Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Brightening up others day for Christmas

Christmas is over and back to work.  Another long weekend starts this weekend.  I want to share some of our Christmas - mostly to document it for me.

Friday - We visited Charlie's grandparents at their nursing home.  His grandma has severe dementia and didn't know who we were.  That was tough.  But his grandpa was very happy we were there.  Laci sang for him.  The memory unit has a pet dog and Calvin was pretty happy playing with her.  The highlight was getting rides on his walker down the hall.  I'm so glad that we are able to visit them and bring joy to him. 
That evening, we went to visit his dad at rehab. It was a quick visit but I am glad we went.  Laci loved seeing Grandpa and Grandpa loved seeing the kids.

Saturday - Christmas 1.  We woke up at Charlie's mom's house and had Christmas morning with his mom and aunt.  After their traditional Christmas breakfast, it was present time!  That afternoon, Charlie's cousin and their kids came to visit for lunch.  Their daughter is Laci's age.  After a few moments getting to know each other, the girls were fast friends.  Lunch was snacks and appetizers and I grazed all day.  I had planned to get Chick-fil-a or make dinner for a "special Christmas Eve" dinner tradition but I was so full from snacking, we all ended up eating cereal and peanut butter sandwiches.  It was a special dinner alright.  :)  It was important to me to take the kids to Christmas Eve Church service but the 7:00 service was a little late for them and we spent most of the hour walking Calvin or entertaining Laci.  But it is still an important tradition to me.  My favorite line after we put Laci to bed was when she walked back to our room to ask a question.  "Is it going to snow tonight?"  It broke our hearts to have to say no.  She insisted that it had to snow for Christmas!  
Getting ready to open presents at Grandma's
He loved his new hoop

Sunday - Christmas morning was awesome.  I was in heaven sitting there as wrapping paper was flying through the room and toys were opened.  Some of the highlights:
- Laci saying O-M-G after opening every present.
- Laci tossing aside her new Leap Pad (her "big" gift) to play with her new $5 Ariel doll.
- Laci thanked me and hugged me after every single present she opened.
- The fact that Laci mentioned her new Princess underwear to every relative that called that day.  Who knew the underwear would be such a hit! 
- I loved that the first thing Laci did when we came downstairs that morning was not look at everything she got but she made Calvin open the gift she gave him.  He loved it Rockin' Mickey Mouse.
- Having to take a break of opening presents to give Calvin a banana.  
- Christmas breakfast - everyone got their favorite "exotic" fruit that they don't normally get in winter - Blueberries for Calvin, Pineapple for Charlie and Pears for Laci.  
- Taking a family walk while Laci tried out her new bike.
- Charlie spent over an hour assembling the new rocking horse for Calvin and another half an hour putting training wheels on Laci's new bike.  The joy on their faces made it all worth it!
- After the excitement of the presents, Laci chose Christmas dinner as the perfect time to throw a enormous tantrum!  Charlie, Calvin and I enjoyed turkey, broccoli, mashed potatoes and homemade strawberry applesauce on the good china with sparkling cider in our wine glasses.  Laci screamed and threw things under the table.  At least it was memorable. 
Laci is under the table screaming.  Charlie looks nice. :)

Monday - Christmas 3.  We drove to my sister's house for Christmas with my family.  More cousins.  Lots more gifts and presents.  Laci had a big sleepover with her cousins that night.  She loved it.  We came home yesterday through snow.  I freaked out a bit but we all made it home fine.  Laci loved playing in the 1" of snow.  The next task on my list - finding places for all the new toys and putting away new clothes. 
I am really looking forward to the 4 day weekend coming up.  I love that we have no where to go and no where to be but just to have fun and be together.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sunday Nights

I've written about Sunday mornings.  I've written about Sunday afternoons.  This week, I had a great Sunday night.  Sunday really is my favorite day of the week.  Right now, it's a family day.  We do our errands on Saturday.  On Sunday morning, I review the schedule with Laci - after church, Mom and Dad's responsibility is to clean.  Calvin's job is to nap.  Laci's job is to play.  I love that she has an afternoon just to play.  She doesn't have many of those open times to do that.  If the weather is nice, we try to take a family walk too.  This week, it was.  Dinners are usually simple on Sundays.  Last night we had ramen noodles, soup, hot dogs and applesauce.  The applesauce ended up all over Calvin's head, floor and clothes.  Off to the bath they both went. 

Sunday evenings are special too.  Part of our bedtime routine is play time in our bedroom.  Rarely do all four of us get to play.  Calvin loves playing on our bed - mainly jumping up and down.  When he gets tired, he jumps less and he just lays there on the bed with his head down.  Then we read a few books with him.  Last night, we played Fashion Show.  Laci loves to do this.  She goes in my closet and puts shoes, belts, bags, hats on.  When she walks out, I clap and describe what she is wearing.  If I have ever wondered why I bought so many shoes that I never wear, I now know that the answer is so Laci can play Fashion Show.  My high heels that I have never worn are her favorite.  She calls them the TaDa shoes - as in, she poses and says "TaDa!".  Last night, Calvin played with her.  He had no idea what she was doing.  But he would come out of the closet carrying the same bag.  I would clap for him and he would walk back into the closet.  It was so cute and fun.  Charlie was reading the paper but he clapped at the appropriate time too.  It was so nice to just be together and play.  I had to pause a moment to take it all in.  These are my memories.  

Laci doesn't take a nap Sunday afternoons so she is pretty tired by bedtime.  Therefore, Sunday bedtimes are much more pleasant and she goes to sleep a little earlier.  It's nice to have a little time to myself to unwind and watch TV before passing out asleep like I do most nights!

This time of year must remind me a lot of my childhood.  Last night, I was remembering a game I used to play with my brothers occasionally on Sunday evenings.  My younger brother and I would sit on our bed and turn off the lights.  Our older brother would come in and try to get us in the dark.  The bed was "safe".  I remember the feeling of terror of getting caught so I would just sit on the bed.  My younger brother was braver and would venture off the bed and run around the room as our older was the "monster" chasing him.  So simple but so memorable.  Sometimes I remember these memories and times as a kid and I am reminded that my children are building these memories right now.  I wonder what silly games my kids will play that they will remember as adults.  

