Friday, December 30, 2011

The Big Day

I've done a plenty of thinking about gift giving and receiving this holiday season and I've come to the conclusion that I kind of pretty much suck at giving gifts. Brent has returned or exchanged almost every single present I have ever bought for him and even though I do get it right from time to time (how can you go wrong with beer?), the stress of trying to find his present puts me in a grinchy sort of mood.

So this year we decided not to give each other anything. And that was that. For a second I worried that the kids would interpret our lack of presents as confirmation of our naughtiness, but those greedy little guttersnipes didn't even notice anything but their own presents.

We did, of course, still want to give something to our families and since we were not organized enough to order photo books online in time for Christmas, we found ourselves going all old school and actually printing actual pictures to glue into an actual photo album. Quaint, no?

But the thing is, it was really fun to go through all of our pictures to select the highlights from the year and even more fun to see our digital images printed out on photo paper. And the arranging and gluing into the albums was time consuming but also a cool project that Jack could help with.

And I couldn't help noticing how many adventures these kids have had over the last year, how much they have grown and changed, and how genuinely happy they seem to be.

The week leading up to Christmas was a flurry of last minute playdate and dinner invitations from friends, late night gift making sessions fueled by peppermint bark, and lots and lots of time in the kitchen. At last I hollered 'nough and declared that even though there were still several sewing projects left unfinished on my sewing table, I was DONE.

And then suddenly it was Christmas.

It began with an evening of fondue, countless glasses of wine, veggie tart, crab cakes, Gelato, Christmas hats, an escape to the hot tub, and an impropmtu family jam session with Doug and Nick on guitar, Sawyer on the piano, and Jack playing the slinky.

Christmas morning came late (can you believe the kids slept in until 9?!) and we sat around sipping coffee as they dove into their bounty of gifts. Remember that balance I was talking about? I think we nailed it.

I owe you a picture of the finished play kitchen. Sawyer managed to break one of the doors off within 24 hours of play kitchen ownership. He also drained his weed whacker's batteries on Christmas day. Whatever.

After our cinnamon roll breakfast, we loaded up the car and drove to Tracie and Frank's house to have Christmas dinner with Brent's family.

Have you ever had homemade canneloni before? I am at a loss to explain this dinner... words cannot... I mean, I am DROOLING on the keyboard just thinking about this... and I simply won't be able to do this meal justice no matter how many culinary descriptors I employ, but I will tell you this: I will replicate this amazing dish or die trying. Or maybe just become morbidly obese trying. Either way, Imma make me some of these cannelonis ASAP!

(I learned the secret to red sauce. The secret! From a real Italian passed down from generations of other real Italians! And now I'm going to tell YOU the secret! (Frank, can I tell the secret?) The secret is... use a cast iron pot! Yup, that's it. The secret. And now you know. You're welcome.)

(There is some scientific explanation for why the cast iron pot is so important and it has something to do with the acidity of tomatoes and iron and blah blah blah. Who freaking cares? These cannelonis will make you squeal with delight!)

Our final festive destination was my aunt Jacie's house where we were greeted by a crowd of family and treated to Deinema family cocktails and dinner. While the kids ran amok and played with their new toys, we caught up with grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles and stretched that Christmas merriment for one more evening. And then kids got sleepy and were sent home to bed and I sat by the fire with a glass of wine and some of my favorite people and got a personalized knitting lesson that resulted in a little blue hat that some poor baby will someday be forced to wear.

Some families pass down canneloni recipes. In my family you get knitting lessons, which is just as awesome if you ask me.

And I would love to tell you that these many gourmet meals and hours of leisure spent with family were the best Christmas present I could ever receive. But that wouldn't be entirely true. Getting a new laptop from Santa was pretty sweet, too.

And finally: Kids in the hot tub. Because screw bedtime! Let's milk this holiday thing for all it's worth.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ready for Christmas

So I was somehow miraculously able to send out many, many Christmas greetings far and wide and we were the recipients of many, many cards in return, so thank you all for making my kids' Christmas just a little more Christmas-y.

The advent calendar has proven to be a major pain in the ass. Bah humbug! (But it did turn out pretty cute, didn't it? Okay, maybe all of that felt cutting was worth it. Maybe?) (I am clearly fishing for reassurance here, people. REASSURE ME!) (Also, totally not done with the last two mittens yet. I think I lost my mojo around day 16.)

I had to unearth my sewing machine from a growing pile of unfinished projects in order to even start making the Christmas swag. This meant that I finally finished Sawyer's robe which had been sitting idle for oh, say 6 or so months. But I love how it turned out and if he would have been willing to model it for the camera I might have a better picture than this.

Speaking of pictures, I thought you might enjoy seeing the Christmas card photo outtakes. It was a lot like dressing up and photographing kittens.

