Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas.

Awww, Christmas is over.  We had such a lovely holiday.  At the beginning of the season I made a vow with myself to really focus on what was important during the holidays.  Not the gifts and commercialism of it.  I wanted the family and tradition part of it.  I'm very happy to say, that is exactly what we did.  Yes, there were gifts...but they were thought out and meaningful.   I really thought about each present I bought and knew it was something that would make someone smile.  Most were bought locally or ordered from Etsy and I felt good with every purchase.  (Except stocking stuffers...those were all bought at Target, I'm not perfect)  We spent quality time with all our family.  Simply being together.  Wonderful.  It was nice to take a little break from writing to spend more time celebrating the holidays, but now I feel like I'm bursting with words about the past few days.  And, of course photos.  I even busted out the big camera again.  Ever since I got my phone, I use the camera on it most of the time.  However, big holidays call for the big camera...

The holidays for us always officially start on December 21st which is my mom's birthday.  Ava was so dramatic in saying "I can't possibly make Grandma a birthday present, it's just tooooo close to Christmas"  I think all birthdays should be special, whatever the date.  Especially my mama who made every one of our birthdays growing up something to be celebrated.  Ava came around and did make her a gift and we all went out to celebrate with pizza and of course cake!
It was a four layer chocolate and cookie cake...delish
We went to Tarantinos Pizza, one of our favorites.  For any local Bozemanites you remember this as the old Village Inn.  It so takes you back to your childhood when you are in there.  Except now, it's our kids begging for quarters (I think my aunt must have dropped a hundred bucks on quarters for these kids!!) and the adults sitting at the table enjoying beer and pizza.  Lots of fun.
Having fun with the Wiki Stix, Jae handing out quarters and little Jacob had fun without quarters!
The weekend was then all about some holiday traditions we have started within our own family.  These are ones I hold close because they are just ours.   I'm sure other people may do them...they aren't original or anything.  I mean they just aren't ones I've taken from my own childhood.  First...Saturday morning we all snuggled in our bed to watch the Polar Express.  This is my favorite holiday movie to watch as a family.  For the last couple years we've checked out the book and rented the movie to have before Christmas.  Well, I finally hinted enough and Matt went out and bought us a copy of each to keep, yay!  Such a great story and even better to watch while cozied up to my babies. Later, that evening we went for a drive to check out all the Christmas lights around town.  Complete with hot cocoa and Christmas music in the car.  We don't put up any outdoor lights, but I sure enjoy checking out everyone who does.  The weekend was so wonderfully mellow.  Because I was keeping the holidays simple this year I didn't have anything that needed to get done...we got to spend the final days leading to Christmas just being together.  We made ornaments, did some baking, watched holiday shows and played in the snow.
Banana chocolate cake and cinnamon rolls

Peppermint Kiss brownie bites

Our tiny snowman.  Snow was not great for snowmen
Matt and I even got an overnight date night!  We had been invited to our neighbors surprise birthday party.  The girls got to spend the night at Grandma's and we got to dress up for an amazing three course, private dinner at Plonk.  It was fantastic...each course paired with a different wine, starting and ending with champagne.  So classy and fun.  

And then it was Christmas.  Two days full of family and food.  Times better expressed more with photos and less with words.  Our holiday...

Christmas Eve with Matt's parents.  Good food, good company and lots of gifts.  They tend to spoil us rotten.
Bathing beauty in a new suit, Ava looking very European and Matt's new amp & microphone...it just got a little louder in our house.
 Getting things ready for Santa and the gang.  Sprinkling our reindeer food in the driveway and putting out cookies and milk for Santa.


Christmas morning.  This is by far my favorite.  I remember the excitement of waking up on Christmas morning and even as an adult, I feel it.  It helps hearing little voices coming down the hall.  Making them wait just a few extra minutes so I could make coffee, put on the Christmas tree lights and of course music.  I told them to go peek and let me know what they saw.  They came back with excited squeals of "Santa was here!"  Yes he was.  And, he ate the cookies and left a note.

The girls didn't get a ton of gifts from us, but I was so happy with everything we found for them.  Gifts that will hopefully last them a long time.  Judging by their smiles and hours of play with them so far, I'm thinking we did well.



 Two of my favorites...a handmade bunny & wooden doll bed...both I found on Etsy

Gifts for our furry friends...don't want to leave them out!


The best gifts of all....homemade by my girls of course!

"Made with love"  That's the best kind of making

 And, fun with Matt's mustache sucker...

After a breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls and playing with toys, it was off to my parents for our crazy Christmas celebration there.  Complete with grandparents, great grandparents and LOTS of cousins.  
Steve totally won the ugly sweater contest that we didn't have

The girls!!

Oh, this little guy just melts my heart

My nephews and Matt being the annoying  nice uncle

What pretty ladies!

My parents opening the gift from all of us...

