Friday, December 19, 2014

In My Village

Christmas came early for me this year. I bought myself a gift that I have always wanted. A village.

Okay, not a real village. A little Lemax light up village. I always thought they were so charming and I just loved them, but I never wanted to pay the hefty pricetag to get a village started. When I saw a few stores in my area were having huge sales on their village pieces (I'm talking 50 and 60% off!) I decided to bite the bullet and start my own. I'm so glad I did. I can't tell you how much I am enjoying it.

Welcome to my village.
Since we are a skiing family I decided to make my village as if it were a tiny little skiing village in the mountains.

The farthest building is atop the big hill. It is a ski chalet, complete with skiers coming down the hill. This is one of the kids' favorites and it makes them so excited to go skiing.
True to life, at the bottom of the ski hill is a little pub. I always ski better when I have a little drink so a pub on the hill is a must.
Next to the pub is a waffle hut and hot chocolate stand. I love how there are three boys standing in line for treats because when my boys go off skiing by themselves we can always find them on the back of the hill in the Homestead Lodge drinking hot chocolate.
Next to the waffle stand is a cafe. I love the tin roof and the bear-proof storage. Reminds me of being up north. Back in our prekids days when Todd and I would go skiing with a group of friends we would always stop for breakfast before we hit the hill. Many of the places were little mom and pop restaurants that looked much like this and served breakfast platters with names like "The Paul Bunyan". We never left hungry. 
In the center of the village is an ice skating rink with three boys and a girl skating together. Perfect, no?
Next up is a quant little cider and candy shop. I knew the kids would love this one. They especially like the dog lying on the front stoop and the treats you can see through the window.
Next up the road is our little cabin. This is my favorite. I love seeing the Christmas tree and the fireplace through the windows.  There are fishing rods and a boat leaned up against the house and a little stack of wood around the back. I would love to live in a cabin like this.

Once again we have three kids playing in the snow and a father and kid hauling wood, just like up north. The yard is complete with a birdhouse, birdbath, and a snowman. 
Next to our cabin is a bakery, because who doesn't love fresh bakery in the morning? You can see the baked goods inside the store and the baker hard at work. Out front is a little girl sitting on a bench with a puppy tucked into her jacket. Guess who that is.
And of course, my village would not be complete without a chapel. The Hillside Chapel is indeed up on a little hill looking so charming and welcoming.
There you have it, folks. My little village. I think I may have to sneak a few more buildings in there as the years go on (I saw an adorable library and a toy store that would be perfect) but for now I think my village is looking good. I am honestly like a little kid with this. It was so fun designing a little village that I would love to live in. I sit in front of the display with a cup of coffee and just stare. I don't know why I love it so much, I just do.

The kids are ga-ga over it too. You should have seen them the day they came home from school and saw it all set up. You should have heard them oohing and aahing over every last detail. They were so excited. So often I'll walk into the room and catch one of the kids sitting in the dark in front of the village. Maybe we all would like to live there.

It is a lovely little winter ski village.

I think this will be one of those decorations that everyone looks forward to setting up each year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Keeping On

Life continues to whiz by with not enough hours in the day to get it all done. Still, I am determined not to get overwhelmed or bogged down with duties. I WILL keep my sense of humor.

Even when I realized last week that I really hadn't even BEGUN (seriously. I hadn't even BEGUN, people!) the Christmas shopping I still remained calm.  Sure, I had less than two weeks to figure out what the kids wanted, try and find it, order it, and get it to the house. But big deal, right? Right.

I didn't even freak out when we figured out that the ONLY day Joey and his science partner could work on their Science Fair Project (don'tevengetmestartedonthis) just so happened to be sandwiched between after school on Wednesday and before their school Christmas concert that very same Wednesday night. Sure I had to run around all day editing and developing the pictures that were taken for the project. And yes, I had to run Grace to dance class, then race over to school to pick up the boys (including Joey's partner) and bring them back to the house to get started on the project ASAP. And sure, I had to leave the boys at home for a bit (hoping they were working on the project without me) while I ran back to pick up Grace from dance. And yes, it was a bit of a rush getting the entire project done, written out, and pasted onto the triboard, but we (yes, I said "WE") did it! And it may have been a little crazy trying to jam food down the kids' throats before getting them dressed up all pretty for their concert but we did that too. And yes, it was another late night but that is O-KAY. No big deal.

I knew it would all pay off when Joey and I dragged that Science Fair Project into school the next morning and finally would be rid of that responsibility. And maybe at first, at FIRST, I wasn't laughing when the teacher told us that the project wasn't due until January. At first I didn't find it funny when she said that only the questions were due. At first I was a little shocked as I walked the triboard back to my car and drove it back to our house.  But later, much later, I could see the humor in the situation. And I laughed. Later.

