Tuesday, December 12, 2017

#christmas2017: advent days 10, 11, and 12

The saga continues!! Christmas is on its way, yes. BUT FIRST. We have another special day to get through.

Day 10

Day 10 was a bust. The kids were with their dad and we were supposed to make cookies... but it didn't happen. That's OK. I can be flexible.

Day 11

Go to a Christmas party. The single adults held a big Christmas FHE event, with a dinner and ugly sweater contest. Last year it was a huge event... this year the attendance was much more sparse. The potluck was pretty rough. I had turkey, baby carrots, and a rice krispie treat. They added a kids room which was awesome; they watched Rudolph and Laurel got to color to her heart's content. I wore a sweater that lights up... haha... I didn't even take any pictures. We left before it was over so the kids could get some sleep. I knew tomorrow would be a big day....

Day 12

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LAUREL!!!!! Oh my gosh. I cannot stress enough how much I LOVE this girl. I LOVE HER.

The day started at the elementary school. I brought 24 brightly frosted crossover Christmas birthday cupcakes. I passed them out to a bunch of 5 and 6 year olds who ate them at a snail's pace, but were completely delighted.

They were also messy. Very messy.

I got evil eyes from the teacher and she told the class everyone needed to wash hands and faces before they could return to class. I was volun-told to stay and help. You better believe it was worth it. I love Laurel's little class and by golly it was her birthday and they can eat cupcakes. Word on the street is they said her name over the announcements too!

After school we went to BUILD-A-BEAR! Where once again we did not build any bears. I guess bears are not the animal of choice for my children. Shane joined us, which was nice.

Laurel was so excited about Rainbow Dash, a My Little Pony character.

She stuffed her, started her heart, brushed her, and named her.

Wesley went home with a black cat. He's thrilled. I thought I was a nice mom to buy him an animal, too. Secret was, it was on sale.

Build-A-Bear has a Nice List and the kids added their names. Oh children.

Next stop... Little Caesars for pizza and breadsticks. I took the upsell suggestion and added root beer for $1.

PRESENTS. She made herself a "throne" to sit on. I offered to hide the presents, like we did when I was a kid growing up, but she elected not to. She had seven gifts I think, 5 wrapped from me, 1 wrapped from Shane, and a big one in an envelope....

She received some pants, a Frozen Lego set, Qwirkle (fun game!)....

A coloring/art set from me, a My Little Pony coloring/activity book (nice job, Dad!)....

A My Little Pony Rainbow Dash sweater/jacket...

And then a scavenger hunt!!! I had SUCH a blast putting this together this afternoon. Want to hear all my clues?

Happy birthday my beautiful girl
You’re the sweetest Laurel in all the world!
There is a BIG present hiding for you
And to find it, you must read all these clues.
First, go up the stairs right to your bed
Find something warm and cozy for your head
There’s another clue waiting there
Read it yourself, you don’t have to share!

You found it! Another clue!
Hello Kitty was holding it for you.
Your next stop is near front door
There’s this button we can’t ignore.
When someone visits, they give it a push
It makes a noise, and then we rush
We open the door and let them in
It’s really nice to see our friends.

You were right! The doorbell is great
Although the next stop you may hate.
Sometimes this room gets really stinky
A clue there? What was I thinking?
Yes, it’s where we poop and pee…
But oh! In our house we have three!
Go to the stinky room that’s BLUE.
And look up high for your next clue.
You found the clue up on the mirror!
Nice job! Your path is getting clearer.
Just a few more clues remain
Your next stop is near our games.
There’s a whole shelf with DVDs
And I’m thinking of just one, you see
What’s the movie with Joy, Fear, Disgust
And Anger and Sadness – find it, you must!

You did it! You found the Inside Out movie!
This is your last clue, are you ready?
Your birthday present is so big and great
You probably are so excited you can’t wait.
Where do we keep our sleeping bags and grill
And trash cans, lawnmower, and mom’s treadmill
There are helmets and sand toys, and a ladder so tall
And your birthday present! Go see it all!

She anxiously awaits as the last clue is read...

And heads to the garage!!! A new BIKE! She had totally outgrown the last one. I don't even think this one will last that long! Wesley's current bike is the next level up, so she'll use that one if this one gets too small. Wesley is strictly a scooter-user himself.

Last... cake and ice cream. She asked for a cat cake. I was happy to oblige. I baked it from scratch but the frosting is from a can. (My rule of thumb is one thing is easy, one thing is hard... haha... but never both hard.)