Success!!  They LOVED it!!
 For Christmas at my parents house, we all stay in our new pj's that my mom gets us every year.  We used to go out first thing in the morning, so the jammies made sense.  Now we go later in the afternoon and stay through dinner, but the pj's stay on.  Love it.  It is always crazy.  So many people, kids, presents being torn into, more food then any of us could eat, mimosas & hot toddies, laughter and love.  A whole lotta love.  We are blessed.  We all have each other and have the good fortune to spend the holidays together.  After, we came home and put very, very tired little girls to bed and crashed out.  Christmas over.  

The day after Christmas, I always make sure to take off work.  It's the best day to just stay home.  The girls and I didn't leave the house all day.  Everyone was content, playing with new things and relaxing.  I was half tempted to take down the tree, but stopped myself.  I figured I should squeeze out a few more days of the Christmas spirit.  Then it'll be done, time for a new year and a fresh start.  

Matt got me a beautiful book for Christmas.  It is about food, Italy and a woman who traveled around there to learn all about cooking Italian food.  It is one of those books that you just want to look at and feel.  Thick paper, amazing photographs and writing that makes you feel like you actually are in a little village in Italy cooking with someones grandma.  I have only just started reading it and am so excited about it.  It had me at the very first line...

It's gonna be a good one.

I hope your holidays were merry.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas...

I couldn't decide if I wanted to write tonight.  The girls went to bed early, Matt is sick so he is passed out on cold medicine and I have a quiet house to myself for the second night in a row.  Last night I took it as an opportunity to finally start wrapping presents.  I like to wait and wrap gifts when I know I have uninterrupted time.  I turn on a cheesy holiday movie, pull all the gifts I've been collecting the past month out and set to wrapping.  Last night was the perfect time for this.  I put on Sleepless in Seattle (for someone reason it feels like a holiday movie to me), had a cup of tea and a couple hours later the tree was full of gifts.

My favorite is when the girls got up in the morning and started snooping and shaking gifts.  I like creating the anticipation.  For them these next 6 days before Christmas will seem so long.  I remember that as a kid, the days leading up to Christmas took for-ev-er. Now, it just flies by.

The week has been weird.  I can't seem to stop thinking about the community in Newtown.  I didn't like dropping the girls off at school on Monday.  It was harder for me than leaving them on their first days of school.  It didn't seem safe after what has happened.  I was slightly reassured as I saw the police officer and principle standing outside the door...but for how long will that last?  I know millions of kids went to school and came home safe on Friday, but how do you know when something like this will happen again?  I can't help but be scared about it.  I feel helpless about keeping my kids safe in this way.  I worry a lot when it comes to my girls.  I worry about them getting abducted, so we teach them to not talk to strangers.  I worry about them getting hit by a car, so we teach them to look both ways.  I worry about bullies at school, so we teach them to stand up for themselves.  But, how do you teach a kid to protect themselves from something like this?  You can't.  There is nothing  to say or do.  That's where my helpless feeling comes in.  You just have to have faith that they are safe when you leave them at school and in our safe little community I usually do.  That feeling shattered a little bit for me on Friday.  I feel like I'm distracted during my days while they are at school and it's not until I'm back in the school to pick them up that I feel calm.  This morning I sat in Layla's class like I always do on Wednesday mornings when I volunteer and looked at this classroom of 5 and 6 year olds and couldn't imagine the terror those kids felt.  It broke my heart.  Without getting political here, things do need to change.  We can't just wait around for it to happen again.  I don't know what the right answer is and that again brings the helpless feeling. Things do need to change...whether its gun laws, mental health help or looking into the violence our kids are bombarded with through media, video games and movies...anything is worth it to keep our babies safe.  I also wonder  what can we do at the school level?  What can we do to keep them safe while all the other stuff gets figured out.  No one knows.  All I know is I'm very glad there are only two more days of school until break.  I'm looking forward to being with my girls and family and snuggling them in close for two full weeks.

I truly didn't mean to go on about that again...it's just been on my mind so much this week.  

One thing that totally made me smile this week?  Today I got my sisters holiday "card"  Now, she has had a tough year...infections, surgeries, hospitals and on and on.  She could have written the most depressing holiday card ever.  You know the kind I'm talking about...the ones you get where people document everything from the past year and they tend to be on the negative side.  Instead she put the most creative and festive spin on her year.  She also went the "green" route and put it on her blog and email instead of actual cards and when I saw it, it totally made my day.  You can check it out here.  It's her version of the 12 days of Christmas...the "10 Strange Things" was my favorite.  Love her rock star attitude that keeps shining through.  

I think that is it.  These next days leading up to the holiday will be full.  Holiday programs, class parties, birthdays, baking and lots of Christmas traditions with my family.  I will be spending more time with my family and less time on the computer.  So with that...

