Thursday, December 29, 2011

Week O Grandparents

It started last week when Mom-Mom arrived and it lasted until tonight when the kids and I dropped Grandma Cathie and Grandpa off at the airport. Although they didn't do a lot away from the house, everyone involved was exhausted from the constant playing. Mom-Mom got to share Maddux's room with her, Grandma spent many hours playing dollhouse with Maddux, and Grandpa Jim was invited to alternate his time between legos and football, both exhausting for different reasons.

Mom-Mom left on Monday, after which we took a trip to the local ice cream shop so Grandpa Jim could buy Eli a big ice cream. (Apparently there was a football bet from about a month ago to settle up on. Eli also worked the deal so Maddux received an ice cream cone.) Then there was one afternoon when the four of them left, only to return after dinner, having gone to the bowling alley and then Target (to settle yet another bet determined at the bowling alley). Eli and Maddux were oh-so excited to have two playmates that had nothing else on their agenda but to say 'yes' to every request to play. I imagine Grandma and Grandpa slept a full twelve hours when they arrived at home…..

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Today was awesome for our family. We all slept until 8AM-ish before the kids started to stir. We let them go wake Grandma Cathie and Grandpa Jim before congregating around the tree. In our house, Santa brings three gifts (just like Jesus got), and they are unwrapped and somewhat small. Eli was excited to find a Cars 2 DVD, a Star Wars sweatshirt and a 2-pack of Star Wars action figures. He immediately put on the sweatshirt and proceeded to wear it all day; I guess he liked it! Maddux was over the moon about her gifts: a ladybug umbrella, a Mulan DVD, and a Hello Kitty robe. For some reason she was funny about trying on the robe that morning, but she was still excited about it.

Santa also left stockings with small little trinkets, so we opted to open those as well. Eli and Maddux had so much fun with these small gifts; they got holiday M&Ms, socks, toy cars, costume jewelry, chap stick, Lego people… so fun. We had a church service at 10:30, so after stockings, we took time to grab a quick breakfast and get dressed. Maddux got all kinds of holiday-fancy, just as she had for Christmas Eve service. Eli wore his Star Wars sweatshirt. We joined our church as we shared a short service with another church. Immediately following, we were given the opportunity to bring boxes of food to a few families in need. We were very excited to be able to do this on a day that celebrates love for others. It really helped us keep our focus where it should be.

Once we got home we made Dutch Babies for brunch and opened a few more presents. Then Lehr and I gave Maddux and Eli our gift to them (we get them one thing). Eli got the space shuttle Lego set that he's been wanting for close to a year. Maddux got a dollhouse, complete with a few furnishings and a family. Both kids were super stoked.

The rest of the day was filled with playing, gifts, spaghetti dinner, and a birthday cake for Jesus (the kids both chose red velvet as the flavor this year: random and odd). My favorite part, by far, were all of the homemade gifts under the tree. Each child, on their own, drew pictures, picked school projects, and made other varieties of gifts for Lehr and I, as well as the grandparents. Eli put a lot of thought into it, picking a few special school projects to give to Grandma Cathie, Grandpa Jim, and Mom-Mom. Maddux followed suit by drawing a few photos, picking a few school projects, and choosing two 'crafts' she'd made in the last six months or so to give to them. Even better was their joy in wrapping the gifts (paper lunch bags decorated with crayons and foam stickers), and best of all was their excitement to give the gifts on Christmas morning. Love it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

The kids are all hyped up because the house is full of grandparents which means attention, attention, attention. This also means a little worse behavior from Eli and Maddux as their tolerance for anything less than NOW is non-existent. (With three extra adults in the house, why SHOULD they have to settle for 'no', or 'in a minute'?) That being said, everyone is having a great time. Eli played football with Grandpa Jim for extensive time both yesterday and today, and Maddux has dragged Grandma Cathie through her toys several times already.

We got working on the meatballs as soon as we got up this morning. Eli and Maddux happily helped Grandpa Jim and Grandma Cathie as they mixed the meat, added onions, worked in the eggs...the kitchen was full of chefs! Once we finished that we enjoyed a visit from Aunt Megan and Rachel. The kids engaged them in an outdoor football game as well.

