Monday, January 9, 2017

Hunker Down Days

Today I woke up with plans to clean the entire house top to bottom-a winter-post-Christmas clean, because it needs it, and I need to feel that 'house-is-clean' clearing of mind.

I made it about 2/3rds through before I ran out of time, even though I worked non-stop (I did stop about 10 minutes to wolf down 2 bananas and an entire bag of sweet potato chips and to fix Janey some food).

This is what I did:

-Straightened up our master closet-didn't really need weeding out-and vacuumed well.
-Sorted through socks and underwear house-wide.  This means that every sock in my house right now has a pair and the ones that don't are goners.
-Washed all bedding in Janey's room and straightened books and toys. (The toy part was undone quickly.)
-Straightened up Janey's closet and labeled her 3 bags of hand-me-downs.
-Did the same (straightened, weeding out, vacuumed, dusted, wiped down) with the three other kid's rooms.  Only one needed blankets/sheets changed.
-Cleaned both upstairs bathrooms thoroughly.
-Washed (bleached) and dried all kid's room towels and threw in the kitchen towels too.
-Wiped down and vacuumed living room.
-Wiped down furniture and cleaned the wood floor and all woodwork up to the kitchen.
-Hung some framed prints in the den.

I can't believe how dusty my house was, and I will blame it on the constant furnace usage since it's been so cold here.

I have a couple bigger projects to do upstairs so I had a list to make of things for other days (sewing curtains, touching up paint, hanging a few pics, etc.)  It ends up being quite a long list that will take me through the winter I'm sure (if I stay organized and actually complete it!)

I plan to tackle the rest of the house as quickly as possible tomorrow morning and then start with my list.

In other news, January ordinary days:

Lunch at the ski slope with Dad. That food! That is called Dad food.

We did our resolutions. I had to take a pic of Andrew's because of #4.  He is trying to not to get annoyed so much but the open mouth chewing thing-he said, "Mom, no way I can't do it, it just makes me crazy, it will always bug me." 

Abbey at the ski slope.  All the kids went but Janey of course.  (We stayed home.) I laughed hearing about Isaac and Abbey trying to take pics of each other and how often they ran into each other doing so and got themselves into hysterics.  

One of my resolutions is to celebrate Catholic feast days/holy days. I had planned to make something fancier that I had found on a blog and didn't have the time/energy and just settled for apple pie.  You can laugh, everyone else did (including me.)  It's for Twelfth Night by the way.

A half-hearted attempt at celebrating or at least embracing winter. 
Janey loves it, that's enough for me.

I don't know how she talked me into it, but we made cut-out cookies again. This time stars for Epiphany. (But we made them on Friday and they were gone by Epiphany Sunday so they sort of lost their meaning.)

Basketball games galore-Andrew is #45-they lost this very close game, but he played hard.

 Abbey sadly went back to college and it was an emotional goodbye as she is STILL sick and we never made it to the third! drs. visit darnit.  It's not fun dropping a sick kid off at college, especially when she had a job interview that day and a full day of classes the next.  We stopped at Cheesecake Factory for lunch and of course I had to buy her a cheesecake to take to her dorm.
I took her shopping for a "professional outfit" before she left and we ended putting together an outfit including shoes for under $60.  Which was great because I know she is going to wear it all as seldom as possible the rest of college.
I am always on board for being the one who drops off/picks up college kids-the time in the car alone in priceless.  

These two before Patrick left for school-he'd rather stay home every day, and she would rather have him stay home and play with her.  I think they both might get their wish as a bunch of snow is predicted tonight.

P.S. I corrected about 10 typos two hours after I published this post and had the time to carefully reread it.  I know this is not unusual, but it still embarrasses me.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Really Long Post On Millennials/Social Media/Cell Phones

This is about 20 minutes long (watch the whole thing!), sent to me by my mother (an education consultant/teacher-trainer), sent to her by an administrator of a school, all who are very very thoughtful and concerned about child/adolescent tech usage.

