Saturday, December 31, 2011

a year in review

Here it is. The end of another year. And what a year it has been! Since I started off this year on a different blog, switched to a 365, had a baby and had to give that up (no time to keep it updated, even though, I DID manage a picture a day for an entire year!) and am now here, I figured a year review would be the best way to keep track of how blessed we were this year.

We rang in the New Year at my sister's place... just a week after announcing the impending arrival of baby #5. Hubby underwent heart monitoring to find out that he is ok. :) Peanut started on Adderall for ADHD and made HUGE strides in school! Had our first midwife appointment and got our official edd, July 23 (or 26 lol).

SweetPea turned two. Mama had a birthday too. In fact, so did two other family members. February is apparently a busy month. lol Got to hear baby's heart beat for the first time. Spent time in the hospital for a massive kidney issue which turned out to be a few tiny kidney stones. I wouldn't wish them on my worst enemy.

Had an unplanned ultrasound of "Gravy" because of concerns from February. Nothing bad to report. Daddy found out the sex but mama and siblings did not. SweetPea had a cardiologist appointment because of random "blue spells" that she had been having for a few months. Found out that she has a very small ASD (atrial septal defect) that will need to be re-evaluated when she is five.

Punk turned 11! Our family vacation got canceled because of hubby's work hours picking up. Turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Punk's soccer season ended. Peanut's Little League season began. Was a very busy month for sports. Peanut was awarded a special award at school for her continued advancements. She even made the honor roll! Began home renovations.

Hubby had a birthday. SweetPea, hubby and I were in a car accident. Turned out to be another blessing in disguise because we found out that I was having pre-term labor. Spent some time in the hospital again. Had to temporarily wean SweetPea. Went on partial bed rest. Had a family bbq on Memorial Day with a sister that I hadn't seen since I was Peanut's age. Made the trip up to the beach to see my cousin and help him celebrate his graduation.

School ended for another year. Made another trip to the beach to help my other cousin celebrate his high school graduation. Finished painting the "pond" room for SweetPea and "Gravy" while very pregnant. Went to the fishing derby... none of our kids placed this year. Went to Punk's soccer award ceremony. Watched Peanut end her first year in Little League. Took SweetPea to see her beloved dinosaurs at the zoo.

Watched our caterpillar "Chubby" become a beautiful butterfly. Spent tons of time outdoors in the water with the kiddos. Welcomed our little PorkChop into our family unassisted (which was not the plan). Had a scary first few days with him. Birthed on the hottest day of the year (record breaking temps hottest). Got Pickle from his mom's so we could enjoy a few days as a new family of seven. Hosted a welcome baby party. Discovered the joys of tandem nursing.

We relaxed and fell into new routines! :) Went to the Renaissance festival with friends. Prepared for the coming school year. Punk started soccer practice.

Peanut turned nine! Pickle started 8th grade, Punk 6th and Peanut 4th. Took our family of seven to the Renaissance festival. Took our family of seven to the cider mill and apple picking on the hottest day of the month. Punk started soccer with a new team. Peanut had her first slumber party... possibly her last.

Had a wonderful month celebrating Halloween. Took the kiddos to the local Boo Bash and the school sponsored haunt. Took SweetPea and PorkChop pumpkin picking. Trunk or treated with Little Red and Link. Trick or treated with most of our kiddos. Dealt with a severe allergic reaction on Peanut's end.

We counted our blessings and found them numerous. Celebrated Thanksgiving with our family here. Celebrated with family from far away and friends near to our hearts. Discovered that I was ready to take the plunge back into homeschooling again. Helped my nephew G celebrate his 12th birthday.

Pickle turned fourteen. Began a new holiday tradition of celebrating the 25 days of Christmas. Took SweetPea on a train ride, one of the highlights of her life. Watched Christmas through the eyes of our many children. Enjoyed our last baby's first Christmas. Took another trip up to the beach to see family. Day dreamed and planned our next year.

For the coming year? I have goals already in place. I want to again make sure that I can do a 365. I want to have a set crafting goal for each month. I want to continue to work on "greening" our lifestyle here at home. I want to make time to read one classic a month and one "modern" tale. I want to learn how to crochet. Simple goals but ones that define me.

Friday, December 30, 2011

"Kindle"ing the passion to read

We are a pretty literary family. All of us, from hubby and myself, right down to SweetPea and PorkChop, all enjoy reading or being read to. This year for Christmas, we started the tradition of giving the littles a new book every Friday to read together from. This coming year, we will be delving into our list of "100 must read books before Kindergarten" as a way of starting our new homeschooling journey. As presents, each child received a new book this year, both older boys got some form electronic readers and hubby and I both received Kindle Fires.

Since I was given my Christmas present the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I have forged ahead with reading the classics. I started with "A Christmas Carol" and quickly realized just how much I enjoy the older styles, the novels filled with morals, the feeling of peace that I get from reading works that have been deemed "out-dated" and yet "timeless" in the same breath.

Today, I started my sixth novel since Thanksgiving. I think that this is the most that I have read in years. I am used to re-reading books over and over again for the enjoyment factor but am not used to reading books based on how they make me feel. Reading the classics is bringing an odd sense of peace to my life, a centering and balancing feeling. I still adore my modern books, don't get me wrong. And I am sure that I will tire of reading the greater works eventually. But I think that one of my goals for 2012 will be reading a new classic every month. Which, at the rate that I have been reading, will not be a hard goal to meet.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

sweet beginnings

Do you remember being a child and learning something new? Something exciting, something wondrous, something amazing? Do you remember wanting to share that something with everyone that you met? Wanting to do it again and again to see if the outcome changed?

