Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas.

Oh, sweet Christmas.

The holiday has come and gone.  It was glorious.   I even got an early Christmas gift...the opportunity to write another article for a local magazine, Distinctly Montana.  Check it out here.  So cool. 
   
More on Christmas to come.

Today our evening was capped off with a magic show put on by the girls and their cousins.  We were told to close our eyes a lot as they made things "disappear".  It was quite entertaining.  Our usual quiet house of four has been been full of cousins this weekend.  It has been a little louder, messier and crazier.  It's all good.

My sister is on her way to Mayo Clinic.  We are hopeful for answers.  I think everyone has been nervous about her leaving.  It is what we have been wanting...her to get to a bigger hospital to find help that she isn't finding here at our small one.  However, this limbo of not knowing what will happen now is nerve wracking.  All we can do is hope and pray for them to finally figure things out.  They just have to.  Them being gone means some extra cousin times for the girls.  From birth to kindergarten these kids spent almost every day together.  Now they are all in school so the time together is less frequent.  Having the gang back together takes me back to those earlier days.  I like it.  I like that even now that they are older and all have their own friends at school (or hundreds of friends like my niece Kim told me) they still all enjoy each others company.  

Company to slide down an icy hill like penguins with...


After all the snow and then the warm up with rain the usual sledding hill was a sheet of ice.  They flew down in sleds a few times before venturing down on their bellies.  It was awesome.  

Before all this we had a little celebration we like to call Christmas.  After all the build up of the holiday season it seems like the actual day goes so fast.  I went to bed Christmas evening exhausted and content.  Exactly how any proper holiday should end.  It was very full.  Full of family, friends, food, gifts and magic for the kids.  I like to write about our holiday to look back on later and bring back those happy feelings from the day.  A look at our Christmas.

Pre-Santa holiday preparation of scattering reindeer food in the driveway...


Excited girls waking in the morning and running out to see if Santa ate all the cookies...


I think we will all too soon be coming to the end of Ava believing in the magic of Christmas so I am trying my hardest to soak it up while we can.  


Oh, the excitement of seeing your stockings and gifts under the tree.  I know I have talked a lot about Christmas not being about the gifts, but I remember this feeling on Christmas morning.  

My sisters and I would all sleep in the same room, full of anticipation for the next day.  We would promise if we got up in the night we wouldn't look over the ledge (it looked into the living room) until we all were up the next morning.  It was so hard to not peek and when we finally did I can remember the feeling of excitement.  It is something I hope to be re-creating with my own girls.  

As much as they ripped through their presents, the girls were very much into giving their own gifts.  They were all homemade and totally done on their own.  I do believe we have instilled a good giving spirit in them that I hope to continue to nurture.  

The beautiful mess of a successful Christmas morning...

Lazing around, playing with new toys, breakfast at 11 and naps on the couch before heading to the next celebration.  My hope for the holiday season was to not get carried away with it.  To keep it simple and focus on the family and tradition part of it.  I feel I was able to keep this up until our final celebration because with this big of family I just don't think calm and simple is possible...

Calm it is not, but fun it is.  Presents flying around, too much food and champagne and many, many hours later leaving with a car full of goodies.  It is funny to think back to those Christmas mornings with only a family of five.  My sisters and I in our pj's going through stockings with my parents on the couch watching.  We have now multiplied into our own families and we all still gather around that tree in pj's.  It is crazy.  It is loud.  But, that is us.  

Happy girls full of smiles-

And little boys playing with new Legos-


And pre-dinner naps for some to recover from the chaos-


Every year we say that we need to change it so it doesn't feel as crazy the next year and each year nothing changes.  This is okay.  

Christmas is now fading and we enter the last week of holiday vacation.  The tree gets two more days and then it's coming down.  I resisted the urge to take it down the day after Christmas.  As full of holiday spirit I get, I tend to get over it rather quickly.  Another week of doing not much.  Staying in pajamas with the kids and settling into the calm of January.  A couple more days before we kiss 2013 good bye.  

Hope your holidays were happy.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Full disclaimer...I'm all hopped up on hot cocoa and holiday cheer so things could get a little sappy and annoying around here.  You've been warned.

