Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve

(Yes, Miss E's pants really were that dirty. What can I say? The girl is busy during the day)

This picture could also be titled "3 little girls sneaking M & M's". Tonight was our friends annual  (2nd and maybe to become annual?) New Year's Eve party. 4 couples, a college kid (maybe a little older) and 7 kiddos. And boy were those kids excited and LOUD. So very very loud. Fortunately our friends have a playroom-basement so we could just yell "get in the basement" every time they showed their faces upstairs. Ok, not really with the yelling part but kind of. But nicer. A little. The kids did get to watch a movie downstairs (Despicable Me, which apparently has a fart gun in it and fart guns are the height of humor amongst this set) and we all hung out upstairs stuffing our faces with guacamole and cookies and wine and beer. At 9 (that's midnight East Coast time in case you were wondering) we all watched the ball drop, yelled happy new year and kissed everyone in sight - that we were related to. Then we went home, the kids crashed in the car and Peter and I didn't even stay up until mid-night. Wild and crazy we are. WILD AND CRAZY.

Also, earlier in the day Miss E went rock climbing for the first time and thought it was awesome. We are now looking into a membership at the rock gym for her. Pictures to come I am sure.

Now, we are on to a new year. Honestly, after a few bad years, 2010 felt like a getting our bearings year. Things got better. Our family runs smoother, our marriage is more stable, our parenting is more stable. Financially it wasn't great but hey, there's more to life than money right? I have high hopes for 2011 as a year of great growth for everyone in our family and our family as a whole.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


I can't believe how big these kids are getting. Especially the 6 year olds. Miss E and Felix are shooting up like weeds, I think they've each grown a few inches in the last few months. My niece and nephew are up here for the weekend while my sister and her hubs are off doing something. I think it's something fun but that's a rumor. My parents are graciously watching Felix and Uma for 2 nights. Aren't they sweet? I love that our kids love them so much and that they are able to do that. I hope to be that kind of grandparent some day. (Also, here's to hoping they want to watch our kids for a couple of nights this spring...) That would be lovely.

Side note: For some reason my lovely and charming niece Uma looks drunk in most pictures. I assure you, she is not in fact that way in real life. She is sweet and stubborn and silly and bendy, but in pictures she usually looks dull and like she's had one too many. Or at least the pictures I take for some reason.

I also love this picture because they look like a little family, and so often when they are together Miss E organizes a game and soon enough Uma and Mr. T are playing the babies or orphans to Miss E and Felix's house or orphanage. It's cute in a weird way.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Peter loves his new phone

Yep, that about says it all. I went outside the box, and off the list this Christmas - which is our family is dangerous territory - and got him a new phone. Turns out, it was a big hit. Yay me! I was so nervous about this, mostly because, as a rule we never get anything other than what is on our lists. I know, it kind of takes the surprise out of it, but we all really hate having stuff we don't need/want so this works the best. In years past, Peter has gone off the list in what is now known as the "guitar incident" but other than that we stick to it. The only exceptions to this are jewelry and apple products. Those are always welcomed - in fact the year I was (surprise!) pregnant with Mr. T Peter got me my first i-pod. It was very sweet. I know, our family is a little Christmas-weird but really it saves us from a trip to the Goodwill in the long run.

However, this year Peter has been talking about how unhappy he is with his phone and how much he wants to get a new one after Christmas. This one was on super-sale Black Friday (see? getting up at 2 am was worth something) so I got it for him and he was thrilled - as you can see in this picture. The only problem with the new phone is it's ease of texting and picture taking abilities. Let's just say, that it's not soothing to a firefighters wife to get a text at 10pm that says "en route to another worker" (sent while riding in the engine) or to receive pictures of a rolled over vehicle on a busy highway with firefighters walking around it (after patients have been removed). Those are the sorts of things that I like to pretend DON'T happen while he is at work.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day at the Office

It's starting to feel like I am toting a kid into the office entirely too much these days. Peter ended up working an extra shift today - which is much needed and he should be working it, but that meant I had to drag the kids on 6 non-kid friendly, no fun errands this morning. Six of them. We know how many because we counted many times.

1) Hit Mark's office to pick up mail. (This is my 2nd job)

2) Regular office to work for an hour or so. They were wild and crazy beasts here and after Miss E put on a loud and impromptu ANnie concert, the work day culminated in them wrestling beneath a desk and me yelling at them in the car. 

3) Bank to get emergency ATM Card. Peter lost his debit card the day before Christmas and when his got canceled, mine did as well. This has left us with no money and no access to our account. The emergency ATM card allows us to get cash out. Kind of important. 

4) Out to Denny's for lunch since the kids were good at the bank and I felt bad for yelling at them. They thought Denny's was awesome. 

5) Drop aforementioned mail off with Jane 

6) Grocery store.

Yep, 6 entirely un-fun things for the kids but sometimes they just have to go along and other than the incident at the office, they were good sports about the rest of it. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Winter Bike Ride

Remember the wild and crazy I mentioned yesterday? Well, this morning. This morning. I don't know what happened. Peter was at work so it was just Casey and I at the house and the kids went wild. So wild, that I loaded wet bikes and trikes in the car, bid a hasty adieu to our guest and we hit the park by 10. It was cold and rainy but I didn't care. Our park has a 1/4 mile paved loop around a field so I told Miss E she owed me 5 laps on her bike and Mr. T had to do 1 on his trike (he doesn't really have a bike now). She mouthed off to me a few times brining her total laps up to 7. Once she started riding though, the attitude melted away, she didn't care it was cold and rainy and the 7 laps were quickly done. I was even going to let her stop at 5 since it started raining but she yelled "I can do it!" and just booked around the loop on her bike. Mr. T did 2 full laps on the tricycle with me.  After that we hit the library and headed home.

