Category Archives: Kid Stuff (i.e. products)

More “staycation” photos

Still catching up on the last few months!

We stayed home over spring break this year and simply enjoyed a week without a schedule.  I can’t tell you how much we appreciated just being in our hometown, taking advantage of some down time in the house with one another, enjoying some local outings with friends, and visiting a few nearby attractions that we had never made time to see.  My husband even took two days off work to make it a true “staycation” and a family affair.

The only time I felt a slight twinge about our lack of solid plans was when E was assigned to write about what she was looking forward to over spring break.  After hearing what her classmates planned to write, she came home and said “I think we are the only ones not going somewhere”.  However, my perspective was set right again when S responded, “Didn’t you hear?!  We’re going to my friend’s house…they’re petsitting chickens and we get to visit and touch them!”  Well, by golly, the kids were bouncing off the walls with excitement about that!   (Thank you, friends, for letting us visit, and for serving as the entire topic of E’s spring break essay!)

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E holding the chicken in our friend’s living room : )

In addition to that highlight, we spent the rest of break doing (to quote an elderly gentleman I met once) “a little bit of everything and a whole lot of nothing”.

We…

(1) played the first ever family game of T-ball in the back yard (called on account of hail after 4 innings, if you can believe that)…backyard T-ball has now become a favorite family activity, by the way.  One of my favorite moments was when – in our game of kids vs. grown ups – all three older kids were on base, leaving six month old H as the only available kid, which meant he had to bat.  We helped him earn his first RBI  (reported here mainly because I know you would be proud, uncle B!)

(2) traveled to the local transportation museum

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A real train shed, with a real turntable! The kids got to sit on the turntable while it moved and also got to see a milk truck (a concept we had to explain : )  We really made this trip for T and he loved it.  However, as a note to anyone who might find themselves at a train museum with a youngster, if I could do one thing differently, I would bring his toy train shed and turntable with us, so he could see that this was the same thing, only bigger.  The scale almost made some of the things we love seem unfamiliar.  It also makes my family seem tiny in this photo.  Can you even see us?!

The transportation museum was 5 miles from a park that had a kiddie-train and a carousel and the loudest donkey on earth (seriously, the thing “Hee-Hawed” so loudly and unexpectedly that we all jumped and H started to cry).  Of course, that will be the part of the day all the kids remember! : )

(3) hit our favorite local frozen yogurt shop

(4) concluded our Lenten project (I’ll update this later) and celebrated a wonderful Easter with some wonderful friends

(5) hunted some Easter eggs at home and at our church egg hunt

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If you can see past those faces that I love so much, I would like to point out the orange Christmas ornament on the table behind them. Did I mention that we’re a little behind on the housework around here?

The Easter bunny scaled back on the candy this year and brought each of the kids a small surprise.  The girls each found a small lego set in their basket, T discovered a new addition to his train set (Butch, the Sodor tow truck), and H is enjoying a new sleep wrap since the velcro on his old one, well…let me see if I have a photo…

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H stands for Houdini

(6) The big finale to the “staycation” was a pony ride.  We went to a local farm that, as it turned out, had “lost” our reservation.  It actually turned out to be lucky that we caught them at a time they could do it, and even luckier that the lack of preparedness in the stable meant we were able to help get the ponies ready.  The kids helped brush the animals and saw them being saddled and bridled.  Then each girl got her own turn while T watched and learned.  After he was ready, they doubled up while he got his own ride.

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And here’s T feeding the ponies afterwards…

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It was disconcerting that the petite carrots we fed them were exactly the size and shape of T’s fingers. Fortunately, the ponies have discerning palates.

Of course, the best part of the week was being together, and having extra time to just let a relaxing week feed our imaginations.  For example…

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That place where we spilled the water looks like a hippo!

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I could put pennies there to make the eyes!

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Check me out; I’m riding the hippo!

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My hippo is shrinking in the sun Mom!  What the heck?!

We may have also watched a movie or two…with a horse we rediscovered in the toy bin after our  trip to the farm.  (I played with this horse when I was a little girl and have vivid memories of building a fence for her with Lincoln Logs under Nana’s ping pong table…thanks for bringing up the old toys, Nana!)

