Passionate Doesn't Even Begin to Cover It

For the record, what I should be doing right now is...
-Working on our taxes
-Working on my talk for the retreat
-Cleaning my house
-Doing the Laundry
-Napping (for the sake of the baby, of course!)

All things I should be doing, but instead I'm going to take 30 minutes to write this little post because my blood pressure has not quite lowered itself yet from the events of last night and I feel the need to elaborate here in blog land.  Don't worry, no politics here.  I don't have the ambition or the stupidity to tackle that subject, especially in light of the State of the Union Address last night.  No, no, this is much lighter...sort of.  Consider this my "Ode to the Iowa Hawkeyes" and/or a well-deserved tribute to my Dad.
I'm going to throw conventional writing methods out the window and give you the bottom line up front.  I am a die hard Iowa Hawkeye fan.  Like born and raised and proud to be a Hawkeye for life, kind of fan.  It's in my blood, it's part of my entire childhood (and now adulthood) and it's a gift passed down from my Dad.  I didn't go to Iowa (because they didn't have a program in my major) but I was born and raised there.  I actually went to the University of Northern Iowa (Go Panthers!!) but I will always, always, always be an Iowa fan first.  Always.  There are a few reasons why that's true, but before I even explain I have to also tell you a great story about my Dad.

I am the oldest of 3 girls in our family.  From my earliest memory of this conversation, I have always known exactly how my Dad felt about having 3 daughters.  Proud.  And extremely happy about it.  Never once have I heard my Dad say he wished we'd had a boy in our family or that he wanted to keep trying until he got one.  In fact, we frequently heard the exact opposite message from him.  He went out of his way to tell us and make sure we knew that he didn't need a boy, God gave him 3 girls and he was more than blessed.  In fact, it used to make my Dad so mad (and still does) when people would say to him, "Wow, 3 girls, too bad you didn't get that boy, huh?"  I can't tell you how many times I heard that line from someone, then watched my Dad control his anger about it while saying something like, "Nope, that's not how I feel about it.  I love my girls and I wouldn't trade em for anything" until they walked away when he'd turn to us and say, "What a dumb thing to say.  We don't need any boys around here, do we girls??" We'd laugh when we were little, but the older we got the more we understood just how much our Dad loved us.  As an adult woman now, with a daughter and a son, I certainly have nothing against boys!  I married one, I've given birth to one and of course I was raised by a great one!  But I see the unbelievable fruit of being raised in a home, particularly by a Father, who not only affirmed his love for his girls, but regularly defended his satisfaction with us too.  Working with teenagers and coming across so many girls who are aching for that kind of love makes me appreciate all the more the gift my Dad gave us.  He raised 3 secure and confident (not perfect) daughters who didn't have gaping holes that needed to be filled by running from man to man.  That is a HUGE blessing and I thank God and my Dad for it.
Now here is what I think is so great.  My Dad has always loved sports.  He played them growing up, he met my Mom largely due to backyard basketball games with his buddies and we grew up watching college/professional games, listening to them on the radio or even watching him play in various church leagues.  Many people (who really weren't trying to be rude I'm sure) lobbed that comment about my Dad missing a son to him, mostly because they saw how athletic my Dad was how much he loved sports and they assumed with 3 girls he'd never get to experience that.  But God has an incredible sense of humor!  I think because my Dad never excluded us from that side of him, but always invited us into his love for sports, he raised 3 girls who played sports and love sports!  Sports of all kinds, mind you.  He coached all three of us for four seasons of High School golf and when I was younger, it bugged him that there was no real program for young girls to learn the game of basketball (there weren't city leagues or club teams back then, maybe a class at the local YMCA) so he and a couple of his friends started a Saturday morning clinic for my friends and classmates when we were in 4th or 5th grade.  They taught us all the fundamentals of the game and do you know that my friends and I ended up having a pretty incredible run through junior high when we were undefeated, and into high school where we played on the Varsity team as freshmen and went on to win conference titles and break/make new school records too??  Don't think my Dad didn't have something to do with that.  He also did the same thing for my sisters and their friends, always encouraging us to compete and play hard and do our best at the sports we loved.  We went to a small Christian school and we could play many sports so we were all three busy from season to season, playing something year round.  He invested so much time in us and again, never was it so that he could live vicariously through us or at the expense of what was best for us.  He was encouraging and not critical.  He was supportive and not overbearing.  He was always there for every game and never considered our events to be unimportant.  Obviously you can imagine the memories and the qualities that instilled in my sisters and I.  And for the record, even though we are long out of high school, my Dad is still coaching high school golf and he's just started a Saturday basketball clinic for young girls at the school he coaches for, to teach them the fundamentals of the game too!  Sports are in his blood!