SweetPea learned how to play Candyland this week. To some, it might be a small thing. After all, its a preschool game aimed at moving a little gingerbread pawn around a brightly colored board with absolutely no reading or math skills to speak of. And to most, that's exactly how its viewed. But to SweetPea, it was a rite of passage into "big girl" things. It was the chance to PLAY a game with her siblings and mama. It was the ability to delve into the previously undiscovered territory of "board games". It was a voyage into pure discovery.

With wide eyes, she would draw a card and yell out the directions that she saw. "One orange space", "Two purple spaces... One, two", "I got a popsicle! Now where do I find that popsicle place?" As time and time again, SweetPea beat Punk, Peanut and myself, her confidence grew. SHE could do this. She didn't need mama to read complicated directions to her. She didn't need Punk to move the pieces the appropriate number of spaces. She could do this all by herself.

And it was just the first step.

SweetPea is growing up. She is learning and expanding her horizons. She is showing her thinking skills and engaging us all in her play. And we are happy for her, celebrating with her, helping her to challenge those goals that she puts up for herself each day. Candyland is only the first step in gaining that independence from toddlerhood that she wants. But its such a sweet step in that direction.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

*stepping onto the soapbox*

Today was a very important day for mothers and children everywhere. Today, well-meaning ladies everywhere took part in taking a stand for their rights and the rights of their children. You see, at the beginning of the month at a Target store in Texas, a mother that was feeding her child was asked to move from her seat and segregate to another area of the store. This mother refused and had the police called on her. Why? Because she refused to move while feeding her hungry child. Makes no sense, right? After all, why shouldn't someone be allowed to feed their crying child?

Well, this mother was *shh* (breastfeeding) her baby. And the Target employee in question felt that this was a violation of the rights of the other customers NOT to see nudity. Ok, I understand that. But its not like the mother looked like this:

Yes, that is me nursing PorkChop for the first time. In the comfort of our own home, in our room, completely nude (it was July, the hottest day of the year, and we didn't have central air... so sue me). Him and I both dressed in our birthday/birthing suits and yet, not a single flash of nipple is being shown. But that's ok because its in the privacy of OUR home, right?

Well, how about this then?

This was taken IN PUBLIC at the Highland Fling, August of 2010. Can you see any of the offending breast? We were right in front of a group of kilt-clad bagpipers who were practicing for their turn in the competition. Not a single word was said to us because other than the fact that its very obvious what is going on, nothing can be seen. Other than the fantastically cute diaper cover showing that we have pride in nursing in public (just as I have pride in nursing at home, in a school, store, or anywhere else that I may happen to be when my baby gets hungry).

So maybe that's not the best example then since you can't see anything. But what about at the beach where women wear far less than in a public forum. What then?

No cover and STILL showing less skin than most bathing suits out there. True, the beach wasn't very crowded that day seeing as how this picture was taken right before a good-sized squall hit Myrtle Beach but again, not a single complaint or eye drawn to the fact that my toddler was eating. I could show other pictures from this day of women walking around in less than a nursing bra covers. I could show pictures of women with so much cleavage showing that you could possibly fit SweetPea inside. But the point of this is not to show the most amount of skin possible but to show how natural feeding your baby is.

I wish that I had the forethought to take pictures of my children eating breakfast, lunch and dinner on our road trips. Food stops at restaurants, meals in the hotels, snacks in the car, breaks at our destinations....

And sometimes, I do. I do remember that those fleeting moments are precious to both mother and child, that they are a natural part of the ebb and flow of each and every day. Our state is not known for being very pro-breastfeeding and yet, I managed to sit quietly and feed my toddler on the steps to the capital building without turning a single head. It wasn't a slow day but a busy one with crowds of people lined up to watch a freedom parade. But the steps were the most secluded, quiet area and there wasn't a better way of celebrating my freedom than by exercising my right to nourish my child when they are hungry.

I don't take my food into a dirty bathroom stall. I don't hide under a blanket to eat during the summer months. But I also don't expose myself to the world at large. I am a mother who breastfeeds discreetly where ever I happen to be. I take notice of those around me and try to make sure to keep both myself, my child and those around me comfortable. But I will not sit quiet while my right to feed my child is under attack. I will not allow someone to tell me that I do not have the right to comfort my hungry child just because I do not follow the "norm" in our country. I believe that breastfeeding is natural, beautiful and normal. I will not walk around with my breasts hanging out for all to see but I will continue to join the fight for my child's right to eat.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


What's the best part of the holiday vacations from school? Is it sleeping in? Staying up late? Lounging about in your pajamas all day long? Nope.... For Punk and Peanut, its all about cuddling up in the top bunk of the boys' room, plugging into their DS's, and spending the day lost in Johto, Kanto, or one of those other regions inhabited by Pokemon and trainers alike.

When Punk was little, his dream ambition was to go to Japan in search of Pokemon to train. Sadly, with age, he came to realize that that was a bit of an impossibility. But living in the mitten, we have found that our state is actually getting on the map for game development. So who knows? Maybe in fifteen years or so, he will be creating his own Pokemon-like tales for other children to follow.

Peanut never had those same dreams. Until the last year or so, she just wasn't into the whole realm of Pokemon as her brothers are. With the introduction of Adderall into her system though, suddenly, she became aware of how to focus her mind enough to enjoy those story lines. She is still more into her hunting games or, on the opposite side of the spectrum, the caring for animal games, that seem to fit her persona very well. I can see Peanut following a care into veterinary work, while enjoying a healthy love of hunting on the side.