I guess being inside for 3 days straight, eating too much sugar, having no rest time and getting to bed late isn't the best thing for kids.  Who knew?

An outfit note: I instructed her to put on something "appropriate for bike riding" this morning and this is the outfit that came out. And yes, she is wearing my brand new cream cashmere gloves from J. Crew. Her hands were cold and I (reluctantly) gave up those gloves for her to ride with. Is it bad that I was reluctant about giving my daughter something to keep her hands warm even if that something was cream and cashmere and new? Possibly but let's just remember who's hands they are on in the picture. And no, I didn't make her give them back until we were in the car afterwards.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Morning After

So, no sleeping in this morning. I thought the kids would be exhausted from yesterday and sleep in a bit but no such luck. All four of them were up (well 3 of them, Mr. T slept for an extra 1/2 hour) at 7 am. Not only up, but wild and crazy running around the house up. I was so glad we packed all the presents into the car last night to take home, otherwise they would have been quickly unpacked and strewn everywhere. That's what 4 kids do the day after Christmas apparently - tear the house apart.

Once home this afternoon, we unpacked all the Christmas stuff, Miss E and I played games and we cleaned the house for company. Later in the afternoon, our friends Casey to came to spend the night and then this evening our friends Geoff and Krissy visited! We flew to Colorado for their wedding in June but haven't seen them since so it was a huge treat to spend the evening hanging out. This is one of the things I love about the holidays - seeing old friends who we don't see very often.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


  A few things about Christmas:

1) At 6:45 am, as Mr. T was opening his stocking, he yelled out "Santa must be really thankful for us!". At 7:00, sitting in front of his new fire station, munching on a piece of candy from his stocking, he declared this was the "best Christmas ever!" This was all before Peter got home this morning.

2) The kids did a fantastic job opening presents this year. We don't get everyone a ton of stuff, but there are 10 of us and we open presents 1 at a time. It can take awhile.  In years past there have been multiple meltdowns but this year - none. They asked who things were from, looked at cards, didn't rush each other as soon as they opened something new and were excited to hand out presents to other people.

3) Everyone got really awesome, thoughtful gifts. Peter did a good job of taking each of the kids out to pick out something for me. Miss E went to a jewelry store and picked me out a beautiful necklace. After I opened it, Peter told me that she has inherited my knack for unknowingly picking out the most expensive thing in the store. Apparently he had to talk her down a few pay grades. I love that girl. Mr. T picked me out some gloves, and he was so proud and excited about that.

4) The kids could not stop climbing on my parents couches.

5) Favorite Gifts:
Mr. T - fire station, garbage truck, legos
Miss E - new baby doll, legos
Me: necklace, black coat, fingerless cashmere gloves
Peter: new phone, ipod cable

6) We spent the afternoon playing with toys and games and resting.

7) We had salmon with huckleberry sauce and roasted root vegetables for dinner. And wine, lots and lots of really good wine.

8) After dinner we had our traditional bingo game complete with prizes. This year the adults did it white elephant style - we didn't think the kids were up for that yet. Peter and I came away with a Patagonia shopping bag, Aveda hand cream and a silicone spatula. Best Bingo prizes ever. The kids all had fun and played about 8 rounds of bingo. Mr. T was especially into it, standing up, throwing his arms and the air and yelling "Bingo!" every time he won.

6) Christmas was awesome.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

This is one of those days where it's almost impossible to pick just one picture. What should it be of? The kids at the fire station? Making Candles? Sitting in front of the fire? All the cousins in their matching pajamas? The tree as it looked right before all the grown ups headed to bed? I have 152 pictures of this day and picking one was difficult to say the least. After cycling through about 5 of my favorites I just picked this one of my Dad and Miss E and my nephew right before dinner. When I think of Christmas Eve this is what I think of. Beautiful table, french onion soup, the finest wine and my family.

We started out today by taking meeting my sister and her family at the fire station. Actually, I started today packing up all our crap to take to my parents, losing my keys, frantically looking for them, calling Peter in tears that my keys were lost (left at my parents last night) and having my brother-in-law Jason bring them down to my house. After all that, we went to the fire station.

This is one of the really sucky things about being married to a firefighter. Holidays. There is no guarantee that he will be home for them. In fact, a full 1/3 of Christmases he will be working. It has been this way for 9 years now, since he got hired, and will probably be this way for another 20 or so. There is no vacation or guaranteed time off for Christmas and no extra pay for working it. Working Christmas Eve this year is better than him working Christmas but still, he missed playing Santa and will miss the kids opening up their stockings and the look on their faces as they head down stairs on Christmas morning. At 4 and 6, these are not things you want to miss. I have offered to have the kids wait on their stockings but Peter is always very gracious about the whole thing and doesn't want us to change our routine or wait. I wouldn't either in his shoes but I still miss him.

Back to the fire station. Peter gave us the super deluxe family tour and each of the kids got to use the hose on the engine to put out a live flare and just spray the hose around some. We had mac and cheese for lunch, sat in the swivel chairs, went (partially) down the pole, got hooked up to the heart monitor and played in the weight room. Peter got dressed up in his gear and showed the kids all his air pack alarms and his axe belt. The kids also got to ride in the engine as he drove it back into the bay.

After we said good bye and Merry Christmas to Peter, we all headed back to my parents. Once we got there, the traditions began! We made candles out of beeswax, had French Onion soup, ate cookies, read the Grinch who Stole Christmas, got the kids dressed in their adorable matching pajamas, opened a few presents, put the kids to bed, put the kids to bed again, reminded the kids to be quiet, reminded them that Santa wouldn't come until they were asleep, had a few more glasses of wine and finally, Santa came and we went to bed.

It was a whirlwind of a day but also a wonderful day in many ways. The kids are so excited and I know they will be super excited tomorrow.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Decorating Cookies

Finally! My first day off to enjoy the holiday. We took Miss E and my nephew to see Tangled today and then back to my parents to decorate cookies. After that it was dinner and cocktails and home for bed. I love that Miss E is old enough to take to movies now. It is so much fun to do these "older kid" things with her and my nephew.

