Thursday, December 25, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

countdown to Christmas

Christmas is a mere two days away and I am a little saddened by that fact. This year the month of December seemed to fly by. 
I love the house all decorated. At night when the house is picked up and there isn't a toy in sight, I sit down and enjoy the dim glow of the Christmas lights and pine-scented candles. Choir-sung Christmas carols have a way of soothing the emotional exhaustion I feel lately. The house feels festive. The kids are excited. A new (clearance sale!) tree shines brightly in the girls' room. The chaos and joy and celebration of Christmas Day looms closer.

But in the meantime, tasks are to be completed.
A few final presents need wrapped.
Food needs prepared.
There's always laundry to do. Always.
And then there's the usual house cleaning that comes with hosting a holiday party, even though it's just a small, immediate family-only gathering on Christmas Eve. 

So before I depart to clean under dining room booster seats - you always think you do a decent job housekeeping until you check under those bad boys, I leave you with this gem from like 1995 or something.
There are so many comments to be made from this picture...
Have a good laugh at our expense.

Enjoy your last few days of all things merry and bright.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas traditions

Christmas is the holiday for family traditions. And Christmas has this talent for making me think in a rose-colored glasses sort of way. My mind drifts back to the traditions of the Christmas season that we celebrated when I was a small freckle-faced child growing up in rural Iowa.

Decorating the tree and the house to the sound of Alvin and the Chipmunks singing the holiday classics. (Yes, my mom did that by choice.)

The Christmas Eve church program we put on as Sunday school kids every single year. 

Driving around looking at lights with my Grandma Joyce and Grandpa Ronnie.

The holiday cookies and goodies that covered every surface of my mom's kitchen. 

Running excitedly down the stairs on Christmas morning to what felt like a mountain of presents under the tree.

They have this glossy feel that favorite childhood memories have. A feeling that everything was perfect and right in the world. There was a magical, special feeling to all the little things that happened during the month of December.

And I want my kids to have that feeling. To be able to look back fondly at special moments we celebrated as a family. Before December even arrives, I am already anticipating all kinds of magical Christmas-y activities. 
decorating the tree.
baking Christmas cookies.
looking at Christmas lights.
I smile thinking of how special it is going to be. 
The twinkling tree lights apparently affect my memory and dramatically increase my optimism. 

Before long reality sets in. 
Graham is taking ornaments and throwing them across the living room. 
Fights ensue over the set of pretend reindeer antlers. 
After 6 hours of Christmas baking, I am lacking the patience required to help preschoolers decorate cookies. Ten kinds of sprinkles?! What was I thinking?!
The hot chocolate we poured lovingly into sippy cups for the Christmas light viewing gets lost and rolls under a seat during the drive. 
Apparently the kids didn't get the memo: We're making magical memories, dammit!

Sometimes I see other families and the fun stuff they are doing this holiday season. I think, why aren't we doing that? Are we doing enough? Would our kids even behave enough for that?! Are our kids going to look back fondly at what we are doing? Are they going to remember me losing patience over the pound of sprinkles on the floor?

But the truth is, 
things weren't perfect when I was growing up either. 
In almost every picture in front of the tree on Christmas Eve, at least one of us kids is pouting or crying or crossing our arms in defiance. 
And yes, we looked at Christmas lights with my grandparents, but usually around 10 minutes in, we were more excited about the Pizza Hut they promised us than any nativity display.
I was a small child during the farm crisis of the 1980s when money was tight, and I am sure most of my presents were necessities - not the newest toy I thought I wanted.

But none of that distracts from the glowing feeling of my childhood Christmases. In the end what mattered was that my mom and dad were there on Christmas morning - Dad throwing balled up wads up paper at us, Mom in the kitchen baking turnovers for breakfast. 
Santa had showed up and there were gifts under our tree to unwrap in a wild frenzy.
Our grandparents wanted to spend time with us, even if we were just in it for the pizza.
We went as a family to Christmas Eve church and sang our little hearts out for everyone to hear.
Perfection isn't a requirement for cherished childhood memories.

Our kids are still little, and we are gradually adding to the traditions around here.

I don't put on the Chipmunks album, but we decorate together and jam to some other tunes. 

We bake cookies and try to contain the kids' enthusiasm for sprinkle throwing.

We load up and go looking at Christmas lights, hot chocolate filled sippies required.

