The Fourth

I just love holidays. Particularly Independence Day and Christmas. We have some solid family traditions. And it’s sure fun to see the kids excited about the same things we get excited about!

Our day started with some red, white, and blue crêpes. I couldn’t have the white part (white chocolate chips) because I’m eating dairy-free while nursing Sugar Plum. But the red (raspberries and strawberries) and blue (blackberries and blueberries) parts were delicious! imageimage

After breakfast, Hula Girl and I made it our goal to get festive! We painted our nails red, white, blue, and silver. Then I did the old Pinterest star-braid hairstyle in her hair. She loved it.

Jonathan took Hula Girl and Monkey Man to our city’s wet parade. Basically, it’s a giant community water fight and some people walk down the middle of it. Everyone gets SOAKED and everyone has a good time.

My mom and grandma came to visit for the day and my mom helped me with some house chores while Sugar Plum napped. We made a delicious lunch and tried to get the kids to nap.

After nap time the kids and I walked  up the street to ask the neighbors for the best location to sit out and see fireworks. We ended up spending the evening eawith almost everyone on our street, just hanging out and chatting. The kids were running wild with the neighbor kids, and they got their first taste of lighting fireworks at home. Monkey Man did not approve, saying, “Fireworks are FIRE! What if something catches fire? We need to make a fire safety plan!” Hula Girl could keep lighting fireworks all day every day and never tire of the sights, sounds, and smells. She was in heaven. Sugar Plum slept through it all.

Our favorite tradition on the fourth is eating saltwater taffy. We get several pieces for each of us to enjoy during the fireworks display. The kids begged for it all day long, and I kept telling them, “You may have one piece now and one piece later, or you may have two pieces later!” After about six times of choosing to have two pieces later, Monkey Man finally asked, “Is it LATER yet?”

We ended the night with glow sticks on our walk home. Just before heading inside, we stopped and looked up at the stars as a family. In a time when our country, which was built upon beautiful principles that we celebrated Monday, has eschewed propriety for laziness, moral depravity, and indulgence, it was a wonderful relief to look up and realize that this isn’t all there is. The best is yet to come. Hallelujah.

Baby’s First Trip to California

My cousin got married last weekend!

My dad called me a few months ago and asked if I would like to fly to California with him to attend the wedding. My mom offered to stay here with Hula Girl and Monkey Man so Jonathan didn’t have to take any time off work. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see my cousins and to visit Jonathan’s parents. So, we booked our tickets and made our plans to stay in California for four days.

In order to achieve our goal of spending time with family, we left early in the morning (REALLY early- 4:45 am!) from my parents’ house on Thursday. I was super worried about Sugar Plum’s sleep. She is my third Babywise baby, and I have worked hard to give her a good, consistent schedule all her life. Of course, she has endured many more disruptions to her schedule than her siblings ever endured, so I really ought not to have worried so much! I woke her at 4:15 on Thursday morning, and she slept a tiny bit on the way to the airport. She stayed awake all through checking in and security, and through boarding the flight. I nursed her as we took off, and she fell asleep for about 30 minutes or so. Then I moved and woke her up… and she never went back to sleep. She didn’t cry, though, so it was fine.

Sugar Plum slept REALLY well while we were at Ama and Papa’s (Jonathan’s parents’) house. We stayed with them during our visit because Ama so kindly offered to babysit Sugar Plum while we went out to see family and attend the wedding. We had a pretty major problem, though: Sugar Plum won’t take a bottle. I tried for weeks in advance, and I had Jonathan and Auntie Nay Nay (Jonathan’s sister) try at various times in there. No dice. She doesn’t cry when offered a bottle, but she just kind of chews on the nipple and looks at you like, “What am I supposed to do with this?”So I couldn’t really LEAVE her with Ama and Papa for very long. Fortunately, she is a good night sleeper, and once I got her down for the night, I could leave her and be pretty sure she’d sleep just fine.

While we were there, Sugar Plum basked in the attention lavished upon her by Ama, Papa, Grampy, and me. She didn’t have to share the spotlight with anyone else, for once in her life! She worked hard on rolling and got *so close*. She lit up and smiled her giant gummy baby smile whenever she saw her Ama. I got to take a couple showers and dry my hair and put on makeup… it was quite the luxurious trip for all of us!

My dad and I made plans to see his brothers and my cousins on Friday afternoon. We drove about an hour away to visit and have a barbecue. I took Sugar Plum over there to meet everyone (she made special friends with my cousin’s eight-year-old daughter, who is just the sweetest thing ever and loves babies so much!), then I drove her back to Ama and Papa’s house for bedtime. I went back to my uncle’s house to visit with family some more  (another uncle and several more cousins showed up then–hooray!), and then we drove back to Ama and Papa’s house for the night. It was a lot of driving but it was SO worth it. Family is extremely important to me, and I am very glad we had the opportunity to reconnect, at least a little bit.

