Archive for December, 2011

This year was a growing year. A stretching year. The past two years I was happy to bask in the life we had created, content to settle in and breathe in life, and honestly I think I did a pretty good job of that. But. We humans are always moving forward, ever in motion, always striving for the next bit of happiness out there that we can make our own. This year I wasn’t content to sit passively in this {admittedly, amazingly blessed} life anymore, it was time to grow and as we all know, that can come with some amount of pain, of the growing variety and otherwise. This was a year that told me, in no uncertain terms, that I had to be the catalyst. I had to collect myself and define where we wanted to be, where we should be in the next year. It was a year to plan, though those plans are always subject to the sense of humor of this utterly unpredictable universe we live in. Though the lows were so heavy, so low, the highs of two thousand eleven did and will continue to outshine it all…

More specifically, these three wonderful, crazy, clever, amazing people. They are mine and more importantly, I am theirs.

Here’s looking at you, Twenty Twelve…


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We have been so busy celebrating this season that I’ve had approximately zero time to document the last two weeks. Rest assured it was full of bright colors, over-excited/over-sugared children and lots of time together as a family. We have a get together with my mom’s side of the family tonight which will end our Christmas celebrations just in time for the New Year’s Eve party tomorrow night. So the best way I can recap is to show you a butt-load of pictures and call it a day, okay? Okay.


At six and four we have two expert cookie decorators.

And expert cookie eaters.

We enjoyed the subtle lights on our house...

And the not so subtle lights of Santa waterskiing at the Lights in the Park display.

One of our favorite advent activities.

Followed closely by this one. Such an understated design, don't you think?

As macabre as it sounds, my favorite moment of the season was this beautiful, peaceful walk through my dad's cemetery. It's been a completely brown December, but we got this dusting on the 23rd. It lasted a whole 24 hours, but it was a pretty 24 hours.

Christmas Eve morning we headed over to Bill's parents' house for brunch and of course...

Presents! Around three we left for mass which was long and packed and hot and not the most fun I've ever had. The kids did well considering, but two hours is a long time for a four year old to suppress his four-year-old-liness.

That night Santa was a busy guy, assembling a huge arts and crafts kit for Rowan J...

and the world's loudest drum set for Keaton Sir. {We will not speak of my stupidity over this one for the time being, I'm sure this lovely instrument will be heavily featured as my worthy foe over the coming weeks before it has an untimely, unfortunate and violent meeting down both of our staircases.}

Christmas morning, enduring the torturous obligatory photo at the top of the stairs before seeing what Santa left.

We had a relaxing morning playing with Santa's spoils.

And decapitating Santa in his chocolate form.

Christmas Day was spent at my mom's with all these crazy kids, ranging from 21 months to 17 years.

A more accurate pictorial description.

After the intense process of present opening for 20 people we chatted and relaxed by the wood stove...

and watched the kids dance while my mom accompanied on the piano.

For all its busy-ness, we had a pretty awesome holiday. Bill was off all this week and we planned absolutely nothing so most of our time was spent in our jammies playing with the kids. This weekend is packed full of more holiday crap and then Tuesday we’re back to reality and a diet with 98% less chocolate Santas. Hope everyone’s holiday was wonderful and here’s looking to 2012…

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Okay, I’m so sorry to do this but I need to document all this Christmasy crap in one big she-bang of a post. I promise it’s not because I want to torture you, Internet, although my reasons are mostly selfish. With the economy the way it is, I need a little insurance for mine and Bill’s future so I need fully documented proof that I was a super awesome mom to my kids so when I’m making my case for the fancy nursing home in the Bahamas, they might overlook all the ways I warped them and focus on all the Christmas magic. Essentially, this post is my retirement plan. Who needs stocks and a fat 401k when you can just write a blog post? You don’t need to say it, I know I’m a super genius.