Curiously enough, right after we walked out of Tangled, Miss E told me she wants to cut her hair really short. Um... OK. We just walked out of a princess movie where the main character had long, gorgeous, powerful blond hair. And Miss E wants hers cut really short. Alrighty then. As I tell Peter often, Miss E is a wonderfully complicated woman.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cinnamon Bear Cruise

Today was Day 2 of tax class for me. Boo.  While I was at class though my family was playing....

Last year my mom took Miss E and my nephew on the Cinnamon Bear Cruise. This year she took Mr. T and my niece. Peter got to go along too, in order to even out the adult/child ratio. Mr. T apparently had a great time. It's a boat cruise up and down the Willamette river and they have all kinds of folks dressed up as characters from the Cinnamon Bear story. They ate, they drank hot chocolate, they got autographs from all the characters and sat on the Cinnamon Bear's lap. While they were doing that, my sister and her hubs took Miss E and my nephew to lunch at the Concordia Brew Pub. Tonight, after class, my parents took all 10 of us out to dinner at the Old Spaghetti FActory. We have taken all the kids out to eat before but to be honest, 4 kids under the age of 7 (or 6 last year) do not make for the best restaurant experience. Tonight was different though - finally! The kids sat in their seats, they ate their food, the talked in conversational tones with us, and generally they helped make it a lovely dinner. And with that, class is over and the holiday activities have begun.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas with the Grandparents

For some reason, back in September, I thought it would be a good idea to take a 2 day tax class on the 21st and 22nd this month. Well, I thought it was an OK idea. I figured Peter and the kids could do fun holiday stuff while I was busy learning tax stuff. So they are doing fun holiday stuff but I am not. And shocker of all shockers tax class is not that fun. Sure, I am getting to know a few ladies from the office better and knitting the kids scarves and drinking cup after cup of lovely green tea but overall, I wish I was hanging out with the family.

Today my in-laws came for the afternoon to see the kids and exchange presents and I didn't missed seeing them. The kids were thrilled though - they love seeing Grandma Patti and Grandpa Randy. Patti ALWAYS reads to them, whatever they want (even Captain Underpants!) and Randy sits on the floor and plays with them. Their presents to the kids this year was Legos which are awesome! Legos are my favorite toys ever and the kids will do them for hours. Literally hours. Tonight my sister and her family stopped by for dinner and in our little house filled with 4 adults and 4 kids and 2 dogs, you hardly heard a peep out of the kids as they were playing in their bedrooms setting up the Lego set. After awhile my nephew helped Mr. T with his set and Miss E and my niece played house or school or doll house or some variation on that. But the adults got to sit and chat and have a nice dinner. It was a lovely evening all around.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Self Portrait by Miss E

Miss E asked for the camera this morning so she could take a few pictures of a Lego house she built. When I downloaded the pictures later on, I found about 40 pictures including a long series of self-portraits where she was making different faces. Happy faces, sad faces, angry faces, silly faces. I wish I could include all of them but that kind of violates the 365 format. Here is one of my favorites.  I like it because this is actually a face we see every so often but I don't ever take pictures of it since it usually means that she is displeased with something or feeling disinclined to do something that we would like her to. Taking out the camera at those moments hardly seems appropriate but I love that she included it in her series of self-portraits.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Around and around the Christmas Tree

Here's the thing about simplifying Christmas this year. Part of it is working. We have not spent much less money, and the kids are probably still going to get too much stuff, but I feel less stressed. I have been able to enjoy the process and the season more, I think because I have been both more organized and conscious of letting stuff go. Today was a perfect example - Sunday before Christmas and we had nothing planned. In the past few years all the days before Christmas would have been filled with activities and ours are, starting Tuesday. But today we had nothing which opened up possibilities.

This morning we went downtown and looked at all the decorations. Miss E and Peter spent quite some time chasing each other around the Christmas tree in Pioneer square and right when Mr. T had had enough (see bottom right of picture) what should pull up to the local Starbucks but a Portland heavy rescue truck! Yay firefighters and they had a new and interesting truck, not a pumper or a ladder, but a true heavy rescue. The guys on the crew were super nice and before they got their coffee gave our kids and a few others standing around a quick tour. That perked Mr. T right up! I guess we just need to make sure there is a new and exciting fire truck around for him at all times. It was just a lovely morning all around. Hot chocolate, throwing pennies in the (indoor, non-fish living) fountain.

Then our friend called and offered Miss E and I tickets to Annie this afternoon since her daughter was sick. I felt really bad for her and her little kiddo but we were so happy to go. I LOVE Annie, maybe more than a 30 something year old lady should, and this production was great. Miss E sat through all 2 hours of it with nary a peep and waited in line to get autographs from the actors afterwards.

I know that as the kids get older, even now, there are times when we just are going to be over-scheduled. There just are. But it also reminds me to hold open a day every now and then to just enjoy as we see fit at the time.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Winter Birthday Party and Books

Oh easy Saturday, welcome back.  I have missed you. It seems silly that this weekend has been so relaxing but it has. Since the kiddos spent the night at my parents I got to sleep in until 9 this morning. 9! That is unheard of. Not that I've ever been much of a sleeper-in. That is more Peter's department. Even in college I was an early riser, but now it's so much of a luxury that I have to enjoy it every once in awhile. The main thing that I love about the kids not being here in the morning is no one comes in at 7 and says "Mommy, it's 7. Time to get up and cook me breakfast" and then I get out of bed and feed 2 children, the dog and the cats before I make my own breakfast. There is actually nothing wrong with that but 7 days a week it gets a little old. It's nice to have a morning off once in awhile.