The rest of the week went much the same way. Rush, rush, rush. But that's how it goes, right? At least my crazy stories provided good fodder at Todd's Christmas party on Friday night.

Have you noticed I didn't include any pictures? Cause, yeah, who has time for pictures these days? Not me. I mean, I may have taken some of the kids at their concert, but who can say? I definitely didn't take any of Todd and I on Friday night even though we both looked pretty spiffed up. I will definitely have to take pictures at Grace's school's holiday concert on Thursday because it is in the middle of the day (actually twice- once at 9:30 and once at 2) and Todd will be in court all day and the boys are obviously in school. But I won't sweat it. It will be fine. Pictures and video. No big deal.

See how well I'm doing?

Perhaps I haven't made any cookies or treats or candies yet. There is still time! And sure, my Christmas cards JUST made it into the mail but as long as they get to their destinations before Christmas it's all good, right? And maybe I have no idea what to get anyone for Christmas but it is the thought that counts. So, there's that.

Oh. And just this very second I forgot about the 40 small presents I get and wrap every year for our family's dice game we play at the grandmas' houses. I still have to get those. Oh, and the teacher's gifts. I kinda forgot about those too.

Maybe I should make a list.

I remember at the very start of December the kids were saying how excited they were for Christmas and they asked me if I was excited too. I told them that I was but that Christmas can be a lot of work. They couldn't fathom what I meant. I tried to explain a little but it just wasn't sinking in. And really, for the boys, it probably never will sink in. They will never really know the kind of work mommies put in to making holidays special. I guess it isn't worth explaining.

Funny enough, there was just a The Middle episode about the work of the holidays and how much the moms have to do. Frankie, the mom, decided not to do ANY of it and everyone freaked out. It was a pretty funny show and it illustrated my point perfectly. I think my kids understood what I was talking about a little better after watching it.

However, just yesterday Todd was commenting that he is just not in the Christmas mood. He is just tired of it all and wishes he could skip over the whole production of it just like on The Middle. I couldn't help but laugh out loud and say, "I'm sorry, but what exactly have you done in preparation for Christmas so far?" I think even he had to laugh when he thought about it.

The funny thing is that I really don't want to skip over it. Even if it makes me a bit crazy. This is the stuff kids live for. I want to make it special for them. How many more years do I have to really make Christmas magical? Four years? Five? These are memories in the making. Traditions. The warm, fuzzy, good stuff. I wouldn't skip over it if I could.

So instead, I am just gonna keep on keeping on. I'm maintaining my sense of humor and keeping a positive attitude. And when all else fails I take a good long run to get my stress out. And maybe have a glass of wine. Or two. Nevermind.

I hope you are all well, enjoying the season, and maintaining your sense of humor.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ho, Ho, Holy Cow!

Wow. What a weekend. I don't think we could have fit anything else into this weekend if we tried. 

While the kids were at school on Friday I rushed around getting all the outdoor Christmas decorations set up. It was a warmer day (around 40 degrees) and I figured it may be the last chance I have to put up the decorations without freezing. It took me most of the morning and when I was done I realized that I wanted to add a bit more. Since I had to run to the grocery store anyway I decided to stop at a few nearby stores to add to our decoration collection. 

After I found what I was looking for I rushed back home to get Grace from school and then resumed the decorating. When Grace went down for her nap the decorating continued. When the boys came home from school Todd and I were hanging the lights on the roof. It was nonstop decorating all day long. As Todd finished off the highest part of the roof I went back inside and dragged the Christmas tree up from the basement. It was starting to get late so we stopped for dinner and then began decorating the Christmas trees. 

First the kids put up their trees in their rooms and decorated them with their ornaments. Then we all pitched in and decorated the two trees (one in the front hallway, one in the family room) together. Most of us were decorating the big tree in the hallway and Ben ended up decorating the family tree pretty much all by himself. I was amazed at the good job he did. I only snuck around briefly to rehang a few jumbled ornaments (holy cow, I am really getting good at letting go and not worrying about everything being perfect) but I was thoroughly impressed with Ben's work. 

Much to Todd's dismay, when we were finally done decorating the trees, I wanted to try and get a couple of Christmas card pics. It was past bedtime and the kids were tired but I managed to get a few cute shots.
 I think I may like the outtake shots even better. This one may be one of my favs.
I let the kids off the hook as quickly as possible and let them stay up for a few more minutes before bed. 

When the kids were finally fast asleep in their beds I still had to set off to work on some stockings. Everything had to be set for St. Nick's big arrival the next day.