So we went ahead with the advent activity calendar and about halfway through it? I’M TIRED OF DOING ALL THE THINGS. Because we are doing things. All of them. But after the fact I’m always glad we did them so here’s the run down and many lazy Instagram pictures of how we’ve been spending the season…

This year I put each activity in a decorative hodge-podge of envelopes I found hanging around the house. I conveniently just tucked in the flap so I could cheat depending on how lazy/ambitious I am on any certain day.

Day One: Get Christmas tree and decorate house for the season.

I already told you that this day didn’t go exactly as planned. Since we were stuck at home, and all the decorations were tucked conveniently in the back corner, Bill and I spent the morning digging through and organizing the Closet of Death, which was…not fun. What was fun was being able to donate bag after bag of old kids’ clothes and so many old coats and toys and afterward we had our bright, shiny closet back {which lasted all of one week before it was so stuffed with Christmas presents that it looked like a war-zone again}. Rowan was sick so Bill and Keaton went to get the tree, only the tree farm guy forgot to give it a fresh cut. Realizing his mistake he looked up our address {which they have because we are a part of their CSA} and he popped over to give it a cut. Only Bill and Keaton had stopped somewhere else and weren’t back yet and I had been busy with the closet and taking care of a very sick Rowan and it’s entirely possible that I answered the door to this poor guy with a white shirt and no bra on {trust me, this was a lot less hot than it sounds since I hadn’t showered in, well, awhile.} Anyway, it was very sweet of him to come but I think I scared him out of making house calls for a while. After a very long day the tree finally made it up. Here are our favorite ornaments…

This is my favorite, hanging on every Christmas tree for all my 31 years. It's the only one I won't let the kids touch as it is precious and liable to break due to its extreme old age.

I'll give you one guess as to whose favorite this is. And if you get it wrong you're kicked off this website. Forever.

*Sigh.* Keaton has displayed his undying love for this ornament by playing the "Who rang that bell?" sequence 4,896 times. Last year he broke off and lost Dorothy and this year the Scarecrow has been re-glued twice, as evidenced by the pool of glue at his feet. Tinman, Lion and Doorman? Your days are most likely numbered.

Bet you don't have a Grandma Walnut Butt Face on your tree. But if you did it would be your husband's favorite.

Our December 2nd Activity: Make Hand/foot print Rudolph.

It was mostly fun to see the differences in my kids' shoe size, most notably how flippin' wide Keaton's feet are compared to his sister's. I had to paint in an area of hers so Rudolph didn't look anorexic, which would be a great topic for a Lifetime Christmas movie but not so much for my wall.

December 3rd: Write letter to Santa. I transcribed Keaton's for him and Rowan got as far as making fancy, twirling lettering for her opening and then gave up saying "Santa's smart, he'll figure it out." I told her Santa is going to bring her Bare Essentials moisturizer and a nice bottle of Malbec if she doesn't finish that letter soon.

December 4th: Celebrate a special Christmas-time birthday.

Done and Done…the afterparty…

December 5th: Write a Christmas Story together. This being one of those numbers where everybody adds a line. Here’s ours…

One day in Christmastown Rudolph was sad. He was sad because one of the other reindeer wasn’t sharing his jingle bells. He asked the reindeer to share but he didn’t. Then he just ran home and went up to his bedroom and got a book out and read it and then he went to bed. The next morning he woke up to the beautiful elf chorus singing his favorite song. The song was about sharing and the Christmas spirit and it reminded him to spread good cheer. And then he looked and saw a letter and he opened it up and it was from the other reindeer. And then Rudolph went to the fair and bought a shiny new red nose. When he got back to Christmastown he ran into Santa. Just then the Bumble came out, snatched up Santa and Rudolph and then the Bumble took them back to his cave and started a fire. But they had a key and they unlocked the door and they runnnnnned back to Christmastown. Whew, that was close. When they had returned they found out the reindeer who wouldn’t share got eatened by the Bumble! They were so sad that he got eated that they wanted to make another reindeer but they couldn’t! They made a robot reindeer instead. His name was Snarfles. THE END.

