Christmas Elves

22 Nov

Recently, the kids wrote letters to Santa requesting him to send an elf to spend the Christmas Season with us.

Koren’s original letter to Santa.

Koren’s letter, dictated to Mama, after learning that sometimes elves get into trouble and make big messes – a possibility that concerned him greatly.

Kaelin’s letter to Santa. Can you tell she read Koren’s letter before writing her last sentence? My daughter might have a competitive streak.

This morning, they noticed two mysterious suitcases sitting by the fireplace.

Santa answered their requests by sending us two elves, complete with magic snowflakes, and personalized letters from the big man in red himself.  The elves are really quite cute and even come with little passports.  As a personal preference, I didn’t go with the Elf on the Shelf variety that I see everywhere, and I was quite pleased when we received these cute little guys.  We also kind of implemented our own take on the purpose of the elves’ visit, as referenced in the letters (because I maybe sort of have a distaste for the whole “you have to be good enough to get presents from Santa” thing) which varies from the Elf on the Shelf version somewhat.

Eddie and Ellie spent Thanksgiving with us at Grandmommy and Grandpa’s house, and were tucked into bed tonight with the requisite sprinkling of magic snowflakes.  Both kids are eagerly awaiting the antics that their new little friends are certain to instigate.

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Posted in Christmas Elves


New York City

21 Nov

For Jens’ graduation gift, my parents generously gave the two of us a long weekend in New York City the last weekend in August.  Obviously, we didn’t know at the time that just a few weeks later, New York would be ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.  It makes me glad that we were able to see and enjoy it when we did.

Here are a few exerpts from the photo album:

I really like Central Park.

Underside of a bridge in Central Park

This guy really wanted me to play his instrument. I did not want to play his instrument. I just wanted to take his picture.

The shoes I had to buy to walk through Central Park. Because somehow I always forget walking shoes when I visit New York.

Japanese Pizza. Incredible. I will make a point of eating at this restaurant every time I come back to New York for the rest of my life.

Can you find me?

Sidewalks are for parking.

We saw Wicked! It was awesome! Squeeeeeee!

Lunch with the President. It was just after the RNC, so this was funny at the time.

Our little guest, who stayed perched on the hotel room window for almost an entire day.

9/11 Memorial

Obligatory Top of the Empire State Building photo

Obligatory Grand Central Station photo

One of the things I like about New York is that everything is “normal” there.  Woman walking down the street in an enormous feathered headdress?  Not a single head turns as she walks by.  Guy in his underwear sitting on a bench?  Nobody bats an eye.  Shaman performing a healing ceremony in the middle of the street?  Totally normal.

Woody and Papa Smurf hanging out on the street corner?  Happens every day.

Also, I like how every street has its own personality, and they’re all very distinct.  You can be walking through China Town, cross the street, and suddenly you’re in Little Italy.  Turn a corner, and you run smack into a Brazillian festival.

More proof we were there:

Thanks, Mom & Dad, for a great trip that was lots of fun!  And also for babysitting.  From what I hear, the kids had a pretty good time as well.

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Posted in Photos, Travel



28 Oct

Each year, our street participates in a Halloween tradition.  You package up some treats and sweets, and deliver it anonymously to two neighbor’s doorstep, along with a note telling them that they have been “Booed” and that it’s their turn to pass it on to two more neighbors.

Over the past 5 years, we have been “booed” many, many times.  And have never passed it on – because I’m lazy and just generally negligent.

So this year, I made up for all the bad Boo karma and booed nearly every neighbor I could think of.  We also made cupcakes as part of our Boo package.  It wasn’t anonymous, mostly because I didn’t trust the neighborhood cats enough to leave boxes of baked goods unattended on doorsteps.  But hopefully everyone enjoyed their treats just the same.

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Posted in Holidays


Western Angry Birds Birthday Party

26 Oct

We had Kaelin’s birthday party at Storybook Ranch this year.  Between pony rides, a petting zoo, bounce houses and a hay maze, the kids stayed busy every minute.  We even ran out of time for the hay ride that was included in the package.  Kaelin had a blast with all her friends and I got to meet some of the new friends in her class.

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Posted in Birthdays, Kaelin, Photos


Angry Birds Cake

25 Oct

Kaelin has had her heart set on an Angry Birds theme for her 7th birthday party since approximately the day after her 6th birthday party.  Since it wasn’t Disney, I was happy to oblige.  Really, I’ve been pretty fortunate in the overall lack of Disney princess obsession she has developed.

We ended up having her birthday at a pumpkin patch located on a ranch, so Angry Birds became Western Pumpkin Angry Birds.

I scoured the web for Angry Birds cakes, but  couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for.  So I invented it.

I neglected to take as many “in process” pictures of this cake as I usually do.  But you’ll probably get the idea.  It took me a full day plus a couple of evenings.  I did attempt buttercream for the first time in a long time.  Not sure what I did the first time I tried to make buttercream (several years ago) but that time it tasted like straight butter and was disgusting.  This time, however, I had success and created a pretty delicious (if I do say so myself) frosting that is a lot cheaper than buying the decorator frosting tubs.  It’s a relief to no longer be scared of buttercream.

