Monday, December 31, 2012

Over the River and Through the Woods...

to Grumps' and DD's house we go!

We had a great Christmas this year.  Both kids are old enough to really get into the spirit of things, so it made us stop and take things in a little differently than we might have pre-babies.

Of course, Eddie the Elf was in full effect this year, but he deserves his own post.  We started new traditions, like seeing Annie and going to the Christmas parade, and we overdosed on Christmas movies big-time.  We hunted down the best-lit houses in the state, and nobody screamed when we saw Santa.  Our tree groaned with homemade ornaments, and we broke (and superglued) almost every novelty ornament that we own.  

We played in shipping boxes to our hearts' content,

And giggled at a new play of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Christmas morning had been built up with so much anticipation and such high expectations, that I think it fell just a little flat for Sarah.  Will got a train set from Nana and Papa, which occupied him for hours on end.

It was the Year of the American Girl for Sarah, but she didn't go for the historical one as I'd hoped.  No matter.  I still have lots of sewing and tea parties planned for the new additions.

Meet Sarah Jr.  Bitty Babies Violet and Will Jr. not pictured.  I just realized that Will Sr. is picking his nose right here.
 They loved all of their gifts so much.  The doctor's kits and scrubs from Aunt Julie & Co. have convinced Sarah that she's going to be a vet and Will that he's destined for dinosaur medicine.  We have thank-you notes in the works, but they probably won't get to anybody before Valentine's Day. 

 I had so many handmade gifts planned and started, but didn't get any of them finished.
 Here's a little ditty I put together to the tune of  "My Favorite Things" that really sums it up:

My Unfinished Gifts
Nativity peg dolls and upcycled sweaters,
Felt boards with planets and numbers and letters,
Mason jar sewing kits tied up with strings,
These are a few of my unfinished things.

Fudge for the teachers and sweet-flavored vodka,
Bullseye and bat wings and birdwings with cha-cha,
Marshmallow shooters of spraypainted pipe,
These are a few of my unfinished things.

When the flu hits,
When the nap's skipped,
When I'm feeling tired,
I simply remember my unfinished things,
And then I don't feel so inspired!

Ahhh.  It feels good to just belt it out sometimes, you know?  Anyway, the kids didn't miss any of that stuff, especially when Eddie gave us his last gifts: cotton ball snow inside on Christmas morning,

And the Real Deal snow the day after Christmas.  Of course, we'd packed for 50 degree weather, so we had to make do with cowgirl boots and too-big hats.

The kids didn't seem to mind.

Some of you northerners need to teach us how to make a REAL snowman.  Every attempt of mine comes out looking like Slimer and only standing about as high as my kneecap.

Snow angels were in order, as was licking the car and throwing snowballs.

Of course, Eddie got the credit for this snow, which made it that much sweeter and more magical. It's a rare snow indeed that hits Memphis and skips over Nashville.  If you're reading this, you snarky elf, don't make this the last of the white stuff we see this winter, capisce?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Good Jeans

For a lot of us, the Christmas holidays are about being forced to do things that we just don't want to do.  No, I'm not talking about hanging out with extended family or listening to Mariah Carey and Taylor Swift train-wrecks seasonal favorites in heavy rotation.  I'm talking about shopping.  At the mall.  With the heat on full blast and children (ahem, my children) playing tackle football with the mannequins.

Anyway, I took the plunge and went jeans shopping right after Christmas, with the hubs and kids in tow.  I consider jeans shopping to be a form of psychological warfare, ranking right up there with colicky newborns and having my eyes dilated.  Hence, I go maybe every five years.  But, the Mayan calendar and the predicted apocalypse got me thinking: Do I really want to go out of this world and into the next in a Bootcut?  So, we dragged our overdosed-on-family-togetherness kids to the mall and got to work.  It might not have been 5,000 years in the making, but it was every bit as harrowing and gruesome as any apocalyptic movie out there.  Actually, it felt a lot like a sacrificial ceremony, except nobody did me the kindness of ripping my beating heart from my chest and holding it in front of my eyes so I could get a good look. 

It started badly, and ended...not quite as badly.

Mistake #1: Starting in the Juniors section.
I should've known I was in the wrong place when the sales-nymph offered me a complimentary Efferdent cocktail and a Hoveround to browse with.

Mistake #2: Assuming they made jeans for actual people instead of Fembots who don't need such things as thighs and internal organs.