If Calvin wakes up from his nap on time, he loves cleaning too! 
The broom is his favorite.  I hope he doesn't outgrow this!


Monday, December 19, 2011

Peanut Brittle

I got my dad some Peanut Brittle for Christmas.  He loves Peanut Brittle.  Whenever I see Peanut Brittle, I think of him and Christmas growing up.  I often got him peanut brittle for Christmas.  Now as a parent, I am wondering if he likes peanut brittle at all.  

A few weeks ago, I was shopping with my niece.  I asked her what I should get her mom.  Her answer was "Lotion, my mom loves lotion.  I always get her lotion because she told me that she loves it when I get it for her."  I thought that was the sweetest thing I ever heard.  Because I know that my sister does not like lots of lotion.  For her daughter to honestly believe that her mom loves the lotion she gets for her tells me that my sister is doing something right.  It's not the lotion my sister loves.  It's that the lotion came from her daughter.  

Maybe my dad hates peanut brittle.  Maybe he loves it.  But I know he will love it that I got it for him...  even if I am all grown up now.  I really know what it means now.  Sometimes I feel more like his little child as a grown up than I did as a little child who couldn't wait to grow up.  Just like Laci and Calvin will always be my little children.. even when they are all grown up.  This is why I know Charlie will love the pliers and bright yellow stocking cap that Laci picked out for him for Christmas.  He will run every morning wearing that hat with pride.   

Hmmm, now I wonder how my dad feels about the Pineapple Upside Down cake we made him every year for his birthday.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Vocabulary and Behavior Milestones

The kids are both hitting milestones in vocabulary.  Calvin's is increasing every day.  Ball was his first word, followed by Hi and Uh-Oh.  Uh-oh has a long pause between the two words, usually when he drops something.  He has gotten good at Bye Bye (complete with a wave) and has a special word for Balloon (B'oon) too.  He is definitely working on more words and more importantly, copying our inflections.  He's trying.  Banana and Apple are big ones that he is working on too.  Right now, he is very into music too.  He loves to turn on music toys and dance to them, much more than Laci ever did at that age.  His favorite toys are also from the musical instrument box, mostly the recorder, tin can and bean tambourine.  He understands us very well and it is so nice that we can give him direction and he can follow.  

The big behavior milestone that he has hit is Tantrums!  The last few nights when we get home (the witching hour) have been bad.  He just launches into these crazy screaming, roll around on the floor fits that last for 20 - 25 minutes.  I just walk away until he is done.  He tries to hide in the pantry (it's a closet, not a walk in pantry) and will hide in the corner or roll all over the kitchen.  Little things just set him off.  I talked to one of his teachers and she said he's been doing it at school too.  I talked to his afternoon teacher and she suggested giving him a time out when he does that.  She said he hates time outs.  I have never been very successful with time outs, especially when Laci was that age.  But last night, when he started his fit, I put him in the corner for a minute.  He cried the entire time, walked away once (Laci was supervising him) but when the minute was up, he was fine.  I couldn't believe it worked.  I hope it continues to work until he is through this little phase.  He's really been struggling the last couple of weeks with his molars coming in.  So I am blaming the teeth right now.  After he calms down from his tantrums, we have a little dance from his music bus. 

Sorry for the upsidedownness - he's not floating
but he is trying to get into the pantry!

Laci's vocabulary is also increasing.  She is learning bigger words and now asks about their meaning.  She recently asked what "Jealous" means.  Sometimes she uses it correctly, sometimes she doesn't.  Last night she told me that she is jealous of all the presents Daddy has under the tree.  She doesn't have any yet because I haven't wrapped them yet.  But she also told Charlie that she is jealous of a friend of hers at school because he brings a toy every day which is odd because she also brings a stuffed animal to school everyday.  She asked me what "embarrassed" means yesterday.  I struggled with a definition for a 4 year old so I settled with "ask your dad".  

Reading and spelling are our next challenge.  Laci is trying so hard to read and spell.  She is good at the words "red", "bug" and "log".  Charlie's dad asked why she wrote the words "red" and "bug" on his Get Well Soon card and the simple answer is because those are the only words she can spell by herself.  That was a week ago and the number of words she can spell seems to increase every day.  She is constantly asking me how to spell things so she can write them down.  But the English language is so tricky that it is hard sometimes to explain it to her.  Why does "one" start with a O instead of a W (won).  Why does "know" start with a K.  Why does  "light" have a G in it.  She is getting better at sounding out words, especially when she is trying to spell a word.  Sometimes when we are reading books, I pause and point to a word and ask her to try to sound it out.  Once I asked her if she was reading it or just remembered it from the last time we read it.  She just giggled.  So far she seems to be an audio learner and can spell and sound things out by talking.  I am a terrible audio learner and can only comprehend things if I can see it.  If someone reads a book or passage to me, I can't understand what they are saying.  I need to visually see the words.  I am curious what kind of learners they will turn out to be. 

At school, they are learning about hygiene.  She has demonstrated to me the proper way to wash her hands.  She also explained that after they use the restroom, when they come out and give a friend a high five, they are spreading germs.  I laughed at the image of the kids coming of the restroom and high five-ing.  I am trying to work on learning humility with her too.  She seems to have lots of confidence right now (good) but sometimes is too bold about it (bad).  They get stars on the board if they do something good.  Each day, the child with the most stars get a treat from the surprise box.  More often than not, she wins the treat.  I'm glad that she wants to achieve but she needs to learn some humility too and to encourage each other.  I praise her for doing well and make sure that we praise her friends for doing well also.  I remind her that when she does something well, she doesn't need to tell everyone about it all the time.  Bragging about her is her mother's job. :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

How to start traditions

I love traditions.  Holiday traditions, daily traditions, all of it.  I love watching the traditions in my little family evolve.  I love taking a little bit of Charlie's traditions and a little bit of my traditions and making our own.  This time of year I find myself struggling because I want the "perfect" traditions for my little family.  Patience.  I need patience to watch my family grow.  I realized a few years ago that we do have our own holiday traditions.  We used to celebrate our Christmas on Christmas Eve Eve before we went to Charlie's parents for Christmas eve/day.  We celebrate my family on Dec. 26.  We always went to the same pizza place on Dec. 23.  We decorate cookies in December.  Weather permitting, we go to the Christmas parade Thanksgiving weekend.  We spend an evening driving around looking at Christmas lights. 