This morning was the girls holiday program.  They wore sparkly shirts, had curls in their hair and I teared up over silly songs like "Santa's Getting Fit for Christmas".  Years before they've been slightly timid up on the stage.  They must be getting the hang of it because this year I saw what appeared to be actual singing and dancing from my ladies.  

Seriously, when did they become so grown up?  I know it happens gradually but occasionally I see them and am caught off guard by how quickly it is going.  Being around my baby nephew has made me realize it even more.  You forget how much a newborn baby needs you.  How physically demanding those years were.  I got to babysit him last week and I held him the entire time because he's so darn snuggleable (may not be a word but in my festive mood it is now) and also because it made him the happiest.  Doing things one handed quickly came back to me.  Getting my other nephew ready for bed while holding the baby brought back flashes of holding baby Layla while tending to toddler Ava.  The next morning we were getting ready to leave and all I had to do was tell the girls it was time to go and that was it.  They put their own coats and boots on, they get themselves in the car, buckle themselves and are ready to go.  When did that happen?!?  No longer am I needed to tie shoes, zip jackets, open car doors.  I don't remember the moment that changed.  If I knew, maybe I wouldn't have been annoyed with the extra fifteen minutes it took to get everyone out the door.  Or the extra five it took to put the baby carrier in its seat and then going around to the other side to put a toddler in.  It all felt so exhausting at times.  It is easier now but it makes me wonder if all that happened in a flash, how soon will it be before they don't even need us for driving them places?  When it's a quick goodbye and then they are out the door, hopping in their own car and driving off into the big world on their own?  Yikes.  I can't even fathom that.  In fact I do believe I'll get off this tangent and back on to holiday cheer.  Because let me tell you...we are full of it this year.  They may not be babies and toddlers anymore, but at this age they are full of all sorts of Christmas fun!

This afternoon we took the girls out of school early.  The plan was to head to Chico Hot Springs for some family time and soaking.  Apparently a big storm is coming so we decided to postpone for later this weekend.  I haven't seen one snowflake fall yet, so it better start blizzarding soon.  We still took them early and instead all cozied up on the couch to watch The Polar Express with popcorn and cocoa.  Watching that movie as a family has become a tradition.  I love it.  My favorite line..."The true spirit of Christmas lies within your heart".  In my heart this means family.  This is what our weeks leading up to Christmas have been full of.  

Things like...

Our annual cookie making party with my mom, sisters, aunt and cousins-

There were some good looking gingerbread boys made.  And a lot of candy eaten by littles.  


There were merry cherry bars made...something my mama's been making every Christmas that I can remember.  The tradition continues as she teaches my pretty niece the recipe.


And cousins around the tree.  If that doesn't say Christmas, I don't know what does.  There were a few boys missing in this shot...poor Greg looks so out-numbered.  


And things like school holiday parties...

I got to help with Layla's class party and you could smell the sugar before you even walked into the class room.  Let me tell you, these kids are hyped up for Christmas.  If you are feeling a little scroogey this year, might I suggest going and hanging out in an elementary class.  If you don't leave feeling the holiday energy that is radiating off the kids then something is wrong with you.  They are so excited they can hardly stand it.  Getting to be a part of that is fantastic.  

From class parties to work parties...

Can I just say how much I love my hubby?  He's the funniest guy.  My office did an ugly sweater party and I've decided there is nothing better for a normally stuffy real estate party than ugly sweaters.  It was hilarious and festive and good for a lot of laughs.  

And of course things like playing in the snow.  After the freeze out we had a couple weeks ago, things finally warmed up and we've been able to play outside in the winter wonderland.

And making tiny snowmen...

And big ones too.

I'm going to gush about the snow for approximately 6 more days and then things may take a turn for the worse.  Right now I'm loving it and so happy we are going to have a white Christmas.  It's been so beautiful...holiday lights shining and our town covered in a blanket of fluffy white.  

The girls are now officially on Christmas break and I am thrilled.  Two full weeks.  Time to soak up more holiday traditions and simply be together.  No school, homework, activities or schedules.  No sharing them with teachers and friends.  Selfishly, I get them for the next two weeks and I couldn't be happier about it.  

