Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas bits & photos

Every year on the day after Christmas, while I'm putting away the dozens of toys, I remind myself not to go overboard the next year because we just don't have space for all the wonderful new goodies.

And by December of the following year, I forget that reminder.

(Those aren't all from us. We spoil our kids, but not that badly! Some of those are from family, too.)

The girls had a great time, and got lots of wonderful presents. I love this part - watching them open things and getting excited. I'm glad to be a Momma.

The girls set out cookies and milk for Santa, and a carrot for Rudolph, with a note.

In return, Santa brought Chloe a Fur Real Friends yellow duckling (barely - he almost didn't get it to her in time!) It is indeed her very favorite gift.

He brought Cora (and Daddy) a wooden train set.

Among other things, I gave my husband a set of duck decoys, hoping to encourage him to keep bringin' home good things to eat. (And to smoke, in the smoker my parents bought us!! Oh, we are spoiled!)

Chloe is a present-opening pro. She ripped right into them, no holds barred. The shot gun was a big hit.

Cora was much slower and more systematic about it all, but did eventually get everything unwrapped. I'm happy to report that she didn't end up getting buried alive in gifts, as we were worried she might.

I think the cat was happy when we finally got all the presents out from under his tree, freeing up his favorite place to nap. It got pretty crowded under there on Christmas Eve, but he managed to find room to curl up and get cozy.

My husband gave me a beautiful diamond necklace (on Christmas Eve, he couldn't wait.) I need to photograph it, it's gorgeous and I feel truly loved (and spoiled rotten.) He also gave me (us) feather pillows, some books I'd wanted, and lots of other great stuff! I'm so lucky to have such a great guy for a husband.

Christmas is a whole season long at our house, but it's nice when it all culminates with lots of fun new things to enjoy.

I hope everyone else had a fantastic Christmas, too!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Coping with Change

My daughter apparently does not cope with change very well. In fact, I'm pretty sure she's got some pretty serious issues.

Back story: Once upon a time ago, I made Chloe a quilt for her bed. A really cute one, matching the farm theme of her bedroom. The first and only quilt I'll ever make, because quilting is far too tedious for a woman like me. I spent countless hours cutting squares, sewing them together, then tying it all together. The first night she slept under her new quilt, she had an awful nightmare about the Grinch living in her bed and trying to eat her toes under that beautiful new quilt.

She's never slept in her bed since then.

She sleeps on the couch. She's slept on the couch for a couple of years now. I'm sure it sounds ridiculous, but there are more important battles to fight. I figured come this January, when she turns seven, we'd get her a nice new bed, maybe even a bunk bed if she wants to share a room with her sister.

Fast forward to today:
My cousin called. They're getting a new couch, would we like theirs? Heck yeah we would - ours is pretty darn ratty looking. There's dog hair ingrained into the cushions, the cat's used one arm as a scratching post, and a small child has claimed it as her bed for two years. I'd love something 'new'. While Chloe was downstairs watching a movie, we started moving the old one out to make room for the new one tomorrow.

Oh good heavens, what an ordeal this has proven to be. I never thought an ugly old couch could be worth so many tears and so much drama. We came home from looking at Christmas lights tonight and I put some cider on the stove to warm. Lo and behold, when I go looking for Chloe, she's curled up on one of the old couch cushions crying her little eyes out. "I just don't handle change well," she sobs into my shoulder.

We gave her options. She can share the room with her sister and we can get a bunk bed. We can make over the TV room downstairs and she can have her very own room with a fancy new bed and dresser and even paint, if she wants it. "I want the basement bedroom... but can we put the couch down there?(sob)" I promised her we'd keep the couch. I even promised her she can take it with her when she moves out. If we have to keep that couch until she's old enough to live on her own? So help me God, if it makes the child happy, I'll do it. But seriously - this kind of attachment... to a couch?

She's asleep on the floor of her sister's bedroom now until we can move her beloved old couch to the basement. She opted to fore go a pillow and is instead curled up with... a couch cushion.

