Friday, December 30, 2011

Our Christmas, in pictures

Wow.  I feel like the last 2 weeks hit me like a truck!  We've been going nonstop, and I don't want another Christmas to slip by undocumented, so here, in blurry cell phone pictures (spoiler alert, the pictures get better at the end!) is our Christmas.

Things started to get Christmas-y at Emily's preschool show on the 18th.

In the middle, playing the angel just like her mama used to.  Blonde girls are always cast as the angel.
Glad she's short so she gets to stand in the front!
My girls <3

Next was a visit to Santa!
Charlotte was pretty unsure, but seemed ok once we sat her on the couch vs. in Santa's lap.  We are 0-5 for Santa-induced meltdowns!  And here, because I like to compare (and because these are really the only professional pics we have taken of the girls on a regular basis) are the pictures from previous years:
 The next day was filled with parties.

Birthday party #1 - Sam's 5th birthday at Pump it Up
Birthday party #2 - Nora's 2nd birthday at FISC
Party #3 for the day - The Dray family Christmas party at my mom and dad's house
Phew.  That was exhausting.

The Christmas festivities resumed on Wednesday with Emily's preschool Christmas party.  The moms didn't even know we were putting on this party until a couple days before, so we didn't have time to have meetings and offer ideas.  As a result, almost every activity involved candy :-(

Pin the nose on Rudolph
Decorating gingerbread houses...there was NOTHING I could do to healthify this :-(
Making reindeer candy canes (and getting sneezed on by classmates)
 I think that picture is about the exact moment when Emily contracted the nasty cold that started on Christmas Eve and STILL continues to make her miserable (and has sent its friends to live in my lungs as well).  The boy next to her (not the one in the picture, the one sitting to the other side of her) kept sneezing and sneezing and since his mom wasn't there it somehow became MY job to keep fetching him tissues.  As if I don't have to wipe enough noses between my own two kids, blech.

After the party, we went to my sister Krista's house to pick up Charlotte.  The kitties are getting big, but they still nurse on her throw blanket.  It's the weirdest thing I've ever seen!  All cats knead, but hers actually suck on parts of the blanket while they purr and knead.  Goofballs.

Emily imitating the cats
They really are awesome, patient little kitties
 Then, out of nowhere, it was Christmas Eve!
Making sprinkle cookies for Santa
Snack-dinner was served (and consumed with gusto) in the family room
There was much goofiness
Remy hoped we'd look away so he could grab a bite

The elves sneaked into the girls rooms and brought new pajamas!
Cookies and milk (plus, at Charlotte's request, beer and soft pretzels) were left out for Santa, with a carrot and some  half-eaten apples for the reindeer.
Stockings were hung
There was more goofiness
 And the girls didn't fall asleep until after 10 :-(

Christmas Eve is one of the most exhausting days of the year for us as we make all the preparations and food for that evening and the next day, especially because we know we still have all of Christmas to get through tomorrow!  Neither Will nor I slept well on Christmas Eve night...we were awoken by Emily freaking out that she couldn't breathe through her cold-clogged nose at 1:30, a cup falling off the counter in the kitchen at 5:30, and my phone (which  I had forgotten to silence) announcing that I had mail at 6.  But then it was Christmas!

Excited little girls were good sports about waiting for pictures to be taken
Being a parent has given me a new appreciation for all that MY parents went through to make Christmas happen for my sisters and I when we were kids.  Putting on a Christmas is hard work!  In my family, Santa always brought 1 present, whatever you wanted most (and whatever you told the Santa at the mall that you wanted) and then the rest of the presents were from my parents.  It's easier that way, plus I don't think I really even noticed as a kid amidst all the excitement. This year, Santa brought just what each girl asked for...
"A book" for Charlotte
"2 blue unicorns, a mommy and a baby that look just like the unicorns I already have" for Emily
Emily's oddly specific request required a desperate Ebay bid, a can of blue spraypaint and some glitter nailpolish, but Santa came through in the end.

After the first wave of presents, my family arrived with a fresh supply...

...then Will's family with even more.  

Will ended up juicing ALL of these oranges, plus some grapefruits!
After this, thank goodness, my pictures got a lot better because I GOT MY NEW CAMERA!  It's a Canon Rebel T1i and I'm in love.  I am still a long way from knowing how to take advantage of everything it can do, but in the meantime it is certainly improving my snapshots.
The first picture I took, yay!
 I can't tell you how thrilled I am to have a camera that takes pictures QUICKLY.  I have been able to actually capture some of my girls' faces before they realize I'm pointing a camera at them and look away/start pouting.

After 3 rounds of Christmas at our house, we went to Will's Aunt Dee Dee's house for the evening, praying that the girls would be able to hold out through dinner and presents before melting down for the day.
Charlotte with Papa and Pingu in front of the GIANT chocolate Christmas tree!