This is our second year of doing Christmas Eve and Day at our house.  I want everything to be "perfect".  I pride myself that my "perfect" is imperfection. A little kooky.  Right now, we have 4 totally different stockings on the mantle.  One really nice one for Calvin that my MIL made.  The one I had as a baby that was replaced when my brother was born so we could have matching ones.  One I randomly found for Charlie.  And a cheap 97 cent one for Laci that I bought her first Christmas with the plans to replace it when a sibling came to match.  Laci was concerned the other day that Daddy's and her stocking's don't have their names on it.  How will Santa know which is which?  So she wrote her name with a gold pen on the stocking.  I love the imperfect unmatching stockings.  My MIL made us all matching ones over the years that I could probably ask for but I would rather keep the kooky ones.  

I decided at the store the other day that I am going to have the kids pick out one new Christmas Cookie Cutter every year.  Last year, I borrowed a friends cookie cutter and the only ones I have is a Christmas tree and a Gingerbread Man.  Laci picked out a Gingerbread House cookie cutter this year.  The cookie cutter tradition may be in lieu of the new ornaments that some people pick out each year.  

The part that I am struggling with now is the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners.  Growing up, our tradition was KFC before going to church Christmas eve.  We always got to open one present before church.  We spent days picking out the perfect gift to open.  But we usually had to check with our mom because she often wanted us to open a new skirt or tie to wear to church that night.  The kids all slept in one room Christmas night and then woke up super early to presents from Santa.  They were never wrapped and we could start playing right away.  Then we all started helping with the big Christmas meal - Turkey, broccoli corn bake, crescent rolls, relish tray, lemonade, jello salad, etc.  Later that night, we watched a movie, played and ate turkey sandwiches.  Charlie's family has Chicken Velvet soup for Christmas Eve dinner.  Lately, we have had it when we got home from church.  Christmas morning, they opened stockings, then had a nice Christmas breakfast of egg/sausage casserole and winter fruit compote before exchanging gifts.  Their big Christmas meal was later in the day - beef tenderloin, asparagus, salad and always ending with peppermint ice cream pie.  I am not sure how they did it as children but that is Christmas since I have been a part of the family.

Last year, we had Christmas with his family on Christmas Eve.  We celebrated "Christmas" that morning and exchanged gifts.  Then his cousin and his family came over along with Charlie's grandparents for a nice Christmas Eve lunch.  We had done this with them the last several years.  We left by 3 in time to get home to start our own thing, not knowing what our own thing will be.  We ended up with Chick-Fil-A for dinner.  Hmm, maybe that could be our Christmas Eve dinner.  KFC was good enough for me growing up.  :)  Or should we do something fancier like Chicken Velvet soup?   We had a nice lunch and then frozen pizza for dinner.  I loved the simplicity and ordinariness of frozen pizza after a fancy Christmas dinner.  We haven't been to church for the last several Christmas Eves due to weather, tiny children, etc.  I never though in a million years I would ever not attend a Christmas Eve church service but life happens.  I hope we can get back to that this year.  

This year, our Christmas Eve plans are supposed to be the same with Charlie's cousin and aunt.  His grandparents aren't doing well so we were hoping to all visit them in their nursing home Christmas Eve Eve.  But things change in an instant.  Last week, my FIL had a really bad accident and hurt his leg.  He has been in and out of the hospital this past week and they aren't sure how he will be by next week.  The family Christmas plans are on hold.  I want to make it my mission to save Christmas for my MIL.  She loves "perfection".  She loves things to match, to be formal, to just be "perfect".  It is the complete opposite of me.  I told Charlie that I will do whatever I can to make sure she had her "perfect" Christmas and that my FIL is feeling better.  

I still don't have a Christmas dinner menu in mind for my family.  But I want one thing - to eat on our good china. You know, the dishes that sits in the china cabinet all year and are never used.  The menu may be very simple and ordinary.  I have small, picky children.  I am a simple cook.  It might be beef tenderloin.  It might be turkey.  It might be a pot roast.  I would love to hear other people's traditions when it comes to dinners.  But by golly, we are having a nice Christmas Day Dinner on our good china, wine glasses with candles!  With frozen pizza for supper.

Questioning Calvin's Parentage

The other day, I couldn't help but question Calvie's parentage.  He can actually self-regulate himself on cookies!  I offered him a cookie when we got home from school.  He rejected the cookie and gobbled up raisins!  I have never rejected a cookie in my entire life.  Yesterday, I gave him a banana and he rejected it.  Then I offered him some brownie.  He ate a few bites and started dancing!  I thought, "Yeah, he is mine!"  Then he stopped eating the brownie and went back and ate the entire the banana.  I have no will power or self control.  He must get that from his father.  
This is a step stool I made many years ago. 
Calvie has claimed it as his snack table. 
No one else is allowed to use it. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Joy of Giving

I love this time of year.  Laci is at such a great age for Christmas.  I love doing the Christmas-y stuff with her - decorating, baking, shopping, wrapping, etc.  I was always given tons and tons of toys and gifts at Christmas.  Looking back, it was too much.  I am working so hard to not spoil her too much.  But it is so hard to not get too much when there is so much great stuff out there to get.  It's hard to determine what is too much.  

Laci told me last night that Christmas is about giving.  She learned that at school.  I am glad she knows that.  I want to teach my kids all aspects of Christmas besides the gifts and Santa - Jesus, Giving, Traditions, Family, etc.  Every year I get an angel from the church tree.  I want Laci to participate in shopping and giving for others but she hasn't shown much interest yet.  We do Advent Candles every night at dinner.  I would like to get a small devotional for families / children to do with them, maybe next year.  So we just say a prayer.  She loves lighting the candles and every night begs to light the pink one.  It's hard to remind her to wait until this Sunday!  This has actually gotten her to eat dinner at the table with us, something I have struggled with lately.  I might keep candles at the table year round.  One of our family traditions was to always the light the advent candle at church on the second week.  This year we have a new pastor and families are not lighting the Advent candles.  I don't have an issue with change and I like what he has done.  But he killed our family Christmas tradition!  I laughed because this year on the second Sunday he lit the Advent candles with the 4 year old class.  So at least one Hart got to participate.  I wish I had better pictures but I just gotten a new phone and didn't know how to zoom.  Fortunately, an older lady at McDonald's was able to teach me later that afternoon. 

