Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Decorations!

I know I'm not the only one, but I feel like decorating for Christmas is so much fun!  And, since the kids love it too, I actually have real help (not just airquotes "help") when we put up the decorations every year.  We have the nativities (thirteen, I think?  Or fourteen?) from all over the world (thank you, my traveling family and friend!), and the tree, and the garland I bought my first married Christmas to be a substitute tree.  We have the new advent calendar house I bought 75% off at Target last year.  But this year, we've added some new classics.

Olivia made this wreath in her first grade class.  Torn construction paper -- check!  Plenty of Elmer's glue -- check!  Paper plate base -- check!  Glitter -- check, check check!  Seriously, people, it's the wreath on my front door.  I love it that much.

We have the plaster of paris handprint Mimi made in preschool, molded in a coffee can lid (John loves that).  Mimi was supposed to give it to us as a Christmas present, but she just couldn't wait.  She could barely wait the two hours for John to get home.

And I've been busy, too.  Intrigued by this post from Leisy Miller, inspired by this calendar from Pottery Barn kids, and enabled by nine of my closest friends, I put together this.

It was so fun.  Each of us made a few pockets (well, a few pocket designs, but 12 of each one) and then we all swapped one night at sewing group.  They're so much cuter for not all being made by me.  I have to say, maybe the little ballerina is my favorite.  (Bonnie is our resident artist.)

I did add a large Baby Jesus (or "bee-bee EEEzuz", as Bella now says) pocket to the bottom, to be our token religious element.  :)  I do occasionally try to remember the reason for the season.

Also inspired by Pottery Barn Kids, and enabled by my good friend Sara over Thanksgiving, I sewed these.  (Sara, of course, designed all the appliques with her superior artistic abilities.  And, also of course, she completed her stockings three weeks ago.  But mine are up in time for the big day.)

They are probably my new favorite decoration.  I love them.  Love them, love them, love them.  Everybody got to pick their own design.  John got the train, complete with button wheels.

I got the partridge in the pear tree.  (It's my favorite!  Even if I don't really think partridges are red.)

His beady eyes had to be done and redone several times.  He either looked sneaky or unintelligent.  I had never realized eye placement was so important.

Olivia picked the snowman, and loves his blue snowflake background.

I love his crazy patchwork scarf.

Mimi picked Rudolph.  She actually wanted the Pottery Barn ballerina, but with three girls, I had to put my foot down.  Only Christmas elements--no girly stuff!

His perky little tail is my favorite element.

Bella got the gingerbread man.  I tried to draw a gingerbread man that looked pleasantly plump, but not too chubby.  Never could do it.  Sara wasn't even going to make a gingerbread stocking, and she still had to save my bacon.  Isn't his shape perfect?

I wasn't going to do the running stitch detail because it was hurting my fingers embroidering through all the quilted layers, but I think it was worth it when I look at it now.

If you consider making either a felt tree advent calendar or a set of appliqued stockings, I have a few tips to make your life easier.  I always like to learn the hard way, but maybe some of you are smarter.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Visit to Santa's Workshop

South Bend has a great Santa's village downtown every year.  They get the most gracious, authentic, and kind Santa Claus to man his post a couple days a week.  We visited yesterday with some good friends.  The trolley is the first stop.  (Or rather the first "go".  And--as a side note--a family got off just as we were trying to get on.  The dad said, "DO NOT GET ON.  That was seriously the worst experiences of my life.  If you know what's good for you, you won't get on."  Then something-something about a noise.  We ignored him, having been on the trolley before, and went about our merry way with him watching us all incredulously.  I thought of Noah as I watched him walk away, whispering to his wife.)

It was fun, even with that unauspicious start.  I mean, it's a bus, right?  And it was heated, right?  And we did hear an outrageous squeal from the engine for a few painful seconds there at the start, but that didn't happen again, so I'm not quite sure what old Noah was preaching about.

Then we met Santa.  Mimi forgot to tell him what she wanted the first time around, so we had to go back.  And Bella was absolutely terrified of him, clinging to my shoulder like she was being led through a haunted house instead of a North Pole wonderland.  Olivia thanked Santa for her My Little Pony from last year, and clearly and seriously explained that she wanted a kitty Webkinz for this year.  (Sometimes, with all her lack of spaztastic outrageousness, I wonder if she's really my child.  And then I remember who her father is, and it's all made clear.)