And to All a Good Night.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sadness and a Little Holiday Cheer.

I was going to write on Friday...something I like to do before we begin a weekend.  Reflect on the week and look forward to things coming up.  However, I couldn't do it.  In wake of the tragic school shooting, I knew anything I wrote just wouldn't come out right.  Writing about the sadness I felt for the families just wouldn't work...I had no words.  Lots of feelings, but no words.  Writing about normal, happy day to day things wasn't even an option.  I, like so many, have a very heavy heart.  So much emotion...sadness, anger, confusion and just wanting to run to the girls school, scoop them up, take them home and never leave again.  I found myself stuck to the news, watching events unfold.  I know I could have simply turned it off and went about our day, but felt like I needed to take in the full heartache of that community.  They don't have the luxury to just turn it off and go on.  I remember having a similar reaction to 9/11...drawn to watch the tragic events in awe of what was happening.  Wondering why and feeling so strong for the victims.  I feel such sadness for all the families who lost loved ones in this horrific event.  They have been in all my prayers and will continue to be.  I have been hugging my babies a little tighter and little longer than usual and I will continue to do so.  

After I picked them up from school on Friday I felt the need to just be close to them.  Once in awhile on Fridays we do a tea party for snack.  We haven't done this for a long time...they ask a lot, but it just hasn't happened.  This day, I didn't say no when they asked for a tea party.  We set up snacks, got out the tea set, put on some holiday music and fancy jewelry.
We talked a little about what had happened at the school in Connecticut.  I didn't want to scare them, I just know they may hear about it through friends and I wanted them to hear it from me.  They asked a couple questions and then we moved on.  

That evening was Matt's holiday work party.  Holiday parties are always such fun...any excuse to get a little dressed up in our casual town.  I didn't really want to leave the girls at first and had mixed feelings about going out to celebrate the holidays when I was feeling somber.  However, I knew the girls were in the best hands...safe in our house with Grandma and Grandpa so we headed out.  It was a fun evening, good food, way too much wine and lots of laughs.  Celebrating didn't end that evening...Saturday we had plans with friends to go to dinner and to a concert.  Tis the season of parties, right?  Although, as we've gotten older staying out late two nights in a row takes a lot more out of me.  Anyways.  During the holidays we always try to go to dinner with our dearest friends to celebrate.  We get to hang out with Amy and Chad all the time with our families, but it is so nice to get a night just the four of us.  Yet another excuse to get dressed up and go out on the town.  This particular night was even better because one of our favorite local bands was playing.  Amy and I first started listening to them when we were in high school and they would play at coffee shops and occasionally Sweet Pea Festival.  They were Chris and Johnny then...just two talented guys, their guitars and and an occasional harmonica.  Now, the name has changed...Storyhill, but they are the same.  Throughout our college years they played often and we tried to go anytime we could.  I remember one particular weekend a group of us went to a coffee shop here in town to hear them and then drove to Helena the very next day to hear them again.  Now they play in Bozeman about once a year and I was so excited to get to see them last night.  They are so crazy talented and passionate about music...you can't help get caught up in it.  They played at the Gallatin Gateway Inn, which is just a beautiful venue especially when decorated for the holidays.  I did not want it to end, it was awesome.

The music theme continued into today as the girls had their Sunday School Christmas program at church today.  It is always so cute...a bunch of little kids all dressed up, partially singing.  All dressed up except for Ava that is.  I told the girls to put on something nice and she comes out in leggings and a sweatshirt.  After I tell her that she needs to dress up a little more, like a skirt or something, she pouted back to her room, pulled on a skirt over her leggings and came back out.  I did finally convince her to take off the sweatshirt and put on a dressy shirt.  However, as you can see from the pictures she put on a different sweatshirt because she was cold and I forget to have her take it off before they went up.  Oh well.
I love the church program because they sing more traditional holiday songs.  The schools always put on a fantastic program but don't sing the traditional music. At the school one they include different cultures and religions...Hanuka, Kwanzaa, etc. I like how the kids get to learn about more than just Santa Claus.  However,  the songs they sing at church are the best.  Silent Night is my absolute favorite and when they sang it today I couldn't help but tear up a little.  I always get a little emotional when I watch my girls in things like this, but this song does me in.  I think it's because I used to sing it to them when they were babies.  I was never good at remembering the words to lullabies.  Maybe a little of "Rock a bye baby"  but it was never really my thing.  Christmas songs were more my thing, even though both girls were born in April.  Whenever I hear Silent Night I go back to holding a teeny, tiny newborn Ava in the middle of the night in our bathroom and singing it softly to her.  (We kept the bassinet in our bathroom...weird I know, but the white noise from the fan in there helped them sleep.  Whatever works, right?)  It's hard to believe it was over 7 years ago because the song takes me back and I can actually feel her in my arms.  Oh, I get so mushy about it.  

