Monday, December 26, 2016

Rocking the Moose

Frog has been very sick these last few days.  I don't know if you can tell in this picture that I took yesterday... he definitely is not his cheerful, smiley self here.  But he still has been enjoying his moose, named Morris.  Morris is a great addition to our household!

(And Frog is feeling better today, by the way.)

Twin Love

Cousin Veeblek sent the twins some adorable matchy shirts.  So here is some twin cuteness for you to enjoy.  I'm so grateful to have these-- I need to do more of this kind of stuff with them while they are small.  When I put these shirts on they kept pointing to each other's hearts and talking animatedly in their twin language.  They then happily posed for these pictures.  I will forgive them for a lot of sleepless nights for those sweet moments!

Christmas Morning 2016

We started at about 6 am.  Leaf stayed in bed because she'd had a rough night puking and was finally asleep.  Here's our traditional "line up on the stairs" picture that everyone hates for me to take (they're anxious to get to those presents!)  These pictures are such an important piece of family history though.  Someday they'll thank me for them.

Here's what we came downstairs to.  This is such a great "Christmas morning" house.  I love it.

Frog got a rocking moose.  It was instant love.

Opening stockings... at our house, you can usually count on tangerines, chocolate, and Schleich figures in your stocking.  There might also be nuts, or jerky, or other small items such as lip balm or warm socks.  

Then we start on opening presents.  We open them one at a time, so everyone can watch.  We start with the youngest opening one gift, then go up in age order, going around as many times as there are presents.  

There were lots of hugs and "thank you"s.  

Small, inexpensive things brought tremendous happiness, like this little dollar store mirror the Rabbit bought for Peanut.  That's the great thing about Christmas.  The very nature of the day is so exciting that, for the little ones, even the smallest present brings so much joy.  That fact has been a great blessing for us during years when we didn't have much money.  This year, money wasn't so tight, which was really wonderful for me when shopping, but an increase in money doesn't really bring a corresponding increase in happiness and excitement.    

I do like to buy my children high-quality toys though, and I'm grateful when I'm able to do this.  I always have a running list of neat things I've found that will feed their imaginations and develop their brains, and it's always a joy for me at Christmas to select a few of these for them.  This year, I really wanted to get them Magna Tiles.  I watched for a sale-- they were still expensive!  But they were worth it because they will be well-used for a long time.  

Okay, I just love Lego Elves.  I guess I should say "loved" because it looks like Lego may be phasing out the Elves line (BAD! BAD! BAD Lego!)  I would have died to have these sets when I was a kid.  They have so many cute little pieces like squirrels and baby dragons in eggs, as well as pretty sparkly jewel pieces.  My brother and I spent untold hours playing with Legos as a child.  Most of my bricks were very plain in a hodge podge of basic colors. However, we had a couple of space sets and a couple of castle sets, and we really treasured the fancy pieces from these... these Elves sets would have blown my mind.  I can't resist buying them for my girls, who want them even more badly than I want to buy them for them.  

I decided we needed to beef up our collection of Little People for our pair of two-year-olds, so that's what they got both for their birthdays and for Christmas.  We have enough now for lots of toddler imaginary play.  

The Badger bought the boys fancy cockpit posters to hang on their walls... the kind of awesome stuff you get when your dad's a pilot.  

Grandma and Grandpa Badger are always so sweet to send individual presents for the kids.  Grandma watches the fabric stores for remants of the really pretty fancy fabrics and sends them to the girls.  They just love these.  

Our collection of toy food was getting very worn, and a lot had been thrown away.  A lot of toy food/kitchen stuff is very cheaply made and doesn't last.  I read about this stuff from Learning Resources that is very high-quality and durable, so I had to get some.  Peanut and I are both very pleased with it.  

Bean bought Frog a knight set just like the ones we bought for Bean and Fish when they were small (oh, the memories!)  He was thrilled!  

It was a bountiful Christmas and I am very grateful for that.  I'm also very grateful for my children, and for their gratitude and appreciation for their gifts.  I don't know if it's all the hard years we've had and the material loss and lack they've experienced at times, but somehow they haven't developed the entitlement mentality that is so easy to get in our affluent culture.  I am very grateful for that, however it happened.  It was such a joy to be able to shower them with presents and have them be so happy and grateful.  

Christmas Eve 2016

Here are some pictures from our Christmas Eve.  