Monday, December 26, 2011

(Harbor) beach bound

Not too many years in the past (less than three), I had no contact with my extended family. Not by choice either. You see, my parents divorced when I was eight and I had almost no contact with my biological dad past the age of thirteen. Which means that I had no contact with his side of the family. Enter July of 2009 and facebook.... I not only got in touch with my sister and sister-in-law, but I found some of my cousins (and by extension, aunts and uncles) that I hadn't heard from since I was a child. Ever since then, I have had the pleasure of being totally reunited and accepted back into this amazing, loving family. And it feels good! No, not good, it feels great! Especially since it means that my children now have the chance to grow up with more cousins, more aunts, more uncles, more love and acceptance.

Since they live about two hours away, its not every day that we get the chance to be together as a family. Some have yet to meet PorkChop but I am optimistic that that will change as when the warmer weather is back upon us. Being the holidays though, we made the trip up to see them again.... and so Peanut could see their fifteen new lab puppies.

As Punk enjoyed his time playing MarioKart with his cousins T, S and F, Peanut and SweetPea enjoyed pampering the new litters of farm puppies. No one snuck any home in their pockets, fortunately, but I forsee us bringing home a furry bundle in the future... probably in the close future. They are guessing another litter of yellows in the spring so a four-legged furry friend might end up being PorkChop's first birthday present.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Christmas to one and all

Wow, hard to believe that another Christmas has come and gone. This year's was such a special time, being PorkChop's first Christmas.Also a pretty sad time since its the last year that I can say that its "so and so's" first Christmas. *sigh* I knew that the time was coming to move on to bigger and better things but I am so going to miss these baby days.

Christmas eve was a blast! The kiddos all got what they wanted the most. Pickle got a tablet (e-reader/Nook?), Punk got a Kindle, a watch and a camera (he couldn't decide what his favorite gift was so that's why I am listing all three), Peanut got a new DS and an American Girl doll, SweetPea got a "Kindle Fire" (ok, so its really an Innotab but she calls it HER Kindle Fire) and PorkChop got a bouncer and a cool "Grouchy Ladybug" inspired Eric Carle toy.

We got to spend time with my family, which is always a great time. I love being so close with my sisters and our families. Its always made the holidays even more special, getting together and breaking bread. I especially love that my children are growing up so close with their cousin, G, because it reminds me of MY childhood and being so close to my cousins.

Christmas morning was a bit more low-key. Pickle went to his mom's before my family's celebration began and then Peanut and Punk went to their dad's after, so Christmas morning was just hubby, SweetPea, PorkChop and myself opening gifts. Well, SweetPea started and then got bored and PorkChop opened a few handheld toys and did the same. We had planned on saving the rest of the gifts for when people trickled over for our dinner but yeah... SweetPea still didn't want anything to do with them then either. Oh well, tomorrow is a new day and maybe then we can get the rest opened.

Christmas breakfast was held at my mom's place. We all got together again and shared more gifts, love and repasts. Then Christmas dinner was at our house this year but most of my family didn't make it back out. Hubby's brother and sister-in-law did show for a bit but since neither were feeling well, they didn't make it a long night of celebrating. Which worked out well because, let's face it, two babies without naps for the better part of three days now means early bedtimes for all.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas countdown day 23- Twas the Night of the Dino Tales

The excitement is in the air! I don't think that the kiddos can handle our "just one more sleep until Christmas" preparations. What? You mean that tomorrow is NOT Christmas? Ok, its really not but both our families celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve and left Christmas day for relaxing or celebrating our Savior's birth. And we like the tradition. Makes it easier to give real meaning to the season for the older kids and lets the littles not get quite so overwhelmed with sensations.

Dealing with a work Christmas party last night (which only PorkChop attended... SweetPea had her first "visit" to nonna's without mama or daddy with her), Christmas shopping today (while all the kiddos, minus PorkChop again stayed with my sister), I forsee a long night of wrapping ahead of us. *yawn* And I am already sleepy!

But to quell our anxieties, we took the time to share one last special holiday story with the family.... A Dinosaur's Night Before Christmas!

Maybe for the first time since hearing that our pirate Christmas tale would not be delivered on time to make our celebration, I have been happy for that mishap. This story was so cute and so well done that it definitely left a smile upon my face. And the Christmas carole cd that came with it... priceless! In fact, I may have a hard time next year teaching SweetPea the real versions of those songs.

So tonight when I tuck many young P's into bed and pray that they stay there until morning, I will do so knowing that so many Christmas dreams will soon be coming true. That tomorrow, we will begin our two days of family time, present opening and gift giving, laugh and food sharing, memory making.... Its almost Christmas time, the most magical time of the year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas countdown day 22- Hot Chocolate Party

I am not a huge chocolate fan most times but during the winter, I can't think of a better hot drink than hot chocolate. I am not a fan of coffee (other than the smell) and not really a warm tea drinker (though, I do greatly miss my vanilla chai's right now), so hot chocolate it is. And what's a better way to celebrate the upcoming party season than with a tea party (with hot cocoa)?

SweetPea was all kinds of impressed, getting to use the wine glasses, having little cookies laid out on glass plates, sipping our cocoa together while dreaming of a white Christmas. Right now, our forecast looks like its going to be a pretty green one. I am a lover of beautiful warm weather and would love to come back in another life as a bear so I could live off of berries and hibernate all winter, but there is just something so magical about waking up Christmas morning and seeing everything covered in white. In fact, quite a bit of our countdown has been changed due to our lack of seasonal snow. But I digress...

Sipping cocoa and eating dainty little cookies made a perfect backdrop for discussing our holi-days. I think that SweetPea is going to look back on the traditions that we are starting with a fondness.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas countdown day 21- A Christmas Card Story

"I can't put my arms down!" Best Christmas movie EVER! When we planned our out Christmas countdown, I mistakenly thought that the Ps would all be on Christmas break starting today. Then I found out that their last day is really tomorrow. Oops. Oh well, our family movie night choice for tonight was still A Christmas Story anyway. Even SweetPea got into it and was laughing along with the rest of us. Maybe next year, PorkChop will be giggling along too instead of just laughing because everyone else is being silly.