We also have the Little People Nativity Set.  The kids love it.  Calvin is just starting to like Little People and Laci loves any kind of small playsets.  I am having the most fun with the set and I love adding everyone to visit Baby Jesus - Sleeping Beauty, Dora, fairies, pigs, etc.  

I also want to teach the kids to give to each other.  This weekend, I told Laci that she can pick something out for Calvin and Calvin will pick something out for her.  She told me that she will shop in the baby section and Calvin should go to the Princess / Barbie section.  I will also have her pick something out for Charlie.  This morning, Charlie asked her what she wanted to get me for Christmas.  She has an idea that he said he is discouraging or "tweaking".  He didn't tell me what it is.  He did say that she is continuing to beg him to get me a fish for my birthday.  My birthday is in May and she has been asking to give me a fish for my birthday since before my last birthday.  He was hoping she would forget.  She doesn't forget anything.  I told him to go ahead and get me a small fish tank and fish for my birthday.  We aren't pet people but I think we can handle a fish.  

To me Christmas is about the entire month of December and all the activities to get ready for it and not just the day.  I love watching our families traditions evolve and new ones continue or start every year.  I am sure I will have more as the month continues.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The McDonald's Drive Thru Window - Would you like a Laci with that?

I have a huge, heart stopping, lock myself in the house, phobia of winter weather.  Snow and Ice.  I know this sounds ridiculous from someone that grew up in Chicago.  It snows there.  It snows a lot.  We didn't have 2 hour delays.  We didn't have school closings.  We drove in the snow.  Sometimes to calm my fears, I think back to the day my junior year where it snowed 6" while we were at school.  We all cleared our cars off together, almost having a little party.  We all got home safe.  

I live further south now.  I learned that means one thing - ICE!  The temperatures here hover too close to 30 - 32 degrees.  ICELAND!  I have had two scary days driving that haunt me.  One is when Laci was 15 months old.  It was the day before Christmas eve.  It started to ice while I was at work.  The drive home was one of the scariest days I have ever had.  We live in a neighborhood that is just outside of town.  It is a lot of county roads.  I took a county road thinking it would be more cleared off than the neighborhoods.  I was wrong.  That is before I learned about drifting snow and open roads.  It was a sheet of ice.  It was terrifying.  But we made it home.  We cancelled our usual Christmas Eve Eve dinner at a local pizza place for Papa John delivery that night.  To class it up for Christmas, we ate on our good china with candles.  

Scary day two - the scariest day ever.   Three days later, Dec. 26.  We were driving from my in-laws to my sister's to celebrate Christmas.  It is only an hour drive.  My sister has a son Laci's age so I didn't need snacks, toys, etc.  The weather was 32 and misty that morning but the high was to be 40 that day.  We started off and skidded after a few miles.  But it was supposed to warm up so we continued on.  That was a mistake.  We got on the highway and it continued to get worse and worse.  We were barely idling at this point.  Charlie didn't want to pull over because he was afraid we would be a sitting duck for other people to slide into.  Every half mile we passed someone in the ditch.  I was terrified.  Finally they closed the highway.  We were stuck.  We sat on the highway for 2 hours.  I was stuck in a car with a 15 month old, no snacks, no toys and no idea how long we would be there.  She slept for a little bit.  I started pulling out Christmas gifts to entertain her.  Finally they opened the highway.  We went two miles and got off at the next exit and stopped by McDonald's to eat and breathe.  But our adventure wasn't over yet.  The parking lot was a sheet of glass, too!  I scooted my way to the door and used the building to balance.  Charlie had Laci and couldn't get to the building to hold on.  I suddenly saw Laci go into the Drive Thru Window!  I ran inside to see her sitting at the counter.  The drive thru attendant had offered to bring her in safely.  I waited for Charlie because I wanted them to hand her off to him because that is who gave them to.  It was crazy there but the place had a community feel.  Everyone was sharing stories about their horrid trip - where they were going, where they came from, how long they waited on the highway.  Those last 25 miles took another hour.

I have since learned the "good" roads to drive on bad weather.  I know the county roads that have trees near them to block the blowing snow.  I have learned that neighborhoods are better for me to drive through because you can drive slower and people have carved out a path.  But my fears are not relived.  I feel ridiculous because some people love the winter weather so much.  We drove to Delaware at New Years a few years ago and we struggled driving through the mountains in a little snow.  Cars were flying by us and we were terrified!  Right now, with the exception of work, I do NOT go anywhere when there is weather.  I used to not be like this and I remember driving in many snow storms and survived.  The one car accident I have ever had was on an icy day on the highway.  Right now I have a count down of days left until April 1, my safety day.  I am glued to the radar when there is any chance of snow.  I am a ball of knots going to sleep not knowing what I will wake up to.  I am going to have to learn to get past this.  Someday the kids are going to have places to go.  I can't have them say to their coaches "Sorry I missed practice last night.  My mom is crazy and locks herself in the house when it snows." 

Speaking of McDonald's, Laci and I had a "girl's date" Saturday to get their $1 hot chocolates and to celebrate setting up the Christmas Tree.  While she was waiting for hers to cool, she asked if she could go by herself to get apples because we still had some coupons from Halloween.  Of course, I followed along because I don't completely let her do things herself.  I only let her think she is by herself.  I snapped this picture because she looked cute, tiny and grown up at the same time.  If you notice, she is wearing another Christmas jumper, with a white long sleeve shirt.  This is what she picked out to wear when I said we were going grocery shopping that morning.  I always think it is funny when I am running errands in jeans and a t-shirt while my daughter is all dressed up.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Getting Dressed and Following Directions

Sometimes Laci is so sweet, innocent and adorable I want to just eat her up.  Tonight was one of those nights.  We had a Christmas party after work so we came home quickly to change.  I told her she had to go upstairs and put a dress on.  I could only remember the two new jumpers she had that she refused to wear a shirt under.  so I told her that she had to wear a white shirt under her dress.  It's too cold out tonight to be without anything on her arms.  When we got upstairs, she went to her room, shut the door and told me she didn't need my help.  I was wondering what she would put on.  Some of her choices are pretty original.  She came out with a dress and legging set that I had forgotten my mother had got her.  The best part of her outfit is that she had a long sleeve white shirt under it!  I looked in her room and her drawer was wide open and she had flung all of her clothes everywhere to find a white shirt - like I had asked her too!  She had also pushed her rocking chair over to the closet to reach her new dresses.  I couldn't believe she followed my directions.  She complained that the dress was a little tight over the shirt and I said she didn't need to wear the shirt.  She reminded me that I told her she needed a white shirt.  I was so impressed and tickled pink that she listened and dressed herself - in a dress and legging set that matched! 