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Love the staycation idea.  Now if I could just get the kids to stay little so we could savor more of those “at-home” moments.  I know that I’ll blink and they’ll be asking me if they can go on a spring break trip with their friends.  And that will be fun too, as long as I know where they’re going, that it’s a safe environment, that chaperones are present, that they know how to make good choices, that…

Well, let’s just say again that I’m savoring these moments.  Sit there and snuggle that pony as long as you want, T.  I’m coming over to sit next to you…

More updates to come!

Photo captions

Some photos recently uploaded from my camera…

(1) S is constantly seeing things around the house (including in the recycling bin) and asking, “can I use this for something?”  Here’s “something” she made recently… things like this are on display all around our house.  On a related note, we go through a bottle of glue, a roll of tape and a line of staples just about every week.

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(2) This is how you make a snow princess in the south.  You make a snowman with a bucket, a soccer ball and a hat, but I forgot to take a picture of that.

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(3) E & S received a sewing machine for Christmas (thank you Nana!)  Although Santa surprised them with several projects (small squares of fun fabric to sew quilts, simple apron patterns) and I have asked them to complete several others (“decorating” H’s burp cloths with stitches), S really wanted to make a dress.  Poor thing…her mama needs a sewing lesson!  But we did the best we could (with no pattern and the little fabric we had on hand), and yes, she wears this dress out, including to preschool.  Hey, she’s thrilled with it.  With that smile, who’s going to notice the stitching?!

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Lookin’ fierce in the photo below…

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(4) Catching snowflakes in bowls (while still in PJ’s…when it snows in the south, you best get out there…if you take time to change, you may miss the only snow of the winter!)

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(5) E came downstairs with this one day.  I may have to buy a new dry erase board because I never want to erase it.  We love you too, E.  So much!

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(P.S.  It reminds me of the dry erase board Nana kept in her kitchen that had “To Do” written on it, awaiting Nana’s next “to do” list.  My sister wrote “(1) Hug A” on the list and my mom could never erase that either.  Probably all our “to do” lists should have “Hug someone” at the top, don’t you think?)

(P.P.S. My sister is expecting a baby and I wish I could rub her belly today and hug her!   Love you, A!”)

(6) E’s door.  I love this stage of childhood.  All “rainbows and fairies” just like she’s printed on her sign.  Since I can’t freeze time, I’ll take some timely photos and try to treasure these moments.

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(7) This is S’ door.  She decided she wanted to be a doctor one day and made all these signs representing the different body parts to hang on the entrance to her “office”.  Patients can point to the body part they would like her to fix.  Worth clicking on this photo to enlarge…

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The empty spot on the door is for her favorite sign, which she had posted on a different door on the day I snapped the photo (because she loves it and wants to show it around!).  That one said “but cks” (for “butt cheeks”) until I made her rephrase.  It now has a sticker over “but” and reads “vny cks” (for “fanny cheeks”).  So if you have a fanny cheek problem, the doctor is in.

(8) I’m going to make my millions by selling this photo to the makers of the “Leap Tag” system and suggesting the tag line: “It will either teach your child to read or make bedtime super easy.  Either way, it’s worth a few bucks.”

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We actually gave S this Leap Tag pen for Christmas because E (1st grade) is now required to read to us every night, and we wanted S (preschool) to have the option of reading us stories too.  However, S is great about sharing the pen with T, and since I found this one train book on sale ($4!), T reads it with his pen over and over again.  (He can actually say the words along with the pen now.)  We hear him through the monitor reading the book until he falls asleep, and have been awakened more than once in the middle of the night to the sound of his pen reading the book again.

(9) A project from the 4’s class at preschool.  This is actually a photo of E’s from long ago, but S’ brought hers home this week, telling me “you have two S’ now, mom!”  (I need to get a photo of it.)  The life size replica of the child is part of a unit on the human body.  The stomach is a bag of cheerios, the lungs are bubble wrap, the heart is a balloon, etc.

Well, the brains are packing peanuts on the back of the head and when we were unloading S’ one of the peanuts fell off.  S picked it up and said to me, “here you go, Dad”.  I said, “I’m not Dad!” and she responded, “I called you dad because I’m going to make mistakes, since part of my brain just fell out...”

Pretty sharp, that one.  Is it a problem that my children are outpacing me when they’re still in preschool?

