Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy and Merry Christmas!

Oh my. What a wonderful, fun, fulfilling and blessed Christmas we have had. I am beyond grateful for all of the abundance in my life.

Like most people, our holiday season started several weeks ago with shopping and planning and then the baking, and more shopping, and cooking, and baking, and more shopping . . . I think I got my father's shopping genes. No matter how many gifts he had purchased he always was out at the stores on Christmas Eve getting more. I just couldn't stop, but at least I can blame heredity!

We had some fun with our gifts this year. Matt got some fun stuff, like some albums he had wanted, and also some practical stuff, like work clothes. The girls got toys and books and art supplies. I got a Nook and a couple of books and a few other fantastic things.

On Thursday night we decorated sugar cookies (gluten free sugar cookies!). Well, I should say, Matt and the girls decorated most of them while I gabbed on the phone with my mom.

On Friday morning we decorated "gingerbread" houses. We learned from the girls' school to use graham crackers instead of gingerbread and it's such a great substitute.

In this photo, clockwise from the top, is Eloise's house, Matt's house, my house and Iris's house.
I made a big Mexican dinner for us and four friends for Christmas Eve. They brought over Wits and Wagers (and their iPad!) and we played for a little while before it was time to get the girls to bed so Santa could come!

The girls put out a snack and a gift for Santa and his reindeer.

Here's the girls after they got to the tree in the morning to discover what Santa had left for them! (and their mom and dad and aunts and uncles and grandparents, too!)

The girls got pillow pets from my sister's family. HUGE hit this year!

They also got these beautiful parasols from my brother's family allllll the way over in Brooklyn!

Iris's favorite present seems to be her American Girl doll. I bought these matching dresses on Etsy and they are sooooooo cute. Super cute.

I love, love, love the magic of this time of year. I love indulging in the whole Santa thing, keeping up the illusion that the jolly man with the white beard actually visits in the middle of the night and leaves gifts. They have the whole rest of their lives to not believe in such frivolity, but for now? We LOVE it.

Today when Matt was watching a basketball game they had interviews with some of the players about what they love about Christmas. Kobe Bryant was on saying his favorite part was when the kids wake up and there is that moment of excitement when they realize that it's Christmas and Santa had come in the night. I have to agree with him. Well, that and the moment they see the gifts under the tree and their eyes grow about eight hundred sizes. And the shrieks. And squeals. It's priceless. And amazing. I love Christmas.

Merry Christmas, all!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

We are foster parents!

My daughters' school is closed for three weeks for winter break so I volunteered to bring home Iris's class stick bugs. Unfortunately, all of the cute furry creatures had already been claimed. But you know what? We really have grown to like the stick bugs! They are incredibly interesting to watch. I have the tank sitting right on my computer desk and watch them and listen to them throughout the day. Yes, I can be easily entertained. I'm contemplating asking the school if we can have a few of the smaller ones to keep as our very own.

I took these pictures with my cell phone, but you can see a few of the stick bugs in these pictures. In the top one, on the right, is the lower half of the biggest guy in the tank. He is the loudest and seems to be a bit of a bully. I say "he" but I really don't know. Maybe a big bully "she"?

Iris and I researched a little about stick bugs and discovered that they like to be kept very warm and they like to eat blackberry leaves. Ruh roh. It's neither warm here (at least not tropical warm) and there aren't blackberries around. I am assuming that these stick bugs do just fine in normal house temps as they are residents of the school, which I can assure you is not a tropical environment. I also read one thing online that says they like kale, so I grabbed some out of our veggie bin and threw a few stalks in. I did notice a few bugs gravitate towards the kale quickly, so let's hope that works!

The other thing we are to do is spray the inside of the tank daily with water. Eloise helped with that this morning and is a pretty easy daily task.

Since the girls have been begging for a small pet, I'm going to try and convince them stick bugs is the way to go. Iris's classroom also has finches that sound really lovely so I am maybe, MAYBE, going to consider finches. Of course Eloise insists she wants a BIG bird. Um, no.

Anyone else keep stick bugs? Have any tips? Any other thoughts of smaller animals that make easy (and hardy) pets?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Traditions

Welcome to the December Carnival of Natural Parenting: Let's Talk Traditions

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama.

Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Family traditions are a tricky one for me. On one hand, it seems like so much fun to create traditions over every little thing, every holiday, every milestone, every everything. On the other hand, well, it's a lot of work and I'm not entirely sure how necessary every single one really is.

That said, many of our family traditions center around Christmas.

Thus far, they've changed a little every year. Sometimes we add new things, or tweak old things, or potentially drop things that don't work. I've chosen to give myself the permission to let go of those things that aren't really working for us on any given year. This year and last year, for instance, it was the mass mailing of Christmas cards. I do love doing them, in theory, but they are just a whole lot of work and a whole lot of money. With Facebook being as popular as it is, I can't think of too many people who would get a card from us that haven't seen plenty of pictures and updates over the year already, anyways.

Every year, save for this year (when we were bored and shut-in from a freak Seattle snowstorm), we put up our tree the day after Thanksgiving. We then drag out the small amount of decorations that we have for the rest of the house and pile our Christmas CDs next to the stereo. Our ornaments for the tree have a lovely mix of history. Everything from ornaments from my childhood trees, to ones that were made by my paternal Grandmother, to a set my husband and I were given for our wedding from my maternal Grandmother, to the ornaments we've collected at extended family ornament exchanges to the new ones each family member gets every year.