You comb our hair, dress us in sweaters, make us sit this close together and THEN you expect us to smile?
Think fast, sucka!

This is what happens when your parents are too cheap to take you to the mall Santa and you happen upon the old guy in front of Bi-Mart. We are not even teenagers yet and our parents are already SO LAME.

Change of venue. So far so good.

Cute. A bit off center, but this seems promising.

Oh yeah. That's what I'm talking about. Christmas cards here we come!

Oooh lights.

The one.

As you can see, we opted for the one photo that truly captures Sawyer's effervescent personality. That kid is something else.

He is almost three (SOB!) and I keep catching myself expecting him to actually start acting like a three-year-old. I think I give him too much credit. This kid is clearly still a terrible two. Last week I decided to forgo our usual method of restraining Sawyer in the booster chair while I showered. Brent and Jack were out walking the dog and I left Sawyer building with blocks in the playroom and hopped into the shower. About a minute later as I lathered my hair I heard the cry. You know the one? The cry that makes you leap from the shower and sprint naked down the hallway to investigate? What I found were big splatters of blood and Sawyer scared silent by the pulsating bleeding of his hands. I grabbed a towel and held his hands tightly, cradling him in my cold, wet lap and all the while trying to keep my tunnel vision at bay. So. Much. Blood. After several attempts I was able to piece together a confession that he had scaled my sewing machine table and captured a most prized and forbidden object: the rotary fabric cutter. I guess we will never know exactly how he managed to slice up BOTH his hands with the thing, but one thing is for sure: those rotary cutters are razor sharp and those tiny cuts bled for a long, long time. I was expecting to see some real carnage after I got the bleeding to stop, but after all the blood was gone it looked like nothing more than a few paper cuts.

(And then we were out of bandaids. Naturally.)

But he is very sweet when he cuddles up on the couch to read Christmas books to his stuffed animals.
Meanwhile Jack had busied himself in the kitchen working on some project which involved hauling various materials from the art closet and hitting us up for dollar bills.

Pretty good forgery for a four year old. Perhaps a career in counterfeiting is in the cards for Jack?

I think I am done with the Christmas sewing and crafting and late night session holed up in the playroom with a stockpile of Sierra Nevada Celebration and homemade chocolates. The Christmas eve jammies are finally done, finished at the last minute no thanks to my summer self who thought she'd get "ahead" and buy the fabric in June only to let it sit in the garage until December 20th. Ha.

I fell in love with the idea of felt cookies to accompany Sawyer's play kitchen and drooled over this tutorial for a good old while before I finally busted them out the other night. They are super easy and really fun, even if you detest cutting felt AND loathe embroidery.

And now I finally feel ready.

Ready to have cocktail hour playdates with my neighbor.

Ready to walk on the wild side by letting Sawyer help us make peppermint bark this year.

Ready to have four different holiday dinners in four different places.

Ready to see if Grandma wants to babysit the kids overnight for New Years.

Ready to drink Irish coffees with Amberlee.

Ready to make fondue, cinnamon rolls, Buche de Noel cake, and spinach balls. I am forever losing the recipe for the spinach balls that my mom always made. Somehow, though, the recipe card always seems to reappear just in time for Christmas dinner. But just in case...

I'm not sure where this magical recipe came from, but I do know that's not my mom's writing because she knew how to spell the word "before." I'm just saying.

I'm also ready to haul myself out of a warm and cozy bed each morning to saddle up Lulu and run through the icy fog just so that I can pig out on peppermint bark later on in the day.

I'm ready to bring out all of the toys and treats and surprises we've been squirreling away and put them under the Christmas tree.

I'm ready to see my kids' faces when they see the things we have lovingly chosen or created for them. I'll be hoping that we've struck the elusive balance between Christmas magic and simplicity. And no, we did not buy the Lego Hogwarts for Jack because ultimately we decided that he will appreciate something like that when he is older and can understand the value of an extra special toy. We are not there yet. And so we bought a smaller (and much more reasonably priced) Harry Potter Lego set and I'm willing to bet he will be just as excited.

(Sawyer is getting a toy weed whacker. And if you have been paying attention and know anything about that kid, you realize that this is the perfect gift for him.)

And right now I am ready to grab another Celebration and finish off that effing advent calendar once and for all. 23 and 24 here I come!

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thanksgiving, Uncooperative Toilets, and the Moral Dilemma of Legos

Acknowledging that Thanksgiving decor is, like, so two weeks ago, I present you with my fall-themed leaf hangy thingy and then we move on.

When the kids and I embarked on our fall photo shoot I had a tiny seed in my brain planted by some online crafty tutorial I had seen long ago about using the leaves to create some sort of leafy garland to fill the decorating void between Halloween and Christmas. I think I am happy with how this turned out. One thing is for sure, I really hate cutting felt.