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We made the mistake of storing this inside E’s closet once and forgetting to warn a guest who stayed in her room that it was in there.  It’ll scare you to death in dim light, I tell you…

(10)  E is learning subtraction and her homework assignment was to do unit 7, section 1 in her math workbook.  Check out the upper right corner for some classic E perfectionism.  Practice Unit 7-1 has become Practice 7-1=6.  Well done, E.  :  )

(and what are the chances that the sample problem would be 7-1 also?  Go figure…)

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Anyway, more random photos later.  Just a few snapshots of life around here : )

cute, creative & confined to the house…all while preparing her to take on the world!

I could write pages about E’s style.  Suffice it to say that since she was a tiny girl, fashion has inspired her creativity.  From

– fingernails painted 10 different colors to

hours in her room drawing new designs for her dolls to

asking mama to help her make those designs come alive in fabric (I wish I had any skill at all in this area…)

E simply sees things in fabric and thread that I would never see without her.

As a result, she has the uncanny ability to surprise me with what she’s wearing, even though I am very familiar with every stitch in her wardrobe.

Take her green skirt, for example.  It is a simple skirt, designed for a 5 year old girl in that it has shorts sewn in underneath.  Perfect for sitting on the Kindergarten mat.

Well, recently E came down from her room with the skirt worn in a way I had never anticipated.  She put on the skirt, and while the shorts remained covering her lower body, pulled the skirt overlay up and inside out to create a strapless shirt.

It was creative, cute, and (since my 5 year old will not be wearing strapless outfits), confined to the house.  I didn’t make a picture, but it’s basically a green version of this (except that the armless mannequin could never wear it since E had to hold the top up with her hands, as there is no elastic on what was intended to be the bottom of a skirt…I did help her pin it so it would stay during her fun “dress-up” hour).

You can imagine if the top were folded down at the waist, this would be a skirt with shorts underneath. E just transformed it the other way, making it look just like this outfit, without ever having seen anyone wear this before. Is this how Ralph Lauren got his start?  Or am I raising Lady Gaga?

This wardrobe alteration was not an isolated incident…

The next week, E surprised me by announcing she was dressed for choir practice while wearing a midriff-bearing, one shouldered shirt.  Since she owns no such items, I looked closer and discovered that her “shirt” was actually a pair of blue shorts worn upside down.  She had put her head through one of the leg holes and her right arm through the other to create this look.

Can you tell that the shirt is actually a pair of shorts worn upside down?  When she moves her arms and it becomes a full midriff-bearing, one shoulder ensemble, which is why I posted a photo that happened to catch her while her face was covered.  No need to show her fully on display in this outfit.

Anyone who knows me knows that I think some of the best and most important childhood moments when kids are given license to create.  And E absolutely has license to create in our house. And room what I’ve seen so far, art & fashion are absolutely her creative specialties.  Her mind just looks at fabric and sees things I don’t see, and I think it’s fantastic.  I want to encourage it, not stifle it.

At the same time, E and I had to have two conversations before we headed out to choir practice that day…

(1) modesty… I am confronting this issue earlier than I thought I would have to and am admittedly unprepared.  Any pointers on discussing modestly with a 5 year old are greatly appreciated!  In the meantime, I will say that before she went out of the house, she was required to (a) put another pair of shorts under her skirt and (b) add a tank-top underneath the upside-down shorts to cover her belly and the exposed shoulder .  Which meant she left the house looking like this:

I also had to talk to E about…

(2) Being who you are:  I was up-front about E that (a) I loved her mind and vision and creativity, (b) seeing and doing things differently is celebrated in our house, as long as you are being true to who you are and expressing/not contradicting important values (like modesty), and (c) once you leave our house, you may get teased for seeing and doing things differently.  She should be ready for that, but not let it scare her away from something that she wanted.  (The world needs people who see some things differently, and it makes things a lot more fun too!)

But reigning it back in to the issue at hand, I basically told E that someone could recognize that she was wearing shorts upside-down as a shirt and tease her about it, and asked her if she would be ok when that happened.  She said she would, so we practiced her response in case that happened:

“I like the way it looks!  But I don’t like to be teased, so stop.”

And off she went to choir…

As it turns out, no one said anything to her.  And I am proud that she had a vision, was comfortable doing things differently, and learned a little bit about how to brace herself.  I will be the first investor in her design company, if her interest continues.  (I will also be the first to send her back upstairs if something is not modest, with suggestions about how to make it work while still being fun, accompanied by clear instructions to put some more clothes on.)