This afternoon we ended up at my parents house to help decorate their Christmas tree.  Both my sisters and their families were there to help as well.  In the end the tree was terribly over decorated but the kids sure had fun.  Luckily my parents always get a huge tree.  I understand where I get all my desire for holiday traditions because my mom is the exact same way.  She is why we are all Christmas crazy and I love it.  (Except my older sister this year, but I know next year she'll be back to being as crazy as the rest of us)  My mom gets everyone of us a new ornament each year to put on the tree.  Now, our family has grown so this in itself could decorate an entire tree nicely.  You add the new ones with the tubs of other ornaments and you can see why it gets overdecorated.  Another tradition is she buys each of us new pj's to wear on Christmas Eve.  She gave them all to us today and it just makes me smile.  It has gone from her getting them for just us three girls to now us, our hubby's and all the kiddos.  She's like Santa Claus digging in this huge bag and handing out jammies to excited little kids.  Love it.  On Christmas we'll all show up in our new pj's and stay in them all day.  Best way to spend a holiday.
I am TOTALLY loving this new app I found to collage my photos
After way too much hot cocoa, cookies and candy canes we took our sugar crazed girls home.  I end this weekend feeling tired.  Tired from too many late nights.  Emotionally tired from thinking of such sadness going on in our world right now.  Feeling apprehensive about sending my babies to school tomorrow, which I know is kinda silly but I can't help it.  I know I am not the only parent feeling this way this Sunday evening.  Feeling blessed for all that I have and the love and family around.  

I leave you with a couple of lines from my favorite Storyhill songs because I've been singing them all day and I love what they say.
"If faith can move a mountain, tell me what's going to move my faith?"
"Your reason for, you're an answer why"
"They can't believe, they've never seen someone, someone fly outside their dreams"

Hug your loved ones a little closer this week and send prayers to those families who have lost so much.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Reindeers, Cookies and Cousin Fun.

Awww...it's the end of another busy holiday filled weekend.  There were some ups and downs through it but I'm gonna keep it shiny because it was mostly fantastic.  Every year for as long as I can remember we've done a cookie making party.  It's with my mom, grandma, aunt and sisters.  We gather at one of our homes, bake, eat and share our goodies.  The kiddos decorate cookies, there is lots of chaos in the kitchen and of course lots of laughs.  This year was extra special because now my little sister lives here so she was able to join us.  The festivities began with something new for the kiddos.  I wish I could claim this as my original, creative idea, but I can't.  I read about it on this blog, one of my favorites.  I set up a reindeer food buffet and then each kid got to fill a bag with all the goodies.  They take the bags home and then on Christmas Eve they have to sprinkle it on the driveway so the reindeer have something to munch on while Santa puts presents under the tree.  I love it.  I figure we have a couple more good years of playing Santa so I'm gonna take full advantage.  
Reindeer Buffet...



Filling up the bags...not too many chips, Blitzen gained a few pounds last year!

Extra Flying Powder for Layla...

Little Jacob filling his bag and eating the raisins.

The completed project...


After the reindeer buffet it was time to get decorating the cookies.  I like to make sugar cookies the night before so they are all ready for kids to go to town.  Then the adults can bake while the kids are occupied.  I usually make my old stand by maple sugar cookies, however decided to try a new recipe this year.  One I found on my beloved Pinterest.  Big mistake.  For the first time, Pinterest totally failed me.  The cookies crumbled, didn't cook well and the poor snowmen heads kept falling off.  They tasted good, but not soft and sweet like my others.  I was frustrated when baking them, but these things just don't matter to kids.  They had such fun decorating the ones that turned out and got creative with the pieces from the broken ones.  They used frosting to "glue" heads back on and turned the line into a scarf.  They took the bottoms of the snowmen, flipped them upside down and turned them into snow globes.  Gotta love their creativity and optimism.  Let's be honest, when you have cookies, frosting and a crazy amount of sprinkles no one cares what condition the cookies are in.




And, there was lots of baking going on in the kitchen...
My cutie pie niece

Merry Cherry Bars...these are a family favorite.  My mom has been making them since we were kids

These adorable Santa hats my sister found on Pinterest...

Candy Cane Kisses...

And so many more.  We all ended up with more cookies then we can eat.  It is perfect because I like to share them with neighbors and co-workers...spread the holiday cheer.

Today we had some secret holiday gift making activities for my parents.  I can share it here because neither of them read this so the secrets won't be given away.  (And, if anyone who talks to my folks reads this, please keep it quiet!!)  We had all the cousins together for the first time in a long time and it was awesome.  They range in age from 2 to 18.  There are five boys and four girls.  They are all fantastic.  There was a lot of playing and a lot of laughs and what is going to turn out to be a great gift.  A preview...










We make really stinkin cute kids.  It was a very fun day.
Have a jolly week...