We went downstairs to leave and she had to run back up to get something.  The second time she came downstairs wearing a paper crown we had made for her birthday party.  She noticed that it wasn't the one she made so she made one more trip upstairs and came down with her Princess tiara on.  Princess Laci would be attending this party.  I loved her creativity and let her wear the tiara to the party.  She was adorable and I was so proud!

The Annual Christmas Letter - My gift to My Children

On my wedding day, my mom gave me a binder filled with laminated copies of all of the family Christmas letters going back to 1968 - their first Christmas together.  I read all of the letters and realized that these letters are a journal of our family's life together.  I love pulling out the binder and rereading them.  My favorites are the year I was born, the year I was married, the years my children joined our big family.  I soon realized that documenting my family is going to be very important to me and the biggest gift I am going to give my children.  I wanted to follow the tradition my mother started and I also started writing a Christmas letter the first year.  The first few years may have been a little boring to others.  The purpose of my Christmas letter is to document my family's year.  Filling in all of our friends and families on our activities is just a bonus.  

I don't know why I can't turn this but here is the page for 2010.
I keep a Family Journal of what we do each year.  It's nothing fancy, just a small dimestore (love that word!) notebook.  About once a month, I write down things we did that month.  I also add the kids milestones, birthday gifts given and received, etc.  I also love scrapbooking.  I mentioned earlier the family scrapbook with one page for each year.  I love this book and I love watching the kids grow in one location and not having to thumb through lots of albums.  The reason I started the Family Journal was so I could easily update the Family Album each September (our anniversary).  I also keep a shoebox under my bed for ticket stubs, programs, etc. to add to the family album page.  Each child has a really nice First Year Scrapbook.  Laci has three now for her first three years.  Then Calvin was born.  After his first year album, I am a little burned out on scrapbooking.  I hope I get back to it.  I still print out the pictures periodically and file them in envelopes.  The extra church offering envelopes are great for this purpose.  I can write the activities and stories on the envelope and back of the pictures.  Later, I can easily go back and put the pictures in scrapbooks.  I have thought about digital scrapbooking but I am not quite there yet for the kids.  I have made several digital scrapbooks for other occasions.  I like to use the kids artwork and crafts as the backgrounds for the scrapbook.  I keep several pictures and date them so I can add them to the appropriate pages.  Maybe when the kids get older, I will go to the digital albums. :)

I still don't know why I can't turn it.
This is the first year I did.  Not a lot of detail yet.

I really like this page of Laci's.  It has both her crafts
and all of the valentines she got that year in school.

One of the greatest gifts I can give to our children is memories and time spent together.  Unfortunately, memories fade.  So my mission is to capture them and keep them forever.  I look forward to presenting our family history to our children on their wedding days - the day their own families begin. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dresses or Jumpers

In my dreams of a little girl, cute little dresses were included with the pretty long hair.  Laci has phases where she likes the dresses and other times where she refuses.  Laci is starting to be a little picky with her clothes.  She has what I call "thunder thighs" already and denim has never been her friend.  She refuses to wear any denim or anything similar to denim.  She also has issues with long sleeves too.  Every morning she complains that her clothes "don't feel good".  Fortunately, she has learned that she just needs to get used to it.  Lately, she has liked to wear dresses and leggings.  But jumpers "don't feel good".  She only has one dress and one jumper right now.  So this fall, she has worn the same dress to church every week.  I am tired of the dress, even if she isn't.  I asked my mom for some more dresses - but no jumpers.  She came through with a few jumpers and dresses.  My MIL gave Laci the cutest Christmas jumper and asked her to wear it for her Christmas card picture.  I pleaded with Christmas to wear it - if only for a few minutes for the picture.  Laci has a mind of her which I normally encourage.  The best I could get out of her was just the jumper - no shirt and no tights.  She loves the jumpers as long as she doesn't have to wear anything with it.  At least she is cute and the weather was warm enough this weekend to get away with it!
Laci - striking her "model" pose

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Incredible Hulk Room

After we painted Laci's room, I was inspired to do something else.  We decided to paint the downstairs bathroom, mostly because it is a small room and would be easy to do.  We decided on green.  I painted a picture and wanted to hang it in there.  We both felt comfortable just picking a green at the paint store.  Remember, the "perfect" color isn't that important to me and I figured I would be fine with any light shade of green.

We got home from the paint store Friday night and Charlie was just inspired to get it all painted that night.  He was done by 2:00 a.m. and we had the room put together that afternoon.  I am glad we did it because it gave it a fresh look.  But I still think we may have been a bit drunk at the paint store.  The color is way too bright!  What were we thinking?!?  The bright green is slowly growing on me.  When it was just done, we joked that it is the Incredible Hulk room.  It was so bright, our skin actually appeared to glow green from the reflection!  But as Charlie pointed out, it is so bright, it is easy to read in there.  :)

Laci's New Room - Not Decorated by Martha Stewart

I am no Martha Stewart.  I am not a decorator.  The older I get, the more I have learned that having the perfectly decorated house is not important to me.  We have lived in our "new" house for 3 years now and have done nothing to it.  Laci has been in her room for almost two years and we put a few things haphazardly on the wall and called it a day.  It seemed good enough for me. 