Today we are all adults, with families of our own and age that is only increasing.  We don't play too many sports together anymore, aside from a round of golf here or there, but we do watch sports and cheer for our teams, religiously.  We are all Iowa fans and raised to be Packer fans, but with the addition of husbands in the mix, things have gotten interesting!  I married a Cowboys fan, Stacie married a now-turned Packer fan, and Jennie married a Bears fan.  Football season is fun and tense for all of us!  The one thing we agree on is that we are all NOT Vikings fans!!  Ha!  There is a good deal of good-natured ribbing that goes on between us, but mostly we can all just enjoy watching and following the NFL season together.  When it comes to college sports, most of are pretty passionate about the Hawkeyes, I think because all of us girls have inherited such a loyalty to them.  Stacie and I did not inherit my Dad's loyalty for the Cubs, we both don't care about baseball at all, but Jennie married a die-hard Cubs fan, so she and my Dad continue their bond over the boys of summer together, with my brother in law, Dave.  Stacie and I primarily have turned into the nuts who are crazy about college basketball, college football and the Packers.  Stacie (and her husband Jesse) trump us all in her love and knowledge about the Packers, but when it comes to college basketball, she and I are both pretty passionate about the Hawkeyes.
Before the Bears/Packers playoff game...a house divided!!!  
Which brings me to the reason for this post.  This year has been an incredible one for Iowa basketball.  When I was growing up we were a consistently top 25 team.  We always had a great basketball program.  For the last 7 years or so, we've struggled.  We could all three give you a long explanation of why (cough, cough *Steve Alford* cough, cough) but those are the old days and we are all happy to see them gone!  We are LOVING the ride this year, with a coach who has turned program back around and a deep team that is capable of making a great run into March this year.  (However I'm not happy with most of them after last night, but I'll get to that in a minute.)  Because we are enjoying our return to being nationally ranked again, my Dad and Stacie and I have kicked up our level of excitement and competitiveness, considerably.  We have been group texting through most of the games and at the mention of every article we read or rumor we hear.  We are crazy people.  Stacie and I have inherited my Dad's competitiveness and let me tell you, nothing gets the three of us more upset than losing or not playing up to our potential.  We are SO capable of beating every team this year and it KILLS us when we lose and especially when we shouldn't have.  I know there is probably a level of loyalty that is healthy and then there is there level where we find ourselves.  We are SO into this season and holding out big hopes for our Hawks, which is why a loss to Michigan State last night about killed the three of us.  Like seriously, we all probably lost sleep over it!  We were texting like mad through the whole game and into overtime, OVERTIME, which was just incredibly intense.  We SHOULD HAVE WON THAT GAME!!!  But missed free throws, missed lay-ups, and some mental mistakes were our downfall.  It was painful.  And we'd all like a word with Coach McCaffery about why a certain player (OLASENI) isn't playing more????  Seriously, Fran...I'm a fan of yours, really...but get him on the floor before I blow a gasket!!!!  We need him out there more AND I have plenty of other thoughts to share, should you be interested in those too!!!  Call me??  
Ok, now I know what you're thinking, "Good grief Stephanie, it's just basketball!  You need to relax!"  And yeah, yeah, maybe...  But as I said to Trav last night, "Imagine if I was one of those women who didn't care about sports at all and totally never understood or got stressed out watching a college basketball game?"  He immediately died laughing and shot back, "Well that's definitely NOT you!"  I am who I am people, but now you know a little bit more about why.  I know sports are not everybody's thing and lots of people bond with their Dads over other things, but for me and for our family, this is our deal and Iowa is our team.  We know the thrill of victory and we can attest to the agony of defeat!  It will take us all a little time to move past last night, but we will.  And come Feb 1, we'll be texting like fools again, cheering our hearts out and generally raising our blood pressure to dangerous levels for two hours.  And do you know what tickles me??? That same love for the Hawkeyes that my Dad instilled in me?  Now my kids are catching it too.  They were right with me through the game last night, yelling and covering their eyes and chanting "GO HAWKS!!" until the bitter end.  When my sister was here we laughed our heads off because she said to Ava, "Do you know what nervous means Ava?  What makes you nervous?"  Without skipping a beat Ava chimed in with, "YES!  Like when the Hawks lose, that makes me really nervous!"  Amen sista!!!!  I have done my duty here.  I am passing that torch, just like my Dad did with me!  And by the way, I should also mention lest you think my Mom is a passive bystander, she did marry my Dad and she can hold her own when it comes to knowledge and support for both the Packers and the Hawkeyes!  She's no pushover in the world of sports!  She also sat through every single game of ours and drove us all over creation to attend practices, camps, and games.  As much as my Dad supported us, so did my Mom.  They both sacrificed a lot for all of us and I am equally grateful for my Mom's role in my life.