December 6th: Go to a special Christmas concert. Rowan’s teacher asked her to do a reading when the previous kid they asked got stage fright. I was so nervous for her since she spent the majority of the previous week whispering because she’d lost her voice, and then once we got there and saw there was EASILY 1,ooo to 1,500 people packed in the gym I was just short of panicking but she did awesome. A mom of one of her classmates shot this great video of her doing her reading which I’m so thankful for since ours was shot with an iPhone from 7.32 miles away.

December 7th: Read Christmas books by the fire. This is my favorite. Fun, easy and comes with a decorative cat.

December 8th: Give toys to Toys for Tots. I slowly want to integrate more charitable activities into our advent routine, but want to make them meaningful. At this age it’s really hard to explain that some kids don’t have homes or enough to eat, let alone a pile of toys on Christmas morning. What do you say to a six-year-old who says, “But mom, Santa will bring them food and toys!”? I tried to explain that sometimes we have to be each others’ Santa but at this point my kids so thoroughly believe in the magic of it all, it’s hard for them to understand. So we’re starting small and I had them each pick out a Toy and place it in the Toys for Tots bin.

December 9th: Christmas tree sleepover! This one went a lot smoother than last year, as there was 8 times more sleeping and 78% less zombies. This night was actually our only unscheduled weekend night of the season and so far it has been the best. We all snuggled in with jammas and popcorn and had a Christmas Carol marathon, which included the Mickey Mouse, Mr. Magoo, and Muppets versions. This is one of my favorite Christmas stories- I’ve been reading the regular old Dickens’ version to Rowan. I sort of thought she’d get bored with it right away but she asks for it and is taking in the story through all that 19th century prose, which is really cool. So after the movies we snuggled the kids in for the night in their sleeping bags.

Best night-light ever.

December 10th: Go ice-skating. JUST KIDDING, THERE IS BARELY ANY SNOW AND NO SKATE WORTHY ICE. Instead I cheated and changed the card to “Spend time with cousins and family”. This year instead of a sibling Christmas drawing for gifts we decided to do a night of Christmas cheer. My brother hosted and we spent the evening letting the kids run around together while we enjoyed good beer, wine and each others’ company.

These two trouble makers decided that instead of spreading Christmas cheer they were going to spread dry kitty food. All over the basement. They were hereby confined to this chair where they watched Cars 2 as punishment. We maybe need to work on our disciplinary tactics.

December 11: Visit Santa Claus! Sunday morning the kids had their Sunday school Christmas program, which is a small affair of a few carols sung after mass. Afterward we headed to see Mall Santa, which was a little nerve-wracking since Keaton had a rough time sleeping the night before. We were able to coax him through the 40 minute wait and thankfully he did great once he was with the Big Guy {Rowan’s always been a pro at schmoozing Santa}.

We’ve had the same Santa for the last three to four years; he’s very quiet and peaceful, with a real beard and well, I’m sort of sure he actually IS Santa. He probably just likes to fuck with parents but after he finished up with the kids they were picking out suckers and he made eye contact with me and said with a twinkle “They sure have grown a lot this year.” I don’t know what it was- the tone of his voice, the look in his eye, but he seriously seemed like he KNEW my kids, or at the very least remembered them from previous years which would be very near impossible, considering the amount of kids that display must attract each season. Anyway, it was a good trick because he left me questioning if I actually am the one who purchases and lays out all that crap on Christmas Eve.

And {finally!} today, December 12th: Give food to the food shelf. This will be done tonight during Bill’s trip to the grocery store, where you can fill bags and leave them right there for the local food shelf, which will hopefully do some good this holiday season.

Overall this season has seemed more stressful than in the past {although I’m sure I say this every year}. With the amount of stuff the kids are in, plus special events for ballet, school, Bill’s work and church, it makes it hard to carve out time for special family activities. Every weekend has been completely booked and the time crunch to figure out shopping and such has been daunting. Plus with temperatures in the 40s all the snow is melting so it barely feels like Christmas in Minnesota. But. I’m ultimately glad we’re following through with our calender. Taking time out each day to do things together or think of others is something we should be more aware of at all times of the year, but especially at the time when that sort of thing tends to get lost in the tinsel and gingerbread. Now I’m off to see if there’s a way I can inject dayquil directly into my temples as the kids passed their lovely sickness to me and I’d really prefer to be hopped up on cold medicine when I attack the giant pile of laundry that’s currently requesting my presence.

