Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Favorite: Christmas Activities

Our big family holiday is always special to me. Now that I have children, though, I wanted to pack even more into December. So, I made a list of memories and called them "Christmas surprises." Some nights it was even a surprise to me when we ended up doing one.  We had a blast! Here are a few from our list.

Get cute photos of the kids.  The Christmas card episode almost ruined this for me, but we had so many cute clothes for Alexandra that the opportunities were easy. Below is the onesie Aunt Lisa bought her that says, "My Auntie Knows Santa." I stuck her in the tutu and in a leopard chair so that years from now she can say, "Ma--aaawm! I can't believe you put me in that skirt. And your chair was ugly." But for now, she's happy.

Make fudge.  Few turn down this holiday treat. Since I don't cook a lot, I usually mess up the first batch.  Not this year! Another first? I made several batches without uttering a single profanity. My sous-chef made all the difference.

Advent Calendar. My mother made this calendar when my brother and I were small.  Hopefully, the kids will enjoy it as much as we did.  Max seemed to...when I remembered.

Festival of Lights Parade.

Decorate cookies with the grands. After looking at the ingredients of pre-made icing, I decided to make my own for the first time and was pleasantly surprised with the sheer ease and yumminess of it. 

Tour local holiday lights while wearing pajamas.  Max disappointed me by refusing to wear his adorable Santa pajamas.  In return, I disappointed him when I announced his surprise was to look at lights.  After we were on our way and he realized the activity wasn't a trip to Lowe's to shop for 60 watt bulbs, his trust in me was restored.

Watch Frosty the Snowman and make our own snowflakes. After making a mess of the floor and creating some crazy looking snowflakes, I finally Googled a how-to.  The results? Beautiful!

Ice skate.

Visit Santa. Max broke line, rushed to the bearded man in the red suit--and simply stared.  After playing with a train and getting the stink-eye from an elf when another little boy knocked the train off its track, Max summoned his courage to sit in Santa's lap and mumble his request.  Two face-down-and-belly-on-the-floor tantrums later, he wanted to see Santa again for another piece of candy.  Glad that experience only comes once a year!

Write letter to Santa.  I kept the letter for a scrapbook...that I'll make...someday. G scanned the letter and emailed to Santa.  Those elves are high-tech now.

Make cupcakes. This one wasn't my idea, but I'm glad he momentarily centered on the giving nature of the holiday. His heart was set on it, so I took out my Sprinkles cupcake mix from William Sonoma and got to work.  They were delicious.

Tour Garden of Lights.

Set out cookies for Santa.  The first Christmas he fell asleep. The second year, he was sick. Last year, he wasn't too interested. But I had high hopes. This year, he thoughtfully chose the cookie his dad had decorated and placed it on a stand.  Then he considered milk, but Grandmary convinced him that Santa would go to the fridge if he needed some.  In the morning, Max noticed a bite out of the cookie and an empty milk glass.  He figured Santa ate a lot of cookies throughout the night and was pleased he tried ours.

As I reflect on the fun times we had and look at the pictures, I notice two things: 1) I really need to do something about my hair. 2) We should paint the walls as soon as the kids are old enough to stop writing on them. 

Hmmm. Guess I have a start to those New Year's Resolutions.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Favorite: Skate Date

At Max's birthday party this summer, we heard our little city might have an outdoor skating rink this holiday season. I've been excited about it ever since.  This week, we finally got out there and experienced it for ourselves.

My brother and sister-in-law met us at a nearby restaurant and then watched Alexandra while I skated with my boys.
My brother always avoids the paparazzi (me)
My brother calls her a baby hog, but we call her the Baby Whisperer. We love Aunt Lisa!
Lacing the skates took almost as long as our actual time on the ice!

Hanging out afterward, we watched the amazing Zamboni!

Ok. Maybe not a real Zamboni.
We had a blast! I hope to do it again before New Year's Day when the rink closes up.

I think I know how the kids felt when they learned Frosty had to go away.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

5th Annual Inklings Christmas Tea

The month of December is rife with festivities. One of my favorites is my writing group's Christmas party. It is the only time of the year we allow ourselves to meet when we don't work on writing. Sure, we talk about writing. For instance, this year we discussed Dee Dee's upcoming release. Mostly we get really caffeinated, nosh on yummy treats, laugh a lot, and exchange gifts.

Five years ago, Sonia, our tea expert, first introduced the idea to our group with a great tea room with hats to wear.
The festive mood was amplified since a group of little girls had a tea party nearby. In addition to hats, the girls had access to a trunk full of fancy dress up clothes.  It became clear to me then: Girls of all ages enjoy tea parties. The next year we went to Inspirations Tea Room in Edmond, and we've returned every year.

