Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Eve and Christmas in Review

Today we spent about two hours taking down the Christmas decorations that took at least three times as long to put up about a month ago. Allie is sad that all the decorations are now boxed away and has already started the count down to Christmas 2009. It was only later on in the day that we found out some of Allie's melancholy regarding the end of the Christmas season was because she thought we were also going to box up all of her and Zach's presents and put them away until next Christmas too!
So, after many trips up and down the basement steps, a thorough dusting of the glittery shelves, and several vacuumings to clear the floors of all fake pine needle debris, I'm happy to report that our house is now back in pre-Christmas order.

And, because late is better than never...

As promised, here are pictures from our Christmas Eve festivities. We had a great day, complete with homemade pizzas, present opening, Christmas music listening, cookie eating, and lots of playing with new toys!




Upon waking up on Christmas Day, we all opened our stockings then headed over to the Richardson's house where we opened presents, ate lots of delicious food, played card games during the kids' naps, watched movies, and relaxed. Here are some pics of the day (unfortunately, we didn't get that many pictures because we forgot to charge our camera batteries!):

Monday, December 29, 2008

Random Thoughts for Monday

We're officially on week 2 of Christmas vacation. How can it be week 2 already?! Ben has had off work since last Tuesday and we all agree that it has been great for us to all be together. We've had no plans, nothing incredibly pressing to do (well...other than the infamous To-Do List I made last Monday, fully convinced I would have all items checked off by now, and *ahem* I still haven't even remotely glanced at it...ok...so I have glanced at it, but with no intent to do anything about it!). We had no travel plans for this Christmas, so we've also had absolutely no packing or unpacking or long road trips. We had our first Christmas Eve ever in our own home and it was fabulous--just the four us. We hardly know what to do with ourselves. However, we seem to have managed the relaxing rather well, if I do say so myself. Highlights of our first week of Christmas vacation have included:

  • Christmas Eve (pictures to come).
  • Christmas Day with the Richardson family.
  • Playing with the kids and the new toys the days after Christmas...and today too.
  • A flute student gave me a gift certificate to Applebee's for Christmas and so all four of us went out to dinner on Friday night and even got dessert: Hot Fudge Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae--Allie's eyes got VERY wide when the waitress set down the ginormous dessert in front of her. We also hit up Target for some Paper Towel and TP....which was definitely the highlight of this evening.
  • Date Night! Yay! We went out shopping to use our Christmas gift cards, went to the actual movie theater to see a movie (Four Christmases), and ate dinner at Asian Big Bowl over a completely uninterrupted adult conversation. The kids enjoyed a night of Papa Murphy's Pizza and Disney Classics courtesy of Grandma and Aunt Stephanie. We continued our date by beginning the second season of LOST when we got home and the kids were already fast asleep.
  • Allie got sick. Ok...so not really a highlight, but she is sick. I took her to the doctor this morning and apparently she has strep and an ear infection. She is watching Sleeping Beauty right now and drinking raspberry lemonade as I type this while Zach is happily playing with puzzles and the Little People Farm, occasionally glancing up at the television when something seems to catch his interest.

So...sickness strikes again! What a way to start out week 2 of our long awaited Christmas vacation, huh? Ben and I had talked last week about making some plans for this week...you know...instead of just spending the entire week sitting around not doing much of anything (hmm...kind of just like last week). We talked about a visit to the Zoo or the Children's Museum or maybe the Community Center in Shoreview or even the Eagle's Nest or Mall of America. And, while all those things sound fun and I'm still a little bummed that Allie's current situation puts a bit of a damper on our well intentioned plans, it's actually ok. Last week was also definitely a lot of fun and we spent most of our time at home, not really going anywhere all that elaborate (remember, Target was the highlight of our family evening out). And, maybe, just maybe, we weren't really ready for our week of relaxing to be over yet. So...bring it on! I'm ready for week 2 of Christmas vacation, even if it is beginning not quite according to plan.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Graduations Through the Years

Throughout the past 10 years we've had lots of graduations in our family. Ben and I started it out when we graduated from Waukesha West High School in 1999 where we first met and became friends through our high school's marching band. A couple proms, tons of movie dates, countless letters, and way too many long distance phone calls later, and well, here we are! I could provide you with a myriad of pictures for you to enjoy chuckling over, but I'll just keep it to two: our senior pictures from *gasp* ten years ago. We're officially old.

