Sunday, February 10, 2013

It was one year ago, yesterday, that we welcomed this sweet little baby girl into our lives, and we have had such a fun year getting to know her! She is spunky and quiet and inquisitive and bright-eyed. She cuddles and giggles and is delightful to be around.

A favorite tradition we have started as a family is to let the non-birthday kids decorate the cake for the birthday-kid. I always start out by asking them what they want to do- I give them some "supplies" and then let them have at it. I am usually beside myself with joy by the end- it is always so much crazier, and more creative, and messier, and more fun than I could imagine. The kids always look forward to making something really special for the birthday-kid, too. Some of us are better at "decorating" and not "testing" than others. And it is interesting to watch the big kids work out the plan with the little ones around- they need to be so patient to let everyone have a part. 

This is the finished product, which you can't see well in this picture. But I had to share- do you see what I have to work with? All a mom wants is the "perfect" family picture with the birthday cake. And this is the best one of the bunch- with a hidden Anna and a squirelly David. They started with a plan to make a heart on one side of the cake, and a big #1 on the other side. In the end, the cake had a castle wall, and a river of sprinkles.

As they were making it, Ryan said "Ellie is going to SCREAM when she sees this!" And though Ellie is much too mild-mannered to scream over a cake, she did lean over and give a delighted "mmm!" before snitching a marshmallow.

The birthday girl certainly did enjoy her cake. But she wasn't too excited about having to use her hands. I watched her gingerly pick at the mess on her fingers and almost even went to get her a fork, she was so hesitant. Still, she loved it.
Oh yes, before the cake was cut, Phil couldn't help himself and toasted the marshmallows, adding a true "dad's touch" to her cake. Here is the cake: Snowy, Toasted Marshmallow Castle with Sprinkle Moat.

And then today, tuckered out from a night of cake and presents, bundled up in winter fluff, our own rosy-cheeked sleeping beauty. One year old already.
 Happy birthday sweet Ellie!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Deck the Halls

I have written before about Christmas tree hunting growing up. I have told you of my sister with the six pairs of gloves, nine pairs of socks, four pairs of pants and two coats, (I may be exagerating...but I MIGHT NOT BE. You have to know my sister) and a cheerful smile on her warmth-flushed face ready to hold out to the end so she could be the one to pick the perfect tree. One by one the rest of the family would get too cold to care, and she would nonschalantly walk through the acres of tree farm "Oh, this one is nice....nah, too flat on this side...OH! how about this one? Nah...the third limb up from the bottom has a bit of sap on it..." as we pleaded with her to just PICK ONE ALREADY!
And so it was all of my growing up years, except for one Christmas when we gave up the whole hunting thing and just got a tree from Fred Meyer two days before Christmas. It just wasn't the same.
But since we now live in a state that is not bedecked with evergreens, the only tree lots you see are in front of grocery stores and those who do farm trees plant them like they would corn. The hunt just doesn't feel the same.
We have had a bit of an odd fall and early winter, one where Phil has been gone on a few mission trips and we have been quite distracted when it comes to preparing for Christmas. When one morning we woke up and realized that the big day was indeed only two weeks away, the thought of spending money on a tree from HyVee just a waste. I mean, the whole point of getting a tree is for the experience, right? Our kids are one comes to our house but drive-by neighbors to see (or not see) our tree. So we kind of decided to maybe not getting a tree this year.
Phil was talking about it at work when his boss asked him "Why don't you just get a ditch tree?"
"Excuse me? A 'ditch tree'?"
Apparently there are some trees that grow in the ditches along our roads (they are big ditches because of the snow we get) that just grow for a few years until the county comes along and cuts them out. So there are a number of people who go out and just cut them down for their Christmas trees. There are families out here who have the debate of whether to get a store-bought tree or a ditch-tree.
I had never heard of such a thing! But it was free! And we really didn't care about the perfection of the tree...we were looking for the experience, really.
So, one day before a big snow storm, Phil drove home slowly looking for a ditch tree.


"Well," he began as we finished dinner that night, "I brought home something."
Ryan perked up "What is it??"
"I cut down a tree on the way home..."
Before he can finish Ryan squeals loudly, springs down from his chair and runs to the front window, straining to see in the dark.
Phil looks at me hesitantly "Don't think of it like a tree...think more 'shrub' and you will be better off. It's not easy picking out a tree from the ditches on the way home. It was getting dark or I would have looked further."
"That's fine, honey. I really don't care. It's more about the fun than about the perfection. You know that."
As we sat and talked for a few minutes, Ryan and David were putting on their boots and carting tree decorations from the basement. Box by box they carried up all of our decorations, which is a feat, considering the size of Ryan and the size of those boxes. He was determined and excited "a tree!!"
Oh yes, I thought to myself, this is why we do the lights...the decorations...the tree hunt and capture. Over time I may have lost that wonder, but they have not.
In the boxes I found CD's of Christmas music and put them on while Phil brought in the tree- which was indeed very shrub-like, lopsided, gangly - overgrown in parts and stunted in others. "You can tell which direction the wind was from, eh?" he laughed as I looked at him cross-eyed. Ok, HOW were we going to even decorate this thing?
"Come on, mom! Let's get the ornaments!!" Ryan piped up in the background and I began to just laugh. Only a child could see this as magical, see that tree as worth decorations. It was catching.
So Phil put it in the stand and I headed out for some pruners and we began the much-needed trimming of the tree, laughing at how awful it looked. But we persevered, and bit by bit it began to take more of a "tree" shape. We turned the tree this way and that and finally decided which angle was it's most becomming. I dried its limbs with a towel and we strung lights.
The music played in the background and the livingroom exploded with holly and pinecones and every other kind of decoration as the kids pulled apart each box marked 'Christmas." They took the ornaments and one by one decorated that little tree- David putting three or four ornaments on the same 3-foot high limb and Ryan doing his best to get to the rest of the tree.
The snow flew around our house outside and the fire warmed us inside. The lights from the tree (my multi-colored lights and Phil's "pure" white lights strung together, because we could) shone on those bright child-faces as they carefully placed the ornaments from our own childhood days.
It was magical.
Maybe I don't have to lose that wonder.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Anna, 7 months


Just a quick note to say that this little girl is crawling and babbling and all smiles. She is so much fun!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Family Photo

I have come to believe that it is nearly impossible to take a perfect family photo at this stage. Someone is always sticking out their tongue, frowning, or showing off their best dance moves. Or crying, of course, we can't leave that one out.
And the kids don't always cooperate, either.
Just kidding.
So I wanted to share some family photos...

See how calm and innocent they appear to be? (bribed by Jelly Bellies)
Mostly, though, you have one adorable smile that can be cropped from the craziness. Because while I would like to believe that our family is mostly like this:

This may be a closer representation

So, instead, I catch sweet moments where I can.

And there is no shortage of those.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Anna Marie


Nothing eloquent by way of commentary just yet...but I couldn't help but share a bit of our sweet girl with you. She turned 2 months old yesterday. What a joy!