It is thought-provoking. It made me feel very unsettled, angry, and sad, helpless, and I couldn't get it off my mind.  It led to some good discussions here, as I forced my older kids to watch it.  I sent it to friends I know would be interested and also have the same concerns and worries about this subject as I do.

Which is pretty much everyone I know.  Because tech has infiltrated our kid's world.  I see toddlers with Ipads and frankly I will tell you it turns my stomach and I am glad it does. To me that is indicative of the world I grew up in-the one that says that children learn by reading, by observing, by being outside, be being bored, by looking around them.  They don't need beeping lights.  They don't learn from stinkin' Dora The Explorer app in any way shape or form, but with their hands and active deep brain processing.  They'd learn more with mud and sticks and acorns and flour and water and leaves and a paper and pencil and a few books than the latest Ipad.  They'd do more for their brains and their psyches and their souls with that little list BY FAR than the latest gadget.

And then they go to school and I have been in enough school meetings, with administration and other parents to know that there are many who are concerned about tech.  And not keeping tech out of kids hands but bringing it to them more and more often-into classrooms everywhere and all the time, which also turns my stomach.  I think many administrators and teachers feel exactly like I do-but the competitive selling point of the school is what tech they supply, which means it all comes down to money, not is what is best for the kids.  Money over kid's brains.

The parents talk of tech like this is an utterly essential aspect of life that will determine the kids will succeed or fail. I have talked to enough teachers to know that there are very limited benefits of it.  Kids learning by interacting with others, by reading and listening and reciting and by the sight and sound and touch of pages turning.  No books in classrooms? That's awful and no one will ever convince me otherwise because it's just common sense, a rarity today when it comes to just above everything.

And then there is the psychological aspect and no studies can prove to me what I know from talking face to face to other parents and being one myself, and teachers and those that help children-doctors and therapists.  Our children are changing and NOT in a good way.  In a terrible drastic scary way.  Addiction and I'm not just talking porn which deserves all the talk it is getting, but addiction like not being able to part with a phone, flipping out when they have to, endless hours and hours and hours on social media and texting and games and forums. Hours and hours, days and days.  I see parents frustrated but many in the end giving in and saying, "What can we do?"  But it doesn't change the fact that teens brains are hard-wired for addiction.  And tech can be addicting! We all know it can be and to deny otherwise is just that-denial.  We are handing it to our children at their brain's most vulnerable time of addiction (just like Mr. Sinek in the video alludes to) and are saying, "Have at it." And we are introducing these habits younger and younger.  And the incidence of depression and anxiety and suicide and struggle with addiction are rising.

And the excuses.  I've heard them all, some of them I've made myself.  And we all know they are ridiculous because we are HERE today and we made it without cell phones to call mom on when we get here or there, home or away.  We all figured out how to get from Point A to Point B and we can still do that, but I don't think the younger generation can because they haven't learned the skill.  I can tell you that I can argue against every excuse for tech under the sun that has ever been invented.  Because parents are great at justifying, but teens-they are even better. I've heard them all, bring them on.

I've also given in to them, and deeply regretted it.  I've learned many many more lessons than my children have when it comes to tech.  I've learned right along with them and that is a huge caveat of my generation (I am 47) who were literally thrown into the storm with no help, no advice, no guidance except from people trying to make a buck off of our children (the tech companies). That storm was changing it's course every day and we couldn't keep up.  I grew up thank the Lord without any of it, and I raised my first three children up to their teen years without any of it.  I remember writing letters and posting them, and film cameras, and learning how to send an email and be blissfully awesomely unaware of everything in this little black box of an internet.

I've had my own journey with tech-from realizing the pull of social media and hating where it took me and hitting the delete button and feeling a huge sense of relief from pressure and from getting my precious time back with not one regret of saying no to it all.  Time is what our kids need from us parents, and social media is the biggest time suck ever. I learned a lot from blogging-a time-suck again, choosing whether to participate in that time-suck, and then also comparisons and awareness of a deep desire to be real instead of falling into the trap of presentation and perfection which is so common on the internet but is also so untruthful-integrity and being aware of it. Being aware of the good/bad and what weighs more and how I can influence that weight tremendously.