On to the next graduation...

Ben graduated from the University of Wisconsin Madison with his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in December of 2002. How in the world he completed a 5-year program in 3 and 1/2 years remains a mystery to me. All I know is that it involved at least 3 tons of pizza and many sleepless nights (not all due to homework and studying, so I'm told). Here's a picture of Ben and I at his graduation:

I followed shortly after Ben, receiving my Bachelor of Music degree in Flute Performance from Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota in May of 2003. Three weeks later, we got married.


In May of 2004, we celebrated once again with Stephanie's graduation from Waukesha West High School:

And...to keep the celebrations going...

One year later, in May of 2005, I graduated with my Master in Flute Performance from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Newly pregnant and completely academically burnt out, I opted not to "walk." So, here's a picture of Ben and I from that busy summer of house buying and baby preparing:



Here marks a short break in our slew of familial graduations. From the summer 2005 to the spring of 2008 the only graduation that occurred was our graduation into parenthood with Allie in November of 2005 and Zach in October of 2007.

We pick up the official graduation ceremonies this past summer, June of 2008, as we again packed into the Waukesha West Fieldhouse to witness my brother's graduation from high school. In October, Chris began attending the Art Institute in Minneapolis, MN. So...in a few years...we will have another graduation to celebrate!

Our most recent graduation was my sister's graduation from Judson College in Elgin Illinois. She received her Bachelor Degree in Early Childhood Education. We attended her ceremony just a few weeks ago, so to be official, December of 2008. The above picture is of Stephanie and her fiance Chris (they are getting married in May). Chris graduated in May of 2008 with a degree in Architecture and will be completing his Masters program in Architecture over the next couple years (bring on those graduation celebrations!).

And despite the long ceremony, the kids did great! Granted, we did have to bring lots of toys and snacks...and, we also had a little potty mistake resulting in Allie missing the entire keynote speaker.


And, here we all are (Ben took the picture, so he unfortunately is not in it): GRADUATED!And, for good measure, here are the happy parents:
Here's to many more Happy Graduations!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Cookies!

As promised, here are some pictures from our traditional family Christmas cookie-baking extravaganza that took place the Saturday before Christmas. In preparation for the big event, we all put on our festive aprons and mixed up 3 double batches of cookie dough on Friday night so that we could begin rolling out, baking, and decorating right away on Saturday morning. In addition to cookies, we also made puppy chow and caramel corn (thanks to Mandy from J Mom for the awesome and delicious caramel popcorn recipe!). I am pretty sure we managed to go through 4 pounds of butter by the time it was all said and done. For that reason, it is definitely a good thing we didn't eat all of our goodies: we put some in packages for our neighbors, made up bags for my flute students, wrapped some up for my brother's birthday, and saved some for Christmas day with the Richardsons. However, I must confess, Ben and I have been scarfing up some of those leftover cookies after the kids are tucked into bed and we sit down to enjoy watching LOST (no spoilers, please! We just finished season 1 last night and are anxiously awaiting the beginning of season 2 tonight after the kids are fast asleep!). Enjoy the pics:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Reading of the Christmas Story

This morning over breakfast we decided to read the kids the Christmas story. We've been reading the story of baby Jesus' birth out of the Children's Bible, but thought it would be fun for Allie and Zach to hear it from our Bible. Breakfast was the time chosen because that seems to be when the kids are our most captive audience and subsequently on their best behavior (well rested kids + well fed kids = well behaved kids...most of the time...fortunately, for us this morning, it was indeed one of those good times).

Anyway, we opened up the Bible to Luke chapter 2 and Allie was quickly enthralled by the story of the birth of Jesus, asking questions along the way, and happily identifying the familiar people she knew from the Christmas story we've been talking about all month. Zach listened intently as well, making himself known only when the food on his tray was beginning to disappear.

At the end of our reading, we started talking more about how Jesus was a real human baby boy. "Just like Zach!" Allie interjected. "Yes! You're right," I replied, satisfied that Allie seemed to have gotten the point of our conversation regarding the humanity of Christ. "Except," Allie continued, "I think baby Jesus was a little smarter than Zach."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday Catch-Up

Not too much to report...I just realized, though, I haven't posted since Wednesday. I guess we've been busy once again!