Lehr had to leave early for church because he was playing, so I got the kids and myself ready and prepared to turn on a special Veggie Tales movie for them. (If you've not see "Saint Nicholas", it is AWESOME if you are trying to downplay the commercialized version of Santa...and the kids love it!) Right about this time, Grandma Cathie inadvertently cut her eye while putting in her contact lens. This resulted in a trip to urgent care, then the ER. Lehr was able to come and pick up those of us still at the house for the service, and we all met back at the house around 8PM. Grandma Cathie was fine by then, but she was sporting an eye patch, so the pirate jokes were running heavy all night.

The kids picked out a few books and we had a fire after a chili and appetizer type dinner. The kids are also allowed to open the gifts they got each other on Christmas Eve, so we followed through with that tradition. Grandma Cathie makes special 'balls' for the kids each year, so we opened that one as well. (Crepe paper wrapped in a ball shape, mixed in with a few coins, dollar bills, pieces of candy or gum, and maybe a few SMALL toys: the kids love it!) Maddux got Eli an R2D2 figure which he LOVED and Eli got Maddie a floor puzzle of the USA. She's not warmed up a whole lot to it yet, but she loves puzzles and he intends to do this one with her which will totally make her day.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Break Is Here!

Eli and Maddux both had their last day of school for 2011 today. Maddux's class celebrated their holiday party on Wednesday, but Eli's took place this morning. Though I wasn't in charge of anything, I did want to attend and help, if I could. The party was quite the event. The room moms and some helpers set up five stations around the room for the kids to rotate between after set timed intervals. One had a fleece tie-blanket to complete (to be donated), one had a Bingo game with holiday M&M's, one had an edible snowman project, made from rice krispy treat, marshmallows and other candy, one had a really cute snowman ornament art project, and the last (where Eli started) was a sugar cookie decorating station. I had a blast helping the kids tie the blanket and then helping Eli with his snowman ornament...So glad I was able to attend!

I left Eli's party to pick up Maddux; she had spent the day doing fun holiday activities as well. We walked up to the bus stop because it was so warm. Maddux even wore a short sleeved shirt to school with no sweatshirt or jacket today....nutty! We got home just before Mom-Mom arrived. The kids clamoured for her attention all evening until we imposed bed time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gingerbread Houses

The kids and I have been moving through many fun "Christmas-y" projects this season. We've done light-seeing (several times), decorating, making cards and envelopes, baking and decorating gingerbread men, making ornaments for friends, and today we checked 'Gingerbread House' off of our list.

I am so not crafty. I love to do crafts, but my ability to pull them off is very limited. When it comes to the kitchen, the story is the same. I've seen several gingerbread kits in the past (I know you didn't think I'd tackle making one from scratch...), but I'd never seen anything but shoddy construction results: icing not holding, candies weighing down the roof, etc. I picked up a kit at Target last week, one that contained enough for five small houses rather than one big one to argue over.

When I pulled it out after school today, I warned the kids that sometimes these things don't work as well as we might hope. I told them it would be fun regardless, but to not get upset if a house collapsed due to it's own weight. (One of the children has a more difficult time accepting events that don't occur as planned or expected, so it's always best to warn him, uhhh, or her, beforehand.)

Upon opening the package we discovered two pieces that were already broken: awesome start. At least that made it easier to divide the houses evenly, right? When I finally broke open the white icing (it was really difficult.....another sign, I thought), I went to work putting one of the kid's houses together so it could dry and they could decorate. Immediately my mood brightened because the icing stuck and HELD from the moment I applied it. It was even better than hot glue! Maybe it had to do with the houses being smaller and not as heavy, but this project went off without a hitch. The kids had a blast decorating with gumdrops and little candy balls and colored icing. No arguing, no complaining, just smiles and laughter...kinda amazing. I will definitely attempt this project again next year. As long as I can find the same awesome green box at Target, that is.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Here We Come A-Wassailing

One of my favorite things to do each holiday season is light-sight-seeing. We go at least once a week, usually 2-3 times. The kids have really come to love it as well (who wouldn't!), and we all have our favorite neighborhoods and houses that we revisit often.

My favorite addition to this tradition this year is the caroling. Eli has asked at least twice in the last week if we could sing Christmas songs while we drive. Mind you, I already have holiday music playing in the car, but that is not enough for my boy. So so so loving our place in life right now!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Just Sit Back and Relax

So we have ups and downs with both kids. Eli gets a bit 'unpredictable' when he is low on sleep and Maddux is going through a phase that I can't quite name because it encompasses so many *fun* aspects. For this post I am throwing all of that out the window and will shamelessly explain what just happened before bed.

