Saturday, December 31, 2011

Rounding Out The Year

It's the very last day of the year. 

It's been a good year.  Fairly uneventful, which is just how I like it.  Sure there were tough spots, but I think the good far outweighed the bad and that in itself is a blessing. 

This past week has been much like our year.  Lots of good with a little bit of stink thrown in once in a while. 

The kids were out of their minds preChristmas, as you would imagine.  I spent my time finishing up last minute shopping and taking them to museums and to see Santa.  Yes, we already saw Santa at Cabela's but we have a favorite spot to see Santa in our city that has an amazing winter wonderland/Santa's workshop display.  I went there as a little kid and not much has changed.  I love it.  It is a must every year.

Christmas morning came and went too quickly.  As it always does. 
Christmas Eve and Christmas was spent at the grandparents houses.  A good time was had by all.  We had some mysterious vomit show up here and there as a strange 12 hour puke bug made an appearance (to each of us at different times) at our house throughout our Christmases and beyond.  However it all seemed to happen at night and everyone always woke up "healthy" and fine so we made it through fairly well.

The kids had one day to play with and enjoy all of their toys.  They spent all of their time play camping in the basement with their new tents and sleeping bags or building complex LEGO sets in the library.  I spent all of my time cleaning up the Christmas mess and putting the house back in order.
On Tuesday we made the trek to the cabin for some north woods fun.
It was pretty cold but we bundled up and spent all of our time outside anyway.  Todd and the boys checked the ice to make sure it was thick enough,
and when they discovered it was safe Grace came out to join them.  With the help of her big brother, of course.
I even got to ride a snowmobile for the first time in my life.  It was cold. I should have put a hat on.
Todd took turns giving the kids a ride on the snowmobile while Molly chased after. 
And don't worry, he went very slow.  I was super paranoid about not having any helmets (that fit) just yet but Todd was super cautious.
Then, much to the kids' excitement, Todd hooked up the sled and took all four of them for a nice slow stroll across the lake.  Again, Molly chased after them.  I never was one who liked snowmobiles much but I must admit that getting these two sleds at the deal we got them has already paid off.  It was fun.

The next day we all went skiing.  All of us.  Grace even got fitted for her first ski boots (I think they were pretty big on her, but she didn't care). 
Todd and I took turns taking Grace down the hill (we held her in between our legs) and helping Ben down the hill.  The first hour was mass hysteria.  The kids had to remember how it all worked and Todd and I were sweating trying to help everyone get the hang of it again.  The boys kept falling down and couldn't figure out how to get up.  Todd and I would rush over and help one and then another one's ski would pop off and we would have to rush over and fix that too.  It was a workout. 

After that first hour it started to get better.  Joey and Tommy were going up and down the hill by themselves and Ben was getting it too.  He started to learn how to turn and stop and even held on to the tow rope by himself.  Just as it was starting to get to be a lot of fun I got a migraine.  Go figure.  Grace was ready to call it quits anyway so she and I went inside while the boys continued to ski.  I took some medicine right away which helped it from getting too bad, but it was still a big bummer.  It was the perfect skiing day. I would have liked to stay out there all day. 
Eventually the boys came in and had lunch with Grace and I before heading back out for another couple of hours for more skiing.  They did great!  You'd think that would have been enough to wear them out but when we got back to the cabin the boys were right back out on the ice again.  Safe to say, everyone slept really well that night.

Overall, it was a good trip.  There were some tough spots, as usual, but I'd do it all over again. 

When we got back from our trip yesterday I got sad news from my mom that our dog died.  Lucy was the first little baby Todd and I had.  We got our sweet puppy when we were newlyweds.  We picked her from the litter because she was the runt and was constantly being bitten and bullied by the other pups.  Poor lil thing. She seriously was our baby.  The first blanket I ever knitted actually went to her.  She was so spoiled but she was a doll. 

Then when we started having kids she decided she didn't like us all that much anymore.  After we had Tommy Lucy decided she wanted to live with my mom and dad.  Reluctantly, we agreed, since she was starting to get nippy at the kids.  We still saw her all the time (obviously) and when she didn't have to live with the kids she actually liked them.  When my dad's Alzheimer's forced him into a nursing home Lucy was like a Godsend.  Not only did she keep my mom company but she had a way of bringing my dad out of his fog.  Mom would bring Lucy with her to the nursing home every day and Lucy would sit so sweetly on dad's lap, even when dad would hold her too tightly or pet her too hard.  She just knew.  Clearly, Lucy was meant always meant to be my folks' dog. 

For all her sweetness Lucy was a real stinker too.  She barked nonstop.  She ate everything she saw. She would escape my parents' fenced in backyard to eat the neighbors' garbage. Not to mention, she wasn't a very loyal dog.  She went from being the runt of a litter to running the house (two households, actually). She was a little stinker.  But she was our little stinker. And she had the sweetest little beagle face you've ever seen.  I'll miss her.  Little Lucy.

ANYWAY...  the week was good and bad.  But mostly good.

Tonight we are ringing in the new year with the kiddos.  Favorite appetizers and juice in wine glasses!  It's always a good time. 

I hope you all have a very fun and safe New Year's Eve!  And I hope 2012 brings many more good times than bad.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011


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It seems that I am jinxing myself all over the place. 

Shortly after I posted about how "on the ball" I am with everything my day went to pot.  The kids were crazy and sassy.  I was a grouchy, yelling mess.  The day became cluttered with errands and "must do's".  I was running from one thing to another.  Next thing I know I am bawling all over the place about how I don't think I should be allowed around people.  I should be locked away in a room somewhere by myself while my children are raised by a much more compassionate person.  
Ahhhh... the holidays.  I'm so good at making them merry, aren't I?  Good times. 

Hopefully now that I have that out of my system all will be restored and there will be peace throughout the land.  Hopefully.

Hopefully I will find some inner peace this Christmas.  Peace and wisdom to relax and enjoy.  Let the little things go.  Remember what is important.  Cherish what I have, and what the Lord has given all of us.  The greatest gift of all.  The Prince of Peace. 


Wishing all of you a season of PEACE and LOVE. May you all have a Blessed Christmas. A Happy Hannukah. A festive Kwanza. And Happy Holidays. Peace to us all!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Because I Spoke It

This is what happens when you say you don't want a white Christmas. 

I jinxed it.  I blabbed to everyone I know how much I love the fact that we haven't had any snow yet.  Every time my boys would wish for snow I made a "blech" noise.  I announced my love for the green grass.  And even though there was no snow in the forecast I woke up to this. 

It was a jinx.  Kind of like the other day when I was smothering my dog with affection and proclaiming that I had the best dog in the world.  I found out a few moments later that she had chewed up one of Todd's Christmas gifts.  Not.  A. Good.  Dog. 


Oh well.  The snow is rather pretty.  And I don't think there is so much that I will have to shovel or plow it.  And it will probably melt since the forecast is warming up right away (there I go again-jinx). 

At least all of my errand running, shopping, wrapping, and craziness is all done.  Other than the boys' school talent show this morning I can just sit back and enjoy the Christmas bliss.  It must be a first.  Normally I am still scrambling for gifts and the presents don't even get wrapped until the very last minute.  Literally.  The last minute.  I'm talking close to midnight on Christmas Eve.  But this year it's all done.  Bring on Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Homes Tour 2011

Take a step outside and you'd never know that it is Christmas time.  The weather has been well over the normal 30 degrees, we've had rain instead of snow, and the only thing blanketing the ground is our green grass.  It is odd.  But I'm not complaining.  The boys have really been aching for some snow, but I'm okay with a green Christmas. 

Our strange weather outside may not get my boys in the mood for Christmas but I know the inside is definitely doing it's job.  We are decked out.

At the front door we have Christmas tree number one.  Yes, the one that made me bleed and sweat and cuss.  At least it looks nice now.
Every windowsill and ledge and shelf is bathed in Christmas.
Christmas cards are overflowing in the dining room.
Igloos made out of sugar cubes and marshmallows share counter space with snowmen.
Scented candles and cute cups mingle on the island.
Snowmen are plugging up every surface.
Christmas blankets for snuggling
 in front of Christmas tree number two.
 More snowmen and elves and the nativity are arranged on the shelves.
 Even the lamps are gussied up and surrounded by smiling snowmen.