Ben and I are just sitting here together admiring the Christmas ambiance from the Christmas decorations that adorn our cozy living room on this arctic sunny Sunday afternoon while also enjoying the pristine appearance of newly fallen snow and watching football (well...Ben is really the only one watching football and the reason I'm blogging is because I'm the only one that doesn't watch football...ever...seriously...I hate it...football, that is...and with a passion). Anyway, we're waiting for the kids to wake up from their naps so that we can get ready to celebrate my brother's 19th birthday with my family over dinner at Maggiano's. Yum! I've never been to Maggiano's, but I've heard great things and I'm excited to go.

Yesterday we had our first official BIG snow. Although, it did not amount to much here (probably only about 4-5 inches), it did snow ALL day long, and both Ben and I agreed it is finally starting to feel a little bit more like Christmas. We spent the day listening to Christmas music (courtesy of Ben and the kids' early Christmas gift to me: the Sara Groves Christmas CD and Josh Groban Christmas CD) and doing some Christmas baking: three types of Christmas cookies, puppy chow, and caramel popcorn. I'll post pics soon as Allie and Zach both enjoyed the cookie baking/decorating experience! In fact, Allie was so excited that she could barely take her nap yesterday (actually, she really didn't sleep at all because she couldn't wait to frost the sugar cookies).

Other highlights of the past few days include:
  • Zach's expanding vocabulary. Last night, before his bath, Zach walked into the kitchen, extended his little chubby finger up toward the mounds of finished Christmas cookies laying out on the kitchen counter and clearly uttered: "Cook-Cook!"
  • Allie's increasing culinary skills in the kitchen. She is now fully capable of making homemade pizza on her own (with very limited assistance) and considers herself a cookie baking expert.
  • Ben got his hair cut and was utterly disgusted by the fact that the stylist washed his hair in eucalyptus-mint shampoo. The stylist told him he should feel "invigorated." However, he informed us that he instead felt like a human candy cane.
  • We had a great time in Woodbury at the Lookout Ridge Indoor Playground. Allie was a little hesitant of all the ropes and tubes at first, but after Aunt Stephanie maneuvered to the top with her, we had a difficult time coaxing Allie away for lunch time! Zach spent the morning walking and toddling all around the playground trying his absolute hardest to keep up with all the big kids racing around him.
  • Zach climbed up his very first flight of stairs--at a friend's house--we visited on Friday for a long overdue play date and enjoyed much climbing, pizza, and cookies.

And, now the kids are beginning to stir....

Zach is always super crabby upon waking up from his naps, so I'm sure he will need a little extra cuddling before we get ready to go! Plus, before falling asleep he managed to get his foot completely caught between the bars in his crib and was in an utter panic before I rescued him. Lesson learned: super chubby feet do not easily slide out from in between crib slats.

More pics soon...I promise...as soon as I make some time to download all of my photos!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What We Want Isn't Always What We Need

After my attempt to help Allie:
"I don't want you to teach me Mom!"
Five minutes later:
"Mom, I need some help!"

(Written in response to the 22-word kid story challenge presented by Abraham at 22 Words.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

We're Frozen

Another day of bitter cold temps up here in MN. Right now it is negative-some-unmentionable-number outside with a wind chill of another dreadfully-negative-I-didn't-even-know-it-could possibly-ever-be-that-cold-number. I mean, yes, my mind knows that it can in fact get that cold. I have lived in Minnesota for almost ten years now, but I swear, every year the fact that it can be 38 degrees one day and negative 10 the next always takes me by complete surprise. The anchor on the 10:00 p.m. news last night decided to remind everyone of the fact that it really isn't even technically winter yet. Great. That was super annoying.

Thankfully, the kids have been happy staying at home. I haven't been brave enough yet to bundle everyone up, trudge through the Antarctic conditions, and take them anywhere...even though I desperately need to go to the grocery store and have a list that is at least one mile long of errands I need to run. The one good thing about winter...it stays dark out until about 8:00 a.m., meaning the kids sleep until at least 7:30 a.m. That is definitely a good thing. Hence, blogging becomes possible at 7:15 a.m.

Friendly Reminder: Less than 10 days 'till Christmas people! Ah! Where did December go?! The little advent calendar has been a fun way to count down the days until Christmas, but when I walk by it and see most of those little doors open and almost all the figurines filling up the nativity scene...well, you know how it is.

