Saturday, December 27, 2008

"The" Gift of Christmas

Does this happen at your house? It seems like every year, no matter how many or how few presents our kids get, whether or not they got exactly what was on their list, there is one present that EVERYONE wants. One present that is the source of greatest excitement, greatest conflict, greatest anxiety, and greatest pleasure. Every year.

This year, the gift was Henry's. A Clone Trooper Voice Changing Helmet. I had seen it in the stores and thought it was really overrated. Every time we passed it at Costco, my kids would drool over said item. But two weeks before Christmas, I pulled out everything I had purchased to wrap it and discovered that Henry was woefully underrepresented in the presents department. As in, I'd bought him a t-shirt. And as there wasn't much on Henry's wish list, you might not be surprised to find that Santa brought Henry the Clone Trooper Voice Changing Helmet that everyone wanted.

What may (or may not surprise you) but certainly took me off guard, was that this year, everyone else has wanted to play with it, too. As in the adults. As I was in the kitchen late on Christmas Eve, working on pull-apart bread for the morning's breakfast, I could hear Jared in the living room, playing with the dumb thing. And it was loud. I had to come out and shush him before we woke all the kids up at 11:00 pm and ruined Christmas.

Not only did all three boys want to try the helmet on immediately, but the moment that no one else was wearing it, Bronwen tried it on.

Friday morning, we piled into the car to visit my family in Southern Cal. I said the voice changing helmet should stay home. I was overruled by everyone else. And before we even got into my mom's house, two of my brothers (ages 27 and 24) had already tried on The Helmet. I hugged a clone trooper in greeting on the sidewalk.

As if that wasn't enough, last night after the kids were in bed, I found my mom trying it on. What the?????

So I guess I'm the only member of the family that doesn't get the allure of The Helmet. Does that make me out of touch?

What was The Gift at your house this year?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

In Lieu of A Christmas Card

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

As noted in previous posts, I have been trying to reduce my commitments and the expense this holiday season in an attempt to give me more time to enjoy the holiday with my family instead of having daily meltdowns due to stress. One of the things I decided to skip this year was sending Christmas cards to friends and family. Don't worry-- I'll do it again next year and give up something else instead, (like presents or Christmas Eve dinner)! I know that an e-Christmas card is a cheap substitute for getting something in the mail, but it's what I was willing to do this year. Hopefully my family and friends felt like it was worth it to catch up with us that they clicked the link from their email to come over to my blog and get an update.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, there won't be much that is new to report. But you can take a walk down memory lane with us of the year 2008.

December 2008 finds our family well (if you aren't counting colds and hacking coughs) and content, feeling blessed with the bounty the Lord has given us. We have been in Northern California for almost 6 years now and it feels like home to us. We are fortunate to have Jared's parents, my sister Allison and her family, and my sister-in-law Becky with her kids all nearby, as well as many friends that we've made here.

Kimball, our oldest, is 8 1/2 this year. He loves reading anything he can get his hands on, all things Star Wars, Legos, and learning new languages, codes, and alphabets. We have been recently spent about 6 weeks studying ancient Greece in our homeschool and Kimball has started writing everything in the Greek alphabet. We all need a key to translate,but he can now read the Greek alphabet as well as English. Kimball has also taken off in our Russian studies this year. He is in Cub Scouts, is learning the piano and tae kuk mu sul karate, and participated for the first time this fall in rec league soccer on the Mighty Titans. He was also baptized this year and has become quite the scriptorian.

Here are a few posts about Kimball from this year (read as much or as little as you like):
In which I report on his baptism
In which you get to see his sense of humor
In which you see how tortured he is by his parents
In which you see how closely he identifies with characters in his books

Henry is nearly 7 and can't wait for his birthday. He is bright and excited about learning, especially math and history. Henry played soccer for the second season this year, and also takes piano and tae kuk mu sul karate (he recently earned his "striped belt"). Henry is our most generous child, always willing to share with someone who doesn't have what he does. He loves to be my helper, which I also appreciate. Henry's interests include Star Wars, library books, adoring his little sister, and riding bikes with the next-door-neighbor and his brothers.

Here are a few Henry posts from this year:
In which he is interviewed on his 6th birthday
In which he proves that he knows his mom better than she's willing to admit
In which he says good-bye to kindergarten

Ian is a mischevious 4 year old who can't decide if he wants to be a baby or one of the big boys. He loves everything his big brothers do, but still holds on to his interest in cowboys and monsters. Although our most easy-going baby by far, Ian is giving us a run for our money this year by challenging nearly all our requests of him. Ian attended preschool in the 07-08 school year, then joined our family homeschool this fall. His favorite time in homeschool is when he and I do math together--I bought a kindergarten math program for him this year that he is eating up. He loves being read to, playing outside, and going to a friend's for a playdate.