(As a side note, I would like to say that I uber-impressed with my mother-in-law, who witnessed about 75% of this exchange with E, let me handle the whole thing, and just smiled and said at one point, “You are both just wonderful!”  I got extra lucky that she came as part of a family package with my amazing husband!  More on their visit in an upcoming post…)

I also got lucky that we happened to be ready for choir early that day, which left enough time for a conversation.  Because a few days later, she came downstairs a few minutes before she had to leave for school wearing this dress.

random, fuzzy photo of E that I snapped as she was putting on an “art show” on the kitchen table…but she happened to be wearing the dress I’m referring to…a dress we both love, by the way…

No problem, right?

Oh wait, I forgot to mention that she was intentionally wearing it backwards.  Which means this part…

became a midriff-bearing bikini in the front.  With no time for a real conversation or the addition of a tank-top, I simply had to ask her to turn it around and let her know we would talk again later about how to make her clothes both modest and fun.

Egads.

The next person who suggests we just make departures simpler by having the kids pick out their clothes the night before is going to get an earful.  I can look at what E is planning on wearing (sweet green skirt, cute blue shorts, pretty pink sundress…), but honestly, I’m not creative enough to imagine exactly how she’s going to put the things on!  I mean, this is the height of looking “different on the rack” than they do when the child actually wears them!

As another side note, I racked my brain to think of where E might have gotten any inspiration for the outfits…especially since with all the end-of-school commitments, we haven’t even really hit swimsuit season yet.  The only think I can think of is Princess Jasmine, which got me wondering why Disney, with all their creative thinkers, couldn’t come up with an outfit slightly less revealing than this for the princess so many little girls are obsessed with:

Love ya, Disney.  But I think you can do better by my 5 year old – who is certainly in your target age demographic and desperately wanted to be Princess Jasmine last Halloween.  (Which begs the question: why did I not see this coming?  E was a more modest version of the Princess Jasmine for that holiday.)

Anyway, a reminder to readers that I’d love tips on how you explain the importance of modesty to a five year old, and how you decide what is appropriate and what isn’t…

And a quick note to E…

E,

I Love your style.  I Love your brain.  I Love your spunk.  I love you.

Be who you are always!

(While modestly covering your five year old midriff.)

Love,

Mom

I won’t eat it, and you can’t make me. (alternate title: photo of the week)

I call this photo: “I won’t eat it, and you can’t make me.”

Yes, he has THREE pacifiers in his mouth.

This was a failed attempt at going sans high chair.  He took one look at his plate, hopped up to get his pacifiers, then staged this little sit in. Of course, it was so cute that I couldn’t be too upset.  (His mama is a softie, after all!)

Two additional notes:

(1) We are back in the high chair now.  No more hopping up to get pacifiers at dinner.

and

(2) This is with ham, mashed potatoes, and bananas in front of him…all things he will supposedly tolerate.  You should have seen what happened when I added a green vegetable to his plate!

Love you, T.  Even when you spew half chewed peas onto my dinner : )

A Bedtime Story

So the kids are always on my mind, but they’ve consumed my thoughts even more than usual recently because they are all changing so quickly…  The next few posts may be very “my-kid-centric”.  You’ve been warned!

I’ll start with E (the oldest at age 5).

Monday night, I put her to bed at 7:15 and gave her 5 new library books to snuggle up with.  At 7:45, I saw her sitting at her desk writing.  She noticed me watching her from the doorway and excitedly told me that one of the books we had checked out was now her favorite book ever.  She was going to write down every single word so she could always have those words with her.

Can I Play Too? An Elephant and Piggy Book by Mo Willems.  This whole series is awesome, by the way.

In that moment, E’s excitement was incredibly contagious.  I mean, she was bubbling over with enthusiasm and pride.  I remember thinking that her eyes were all sparkly, and her cheeks were all rosy, and she was all inspired because she had just finished the very first book she had ever simply picked up and read by herself.  We check out books that she reads to me – or to her dad – all the time.  But this time, she had gone through the pile, selected a book and read it in her room alone.  I could just envision her, up there, curled up in her bed reading, almost giddy about the fact that she was reading all by herself.  Of course it’s her new favorite book for that reason alone!

Anyway, I was so distracted by her excitement, and my excitement for her, that I gave her another kiss goodnight and went downstairs without thinking about any other parts of the conversation too much.  And after a few minutes, her room became so quiet that I assumed she had fallen asleep.

