Thursday, December 30, 2010

Why Yes, We Had a Lovely Christmas!
You?

I realize I never got around to finishing my 12 days of Christmas. So we'll have to just pretend that there are only 11.  Humor me on that, okay?

Our 12th Day of Christmas--Christmas Day--was lovely, however.  As it should be.

Our children slept in until 9:30!  I would say I didn't know how we got so lucky, except I do.  We all sleep together on mattresses in the playroom and Sophia chatterboxed at all of us until well past midnight.  I think this is the first Christmas she really truly understands and she was just so darn excited!

Excited, and worried.  All night it was, "What about if Santa forgets where our house is?" and  "What about if  Santa doesn't remember us?" and  "What about if Santa can't see our house?" until she started over again.  Joel and I just about missed playing Santa in our effort to stay awake longer than the children, and then all of Sophia's fears would have been confirmed!

But Santa came, as he always does.

Bria had asked for clothes only this year.  And especially a pair of black suede ruched boots (and yes, she was that specific).  This picture practically drives a stake through my heart as it proves that she is growing up. She looks way too old! But she sure is beautiful, and she sure looks adorable in the clothes she wanted so badly.

Growing Up

Chloe and Sophia both asked Santa Claus for Leapsters.  They were pleasantly surprised when they both got one (they didn't think that could happen) and even with a few games for them to share, too!  This picture cracks me up, both of them wearing almost everything they received.  Sophia in her new swimsuit and coverup and her new sparkly pink "fashion" purse (which is full of all kinds of "fashion" stuff, like make-up)  right next to her and Chloe in her Christmas PJs, a new hat, necklace and awesome lime green vest.  They were glued to those things most of the day.

Christmas Day

Unless they were playing with their American Girl dolls from Mamah and Grandpa, that is.  But that's a whole other post.

As for Joel and me, Santa treated us well this year, too.

But mostly, we were together, and we had a truly wonderful Christmas this year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Where the Love Light Gleams

I'll Be Home For Christmas

The Eleventh Day of Christmas

Home.  The best place to be on Christmas, whatever home means for you.

Like many people, we have a Christmas PJ tradition on Christmas Eve.  The kids always get new ones, occasionally I do and even more occasionally Joel does.  This wasn't Joel's year, according to his own needs and desire.

But the girls and I just opened some fun pink and purple polka-dotted jammies.

And, as soon as they've eaten a little bit (we totally forgot about dinner today)(decided not to do the fancy Christmas Eve dinner), we'll be gathering up next to the Christmas tree to read the Christmas Story from the Bible and then to listen to Amahl and the Night Visitors.  I look forward to it all year long.

After that, we'll get ourselves ready for a long winters' nap, dream of some sugarplums and wake up hoping that St. Nicholas has been here.

What are your Christmas Eve plans?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

There'll Be Scary Ghost Stories

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The Tenth Day of Christmas

December 23rd:  Christmas Eve Eve.  Or as my kids like to call it, Christmas Adam.  I kind of like that name, and judging from various posts on Facebook today, my kids are not the only ones to call it that.

Anyway, we started a fun tradition for Christmas Adam last year, which is to cuddle up together and watch George C. Scott's A Christmas Carol.   Last year, Sophia was very afraid of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, but tonight she was quite brave.  And I think that this time around all of the girls got more out of the story than they did the first time we watched it last year.

What a wonderful story, isn't it?  Such a great reminder that "mankind is our business" as Jacob Marley told Scrooge.  And that while Christmas is a time to remember Christ and to serve and love our fellow man, that we should keep Christmas in our hearts all year round, just as Scrooge learned to do.

Do you have any Christmas Adam traditions?

Jack Frost Nipping at Your Nose

The Christmas Song

The Ninth Day of Christmas

Okay, so I'm seriously having trouble keeping up with this little blog thing I started.  And here I am talking about how freaking cold and snowy it is.  Again.

Christmas dresses are a big tradition in our household.  How could they not be with so many little girls running around?  I showed you their dresses already, but here is mine.  (Go here to find out where I got it.)  Joel took some pictures of me in it this morning out in the yard.  Because unless you go out in the snow, there is no chance of getting a nice picture.

I have a few more traditions to go, and I have to go run to my children's school Christmas parties in a minute here, so I'll try really hard to get at least one more up today since I'm totally behind.  It is Christmas Adam, after all.  Which makes me a little sad that the kids are still in school, because that means that tomorrow is Christmas Eve.  But, it is what it is and they are so excited about all of their parties and festivities. And that is what matters.

Do you get a new dress for the holidays?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

And Don't Forget to Hang Up Your Sock!

Happy Holidays!

The Eighth Day of Christmas

Can I just say that I love having a real fireplace?  We had one in our last house, but it was just a square in the wall with no mantel or anything.  I hung a shelf over it, but it just wasn't the same as having a real bona-fide brick fireplace like I have here.  Love.

I also love my stockings.  They were part of the Pottery Barn Project of 2009 and they make me happy.