At Eli's request, the book tonight was the Bible, specifically his Action Bible. Last night he read about the birth of Jesus with Lehr, so tonight we tackled when Jesus went to the Temples in Jerusalem when he was 12. Eli asked a few questions, and we moved on to the Orange Parenting video for the week. (I have the app on my phone and the kids absolutely love do I!) This video was about struggling with having and wanting 'stuff', and how stuff is fine as long as it doesn't become more important than people or Jesus. We had barely turned off the phone when Eli said, "I think I will just keep four of my presents at Christmas and then give the rest to the family." (Sidenote: during the reading or the video, we talked about the opportunity we've been given on Christmas day to deliver food to a family who needs it. This is 'the family' Eli is speaking of.)

So of course my mouth is hanging open and tears are welling in my eyes and I want to say, "Oh sweetheart, you don't have to give up your presents." But I don't; I let him keep talking. "Mom, I think what I'll do is open the presents, and then I'll pick four to keep and bring the others, like maybe legos or books or cars, to the family when we bring them food." I take a deep breath and tell him that his idea is awesome and that I love his heart. I didn't want to make him sign a contract binding him to it, but I also wanted him to think about it more and hopefully go through with it, but of his own free will. I asked him to pray about it and remember that on Christmas morning. At this point Maddux says, "Mom, I think I'll do that next year. Not this year, but definitely next year." I told her that was fine and that it was a great idea no matter what year it was. But a few minutes later she changed her mind and said she wanted to bring some presents too, but she wanted us to wrap them back up so that the kids could open them for themselves. I then reminded the kids that we didn't know what family we'd be delivering to yet, and they might not have kids the same age as them. Eli said then he'd just bring the gifts back home and give them to someone else.

I fully realize that as amazing and generous as this conversation was, the thrill and shiny new of Christmas morning may change things. But it was a conversation prompted by the kids and I am choosing to see it as a step in the best possible direction. I think I'll go to bed right now and end my day on the best possible note.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Harry Potter

Just before Thanksgiving, Eli and I started reading the first Harry Potter books. I read them before the kids were born, but haven't see any of the movies since the third one, and haven't touched the books in as long as Maddux has been alive. Eli has become interested due to exposure from his older friends, so I thought it was a good time to start the awesome series.

From the get-go, Eli was REALLY into the book. I read about a chapter each night (sometimes two nights if they were longer chapters), and we always started the reading by reviewing what had just happened. Eli could always tell me most everything that happened the night before. We finished the book last Friday, and watched the movie on Saturday. Eli was ecstatic.

One of my favorite parts of this whole process was seeing Eli 'see' the book in his head as we read it. He'd look at the tiny pictures at the start of each chapter, but usually he would tell me that the picture didn't look at all like he thought that character should look. When he finally saw the movie, he went into great detail with me about how different the movie was from the book. For him, Fluffy and Fang looked totally not like he expected, and he imagined the Quiddich field to be more like a soccer field with one hoop at each end. As Eli told me about this, his eyes were so animated...he was truly engaged. We've already started the second book....Eli can't wait to find out what Harry did to Dudley over the summer.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Santa Claus

Just a warning....this is what is going on in my head 24/7 these days. This is all just a stream of thoughts that are ending up in the same post, in no real order.

If you know me, you may think I'm a Grinch. I am not a fan of the premise behind the adorable elves everyone has in their house. I cringe each time someone asks my kids if they've been good this year and what did they ask Santa for. And I ask friends and family over and over again to 'back off' on the gifts. I'm not trying to defend myself, but I do want to let you know where I'm coming from.

For our family, Santa's always come with three gifts for each of the kids. Nothing big, usually a book or a small toy or a game. If (and I mean if) there is a 'big' item under the tree, it's been from Lehr and I. And we only give the kids one gift. When we talk about Santa, the truth about who Saint Nicholas was is the basis of our conversation; Santa was a SAINT who gave gifts to orphans.

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE Christmas and all things traditionally representing the holiday. I believe in the good of Santa and the joy he can add to the season. I have many Santa decorations all over my house and I smile every time I see his face around the holidays. And I also love the concept of suspending reality in honor of innocently believing in some magic, Christmas or otherwise.

What I do not like is the frenzy that Santa (the distorted version, if you will) can cause in kids and parents. I'm sure most families in America have children that receive gifts from their immediate family, their extended family, family friends, etc. Do we REALLY need one more 'person' to give them gifts in excess? How many times have you looked around at all of the gifts you had to wrap, or looked around the tree after the gifts were unwrapped and though, "Where did all of this stuff come from?!" (Can I get a "STOP THE INSANITY"?)

