Sunday, January 29, 2012

Blech

I'm no good at being sick.  It goes without saying that no one likes being sick, but I'm simply just not good at the whole illness routine.  Instead of resting to get better, I simply live in denial of my illness, trucking my way through the day until I feel so horrible that I can't even take another step. 

That kind of happened yesterday...and then I crashed in bed for four hours in the middle of the afternoon (which is unheard of for me...I'm definitely NOT a nap person unless I'm preggo or super sick...and since I'm not preggo, that only leaves one option). 

I'm usually the very last person to come down with something in our family, but it seems this time I'm the first, which is kind of nice for a change because that means the other adult in the family is still fully functional, meaning the entire household doesn't go completely to pot while I lay around on the couch whining about how my head may explode any minute. 

After two full days of Mucinex D and more water than I ever drink, I am feeling better...not great, but better.  At least better enough to live in illness denial and clean the house while Ben hollers at me to sit down on the couch for a minute because it looks like I might pass out. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday Update

I'm thankful to be tackling this last week of January.  I was anticipating another busy week, but was surprised to find Allie actually has off school Thursday and Friday.  Granted, the "Allie Off School" label has been on the refrigerator calendar for quite some time, but I kind of forgot about it until Sunday night when I was getting things ready for the week. 

Allie was a little perturbed that her days off school this week did not coincide with Chinese New Year.  Allie has her very own calendar in her bedroom and is insistent that she should receive every single holiday off school.  When I told her we weren't Chinese, so we wouldn't be celebrating Chinese New Year, she seemed irritated.  In Allie's world, there is no excuse for not letting any holiday go uncelebrated, Chinese or not.  The only reason she's alright with having to go to school on Valentine's Day is because I informed her that her class would be having a party.  Then she inquired about Groundhogs Day.  Basically, I'm starting to question if her ability to read and her having her own calendar are good things.

With the recent snowfall (a whole whoppin' 2-3 inches), Allie has also taken to wearing her snow boots to and from school.  While I thought she was wearing them to keep her feet warm and dry, I discovered that was not the case at all.  "Mom," she told me, "Did you know that you can chit-chat with the other girls while you change out of your boots and into your shoes at school?"  Great.  So, at the tender age of six years old, shoes have already become more about socialization than mere practicality. 

Thankfully, you're still cute, Allie-babe.
And, I'm ever so grateful to your dance instructors who let you try on your recital costume approximately 4.5 months prior to your dance recital.  Because they don't have to live with you, they have no idea what it is like to hear about every single ribbon, bow, sequin, sparkle, ruffle, and piece of tulle from now until June.  Like I said....thankfully, you're still cute. 

Surprisingly, we do have two other children besides Allie. 

This week I signed Zach up for his final year of preschool next year.  He will graduate from Green class to Blue class in addition to attending three mornings a week instead of two.  He is also thrilled to have the opportunity to eat lunch at school with the other kids on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  In fact, he was upset to discover this morning that he was still in Green class.  I think he assumed that since we turned in his paperwork yesterday that he would automatically be in the Blue class today.  September seems light years away in his world. 

It also seems Zach is a lot smarter than he would like us to think.  After just a little over three weeks of concentrated effort, he can identify almost every single letter of the alphabet and write his name.  In fact, I'm discovering there are letters and numbers I haven't even worked on with him yet that he is able to identify and write.  This is a HUGE improvement from just two months ago when I went to his preschool conference and the teachers informed me he could only identify the letter Z (which, to be honest, they weren't worried about....and neither was I....until I realized that Zach was capable of a lot more than he wanted anyone to know). 

I still have to be pretty creative in our "homework" time together....mostly because Zach can only sit still for approximately 2 minutes, if I'm lucky.  Also, he is not a fan of the traditional "book" learning that Allie seems to thrive on.  I have to be pretty creative, often thinking outside the box, to come up with "games" that incorporate the things we're focusing on.  We do LOTS of mazes to work on writing and this morning I came up with a treasure map ABC game that we did.  Nothing is very elaborate, in fact, most of it I think of in the moment.  I also have to walk that fine line between encouraging him to work a little longer and not pushing him too much.  So far, so good.

Olivia is still playing the role of happy baby.  We have started to see the "tantrum" emerging, but it only rears its ugly head when we have to put her coat on or we tell her "no."  Which, honestly, both happen quite often.  She's officially running around the house and is getting sneakier about swiping the kids' things.  She's also been telling me when she has poop in her diaper (like you really want to know all the gory details of her every bowel movement) and I'm secretly wishing for an early, easy potty trainer (because, in my experience, there is little I hate more than potty training) and that 2012 will be the last year of diapers for this family.  I can hope, at least.

She has a newfound love for coloring and will sit and read books with you for as long as you will read.  In fact, she almost always cries when we say we are all done reading books, whether we've read one book or twenty.  She's constantly surprising us with her emerging vocabulary and while I'm certain her words may be unintelligable to others, we've caught her saying things like mermaid and thank you.  Her other favorite pastime is identifying everyone's eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and hair by pointing and naming them.  Often the person being identified gets a little chubby baby pointer finger in their eye or up their nose. 

Although I wasn't really planning on a kid update post, it looks like that is what I've got.  Time for blogging has been at a minimum while I've been busy with life in general.  Often when I do get a chance to catch my breath, I'd rather spend it with a good book or a good movie.  And, more often than not, I end up falling asleep in the middle of them.

Except....not the "Hunger Games."  I reread the first book for the second time in approximately 24 hours.  So much for "enjyoing" the book!  Ha!  But, now I guess I'm ready for the movie when it comes out in March. 

Anyway, I need some new book suggestions.  Anyone have any recommendations?  I'm really looking for a good story that I can just decompress with...something to enjoy at the end of a busy day without having to put too much thought into it.  Let me know if you have anythning you've enjoyed recently!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Really?!

On days like today I wish I could tell my car that there is some information better kept confidential.  I don't think it was to anyone's benefit this morning to discover it was exactly 14 degrees below zero outside. 

And, Mr. Weatherman, I really don't care to know that when I step outside, I will be ambushed by an arctic blast that will make it feel closer to thirty degrees below zero.  Although informative, Mr. Reporter standing outside at 5:00 am in the morning, I could really care less that your cup of 144-degree hot chocolate froze solid in less than a half hour. 

Today I am especially thankful for down parkas with faux-fur lined hoods, up close parking spots at the grocery store, the remote start feature on our car, fleece-lined gloves, and an extra hour of free time while Grandma picks up the big kids from school and takes them out for a McDonald's lunch. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Real January is Here

Remember all that talk last week about my certainty that I would just whiz past the January doldrums this year? 

Ya...well...spoke too soon...I take it all back.

Granted, I am not in the depths of despair.  Hardly.  However, it seems that with the onslaught of typical January weather, the likes that make you want to de-ice the inside of your nose after a mere 15 seconds outside, my apathetic winter attitude has seemed to rear its ugly head. 

Finagling floppy limbs into coat sleeves, searching for lost mittens, repeating "PUT YOUR THUMB IN THE THUMB HOLE" at least a dozen times a day, navigating the icy sidewalk with almost 50 pounds of weight on the right side of my body (27.2 pounds of that being a screaming child...because she apparently HATES winter attire...the other amount--which I am not going to figure out because, seriously, math is not my strong suit--is the weight of all the things I have to lug around in my bag daily to keep everyone clean, dry, well-fed, hydrated, and happy).......

These things are not fun things. 

I know it is temporary.  I know winter won't last forever.  I know it won't always take us close to a half hour to get ready to leave the house.

But, still...day in and day out...the same thing. 

The same tantrum thrown because he can't get his coat zipped up just the right way.  The same yelling because he hit her with a boot...or maybe she hit him with a backpack.  The same screaming and shaking her head because she hates wearing a hat.

It never fails that someone has to use the bathroom just as we are heading out the door...either that or by the time we are actually ready to leave it is probable that at least one child has poop in his/her pants.

The same frustration because he can't buckle his seat belt with his coat on.  The same eye-rolling in response to my request to help him out.  And then, it never fails that within two minutes of being in the car, everyone strips themselves of their hats and mittens (occasionally their shoes as well) and then we get to redo the whole thing upon reaching our destination. 

All of it just makes me want to hide in a corner underneath a blanket with a bag full of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and a pint of vanilla ice cream. 

There.  I'm done.

And, now, for your viewing enjoyment, I bring to you Zach's igloo crafted out of sugar cubes and frosting:

If you look closely, you will discover that this isn't a typical igloo model.  In fact, according to Zach, it is an exact replica of the city of Jericho (see the buildings inside):

Surprisingly, Jericho made it home uneaten.  Apparently the teachers informed the kids that the sugar and frosting they used were nasty.  When Allie wanted to try a taste, Zach screamed that it was poison.  I guess when dealing with a class of 20 four-year-olds (15 of them boys), desperate measures must be taken to insure minimal sugar consumption.  Seriously, I don't blame them. 

Except, I could really use some sugar right about now......

Friday, January 13, 2012

Our First Snowman of the Winter

Just when I thought there wasn't enough snow to make a snowman, the kids surprised me on our 52-degree Tuesday afternoon by using sand shovels and pails to gather up enough snow to create one. 




Although our neighbors to the south got dumped on with snow, our yard is even more snow-barren than it was this past Tuesday and the long-term forecast doesn't look too promising as far as snow accumulation is concerned. 

However, the single-degree digits we've been experiencing the last couple days have definitely been a shock to the system.  I think Olivia is the only one of my babes who, at almost fifteen months old, has no idea what to do with a snow hat and a pair of mittens!


 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Allie's Snowman

Due to the absence of real snow in Minnesota, the only snowmen that have been created so far this winter are on paper.  Surprisingly, Allie has a knack for creating anatomically correct snow people. 
When asked about the "details" depicted on her snow man woman, she told us that it was a hula snowgirl...with a grass skirt and bra.  The artwork is now proudly displayed on grandma and grandpa's refrigerator.

Just Hanging Out

This morning while the big kids are away at school, Olivia and I have been hanging out:  getting dinner in the crock pot, reading board books, playing with the web cam on my computer, getting lunch made and in the fridge, changing diapers, taking out trash, playing chase, eating applesauce and string cheese snacks....all while enjoying the beautiful sunshine streaming in through the windows. 

Usually I dread January.  Every year I brace myself for the minimal daylight hours often marked by clouds, dreariness, and bitter cold.  After the excitement of the Christmas season, it is often difficult for everyone to readjust back to the normal day-to-day tasks.  However, this year, I'm just NOT feelin' the January blues at all! 

I know it has everything to do with the fact that we have absolutely no snow and almost 50-degree temperatures.  We have been wearing spring jackets.  I've been going on outside runs.  The kids have been playing outside.  I don't think I ever remember a January quite like this before, but you won't hear any complaints out of me! 

Ben arrived safely back from Vegas this past Saturday.  Everyone was thrilled to see him, but his late arrival on Saturday evening made for an extremely short weekend.  I don't think anyone was ready for Monday when it came around. 

I haven't felt too inspired to write lately.  Mostly because we've been busy with school and art projects and board games and homework...on top of all the normal things like laundry and cooking and grocery shopping and cleaning.  We've been getting our spring calendar together, planning time off and some fun spring getaways.  The milder temperatures definitely have us thinking spring is much closer than what it actually is. 

I've had to put myself on somewhat of a sugar-detox plan since January began.  There was way, way, WAY too much dessert through the entire month of December and my body is going through a little bit of shock upon discovering cookies and cake shouldn't be a regular part of my diet.  However, it doesn't help that everywhere I look I see yummy Valentine ideas...like chocolate peanut butter cake with fudge icing and cute heart-shaped brownies with pink and red colored M&Ms.  Thank you, Pinterest, for providing me with an entire board of recipes I want to try, but really shouldn't. 

Well, it is probably about time to end this rather uninspiring post.  Olivia just walked into a wall (obviously we are getting sleepy) and it is almost time to pick up the kids from school.  Tuesday and Thursday mornings, while peaceful, always end much too soon! 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Back to the Norm

This week has been all about getting back into the normal swing of things....for most of us.

You see, while I've been holding down the fort here at home, a certain someone boarded a plane....

and left the normally frigid, yet unseasonably warm 45-degree Minnesota winter, and headed for the warmer and even milder sunny temperatures...

in Las Vegas!

While we've been readjusting to early mornings, eating breakfast quickly, and racing out the door to make it to school on time, Ben has been taking in the views of dessert, lakes, and mountains...

....in between very important work meetings, of course. 

Each night before bed, the kids and I look forward to seeing what pictures Ben sends to my e-mail over the course of the day. 

So far, we've gotten to see pictures of what it looks like to peek outside an airplane window...

where he had to wait for his ride to the hotel....

and the neat places he has visited so far....



We sure miss him, but it has been fun to see what he's been up to while he's away. 

To be honest, I was a little concerned about my and the kid's survival while Ben was away, but so far, so good.  Usually by 5:00 pm, we are all ready for Daddy to be home, but I believe God has definitely granted us some extra patience and grace with one another this week while Daddy has been gone.  I also typically don't sleep well when Ben is away, and although I'm definitely feeling a bit more tired and worn out than normal, God has answered my prayers of restful sleep these past few nights. 

It has also helped that we've kept pretty busy with school work, books, and art projects...along with our regular preschool and kindergarten schedules.   I miraculously haven't had to resort to the television....yet. However, I fully intend on taking advantage of the magic of cartoons on Saturday morning. 

This morning after we pick Allie up from kindergarten we'll be heading to my parents' house to spend the afternoon and evening.  Then, before we know it, Daddy will be home...then it really will be back to normal.

Monday, January 2, 2012

MOA Trip

Right now, while the kids are all tucked in bed and Ben is catching up on some work e-mails, I'm soaking up the last few hours of our Christmas break before the alarm goes off at 5:00 am tomorrow morning signifying our return back to life's regularly scheduled events.  It is always a little bit sad when any vacation comes to an end and this time is no exception. 

