Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas

A bit late, but still heartfelt wishes from our family. We are still on the go, having arrived at Matt's parents house yesterday afternoon and had our last Christmas hurrah (i.e, the kids tearing wrapping paper off gifts at the speed of light) with his family last night.

This morning Ella cried when she realized that her Pop Pop Bernie had gone to work. "Pap Pap (my dad) stayed home for Christmas, why can't Pop Pop Bernie?" I had to explain that Christmas was last week and even though we're still celebrating, life goes on for the rest of the world. I actually really like our extended celebations (minus packing and unpacking the car and traveling) because it gives us a Christmas week rather than just a Christmas day.

Some highlights so far...

Getting their gifts from Santa, a Cinderella bike for Ella and a baby doll crib/bassinett for Catherine. As soon as Catherine saw her crib she turned around, ran back upstairs and came hurrying back down with her arms full of baby dolls. Too cute!

They got a puppet stage and puppets from my parents and along with their cousins Isaac and The and the help of my mom, performed the funniest puppet show ever.

I think the $5 Barbie Rapunzel movie I bought for them is one of their favorite gifts.

Is it bad that I honestly cannot remember much more of what they got? I'm sure I could if I stopped and thought, but I would have to think about it - it is not readily available in my brain.

They both got Fancy Nancy slippers and leg warmers and Catherine loved them so much she wore them to my parents church on Sunday - along with a nice navy blue velvet dress. Aaahhh the joys of having girls!

My brother Matt and sis in law Chrissie got a Wii as a family gift and already had Guitar Hero ready and waiting. That proved to be our main source of entertainment, especially when they started battling. I only wish we had video footage of my bro Mike rocking it out to the point that no one could compete against him because it made them laugh too much and Chrissie throwing a fit because she couldn't "throw" her weapons during a battle. If you don't know, don't ask - I barely understand it either. But I did try it a few times and am starting to get the hang of it. Meaning, I don't get boo'd off the stage after 10 seconds. Yay me!!!

Last night we watched Kung Fu Panda. It was really funny! Who knew? I supposed everyone except me.

Now we are hanging at his parents deciding when to hit the malls for some post Christmas deals. The girls are running around in their new Tinkerbell dresses looking adorable and occasionally asking when they can open their Baby Alive Learns to Potty. Oh my goodnesss - it's a doll that actually poops and pees. I know I told Matt's mom they wanted it but now that we have it I'm scared.

PS - The robe incident was a non incident. Ella loves her robe. She wore it more in two days than I have worn mine in two years.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that you are as lucky as us to still be celebrating and enjoying the season.

The Christmas of the bathrobe

It's been a busy week getting ready for Christmas. Thank you all so much for taking the time to share your Christmas's with us. I had so much fun reading all of your posts. I also loved reading all the comments on other's posts and seeing the various connections being made. Blogging is a great way to stay in touch with friends and families and a way to record memories. It also serves as a sort of community and support system as we so often read about people we have never met in real life, experiencing life in a way that we can really relate to. I definitely feel like I have made some new friends and rekindled old friendships through reading and commenting on these blogs. In fact, it was a treat to actually talk to Crafty P on the phone the other day so she could confirm my address to send me the goodies I won on her blog (am keeping my eye out for the mailman). We did go to college together and were bridesmaidsin a wedding together(over nine years ago)but I can't remember the last time we've seen each other in person. It was almost surreal to actually hear rather than read her voice, but yet we both talked for a few minutes about random stuff like her tricking her kids into sleeping and how late I stayed in bed that morning. Not the typical first phone conversation you have with someone, but then again maybe it is if you've been reading each other's blogs for years!

I kind of went on a little tangent there. I just want to say I am thankful to all you stop by here. I almost wish I could just hang out with you all for a few hours or few days. Hmmm...maybe I should start planning something! ;)

Anyway, we are going to make cut out cookies today and finish packing for our trip to my parents tomorrow. I am a strong believer in being home for Christmas if possible so the kids can wake up and come downstairs to their own tree in their own house. I'm fine leaving a few hours later to see family and celebrate together, but I had always had Christmas morning at home and I want that for my kids. Them...not so much. They have been asking for days to go to grandma's house and were honestly a little disappointed that they weren't going to be there for Christmas morning. Matt has to help at the Christmas Eve service so are staying put despite their pleas.

