Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas in pictures

Our Christmas....

Annika's preschool Christmas concert
(she's in the grey jumper and green shirt, about the middle of the front row)

Annika, hard at work during Carey's work's open house

The advent calendar, completed on Christmas morning with the star on top

Beautiful ballerina

Christmas fruit tree we made for brunch at my parents' place

Carey loves playing dolls :)

Emmett reading the Christmas story with Grandpa, on an iPad (how things change!)

Beautiful wooden handmade gifts, made by Grandpa

Emmett's newest game, stuffing his socks in the central vac outlet

My gift from Carey - Eggies!
(I love "as seen on tv" stuff - I also have a Snuggie).

Just as much fun as decorating the houses - smashing them!

Emmett thoroughly enjoyed it!

I must've been very good this year - Santa brought me my very own sewing machine (so far I had been borrowing my mom's to do my sewing).  Can't wait to start a new project!

This is what I want to remember from this year's Christmas - the smiles, the excitement, the fact that Annika did so well in her very first school concert, the love shown through gifts, the delicious food and the fellowship.  Hopefully over the years, it will be the memories held in these photos that remain in my heart, and not the stress, the exhaustion, the sickness, or the crankiness (although I want to remember those things enough to try to do things differently - hopefully better - in the coming years).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


That was my great big sigh of relief that Christmas is over.

I used to find the 27th a bit of a depressing day.  Presents were all opened, gatherings were usually done, most of the yummy food had been eaten.  There was nothing much to look forward to anymore.  I have to say, though, this year I've changed my perspective.  I love the 27th - the Christmas craziness is done, and now we can just relax.  Carey is home for a few days, so this is what I've really been looking forward to.  A few days together as a family, with nothing to do, nowhere to be.  There's finally time to play with the new toys (I always hated it as a kid that we would get all these new toys for Christmas, and then be rushed out the door to a gathering or something, and we couldn't play with them).  There's time to be lazy in the morning, or maybe take a nap in the afternoon.  We can enjoy a few leftover Christmas treats without feeling the need to gorge ourselves with food.  We can get the kids to bed at a reasonable time.

I need to find a way to "do" Christmas a bit differently, but I'm not sure how.  This year was so crazy and hectic that I was sick a few days before Christmas (turns out "exhaustion" is actually a real thing, and not just a sickness that celebrities invent to cover up eating disorders/addictions!), Annika was a bit sick on Christmas day, and now both the kids are not feeling 100% today (coughing, a touch of fever).  I have no doubt that 4 days of being out and about has contributed to that.  However, as much as I dislike how crazy busy Christmas is, I don't want to miss out on anything!  Christmas is often the only time that we get to see certain extended family members, so it would be a shame to miss those gatherings.  I guess we'll see what next year, and the coming years, bring.  Perhaps things will change.  Perhaps we can find a way to celebrate Christmas that doesn't leave me sighing in relief once it's all over.

(By the way, I don't mean to sound like a Scrooge, or that I didn't enjoy Christmas at all - it was just a difficult time for me this year.  However, there were some great moments, and some great photos that I'll try to share in the next few days.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas craziness