Plus, I just realized that if I have any hopes of feeling well-rested tomorrow, I only have approximately 50 minutes remaining before my head needs to hit the pillow....which is approximately 2-3 hours earlier than vacation bedtime.  Bummer.   

Anyway, as I was sorting pictures earlier today, I found a few that Ben had taken with his phone from our trip to Mall of America last week.  The kids had been looking forward to the MOA trip for quite some time because they were pumped to spend their birthday and Christmas money. 

After arriving at the mall before any of the stores were even open, we took a look around at all the Christmas decorations and then decided on a snack at Cinnabon before making the rounds to The American Girl store, The Disney Store, and Lego Land before heading to Rainforest Cafe for lunch. 


Although Olivia spent a lot of time hanging out in the stroller, she did her fair share of walking too.
We had a fun day, but everyone was tired out by the time our shopping was complete.  It is definitely a-okay by me that we only do about one annual visit to the biggest mall in the country each year.   Until next year MOA.......

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012!

Last night we rang in the New Year by holding our first family appetizer dinner.

Coming up with appetizers that the kids will all eat proved to be a bit of a challenge.  Although my kids are pretty good eaters, they really aren't all that into trying shrimp or crab.  While spinach artichoke dip is one of my favorites, the kids wouldn't even think of trying it.  After scouring the internet for some good ideas, this is what we came up with:

Fruit Kabobs

Open-Faced Cucumber Sandwiches

BBQ Mini Meatballs

Bacon-Crescent Wrapped Apple Cheddar Slices

Mini Pigs in a Blanket

Pesto Turkey-Bacon-Provolone Open-Faced Sandwiches

Chicken-Cheese Quesadillas
Family Friendly Bubbly
The kids (and Ben) were pretty excited about a dinner that they could eat completely with their fingers...so much so, that I even got a few kitchen helpers!



By the time the appetizer spread was complete, we were all pretty hungry!

The pigs in a blanket and fruit kabobs were by far the kids' favorites. In fact, Zach single handily consumed nine pigs.   Ben and I both voted the bacon-crescent wrapped cheddar apple slices our hands down favorite with the BBQ meatballs coming in a close second. 

After our appetizer dinner, we bundled up and headed out to the backyard where Ben prepared to set off some fireworks he picked up at the grocery store earlier in the day.  While we eagerly waited in anticipation of the first explosion, Ben lit the fuse, stepped quickly out of the way, and we all watched as the fuse completely died out. 

Ben tried again....and again....and still.....nothing.  I suggested he read the instructions to which I was informed that there are really no instructions for fireworks...that they are in fact self-explanatory...you just light them and they explode.

Anyway,  after a third failed attempt, Ben broke down and consulted the box for direction where he discovered every single firework was not really a firework at all, but instead a confetti blaster! 

At that point, we headed back inside and confetti-blasted the heck out of the kitchen while simultaneously screaming "HAPPY NEW YEAR!" at the top of our lungs.





Then, it was high time for some finger-food desserts:
Mini Fudge White-Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Chocolate Covered Peanuts and Leftover Christmas M&Ms
We spent the rest of the evening (or the approximately 1.5 hours remaining until the kids' bedtime...yes, we were uncool parents and enforced bed time at 8:00 pm) playing card games, specifically Uno. 




After card games, we brought out the computer to watch various New Year's celebrations from around the world on You Tube.  The kids were completely unimpressed by the New York Times Square ball drop (we had to watch the 2011 version) compared to the amazing firework displays in London, Sydney, and Taipei.

Instead of defending our American New Years' tradition, I kind of had to agree with them.  In the rare event that I actually do stay up past midnight, it should be for something a heck of a lot better than Lady Gaga (dressed up as...seriously?! What was she dressed up as?!  Was she supposed to resemble the ball or what?  I totally didn't get it) and Mayor Bloomberg pressing some silly contraption that triggers a massive blinking crystal ball to drop on a lit sign that tells me it is officially 2012.  Needless to say, I made it to midnight last night and was unimpressed.  I think the fireworks our neighbors shot off at midnight were better than watching Lady Gaga and Mayor Bloomberg dancing together after the ball drop (seriously, that was bizarre).

Also, try explaining the practice of kissing at the stroke of midnight to your 4 and 6 year old....both thought the whole thing was completely ridiculous.  When I asked Zach who he was going to kiss for the new year, he told me that he wasn't going to kiss anyone until he was an adult.  Sounds good to me!  No kissing for Zach until he's 18....I think that is definitely a rule we can live by! 

At that point, Allie took over the camera to capture Ben and my New Year's 2012 kiss....approximately 4.5 hours prior to 2012. 

I love the fresh start that comes with each January 1 and all the promise a new year holds, both the things anticipated and the many surprises life throws our way. 

Happy New Year!