And of course, monkey see, monkey do. Cora sobs to me, "Change, mama. Change couch. Sad. Crying." So Cora's got one of the other cushions, and both are finally sound asleep. :o)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Simple treats that kids can make nearly all by themselves, and they make great gifts!

Chocolate-kissed pretzels

1 bag Hershey's kisses
1 bag M&M's
1 bag mini-pretzels

Step 1: Unwrap all the Kisses. Employ the children, telling them they are each allowed to eat just one, but only after every single Kiss is unwrapped. This should get you at least 30 minutes of quiet time. Even the two year old was very diligent about her work.

Step 2: Lay pretzels out on a cookie sheet.

Step 3: Put a kiss on top of each pretzel.

Step 4: Mom's job - put the cookie sheet in a 275 degree oven for about 5 minutes, till the chocolate is soft but still holding it's shape.

Step 5: Big kid's job - push an M&M into the center of each kiss, pressing down to fill the pretzel with chocolate.

Step 6: Refrigerate until chocolate is hardened, then remove to a plate or plastic bag.

Not extra fancy or anything, but even the Littlest One got to do a lot of it, and that makes it a new staple in our Christmas baking. :o)

Monday, December 14, 2009

She is knitting.

As a mother who is also a mildly obsessed knitter.... okay, not mildly, just obsessed... today was a Landmark Day in the journey of motherhood.

Up until today, the most exhilarating thing I've done as a homeschooling mother was teaching my young daughter to read. What satisfaction that brought, to hear her reading real stories out loud, comprehending the words printed on a page. It's like the whole world opened up for her.

But today just might have been better, even more satisfying.

She is knitting.

She's been begging me to teach her for weeks now. She wanted a pink scarf for her teddy bear named Corduroy. She even had the yarn picked out.

It's my fault it took so long. I was procrastinating. I am not a patient woman. I learn things easily, and so I expect everyone else to learn them easily too. And I did not want to screw this up. Knitting is the greatest gift, if bestowed on the right person at the right time in the right manner. If you pick the wrong time, or the wrong way to teach, a would-be-knitter gives up in frustration and goes to Wal Mart to buy a scarf.

I was terrified that I would do that to my daughter.

But I didn't. I showed her three stitches, I held her hands in mine as we knitted a row together. "In through the front door, run 'round the back. Hop through the window and off jumps Jack." After the first row, she didn't really need me, except to keep tension on her yarn.

It's thrilling. Little fingers clumsily maneuvering long pointy sticks and fuzzy pink string, dropping stitches here and twisting stitches there, but no matter - she is knitting. She's learning patience - something I never figured I'd be able to teach her. She's expressing her own creativity. She sticks out her tongue, scrunches up her eyebrows, and pulls the next stitch off. The first one she did all by herself resulted in a "Yes!! I did it all by myself! I knitted!" There were tears in my eyes, but I hid them.

Is it absolutely ridiculous that this is so important to me? Of course it is. Now I'll have to be sure not to push, not to over-correct, to let her learn on her own, as is the way with knitting. Best to push the images of a tiny person knitting doll sweaters and baby blankets far out of my head, and let her choose the pace and choose the project.

Instead of fostering ideas of grandeur, I'll just sit back and watch those little hands and little fingers and pointy sticks and remind myself that I succeeded.

She is knitting.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Snow Balls - 5 cents! (a crafty tutorial)

After being stuck in the house for three days because of snow and finally getting to go out, I decided to celebrate by getting some craft supplies and making these cute little ornaments:

I got the inspiration from a Gooseberry Patch Christmas book - they had a full-sized bucket like this on a front porch. I thought tiny versions might be cute for ornaments.

small galvanized buckets (I had to look for awhile, but I found them in the containers section of Hobby Lobby for .77 each.)
Giant white pom poms (one for each bucket)
Small white pom poms (about 12 per bucket)
Red paint
Christmas printed scrapbooking paper
Fine point black marker
White sticky-backed craft foam
Red satin ribbon
Decorative red and white ribbon
Hot glue and glue gun
Spray adhesive
Crystalline glitter

Step 1: Paint red stripes on the toothpick (I had a six year old helper for this step. Your stripes will probably be neater.)