The lines of the face are shaky at best, but whatever, we just eat it. And she was thrilled.

Wesley helped her count 6 candles...

Oh my gosh. She is so beautiful. This is what pure joy looks like. I LOVE her laugh and her smile. She wears her heart on her sleeve. She is so wonderful and I love being her mother.

Proof I was there! We are a happy family? Haha. It was a nice day.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LAUREL!! Oh man I love her. Oh, here is her 6-year quiz.... some silly answers for sure.

1. What is your favorite color?  Blue, red, pink, purple, and I don’t know if there’s any more
2. What is your favorite toy?   Rainbow Dash (new Build A Bear)
3. What is your favorite fruit?   kiwi
4. What is your favorite tv show?   My Little Pony
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch?   pizza  (mom edit: I don't know about this)
6. What is your favorite outfit?   My “Check Your Cattitude” shirt
7. What is your favorite game?   Quirkle  (mom edit:  I think she likes Sleeping Queens more)
8. What is your favorite snack?   Apples with peanut butter and chocolate chips
9. What is your favorite animal?   Cat
10. What is your favorite song?  Africa by Toto
11. What is your favorite book?  Pete the Cat
12. Who is your best friend?   Sofie
13. What is your favorite cereal?   Lucky Charms
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside?  Play
15. What is your favorite drink?   Root beer float  (mom edit: My guess would have been eggnog)
16. What is your favorite holiday?   Christmas
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night?  Cat stuffed animals  (Mom edit: Yeah. Like a dozen of them)
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?   Chocolate oatmeal
19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday?   Little Caesars pizza
20. What do you want to be when you grow up?   A cat

One last thing. At the mall tonight as we walked to Build-A-Bear, and man held the door open for us. She whispered to me, "Mommy, that man lighted the world." This Light the World thing is sinking in. It is helping my kids see good things they can do for others, and recognizing the good things people do to us. It was just so sweet, and it shows her heart. Laurel is a light in this world. Happy birthday, my baby girl. You are six.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

#christmas2017: advent days 6, 7, 8, 9

Christmas! Yay!

Day 6

Deliver our Secret Santa purchases.

Every year I sign up for one of these Secret Santa activities. We've supported various organizations through the year, and I'm glad when I find one. This year a Girl Scout troop did a giving tree and each kid picked a card off the tree. Wesley picked "bicycles and helmets" and Laurel picked "jewelry." We went to Fred Meyer and picked out two helmets and two cute little jewelry sets. My life was easy this year because the woman we delivered it to lives really close, so she came by my house after work and we just handed it to her. Easy!

Day 7

Wear all red and green clothes!

They weren't that cooperative at the bus stop. Wesley has on his red Picnic Point shirt and you may notice Laurel is wearing the same shirt she wore last year. It's festive. It is worth mentioning she enjoys wearing her reindeer shirt (or black Trick or Treat shirt) anytime, year-round.

Day 8

Call Grandmas and go phone caroling! Grandma Twining got a nice version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Away in a Manger, and Grandma Gottula got Jingle Bells and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Wesley was a bit aggravated because, "Mom, the activity didn't say to sing songs AND talk, it only said to sing songs!" And when I wanted to have a nice chat and tell the Grandmas about our lives, that was just grossly unfair to Wesley. Funny kid.

Day 9

Attend our ward's Christmas brunch, a Morning in Bethlehem. Our ward nailed it this year... the three units in the building all agreed on the same theme, and the other ward had its party last night, we got the breakfast slot, and the last unit (the Spanish branch) has its party tonight. We all shared decorations and the work. Genius! It was cute.

They asked me to emcee, which was easy, but I wish I was more prepared. I kind of just winged it and it wasn't as smooth as I would have liked. For example, Christmas music was playing during the opening prayer... the woman giving the closing prayer kind of landlocked at her table and couldn't make it to the micrphone... the opening song was acapella and we totally goofed it up... I was talking to someone and did a bad job dismissing rows of tables to get food... sigh. Next year, right? ;-)

There were activity rooms (like letter writing, crafts, and cookie decorating), plus kids did get to see Santa. Wesley again asks for an Alexa and Laurel now asked for "Jelly" a little cat beanie baby she saw in a drugstore the other day. I asked her, what about the orange cat with red stripes? And she said she told that to the other Santa, so obviously he's taking care of it. Oh geez. Every Santa gets a new message and they're all equally valid. I'll be broke by the time Christmas is here (yet rich with plush cats).

