Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas 2013

This was probably my favorite Christmas morning so far, even counting the ones when I was a kid and rushing down the stairs to see exactly what Santa had brought me.

This has been the first year that Bailey has really gotten it. 
And by it I mean Santa. And presents. And magical reindeer food.
And since Bailey finally understood, she made sure to talk to Avery about it incessantly, so Avery seemed to get it too.

Jared arrived home from work Christmas morning and the girls took off for stairs. They immediately remembered that Santa came the night before and left some presents for them under the tree.

I gathered them up with their daddy for a quick picture before the unwrapping commenced. 
Can you sense Bailey's excitement?

Can you also tell we have a 13 month-old in the house?
No ornaments on the bottom half of the tree.
And only bite-mark-resistant ones on the rest of it.
Eat your heart out, Better Homes and Gardens!

Christmas morning was fun. And it took FOREVER! The girls just kept pausing to admire or play with their gifts. They were just so excited about everything.

"Kit-Kat! I love Kit-Kats"  *hugs candy bar*
Pretty sure she has never even had one before.

"A book?! YES!" *hugs book*

"Look, Mom! New underwear!" *hugs underwear* 
(Remember how she asked Santa for underwear?)

Their excitement for the littlest of things was sweet and just so innocent. They were excited for underwear for Pete's sake! 

I want my kids to appreciate Christmas for what it is - not a time for mile-long wish lists, crowded stores, and overspending - but a time to reflect on the reason for the season. (Corny but true.) A time to spend some carefree days with those we love.

Every year when December hits, the media is constantly giving advice on how to avoid certain family members or deflect uncomfortable dinner conversation over the Christmas holiday. 
Thank God I don't have that to worry about.
I am grateful that I don't have to utilize any special psychology methods to diffuse stressful situations at holiday gatherings. 
We just have fun.
Don't get me wrong, I have blood relatives that I don't want to see, so we don't. And it isn't a big deal for me. We spent the holidays with the people we wanted to spend them with - minus Jared's family that is so far away. 

I think that plays a large role in keeping Christmas stress-free for us. The only real stress we experienced was the hustle and bustle of shuffling kids around to different places and extra whining due to missed naps.

We celebrated Christmas early at my parents' house this year. And instead of the traditional Christmas spread - which we had two days later on Christmas Day - we made pizzas. Everybody chipped in - kneading crust, adding toppings, and baking them up. We weren't stuffed to the gills like usual and had much more time for sitting around opening gifts and laughing instead of worrying about loads of dishes.

One of these days I will have all three children content for a picture at the same time. 
It will happen.

We went to the Christmas Eve church service. 
We took all the usual in-front-of-the-tree pictures.
We soaked in the amazement of our toddlers on Christmas morning.

Christmas afternoon was spent with my other grandparents - Ronnie and Joyce.
And prime rib.
(And even more prime rib.)

My grandma Joyce has had a rough year. 
She was diagnosed with a rare form of cervical cancer this past July. After surgery, a long recovery, and chemotherapy ever since, she has been a fighter. She just finished her last treatment a week before Christmas, and things look good right now. So this Christmas was a little extra special, more reflecting on the important stuff and cherishing those people we can sometimes take for granted.

I guess that about sums it up.
The only other thing that needs said: If you are debating buying a 125-piece play food set for your children, DON'T. 
Cheap, cheap, and cheap are the words that come to mind. 
Oh yeah, and regret. 
The kids (and the puppy) love it, but Mama definitely does not.

I hope all of you had a happy, relatively-stress-free holiday, too!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Seven on Sunday

1.  We are celebrating Christmas with my parents and sisters tomorrow afternoon.
I can't believe Christmas is almost here.
Seriously, what am I going to use to blackmail my kids into being good now?

2.  I am loving this.

Only I had a daybed.
And instead of a JTT poster (which I am shocked I didn't have), I sported an old-school Garth Brooks poster on my closet door.

3.  Speaking of my old pal Garth, rumor has it he is headed out on tour again in 2014. I will *need* tickets. My back-in-the-day BFF Sarah and I went to his concert in 1996. Seriously, 1996...? Anyway, it was a surprise present for my 12th birthday. Best present ever for a nerdy super fan.
Meanwhile, I just spent 20 minutes digging through my childhood photo album trying to come across the horrible picture of Sarah and me in our concert t-shirts and horrible short haircuts. Alas, I think it is permanently missing. Which is too bad, because man, was that picture worth a laugh!

4. We took the girls to their first movie ever today. We saw Frozen. I thought it was cute, Jared not so much. But the girls loved it. Avery loved the popcorn even more. This was the scene that followed.
Hey, at least they waited until the movie was over and we were in the car!
And the movie for sure had one decent song, which is good because freakin' Pandora is permanently set to the Disney kids' music station at our house. I swear I know all the words to every Disney movie song ever created.

