Monday, December 31, 2012

December 31

The scene at our house today:

Racing various contraptions that we'd built out of Trio blocks down the hallways....

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Louie strolls over to investigate...

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George Washington, er ... I mean Paul Revere makes an appearance.

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Little brothers leave the warmth of my lap and embrace...

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To join their big brother and dress up like a character from the 18th century....

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There was some animated movie watching via our iPad and live streaming on Netflix, while Louie had a staring contest with the fire...

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There was a rambunctious game of boys versus girls in Pictionary...

(This is a prison...)

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(This is a cookie...)

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And then we sat down with the children and thought about all of the wonderful things that we'd like to do next year. Not necessarily "Go here and there..." or "See this and that..." but more along the lines of, "Be kinder than necessary. Make friends.  Include people. Smile. Bring sunshine - where ever we go. Challenge ourselves to implement Ann Curry's 26 Acts of Kindness."

Charlie and I tucked the children in to bed and now we're going to go watch our own movie as we ring in the New Year.  I'd read something the other day about people who were going stir crazy feeling like they were trapped inside their homes and had a severe case of cabin fever following the holidays. This feeling is so foreign to me. I've never been so content as I have these past almost two weeks when I've left the house for no more than five hours, total.  Today as I was puttering around in my slippers, playing with our children and lounging in front of the fire, I kept wondering if I was the incarnate of a hermit?  I absolutely love staying home and really hope to do more of it.

Goodbye 2012.  This has been a year of enlightenment and growth for me. As we embark on 2013,  I feel like I have clarity, focus, determination and best of all - - gratitude.  It's my most heartfelt prayer that this is a wonderful year for everyone. And I'm convinced it can be ... if you will it so.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

December 30

My sister and her family flew back to Michigan a few days ago, but the entertaining bug hasn't yet left us.  So Charlie and I have been hosting various friends over for dinner.  Tonight, we had some very good friends over who have three children that are approximately the same age(s) as ours.

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Their daughter is in our children's second grade class - and in our Brownie Troop - and their son, who is one year older than our trio, is in William's Cub Scout pack. Their youngest daughter is the same age as Henry and Henry adores her. Not just because she's a girl ... although Henry has a soft spot in his heart for girls ... but because she loves trucks and dinosaurs and Spiderman and Superman and Batman and all things Superhero related, almost as much as him.  They see each other every week because they're in swim lessons together and will sometimes run around the bleachers together when their older siblings are in swim team at night.

Next year, they'll be in Kindergarten together.

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And in a few blink, blink, blinks ... I wouldn't be at all surprised if they're going to the Prom together.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

December 28

On Friday, I thought it would be a good idea to clean out the guinea pig cage and perhaps give them their first baths. Now, I'd never given a guinea pig a bath before, but I figured it might be prime time seeing as they've been running around in their own droppings for the past seven days.

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Here's Marty getting his first soak.  I think it's safe to say that it scared the you-know-what out of the little guy ... literally. By the time he was finished, there were no less than 20 poops floating in the water.

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Once he was bathed and brushed, I wrapped him gently in a towel and clipped his little claws because they were very long and very uncomfortable for whomever was holding him.  "Clipping rodent claws" is now something that I can add to my resume.  Also, something that I never imagined myself doing in my lifetime.

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Oh, but just think of the places I might go in my career with that newly established ability!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

December 27

Introducing ... 

On the left ... Albert Einstein  (aka: Albie) and...  

On the right ... Martin Luther King (aka: Marty). 

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NOTE: These names are extremely subject to change.  Given that they've already changed from "Oreo" to "George Washington" to "Albert Einstein" .... and from "James Brown" to "Star" to "Sir Isaac Newton" to "Martin Luther King, Jr." in the past few days.  One thing is for sure, these baby guinea pigs are the cutest little things ever.  Squeak!  Squeak! 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December 26

The week spanning from Christmas until New Year's is quite possibly, the most awesome week of the entire year. I truly look forward to this week with such anticipation as a time of relaxing - and savoring my friends and family unlike any other time.

