Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Continued

Backing up a bit...the weekend before Christmas my family all joined together to celebrate with one another. My brother and sister and their families came down. (My parents and other sister both live nearby.)

We had a nice time together. To understand how much my kids love their cousins, this is what Dash said the other day when I was talking about heaven: "I don't want to go to heaven. I want to go to Grace and Owen's house." Obviously, we've got some work there in imparting wisdom, but it was a sweet thought, nonetheless. Besides our regular food-consuming and gift-exchanging, part of us went to the Jump Zone one night, the guys all went to a man-movie, and the girls stayed home to play Twilight: Scene it?, which Andy surprised us with.

That night I also witnessed that it is possible to fall sound asleep with your eyes open...I watched my mom do it several times in a row. She was snoring (only because she was that tired) with her eyes open. I'm not making fun of her; it was amazing. Poor momma; she had so much to do all week at work and getting ready for company.
10) (If you are just joining in, that's #10 of my 1,000 Gifts list) Every single one of my 18 member family. That's a generality; I'm sure I'll have more specifics at a later time.

Christmas Goals: 1) Make Googie cry... Check!

"We're waiting, Winnie!"

"Keep trying!"

In case you forgot how cute they are...

They're, of course, not any cuter than the 7 other kids...but they get the attention now for being the only babies...and {insert best whiny voice} I WANT A BABY.

And in case you forgot how cute we are:

And, my, haven't we grown?

I'm sort of wishing now that I had that couch. I feel like it would look really cute in a very plain, minimalistic room. (and would look much better without the butter-flavored Crisco in the background; ew)

A few glimpses of Sissy's and Dash's school parties:
Sissy, with her teacher, Ms. Geri (I love the sweet little way she calls her "Teacher."...11) I am so thankful for the people who choose to give my children additional love, beyond the enormous amount they get from us. I am appreciative for every little hug, kind word, bit of instruction, and potty training encouragement. I have gotten to substitute in her school a few times now, and really that should be number twelve...

the gifts she made for Mommy and Daddy

12) I'm grateful for the chance to occasionally hang out at this nice, little school with the very awesome women who work there. It's nice to get OUT and just feel a part of something sometimes. I love peeking in at Sissy while she's singing songs with her class or listening to a Bible story...and she gets so excited when she sees me out at recess. I love it.
opening a gift with her other teacher, Ms. Christina, and one of her friends
Daddy, Sissy, and I got to watch Dash while he and his class met with Santa, then performed songs for all of the guests. He did great! He also made me very cute gifts, but I haven't been able to locate them today...I'll keep looking. I'll feel terrible if I can't find them. Almost as terrible as I felt when I realized I was wrong about the date of Tornado's class party and missed it. That was not a good day for me; I was probably in need of a good cry anyway.

But 13)I've said this before, but it's worth repeating. I also feel very fortunate with Dash's situation at his school. There are so many things I'm thankful for: his sweet, fun teachers and the kids he adores. He has so much fun running around with these boys who are as energetic and ornery (but sweet!) as he is. His teachers are so helpful and accommodating toward our diet, which is nice. And I'm glad to have become acquainted with more families.

It is my heart and hope that the path next year will be for us to home school him again...but I know that right now my son is exuding with such energy, spark, and intelligence - I wouldn't have wanted to extinguish any of that. I feel like it's the perfect school for him this year. He has constant activity and stimulation at his preschool (the few hours a day that he is there), and he's growing so much more respectful of authority and limits, which is an answer to prayer.

UPDATE: I found the gifts - yay!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gratitude Community and Vegan Kringles: Yum-O

holy experience

(There are many things going on in my heart and life right now...not sure how to explain all of it yet, but one thing I'm going to be doing, in an effort to glorify Him in all things, is beginning my list of 1,000 (yes, 1,000!) things I'm thankful for - not sure how long it will take me - months, years? - as a part of the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience. Ann writes that it's "not about the gifts she wants but about the gifts she already has." In one of her posts she shared a quote by John Milton:

"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world."

You can read what else she wrote here.

We enjoyed very merry days at our house over the holidays. (I'll back up and write about my family's Christmas and Christmas Eve another day.)