Time to wrap it up and the most perfect song just came on so I think I'll just end with it...
"It's the most wonderful time of year.  It's the hap-happiest season of all!!  There will be much mistle-toeing and everyone telling you be of good cheeeeer, it's the most wonderful time of the year". 

Yes, I do believe it is.  


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Living in the North Pole.

Yesterday, finally, temperatures creeped above zero.  Today it got in the twenties and you could feel the mood of everyone around cheer a few notches.  A week of bitter cold got to the best of everyone.  Kids didn't get recess at school, no runs for mama, no fresh air...just running from the warm car to the warm house trying not to breath the cold air into your lungs.  By Sunday you could feel the negative energy in our house.  We need fresh air.  To be outside, even if it's chilly.  But, twenty below is too cold for all that so we have been cooped up.  

Saturday we braved the cold for the Christmas Stroll downtown.  I'm glad we went, but it was not the same as years past.  We froze.  But we saw Santa up closer than we have at any other stroll.

I love our downtown holiday lights.  They haven't change my entire life and I love that.  I remember once years ago there was talk of replacing them.  Thankfully somebody put a stop to that nonsense.  I think they are perfect.  

Before the freezing of the stroll I took my girls to the Nutcracker.  For the past few years we have gone and it is a tradition that makes me very happy.  I have always loved the ballet and for years Matt, awesome guy that he is, would take me to the Nutcracker each Christmas.  I do believe he is quite happy we have daughters to go with me now.  As he said when I invited him to join us "I gave you girls so I wouldn't have to go anymore".  That's cool.  I've got my girls and my bestie and her girl to go with now.

Sitting with Amy and our daughters watching the ballerinas up on the stage that her and I used to dance on is something else.  A reminder of how quickly it all goes.  Such a fun morning, and one of my many favorite traditions I hope to continue for many years. 

By Sunday I think everyone was worn out from a busy Saturday and with the added bonus of being stuck inside because of the cold, moods were chilly.  I know Matt and I both wanted to skip out on church, but Ava's Sunday school class was having a Stepping Stones event.  And, of course the girl who never wants to go to Sunday school wanted to go to this.  Lately I have been finding my faith on a yoga mat instead of a church pew, so really wanted to go to a morning class instead of church.  However, I wanted to be supportive of Ava, so we all headed to church.  The Stepping Stones event was nice, but then the girls went on to Sunday school and Matt ended up having to teach, so there I was.  Sitting alone in church.  And, like I tend to do in church lately, I zone out what's going on, look around and question my thoughts on the whole thing.  I feel like my faith has been shaken this past couple of years with my sister getting sick.  I have prayed a lot.  And she's not better.  I know you never know how your prayers are being answered and there have been some very scary moments that she has come through so I should still have faith in prayer.  And, I do...don't get me wrong.  It's more the church part that I question.  I didn't grow up belonging to a church and didn't until Ava was born.  For most of the past eight years I have enjoyed our little church community we became a part of.  But, lately the more I go, the more I question things and the less I like it.  I think there is so much more to it than church.  Since I was uninspired by the sermon going on and was wishing I was at my yoga class, I took a couple deep breaths and read some stories in the bible Ava had gotten that morning.  It passed the time and by the time we were singing Joy to the World as the sending hymn, I felt peaceful.  I will continue to try to figure out this faith and spirituality thing.  And I will keep praying every night with gratitude for my beautiful family.  And for my sister to get better, because she has to.  I believe questioning things is always a good thing.  Namaste.

Now that the weather has warmed and Christmas is right around the corner I feel like things are lifting up.  I have been good about staying calm and enjoying this holiday season.  A little gift shopping here and there, but I'm not stressing about it.  I have a box of un-opened Christmas cards I was going to write on this evening, but I didn't and that's okay.  I don't want to do them out of obligation, I want to do things this holiday season because I want to and it will add some holiday cheer.  If cards go out great.  If not, it will not be the end of the world.  We are having our annual cookie making party this weekend and I bought (gasp!) frosting for it instead of making my own.  I'm letting the little things go so I can enjoy the other little things.  Like going old school and cutting out snowflakes with my girls...

