Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Cookies and Ugly Cookie Night

Recently, the kids and I made Christmas cookies.  I loved doing this as a kid.  My mom would make the shapes, and we would sit around the table with several bowls with different colors of icing and sprinkles and decorate away.  As an adult, I don't know how she did that.  I am not proud to admit that I am THAT MOM.  I don't like play doh, I don't like paint, and glitter has never entered the house to my children's knowledge.  I let them play with play doh and paint, but it is a conscious decision to let go.  The kitchen will be clean again.

And it really isn't any big deal.  Even when it looks like a rainbow threw up all over the counter and floor, it's never so bad that it can't be cleaned up in ten minutes.  When Ella recently found her missing silly putty by sticking her elbow in it, twice, it was no big deal.  Did you know that rubbing alcohol gets that stuff right out of fabric?  It was easy peasy and we did it together, and because I didn't get mad it became "that cool trick we learned together" instead of "that thing mom got really mad at me for but I'm not really sure why because it was an accident."

I'm improving.  Boys are helping sanctify me in this area.  They are sanctifying me through their pockets, one wash at a time.

Back to the cookies.  I made the cookies a day ahead and outlined them in white royal icing {which is the stuff that gets hard so you can decorate and then stack them once they dry} before the kids got them, so that the kids could fill them in with slightly less thick royal icing in different colors.  The more I worked with the thinned icing, though, the more I realized the kids wouldn't actually be able to use it.  It was too difficult {I'm sure it was the recipe I used}.  Ella would have figured it out, but Jack and Nate couldn't have, and this was supposed to be a family activity.  Instead, I pulled out all of my sprinkles, put a rimmed cookie sheet in front of each kid, and handed them one cookie at a time.  I had made gingerbread men, angels, snowmen, and trees.  We started with the trees. I put the green icing on them, and they added the decoration.  I didn't give them direction {I did have to look away a few times so they couldn't see my pained expression}.  They did what they wanted.

This was where all of my dread was swept away.  They had a blast!  As I said, the icing was hard to work with, so they had to wait for each cookie.  Something about that wait time and anticipation made each cookie special to them, so they decorated them more carefully.  Also, by the time we finished the trees, they were satisfied and didn't want to do anymore.  I put on a movie for them, and I went to town decorating the rest.  Like Superman.

He was my favorite.  But they were all pretty cute.

When I was finished, I had a few that were really ugly - I'm no pro.  I took the ugliest three cookies and put them on paper plates.  Then I took the last of each icing color and squirted them all over, covering them completely and with no rhyme or reason.  Finally, I took the sprinkles left in their cookie sheets and tipped them over onto the cookies I had just iced.  These cookies were so covered in icing and random sprinkles you couldn't tell what kind of cutout they used to be.  After dinner, Handsome Hero and I put them at their plates and declared it Ugly Cookie Night!  I was a little nervous that they would turn their noses up at them and want the pretty ones that were drying on the counter, but they didn't.  They were so excited!  They jumped up and down and grabbed their plates and compared their blobs and laughed and giggled and declared them the most delicious cookies they had ever eaten.

I had really dreaded this activity, but it turned out blessedly wonderful.  I didn't take any other pictures because I hadn't planned on writing a post about it.  I sent these pics from my phone to my mom, who encouraged me to share the story on the blog.  I've tried a few different crafts this season that I thought the kids would like, like paper chains.  We're never doing that again  It didn't go exactly as planned.  I really don't enjoy any craft that is heavy on the scissors.  Add in complaining kids and I'm out.  My favorite complaint was, "But, Mom, we're studying our COUNTRY!  These should be red, white, and BLUE, not GREEN!" 

But decorating cookies, a project that I thought would be horrible, that I put off and was dreading doing, ended up being such a joyful activity.  The kids have been able to show off their creations at two Christmas celebrations so far, and we still have some left over for Friday. 

I have no doubt that next year I will struggle with decorating cookies again, and it may turn out well, and it may not.  What I know will turn out well?  The tradition I'm sure will stick?

Ugly Cookie Night.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving looks different this year

Thanksgiving looks different this year.  It's just the five of us, sitting around in our sweats, looking through the paper {it's the only paper we get each year and the kids don't seem to know what to do with it}.  Handsome Hero got donuts for the kids this morning so they would think something was special.  Nothing says Happy Thanksgiving like a donut.  Or tacos, which is our dinner.