One week until Christmas and it's going to be a crazy one around here.  I've finished shopping for Christmas presents (and I've also finished making presents - I can't wait until after Christmas to show you everything!) - now just to wrap them all up.  Annika really wants to help with wrapping, but she's horrible at keeping secrets (I haven't told her what we've got for anyone, just to make sure she doesn't blab), so my plan is to wrap presents by myself and then let her help with the ribbons, bows, tags, etc.  I've finished my Christmas baking (I don't do much - just a few cookies and some Puppy Chow - not sure why that's a Christmas thing, but it's the only time that I make it), now I just have a few things to make to take along to family gatherings. 
So I may not be around here too much in the next week.  Here's our schedule from now till Boxing Day:
  • Today - nothing!
  • Tuesday - Y Neighbours in the morning, Annika's going over to my parents' place in the afternoon to help my mom decorate Christmas cookies.
  • Wednesday - Annika's preschool Christmas program in the morning, Christmas open house at Carey's work in the afternoon/early evening.
  • Thursday - Both kids going over to Carey's parents' place in the morning for some "grandma time" while I finish up any last minute errands, Carey's going to the hockey game in the evening, and I will hopefully be meeting with my book club (aka "dessert club"), as long as it's not cancelled due to busy-ness.  Kids will be at home with their aunt and uncle.
  • Friday - Supper at my parents' place with family and some good friends.
  • Saturday - Family gathering (Carey's mom's side) - about half an hour drive from here, for lunch and supper.
  • Sunday (Christmas!!) - a bit of family time at home in the morning, then brunch at my parents' place and supper at Carey's parents' place (luckily they only live about 10 minutes from each other, and 10 minutes or less from us).
  • Monday - 2 family gatherings in one day!!  Carey's dad's side for lunch, and my dad's side for supper (with probably at least 3 hours of driving getting from one place to another and back home).  I'm hoping that the driving time in between gatherings will provide a much-needed opportunity for everyone to nap (except Carey that is).
Yikes!  I think by the time we're done all that we'll need a week just to rest and recuperate.  My goal is to not stay at any place later than 8:00pm, but we'll see how that goes.  With so much going on, the kids are for sure going to get out of whack, but I'm going to try my best not to stress about it too much, and just try to go with the flow.  Our first Christmas with Annika, I spent so much time trying to keep her on schedule that I missed out on a lot of the fun and fellowship because I was too preoccupied and stressed.  I just keep telling myself that last Christmas was almost as busy, and we did it all with a 3-week old newborn, so this Christmas it should be a piece of cake!  Just need to keep in mind the reason for the season - it's not about presents, food, family gatherings or over-tired children...  it's about Jesus.  The rest is just gravy. :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

15-20 minutes a day

I saw something a while ago on Pinterest (I didn't pin it, so I don't have the exact link) about having a clean house with only cleaning 15-20 minutes a day.  Now, this doesn't include tasks like picking up toys or sorting clutter or everyday stuff like dishes and laundry - this is just cleaning.  Dusting, vaccuuming, and scrubbing toilets.  It doesn't sound like much, but that's the beauty of it - who doesn't have 15 minutes?  Even I can find 15 minutes in a day.  The key is getting into a routine, and doing it every day, every week, so it doesn't become overwhelming.  I think that's one of the reasons that I found the 31-day spring cleaning challenge so hard earlier this year - I barely have my regular cleaning under control, let alone having time to get the deep cleaning stuff done.  So I'm going to give this a try (although I realize it will be difficult to keep up a routine over the holidays). 

So here's my schedule - I'm going to give it a try and see how it works for me.  Even if I don't get a task done in 15-20 minutes, it will be much better than how it is right now.

Monday - Clean our bathroom
Tuesday - Dust and wipe fingerprints off mirrors/windows/etc.
Wednesday - Vaccuum upstairs
Thursday - Clean downstairs bathroom and kids' bathroom
Friday - Vaccuum downstairs
Saturday - Mop (possibly do this on Friday, if time) and deep cleaning task or catch up on missed tasks from the week
Sunday - Rest and enjoy a clean house

For the deep cleaning tasks on Saturday, I'm going to try to go through the list of tasks from the spring cleaning challenge - stuff like organizing my pantry, cleaning the oven, washing walls, organizing closets, etc. 

We've also got Annika more involved with cleaning up, and we try to do a "5 minute clean up" with her each night.  We set the timer for 5 minutes, and we put away as many toys and books and stuff as we can in 5 minutes, before going up to bed.  When we finish, she gets to put a sticker on her "clean up chart" (she loves stickers and charts).  She's completed one chart already, and got a book as a reward.  Her current chart is a bit bigger (10 spots), so we'll see what the reward will be once it's full.  However, I think she's starting to learn the value of cleaning up, even without the reward.  The other morning she just started cleaning everything up on her own, without any prompting from me or any promise of a reward.  When I asked her why she was cleaning up, she told me that she was doing it for Emmett, because she thought he'd like everything clean so he could mess it up again. :)  It was really quite cute.