I want to share a funny story and let you make some predictions for Christmas morning, based on all you've read about my girls.

A few months ago Ella mentioned that she really wanted a bathrobe. I store that in my head, as any parent does when their child asks for something that isn't a giant Barbie Princess Castle or Disney Princess scooter and also happens to be useful and inexpensive. I was at Kohl's last month and I saw a couple different types of robes. I choose the softest and fluffiest one I could find and it was pink with little hearts. I though the ones with characters on them weren't as soft and Ella would never know what she was missing.

Fast forward to last Saturday night. We had returned home from spending time with our friends Jon and Renee, home for a few weeks from California. Matt headed out to Kohl's (yes, my husband likes to shop) to use his 30% coupon (yes, he has his own Kohl's card) and get a few things he had promised my parents he would help them find. I told him that it looked like we needed one more thing for Catherine and could he please find a bathrobe for her. Even though she didn't ask for one, I know she would want one once Ella had one. The next morning I was checking out his purchases. I pulled out the robe he got for Catherine. It was pink. With a light up Hello Kitty on it. Light up. Helly Kitty. I was immediately worried that Ella might be a bit unhappy with her robe compared to Catherine's.

But it gets worse. The other night she got out of the bath and I was drying her off. All of a sudden she remembered. "A robe. I want a robe, I need to put that on my Christmas list. I want a pink robe. With Hello Kitty on it." Uh oh. Can anyone sense trouble coming?!

I tried to lead her a bit saying that if I could pick any robe I would pick one that was soft and fluffy, that was what was most important. Maybe it would be cool if it had hearts on it too. Thankfully she agreed.

So what do you think will happen Christmas morning when Catherine opens her light up Hello Kitty robe. Do you think that all our teaching about being kind and gracious when you receive gifts will be evident in Ella's reaction? Have I really convinced her that a soft robe with hearts is much cooler than a pink Hello Kitty robe? Or do you think we'll be heading to Kohl's a in a few days to make an exchange?

I will let you ponder this as you do the final preparations for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sharing Christmas '09

Update: People have been signing up throughout the day so please continue to check in over the next couple of days for new additions to the list!

Welcome to my home! Thanks for stopping by...

I didn't do the greatest job taking pictures this year. Mostly because I've had a hard time keeping the house in a clean enough state to share over the internet. We were supposed to be hosting a Christmas party at our house tonight and I figured I would have the house spotless for that and take pictures right beforehand. But then we changed it the location to someone else's house (relief!) and I had no reason to clean at all. So that is why many of my pictures are close up shots. I just shifted the mess aside and took the shots I needed....just being honest!

Anyway, when you walk in the door and turn to the left...this is what you'll see. This is the first time we've had the tree in this corner and it's fun to have it near the front
window so you can see the lights from outside. Our tree is decorated with ornaments I received growing up as well as some special ones we've collected over the years. You might only be able to see it if you click on the picture to enlarge it, but on the lower right side of the tree you can catch a glimpse of my oreo ornament. Classic!

And here it is all lit up...

Next is our entertainment center which is decorated with candles and garland.

And here it is all lit up!
I love to watch tv at night or read a book with just lights of the tree and the the garlands and the candles (ok, maybe not read a book with no other light. But, if you look closely enough you can see that I do watch tv like that!)

Moving into our dining room, we have this lovely garland lighting up the way. Matt did that this year. He add the flowers and berries to a regular plain garland and made it super fancy!

And next is our dining room table, with Christmas placemats and centerpiece.
Here's a closeup for everyone who wants to see the place mats that desperately need to be ironed!

Our radiator provides another great place to add some Christmas color. The phallic looking plant in the background is one of those winter bulbs that Matt and the girls planted a few days ago. Apparently it needs a lot of light and must be right by a window. Yay!Here you'll see where the girl's stocking hang throughout the month. On Christmas Eve we'll hang them on the entertainment center. Oh how I want a fireplace! Also, Santa is up top keeping watch on the them day and night. Just kidding. I guess Matt plopped him up there one day while we were decorating and that's where he's stayed! He's from the Polar Express and says "The First Gift of Christmas..." and something about believing...
Also hanging out on our china cabinet are the three wise men on their journey to the stable. I stole the idea from Crafty P of setting up the Little People's Nativity set and having the "characters" journey closer and closer as Christmas approaches.
Every other day I find them all hanging out in the stable and I have to return them to their respective routes. When I first put them out I couldn't find Mary anywhere and was a little worried about how that would go over, but thankfully she turned up. How could we have Christmas without Mary?!