Saturday was the day of the wedding. I worked on getting Sugar Plum good sleep during the day so she’d sleep well during the evening, when I left her with Ama and Papa. Unfortunately, the afternoon didn’t quite work out as I had planned, so when I left for the wedding, I was not sure how the evening would go. But I knew it was only one evening, and even if she stayed awake until midnight, at least she was with someone who knew how to care for my baby! (Jonathan’s parents are awesome grandparents! I couldn’t imagine better grandparents for my kiddos than the ones they have!) Lo and behold, Sugar Plum ended up waking up around 8:00 for part of the night. Ama gave her a small bottle, which she chewed, and rocked and snuggled her for a while before putting her back down. She went back down without a peep, and was out like a light for the rest of the night.

Now for the reason for our visit: the wedding. It was a superfun wedding. It was wonderful to catch up with (almost) all my cousins on my dad’s side– I haven’t seen any of them in over five years! The location was a small building in the middle of downtown LA. My cousins had decorated with tulle and lights and beautiful flowers, but it definitely was not overdone. It was a great mixture of hard and soft elements (thank you, Tim Gunn, for bringing awareness to this juxtaposition, haha). The food was AMAZING. They hired a street taco vendor, who doled out hundreds of delicious tacos during the evening. There was a small cake, but most guests satisfied their sweet tooth with a vanilla glazed donut instead. Yummo.

Even better than the decor and the food was the company. My cousins are just so cool. The last time I saw most of them was when I was still in high school. Getting to know a family member again as an adult is such a rewarding experience. It is really fascinating to get to know about each person’s unique interests and pursuits, and to witness the maturation of someone you’ve known since you were born. I would imagine it’s a similar situation as when siblings grow up and hang out for a while again. I am excited for and proud of my cousins and most, if not all, seem quite happy with where their lives have led them so far. There is NOTHING like family for comfort, entertainment, and encouragement. We had such a great trip and loved getting to know you better.

Our trip home was long but uneventful. Thank you, Dad and Mom, for making the trip happen. Thank you, Ama and Papa, for your hospitality and for the babysitting. Thank you, K&K, for getting married and providing a reason for us to get together. Love you all!

Valentine’s Day Party

This party was much more successful than the Christmas party.

I decided that we’d only invite girls (and one baby brother) to our V-Day fiesta. That was a good move. Girls are just a bit quieter and it was nice to be able to actually have a conversation with the moms while the girls played pretend. 

Two families came (I had invited four, but one grandma broke her foot, and the other mom had her parents come into town). So we had a total of two moms, three girls, and a baby boy as guests. Four girls- totally doable and totally easy. 

When the girls arrived, I brought out the foam cupcake kit that I had purchased at Hobby Lobby. I didn’t go all Pinteresty and have them do any cutesy craft this time. I had the supplies, but I just felt lazy. The girls didn’t seem to mind! They got to put on glittery sprinkle stickers… so that make them giddy. 

While they worked on their “cupcakes” I made up plates of chocolate-dipped strawberries, apple slices, and cheese cut in the shape of hearts. I also poured out some sparkling water and added some homemade strawberry syrup to make strawberry Italian sodas (so good, by the way).

After the craft, the girls munched for a while and then they moved on to playing. I had the water table set up with pink and red water beads; some metallic red, pink, and purple lip-shaped table scatters; some fake red rose petals; and some 3-D sparkly light pink styrofoam hearts.  The youngest girl was just-turned-two and she LOVED the water table. 

We also had Hula Girl’s kitchen out, and the older two girls loved it. They quickly found all the dishes and food and prepared a feast for the ages. I think we ate some cauliflower with corn-and-eggplant cream sauce. And a waffle on the side. Naturally.

The baby boys really enjoyed watching each other. The brother who attended is two months older than Gelato. He sat on the floor and chewed on Gelato’s toy while Gelato laid on his tummy and watched. They just stared at each other until it was time for Gelato’s nap. They were so funny! 

I had a good time with the moms. They are the two moms I have been going to storytime with since the beginning. One mom has the eldest girls, who are five and almost-four. You’ll remember a looooong time ago when I posted about them here and here. Sweet girls! Actually, the older one pushed her sister while they were here, and I called her over to me and told her that I don’t allow pushing in my house. She walked away mortified, and her mom gave me a thumbs-up. Later on she told me, “Yeah, it’s okay to discipline my kid! I know you’re a great mom! Thank you for saying something so I didn’t have to worry about it!” 

The other mom has the just-turned-two-year-old and we have known them since the little girl was nine months old. It’s amazing to watch other peoples’ children grow up! That mom is pregnant now, so we’re all very excited for her!

A favorite moment of mine was when I was reaching under my counter into the cabinet that stores my pots and pans, looking for my camera (don’t judge). I said something like, “Am I the only one who stores everything on the countertops in the cupboards 10 minutes before the guests arrive just so it looks nicer?” They both laughed and said something like, “We don’t ever have anyone over to our house- we don’t want to have to clean it!” 