My MIL decided to decorate Laci's room for her birthday.  She painted the walls, bought a new rug and curtain rod and gave her a pack of new wall decals to match the rug.  On a scale of 1 - 10, having a nicely decorated house is about a 10 to my MIL.  It is about a 2 to me.  I want Laci's room to be a reflection of Laci - not my MIL and not me.  So we compromised.  She painted the room a nice pink.  I let her pick the pink because the shade didn't matter to me.  It turned out nice.  She is going to make new drapes to match it all too.  The compromise is that Laci got to decide what goes on the walls and where it goes.  I love the craziness of the room.  I am sure it is not what my MIL had in mind.  It's not even what I had in mind.  But it was done by Laci.

Here is the tour of Laci's room - done by Laci.

L-A-C-I wooden decorated letters - This is the one thing I really wanted to do for Laci and I bought her white wooden letters for her birthday.  My MIL bought her letters too and was going to paint them to match.  But I asked her if I could do the letters with Laci.  I had it in my head that they would be really cute with polka dots and stripes.  I got the paint out and kept telling Laci to do the polka dots.  After she repeatedly told me no, I remembered that the letters were hers and she could paint them any way she wants.  I love her original painted letters.  This was a good reminder to me that I need to practice what I preach about letting Laci make her own choices and be her unique self.  I added the ribbons and hung them.  They are crooked so if anyone asks, Laci did it.  :)

The quilt - This is a very special quilt for me that has always hung in Laci's room.  I found the quilt half cross stitched by my grandma.  I finished the cross-stitching.  My MIL finished the edges of the quilt.  I love that it was a gift to her by my Grandma even though she didn't know it at the time.  I love that it was made by all three of us.

The wall decals - I thought for several days as to where the wall decals should go to look the best.  I got the wall decals out and gave one sheet to Laci and I took the other sheet.  Guess which wall I did.  I love all the stickers right next to each other in one corner.  It's not what I had in mind but it's Laci's room.

The rocking chair in the corner was my grandpa's.  My grandpa died before I was born.  I have several pieces of furniture that were his and I cherish them all.  I don't have any memories of him so the furniture is all I have.

The new drapes are still being made and there are a few other things that need to be put up.  But I am happy with how it looks.  I am happy that it is her room.

I would share pictures of Calvin's room but there is absolutely nothing on the walls.  It never seemed important to me to decorate a baby's room.  He is only in there to sleep and it will outgrow it soon enough.  In a year or so, we are going to move him into his "big boy" room.  After doing Laci's room this fall, I am inspired to let him help us with his room then.

Our week of Thanksgiving - aka A Week of Family Fun

Our Thanksgiving week was family packed.  But that is what Thanksgiving is supposed to be.  I can't think of anything I am more Thankful for than them.  Quick Recap - 

Sunday - Clean house frantically after church.  Cousins arrive.  Play day. 
Monday - Play day with cousins at home.  Chuck E Cheese.
Tuesday - Laci went to the Children's Museum with cousins.  Calvin got to go to school.  Yippee.  
Wednesday - Play day with cousins at Grandma and Grandpa's house.
Thursday - Turkey Trot for Charlie and me.  Charlie had a great finishing time.  I was about average.  But I successfully completed by 400 miles goal!  Christmas picture for the grandkids, play time, Thanksgiving dinner with great grandparents included.  I wish we could have taken a big family picture or at least some of the kids with their great grandparents but it never happened. 
Friday - Play day, drive to my families Thanksgiving.  Play with cousins, Euchre tournament
Saturday - Play day, shopping, Muppet Movie, Family pictures (thank goodness for photoshop!), drive home later
Sunday - Recuperate, laundry, clean the house.

It's so fun to watch Laci play with her cousins.  On Charlie's side it is two boys - 5 and 2.  She plays great with the 5 year old.  They are constantly one-upping each other, the best that a 4 year old and a 5 year old can.  They really do get along well.  The 2 year old tries to keep up with them.  Next year, he and Calvin can be buddies.  In my family, the cousins are older (12, 12, 11, 11, 10, 3).  She has two girl cousins (10 and 11) that she works so hard to keep up with.  They play with her so well.  She loves playing with "the girls".  It's fun to watch her with the bigger girls and be exposed to a little different stuff.  I always tell her that she is so lucky to have her "big cousins" to take care of her.  When her 3 year old cousin was born, we thought he would be her buddy but he keeps up with the big boys and she is with the girls.  I hope Calvin can join the boy group too when he is a little older.  

I think a month of thankfulness is a good way to kick off the Christmas season.  I love starting new traditions with my family and continuing old ones!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Why Daddy? Curious Laci's want to know...

Today we had some reminders that Laci watches everything we do.  Charlie is a huge newspaper reader.  He does not like online newspapers and still gets the regular daily paper - 3 in fact.  We get the local paper, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal everyday.  Today at lunch, as Charlie was browsing the paper, Laci asked him why he likes the paper so much.  Charlie loves to learn and the newspaper has been how he knows about everything all the time.  I hope Laci has that curious mind to learn too.  I hope she is learning how to learn by watching him read the paper every day.

Tonight we went to Taco Bell for dinner.  I know it's not Friday but we were out of town this Friday.  As we were eating and chatting, Laci piped in and asked Charlie why he doesn't like lids or straws.  He never uses them.  It's a small detail that we didn't even realize she noticed.  But she is very good at detail and watches everything we do!

I can't get anything past Laci!

This was a crazy Thanksgiving week full of lots of family.  Earlier in the week, Charlie's brother and his family came to our house.  They have two boys - 5 and 2.  The kids play great together.  Charlie and I took Monday off work to spend with them.  Unfortunately, everything in town is closed Monday.  So we went to Chuck E Cheese.  The kids had a great time.  They decided to go to the Children's Museum on Tuesday and offered to take Laci.  I hate missing fun activities like this but I know it's important to let Laci do things without me sometimes. 
We decided not to tell Laci about her "field trip" to avoid the drama when she realized she was going without me.  Fortunately, she was still asleep when I left for work.  The morning went great.  Laci was excited to go.  The kids had a great time.  D&E had a long talk with the kids before they got out of the car to go over the Museum rules.  Overall the kids did well.  That afternoon, I left work early, picked up Calvin and came home.  I walked in and made a big fuss to Laci about how I went to school to pick her up and she wasn't there.  Where was she!?!  She explained that she went to the museum with her cousins.  I asked her to tell me all about it.  I loved hearing about her adventure and seeing their pictures. 
About ten minutes later, I asked her if going to the museum was a good surprise.  She looked at me and asked "You knew?"  I explained that I did know that she was going there.  She answered back, "Then why did you ask me where I was a few minutes ago?!?"  She is too sharp.  I just can't get anything past her these days.