The last picture of the dining room is this little table here that showcases some of my cute little country type snowmen. I don't really decorate in this style much anymore, but I love all these and can't help it! The picture says "There's no place like HOME for the holidays" - so true!
The final picture is of the kitchen. On our window sills. Two cute snowmen hanging out - too cute!
I must have forgotten to take pictures of the kitchen this year? How did that happen?! You can always check out last year's Sharing Christmas for a view of it. I wish I had my act together because our kitchen has changed a bit and I would have liked to show it, but not in it's current state!
This year we will having Christmas at home and then leave sometime Christmas day to go to my parent's house and celebrate with the entire family. After the weekend we'll move on to Matt's family and celebrate with them. It's our Christmas road trip week - a lot of traveling but the kids love seeing their cousins and grandparents and we really think the time spent with family is worth it.
As far as presents, each girl gets a "bigger" gift and then some small things. This year Ella is getting a new bike and Catherine is getting a baby crib and they are getting a singalong micrphone stand to share. I so look forward to seeing their faces as they come down the stairs Christmas morning!
I grew up having lots of traditions for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. We are just now starting to establish our own traditions. It takes time and a little trial and error to figure out what is important enough to be called a tradition. So far the Christmas morning meal is something I've latched onto.
I like to make Sausage Egg Scramble and Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes by Rachael Ray. I posted the recipes last year, so you can click on them to get all the information. I can't tell you how could they are. I love it because it's a combinations of sweet and salty that just makes my taste buds happy.
I always like to bake a ton of Christmas cookies. This year I organized some Christmas caroling to folks in need in the community and we gave out cookies at the houses where we caroled. So after baking dozens upon dozens (too many in fact) of cookies for that I'm a bit burnt out. Instead of more cookies (to give as gifts to the people Matt works with) I'm going to make batches of homemade granola and give that out, perhaps with some homemade biscotti as well. Different and a tiny bit healthier!
Here is the recipe for the granola. My Bible study leader made this for us last year and I loved it. I hope when I make it it turns out as good!
Homemade Granola
1/2 cup vegetable oil or canola oil
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup raisins
1 cup dried cranberries

Heat oil, honey, peanut butter, vanilla and cinnamon together over low heat. Mix together all other ingredients EXCEPT raisins and cranberries (they'll be added after baking). Pour heated mixture over the other dry ingredients. Combine and stir thoroughly. Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet and let bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes.Take from oven, stir on cookie sheet, and let mixture cool. When mixture is cooled, add raisins and cranberries - mixing thoroughly. Store in airtight container. Makes approximately 8 cups.

And just because I cannot publish a post without sharing a story about my kids, I leave you with this conversation between Matt and Ella after she had been misbehaving...

Matt: Ella, you better stop acting like this because Santa sees you being bad and won't bring you gifts (I don't neccesarily condone this type of parenting - but desperate times...)

Ella: Santa can't see me, he's not like Jesus. (oooohh, touche!)

Matt: (still desperate apparently) Well the elves are watching you to see if you're good or bad.

Ella: Nuh uh. There aren't any short little men watching me!

Matt....silence. He's got nothing left to say!

Thanks for joining me as I shared my Christmas with you. I hope you have a blessed holiday season and make many new memories with your loved ones (that you can share on your blog after Christmas!) Please let me know that you stopped by! To share your Christmas, just add your blog to the list below! I can't wait to see all of your homes. Check in throughout the day and next couple of days to see who's new to the list. I hope you can take the time to visit all the homes and "say" hello and thanks for sharing to all who've opened up their homes.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Reminder for Sharing Christmas

Feel free to post about it on your blog and let your blog readers know they can join in the fun - either by adding their home to the list or visiting the various blogs that are participating.
I still hope to have a Mr. Linky on the blog so that all you do is come to my site on Thursday morning (or...if I'm really on the ball, late Wednesday night) and add your link - make sure and link directly to your Sharing Christmas post and not your general blog. This will make it easy for people to find your post and allow you to continue with your regular blogging. I am hoping that Mr. Linky works - this is my first time trying it and I am not very good with html code and all that fun stuff!
Ideas for your post:
A picture says a thousand words! The more the merrier - take pictures of your tree, your presents (wrapped of course), your decorations inside and out, how you display your Christmas cards, any Christmas goodies you might have already prepared...and so on and so on...
Tell us about your Christmas this year? Where will you be spending it and with whom? What are some traditions your family has and are you doing anything new or differently this year.
Food! Sharing some of your favorite Christmas recipes is a great way to share Christmas. I definitely look forward to those!
Be creative and have fun. I can't wait till Thursday!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Five Years Old!

I think one of the reasons it's taken me so long to get this post written, is that there is so much to say and so much of it is hard to put into words.

How can I adequately portray the complex personality of my, now five year old Ella? It just doesn't seem possible.

This will probably just be a hodge podge of thoughts

Ella is an amazing little girl. At times her thoughts show a depth that I wouldn't expect at her age. Lately she started asking about what happens when we die and got very sad about being in heaven without mom and dad. I reassured her that we would all be together (while heading my own tears at the thought of being apart from her) while being surprised that this thoughts are swirling around in her brain. Soon after that she asked if this (referring to everything around her) was "all a dream"? Wow! I remember have those types of thoughts - but definitely not at five!

She does very well in school. I was in her class last week for her birthday and her teachers had such nice things to say about her. They told me that she was very mature and often helped the other kids in the class, but was kind, not bossy. I have to hold onto those thoughts when my mature little girl comes this close to a meltdown because she can't have stuffed crust pizza for dinner (darn you Matt, getting her hooked on that horrible Pizza Hut pizza).

At her birthday party Saturday night one of the moms from preschool told me that she described Ella to her husband as one of the popular kids in class who is nice to everyone and plays with everyone. Of course we all want to hear that our kids are liked, but liked for the right reasons. I pray she can hold on to that and always be someone who is kind and friendly and not clicky (believe me, it starts in preschool!). I pray that she can be strong in who she is and not feel the pressure to conform and be like those around her.

Ella is very creative. She loves to draw and sing. When she sings sometimes she makes me copy down the words to her songs. While they don't make a lot of sense, she does have an ability for just putting her thoughts out there. I wouldn't be surprised if she was a songwriter someday! Also, sometimes when she sings, she's really singing. In the type of voice you might hear on stage (not comparing it quality wise, but that's the way she's singing - make sense?). Her friend's mom remarked on it after Ella had been over for a day - even suggesting that at some point we could consider voice lessons. As someone who was not blessed with musical abilities I am excited that Ella takes after her dad and not me!

Ella is very loyal and very attached to people and her special "things". Recently Catherine lost her most special blankie that she'd had since she was a baby. It was when we were away for Thanksgiving and it seemed to disappear into thin air. Catherine was sad the first night we got back, but then I took her to Carters and we picked out a replacement. She happily snuggled up with it and told people "I got a new soft blankie because my old one is lost forever." I was shocked. This was a blankie that was a comfort to Catherine all the time and I didn't think she'd get over it so easily. Ella, on the other hand, knew for a fact that she wouldn't have. She told me "I wouldn't have handled it so well". She tells me that she never wants to lose her blankie - I think she'll be like her mom and bring it to college with her.
She loves her family so much. We're the ones she is the most difficult with, but, while I don't like it, I know it's because she feels secure in our love that she can let it all hang out. And boy does she. Ella has a temper and she has developed an attitude that can drive me to the edge of my rope. It seems like every few weeks she gets into a mood and I'm not sure if we'll both make it through the day. If a study ever comes out showing that kids can have some sort of PMS (ok, not the PM part, but just the grumpiness) I will not be surprised.
Her and Catherine are best buds. They also fight like cats and dogs, but I guess that comes with the territory. It never fails to warm my heart when they greet each other after school with hugs and smiles. Since I never had a sister I love to see the bond between them. I know they'll have a tough road ahead of them at times, but I pray that their love for each other only grows stronger as they get older.
Ella can be a challenge, but when she's have fun it's infectious! Her laugh and smile just light up a room. Sometimes I'll do silly things just to hear her laugh and see her smile. When she's having fun she has endless amounts of energy. If not, she tires out suspiciously quickly.

Ella is my snuggler. Every morning she wakes up and comes into bed and snuggles up next to me. For the first ten minutes or so she lays still and I love the feeling of have her next to me. But then she starts to wiggle and my arm falls asleep and it's time to wake up. Ella never passes up a chance for a snuggle or a hug. The other morning I was trying to get her to give me a hug before we both got out of bed and she was staying to the side of me trying to put her arms around my neck. I grabbed her and pulled her over and gave her a real hug and she said "I didn't think I could do that now that I'm five!" Break my heart! I told her she's always my baby and is never to old for snuggle hugs.

Ella is also a nurturer. When someone else is hurt or sad she is compassionate and comforting. Now, if she is the one who has done the hurting, that compassion is not as evident!

Thankfully she is a pretty good eater, but often it depends, as does everything, on her mood. For instance, nothing seems good when you decide that you want stuffed crust pizza!

I love my Ella and I can't believe she's five already. She is growing up right before my eyes. I pray most importantly that she continues to love Jesus and follow him and that her heart would be soft towards those in need around her.
Thanks for sticking with me as I bragged a bit - I'm a proud momma! :)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

I spent more time on a title than I did on the post

Is it tomorrow already?

I know I said that on Thursday I would do a birthday post for Ella and it is now Sunday and I still don't have anything up.

I am recovering from a busy weekend. Ella's birthday party was a pajama party theme and we had 20 girls running around our church for three hours last night. The kids had a blast and some of them even thought that they were really sleeping over. Thanks goodness no, they all went home around 7pm and we had to get the church cleaned up for worship the next day.

Today we had a Christmas gathering with people from church and came home around 4:30 so I could watch the Steelers steal a victory away from Dallas in the final minutes.

Now it's time to regroup, clean the house, put the new toys away and figure out what's next. Oh yeah...Christmas!

I still plan on dedicating a post to my first born. And posting pics from the birthday party (I made a Hello Kitty cake that turned out pretty good!). But first I have to find the cord to plug in the camera and I am pretty sure if I don't push publish right now this exciting post will never see the light of day.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Tree is Up

After a busy Thanksgiving full of family, friends, food, shopping, weddings and driving we returned home late on Sunday tired, but ready to start the Christmas season.

Yesterday Matt took the girls out to get our Christmas tree. Like so many of you, we have a Christmas tree tradition at our house. To best explain it, in the words of Ella "We go to the daddy store and buy our Christmas tree." I bet you can figure out what the daddy store is? Why of course it's Home Depot! Although this year we deviated a bit and went to Lowes! We get complimented every year on our tree and although there is a lot of fun in making an event of picking your own, it's one way we save some money.

We dragged it out as long as possible. Monday night was the big event of bringing the tree into the house and letting it settle into place.

Yesterday when Matt got home from work he went through all the Christmas lights to figure out which ones worked (barely any) and he went out and rounded up some more.

Finally tonight the whole family filled it with ornaments and Ella even snuck some garland into the play room and decorate in there.

I have a long list of things to do in the next few days but it was nice to slow down and enjoy the evening together. The girls get so excited about the ornaments they find. My parents gave us all an ornament each Christmas growing up, and it was always related to something we were into or experiencing that year. Ella and Catherine have gotten a kick out of my ornaments - many soccer players, moons (there's a story behind it), Care Bears, Cabbage Patch Kids, Miss Piggy, an oreo cookie (who knows?) and many other interesting choices. Definitely an example of how pendulum of popularity has swung back to toys like Cabbage Patch Kids and Care Bears. But some things, like oreos, are timeless. I don't need the expensive Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments - I have a homemade cloth oreo cookie!

Tomorrow Ella turns five so stop back in tomorrow for some birthday wishes for my baby! And now I'm off to decorate cupcakes and fill a letter can with "J" items for Ella's school day tomorrow. I hope to get a shower at some point too. That would be nice...

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