December 28, 2011

Cleaning Up the Clutter

This weekend Hubby and I will be taking on the dreaded task of trying to organize our daughters' toys. This will involve tossing anything that's broken and packing away anything that's for younger children. Typically, it takes us a day to truly organize their toys. This time, though, we're at a loss on how to make it "work." We want something that is easy for them to help us maintain, without spending tons of money on storage bins. Right now all their stuffed animals end up in one big pile in a corner. This works, as long as no other toys are thrown into the pile. We have several mesh "bins" that work to an extent for storage, but they're not good for larger toys and they rip under the pressure of heavier toys. Yesterday I checked out plastic bins, but even those seemed expensive for the amount we would need. Feel free to share how you keep your children's toys separated and organized!

December 27, 2011

Best. Christmas. Ever.

This Christmas can be summed up in one word: fantastic. We all had a blast. Everyone was over their illnesses. We had decent weather. It was truly a Christmas to remember.
We started our festivities with our annual Christmas Eve feast. We get so caught up in seeing family on Christmas Day, that I've always tried to do a dinner just for the six of us. This year my daughters decided they love stuffing. Much to Hubby's dismay we did not have much leftovers when it came to the stuffing and mashed potatoes. I also learned that a 17 pound turkey isn't big enough for the six of us if we want decent leftovers. By Christmas night we had already devoured most of the leftovers! Here I thought I would end up freezing some of the meat! I did manage to make a casserole with the dark meat since we're more of a white meat family.
On Christmas morning my girls woke up at 6:30 am, but stayed relatively quiet until 7 am. That in itself is a wonderful Christmas gift! They were each delighted to find the special gift they had asked Santa to bring and, much to my surprise, they shared those gifts with one another. Cakes let everyone try her camera. Roo let everyone test her scooter. Tortilla promised to let everyone help her bake with her Easy Bake Oven (we haven't made anything yet, but we will soon!) And even this girl, who opened her Gameboy, sat down to play it and had to be persuaded to put it down and open more gifts, has allowed her sisters to play a few games.
Clearly we're going to have to set some rules for the Gameboy, but for now I'm letting her play her heart out.
I had to work last night and spent most of yesterday doing laundry, but Hubby and the girls spent the day playing Legos. It was definitely a great Christmas and I hope you all had a memorable day as well!

December 21, 2011

I Have How Many Days Left?!

Christmas definitely snuck up on me this year. I managed to get most of my shopping done by the beginning of December, but little things keep popping up. For instance, I realized yesterday I have two things to put in each stocking. Fortunately, Hubby picked up some small candies at the store, so I think we're set.
But I still have to wrap. Ugh. Every year I swear I'm not going to wait until Christmas Eve to wrap gifts. I had initially arranged for my mother in law to take my daughters out for lunch yesterday, which would have given me some time to wrap. Unfortunately, with the stomach bug that hit Tortilla, she just wasn't up for being out of the house. There went my wrapping day. I'm hoping tomorrow night I can get some wrapping done once the girls go to bed.
I have everything purchased for our Christmas Eve "feast" and the turkey is thawing, so I plan to spend Friday baking. (I have to work Christmas Eve morning so I want as much done before then as possible). We have a big snow storm headed our way tonight, so I guess it will help put me in the mood for Christmas!

December 20, 2011

The Santa Shop

Hubby and I do not buy each other Christmas gifts any more. Once our daughters were born, we decided it was more fun to put that money toward an extra gift for them. This means there are few gifts under the tree for us, usually a nice gift card or two from thoughtful family members. This year, however, our daughters visited the Santa Shop at school and picked out presents for us.
In order to keep things simple, two girls were given the task of buying gifts for me and the other two were assigned to Hubby. A few days before the actual shopping day, each class visited the shop to create their wish list. Tortilla and Roo's class went first. They each came home with a list of 10+ things. As I looked at their lists I realized they had picked out gifts for themselves! We had a long discussion about giving to others and they were able to find some items on their lists within their budget ($5 each) to buy on their shopping day. (Tortilla bought me a small jeweled box and a snowflake pin. Roo bought Hubby a singing Santa pen and a turtle figurine). Before Cakes and Sue Sue went to look at the shop I reminded them who they were shopping for and encouraged them to put things on their lists that only Mommy and Daddy would like. They each came home with one item on their list. Cakes wanted to buy a "mom" Christmas ornament and Sue Sue wanted to buy a pennant for our local NFL team. Since I wasn't thinking, I only sent them with the exact amount of the gifts they picked out, rather than the $5 budget. Sue Sue had to settle for an NBA pennant and the mom ornament was sold out. Fortunately a "helper" at the shop found something for Cakes to buy that was the exact same price as the ornament. I will be receiving a "fancy" pink heart ring. It's pretty much the kind of ring you get from a gumball machine, but Cakes is so excited that I am actually very excited about it, too. 
That's what it comes down to. They are so excited to be giving us gifts that they picked out. They don't know that I know what all the gifts are and I'm not letting on that I know. They keep whispering to one another about what they bought and how they think we'll react on Christmas morning. It's giving them a small sense of what it means to give at Christmas and I know we will treasure these gifts. Of course, I've already told Hubby his singing Santa pen that doesn't have an off switch can only be used at work!

December 19, 2011

It Wouldn't Be Christmas Without...