Jesus words this week have included Little Lord Jesus, King of Kings, and Counsellor. In Light the World we've learned about not judging (thinking about how others feel) and loving your enemies. That helped in the car ride home when Wesley pinched Laurel and she's crying huge tears, and I sort of tell him he's acting like a bully, and she says she loves him anyway even though he's her enemy. Sigh. Parenting.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

#christmas2017: advent days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Hellooooooo I love Christmas. So. I *do* Christmas. Christmas agrees with me. I keep my cool at Christmas, I love my kids at Christmas, I make all these plans that work out just fine at Christmas, it's something about Christmas! I can't explain it. The advent soothes me. I know what it is -- my kids will do anything if they know they get chocolate for breakfast. And boom, they get chocolate for breakfast. Every day.

So this is what the advent looks like. It's 24 stockings I got on clearance for 10 cents apiece like 5 or 6 years ago. Each stocking has in it:
  • two chocolate candies
  • an activity
  • a piece of a magnet nativity
  • a piece of a magnet Santa vignette
  • an ornament for our ceramic gingerbread house
  • a "Jesus" ornament, which is a name for the Savior
  • a scripture for the #LightTheWorld campaign
This has been so fun. So fun.

Day 1

Visit the Bellevue Nativity Festival.

One of my favorite activities of the year. You can dress up and form your own nativity....

Do a scavenger hunt among the bazillion nativities...

Find your favorites (look ma, a polar bear!)....

And more. I was in a crummy mood. I think I was tired. But I knew this was the activity and we went. I'm so glad. It was calm and peaceful. It was so beautiful. I like to go with friends but I was glad I was alone this year, because I just let the kids lead where we went. We did the children's playroom (where there were magnetic nativities and wooden nativities for them to play with, as well as word searches and coloring pages), plus the video room with short films on the Savior. It felt so spiritual. I really loved it. It was confirmed in my heart, once again, that I really believe this.

After Laurel did her scavenger hunt, she got a flavored candy cane that turned her tongue blue. It was a great day.

Day 2

Set up the tree!

This is just a blast. We clean the whole room and vacuum. We set up the tree, get out all the ornaments, and go through everything. The kids seriously do all the work. Our tree looks ridiculous since it has two strings of the white (attached to the branches) that don't work. I could unplug it. But I might try to fix it with one of those light guns someone told me about recently. Just need to borrow one or buy one. Two ornaments met their demise this year. Bummer. After we're all done, we clean and vacuum again. It's great.

I also put lights in the window this year! So cool. Used suction cups.

Got out the kids' PopUp Play gingerbread house.

They started coloring it some more, and put lights on it. Which was so fun, all their idea.

Wesley has a little tree in his room, and Laurel gets this gorgeous wreath on her door (from Aunt Leslie).

I felt like a million bucks Saturday night. I kept my cool, I let the kids do their thing, I was patient and had a wonderful time. We listened to Mannheim Steamroller and I thought of my family and I was just SO GLAD I have these adorable kids and these Christmas memories with them. It was a great day.

Day 3

Go to Grant & Hayes's Christmas party. Every year our friends throw a party. It's awesome. Food and crafts and running amok. It did not disappoint.

Day 4

Set up the Nativity set.

I didn't take any pictures! WHY!? I had a Bible and we started reading Luke 2 and I'd pull stuff out of the box. We talked about taxes to the government (which is kind of like tithing to the church). We talked about how they traveled to where they were born, so I'd travel to Maryland and the kids would travel to Seattle. We talked about how all the rooms in the hotel were booked so they slept in the barn. And we got to visit a barn this summer so the kids remembered what it smelled like and felt like with all the hay and horses. We talked about how Jesus was laid in a manger, which was like someone laying a baby in the food bowl for Harvey (their cat).

We talked about the angel. And how he said don't be afraid. And maybe I'd be afraid if I saw an angel. We talked about the shepherds wanting to go to where Jesus was, since don't we want to go visit when cool things happen? It all makes sense.

It was so fun reading this story to my kids, and watching them play with the nativity. They were somewhat irreverent.... but it's a quick story :-) And I didn't mind.

Day 5

Go to the mall and make a train at the Lego store and see Santa!

Yay! The Lego store does a free minibuild each month and when I found out this was a train I just freaked. The kids still love trains. Unfortunately they were all booked up, so I got on a waitlist.... and I called last week to check in and the nice guy said just to show up and they'd probably be able to get us in. And they did! Yay!