Now I'm just rambling, and I'm so high up on my soap box that I can't even see the ground... I don't claim to have all of the answers or even some of the right ones; Lehr and I are working through parenting just like everyone else. But when I see my kids get involved in picking out gifts for other families we adopt around the holidays, or when I see them get excited about making gifts or cards for loved ones in lieu of store-bought gifts, I know that throwing that away in order to play up a Santa that spoils them would just be a disservice. And then I read a blog like this and realize that we are not alone in our quest, and that makes me happy.

So are we doing Santa this year? Yes. The kids will each get three gifts, unwrapped, from the fat man in a red suit. Hopefully what they will get from St. Nicholas is love and compassion for the families they helped me shop for. Will we do Santa next year? The jury is still out....

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


Gulp. Big deal. BIIIIG deal. Even when the item in question is small potatoes. The kids have definitely 'borrowed' things from each other from time to time, but until last week we've not had either of them take something from anywhere outside of their house (that we know of!).

Monday afternoons find us at Atlanta Swim for the kids' lessons. Once they finish the lesson, they may have earned the privilege of visiting the treasure box. Inside there are stickers, erasers, small toys, etc. Very close to the box are many other boxes with candy. Last week Eli earned the Treasure Box, so I let him go in by himself and pick something out. Sometimes there is candy in there, and on this particular day I asked Eli to NOT choose candy. No problem, he came back a minute later with a small eraser for his pencil. The rest of the afternoon went perfectly.

Fast forward to 10PM when I sneak into the kids' rooms to kiss them before I go to bed. Eli is snoring on his pillow, next to a half-eaten push-pop candy that is now stuck to his pillow. Busted. I knew exactly where it came from because there is no other place we'd been that carried such an item. I asked Lehr to talk to him at breakfast about it and I'd handle the big consequences when he got home. (Lehr said Eli's eyes popped out of his head when he saw Daddy pull out the candy at breakfast.)

When Eli got home from school we had a quick snack and then got down to the nitty gritty. Eli swore that he didn't know it cost money. I can believe that. However, I reminded him that it wasn't in the main treasure box AND I'd asked him to not get candy. If he honestly thought what he was doing was ok, he wouldn't have hid it from me. We talked about writing some sentences and then I informed him that he would be bringing the money necessary to cover the cost to the store the following week for his lesson.

While Eli didn't like it, he accepted all of this pretty well. As the week went on, however, I got nervous that Eli would hem and haw about actually apologizing once we arrived for his lesson; he is typically not comfortable talking with adults, especially those he doesn't know. So when the weekend arrived, I checked back in with him to make sure he still had his $1.06 set aside and to see if he knew yet what he wanted to say to the cashier. He assured me he had it covered. I took that opportunity to let him know that we would allow 10 extra minutes before his lesson for the apology, but that he needed to be on time to his lesson. If he was not able to do what he had to do by his lesson time, he would miss it, and he would then have to pay Lehr and I $20 to cover the cost of the missed lesson.

Monday arrived and Eli got his bag of money. While in the car I asked him to review quickly what he would say, which he did. I knew he was prepared, but I still didn't know what to expect. When we walked into the store, Eli walked right over to the counter and handed the cashier the bag, telling her, "Last week I took a push-pop and didn't pay. Please forgive me." It was a little rushed, but he looked straight at her and spoke loud enough for her to hear him. Really shocked and really proud. We struggle a LOT with Eli looking adults in the eye when it's a serous matter (even us), and everything about his apology was correct. I know he was nervous as heck because his leg was twitching, almost like he was keeping time with his knee, but he still did it.

One last thing: Eli asked me just before we left what would happen if the candy ended up costing less than we'd assumed. The line of questioning sounded a bit like he was planning to ask to buy something with the leftover money. Not cool. I quickly redirected him, saying that we were going to present them with this money and hope that they accepted it rather than calling the police because of the stealing. His eyes got big and he backed off.

Friday, December 02, 2011


Eli's been rockin' the drums as much as ever lately. Lehr has had the opportunity to play more often at church which means Eli has been able to sit in the laundry room with Lehr while he practices. Of course he requests a playlist CD every week that Lehr plays, so that he can listen to and practice those songs for himself in his room.

Last week Lehr played six songs, and Eli really really liked two of them. He practiced a lot with Lehr and even got to attend Tuesday night rehearsal (no school the next day). Here are clips of the two songs: