Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Deck the Halls-Dec. 23rd

Like literally. Our halls (ahem, house) have been decked. If you haven't caught on our screened in deck is finally finished. Woohoo!

A project we started back in mid October that was supposed to take only three weeks to finish turned into two and a half months. There were many delays. Most of which could not be helped. Things like weather, death in the family, and availability of product. However it is done (completed only days before Christmas and the final inspections and approvals a few days after) and we are extremely grateful to our friend, Ryan, and his company, Brian's Construction, for such a wonderful job they did. Fred designed it beautifully and they executed that design with patience and skill.
What I love about this deck; it is totally maintenance free. The floor and railing tops are Trex, the balusters are iron and the whole deck is wrapped in a pvc type material called Azek. The screen system is such that it allows us to switch them out no problem in case of damage.

Now we will actually be able to go out and enjoy our deck without the bother of bugs and the burn your skin off heat from the direct sunlight that hits the back of our house ALL DAY LONG. Not to mention there is no other deck in the neighborhood that looks like ours. It is totally unique. And seriously, I really WILL NOT be missing the red stained feet and socks from the god awful paint that used to be the floor of our deck.

Oh how I wish it was spring, or just a little bit warmer like 60 degrees, so I could sit outside on my deck with my laptop, a cup of coffee, breathing in the fresh air and relaxing.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Portable North Pole-Dec. 15th

I wrote about this last year, you can read the post here. I thought the Portable North Pole was THE coolest thing I had ever seen. I still have no idea how Fred found it but I am so glad he did. After seeing Mason's reaction to it last year, I knew we had to continue this as a tradition, and just as I was thinking about it, I got an email from someone at the PNP. How cool that they read my blog! Apparently they had great success last year and added some new features for the 2010 season.

I highly suggest you check them out for next year, if you haven't already. Putting a video together was new for me since it was Fred who created it all last year but it was super easy. When you go to the site you choose between toddler, child or grown-up. Next you answer a series of questions as to what you would like your child to work on behaviorally and whether or not they made a reasonable effort, what you expect from them over the holidays, and what part of the North Pole you think they would most like to visit. Then you get to choose a few pictures to upload, such as a family vacation or birthday party and enter a gift the child has been wanting. Seriously, this thing is cool. Though I think I had the most fun watching each of my child's reactions to their custom video from Santa.
Mason, having been through this once before, got to tour the Reindeer Training Center and spent the video answering Santa's questions and talking with him on the video. Though he was still surprised at how Santa knew he was in school, was four years old, and about his awesome vacation to the beach. He agreed he needed to work on being nice to his sister and waved good-bye to Santa when it was all over. However, the best part was his face when he saw what gift Santa knew he'd been asking for.
He turned to me and said, "Mommy, Santa's bringing me a red Camaro with black stripes! YES!" All I could think was, Shit. Now I have to go out to the store and frantically search for a red Camaro with black stripes. All because that was the first photo I found on the internet. Lucky me that I found one within the first few minutes of searching in the car aisle at Target. Christmas Miracle it was, I swear.

Sophia, on the other hand, being her first year experiencing the wonder of the PNP, I was curious to see if she liked it. She was glued to the screen the whole time.
I'm not sure if she really knew what was going on, though I kept pointing out Santa to her. Just enthralled she was and when it came to her special gift, TinkerBell Movie, she sat up, excited and pointed.
And just like Mason, she kept wanting to watch it over and over again. I don't know who came up with this, but it is brilliant. Seriously, brilliant. Friends and family, all fawn over these videos just in awe over the detail that goes into it and how real it feels. I truly think this is going to be our new yearly tradition for the kids. It's Santa in the new age.

Don't get me wrong, I still love the nostalgic letter to Santa and will continue to do this as well, but even Santa has to keep up with the technological boom. And what is more tech than Santa contacting you via the internet, or rather the Portable North Pole as they call it? I hope upon all hopes that this is what keeps my children believing. Even if they don't believe it really is Santa in the suit when we take pictures; maybe, just maybe, they will keep believing in the magic through the PNP.

And you know, they have an option for grown-ups, so I'm thinking next year Santa just might contact me.
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Friday, December 24, 2010

It's Christmas Eve in Washington...

Well the suburbs of Washington anyway, and as we spent the day making our traditional holiday cookies I decided I would share a few more December moments.

Each year we get our pictures taken with Santa. Santa, of course, being my Dad. I really love that he is still able to do this. It is such a wonderful set of memories and photos for my children to be able to have. Them sitting on pop-pop's lap, dressed up as Santa and discussing what they want for Christmas. If I had any question as to whether or not my son was on to us last year, I no longer do. He is four years old and has already got it figured out.