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The day after Christmas, we woke up to snow in northern Virginia. The landscape was white and beautiful flakes were still softly falling.  I couldn't have dreamed up a more wonderful day if I'd tried. We had no plans to go anywhere, so we all stayed inside, with two refrigerators stocked full of goodies ... and we cooked. And cooked. And cooked. 

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We played with all of our new Christmas toys - and we donned our new Christmas clothes including flannel pajamas, cozy slippers and my new Snuggie (courtesy of Charlie who rightly thought this might help keep me warmer than my oversized underwear). We played an abundance of board games and we sat in front of roaring fires and we curled up together watching movies. 

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All of us put in an an abundance of soul-food rich deposits in our memory banks. 

And it was good. Perfect even. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

December 25

OK... so Charlie won the bet.

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The kids were awake at 6:00 AM ... a mere 3.5 hours after I went to bed and they immediately recognized that Santa had made a rather large gift deposit in their room. Despite my plans to wake up, shower and dress before them ... I felt like a newborn puppy, unable to open my eyes, only listening to the excitement around me.  Interestingly enough, there wasn't much screaming among the children because I think everyone was shell shocked that Santa would actually bring them baby guinea pigs. Are they real? Are we sleeping??

Is this a dream?!

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After much cajoling, I finally climbed out of our bed, stumbled in to the girls room, and crashed directly in to their bed, where I remained until nearly 8:30 AM.  While I would have liked for them to open their boxes of vegetables beneath the tree BEFORE they realized that there were two baby guinea pigs in their care ... in retrospect, it was rather convenient that Santa put the guinea pigs in their room, because that's where they were content to spend all of Christmas morning. And I was perfectly content to stay there ... in their bed ... slipping in and out of consciousness while Charlie spent several hours trying to make cinnamon rolls from scratch.  Once my husband had finished his culinary masterpiece, our children said, "Dad? We think we like the kind of cinnamon rolls that come in the cardboard tube that you smack against the counter better."

You know, the kind that take five minutes to prepare as opposed to five hours? 

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When I finally roused from my abbreviated slumber,  the kids did a swan dive in to their presents and were ripping through them so fast and furiously and opening presents that weren't even addressed to them, that within less than three minutes, I called a HALT to their operations and suspended all Christmas present opening until later in the day when our family arrived. And then I talked to the children about the importance of giving, not receiving, and whose birthday was it that we were celebrating ... anyway?

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In the midst of my itty bitty don't be greedy freak out session, William lost his second front tooth and sweetly launched in to, "All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth."

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And then, within the hour, my sister Eileen and 5/7 of her beautiful family from Michigan arrived.  We ate.  (So proud of my son for sampling the sweet potatoes - - on his own volition!)

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We drank.

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We uh, held guinea pigs while we ate and drank.

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We were incredibly Merry. 


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And just before bedtime ... once children were in their pajamas with teeth brushed, we opened the rest of our presents.  

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The Spirit was alive in all of us. 

And as a result, Christmas was everything that Christmas is supposed to be. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

December 24

So it's actually December 25 when I'm sitting down to write this post.

(Cookie crumbs and ash scattered about the hearth...)

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Every year, I promise myself that I'll have everything done, wrapped and ready to go - a day or two early. And every year, I find myself up at nearly 2:00 AM Christmas morning. Oh, but next year ... next year when I'm working part-time from home again ... things will be so different. Mark my words. I'll have everything done in NOVEMBER.

(Or at least by 10 PM on Christmas Eve.) 

Today in northern Virginia it snowed. Huge flakes - falling from the sky. Here's my Canadian born husband who spent  25 years of his life living in southern California, as evidenced by the shorts in a snowstorm....

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Meanwhile, inside the house, in between our children checking in on Santa's voyage via NORAD...