Until she appeared downstairs an hour and a half later – at 9:15 (way past bedtime!) – holding this:

That’s three regular sized pieces of paper taped together by E, currently displayed in all their glory on one of the main doors in the house.

Yes.  That’s right.  She wrote down every single word in the book, just like she told me she was going to right before I got distracted by all her contagious, wonderful, happy. She had worked for almost 2 hours to do it.  (I mean, really, imagine yourself loving a library book so much that you finished the last page, and simply had to express your appreciation by turning back to page one and eagerly copying down the entire book from the first word to the last…)

I was simultaneously, impressed, proud, shocked and so happy for my girl who was literally bouncing up and down with excitement over her accomplishment.  She said (during literal jumps and bounds and amid great pointing at her papers),

“Look!  Every word!  I wrote them all!  And some of the letters in the book were fancy (i.e. in italics).  I didn’t copy all the curly parts of those letters, but I did some and I wrote every letter!  And they made some letters capital that I knew my teacher said should be lowercase, so I made them lowercase in my book.  Don’t you just love it?!”

Well, yes I do E.  I think it’s awesome, quite honestly.  And the post-it at the top of the photo is from your dad, who happened to be working late the night you wrote this, and wanted you to see his celebration of it first thing in the morning.  (And, by the way, your Aunt A will love that you edited the writing in the published edition of the book!)

(Also, another by-the-way… amid all the enthusiasm, can someone tell me if I should be feeling a little mommy guilt over the fact that it never even occurred to E to ask me if she could get a copy of the book that she loved so much?  Obviously, I am proud of the work ethic, and clearly we haven’t spoiled her, but have we erred a little too far on that side of things?   And if we get the book for her now, will she be thrilled?   Or will she think we don’t appreciate her hand-printed version – complete with illustration!)

Or maybe I’m overthinking all of it.  Which would be exactly like me…

Regardless, to snap myself out of the worry, I will end by saying that while I was typing this blog post, E came downstairs and told me she wasn’t sleepy.  She should have been snoozing over an hour ago; everyone else in the house is asleep.  So I decided to surprise her greatly by asking her not to go back to bed, but to instead go get me her beloved Little House on the Prairie book (which S is growing into, and T just does not yet have the patience for, which makes it hard to read during the day).  We read a dozen pages, and when we finished, I spent a few minutes curling her hair (something she has been begging me to do, and I attempted for the first time ever tonight…using socks…anyone ever tried that method?).  Anyway, an important, enjoyable, and very fun memory with E that I wanted to record here…

And proof that maybe I’m spoiling her in other ways : )

Love you, E!

And love your book…

Kite Photos/ Day Brighteners/ Capturing a Moment in Time

I’m just posting these because it makes me happy to look at them, and I thought it might make you happy too : )

A favorite photo, because, well, how could it not be?!?! Click to enlarge and just look at the joy on that face. The picture also captures so much about S at age 4: so PLAYFUL and PASSIONATE (that's a twinkle AND a fire in those eyes; don't limit her to just one, folks), in her outfit of choice (a dress paired with sneakers), that little arm up as high as she can get it (so determined to be big and already so powerful that I have to keep reminding myself how little she still is), and a smile so beautiful it almost distracts you from that WILL OF STEEL that makes her almost unstoppable once she decides something (she was going to get that kite up RIGHT THEN, despite the fact that there was NO wind at all at that particular moment - and by golly, by running fast enough, she did!)

and E …

A favorite photo because, again, joy joy, joy, and also because it typifies E at age 5... a JOYFUL (it bears repeating and capitalizing here, folks), LIFE-LOVING, running, leaping, twirling, bouncing little lady, who is here flying a kite she made herself by cutting Sunday School coloring pages into heart shapes, stapling them together to make a butterfly shape, and adding some ribbon so it could fly. A creative, captivating, carefree spirit that oscillates between (1) celebrating the wind (that hair is always down and blowing) and (2) creating ways to harness it to make the world (and even the wind, it seems) happier and more beautiful (homemade kites or ever-blowing dandelion gardens, anyone?)

Just moments in time, of course (i.e. not pigeonholing either personality and eager to emphasize they both have all the elements I listed for the other…be whoever you want to be, ladies and don’t let anyone – even/especially your mama limit you with images or captions!)