I also want to start being more intentional with keeping things organized and put away - hanging up clean laundry right away, putting away clean dishes once they're dry, not letting paper pile up on the counters.  I know I've stated these goals before, but they still haven't become habits yet!  I really want to work on it, though (maybe this is an early new year's resolution?), because I think it will make the 15-20 minutes of actual cleaning easier to get done (it's much easier to clean when there isn't junk in the way).  I love our house, but half the time it's so messy and dirty that I don't fully enjoy it.  There's just something about a neat and clean house that is calming to the soul. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Santa Claus is coming to town....

This morning "Santa" and "Mrs. Claus" came to visit my Y Neighbours group.  It's something we do every year, although this is the first year that Mrs. Claus has made an appearance.  The kids did pretty well, considering Annika's past apprehension (okay, it's more like a down-right fear) of the man in red.  Two years ago the only picture I had of her and Santa was her running away from him, crying, as fast as her little legs would take her.  We missed out on the event last year (it was shortly after Emmett was born so we didn't make it), so I was unsure how it would go this year. 

We've never actually gone to see Santa in mall, because I don't want to waste a bunch of time standing in line if Annika's going to have a fit and start crying when it's finally her turn.  Also, I don't really care whether she likes Santa or not.  We are teaching her the real meaning of Christmas (the birth of Jesus Christ), and if she wants to believe in Santa too, then that's fine (she'll figure it out eventually - she's a smart kid) and if she doesn't, then that's okay also.  When I was growing up, we left cookies and milk out for Santa, and we always had a present from him on Christmas morning, but I'm pretty sure that I knew most of the time that he wasn't real.  I don't remember exactly when I stopped "believing" in him (it wasn't a traumatizing realization, like "what??? Santa ISN'T real????), but I do remember noticing that Santa used the same wrapping paper as my mom, and his handwriting sure looked similar to hers....  ;)  For now we don't make a big deal about Santa since she's not too crazy about him, but we'll see how it goes as she grows up.

Anyways, here are a few pics of our morning with "the Clauses."

When did my baby get so grown up??  He looks like a little boy now.

She didn't want to sit with them, but at least she's not crying!

Each mom brings a wrapped book for Santa to give to their child, so every kid gets a present.  Annika's still keeping a wary eye on Santa.  Emmett is distracted by candy canes.

She may not be a fan of Santa, but she sure liked her book - we did fun yoga poses all evening!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Calm down jar - an update

Since I posted about making a calm down jar, I seem to get a lot of visits from people searching for the term "calm down jar" (or a variation of it).  So I thought I'd post an update about how the jar worked for us.

It didn't.

Sure, we had fun making it, and it is sort of pretty to watch the glitter floating around, but it hasn't done much for helping Annika's tantrums or moods.  Perhaps if we used it more often, but after a few tries, it didn't seem to be doing much, so it got stuck on a shelf and there it remains.  And I was always a little afraid that, in the midst of a tantrum, she'd pick up the jar and toss it, resulting in a huge, wet, glittery, glass-shard-filled mess.  So maybe it works for other kids, but not for mine.

I will share with you, though, one thing that does work for us - taking a few deep breaths (this helps both Annika and me).  It sounds kind of hokey, but it really works.  When she's in the throes of a tantrum and all logic and reasoning seem to be lost and punishments and threats of punishments have no effect, I get right in front of her, in her face, and say "let's take a few deep breaths" and I start doing it really loud and exaggerated.  More often than not, she'll start doing it too, and she'll start to calm down enough that we can at least start talking.  I'm sort of amazed that it works so well, but it does (at least for now!).  I hope that by doing it regularly it someday becomes something that she will do on her own, to prevent herself from getting so upset and worked-up.  That day might be years and years away, but it's never to early to start, right?  I think regardless of your age, taking a deep breath is always a good thing.

So let's all take one right now.  Ready?  Breathe in....  and out.....

Feel better?  ;)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Excuse me while I vent....

... I just need to get this off my chest.

I have sold and bought several things through kijiji.  Most of the time, it's a great way to find second-hand items without having to search through a thrift store, and it's a great way to get rid of baby stuff that we no longer need without having to have a garage sale.  Most of the transactions have been very positive, but I had a negative experience the other day, and I just need to vent a little about it. 