We'd tried various methods of gift exchange, but Lisa, our member who can pull a party out of her purse, promoted the idea of SWAG (Stuff We All Get).   I love it!  And I'm always impressed with everone's ability to shop and give the perfect gift for under $5. (One year Kelly gave us Harney and Sons tea samples and I fell in love with Paris.)

Did the Fireside Poets have this much fun together? Did Percy and Mary Shelley have as many laughs with Lord Byron and John William Polidori?

In making such comparisons am I having delusions of grandeur? Maybe.

Okay, yeah, probably.

But I plan to have a bookshelf filled with books by the Inklings--and I'll nestle a few in from Friends of the Inklings like Lela Davidson, Sara Hoklotubbe, William Bernhardt and more.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

O' Holy Moly Night

Now that I have children, I can identify with the Christmas story. 


No, I'm not talking about the nativity, the "reason for the season."

I'm talking about A Christmas Story...


... with the leg lamp and a little boy who just wants a Red Ryder BB gun but instead gets all sorts of visiting Santa.

What is it about this holiday that makes perfectly sane people go bonkers?

I witnessed a woman attempting to coax a smile from her terrified child in Santa's lap by dancing around with a stuffed reindeer and jingle bells. I couldn't tell which the child feared more--the big fuzzy man in red or the antics of his mother. Her husband didn't participate, but he still looked like he'd claim her.

I wouldn't.

Those who know me know that my family is not the kind that's at church every time the doors are open. So, when my son asked if we should make a cake since Christmas is a birthday party for Jesus, I thought maybe we're doing something right.

Then again, maybe he just wants cake.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Favorite: Terrorist Chickens and Truck Beds

My hubby is a suburbanite.  He's lived in suburbs all over the country, so moving to a small town required a shift in point of view from a cultural perspective.  What is normal in Suburbia does not always apply here--and vice versa. When I first moved to Suburbia, I marveled at the stylish teens. If it was in the mall one day, it was on their bodies the next. Members of a small town take shopping trips to a larger city, shop the local stores, or go to WalMart. If a little thing like clothes stymied me, I can't imagine the battle going on inside the brain of my the-world-is-black-and-white-husband.

Lately, he's experienced a few important milestones in his rite of passage to being a true citizen of Ruralville.

The other day he entered the post office and the cacophony that met his ears made him suspect a terrorist attack. Then a woman walked past him with a big grin on her face. She didn't have a gun in her hand, and the noise continued so he figured he was safe. He rounded the corner to see a long line of people... and chickens. Did you know you can mail chickens?

Small towns love parades.  Each December, at least a thousand people line the street at night in 20 degree temperatures for a couple of hours to look at floats and cars lit up like Christmas trees.  Our family business has been around since WWII, but we've never been in the parade. I made it my mission to make that happen this year. The theme was The Songs of Christmas.  Garrett immediately popped off with "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer." 
My ninety-year-old grandma was in.  However, the chilling temperatures (and good sense) confined her to the warm cab while Garrett dressed up like Grandma instead. 

Before I told Garrett that a lady sits with her knees together

Rudolph Lisa kept the stockings filled with candy
He and Max waved at people from a wicker sofa in the truck bed while the rest of our office handed out candy from stockings.

Reindeer Linda and her cute elves

Krystle and Kasha
Some people think that dressing in drag during a parade is a big city event, but clearly we do it in small towns, too.

After the parade Garrett experienced another first. The kids were secured in their car seats. The other seats were occupied by my mother and grandmother. Garrett and I bundled up in the comforter and cuddled on the wicker sofa as my father whisked us through town to our car. At one point, we wondered if he remembered we were back there. Without seatbelts.  Without anything securing the furniture to the truck.  To calm my nerves,  I tried to pretend we were in a horse drawn carriage. (I have a scar on my head from riding in a truck bed at age four and getting friendly with the pavement.) Garrett had a great time, though. You're just not small town until you've ridden in the back of a truck.

He can check those off his bucket list.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Writer's Wednesday: Emmy Lee is my Frenemy by Lisa Marotta

You know how your child loves your iPhone and iPad? Well, MeeGenius is a new kind of publishing house that provides beautiful online books--for kids. They even have a tab for free books.

In September, MeeGenius began a contest in search of a new picture book author.  My friend and critique buddy Lisa Marotta is in the contest with a story to which many children (and adults) relate.  Click here to read her manuscript and vote. 