We went to an Iowa game on New Year's Eve this year...My dad, my sister Stacie, Travis and I.  It was SO MUCH FUN and I'm so glad we did it because all the games are sold out for the rest of the year!  It  brought back so many memories to be there with my Dad again and to eat one of their famous twist cones, I was craving one BIG time!   We had a ball and we will be back next year, this time with our kids in tow. It's only a game, yes, I know.  But I've got a lifetime of memories and Dad that shared his passions with me, and I intend to do the same with my own kids.  They will be allowed to like who they like when it comes to college/professional teams, but they will never grow up not knowing which team their Mom loves!!  Or their Dad!!  I support his Cowboys because I love him, but don't even get me started on what a disaster his team and Jerry Jones are.  Talk about painful!!
So there you have it friends, when you see my crazed tweets from now on after an Iowa win or loss, now you'll know the level of fanatic I really am and what makes my heart tick come Fall and Winter. It's a really good thing I'm not due to have this baby until the summer because I'm sure March Madness will surely be near, labor-inducing for me!

Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to grill my kids on the latest stats of the Iowa players and see if they've memorized the fight song yet??  HA HA, I kid, I kid!!  Really, I need to go tackle 10 loads of laundry and get a Cubbies verse memorized with Ava :) Happy Wednesday, friends!  And to all you sports fans out there, here's to a win from your favorite team this week...Unless they are playing Iowa, then look out!!  And GO HAWKS!!!


10 Things on a Monday


7. 8.

Ten Things on this Monday...
1. My kids are watching The Emperor's New Groove today, a first for them.  Why? 

2. It's another No School day for us, due to another plunge into the Arctic.  Oh my. There is only so much to say about this. I'm actually kind of tired of the extremes, even talking about it.  And I know it's not just here, it's all over the country.  So wild.  Here, it's 2:00 pm in the afternoon and it feels like -29 with tons of sunshine.  This winter is proving to be the longest and coldest ever.  And we haven't even hit February yet.  Someone hold me.  

3. College Basketball.  I CANNOT get enough this year, particularly because IOWA is having such a great season but also there are so many other fun teams to watch in the BIG10!!  The rankings are changing constantly because every week someone goes down, but I have to say in this cold weather all these games are the perfect distraction.  My sister Stacie, my Dad and I have a new thing going this year, we are the Iowa fan junkies in the family and we've been live group texting through most of the games.  Super fun!  The kids are even into it, Ava spontaneously broke out her Iowa cheerleading outfit the other day when she spotted the Hawks on TV and Carter came running out with his big foam finger to cheer too!  I've never been so proud.  You know, in a college sports fan context :) 