We celebrate St. Nick's day every year, as well. I honestly couldn't tell you a single thing about St. Nick (other than regurgitating what I read on that website I've linked to), all I know is that on December 5th every year growing up we put out our stockings and on the morning of the 6th we found that St. Nick left us goodies in them. I carry on this tradition with my girls, mostly because it's just so much fun.

A few years back we also started advent calendars. In the past they have been chocolate calendars from Trader Joes, last year it was a Playmobil calendar and this year it is a Lego calendar.

Christmas Eve is the day that is turning out to be chock-full of family tradition. Last year we made our gingerbread houses on Christmas Eve and will be doing that again this year. We also made a fancy Christmas Eve dinner last year, something I would like to carry on with, but is definitely one of those things I will reserve the right to stop doing if it's ever too much for me.

Gingerbread houses from Christmas 2009

On Christmas Eve we give our girls a pair of Christmas pajamas, a tradition that my husband's family always had and is a lot of fun. The girls also get to open one gift that night. I am trying to make it a gift like a game or some kind of activity. This year it will be Legos or art supplies. The presents get put under the tree after they go to sleep on Christmas Eve and Santa comes and leaves one unwrapped gift for each person. This is another tradition from my husband's family. Growing up, my family would have several wrapped Santa gifts under the tree, in addition to gifts from the parents and siblings. Santa's gift may not be the biggest one under the tree, but it's usually the one that the girls most look forward to receiving.

Matching jammies from Christmas 2009

We also are leaving some things open to the girls to start on their own. They enjoy writing letters to Santa and visiting Santa, so we try to do that every year, but I don't really push for it.

In addition to all of the ways we work on making Christmas special for our own family we also extend the giving to families in need. For the past few years I have, sometimes with the help of Iris, shopped for toys to give to Toys for Tots. This year we will be giving directly to a specific family in need and the girls have helped shop for the gifts. It feels really good to be able to share our bounty with those who could benefit from it and I love that the girls are learning a valuable lesson from it, as well.

The main thing I miss, deeply, is not spending Christmas with extended family. When I grew up in Wisconsin all of my grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins all lived within a relatively short drive. We always spent the holidays surrounded by family. Every single year it breaks my heart to not be with them and celebrate the holidays. When all is said and done, for me, that's really the bottom line.

It makes me sad that my girls won't grow up with the giant gatherings of family in the same way I did, but I can only hope to foster their sense of love and togetherness in a different way.

As my own family grows, I try to continue to ask myself, are the traditions we are creating supporting family togetherness? Sometimes they are, sometimes not directly. Thankfully, nothing is ever set in stone.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon December 14 with all the carnival links.)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Oh . . . and, OH!

Last night Iris completed her most recent illustrated book in seemingly endless string of works. Ah, if only my writing was as prolific! The book is about superhero dads. The illustrations depict dads in tube socks and leotards with capes. It's pretty hilarious. As the book goes on it starts going downhill into a pit of fart jokes and butts. Complete with accompanying drawings. And then there it was: the first appearance of a penis in one of Iris's books. Oh, my. That's all I have to say about that.

And so begins the post of a wrap-up of the last week or so of my life.

One main word wraps up everything I feel right now: tired. For some reason I haven't been sleeping well. It's really annoying. I'm wake half the night and half asleep for the rest of the day. Zzzz.

Last week I took Iris to see the Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. At six years old, she probably didn't quite understand the enormity of being in the presence of such amazing art, but it was still fun all the same. Our favorite part of our visits to SAM are spending time in the studio area. Iris loves creating her own art far more than she enjoys looking at the art someone else already created.

Today I finally, finally!, made a phone call to schedule an appointment I have been dreading and putting off. I seriously feel like I should celebrate. Sometimes it's these little things, a six minute phone call and now I am feeling incredibly relieved. I did it. I suspect the actual appointment won't be anywhere near as difficult to wrap my brain around as the phone call was. This is sort of the story of my life, I think. The smallest step, the first step, is always incredibly difficult.

Christmas gifts are almost all purchased. I love shopping online, late at night, in my pajamas. So much easier than elbowing my way through the toy aisle at Target. I also love a stream of boxes at my door!

Iris and I are planning a mother-daughter tea party, to occur at an as-yet-to-be-determined date in January. I felt so bad, she went to school yesterday and made a few invitations, which included making a handmade stamp and printing each paper by hand. But she wrote on all of them that the tea party was the day after Christmas. Oops! Not sure how she got that idea, I am hoping she can re-stamp them.

Eloise is being so very, very, very difficult. So very at the height of her defiant four year old stage. Or at least, god help me, this better be the height. She has the ability to not listen to a single thing anyone is saying to her, ever, no matter how many times it is said, how close you are standing to her or how you say it. She moves at her own pace, in her own direction. She takes direction from no one, least of all, me. Needless to say, between this and my lack of sleep, I've been a less than stellar parent. Hoping to get back on track and working hard to not go down the path of threatening that Santa will not bring presents to sassy little girls. Lord knows the threats wouldn't make a difference on her, anyways. I hope Santa brings me a giant ol' box of patience.

And with that, I am off!