On a related topic to me trying to let go more and let Laci do things without me and vice versa, I have found a babysitter for Saturday night.  I feel like I have hit another parenting milestone.  I called the teenage neighbor and got a sitter.  I hope this works out well.  She lives two doors down and is in 8th grade.  The other sitters I have used were older but if this works out, she will be around for several years.  The older sitters I had all moved on to college!  The next question I have is what do teenage babysitters go for these days? 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Laci's Views on Heaven

Last night, Laci and I had the sweetest chat.  Of course, it ended with a full blown tantrum complete with spankings, crying and waking her cousins up.  But let's not dwell on that.  Because it is Thanksgiving, we were talking about family and everyone we are going to see this week.  Charlie's brother and his family have been staying with us the last couple of days and she is having a great time with her cousins.  She mentioned "the brothers" (that is how she refers to Charlie and his brother) and how happy their Mom and Dad will be when they are all together Wednesday.  We talked about her great grandparents.  She only has two great grandparents left.  They are Charlie's grandparents and they will be at Thanksgiving.  She mentioned Grandma Price.  That is my grandma that I got to introduce her to by old home videos last week.  She told me that Grandma Price is her favorite because she is so special to me.  I reminded her that Grandma Price is in heaven so we started talking about heaven.  To her, Heaven is walking in the clouds.  In Heaven, we are going to meet all of her great grandparents.  I will probably already be there when she gets there so I told her that I would introduce her to them.  I started to tear up thinking about getting to introduce my special grandma to my special daughter.  She was concerned because she can't remember everyone's names.  I reminded her that when she gets to heaven, she will know everything she needs to know.  Her other big concern which she has shared with me before is that she won't get to take her toys to heaven.  I told her that we don't know what heaven is like so maybe there are toys up there.  She said with that duh voice, "Mo-om (always two syllables), I always look out the window when we are driving and I don't see any toys in the clouds!".  She followed it up with "The only thing I know about Heaven is that there is a giant beanstalk up there."  My tears turned to laughter.  She also said that she hopes Grandma Price is safe up there from the giant.  I reminded her that I am sure God is keeping Grandma Price safe up there.  
I love how her little mind works - all of this stuff we throw at her must be pretty confusing!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My challenge

I hestitate to write this entry but with everything going on in the world, it has been pulling at me.  I don't want to be preaching or politically or talk about things I do not know.  I certainly do not have all the answers - or any answers.  I don't even know all the questions. 

One of Charlie's favorite sayings is "You can't legislate morality".  Think about it.  It's true.  There have always been bad guys and there will always be bad guys. The government can't change that.  I'm not saying we should roll over and give up.  I'm saying we should pray.  What amazing things could God do if we all prayed...  and we all listened.

Charlie and I tithe.  I try not to share that too much because it is a very personally decision to do that.  But I have shared with others why we tithe.  Because God told us too.  It's that simple.  I have heard people say that Jesus would have been a socialist.  Maybe so.  I don't know.  But the biggest gift that God gave us is free will.  I think that Jesus wants us to take care of each other because we want to.  Not because the government told us too.  Sometimes I wonder what would happen if we all gave because we chose to.  What amazing things could God do if we all tithed.  If we all gave more.  That is my challenge to myself in the upcoming year.  To do more.  To give more.  With my money, my time and myself.  I don't know what that means.  But I pray that I find out.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

We found Plan B

When Laci was a baby, we thought she was a great sleeper.  By the time she was 3 months old, she was sleeping 7 to 7.  The majority of the time, she woke up to eat and was right back to sleep.  We didn't rock her to sleep and she fell asleep on her own.  We did have a lot of those nights where she cried for hours but they didn't seem that often.  We still joke about the night I lost my mind due to her crying.  When she finally stopped crying, I could still hear crying.  I kept waking Charlie up and asking if she was crying because I couldn't tell it if was real or imaginary anymore.

We didn't know what good sleeping was until Calvin.  He put Laci to shame.  He never slept through the night until 11 weeks.  Even then, he usually ate and went right back to sleep.  Once we started, he never stopped sleeping through the night.  He rarely wakes up in the middle of the night - maybe once a month.  When he does wake up crying, we put a pacifier in his mouth and he is good to go.  He is so good, that we joke that we don't have Plan B.  Every parent knows their child and has several tricks up their sleeve to get them back to sleep.  We only know one way to comfort Calvin in the middle of the night.  If that doesn't work, there is no Plan B.

Last night, he woke up crying.  I slipped in there to give him his paci.  He reached up at me to pick him up and I ran out the door.  I woke Charlie up and told him to start thinking of a Plan B in case Calvin continued to cry.  A few minutes later, Charlie got up and started walking to the door.  He stood outside Calvin's door for a minute and the crying stopped.  He never even opened the door.  We have decided that Plan B is Charlie standing in the hallway outside the door.

My little girl

I know this is not politically correct and not something I am supposed to say but I love having a daughter.  I would love to be a mother of two boys.  But I am not.  I am the mother of a son and a daughter.  The best of both worlds, right?  Honestly, I love having a little girl.  I love spending time with her and going on "coffee dates" and holding hands.  I love playing with her dolls and looking at the girl toys with her at the store.  I love the girly stuff to do with her.  I am not even a girly girl.  I love her long hair and tights and dress shoes.  I love everything that comes with a little girl.  I love seeing the world through her eyes.  I look forward to the crazy teenage years - the good and the bad.  My relationship with my own mother is not what I want it to be.   I want the mother/daughter relationship with Laci that I wish I had with her.  Sometimes I wish Laci had a sister because I am so close to my sister but I am glad she has a brother too.  So I really do have the best of both worlds with my little girl and my little boy.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Handling the Flu

Up until today, I had taken pride in that my children had never gotten the stomach flu and never thrown up.  There was a couple times with each that they choked or cried and gagged so much that they threw up - like last week at Taco Bell.  Before never from a stomach bug or virus.  This morning Laci told Charlie that she didn't feel well.  Laci has always had a bad case of "Idon'tfeelgood-itis" so it's hard for us to take the "I don't feel goods" very seriously.  Charlie called me and told me this after he dropped her off this morning at 7:30.  I reminded him about the stomach flu going around school so maybe she was telling the truth.  A few minutes later, the school called and Laci had thrown up all over the breakfast room.  Eeks!  The flu has hit us.  I immediately called Charlie and he hadn't even gotten home.  He was not happy to have to handle this.  It would have been easy to rearrange my day to come home.  I had a training session in the morning and my annual review in the afternoon.  I complain a lot about Charlie not stepping up but sometimes I make it too easy for him.  So I decided that it would be okay to let him handle it. 