After last year's fiasco with Mason refusing to sit on Santa's lap, I went into this knowing it would be an uphill battle, but was pleasantly surprised when he hopped right up onto his lap and starting pointing out all the cars he wanted from the MatchBox catalog.
Sophia on the other hand was little miss attitude and had to be bribed with the musical hallmark ornament she was playing with earlier, in order to sit on Santa's lap. But once there, she managed to sit still and show off how cute she can really be.

All in all I think the photo shoot went well. I wanted to include a photo with Santa in the card this year and my Dad graciously agreed to take the photos earlier than normal. Successfully, I got a few different shots to choose from.
Mostly I really like seeing the progression of the kids as they grow older. How they interact with Santa and how willing they are to believe. Mason, as I said earlier, was pretty sure he figured it out. He Insisted that Santa was Pop-Pop. Here is how the conversation went:

Mason: You're Pop-Pop turned into Santa.
Mommy: He's Santa.
Mason: No.
Daddy: Who is he normally?
Mason: He's normally Pop-Pop.
Mommy: No, he's Santa.
Mason: No! He's Pop-pop. [A pause as he thinks for a moment] Are you Pop-Pop?
Santa: I'm Santa Clause!
Mason: No, you're Pop-Pop.


By the end of the conversation we gathered that he thinks it was Pop-Pop but he still believes in Santa, and that Pop-Pop knows Santa. So maybe not all is lost. At least he still believes there is a Santa after all. I really wonder what next year will bring, he is getting too smart for his own good. And he better not spill the beans to Sophie either.

Oh well, we got the photos and all is good. And just for fun I sat on Santa's lap too.
I'm really going to miss this when, hopefully many years from now, the kids will have out grown Santa or my Dad can no longer do this.
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

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

Even though we put up the tree on Nov. 27th this year, the earliest ever, we still managed to be digging through boxes and struggling to get the house all holly jolly with decorations up until the last minute.
As with the stockings, everything sort of got a shift this year. It's been one of learning and growing. Nothing is in the place it was last year, but I kind of like that. This is our third Christmas in this house and we are still learning how to make it a home. Deciding what works and what doesn't.
Some new things this year are the glass jars, that I absolutely love, filled with ornaments and glass beads. The frame on the dining room table has the free Be Merry and Bright download from Becky Higgins in it. My plan with this frame is to rotate a different digital print each season. The Playmobil Nativity Scene is new and really cute. I thought the kids would love it, as they could arrange the scene and play with the characters however they wanted. It sits on one of end tables in our living room. I moved the wreaths to the french doors leading into the library. It spreads out the holiday decor throughout the main level and keeps me from going insane each time they would fall off the only window we have facing the front of the house.

I added the Joy ornament to the wreath that hangs on our door. I like it a lot more now. Added a little color and pop to it, don't you think? I tried to find a welcome sign but they were all too big. Instead, a Welcome sign hangs around the end stair post as you first walk in. It is a wooden sleigh with a Santa face that reads Believe as well as Welcome.

The stairs are decorated pretty much the same. Lighted garland wraps the top banister. This year, I added wire garland to the bottom, weaving it through the balusters as I worked my way up the stairs. Gold, red and green ribbon bows are attached to each post; made with the wonderful Bowdabra. (Haven't put that thing to use in years. Such a wonderful tool it is.)

Scented pine cones sit in a gold basket next to a ceramic pitcher filled with white poinsettias on the other end table in the living room. The silk blooms came about because we had Zeke and poinsettias are poisonous to cats. Four years since his passing and I still haven't found the heart to buy the real thing. More silk flowers lie in various size vases in the corner of the dining room.

Though quite possibly my favorite decoration was my husband's brilliant idea last year; to wrap the pillars separating the living and dining rooms as candy canes. The tree still sits in the bay window in our dining room. We contemplated moving it into the hallway this year. But left it where it is. I feel it is out of the way here and still the perfect spot to build our village underneath once the kids get older.

Speaking of village. I have been begging Fred to get an electric train for under the tree for 5 years now. He keeps coming up with excuses and putting me off. Mason is a big train fanatic, he owns almost every Thomas train there is, and now with Sophie developing a strong interest, I really wanted one for this year. However it was looking like once again it was not to be. And then a Christmas miracle happened. Fred was installing recessed lights in my parents kitchen on a Grandma Sunday. Mason and my Mom were putting up the village and brought out the train they bought to put around the tree. As luck would have it, the train was huge. Too huge to place under the tree with the village and so Fred no longer had an excuse and I finally got my train. Doesn't it just look awesome?
The kids were over the moon about it. There is a Santa at the engine, it plays Christmas music and, it goes forward and backward. I LOVE IT! Thanks Mom and Dad.

