Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking back

In 2009, I:

1) Began to wrap up my 30s

2) Grew in my faith

3) In order to accomplish #2, had to repent of some "I know better than God" attitudes

4) Watched my kids grow up some more

5) Finished a half marathon

6) Visited Elvis the shrink in order to obtain meds in order to get through the days without yanking my hair out at the roots in order to homeschool

7) Painted some walls

8) Read a lot of books

9) Laughed a lot at some TV shows

10) Had fun with women from church

11) Hung out with some Carmelites

12) Dated my husband

13) Tried to lower my impossible standards (and I'll be working on that one into 2020)

All in all, when I look back, it's been a full year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas with the Loves

First, it was the company Christmas party. Here I am with my marvelous husband, aren't we dapper?

Next thing you know, it's Christmas Eve. Joe sang in the choir at Mass, then we went to my mom's for her traditional prime rib. She wouldn't even let me bring anything... darn! Here are the girls investigating ornaments by Grandma Noela's turquoise tree. Both of those they're holding are from my childhood, and that butterfly was a favorite.

Back at home, before they all put on jammies and settled in for visions of sugarplums---the crazy crew in front of our tree (and the slightly obnoxious snowman countdown guy that the in-laws got for them last year).

Here are some folks from the Nativity out for a cruise in Barbie's convertible. Nice of Barbie to loan it to them, huh? This carload consists of baby Jesus (not properly restrained in a carseat); two Marys; Joseph; and two shepherds. They hail from two Nativity sets: a wooden version my mom gave us about eight years ago (when there was only one kid) and the newer Little People set from mother-in-law.

To highlight some favorite gifts, here is Kevin with his slot-car set:

And me with my new sewing machine!

Being faithful (and enthusiastic new) Catholics, we continue to celebrate Christmas until Epiphany. We're trying to uphold this celebration with fun family activities each day. Since the kids made the list of fun family activities, you can imagine their scope.

Friday, December 18, 2009

How we spent our December vacation

Kids and cousin Will decorated Grandma Jan's tree (yes, that's a bison in the background):

At the "beach" in Havasu.


Kevin throwing rocks (trying to hit a far-out buoy):

Joe throwing rocks:

John throwing rocks:

Kids by the giant fireplace at the hotel in Williams:

Joe, me, and Cayna smiling big in our hotel room:

Love family standing by the Polar Express:

Four Loves bowling (Kevin's dad, step-mom, and us):

And the kids. John won, he beat everyone - no joke:

The kids freezing their little butts off at the 5K:

After the finish. Me and my running partner (Kevin's dad) and my kids:

Joseph turns nine! How can that be? Delivering the cake so he can blow out the candles.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wrapping Station

Normally, my "wrapping station" would be the floor of the family room on Christmas Eve with a glass of eggnog in easy reach.

This year, I'm trying something new: wrapping the presents an entire WEEK before Christmas. I'm not sure what effect this will have on my Christmas Eve, but I have high hopes for low stress.

Kevin has commandeered the family room for his own purposes. Every night after the kids go to bed, he sets up a table and a veritable woodshop. He is building a dollhouse from a kit my dad bought for the girls.

In order to help keep the little sneaky varmints from tiptoeing downstairs and beholding their gift before Christmas, I wanted to set up my wrapping in my room, which overlooks the whole hallway, allowing me to monitor all activity. But then I can't just pull out all the gifts and spread out, or they'll see everything if they do get up.

So... I set up the ironing board near my door and draped a blanket over it. This would keep all the gifts out of view. Then I brought up the 6-foot ladder to reach the gifts in their hiding place up on our pot shelf. Bags of bows, rolls of paper, bolts of ribbon, and a slew of to-and-from cards, and I was set to go. About two gifts in and Joe was up having to go to the bathroom. Cayna too. And Bethanie too. First kid clogged the toilet, but I couldn't send the others to either other bathroom without compromising the surprises. So Kevin had to halt his siding installation and come upstairs to do some plumbing. I hovered near the draped ironing board to make sure no one peeked over. Everyone did their business and went back to bed. I went back to wrapping. I think I finished a whopping eight packages before I started to get tired. Or just bored. It was eerily quiet up there without children, husband, television or telephone. Just me and the HO HO HO paper.

We'll see if I pick up tonight where I left off. The ironing board, blanket, and ladder are all ready. But procrastination is so sweet.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Leaving Prescott

Normally, after a vacation, no matter how wonderful, I'm glad to head home. For some reason, as our Arizona trip drew to a close, I didn't want to leave Prescott. I really like that town. It's got just enough rough edges to not be TOO idyllic (like me!), small but not too small, plus it's beautiful and has history you can see. I like that. I also love my in-laws' house. Father-in-law built it himself and in recent years has added extensively to the decks on the front and back of the house. It was freezing-butt cold there this trip, so we didn't lounge much on the decks, but I spent PLENTY of time gazing out across the valley from the front and into the trees looking for deer out back.

Truthfully, it was also hard to give up being cooked for morning, noon, and night for seven days. I dreaded coming home and having to meal plan and cook again. Ah, to live in a world where dinner magically appears on the table every night.