Here are a few posts about Ian:
In which he decides to go by an alias
In which I report his alien abduction
In which we celebrate his birthday, circus-style
In which I interview him
In which he tries to emulate his uncle

, our youngest, will be 2 in a few weeks. She has everyone's attention around here. Bronwen loves to mother her babies, cuddle with her blankets, help me empty the dishwasher (she's quite good at it), and being read to. She recently mastered the computer keyboard to the point that she rotated my display by 90 degrees. It took me over an hour (not to mention calling two of my brothers) to fix it. Now you can call me for tech support if that happens at your house.

Here are a few posts about Bronwen:
In which she makes her Christmas requests
In which we celebrate her 1st birthday and rehash her birth
In which we note that she finally has enough hair for pigtails

As for Jared, he is busy running his practice, serving as the Elders Quorum President in our ward (he helps to coordinate service and sees to the needs of about half the families in our congregation through home teachers). He has been working on moving our fence out 5 more feet on one side to give us more room in the backyard. Hopefully we'll finally be able to put in our new backyard soon. On rare occasions, Jared gets out to ride his dirt bike, take the boys camping, or hangs out with some friends, but most of the time he gives his free time completely to us.We both spent a lot of time and energy helping to pass Proposition 8 here in California this fall.

I don't have a lot of blog posts about Jared because he doesn't love me blogging about him. Here is one that I wrote for his birthday, honoring him.

And then there's me. I am obviously busy with our children, our homeschool, keeping up with laundry, cooking, and other housework. I continue to serve as the Compassionate Service Leader in our ward (meaning that I arrange for help when people need it, like meals when they have a baby or surgery, or rides for the older sisters, etc.) In my free time, I like to blog, and started a homeschool blog and a healthy habits blog this year, both of which are SORELY neglected at the moment. I also love to cook and bake, which is sometimes my downfall. I have really focused on spending less and wanting less this year and feel that I have been successful in overcoming some bad habits and perpetual I-want-itis. We have had some struggles like everyone else this year, but feel so blessed for everything that is good and wonderful in our life.

Here are a couple more posts if you're not completely burned out by now:
In which you get to belly laugh at my expense
In which I muse about motherhood and what I've learned
In which I share my wish list of things to do in the next 5 years and how it's going

So, if you are still reading this (surely a sign that you have insomnia, as this post is too long for ME to read a few days before Christmas), we wish you a Merry Christmas. We testify of the Savior's love for each one of you, and we know that Heavenly Father desires to bless you richly in your life.

Feel free to leave a comment, even if it is "anonymous" (just sign your name at the end).We would love to hear from you.

Sweetest Words

I'd like to take a break from Christmas-related blogging (as if I haven't just been taking a break from blogging lately) to share some of my favorite phrases, which are repeated often these days by my nearly-two-year-old.

  • "I wuff u, Mommy!"
  • "Cuze me, Mommy!"
  • "Sowwy, Mommy!"
  • "Cullel, Mommy!" (cuddle)
and last, but certainly not least,

  • "Go potty, Mommy!"
I will feel so sad when her sweet little baby-talk voice goes away. Don't you want to just bottle it up and keep it forever? The only joy I can find in her getting older is that each stage brings something newly adorable. (Here she is in one of Henry's hats, which she loves to wear around the house. Silly girl.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Working on My List

How are your Christmas plans coming along? I am famous in my family for being a complete basket case at Christmas time. Every year I plan to do things differently, to scale down, to not bake and make candy for everyone that I know, etc, and every year I drop a few things from my list and then manage to add 10 more.

This year is feeling a little less frenetic, though. I don't know if it is because I really have scaled back the presents this year, if it's because I decided to skip Christmas cards, or because I'm delusional and will be crazy in a few more days. But just in case I have finally figured it out, I'll share here what I've done/what I have planned as we move toward Christmas. I have essentially finished my shopping, with just a couple of small things I still need to pick up. What's more, yesterday I wrapped everything that I had in the house. I'm waiting on some things I bought online to show up, but it feels good to not procrastinate the wrapping.