And that is it for the holiday tour of our home. Hope you enjoyed it and maybe got a few ideas for yourselves for next year.
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dear Santa-Dec. 2nd

Today I took the kids to the mall after picking up Mason from school. I NEEDED to find him some waterproof gloves for this year. It was round two after Sophia having a nasty reaction to a cookie she ate a week earlier and me having to rush home to get some Benadryl into her.

First we stopped at Chick Fil A to grab some lunch. I wanted full tummies before attempting the long haul a trip to the mall meant. They both ate well so I let them have some play time before heading out. Sophia did really well managing obstacles and Mason played friendly with the other kids. When it was time to go, they easily got on their shoes without fussing and we headed to the mall.

The day was going well so far. After settling on the first pair of mittens we found at Sears, the last pair in his size, I decided to turn my efforts into finding a Christmas outfit for myself. The kids, understandably getting bored and tired and hungry, were begging for a train ride. Since I do have a tendency to be horrible at making decisions, especially on clothes, I realized the kids needed a break.

Sophia, having developed an interest in trains, was just as excited as Mason for the ride. She was looking out the windows, smiling and giggling. Mason was being his usual friendly self and waiving to all the shoppers as we passed. At the end of the ride I wanted to get a photo of the kids in front of the train. Mason happily posed but Sophie was not so cooperative. I settled for what I got.
But realized that patience were wearing thin. I made Macy's my last store and even though I hadn't intended on writing our letters to Santa so soon, when the whining started I made a beeline for the Believe meter rising above the rows of clothes. There I would find a little red table and chair, and a box of pre-designed letters sitting next to that adorable Santa's mailbox. Mason was super excited having experienced it last year. He quickly sat down and diligently wrote his letter.
I am so proud of him. Since starting school, he has done such an excellent job in not only learning to spell but to write. He is far from perfect. Spelling words backwards when writing them out more often than not, but he tries so hard and has come so far. I love that he wanted to do this all on his own this year. I stepped back and gave him the space and privacy he deserved. When he was done, he quietly walked over to the mailbox and waited for me to get into position for the picture picture before placing it in.
I then handed over my iPhone to Mason as I assisted little Sophia with her letter. My battery for my camera was being charged at home and had forgotten to grab it when I walked out the door, so all I had was my iPhone and ironically my battery was getting dangerously low. Sophia did well, doodling on her letter and really not wanting my help at all. So I mostly observed. She quietly and happily drew away, writing her own letter to Santa.
However, when it came to me having her stop her letter writing and actually put it in the mailbox, the little diva tested my patience to the core. I had to remove her from the chair and lead her to the mailbox but she did not want to let it go. This was the closest she got before proceeding to have an all out screaming meltdown tantrum in the middle of Macy's.
Even after Mason assured her that it was o.k., showing her the opening in which to place her letter, she still ran off into the clothing racks clutching tight to that letter, flailing on the ground and leaving Mason and I just looking at each other and me totally mortified. After what felt like a million minutes of trying to calm her down, my battery died and I knew I wouldn't get the picture I wanted of Sophie so cutely placing her letter in the mailbox to send off to Santa for the very first time. So, defeated, I gave up.

And just to prove that she was the boss, as I got ready to pick her up and put her in the stroller she calmly walked over to the mailbox, smiling now, and dropped that letter right into the slot.
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Monday, December 20, 2010

Rethinking the Holidays

We've had to re think how we are decorating this year for Christmas. With a sassy one year old running around, it has caused some snags we weren't expecting.

Traditionally the stockings are hung by the chimney with care. And I bought these super adorable vintage looking snowman mantel hangers last year. However this year, after hanging everything up and it looking oh so pretty, Sophia walked right up the the fireplace and yanked on the garland causing a cascade of falling holiday decorations. One by one the stockings, their heavy holders, the garland and other nicknacks came tumbling down narrowly missing my daughters head and thankfully causing little to no damage to them as they hit the marble hearth below. Which sustained no damage itself. Phew! That was a close call. Only now I had to come up with a new idea to hang the stockings.

It took me about a day and then I had it. I raided my stash of ribbon and with the assistance of my eager son, we hung the stockings by the stairway with care instead. See picture above. Seeing them there now, I actually really like it. Maybe even better than the mantel, and just might make this their new permanent home for the holidays.

This is the mantel as we have decorated it without the stockings. Except now we don't have those three candle holders in the center because they got in the way of the sensors for the television and cable box. Yes, that is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix we are watching on the television. It was just after having seen The Deathly Hallows in the theatre and decided upon a Harry Potter marathon for the rest of the weekend.

Stay tuned for more holiday decor and December Daily sharing.
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Friday, December 17, 2010

A lesson learned. Hopefully.