We had a turkey dinner.  The Badger always cooks turkey for our Holiday dinners and he always serves it after he has removed all the meat from the bones and put it in a casserole dish.  The kids always complain: "why can't we have a whole turkey on the table like in all the pictures and movies?"   The Badger always says "because it's easier this way."  Well, this time he decided to humor them and serve it whole on the table.  They were so happy.  

Oh, man, I am having a hard time looking at this picture.  When we ate this meal, I was starting to come down with the stomach flu, so looking at this makes me feel queasy.  I won't be able to eat turkey dinner again for a long time.  

Christmas jammies... eight pairs!  Some years I wrap them up.  This year I didn't bother, I just laid them all out on my bed.

The lack of wrapping paper did not produce a lack of excitement.  Simplify for the win!

Okay, so I love my tree.  I think it's beautiful at night when it's all lit up with all those pretty white lights.  During the day I notice that it actually looks pretty awful.  There are no ornaments on the bottom half, and the ornaments on the top are nowhere near artistically arranged.  Our star on top stopped working and won't stay up, so it's flopped over and unlit.  I went to go buy a new one and, gee whiz!  They were like $35 or so.  I'll try to pick one up on clearance now that Christmas is over.  Meanwhile, I should probably have taken the old star down, but I never seemed to get around to it.  Oh well.  At night the tree still looks lovely.  Christmas trees are magical, even ones entirely decorated by young children.  Especially ones entirely decorated by young children.

Twig clocked out early in the evening...

We acted out the Nativity with our set of puppets that we've had for years.  The kids really love those puppets.  (Thanks again, Julie!)

Then we set out our stockings and went to bed...

A Year of Running

I just returned from a late-afternoon run.

I haven't been doing a very good job with exercise during this holiday season, so it was my first run in some weeks.  My body complained a lot, but I was surprised and pleased at how well I did.  I remember where I was a year ago... how I could only run a short stretch and how I felt like I was running uphill through peanut butter.  Today felt a bit like peanut butter, since I have spent some weeks being lazy and eating junk food.  But I still managed to run over a mile.

I ran a 5K in early November.  It was my first paid race, and it was a great experience.  My goal was to run the whole thing: no walk breaks.  I trained consistently for it, running about 3 days a week (training was easy during football season because I could run while Bean was at practice.)  I was ready, and it went well.  My time was just under 40 minutes, which thrilled me.  It was a huge achievement for me, and I found that I want to keep going and run more races.

Today was a beautiful evening for a run.  I love these mild winter days here in Kansas, where the air is crisp but not bitter.  I love the golden late-evening light, and the bare branches of the trees against the sky.  My favorite sillhouettes are the sycamores, birch, and oaks.  I love the way the earth seems quiet and still, resting.  I love the time I have to think, ponder, or pray as I jog along.  That alone is worth the effort for this busy mom.

Running will continue to be a part of my life.  I look forward to seeing what progress and milestones I might achieve during this next year.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Very Merry Christmas!

In my last post I mentioned a puking Twig.  Remember that? 

The stomach flu is visiting our house for Christmas, on top of the hacking-cough-cold.  Some have one, some have the other, poor Frog has both. 

There may have been a time earlier in my parenting career when I felt that this had ruined our Christmas.  I might have been upset or depressed or both. 

I don't feel that way though.  First of all, there are ten people in this house.   This time of year, there is almost always someone sick.   It's almost inevitable that there will be some kind of crud making its rounds on December 24th.  The stomach flu is more rare and definitely more dreaded, but I have known it was going around lately and I knew it was only a matter of time before it popped up here.  The timing was unfortunate, sure.

But I am just way too aware of so many people that are having a hard time right now.  I think of Aleppo, which I know is just the tip of the iceberg of war and suffering in this world, and I just can't complain.  Here we all are, warm and safe and ridiculously well-fed.  Together.  With an abundance of wonderful gifts.  And a washing machine to take care of all that extra laundry.  

We opened our presents early, as is our custom when Christmas Day falls on a Sunday.  I sat through the glorious unwrapping fighting nausea from my own bout with the stomach virus.  But it's just a 24 hour virus, not a chronic disease.  I will be better soon and we have a whole week of school vacation ahead of us.  The Badger even has several days off of work-- what a treat! 