4. & 5. And speaking of dress up, my kiddos have invented a new "activity" around here.  They love to pretend they are ice skating and that usually involves emptying the baskets of hats, scarves, and gloves while picking some boots to glide across the kitchen floor with.  I believe they got the idea from a Mickey Mouse episode featuring a skating Minnie, but they think it's so funny on this particular night I got a kick out of their style choices.  They've been real troopers with all this indoor playing and our limited space.  I'm proud of them and thankful for their creativity and imaginations.  That's not to say we don't all reach a cabin fever freak-out every now and then!  But mostly they are being really good sports and I have given them lots of free reign to play all over the house with just about anything that isn't valuable or dangerous.  

6. 17 weeks on Friday and this baby is really making an appearance now!  I'm enjoying my new profile, although this is the week that I've realized a whole new crop of clothing no longer fits.  Maybe because it's winter and because this is #3 for me, but I just don't want to buy a lot of maternity clothes again. However since I do have to leave the house occasionally, I am going to be forced to pick up a few things soon.  Pants in particular.  Some of my favorite leggings are just too tight around the waist now and now some of my shirts are too short.  I've got plenty of maternity clothes to dig through but some holes here and there.  Off to some stores this week I suppose. 

7. Most of my time, and the biggest reason I haven't been blogging lately is because of a Women's Retreat coming up in 2 weeks with our Church.  I'm excited about it but I'm also honored to be teaching one of the sessions on Chp. 3 of Colossians.  It's humbling and a big responsibility, but I'm grateful for the opportunity and looking forward to it.  I've been reading and studying Colossians for months and months but now I'm in the final stages of getting my talk together and doing lots of editing.  I enjoy this part of it but it's also the part that gives me the most pause.  Just want to be so careful to share what the Lord wants to say through me, not just what I think.  Anyway, it's going to be a great weekend and I can't wait!  But I'm definitely logging the hours right now and spending tons of time at my desk.  I like to reward myself with warm drinks in my favorite mugs and chocolate.  Lots of chocolate! 

8. I keep giggling as I look through photos like these that keep appearing on my phone.  Ava is into this app I downloaded for her called "Princess Pet Salon" or something like that.  She LOVES to play it when I'll let her and every time she does, I have 20 new photos of smiling princesses with their corresponding pets decked out in bows and ribbons and curls.  She thinks it's amazing! I think it's a great reward when she needs a little pick-me-up but I'm getting sick of deleting pics like this one! 

9. I got a craving for granola the other day, specifically the kind that we eat at our Junior High Summer camp.  The gal who runs the kitchen makes it from scratch and it is one of their things they are known for.  It's delicious and I have her cookbook, so I pulled it out the other night and made a batch.  I also have a great recipe from my Mom, but this one is a little different and I love it too.  It's very heavy on cinnamon and it makes an incredible topping on applesauce and vanilla ice-cream!  We also love it on yogurt or just with milk but Trav and I can't get enough of it right now.  I keep snacking on it sprinkled over applesauce, seriously, it's the most amazing flavor combo!  You can find the recipe here, on her daughter-in-law's blog.  It's so good!  And easy!  
I'm too lazy to write it out, but I promise it would be worth your effort! 

10.  Two addictions of mine.  Right now I am consumed with knowing if this baby is a girl or a boy and then daydreaming about what his/her name will be!  We have about 2.5 weeks to go before we can find out and I'm barely going to make it.  I cannot wait!  Yes, we will find out and share the gender, although I'm not sure if we'll share our name this time.  We don't have them officially declared yet, but we have it sort of narrowed down, we'll see what happens after the ultrasound :) 

My other addiction? If I have one naughty craving right now it's a glazed donut with chocolate icing.  I don't really have a donut shop close to me, which is God's grace to me, but if I did I would be getting one daily.  They sound amazing to me every day of the week and at all times of the day.  I like to indulge on a Sunday morning because our Cafe at Church sells them and occasionally I grab some at Target.  I'm trying to be so good, but oh my word...a donut and a cold glass of milk.  THAT is what I'm craving!  