That made me realize just how badly people need a place to GO to meet up. We’re not going to be invited to their houses until they feel comfortable enough with us to let us see their mess. I think for the next party, I’ll leave some unopened mail on the table by the door or something- make us seem a bit more human! 😉

Our next party will be the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day. You KNOW we’re going to do the Irish theme up right. I am going to invite boys and girls this time. I plan to do a lot of activities with rainbows and potatoes. We’re also going to invite someone (not sure who yet) over on St. Patrick’s Day for a traditional Irish meal. Jonathan hates corned beef and cabbage… but we’re going to have it anyway. He can eat a lot of potatoes. Yahoo!

We’re having another Toddler Party

Yup.

Since our Christmas party wasn’t the rollicking success we’d hoped for, I was pretty bummed. Jonathan actually convinced me that we need to do this again, though. We really want to build community and reach out to those around us. And plus, it’d be great to make friends. 

So, we’re doing a Valentine’s Day party! Wahoo! 

We’re inviting some of the same people, and some different ones. All girls this time. The two older girls who couldn’t make it last time because they were in Texas, the same shyish girl who did attend, the one who was sick and so couldn’t make it, and a set of twins who are AH-DORABLE! Ages 5, 3, 2.5, 2, 2, and 2. Plus Hula Girl is 2.5. So we should have a fun time. 

I plan to do the sensory table again- the only one who’s seen it before didn’t really get a chance to play in it because the boy was being so loud. 🙂 I am going to dye half of the rice reddish-pink and fill it will all things Valentine-esque. 

We’ll make a craft. I am thinking nothing TOO Valentine-y. My reason for this is that we’re going to have the party on Valentine’s Day and therefore the parents probably wouldn’t want to display a pink/red/hearts galore project for another year. I think we’ll make something like picture frames or tissue paper flowers or something like that. I’ll have to scope it out on Pinterest. 

I don’t think I’ll plan too many games. Last time the kids were really not interested in any games or activities outside of the sensory table and the cookies.

OOOOH! We’re going to make puppets. And then the girls can put on a puppet show. I will have a theatre ready for them. What a good idea. Now to decide whether to use paper bags or socks…

I am going to have chocolate-dipped strawberries, heart-shaped Jell-O (don’t mind my previous post about eating organics- holiday treats don’t count), and I’ll probably have some kind of fruit and veggie platter or something that’s a not-so-make-you-sick-to-your-stomach alternative. Of course we’ll drink pink punch. And I’ll have strawberry syrup in case someone wants to make strawberry milk instead. (GROSS.)

Overall, the party will be less ambitious. But hopefully more people will be able to make it this time and it will be a bit more relaxed (the moms of these particular girls are already storytime-chat-friends; you know, we cluster around afterward while our kids run amok playing with puzzles and puppets and banter about the insignificant details of life that we for some reason feel comfortable sharing when we don’t even know each others’ first names). I did extend the time frame on the invitation by 30 minutes. Maybe if they see that the party ends so close to lunchtime they’ll actually leave on time! 😉

Wish us luck! We’re handing out invitations tomorrow! 

Christmas Day

Good grief! If I don’t just get this post done, it’ll be July and I will have forgotten everything! I don’t know why I’ve procrastinated on it so far! Life is busy, I guess.

Christmas day started a bit earlier than I would have liked… Gelato woke at 6 instead of 6:30. But that was all fine because that gave me time to come downstairs and fire up the ol’ kitchens to get all the food prepped. I had actually done a majority of the cooking and prepping in the days before Christmas. I even cooked two quiches on Christmas Eve, just so they were ready to go when the family arrived. So Christmas morning was pretty simple- I just had to make the dough for homemade gluten-and-dairy-free cinnamon rolls.

Kay, so the cinnamon rolls. They ended up being super dry. So we had to cut them with a knife and serve them as “cinnamon crumble” accompanied by tea or coffee. But they were tasty! I kind of mixed a few different recipes as I made them since everything online was only GF or dairy-free. I was glad they weren’t a total bust.

I went in and woke Hula Girl while Jonathan held the video camera. She was so very excited to go downstairs and see if “Yan-ta” had come in the night. She came down and gasped and said, “He deed! He deed! Yan-ta came!” And then she had the fever, people.

She saw her kitchen first, and she proceeded to open all the doors and empty it. So much for me putting her dishes and fruit away nicely on Christmas Eve! Then she played with it for a while as Jonathan and I worked in the kitchen to prepare breakfast. She refused to eat. She gets that whole can’t-eat-because-I’m-too-excited thing from me. After we had tried to force her to eat breakfast, we let her open her stocking gifts and her gift from Santa Mouse.

Santa Mouse is a tradition we’re doing with our kids based on the book with the same name by Michael Brown. There is a follow-up book called Santa Mouse, Where Are You? that adds to the intrigue. In Santa Mouse, we learn that it’s kind to leave a piece of cheese for S.M. And in the sequel, we learn that S.M. leaves small gifts tied with yellow ribbons in the branches of the trees. Hula Girl’s gift from Santa Mouse this year was a slinky.