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Everyday, Sir.

Everyday you make me laugh. Everyday you make me say, “Where did that boy come from?” Everyday you show us your big voice and your even bigger heart.

It’s not all roses mind you, but even on the most frustrating weeks when you can’t seem to take no for an answer, when you poke and poke and poke at me until I snap back in a voice louder than I intended, when you wait until I go into the other room and say in a stage whisper to your sister, “Look! Mom’s gone! I’ll say poopy pants and you say dodo-head.” Yes even then, you turn around and in the next instant surprise us with a sweet act of uninhibited kindness. It’s in your very nature, Budders, to be a pleaser. I never really understood this until you came along. I heard the phrase “people-pleaser” before but with Rowan… well, let’s just say it was never very applicable with her and that’s okay. But you are so distinctly you and such a pleaser to the bone. Not in the push-over I’ll-do-whatever-you-want way, but in the way that it genuinely makes you happy to make others happy. You strive to do it. It’s just part of you, one of the parts that I love the most.

Your heart is as big as any I’ve ever seen, and you’re one of the most empathetic people I know. Let me demonstrate: We had a rough week with your sister. She got very, very sick on Tuesday night and she only got worse on Wednesday. Thursday we had planned a fun day to celebrate your birthday, just us four, at the Children’s Museum {where you have been asking to go for weeks}, and then to the tree farm to pick out our Christmas tree, followed by a dinner out at a small burger joint complete with Kitty Cocktails. To say you were excited would be a massive understatement.

On Wednesday evening I had to break it to you that we’d either have to split up; you and dad go to the museum while I stayed home with Rowan, or we’d have to wait and go after Christmas sometime. As I was saying this into your large, hopeful eyeballs,  OHMYSWEETJESUS the guilt I felt. So incredibly bad. First you had to miss Halloween because you were throwing up and now this? GAH. I felt like I was breaking your wee little boy heart but after I finished explaining, you didn’t skip a beat, not a single one, and said, “It’s okay, mom, it’s okay. We’ll go a different time. We’ll go to the museum when we can all be together.” And then you patted my shoulder, consoling me for breaking you heart. I don’t think I’ve ever loved you more than in that moment, a moment where any other child {including the other one that came out of my uterus} would have most likely thrown a fit or in the least chosen to split up, but no, not you. I am pleased to report we still managed to get you that kitty cocktail, for which I suspect was your main goal for the day anyway.

Things you love right now:


Any type of potty talk.

Knock-knock who’s there? Banana! Banana who? And so on and so forth AD NAUSEUM.

Cutting paper into teeny-tiny, miniscule, microscopic pieces.

Sorry!, Trouble and Candyland.

Wii Baseball, tennis, golf and bowling.

Wii Mario Kart {And I say this with only love but holy shit are you terrible at it.}

Being chased, tickled and franklemoined.

Karate chops.

Dancing like a mad man.

Giving and getting hugs and squeezes.

Mommy’s Wizard of Oz ornament that you’ve already managed to break twice this season.

Books, books, books. And while you don’t quite have patience for anything without pictures on every page, you could sit and listen to storybooks for hours. Your favorites are The Prince’s Bedtime, The Giving Tree, and Mo Willem’s Gerald and Piggy books.

Your sister. She is your best friend. {And your worst enemy, but mostly that first one.}

I was more than a little scared of three, and it certainly reared its ugly head at times throughout the year, but for the most part you were just the most fun to be around. So full of smiles and goodwill and love, and you spread it around you everywhere you go. We just can’t get enough of you and look forward to more amazing things as we start a whole new year of Four. Love you, Pal.

4 Keaton! from Christy Gunter on Vimeo.

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