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I was struck by the beauty of snow on Christmas Eve, so I quickly lit a roaring fire. Only to realize that the flue was closed and smoke started to billow through the house. The kids all dropped to the ground and practiced their fire drills by screaming, "STOP DROP AND ROLL!!!" one of the children rolled right out the front door and fetched their father who was trying to catch snowflakes and told him their mother was burning down the house. We wished the snow would continue, but the temperature rose and the flakes soon turned to raindrops, so we decided to catch the earlier Christmas Eve service at church and give the house an opportunity to ventilate.

Once we were home from church, we baked Christmas cookies for Santa and then had dinner by candlelight. We've come a long way since the last time we tried such a stunt...

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We read our final story in our Advent Calendar book, followed by 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. Then we placed cookies out for Santa.

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Ribbon was affixed high on the tree for Santa to see and potatoes and apples were left out in exchange for a gift.   He left a basketball in exchange for an apple and a bag of Timothy Grass for a cookie. In a shoe, Santa also left some carrots with the stems attached.

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Every year, it seems like we hit "Mach Crazy" with Christmas gifts, so we have to remind ourselves that Christmas is really the one time of the year we buy presents. We're not so big in to buying gifts for birthdays or other occasions. And the presents that we buy at Christmas are usually PRACTICAL like new backpacks, lunch boxes, shoes, clothes and dental floss.  The children get so excited when we give them dental floss. Especially the kind that is flavored like mint!

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Although this year, Santa did bring us some amazing toys and gifts.

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Santa, that sneaky fellow, hid the long-awaited baby guinea pigs under the curtains in the girls room with a little rolled up note, tied with a bow, that is perched in a stuffed Santa's arms.

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Charlie and I have a $10.00 bet riding as to whether or not the kids will see them when they wake up in the morning. I say they won't, he says they will.  My logic is that they'll be so fixated on running out of the room to see what Santa brought - they won't even notice what's directly in front of them.  Probably like me, who will be functioning off four hours of sleep since I'm also betting the kids won't sleep a minute past 6:00 AM. They are so excited, they could hardly sit still tonight.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

We hope that your day is beautiful and bright.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

December 23

This morning we did our annual donation drop at the local firehouse for "Toys for Tots" ...

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And then we drove over to visit Santa. This was our second time visiting with this particular Santa and after last year, when we waited in line for more than three hours to see the man who has been dubbed, "The Real Santa Claus" ... we thought we'd get there an hour before it opened to beat the crowds.  We arrived at 10:30.  But what to our wondering eyes should appear, but a line that had begun to form at 7:30 ... as in, three hours earlier.  We still had to wait for two hours to visit with him, but it was worth every minute and we will gladly do it again, next year. A tradition has been born!

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This man embodies everything to me that is "Santa" and I can easily see why people travel from all over the United States to come sit in his sleigh and visit with him year after year after year.  He's been dressing up and playing Father Christmas since he was a 14-year old orphan and he's now 82.  

It's a well known fact: John Buckreis has spent a lifetime perfecting his role. 

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When he came in to the room, jingling his ring of reindeer bells, he summoned William from the 100+ people that had gathered, and he placed his bells around his neck.  Then he called all of the children over to a manger, where Santa got down on bended knee, and told the story of Christmas ... Mary and Joseph and the babe in the manger.

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He led everyone in song as he belted out, "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "Silent Night."  Then he went up to his chimney perch and held a 10-minute question and answer session with the children.

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What do your elves wear?
(The elves that you see in movies are the product of Hollywood, they don't wear pointy shoes and have pointy ears.  Real elves are Santa's helpers and they wear anything and everything. They come from all over the world and they look just like you and me.)

How do reindeers fly?
(He sprinkles them with stardust that comes from shooting stars. It's magic.)

Why is Rudolph's nose red?
(Because he eats a lot of cranberries. They're his favorite food!)