Our celebration today, besides the movie, was getting our annual Christmas card together. Yes, we are running a bit late this year. I put so much thought and effort into our countdown that I dropped the ball on what I needed to get done myself. I know that its the thought that counts though and I am hoping that our card recipients are a little bit lenient with their expectations.

Since the older Ps all seem to vanish when the camera comes out, our card will just feature SweetPea and PorkChop and then the older Ps can all write their own names, add their school pictures, etc. Not the best way to go about it but when you have five children, three of which are gone during the day light hours, two gone every weekend, one gone every other weekend, finding a time to have them all sit and pose just doesn't happen. Unless I use one of our summer pictures. And I think that PorkChop especially has changed just a wee bit from the end of July until now.

Speaking of which.....

Happy five months, PorkChop! I took his official five month shots today but I will not be sharing those. Tradition dictates that the five month birthday shot is done in, well, their birthday suit. And as cute as my son's little chubby body is, that is just way more than I am comfortable sharing.

At five months, PorkChop weighs in at 17lbs and is about 27 1/2-3/4in long. His little head is about 16 1/2in around. Meaning that, he is in the 75% for weight, the 95% for height and his head is at 20%. Poor boy just has a small little noggin just like his siblings all did. PorkChop can sit unassisted for small amounts of time, usually long enough to grab a picture or three before he throws himself backwards, squealing with delight. He has recently discovered his toes in earnest but they still take a back seat to his manhood. Ah, the joys of little boys. He can roll from tummy to back and back to tummy when he wants to but prefers to use his energy on "crop circling" around. Hubby and I have both caught him pushing up on his hands with his right leg underneath him. His left leg has remained pretty useless so crawling isn't too close yet. Unlike SweetPea who got her third and fourth tooth during her fifth month, PorkChop is still working on number 1.... along with numbers 2, 3, 4 AND 5, 6, 7, and 8! Yes, we feel EIGHT sharp points in his mouth but not a single one is staying through the surface. I fear that I am going to wake up one morning to a little man with a mouthful of teeth instead of a gradual losing of that precious gummy smile.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas countdown day 20- A hard candy Christmas

Yes, I have a small love of Christmas music. Not all year round and not in excessive amounts but I do enjoy the carols. Hence, quite a few Christmas titles made out of working song lyrics. I am not one to belt out the classics before Thanksgiving or even really before December, but as the time nears closer to the big day, I do find myself humming them more and more often. And I am sure that that will increase in the coming years as SweetPea and PorkChop become old enough to sing along with me.

I didn't have a set activity planned for SweetPea today since she was supposed to be gone a good portion of the day with my sister. Which didn't happen until nap time. So I flew by the seats of our pants and created a fun computer day for her. She had an awesome time making videos on "Elf Yourself" and coloring holiday inspired pages at Between that and yet again, more cookie prep, our morning hours seemed to fly by in an instant.

Since Punk and Peanut have class parties tomorrow, I devoted our after school time to helping them bake their own "gifts" for the class.... thumbprint cookies made with raspberry jam and blackberry jelly. And we learned some important lessons.... Like, our thumbprint recipe is not conducive for jellies unless you want your cookie sheets to become an extremely sticky mess. Or that no matter how delicious almond extract smells, it does NOT taste like cherries, almonds or anything pleasant. And when you need to separate eggs, use the Punk method vs the Peanut method as shown above. I do not favor touching raw eggs so Punk was a lifesaver tonight in the helping of our cookies.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas countdown day 19- On Dasher, on Dancer....

I wanted to fit this craft into our reindeer week but time just escaped me. Either that or I just tried to fit way too much into our daily lives. That truly could be the case too. So instead today, I took away our overly crammed activity of baking yet more cookies and let SweetPea get down and dirty with some finger paint in order to create our reindeer display.

Sure, we are missing Santa and only have three reindeer (sadly, the fourth didn't survive the fly by painting) but it was fun. And colorful. And not the least bit organized. But it was fun. And definitely something that I will look back on in the coming years with wonder that SweetPea's hands and feet were ever so tiny (um yeah... kind of hard to believe since they seem to be pretty huge now).

And we still did end up making cookies. Just not all day and not the way that I had planned. But sometimes, the show must go on even when our little reindeer are more involved with paints, play-doughs and toys.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas countdown day 18- Our big SURPRISE!

SweetPea loves to tell us that she has wanted to ride a train "all her life". Yes, those almost three years have been a long lifetime in her little world. But our little tomboy princess really does have an affinity for trains, planes and automobiles (along with motorcycles, power tools and dinosaurs). We knew that we wanted to include one special trip during our Christmas countdown, not because it is giving or sharing but because its the season to make dreams come true. We were torn between taking our two smallest to see "Happy Feet 2" (because SweetPea loves the first one and a trip to the movies is a real rarity to us), a trip to the Bavarian Village with the largest Christmas store in the US or a trip to a quaint little Village complete with its our train.

Yes.... the train won out. Hubby made reservations for us, PorkChop and SweetPea on the 410 Huckleberry Railroad.

SweetPea slept most of the way there and just woke up in time for us to turn around in a parking lot... a parking lot which earned a cry of "This not my prise!" from a very upset little girl. No sweetie, this really isn't your "prise". But our next turn took us right into the heart of "the North Pole". SweetPea's eyes were so huge looking at all the Christmas decorations and pointing them all out to her daddy and I. Even better, she could hear Christmas music being played and could hear the whistle from the train station.