I love being a mom at Christmas.   I love giving things to my children that I know will make them so happy.   It's so fun to pick out the right thing or things for each child and then see their faces when they open them.  I also love seeing them excited to give gifts to each other.  This year Bean had quite a wad of cash from a part-time job he has and he was quite generous in his Christmas giving.  The Rabbit worked very hard to make a homemade coloring book for Peanut... it is really a beautiful treasure.   Roo picked out something in a catalog that she just knew the twins would love, so I bought it for her to give them.  They do just love it and she is so pleased.   These moments are enormously satisfying to me as a mother. 

So, it is a very Merry Christmas at our house this year, despite the chorus of coughing and the faint odor of... um... yeah.  Anyway.  We are happy and we wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season filled with many delights. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Seventeen Years

I just wrote a lovely post about our seventeenth anniversary, which I now can't get to publish because of a bug on my Blogger App.  Maybe that's okay; maybe it was too personal.

Right before Christmas is not an ideal time to have a wedding anniversary.  You're broke, you're insanely busy, and someone is always sick.  This year was the perfect example of that.  We couldn't go out on our anniversary because there was a bunch going on, including a school concert.  We went out the next day.  It was a very simple and cheap date: taking in a local light display and using a gift card to get some yummy burritos.  Then back home to deal with a puking Twig and several other kids with a hacking cough.

It doesn't matter where or what, we have always just enjoyed being together.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

It Snowed!

Oh, the kids were excited!  And this is why I am glad it doesn't snow often here:

I try to be patient with the constant pile of winter gear on the floor.  Because I know how much this means to kids:

They will have happy memories of time playing in the snow, and that makes me happy.

A Science Lesson with Cheerios

Have you ever extracted the iron from your breakfast cereal?  It's not hard to do, and it makes an extremely fascinating homeschool lesson.

Our science textbook had it as part of the chapter on nutrition.  They said to pound the cereal to powder and then run a magnet over it to pick up the iron bits.  We tried that, and it wasn't working.  Then I remembered a youtube video on the subject my nephew had sent me awhile back.  In that video, the man blended one cup of cereal in the blender with one cup of water.  Then he stirred it in a cup, holding a magnet to the side.  We tried it, and once we switched to a thin-sided disposable plastic cup and a non-metal stirring implement, we had great success.

The kids were fascinated.  So was I.

In this last picture, if you look closely, you can see a grey splotch next to where we are holding the magnet.  That is the iron particles!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Babysitters Club

More childhood memories from Birrd...  when I was Roo's age, I LOVED the Babysitter's Club series by Ann M. Martin.I was very self-conscious about the fact that older kids made fun of these books as being stupid and babyish, so I kept my adoration to myself.

I learned so much from the Babysitter's Club.  I was just at the age where I was starting to really be able to see something from someone else's perspective, and so as I put myself into the shoes of Kristy, MaryAnn, Claudia, and Stacy, I learned a great deal about life and people.

Ann M. Martin tackled a lot of life issues in these books, explaining them in a way that tweens could understand.  I learned for the first time about autism, diabetes and strokes.  I learned how it feels to be a twin, a middle child, and an only child.  I learned about divorce and remarriage and blended families.  I saw the perils of the world of child beauty pageants.  I learned how to pronounce "filet mignon."  And I learned a ton of great babysitting tips.

I owned the first thirty books or so (they kind of went downhill after that, as they were written by ghost writers.)  At one point when I was beginning to outgrow them and my family was moving, my mother encouraged me to sell them at our garage sale.  I did (they went like hotcakes!) but many times over the years I have regretted it.

Lately, with Roo and the Rabbit being at *that* age, I have been looking for them at the library.  Recently I found that someone has rewritten some of them as graphic novels.  At first I was appalled, but I decided to give them a chance.  They're actually pretty cute, and my girls are loving them.

I'm glad they're getting into these.  It makes me feel very nostalgic.  And kind of old.  But it's nice sharing somethin with my girls that I loved so much when I was their age.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Nutcracker Memories

The other night my neighbor called and asked if I wanted two free tickets to The Nutcracker ballet.

DID I?????

I don't know when I have been so excited!

I got to take the Rabbit with me and we both enjoyed every second of it.  She loved the dancing, the costumes, the music, the sets... So did I.  But mostly I was lost in my memories of dancing in The Nutcracker myself when I was young.

This was a big part of my childhood.  My family was heavily involved in the town ballet company in the 1980's, with my sister and I taking lessons, and my parents involved in various ways.  There were several Decembers where my entire family lived and breathed Nutcracker.  When I was really young, I watched while my sister danced, my mother worked backstage, and even my non-dancing brother got roped into being one of the boys in the party scene.