But more than looking at them, I love filling them.  I think it's fun to find fun little things to put in them for the kids.  For my girls, it usually includes a lot of lip gloss and lotion and toothbrushes, but they love that, too.  Joel's a bit harder, and I think I spend almost as much on the gifts that go in his stocking as I do on the ones underneath the tree.  But only because he doesn't like lip gloss.  Pity.

Joel already stuck some coupons for free Pop-Tarts inside the girls' stocking, thanks to the hard work that Chloe and I have done with Pop-Tarts this Christmas, and the rest of the loot is hidden away waiting for the children to fall asleep on Christmas Eve.

What goes in your stockings?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

No Crib for a Bed

Away in a Manger

The Seventh Day of Christmas

We started a new tradition this year.  Tradition is probably a loose term, because I'm not really sure how well it's working, but we're trying.  I guess starting new traditions is like that, sort of like learning new habits.

Anyway, we have a manger.  And we have "straw."  I couldn't find anything besides these sparkly things to use for straw, so that's what it is this year.  Many of you have probably at least seen this particular idea before, if you don't already do it yourselves.

We've been drawing names every couple of days and the idea is to serve the person we pick out of the hat.  So far, Chloe has probably put the most straw into the manger, as she really gets into things like this.  The rest of us are doing our best.

But, nevertheless, it's a wonderful reminder that to serve each other is to serve Christ.  And what better way to celebrate Christ's birth than to serve Him?

What traditions do you have that help you remember the Savior?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Snow is Glistening

Winter Wonderland

The Sixth Day of Christmas

I know, I know.  More snow talk.  I just can't help myself!

So, as I've mentioned before, it is always snowing here.  Not usually very hard, nothing that's going to accumulate much, but there are always snowflakes falling.  And when it's snowing like that, it's nearly always the type of snow where you can really get a good look at each individual snowflake.

Perfect Snowflakes

It's really pretty.  I love how we get them in our hair and on our coats and they just stay there.  They don't melt unless we go inside or try to touch them.  The girls are enamored and get so excited whenever they notice a beautiful, perfect snowflake on somebody's jacket or in their hair.

These pictures are of Joel, and the unusually large perfect snowflakes that were falling earlier.

Have you made a snowflake yet here?

*****************

Go here to watch Chloe's video rendition of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and enter to win $100.00!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

As the Shoppers Rush Home With Their Treasures

Silver Bells

The Fifth Day of Christmas

Today I finished my Christmas shopping.  And by "today" I really mean "yesterday" which is to say "Saturday" because we got home last night after midnight and then it was already Sunday.  So I missed a day on my blog.  I'll get today's post up eventually, too.

Joel and I went to "the big city" which is about 2 hours from us.  We went to meet the conductor of their symphony for lunch and see their Christmas concert, but with all the time in between we also went shopping at all of the places we don't have here.

Target! (It's nearly impossible to walk into that store and not spend five thousand dollars, especially if you only get to go once in a blue moon and are not immune to its wily ways.  We made it out without too much damage, though.)

Pier One!  (I didn't buy much there, and what I did buy was cheap and also necessary.  Well, okay, it was as close as you can get to necessary without actually being necessary.)

Bath and Body Works! (Which I was pleasantly surprised to find...had no idea it was there.  And even though I already sent my mother on a BBW errand, I had to stock up on soap and such anyway.)

And now we are done.  I can enjoy this week without worrying that I still have to buy this thing or that thing or the other thing.  We even remembered to buy batteries.

Go us!

When did you finish your shopping?  Or are you still at it?

Friday, December 17, 2010

How I Hate Going Out in the Storm!

Let it Snow!

The Fourth Day of Christmas

One of my favorite parts of winter is sitting in my nice warm house during a snowstorm, looking out the window and watching the snow peacefully fall under the street lamp.  I love how that makes me feel.  (Also, it is very difficult to take a picture of this, and so I hope you enjoy the one I managed to get which involved leaving my nice warm house during tonight's snowstorm.)

However, lovely as it is, I really do hate to go out in the storm.  Unfortunately for me, I now live in a place where I can say it is pretty much always snowing.  It's like background noise...so omnipresent that you stop noticing it's even there. So far (and please remember that winter doesn't even officially start for a couple more days), our town has received 51.5 inches this season, even though the big storm that hit the Midwest last weekend missed us.  And that's A LOT, even accounting for the fact that I grew up in Utah, which has a lot of snow of its own.

Last year, my first winter here, I was scared half out of my mind to leave the house and have to actually drive in the snow, but this year I'm practically a snow-driving pro.  Practically.  Except when I forget and try to go up the hill instead of down.  But, besides that, I am driving in this crazy snow like it's nothing.

Because, when it comes right down to it, I have to finish my Christmas shopping somehow.  And we also have to have groceries and send our children to school.  And it all involves going out into the storm.

I might even stop hating it by next year.

How do you feel about the snow?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Now Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding



We wish you a Merry Christmas!

The Third Day of Christmas

Okay, so I don't even know what figgy pudding is, or why those carolers would want it so badly.  But Christmas treats are good, and we make fudge to give out. Sophia and I made a couple batches today for her preschool teachers and a few friends and neighbors.  That is, I made fudge and Sophia worked really, really hard at licking the spoon when I was finished with each batch.