It's been a week of laundry, grocery-getting, Advent preparation and catch-up, and pre-Christmas stuff. I'm finally over the mild post-vacation depression. We decorated our tree (maybe now a pink-candle Sunday tradition?) and now Kevin and the hot glue gun are set up in the family room trying to construct a doll house for the girls for Christmas. He's got the walls up, I oughtta go take a photo.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Arizona Vacation Diary, Day 4

For a woman who has a long way to go practicing self-control, buffets are not my favorite thing. Unfortunately, included in our Polar Express package were a dinner and breakfast buffet. I managed to resist the muffins and Frosted Flakes, and had a very Atkins-y breakfast of eggs and bacon.

We loaded up our freezing-cold van, took some pictures of the kids by the hotel's huge fireplace, and headed out of Williams.

Between Williams and Prescott, we saw antelope and sheep running wild. Not our normal scenery.

Prescott is a lovely town. It really is. And my in-laws have the most wonderful house up in the mountains overlooking a whole valley on one side and surrounded by trees on the other. We hope to see the deer that frequent their yard while we're here.

That said, it's brutal to run here. It's cold, it's over 5,000 feet, and there are some HILLS like I've never known out there. But I survived, (often slowing to 13-minute miles going up the hills). Now to keep from embarrassing myself tomorrow.

Meanwhile, we're enjoying the company, the town, and the multitude of events planned over the next few days.

Arizona Vacation Diary, Day 3

Left the desert mid-morning and rode through the pine trees all the way to Williams, Arizona, established 1881.

Our hotel faced the festively-lit reindeer corral and the train tracks. We had the perfect room location.

After a buffet dinner, the kids changed into their pajamas and we prepared to board the Polar Express.

It really was a magically fun night for our whole family. We heard songs from the movie soundtrack, plus Liam Neeson reading the story on CD as we enjoyed our hot chocolate and cookie en route to the North Pole. There Santa boarded the train and gave each child a jingle bell. Heading back to Williams, we sang lots of Christmas carols and laughed at John climbing all over the seat. It was a wonderful ride. More than the program of the evening, I want to remember riding in an antique train somewhere near the Grand Canyon with my young children and the full moon outside illuminating the tall trees.

Back at the station, we met Mrs. Claus, had a family photo taken with a very kind Santa, and walked back to our room in the cold night.

With kids asleep, Kevin and I settled down to read (he also had some candy from the vending machine down the hall). I heard a noise outside the window that I've never heard in my life - the clop, clop, clop of a horse pulling a carriage on the street below. It was as if we'd gone back in time. Or maybe just chose a really great vacation.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Arizona Vacation Diary, Day 2

Sunrise in Lake Havasu. And minutes later, my four kids are out of bed.

Stole away to the lake with salami sandwiches. We liked them, and so did the pigeons and seagulls that attacked our family near the beach. Bravely, Kevin ran fifty yards off to drop crumbs and try to save our family. It worked. No one was pecked or pooped on in the end. Kids played at the park, and then the "beach". Lots of shell gathering, rock throwing, rock skipping, and sand castle construction. A beautiful day which explains why folks from all over the cold United States winter here. On the way to the shore, we saw an Alaska license plate and that made perfect sense.

My step sister-in-law is a massage therapist, which turned out quite nicely for me at 2:45 p.m. I had an hour massage along with good discussion about our wacky family. For those 60 minutes, I was in vacation heaven.

Back to the house for a slow evening and Mexican dinner. One action-packed hour was spent removing prickles from Cayna's right hand. This is the second time in her little life that she has placed a hand on a cactus or sticker bush. Both incidents occurred here at the in-laws, and both required a looooooooooooong session with tweezers and a bright light.

Our last night in this strange town is spent by the crackling fire. I finished my book and Kevin played "Rush Hour", a brain teaser game that makes me yell every time I attempt it. And I'm not doing any yelling on vacation. At least not out loud.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Arizona Vacation Diary, Day 1

We arrived via Honda minivan in the Grand Canyon State. Six people, forty-six pieces of luggage. Each child wanted their own suitcase. This is handy when it's time to drag everything in and out of lodging places, since each person rolls their own, but it's an engineering nightmare when loading the van. Whenever people ask Kevin if we're having more kids, his standard response is: "We still have seats in the van!" This is true. We do not, however, have any more cargo space. If we ever have more kids, or even when our kids start wearing bigger clothes that take up more space, we will have to acquire one of those storage bins that attach to the roof.

Arrived at the in-laws in Havasu. Only one in-law present - the other is elk hunting near the San Francisco peaks (in Arizona, not California - I have a lot to learn about topography). Maneuvered past the foreboding-looking cacti that line the path to the front door. Once, years ago, Cayna stuck her hand on one of them and we spent hours plucking out the needles. Note to self: If I ever have grandkids, and want them to visit - don't line the walkway with dangerous flora.

Our remaining day was spent in front of the fire with Christmas music playing and the kids tossing ornaments on Grandma's tree. I read a book. Cleverly, I brought three books and one issue of "Runner's World" on this trip and I plan to make good use of my down time.

Kevin watched football, the sun went down, we all went to bed. Four kids in one room - ain't vacation grand?