Then we waited a few minutes until Grammy and Grampy and Great-Grandma arrived. They got here nice and early, at 8:00, so we weren’t waiting long. But during that wait time, Hula Girl lost it. I don’t know if it was because she was hungry (I suspect she has low blood sugar- look for a post on this later) or if it was because her emotions were all willy-nilly from the excitement of the day, or what. But she had her first flat-on-her-tummy-kicking-and-pounding-the-floor-all-out-TANTRUM. It was actually really surprising and we just looked at each other like, “Whoa,” and gave her space. She got over it very soon.

When the fam arrived, we had breakfast breakfast. We made Hula Girl sit with us, and since everyone else was eating, she actually ate some too. That helped. We served quiche and cinnamon crumble with orange juice, egg nog (blech), and coffee. Then it was present time.

Oh, my. The presents. Hula Girl loooooved the presents. She especially liked ripping the bows off the presents. She kept asking anyone who was opening a present, “May I take your bow off?” But that’s not all she liked. She really liked opening presents for herself. I tried to keep an eye on her and make sure she wasn’t getting overloaded, but it still happened. She eventually got to the point (at the very end of the day, after dinner- yes, we were still opening AFTER OUR 5:00 DINNER) where she just tore through the last four or so presents just to finish. But at the beginning of the day she was having such fun.

Every present she opened was torn into with gleeful expressions of, “Oh my! Oh my! Oh my!” She said it with every present she opened. Once, as she was opening her doll house, we asked her what she got and she said, “I don’t know! A PLAYGROUND!!!!” That made us laugh a little.

She really did enjoy taking time to play with her gifts if we let her. There were several gifts that I whisked away very quickly to store away for a rainy day, like her stamp set and a puzzle. Others were gifts she insisted on opening and playing with RIGHT THEN, like her baby doll in its stroller and her doll house. In fact, we took a lunch break right after she opened her doll house, just so we could let her play for a while.

Lunch was fettucini alfredo with salad on the side.

As Hula Girl napped, the adults finished opening our presents. (Can I take a moment here to recognize that even though I’m much closer to 30 than to 20, I despise being referred to as one of the adults? Consider it recognized.) Jonathan raked it in this year. I think that’s good. He deserved it!

We also got a chance to enjoy Gelato while Hula Girl napped. He is just fun all the time anyway. But add a reindeer suit, and you get pure Christmas joy.

Post-nap fun for Hula Girl included jumping on her newly-assembled trampoline. She looooves that thing. Yay!

Dinner was ham, scalloped potatoes, asparagus, sweet potatoes, … and some other foods. I am totally drawing a blank right now. I knew I should have blogged this sooner.

After dinner, we put the kids to bed and then the adults (eeww) enjoyed pie. My mom made a GF and dairy-free cherry pie for me. It was delicious. Best thing I’ve eaten since May.

All in all, it was wonderful. We did everything at toddler pace, which was frantic at times and relaxing at others. It is such a delight to enjoy holidays with children around. I am super excited for 2 Christmases from now, when both Gelato and Hula Girl will really “get it”… what fun we’ll have then!

 

Christmas Eve

I realized today that I’m losing Christmas steam and/or becoming foggy on lots of details from this year’s celebration. So I need to get on this post. I will have a separate post for Christmas day.

Anyway, Christmas Eve seems like a totally separate holiday to me, and always has. I think there is just so much more religious significance and emphasis placed on Christmas Eve: church services, family fireside readings of the Christmas story, no toys to distract from the true meaning of Christmas, etc. This year was no different.

We embraced this holiday season as a time to really hunker down and spend time together in our little house with our little family. It was wonderful. We went out as needed and communicated with our extended family (Skype!) quite a bit, but most days were spent just the four of us (plus Riley). We really slowed our already slow pace and just soaked up the time with our children. They are just growing up so fast. Christmas Eve was a nice relaxing day until the afternoon and evening rolled around; we’ll do things a bit differently next year. You live, you learn.

When Hula Girl woke up, we spent the first part of the morning cuddling with our kids in our bed. We rarely have them there, so it was a special treat. We read lots of books and giggled a lot. Then Jonathan and Hula Girl played a lot of the morning away outside on a big snow pile he’d made for her while I stayed inside and tidied and took on baby duty. Lunch and naps went on as normal. During the kids’ naps, Jonathan and I got ready for our Christmas Eve service.

Once the kids woke up, it was like a sprint to Christmas. Seriously. We need to spread all these events out next time and not assume we’ll have enough time before bed. After all, Christmas Eve is not just an evening… it’s a full day. Let’s treat it as such!

First, we got the kids up and dressed for church. Hula Girl wore a beautiful red dress and Gelato wore a red plaid shirt. For those of you who are close to me, you’ll likely see the same outfits show up in February when we send out Valentine cards… just sayin’.