It took years to work out the way I wanted to use the internet so that it could be something positive and healthy in my life and it takes self-awareness and honesty and thoughtfulness and self-discipline.  But it also took being aware of what I was missing post-internet and what I lost compared to pre-internet.  Our children will not be able to do that. You don't know what you've lost if you aren't even aware that something is missing.   That is what it comes down to.  What is missing?

-A clear head instead of one that is filled with too much information which is dangerous-dangerous in the way that we become immune to what is really important.

-A life lived with what is in front of you instead of what exists out there somewhere.  With WHO is in front of you, in that chair across from you, in that house you live in.  With the books on your bookshelf, the recipes in your cabinet, the fresh air outside your door, and the creativity you thought of in your own mind with the supplies you have in your own house.

-Presence, mindful and physical and emotional presence.

-Authenticity and integrity and empathy and humility: four huge important things that are missing from most everything on the social media.

I am waiting for the switch to flip.  To switch to parents knowing the dangers that are far and wide and all encompassing and realize that what will make their child happier, more creative, more intelligent, more empathetic, more healthy, more employable, better workers, have fuller, richer, healthier minds and bodies and souls is the LACK of tech in their lives.  The later they touch an Ipad, a computer, a phone, the BETTER off they will be.

Yes, I've heard the "tech isn't going away" reasoning and yes, it's true, but if that is used an excuse to just accept all the bad with the good, no thanks.  It CAN go away, and it must, in many situations.  We also have to do a better job in educating our children on the negatives.  And a phone contract is a good idea, but it must go further than that.  They need to know from the minute they start using it (and if they can't understand this they shouldn't be using it) the way their brains react chemically.  They need to know how gaming and social media companies purposely make every facet of their product addicting.  Purposely!

We need to stop (OK not stop but get real) about all this "stranger danger on Facebook" talk that seems to always be the one and only thing talked about when it comes to kids and tech and talk about the every day danger-not the one in a million danger.  The danger of the loss of concentration, the struggle with being "on" all the time, the images filling up our children's heads-the fake lies of perfection. We need to talk about sexting and porn yes, for sure, but we need to show them what it does to relationships-what is missing and the shallowness of it all.  I want an awesome group of speakers to come to every junior high to call out our administrators and us, the parents, and give us all a huge talking to-to empower us to say no as parents, and demand more and show us all the data and research that is only just being talked about now.  There are very very few experts that will do this I've found.  I've read enough "parenting" books that drop the ball majorly when it comes to really talking about what kids and parents are struggling with and will go out on a limb to say "these need to be your rules if you want to raise these children properly".

I say all this all out of frustration-and I'm frustrated by what I myself just did-I wrote about it and gave no real solutions and no answers.  This video is informative and eye-opening and needs to be heard.  But I wonder if this speaker even has kids and if he did what his rules would be knowing all that he just spoke about.  Realistically what would he do?  What if the schools he sent his children to handed them a laptop?  Or let his kids have their phones all day in school and use them in the classroom?  How would he teach balance with a kid who was always "doing his homework" when he had a big hunch that wasn't true?  Would he let his daughter have an Instagram account and when?  I have about 20 more questions I'd like answered with specifics. Because it's not ever as easy as it sounds-in the elementary years, yes, but in the teens years, not always.

I get angry because there is a lot of spouting off about our generation and our millennials (and trust me I get it!) but when it comes to tech please have at it. Experts, give me your rules and suggestions but ONLY if you've had direct success with them all in your home yourself and only if you define what "success" is.  I find our parent's generation doesn't really understand what we are up against and will not directly offer any advice.  I have had many grandparents complain to me by what they see (and I agree with them!) but in a way they are adding to the problem by not speaking up and wanting to keep the peace. Help us, support us, give us a little boost when we are fighting against the tide of the crazy "norm". (Thank you Mom!)