Last night, Ben and Allie wrapped my Christmas presents. Ben was very thorough in reminding Allie NOT to tell me what was inside or to allow me to shake any of the boxes. So, of course, I asked her what was inside....to which she responded: "Angel...", and then Ben cut her off. Hmm....angel...now I'm curious! I also shook the box, to which Allie completely panicked, ripped the package from my hands, and ran to tell Daddy of my offense. Wow. So, now apparently I'm living with the present police.

Zach has a black eye. Allie has never had a black eye. But, now that Zach has gotten an ok handle on walking, he has decided running everywhere is much more fun and efficient...even if it does mean losing control and falling head first into the corner of the coffee table, making his left eye all red and puffy. Two days later it appears as if he could be a perfect double for Rocky Balboa.

And, now they're up...the kids...I mean. Now, what to do today? And no, I don't think we'll be going outside. :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Some Glue and Colored Salt

I take Allie and Zach to ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education) every Monday and I'm always impressed with the neat activities that the teachers plan for the kids each week. Allie is especially taken by the art projects offered weekly, from painting to play-doh, and this week was no exception. She spent the majority of the free-play time at the beginning of class sitting attentively at the art table painting with glue and then sprinkling on what I thought to be colored sand (later, the teacher informed me it was actually salt mixed with powdered paint, which is much cheaper than colored sand). Zach spent about 5 seconds painting with the glue, mashed one of the salt shakers into it, and then quickly crawled away toward the huge container of matchbox cars set out in the middle of the room beside a gigantic roadway play mat where he spent the remainder of the morning.

So, now here I am, sitting here typing away as I'm looking up toward the fridge at the three meticulously designed glue/colored salt masterpieces by Allie and one mostly white sheet of paper with some glue smeared on it and a few granules of green salt stuck on top handcrafted by Zach. And, looking at those four pictures right now, I am reminded of just how thankful I am for how completely opposite my two kids are. It makes life fun. It sometimes makes life interesting. And, yes, of course it makes life a little challenging. But, truly, I wouldn't want either Allie or Zach to be any other way...to be any different than who God has created them to be.

I hope I can continue loving my kids for who God has made them to be and not for who I think they should be. I hope I can always display selfless love and appreciation for their differences, for the ways in which God has created them uniquely, oftentimes ways that seem so unlike myself. And when those times come where I may not fully understand or agree with my kids, I pray that I will be able to listen respectfully with a humble and open heart. It is my desire to not pass judgement or impose things upon either of them just because I think their picture would look better if they could just add a little more glue up in the corner to hold that purple salt down better or maybe sprinkle some more pink salt down at the bottom to fill in that white space more adequately. Just because their colored salt picture isn't quite the same one I would have created, it does not make it wrong or any less beautiful.

As the masterpieces of my kids' lives are just beginning to unfold, I pray that I will always be able to see, as well as come to love and appreciate, the beauty in their differences from each other and myself. I pray that I will respect their choices, and have wisdom and discernment in guiding each child instead of controlling exactly where I think they should paint the glue and sprinkle the colored salt. Not an easy task, I know. But those four works of art hanging on my fridge today serve as my reminder. And, as I continue to marvel and appreciate the unique beauty behind each stroke of glue and sprinkle of salt, I find myself even more in love with those little hands that enthusiastically grasped a paint brush on Monday morning and put it eagerly against a blank white canvas.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

One of My Christmas Favorites

One of my most favorite things about the Christmas season is none other than...