Our church service was really nice. I had the Best MOMent of Christmas 2012 during the service, when we were all singing “Away in the Manger”. Hula Girl thought no one could hear her singing because the music was loud, so she was singing along  (if she had any idea that anyone could hear her, she would not have done so). It was just so sweet to hear that little off-key voice singing with such joy. I’m not going to say Jonathan and I didn’t cry. Because that would be a lie.

After the service, we got home and put Gelato down for his nap. Then I started the homemade pizzas and Jonathan and Hula Girl worked on cookies for Santa. In the future, these cookies will be baked Christmas Eve morning. After a rushed dinner of homemade pizza deliciousness (for Jonathan and Hula Girl, anyway; I’m still on my elimination diet and can’t have dairy, wheat, or soy), we did a small family lighting of the advent wreath and the Christ candle. Then we opened our first gifts of the year- our Christmas jammies. At that point, we were rushing to get Gelato in bed on time, so Jonathan gave him his bath while Hula Girl and I arranged cookies, carrots, and cheese (for Santa Mouse, of course) on a plate and wrote out our note for Santa. It read, “Dear Santa, I hope, hope, hope (playing on Ho, Ho, Ho! Clever girl!) you come to my house. I love you. I love Jesus.” Then it was bath time for Hula Girl and both kids were tucked in snug as a bug by 7. Jonathan and I rounded out the evening by putting together some toys that Santa brought and starting our annual Christmas puzzle (which, I can now say, took almost two weeks to complete). Whew.

So. We missed our reading of the Christmas story in Luke. Um, that was lame. But for a 2.5-year-old and a 4.5-month-old, it did not make a difference. Next year. Next year.

Even though it was rushed and we missed the most important part, it was still a wonderful night. I will always remember her sweet little voice and the way her hair tie broke so her little bun came out and she had crazy half-curly hair all through church. And the way I nursed my son in a very peaceful and calm (and warm) room while pondering Mary’s predicament years and years ago. I love holidays because of tradition. But I also love holidays because of memories. My kids will remain 2.5 years and 4.5 months old for as long as I can remember that evening. Wonderful.

 

 

Toddler Cookie Party

Back on December 15, we hosted a party for toddlers. It was actually a covert ploy to get to know several of the moms with toddlers in the area. We sent our guests on their way with mixed feelings about the success-rate of the party.

Our final count included 10 toddlers, 4 infants, and 11 adults. Not including our family. I was kind of freaking out. But freaking out in a good way- in the way that got the entire downstairs portion of our house spotless and all the preparations for the party done well in advance (if you count the night before at 11 o’clock- don’t judge!).

The Entryway featured Hula Girl's hot pink and purple cupcake Christmas tree and favor bags.

The Entryway featured Hula Girl’s hot pink and purple cupcake Christmas tree and favor bags.

I had several stations set up around our house. There was a “Pin the Nose on the Snowman” game, a felt Christmas tree with ornaments, a Christmas sensory table, and the cookie decorating area. First loved by toddlers was the sensory table. I knew it would be a hit- I am SO glad someone from my mom’s group suggested it. They also adored decorating cookies. One little girl decorated at least seven cookies! It was awesome.

Pin the Nose on the Snowman!

Pin the Nose on the Snowman!

Felt Christmas tree for the kids to decorate again and again!

Felt Christmas tree for the kids to decorate again and again!

 

Christmas Sensory Table- we just filled Hula Girl's water table with peppermint-scented rice and Christmasy goodness!

Christmas Sensory Table- we just filled Hula Girl’s water table with peppermint-scented rice and Christmasy goodness!

 

A close-up of Christmas wonderland!

A close-up of Christmas wonderland!

 

Ready to decorate!

Ready to decorate!

I got ahead of myself; let’s get back to the preparations. We made spiced cider in the crock pot, we had coffee brewing. I had eggnog for eggnog lattes. I had put some peppermint oil in the sensory table, so our house smelled like a Starbucks with all the mixed aromas! We also had PB&J sandwiches cut out in the shape of gingerbread men, and I made some Christmas-themed fruit skewers (red grapes and honeydew melon skewered on $0.97 Christmas-colored swizzle sticks). Of course the whole house was already decked out for Jesus’ birthday celebration, so decorating was a non-issue.

Christmasy toddler snack food

Christmasy toddler snack food (good thing the formica countertops are hunter green, huh? lol)

On the morning of the party, Hula Girl was just so excited. She kept asking, “Are my friends coming today?” Of course they were coming! She named several friends she was looking forward to seeing.  She didn’t eat breakfast. She is not one to eat when she’s excited. Can’t imagine where she gets that.

Our party was scheduled to begin at 10 and the invitation clearly stated that it would conclude at 11. After all, I have a very excitable toddler on my hands, and I wanted to make sure she got something to eat before her nap!