Do you know what else we need?  We need to be honest with ourselves and with each other.  We need to share our rules and empower each other.  I've had enough emails that have said to me, "I don't want to give in but my child is asking for the latest ____ but I don't really want him to have it.  He'll be the only kid on the block who doesn't."  I once wrote to a mom who I admire to ask her a question about how she handles the homework/tech thing and she told me her kids didn't have Ipods/Ipads/phones or their own laptop till college!!! College!!! (This was about a year ago not 10 :). She said, "We just said no and stuck to it and kept them busy with other things.  We have a family computer for school work."  That was so empowering to me at the time.  I know a few of my friends who have little ones and they have had little or no access to tech (as my kids have till high school) and will continue to say no for a long long time.  I think as this problem has crept down to newer parents, those who don't fully have their parenting confidence in place, it is more important than ever to hear from those who don't allow technology and think there kids are much better off for NOT having it. We've all seen this article before right? (Another similar one here.)

What would my "dream world" look like when it comes to all of this?

Very very limited tech usage (meaning almost none and in junior high used rarely in a classroom only) at home for kids from birth to junior high. They learn to read, and write and communicate and concentrate deeply.  Tech exposure is thought of as detriment instead of an advantage.

In high school we'd begin first with major education when it comes to brain reaction to technology and the awareness of being "sucked in"-"your brain on tech". A strong strong awareness of the "dark side" of the internet from dishonesty, misrepresentation, advertising, false information, the science behind addiction and how companies use that, etc.  How and why to make choices when it comes to participation in social media-etc.  An entire class on it all, with reminders and constant guidance and parents teaching first at home and setting rules in place.  Would this all make a difference?  I don't know-those hard-wired teen brains.  I've heard the "teach them balance" thing over and over again and I have yet to see ONE parent who feels they have been successful at this through the teen years when it comes to tech.  We have to ask ourselves why teens love tech so much?  Why are they so drawn to it during these years?  My answer? Because it's the "easy way out" almost always.  It requires less work, less thought, less growth emotionally and mentally and socially, less accountability, and more self-discipline.  (The video touches on this briefly and it's so true-these are emotionally hard years!)

An acceptance of rules for parents that become the norm, which can only be realized through information and studies and articles and then general acceptance. This is why we don't encourage our teens to smoke and drink and if parents we knew did, they'd be frowned upon by most as bad parents.  There needs to be a certain awareness and acceptance of what is good/bad for our kids first. (Smart phone in second grade?  Not good!) It is just beginning as I have read more and more studies/articles coming out against use of tech and younger children, in schools and with teens and as more mental health professionals are talking about what they are seeing.  Yes the tech companies will come out with their own studies but they have something to lose (akin to cigarette companies marketing to teens in days long gone).  Certain societal norms need to be accepted-manners!  We have manners because they were taught and modeled at home-they were in essence "rules" we followed.  We need to do the same-set the example.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas 2016 (Or The Last Half of December)

Jeff, Andrew and I headed out to a fundraiser for our church to a workout place called 9Round.  It is a 30 minute boxing type of workout-all I could do is watch because I have this super annoying painful hip issue (hip impingement I think it is called? driving me crazy but getting a little better with help of PT) but they had so much fun.  Jeff won a free 3 month membership which our priest announced as he was doing the final station which happened to be planks and he said "NO THANK YOU I'LL PASS!", but Abbey and Isaac have joined him and they are all loving it. 

Andrew meets friends at a new local indoor soccer place near us (we call it the bubble) and Patrick and I checked it out one day when we were waiting for him to finish.  I love that Andrew and his friends organize playing time all on their own.

"Does this look right?"  This is life with boys/men.

Patrick's treat for his class.

A fun work event at the zoo. I thought it was so cute that Janey kept telling Isaac secrets that I had to take a pic.

We stopped in to see the "fishes" on the way to the car, only because it was below zero that night!

Janey saw Santa (but only if Abbey went also.)

Patrick and Santa.

Food spreadsheet-2016.

And Patrick's party! (If you are looking for a recipe it is probably in my Parties folder in Pinterest, but ask if you can't find one!)