Yes, the weather outside may have us fooled, but there is no mistaking it inside.  Christmas is right around the corner.

What does your house look like this time of year?  Join in on the Holiday Home Tour and let us take a peek!

(and in connection with You Capture- Festive!)

Friday, December 16, 2011

To Get You In The Mood

Tomorrow night Todd and I have a Christmas dinner to attend with a large gathering of his friends.  We have been looking forward to it for some time now. 

However, there is a certain vomit situation going on around here and I am running on a half an hour of sleep.  And...  my stomach isn't feeling so great either, if I'm honest. 

Still, it has been a long time since I have been to any sort of Christmas party or dinner.  I really want to go.  I have finally been feeling that Christmassy spirit and I'm ready to enjoy the season.

I thought I would post this for any of you who are still having a hard time getting in the Christmas mood.  If it doesn't get you in the mood and least it will make you smile. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Keeping Expectations Low

The first step is always admitting you have a problem, right?  Right.

Maybe that is the reason I have been feeling much more balanced and calm.  First, I had to admit I had a problem.  My problem was that I wanted a picture perfect Christmas.  The problem with that is that THERE IS NO PICTURE PERFECT CHRISTMAS.  So, after I wrote all about my failure I was free to move on with less expectations.  When you have four smallish children less expectations are always good.

I did not have high expectations when we took the kids to Cabela's on Saturday.  I did not think we would be able to get Grace to sit on Santa's lap without her screaming her little head off so it was a pleasant surprise when she fought back her tears.  And after Santa gave her a candy cane she actually sat on his lap and smiled!  Kind of.
So there is a dead deer in the picture.  So what, right?  The photographer at the store got a picture of all four kids looking at the camera and smiling and she even edited the dead deer out.  Lovely.
I also did not have high expectations that my children would be able to contain their excitement in the store and not smash into everyone and grab everything while running from place to place.  And when we pulled into the jam packed parking lot my expectations sunk even lower.  The place was overflowing with people, but I was very pleasantly surprised with how well they behaved.

I didn't even think about being able to finish the Christmas shopping, but while the kids and I played in the tents Todd was able to complete the shopping for the kids.  Woot woot!
I was pretty exhausted after the trip, the shopping, and a stop at a fun restaurant, so I had very low expectations for my very first concert performance in over 11 years.  The symphony choir I perform with was joining with the symphony orchastra for "The Messiah".   A beautiful piece of music, but very long, and very difficult.  Also, not my favorite type of music.  I'm more of a broadway or jazz kind of a girl.  And, I had to wear head to toe black.  Todd told me I looked kind of Amish.  I did.  But at least my hair looked good. 
The concert went very well.  It felt so good to be up on stage again.  I didn't have any solos or do anything memorable, but it felt great to be a part of something like that again.

It was a nice weekend, overall.  The weather was warm enough on Sunday for the kids to play outside all day and for a nice long run for me.  After a relaxing shower I got to watch the Packers trounce the Raiders and go to 13-0.  Yowsa!  Todd and I celebrated the win with some Pud Thai after the kids went to bed.  Fabulous way to end a lovely weekend.

Maybe the key to a wonderful holiday isn't finding balance, maybe the key is keeping my expectations extremely low.  ;)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Finding Balance

It's a balancing act.  This whole Christmas season.  A delicate balancing act. 

It seems I am a bit off balance this year.  My first clue came last week Friday when we attempted to put up our Christmas decorations and Christmas trees. 

I always have lovely visions of the way I think the Christmas season is going to go.  Music playing in the background.  Snowflakes gently flitting down outside the window.  A roaring fire in the fireplace.   The Christmas trees being decorated by happy children holding up their favorite ornaments and carefully placing them on the tree as Todd and I smile and watch from the couch.  In my mind's eye there is always lots of laughter and kindness and joy and peace.  Patient kids sitting excitedly in front of the Christmas tree posing for the ultimate Christmas card picture.  Todd and I enjoying our shopping trip alone to find the perfect Christmas gifts for the kids to really make this Christmas exciting, and then a nice, relaxing dinner out afterwards to celebrate our great finds. 