At 8:45, we received a call saying that one of Hula Girl’s friends was sick and wouldn’t be able to make it. I was very grateful to that mom. Sure, it was lame for her daughter to miss the party, but THANK YOU for not bringing your flu-infected child to my house!

At 10:00, no one had showed.

At 10:05, we began to get nervous that somehow I printed the wrong date on the invitations. I checked. It was correct.

At 10:10, Jonathan started saying things like, “Well, at least we got the house all clean and we don’t have to make lunch for Hula Girl for the next week!”

At 10:15, two toddlers and their families showed up. Sigh. of. relief.

At 10:25, another toddler and his family showed up. Yay! The more the merrier!

BUT NO ONE ELSE CAME.

Yeah, 5 of the families who RSVP’d in the affirmative did not show, call, email, or send smoke signals. That irked me. Moving on.

Two of the guests were little girls right about Hula Girl’s age. One of them loved decorating cookies so very much. The other, much like Hula Girl, was more interested in eating the decorations and the cookies than actually making anything pretty. 🙂 The first one, Sprinkle Girl, ended up making a giant mountain of green sugar crystals on one cookie while her mom was looking the other way. Hah! It was classic. Her mom was so embarrassed and flustered, but we made sure to tell her over and over that it is a TODDLER party, we have a TODDLER too, and we know that TODDLERS do funny things like that.

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The other guest was a three-year-old little boy who is our neighbor. He was not interested, in the slightest, in cookie decorating. Not even to eat one! All he wanted to do was put his action figure in the Christmas sensory table (filled with rice) and make things explode. Boys. 🙂

Once the girls were done with the cookies, they meandered over to the sensory table, where Hula Girl stood back and observed her “friends” playing with HER toy. This was a very new experience for her and at first she wasn’t sure about it. Then she got into the spirit of things and tried to play along, only to be told “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” and “It’s MINE!” by Sprinkle Girl and Action Figure Boy.  She was unsure of what to do. Jonathan and I gently coached her to say, “I want to play, too,” and to ignore the other kids’ complaints. She did fine. She even made sure that the other little girl, Curly-Q, got to play with some toys.

Another big hit on the toddler scene was the Little People Nativity set. This is a set that Hula Girl played with for hours every day all throughout the Christmas season. It really appealed to all the children at the party. I was very glad that there were several wise men- those seemed to be the most desired characters for some reason. Maybe it’s because they are holding presents?

Both Action Figure Boy and Sprinkle Girl have younger siblings. I got to hold both of the babies- a 6-month-old boy and a 4-month-old girl. It was pretty funny to hold someone else’s child. Gelato outweighs both other babies by at least 2 pounds, and he just feels so much more solid compared to them. That’s my chunk!

Our party finally ended sometime around 1:00. Yes, two hours after the invitation said the party was over, people were walking out the door. That’s another story. And most of the reason I don’t call the whole thing a big success.

All in all, it was really good to get to know the other moms better. I will definitely be trying to set up another playdate with Curly-Q. We might try to do something with Sprinkle Girl, too. As for our neighbors, well, Hula Girl was a bit frightened by Action Figure Boy. We might hold off on playdates with them until she’s more used to socializing one-on-one. Otherwise they’d spend a really long time playing hide-and-seek. 😉

Candyland

Hula Girl received (and gave) several games and toys for Christmas this year. I just want to highlight a few so we don’t forget how awesome things were in the week post-Christmas in the future. Classic memories were made and are still in the making! Let’s hope they’re still making in March!

Disclaimer: We do not spoil our children. If it sounds like Hula Girl got a lot of presents, it’s because she really only gets new things at Christmas and on her birthday, which are conveniently spaced about 6 months apart. We don’t do a lot of “just because” toys. I also want to state that I do not generally buy a lot of toys that make noise or have one function. And even when we have that kind of toy, I encourage Hula Girl to use it for other purposes if she sees fit.

Hula Girl’s favorite present this year, bar none, was a dollhouse we scored off of Craigslist. I had mentioned to my parents that I’d like to give her a dollhouse this year. I had a nice wooden number in mind. Alas, they are way expensive and my dad was too busy to build one for her. But I really wanted her to have one. So my mom, doing what my mom does best, kept her eyes peeled for a bargain. And whoa, her bargain-location device was in tip-top shape. This dollhouse is awesome. It’s a Loving Family dollhouse by Fisher Price. It includes ALL the accessories. Working lamps, radios, music boxes, and hot tub bubbles are just the beginning. The horse neighs. This thing has not just an infant seat for the baby, but it also has a bouncer, a swing, a crib, a tub, a changing table, and a baby gym. Just for the baby. And then there are all the other things for the other four members of the family plus dog and horses. My mom scored a sweet deal. And Hula Girl has logged at least fifteen hours playing with that dollhouse (alone and with family) since Christmas.