Finally, in 1987, I was old enough to be in it myself.  Oh, I was so excited!  Half my ballet class got cast as girls in the party scene and the other half, including me, got cast as handmaids to the Arabian dancer.  I was a little wistful about not being a party scene girl, but I loved being in the Arabian dance.  We wore these fun costumes with little vests and pointy-toed shoes. Oh, and the hats.  Fabulous hats.  We had to smear brown makeup all over ourselves to make our skin a bit darker.  I had so much fun.  I can still hear our director calling out the steps of the dance to us: "piqué, piqué... now scurry!"  Here is a picture; I wish the quality was better.  I am on the far left.

It occurs to me I was eight years old at this point, which is the Rabbit's age right now.  I wish she could have had this experience!

For the next couple of years, our small ballet school wasn't able to pull off a Nutcracker production, but in 1990 we did it again.  By this time, I was eleven and a half and beginning toe shoes.  I had three parts, so I was heavily involved.

First, I was the tomboy in the party scene, which was a fun part our artistic director wrote in to make things a little more interesting.  One of the girls in the party scene would rather be playing with the boys.  When she is given a gift of a doll along with all the other girls, she tears the doll apart and storms off the stage.  A few minutes later, she comes back onstage in her bloomers, trying to show that she can be just like the boys.  Her horrified parents then escort her out.  It was such a fun part for me to dance and pantomime.  Here is a picture of me strutting onto the stage in my bloomers.

For my second part, I was a soldier in the battle scene.  Some of the soldiers had wooden guns, others had hobby horses.  I had a hobby horse.  At one point, I collected the other hobby horses and put them together to make a "four-headed monster horse" which I then used to scare the mice.  Our artistic director seemed to like to use me for these character parts, which of course was a blast for me.

In the second act, I was part of the Waltz of the Flowers.  We had always had a corps of dancers in flower costumes holding garlands in our Nutcracker, but this was the first year our director used students who were en pointe for this group.  So I got to be in toe shoes on stage.  I felt like a real ballerina.  My dad snapped this great photo at our dress rehearsal.  I am the second from the right, and I am on my toes! 

The older I get, the more I am grateful for these experiences of my childhood.  To be able to learn to dance, gaining strength, control, and grace, did so much for me.  To be able to be on stage was also a phenomenal growing experience-- and so much fun!

Now here I am with children of my own and I dream of them having  experiences like this too.  I now know how much parental time and money is involved in getting your kids to be able to do these sorts of things, and my gratitude to my parents knows no bounds.  

My gratitude to my neighbor also knows no bounds.   Those tickets meant the world to me.  I haven't been to see The Nutcracker in forever.  I still knew every measure of the music, and I was surprised at how much of the staging and choreography I remembered from those long-ago productions.  They are a beloved part of my childhood memories and The Nutcracker will always have a special place in my heart.   

Monday, December 12, 2016

More Photos of Lately

An armful of love...

Me experimenting with a curling iron, something I haven't done since I was a teenager.  I really like how my hair looks curly.  I just wish it wasn't such a long, tedious process to make it look like that.

Getting out the Christmas decorations... the kid-friendly Nativity sets are extremely popular!

Hi, Roo!

A rare sight... a sleeping twin!  Look at those wee little hands!

Cozy living room on a December night...  we have been loving our fireplace!  Fish is our fire builder.  He is always eager to get one going.  

The Rabbit set a special table just for her and her daddy down in the basement the other night at dinnertime.  I thought it was so sweet!

I made this candy cane bread the other night for a family treat.  I had never made one of these before.... I started out with sweet roll dough thinking I was going to make cinnamon rolls and then I saw this in my cookbook and decided to give it a go.  It was actually really easy and a lot of fun to make, especially with Peanut helping me.  There is cherry jam mixed with sliced almonds and almond extract inside.  It was delicious!  

Frog Birthday Pictures

Birthday selfie with Mom... my littles LOVE to take selfies.  Amazing how fast they latched onto that concept!

They also really like to photobomb...

Birthday dinner of hamburgers... we were still having weather mild enough to grill at that point.  A couple days later winter dropped on us suddenly.

The glorious box of delight...

New shoes!

What's next?

Again, I love the way they all gather round to watch...

Tower of donuts...

We then cut them into eighths so that everyone could try several different kinds.  And then we watched them disappear very quickly...

Birthday jacket and birthday bear... we love, love, love our Frog!