Mistake #3: Airing all of my frustrations and criticisms about the denim industry, including a few, "Back in my day"s, in answer to the saleswoman's, "How can I help you?"  I think my anti-whiskering rant really got her.  Or it might have been my tangent about embellished back pockets.  It was hard to tell the exact moment her eyes started to glaze over.

Anyhoo, the salesgirl gave me a mountain of skinny- and straight-legged styles to try, and I went to work with my mini-me in tow.  Amid such encouraging shouts as, "Mommy, your legs are bumpy!" and "You're so squishy!", I worked through my pile and came up with nada.  Finally, the 20-something helping me broke it down and said, "They have styles with a higher rise (read: Mom-jeans) upstairs in Misses." 

We rode the escalator up.  And down.  And back up again.  And that's where I found them.  Somewhere between the Real Housewives of Orange County and It's Pat, I found a pair that passed the Mike Brown inspection and tucked in my Frye's quite nicely. 

All in all, it wasn't quite as bad as being the guest of honor at a human sacrifice, but I won't be doing it again for, say, another 5,000 years.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Reindeer Nails and Graham Cracker Houses

Sarah is a girly-girl with an edge.  In addition to the no-pants rule, she loves anything sparkly, light, ruffly, and glittery.  That being said, she enjoys playing ninjas and superheroes with the boys in her class just as well as playing house.  One of the girly treats we indulge in from time to time is at-home mani-pedis.  Since I haven't had a manicure in 7+ years, Miss Priss and I aren't in any hurry to hit the salon for the real thing. Usually we alternate wild glitter colors (patterns = algebraic thinking), but since it's the Christmas season, we went for something more festive.  I saw these nails on Pinterest and decided we could do something similar.

Here are the results:
Of course little brother wanted Rudolph nails, too, so we gave him a pedicure.  Using a Sharpie for the antlers was a huge help, but teeny-tiny toddler nails are (not surprisingly) hard to paint with any accuracy.  Luckily, my clients were perfectly happy with my imperfect renderings of Santa's nine tiny reindeer.

In fact, the kids' nails were so cute that I painted my own nails as well.  There was a whole lot more surface area with which to work, and I can stay still for more than 30 seconds at a time, so mine turned out pretty cute.

Once our nails were dry, we tried out another Christmas pin: graham cracker houses.  These things looked so easy and cute, but guess what? Total pinstrosity.  I crumbled up half the box just trying to get the angled roof line precisely cut.  Plus, I had to do a lot of the construction work FOR the kids, which totally defeated the purpose of the activity. 

The kids would have been just as happy had I squirted icing straight down their gullets instead of going through the charade of gluing the houses together with it and then eating it. 

If anybody knows a trick to this, let me know.  Sarah and Will are asking to do it again. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Whole Lotta Christmas Goin' On

Folks, Christmas is wearing me a little bit ragged.  Especially now that I have children whose social calendar is full every weekend, I am beat.  I can feel myself hitting the Elf on the shelf wall.  But, we still have a lot to do from our Bucket List, so we press on.

Last Friday, we hit up the downtown Christmas parade, a first for the whole family.  Since we're always either super-early or disastrously late for any event we attend, we twiddled our thumbs and checked out the public restrooms (sort of a family hobby these days) for about 45 minutes before things got started.  But, it was all worth it for, drumroll please,

Sarah and I both agree that fireworks are exactly what it would look like to cast a magic spell.  Will just really enjoys when things explode.  So, we were all happy.

Put your Batman ears up.

The major highlight for all of us was the TSU marching band, the "Aristocrat of Bands", who set the bar pretty darn high for the rest of the parade.  
We didn't stay to see Santa, but we got to see the Very Hungry Caterpillar, Jack Frost, the Grinch, and T-Rac, so it was ok.

Baby Prancer
Sarah had a choir performance last weekend at our church's Festival of Christmas, and she knocked it out of the park.  She remembered all of the hand motions, and she threw in the sign language for "star" a few extra times, just because she likes that sign the best. Me too.

A little light reading of the hymnal.

All attempts at getting a sweet, cute picture of the diva in her robes were a failure.  Arm-flapping and twirling trumped sitting still and giving a genuine smile, so all I have is this pained expression and a blurry arm. 

Even though I was armed with Dum-dums, drawing materials, cars, and my phone for Will's entertainment, we couldn't stay for the duration of the show. I heard the sweet older lady in front of breathe a sigh of relief and check her shoulder for lollipop juice when we left. 