And then to the College Football Hall of Fame, where cookies were decorated with frosting (Mimi's motto: You can never have too much) and sprinkles (Bella's motto:  Sprinkle them all over the floor.)

John frosted Bella's cookie and gave her a taste of the frosting.

She didn't know what to do with it, but smiled anyway.

We love visiting Santa, and thanks to you, South Bend, for having this lovely opportunity.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I love him!

You know when you have one of those days?  Those days where you are trying to finish up the Christmas present projects and shipping the presents you've already finished.  Plus, you signed up to make baked goods for 20-25 people at a PTO meeting?  And maybe you are organizing a little service project?  And also you might have invited some people over for a family night at your house?  You know that kind of day?  The kind that you cap off by slamming into your friend's Ford Explorer with your own Toyota Sienna, thankfully only taking off her license plate holder but caving in your entire back door?  You do?  Well, that's the kind of day that you need a husband like mine.

Let me list the reasons that John is amazing:
1)  He NEVER gets mad.  Ever.  Even when I want him to.  I have never seen him blow up.
2)  In fact, he chuckles slightly when I do something as ridiculous as not look CAREFULLY behind myself when backing up.  And smiles like that's just one of the little personality quirks he loves about me.
3)  Then, he teaches me how to fish. . . er, rather how to call junkyards to find a new door for the minivan at a much cheaper price than a body shop would ask to repair it.  (You know, I don't remember the last time I've been so proud of myself than when I found the perfect rear door at the perfect price.  It was almost like I fixed the door myself.)
View through the fence of my new favorite junkyard.  (Not that I had an old favorite.)

4)  Then, manly mechanical man that he is, he uses his one day off to drive with me to the junkyard and replaces the door himself (I held it up when appropriate) right there in the parking lot.  Is there anything more handsome than a man fixing his wife's enormous mistake?

I love him!
Um.  . . My new rear door used to belong to a taxi.  It almost inspires me to open my own little taxi service.  How much do you think I could charge people to ride in the back of a minivan with a 16-month old?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Teacher Gifts

Am I obsessed with my Cricut?  Probably.  But is it, when considered objectively and reasonably, still incredibly useful?  Yes, indeed.  I used it this afternoon to whip out these little teacher gifts.  (If I'm being honest and willing to give credit where credit is due, I got the idea from here.  And hers are cuter, but I'm not quite skilled enough to figure out the little frame size.  I think she used a vinyl cutter instead of a Cricut anyway.*

Two of the teachers' names absolutely would not fit on the jars, and since my kids refer to them as "Mrs. R" and "Mrs. C" anyway, I just thought we'd go with that.  Makes things easier anyway.  (And Livi has already made cards with her own messages to tuck inside the jars.)

Jars and ribbon from Wal-Mart.  Pencils from Dollar Tree.  Vinyl is generic brand from Hobby Lobby.  Cheap, cute, fast.  Nothing better.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Special Delivery

The girls had a wonderful time delivering our neighborhood Christmas gifts this year.  It was incredibly cold, so they suited up and headed out, on their own (even crossing two streets for one delivery--very brave!).  They absolutely did not want me to join them on their expeditions, probably because moms ruin all the fun.

Naomi told me that at one point she fell down in the snow and that Olivia had taken care of her, even to the point of carrying her piggyback partway home.
"Yeah," added Olivia, "but then she got too heavy." 
We made these, and they are delicious.  And the recipe's not kidding when it says it make 12-1/2 dozen.  So, unless you're giving them to all your neighbors, maybe just make a half batch.  Or a quarter-batch.

Etsy it up

My lovely and stylish friend Larissa here in South Bend has a beautiful Etsy shop where she makes and sells very hip women's clothing and accessories.  She is currently giving away this cute toddler backpack/woman's purse, modeled by none other than the famous Naomi Wells.  (How did she the budget for a model of Naomi's caliber?  Just goes to show, you never know who's making the big bucks.)

Seriously, I love everything that Larissa makes.  Take a look here

Saturday, December 12, 2009

From the Past: Monticello Fun

Originally from August 31, 2006

This is Dave (my third brother), on the 4-wheeler with the girls. His facial expression may signify that he is roughly careening down the street at 75 mph, but the speed limit was 5 (maybe 10, if he stretched it). This was the girls' favorite thing to do. If someone mentioned the word "four-wheeler", Mimi would say "No" (which of course means "yes") and run for the door to go for a ride. There was a money dig at the children's portion of the County Fair. Livi was not really interested, but Annie would move her own toes around in the sand until something was unearthed, and then she would have Olivia pick the money up. Can't you tell that Livi was just thrilled with the whole adventure? (Sarcasm intended.)
This other darling little girl is Elli, my cousin. (My mom's youngest brother's daughter. . . 's wife's sister's cousin on the other side. Just kidding.) She and Olivia played and played and played. They helped Dallin make this big box out of straws and connectors, and they were both desperate to get in the box, and then it was scary. Because everything is scary. Life, really, is quite terrifying, if you think about it.