Happy Monday, friends.  Wherever you live, stay warm!!!  


Friday Night Musings

I bought some tulips yesterday.  It's very white outside, bitter cold, and there is no end in sight.  I just couldn't help myself when I walked in Trader Joe's.  They begged me to take them home with me and seeing as how I desperately needed to remind myself that one day spring WILL come, I happily forked over $4.99 in exchange for their beauty.  
 And they didn't disappoint.  
Oh my, are we desperate for some color in our world.  I know the whole country is experiencing crazy temps and more snow than anyone knows what to do with, but while it's likely a fluke where you might live, we've got months and months to go.  All this winter fun is just beginning for us! Tis' quite cold yet, but this is my favorite time of the year to have fresh flowers in our house.  We just need some life and beauty to invade our snow globe world, you know? It's amazing how tulips do the trick! 
 We've been trying to keep ourselves busy at home, only heading out when we need to or when we get these crazy, temporary spikes in temperatures.  Yesterday it was so cold that schools cancelled around here, which is apparently a new policy this year, but then today we warmed up to 30 degrees again.  So weird!  When it's cold like this I get itchy to create things.  This is the time of year I do lots of cooking, lots of trying new recipes, lots of baking.  I haven't done as much this year, because I just don't have the energy, but looking at our forecast and knowing we will be hunkered down for awhile has me flipping through some of my favorite cookbooks, old and new.  
 For Christmas my sisters and I all got Rhee's new Holiday cookbook and I have many things flagged in it to try.  With this pregnancy I am craving lots of fresh fruits & veggies and all things Tex-Mex.  I'm also loving stir-fry, rice, chicken and salads, which is quite a departure from my usual winter menu of soups, stews, casseroles and crock-pot dishes.  As you can see I also have a healthy appetite for chocolate!  My plan this weekend is to come up with a couple of weekly menus to rotate in the coming months.  Lately my pregnancy brain has done me no favors when it comes to remembering things and therefore going to the grocery store, or trying to come up with meals on the fly, has proven to be hilarious.  And also, not helpful.  So I'm trying to remedy that with some menus that require no thinking and curling up with a stack of my favorite cookbooks.  Sounds like a great Friday night to me!
 Lately we've been doing all kinds of things to keep the boredom from kicking in...pulling out old books, new books, ebooks, and whatever else we can think of.  
 I rearranged some of the kids' playroom recently and declared that we have way too many books.  At least way too many that we don't read on a regular basis.  Trucks and princesses are our typical M.O., imagine that  :)  
 Ava and I have been fully embracing the opportunity to lounge around in some odd clothing choices.  Mine mostly due to pregnancy and waves of hot flashes, Ava's due to her desire to change every 30 minutes based on the make believe scenario she's currently living out.  
I've never been more thankful for a daughter who loves make believe and is content for hours to just play and play.  I swear she could entertain herself with a paper clip and a rock and somehow turn it into a princess story-line.  She's giving all of her dolls and play sets a real work out this winter and this Mama is grateful! 
 A few weeks ago I was at Homegoods with my sister and spotted a few clearance pillows that I decided to bring home to brighten things up on our bed.  I took these pictures knowing I would be playing with everything for awhile until I got it just how I want it.  
The shams were in a 2 pack for $8 and the yellow throw pillow, also $8.  Steals!  The coral throw was not on sale but I loved the pop of color.  Unfortunately when I got it home and on our bed I spotted a big snag in the weave that couldn't be fixed.  Totally a bummer but it just wasn't going to bode well with kids around, so I returned it today.  Not sure if I'll replace it or not, I really wanted to find something in that color again but they had nothing like it.  
I've already ditched the white shams in the back and the silk pillow in the front, but I really do love the mix of browns and indigo with the yellows.  I was digging the brown, white and blue thing for awhile but I just needed some color to make up for the endless days of grey skies.  
For $16 it felt like a win/win!  