So here goes: 1) I am grateful for a simple, casual day at home with my children and husband.

2) I am grateful that my parents also ventured out that afternoon to see us because they love us.

Okay, our new FAVORITE thing to order online: Kringles. It's been a long, long time (like about 20 years!) since I've had anything similar. We get them from Vegan Essentials. This is what we ate while we opened presents.
They didn't have any of the apple, cherry, or raspberry flavors this time, but we like the almond and pecan, too. Normally, I don't choose the fruity option - I'd go for the nutty choice, but the fruity ones, I think, are even better. These are very dangerous. Last time we ordered them I found myself hoping my kids would forget about them in the fridge so there would be more for me...terrible.
Baby Sophie (organic cotton, fair trade, etc. and comes with a purse and change of clothes - and I found her on ebay for less than that price)...she named her after one of her favorite friends from school.

I am grateful that not only was I first blessed with two boys, I also got a girl who shares my love of pink, dolls, kitchen sets, and clothes. I would have been happy with all boys and would love to have five more boys, but having a girl was a huge desire of my heart.

We looked over at one point that afternoon, and Dash had already chomped half of his vegan dark chocolate Santa before we even realized he'd opened it. Fortunately, it was hollow. Poor, poor Santa.

4) I am truly grateful that there are vegan, healthi-er, FUN treat options that exist in the world. Like Kringles and chocolate Santas. Seriously.

This year we let the boys pick out gifts for each other. They were responsible for wrapping them, and of course, they loved this. Dash picked out the Joke Master 1000 for Tornado, which was PERFECT for him. It was $5, you push the buttons and a joke appears across the screen. Then push Enter again, and the answer appears, along with electronic laughter. Tornado, lover of all jokes, greatly approved. And since Dash asked Santa for a "car," Tornado's gift to him was a cool bamboo racing car. I loved how much tape and love went into their wrapping jobs.

5) I'm grateful that my kids love one another. Even though they fight a lot, I think they hug more often than that.

The Comic Book Bible...Tornado: lover of jokes AND comics

6) I'm so glad my kids love to read. And that they love to receive books as gifts. I would be mighty disappointed if they didn't.
Even though they were kind of naughty puppies this year, Santa chose forgiveness and gifted Roni and Ghetti with new sweaters, Santa's Little Helper shirts, and sweet potato/carrot chewies (a big healthy hit!).

7) I'm so appreciative of the fact my husband gets up every work morning to take out the puppies first thing and feeds them their breakfast. And he's the one that takes them outside after dark, too. This is HUGE to me.
We always ask people to get "experience" gifts for the kids, rather than objects for which we have no room. I think people are always afraid that doesn't seem like a fun thing to open...lest you had any doubts, I think Tornado's favorite gift of the day was this little piece of paper wrapped up in a tiny box. It promised him a trip to the comic book store, where he could pick out 3 Tom & Jerry comic books of his choice. He was SOOO excited. The next day, when we went to watch the Alvin & the Chipmunks movie (LOVED IT! Had a big smile on my face the entire movie.), we also made the trip to the comic book store, which has a whole shelf of kid comics, plus tons of back issue comics for kids, like Tom & Jerry.
Award for the most creatively wrapped gift goes to...Daddy! Poor guy waited until the last day to wrap his gifts, and there were only scraps left. He gets mucho points for being inventive.

I'm grateful that my husband recognizes that I get a little bored at times, being a housewife...and that he found the perfect remedy...inside this box.
9) I'm so grateful that my children are GRATEFUL people. They oohed and aahed over everything. When Dash got a nice shirt, he gasped and said something like, "Look what I got!" And when he opened this Bug book in his stocking, he said so sweetly, "It's just what I wished for."

We got the kids these "dig it up" dinosaur fossil kits from MindWare. The boys loved them. We only got Sissy one, in case she felt left out. She has picked at it a little bit, but it's a lot of work. The boys have made great progress. Great lesson about patience and how tedious a paleontologist's work really is. It comes with a sponge, hammer, chisel, and brush.
" got me a dinosaur dig kit, too?...but, wow, look at my nails."
...and the heavens parted and presented a, gasp, pink and purple dollhouse!

