Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Christmas Morning

Ed and I had arranged for Ed's mom and sister to watch the kids open their Christmas presents via a live video stream. We had assumed that the kids would be up between 6:30am and 7am so they were sitting in Florida waiting for us to start our day. At 7AM the kids still weren't sleeping so I decided to get up and "help" them wake up.

Here's sweet Ellis waking up.

Once Ellis was up he was eager to wake his brother up.

We raced into the living room to see what wonders had been left by Santa. Santa left three presents each for the boys. The three presents represent the three gifts that the wise men brought baby Jesus. Ellis got a little sitting chair with his name on it, a puppy pillow pet and a Woody doll (from Toy Story).

 Owen got a bean bag chair this his name on it, a Panda pillow pet, and a Buzz Light Year toy.

Both boys were very excited about their Santa presents.

After discovering their Santa presents they said good morning to Grandma and Aunt Nicole on the computer and then went straight for the rest of the presents under the tree. They got lots of goodies and were very appreciative of all the presents.

After opening presents at our house we went out to my parents house and opened more presents, had lunch, and spent a nice afternoon with my family. It was a perfect Christmas day. As we were driving home from my parents house in the early evening it started really snowing and sticking to the ground. It was a little late but I think the best Christmas present we got was a White Christmas.

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Christmas - Part One

I have very fond memories of the holiday season growing up. My parents did an exceptional job of making this time of year feel magical. We weren't lavished with presents. We never took fancy trips. We celebrated the season as a family. We spent time together, splurged on a few gifts, and spent a good deal of time with our friends and church members. I can't put my finger on exactly why the holidays were so magical, but there was always a sense of wonder and excitement.

This year I really tried to re-create those same feelings from my childhood for my kids. I kept things simple and didn't stress about running around shopping and trying to make everything perfect. I did most of my shopping online and had all of my presents wrapped the week before Christmas. This little bit of extra planning gave me the free time I wanted just to be with my family.

I was able to take the week before Christmas as vacation. Not having to work was wonderful. I arranged for a group of neighborhood friends to go ice skating with my oldest son Owen and I. We had a blast. My sister kept the boys over night one day so Ed and I got to have a nice date night. We baked lots of cookies. We spent one evening looking at a wonderful display of Christmas lights at Callaway Gardens. It was a wonderful week leading up to the big day.

Christmas Eve we had our traditional family dinner and then the boys got to open two presents.

Ellis opened a Curious George lunch box. He loves George and really wants to go to school, so this was a great gift for him.

Owen opened a Cars PlayStation 3 video game. He really wanted a Nintendo DS but Ed and I want him to keep his Leapster for at least another year so we thought the video game was a nice compromise.

The video game has been a huge hit. I think that Ed has played the video game almost as much as Owen.

After the boys opened the toys they got to open one other gift. They got matching Christmas PJ's. I've given then PJ's on Christmas Eve for the last three years but Owen obviously forgot. He was not very excited about the present. He made me promise that he didn't have any more gifts that were clothes under the tree. Kids have the oddest opinions sometimes. I'm glad that they both humored me and wore the PJs. Don't they look so cute together?

After presents we read The Polar Express and set out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots and celery for the reindeer.

Later that evening after everyone was asleep Santa came.

Friday, December 24, 2010

My Christmas Eve Dinner

For the past several years, on Christmas Eve, Ed and I have cooked a simple family dinner and shared a nice meal together before the hectic times of Christmas Day begin. This year my sister will be joining us again. This is one of my favorite meals of the year. I look forward to his time together almost as much as Christmas morning. Every year we make something different - one year we made a standing rib roast, once a hearty lasagna, once just some nice steaks and baked potatoes. Now that Owen is getting old enough to have an opinion about what he wants to eat, we let him help plan this years menu.

Tonight we will serving BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, cheesy mashed potatoes, and green beans two ways. Owen had originally asked for us to serve sloppy joe's (which is his favorite food) but I thought the pulled pork would be a nice compromise. My boys, like all kids love starches so we let Owen decide between potatoes and homemade macaroni and cheese. And I love green beans. I bought fresh green beans at the farmer's market yesterday that I will saute with some shallots and garlic. The boys don't like fresh green beans but eat canned green beans like crazy, so I'll serve them the canned variety.

For dessert the boys will eat cookies and I'm making an apple, pear, and cranberry crumble for us grown ups. I also bought a few different types of cheese and some fresh bread and crackers that I'll serve as a simple appetizer. We'll have apple cider for the kids and wine for us. It will be a wonderful meal.

I love cooking but don't get to spend as much time in the kitchen as I would like so preparing this simple meal for my family today in between finishing up the last minute wrapping and preparing for Santa's visit tonight makes me very happy. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Winter Vacation

I was able to take the week off work and have been having a great time at home with the boys. Over the weekend we did a little bit of yard work.