My helper.

More helpers.

The night of his real birthday-he wanted DQ ice cream cake and pizza.

One of this favorite gifts was new basketball cards. He was so desperate for more he started making his own which I just loved.

His family party.

Dancing with cousins before the Pinata.

My king is in the green cape.

Our tradition is to go to Mass on Christmas Eve in the school gym (the church is too full) and then have a big meal afterwards. We had a huge turkey that Jeff's work gave him so I went with that (other years we have done all appetizers or favorite foods.)  Andrew served Mass and found out right before that he was going to be the one to ring the bells and carry the cross and my heart went out to him because he was so nervous. We had a few giggles in church watching him right before the bells had to be rung because I thought he was going to faint-it ends up he was just bending over to read the cues, thank the Lord. He did great and was thrilled that it went off without a hitch. At the end of Mass Janey started waving to him and the priest and Andrew both saw her and laughed. 

And then all the kids exchange presents-some have been far planned ahead and others have been bought HOURS before, grrr. :)  But it always ends up warming my heart and there are lots of laughs and everyone is surprisingly thoughtful. 

Janey was so excited about giving Abbey this little stuffed penguin she had picked out? :).

Giving out her gifts.
I received candles and chocolate, the best gifts ever.

Christmas Eve.  

7 or was it 7:30 am?

Sometime later that morning when the sun was coming up.

The cousins at Grandma's later that day.  

And the three little girls.  

On to New Years's, my favorite!
I ROCKED my New Year's Resolutions last year, and I can only say that because before this year I experienced decades of resolution failure.  47 was a no nonsense year for me and it was because I was sort of rock bottom when it came to feeling good and healthy, mentally and physically and emotionally.  By the time Christmas Eve hit last year I knew I had to change. I was feeling anxious about so many stupid things, I was tired all the time, I felt emotionally drained worrying about this, that and the other, and I was just plain worn out.  And so out of shape and eating terribly and joint pain and blah blah blah. 

So I wrote down six or seven essential specific things, which might seem so stupid to others-just basic self-care things from diet (Whole30) and exercise to yearly drs. exams which I had been neglecting for years and years)-and I had a plan in my head and I did them all!  I failed on two-one was read a certain amount of books, and it was way too high I didn't even come close, and I don't even care, and the other was to really get to the know my Catholic faith-reading and seeking out some knowledge that way-and that's on my list again this year.
I have a stack of about a dozen books I have found that I want to read after doing some research.  I  signed up for this daily email (Catechism In a Year).  I have little reminders of my resolutions where I will notice them during the day as that really helped me last year.  

Today everyone but Janey and I are off skiing and we are hunkering down, cleaning up this disaster of a house, doing 20 loads of laundry and getting organized for the new year.
Happy 2017!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

And Suddenly He's Nine

I haven't written a birthday post for anyone in so long, but I will give the excuse that birthdays are always busy times for moms and living in the moment is more important than recording memories (I think?).

Today my Christmas baby turns nine!  He was due on Christmas Eve, but born on December 20th, just in time for me to be home.  (I might have drank a few tsps of castor oil to help him along.)  He was the best Christmas present ever I believe.  I remember he was born within an hour of arriving at the hospital, my midwife almost missed it, the dr. on call was super grouchy and I didn't like him at all, and that it wasn't a peaceful birth like Janey's because everyone was rushed.  But he was a peaceful baby!  The nurses were bored, there were only a few moms and babies on the floor, and they begged me to take him for a little bit to allow me to rest (which never happens for me, just the opposite if the baby isn't in the room with me!), and I said yes, something I usually don't do.  I have a Polaroid picture of him laying on a nurse's lap looking so peaceful, while they sat and chatted at the nurse's station. He had a fussy time that night and I thought, "Oh, no, I'm in for it, I have another colicky baby!" but while he wasn't super easy (very gassy and lots of bouncing) he was so easy to smile and so squishy and so laid back.