The last two weeks before Christmas can be the busiest...holiday parties, school parties, Christmas programs and all that jazz.  I plan on obligating ourselves to some and saying no to others.  Choosing instead to stay home curled up on the couch watching Christmas movies like Polar Express and the Grinch.  Ya know, the important things.

...And to All a Good Night.  


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Deck the Halls.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving.  We ate, drank and gave thanks.  We started the day with our local Huffing for Stuffing on a sunny, but chilly morning...

It was a good morning for a run. Layla was all quiet before it began and as soon as the turkey gobble signaled to start, she was off.  Running ahead of us determined to beat us all.  Or to get it over with so she could warm up in the tent with hot cocoa.  Regardless it was a great way to start our Thanksgiving morning.  The rest of the day was about watching the parade, baking pies for dinner, toasting champagne with neighbor friends and then dinner with family.  It was a delightful day and I felt full of happiness.  The remainder of the long weekend was about hanging out close to home, staying in pj's and getting ready for the business of Christmas...

Christmas decorating doesn't usually begin for us until next weekend, but for some reason we are ahead of ourselves this year.  Usually Thanksgiving settles a bit more before the holiday decorations come out.  However, Saturday seemed like the perfect day to head up to the mountains to get a tree.  The weather was good, sun was out, but still snow for sledding.  We packed up the hot chocolate and headed up Hyalite in search of our tree.

Because I am not a skier, I don't spend much time in the mountains during the winter except for getting our Christmas tree.  It felt good to be up there, away from everything else.  Things are quieter.  Calmer.  And, it's funny...in the middle of July the woods smell like summer...in December, they smell like Christmas.  

We found the most perfect Charlie Brown Tree.

We enjoyed hot cocoa and a picnic lunch in sleds after finding our tree

There is not much snow in town, but up there we managed to find a sledding hill...



It makes me wish it would snow more for a super white Christmas.  The three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas I adore the snow.  I really wish it would deliver before I'm totally over it come January.

The tree went up Saturday, but we didn't get around to decorating until today.  I love the air of excitement in the house as we pull out the holiday tubs.  The girls anxiously waiting to dig into each of them.  I try to slow them down, to savor the moment, keep the chaos under control.  I remember as kids, my mom was always the one unwrapping each ornament and we could put it on the tree.  I get this now...I want to be the one opening each ornament and taking in the memory that goes with it.  Remember where it came from and why it would continue to find a place on our tree.  From each girls "First Christmas" ornaments to one I got that says Cheerleader 1995.  I love how each year the girls remember these stories.  

Layla waited anxiously to unwrap her "L"...

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here...

 Matt "oversees" most of the holiday decorating, but always puts the angel on top.


The stockings were hung by the chimney with care...

The getting and decorating of the tree is a favorite tradition of mine.  (I can't really think of one holiday tradition that I don't love, but that's beside the point).  It marks the beginning of the season.  There are 24 days until Christmas.  As an adult that will go crazy fast.  For the girls, it will feel like forever.  I see the excitement in their eyes and you can't help but get caught up in it.  This is what I love about the holiday season.  Everyone seems happy.  My hope for this holiday season is to treasure the happiness in it.  To not get caught up in the nonsense.  I know some feel stressed during the holidays and I believe it should be a time of celebration of the simple things.  Of family and traditions spent together.  My hopes are to remember what is important.  

I hold the tree decorating day close to my heart because it marks a change from my childhood traditions into ones with my own family.  I know I have mentioned this story before, but it's a favorite of mine and just as I tell it to the girls every year when we eat pizza after decorating, I'm going to share it again.  Matt and I spent our first married Christmas together in Portland.  We came home for the actual holiday, but it was hard to be away leading up to it.  As December approached I remember getting overwhelmingly homesick one night.  Not being a part of all the family traditions I knew were going on back home.  That night instead of letting me feel sorry for myself, Matt told me to put my coat on and get in the car.  We were going to go see a Boy Scout about a tree.  After buying a tree for the first time in my life, we headed to Target and loaded our cart with decorations, a star for the tree and a holiday music CD.  It didn't end there...next stop was for pizza and beer and then back to our little apartment to put up the tree.  The home sickness went away and I knew home was where ever we were.  Together.  To this day we have pizza the day we decorate our tree.  It was when I knew all the traditions that had been instilled in me as a child, I would get to continue in a new way with my own family.  The fact that Matt was not only on board with this, but an eager participator made me know he was a keeper.  