Someone being sick. Every Christmas means we are treated to some type of virus going through our house. A few years ago Sue Sue ended up in the emergency room just a week before Christmas. She had croup. By Christmas Eve I had what I describe as "the adult version of croup." It knocked me on my back for an entire weekend (including the day after Christmas). Since then, at least one of us ends up with something right around Christmas.
This year is no different. I've spent a week battling a cold. I think I'm finally on the mend, but now Tortilla is suffering from a stomach bug. I'm finally getting her to keep down liquids, so that seems promising. She's asking for soup for lunch, so I hope that means she's starting to recuperate. 
So far, though, we're still managing to get things done as we approach Christmas. As long as I have everyone healthy on Christmas Day, I won't complain (too much)!

December 12, 2011

Thank Goodness for One Hour Photo

Every kindergarten student in our school spends a week being the "Marvelous Me." Each week the chosen student (one per class) takes home a gigantic piece of paper. Parents help her trace her body, cut it out and then decorate the paper with stickers, pictures, etc. So far three of my girls have been the Marvelous Me. It gets easier with each one because we know what did and didn't work the time before. 
At the end of their chosen week, the student gets to spend the weekend with the "class mascot." They bring home a bag with a few books, a stuffed animal and a binder. They have fun. I on the other hand dread the class mascot. Why? Because in the binder each student has to record what she did with the mascot. 
Sue Sue was the very first student in her class to bring home the mascot. This was difficult because I had no ideas from previous students. I decided to go "simple." I took four pictures of her with the stuffed animal (eating, playing, reading and sleeping) and she wrote a sentence about each one. I certainly didn't want to be the mom who set the bar too high! Of course her weekend with the mascot was an incredibly busy one, so I found myself racing to a nearby one hour photo store at the end of the weekend to get her pictures and finish the binder. A few weeks later Cakes brought home the same mascot and binder. I was relieved to see that the other students pretty much followed our lead and kept it simple (except for the one student who had 10+ pictures). 
I wish I knew the point of the class mascot binder. It's fun for the kids to bring home the books and animal, but journaling the "experience" is a bit much. Sure, the directions say you can use photos or drawings, but most parents (like me) are going to take the easy way out and do photos. At least my girls think it's fun! And it could be worse. Another parent said in her daughter's class they get the mascot just overnight, not for the weekend. They're expected to show up with pictures and/or photos the next morning. 

December 08, 2011

I Finally Got My Mother's Day Present!

Just before Mother's Day I had my daughters approach Hubby with some paint samples and say something along the lines of "We should paint the bathroom for Mommy." Our master bathroom was a nice forest green... but not bathroom appropriate. I want a bright bathroom, one that does not make me dread waking up early any more than I already do. The dark color made me grumpy. Hubby agreed to paint the bathroom, but we decided to wait until after the summer to do the project. It gets really, really hot here in the summer and Hubby wanted to make sure he could paint with the windows open.
A few weeks ago, Hubby decided it was the right time to tackle the painting project. It took him two weekends because he wanted to make sure he had enough time to fix the horrid paint job the previous owner had left behind. (Seriously, I think the previous owner just slapped paint on when he decided to sell. You can tell where he spilled some of the green paint, plus in our bedroom, which is a different color, he didn't paint all the way to the ceiling in some areas). One Saturday Hubby primed two walls and then painted those walls Sunday. He repeated this method two weekends later (it was too crazy to paint during Thanksgiving weekend). 
I think Hubby and I were stunned by several things. First of all, the paint we chose doesn't really resemble the sample I brought home. We studied that thing for weeks, months really, in various lighting. On the card it is a light beige/cream/peach (depending on the lighting). On the walls it is, well, it's pretty much pink. In natural light it's a little closer to what I thought it would be, but still has pink tones versus peach or beige. I hadn't intended on a pink bathroom, but, and this brings us to another surprising revelation, the color makes our bathroom look so much bigger. I didn't realize how much space we actually have in there until the paint job was finished. The dark green really shut down the room. This new color brightens the room and gives it a much better look. It still doesn't make me a morning person, but it doesn't make me feel "blah" in the morning.
All in all, I'm happy with the way this project turned out. It was well worth the wait! We have enough primer and paint leftover that I think we're going to transform the girls' "cat puke yellow" bathroom, too!

December 06, 2011

My Favorite Tradition

When I was younger, every Christmas Eve after church we would pile in the car and drive around looking at Christmas lights. I love seeing lights, especially when people go all out. In recent years, I've expanded this tradition with my daughters. Instead of only looking at lights on Christmas Eve, we try to go out every Saturday night in December.
We made our first trek this year over the weekend. It was fun to see what people do. There's one nearby neighborhood that has a lighting contest. On one block there are two houses where the owners must be in a fierce competition. They have their houses lit beyond all imagination... front and back yards! One of the houses even has a life-size Santa on the porch. My daughters and I joked about what it must be like for the surrounding neighbors to have those lights blazing in their bedrooms every night.
Still, not as many homes are decorated this year. I don't know if people are trying to save money or just didn't get around to it this year. We had a huge cold snap over the weekend, so maybe people are waiting for a warm up. (Hubby usually puts ours up just before Thanksgiving when it's in the 60s, but we don't turn them on until the day after Thanksgiving). One block away from us is a house that usually has lights galore and music. This year they don't have the music playing... yet. We're hoping by next weekend the sound system will be turned on!
Some day my daughters will be too old (meaning "too cool") to spend every Saturday night looking at Christmas lights with me. For now, though, I'm happy to hear all the "oohs" and "ahhhs" from the back seat! Most of these houses have more lights than Hubby would ever agree to spend time putting up, but it's still fun to get ideas for next year.