In all honestly, I am not sure which of the littles had a better time. SweetPea loved the village more than I thought that she would and even went and sat on Santa's lap, announcing that she wanted "presents" for Christmas. PorkChop loved the motion of the train and getting to happily smack his hands on the windows in a vain attempt to catch all the pretty twinkling lights outside. Hubby just stared in awe over everything that he was witnessing, especially the joy on his two littlest Ps faces. Me? I have to admit that other than making my little girl's dream come true, I really enjoyed getting to pet the reindeer.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas countdown day 17- Oh the Weather outside is Frightful

Oh the weather outside turned frightful.... So we were content to stay inside with our delightfuls... Yes we had some places to go... But the ice, the ice, the ice told us NO!

Our mission for today was going to be finishing our reindeer games by delivering cookies to the police and fire stations. And after Christmas shopping all afternoon with four of the five Ps in tow, we really needed to do something more charitable than just snap at each other. But our light snowy weather that followed us all day (and normally which would have put me into the perfect Christmas mood) quickly turned to black ice on the roads when hubby went to get us dinner. So cookies will have to wait until tomorrow because as much as I appreciate the police officers and fire fighters and the jobs that they do, I am not willing to have them come to our rescue tonight.

Which is ok.... We had a nice time baking our cookies as a family. Its a rarity that Punk and Peanut are with us on the weekends and so I am sure that SweetPea was totally lapping up having them in the kitchen baking with us. Especially since it allowed her the chance to boss them around since, you know, she is our resident cookie baking expert as of late.

Tomorrow morning, our plan is to be out the door early and delivering our handmade Christmas cards along with nine dozen cookies to various locations. The best part was that it was all done by US. From the baking to the cards (which, Punk was oh so sweet with his subscription of " Please accept these cookies as a token of our gratitude". Seriously?! Where does he come up with these lines!)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas countdown day 16- Too much Holidrama!

Our Friday nights are BUSY! Hubby usually rushes home from work so we can go out to dinner as a family. Every other week, he has to make the two hour round trip to drop Pickle off to his mom. We try to make sure that we have what we need at home for homework for the coming week, breakfast for Saturday morning and any small errands on the days that we don't have exchanges. Knowing that tonight was a drop-off night, I bent the rules a bit to our countdown and gave SweetPea her new book during the morning hours.

Let me preface this by saying that I had never heard of the Llama Llama series before I ordered "Llama Llama Holiday Drama". It was recommended on amazon and since I needed a fourth book and was trying to avoid "character" books, I gave it a spin. Its now a family hit for sure! Not only did SweetPea and PorkChop hear it this morning, SweetPea had Punk read it to her tonight, followed by mama again, followed by daddy, followed by her reciting passages.

It was seriously that cute! Even hubby, who tolerates most children's books for the sake of the littles really enjoyed this one. And what was there not to enjoy? It's catchy with its cute rhymes, the pictures hold even PorkChop's attention and us adults loved the meaning behind the sweet words. It was tempting to order another Llama Llama book for SweetPea's Christmas book but in the end, we opted for Fancy Nancy. I want to take SweetPea to the bookstore soon and see if she gravitates towards Llama Llama on her own.

Our family also got a surprise in the mail today. Our carrier left us a sweet thank you note for remembering her this Christmas. The kidlets were all impressed with getting that little thank you and I know that it made them feel good. I am anxious now for tomorrow and delivering our next batch of cookies to the fire station. Not because I want another note but because I want them to embrace that giving spirit while they are still touched by being thanked for doing so.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas countdown day 15- Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

I often think of the Bill Cosby routine about growing up and wanting to keep a snowball all year round. Well, mainly for the dog days of summer when no one else had one so he could throw it at ol' Jr Barnes. I am not a fan being in the snow because its cold and wet and makes me feel miserable but I love seeing snow through my children's eyes. I love how they adore shaping it, running through it, tasting it and of course, trying to imagine new and improved ways of keeping it until the summer when no one else has a perfect snowball anymore.

I put my thinking cap on for our reindeer games and how best to include a "game". What kind of games do reindeer play? I came up with some possibilities but none struck me as "fun" as a good old-fashioned snowball fight. Too bad that Mother Nature didn't feel up to providing the promised snow this week. But its ok.... because mama P DID!

Instant indoor snowball fight.... Just add a pretty decorated basket, some styrofoam crafting spheres and a couple of ready toddlers, babies and yes, even school aged kids and you have all the ingredients for a snowball fight in the house.

SweetPea and PorkChop must have spent a good hour playing with our "snow". And best part of all? It came after spending an hour running around outside enjoying our almost 60 weather! Sure, we got rained on during our walk and it was still a bit chilly for puddle stomping sans rain boots but it was gorgeous out there and perfect weather indoors for our snow.

When the bigs came home from school, they also quickly joined in throwing, tossing, and catching our perfect snowballs. Mama even had a good time and is looking forward to our next "fight".

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas countdown day 14- Reindeer wishes

When Punk and Peanut actually started school, I was a bit worried about how to go about handling holidays. Peanut was TERRIFIED of the idea of Santa from a young age. Terrified as in, hyperventilating over the idea of a stranger climbing down our chimney, circumnavigating the locked door, peeking in on her when she was sleeping and then sneaking out again. Yep... gave her nightmares for years thinking that someone was going to sneak in her room and take her back out the chimney and far far away. Exit the myth of Santa for our family.