I had posted an ad a while ago, for a baby item that we no longer use.  Mrs. X replied to my ad on Wednesday, asking if it was still available.  I replied that it was, and she quickly replied that she would take it, and when could she come get it?  We set a time, but I guess it wasn't clear which day (note: don't say things like "tomorrow" in an email - make sure to say specific days and dates).  So I wasn't sure whether she was going to come on Thursday or Friday, but I assumed she would come on one of the two, and that she would call or email if she wasn't going to show up.  I had given her my phone number, and specifically requested that she call me if her plans changed.  Well, Thursday went by and Friday went by and she didn't show.  I even emailed her on Friday afternoon to see if she was still planning to come - no reply and no show.  I emailed her again on Saturday and I got this lovely reply (this is a direct quote) - "Sorry I did fiind a cheaper one thanks anyways."

Really?  Really??  REALLY????

That is unacceptable.  How rude to just not show up, and not let me know that she changed her mind.  I really want to email her and let her have it, but I doubt that it would do any good.  It just really, really frustrated me.  And the spelling/grammar mistakes just made it all the worse. :S

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Occupy your sewing room" - the results

Occupy Sewing Room

Well, I didn't get to spend a whole day sewing, but I did make some significant progress on making Christmas gifts.  However, since some of the recipients may read this, I can't give away too much!!  But I can show you the kids' gifts, and a sneak peak at one of the other gifts I'm working on.

I finished up the tutu for Annika.  I bet you couldn't guess from my first picture of it that it wasn't done yet. I used a creative camera angle on purpose - I had run out of tulle before finishing!  But it's all done now, just waiting for its first dance. :)

Another gift for the kids is a hooded towel for each of them.  I found the tutorial on Pinterest - they're made from a regular bath towel and a hand towel.  I'm not completely satisfied with how they turned out, but I'm going to wait and see how the look on the kids before I do any fixing.  I love how big they are, though - nothing like being wrapped up in a great, big warm towel after a bath!

This is one present that I can't give too many details about, because the recipient may be reading.  It's a bit of a bigger project, and it's not quite done yet, but I think it will turn out well.  I'll post pictures of the finished product after Christmas!

So that's what I've been up to lately.  I've also been busy in the kitchen and on the computer, making other Christmas gifts (not all "handmade" gifts require the sewing machine!). 

I've been wanting to simplify Christmas this year (at least the gift-giving aspect of it), however, it seems like the list of potential gift recipients is growing longer and longer, and I'm not sure what to do about it.  Sunday school teachers, preschool teachers - even last week at Annika's last swimming lesson, one little girl brought a present for the swimming instructor!  Seriously, it was a 10 week class!!  I'm all for showing love and appreciation to the people around us, but sometimes it seems like it's going too far.  I haven't decided yet whether I'm going to do presents for Annika's preschool teachers.  Does everyone give gifts to their kids' teachers these days??  I don't remember that being a big thing when I was in school.  Will she be the only one without a gift for the teacher?  Or rather, teachers - there are 2, so that would mean 2 gifts.  If anyone has any advice or thoughts on this, please share them. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas decorations

The theme for my Christmas decorations this year is "out of Emmett's reach".  I know, I know, not very festive, but sometimes you have to be practical.  I already have to make sure that I remember to gate the stairs going up (his newest favorite thing is climbing stairs) and cover up the floor vents (he likes to pull them up), so I figured I didn't need to add worrying about him pulling over the Christmas tree, or pulling off ornaments and breaking/eating them to that list.  So we've improvised a little this year.  Annika doesn't seem to mind - she told me that our house was now very "fancy" (she just got a "Fancy Nancy" Christmas book, so her newest word is fancy).

Christmas card display
(excuse the mess on the counter - hadn't put away my grocery shopping yet)

I'll admit, I didn't come up with this idea, and I'm too lazy right now to find the original link where I saw it, but it was on Pinterest.  My apologies to the person who thought of such a great idea.  Perhaps I'll have time later to go back and give you the proper credit.

