Monday, December 31, 2012

How We Spent Our Holiday Break

The week before Christmas our oven broke.  It had been on the fritz for the past year or so, but when I finally could not get the oven door open while our dinner was perilously burning inside, I think I may have yanked a bit too hard or applied a bit too much force (seriously, it is amazing the super human strength I am afforded when hunger is involved).  Anyway, Ben declared it beyond fixable and I am now left with an oven that does not open more than 3 inches and does not fully close. 

Normal people would go out and buy a new oven, right?  Well, that is because normal people usually have normal ovens.  We, however, have this lovely 24-inch oven that is custom built into our cabinetry and the cost of a replacement is beyond ridiculous.  Behold our dumb oven:

The dumb oven that is so small that I can't even fit most baking sheets into it.  And, don't get too excited about it being a double oven.  In fact, that whole bottom half is merely a broiler.  Lovely.  Because apparently we really enjoy broiling away in our kitchen on baking sheets used by munchkins.

Anyway, after considering our options....and considering the overall dumbness of our entire kitchen....
Hello amazing 50-year old laminate flooring and wood paneled walls. 

Hello oddly configured cabinetry and chipped countertops complete with fruit-laden soffits.

....we decided it was high time to do some major reconfiguration.  We hired a contractor....picked out a new kitchen....and began work this week on our part of the renovation process. 

First up....get rid of the WOOD WALLS!

After lots of mudding, sanding, painting, and cleaning, we had ourselves a fancy schmancy real wall with absolutely no wood!

We still have some trim work to do, but that will come after the new floor (which I just received a call today that it's in!!  Wooohooo!)

Next up was the basement door frame.  We have a completely finished basement (in fact, Allie's room is downstairs) that we use like a second story to our we were more than ready to get rid of the wood around the doorway, leaving just an opening to the stairway downstairs. 

Here's what we started out with: it looks like I don't have a true before photo, but you get the idea.  After Ben did some drywall work and we did a little painting, we now have an open doorway off the kitchen to the basement.

We also painted the stair well to match the kitchen. 

And, we managed to pick out and order new lights (you didn't think we were going to keep that ceiling fan, did you?!). 

We installed new faux wood blinds (that will come down temporarily with the rest of the kitchen demo...but, seriously, installing new blinds is putzy and time consuming!).

We finished the trim on the kitchen windows.

We went out for dinner and a movie while Grandma and Grandpa watched the kids.

We picked out new appliances (finally, a NORMAL oven!).

We played with the kids' new toys.

We watched movies.

We visited Lowes', Home Depot, and Menard's daily over the past week. 

We went to Cherry Berry to celebrate New Year's Eve.

And, now we eagerly await the call that our cabinets are in and ready to be installed...that's when the real transformation will begin.  We still have a little dry walling and painting ahead of us after they get rid of those soffits...and Ben has some minor electrical work to tackle, but we got a ton done this past week in preparation for the larger jobs that need to be completed. 

And, now, after all that work, I'm not sure Ben and I will even be able to make it to midnight to ring in the New Year! 

Christmas 2012

Christmas morning started out bright and fact, even our resident sleeper-inner Zach was up and ready to go by 5:00 am!  Aaack! 

Before leaving for my parents' house, we made sure to check out our stuffed stockings:

Thankfully, Starbucks was open at 7:15 am on Christmas morning, so we stopped by for a Christmas peppermint mocha and we were still over to my parents' house around 8:00 am. 

Even though we were a tad earlier than expected, breakfast was served shortly after.  Forget all those traditional Scandinavian foods....we had good ole' biscuits and chocolate sauce (or chocolate gravy) and breakfast burritos with hot salsa!  Paired with "Grinch Punch" (Sprite and lime sherbet), it was the perfect way to begin Christmas morning!

We spent the rest of the day opening presents, laughing, chatting, playing with the kids' toys, watching Christmas movies, eating far too much food, and just enjoying our time together as a family.  It was a perfect Christmas celebration!

I LOVE being an aunt!!

See, Chris?!  3 kids really is no problem!

Mom always makes our Christmas meals special!!  Thanks, Mom!

Drew's first Christmas (and right before a Christmas nap!)

Olivia LOVES the ginormous elephant she got from Uncle Chris.

Uncle Chris...and...Uncle Chris!

He's still surprised...even when we get him the same gift for three years in a row!

More golf gear?!  Yesssss!!

I think we may have actually surprised her this year!

Chillin' with grandpa.

Olivia sure loves her Aunt Stephanie!

All Smiles!

The big kids don't really chill with Grandpa...they just sort of climb all over him and laugh ecstatically.

Uncle Ben

Aunt Jennifer and Uncle Ben

Christmas Eve 2012

Over the past few years, we've started a tradition of spending Christmas Eve at home with just the five of us.  This year, especially, we felt like the days and weeks leading up to Christmas had us on the go, so we were all looking forward to relaxing at home and spending time together on Christmas Eve. 

Unfortunately, upon realization that being on the go had me very behind on laundry, we spent the majority of the morning washing and folding clothes.  However, I had four happy helpers (or...basically...four very eager people who could barely wait to open Christmas presents) and we were able to get the job done in no time. 

We had decided that after Olivia's nap time we would open Christmas presents.  So...right as the clock hit 3:00 pm, Zach and Allie were in Olivia's room to wake her up.

A groggy Olivia headed out into the living room where we opened the last door on our advent calendar and lit ALL the candles on the advent wreath. 

The kids took turns each day in December opening the doors and on Christmas Eve it was Olivia's turn. 

Olivia was so excited that we finally had Baby Jesus to complete our Nativity.

I was surprised that by Christmas all three kids could remember what each advent candle stood for:  Hope, Love, Joy, Peace, and the middle candle for Jesus!

After reading our last scripture reference to go along with our advent calendar, it was time to blow out the candles and open presents:  Happy Birthday, Jesus!

We made sure to pose by the Christmas tree for a few photos before we began.
Zach got his Happy Birthday Jesus party hat at the AWANA birthday party for Jesus celebration and he wore it almost non-stop leading up until Christmas!

Then, when the kids could contain their excitement no more, we began opening presents.

I wish I would have been video recording this next segment of photos.  For three months straight Zach has been asking for a Lego Fire Airplane...not in a begging or whining way, just when asked what he would like for a gift, Zach would always respond:  "A Lego Fire Airplane."  Even though we did not originally get him a Lego Fire airplane (we shopped early and thought he would probably lose interest in the airplane by Christmas time anyway...but, no such luck), I'm sure glad that we returned a previously purchased gift in exchange for his most wanted item.  Seriously, the squeels and look on his face when he realized what was in the package:  priceless. 

I had already talked Ben into giving me my present early, but there were a few gifts under the tree for him.  A work survival kit and a motion sensored candy dish for his office!

All three kids were thrilled with their new robes and fact, they have been wearing them every moment we have been home since Christmas Eve.

Olivia has also been pretty thrilled with her new baby doll (with HAIR!) and matching dress.
The aftermath looked a little something like this...not too bad.
We spent the rest of the evening, after dinner, putting together Lego sets and helping the big kids get the hang of their new Leap Pads.  Olivia was thrilled to sit with her doll and have her new bear read her books (we got her a Leapfrog Tag system that interacts with board books). 
Then, believe it or not, I think we all went to bed early!  We were exhausted...and also excited to continue our celebrations the next day!