And then I ran out of ingredients, so we'll have to finish the fudge-making this weekend,  I guess!

What treat do you give out at Christmas time?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How Lovely Are Thy Branches!

O Christmas Tree!

The Second Day of Christmas

The day after Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year.  Yes, I always go do the insane shopping thing, but that's not my favorite part.  I love that by the time I get home, Joel has usually dragged up my Christmas bins and we can start to set up the tree.


Dream

Yes.  My tree is fake.  I am sorry to all of you who prefer the real kind.  I like fake because they are cheaper (this is year number 11 for this tree and I only paid 30 bucks for it), more convenient (no traipsing around in the snow to chop one down, although I appreciate many people love that)(also no figuring out how to get it home from a Christmas tree lot), and more consistent (I never have to figure out how to hide bare spots, for instance).  I actually bought it on my first ever Black Friday early morning shopping excursion the first year we were married.  We were poor students, but I didn't want to give up having a beautiful tree, so I got up at the crack of dawn to get one.  We made some ornaments that year (glass balls stuffed with pretty potpourri) and I bought as many as I could afford.  My mom (who loves decorating beautiful trees as much as I do) bought me several things for the tree as well--like the angel that still sits on top of the tree.


Angel on Top

While the glass potpourri ornaments are long gone, thanks to baby fingers and the linoleum floors of ASU student housing, I still have some of the first ornaments I put on that tree.  I've kept the same basic red and gold color scheme over the years and have added new things each year, and retired a few that are just, well--tired.


Golden ribbon

This year, my tree is the most beautiful it's ever been, I think.  I just love it.  Thanks to a certain squirrel, I couldn't even buy new ornaments, but my wonderful mother sent me a few this summer that she got somewhere on clearance and I decided that the papier mache ornaments I made for Thanksgiving would fit in with everything else beautifully.  And they do.


Music Ornament

The trick to having a gorgeous Christmas tree is to treat it like a giant flower arrangement.  I have lots of poinsettias just stuck into the branches, as well as other floral decorating picks: Berries and tons of those glittery twirly twig thingies.  My tree looks decadent, but I really have never spent all that much money on it, and I love putting it all together every year.  I never get sick of it..


Poinsettia

And don't worry.  I don't hide all of my children's handmade ornaments on the back...they have their own little tree that those go on.  And they love helping to decorate both trees.  


the kids' tree

Although, by next year, we're going to have to get them a bigger tree.  

How do you decorate your tree?


Bokeh

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

With Every Christmas Card I Write

I'm Dreaming...

The First Day of Christmas

I have to say that Christmas cards are one of my favorite parts of the holiday.  I love checking my mailbox each day to see if there is a Christmas card or two. Even in this digital age when I am able to keep up with most of my loved ones through blogs and Facebook and email, I still love to rip open their cards and see the cheerful greeting they have chosen. I love to read the newsletter if they send one, braggy or no.  I love to hang each card on my door and enjoy having all of my friends and family a little bit near, even if it's only their pictures.

I also love sending cards.  It feels like it gets harder and harder each year to be on top of things enough to get all of them out in a timely manner, but darn it, I try!  Last year I barely got my cards out in time for people to receive them by Christmas, and I'm sure many people got them after Christmas, since we live at the end of the earth and everything.  This year, I made a real effort and I still just got them mailed out yesterday.  It's quite the production!  We have lived in too many places in our married life, have too many wonderful friends and family...but it is a blessing to me to be able to send a card.  I hope that they are as brightened by our card as I am by the cards I receive.

This was what my dining room table looked like for about a week as I stuffed envelopes, gathered addresses, folded Joel's (hilarious) newsletter, and finally mailed them off.

And now I will wait for the inevitable address returns of those two or three people that moved without telling me.

Are your cards in the mail?

****************

Speaking of all things Christmas, don't forget to visit Overstuffed Reviews to find out how my kids and I made a gingerbread sheet cake and enter to win $100.00!  Just leave a comment and your email address, and you're good to go!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sophia's Thoughts on the Season

It astounds me how well Sophia, at age 4, understands what Christmas is all about.  

I rarely, if ever, play the Santa card with my children, but Sophia was being exasperatingly naughty the other day, and after several time-outs and nicely telling her to stop with the antics I had to try.

"Sophia, if you don't stop doing that Santa is not going to like--"

"No, Mom!  Not SANTA!!!!  JESUS!  Jesus isn't going to like me keeping doing this."

So much for the Santa card, but I think that my heart grew about three sizes because my little daughter cares more about what Jesus thinks than Santa.  Especially since she finally improved her behavior after that conversation.

And then, today in church after we sang a few Christmas hymns, she whispered to me, "Mommy, sometimes Christmas songs are about Jesus.  Because Christmas is his birthday.  And we need to make him a cake!"

There went that heart of mine growing a couple more sizes.

But even though she understands the most important part of Christmas, what she doesn't get is that maybe we shouldn't tell people what their presents are going to be.  I have been very, very careful to not wrap gifts in front of her or let it slip what I've purchased for her sisters or dad.  But, I've had conversations with her, and I think I know what's going to be under the tree with my name on it...