I love picture Christmas cards.  If you give me a regular Christmas card, as lovely as it may be, it will get thrown out after Christmas for sure.  However, if you give me a picture Christmas card, it will be kept, placed in my photo album, forever and ever.  Even if we're not that close - I always keep picture cards.  And I love to display them, however, they present more of a challenge than regular cards (which will stand up on their own).  I used to try to put all my cards on the fridge, but now with my giant "mom's" calendar, there's no room (and it was a bit complicated, trying to piece them all together and get enough magnets to keep them up there).  So when I saw this idea, I thought, that's the way to do it!  Run a piece of ribbon down your cupboards (mine's just taped to the cupboard in the back) and then use mini-clothespins to attach your cards.  Love it!  Annika helped me pin the cards on.  Oh, and Carey got into the Christmas spirit too, and decided to string some lights up above the cupboards.

Advent calendar
My mom made this advent calendar for me and my brother when we were little.  This is the first year that it's been in our house, for Annika to use.  She is absolutely loving it, and it reminds me of being a kid. :)  (Side note: this is one thing that Emmett can actually reach, but so far he hasn't tried to rip it off the wall.  I expect he will by Christmas though...)

Nativity set
This is just one of the three nativity sets that we have.  This one is in our wall niche.  The other 2 are a Little People set (something that the kids are actually allowed to touch and play with) and a glass figurine set (which is on a shelf high above all little hands).
Christmas tree
We have a full-sized tree, but for this year, I opted for the mini-tree, up out of Emmett's reach.  I was a little sad that I couldn't put all my ornaments on it (I collect silver/white/blue snowflake ornaments), but I still think it's pretty and Annika was quite awed by it as well.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Christmas tradition

Carey's extended family (on his mom's side) has a really neat Christmas tradition, and I'm happy that we were able to take part in it once again last night.  Last year we had to miss out, because it was the day that we came home from the hospital with Emmett.  Each year the family gets together in early December and decorates gingerbread houses.  I think it may have started out as just for the kids, but it's become something that the whole family takes part in - young and old (or "older") alike.  Everyone gets their own little gingerbread house to decorate, and there's always LOTS of candy (some of which does not make it onto the houses ;) ).  It's such a fun evening.  Here are a few pictures...

Carey's aunt and uncle have the perfect table for it - lots of room!

Annika, hard at work at her masterpiece.

Emmett, hanging out with his auntie Jodi. 
He didn't decorate a house, but I just had to show off how cute his Christmas outfit is!!  I love argyle. :)

Annika and her completed gingerbread house.

 The "village".

Our houses - (from l-r) Carey's, Annika's and mine

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Birthday's done - bring on Christmas!!

Now that Emmett's birthday and his party is done, I'm ready to focus on Christmas.  I came across this idea on a blog and I love it - Occupy Your Sewing Room!

Occupy Sewing Room
Our list of demands is short: Leave me alone. I'm sewing!
Occupy your Sewing Room will run from December 3 - 10, 2011. During that week, plan to occupy your sewing room for a full day. If you can't spend a whole day, then divide it up into whatever increments you like.  Write a blog post and then come back on December 11th to link up and show off what you've accomplished.  On December 17th, I'll host a giveaway.

Time to get to work on making Christmas presents!  I don't technically have a sewing room (I just set myself up on the dining room table), and there's no way that I'd actually have a full day to devote to sewing (unless someone wants to take my kids for a full day!), but I like the idea of focusing on getting a bunch of sewing done in the next week.  It would be great to have all my handmade gifts done (or mostly done) in the next week, and then I can just relax and enjoy the rest of the Christmas season.  Are you making handmade Christmas presents?  Join in the fun! :)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Emmett's birthday party

Today was Emmett's birthday party.  We celebrated with friends and family, and had such a good time.  Here's a few pictures from the day...

The invitation

The decorations (very simple - all I had time for)

Emmett's smash cake and the cupcakes

Emmett's "time capsule" - to be opened on his 18th birthday

Opening presents
(I made his shirt - used one of his old onesies for the applique, I love how it turned out)

Birthday boy!

Eating cake

He did some serious damage! 
Probaby would've eaten more if I hadn't taken it away from him. :)

Thanks so much to all the friends and family who came to celebrate with us today!  It was a wonderful day, and we feel so blessed to be surrounded with such love and support.