Christmas music!
classical, carols, contemporary, rock, traditional, instrumental, choral...I pretty much like all of it.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I wait patiently all year long for December to come so that I can indulge in all the Christmas music that is possible to cram into the time span of a 35ish day period. This year has been especially fun because Allie is beginning to recognize, remember, and even sing along to some of the Christmas songs. Her favorites are The Little Drummer Boy (she is becoming quite proficient with the rum-pa-pum-pums), Hark the Herald Angels Sing! (her fondness for this song lies in her uncanny ability to sing Glooor---oooooor---oooor---ria! at the top of her lungs for all within a 3-mile radius to hear), and Mighty to Save (which is not really in the Christmas song genre, but Allie insists that it must be a Christmas song because it is about Jesus--which, actually she does have a point--for this reason and since she knows every single lyric and squeals in anticipation every time she hears the intro. begin to play on the radio, I've decided it can make her favorite Christmas song list). Anyway, we have been singing lots of Christmas songs, especially when we are together in the van, along to the radio, and I'm sure we are quite a sight for other drivers passing by. I'm also pretty sure Zach has been joining along with Allie and I in our singing and although we can't quite make out the meaning of his words yet, his volume is definitely beginning to give Allie some serious competition.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The other night I asked Ben what his favorite Christmas song was and we became completely engrossed in a much-too-long conversation involving an ongoing list of several favorite Christmas songs and what made them our favorites...from Carol of the Bells (of which I'm sure Ben has over 100 different versions on his Ipod) and O Holy Night (because it was performed every Christmas Eve service at the church Ben attended growing up) to White Christmas (the featured song in Ben's very favorite Christmas movie) and You Gotta Get Up it's Christmas Morning (sung by Ben himself every year upon waking up on Christmas morning). And, that is just a very brief sampling of where our conversation led. Basically, it seems there are just too many good and meaningful Christmas songs and we found it impossible to pick only one to be our favorite!
I will, however, pick two Christmas songs that are coming to mind as my favorites at this very moment (which I'm sure, by the time I click on the "publish post" button, I will have changed my mind, yet again...but, I'm giving it a shot anyway) and that most definitely made the top of the huge mental list Ben and I compiled the other night. I'll include lyrics because at this moment that is why these two songs are my favorites: Here goes:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
~
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
~
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
~
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
~
O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Breath of Heaven
I have traveled many moonless nights,
Cold and weary with a babe inside,
And i wonder what I've done.
Holy father you have come,
And chosen me now to carry your son.
~
I am waiting in a silent prayer.
I am frightened by the load I bear.
In a world as cold as stone,
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now. Be with me now.
~
Breath of heaven,
Hold me together,
Be forever near me,
Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven,
Lighten my darkness,
Pour over me your holiness,
For you are holy.
Breath of heaven.
~
Do you wonder as you watch my face,
If a wiser one should have had my place,
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan.
Help me be strong.
~
Breath of heaven,
Hold me together,
Be forever near me,
Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven,
Lighten my darkness,
Pour over me your holiness,
For you are holy.
Breath of heaven.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
One last thing: We sang a Christmas song at church this past weekend that was new to me and I instantly fell in love with it. The only problem...I have no idea what the title is and now I can't seem to find my weekly bulletin. The only part I remember clearly is the verse in which the wise men are depicted bringing their gifts to Jesus (gold, frankincense, and myrrh) that symbolize Christ's birth, kingship, and eventual sacrificial death. Does anyone know this song? Boy, I know I didn't give you a lot to go by, but I thought I'd give it a try! If you have any ideas, leave me a comment. And, even if you have no idea what song I'm talking about, leave me a comment anyway and tell me what some of your favorite Christmas songs are--I'd love to hear!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
And...Happy Christmas Singing!!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

This Post Shall Remain Nameless- No Title Can Do It Justice

If you hear blood curdling screaming from your husband in the other room followed by a torrent of "Oh my gosh...Oh my gosh...this is so disgusting...Oh my gosh...AHHHHHH!!!!", do not merely shout out in response "Is everything okay?" because, obviously, everything is certainly NOT ok. Repeating the question much louder a second time, followed by "Do you need any help?" will only elicit the following response from your husband: " AHHHH!!! I was just holding him and then my arm felt warm and there was this stuff stuck to it...Oh my gosh this is the most disgusting thing ever!"

And, when your husband rushes into the bathroom still holding the clueless culprit who is now pleasantly grinning a huge four-tooth smile, it is indeed a good idea to suggest that the stinker be quickly thrown into the tub, clothes and all. And, while your husband is still in the process of freaking out in utter and complete disgust, it is nice to interject a kindly reminder that he should probably think about taking off his poop-covered shirt and wash the other remaining poop remnants off of his own skin.

While your husband gladly takes the opportunity to clean himself up, proceed to take the clothes off of the offender who is now laughing and standing happily in the bathtub. With an ample supply of baby wipes, make sure the poop is completely wiped off of his back, legs, stomach, and hair. Wrap up all the clothes tightly to be taken downstairs and washed immediately. Because there is now poop all over the bath tub, you must clean and disinfect the tub surface before actually bathing the now semi-clean pooper.