We dress up in fancy clothes for the kids' Christmas program at church. 

They might not be storybook-quality moments, but hopefully our kids will look past the imperfections and see the love that went in to each day and every occasion - big and small - of the holiday season. Hopefully someday they will remember the rosiness of their childhood holidays just like I do. 

**And no, you didn't miscount kids. We are watching my cousin Alan's daughter Carlie while they are on vacation. So Carlie got to join in some Christmas light viewing with us. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Faves

1. Blankie has been found!
Praise the Lord!
all that.
He had been M.I.A. for the past four days. Things were getting serious. We last saw him (yes, the blanket is referred to as a person around these parts) on Sunday when Graham went down for a nap. And then that night he was no where to be found. 
We. tore. this. place. apart.

I was on the fence about full-on accusing Jared of taking care of him Chicago mob boss style. See, Jared started to despise Blankie about 6 months ago when Graham figured out how to tear tiny bits of the fleece/cotton/whatever mixture off of it and roll it into balls. It's like a weird OCD thing he does when he is falling asleep. Whatever. Point is, there are tiny blue clumps of cottony fabric all over his room. So there was possible motive there...

But yesterday Bailey came running up the stairs yelling, "I found him! I found him!" The him, of course, being Blankie. The blanket had been stuffed into a small nightstand drawer in the spare bedroom. Clearly I owe Jared an apology. He did not shove him in the garbage and hustle it out to the curb Monday morning to cover his tracks.

Now that Blankie has returned, nap times are bound to go much more smoothly again.

2. Christmas decorations! 
We spent a large chunk of last Friday unpacking tub after tub of Christmas decor. 
The Pandora Christmas station was playing.
The tree went up.
Lights were hung.
Decorations are now in almost every room.

I particularly love our buffet in the dining room that helps spread more of the Christmas spirit around the house.

Jared even put up a couple strands of white lights on the girls' bunk beds. It's a fun substitute for a lamp for a few weeks, plus Bailey and Avery think it's pretty special.

3. And speaking of Christmas decorations, if you have a fake tree, you definitely need to purchase these bad boys.
Jared hates that we have a fake tree. But I like to have the tree up for a month, plus live trees are more work, as well as being more costly since as we got a good after-Christmas deal on our fake one. Jared mostly misses the fresh tree scent.
So we bought some Scentsicles on Amazon.
Under 9 bucks. 
Problem solved. 
It makes the whole room smell amaaaazing!
Totally worth it to buy a pack every December.

4. The girls' school pictures came in yesterday. I tried to scan them, but it made the quality of the already not-exactly-high-quality photos even less. 
But I was pleasantly surprised with how they turned out. Bailey as always did fine. 
With Avery, I had to go in with her after school got out. Her teachers tried and tried during her scheduled time, but she refused and wouldn't stop crying/freaking out. In the end I had to jump around acting crazy while bouncing her Hello Kitty backpack above the photographer for her to grimace smile at the camera. So considering all that went into them, they work for me.

And $80 later we have two somewhat okay photos that we could have taken ourselves in our own living room. But it's like a childhood rite of passage, right? You need these sometimes-good/sometimes-extremely-awkward photos to fully commemorate your school experience. Or they are just good for a laugh when it comes to making fun of your grown siblings. Either way.
Fe - your 7th grade v-ball photo. 
Nuff said.
(And you're welcome for not posting that photo here!)

5. Tonight I get to hang out with Sarah, one of my oldest friends. We've been friends since 3rd grade. 
us, 15 years ago

She is definitely one of the few people who will tell it to me straight no matter what the consequences, and that is one of the things I appreciate most in a friend. I can't wait for the laughs and over-sharing that is about to occur in a few hours!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Throwback Thursday

As most of you probably know, I started working out and tracking my calories back in April of this year. I don't write about it much because I don't want to bore people to tears, but it is definitely a big part of my life right now, so I thought a little update might be nice.

My weight loss has actually gone really well - despite my love for delicious and less-than-healthy foods at family get-togethers and holidays. I've lost 27 pounds at this point, surpassing my original goal of 20 a few months back. Starting around October I stopped being quite so rigid and am now satisfied losing a pound or (more typically) a half-pound a week. I work out about 5 days a week, sometimes for 30+ minutes and sometimes just for ten. I also have continued logging all my food on MyFitnessPal - something that I think has contributed greatly to my success thus far.