Getting over pneumonia and a hospital stay is harder than it looks, mostly because it requires me to do something I don't do well.  I have to sit still.  I don't have the energy to put into doing anything other than a nap, which I already did, so cross that off my list of activities.

Since I'm being sedentary, let me take a moment to sit and write about the reality of Thanksgiving this year.  This year, we are supposed to be at my parents' house, enjoying everyone and gorging ourselves and being loved on.  It's tradition.  Instead we're here, and that's okay.

I have so much for which to be thankful.

  • There are hospitals available to us when we need them.  I'm on the mend.  I kept down a little food yesterday for the first time in nine days.  Today I haven't even needed nausea medication or some of the other "as needed" meds that I've wanted to get off of.
  • You wouldn't know the kids had ever had pneumonia - they're crazy.  It's a beautiful thing.
  • Speaking of them, my parents took them while we were in the hospital and got to deal with their sicknesses.  They brought them back with clean clothes and clean bills of health.  I'm so grateful to them.

  • Handsome Hero has been healthy and able to take care of everyone.  I don't know how he doesn't ever seem to catch anything, but I am so very thankful.  Not only that, this man does not complain.  He has cooked, cleaned, slept on a hospital couch, been mom and dad and nurse, and done it with a smile.  I'm bowled over.  This is love at its best.
  • Handsome Hero's work told him not to come back until I'm well.  For the number of hours he works and how hard his job can be, they have been great through this.  And I'm staying sick until Christmas.  Hope that's okay.
  • Our church has been wonderful, taking the kids before we knew they were sick, and bringing so many meals we've had to ask them to stop.  One of my church friends just dropped off Thanksgiving dinner.  They ate earlier, and she brought us some of each dish.  I guess she wanted us to have some real Thanksgiving fare.  Ella was so excited she was jumping up and down!  I hadn't realized how much she wanted the tradition.   

I guess tacos can wait. :)

There is so much for which to be thankful, but my favorite might be this.

Each night in November, the kids tell me something they're thankful for, and I put it on a tag on our thankful "tree."  It is a highlight of the year for me, and I keep past years' tags in mason jars on the mantle to read to the kids.  They love how silly they used to be.

They are so much more mature now!  I, also, am thankful for eyebrows and cheeks.

When I got sick, I couldn't do the thankfuls and didn't mention them to Handsome Hero because everything else in the world was on his plate.

When my parents brought the kids back from their house, my mom handed me a bag.  In it were all the thankfuls we missed.  They did them at her house.  I couldn't help it.  I cried.

I am indeed blessed and thankful.  Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

Monday, October 26, 2015

My parents

The older I get, the more I recognize how blessed I am to have these wonderful parents of mine.  They're funny, energetic, loving, and an amazing example to all of us.  I'm so thankful for them.

My mom has the heart of a servant.  She is always helping.  This year she struggled because she had knee surgery over the summer and did not recover as quickly as we thought she would, and as any of you who have had surgery know, it takes longer to get your oomph back than you would think.  In past years, she has been the one to take the littles {Elijah and Nate} in from the beach for naps or snacks or general fussiness.  She is a very early riser, so she would already be up to snuggle with any kids who got up every.single.morning. to see the sunrise {ahem, Jack}.  

This year, by day three my sister and I and our beloveds were trying to figure out why we were so tired.  No one wanted to stay up late.  Everyone wanted a nap in the afternoon.  Suddenly it dawned on us:  Mom was sleeping in!  She wasn't getting up with the kids!  In fact, her pain meds were knocking her out so that she was sleeping late and we were trying to keep the kids quiet so that they didn't wake her up!

She was still really helpful, because it's just her nature, and even though she couldn't go out into the water where she would be unstable, she still logged some silly beach time {you'll see below}, and Elijah and Nate both took advantage of her when she was out there.

My dad is just plain awesome.  He's always thinking of a joke, always has a song in his head {usually Frankie Valli} and loves spending time with his family.  He works very hard and needs vacations like these.  I sometimes think that God gave men like Handsome Hero and my dad their families so that they don't work themselves into the ground.

The nice thing is, he has learned how to relax.  He loves to boogie board and he's really good at it!

One night during the week, he was reminiscing of when Rebecca and I used to fix his hair with all of our hair bows and barrettes, and I thought, "Used to?"

There isn't much left to fix, but I think I did okay.

He loved it.

You can tell.