I called after he had gotten her home.  Apparently, she threw up everywhere and her friend got caught in the cross fire.  He took her to the store to get "sick day" supplies - 7Up, crackers, jello, etc.  She threw up several more times this morning.  Fortunately, she is old enough to be able to use the toilet.  I called after awhile and it was so sad to hear her say that she was sick.  It was harder than I thought to not run home to her.  But I knew she was in good hands.  I cancelled my night out with friends.  Charlie was doing great but it wasn't fair to not take my turn.  I called at lunch and she was napping.  She threw up one more time and the kitchen floor, entryway and bathroom were the causalities.  He just couldn't get rid of the sticky.  I felt a little bit better about not being home and having to clean up the mess. 

I came home a little early and cuddled on the couch with her.  It was still evident she was sick.  I asked about her day and I loved her answers - Daddy got donuts for himself at the store, he really wanted her to throw up in the toilet and he was concerned that she would throw up on the rug.  By dinner time, she was starting to feel better - the 24 hours may be up now.  Tonight, before bed we had a family jam session - Charlie on the woodblock, me on the cymbals and tamporine, Laci on the recorder and Calvin on the drum.  I took a moment to look around and realized that we survived our first flu. 

My silly girl the night before her flu

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

So Close to the Finish Line...

Running Update:  Today I was just about to give up on running.  For the last few weeks, everything hurts.  Last night my joints and legs hurt so bad, I wanted to cry.  This morning, walking was better but I just wanted to quit.  But I was 9 miles from my goal of 400 miles.  How can I be so close and quit?  Then I got to the gym and I got the magic treadmill!  Treadmill Number 5 is my magic treadmill.  Lately, if I am on any other treadmill, I can get 3 miles and have to push it hard to get to 4 miles but they are slow miles with lots of walking.  On my magic treadmill today, I got 4.1 miles in at a quick speed (7.2).  Even Fast Guy next to me commented.  I have little nicknames for all the people at the gym just like Charlie has little nicknames for the people he sees on his daily runs.  Fast Guy is always my inspiration and if I can run next to him, I can usually push myself.  I told him that I was on my Magic Treadmill.  He suggested that I mark the treadmill with some orange tape on the bottom so I can find it when they relocate the gym to a new building next week.  Surely, they won't renumber the treadmills.  I hope it doesn't take me long to find my magic treadmill again.  

Of my three running goals, I never got to run a race with my brother and I didn't complete a 10k race.  But now I am less than 5 miles from my 400 miles goal.  I must achieve it!  I am momentarily rejuvenated even though I think everything will hurt tonight.  I am signed up to run a Turkey Trot with Charlie on Thanksgiving and I think I can hit my 400 miles then.  The run begins and ends in the McDonald's parking lot so I am planning to treat myself with a McDonald's Peppermint Mocha after the run.  And take the month of December off if I so choose. :)

Maybe we are too close...

Last night I had a dedication on a project that I have been working on for 2 1/2 years.  Charlie was in charge of picking the kids up from daycare, feeding them dinner and putting them to bed.  He does not have to do this very often.  But he did fine.  As expected, the kids were asleep when I got home.  Most mornings, Laci wakes up early before I leave and I can say good bye to her.  So last night, Charlie told her that she would see me in the morning.  Of course, this morning was the rare morning she was still asleep when I left!  I was sad that I didn't get to see her.  I was sad that I haven't seen Calvin since Monday night!  Is this what it is like every week for him?  I told Charlie to call me when she woke up.  They called and she was just sobbing and gasping on the phone.  It was so sad.  I know she will be fine, especially when she gets to school. 

But it is just another reminder for me that sometimes time apart is okay.  I am very attached to the kids, especially Laci.  I do not do much without them.  I justify it by saying that I really spend a lot of time without them when I am at work.  So every moment I have that I am not at work, I spend with them.  It's not always a good thing.  It makes her too attached to me.  She doesn't want to do things with Charlie.  She does fine with him if she has to but she will always choose me if she gets the choice.  I try to go out with friends about once a month.  It's good for me and it is good for them.  Sunday night, I had Charlie pick Laci up from Awana.  I could have done it but I have to remember that they need a few minutes together too.  We are planning the "Christmas party" for his company.  He works with his parents so the Christmas party is just the 4 of us and now sometimes the 6 of us.  This year, we are just going to a nice dinner, just the 4 of us and I am getting a sitter.  My first choice is always to plan something with the kids but I am really trying (again, not always successfully) to make an effort.  Of course, now my issue is where to find a sitter!  

I never thought that I would be that crazy mom that didn't want to use sitters and go out as a couple but I am.  I need to remind myself that it is okay to do things without them.  But the older they get, the less I want to do that and the more I want to spend every single second with them.  I just keep thinking about how fast this all goes.  When they hit elementary school, there will be playdates and sleep overs, practices and games.  When they hit their teenage years, they won't want to spend every second with us.  When they hit 18, they will be gone.  They won't need us on a daily basis.  I know they will always need us.  Laci asked me recently why adults need mommies and daddies.  I told her that everyone needs their mommy and daddy to love them, even if they don't need them to take care of them everyday.  I know it will be important when they are older to spend a week with their grandparents.  I know it is important for the kids and the grandparents and us too.  I know all of this but I am just not looking forward to that yet!