling their own suitcases. The next morning we were running late for church (imagine that), and we couldn't find our car in the parking garage. Since we had to move our car multiple times, I had gotten confused about which level we were on. I was almost in tears, getting on and off the elevator with the three kids (Sissy is not light to carry anymore) and running up and down the different levels. Finally, an angel was sent in the form of a parking attendant, and she let us ride with her on the golf cart until we found it. Mom sent me a text message as we pulled into the church parking lot, telling me to "run! they're getting ready to start," so I ran uphill, dragging the kids with me, and we burst into the sanctuary just in time. Cary told me she was afraid I'd come bursting onto the stage entrance. I'm really shocked that isn't what happened, considering the way my night and morning had gone. After church, Cary and Andy threw a lovely party at their loft.
The kids and I have enjoyed many winter and Christmas craft projects this month. They are making cotton ball snowmen here. Sissy was very disturbed that the cotton kept sticking to her finger. I was very proud of Tornado's creativity. He didn't fill in the snowman's stomach and instead drew pictures of what it had eaten. He said it was like "The Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly," one of his favorite series of books.
One of our favorite holiday activities this month was attending Bethlehem Revisited at a local church. We stepped into life during Jesus' time, and the kids enjoyed many activities such as sampling candy made of walnuts and dates and dipping their own candles.

I'll post about Christmas Eve and Christmas Day later...I need to start working on the mass of mess that lingers from a fun and eventful holiday.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Countdown to Christmas

Here is a picture of Dash when we were in the middle of decorating our tree. I am answering Christmas questions I got from the Lee family blog.
1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Definitely not egg nog...a sip of hot chocolate here and there is okay.
2. Does Santa wrap gifts, or place them under the tree? Everything has to be wrapped, even stocking stuffers.
3. Colored lights on the house/tree or white? Mostly white, one strand of green
4. Do you hang mistletoe? We have some in our entryway. Of course.
5. When do you put up decorations? Usually after Thanksgiving, this year - weekend before.
6. What is your favorite Christmas dish? We don't have any special Christmas dishes...we usually make gingerbread house shaped pancakes for breakfast and decorate them with berries, icing, nuts, chocolate chips, etc. Ryan has requested Thanksgiving-type food for Christmas dinner because that's his favorite kind of food, and we don't eat a lot of big meals like that around here.
7. Favorite Christmas memory? It would be hard to pick a favorite from growing up. There were always special times with my parents and three siblings. I remember getting in bed with my brother at 4:00 a.m. because we were too excited to sleep. I miss Christmas Eve with Mert and Donald. I remember fondly the Christmas Eve my youngest sister was born. I have loved every Christmas with my children. A few years ago, there was beautiful snow on the ground on Christmas Day.
8. When did you learn the truth about Santa? I don't remember. I think it was gradual, nothing traumatic.
9. Do you open gifts on Christmas Eve? The kids have a scavenger hunt which leads them ultimately to baby Jesus who needs to be put in the nativity and their Christmas pajamas plus new house shoes.
10. How do you decorate your tree? Many ornaments are from my tree growing up or other heirloom or ones we've bought on vacation or other special times...I have a lot of wood and metal ornaments, old-fashioned ornaments.
11. Snow: love it or dread it? I like it. I would be so happy if it would snow on Christmas Day.
12. Can you ice skate? Kind of. I can't do twirls or anything.
13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Impossible to narrow it down; I'm a very cheerful receiver.
14. What is the most important thing about Christmas for you? My children are still so young to fully grasp what Christmas means, but all the little moments when I think they understand a portion of it - I love those moments.
15. What is your favorite Christmas dessert? buckeyes, I guess
16. What is your favorite Christmas tradition? waking up and opening stockings and presents together
17. What tops your tree? brown metal star
18. Which do you prefer: giving or receiving? I would definitely pick giving, but I'm not going to lie...I love receiving presents. But I don't want to know what I'm getting. I just love surprises in general. On both ends. I'm excited about what my kids are getting this year.
19. What is your favorite Christmas song? O, Little Town of Bethlehem and Let it Be Christmas by Alan Jackson
20. Candy Canes: yum or yuck? I'm not a big candy person, but I'll eat part of one like they sell at Whole Foods every once in awhile.
21. What do you want for Christmas? Oh, I'm not picky. Clothes, things for the house, etc. I probably shouldn't get too specific as gifts have already been purchased, ha.
22. Do you attend an annual Christmas party? no, just family get togethers usually
23. Do you dress up on Christmas or wear pjs? I prefer to keep my pjs on all day.
24. Do you own a Santa hat? yes
25. With whom do you normally spend Christmas? the five of us...then go to my parents, but this year we had Christmas at my parents the weekend before Christmas so we're staying in all day...we'll get together with Ryan's family sometime, too.