My initial model

Chocolate piggy halves

Stone tower covered in fondant

Stone tower – these were made of styrofoam because a) it’s sturdier, and b) I didn’t need that much cake

The base of the cowboy hat was made of gum paste. I dried it on a cake smoother to give it its shape.

Cowboy Piggy and the logs are made of cake.  I did learn something very important.  Moist cakes and buttercream frosting get very soft when luke-warm.  Next time I will freeze the cake before covering it in fondant so it will keep its shape.  It’s really disheartening when you suddenly discover that your piggy has aged 30 years in an hour, and now has wrinkles.

Extra bird… because you can’t really have an Angry Birds cake without any birds. Another lesson learned though… you can’t turn gum paste into chocolate gum paste just by adding cocoa powder. It gets very dry and cracky and will not absorb the powdered sugar you have to use to roll it out.

At the party. Remember that “buttercream gets soft when warm” thing? Piggy took a nosedive into the grass halfway through the party. Fortunately, everybody thought it was funny and fit with the theme.


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Posted in Birthdays, Cakes, Kaelin


The Birthday Album

18 Oct

We surprised Kaelin with chocolate covered strawberries for breakfast on her birthday.  For dinner, she chose Gattitown, so we had a small family celebration there and the kids all played themselves silly.

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Posted in Such is Life



17 Oct

I don’t know how it happened, but somehow we went from this:

to this:

I guess I blinked.

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Posted in Birthdays, Kaelin


Sleep… or Lack Thereof

09 Oct

I have always described Koren as a “crappy sleeper.”  It’s true.  Unlike his sister, who has been known to sleep through the house alarm, Koren is a light sleeper, whose sleep cycles seem to include multiple “Wake up” modes.  He didn’t sleep through the night until he was 3, and even then it was only temporary.  At age 4, he’s up 1-3 times per night, either making his way down to our room or calling to us from the top of the stairs.

He’s very fragile in the middle of the night, but most of the time he doesn’t really need anything other than to go potty – which he is perfectly capable of doing by himself.  His only reason for waking us up is more or less that he wants company – a cuddle before bed and someone to tuck him in.  Once we tuck him back in, he goes back to sleep without any resistance.

And while that’s kind of cute during the day time, I have very little patience for it at 11:45pm, 1:30am, 3:15am and 5:45am.

We’ve tried a few different ways to get him to sleep through the night, but as of yet have been unable to find a currency that will motivate him enough to change his behavior in this particular area.  Positive reinforcement only works sometimes, and even then only temporarily.  Lately we’ve told him he’s going to lose a marble* for every time he wakes us up.  We did specify that if he has a scary dream or is actually sick or hurting then that doesn’t count. Coincidentally, the frequency of “bad dreams” has gone up exponentially over the past week.  :-/

Last night it was the same old thing – I awoke in the middle of the night to tearful cries for “Mama!” at the top of the stairs.  After instructing him to go to the bathroom (WHY does it never occur to him to just do that first?  If he would just GO to the bathroom instead of bursting into tears at the fact that he’s awake, he could probably manage to get himself back to sleep.  But it’s like some kind of disconnect between the part of his brain that wakes up because he’s uncomfortable and the part that commands action to resolve the discomfort.)

After he had gone potty, quit crying, and been herded back to bed, I informed him in no uncertain terms that he had lost a marble and that waking everyone in the house up in the middle of the night for no reason was unacceptable.  That everyone needs their sleep, INCLUDING HIM.  This was not news to him.  We had this same discussion before bed.

As I was leaving his room, a small voice stopped me.

“Mama… do you know why I called you?”
“Because I love you.”

Ok, that?  THAT?????  IS NOT FAIR.

As if my ever-loving sanity wasn’t already hanging in the balance at this moment (sleep debt is not my friend, which is why I was pretty much half crazy and socially inept while my kids were infants), I JUST SCOLDED MY KID FOR REQUESTING AFFECTION IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT AND HE HAS TO GO AND GET ALL STICKY GOOEY SWEET ABOUT IT?

And yes, he did get an extra hug and cuddles because I am a sucker and he has my number.

Today marks two months since Xander went to be with the angels.  So while I sit here feeling sleep deprived and grouchy over the fact that I am sometimes grossly outmaneuvered by two little people (I am the adult, I should be better at this!!), I can’t help but think of parents who would give anything to be woken up in the middle of the night by their crying child who just wants to cuddle.

And it leaves me feeling kind of selfish.  Because as my mom says, “this too will pass.”  (Granted, she also said that when he was one, and it was a little more believable then.)  But whenever it does pass, I will probably long for those days when he wanted nothing more than to crawl up into my lap and rock for a while.

But rest assured that when he’s grown and has his own adorable crappy sleeper to deal with, I won’t pass on the opportunity to say HA!  IT’S YOUR TURN NOW.

*Our behavior/chores/rewards system uses marbles as a kind of currency.  I thought I had already written about it, but I can’t find it.  “Losing your marbles” in this house refers to the consequence for poor behavior… though if I ever do lose MY marbles, it might be closely linked to the kids losing theirs.

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