Fast forward to the present.... Hubby doesn't see the harm in believing in Santa. He wants our children to be able to look forward to the magical elf and his eight (nine) sleigh pulling reindeer. I don't see the need for Santa. Call me a Scrooge but I want them to know about the joy of the holiday without the mass commercialism of it. So we decided to allow SweetPea to take the reigns. If she wants to believe in Santa, we will not discourage. If she is happy without him in her life, we will not encourage. Either way, she will be taught to be respectful about others' beliefs.

Today, I decided to allow her a small glimpse of what Punk and Peanut enjoyed doing at school... making reindeer food.

See, it really is just a bag of oats with some glitter thrown in. But with a bit of imagination (something SweetPea is definitely not lacking in), it becomes reindeer food. For what reindeer? Santa's, of course. Unless you ask my daughter and then its for the deer that we see at our local state park. In her words today, as she saw the UPS man drop off yet another online purchase package at our doorstep "Look mama! Santa's here!" Yeah... Santa isn't just the jolly guy in a red suit, he is suddenly anyone who delivers Christmas cheer. Including herself.

So much for our "reindeer games". My daughter is now convinced that she is our neighborhood Santa.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas countdown day 13- Stop! Sprinkle time

My sweet hubby has me convinced now that he grew up a deprived child. Why? Because he has never had a sugar cookie with frosting and sprinkles. Maybe he isn't deprived but I was spoiled? Who knows? Either way, this has always been one of my favorite "gifting" cookies with little ones because its such a fun activity for them to do (and because its messy as sin and what toddler doesn't like to completely destroy the kitchen on purpose?!)

These came out looking so cute! I really wish that the older three would have been willing today to decorate theirs but between homework, friends and video games, their Christmas spirit is still firmly tied to the "gimmes" instead of the "gifting". *sigh* At least I am getting the chance to impress upon SweetPea and PorkChop just how much better giving feels than receiving. I am hoping to get these cookies delivered on Friday night and our second batch delivered on Saturday afternoon.

Cute story from today.... While rolling out our sugar cookie dough for cutting, SweetPea grabbed her rolling pin from her kitchen and asked to help. I gave her a small bit of the dough, showed her how to flour everything down and then went back to the larger section. She rolled for a few seconds and then told me "Mama, I have strong armpits." Um? Strong armpits? " 'eh mama, strong armpits help me roll the dough."

Its a good thing that I have such strong armpits as well since we made just over three dozen cookies today alone for delivery.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas countdown day 12- Let the Reindeer Games begin

Wow! Only halfway through today but we have done so much that it feels much later. Or maybe I just feel like it feels much later because I would like it to be bedtime. It is nap time so I can't complain but I just need a rest. Holiday gifting, planning, crafting can sometimes take our whole day by storm and like a whirling dervish, can keep us going until we drop in our beds at night.

We started out this morning with Punk writing out our card for the mail person. Taking the time to remember to say thank you for a job well done is always an appreciated thing. Especially during the holidays when its snowy and cold and no one wants to leave the warmth of their homes. A holiday card can be a cheerful reminder that what you sacrifice to do your job is noticed by someone that you are making their life easier.

Adding a treat to that card just sweetens the deal and reminds us that the holiday season is not all about what is delivered TO us but also what we deliver to others.

And so begins our week of "Reindeer Games". Each day this week, we will strive to be more like the reindeer of Christmas lore. We will spend each day taking the time to remember the hard work that others freely give to our community and ourselves. We will be making sure to have fun because, after all, the reindeer had time for games too. But we will make it our goal to spread the joy especially well this coming week.

Because what is Christmas without a little reindeer magic?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas countdown day 11- hot cocoa cookies

I am not sure who sits around and comes up with recipes like this one but I am so thankful for said people! I love holiday baking and really enjoy trying out new recipes. Most of those that I have tried become quick family hits. This one? Didn't even make it out of the oven before I was being asked how soon could I make these again.

I found the recipe here and WOW! Just WOW! SweetPea had fun getting to help make these, especially with all the times that she could sneak a bite of chocolate. Hubby had fun smelling these baking and announced that they reminded him more of brownies (his favorite dessert) than cookies. PorkChop just looked at all of us like we were crazy.

Out of the 3.5 dozen that we got from a single batch, I think that we have about a dozen left right now. Normally, I make cookies and they last about a week, maybe a bit more or a bit less depending on the flavor and how soon I have done that kind. But these ones? Even with as rich as they are, they flew out of here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas countdown day 10- wreck the malls this Christmas season

If you don't listen to Twisted Christmas carols, then the title today probably isn't funny to me. If you do, then maybe you are lucky enough to have heard this parody to "Deck the Halls". If not, try finding it. It always makes me laugh because I am not a huge fan of malls and the idea of running amok in them during the holiday season just strikes me as amusing.

What else strikes me as amusing is how much my hubby wants to "do" Santa with the kiddos but how much he is against all the "traditional" Santa activities. You know... like going to the mall and waiting for about a billion hours so you can sit your young child on a stranger's lap and have them tell said stranger all their deepest hearts' desires. Which is ok with me. I would rather scrap the whole Santa bit all together after raising one child with a huge Santa phobia. But I digress.....

This afternoon, after all our normal errands were done, we took Pickle, SweetPea and PorkChop to the fabled place called "the mall" to see the Christmas decorations. Since SweetPea is really into viewing right now, we thought that this would be a pretty cool experience. And what baby isn't reduced to a staring, drooling puddle when confronted with Christmas lights? Well... apparently my two littles.

SweetPea had more fun finding the "moving stairs" and begging us to allow her to go on them "just one more time". PorkChop loved the crowds and the attention that he was grabbing but as for the decorations, he was happier listening to the Christmas music than taking part in the bright colored lights and spinning trees.