And he is still the same of course.  If there is one word to describe Patrick it would be agreeable, maybe sweet if I could slip that in there.  We have all agreed here that he is the nicest child in our family (even siblings say this!) and I was told this summer that he was "voted" the nicest cousin in the whole family by a certain group of girls:).  He never wants to upset anyone, it upsets him more than anything.  He is so so easy to please.  Just this morning he wanted pancakes for his birthday and we were out of the mix, so he said, "I'll just have a waffle." and I said, "Sorry Patrick I can't make that either" and I said, "How about french toast?" OK! Do you want syrup or powdered sugar? Doesn't matter-whatever you choose. That is how he is ALL the time. He goes with the flow.  He is easy to please.

He is such a nice brother. He loves playing with anybody, and is so excited for his older siblings to be around. He has been so tolerant with Janey, and truly loves her, and she worships the ground he walks around.

His teachers tell me he is so sweet and kind to others.

His dream is to play college basketball. Ever since he was so little his favorite thing is to shoot hoops, or throw a football, or anything and everything sports..any one will do.  His other love is nature-he loves any and all books about nature, dogs (sparked by his favorite book Where The Red Fern Grows), hunting, and fishing.

 We are lucky to call this little boy son, and he truly was a special Christmas gift to our family. 

Happy Birthday Sweet Patrick!  We love you!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Ordinary Days

November is gone and December is halfway through.  I finished all my shopping at noon the Saturday before Advent. It was such a good feeling and I think it's the first time it ever really happened in as long as I remember.  It felt peaceful-for a moment-because there is so much to do with day to day life on top of the season anyways.  I feel like other things just filled into the margins I created by gift buying goal!  Maybe it was meant to be.

I think I should title a monthly post "Texts I've Received" and have a snapshot of life with older kids. I started saving some of them just for the memories. 

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A few weeks ago Isaac was playing basketball with his younger brothers (in the living room on our plastic hoop) and after a dunk attempt caught himself on a window that promptly broke and gashed his wrist. Blood pouring out everywhere, Andrew yelling for me (I must admit I was in the basement eating banana "ice cream" and watching Poldark with Janey-first time I sat down all day.) When I heard the window break-I didn't even flinch, and then when Andrew yelled "Mom Isaac is hurt" I pressed pause and in the next millisecond heard, 'There is blood everywhere, call 911!"  Darn, there goes a moment of relaxation, I was upstairs in a flash.

I grabbed the phone away from Andrew who was in fact dialing 911 before he could reach them, then checked out the scene (blood all over the window seat), threw Isaac a clean dish towel and ordered him to the car, barked orders to everyone else, grabbed my purse and drove to the hospital. Both of us didn't think to bring our phones but I was able to give Andrew a quick update on the hospital phone before we saw the ER doctor, letting him know quickly that everything was OK.

Jeff was in a very unimportant meeting. Andrew tried him once, just once. And then they all turned on the TV's (yay Mom's not home TV time!).  Abbey relayed to me later that she just happened to Facetime us, and Andrew picked up my phone.  Boys (at least MY boys) are so so bad at phone communication. Abbey had to ask 100 questions to understand what happened.  She said what made it funnier is that she happened to have a skin mask on her face and they were more concerned with that than with properly conveying the moment of blood and gore.  We later laughed so hard about it Andrew-I think he was slightly traumatized as he saw the worst of it and his coping mechanism was vague communication. "Yeah he'll live."  "Hopefully."   He used phrases like "skin graft" and "no major injuries" and I have no idea where he got those ideas, not from me, for sure.

When Jeff walked in the door hours later, he was shown the scene of the crime (in the hospital I was thinking I wish I could call them again and tell them to PLEASE not try to get the blood out, I pictured them setting it in forever, but alas, of course, silly me, no one even attempted it.)  Jeff is NOT good with trauma injuries, in spite of what he thinks.  It is laughable, honestly. He does not remain calm at all.  Even if I am not calm inside, I always want my kids to think "No big deal, we'll fix this all up, really it's nothing."  I am good at fake pretending when it comes to injuries. He has no filter.  "There is so much blood, blood everywhere, you are dying, this is so awful, what are we going to do with you...." -that sort of no-filter thing, out loud, in your face. Spoken with a tremendously stressed and worried and horror filled face.  I have enough experiences to back this all up. He is NOT good with this stuff.