The Christmas station has been turned on Pandora, the lights are up, I even bought a couple gifts today.  Holiday... game on.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving.

It is Thanksgiving Eve.  The house is very quiet except for Layla's terrible cough here and there.  Everyone fast asleep after our first round of Thanksgiving food.  This round of Thanksgiving is a celebration with Matt's parents, full of Lebanese food, a tradition we began a couple years ago that I love.  I wasn't ready to go to bed.  After a week or so of feeling very uninspired in the writing department, I suddenly felt the need to come here.  Last night I tried to force it...wrote a whole post on things I felt grateful for.  I generally just write and then hit publish because that's how this blog thing is supposed to go, but last night I couldn't hit the publish button.  It felt too forced somehow.  I mean there were parts I liked.  Things about trying to find a balance between getting into the holiday spirit without getting caught up and swept away with it.  Remembering the beauty of the season and leaving the tacky consumerism part of it at the door.  Being a part of the contagious magic of it with the girls, without needing to buy them everything on their wish lists.  I even got all self-righteous about the nonsense of Black Friday shopping and how ridiculous Christmas can get with "stuff".  As if just because I don't partake in that I am somehow better, which is so not the case.  I went on to talk about being grateful for my girls, family and friends and all that good stuff.  Somehow, it all fell short and I left it.  

Tonight as we began our Thanksgiving holiday I was reminded of the beautiful simplicity of this holiday.  The one that tends to get overlooked between Halloween and Christmas.  The holiday that is a favorite of mine because it is about food and family and let's be honest, what is  better than that?  This morning while I was at work the girls were with Matt's mom and they made some decorations for our Thanksgiving dinner table.  Instead of the list I made last evening of things I felt grateful for, I'm going to expand on what my babies said they are thankful.  It is basically the same as I wrote about last night, but something about their beautiful simplicity makes more sense.  

First, Ava...

1.  "I am thankful for my family that loves me, takes care of me and trusts me"  
Trust was the big word in this one that caught my eye.  Loving and taking care of...that's easy, but trust...that you have to earn.  I am grateful that my girls trust me to take care of them.  I am grateful for the trust Matt and I have in one another.  Without that, our relationship simply would not work.  In our family we take care of each other.  When someone is down, we rally around.  This is true in my little family of four as well as my extended family.  We are a team and for this I am grateful.
2.  "I am thankful for good tasty food and clean water"  
I love that Ava sees beyond our small world here in Montana to realize how lucky we are for these big things we take for granted.  We try to remind them that not everyone in the world gets three meals a day, plus desserts.  Yes, we work hard to get what we have, but some of what we have is because of the luck of where we were born.  I hope they always understand this, feel compassion for those that don't and feel the desire to help everyone get these basic needs met.
3.  "I am thankful for freedom and a country that I can worship God how I want".  
This one surprised me.  We are not a religious family.  The girls go to Sunday school and the occasional church service, but not regularly.  We talk more about faith than church.  We talk about how not everyone believes in God the same way and that is okay so I'm wondering if that is where this thought came from.  Regardless I am happy for her open-mindedness to it.  Everyone should be able to think how they want and I also am grateful to live in a country where it is okay to do so.  In the past few months I have had my own internal dialogue about religion and faith.  I know my doubts and questions are okay to have.  I am thankful to live someplace where having these thoughts out there does not make me a bad person.  Oh, sweet Ava...wise beyond her eight years.
4.  "I am thankful for a warm, cozy, safe place to live".  
This is something to be thankful for indeed.  We live in a beautiful place and a lovely community.  And, it may be cold outside, but it is warm inside.  The happiest moment of my every day is at night when everyone in my family is safely tucked inside our home sound asleep.  Yes, I am grateful for this.