"Mommy, what you want for Christmas?"

"A Kindle."

"What's that mean?"

"It's kind of like a little computer that I can read my books on."

"Oh!  We got you that!"

(Good thing I already knew this, or she might have spoiled a pretty big surprise!)

Then today, I was complaining to Joel about my lack of slippers in this cold winter living in a house with mostly hardwood flooring (I had to throw mine out last year after I wore one too many holes through them), and Sophia came out of the bathroom where she had been brushing her teeth and excitedly asked, "Mommy!  How'd you know we got you some slippers for Christmas!  How'd you know that???"

I didn't know.  But, now I do.  And I also know that Joel needs to stop letting a certain 4-year old help with the gift wrapping if he wants me to be surprised on Christmas morning.

But I am happy to know that I'm getting slippers.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Happy Endings are Only in the Eye of the Beholder

This is the story of three little princesses, a dastardly (yet very cute) squirrel, a wicked queen and an even wickeder king.

Once upon a time (the end of October, actually), an adorable little squirrel decided to find a new home.  The weather was getting chilly and he didn't want to live at the top of his perfectly good tree anymore. So, he set out to find something a little warmer.  And what a lucky rodent he was, because he found a lovely little opening in the roof of a cute little cottage on the hill.  He especially liked all of the soft and warm insulation and set about to making his new nest immediately.

Meanwhile, the wicked queen, who was not yet so very wicked, was downstairs sewing a dress for her eldest princess, and she heard the scritchy-scratchiness of the squirrel going in and out of his new nesting place on the roof.  And later, her three princesses told her all about the sounds of the animal in the ceiling of their royal playroom as they watched their beloved Barbie and the Magical Castle movies.  The even wickeder king went to investigate and verified that there was indeed, a dastardly squirrel living in the royal playroom ceiling.

The wicked queen immediately began to call animal-control-type businesses all throughout the land, and was very dismayed to learn that almost nobody dealt with dastardly squirrels.  They didn't even deal with nice squirrels, in fact.  After several hours of near-fruitless searching, she was finally given the phone number of somebody who promised to deal with squirrels.

So she left a message.

Meanwhile, the very cute, but dastardly squirrel was busy storing all of his nuts and acorns in the royal playroom ceiling.  As he worked, he began to poke holes through the drywall, and sometimes his nuts and leaves and even some insulation fell onto the three princesses, who thought this was absolutely adorable.  They began to consider Mr. Dastardly their pet, and loved to watch for him out of the kitchen window as he scampered around gathering his winter food.

The wicked queen and even wickeder king did not think holes in the ceiling were adorable, or even cute.  In fact, the holes in the ceiling made the king very, very angry and the queen very, very anxious.  They were very relieved when the critter control man finally called.  Except, Mr. Critter Control lived very far away, in an entirely different kingdom and wouldn't be able to come for a week, or maybe more.

And the squirrel continued to make his nest, poking holes and enrapturing the three little princesses even while he enraged the king and made the queen begin to bite her nails.  Finally, the day came when Mr. Critter Control came to their cozy little cottage on the hill and looked into the matter.  He verified that the squirrel was living there, although, really, no verification was needed, and also delivered the very unwelcome news that bats--lots and lots of bats--were living in the ceiling of their hundred-year-old cottage.  He told the king and queen that he would be happy to deal with both problems, for a very large sum of money.

Now, I must mention, that this king and queen (wicked only because they didn't approve of squirrels sharing their living quarters) were not the kind of king and queen that were wealthy.  And the very large sum of money that Mr. Critter Control wanted was almost as much as the amount they paid every month to live in their sweet little cottage.  But, it had to be done, and nobody else could--or would--do it.

Mr. Critter Control left with the promise that he would come again soon, and the king and queen set about to life as usual, smiling again because they knew that the dastardly squirrel would soon be gone.

A week passed by.  No Mr. Critter Control.  Another few days.  Still no Mr. Critter Control.  Finally, after nearly two weeks of waiting, he came.  And he climbed all over the roof of the little cottage and found every nook and cranny through which a squirrel or a bat could climb, and sealed them off with magic wire and a guarantee that no little critter would ever find its way in again.

And true enough, the squirrel could not get back in that night.  But he diligently tried, for this was a very persistent little squirrel.  The three little princesses often heard him scritching and scratching and chewing and trying his mightiest to get in.  They looked out the window as snowflakes began falling from the sky and worried at how the adorable little creature would possibly survive the winter.  They drew pictures reminiscing about their poor, freezing, little pet. 

But most of all, they cried and cried (the eldest crying the very most) and they were sadder than three princesses ever should be, as they watched the squirrel sit in his tree and shiver in the cold.  

"Well, he can't live in our house!" said the wicked queen.  And the even wickeder king went outside and threw snowballs at him.

"You can pray for him," the wicked queen told her daughters.  "Heavenly Father will take care of his creatures."

And so, that night they began to pray for the squirrel.  And lo and behold, after a few days, a miracle happened.

The squirrel got back into the ceiling of the royal playroom.

