Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Happenings...

Winter break. Right now I'm thinking it's called that because it breaks your spirit :) Ha! No really. My kids are off school for two weeks, and I'm thinking that I definitely made the right decision when I switched my major in college from Elementary Education to Business Management. Crikey, I'm not cut out for this. Anyway. A week has passed since I last posted, so let's see what we Harried Mom and company have been up to:

The Mickey

This picture is a personal favorite. I found this coffee ornament last week at Tar-jay, and immediately thought, what could be more perfect for me? It was singing my name! A spotlight shone on it and I heard choirs singing :) I knew it must be mine. Interestingly, when I took this picture of it to share with friends who share my love of coffee, there in the background was the Mickey Mouse ornament. Let me tell you the story about THAT one....

Every year I buy the kids Christmas ornaments either from where we went on vacation (which is usually the beach, and our tree was starting to get a little 'beachy'...) or something that interests them - dragons, dinosaurs, what-have-you. When we went to the Magic Kingdom in August, I found a 4-pack of these Mickey/Santa ornaments & thought they were perfect. Now, usually I wrap them and put them under the tree - this year, we put up our tree later than usual & I thought, why not give them to the kids early so we can enjoy them now? So that's what I did - the tree was pretty much decorated & I called them all into the living room last week & gave them their ornaments. Everyone was SO excited and happy! Except, of course,  William. Yes - William, who 2 years ago LOVED Mickey Mouse SO MUCH that we had a Mickey-themed birthday party, now LOATHES him so much that the sight of that ornament sent him into tears. Srsly. He told me he wanted to punch it. And moaned and cried, "Why, WHY did I give it to him?" Honestly, I have NO IDEA! What possessed me to do such an awful thing? Happily, the other three love their Mickey ornaments. I told William to forget I ever gave it to him, that I would keep it, and that someday maybe he would change his mind...

Baking Cookies

Amazingly, even after the Gingerbread Fiasco, I agreed to make rolled sugar cookies. Because when you ask kids younger than 5 or 6 what kind of cookies they want to make, you get answers like 'trees!' or 'socks!' - that would be 'stockings', if you speak Jason. That's what I get for asking everyone what kind of cookies they'd like to make this year. Rather than making a ton starting early in December, which I would only eat and then hate myself for, we didn't make anything until Christmas Eve - Lemon Bars for Matt, Russian Tea Cakes for Evie, and sugar cookies for Sarah and Jason. (William wanted Peppermint Bark so that had to wait a few days...)

So Christmas Eve I spent the day in the kitchen with various kids at various points, baking cookies, and Matt was gracious enough to jump in at the end and help with the decorating. Sarah was so excited about her trees!!! All the cookies turned out really great, the kids had a lot of fun with them, and I actually didn't get too frustrated - although WHY they tell you to chill the dough, I have no idea - it actually rolls out better if it's a bit warm...

Santa Visits the House of Harried Mom

After making cookies, scarfing down Chinese food, Christmas Eve church and the requisite leaving of cookies & milk for Santa/ carrots and water for the reindeer along with the Magic Reindeer Food, Santa and Mrs. Claus had some bourbon and/or wine and got to work. Now, I don't know how your particular brand of Santa works, but our Santa leaves a few unwrapped presents near the tree for each child, already assembled and ready to go. All wrapped gifts under the tree are either from Mom and Dad, or have been shipped in from relatives. I have to say, I appreciate Santa's efforts that allow less assembly and package opening on Christmas morning, and more 'let's dig in and play'. More work for Santa on Christmas Eve, but less wrapping paper and work on Christmas Day. Anyway - Santa finished his work around 12:30 pm, while Mrs. Claus had a few things left to wrap up before she went to bed. Thankfully Mrs.Claus checked the camera & realized 33 remaining pictures was not enough & she cleared off the memory card before heading to bed at 1:30...
Mrs. Claus regretted being up so late when Evie arrived next to her bed at 3:15 in the morning, to let her know that Santa had, indeed, arrived and brought gifts! Oh, to be 9 again :) Evie was sent back to her bed with a 'go back to sleep!', and all was quiet until about 6:15 when William meandered his way downstairs....

Matt went down when William got up and found Evie asleep on the couch and William reading the letter Santa always leaves. Gone are the days when the oldest comes running into our room to excitedly wait upstairs while Dad goes down to get cameras ready and bring Mom coffee, before all the kids head down together to see what magic Santa has wrought - I'm really going to miss those days...

Merry Christmas Morning!
I think we hit the right note this year! Nobody had anything too over the top or insane on their lists this year, and I think everyone was pretty happy with what they received. Although Evie, after opening all her gifts, did actually go get her list off the refrigerator so she could check off what she received...STINKER!!! Anyway. Nothing too crazy here, everybody received a book and a puzzle, and then a few things off their list, and Mom and Dad came up with one or two other things we thought they would like. Hopefully we got it right.

Jason's Mazing Hampster

Sarah's much desired pinkish-reddish dragon. That she made up in her head. Thankfully this seems to have fit the bill.

Jason's much desired Littlest Pet Shop of his very own. Because the girls won't share.

Sarah introducing Lemon, her old dragon, to her new red dragon

The rest of Christmas Day
It's just us here on Christmas Day and most other holidays, as the nearest family lives at least 3.5 hours away - too far for a day trip, and everyone has kids of their own that they want to be home for - at least for the near future - so we stay home and try to make the day as special as we can. We had french toast for breakfast, and while I cooked dinner for mid-afternoon, Matt played Mouse Trap with the younger three while Evie played her new Harry Potter video gameA lovely side note, Matt and I have discovered that Mimosas are a fabulous holiday cocktail that one can enjoy while spending a day at home with the kids! Try it, you'll like it!! :)

Bowling with the boys...

I have no idea what we did on Sunday - other than that Matt and Evie had to go to church - but on Monday I took the boys bowling. Divide and conquer, you know. At this point, the novelty of Christmas has worn off, and I've frankly tired of arbitrating the bickering and fighting. And also of picking up toys. Mouse Trap already has a broken piece, because nobody in this house wants to pick anything up and they just walk all over everything. Anyway. I took the boys bowling, and Jason quickly lost interest & started playing with my phone! I LOVE LOVE LOVE this picture he took.....
Jason's feet in bowling shoes
I didn't think this was a half-bad shot either :)
Happy Anniversary

Also on Monday, Matt and I celebrated our 13th anniversary! How, you ask? Why, we took the whole family to Olive Garden! What else would you do?? But seriously, we did have a babysitter, only lined up for Tuesday night - so Monday night we all went to OG on the spur of the moment. It was surprisingly pleasant! And on Tuesday, Matt and I escaped - and it really felt like an escape at that point - to one of the nicer hotels in the neighboring town for a drink, and then off to a movie - which was probably a complete waste of time. I think I dozed off at one point. Anyway. Matt and I have now been married for 13 years, and we're thinking we'll go ahead and stick it out for another one :) What have we got to lose??
Happy New Year!!!
So that's it! While not everything we've been up to, those are some highlights. On this next-to-last day of 2010, my sister and her family are traveling to ring in the New Year with us, and we're really looking forward to spending the holiday with them! Hopefully a good time will be had by all. May you all have a very Happy New Year, and much happiness, health and wealth for 2011!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!!!! If you find the Christmas Spirit, please send it my way :)

We're going through the motions here at Casa de Harried Mom. The house is cleaned (mostly), presents are wrapped (also mostly), and finally, on Christmas Eve I'm ready to do some cookie baking. I wouldn't feel right about setting out Chips Ahoy and Oreos for Santa, you know. I am so excited for Sarah and Jason this year, just seeing the look in their eyes on Saturday morning - I cannot wait to see that! It's a magic time for them - Sarah of course knows what to expect,  and now this year Jason knows that SOMETHING BIG is happening, but doesn't have the full picture yet.
And then there's the big kids. I really don't want to be a Debbie Downer, but honestly? I could really care less about giving the two of them anything. Especially the big kid. Of course, they are sleeping as I write this, so I'm feeling perhaps a bit more charitable towards them. Or not. I don't know. William sort of gets a bit of a pass, in my mind, because he's not constantly asking for things - all he wants out of life right now is time to play video games. It's his favorite thing in the world - his December Journal from school mentioned the Wii multiple times. Can you make a career playing Wii? Anyway - William really never asks anything of anyone, and usually doesn't cause much trouble, either.

Evie is another story. What to say? She makes me crazy. Truly. Two days before Christmas, first full day of winter break from school, and she's lying about finishing her tasks for the day. It's not like I asked her to complete an enormous list of unmanageable stuff, I asked her to pick up her room and practice the piano. That girl SWORE UP AND DOWN that she had practiced, telling me she did it while I was running water cleaning the bathrooms. Apparently she thinks I'm an idiot. Or that I can't hear. Regardless - 3 years into lessons that she asked to take, and I really think I'm over battling with her about practicing. I'm really over battling with her about EVERYTHING. Is this the job of the first-born, to challenge you at every turn and make you question why you thought kids were a good idea?? That girl turns everything we say into a debate or an argument. I could write a dissertation on Evie and our interactions right now, but suffice it to say, Evie is used to doing what she wants while we're managing the other 3, and it's not in her nature to want to be helpful. Evie likes to help in her own way or not at all. Deep sigh. 

So that's where we are right now, heading into Christmas Eve. I just typed Christmas Evie :) lol! Too much wine? Probably. Anyway. Suffice it to say, we're really wondering at what point your kids become sufficient to the point where you can ask them to help out, and they actually do it without you having to sit on them and watch. I'd really like to know when that happens...
Sarah wanted to put the star on the tree this year!!! She did a terrific job - in the past, Evie's asked to do it, but she always seems get scared when Matt lifts her up to the top & William ends up taking over. This time Sarah asked if she could, and without a bit of hesitation she plopped the star right at the very top :) My little girl is getting so big!!!

 I made a point this year of getting into the schools for everyone's holiday celebrations - it hasn't been easy up to this point, what with S&J being one year apart, but they're very manageable at this point so we went into William's school for his party on Tuesday & caught the tail end where the kids were choosing their gifts from under the tree - each student had brought in a wrapped book...

Sarah's preschool had their party on Wednesday & she got to have lunch at school with the other kids, a rare treat!

I missed Evie's party on Wednesday because I was at Sarah's, but I did go in & see Evie because she's the LUCKY student who gets to take home the class guinea pig for winter break! LUCKY ME!!! :)
Really - Evie is OVER THE MOON over having 'Jedi' for almost two weeks. She is such an animal lover, it's really kind of crazy.  I need to come up with some way of making helping out around the house 'animal' related...
Merry Christmas to you all! If you're traveling, Godspeed! If you're staying home, may your holiday be merry and free of strife and stress! And if not, remember there is always coffee - or even better, a good Cabernet :) 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gingerbread, Trees, Cocktails and Smiles - or, What We Did This Weekend

So I don't think I ever want to do a Gingerbread house again. This is the 3rd year in a row we've done a kit, and I have to say that the photograph on the packaging is always extremely misleading. One could argue that it's false advertising, if one cared about it all that much. Now, part of this is my fault, I admit it. I never remember that you have to glue all the pieces together with the icing first and THEN let it sit for an hour before decorating - otherwise your house collapses. But still - one could reasonably expect the icing not to actually run off the roof, right? Or should I have known that ahead of time and whipped up a batch of my own perfect consistency icing to delicately pipe (or allow the kids to) onto our gingerbread village? At least this kit came with colored icing in addition to white, unlike last year's version that came with a packet of red food dye and instructions to color it myself. Oh - and they NEVER give you enough candy. Ever. And then the kids want to eat it all. Or fight over who used too much of this or that.

William's Toy Shop
Given my type A personality, I find doing a project like this very, very difficult. I expect to be able to just whip it all together into picture-perfect gingerbread glory, when the reality is so very far from that. I really should have taken a picture of the box to show you their 'example' but I was so aggravated when we were done it went right into the trash.
Evie's Candy Shop
Evie started decorating the roof of her Candy Shop with little red and green beads, of which there were not enough to do the whole thing in the first place when William decided HE wanted to do that too. Evie had a fit over this and just decided since she couldn't finish it, she was just going to eat it.

Jason and I did Santa's House and the Chalet; Sarah and Matt did the Bakery

So that was our fun Friday Family Night activity! I really need to learn to not take all this stuff so seriously - the kids had fun, and I'm pretty sure Matt was having fun laughing at me. While Evie was eating her house, I was ready to pitch mine across the room. Happily, I didn't give my kids THAT memory for future therapy sessions.

I think next year I'm going to get the kit to make brownies that look like gifts or something.
Next up on our Fun Family Weekend, we finally got our Christmas tree! We don't usually wait this long, but with one thing (the weather) or another (our Pittsburgh trip and various concerts and such) Saturday was the big day! We loaded up the van Saturday morning & headed to the tree farm.

Unlike last year, Jason stayed close by me this time and we didn't almost lose him in the trees...

...while Matt made jokes about how late it was and how all the good trees were gone, and then he triple checked that yes, I was sure that THIS was the tree I wanted before he got to sawing it down.

Once we'd killed our tree, we dragged it back to the van to drive it home :)

If only some elves would arrive to finish decorating it for me :)
 Now I don't think I've mentioned yet, but my kids had snow days on Thursday and Friday, and after all that Fun Family Time together, and all the bickering and fighting that goes along with that, we were MORE than ready for our 3rd annual neighborhood cocktail party Saturday night! Sadly, I didn't take too many pictures - and most of the ones I did take turned out terrible - but the GOOD thing is, I didn't take too many pictures because I was having too much FUN! A disclaimer to those who's photos may or may not appear here, if you're picture is here it's because I know you read my blog and you really should know better than to let me take your picture if you don't want it posted :) And if your picture isn't here, well, I wasn't sure you wanted a picture of you with a Cosmo in your hand posted for all the world - or the teeny tiny portion who reads this - to see :) But be warned for next year!! On to the party!!

Matt, our always friendly Master Mixologist

Kerri and Me :)

Matt and Cheryl, who is probably the only woman in the world  I'd let get that close to Matt :)

Mary and Megan, who along with Megan's husband started the evening
by walking into the wrong party down the street :) I love party crashers!

Sunday morning dawned a bit early for my taste after Saturday's party, but a pot of coffee and some Tylenol later, I was ready to try and take a picture of the kids for Christmas cards! Yes, I know it's December 20th, but honestly this is when we usually get around to it. I really, REALLY wanted to do this early enough to take them outside, but this year it really got cold fast, so indoors we stayed.

Surprisingly, Jason was very cooperative! Its seems lately he likes to be contrary and not go along with things, but he was very willing and cooperative today. William was a different story. He was in a funk about having to go to church & the best he could manage was a grimace.
Then things got worse, as he was irritated at having to stand next to the GIRLS...
And then me being the Mom of the Year Winner that I am, I kicked him out and said it would just be the other three...
...and then of course I felt bad & called him back over, and things did improve from there - although I'm not sure why Evie's eyes are almost closed in the rest of these...

And I still can't take a straight picture to save my life :) I'll leave it up to you to guess which one of these beauties was chosen to grace our 2010 family Christmas Card - coming soon to a mailbox near you!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Concert/Holiday Program/Winter Celebration Season, and William the Whiz

We have survived Christmas Program Season! Wow! And you know, it was surprisingly pleasant - we've learned a few things over the years, if you want to be able to see anything - or have a seat - you must arrive EARLY. Like, if they say 'bring your child between 5:15 and 5:30', that means 'be at the school at 5:10 to claim your seat in the auditorium'. And we did it! Of course, it helps that we are no longer toting infants around - I actually had a seat to myself, no one sat in my lap, and no one fussed either. And of course, the fact that the iPhone is an amazing tool for entertaining children for hours helps. Angry Birds anyone?

Anyway! Sarah was up first! Her preschool does a lovely program every Christmas and Sarah did a terrific job singing in front of a PACKED church - that girl is a natural performer, if I do say so myself! She's the one I always catch singing a song, whatever she's doing :)
Next up was William! We walked into the school and there was his friend Harrison, wearing the same exact sweater  :)
William sings it loud and proud, in fact at one point Matt and I looked at each other, pretty sure we'd heard him bellowing out the words. William, while not always singing, is the one who will comment on any music playing and let me know whether he likes it or not.
And then we have Evie, here with her friend Katie :)
Once Evie found us in the crowd, it seems that she spent more time watching me while I took pictures than she did actually paying attention and singing. Srsly - in every picture I took, everyone else is looking out in the crowd and Evie is looking directly at ME :) Silly.
See what I mean??
So we made it through! And enjoyed it, without having to SHUSH anyone, or walk a baby around. I tell you, the light at the end of the tunnel is definitely getting brighter and we have happy family times ahead, I hope!
While waiting for Evie's program to start Wednesday night, an interesting thing occurred: I had passed William a little blank notebook and pen for him to doodle with, and a few minutes later he handed it back to me with three math problems on it. I laughed, answered them & passed it back. Matt then wrote some problems down for him to see if he could answer. They went back and forth with this, with Matt writing more and more complex problems & William mostly getting them right.

Here's the thing that's kind of baffling us - although I guess it shouldn't, as his grandfather has a PhD in Physics - William is 7 years old and in the 1st grade. He's learned addition and subtraction, and in class they are now working on fractions. He's self-taught himself multiplication by studying the table in the back of his marble composition book that they use in reading class. I have no idea where he picked division up from, it's like he's absorbing math out of the air through osmosis or something. Is math out there in the air? And why didn't I get any of it? He's asked why he can't be in Evie's math class, since they are doing multiplication and division and he understands it.

I kind of envy William in a way, it must be nice to be SO GOOD at something so early, that you sort of have that path ahead of you already to follow. I'm positive he will end up in some sort of math/science/engineering field, whereas I stumbled into business and really have no desire to go back to it should I go back to work. Of course the flip side of that is, William is always thinking about MATH, which makes it difficult to get him to focus on anything else, like his reading homework. Or eating dinner. Or finishing the shower he started 45 minutes ago. Who knew multiplication could be so fascinating??

I guess tomorrow I will be calling his math teacher to see what can be done to make sure he's challenged and learning. Note to Granddad, be ready for William to call if he gets stuck because surely neither Matt nor I will be able to help him in the not too far off future!

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