I have forced myself to not bake until this week. I figured that would help me to not eat like a glutton for the entire month. This evening after we put the kids to bed, I baked my first (of many) batch of pumpkin chocolate chip bread. Over the course of the next several days, we'll be delivering loaves to piano teachers, RDI therapists, tae kwon do instructors, speech specialists, and all of the widows in our congregation (the diabetics will get whole wheat bread instead.) Then, I'll move on to cinnamon rolls for our neighbors and some of the people we serve in our church callings. Hopefully by next Sunday, I'll be ready to focus on Christmas cookies and candy for our own family and to share with a few close friends who haven't already eaten our food!

In terms of school, I am going to lighten the academic load this week. We will gather each morning for our "meeting" and then the kids will do some independent work: a math worksheet, journal writing, and some Christmas activity pages that I'll find on the internet when I've finished this post. They'll practice the piano and do a Russian lesson on the computer. We'll read a Christmas story together. Then they'll help me bake and deliver goodies. They are really hoping to have a holiday party akin to those they remember at public school, so I'm trying to find a way to fit something like that in. (They tell me that essential elements are crafts, goodies, cookie decorating, and friends.)

Last week over Sunday dinner, I asked Jared and my in-laws what kind of meat they wanted for Christmas Eve. I braced myself for the "prime rib" response, as I know they love it. It is just time consuming and expensive, but I can never resist making it when someone requests it. To my surprise and delight, they suggested a spiral sliced ham. What could be easier? With a low-maintenance main course and my presents already wrapped, is there a possibility that I won't collapse into an exhausted heap on Christmas Eve, praying that my children will sleep later than 6 am? That would be the true measure of success, but it's still too early to call a victory.

Other things that have gone out the window, however unplanned they may be? Blogging, for one. Early morning exercise. Taking pictures of my kids (these photos are all previous years). Math lessons. And I only wore makeup twice all week. Hmm. Looks like there's some room for improvement.

How do you stay sane in December?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Suffering from Burnout

Have you ever suffered from blogging burnout? That must be the malady that is afflicting me right now. Perhaps starting a third blog was what really pushed me over the edge. I just haven't been in the mood for blogging lately. When I started getting concerned comments and emails, though, I knew that it was time to post.

I am so behind on reading blogs that it's downright depressing. I have nearly 300 new, unread posts in my Google Reader right now. I'm seriously considering marking them all as read and just starting from scratch. I'm sure I'd miss out on some of the great things you've all been writing about in the past two weeks, but at the moment, that Google Reader seems like an unconquerable pile of laundry. I suppose it would be silly to throw away all the clothes and start over if my laundry waxed out-of-control, but that's essentially what I'm going to have to do if I'm ever going to open my Google Reader again!:)

So what have I been doing instead of blogging?
  • Enjoying lots of family, who visited us during the week of Thanksgiving.
  • Overeating with aforementioned family during the week of Thanksgiving.
  • Potty training Bronwen, which has been going great. At least it was going great until she got what we call The Big D around here. I'm seriously considering putting her in a diaper again until this little bug passes.
  • Learning about (and then teaching) the Peloponnesian Wars. This week, it's Alexander the Great.
  • Teaching Ian about pictographs. Here's one we did on hair color of people in our family. If you are protesting that we got your hair color wrong (Daddy), I left that up to Ian.
  • Decorating the house for Christmas. As our pre-lit tree didn't have any working lights on it any more, we put colored lights on this year. It reminds me of the tree we had when I was growing up and gives me a warm, nostalgic feeling. But I have decided that having colored lights makes the tree look much busier.Next year I'll either go back to white lights or use a lot fewer ornaments.
  • Listening to my Christmas CDs. Don't you love Christmas music?
  • Helping with the ward Christmas party. I was in charge of roasting the meats, plus made two jelly-roll pans of brownies. We served spiral-cut ham and a Garlic-Herb Crusted New York Strip Loin Roast, which was fab. And much easier than it might appear, thanks to a great recipe and electric roasters. (I used the 13+ pound roasts from Costco and they were a cinch. You should try it.)
  • Nursing a cold.
  • Reading. I just read Enna Burning last week (the sequel to The Goose Girl, which I loved.) It was not as good as TGG, but it was a fun read so soon afterwards. I started Sarah last night and couldn't put it down. Except for the fact that I was congested, drowsy, and hacking, so I eventually went to bed.
  • Starting my "school day" later and later. Except for 6 am math with Kimball. Before the cold hit.
Oh, and Kimball decided to cut Henry's and his own hair on the day after Thanksgiving. To the hairline. So they now look like shorn sheep, having buzzes courtesy of their father. I don't think they'll be cutting their hair again (or anything else) in the near future.

Anyway, no promises on how soon I'll be back with a new post, but at least now you know that no one has been hit by a car. How is the season going for you?