To the princesses, this was wonderful news!  The squirrel would live happily ever after, indeed!  And, of course, so would they.

But to their wicked parents, this was all too much to bear and they immediately rang up Mr. Critter Control, who promised to come the very next day.

But he didn't.  And he didn't come the next day or even the next one after that.

He did come the next week, while the wicked queen was at work.  This was a good thing, because she was getting wickeder all the time as far as the dastardly squirrel and Mr. Critter Control were concerned.  For together, they had already blown the Christmas budget and were steadily ruining the ceiling in the royal playroom and the queen could only think about what it would cost to make repairs.

All was well, though, for Mr. Critter Control found where the cunning animal had gotten back in and he made sure to seal it all up good and tight.  

And the wicked king and queen lived happily ever after, at least for now, because so far they haven't heard little feet scampering in the ceiling.  (And trust me when I say that they obsessively check.)

The princesses?  Well, they are learning that perhaps having parents who are happy is a better thing than a squirrel all cozy and snug in the ceiling.  

But darn it if they don't still pray for that dastardly (yet very cute) squirrel.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Blam!
And Even a Good Newborn Might Comprehend It.

So, I took word verification off again a while ago, and have been taking advantage of Blogger's (not very good) spam filter.  Actually, it does okay in the filtering of the spam, it's just that I still get it in my email, which is weird.

But, then, I've actually been getting a few laughs out of it, so it isn't entirely annoying.

Here are my two favorite blog spams from today:
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Say wha?  I have to say though, I really would like to know what a packet outhouse is, but unfortunately, it may be a fairy tale.  Sad.  
I fool read a only one of the articles on your website now, and I definitely like your line of blogging. I added it to my favorites entanglement page list and will be checking promote soon. Will repress out of order my position as well and fail me conscious what you think. Thanks. 
You're so very welcome.  Thank YOU for giving me my new favorite all-purpose phrase:  Fail me conscious!

As in, "Well, fail me conscious! You've done got a new hairdo!" or  "Well, fail me conscious!  I've never seen such an adorable baby!"  and "Well, fail me conscious!  I've totally lost my mind."

Better go find it again on my favorites entanglement page list.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, December 06, 2010

I Believe in Santa Claus

Talking to Santa

Thanks for all of your answers about how your families do Santa Claus.  I found the wide range of traditions both fascinating and informative, and I loved reading about them.

Santa Claus is part of the magic of Christmas for me.  I don't think he has to take away from the Christ-centered aspect of the holiday, and in fact, I think he can add to children's understanding of Jesus Christ and the ultimate gift our Heavenly Father gave to us.

I have always said I would be honest in my answers when my children ask me questions, and so, when Bria asked me about the verity of the Tooth Fairy, I gave it to her straight.  I was relieved when she added that Santa must still be real, though, because "there is no way that you and Dad would ever buy me all the stuff he does!"  However, just the fact that she added that made me realize that for a second, she faltered in her belief of Santa Claus.  Which is fine.  Eventually, a kid has to grow up and know that the man in the red suit isn't really the one bringing all the gifts.

I don't really remember how or when I found out about Santa.  I feel like I moved seamlessly from staying up as late as I could with my brothers in the hopes of perhaps hearing sleigh-bells in the sky to helping my mother fill stockings.  I wasn't traumatized.  My faith wasn't shaken.  I understood that Santa is part of childhood, part of the magic and wonder of the season.  And I have absolutely loved playing Santa for my own daughters...to find out exactly what is at the top of their list and doing all I can to get it for them (fortunately, it's never been anything too crazy!).

But Bria is 10 now.  While she still believes, I think this may be the last year she does.  And when she questions it, I will tell the truth, just like I told Sophia the truth when she asked me if she actually sat on the real Santa's lap the other day.  I will also give her this letter (which I don't take credit for at all, but I did alter here and there to suit our family and beliefs):
Dear Bria,
I know you're going through a time right now when you're not sure if I am real or not. I know most of your friends no longer believe in me. But I know you want to believe for yourself, and for those two little sisters you've got. Well, I hope I can help work out some of the confusion you might have. 
I am Santa.  I may not exist like the story goes.  I am not a single man who makes millions of toys each year, and gives them all out in one long night on a sled pulled by magical reindeer.  I am not in thousands of malls and downtown celebrations all at once throughout the season.  But, make no mistake, I am real. 
I am as real as the love in your heart.  It is love that has perpetuated my story all these many centuries.  I am as true as the spirit in your soul. Santa's spirit is the giving spirit of all of those who care for others.  My magic is the miracle of reaching out to someone else and bringing joy to their hearts. 
I do not see every thing you do. But someone does. I do not know when you're not asleep at night. But my friend, I hate to break it to you, your mom and dad do. I do not know if you've been bad or good, but you know. So for goodness sake, be good to yourself and others. It shows. And how you treat yourself and others is so important. I will not reward you for good, but your mom and dad will. And you'll soon find that internal reward of your own conscience. You know, that feeling you get when you've made someone else feel better? 
The real gift of Christmas, as you well know, is the gift of Jesus Christ.  Without his love, spirit and miracles, I would not exist at all.  It is time now for you to realize the magic of Christmas and Santa is nothing more than the miracle and gift from God.  This is the message I want you to carry with you. 
You can teach your sisters about God's love through me. Showing them kindness and love throughout the year, and helping them find the magic in Christmas is how you keep me real. Teaching them and others, by example, about Jesus Christ's love for each one of us, and demonstrating kindness and giving to all in need will be how you share the spirit of Santa. 
You'll always find gifts under the tree from me as long as you believe in what I represent. You'll always see my magic and feel my spirit at Christmas time when you participate in the miracle of selflessness and giving. And may you know the blessings and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ now, and forever. 
With lots of love and Christmas magic, 
Santa Claus 

On Santa's Lapsmile!