Hula Girl’s second-most-played-with Christmas gift is her small baby doll. It came with a stroller and that baby has had more trips around the staircase than she knows what to do with. Ama also included an extra outfit for the baby. The moment the baby was out of the package, she was stripped naked (a recurring theme with ALL of Hula Girl’s baby dolls lately). But yesterday, all she wanted to do was to put the new outfit on the baby and then switch to the “old” outfit, and back. She’s really making strides with her dexterity- she can put the shirt on all by herself, but still needs help with the pants. Still, impressive, considering she has never before done anything but rip clothes OFF the baby dolls!

Other gifts that come to me off the top of my head include her trampoline, Sit’n’Spin, puzzle, nail polishes (thanks, Grampy! her toes are sparkly pink right now!), stamp set (to be opened and used when Daddy’s gone back to work- thanks, Nay-Nay!), and her play kitchen. Basically, the girl RAKED it in this year. Which was great, because she is at the perfect age to really appreciate a lot of these gifts.

Another special gift was her Jesus Storybook Bible. Girl made me cry when we opened it up and looked at the pictures and she told me the whole story all the way from Adam and Eve through David and Goliath (including the flood, the tower of Babel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and so on). Looks like she’ll be quite familiar with the Word. That makes me so happy.

But let me tell you about Candyland. A game requiring absolutely no skill whatsoever, not even reading. And yet, I.cannot.win.that.game.

Hula Girl gave it to Jonathan for Christmas, per Ama’s suggestion that she give him something they can do together. A game? Less than $5? Requiring no reading? Done.

We have played it three times as a family since Christmas, and I don’t know why, but I always end up at least twenty-five colorful spaces (that look like Laffy Taffy now, BTW, for those of you who don’t play an updated version of Candyland) behind both Jonathan and Hula Girl. Of course, Jonathan has won the majority of the games. But even when Hula Girl does win, she couldn’t care less. She doesn’t understand the concept of “winning” or coming in “first” yet. All in due time, my love. Stay sweet. 🙂

But I DO understand the concept of LOSING. And I keep.on.losing. Like, not by two or three spaces. Or even two or three turns. By the time Jonathan gets to the Candy Castle, I’m still chillin’ at the GINGERBREAD HOUSE. Yeah. He gets all these double-purples and I get like, orange. I have yet to get a special space card. No lollipops or ice cream cones for me. Heaven forbid I get the chocolate.

Hmph.

Guess Candyland’s not my game, after all.

Happy New Year! (a day late)

My daughter just stood next to the front door blowing me kisses and insisting that I catch them while she waited for her daddy to get ready to go out. I caught about fifteen. Love it!

Well, we’re still just truckin’ along. I will be posting several smaller posts over the course of the next week to catch up on the past month or so. It’s amazing how very little motivation I have for blogging when Jonathan is home and we can all spend time together as a family. Guess I’ll chalk that one up to my priorities being in the right place (not to say that those of you who live-blogged every detail of Christmas Eve service and Christmas morning don’t have your priorities right; I am just giving myself a little pat on the back for actually soaking in the moments rather than witnessing and documenting them while missing others).

As an overview, here’s what we’ve been up to. Jonathan has been on vacation from work since the 21st, even though it felt like he was on vacation beginning on the 19th. That day he had a snow day! In the days leading up to his vacation, the kids and I just kind of lazed around the house and Hula Girl and I focused on getting a lot of Christmas projects done. Art projects, cookie baking, English toffee making, present wrapping, and merriment ensued. And once vacation began, Jonathan joined in the festivities by helping me plan Christmas, clean the house, and prepare for the fun. Then there was Christmas. In the days after Christmas, we’ve just been basking in the glow of time spent with family and relaxing. Hula Girl has visited Grammy and Grampy, Jonathan and I have continued and started some new TV series addictions (Whale Wars, Downton Abbey and Ugly Betty for those of you who care), we’ve almost completed a puzzle, and we’ve played several cutthroat rounds of Jonathan’s new games, Candyland, Qwirkle and Blokus Duo.  Please keep an eye out for more posts, detailing some of the above events.

Jonathan will return to work on Monday, and we’re not really looking forward to that. It is just so very nice to have him home. Before he returns I plan to get Hula Girl to the Y so she can swim in the pirate pool at least once, plan a menu for the next couple of weeks, do some freezer cooking so when we are adjusting back to normalcy I won’t have to cook on top of caring for both kids (still a tough concept for me, but it’s getting easier), and finish our dang puzzle.

On to resolutions.

Several of my friends and family members have bemoaned the idea of making “resolutions” as if they’re somehow bad. I think this is due to the stigma that resolutions have received lately- people resolve NOT to do something, whereas many in my circle would like to DO something. So lots of folks are calling them “goals”, “habits”, or even the very vague “ideas”. But I have some resolutions. I am making a firm decision to DO something, which is the first definition of the word, by the way.