Step 2: Write "Snow Balls 5c" on small squares of craft foam with marker. (I actually wrote first, and then cut out the words.)

Step 3: Make signs. Cut squares of scrapbook paper slightly larger than craft foam squares. Sandwich a toothpick between the foam and the paper. Set signs aside.

Step 4: Liberally apply hot glue to bottom of inside of bucket. Stuff a giant pom pom in the bucket. This is just to fill up the bucket.

Step 4: Use hot glue to attach small pom poms all over the top of the bucket. Use a dab of hot glue to hold the sign in place when you stick it down inside.

Step 5: Spray adhesive on pom poms. Sprinkle with glitter.

Step 6: Tie a bow around the bucket and knot it in the front. Tie a loop of red satin ribbon on the bucket handle to hang the ornament.

Cute stuff, eh?

In looking at the supply list, I realize the list looks long. The good news is you probably have most of it lying around already, and the supplies you do have to buy are cheap. My six year old helped with some parts, but definitely required a lot of help. The two year old just threw pom poms at us while we worked. :o)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas picture out-takes

Littlest One is very photogenic. Between Cora's personality and Chloe's black eye, our annual Family Picture was pretty much guaranteed to turn out beautifully..... heh.

We tried keeping her in one place by putting her on a rocking horse, but, well... yeah.

We thought about just Photoshopping her in later...

But we kept at it, my mother patiently snapping upwards of 60 photos. Then finally, my mom stuck a candy cane up her nose, and we got this:

Yay! A decent family photo! (I'm pretty sure Cora was growling, but at least she's doing it at the camera.)

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A gift from God

I'm pretty sure that if there really is a God, He invented snow so that crazed stay at home mothers who have been cooped up in a house for weeks with Two Little Girls could send said girls out of doors in miserable, frigid weather and expect them to stay there happily for hours on end without fear of reports of child abuse from the neighbors.
Thanks, God. :o)

Monday, December 7, 2009

The bitches are coming! - Not Me Monday

I won't deny the part about Chloe riding her stick horse down the hall calling, "The British are coming! The British are coming!" That part absolutely did happen.

But I swear a two year old wasn't following her down the hall, galloping along and calling "Bitches are comin'! Bitches are comin'!" Nope, not my sweet Littlest One. That wasn't her.

And I certainly didn't tell her to say "The British are coming!" fifteen times today just for fun. Because it wouldn't be right to find humor in such juvenile things as mispronounced words.

Nope, not me. :o)

Cookie Party!

Yesterday was my First Annual Christmas Cookie Party. It was fun!

I figured I'd do a trial run this year, see how it went, and maybe turn it into a tradition each year.

What's a Cookie Party? It's when you bake tons of cookies, then get together with friends to share them and play some silly games and enjoy an afternoon of togetherness. One friend's husband called it an "estrogen party". That's pretty accurate. :o)

I found a game called Decipher the Canticles of the Yuletide Season on a Cookie Exchange Party website. (I thought my idea was rather original, but it turns out it's popular enough that there are whole websites dedicated to having cookie parties.) Anyway, Decipher the Canticles - it was cute. I divided the girls into two groups and they had about 20 minutes to figure out as many as they could. The winners got prizes. We also did a dice game and Baking Utensil Memory - I showed them a platter of different baking/cooking utensils for 15 seconds, and they had to remember as many as they could after the platter was hidden again. Going shopping for prizes was fun, too. Prizes included a ceramic snowman magnet and frame, Christmas-themed toe socks, some candle holders, Christmas pot holders and towels.

I had some snacks, some warm drinks, and of course there were the cookies. At the end, everyone filled up platters with all the different cookies to take home and share with their families.