How does he make all of those toys?
(He doesn't make all of the toys, anymore. Now, he has a deal with toy manufacturers around the world. They give him ~10% of all toys made.  He also loves Amazon.)

From his chimney perch, he recited "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" (from memory, nonetheless) and then he led everyone through another song.


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After telling everyone that if they had fussy babies and they just wanted a photo opportunity, please move to the front of the line because it's not fair for anyone (the baby especially) to have to wait.  He assumed his position on his vintage sleigh, where he took children - one by one - and read their Christmas lists with them.

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And he talked with them. He really talked.  He looked them in their eyes and queried them on things like their dogs and cats and favorite subjects in school.  People of all ages ... young and old ... climbed in to Santa's sleigh. Many laughed, many had tears in their eyes. All of them were so immensely grateful for this person that has brought so much GOOD and JOY and LOVE and FAITH to their lives, by devoting his existence to sharing and spreading the Spirit of Christmas.

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When our children took to the sleigh, William went first.  Santa asked him how our dog was doing. (HOW OUR DOG WAS DOING?!)  He went on to tell William that last year, when he came down the chimney and was filling stockings, our little dog nipped him on the bottom. So this year, we have to make VERY SURE that we keep him out of the living room. And then he tore off some yellow ribbon and handed it to William and said, "If you can put this little bit of ribbon on the table, I'll leave a dog bone for your pup, Louie."  William was flabbergasted.

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Up stepped Elizabeth and Santa said to her, "Oh, I know all about you. You are one of the smartest children in your class and I know that you love to read." Our sweet Elizabeth has been struggling so hard in school.  We've been working with a number of specialists for the past couple of years and I keep telling her that one day it will all click - I know it will happen. Until then she just needs to be patient with herself.  She looked at me with a gleam in her eye and I knew that Santa's comments bolstered her confidence more than anything anyone could have ever said. If Santa said I love to read and am one of the smartest children in my class .... IT MUST BE TRUE! 

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Carolyn climbed up next and sweetly asked for a guinea pig. Santa told her that she has one of the gentlest, kindest hearts he's every encountered and he knows that she would be a wonderful guinea pig owner. But he wasn't so sure that he'd be able to manage that. He shot me a glance and when I winked at him, he looked back at Carolyn and said, "No guarantees. But I'll see what I can do..."

(I'm So Excited. This might possibly be the most amazing Christmas EVER!) 

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Henry was the fourth to climb up in to his lap and he looked right in to Santa's eyes and said, "Santa, I love you so much. Thank you for keeping God alive in my heart! Now, um, I want a Red Power Ranger and a real butterfly and also, MOST IMPORTANT, stardust you put on the reindeers so I can FLY! Santa, I want to FLY!!!"

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Today, we felt like we were touched by magic.  At the conclusion of our visit, Santa gave each child a lollipop and a prayer card with "A Prayer for Children" written on the back. I've never read this before, but loved it, especially the second verse:

"Teach me both what to give and what to withhold; when to reprove and when to forbear; make me gentle, yet firm; considerate and watchful and deliver me equally from the weakness of indulgence and the excess of severity; and grant that both by word and by example, I may be careful to lead them in the ways of wisdom and true piety." 

(Wow! Did I need to read that today. And yesterday. And tomorrow, too.)

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He also cut a piece of ribbon that he instructed them to hang from the tree, or drape on their bed, or affix to the door or place on the table beneath an apple.

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He told them to put their shoes by the fireplace with a potato in them. And leave carrots in their stockings for the reindeer. He gave each one very specific details that they committed to memory.

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Thank goodness the children promptly told me all about it, so I could write it down because there was no way I could remember all of those instructions.  Especially since my mind is now distracted that I'm 0 for 3 on Henry's wish list.  Hopefully, he'll be happy with his Mammoth Skeleton Tent with Caveman PlayMobil set.  Sure, flying would be great, but what child doesn't love PlayMobil?!