What my cute kids don't know yet is that we are taking a family trip to Legoland in San Diego in March :-) It's one of their Christmas presents.

Yay trains!

We went to see Santa and there were gobs of children in shiny dresses and matching outfits. We just waltzed up in our street clothes. I think everyone thought I was lame for not taking this seriously. Haha. I just don't feel like paying for Santa photos. I was thinking tonight that the Santa at the mall, who has been there for years, literally for Wesley's entire life, is a big part of the childhood memories for a lot of local kids. I hope he lives forever.

Wesley asked for a "baby Alexa" (at my urging... since that's what he's getting) and Laurel asked for a "orange cat with red stripes" and I have no idea what that is.

I like to bring the Savior into this every year, and I also like to bring service into it. Last year I used a scripture chain from the Friend magazine and we read part of the nativity story every day. This year, the #LightTheWorld campaign provided scriptures all having to do with service and things the Lord did. This has been awesome. The scriptures are super short, and there is a short video that goes along with all of them. The kids ask to watch the video during breakfast, then we talk about doing good to other people. So one of the verses was on loving our neighbors, and I was like, what can you do nice for someone? And we talked about opening the door for the person behind us, or getting our classmate a piece of paper when we get our piece of paper, or saying a kind thing when we feel mad. It has been so sweet to teach the kids that they can do service every day. Every day. It doesn't have to be big at all.

These videos, plus our Jesus ornaments, have helped us focus on the Savior and being better people. Laurel heard the word "Immanuel" in a Christmas song, and she was like, "Mom! That's one of our ornaments!" I seriously thought I'd cry. She is also an emerging reader, so it has been awesome to see her see an ornament and say in her cute little voice, "Lord of All."

I want to say with 100% certainty that Christmas and #LightTheWorld and my Jesus ornaments and who knows, just the spirit that is all of this wrapped into one, everything that goes along with this, has made a difference in how my house feels. And that has been absolutely necessary, since I've been feeling crummy. I'm emotionally a bit heartsick, I'm physically a bit heartsick, and I needed something, and this has been it. Wow.

More later. We have 25 days of this!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

christmas advent: day 20 and 21

Oooh baby these were jam-packed days!!!

Day 20. Eat all red and green foods. This is seriously one of my favorites. So, here is breakfast:

green eggs & ham & red pepper


green apples, snap peas, raspberries, ravioli

and Dinner:

green milk, pasta with pesto, green peas, baby tomatoes 

.... and when Wesley ate all his veggies he asked for some Doritoes

W fit a lot of other fun things in on Day 20, also. We went to Molbak's in Woodinville, the quintessential Christmas store. Ornaments, poinsettias, sparkly things everywhere, and the kids didn't break anything. I was looking for one specific thing which wasn't there, so sad.

We also delivered our Christmas cookies to our neighbors, finally.

AND then, to top it all off, we went Christmas caroling with the Activity Day girls and I wore my new light-up sweater. It was kind of amazing.

Day 21. Go ice skating. Here's the story: Wesley's school had a roller skating night last Thursday. After an appointment for flu shots and taekwondo, I was totally toast. Just toast. I didn't want to go so I sorta ho-hummed it and we missed it. When Wesley realized we missed it he was just devastated. Oops. So, I promised him we could go roller skating this week. As I started to plan, I offered that we could ice skate instead. He was super excited about that and said yes. Since this was his family activity, I let him be the lead. But Laurel was mad mad mad, she only wanted to go roller skating and she was throwing a fit. I asked a friend if she wanted an extra little girl around for a few hours (presumably to play with her little girl and keep them both occupied), and she said sure. So my cute Wesley and I had a mother/son date!

At first, he used the walker I rented for $3. I actually bribed him with ice cream to try going around the rink just once without it...

....And he could totally skate!! It was awesome!! I'm so proud of him.

My kid is freaking gorgeous. GORGEOUS. Look at those EYES!!!!

Basically... it was the best date. I totally paid, and there was a cute guy, handholding, and even kissing! Wesley was a total pleasure. He really enjoyed it. We stuck around to see the Zamboni machine. I was done way before he was.... my feet hurt! I fell once when he pulled me down, but other than that I did just fine. What a blast! I think I'll add ice skating permanently to our advent activity list.

Jesus ornaments: Immanuel, Light of the World.