We still have planned an evening drive to see the outdoor lights before Christmas is upon us. I am hoping that without the allure of elevators, escalators, and strangers that our two youngest will more enjoy themselves.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas countdown day 9- Twas a Few Weeks Before Christmas

I cannot believe how quickly Christmas is approaching. It seems that the more that I prepare for the holiday, the quicker that the time is going by (and the less that I am able to accomplish). I am happy to note that other than the small odds and ends that I need to finish, I completed three of PorkChop's Christmas gifts today (sewn shirts with knit longies) and have his sweater done too. So his handmade Christmas is complete. Yay! I still need to finish Peanut's pajamas this weekend and hopefully get started on Pickle and Punk's. I even have SweetPea's handmade Christmas gifts complete and am already picking out her birthday ones. Oy! I need to remember to make it through this holiday first.

Since this was our official weekend with Pickle and since Punk and Peanut will not be leaving for their dad's until tomorrow afternoon sometime, everyone was here tonight for our Friday story night. Not that it was a huge hit.... All the kids found the story teadius minus the youngest two. Even hubby wished that we could have found the "American" version instead of the English one. But I LOVE this telling. I remember hearing this same storybook as a child and I am really grateful to have the same exact copy to read to my own children now.

This was not our intended story for tonight but I couldn't see the older thee enjoying "Llama Llama Holiday Drama" too much. And since our first choice for this evening still hasn't arrived via mail, our preChristmas eve book it was.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas countdown day 8- Let it Snow

Oh the weather outside is frightful (ly cold... to me) but the fire (furnace) is so delightful... And since we have no place to go (because daddy will be gone until past bedtime tonight)... Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow (fake snow that is easy for mama to clean up).....

Easy math question for all you scholars out there. What do you get when you add one container of white playdough with generous amounts of silver glitter? Give up? You get indoor "snow-dough"! A huge hit this morning with both SweetPea and PorkChop (and yes, I did give my 4 month old snow-dough to play with and no, he didn't attempt to eat it at all).

This one may turn into one that we do more often just because it was so fun. Not only for the littles, who happily spent 15 minutes and an hour and a half (depending on which little) happily sculpting, squishing, throwing, rolling, creating their dough, but it gave mama a few minutes to work on some Christmas presents herself.

SweetPea made us some snow-dough pizza, followed by a host of dinosaur friends to come and share it with us. She also had a snow-dough dance party on daddy's speaker while mama went to the bathroom, thus canceling anymore snow-dough fun for the day. PorkChop happily squealed while squishing his, putting it into his lap, staring, and then picking it up again. Before him, I never would have thought to try to include the "baby" into our activities based on age. Now? I am finding that just about everything that I do with SweetPea, I can do with PorkChop on some level. Baking cookies? Hand him a cookie cutter to play with. Sorting colors? Hand him some pom poms to hold. Coloring at the table? Yep... let him explore a crayon. I think of all my P's, he is the one with the least amount of "toys" but the one getting the most richest experiences out of early life.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas countdown day 7- footprints to the heart

Wednesday nights around here are, historically speaking, family nights. We try to do something all together after dinner, usually watching a movie since SweetPea is a little young for board games still and PorkChop can be held during a movie. Every once in a while, we shake things up though and do video games or out to do something. Since this is our Christmas countdown, we have decided to introduce (or share an old favorite) holiday movie.

Which is great for being together as a family but it doesn't give back much for Christmas. So today, the littles and I made some holiday cards for the heroes in our lives.

Tomorrow, when these dry, our bigs will be writing messages inside. Three will be sent on Friday to those serving overseas that will not be home to celebrate with their families. One will be delivered with cookies to our local police station. One will be delivered to our local firehouse along with a home-baked good. The third will be left in our mailbox along with some chocolate covered pretzels for our mail woman.

The treats will be made in the coming week/s but I wanted to get the cards done now. I am anxious to see what kind of messages the bigs write since I am not going to be helping them compose. I want them to reach into their own hearts to give thanks.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas countdown day 6- colorful lights

Today was being set aside for painting ornaments but we ended up having so many decorations that we turned painting into a family affair last night. Tonight, we will be hanging our glorious works of art on the tree but that doesn't help SweetPea and her quest to keep busy during the day. So we played some Christmas games today for our celebration.

This one was super easy and helped cement my decision that she truly is ready to receive the game Candyland for Christmas this year. Since this is one of the few games that hubby will actually play (along with Chutes and Ladders), I am even more excited about sharing it with her.

The idea behind this game is super simple. All you do is match your colored pom poms to the colored holiday lights. SweetPea had a ball screaming out the different colors and telling me who was wearing what color light. Even PorkChop got in the action by happily amusing himself with three of the larger pom poms. I really think that I need to invest in some laminating paper so I can protect our games like this for future use.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas countdown day 5- salt dough ornaments... and a lesson on giving from the heart

Today turned into quite an expected departure from our "norm". For one, hubby had a serious need for a sick day so we got the pleasure of having him home with us all day. Now, normal people work five days a week. Since March, hubby has been averaging seven. So an entire day with us is a major blessing.

We had planned on making salt dough ornaments for our tree today and went ahead with it as planned. Who knew that they would take almost all our morning time and then some of our evening time as well?! Lesson learned... make these on the weekend next year. But having hubby there to help me with SweetPea and PorkChop made it a much more pleasurable experience. Especially since it allowed me to get a very special ornament made for our little PorkChop's first Christmas.

One batch of dough ended up making 33 ornaments so we baked them during the early afternoon and let all four of the bigger P's paint them before dinner. Tomorrow night we will all work together as a family decorating our tree with our hand work. And since our tree is up out of the reach of our dogs, I might even end up relenting and teaching SweetPea how to thread Fruit Loops for a truly festive garland (popcorn and cranberries is just way beyond the skill level of a two year old....). I cannot wait to see how all the colors mesh together and how beautiful our Charlie Brown tree is going to look after our love is spread upon it.