Friday, December 03, 2010

A December Question

How do you do Santa at your house?

Does he bring all the gifts?  Just a few?  One?

Do his elves wrap everything and put it under the tree, or do they assemble it all, unwrapped, so it's ready to go on Christmas morning?

Does he fill the stockings?

Are your kids allowed to go open/see Santa gifts without you?  Or do you make them wait until Mom and Dad are ready?

Do you even do Santa?

When I was a kid, Santa always brought the most expensive/most wanted gift, unwrapped and all ready to go.  We could get up at 4 or 5 in the morning and go down to see what Santa brought and what was in our stockings.  My brother Dave was always the first one up to go check things out (he's such a morning person) and would then come up to wake the rest of us up.  Then, when my parents finally got up, we would eat Christmas breakfast and then open the gifts under the tree, which were from my parents, each other, grandparents, etc.

Joel and I do things a bit differently, but almost like that.  Santa only brings one gift, and he doesn't even usually get to lay claim to what's in the stocking.  The kids know that most of the stocking stuffers are from Mom and Dad.  However, my kids have to wait until we are awake and ready to go down and see what Santa brought.  Joel makes a huge deal of it (we even sleep upstairs with the kids, because they'd have to pass by the tree if they were to come wake us up in our room) and always video-tapes their reactions as they come into the living room.  Santa makes sure everything is put together and ready to go, and then leaves the gifts in various spots throughout the room.  The kids know which gift is theirs because their stocking is also left next to it.  They play with whatever they got from Santa and whatever is in the stocking while Joel makes an awesome Christmas breakfast, and then, after we eat, we open the rest of the gifts.

So, tell me.  How does it work in your family?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

My Life: According to My Cell Phone

**And Holy Hannah!  I just realized this is my 1,000th post.  Wow.  I feel like I should be having some great big party or something with fireworks and clowns.  Alas, I don't have the wherewithal to do anything like that, so this not-very-interesting post will just have to do.  Thank you for reading it.  And thank you for reading all the other 999 of them, too.**

One of my tricks for keeping Sophia quiet and busy lately is to hand her my cell phone and have her take pictures of things. I've done this for a really long time, and she's actually really good at taking pictures. Tonight, while we were waiting for Bria to be finished in orchestra, Sophia was getting antsy and I needed her to be quiet, so I handed the phone over.

After about two pictures, the memory was full.  It's never done that before, so I started looking through things and deleting them, and I found lots of pictures that I took when I didn't have my big camera around.  So here's some little snippets of our lives in the last year or so courtesy of my cell phone.

Sophia in the dentist chair

Sophia at the dentist.  They gave her the stuffed animal to hold and the sunglasses to wear and she was so incredibly good.  I was actually surprised, since she's....well, she's my Sophia.  Isn't this photo a kick?  Too bad I didn't catch it with her mouth wide open.

Bria and Joel and Chloe on the planeSophia on the airplane

On the airplane, on our way to Utah this last March.  Bria and Chloe always sat on either side of Joel, and Sophia always sat with me.  The bigger girls were scared half to death on take-off (they haven't flown much) but Sophia was thrilled.  She watched out the window and as soon as she realized we were actually off the ground she yelled, "WE FLYING!" which was met with snickers all throughout the airplane.

deer

A deer on the side of the road, just around the corner from our house.  I took this picture this summer.  And now that there's snow on the ground, we can always see deer tracks on our way to the bus stop in the morning, so they're still around.

Chloe sleeping with Nina

Last December, our friends spent ten days in Disney World.  And we got to dog sit their golden retriever, Nina.  This was a point of great excitement for the girls, who loved having a pet for a week.  Especially Chloe, though.  I took this picture on Nina's first night with us.  Chloe was worried she would be cold and lonely and missing her family, so she made sure to take care of all of that and eventually fell asleep next to her in the living room.

Down by the canal

This picture was taken after we'd lived here about a month.  It was after one of Bria's violin lessons, and it was a gorgeous September day so we walked downtown to buy her a new music book.  On a whim, we got the kids ice cream and hung out on the pier.  I love this picture....it makes me really, really happy.

Bria and the penguin

This is Bria with a penguin she received at a birthday party.  The penguin got a hole in it, and I was trying to convince her to get rid of it (she tends to be a bit of a packrat) and she was devastated.  I left it up to her, and after many tears she decided she would throw it away, but only if I took a picture of her with it.  I'm not sure why I used my cell phone, but I'm glad I took the picture.