At one point Owen was actually in tears because I wouldn't let him have the big rake. He's such a great helper. I really hope his desire to help around the house continues as he gets older.

We were able to get the tile back splash in the kitchen installed. It looks amazing and I am so happy with our progress thus far. (Ed's going to work on the grout tomorrow but you definitely get the feel from the below pictures.)

Owen has turned into a great little kitchen helper. He did a great job with the ginger bread house.

And we had a blast baking cookies this afternoon.

Today was also a very exciting day for Ellis. He used the big potty for the very first time. We have been telling him he could open a present if he would use the potty. Here is a picture of him in his big boy underwear and his prize (it's the robot Sparks from the movie Toy Story 3).

These may seem like small moments, but for me, it's the little things in life that I cherish more than anything else. We have had a great time this week just being together as a family. At the end of the day, during this time of year, it's really just about being able to spend time with the ones that you love, and for me, that's all about my family.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My December - So Far

When I was in college the Counting Crows were one of my favorite bands. Tonight I was thinking about their song called "Long December" and find the title somewhat ironic. To me it seems like the holiday season keeps passing by more and more quickly. I wonder how anyone could ever think of this month as "long". I know this has little to do with the actual song, but it was on my mind.

The first two weeks of this month have passed much more quickly than I had hope. The day after Thanksgiving we bought our tree and decorated it over the course of the weekend. This year we had a little extra room for a tree so Ed made sure to buy the biggest one possible.

When I was growing up each year my mom purchased a special ornament for my sisters and I. The ornament always had a meaning for something that was important to us at that time in our life. One year I was in love with the circus, so I have a circus themed ornament. One year I was a cheerleader for the Lions, so I have a lion ornament. I got a Florida State ornament the first year I was in college. Decorating my Christmas tree every year brings back a flood of memories that I cherish dearly. This is a tradition that I've started for my boys as well. This year the boys each got Rudolph ornaments because they are in love with reindeer.

After the tree we decorated the rest of the living room.

I would normally decorate more but we are still in the process of remodeling our kitchen. I want to limit the amount of stuff that requires cleaning after reach drywall sanding.

Most of my shopping is now done. My presents that need to be shipped are now in the mail. I have to work this week but I'm off the week before Christmas. I've got a few fun things planned for the boys. I hope I am able to take some time to just enjoy my friends and family and not feel the hectic rush which is an all too familiar feeling this time of year. The holidays are suppose to be a time of celebrating with family and friends but often we keep ourselves so busy that we don't have time to just ENJOY the moment. Hopefully this will not be the case for us this year.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Health

I've had a little bit of a health scare the last two weeks. Without going into too much detail I'm now temporarily paralyzed on the left side of my face. It's been quite a struggle for my family and I. I was in the hospital for a few days and I was confronted with the most helpless feeling I can remember in quite some time. The boys had a hard time understanding what was wrong with mommy. My husband had a hard time being both mom and dad all of the time. I am still having a little bit of a problem knowing that I'm vulnerable.

At the end of the day, it could have been much worse. I was out of work for only a week. The doctor's think that I will heal okay over time without surgery as long as the medication does it's job. I have a lot to be thankful for, but it's still a very scary experience. As a mother I want to protect my children from all possible moments of hurt, but I can't always protect them. Hearing my oldest cry on the phone while I was lying in a hospital bed is not a memory that will fade quickly. So, as I look forward to this Thanksgiving Day, I'm going to take a few extra moments to really appreciate all that I have in my life, and to appreciate the joy that my sons and my husband bring to me. I know that this life goes much faster than I sometimes want it to, so it's nice to be reminded that we all have many reasons to be thankful.

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Kitchen

My husband and my father are currently in the process of renovating my kitchen. We are building out a completely new space. We're knocking down walls and moving the location of the kitchen. They have been working so hard on the project for weeks.

This past weekend they successfully hung the last of the cabinets, installed the butcher block counter tops, and installed my fancy sink.

I know it probably sounds strange but this sink was my inspiration for the entire kitchen. I look at this sink and I feel like I am immediately transported to a time when life was slower, simpler, and more quite. I think of the uncomplicated farm life when you worried about your family and their fortune and nothing else. Sometimes I feel committed to so many different people and projects and places that I never have time to just enjoy my life. I want to savor the time I have with my family because I know that this time will end all too quickly.

I know that a sink will not solve all of my problems but I have hope. Our kitchen is the last MAJOR remodel project left in our little house. I'm looking forward to lazy weekend mornings making breakfast while the boys play. I'm looking forward to making lots of wonderful meals and sweets with my boys in this new kitchen. I'm looking forward to enjoying many meals prepared by my wonderful husband in this new space. I'm just looking for a little peace - just like so many more people out there.