Here are my resolutions:

  1. Read the Bible in one year. I kind of stole this from my mother-in-law… I wanted to do it anyway, but she is the one who mentioned doing it chronologically. So there you have it. After Gelato’s dreamfeed last night, I was SO tired and I almost took this resolution off the list. But I didn’t. 
  2. Take things at face value. I tend to read into everything anyone says or does, and I take silly things very personally. For example, I am a terrible cook somewhat stressed about my cooking skills, and the other day Jonathan added salt to his soup. I freaked out about it inside, thinking, “Oh man, he doesn’t like what I made for him! I tried so hard this time! Why can’t he just pretend he likes it anyway just to make me feel better?” Now that’s just silly. I mean, come on, even McDonalds, home of the world’s best french fry, provides you with extra salt (just in case you’re actually trying to fill your yearly sodium capacity in one sitting). Surely it’s not a slight at me or my cooking skills if my husband thinks his soup needs a little more salt. Not everyone likes things the same way. I, for one, do not like my food to be very salty. So it tasted fine to me. Sheesh.
  3. Incorporate organic foods into my family’s diet as much as possible. Now that our budget is relaxed a bit, this will be easier to do.
  4. Get some exercise. That one’s intentionally vague. 🙂

     

Hospitality Update

So remember this post, where I talked about Jonathan’s and my excitement about hospitality and church attendance and so forth? Well.

We went to church on Sunday. It wasn’t perfect.

Gelato actually napped around church pretty well. He woke early that morning so we were able to just go to the early service without disrupting his first nap. He missed his second nap but fell asleep in the car seat on the way home, and then when he woke from that short nap I moved him to his crib and he fell asleep for another 45 minutes, which put us at the proper time for his next feeding.

Hula Girl stayed in the nursery with very few problems. They didn’t have to page us out of the service, but when we arrived to pick her up, she was crying. They told us that she had just had a truck taken away from her by a little boy. On the way home, she told us that a boy had kicked her. Maybe he didn’t just take the truck? I can’t imagine that she’d be making that up- I don’t think she’s ever seen anyone kick another person (not in books, and definitely not on TV or videos- you know that’s not the way we roll). So I’m not sure about that one.

The service itself was fine. Except. Um. They didn’t do Advent. ?!?!?!?!?!?!

I emailed the pastor last night in order to find out why. I haven’t heard back. I know it’s not a denominational thing- I made sure to look it up and found lots of other churches in the same denomination that were doing special advent things- wreath lightings and so forth. Maybe it was an oversight? 

But it really bothered me. The first Sunday of Advent focuses on Hope. We have such great hope of salvation through the coming King! We ought to be reminded of that hope because, really, it’s what brings the joy to our hearts! Why celebrate Christmas if we have no hope? All I wanted to do was to have a little hope. 

Anyway. I will let you know what the pastor says in response to my email. 

On to the other topic of that particular post. The Toddler Christmas Extravaganza.

Yeah. I handed out invitations and made a few phone calls, expecting about half of the people to decline. Well… they all accepted. My count right now includes 4 infants, 11 toddlers, 2 preschoolers, and 15 adults. Whoa. Can I just take a moment to congratulate myself on my foresight? I scheduled this thing to last for an hour. I figured that’d be all Hula Girl could handle. Turns out it’ll probably be all I can handle!

Heeeere are my plans!

Refreshments:

  • Christmas Tree Fruit Plate OR Red and Green Fruit Skewers
  • Gingerbread-Man-Shaped PB&J and Turkey & Cheese Sandwiches
  • Coffee
  • Spiced Cider
  • Eggnog (for the coffee or by itself-gag!)
  • Milk
  • Water

Activities: 

  • Decorate Cookies (the Main Event!)
  • Christmas Sensory Table
  • Ice Fishing
  • Christmas Matching/Memory 
  • Felt Board Snowman 

 Favors (Treat bags stuffed with):

  • Jingle Bell Necklaces
  • Christmas Matching/Memory Cards
  • Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods
  • Clementine
  • Christmas Stickers

Okay, so I was just reading through that list of food and I stopped to laugh because I can picture Jonathan eating scraps of sandwiches for lunch and dinner that day. What else are we going to do with all the trimmings after we cut them with the cookie cutter? Haha! Poor guy. Never knew he’d have such lovely meals when he married me! Soggy sandwich trimmings-Dee-lightful! 

Anyway, we’re expecting mayhem. Our house is tiny, and it’s supposed to be quite cold, so there will be no escaping to the backyard. Thank goodness Gelato has white noise in his room and he can’t even hear the vacuum when it’s running. ‘Cuz I’m betting on at least two or three tantrums and at least a WHOLE LOTTA LAUGHTER! What fun we’ll have. 

And the moms? They’re STOKED. Five of them came up to me right as soon as I walked in to the library today. They were all saying, “Sorry we haven’t RSVP’d… but we’re definitely going to make it! We’re so excited!” Turns out, I’m not the only one who feels totally trapped at home sometimes!

And I’m insisting on name tags.

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