Even though the kids went to bed late the night before they just couldn't stay in bed the next day. Everyone was up bright and early to see what kind of goodies St. Nick had left.
 Notebooks, cookies, pez dispensers, light up ornaments, and candies were soon being spread out across the floor. St. Nick even left a special little treat for Molly which Tommy happily gave her.
There was not much time to rest and enjoy the treats. We had another busy day ahead of us. Joey was in a basketball tournament and Ben had his very first Reconciliation. Our crew all got ready and went to watch Joey's game. We couldn't stay to watch the entire game because we had to run across the street for Ben's special sacrament.

Ben was so excited, and not at all nervous, to go to his first confession. He was so excited, in fact, that when the kids were given the go ahead to pick a priest and line up for confession Ben was the very first one in line. Benny gave his confession, came back in the pew to say his penance prayers, and then went up and lit his candle at the alter. He was just so excited he could hardly contain himself. He said he felt so good.
It was a great day for him and he didn't even know he was going to be getting any presents. He was shocked when we got home later that day and gave him his very first bible, a Jesus bookmark, and a little medallion. He was just so precious with how excited and thankful he was. He sat and read that Bible for over an hour and carries the medallion everywhere with him. Such a good and sweet boy.

So anyway, after Ben's reconciliation we quick went back to school to pick up Joey (they won their game) and take everyone back home for lunch. Instead of relaxing before his next game Joey went outside and played basketball with Tommy (while Ben read his bible and Grace took a nap). Todd and I put up more lights. Egad.

I had to run back to school early because I was working at the tournament. I ended up working a double shift since no one else had signed up and I was there for Joey's game at that point anyway.
It was so fun watching Joey play basketball again. The growth he has shown from last year to this year is outstanding. His confidence has grown tremendously. He was always a good defensive player but his improvement in dribbling and shooting is apparent. Joey hit a really nice shot out by the three point line that he would have never thought to attempt last year. I just love seeing him gain confidence and courage. Really fun to watch.

Once the tournament games were over we decided to go out to dinner. It was another late night and once we got home we were all pretty exhausted.

This morning we got up and got ready for church. After church it was a quick lunch, the boys played basketball again, and then we were off to Cabela's to get pictures taken with Santa. Now, it is kind of silly really, because we don't have a Cabela's near us. We actually had to drive over an hour to get there but the kids love that store and we can usually make a nice trip out of it. I was beginning to get nervous because we didn't know what time Santa would be at the store. It was just after two when we got there and instead of hitting the bathrooms right away like we normally do I told everyone that we were going to make a beeline to the back of the store to see Santa right away. THANK GOODNESS we did that. We were able to walk right up to Santa (no line!) and then I heard the woman behind the camera say, "Okay. But this is the last one."  I asked her if she said we were the last and she informed me that they were actually supposed to be done a while ago. I apologized and told her I had no idea what time they were here. She let us know that there was a line all the way from the back of the store to the front of the store and out the doors all day. They had to cut the line off an hour ago. How we were able to just walk up right at the end and still see Santa, I don't know. It was a Christmas miracle.
 Santa was so sweet and jolly we all thought he was definitely the real thing. The kids all made their pleas and said their "thank you"s for last year's toys and we quickly let Santa go on his merry way.
And we even got this free picture out of it! So nice!

The rest of the day was spent checking out the tents, the mountain of animals, the aquarium, looking at toys, playing the shoot out game, and going to the candy store. It was a lucky day.

The kids are now finally in bed and I am busy editing pictures, picking out Christmas cards, going over paperwork to be handed in to school, and updating my calendar.

This is such a wonderful time of year, and at the same time, it is always jam packed with far too much. Big school projects are due, Kris Kringles are in progress, school concerts are on the schedule, along with plays and talent shows, and work Christmas parties too. I actually had to back out of my Symphony Christmas concert because I just couldn't get to the practices with everything else going on. And to be honest, I haven't really started the Christmas shopping yet. I feel pretty far behind but I'm trying to relax and keep my focus. It is not easy to do and that makes me sad. I've already cut out everything I can, and there is still so much. Ah well. Such is life.

'Tis the season to be jolly... FA-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la!


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

WW- My Little Friend

Black-capped Chickadee

Monday, December 1, 2014

On To The Next

Here we are again. Another holiday passing in the blink of an eye. Now we are cruising on to the next holiday. And before you know it that too will be over. Unbelievable how quickly time is going by.

I'll spare you all the gory details of our Thanksgiving. It was much the same as years past, we had two Thanksgivings, except this year we didn't have to host both of them at our house. It was quite the break for me and made for a very relaxing (save for one incident in which I nearly scalped and decapitated myself with the kids' ceiling fan as I was jumping down from their bunkbeds. I now have a gigantic egg on the back of my head and won't be able to sleep on my back, wear a hat, or lean my head back against ANYTHING for quite a while.) four day weekend.

In between the two Thanksgiving celebrations (one on Thursday and one on Saturday) Todd and I took the opportunity to take the kids to see the new Penguins of Madagascar movie. It was quite a treat.