That's all I've got for now...and hey, if you call, and I don't answer, I'll just be...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

This is one of those moments in time when I have so much information, so many thoughts, and so many pictures that I don't even know where to start...I just woke up from an amazing Christmas Day nap. I fell into such a deep sleep, and it was wonderful and helpful...and everyone else remains sleeping except Dash. I came downstairs to find him very quietly plinking away at his perfect-for-him dinosaur dig kit (more on that another day).

So...for now...Merry to you is what we enjoyed for our snack earlier today...I made it last year, also (this year using almonds instead of pretzels to make it even healthier), original credit goes to a Pillsbury holiday magazine. I made this vegan ranch recipe to go with it...and I got to utilize a couple of my new white dishes from my parents.

Yesterday, I heard Dash saying this very honest and sincere prayer,

"Don't let the tigers eat me, and don't let the lions eat me, and don't let the leopards eat me. And help the people who don't have money to get money. Amen."


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Birthday, Tracy!

Because quite frankly, she's not present in my blog nearly enough, I thought I would honor my little(st) sister Tracy because today is her BIRTHDAY! She was our Christmas Eve baby, arriving 28 years ago today. I was in the 1st grade when she was born so I have lots of memories of her as a baby.
Just a few things that I love about my baby sister...

If I told her I liked her hat, she would take it off and try to give it to me...she sings beautifully, and I love to sit and listen to her sing and play her guitar...she bought me a beautiful pair of earrings and a cool shirt for Christmas even though she didn't draw my name...she reads...and reads...and she's the smartest one of all of us...beautiful, too...she loves my children...her friends know all about my kids because she talks about them...she has fun...and is unabashed...she always comes to visit me when I'm in the hospital...she really appreciates food and the art of preparing it...she cares about the earth and our world and makes conscious decisions accordingly...I admire her creative and original style...and her courageous choices...she is the champion at Scrabble...I love that she goes skinny-dipping...and that she's fiercely loyal to the people in her life...when I look into her eyes, I see myself - we are obviously sisters.

with Clara
Happy Birthday, Tracy!!! We all love you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fighting Illini Five

I'm sitting here, eating my salad, staring at the humongous mess that awaits me. We got back late last night from a little weekend road trip, and the evidence of our hurried departure and return is seemingly everywhere. (Probably won't blog again for a few days, as I prepare for Christmas With My Family this coming weekend.) But first, I must talk to you about my salad. It has been my favorite meal the past few weeks. I can't get enough of it. Romaine lettuce with Vegan Caesar Dressing from Post Punk Kitchen. Great recipe. Sissy keeps stealing pieces of lettuce from my bowl, saying, "I like it! I like it!"
So...we packed up Friday and drove about 6 hours, until Ryan found us a hotel around midnight. That was a hard night, as the kids popped up, so excited when we arrived. We hadn't told them where we were going, and they got their second wind...keeping us up until about 1:30 a.m. There were all kinds of awakenings after that, too, between the kids and the dogs. Fortunately, we weren't on a time schedule and could take our time getting ready the next morning.
Finished another 2-3 hours of our drive, ending up in Champaign/Urbana, Illinois. We were planning to meet many members of Ryan's immediate family (parents, brothers, sister-in-law, niece, and uncle) for Shootout at the Hall, several highschool basketball games at U of I. There were apparently several potential Illinois recruits playing, and the guys wanted to check them out.
First, we stopped to eat lunch at Strawberry Fields, a little health food store and cafe. I was happy to find a nice place for "supplies" anytime we are in town. I ordered a hummus and veggie sandwich. We also went overboard with the desserts, as we always do, but practically everything in the bakery case was vegan. We got key lime cheesecake with chocolate crumb crust, strawberry crumb tart (YUM!), a blueberry tart, and 2 huge cupcakes that lasted us - well, Sissy finished up one of hers this morning - 3 days.

Then we checked into our hotel. May I recommend the Comfort Suites next time you are in the area? It seemed new-ish, clean, had a pool (that we enjoyed the next morning), allowed our puppies, included a fridge and microwave, and was in close proximity to everywhere we needed to go.

We met his family at an Illini store on Green Street. I may or may not have went back the next day by myself to get a Christmas present for Ryan.
Oh, so ladylike with her skirt hiked up to her waist...this picture of the boys makes me think of a moment in the car, on the way home, when all three of the kids were laughing and singing together, playing off the words of a Brian Kinder song...they had been so bored and whiny and arguing and tattle-telling...then it that moment of happiness and harmony, Ryan and I looked at each other like, "...weird..."
Cousin K even rocked her Illini apparel.

my little family of Fighting Illini fans

I'm about 12 years late for embracing such an important interest of my husband's. For that, I am sorry. (Especially since my dear husband has enjoyed every episode of Guliana & Bill with me.) Before the past couple of months, all I could have told you is "Coach and orange...was there once a Dee Brown and a Deron Williams?...Champaign..." That's about it. Now I can name all of the players and a ridiculous amount of stuff about them. I surprised Ryan one day by reciting all of their names and what year they were. He's taught me a lot since then. And I've watched about 5 games in a row with him. Honestly, when you take the time to learn a little bit about it, the commentators, the noise isn't so annoying. (And I get lots of head rubs during the games. Consider it, ladies.)
And I am now the proud owner of ORANGE.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Getting Organized

Thought I would share what my amazingly talented and hardworking husband made for me recently. I told him I thought it would be great to have shelves and a window seat in the "homeschool room." He set to work and came up with this. We both worked on priming and painting. I love it!

(What you probably can't see in the picture is the sliced screen in the window. No, no one tried to break in. That was the gardening shears handiwork of my middle child. We "thought" about buying a new screen and wrapping it as one of his Christmas presents.)
I'm still rearranging and figuring out how I want everything. We are thinking about putting our computer (which currently sits on the homeschool table) on that desk. Just trying to decide how to work that with the printer. BUT - every box is extremely organized AND labeled.
I am so excited because I have always wanted a window seat, ever since I was little. I was able to get the kids' puzzles out of the closet, which opened up a lot of space in there. Now things aren't jammed in there, and I'm more likely to find things in the closet (which is also beautifully organized, if I may so). Also, the kids don't need to get into "other things" in the closet that are off-limits without my direction. So far, they are doing really well getting one puzzle out at a time and putting it back.

Giveaway reminder: scroll down to next post if you want to enter for the party pack. (Sorry to those not "in the market" for such a thing; I'll try to choose a more universal prize next time.) Your chances are great; there are only 4 entries so far!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Trees

We ventured out to the Christmas Tree Farm the Sunday after Thanksgiving. We picked a perfect day that didn't even require coats. The kids, once again, loved the pig races. They are pretty cute.
Yeah...why, oh, why can't all 3 of my children look normal at the same time during a picture. When child #1 is not smiling, child #2 is smiling too much.

Bless Tornado's heart; he was really trying hard. Look at how straight and stiff his hands were. Sissy wouldn't put her arms down. And I don't know why my kids always lean their heads back and stick their chins out when they are trying to smile big. Here are our pics from last year's trip to pick out our tree.

Even though I couldn't really see the kids on the way home, we managed to fit our tree in the car. I was very excited we were able to get a potted one, which is what we usually do. We can plant them in our yard and not feel sad about cutting down a tree and spending so much money on something that is going to be tossed in a few weeks. My dad no longer has a truck we can borrow, and I didn't think we'd be able to put a potted one on top or inside, but we know now it's possible.
our tree!

I was so excited about Christmas, I went out and bought 3 more potted trees that week. This little one the kids were responsible for decorating on their own, any way they wanted. We are also using it for our

Adorenaments from Family Life. Jeff and Kristi got them for us one year. They come with a book that includes devotional type readings to explain each ornament. We are adding one each day.

and this is "my" tree
I decorated this tree with silver bells, paper doves, and the ornaments my wonderful, late Great Aunt Mert crocheted for us long ago.
It's very exciting for me; this is only the 2nd year I've had a mantel to hang my stockings. It was absolutely a requirement when we built our house.