So when he was shown the crime scene and Andrew told him, "Don't worry Mom called from the hospital and said he was OK" what does he say?  He tells them in a panic that there is no way Isaac can possibly be ok with that much blood loss, that Mom was probably just telling them that to make them feel better, that this is bad, really bad, and rushed out of that house with that pained and panicked face, leaving them quite unsettled, one of them in tears.

And this is why we call him Phil Dumphey.

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He showed up right when we were leaving, twenty two stitches later. It was gross I admit, I watched the whole thing and it was pretty gross.  But all is healed and everyone has recovered.  (Including the cushion believe it or not!)

I am backed up here till November:
One of the last warm fall days.

Andrew after Thanksgiving dinner at my parents.  Like an old man!

At Grandma's-
Isaac is teaching himself guitar.  Abbey decided she was going to get as good as the boys at Rubik's cube and even took it back to her dorm with her. I told her she is just finding a means for paper writing and exam studying procrastination, and she had to agree.

Mailing a package to Abbey, one of Janey's favorite things to do. Hopefully she will receive it just in time for St. Nick's Day.

Dark cold nights-I don't like them already.  Janey is jumping on the couch and I am watching all the boys play poker (or some card game, I didn't pay that much attention.)

Magna blocks and vintage Fisher Price-no better combo.

Lunch date for Janey and I with two favorite working men on their lunch breaks.

I had to make fun of them for all matching accidentally.  (I wish I could pick out cute little outfits and make them match like when they were little!)

Patrick and his BF begged me to take them fishing one freezing cold windy day and I said as long as I could stay in the warm car.  These two could fish (or frog) all day.

Matt braided her hair-didn't even know he could that.

 Around the house:
Our extra wide Christmas tree-I love it.  We went to a new place this year after we heard about a stand where a hole is drilled into the bottom of the tree and all you have to do is set the tree on top-a big bucket surrounds a stake that holds the tree up. It is heaven!  No more straightening or tipping over or constantly filling the bucket. Peace and harmony!

And our Nativity scene-we worked hard on it this year and did some extras-the beautiful star (from Target clearance last year) and some new "grass" and a little fence (from Hobby Lobby in the fairy garden department).  We bought a pink angel for our new addition this year.

Our past Christmas cards. (I did this years ago much cuter but all of mine were ruined in the attic from the heat, so I did it simpler this time with just card stock photo cards.)

Saved this all year for December 1.

I re-fashioned our Advent wreath also, to make it prettier. My mom gifted me with the china figurines because we had the same Nativity scene growing up.

Books on CD-I love the way she looks when she "reads" her books. 

My Marine brother gave a speech at a special event, looking pretty snazzy.

Grocery store tradition.

Shopping with Mom-it looked the same on me, we had a good laugh about it.

St. Nicks' Day

St. Nicks Day and a Bad Hair Day rolled into one.

Abbey going to a formal at school.  The last time she was home we bought this dress for no reason just because we both loved it-perfect timing.

Janey is petrified of Santa, Patrick loved every minute of it.

We had a coupon plus dress sale-only $5, we gave each other a high five.

Janey and I were so excited to surprise Abbey with her new room when she got home for break. We had all the trim painted (a long time coming) and beautiful old-fashioned wallpaper put up. I repainted all the furniture and bought some new bedding and picture frames and it looks so pretty!  She was surprised and loved it and was so so happy to be home.

And then I dragged her with me to the furniture store to buy a new sofa for our den (which was also repainted) and I found her almost asleep after testing out some new mattresses. (Granted it was the day after exam week.)

It snowed!!!  Janey can't get enough of sledding.

And last, a huge grocery shop because everyone is home and I will never leave the kitchen for the next two or three or four weeks. :)

It feels like Christmas!