(Oh, and by the way, that felt mitten advent calendar that I told you about last time? We are cruising right along with that bad boy one mitten at a time, which I have realized is the true genius behind such an advent calendar because I didn't have to have it all done by December first. It's pretty much the slacker mom's approach to the advent calendar- just my style. After yet another failed attempt at cutting a decent 4, I guilt tripped Brent into using his superior fine motor skills to cut out those damn felt numbers for me. Again, I really hate cutting felt.)

But before we get too far into the Christmas merriment...


We made our second annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage to the beach. Unlike last year when I spent my time drinking late into each night with my long lost cousins and then waking up WAAAY to early with my chipper children, this year was all about the relaxation.

And matching man-buns. And troll dolls.

And training the future baristas of the world.

Drawing, music making, beer drinking.

Blankets, snuggling, and thumbsucking.

Crossword puzzles.

Sunny hikes along the Hobbit Trail.

The vast, open freedom of the beach.

And plenty of couch time.

I am realizing more and more that I have to actually be doing something in order to relax. Counterintuitive? Perhaps. But the need to keep my hands busy these days means that I can get a lot of knitting and sewing and crafting done. I lugged along a sewing machine, a big old pile of that cursed felt, a knitting project, and a basketful of Christmas gifts in progress. This was a good thing, as I quickly discovered that those advent calendar mittens weren't going to cut themselves.

So we all came home from the Thanksgiving weekend refreshed and relaxed and ready to tackle this Christmas holiday thang. And we had somehow, miraculously had the foresight to clean our house from top to bottom before we left and so our return to the homestead was downright peaceful.


A few nights later as I was getting the kids out of the bathtub and the water swirled down the drain, we heard a strange gurgling sound coming from the other bathroom. Brent (my brave cowboy) went to investigate and when he began to shout out some choice swear words with two big-eared little pitchers at his heels, I feared the worst. (You know what I'm talking about. RATS IN THE TOILET!)

This, however, was not a rodent problem. It was a plumbing problem, and a dire one at that. Toilet overflowing, Brent panicking, kids adding to the chaos by shrieking and seizing the opportunity to bounce on our bed, dog interpreting all of this as some sort of extremely exciting moment worthy of jumping up on everyone with the mistaken belief that all of this chaos is somehow leading up to a WALK or maybe even a RIDE IN THE CAR. And me? I was the calm voice of reason. Hard to believe, I know, but I was the one who calmly suggested that we TURN OFF THE WATER!

Turns out there was some sort of blockage (!?) immobilizing both toilets and the bathtub. What to do? We plunged, we consulted the internet, we plunged some more, we called our dads, and then we plunged again. We gave up and decided to call a plumber in the morning.

Except that wouldn't you know, suddenly EVERYBODY had to poop and certain somebodys are not able to understand concepts like THE TOLIET IS BROKEN! DO NOT POOP IN IT! And so there was some... uh... scooping of the toilet bowl and also some... uh... creative approaches to movement of the bowels, which I'll tell you about if you really want to know but suffice it to say you can never have too many extra plastic bags lying around your house. And that parenting is a filthy and disgusting business and even though they are your own kids it really doesn't make dealing with their poop any less unpleasant.

Before calling the plumber the next morning, Brent gave the toilet one last chance to cooperate and wouldn't you know it? Flush. Mystery blockage mysteriously cleared.

And I am simply left to wonder why the universe feels the need to fuck with us like that.

Anyway. I found Jack close to tears the other day and when I asked him what was wrong, he replied, "I don't think Santa will bring me any presents this year. I haven't been very good." Gah. Poor kid. He stressed out about this last year, too. I'm not sure where all of this guilt comes from, but it's very difficult to reassure him with a straight face, especially when he's just been on a time out for calling his brother stupid. Again with this parenting thing.

Another parenting dilemma we have recently encountered is that elusive balance between giving the right Christmas gift and spoiling your children rotten. Jack is a Lego kind of kid and has been coveting the Hogwarts Lego set for many months now. We usually stop to pay homage to it whenever we shop at Fred Meyer and he admires its many features while I wince in physical pain at the $139.99 price tag. It's not the money so much... well, okay it's that too, but it's really more the idea of buying my kid such an expensive gift. I mean, can we really set the bar this high at the age of four? Then again, I've heard that Legos are a worthy investment, and I have to admit that the Hogwarts castle is pretty dope, as far as Lego sets go.

Will an extravagant gift during the preschool years lead to a life of materialistic consumerism? Are Legos the gateway to Wall Street? Will my toilet continue to flush properly? And, will I ever get through those advent calendar mittens?

(PS: Haven't even STARTED the Christmas cards yet.)

Most wonderful time of the year.