Thank you for your kind comments and enthusiasm for the banner.  There were a few snafus in the process of drawing a winner.  I used, a lovely service for any fast lottery.  First, it generated #3, which, unfortunately, was me.  Then it generated #9, which, also unfortunately, was Sara, who made so stinkin' many of these banner kits for Enrichment that she would probably cry if she saw another one.  Third time, however, was the charm, and Leisy, at #8, was our winner.  (Which was pretty rewarding since her comment was so dang enthusiastic.)  I'm going to try to get this in the mail tonight, Leisy, so I'll email you to get your address.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cricut Banner

I scored BIG on Black Friday with a $75 Cricut from JoAnn.  It was part of Sara's and my Great Annual Flannel Expedition.  We restocked our stashes, of course, and the plan was to purchase a Cricut at the store, but John found a coupon for free shipping online, and purchased my Cricut at 2:30 a.m.  Bless that man!

And I've been loving the dang paper cutting machine ever since.  My favorite purpose may just be the cutting of freezer paper for freezer paper stencils (so easy, so fast, so AWESOME!), but these little banners come just a smidge second.

I got this idea from Sara, who re-envisioned a Halloween banner she made with Amy Hughes (of Southern Utah University fame).  Sara, of course, in her super-crafty way, put together 56 kits for an enrichment night.  I have made only one.

You just cut the shapes and letters, glue the individual designs together with a glue stick, tie each set of two letters together with a longer ribbon, and embellish by tying shorter ribbons and pieces of tulle on to the junction.

Super cute!

Now, because of my obsession with the Cricut, I've also put together another Christmas banner kit (circles, letters, tulle and ribbons).  Anyone who comments (just wish me Merry Christmas--such a fun phrase to say) can win it and make their own little string of festivity.  Because our time before Christmas is short, I want to mail this on Saturday afternoon.  Comment fast!

Decorating for Christmas

We got our decorations for Christmas out on Saturday after Thanksgiving.  My plan was to clean the house really good Monday morning and then decorate for family night, but the girls we so enthused about decorating that they decided we could all work together to clean on Saturday morning and decorate Saturday afternoon.  And they both worked their little boonies off to make it happen.

Our tree is a delightful gift from "Sister Keeran", and we love its slender slimness.  Easy to store, easy for me to put up and light by myself, and not too terribly heavy when the smallest Wellsbaby tips it onto herself.  The tree and tree ornaments are the best part of decorating and Olivia and Naomi both took it very seriously.

Bella just mostly loved the empty boxes (and not-quite-empty boxes).

Seriously, people, how many times a day is it reasonable to say "We don't eat Baby Jesus."  I think I max out at 35.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What Happened Wednesday Morning

After Olivia left on the bus, I helped Annabel finish her breakfast, washed off her booster tray, and swept her up the stairs to have her bath.  I removed her pajamas quickly, just by holding her in my right hand over the hamper and stripping her with my left, almost in autopilot.  We went to the bathroom.  I perched on the edge of the tub with Bella perched on the edge of my lap.  Once the bathwater was flowing at the perfect temperature, I stopped my flurry of activity long enough to acknowledge some sensory information that my nose had been trying to get through to my brain.  There was an awful stench.  I looked down to see poop--make that POOP--cascading out of Bella's diaper, onto my lap, up my arm, on my shirt, and dripping on the floor.  (Make no mistake.  I had already changed her once this morning, as soon as she got out of bed.)  I yelled for Naomi's help, gasping for some wipes.  Mimi came running in and ran out again as fast as possible.  She whimpered something about it being "too gwoss", but I just told her to please get me the wipes.
Then I heard some retching and poor Mimi peeked around the corner, green-faced, to tell me she had puked all over the stairs.  (She has been known to toss her cookies after looking at her own poop in the toilet.  I should have known she was unreliable in this situation.)  I decided I was on my own.  I stripped Bella the rest of the way down, making a brave but futile effort to clean up the eruption with the wipes I retrieved from my bedroom.  I decided a shower was the only way to handle the situation.  I tried to hold her in the spray without getting myself wet, but ended up in the shower as well, scrubbing us both completely down with some serious antibacterial soap.
I got Bella out of my shower and soaking in her tub (why waste that perfect bathwater?) before I turned my attention to the stairs.  Yuck.  I hate cleaning up vomit.
Being a mom is such a dirty job.  I think I'm going to talk to my business partner about me getting a raise.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

From the Past: I didn't see the Mayflower. . .

Originally from April 25, 2006.

. . . but a group of colonists has come. . .

. . . and seems to have settled at my feet.

The girls decided this morning that they both had to be as near me as possible, so this was their solution. (Obviously, I was not consulted, or I would have come up with something a little less on the . . . um. . . obnoxiously close side.) I discovered that you can actually do dishes with more than 40 pounds sitting on your feet. Lovely.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Oh, I'm so thankful.

For a month now, Mimi has been telling her friends, teachers, neighbors, even total strangers that her cousins were coming for Thanksgiving.  At first, I tried to correct her, saying, "Our friends, Mimi.  Our friends, Libby and Jenna."
But she would correct me, saying "My cousins, Mom.  My cousins, Libby and Jenna."
And it's okay because they feel like cousins.  Sara is my war buddy.  Our friendship was forged in the trenches of teaching junior high.  Even after each of us have moved three times, we've always ended up less than 4 hours apart.  And, in lieu of a Thanksgiving with blood relatives, the Soelbergs are the best possible option.  I have Sara.  Livi has Libby (and believe me, that simple "b" or "v" consonant sound was a constant source of confusion when the girls were teeny.  We still refer to Libby as "Lippy", just for the sake of clarity.)

Mimi has Jenna.

And poor, poor Joe.  He's got John, but the hospital never sleeps (and John occasionally has to), even over Thanksgiving, so his socializing was pretty limited.
We partied hard, until the girls crashed exhausted into bed (and crashed OUT of bed onto the hard wooden floor in the middle of the night.)

We ate delicious food, even if I dried out our turkey and made not-so-delicious new-recipe Broccoli Gratin.  Sara's contributions more than made up for it.
And even if the girls couldn't wait for the delicious food and sat down to a snack of Pringles with 45 minutes to go.
And even if my little baby Bella is a serious snack-snatcher.
We took pie to share the resident festivities at the Bradys, and played Beatles Rock Band until we were so sweaty we felt like we'd actually been to a concert.  (Sidenote:  Do you know you can still score 9% playing Rock Band even if you are the bass and you are following the drum part?  Amazing, eh?)
And Sara and I, we decided to make Christmas stockings, which are going to be absolutely darling, thanks to Sara's artistic abilities and my nonstop trolling of craft blogs for ideas.  (Look at us.  Even our sewing machines are exactly the same.)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Farewell to Fall

Can you believe this November?  I was worried that because the summer had been so mild--hardly any unbearably hot days--that fall was going to get bitterly cold bitterly early.  But I've been pleasantly surprised.  Until this last week, the fall has been perfectly lovely.  Some days I've hardly needed a jacket to go outside.

But last Saturday took the cake.  It was almost 60 degrees and *GASP* the sun was SHINING!  (Those of you not from the midwest might not understand the phenomenon of bidding farewell to the sun in late September and not seeing it again until April.  Or possibly May.)  My schedule for the day was full of list items like grocery shopping, sewing, and housecleaning, but the plans changed when Olivia begged to play at the park.  For once in my life as a mother, I listened.  Her plan was definitely better.

We tried to go to the nearest park, but they close for the season November 15.  What?  Even for beautiful 60 degree days?  So we ended up at the park by the zoo and called our friends to join us.  The parking lot at the zoo is full of all the leaves they blow from the zoo, the park, and what looks like the next three states.  (No, that is not a trick of perspective.  Yes, that leaf pile is at least twice as tall as my van and at least 8 times as wide.  Plus, since the leaves were damp, the air was full of that stinky-nostalgic fall smell.)

Bella wandered and climbed and tried to pick up other "babies" (kids at least her size) to her heart's content.

Olivia and Naomi spun and spun until I thought I would be sick with dizziness.  They were, of course, fine.

The rock wall was climbed.

We lost Mimi for a while, until we looked closer.

It was wonderful.  I'm not sure I could have been ready for December without this one last beautiful fall day.