I'm sure it is no surprise to you that it never actually happens that way.

After setting up our two year old prelit Christmas tree we discovered half of the lights were out.  We spent an hour trying to fix them.  Then we spent another two hours CUTTING THE PRELIT LIGHTS OFF THE TREE and another half hour hanging new lights.  If anyone ever suggests that you get a prelit Christmas tree you have my permission to drop kick them in the head.  Also?  The sadistic hogs that tie the lights onto prelit Christmas trees by knotting them are permanently on my shitlist.  So much for feeling that Christmas love while setting up the tree.  My hands and arms were all cut up and bleeding from the scratchy branches, all of my nails but one had broken, I was cussing and sweating, and plotting people's demise. 

By the time the boys got home from school and Ben and Grace got up from their naps they were all ready to have some Christmassy fun.  However, we were about three hours behind where we wanted to be.  Todd had to run out and get new lights.  I had to try and make some kind of a dinner.  Then we had to wait for Todd to put the lights on.  When we were finally ready to start putting the ornaments on the overly excited and not so patient kids had to wait for me again as I discovered my camera had no batteries and my video camera was out of disc.  Have mercy, sweet baby Jesus!

By the time all was settled the kids were overwrought, I was frazzled, Todd was grumpy.  Not one of us was in a Christmassy mood.  The kids grabbed at delicate ornaments, started fights, whined and cried, and threw the ornaments at the tree and hoped they stuck.  In short (too late), it was horrible.  The kids went to bed miserable and I felt like a failure for approximately the billionth time since having kids. 

The next day would be better, we promised!

But, Todd and I spent much of our time attempting to get the kids out from inside the Christmas trees, cleaning up broken ornaments, and pulling out our hair.  We happily dropped them off at their grandparents' house that night and took off to find our rotten children some wonderful Christmas gifts.  We didn't find much.  Most of our time was spent arguing with each other, rolling our eyes, and disagreeing about what to give the kids.  It was not successful. 

We tried to shake it off and move on to dinner.  We went to one of our favorite little restaurants where Todd watched the Badger game too much, talked too little, and I ate my weight in fish and chips. 


So far, this whole Christmas thing is too much work.

I don't know what it is about this year that is making me want it all to be just right.  Maybe it is because it is Joey's first year without the magic of Santa.  He is being such a sweet brother making Christmas exciting for his siblings and I want him to know it is appreciated.  I remember my first Christmas without Santa.  It was miserable.  Or, maybe I am trying so hard because Grace is now at that age where she is understanding more.  This will be her first Christmas really feeling and sharing in on the excitement too.  Maybe I just want my kids to look back at their childhood, and their Christmases at home, and remember how magical it all felt.  I don't know.

It disappoints me, though, because I know Christmas isn't really about any of this.  And usually I am very good at finding that balance between making it exciting for my kids and stressing the real reason behind this Christmas season.  I feel like I am making it harder than it needs to be.  I am not finding the balance. 

I am hoping that once things calm down we will be able to enjoy the season more.  Not only was last weekend crazy, but the whole week that followed was madness as well.  I know there were at least two days in there when I did not sit down ONCE (unless I was driving in the car to get to yet another appointment).  Miserable.  I suppose it is hard to find balance when you feel like a crazy person.

But next week.  Yes, next week will be different.  All the madness begins to slow.  Maybe then I will be able to find balance.  Maybe then we'll have our roaring fire, our Christmas music, and our soft snow.  Maybe then we will be able to sit back and enjoy each other's company in front of our fully lit Christmas tree.  And maybe when the kids look back at Christmas photos from their childhood they will still feel that excitement and magic that the whole Christmas season holds, and perhaps forget about all the whining and fighting and scolding from mom and dad.  I can only hope.
(It only took me 300 tries to get them all sitting still, looking at the camera (with their eyes open), and smiling.  Yeah me.)

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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