This is what winter does to me.  I cook, I rearrange things, I rotate toys, I nest, I change up color schemes.  I don't know, it's a character flaw. I can't sit still and I need projects when it's cold out.  After I get through a big commitment on my calendar in a few weeks, I moving on to Carter's Baby Book.  You know, the one I haven't even started??  Suddenly the pending arrival of another child makes me a little more motivated to actually get something together for Carter before I turn him into a true middle child who thinks he's invisible :)  To be clear, I also do all the responsible things like cook, clean, do the laundry, pay the bills and drive the kids here, there and everywhere but if I don't HAVE to be doing those things than I'm giving those creative muscles a workout.  

Desperate times here, desperate know?  It's good I'm pregnant this winter or else I'd be tackling some other projects that are much bigger.   

What about you?  What are your winter survival tips?    


Missing This...

He's not a "this" but I miss him.  He's on a ski trip and I've been holding the fort down.  It's all good and the end is almost here, but I've watched college basketball and the NFL all weekend without my favorite viewing partner and even when I long for silence around here, it's never without him.  I'm ready for him to be home! 
 Not to mention the single parenting part of this.  I realllllllly miss having the help.  It's not that I can't do it, it's that I enjoy it so much more when we do it together.  
I've been feeling a little emotional lately about the old days of just the two of us.  While I would never want to go back to life without our kids, there are things I miss about our freedom!  Ha!  Lately I keep thinking about the days, weekends mostly, when we would just take off and pick a new restaurant, linger at a coffee shop, drive to a new part of town and's not so much what we were doing but just being together and having the freedom to do whatever we wanted...yep, I miss that.  To be clear, we can still do whatever we want, it's just at the expense of our sanity with kids in tow or our bank account from getting babysitters!  I know it's totally a stage, one day those freedoms will come back to us and then we'll probably long for the days we're in now, but sometimes when I think of adding another baby I try not to think about the years we're adding before we're free again!  Ha!   
 Also, I'm missing this...a cross country road-trip with our sweet little brood.  We're coming up on almost a year from when we had the privilege of Travis' sabbatical from our Church.  We spent over a month away from home, resting and refreshing and just being together, weeks of it in Florida.  I think back on that trip so often, remembering how wonderful it was to take some time away and it gives me the itch to load up our car and explore again.  Who would have thought a long trip with little kids would be so fun?  I definitely married an adventure seeker and usually I'm the voice of reason (read: the realist) between us, but he's won me over in this department. We have taken some great road-trips these last few years and the best part has just been the time we've had as a family, just the four of us.  I love the idea of getting away but with an infant in our future, it will be a while before we're up for that again, and that's ok.  
Even dreaming about it right now makes me happy... 
 As the winter looms on and we get ready for another "polar plunge" this week, tonight I'm missing the beach!  And the hot sun!  And sand under our feet!  And the ocean!  And color in our world! 
 I can say this because we actually lived in Florida for awhile, but really everything is better at the beach! 
I miss Disney World!  Yes I, the adult woman, miss being at "The Happiest Place on Earth" with my little Disney loving kids.  Almost daily our visit there comes up in some form.  Both of our kids loved it and they look at our photo album all the time, remembering the things we did and all the characters they got to meet.  We will definitely be planning a return trip and every one of us could tell you what our favorite things to do would be.  Can you tell how much an escape from reality thrills me??  There is probably something deeper there but truly there is nothing like seeing your kids light up and get swept up in all the "magic" of childhood.  So fun.  Wishing we were heading back this Spring! 
I miss the days of not wearing a coat! Sweatshirt weather is my very favorite time of the year. It's really cold here again and already I'm sick of the boots, hat, gloves, parka routine that is required every time we leave the house.  I might actually burst into tears on the day that my kids can get in the car and buckle their own selves in.  Like seriously there will tears of joy.  Winter and allllllllllllll the gear is a pain when you're an adult.  Even more so when you have multiple little kids.  Again, I'm about to go back to square one...deep breath!  
Did I mention that I miss him??  
I'm going a little stir crazy I think, but lately I've just been really, really thankful for the gift of a great husband.  I am impacted daily by his kindness and patience and godliness, not to mention his amazing ability to make me laugh.  To be fair, I'm also impacted by the fact that we are totally different in almost every way, which causes many moments of tension, but everything I thought I wanted in a husband someday...The Lord gave me all that I prayed for and then some.  We have good days and bad ones too, seasons of marriage that are smooth and seasons that require tons of work and sacrifice for the other.  We're both sinners saved by grace, trying to love the Lord and stay faithful to Him and to each other.  We've probably both got a list of disappointments and things we didn't anticipate facing, but that's life.  And I wouldn't want to face it with anyone but Travis!  I pray often that God would grant us many years to enjoy this life together.  I know the one thing that holds us together actually has nothing to do with's Jesus and our individual commitments to Him.  He is the glue we need and rely on and He gives us everything we need to stay married.  

So yeah, I'm missing a few things tonight, but I'm also going to bed with a full heart and more blessings than I could possibly count.  In fact, the entire time I've been writing this post a certain little someone has been constantly moving and fluttering inside me, reminding me of yet another gift we have to look forward to this year.  Road trips, Disney World visits and the freedom to hit a great restaurant will come and go but the daily gift of a husband and kids are priceless treasures and I'd be a fool to overlook them in search for something else I miss.  I think that's the trick right?  Not living from one event to the next but refusing to miss the gifts from God in our everyday life.  

So if you'll excuse me, I've got a few sleeping kiddos to go kiss and thankfully my favorite person to kiss is on his way home now.  
Good night blog world...if you need me I'll be dreaming of mickey mouse and the beach, while listening to the ocean waves app on my phone!  Happy Monday night...


Cozy Christmas at Home

For a few years now we've decided to have our own little Christmas, just the four of us, before we head out of town to be with family.  For a couple of reasons it's very fun, our kids certainly never balk at the idea of opening their gifts early and we love not having to drag a bunch of presents with us out of town.  But also, it's just a sweet and quiet time for the four of us, five next year, to be together and for Trav and I to enjoy watching them open the gifts we chose for them.  I believe we started this little tradition when Ava was almost two and Carter was an infant, and we were hit with a series of snowstorms that were keeping us homebound and a little stir crazy.  One particular weekend we just looked at each other and knew we needed something new to distract us all.  We had a play kitchen stored in the garage, that we bought for Ava and were planning to give her on Christmas day, but that night we broke all the rules and brought it out for her, unwrapped and all.  She loved it, we got a big kick out of watching her play with it and it kept her entertained for days on end.  After that, we adopted the early Christmas idea as a way to spread out the gifts and make some sweet family memories.  
I usually do a Christmas tour of our house every year, mostly so I can have it to look back on, but this year I didn't have the energy to get it together.  I kept things extra simple, not pulling out everything I usually do but just going with the things we love and things that were easy to put out and take down later.  
 I really wanted to incorporate more navy into my classic red and green, but I never felt good enough to do any shopping or to find what I was looking for, beyond the pillows I always have on my couch.  I will be on the lookout for next year though!  
We put the baby's stocking out this year, mostly just to make us smile at the thought of another person in our home next year.  I loved looking at 3 stockings and I'm so glad we'll get to hang that same stocking that both Ava and Carter used for their first Christmases. 
 I didn't get very crafty this year and I didn't even put any fresh greens out. I just mixed a few Christmas things with my normal everyday stuff and called it good. 
But I did want to tackle one teeny, tiny crafty thing because even when I was sick around the clock, I couldn't stand to not do anything :) In my mind, I really wanted these balls to be a cool, navy plaid but again, I never could find it anywhere I looked.  One day at Costco I spotted this blue ribbon and decided to bring it home and see what I could come up with.  
 I sort of made it up with some pearl pins out of my florist's tool box but I liked the way it turned out.  They serve no functional purpose whatsoever but they did help tie some navy in and they were kind of a fun addition.  
 Picture that bowl full of fresh greens and berries with some of these tucked in and around it.  
It was a work in progress this year but that's ok, I have some vision for next year! 
A few nights before we were headed to Iowa, we put the kids in the bath and while they were in there I pulled out all of their presents to surprise them.  We definitely were not in a stage of life this year where we could leave wrapped presents under the tree for weeks at a time. Mostly for the purpose of our sanity and not wanting to answer the "is it time to open presents?" question every 10 seconds.  With all of our family living out of state, December is an exciting month for our kids and the constant deliveries from the UPS man and Fed-Ex guy.  I'd been stashing the deliveries from the grandparents and aunts and uncles for a while, so I pulled them out and wrapped them for the kids to open along with ours. 