We've got more Christmasy stuff planned for this weekend, so hopefully I can start feeling better before then.  Happy Friday!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Santa Pictures: A Retrospective

Ahh, the Christmas season.  A time for merry celebrations, good will toward man, and forcing our children to sit on a strange man's lap and take a picture.  Over here at the hacienda, we've been having a little bit of stranger-danger dialogue with Sarah.  But, at Christmastime, for the sake of the obligatory picture with Santa, we throw caution to the wind and plop our children on a badly-disguised stranger's knee.

I know, I know, nothing's going to happen with all those people around.  Plus, who in their right mind would want to take off with someone else's screaming, crying kid? 

Heck, maybe that's why the kids are screaming and crying: because they have a firmer grasp on the irony of the situation than us adults do.

The house of Brown is divided over the Santa issue.  Whereas Mike grew up with a tradition of some adult family member dressing up every year as the jolly old elf, there are no known pictures of little Julie and Santa even occupying the same ZIP code.  That being said, I regret that there aren't any pictures of me attempting to escape the clutches of St. Nick, because I'm pretty good at throwing a fit, even then.

Anyway, now that I have my own progeny to torture entertain, I like to get the yearly picture done to measure our progress.

Here's a little walk down Memory Lane, beginning with Sarah's first encounter with Santa at 18 months of age:

Not even the bells could coax a smile.
By the following year, Little Bro had made his appearance, and neither one of them would even round the corner to where Santa was sitting.  There's fear and suspicion in those eyes.

The anti-Santa force is strong with these two.
By the time Sis was 3, she'd caught on to the whole Claus/reindeer/presents racket, and so she was happy to make a good impression whilst ensconced on the old man's knee.  Will was having none of it and screamed til it echoed from the Apple Store to the Container Store, and everywhere in between.

This year, I had a pretty hefty wager about how fast and far Will would run once he spotted the red suit and jolly smile.  Turns out, he REALLY wants that astronaut Mater and Roger Rocket, so he hopped up on Santa's lap of his own accord.

This picture marks the end of an era.  No more photos capturing a moment of terror.  From now on, we'll have only angelic smiles, laughing eyes, and sticky-peppermint kisses.  
Bah.  Humbug.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Citizens Against Naked Trees

You know how all these people seem to be able to have this heartwarming tradition of decorating the Christmas tree as a family?

Yeah, me either.

This was a harrowing, sweat-inducing experience, fraught with danger and suspense as to which irreplaceable keepsake would be dropped, stepped on, or decapitated next.  Every 30 seconds, I heard, "Uh-oh" or "Whoops".

Ever since we've had crawlers or walkers in the house, our tree has been naked from the waist down. I know, we could have set it up in a playpen or told the kids they couldn't touch it, but we like our trees out in the main area so we can sit by the glow of the lights and a crackling fire and sip hot chocolate.

On Saturday, I brought home a box of candy canes, thinking we could make reindeer out of them on Sunday.  As usual, the kids had other plans in the form of breaking every. single. one of them.  All in a matter of 15 minutes.

In literature, it's called foreshadowing.  In horror movies, the music picks up tempo and you yell, "Don't go in there!"  We should have known decorating with real, delicate, keepsake ornaments would not go well.

Will thinks the tree is just a giant toy box.  Sarah thinks it's crooked.  I think it needs more ornaments, now that we're decorating the whole thing these days.

So, I have been putting the kids to work on various handmade ornaments.   

 We strung beads onto pipe cleaners for some pretty little snowflakes.

 We made a whole stable full of clothespin reindeer, complete with stick-on googly-eyes and cheery red noses.  Will refuses to let me hang his on the tree.
 We've also got some salt-dough creations in the works, and we hung Eddie's sequin disco balls up as well.  Mike has requested some photo ornaments, and the kids want to paint their own breakable ornaments.  So, we should have our tree nice and tacky just about the time Santa squeezes down the chimbley. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Liberace Santa

I'm jealous.  Of an overweight, geriatric elf in red fur. 

Ok, so maybe my anger is misdirected.  The person at whom my wrath is aimed is actually the hubs.  I mean, who does he think he is, taking my idea (well, one I found on Pinterest here) and out-crafting the crafter. It's my job to make stuff, not his.