And, then there was sweet Layla's...

1.  "I am thankful for flowers because they smell good"  
I also am thankful for good smelling things and flowers are on the top of that list.  It's the little things.  Smells can take you to a happy place.  Lilacs give me the scent of spring with the hopes of summer.  Pine trees always bring on the Christmas memories.  Rain, sea salt and sunscreen are a hot summer day.  Occasionally I will smell sunscreen in the middle of winter just to take my mind to summer...crazy, I know.  I am grateful for smell and its ability to bring on beautiful memories.  
2.  "I am thankful for love cuz it is nice"
Love is nice, isn't it?  It sure is.  If there is one thing I am happy for in this world, it is love.  The love I have for my girls and Matt is like nothing else and makes everything okay.  Giving love, feeling love, seeing it out in the world...there is just nothing bad about it.  You can watch all the terrible news going on in the world...but if you look close, you can see the love too.  That is what shines through, you just have to look for it.
3.  "I am thankful for family cuz they are all nice". 
Our family is nice.  I like them very much.  Our friends are nice too and I am thankful for them this season as well.  We try to surround ourselves with good people who help enrich our lives.  Life is too short to get caught up in drama that surrounds some people. It's as simple as what we tell our kids.  Be nice to others and make friends with others who are nice to you.  How much better could this world be if we all just remembered to be be nice to one another?  Kindness is a simple thing.
4.  "I am thankful for Thanksgiving cuz it is happiness".
Yup, that sums it up for me.  Thanksgiving is happiness.  Family+friends+food=happiness.  A day to remember everything we have to be grateful for and to share this with those we love.  No gifts, no decorations, no hoopla...only gratitude.  This is happiness.  

Happy Thanksgiving.




Sunday, November 17, 2013

Weekends.

Why is it that weekends are so awesome?  Even when they are filled with a bunch of nothing special.  There is something about the weekend vibe that makes it awesome no matter what's going on.  It begins Friday around 5 and continues until I wake up Monday morning.  And even if I try really, really hard, that vibe cannot continue into the week.  I wish I could bottle it up and pour some in my coffee Monday morning to kick start the week.  I suppose if that was the case you wouldn't realize how awesome the weekends were and you would begin to take them for granted.  This is the same logic I tell myself about living in a cold climate...if we lived someplace warm we would take the beautiful weather for granted.  And, we really appreciate our summers here in Montana after a long winter...blah, blah, blah.  As if I would ever get sick of warm weather.  Or weekends.

Our weeks are very full.  We are in the time of our lives with busy kids.  Full days, homework, sports, dance all smashed into a day with work and everyday household stuff. It's a different phase then when the girls were young and the days were tiring, but felt much more carefree.  I like this place we are at.  Even if it feels crazy at times I like running the girls from school to dance, or getting home to get homework done.  I always knew this was part of the parenthood thing and I know one day I will miss this part very much.  Catching little glimpses of my girls trying new things...

Little sister watching big sis at basketball practice.  She must have looked on long enough because the coach invited her in to join them.  With a big smile and cowgirl boots she ran out and grabbed a ball.  Yes, I enjoy this phase of our lives very much.

Even though I like all the chaos of our weeks it is the pace of it that makes weekends so needed.  Everything slows down.  Schedules get thrown out the window, there is no homework, there are no tired parents from a long day of work and the tone is carefree yet again.  

Some weekend awesomeness-

A Chilly Morning Run...

Because it is dark in the mornings this time of year I find it harder to get a run in during the week.  I scramble to find a time that works to squeeze it in, but on a Saturday a morning run is a guarantee for me.  And, it is always the best one of the week because I'm immersed in the above mentioned weekend vibe.  Because I don't get my runs in as regularly during the week right now I get to the point where I physically and mentally need to get out.  It is so much a part of me that if I miss it, something feels off.  It clears my head like nothing else can.  It is the truly selfish thing I do.  There is no distraction.  It is simple.  No one needs me.  Running shoes on, headphones and nothing more to think of except which trail I want to take.  On days I feel tired, I push myself and feel strong.  I look up at the mountains and feel very small in this world.  I always end feeling better than I did before I began.  I even really dig running in the cold.  The crisp air is very refreshing and I find I don't tire as easy as I do when running in the heat.  Yep, it's awesome.   