The movie theater in our town recently went through major renovations and now every theater in the cinema has big, huge, Lazy-boy type recliners with reserved seating, a pizza parlor inside the cinema (with very good bruschetta with grape tomatoes and mozzarella), and they also serve beer and wine. Recliners, popcorn, beer, movie. Not too shabby.
(Enjoying the 3D flick with our stylin' glasses)

It was a very good experience. So good, in fact, that Todd and I decided to go to the movies again on Sunday to see Mockingjay Part 1. I think we may be having more date nights in our future.

The wonderful day date was followed up with taking down the fall decorations and watching the Packers eek out a win over the Patriots. I think we could call that a great Thanksgiving weekend.

Now we are getting back into the swing of things again. Life is back to it's normal frenetic pace. The winter decorations have replaced the fall decorations and we are just waiting for another "warmer" day (something over 32 degrees perhaps?) to set up the outside decorations. It will be a bit longer before we tackle the Christmas trees (yes, trees) but we'll get there.

In the meantime, we are overdosing on snowmen and Christmas tv specials. And I'm trying to soak up every single minute of it. Christmas will be here before we know it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Heroes

It's not the first time this has happened. Todd leaves for deer hunting and in comes a snowstorm. 

It usually isn't a huge deal. It's a pain in the butt, but not a big deal. I have gotten pretty good with the snowblower and when the snow isn't heavy or wet it is a fairly easy job. However, said snowblower has a broken handle and I have not yet gotten comfortable using the plow that Todd uses to get the job done.  

So, when I heard reports that we would be getting 4-6 inches of snow I was a little annoyed. Not only that but it was a real wet and heavy snow and most of it would be dumped in the middle of the night. I would probably have to get up an hour earlier to make sure I gave myself enough time to shovel the driveway so that the minivan could make it out in time to get the kids to school.

The snow began falling around 2 in the afternoon and kept steady throughout the evening. When we dropped Joey off at basketball practice at 6 there was already a good inch or two of snow. We got back home and Tommy and Ben volunteered to go outside and clear the driveway for me. I was thrilled because I had pulled my shoulder earlier in the day and I was having a hard time lifting my right arm. I was not looking forward to shoveling heavy snow. With the boys clearing some of the snow away at night at least that would be a little less snow for me to shovel in the morning.  

Knowing how heavy the snow was I told the boys not to do the entire driveway (it is a big U shaped driveway) but just the part that leads down from the garage. The boys only had a small window of time before we had to go back out and pick up Joey again and it would have been a bit much.

Tommy and Ben worked together and did a great job. I was very thankful I had such willing volunteers. I made sure to give them extra cookies when they came inside and let them know exactly how thankful I was. When we went to pick Joey up from basketball the boys were proud of themselves for giving me a clear driveway to back out of.

As the evening wore on the snow kept up. I checked out the window one last time before bed and the boys' wonderful shoveling job was completely snowed over. I guess it was going to be an early morning for me.

Morning came much too quickly (as it always does) and I woke up extra early. I grumbled down the stairs, fixed myself a cup of coffee, and noticed that my shoulder was still a problem. I had a hard time lifting the coffee pot to pour my coffee. Shoveling was going to be a real pain. Literally.

I quickly slugged down my coffee and began to get ready to do some shoveling. Just then my boys came bounding down the stairs. Immediately, they threw on their snow pants, jackets, boots, hats, and gloves, and took off outside to clear the driveway for me. WITHOUT ME EVEN ASKING. WITHOUT ME EVEN ASKING, PEOPLE!!!!

Even as I was telling them that they didn't have to help, and that maybe they should just relax before school, they insisted that they wanted to do it and took off outside before I could say anymore. It was enough to make this mama cry. I sat inside my nice warm house with a cup of coffee in my hand and watched as my three boys made their mama's morning.
With the three of them working together the job was done in a half an hour. They cleared the driveway and the big pile at the end of the driveway. And just as they were finishing up the snow plow came through and deposited another big pile of heavy, wet snow at the end of our driveway. The boys went to work and cleared it for me once again.
The boys came back in the house to a breakfast of champions. They quickly ate, changed into their school clothes, and got their snowpants, hats, mittens, and boots packed into their backpacks, grabbed their lunches, and we were out the door without any time for my boys to relax.

I am so grateful for these wonderful helpers of mine. So thankful that my fine young men didn't mind waking up and immediately jumping outside into the cold to do some heavy lifting, because I sure did. They saved me from the tedious chore AND from further injuring my wounded shoulder. My little heroes.

What a lucky mama.

Words To Live By

Be grateful for each new day.
A new day that you have never lived before.
Twenty-four new, fresh, unexplored hours to use usefully and profitably.
We can squander, neglect, or use them.
Life will be richer or poorer by the way we use today.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be
encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson