Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Years! Faux and Real!

For the second year in a row, our Faux New Year's Eve has been a success!  Because my children do not benefit from staying up past their bedtimes, we do not ever consciously let them.  Nothing good can come from overtired, cranky kids.  So, with this in mind, and Alex mentally ready to "stay up till midnight", we just started our evening routines a bit earlier-- we played hard all day and had a yummy feast at 4:30pm. 
After the feast we started some more handwork (to "give us something to do until midnight").  Justin was busy stamping and Alex decided to embroider.  GranMama and I worked on appliqueing one of my crazy quilts. 
At around 5:30, we deemed it time for Justin to go to bed.  This may seem really early, but it's not out of the ordinary for my kids to go to bed at this time (especially if I'm a 'single mama' because Dave is travelling).  This gave Alex the extra ego-boost of being a "big kid" and getting to stay up even LATER than Justin. 
At 6:00, we cued up the a You Tube version of the 2012 New Year's fireworks on the big screen tv.  Enter noisemakers, dancing and frolic. 
Alex was yawning by this point, but she valiantly "powered-though" her exhaustion to change our calendar and be carried up to bed.  Adults had a second-dinner around 8pm, followed by a wonderful movie-- (as an aside-- if you haven't seen The Odd Life of Timothy Green, it is delightful, touching and heartwarming!).  A perfect New Year's Eve in my book!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Wool-Gathering....and rolling....and rolling

This evening was a football game.  I don't remember which one, but it was important enough that we had at least two people in the family interested in watching it.  Normally we have a no-television rule at home, but it is sometimes bent for honored guests.  Both GranPapa and Brad count as honored guests.  Justin was only too happy to help 'entertain' during this event.
So-- while Justin snuggled on the couch to watch "footballs", Alex and GranMama started a new project-- wet-felting a series of beautiful wool balls that are someday going to be strung in a garland and (perhaps) made into a one-of-a-kind handmade rug for Alex's room. 
The amount of work that goes into an undertaking like this is astounding, but those two ladies rolled, rolled, rolled.  They made about 25 balls this evening-- now we need some more wool!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Presents: Round 2

Our guests arrived this afternoon, and one of the first things on the agenda was, of course, the present exchange.  I don't know who was more excited-- the grandparents or the children!
Alex was completely surprised by her gifts-- she received the (now *vintage* ahem) American Girl 'Kirsten' dress that I wore in my Aunt Robyn and Uncle Jon's wedding.  She thought she had died and gone to Little House on the Prairie heaven!  She wasted no time donning it and, although it is a touch big, has worn it for at least an hour every day since.  No joke!

Her other big gift was one that Dave and I had to discuss.  She has one beautiful American Girl doll- Nikki- that she received as a baby.  Nikki has been a steadfast companion, but her hair is very 'naturally curly', and it is not supposed to be brushed, or it gets really knotty.  Alex has been asking for 'Julie' for a long time-- a doll with straight, straight, brushable and stylable hair.  Under no circumstance did she NEED Julie.  We were a bit afraid that having another fancy doll would take the magic away from Nikki.  After GranMama begged me for the chance to give Alex her new 'baby', and discussing it together, we decided that we would say 'ok', and allow Julie to come and live at our house.  She was ecstatic!  Speechless, really-- she couldn't believe her eyes.
 Justin got a gorgeous wooden fire truck with moveable ladder and some beautiful Waldorf dinosaurs that immediately took up residence in and around the fire truck.  GranMama and GranPapa sure got their gifts right! We have some very happy (and indulged) children right now.
Also, some very happy, warm and indulged cats.  They LOVE wrapping paper!

Sledding again...

GranMama, GranPapa and Auntie Rorie are coming this evening, so, in order to kill some time and the "when are they getting here"s, we decided to bring Daddy to the sledding hill we found at Sunfish Lake Park.  It was quite a bit colder today than it was before, so we only lasted twenty minutes or so before scurrying back to our minivan/picnic spot for some hot almond milk cocoa and a snack.
Justin was not convinced sledding was a good idea today.  It all started when he got sprayed with some snow on the first run down the hill.  He cooperated for a few turns, then decided he'd rather hold the sleds for us.
As always, Alex could have kept doing the up and down thing ALL day long! 
New recipe for Hot cocoa-- Almond milk, milk chocolate squares and just a touch of Ghiradelli cocoa powder.  Top it off with some gluten-free natural marshmallows, and you have one delicious sugary sledding-recovery treat!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas: The Aftermath (or- "Maple Sugar Snow" as a delaying tactic)

Wow.  I never will claim to be a stellar housekeeper.  But this is absolutely unbelievable.  This is what we woke up to this morning-- whoa.
So-- what did we do before starting to straighten it all out?  Why, make some maple-sugar snow, of course!  We had some fresh snowfall last night, so we warmed up some of our Somerskogen maple syrup and drizzled it on some carefully harvested fresh snow.
The kids loved it!  And really, if you ignore the fact that rainwater/snow in this area most likely contains some trace amounts of stuff you don't want to ingest daily, it was a fantastic treat!
And now off to clean.....or ride sister around the living room like a pony.  Whatever floats your boat.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sledding at Sunfish Lake Park

 Advent is over, and it's always a bit of a letdown to not have a scheduled activity every day.  Dave is back at work, and we're on our own for a few days before the next round of guests arrive.  We decided to cash in our sledding rain check we filed a few weeks ago (on account of actual freezing rain), and pack up for a fun morning.
The sledding hill we found at Sunfish Lake park in Lake Elmo was perfect-  not too big for my two little ones (although next time we will bring our ski helmets, because it was a tad icy in patches).  It was also completely deserted at 8:30am (go figure).  There was a teeny hike to get there (short enough that Justin hiked in "by self").  A steep entry-way was a fun first sled, but we found a gentler grade to sled.  It took a while for Ze Boy to get brave enough to go down the hill, but once he discovered how fun it was, nestled 'safely' between Mama and Alex, he couldn't get enough!
After about an hour of up and down and up and down again, it was time for some hot chocolate.  Before we left, I filled up our thermoses (plug for FOGOO thermoses!  They're worth every penny) and packed the back of the van with pillows and quilts.
We stripped our outer layers, snuggled under quilts and enjoyed our warm treat with the back of the van open so we could watch the woods from a cozy vantage point.  Who says Minnesota winters are too cold?  If you have the gear, get out there and play!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Morning

 We had a lovely Christmas morning-- the kids were up at 5:30am, ready to go see what Santa left them!!  They were very excited with their presents  (aren't the robes they're wearing cute-- those were from Grandma Mary and Papa Bob).
After Church, Auntie Carrie and Uncle Sam joined us for the rest of the day.  Alex broke out her new 'gold excavation' kit to work on with Uncle Sam.  They worked at the kitchen table for at least an hour and a half to chisel all of the gold pyrite pieces out of a sand block.  I might need to pick up another one at Fleet Farm for a 'rainy day' activity to have up my sleeve!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

We originally anticipated finishing up deliveries, having a little snack, opening ONE present and making the 5:00pm Church service.  It was soon apparent that we were too tired to load everyone back into the minivan again, so we decided to go to Church in the morning instead, and keep our Christmas Eve very low-key.
The kids got to choose one present to open before dinner-- Alex opened the present Justin got her-- a real pair of crutches (yay for thrift stores), and she was THRILLED.  Justin opened a lovely handmade piece of felted artwork that Alex created for him.  He was also thrilled to rip open paper-- it didn't really matter so much what was inside of it.
We enjoyed Christmas Eve dinner-- tamales and shrimp cocktail accompanied by real wine-glasses full of sparkling juice-- before opening the rest of our family presents.  Alex recited The Night Before Christmas as Justin waited SO patiently to begin opening gifts!
After playing with our new presents for a while, it was time to skedaddle to bed before Santa came.  The kids left out a cookie, carrot and note, and went to bed very easily.  I don't think we heard a peep!
 Here's what Santa left-- do you think they'll like it?
(An antique birdcage lamp and slippers for Alex,  a homemade Lego table and slippers for Justin, and a massive stuffed tiger with TWO babies for them to share)

Dec 24: Delivering Christmas Family gifts

So, maybe we went a little overboard this year, but the donations kept rolling in.
We rented a U-HAUL and spent six hours in the car on Christmas Eve day, driving around the city to pick items up and then, eventually, delivering them to our Christmas Family, who was very, very happy.  In fact, we ended up delivering Christmas presents to two families-- our family's apartment was too small for the couch and the twin mattress, so, on a chance, I knocked on their next door neighbor's door.  They were overjoyed to be offered the furniture, and jumped at the opportunity!

We made our day into an adventure-- we sang Christmas carols, enjoyed a picnic lunch and stopped for a Frosty from Wendy's during our six hours!  The kids were SO good (and excited to be 'elves'), although they did fall asleep for the last hour or so.  What a wonderful way to celebrate the eve of Christ's birth-- something we could do to pass on a fraction of the Gift that God gave us.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dec 23: Holiday Tea

Every year, Alex has hosted a Holiday Tea.  This year the participants were few, but we still gave it our all.  With our gluten-free diet, it ruled out our traditional once-a-year Little Debbie snack cake (sad face), but we made do with some GF cookies, GF brownie and some yummy chocolates.

The dress code is formal.  You select your attire in the dress-up area of the playroom.  You can't tell here, but Justin is also wearing a dragon tail.
 It was a picnic-theme this year.  Alexandra was totally in charge of the decorations!  I think this is HER favorite Advent activity.
 Percy and Huxley were invited.  They declined costumes, but enjoyed a few kibble presented very delicately in our small wooden play bowls.
 Lovely tea, Alex!  See you again next year!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dec 22: Decorating Christmas Cookies

 This is the first Christmas that the four of us have ever had just by ourselves.  While at some points in time, it is very relaxing and stress-free, at other points it's just a tad bit lonely.  I almost skipped out on the cookie decorating this year, because it's such a process to set up and I didn't have my cookie-maker (Grandma Mary) and co-decorator (Auntie Carrie) to help me out! 
I decided to carry on the tradition, however, as tradition is what makes Christmas special, right?  I didn't (ahem) make the cookies, however.  Finding and experimenting with a gluten-free roll-out sugar cookie dough was one thing that I didn't feel the need to add to my already-full plate.  The kids and I stopped at Bittersweet Bakery and bought a dozen sugar cookies.  They're not fun shapes, but actually, I might prefer this way-- there's more surface area to paint, and one is not constricted by a set form.
It was still a bit quiet around the table, however, until Grandma Mary and Papa Bob happened to FaceTime us!  Ahh... that feels better!  The kids were so excited to show her their work. 
Justin sat for the ENTIRE cookie-decorating time (with only 12 cookies, it was a bit faster than years past) and worked diligently on his creations. At one point he declared "Now paint other side" and flipped his cookie upside down to continue his work :-)
 Our creations.  I think Dave 'won' the unofficial contest this year with his rendition of "Puerto Penasco, Mexico" at the bottom.  See the orange sunset, blue ocean, candy beach and black condo with white windows?  Pretty detailed, Dave!