This afternoon was Miss E's first birthday party for a kindergarten friend. She was so excited! They are so cute at this age. It was all girls at the party and a room full of kindergarten girls involves a lot of excited jabbering, hugging, laughing and general silliness.

 I also got the 2 hours during the party to head to finish my Christmas shopping and head to the library. We are all big readers and the library has to be done at least once a week. Miss E is learning to read now and once she has been through a book one or two times, she has it memorized and ends up reciting it rather than reading it to me. I have to be careful to rotate them out often. Current family reading is:

Miss E: (Learn to read) Dr. Seuss and Mo Willems books, (Chapter book read by me) Paige the Christmas Play Fairy

Mr. T: The Firehouse Light - a random yet true book about a light bulb that has been continuously burning for over 100 years at a fire station in California. They even have a webcam where you can watch it here.

Sarah: Voyager by Gabaldon

Peter: Lord of the Rings.

I was so touched this week when Miss E wrapped up some of her own things as Christmas presents for us and as I opened my "gift" she told me she knew I loved to read. My gift was one of her Olivia books.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Party Day

And so begins Christmas break! Both the kids had parties today, one right after the other which was great because Peter and I got to attend both. First Miss E's at the kindergarten and then Mr. T's at the preschool. In the picture Mr. T is decorating a gingerbread house that they made by gluing graham crackers to a milk carton. The kids then got to pick their decorations and put them on with frosting. He strategically organized every side of the house and it looked so cute when he was done.

I am so excited to begin all the Christmas activities with the family and deeply regret signing up for  a 2 day tax class next week. This really is one of my favorite times of the year. Despite the fact that I didn't have much success with scaling back christmas this year it has felt less hectic because I was more organized and on top of things. A good lesson to learn for next year. I think at this point scaling back Christmas is going to take a few years instead of doing it all this year.

Random complaint for the day: Our preschool has a lovely assistant teacher who is from Pakistan. Her family still lives there, she travels there a lot and she is Muslim and celebrates a different holiday this winter (I think it's called Eid ul-Adha). There is also a little girl in Mr. T's class who is Muslim and celebrates this same holiday. To me, this seems like a great teaching opportunity. Not to go in depth about the holiday, as we don't with Christmas since it's a non-religious school, but to talk about how different people celebrate the winter holiday's differently. I think it would also help this little girl feel more included in the holiday preparations. Additionally, I would love it if they did a little unit on Pakistan since we have a teacher who is from there. Alas, nothing. Even at the public kindergarten Miss E goes to they talk about other religions holiday celebrations. Some one told me it has something to do with the preschool being in a church (although we are not affiliated with that church). I just really hate to see such a great learning opportunity be overlooked. But I'm getting over it.

Alrigtht, random complaint done and I'm off to drop the kiddos at Nana and Grandpas for an overnight! They are so excited - tree decorating, cookie eating and Christmas movies.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Marriage and Kissing and Pillow Pets

Barbies and weddings and pillow pets and kissing. Oh my. Pre-Kindergarten, the younger portion of our family was blissfully ignorant of all those things. We don't watch TV with commercials and just generally don't do a lot of the commercialized stuff but my oh my how things changed once we started Kindergarten. Now there is kissing at school and talk of marriage and stuff - always with the hottest new stuff. And I have to explain to Miss E why kissing is not OK for Kindergartners, which is baffling my friends. Just baffling.

Tonight Miss E and I headed to a local store to get a birthday gift for a friend. During the picking out of the gift, it became clear to me that a whole new world of products has been opened up for her. Before, she would go to a toy store and look at the toys she liked. Now she is looking at the toys she has HEARD ABOUT. Very different. I have to say, I have a bit of a hot button on the whole "wanting things for no reason" and we talked about it, I asked her WHY she wanted a pillow pet, and explained that "because Mark has one" is not a good enough reason. Ditto for Barbies, ditto for electric toothbrushes. To her credit, she didn't whine, ask for anything for herself or complain.

Then it was time to pick out wrapping paper for the birthday present and she picked out wedding paper because she is all excited about getting married and daily tells me which boy in her class she is getting married to and who was kissing who that day. Or it's quite possible she picked it out just to make my eye twitch a little bit. Or a lot. On they way home, as I was trying to explain that NOBODY picks out who they are marrying in kindergarten, she starts asking me what it's like to fall in love and is there kissing involved and what does it feel like and OH MY GOD I thought I had at least 5 more years before that conversation.  And I really don't know what to say. How do you make adulthood not look attractive to a kid? Tell her kissing is icky? I talked in circles with her about how short of time you have to be a kid and how getting married is a huge decision and you have to know a lot of people before you pick the one you are going to marry and none of it was the right thing to say. I could just feel it. Kind of like writing this, I'm not really sure how to put it out there in the right way.

When we reached home and got out of car I took a moment to take a deep breath, look up at the moon and whispered a silent prayer. Please.... please let me know what to say, to say it right, to guide her right, to know which issues to take on and which to let slide by. Right now I am ignoring the marriage thing, all kids talk about this, they don't know what it means and they won't for a long time. The kissing thing has been addressed and the rest of it will be day to day. She is a smart, smart girl and I will always have faith in that.

On a side note - In the picture above she is singing along with the snow globe and making up her own lyrics. She's been doing this a lot this year since she loves to sing but doesn't know all the words to the Christmas songs. It's so fun to hear what she comes up with. A lot about snow falling and fire places and sleighs and coziness.

Also, that snow globe is a present Peter got me for Christmas in 2003 and on the bottom he wrote "To my perfect wife". Every year when I get that out it makes me smile and my heart feel warm.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Silly Soup

This is something Mr. T has been doing at school a lot lately - making Silly Soup. It's basically sand, loads of water, dried leaves, rocks, whatever the kids can find. He's the mixer so he stands next to the soup and mixes while other kids bring him water, chocolate rocks, candy leaves, or whatever they can find to mix in. For the first few months of the year, he had a bit of hard time integrating with the other kids, he was still doing more parallel play but this has really opened him up to interacting directly and it's so fun to watch.

Today was my parent-teaching day at the preschool and as I watched him play, I noticed how much he's changed in the last month. He is much more confident in the classroom and comfortable with the other kids. These days I feel like the kids are growing up so fast, and it's good. It really is. But sometimes it just hits me how fast it's flying by. The first year of both their lives seemed to take FOREVER. The sleepless nights and the sweet baby-ness all mixed in. Now time is flying by and I get less cuddles from Mr. T each day even though he loves it when I swear I'm going to give him 100 kisses. He giggles and laughs and says no and lets me rain kisses all over his face. When I ask him who loves him the best he rolls his eyes and laughs and says mommy and daddy of course! Even though he won't snuggle me as much I hope he never loses that open heartedness. I can't think of a better phrase for it, but that's what it is. Mr. T all heart and I hope that nothing ever changes that.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mother's Little Helper

This morning was my work day but is on jury duty all week and today he was called in. So Miss E went to school and Mr. T came to work with me. I think I have written before about taking Miss E to work but I don't really take Mr. T with me. The reason? He talks. A lot. And is busy and needs help with things and in general it's very difficult to get things done and he is so earnest and sweet that it's hard to say no to him as well. The kids is all heart. He really is. So while I can take Miss E in for a couple of hours and she will draw and read books and get water from the dispenser and peruse through the snack bin, he is a different story. In the first 45 minutes we were there, he drew 5 pictures (30 seconds each), ate snack and then I started giving him errands. Nana's office is on  the 3rd floor and mine is on the ground floor so I had him make about 8 trips up and down carrying stuff back and forth. Then I had him empty all of my recycling piece by piece into the shredder. Then he dusted.

After all of this, he still needed stuff to do and so here he is, pictured watching a video on my ipod. Normally, I don't let the kids watch video's on the ipod and they don't watch TV every day. I'm not anti-TV, I just would rather they do other things. However, I HAD to get some work done today and it turns out this was the only way. This definitely falls under the category of things I said I would never do, but dang it, today I was very appreciative of the Backyardigans. The longer I am a parent, the more I realize it's about getting through each day the best way possible. And Mr. T? He was so proud of himself for being big enough to "help" at the office and excited that he got to see a video.

Monday, December 13, 2010

More Space Please

Umm.. could I get a bigger house please? Do you see how this poor dog sleeps? On a tiny little ottoman (which is usually covered with a blanket to hide it's spots) with her head resting on a bookshelf. Yes, a wooden shelf is my dog's pillow.

I try very hard to be appreciative of our house and not complain about it's size, especially in front of the kids. We are here by choice, yes, we could buy a bigger house but it would be in a worse school district further away from families and work so we are here. If we lived in Manhattan, our place would be considered huge. It is a roof over our head that we can afford, it is warm and loving (most of the time) and it is ours. No small things.

However, at some point, I would love to host holiday gatherings, have friends over for dinners, have more than one guest at a time come stay with us, maybe even my sister and her whole family if we are getting crazy here. I would like space for the kids to spread out and play and a room for them to go crazy in that's not our living room. It breaks my heart a little bit when we are over at someone's house that is bigger (read: normal sized) and Miss E excitedly runs around exclaiming about how much space there it. In short, just under 1000 square feet for 4 people, and pets is a bit small and at some point, I would really really really really like a bigger house. For the time being though, this has been a valuable exercise in patience, making do and being appreciative of what we have.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The day I almost ruined Santa.

This morning my friend Jennifer held her annual wrapping party. It's a morning or evening where about 5 or 6 of us meet at her house, have snacks and wrap all our Christmas presents. It's more fun to do it together, we get to ooohh and ahhh over each other's gifts and then I don't end up in the freezing and smelly beer shack at night wrapping gifts. The wrapping party is much more pleasant. So this morning I loaded up all of our stuff, hid it in the van, dropped the kids at my parents, wrapped our gifts at the party and hid them at my parents when I picked up the kids. Except the few things for my in-laws and the kids letters to Santa. Which Miss E found this afternoon. Oops.

About a week ago, the kids wrote letters to Santa and put stamps on them and put them in the mailbox to mail them. I then snuck out before the mail carrier came, picked up the letters and put them with our unwrapped Christmas presents since I haven't yet figured out a good or private enough place to keep them. Hence, they ended up at the wrapping party but then they ended up in the bag with presents for my in-laws to come home. Then I forgot they were there and asked Miss E to put those presents under the tree. Yeah. I did. She pulls out the Santa letters and (you may remember I just told her yesterday that it was OK she didn't sit on Santa's lap since she sent him a letter and she would still get presents for Christmas) :

Miss E: Mommy, oh no! Why are the Santa letters in here?

Me: (flustered and stalling) Oh no........ how did they get there?

Miss E: We mailed them. In the mail box.

Me: (more flustered and stalling) Ummmmmm.....I don't know how they got in there (seriously, I still had nothing at this point)

Miss E: We mailed them. What happened?

Me: (only thing I could come up with) Ohhh... Daddy said he was going to copy them and maybe he forgot to put them back in the mailbox (yes, the old blame-it-on-Daddy, but really, I had NOTHING and I was watching the innocent belief in Santa drain out of her). Let's call him and see if that's what happened.

Miss E: Why would he copy them? (looking at me as if she knows I'm full of sh*t)

I then call Peter, whisper to him what happened and then pretend to have a loud conversation regarding the letters and how he forgot to mail them after they were copied. I wrote "overnight" on the envelopes, promised her I would take them to the post office tomorrow and that they would still make it there on time. Then I asked her not to tell Mr. T so he "wouldn't worry". I think she bought it, and the letters are again  hidden away, for real this time.

All I can say, is I'm not proud. I know this is probably our last year of total Santa belief and it kills me that I was almost the one who screwed it up. Also, a little bit not proud of the blaming Daddy thing but in my defense, I'm not really good under pressure and I couldn't very well say Ginger got them out of the mailbox and chewed them up. All in all I know she is a smart girl and has an inkling about Santa but, as they say in english class, she has a willing suspension of disbelief. I hope I hope I hope we have a few more years of Santa. Or at least that I won't be the one who kills it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Visit with Santa

I think Santa is creepy. There, I said it. I THINK SANTA IS CREEPY. Maybe I should clarify, the real Santa, the magic of Christmas, is not creepy at all. Mall Santa's, or any sort of Santa who's lap you can sit on is creepy to me. Really really creepy.  Not to mention confusing to kids. It's like a scary movie, as soon as you actually show the monster, it's not as scary. Same with Santa, as soon as you actually see him in the mall, somehow not as magical.

However, since having kids, I have gamely headed every year to see him with a smile on my face and excitement in my voice. Despite this, my daughter apparently believes as I do, that mall Santa's are creepy. So every year, she says she wants to go see him, we go and when it's her turn she tries to talk to him from as far away as possible despite my reassurances that it's OK. I have pictures of her perched on the very edge of his lap and several of me sitting next to him holding her. In none of them does she look thrilled and every time, after paying $20 for the picture I swear we aren't doing it again.

This year, not seeing Santa was part of my "simplifying Christmas" plan, which is working in some ways and not working in others. I figured that it's no one's really favorite part of Christmas, the kids could still write letters to him and no one would miss it. Well, as happens so often with the second kid, I overlooked Mr. T. This morning, Peter mentioned that one of the fire stations at his department was having a holiday parade and an open house that Santa would be at. So, I figured sure, we could head to the fire station (they have fire boats there!), watch the parade from inside the bay (pouring down rain outside), have some cookies and hot chocolate and head home for rest time. Easy, not super crowded and the kids would be occupied. Well, once we told Mr. T Santa might be there he was beside himself, so so so excited. Jumping up and down excited. When we got there, we watched the parade and then he got in the Santa line (2nd kid in line) and eagerly waited to see him. Miss E looked at me and for the first time ever, asked if she could skip sitting on his lap and help me take pictures instead. Yes please! It turned out great. When it was Mr. T's turn he hopped right up on Santa's lap (no coaxing from us) and told him precisely what he wanted for Christmas. Huge smiles. I snapped some pictures (no $20 charge for crappy pictures) and we headed out for cookies.

During cookies Miss E pulled me aside and asked if she would still get presents even though she didn't talk to Santa. Of course honey, I told her, we wrote letters. I have explained to the kids that the mall Santa's aren't the real Santa's but his helpers because he's too busy to be everywhere at once. But sometimes, I tell them, the real one comes down and fills in as a surprise and you never know. I guess she thought if we didn't visit them, she wouldn't get anything.

As we started to walk back to our car in the rain, I looked at my happy little guy and thought that yes, if that was what visiting Santa would be like every year, then I could do it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Morning Movie

Well this week started out with a bang - 5 night events in a row coupled with busy days. We are all tired and a I am sick, actually sick. Peter and I have also been noticing some behavior issues with a certain lovely young lady that I think are the direct result of being too busy. As one of my friends pointed out - it's a fine line at this age. Too busy is not good, sitting around the house all day, also not good. They seem to need just the perfect amount of social and intellectual stimulation, structure, and down time. Kind of like the kindergarten equivalent of the three bears. It has to be just right. So today, since Miss E doesn't have school and I am sick, we had morning movie! So much fun. We stayed in our pj's, watched a movie that is not appropriate for Mr. T (the first Chronicles of Narnia), and lay on the couch. Around noon, just before Peter was to bring Mr. T home from school, we decided to get dressed. It was just what I needed and I think just what she needed.

 Also, I cut her bangs.

Also, after they got home, Peter and Mr. T mixed cement for a Christmas present they are making. It was Mr. T's first time mixing cement.

Also, you may see no pictures of our house this week since between me being sick, Christmas decorations coming out and just general busyness, it's a wreck. And not in that cute 1 dish left on the counter sort of way but an actual dog hair, toy cars, furniture moved, piles on the counter, 8 million drawings, pine needles on floor, pile of dirty clothes wreck.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Our Family

Every year, I have Miss E draw a picture of our family and hang it on the wall. This is the latest one. As you can see, she drew it when she was 5, but I just got around to putting it up. I always love to see how she pictures us in her mind, and I love that she inverts her m's, so for now, I am honored with the title "wowwy". In this version she has given Mr. T a red shirt (his favorite color) and herself a rainbow shirt (her favorite color). I hope in all her pictures of us, we look this happy.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The End of Basketball

1) Basketball is over. The last game was tonight in a very crowded hot gym.

2) We are all glad it's over. It's probably not Miss E's sport, the schedule was a bit much for our family and overall we are relieved to be done.

3) I am completely opposed to the kids getting trophies for participation in every sport. This was a 7 week "season" during which she played awesome during practice and warm ups but checked out during the games. Her performance was mediocre and the only thing I was a little irked by is that she didn't try harder. But also, at this point, for this sport, I think boys and girls should be split up so that's not really her fault. Still, not a trophy worthy performance. Plus, now do we have to keep this? I don't want to keep accumulating stuff like this.

4) Do you see that smile on her face? The trophy was the most exciting part of the the 7 week season. Well, that and the times she actually made her baskets during practice. How could I want to take that away from her?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Fire Books

In case you didn't know, Mr. T is obsessed with fire stuff, all of it. Firefighters, fire trucks, fire engines, rescue helicopters, fire boats, pretty much everything except for actual fire. He's terrified of that. I'm thinking that's a good thing. Today was our normal library day and the first thing he says every time we hit the library is "let's go see the fire books" - for 2 years now. We have checked out every fire book our library has about 30 times each. When they have a new fire book it's a huge celebration. This has happened maybe 4 times. After the fire books, he wants to get a DVD and then I tell him he needs to pick out a few story books from the fiction section. I don't know about you, but there are only so many times I can read non-fiction books about fire trucks before I want to start chucking them out the window. The worst part is, due to the inherent nature of the job, they don't really talk about what firefighters ACTUALLY DO. They never rescue cats out of trees, yet in the books it's done all the time. Rarely ever do they drive the engine in a parade, yet that is also an almost every book event. I guess it doesn't make a good children's story to talk about covering up a sucking chest wound, treating a gory bloody head injury, having patients puke on you or caring for a GI bleed but really that's a lot more of what they do. So for now, kids think all they do is wash the engine and rescue cats from trees.

 I have been trying for awhile to get a good picture of him in the fire section of the library but something about the lighting, the busyness of the (lovely) carpet, and the books always makes them come out blurry. I usually have my point and shoot camera at the library too since I feel kind of weird pulling out the huge one there. Today I just got as close as I could and popped the flash.

And yes, he has been wearing that fire costume for 2 days straight now. Currently, as I am typing this, he is watching a Popular Mechanics video for kids on firefighters and fire rescue. It has no end and he shows no sign of being tired of it. I just wish more kids fiction authors would write books about fire stuff, books that were pleasant for the parents to read. And maybe someone could write a simple chapter book series on firefighters? That would be great. Thanks.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Advent Activites

I've mentioned before that I'm trying to scale back Christmas around here this year. Both the busyness of the season and the amount of stuff that is involved. Overall, it's not going super well but I have had a few small victories here and there. One of these is the advent calendar. We have one that has pockets and in the past years I have filled the pockets with stickers, candy and little toys. Well, this is a pain for a few reasons. I don't really want the kids to have candy every morning, they are old enough now that stickers aren't very exciting and because I hate junky little toys, it was getting expensive to fill the pockets with quality things that wouldn't feel wasteful.

 This year I first decided to not use the calendar with pockets but just buy a cheap cardboard one that had pictures on everyday. What I didn't realize is that that is the most boring advent calendar in the world. After 2 days the kids stopped asking to even open it in the morning. So I scrambled a bit and while reading this Stop, Drop and Blog I got the idea for an activity-a-day advent calendar, and proceeded to stuff the pockets with little homemade cards saying what Christmas things we were doing that day. It required a bit of forethought but I made it so the day we were getting the tree, the activity was "getting the tree" and on days that I know will be busy with school stuff, it's something simple like "have hot chocolate after school". Today our activity was "make Christmas pictures". The first day we did it, the kids asked for candy but ever since then they have been super excited to get up and see what our Christmas activity is for the day. I'm not sure this counts as simplifying because it was more work to set up but honestly all of these activities are things we would be doing anyway.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Tree

Here is a rare pic of me and the kids. After the basketball game this morning, we headed out with my parents to get our Christmas tree. It was gorgeous out - not too cold, sunny, dry - it was really pretty. Miss E found us the perfect tree after running up and down the hill a few times, Mr. T FREAKED out because it was windy and OH MY GOD the wind! THE WIND! There was much crying and screaming, enough so that my parents heard him from the other side of the Christmas tree farm and headed over to see what was up. They both tried to talk to him but he would have none of it. As my mom said later "If neither Nana nor Grandpa can help him calm down, it's pretty serious". Yes, he was pissed. I have no idea where this fear of the wind came from, I offered to let him stand behind me, bury his face in my coat and finally ended up carrying him just to calm him down. I think at this point he was a little embarrassed too. When the guy came to pick up my parents tree he offered the kids and I a ride up the hill in his ATV and Mr. T immediately brightened up about that. The man was very nice and gave us a long ride around. After that it was hot chocolate inside with Nana and who wouldn't be happy with that?

Tonight Peter and the other Dads of kids on the basketball team took the kids out to dinner and to their first Blazer game. Miss E had a lot of fun with the other girl on the team (girls and boys are divided at this point, you know. I think that starts in Pre-K and Kindergarten it's final. We even had problems on the team with the boys not passing the ball to the girls and vice versa) and Peter and I are starting to get more comfortable socializing with all the other parents at this school. Most of them are doctors and lawyers and such, which is a bit of a different circle than we have run with before but we're getting used to it. Miss E loved the Blazer game, had a crazy fun time with the other kids and even though they left after the 3rd quarter, she still didn't get into bed until 9. It's been a packed weekend for sure. I am looking forward to the end of basketball and some more family/relaxing time.

Also, if any of you are photographers out there, I am asking for a new lens for Christmas, something that will make the pictures look clearer, crisper, or something like that. Any ideas? I have a Canon Rebel EOS XTi that I shoot with most regularly.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Breakfast in Bed

Mr. T told me last night that he was kind of sick and because of that he should get breakfast in bed this morning. Well, I have no idea where or how he put those two things together but he did. Believe me, breakfast in bed is not an event that has ever happened around here,  and certainly not something that happens when we are sick. However, I just said OK, thinking it would be fun. So Peter got home about 7:30 this morning to see Miss E eating at the bar and Mr. T eating in bed. (Yes, those are eggs, with cheese and giant chunks of butter on the muffin - the kid is hungry in the morning, what can I say?)

After that it was basketball game - which Miss E warmed up for, made about 10 baskets in a row before the game and then has decided not to play in the ACTUAL game. Sigh. I get it, it's complicated and I don't really care. The coach and I just kind of looked at each other, smiled and shrugged our shoulders. Then on to the play done by her school and out to dinner - a real treat for us.

At bedtime, I noticed that behind a very loose tooth of Miss E's, the permanent tooth was already coming in. As we were talking about taking her to the dentist, she pulled and pushed and the tooth came out leaving a bloody hole in her mouth. Thank goodness I have been stockpiling stocking stuffers,  otherwise the tooth fairy would have had to be quite inventive tonight. Once she got over how bloody her mouth was, she was pretty excited.

And then after the kids went to bed,  Peter and I got into a huge fight. Sigh again. I won't take up space or invade privacy by posting a long rant here, but I'm angry, I'm sure he's angry and sometimes I think marriage sucks. Sometimes I think it would be better to live in houses next door to each other. Our own sweet little houses. That we could keep however we like and deal with the kids how ever we would like as well. Right next door, close enough to wave hi in the morning, pop over for lunch, send the kids in between looking for backpacks and a snack or the puppy dog (who would be at my house).  Now don't you all worry that we are spending all weekend yelling at each other because we are totally past that phase and are into the "I'm completely pissed and you are annoying but we'll suck it up to keep household stuff moving forward" phase. Is that mature? I'm sure some counselor out there would say not, but I'm equally sure that Peter and I are far far far from the poster children for marriage.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A morning respite

Miss E didn't have school today but Mr. T did, a rarity around here. After our playdate called sick, I decided that Miss E and I needed to do something fun together. So we headed to check out 2 gymnastics schools for her, stopped for coffee and cookies, shopped a little and hit the bookstore and playground. And it was great. I think this is one of the things that drives me crazy about all of our little struggles. She is really fun to hang out with! In fact, I would pick her above most others to do things with - shopping, eating out, adventuring, whatever. She's fun, adventurous, mature (unless she's throwing a tantrum about getting dressed) , observant and engaged.  We had a wonderful time, picked out a gymnastics place for her, got a few Christmas presents, and got to chat and really have fun together. This is really one of the great things about having a "bigger" kid and I so look forward to more outings with her as she gets older.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Drying off

I may or may not be torturing my child. I think at this point it’s a matter of opinion and what her future shrink will say. Welcome to the mother of all power struggles – drying off.

It all started about 2 weeks ago when I told Miss E it was time for her to dry herself off after bath at night. This was for a few reasons, 

1) A lot of nights I am the only parent here and bath time is my most stressful and least graceful. I am trying to make it less work for me so my temper is less likely to blow
2) she’s old enough and capable of doing it and
3) she was starting to fuss at me that I wasn’t doing it right/good enough, etc.

Enter the power struggle. She won’t do it. WILL NOT. I told her that after she does it 2 or 3 times without fussing/whining/complaining, then I would split it with her half and half. Halt the time she would dry herself off, and half the time I would.

Well, we are two weeks into this and most bath nights (bathing is every other night) she gets in the tub at 6, won’t get out, and at 7(lights out time) I go in, get her, dry her off, have her get dressed, brush her hair and teeth and go to bed – no books or free reading. This is a huge loss since she loves the night time reading time, as do I.

I have tried explaining, I have tried logic, I have told her I don’t want to do it, I have tried bribery, I have asked her for her ideas.  Nothing. So tonight, at 6:30 I decided enough was enough, pulled the plug on the tub (with her in it), put a fresh towel next to it and left. She lay naked, wet, shivering and crying in an empty tub for half an hour. And I felt like a dirt clod, a really shitty dirt clod. I really truly did. But every time I wanted to go in and get her, another side of me said “the towel is right there, right next to her, this is her choice” and I stopped. So yes, if any of you out there think I'm a horrible mother, well, first I kind of thought so myself tonight and second you are welcome to head on over and get that girl to dry herself off.

I have got nothing. And partially I’m thinking “This? This is what we are drawing lines in the sand for? Drying off after a bath?” It seems so stupid to me. Stupidly crazy. But I don’t want to give in and neither does she. When I asked my mom for advice and told her how silly this all feels to me, she reminded me that this wasn’t about drying off, it was about power. Now, as I have mentioned before Miss E is unrivaled in her abilitly to throw a power struggle and a lot of the time I let her prevail because I have no pride wrapped up in things being exactly my way. And I learned early on, that if I take on every gauntlet she throws down, we will be fighting all the time. But dammit,  a time comes when I just want to say, "I’m the mom and you will dry yourself off because I said so". That probably wouldn’t work but that’s where we are at. 

The good thing about this power struggle is even though I am feeling frustrated, I am not feeling angry about it. There is not a lot of yelling (OK, a little but not a lot) and I have been pretty good about remaining confident and upbeat. Assuring her that yes she can do it, I wouldn't ask her to if she couldn't and then leaving. In the end, I love how independent and strong Miss E is. It is one of her finest qualities. At some point, she will get tired of missing out on books and decide to do it for herself. But until then, we are in some kind of standoff. And I miss reading to her. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tax Class Day 1

You are now looking at the most hideous Christmas decorations known to man. I wish I could have got a wider-angle shot for full affect, because really, it was much worse than the picture conveys. Picture a window-less indoor hotel lobby, painted yellow - not bright nice yellow but sick yellow, 80's airport carpet, dust covered fake trees and greenery everywhere and it all covered by cotton batting to look like snow! The whole place looks like Christmas threw up.

Why am I looking at hideous Christmas decorations you ask? Well, it was Day 1 of Tax Class today. Whoo hooo!! I cannot tell you how much I hate these classes. Most of the informations is irrelevant to me, you have to sit all day, get up early, and eat about 1000 calories of awful hotel banquet food. This class I am taking with my parents so at least I get to spend the day with them. But half way through today (which started with a 2 hour lecture by a lawyer on depreciation) I realized that this was the worst class I have taken. At the end of the day my mom, who has been a CPA for a million years and taken a ton of these classes turned to me and said, "that was the worst class I have ever taken". And we have to go back tomorrow. Ick. I miss my babies.