When they got out of the bath and came into the living room, there were plenty of squeals and looks of delight on their clean, little faces! 
 This year they could both read their own names so it was a fun few minutes watching them read the labels and get excited every time they found their name.
 We got them to make their piles, turned on the video camera and then turned them loose! 
 Carty went for his biggest gift right away and the only thing he's been asking us for, for months!  
And what is that you might ask? A green garbage man  :)  I am the most well-versed Mama on the toy garbage truck market.  Thankfully he was smitten immediately!  
 I had a feeling he was also going to like the other things coming his way!
 And this little cutie has been very specific and consistent with the gifts she desired.  Ariel is her favorite princess of all time and yes, she already has 2 of them but her beloved doll with the mermaid tail broke a few months ago and she was broken hearted about it.  In one of my prouder Mom moments I did not give in and immediately rush her to the mall for a new one, but I helped her fix the old one with tape and told her that Christmas would be good time to ask for a new one.  She's played with that broken-tailed Ariel for months but has never forgotten my suggestion.  I was so happy to buy this for her and reward her patience.  She was THRILLED that we remembered and loves her new Ariel with the slip on mermaid tail that can't break  :) 
 She also scored the Frozen sisters!  
 She's pretty easy to shop for, this one.  Some new princess dolls to play with and this girl is good to go! 
 We dubbed this year the "Year of the Vehicle" for Carty. He basically received a fleet of things that make noise and light up between all of us and he was pretty happy about it.  
 Every year it seems that I have a major lapse in judgement when it comes to 1 present.  A few years ago I bought Ava a musical lawnmower that was actually one of those horrible popper toys.  I thought I tested it in the store for an annoyance factor but clearly I didn't do my homework.  It was annoying in epic proportions.  It's still hidden in the corner of our laundry room because we hate it so much and I am the one who bought it!  Last year I bought Carter a bike on Zulily that said it was perfect for his age.  Well I should have measured him to double check the height because even now, one year later, it STILL doesn't fit him!  He's still too short for it and it has become the bike that hasn't seen a minute of action.  I never would have dreamed that would be the case, esp since Carter is extremely tall for his age!  Crazy.  Major Mom fail on that one.   

This year I was determined not to make a bad choice but as Christmas got closer and I examined the gifts I'd already picked up, I panicked and felt like Carter was short one gift in comparison to Ava.  Of course Moms cannot handle feeling like one kid got the short end of the stick, right??  I made a last minute, quick trip to the store and in one of my weak-willed moments, I convinced myself that a play-dough ice-cream factory would be a good idea.  
 Well I was right and so horribly wrong too!  My kids LOVE play-dough and they couldn't wait to get that box open!  But the part I conveniently ignored is that I HATE play-dough and I'm always the one that gets stuck with the aftermath of the mess.  What was I thinking??
 The next morning while Trav went to work and I got us all packed up, these two sat for an entire hour at the kitchen table, happily playing with their new ice-cream factory...mixing colors of play-dough and dropping tiny pieces of play-dough all over the floor.  Two things that make me crazy.  
But look at those little faces, how could I deny them their play-dough joy??  

We had a great night together and we tucked away one surprise gift for each of them to bring to my parents for Christmas morning.  I love this age and I love how thrilling Christmas is to them.  I'm so glad we have continued this tradition and I can't wait for next year when we've got a third little face smiling back at us, completely clueless about everything!  You can bet I won't be purchasing a lawn-mower popper, a bike from the internet, or a play-dough factory for this baby :)