We also had an unexpected lesson in giving from the heart. Hubby and I had planned on having the P's deliver homemade cookies to the "heroes" in our lives.... The local fire department, the police station, our mailman and our midwife. This was supposed to be our weekend "job" but instead, we got to deliver cookies (and milk) a bit earlier than anticipated.

You see, our midwife called today about a mama in need. She had delivered her twins at 36 weeks and while both babies were doing well, mama had a need to be seen at the hospital. They had someone there that could nurse the twins Sunday night and into today but tonight was a scramble to find milk for the two babies. I have never had any luck hand expressing but did have about 5oz in the freezer that I was willing to offer up. Midwife said that they would definitely take it and offered much thanks and appreciation. Since I am tandem'ing PorkChop and SweetPea, I decided to give hand expressing another go while nursing just one of them. So every feeding of PorkChop yesterday afternoon, I would pump as well. Ended up with another 5oz of fresh breast milk to donate.

I will admit, SweetPea wasn't so thrilled with losing her nursing position for the afternoon but there is a time to learn the sweet joys of sharing and giving. An unexpected way to receive the Christmas message but it felt good knowing that we could be doing our part in delivery both cookies (and milk) tonight.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas countdown day 4- stringing up the lights

I always looked forward to decorating the tree, as a young child, because there was something so magical about taking an ordinary looking tree and making it glow. Now that I am adult and creating my own traditions, I often long for the trees of my youth. The ones with tons of garland, glass ornaments, and icicles strewn everywhere. You see, one of our new traditions as a family is that the ornaments going onto our tree are all hand made by either the kiddos or myself. The only exception is the lights, because hubby is a glow-fiend.

I really don't know what happens to our ornaments at the end of each season but it seems like less and less survive. All the hard work that went into painting ceramic ornaments over the past few years are now hidden somewhere in the labrynth that we call a basement. A few have made it though... a candy cane reindeer that Peanut made in Daisy Scouts when she was still home schooled, a cd ornament that Punk made his first year in public school (fourth grade), the foam snowflake ornament that Peanut made especially for me last school year by adding penguins.

Tomorrow, SweetPea and I will be spending our morning making some salt ornaments to hang on the tree. I hope to do a decent amount up and then let all the kiddos paint them on Tuesday. Our little Charlie Brown tree seems so bare right now without all the colorful baubles that I would love to have on there. But at the same time, I know that my heart will sing when I add the ones done by my own children's hands.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas countdown day 3- gingerbread mayhem

Mmmm... cookies. Not much else says holidays to me than spending way more time than normal in the kitchen whipping up batches of deliciousness. I love holiday baking, even holiday post baking cleaning is a joy. Why? Because of the closeness, the exploration, the pure wonder when you can throw seemingly random ingredients into a bowl and come out with a delightful treat at the end.

Today? Today SweetPea and I made some "kid-friendly" butterscotch gingerbread cookies. I found the recipe and decided that it was going to be our "new" attempt at a timeless classic. I wasn't sure how SweetPea would do with a real gingerbread cookie and these just seemed so.... fun.

I especially liked that these ones were dubbed kid-friendly because it meant that it was much easier for her to use our cookie cutters to create the perfect Christmas cookies. Even better? She found that we had dinosaur cookie cutters mixed in there. So, of course, we had to make sure to make some T-Rexes and stegasauruses to go along with our gingerbread boys and girls, snowmen, bells and Christmas trees.

I wish that I could say that this was a total family affair since it was one of our weekend projects but hubby and Pickle both decided that baking was not for them this time and headed out to get the wood to build our new firewood "steps". At least they spent the time together and enjoyed our cookies after.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas countdown day 2- The Nutcracker

Day two today of our countdown to Christmas. Hubby and I decided that Fridays, a normally very busy evening for our family, would be devoted to receiving a new holiday book, curling up on the couch and making the time to read together as a family. Since Punk and Peanut are usually at their dad's on Fridays, and Pickle is at his mom's every other weekend, I selected books that I thought were more "fun" for SweetPea. Imagine my shock tonight when Pickle came over to hear the story of the Nutcracker Ballet.

SweetPea hasn't seen anything before dealing with this story/ballet so tonight was her introduction into the magical world of the Land of Sweets. Even PorkChop sat enthralled and listened to his daddy read the story. I really think that one of our holiday purchases this year should be a small nutcracker to put out during the holiday season. Even just an ornament of one will do. I want a tangible reminder about being kind to those without expecting anything in return, like Marie (or as I was raised, Clara) did in the book.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

let the countdown begin (25 days of Christmas)

This year, I am starting a new tradition with the family. We will be celebrating the 25 days of Christmas.The holiday season is a special time of the year of remembering to give thanks, to show your appreciation of others, to share and care and be merry, to move forward while remembering to cherish where you have been. I want SweetPea and PorkChop to grow understanding that Christmas is more than just gifts and "the gimmes". Its about taking time to be with your family, to show love and thoughtfulness to others, to learn the joy in giving- not just in receiving.

So we start today with our countdown. Much like an advent calendar, we will also count down each day to the Christmas holiday. But each day will be marked by a different "project". Some days, it will focus on reading books about the holiday season, books that give us pause and remind us not to be selfish. Some days, it will be about holiday movies and sharing that closeness with the entire family. Other days, we will be baking goodies to keep, to share, to surprise our neighbors with. Still other days might include a trip to do something special, something that will help us to share in the joy of Christmas without focusing on the all mighty dollar sign.