*Side note: Just when I am about puncture my own ear drums, this same kids' music station will randomly play a Garth Brooks song. And not just any song - one of my favorites. Weird, right? It's totally a sign regarding #3....

5. I have come to realize I have horrible magazine guilt.
I like magazines and I didn't pay for a single subscription to any of them thanks to expiring Southwest miles or something, but I never make the time to read them. And I feel guilty just recycling them without attempting to read them. They just sit there in a pile until I feel guilty enough to skim through one.
Like Family Circle, poor thing... I just realized I had issues dating back to June!
And O! Magazine... Why yes, Oprah, I just love your recommendations, like that one for a $700 pair of pants.

So listen up family members:
I am a horrible magazine reader. Don't contribute to my guilt.
(Except for the HGTV mag. I love that shit.)

6.  The Duck Dynasty thing. I am so tired of hearing about it, as is everyone else I am sure. The media in this country catches wind of some "scandal" and suddenly it is the "news" we have to hear about every ten minutes.
I thought this post captured what I was thinking exactly.

7.  And lastly, my dear husband brought this piece of info to my attention just today. The book Outlander (which I nerdily blogged about last year) is currently filming for the Starz network.
I. Am. Pumped.
And I could hump the leg of the guy playing the main character Jamie, and I am not ashamed to admit it.
Check out 3:15 to see what I am talking about.
You're welcome.

Friday, December 20, 2013

"just love today"

I've been a horrible blogger this week. There were multiple times and things I wanted to write, but I never seemed to get the chance. And when I did have the chance, I was too damn tired to move off the couch and go to bed, let alone sit and write a blog.

With Graham just now starting to sleep through the night again for the first time in almost 8 weeks (thanks so much, teething and baby gas), I have been extra tired. And extra-tiredness leads to feeling extra stressed. And it's not even Christmas stress. I can't imagine how overwhelmed I'd be if I was still worried about which presents buy.
Nope, it's just been the daily stuff.
Whining kids.
A crying baby.
Mom I need milk! {What is it with my kids needing so much freakin' milk all the time?!}
Guarding the Christmas tree so it doesn't topple over on anyone.

And when I am tired, I tend to lose my shit right around, oh, precisely 4:30 pm.
After a long day of staying positive and encouraging with five kids, I am spent. My brain tells me: You cannot handle hearing "I NEED A SNACK!" one more time.

One night last week after a pretty terrible day, I saw a post that a Facebook friend shared. It was a post from the website Hands Free Mama. The author is named Rachel, and she explains in painful detail how she has struggled to become the mom and person she wants to be.
This post really hit me hard.
Guilt hit me hard.

Too often I am the one exasperated or yelling over a glass of spilled milk or a stolen (again!) cell phone or a broken ornament.
I can be a bit of a control freak.
It's hard for me to embrace the mess and the clutter that comes with letting our kids explore and play and learn and just be kids.
I could see part of me in this woman's writing.
It was exactly what I needed to read, exactly when I needed to read it.

I don't want my kids to be scared of my reaction when they knock over a flower pot or spill their lunch. I don't want to see them cringe awaiting my wrath over an innocent mistake.
I don't want to be that mom.
I vowed to try my best the next day.

It sounds super cheesy, but Rachel's mantra of "Just Love Today" described in the post actually helped. I didn't tell myself those exact words, but when I felt on the verge of an eye roll or exaggerated sigh, I remembered the post from the night before.

Our kids are going to have enough people filling their heads with negativity,
telling them that they aren't good enough,
pretty enough,
smart enough,
clever enough,
strong enough,
fast enough,
creative enough.
They shouldn't ever feel any of those things from their own mother.
I want them to learn and create and bloom into the best versions of themselves that they can be. I want to be a mom that encourages them, not one who stands over them waiting for the inevitable mess or spill or mistake.

I was going to recommend that anyone who struggles with similar issues should check out her blog.
But I take that back.
Every parent should check out this site.
Heck, every person should.
We could all stand to be more compassionate, patient, engaged people.
A little effort goes a long way.
For your kids. For your spouse. For yourself.

This week has been a lot calmer.
Busy, and not without its moments, but good. It's not always easy to keep my cool, but as long as I am working on it, that's what counts.
We're all just a work in progress anyway, right?

Friday, December 13, 2013

the good {Christmas} stuff

We fit some fun Christmas stuff into the last couple of days.

We had Wednesday wide open. Jared didn't work the night before, which meant he would be awake and functioning like a normal person, and I didn't have to watch my two extra kids that day.
A perfect day for Christmas cookies.