Why We Homeschool

Last week, I found Dash playing Starfall on the computer, like it was the most normal thing in the world to be sitting there in a clown suit. At the same moment, Tornado was putting a
puzzle together while wearing his Hulk costume.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Let it ice, let it ice, let it ice...?

At 7:30 p.m. tonight and 20-something degrees, the kids were begging to play outside in the "snow." It's really just ice, but you can't be picky here in the south. I chose the ol', "Go ask your dad," and fun for them, Dad said, "yes." Dash gets a little lost in the picture here with his snow mask on.
She did have gloves on at some point. Dad walked around the house with them several times as they had fun crunching the snow with their matching frog boots. The boys picked icicles to taste.

They immediately wanted hot chocolate as soon as they walked inside, but since we didn't have any mix, they settled for shots of Soyatoo whipped cream in their mouths. They insisted that it would help warm them up.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

O Christmas Tree Farm

We made it to the Christmas Tree Farm earlier than usual this year. My sister and niece came for a visit the weekend of Thanksgiving so we went the Sunday before Thanksgiving to get our tree. We had a really fun day, starting with a nice lunch at PF Chang's. The kids were so well-behaved, Ryan and I were grinning from ear to ear. At the gas station afterward, I went to give him a high-five to celebrate a successful restaurant outing, and he said it deserved a hug instead.
The tree farm we usually visit but missed out on last year, now has pig races. The kids loved it, and the little piggies were very cute. They seemed to enjoy racing around the track toward their
prize, and the owner was funny and entertaining.

Sissy had fallen asleep in the car, and it took her a bit to wake up and realize where we were. The kids enjoyed the hayride and playing with the farm animals. The boys enjoyed just racing up and down the rows of trees. We had to keep reminding them we had to slow down and pick out a tree.

And the winner is...! They strapped the tree on our car for us, and we were on our way home to decorate. Many ornaments were shattered in the process (that darn concrete floor), but it was a nice evening with Alvin and the Chipmunks egging us on.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bake with Me

The kids often like to wear their chef hats and aprons when we cook. This particular day we couldn't find our other chef hats, but Sissy was just as happy wearing my Martha Washington cap from my 6th grade Constitution play.
We saw these organic brownie mixes from Arrowhead Mills and decided (of course) to try them out. (Note: it's always easier on an overweight Mom's guilty conscience to buy a mix "for the kids," and then she gets all the benefits, as well.)

The mixes include a little fold out of fun facts and jokes, etc. Tornado, as usual, is all about the jokes. His reading has really seemed to improve the past few weeks. I can tell how much he enjoys being able to read more in everyday life.

Every worthwhile project is not without a few glitches. Sissy dumped out the remaining egg replacer from the box. We had to scrape some off the top to use. These brownies were for our enjoyment only so do not be alarmed about our unsanitary methods of baking, not to mention all the saliva from the double dipping.

Since this baking project, which was a success (our stars weren't as pretty as the ones on the box, but they weren't bad), we have went on to try an Arrowhead Mills organic cupcake mix. They were also very yummy! We are going to try the sugar cookie mix next.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Getting My Jingle On

our first Christmas together, 1997
My friend Lori from the Davidson Den blog-tagged me with the question: "Are you ready to get your jingle on?" Does the fact that I put on Christmas music at random times during the year answer that question? It's not unheard of for Faith Hill's "Where Are You, Christmas?" to be on my playlist at any given time. "If there is love in your heart and your mind, you will feel like Christmas all the time - WHOAH!...I feel you, Christmas! I know I've found you! You'll never faaaaade aaaa-waaayyy!" :)
one of my favorite ornaments, Santa kneeling beside baby Jesus, among my most special ornaments made by my late great-aunt/one of the greatest people ever, Mert

I'm ready to get my ornaments down from the attic and "get this party started," as Tornado would say. He's been asking me every day if we are ready to start decorating. I told him I just have to get the house clean first. We will get our tree on Thanksgiving weekend. I love going to the tree farm. The past three years we have gotten trees that still have their root balls in the pot. We have replanted them in our yard (we had to leave two of them, of course, at our house we sold), and they have always made it just fine. I love opening the tubs and carefully unwrapping all the ornaments that hold a special memory. This Christmas will be extra fun since it is the first in our new house, and all of our decorations were in storage last year.

What else makes Christmas special for our family? It goes without saying that I love the time with family and friends. I love the feeling of being in a candle-lit room, surrounded in decorations, with Christmas music playing in the background. We let a pan of cinnamon simmer on the stove. I am thrilled to have a fireplace (electric with a remote control, but it's a fireplace!) and mantel this year. I told my husband that was one of my must-haves when building a house - just so I can "hang my stockings by the chimney with care." I love getting Christmas cards in the mail! One of our new ideas is to send a little gift to the first person who sends us a card. My dad has been busy working on their Department 56 snow village scenes, and my kids can hardly contain their excitement waiting for it. I love Christmas through my children's eyes even more than I loved it for myself as a child. I waited all my life to get to be like my Mom, with her "master list," staying up to all hours on Christmas Eve, getting everything ready.