Baking...

There is still a ridiculous amount of Halloween candy at our house.  I've thrown some of it out, took some to work, sent my nephew home with a few, and yet we still have a bowlful.  While browsing Pinterest the other day I found "80 recipes for Halloween Candy".  Jackpot.  This was just what I needed.  I didn't want to go crazy with candy in a dessert because when we added a bunch to our oreo pie a couple weeks ago Matt called it carnival food.  I came across something called Snickery-doodles.  I was intrigued.  They only called for Snickers and are a take on snickerdoodles which are a childhood favorite of mine.  They taste great and I finally was able to trade the giant candy bowl for a smaller one.  The Halloween candy should all be gone in a few weeks, just in time to be replaced with candy canes.  

Birthday Parties...

The one obligation we had this weekend was a birthday party for Ava.  She was so excited to get the invitation and even more when she found out it was an ice skating party.  It took me awhile to figure out the school-age-birthday-party thing.  When Ava was in kindergarten she began getting invites every other weekend for birthday parties.  I didn't understand because she didn't even know these kids...school had barely started.  As a kid I don't remember going to birthday parties, except family ones, until I was much older.  My own kids parties at this point had always been just family and family friends and with as many cousins as they have it was quite a party as is.  Because of all this, I ignored most of these invites for her.  I see now this may have been a mistake.  Come first and second grade the birthday party invitations dwindled.  This may not have seemed like a big deal until Layla started kindergarten and her round of invites began.  Layla, being more outgoing and vocal, insisted on her desires to go to these parties.  As it is with second children I felt more comfortable letting her go.  Although Ava never said it, I think it was hard for her to see her sister getting to go to all these fun parties.  Third grade is proving to be a great year for Ava in the friends department as she is finding her groove with a few girls in her class.  I can see this helping her come out of her shell.  I was so happy to drop her off with a bunch of giggling girls for a party, presents and cupcakes.  

Now it is Sunday evening and the weekend is wrapping up.  I will soak up the last couple of hours of the weekend vibe and then go to sleep.  I will wake up Monday morning feeling a bit bummed that it is over.  And then I will streeeeetch out, get up and get ready for another busy week that always leads to another weekend of awesomeness.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Family Day.

Today I turned off the heat in the house and opened windows while I cleaned.  I rode my bike to the school when I went to help in Ava's classroom.  I walked at the end of the day to pick them up and the three of us strolled home without jackets on.  The air felt warm and the sky was bright blue.  It felt more like a September day than November and I loved it.  We've had a streak of grey dreary days, so today was welcomed with open arms.  Although with the start of holiday cheer all around I would have been just as happy with big fluffy snow flakes.  Okay, that's a lie.  I'll take 50-degrees and sunny over cold and snowy any day.  Even Christmas day.  Well, maybe not Christmas day.  Hmmm....not sure on that one.  

Anyways.

Even though this evening I found myself totally over parenting 15 minutes into a game of hide and seek I'm going to write about one of my favorite kinds of days.  A family day.  By the way, I had no reason to be over it tonight...girls were being awesome, no fighting, we'd finished a nice dinner and were playing some hide and seek before bed.  However, when I couldn't find Ava thanks to Matt's super power hiding skills I got frustrated.  Normal bedtime had already passed and I knew we had a couple more rounds to go and I was just ready to be done for the day.  I suppose we all have those moments for no good reason.  It is okay.  

So, back to family day.  Sunday.  A day of no plans beyond church.  Very quickly after waking up we also decided against church.  The girls had slept in a bit (7 am is sleeping in at our house!) and were watching some cartoons and we were all cozy in our bed.  I was thinking about skipping out on church, as usual, so when Matt mentioned similar thoughts it didn't take me long to agree with him.  Lately I'm not sure where I stand on the church thing.  I feel like a faithful person and I'm happy the girls are learning about religion in their Sunday school, but I feel less inspired by the actual church part of it.  Matt and I have talked about it, even thought maybe we should explore other options.  Who knows what we will end up doing, but for that morning church was going to be about spending the day as a family.  It began with a chilly stroll to breakfast...