And of course... the tasting.
Later that afternoon the girls asked if they could have a cookie. I said that they could and they each began happily nibbling away. But they left the pan on the table, right near the edge. Graham was ready to sample his cookie too. After all, he did work hard supervising it all from his high chair.
No big shocker - he's a fan of sugar cookies too.
Tonight we went to visit Santa.
I know I wrote earlier that I was a slacker mom and we were going to miss meeting Santa this holiday because I refuse to stand in the mall and pay for the privilege of taking a crappy photo of my kid bawling on Santa's lap.
But I take it back, our kids finally did get to meet the big guy. We went to Santa's Castle in a nearby(ish) town.

And much to my shock, it went well. I really talked it up today, about how awesome Santa is and that if the girls didn't tell him what they wanted for Christmas, Santa wouldn't know what to get them. Nothing like a little motivation to climb up on Santa's lap!

Bailey whined and whined all day about how she wasn't going to sit on Santa's lap "no matter what, Mom."
And then the time came and she practically trampled Avery to get to him first.
He asked the usual Santa-type questions. Of course she has been a good girl. Yes, she is excited for Christmas. yada yada yada

Then they got down to business:
I would like some princess dolls.
Awesome. Grandma Sherri already has those checked off the list.
And some cars and trucks.
This took him by surprise. Apparently Santa wasn't expecting such a boy-themed gift.
Santa prompted for some more: "Would you like some pretty new clothes from Santa?"
Yes, I want new underwear!
We have raised such a practical little child...

Avery was very quiet and timid with Santa.
And those of you who know Avery know how rare that is!
She eventually whispered that she would like some dollies for Christmas.
Santa autographed her new Christmas book, and she was on her merry way. {See what I did there? Crafty, I know.}

Graham was less sure about the man in the weird, fluffy suit.
He was more curious than anything. And when it became clear that he was nearing freak-out mode, Santa reached for a book from his bag just in the {Saint) nick of time. (I promise that's the last one.)
Right at the end we did see some tears, but he did pretty well for it being his first meeting with Santa.
As our kids grow older, the holidays become more and more fun. I love the excitement in their eyes as they participate in holiday traditions, like using that first snowman cookie cutter and hanging ornaments on the tree. The pure unadulterated joy in the photo above - the one of Bailey as she watches the first dough star placed on the cookie sheet... That is what all these Christmas traditions are for. For them.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Five on Friday

It's the Five on Friday link-up!

1. I am loving getting the mail this month. Seeing all the sweet faces of our friends and their kids (or pets) really makes my day. I honestly thought I had been an overachiever this year. I had our cards ordered and addressed, all ready to go, and I waited to mail them because I thought it might be too early. Well we got our first three cards in the mail that day, so I decided it was safe to mail them out.

2. I am done Christmas shopping. Like done-done. And said purchases are all wrapped too.
Yeah, I'm bragging.
It is a great feeling to know we can just enjoy the rest of the month now. How people can handle the pressure of buying gifts on Christmas Eve Day is just way beyond me.

3. Jared has been a bit MIA lately, mostly working in the basement. He has had quite a few orders from his little Etsy side business. Our cousin has an old barn/corn crib that is being torn down bit by bit. Jared has been using that wood and making signs out of it. It's a win-win for everybody. Free wood for Jared and a little less of the barn for my cousin to tear down. This is his latest creation.

4. Our kids have watched a few Christmas movies this season. (Wow, I am having lots of Christmas thoughts today....) They were pretty taken with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, even if their dad can't appreciate its 1960s awesome-ness.
Graham sat still for all of two minutes.
His new birthday toys are much more interesting.

5. I have to admit that my kids have never met Santa Claus.
(I know, I know. What kind of mother am I?)
Last year I had plans to take them during the winter celebration in our town. Well turns out I had a baby that day instead. Whoops.
And this year, that same annual celebration is the same day that my younger sis graduates with her Master's degree in Education. (Go Beaner!) So we will be missing out again. And as much as I would like to take them, I just don't know that I have it in me to brave the mall on a weekend.
So... *fingers crossed*...  next year?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanksgiving week recap

He's walking. 
He can't be stopped.
I love seeing his little legs wobbling behind me everywhere I go. And he is fast too. I swear he's close to running.
(Good thing those monthly pictures are now done.)

Last Wednesday night - the night before Thanksgiving - Jared and I went out with my sisters.
Adult beverages and keepin' it real ensued. 
A good time was had by all.
 (No-shave-November is technically over, but Jared still has the beard...
Not sure of my opinion on this yet.)