The last day of school before winter break. Snow still on the ground from the few inches of snowfall the day before. Two hour delay had carpool starting an hour later than normal and our day a little out of sorts. Luckily we got a phone call for a play date from Mason's best friend. After a quick lunch and a phone call to the doctors (who ironically is the father of our play date friend) we had Sophia dosed up with Benadryl for her stomach rash and headed out the door.

Met with uber excitement the kids threw off their winter gear and ran off to play. As usual they eventually wanted a snack so we made chocolate ice cream from a recipe in High Five magazine. With just some soy milk, ice, sugar, salt and 10 minutes of shaking we had our ice cream. I thought it was pretty cool, but like all new things we try there is a margin of error. And unfortunately the plastic bags broke and our ice cream ended up quite salty. Now we know for next time. Double bag.

A few hours later, kids still playing and Sophia asleep on my shoulder; it was after all about 4:30pm, the boys were upstairs playing and we sat on the couch for some girl talk and downtime. Then it happened.

My son started to scream. Blood curdling screams that let us know something was terribly wrong. He comes running down the stairs and very clearly upset and in pain. The reason? His best friend had bit him.


Yeah, that was our reaction too. Totally in disbelief. But sure enough I lifted up Mason's shirt and there there perfectly aligned teeth marks on his upper back. Seriously, neither of us knew quite how to handle the situation. Mostly we were both stunned and in shock. Totally mortified, my friend went into action with discipline as any Mom would do. She called her husband, a.k.a. my son's doctor, and it was decided we would stick around till he got home to have him take a look. I swear Mason cried for like 45 minutes. My heart was breaking for my poor little boy and I kinda panicked inside, unsure of how to make it better. All I could do was hold him and assure him that his best friend still liked him and that Daddy would not be mad that he got bit. Though I have to say my heart broke the worst when Mason cried, "I don't want to come over here anymore." That's when his best friend erupted into tears and ran into the other room. My friend and I, the Mom's we are, just looked at each other with sad eyes. We knew better but still did not want to see this end their long time friendship of 3 years.

Honestly for me, I understand that these things happen. Boys will be boys. They play rough, they disagree. They are after all only four years old. The biggest issues at this age are sharing and learning to control their emotions. It probably didn't help that neither one had a nap and were clearly at that tired but totally wound up stage. I'm not sure how I would have handled it if our roles were reversed. I thank God that they weren't. I was still in shock. I had never seen my friend's son act out like that. Though inside I was saying to myself, "what a relief her son acts this way too." I know we always think our kids are the only ones that turn into terrors the moment they are alone with us in the house and no one believes they can act so different than the sweet, easy chid they see at school, or gym class. It was a bit of comfort to see evidence that my friends, who I feel are so perfect, go through the same thing. Maybe the one good thing that comes out of all of this will be my son never becoming a biter.

As I am writing this, I am still befuddled about how it all went down. I'm not sure we will ever know. I only know this; Mason calmed down, we had another snack, played a few games of sword fight on Wii. Smiles came back and by the time it was time to head home, we had a prescription of antibiotics, instructions on how to clean the wound, and as I suspected, my son declaring, "I want to come back tomorrow."
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December Daily

Seriously, I had every intent on doing another one this year. However, life had other plans.


I am so tired of being busy. So busy that even my friends are like, "where's Rachel?" Where am I? Up to my eyeballs in Preschool, Holidays, and Motherhood. For real. I have a few things to put on my NOT TO DO list for next year.

However, I've been taking photos, and from time to time, writing things down about each day. But no where near the caliber and detail that I did last year. I don't even have the foundation of album done yet and feeling like this project is totally hopeless with how far behind I have become. Though I am trying to channel Ali Edwards and say to myself, there are no rules. It doesn't have to be perfect. Just get the story down and only tell the stories you want to tell.

And so I will.
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Little Miss Helpful

We've hit the stage where she has discovered the use of tissues and the trash can. While normally I would be delighted that she is wanting to blow her own nose, we are in the midst of coldville in this house and she doesn't always get all of the snot and now I realize it is no wonder I finally came down with it too. And it doesn't always matter if she needs to use the them. Just like her brother did at this age, she finds the nearest tissue box in her reach and pulls them out one by one and then runs off to the trash to throw it in. I find myself torn between praising her for knowing the correct thing to do and scolding her for wasting a precious commodity in this household of colds and allergies. But this is not the worst of it. I remember finding it so cute when Mason was this age, that you could give him a wadded up piece of paper and he'd run to the trash can to throw it away and happily rush back to do it again. She is not so cute. We have so far dug out; two clothespins, the handle to the vintage popcorn popper, the popcorn scoop, a sippy cup and my credit card.

Fred finds that last one real amusing. Something along the lines of my spending habits followed by hysterical laughter.

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