It was a bit of a walk, but the air felt so fresh and crisp...it was nice.  Once home we warmed up with hot cocoa.  I think Matt and I would have been content lazing around the house the rest of the day because we had been up late the night before.  However, the girls were antsy to go do something.  At the arena where Ava takes horse back riding lessons they having team roping every other Sunday and spectators are welcome.  She has been wanting to go check it out, so we thought it a good day to try it.  I know I've mentioned this before, but it is so funny to see Ava embrace this cowgirl world.  We pull into a parking lot (field) full of pick-up trucks and horse trailers and find a little area to park the Subaru.  Inside the dusty arena is the smell of burgers from the concessions mixed with general horse stink.  There are a couple dozen horses and probably 50 young steer penned up ready to be roped.  It was interesting.  I haven't been to a rodeo since I was a kid so didn't totally understand what was going on.  It was kinda cool to watch except I couldn't help but feel bad for the cows.  Apparently Ava felt the same because later that day she told me she wanted to ride horses, but not do roping.  About a half hour in the girls lost interest.  After walking around to check out more horses and saying hello to the resident goat, we were off.

A couple weeks ago we had gone to the museum one day because Matt needed to visit the exhibit for a class project.  The girls had really wanted to see the planetarium show about volcanoes, but it was way too nice of a day to be inside so we skipped it that day.  Sunday, however was chilly so after we left the arena we headed to the museum to catch the show...

It was all about super volcanoes and it didn't exactly end with warm fuzzy feelings.  When they started talking about West Yellowstone  most likely being the next super volcano eruption and it not being a question of "if" but "when" I started to wonder if it had been the best idea to see this.  It took quite a bit of convincing the girls after the show that the chances of it happening in their lifetime were low to get the look of concern of their faces.  I try to not think of it much....we're so close to Yellowstone, if something bad happens it'll be over pretty quick.  Besides that part, the show was pretty cool.  

As we sat around the dinner table that evening I realized besides a few people out in the community we hadn't spoken or seen anyone else all day.  Neither Matt or myself had talked to anyone on the phone or so much as sent a text.  It had been just us four all day long.  I love hanging out with family and friends and having a house full of people makes me happy, but a family day is priceless.  The girls are at such awesome ages for days like that.  Old enough to not have to worry about naps or snacks but young enough that a day with their parents is enough.  I will always hold family days close to my heart. Even if some of it was spent with a bunch of cowboys sitting on dusty bleachers and watching poor cows get roped over and over again.  And if one day Ava does get into it and has events like that I will be a proud mama cheering her on from those dusty stands.  I will not, however, wear cowboy boots to said events.  

Layla is involved in a hobby I understand a bit more...

It was parent observation at her dance class and I loved watching her proud little face dancing her heart out.  She kept taking peeks at us and giving us a shy smile.  


Lately she has seemed very grown up.  Because she is the youngest I always think of her as the baby.  I see the young lady growing up out of those chubby baby cheeks.  I have mixed emotions about this.

Onto other happy things.

Beautiful, yummy kale...before it became delicious kale chips-

Matt bought a bunch of kale for a recipe but didn't need all of it.  My favorite thing to do with kale is of course turn it into crispy chips.  I drizzle it with olive oil, sea salt and pepper and bake for around 20-30 minutes at 350-degrees.  The girls love them.  They usually last about five minutes around here.

My adorable nephews.  Baby's rock.  

I have six nephews.  The three older boys are all hilarious and crack me up.  The three youngest melt my heart. 

Birthday Celebrations with Grandma...

Around here we think birthdays are sort of a big deal.  Especially when we are celebrating someone special who does so much for all of us.  And, we love us some birthday cake.  Especially when it actually turns out looking good.  I have had more than my fair share of baking disasters so I'm always excited when one tastes and looks good.

Hope your week is finding you healthy and happy.