Avery is a complete klutz, but even I am not sure how she accomplished this one.
On the morning of Graham's birthday party she fell out of her booster seat at the dining room table. I was in the kitchen doing dishes, so I didn't see it happen, but she managed to cut open her forehead. There wasn't a sharp surface or toy in sight, so who knows how she did it.
An emergency doctor's visit and 3 stitches later, she was good as new.

We are officially in the Christmas spirit at the Solko residence!
We put on the official Christmas playlist, warmed up some hot chocolate, donned comfy PJ's and ridiculous Santa hats, and decorated the house.

 I ordered these new stockings online from an Etsy shop (SweetLittleThings4u).
I'm very impressed with the quality.
They weren't cheap, but I love how they turned out.
Can't wait for Santa to stuff these stockings with delicious Reese's PB trees...

Monday, December 2, 2013

Graham's party

We celebrated Graham's birthday the Friday after Thanksgiving. While some people were crashing after a morning of frenzied shopping, we were gathered around watching a one year-old cover himself in cake.

The birthday boy enjoyed his gifts - specifically the ones with wheels that he could push around the room. He got to open approximately two whole gifts. Bailey and Avery were nice enough to handle all the rest of them on his behalf. Such sweet, thoughtful girls they are.

 Out of all of our kids, Graham enjoyed his cake the most thoroughly.

And finally, my favorite photo.
I like to call this one Cake Wasted.

How he ever fell asleep that night is a mystery to me.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

WTF Wednesday

the Fisher-Price Ipad "apptivity" (ugh...) seat.

Fisher-Price apptivity seat

I truly hope that no parent-to-be puts this thing on their baby registry. I mean we all occasionally use the TV as a babysitter for our older kids, but this thing is intended for newborns. Newborns. You know, those tiny little humans that are all crossed-eyed and lack any real motor control? Yep, them. 
Why not get their iPads connected pronto? Little Susie needs to get caught up on Game of Thrones and update her Facebook status!

I'm pretty sure that anyone who knows anything about babies knows that this is bad for them, right? Whatever happened to rattles? Or just letting the babe check out its surroundings? (Everything is new and amazing when all you have seen for the last 9 months is the side of a placenta.) 

But, oh, who am I kidding? Forget it. Plug in the Ipad. Let's try our best to stifle baby's imagination and creativity straight out of the womb.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

New bathroom

Our main bathroom renovation was completed last Monday.
Since then we have been enjoying the deep tub and much warmer surroundings. (Yay for insulation!) We still have a few details left, most importantly a curtain or shade for the window. We have been trying our best to not be inadvertent exhibitionists, but sometimes it happens... (Many apologies, neighbors.) We need something on that window stat! We are also still finding little things to fill the beach crates on the wall, along with a cute photo of the kids in the tub to perch above the towel hook shelf Jared made.

My favorite parts (besides the fact that it isn't purple):
* The vanity is extra tall.
* There is more than one outlet now.
     And seeing as there are three females in this family, that is huge.

* There are actual walls to hang things on - not just fake tile from floor to ceiling.
It's warm! (Yes, I am mentioning my love of insulation again.)

So without further ado, I present our new bathroom.



Overall we are really happy.
Are we happy that it cost even more than predicted due to the horrible shape the bathroom was in? No.
But I am excited that it is done and happy that it is no longer the ugliest room in our house.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

some Saturday silence

Today it was just me and my man. The little one, that is.

After a long week full of whining, biting, and fighting, I dumped the girls on my mom and dad and enjoyed a little peace and quiet this morning.
I had forgotten how much easier life is with one kid instead of three. Especially one that still takes two naps a day.
Glorious silence!
I got a lot of household tasks accomplished and even had time to work out without little bodies attempting push-ups beside me.

Graham and I had some nice one-on-one time together.

He is changing so much, so quickly. The last year has just disappeared in the blink of an eye. 
He has had the stairs mastered - both up and down - for the last couple months.
His main mode of transportation is walking now.
He finds my cell phone whenever he can and holds it up to his ear and mouth.
He signs "more" when he wants more to eat and has started saying "Maaah" with it too.
He gives sweet little open-mouthed kisses on command that melt my heart.

It amazes me just how "boy-like" he is. We have had cars and trucks and "boy toys" since we have had kids. The girls always had the option of playing with them. They just didn't.
Graham is drawn to them. He loves to push them around on the floor. He has even started making raspberry noises as he pushes them, which kinda sounds like a car noise.
{I am sure this is pure coincidence, but it is so freakin' cute.}
The bus is also a big favorite. It is usually loaded down with princesses "going to school" by sister Bailey, but today it was all his. In fact, the whole house was all his. Every toy, every book... that never happens!