I was looking through photos over the past 12 months in order to make the calendars for family members, something I do every year at Christmas time. When you look at yourself in the mirror every single day, sometimes it is easy to not see progress. 
I couldn't resist a little side-by-side comparison, if only for my benefit.

I remember at the time thinking that that picture from 2013 was really flattering and made my face look thinner. Now I look at it and think, "Whoa, my face looked chubby!" 
And maybe it isn't a big difference at all to others looking at it, but it definitely is to me. 

Occasionally I wish I had taken a full body "before" photo like so many people do. At the time you definitely don't want photographic evidence of your starting point, but later on it would be nice to help you see just how far you have come. 

With the scale not moving as rapidly as it did in the beginning, I am happy to be noticing some non-scale victories lately.

  • Exercise pants I bought back in July are now so loose in the waist that I can't really do an involved workout while wearing my insulin pump because it makes them start to fall off.
  • I thought two pairs of workout/casual pants back in September. At the time I remember thinking, "Yeah they fit, but are they obnoxiously tight...? I will just wear them around the house." Now they are actually not fitted in the thighs anymore. That never happens!
  • I tried on dress pants that I used to wear to church in college. I remember wearing them for the last time on an interview for a nursing internship. That was 2007. Now not only do they fit, they are actually maybe too baggy to even look dressy anymore. 

My goals are constantly changing. 
At first all I really wanted was to lose 15 pounds and get back to my pre-baby weight. At the time I thought, I would give anything to weigh that amount again.
But once I reached that weight I figured I'd try to get to the weight I was on my wedding day. I'm now 7 pounds past that goal. 
My current goal is to reach a healthy weight, which means I still have 8-13 pounds left to lose. Losing 13 more pounds would put me at a healthy BMI - something I haven't been since I was a senior in high school 12 years ago!

I have other non-scale related goals too.
I want to increase my physical strength and stamina for completing workouts.
I'd like to run a 5k next year sometime.
And I am thinking maaaybe even purchase (even wear?) a 2-piece bathing suit next summer...  (Jared is totally rolling his eyes and saying "Reeeeally?" to that one.)  But hey, ya gotta have something to work toward, right?   :)

So if anyone reading this is on a similar weight loss journey, feel free to comment and/or add me on MyFitnessPal. I can always use more inspiration and people to hold me accountable!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Graham's 2nd birthday party - Thanksgiving style

Graham turned 2 years old last week and the celebration on his actual birthday was pretty simple. 
It was a Tuesday after all. 
And he's two. 
So we gave him a brownie with some ice cream, and he was a happy camper.
He got both candles on the first attempt.

Aunt Justy came over for supper because she was going to be out of town for the week and would miss Thanksgiving and his birthday party. She bought him a CAT digger set. 

You can't tell that he is excited about it at all, can you?
And as a disclaimer, I want to state that I do attempt to clothe this child. 
They don't seem to stay on. 
Or stay clean.

We continued the birthday celebrating this past Saturday. We had our "real" Thanksgiving meal with just my parents and two out of three (ain't bad, says Meat Loaf) sisters and my mom's parents. 
(We had a soup dinner on Thanksgiving Day, but it just ain't Thanksgiving without a turkey and some mashed taters and gravy, folks!)
As far as celebrations go, this was the lowest that low-key can get. I didn't do any decorating other than the cake. We spent the entire day eating basically. 

But of course there was present opening. And as far as gifts go, Graham received:

  • a car carrier,
  • a skidloader,
  • a tractor,
  • a Gator utility vehicle,
  • a digger,
  • a lawnmower,
  • a Batman motorcycle...
  • and some pajamas.

Noticing a trend? Minus the PJs of course.

Little Man loves his wheels.

 Forget the cake! There are fake hay bales to haul!

And lest I forget, I finally lifted the shoe-buying embargo on Aunt Fe, and she bought her little G a sweet pair of new kicks. 
And while I am at it, is "kicks" even culturally relevant anymore? 
I am totally sounding like a 30 year-old, aren't I?

We eventually drug Graham away from loading hay and pallets with Papa Jeff long enough to sing a quick Happy Birthday and let him blow out some candles on the tractor cake that his parents lovingly decorated and he barely noticed. 

Believe me, he sure liked to eat it though!
But he needed a glass of milk to go with his chocolate cake - just like Papa.