At this point, please do not place the stinker outside of the bathtub, with no diaper, giving him free reign to wander aimlessly throughout the entire house. If you do this, your husband, who is now finally composed enough to emerge from the bedroom with clean clothes, will most certainly walk through the kitchen and loudly declare, "Why is the kitchen rug so wet?!" to which you will not need to provide an answer because at that very same moment you will both catch a glimpse of the naked bummed criminal frantically crawling away from the crime scene.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Week in Review

We've been pretty busy this week and I haven't had time to be on the computer much. So, now that I have a couple free moments while the kids are still napping, even though I should be folding laundry, I thought instead I'd do a quick catch-up-to-date post. So, here, in list form, are some of the highlights of the week:
  • Zach started drinking on his own! Yay! For those of you that have not seen Zach eat a meal, you don't understand how HUGE of a milestone this is. Until this past Tuesday, Zach absolutely refused to hold his own sippy cup to drink. He would only hold his cup out in front of him, toward either Ben or I (sometimes even Allie or basically whoever else he deemed capable of the job) and would whine and cry incessantly until one of us took the cup and held it up to his mouth so that he could drink. This was mildly irritating, to say the least. I decided Monday that no matter how much whining and crying, none of us were allowed to "help" him drink. Needless to say, Monday was not a very fun day. But, by Tuesday, he was sufficiently drinking on his own! Hooray!

  • Zach also took his very first unassisted steps this week! It has been fun to watch him teeter and totter all around. He only takes about 5-6 steps at most on his own, but he is very determined to try this whole walking thing out. We finally have a toddler again in our home!

  • We started our advent calendar this week, counting down the days until Jesus' Birthday, and it has been the highlight of the kids' day. We've been reading a little advent book at lunch that talks about a different aspect of Christmas each day. After lunch we go to the calendar to open the door of the day to find a nativity scene figure that correlates with the story from the advent book. This is our first year doing something like this and I'm hoping it can become one of our very own family's Christmas traditions.

  • We've also taken several car trips around our neighborhood after dinner to see all the Christmas lights and decorations this week. Allie's favorite lights are the "dark blue" ones and she insists that a Christmas light display is inadequate unless it has a light-up baby Jesus.

  • Allie is still completely enthralled by her princesses and castle: She plays with it for at least several hours a day. Apparently the princesses have daily weddings to attend, in addition to taking turns cooking dinner, and changing their dresses an infinite amount of times throughout the day. Oh yes, let me not forget that they also have countless royal birthday parties to attend and Allie happily supplies a ginormous cake made out of stackable decorative boxes for the celebration.

  • We set up our Christmas tree and Christmas decorations last weekend and have been enjoying the festive feel in our home. I have been pleasantly surprised that both kids have not completely destroyed our decorations. Zach seems mostly uninterested and Allie enjoys looking, but really doesn't rip anything apart...yet. Hopefully I didn't just jinx this odd phenomenon as I'm pretty sure most kids love to get their hands on any and all things sparkly, shiny, blinking, or flashing.

  • I took the kids Christmas shopping at Kohl's this week and it went great! Goldfish crackers and fruit snacks allowed me at least a half hour of peaceful shopping time...which was just enough time to get what I needed and check out. Allie, however, does not understand why we can't tell people exactly what we bought them for Christmas.

  • We had our first measurable snowfall and it actually looks pretty on the ground. It definitely makes it feel more like Christmas and for some reason makes the cold a little more tolerable.

  • I took Zach to get his hair cut and he looks like a boy again! He had fun sitting on the horse and inspecting all the animals on his little red cape. Allie's favorite part was watching clips of "Kung Fu Panda" while Zach was getting his hair cut.

  • This afternoon we are going to finish up some Christmas shopping, go out for dinner, and then maybe hit some more Christmas light displays.

Wow...that was a long update! But, since you hung on for all that reading, here are a few recent pics:

The kids and Ben after church a few weeks ago-


The kids actually playing legos TOGETHER...no fighting! However, notice who is doing the actual sharing, though.