Let's rewind a bit.  Two weeks ago, I showed Mike a picture of a Pottery Barn knock-off silver Santa picture.  I thought it might be nice to have something festive over the sofa in the den (you know, since the flag of Merillia has been hanging there for the past 6 months).  Surprisingly, Miguel was on board, and, as soon as I brought the almost 2' x 3' canvas home, he started freehand copying the little bitty picture I'd printed out.  Sunday was spent schlepping kids to various places, while Mike painted the ginormous Santa in red glitter.

And it looks so crazy AWESOME.

Now he's planning his next masterpiece.   I've created a monster.

Monday, December 3, 2012

We're Being Overrun... peg dolls.

And whose fault is that?  "Mine," squeaks the author/orchestratrix of chaos.

I just can't help it.  I've always loved things in miniature, and hand painted to boot?! 

Anyway, it's kind of a game between me and the kids: I try to come up with something unique, and they try to guess what I'm going to do next. 

The first-generation pegs were the princesses, found here.
Will needed some, too, so I made the superheroes, found here.
These first batches took FOREVER, and Mike and I were both skeptical about the amount of playtime these would really generate, especially with respect to the eons it took to make them.  Happily, the kids were thrilled with the concept and carted them around everywhere.

After the first set, I took the peg dolls in several different directions:

The Toy Story crew, along with Astronaut Sarah and Astronaut Will

The Peanuts Gang, with two different Snoopy variations:

 But, the hands-down favorites are the family pegs. The first batch I did was strictly for the blog header.  But, the munchkins played with them so much, I knew I was onto something.  The family ones were hard because 1. they're real people, and 2. it's hard not to want to turn these 2-inch-high wooden blanks into exact replicas of the very people they're supposed to be.  You have to boil down the essence of the person into a t-shirt, or a tutu, or a sleep-suit, and an approximation of eye- and hair-color.  I'll tell you what, though, the things that come out of Mommy Peg Doll's mouth are dead-on.

Will and Sarah Skeleton are my absolute favorites, and I think I did a pretty decent job on my mom and dad. (My mom's shirt says, "I like big mutts and I cannot lie."  She's telling the truth: she's got 4 of them.) I'm working on a big project, but I'm losing hope that it will be done by Christmas.  At least, I should have a Nana and a Papa done by then. 

Say what you will about these things: they're the perfect playthings for pre-schoolers.  They don't have a bunch of pieces to them, they don't make noise, and they're totally kid-powered.  My kids tell each other all kinds of stories with these, and Mike has actually used them to role-play social scenarios with Sarah.  At any rate, we'll probably be adding to our peg doll family from now through the forseeable future.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas Bucket List

It's the first day of December, let the hyperventilation begin! 

What with sick kids and just life happening, a lot of the Christmas projects I had planned are going to have to go unfinished until next year.  No big deal. 

But, my kids are finally at really great ages to be able to participate in some of the fun activities that go along with Christmas.  This year, we can skip a nap if we need to, go to bed later if we want, and everybody's walking and talking, opening up a world of Christmas-y opportunities. 

I looked up Christmas bucket lists online, but the ones I found were pretty lame and full of stuff we do all the time.  Drink hot chocolate?  We had that covered back in September.  Look at Christmas lights? Duh.  We do that on the ride home from school, on the way to a restaurant, or just running errands.  Watch a Christmas movie? What else would we be watching this time of year?!

Anyway, I thought we could come up with our own list as a family to keep us focused, so here it is.  Activities are written in no particular order.

1.  Go ice skating as a family.
2.  Make graham cracker houses.
3.  Make igloos and penguins.
4.  Paint our own salt-dough ornaments.
5.  Jingle our neighbors.
6.  See the Zoo lights.
7.  Watch the Christmas parade downtown.
8.  Visit Cheekwood on a Saturday for their kids' crafts.
9.  Pictures with Santa.
10. FINALLY make cookies with the cookie-shooter.
11. See the Rockettes.
12. Put up my Snoopy inflatable yard art that I bought on clearance last year and can't find.
13. Get the kids to tell me the Christmas story.
14. Help Sarah write a letter to Santa.
15. Adopt an angel from the Angel Tree.
16. Try Egg Nog.
17. Send out Christmas cards.  (This one is soooo not going to happen this year.  Again.)
18. Take a boat ride through the Opryland Hotel.
19.  Take a family photo in which everyone is looking at the camera and smiling.

Maybe not all of these things will get checked off the list this year, but even if we do half of them, we'll consider it a success.

What's on your list?