Check out the other entries, too. They're great!  Voting ends December 18.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happy 3 months, baby girl!

 Our little girl turned three months old on Friday.   I pulled out a onesie purchased when we lived on the east coast--just in case we ever had another baby.
When Max was one month old, I plopped him in the same chair dressed in similar attire (minus the bow and tutu).
Warning: Cliche Ahead.

They grow up so fast.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mommy Monday: Christmas Card Photography Advice

Silent night
 Holy night

All is calm....

All is calm...
All is calm...

Oh, never mind.

Saturday morning I went a little (chest) nuts (roasting on an open fire) and decided to take Christmas card pictures at home.  Thinking I was completely prepared, I laid out a number of outfits and accessories, prepared my husband for exactly how we would pose the children and grabbed my iPhone. I figured we'd have this project knocked out in ten minutes.

Stop laughing.

That's right. I don't know squat about taking photos of children and certainly don't have a fancy camera.

It did not go well.

Later,  I told my hubby I was ashamed of myself for freaking out. Garrett said he didn't think the kids noticed my meltdown and that the concern for my mental welfare was contained to him. In fact, Max thought the chaos was great fun. I most certainly did not.

So, my Christmas gift to you is the following links. May they help you take family photos without tears, bribery, begging, threats, guilt, or any other embarrassing mistakes.

Family Portraits Do's and Dont's Don't #4 is Don't Let Mom Run the Show.  Ha! Just let her try. She'll see who's boss.

Five Tips for Young Family Portraits Tip # 2 is avoiding posing. Um, yeah. Lesson learned.

Five Tips for Photographing Children  The expression game idea is inspired.
Digital Photography School shares amazing tutorials. Perhaps if I'd found it before the photo session, I could have snapped more photos like the one below. Then again, if I hadn't exhausted her with the insanity, perhaps this shot would never have happened.  After all, in a moment of desperation, I asked, "What do you mean you won't hold her? What if we put Baby Sister in your Tonka truck? Would you like that?"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Toddler Tuesday: Lessons From My Dragon

Max: Dragons eat stars. That's why they breathe fire.


Max: I'm a dragon. You're my princess.
Me: What's Daddy?
Max: He's an ogre.

Thought so.

Max: (adjusting my plastic headband so that it fits like a circlet) Mommy, do you have a real crown?
Me: (pausing) Yes, I do.
Max: Thought so. Go get it.

I rummage through the closet to find an eighteen year old tiara and present it to my son.

Max: Let me put it on you. (He crowns me.) That's better.  I love you, Princess Mommy.
Me: I love you, too, my little dragon.

Who says being Prom Queen doesn't have real life applications?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from my little turkeys!

Make note: Next time a woman with a toddler and a two-month-old says, "Let's go out for Thanksgiving--it will be easier," hand her a cookbook and some chicken broth. She doesn't know what she's thinking.

But this is how memories are made. Many times today, I thought of this great blog entry on Ashley Riherd's blog, gritted my teeth, and counted my blessings.

I insisted on pictures. It was a chore.
taking the long route to my lap

Don't they look happy?
the grands 2011

4 generations of female turkeys

But we got through it.

And I have pics to commemorate Alexandra's first Thanksgiving.

And those little turkeys...well, they top my list of things for which I am thankful.
My manna from heaven.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

National Novel Writing Month

...and miles to go before I sleep...
November is National Novel Writing Month! Writers celebrate this month in various ways. Check out how my writing friend Lisa spends NaNoWriMo.

I already have a novel, so I'm spending the month on revisions. With the help of my hubby, I've been able to spend an hour every day this month on writing. Considering I have a three year old and a 10 week old, this small amount of allotted time is cause for celebration. I really hope it becomes a habit on the part of my entire family.

So far, I've taken my critique group's line edits and am going page by page.  Easy changes are made on the spot.  Those that require more thought or manipulation of characters or another scene or chapter are put off until later. I write those in a journal.

Progress is fun.

How do you NaNoWriMo?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Writer's Wednesday: The Hunger Games

I'm a big fan of the young adult novel The Hunger Games.   I blogged about it here, here, and here. It's one of those books that makes me miss teaching because I'd love to discuss it with teenagers.

Prepare yourself.

First we had the book to movie mania of Harry Potter, then Lord of the Rings, and most recently Twilight.  Now, movie goers are ready for some science fiction. The Hunger Games will be in theaters on March 23, 2012.

Who else is excited?

Peeta, the boy with the bread

Katniss and Gale hunting

So...what do you think?

May the odds be ever in your favor.