The next series of photos are potentially my favorite in the history of ever.  They are so open to captions I just can't limit myself.  I lay them before you.

Can you see why I love these guys?  They make each other laugh so much.

I would try to convince you that we are a serious crew, but you already saw evidence to the contrary.

These guys are so loved.

Blessed, indeed.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


This is my gorgeous sister, Rebecca, her handsome husband, Steve, my cutie-patooty nephew, Elijah, and that bump that you don't see?  That's my niece.  I've never had one of them before.  I'm very excited!  

Steve is practicing for his role as protective daddy.

Seriously.  Look at her.  She's more than halfway through her second pregnancy.  When I was two months into my second pregnancy, people were giving up their seats on the subway for me.

Her only redeeming quality is that she's genuinely awesome.

My nephew, Elijah, is hilarious.  His expressions.  Gah!  Just scroll through these pictures and see if you aren't smiling.

Did that make your day, or what?

Elijah loved the sand, but he was really scared of the water.  He struggled to see his mom or dad even going near it.  They got their time in, though.  I think each year will get better - by the end of the week, he was willing to touch the water, so progress was definitely made.

This is Rebecca and my dad catching the same wave.

Does this picture remind anyone else of the beavers in the old BBC version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?  Just me?  Oh.

These guys.  I love them.  I'm blessed to have them in my life, and I'm thankful they have each other.  They compliment each other so well.  As for their new addition, well, let's just say she's highly anticipated!

I can't wait to meet you, little girl Forster!  I love you already!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Nate the Growing

Taking a newly potty trained three-year-old to the beach isn't easy.  In fact, by the time we made it out of Knoxville, we'd made three potty stops, already had an accident, and all my best-laid plans of not putting Nate in a pull up became a thing of the past.  Ironically, he kept the pull up dry the whole rest of the trip.

Nate did really well at the beach.

He liked the waves and sand.

He liked getting to use the sand dunes for a toilet.

He REALLY liked getting to sleep in a big boy bed for the first time!

He moved from a crib later than the other two because he sings himself to sleep and is a loud roommate and moving to a big bed meant moving to his brother's room.

So far, so good.  Jack sleeps through his singing and likes having the company.

Our biggest problem right now is that when he wakes up, he thinks that Ella should wake up, too, so he runs into her room, turns on the light and pulls off her covers.  "EWWA, IT'S BWIGHT OUTSIDE!!!!"

He's very fortunate that she loves him so much.

Nate is the only one with a cousin his age at the beach - my nephew, Elijah.  He's in the yellow shirt below.  This is how they play together.

I look forward to the fun of having them play as a team later, but for now, they just play in the same space.

Nate's favorite person on earth is my mom.  She belongs to him.

The picture below was supposed to be one of just my parents, but Nate knew that his rightful place was in that picture, holding G.G.'s hand.

On his wedding day there he'll be with his bride, and on the other side he'll be holding G.G.'s hand.

Nate turned three in June, and right around then, he began to speak.

And when I say speak, I mean, clearly.  This kid loves his consonants.

Handsome Hero says he speaks in a British accent.  It is so fun to be able to understand him!

All that majestic water behind him, and he's only interested in a watering can.

There's a lesson in this. I showed him this picture and he said, "Mama, I was pwanting in the sand."

Nate is crazy, temperamental, friendly, loud, interesting, curious.  He notices things.  He is into everything, more than the other kids were.  I am amazed that a three-year-old would think to get into the things that Nate gets into.  Things you don't train for, like covering the toilet seat with stamps of pink tigers.  I just wouldn't have thought to prepare for that.

Or puffing out an entire bottle of baby powder that I didn't even know I had.  All over the room.  Y'all, it was so cloudy in there I couldn't even see him.  Every time I vacuum now, you smell the powder.

Don't even get me started on the the entire bottle of baby sunscreen on the carpet.  I just can't go there.

 He's definitely his own person.  I am enjoying his hilarious personality a lot, and I can't wait to see the young man he becomes!  He was our easiest baby, but probably our hardest toddler.  Even on the tough days, though, he's a joy.    I have a unique opportunity this year to spend time with him.  The older kids do P.E. through the local YMCA once a week and Nate's too young to go, so for two hours, I have him all to myself.  Initially, I was sad about this because I wanted some time alone, but as the weeks go by, I'm enjoying it because I find that I see him in a very different way when we're alone.  He is such a character, and when he's not being overshadowed by older, louder, faster kids, his personality shines!