We find ways to focus on the birth of baby Jesus by setting out our Nativity and having a "birthday party" with a cake to help the kids associate. Our gifts to Him come in the form of filling Operation Christmas Child boxes and picking other goodwill projects during the season. We also only give/receive three wrapped gifts each year to represent the three gifts presented unto Him. We tried implementing a candle-lit service into the mix, but we got so stressed out that our squirmy boys were going to burn the place down, we might have to hold off a year longer on that one. If anyone has any other ideas, let me know. I'm going to get an Advent wreath/candles this year. But I guess it really isn't as much the "activities" that you do as just a state of mind, a feeling in approaching and talking about the holidays - the spirit of Advent.

Other fun family traditions include our Night Tree, Christmas movies, decorating cookies, driving around to look at lights, and Christmas Eve Scavenger Hunt/New Pajamas. We read from our basket of Christmas books each night, culminating with 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and much more important, the Christmas Story, when we put out our milk and cookies plus reindeer food for the Jolly Elf. I also hope to make it to Silver Dollar City sometime in December; I love it. Despite the fact that SDC is so commercialized, it is a place that is built around a Christian core, and I can feel that when I am there.

I can't wait to go Christmas shopping - there's just something more fun about bundling up in your coat and scarf and shopping when there are decorations all around. I actually do most of my shopping online, but I have to go OUT a few times, at least, for the fun of it. I am trying to do better each year about buying things here and there, throughout the year. I already have a lot of my stockings stuffers bought already. I can't wait to meet my girlfriends in Kansas City (where one of the girls lives) for a fun Christmas-y weekend in December. Our first family Christmas get-together is next week!
My sisters and I, circa 1983 - I don't think my brother ever joined in on the matching, ha.

We spent a night at the Lodge at Mount Magazine during the Christmas season 2007. Our house was being built, and we were living with my parents so Santa came and filled our stockings at the Lodge. It was a beautiful, fun place to stay, and we can't wait to go back...no, I just can't get away from the matching pajamas; it's genetic.

I am tagging Cary and Stacey. Answer the question, "Are you ready to get your jingle on?" Then, if you wish, tag other bloggers to see what they have to say.

"Christmas is here, everywhere - OHHH! Christmas is here, if you care - OHHH!"

Update: All this Christmas talk inspired me to carry my tubs down from the attic...we're ready!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


The boys were hard at work, creating with their wooden Connectagons that were purchased from Hearthsong one year for Christmas. How I love it when they play together without fighting.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Snack Time

Daddy has always been a snacker - Mommy, not as much. The kids, of course, take after him. Ever since Tornado was a baby, one of Daddy's "things" is to sit and eat snacks with the kids - popcorn, fruit, etc. They like to take drives to Kroger just to get a snack. Their latest fave is frozen mangoes. They'll buy a bag and eat the whole thing. They've also really gotten into cooking little snacks together, with all four of them pitching in to help. They've gotten ideas from our Quick and Easy Cookbook which was printed by Troll Associates in 1981. I think it was one of my sisters' books when they were little. They really like making the frozen bananas, which are coated in granola, honey, and spices. This weekend they made Peanut Butter Balls, a recipe Tornado found in his Highlights magazine. They sampled a lot during the process. It was definitely a successful project; they all really enjoyed them. I could tell how much Sissy and Dash ate especially, because they were downing the soymilk afterward.
Dash, true to form, stuffed an entire ball in his mouth at once. Yum!

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Hulk, Batman, Little Red Riding Hood, a Power Ranger, a Ninja, and a Pirate Join Together to Party

Thursday night some of my nieces and nephews were in town to have a little Halloween fun with us. Here they are, decorating cookies.
They decorated little fake pumpkins with pirate faces (kits bought from Wal-Mart).

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Our Favorite Dog and Yours, Puddy

Great Aunt Patsy gave Tornado a wonderful set of Daily Journal Writing Prompts by Teacher Created Resources. There are books with pages for every day and month of the year. He doesn't write in them every day, though, so they are lasting us longer than a year. I was looking through one of his journals, and I thought this was a particularly sweet entry.

It reads, "My best friend is Puddy. I eat trail mix, and Puddy eats dog food. I drink milk, and he drinks water."

Puddy is my sister Cary and brother-in-law Andy's dog. He really is adorable, isn't he? Puddy was totally posing as I took these pictures. The kids love it when they get to visit with their cousin Puddy.