Sophia's perspective on her mother

This is me.  This is one of those times I needed to occupy Sophia, and this is one of the pictures she took.  We were in Office Max waiting to print and cut tickets for the Preschool Pancake Breakfast which I co-chaired this fall.  I get a kick out of seeing what I look like from Sophia's perspective.  It also encourages me to keep on going with my diet...ugh!

Princess Sophia and her new clothes

This is Sophia in my bedroom, admiring her new dresses.  We had just gotten a package from my mom, filled with fun new clothes for the girls.  She immediately put on the pink frilly number and was working on trying on the orange one.  I wish I had captured this with my big camera.

Chloe swimming

This is Chloe at a swimming party last winter.  Winter, you ask?  The big thing for birthday parties around here is to rent out the swimming pool at one of the local hotels.  My kids went to several this winter, and I quickly learned that I should not pack away their bathing suits once it snows.

Bria's science project

This is Bria with her science project at the school science fair last year.  She took care of four plants to try and figure out how much water that type of plant actually needed.  Which reminds me, I probably should water them (they've miraculously continued to survive, even under my black thumb).

Please be patience

At the Hardee's drive-through about a year ago.  The sign just made me laugh, so I took a picture.  And then I was patience.  Speaking of Hardee's, Sophia calls it "Parties" and it took me a really long time to understand that when she said she wanted to go to parties, she wasn't talking about a birthday party or something.  My standard answer was always, "We can't go because we haven't been invited to one."  So now she probably thinks that eating at Hardee's is pretty exclusive, and by invitation only.

Me and Sophia Me and Sophia again

Sophia is always asking me to take a picture of us together with my phone.  So, I do.  The fact that there are no sheets on my bed in that last photo probably means that Sophia had wet it that morning.  But, wet beds and all, looking at them made me really happy this afternoon.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hibernation is Not an Option
(Unfortunately)

If it weren't for Thanksgiving and Christmas, this part of the year would be absolutely unbearable for me.  I have a hard enough time getting up in the morning when the sun is shining and the temperature is warm, so the freezing black mornings that lead up to the winter solstice are, to put it mildly, difficult.

I got back from walking the girls to the bus stop about 20 minutes ago, and the sun still isn't up.  Although the early light is finally starting to creep into the sky.  I'm trying to decide which things I can skip this morning so I can just go back to bed for an hour, but it's Tuesday and I have to go to work at 9:30.

So instead, I will go make myself some warm breakfast and eat it in front of the Christmas tree.  That will be enough to lift my spirits and give me the will to get ready for the day.

But tomorrow I'm going back to bed.  I much prefer hibernating.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Giving Thanks


It's nearly the last day of November, and I have yet to write a gratitude post.  Not because I am not grateful, but because I have so very much to be thankful for that it sometimes seems overwhelming to me to sit down and write it out.

This year, however, I am most thankful for my family.

For three beautiful daughters who teach me how to be a better mother, a better daughter, and a better person.  Every single day I learn something from them.  Sometimes I learn that feathers make a very apropo Thanksgiving accessory and other times I learn about faith, hope and charity.  Mostly I learn that they are amazing children, given to me by a loving Father in Heaven, and they make my life worth living.


Ready for Turkey


For a wonderful husband who loves me and treats me like a queen, even when I definitely don't deserve such treatment.  He is such an amazing father, and I have always love watching him with our children.   They adore him, and I'm so happy they have such a great example of a loving father and husband.


What do you think about this spoon?


For being born of goodly parents.  Who are amazing people and from whom I learn so much, even still.  They continue to do so much for me and my little family, and I am forever in their debt.  From replacing my toilets to just being there when I need to talk, I can always count on them.


Thanksgiving Day

And finally, for my three brothers, who are also amazing people.  I hate that we are literally in four corners of the country (Seattle, Miami, Utah and Michigan) and rarely get to see each other.  I cannot wait for the vacation of the century in January, orchestrated and paid for by my parents, when we will all get to see one another again.  Bria even has a countdown on her white board...not for Christmas, but for the cruise.

So much to be grateful for, indeed.  But the older I get, the more I realize that it's the people I love that make life most wonderful.  Family is forever, and for that, I'm forever thankful.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Maestro in the Snow

Maestro Outtake

Joel has a concert coming up next weekend and has really needed a new headshot.  Pretty sad that the one he uses is one I took about 6 years ago!  Back when I still used a film SLR.  Definitely time for an update.

But, see, I only take pictures in natural light, and where I live there isn't a lot of that indoors no matter how many windows your house has (and mine has quite a few), so we had to tromp outside in the snow.

I must say, the results are nice...although I did have to do some pretty crazy maneuvers to get them!  (The picture above was taken while I was hanging off the fence with one hand and obviously wasn't the best way to stay in control of the camera!)

So, anyway, here are the rest of our favorites from his headshot shoot (I love to say that) plus a family shoot I did (also in the snow) for some friends.

The Maestro
Kuzmic Family

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Inaugural Snowman

First Snowman of the Season

We got a few inches of snow on Tuesday, so when the girls came home from school they couldn't wait to go out and play in it.  And play in it they did, until it was 5:00 and the sun was down.

That snow wasn't so great for snowman building, but they get an A for effort, right?  This is our first snowman of the season, and just by looking outside, I have a feeling that he definitely won't be the last!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Yes, I am Completely Insane

Black Friday today.

Of course I went out, though ever since I moved away from my mother I haven't been able to convince ANY of my friends to go out with me.  They must be smarter than I am.  Although, I'm a sucker for a good deal, and am probably a little too motivated by saving tons of money.  Also, I am a total insomniac anyway, why not go shopping?

It's 5:50 and I just got home from this year's adventure.  Which included WalMart only having 10 Leapsters in stock and the lady in front of me grabbing six of them and leaving none for little old me, who was planning to buy 2.  I hate how Wal-Mart does Black Friday, by the way.

Anyway, that was a little after midnight, so I came home (in the steadily accumulating snow) and worked some magic online with the Leapsters and managed to get them for just the same amount I would have paid at WalMart.  I am awesome.

And then I slept for a couple hours.

When I woke up at 3:30, I was greeted by a good 3 inches of new snow, with more still falling.  I was still undeterred.  I headed over to JCPenney's and managed to get some amazing deals for Joel and my little clothes-horse, Bria.  Who wants nothing but clothes for Christmas and she is only ten.  Sigh.

Then ShopKo.  Nothing great there, but I thought I'd check it out anyway.  I ended up with one gift for Sophia, some tape to wrap all these things with and a pair of fabulous shoes for myself.  Oops.

When I came out to my car there was another 6 inches of snow fallen.  My street hadn't been plowed yet this early (the snowplow only just came by as I was typing this) and so I was very grateful for my snow tires as my car trudged through the snow.

There was only a little snow last year.  This year, I am experiencing real Yooper snowfall I think.

I'm headed to bed for a few hours, and then we are decorating the house for Christmas.  This is my favorite day of the entire year, besides Christmas itself.  It truly makes my spirit bright.

I hope your spirits are made bright today, too!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On Thanksgiving Eve

Papier Mache Ornament
'Twas the night before Thankgiving, and all through the nation
Families were preparing for tomorrow's celebration...

Okay, that's enough of trying to write poetry for me.  But we are preparing for the big day tomorrow and here's what we have done so far...

For Family Home Evening on Monday we made a thankful tree.  Well, we wrote down what we were thankful for on some pretty labels I printed out from The Graphics Fairy, and I made the tree later.  We each had 4 of the labels to write what we were thankful for, and I encouraged the children not to duplicate answers from others, and I have to say I love hearing the things that they are grateful for.  Because they are just the right things.

I'm Thankful for My Sisters

Sophia is grateful for her sisters.  I'm grateful for her newfound love of writing letters and words.

Then, yesterday, I made some papier mache ornaments.  Yes.  I ripped up some of my old music, but it was a book that was 50 years old and falling apart anyway and it was something I doubt I'll ever sing.  But it still hurt me a little bit inside to tear it up.  I've been trying to be frugal and sometimes my projects don't exactly end up being as cost-effective as I'd like them to, but this one was incredibly cheap.  I bought a package of twelve ornaments at Goodwill for $0.99 and a spool of red grosgrain ribbon at WalMart for $1.97.  I printed off the free labels onto nice cardstock I already had in my stash.  I trudged through the snow in my backyard with the hedge clippers and cut down a few branches, and I had purchased the Kleenex holder at Goodwill months ago with this very project in mind.  I also already had the floral foam, Spanish Moss and the Mod Podge I used to seal the ornaments once the paper was dry.
Dining Table

I really love the result and it makes a great centerpiece for our Thanksgiving table.  I'll probably keep it up for Christmas, too.  Which brings me to the next preparation I've made:  Setting the table.

Place Setting

I know it is probably a little strange that I set it so early, but it's something easy to get out of the way, and I do fret about it a lot because I want it to be beautiful.  We're having some friends over and since we don't have enough chairs we decided that the three youngest children will sit at a kid's table.  Hopefully that works out okay because I have never loved the idea of kid's tables--I like everyone sitting together on a holiday like this.

But I am happy with the settings I came up with.  They go nicely with the centerpiece.

All Set for Thanksgiving

And oh!  I am just now realizing that you haven't seen the paint job I did in the dining room this past summer.  Well, there it is.  I did a texturizing technique and then a two-toned faux glaze thing.  And I can't believe I haven't shown you yet because I love it.  And I also can't believe I did it all by myself.

Here are a couple more views

Texturized

The color is a little yellower than it's showing in the photos, but here is a close up of the texture.  Also, you can read more about my metal scrolly thing here.


N the Corner

I originally bought a cool circle vinyl to go around that "N", but it was too small.  I wasn't paying attention to size.  Someday I will get our family picture taken and hang it on that blank wall there.

And now, I'm off to do more Thanksgiving prep.  Lots of cleaning and laundry first, and then I will bake the pies.  I'm doing Pumpkin, Pear and Pecan and I can't wait for my one piece (darn diet)!

Happy Thanksgiving!