It was definitely successful enough that I'll do it again next year. If you're local, expect an invitation. :-)

Friday, December 4, 2009


The day after Thanksgiving is an official holiday in our house - Decorate For Christmas Day.

I love Christmas. I love the way the house feels when it's covered from top to bottom in ribbons, garlands, and twinkling lights.

So we go all out.

My husband drags up the boxes of decorations from the basement. He keeps a cheerful attitude about it all, even though I'm pretty sure it annoys him to no end. And there are a lot of boxes.

The girls and I ooh and ahh over all the pretty things that come out of the boxes as we search for places to showcase each one.

As we put out all the Christmas things, we pack the every-day decor into the boxes, not to be seen again til after New Year's.

Of course, there's always time for some fun and some giggles.

And lots of telling stories of holidays past, happy memories to be passed down.

Christmas isn't just a day. It's a season. There are crafts and gifts to make, cookies to bake, friends to have over, songs to sing, memories to remember and memories to create. It really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Perfect Childhood Accessory

Doesn't it look fantastic with the overalls and the beanie?

Yep, that's a shiner. A pretty nice one, too.

Cora started it, rolling around and wrestling with the dog on the couch. Add an extra kid in there, and someone's bound to get hurt. Elbow connected solidly with eye, and here we are.

She didn't even cry... until she realized she was going to "look funny". Silly girl.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Finished Knits

Longies ordered by a friend for her one year old little man, Owen. I think Cora needs some too - I haven't made her any in a long time; she thought these should be hers.

My brother-in-law requested a hat for his gift in the Miller Family Winter Gift Exchange this year. The yarn is alpaca - soft as butter.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Complete Overhaul

Goal: Find a way to organize our too many toys so that they all get played with and don't end up scattered about the house, overwhelming Two Little Girls and making it impossible to clean up.

Solution: A whole lot of Rubbermaid tubs and a great-sounding suggestion from my dear friend Shawnna.


Too many toys in little storage bins, plus two enormous tubs in a basement closet that never got played with. All too tempting for Two Little Girls who like to pull too much stuff out at one time but have a hard time getting it put back when clean up time comes around.

I swear on everything holy, I really do clean their room. This is what happens just a day or two after a thorough cleaning. It's depressing!


A closet full of neatly organized tubs. No, it's not pretty. But it just might save my sanity.

I went through, quite literally, every single toy in this entire house today. Now, they are all stored neatly in labeled tubs behind closed closet doors. I can't remember the last time every single toy in our house was in it's proper place. In fact, I'm pretty sure more than half the toys didn't even actually have a proper place until today. That's exciting stuff, man. Pet Shop, Barbies, baby dolls and play food, magnets and puzzles, stable horses, musical instruments - they all have their own happy little tub to live in.

The plan: One box comes out after school time in the morning. They can pick any box, but only one. When I start to fix lunch, I'll let them know it's time to clean up. Everything goes right back into the tub. After afternoon school time, a new box comes out. That box stays out until I start fixing dinner.

If the toys are not back in the tub by the time the meal is on the table, that tub goes into time out (the spooky basement closet) for a week or so. The same rule may apply for any fussing or back talking or attitude that ensues from the "clean up" directive, if necessary. (Ooh, doesn't that sound business-like?)

The ONLY toys allowed out at all times are each girl's favorite doll.

I know I sound like a control freak, but I think they might actually appreciate this. It makes clean-up time a breeze, and they know right where to find all of their toys. It was like going shopping today - they couldn't wait to start playing with the "new" stuff I'd found buried under couches and stashed in the bottom of the toy box.

Go ahead and call me the Toy Nazi. I bet my living room stays cleaner than yours. :oP

(Please, no comments on the obvious excess of toys that my spoiled children own. I don't buy them toys. They have generous grandparents.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Some Dresses

Corduroy jumpers for the girls to wear on Thanksgiving.

Pattern: Butterick B4842, size 2 and size 6, slightly different styles of pleats.

And matching hairbows, 'cuz I felt like it.