But in the spirit of celebrating who they happened to be last weekend, I had to share.

And isn’t capturing that brief, precious, will-this-last-or-pass? (and-let-me-declare-now-that-I-will-love-them-regardless-and-forever) moment what makes photos so fantastic?

Free Fries at Burger King March 17 & 18

Just a quick FYI that Burger King is offering free fries while supplies last, March 17 & 18, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.  No additional purchase required.  We enjoyed ours with their holiday green ketchup…a fun, free outing with the kids!

Here’s the link:

http://www.bk.com/en/us/company-info/press/press-release2536.html

Enjoy your free fries!

The merits of saying nothing…

I was cleaning up the kitchen, so I told the kids to play anything they wanted, as long as it didn’t require my assistance, and I mentally committed to letting them figure things out on their own for half-an-hour.  Still, I could hear snippets of their conversations and couldn’t resist peeking in at the process.

So when E pulled her top sheet off her bed and downstairs I thought, “that sheet is going to get so dirty down here”, but said nothing.

When S helped her spread it out on the living room’s hardwood floor I thought, “last time they did this with a blanket, with no rug pad, and it made such a slippery surface that someone fell”, but I said nothing.

When they dumped the whole box of lego duplos out on the floor and began separating the connected pieces and spreading them out on the sheet, I thought, “S is not wearing shoes!  She is going to step on a lego and hurt her foot!”, but I said nothing.

When they left the whole crazy mess to go color, I thought “they can’t just leave all of that there!”, but they were playing independently – just like I’d asked them to – so I said nothing.

When E asked me how to spell “botanical”, I said something – for the first time –  “B-O-T-A-N-I-C-A-L”

I also said something when they asked me to come look at what they had created.  I think my exact word was, “WOW!”

Check out what the kids can do when I step back, say nothing, and just let them go:  a botanical garden, made of lego-flowers, complete with signs welcoming bees and birds to come over and check it all out.

(I think I am wanting credit for showing restraint now, and for recognizing the merits of sometimes saying nothing, because when they are teenagers I am going to be all up in their business.)

God, as I raise these children, please help me know when to intervene, and when to bite my tongue and let my kids go & do & independently figure things out.

In the meantime, I think that’s a pretty great botanical garden!  (If you want to see the details they drew in the pictures, you can click on the photo to enlarge.)

Christmas Recap, Part 2

Since I posted a few details about our missteps en route to helping Santa with the girls’ Christmas present, but never actually said what the present was, I thought I’d reveal it here.

To inspire even more dramatic productions in our house, he brought them a stage (technically, stage curtains)…

Santa borrowed the big curtain from our attic bin of old apartment furnishings and hung it with a $14 shower rod from Home Depot. The smaller frame was Santa's second attempt at a Craigslist purchase. (Honestly, you can buy almost anything on Craigslist...Santa just did a search for "stage" and there were real - enormous - stages for sale, though it turns out this one was a little more our speed!)

Santa also restocked our art supplies and provided art bins (with labels, a gift truly for mom!) that allowed us to put a set of supplies in each girl’s room.  We had actually sworn off markers in the months prior to Christmas because no one ever put the tops back on and I was constantly having to get rid of the ones that dried out, but Santa took a risk that paid off tremendously.  Since he gave each girl her own set of markers, everyone has become incredibly invested in keeping their own set intact.  In over a month, not a single marker has gone dry.  Perhaps a lesson for mom in how ownership can lead to more responsible behavior?  Hmmm…..

The white bin is one of the ones Santa brought for organizing the art supplies and has labels detailing what goes in each drawer. E was just as excited about the process of putting everything in the right drawer as she was about the art supplies. I was so excited that they fit perfectly into the girls' bookshelves that I asked Santa to bring each girl another one for holding hairbows, jewelry and play make-up. Just in case you are wondering, I am not a neat freak (at all...don't even make the bed most days...) but I am an obsessive organizer and LOVE labels. E has inherited this trait. Recently I asked her to clean her room and she told me she could if I could tell her how to spell "girl" and "boy". Eager to see where this was going, I spelled the words and checked on her 20 minutes later. Her room was still a wreck but her uncolored Toy Story picture pages had been organized into piles: one for pictures that had mostly "Boy" characters and one that had mostly "Girl" characters. Just like my house...a wreck, but a laundry room with clearly labeled bins for batteries, light bulbs, etc. I don't know if this is a blessing or a curse that I have bestowed upon my daughter! I do know E and I had the best time putting everything in the right bins while S and T joyfully played with dad!