Dad gave them a laundry basket ride...it was a big hit!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Doctor's Visit

This morning we made our way to the doctor's office for Allie's 3-year well check. Despite the fact that Zach woke up at 6 a.m. this morning (and was therefore completely inconsolable by 9 a.m. due to utter exhaustion in addition to a wicked diaper rash that sprung up after the most disgusting bout of the Big D this morning) and Allie's obstinate defiance regarding her attendance at a doctor's appointment when she was absolutely NOT sick, the morning went surprisingly well. Before leaving, I was able to convince Allie that her doctor's appointment was a special birthday appointment and Zach, well, I was just honestly hoping he wouldn't be too terrible...

I brought along some goldfish crackers, raisins, and fruit snacks for the kids to munch on while we waited for over a half an hour in the festively decorated waiting room. They were running late today, again. No big surprise. After the kids became bored with snacktime (or rather, when they were cut off because I would like them to actually eat lunch), we read through some animal books and paged through several newspaper ads promising the perfect Christmas gift for everyone on your list. All the while, Zach was trying desperately to get the attention of a young woman, much too tan to be a true Minnesotan, with silky black curls sitting directly across the room from us...to no avail. Allie was curious about all the names being called out and was adament about knowing everyone's name in the waiting room: all eleven patients and five office staff.

Finally, a seemingly unfamiliar nurse came out, looked in our direction, and called out Allie's name. I grabbed Allie's hand as I hauled the diaper bag, two coats, my purse, and Mr. Gigantor Kid in the other. We followed the new nurse with grayish hair and tightly pursed lips down the long hall into our exam room. It became quite obvious that this fill-in nurse was not nearly as patient and friendly as our favorite nurse Denise, who we later found out was on vacation.

The fill-in nurse proceeded to drill me with the fifty bazillion questions they always ask to ensure that your child is a-ok, growing, and thriving healthily. Although I was trying my hardest to concentrate and answer correctly, the task became difficult as Allie was also attempting to carry on a full conversation with me while Zach was arching his back in my lap, trying to wiggle himself free, on the verge of a full melt down. Then, all of a sudden Fill-in Nurse, now henceforth to be called Cranky Nurse, is telling me that Allie is going to need a lead screening, even though I assured her several times that Allie has had absolutely no exposure to lead. It is at this point I finally realized that Cranky Nurse isn't so unfamilar...ahhh...that's right...Cranky Nurse is the same as Nutso Nurse who told me a few months ago that Allie had herpes when in actuality she had Hand/Foot/Mouth. Great.

After Cranky Nurse felt I had adequately answered her questions and finished filling out all her forms, she led us down the hallway to take Allie's weight and height measurements: 30.6 lbs (only 2 lbs less than Mr. Gigantor Kid) and 37 inches, which is about the 50th percentile. She then whipped out this humongous chart filled with black and white pictures of hearts, stars, flags, crosses, and o's and hung it on a refrigerator at the far end of the hallway. Oh...so this is the eye exam...thanks for explaining that to us, Cranky Nurse. Allie did fairly well naming all the pictures that Cranky Nurse pointed to despite the lack of explination. Cranky Nurse was a little annoyed that Allie couldn't identify the flag. Allie kept on asking me to tell her what it was and, frankly, I had a difficult time determining its identity as well.

Finally it was time to go back to the exam room and wait for the doctor. Cranky Nurse led the way and then excused herself. Thank goodness. We only waited for a couple of seconds and then the doctor came right in.

Allie adores our doctor. He came in, sat down right in front of her, and asked her several questions about Thanksgiving and what she likes to play with and her family. Allie was a chatterbox, talking on and on about princesses, legos, playing hide and seek, Taffy (my parents' dog)...I'm sure she talked for five minutes straight before the doctor started the actual exam. Allie listened very intently to all of the doctor's instructions and did everything he asked right away (hmmm......I'm thinking maybe we need to get a voice recording of our doctor telling her to pick up her toys, to not hit her brother, to flush the toilet...). His final assessment: "She is perfect in every way!"

And so, we waved our goodbyes, bundled up in our coats, and headed down the long hallway to pick up our sticker from the front desk. Allie chose a Princess Belle sticker which she stuck immediately to the front of her shirt.

All in all, it wasn't so bad...except for Cranky Nurse. And, right now, the kids are sound asleep, utterly exhausted from the morning's events. Here's hoping we won't have to make another visit to the doctor for quite some time!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Bad Hair Day

The other day, Zach woke up from his nap and he looked like this:

Maybe it's time for another haircut.
No, I promise...I won't do that again.