Speaking of T, he was actually the first one up on Christmas morning.  While we typically have the rule that everyone waits at the top of the stairs until we can all walk down together to see the stockings, T is so young (and wakes up so early!) that my husband and I actually brought him downstairs for 45 minutes of his own time before anyone else in the house even stirred.  He saw his train/car table midway down the stairs and began yelling “vroom! vroom!” right away.  The opportunity to play cars trains with he and his daddy in the living room before anyone else woke up was an incredibly fun part of the day.

Santa shopped on Craigslist for the train table too, and my goodness there is a story there, but that is for another blog post...

Another incredibly fun part of the holiday was having my inlaws spend it with us!  Their making the trip was the real gift…such fun to be with them.  In addition, they brought a gingerbread house that my father-in-law won in a contest just before Christmas

This thing was enormous! We were all on a sugar high for well over a week, eating a piece of candy every time we walked by it!

Our "elf on a shelf" is named "Bingo Bango". He hid in the gingerbread house one morning, surprising us all!

My inlaws also arranged for the girls to go horseback riding at a local farm

Here are the girls brushing one of the horses after the ride. S is wearing boots that belonged to her dad when he was a kid. I love things like that!

and my mother-in-law showed up with a cooler full of food that reminded me of Mary Poppins’ bag.  Good stuff just kept coming out of it!

A directly quoted excerpt of one conversation…

Me: We should think about a dinner plan for tonight.

MIL: Well, I do have a fully cooked penne-a-la-vodka in my cooler that we could just heat up…

How amazing is that?!  Have I mentioned that my inlaws are awesome?  and that they drove (with that cooler and that gingerbread house!) 10+ hours to get here from New York?!

In case it hasn’t come across, we had a truly blessed holiday and loved just being together.  The fact that while together we were able to see the kids put on shows in front of their stage curtains, enjoy coloring with fun markers, play with the “vroom, vrooms” and “choo choos” that T so loves, learn how to ride and care for some gorgeous horses and eat magical penne with vodka cream sauce…well that was just unbelievable icing on the cake!

My point is that I loved the togetherness that this holiday season brought us…time off work for my husband, a trip to see my extended family, an opportunity to host my inlaws, and many mornings hanging out in pajamas with the kids.

One last note:  I also love how new art supplies inspire kids in ways you would never imagine.  Though it may seem a strange gift to those who don’t know my daughters, Santa brought them each their very own pack of post-its.  They were able to use as many as they wanted in whatever way they wanted.  Well, check out my new designer wine charms, folks!

First a close-up…

And then a shot of the whole set…

They spent 45 minutes designing and arranging the charms. By the way, those are not green bags of dog poo on my kitchen counter behind the cups. They are, however, green bags that are provided throughout our neighborhood for the purpose of picking up dog poo, but were - on this particular day - used by my daughters to collect rocks. Thanks for letting me clarify that... Also, by the way, that white box to the right of the cup contains the wonderful gift my husband gave me...my entire blog printed out...it looks like a real book! Such an awesome gift!

I’ll leave you with that for today.  One more Christmas recap is coming (specifically about our attempts to keep our focus on Christ amid all the glorious hoopla!), then it’s on to the new year!

Note to Self (re: Christmas errands)

Background: S collects pennies.  Santa is planning to bring her a roll of them on Christmas morning, and has asked me to help out by picking them up at the bank.

Note to self: Make this errand the top priority during your very brief window of time with no older children tomorrow.

Otherwise, you will end up at the bank tomorrow afternoon with all three children.  While there you will try to discretely purchase the roll of pennies.  This will likely involve (1) sliding a note to a bank teller asking for a roll of pennies, (2) alerting a security guard who has been trained to look for people who slide notes to bank tellers, and (3) being labeled the most pathetic bank robber in history by an evening newscaster who highlights the fact that your demands included 100 pennies and three suckers for the kids.

Some days the “to do” list is more pressure laden and excitement filled than others…

Merry Christmas everyone!

(Update: I wrote this a week ago, but neglected to post it…I am happy to report that I accomplished the errand while the girls were at school and was not arrested.  Happy holidays indeed!)