Emily, still excited about Christmas
Even my Father-in-Law was excited to try out my camera
After holding out on her all day, Emily finally decided to give Aunt Dee Dee her hug, and ended up knocking her to the ground.  And yes, I took this picture before offering to help her up.  Priorities.
I turn my back for a minute to pack up some presents, and my children have been helpfully supplied with ice cream and fudge sauce
So that pretty much covers Christmas.  Ever since then we've just been crouching in our house passing colds back and forth and enjoying not having to get up for school every day.  Oh, and fighting like cats and dogs over the new toys.  You would think being surrounded by an almost sickening number of toy choices would mean that the girls would play happily for hours, but in actuality they just spend all their time engaged in vicious combat because both of them HAVE to play with the exact same toy at the exact same time.

Now I have to go try to get some rest so I can kick this junk out of my lungs before attempting to stay up until midnight tomorrow.  Will doesn't think I can make it, so I have to prove him wrong.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How many people can say they built a trebuchet and won a wine review contest in the same day?

Probably one.  At least today.

And in case you hadn't guessed, that person is ME!

Let me explain.

My Dad has a dark sense of humor, which is no doubt where I got my dark sense of humor.  He has told us many times that when he dies instead of a traditional funeral and burial or cremation he would like us to trebuchet his dead body over South Mountain (the mountain his front porch overlooks).  He is the reason why I know the difference between a catapult and a trebuchet because he is very adamant that it must be a true trebuchet.  He is undeterred by our pleas that he consider what might happen to some poor hiker on the Appalachian Trail if he is suddenly smashed by a dead body falling from the sky.  And strangely enough, The Oatmeal's plans for his own funeral are almost identical, but my Dad came up with this idea YEARS ago.

This background is all to explain why I am building my dad a trebuchet for Christmas.  Because he already has everything else, and I enjoy the idea of him using it to fling little wooden balls down the hallways of NIST.  Plus I am a big fan of giving people homemade things for Christmas, and since I made this he is required to like it since he is my parent.

The kit arrived a couple days ago, and I eyeballed it dubiously.  I do not really enjoy building things but I decided to look at it as more of a craft and I dove in.  I managed to get about 3 minutes into it when I realized I didn't have any wood glue, and also that you're supposed to fill the counterweight with 78 pennies.  Since I had just dumped all my pennies into a Coinstar machine, the trebuchet would have to wait.

So last night and today I put it together, and it was surprisingly kind of fun!  Plus I now know how to tie a hangman's knot and a double figure-of-eight knot, skills that I'm sure will serve me well in the future.  It actually works, and it actually looks just like it's supposed to:
Check out all those knots
And even better, while I was building the trebuchet, I got a call from The Wine Kitchen in Frederick, informing me that Will and I won their contest to write a review for Alysian Chardonnay when we were on a date there a couple weeks ago.  We get a $30 gift card, and our review will appear on the cards they hand out when you order it in the restaurant!  I am extremely excited because #1 we LOVED the restaurant, but it's a bit pricey.  The gift card will help with that next time!  And #2 we were a bit (actually a lot) buzzed when we wrote the review and we felt the need to use the term "f*ck-ton" in the last sentence, then we left the card on the table and hurried out before anyone read it.  They seemed to enjoy it though, because the manager who called me said "Everyone who voted was unanimous that your review should win" and "We all appreciated your liberal-ness".  I am assuming they will be taking the last sentence off before they print it on the cards though.

So I am feeling pretty good about my varied talents right about now.  Possibly even good enough to consider keeping these shoes that arrived today that I ordered to wear in my sister's wedding:

I guess "4" heels" didn't register until I actually saw them in person.  At least I'll look super-cute for the 10 minutes I'll be able to wear them before my feet fall off.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Stalker Santa

One of the things I really enjoy about our neighborhood (and especially our little corner of the neighborhood) is that almost everyone puts out Christmas lights at this time of year.  I love driving around in December looking at all the light displays, from the tacky to the tasteful.  I am trying very hard to make it a family Christmas tradition that we all pile into the car one night in our PJs with hot chocolate and drive around on a light tour.  We attempted this last night, and since our girls were involved it was fun but also highly stressful.  There was spilled hot chocolate (which luckily I had made sure was more like warm chocolate in case of spillage, but it still caused shrieking), stops to go pee pee, complaining when Emily realized we'd be driving by Dancing Bear downtown but not actually going in, girls screaming at each other and Charlotte's constant car jabber (including incessant requests for fireworks, please?) that is adorable but gives me a headache.  Will wondered why we even try to do anything like this, but it's something that I think we'll all enjoy having memories of.

One decoration I do NOT approve of is something my neighbors put out every year that I can see from my dining room window.  As I walk around my house at night, I am often alarmed by this sight:

 Looking closer (and blurrier, thanks to my phone camera's limited abilities) you see this:
 In the light of day, it looks like this:
Not so bad
I don't understand why they need to spotlight it with red at night.  Will thinks I'm crazy, but I say catching a glimpse of a glowing red humanoid face hovering in your neighbor's bushes at night every time you walk by the window is quite startling.  And I don't know about you, but for me feeling startled and vaguely unnerved does not inspire Christmas spirit.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas magic

Over the past week or so I have been making a concerted effort to do a fun Christmas-y activity with Emily as often as possible.  I won't be so ambitious as to say I will do something every day of December, but I am giving it a shot.  My first idea was to decorate a green styrofoam cone with gems and mini-garland to make a little Christmas tree but it was much tougher than I had anticipated, and even though I didn't let Emily USE the glue gun she still managed to burn herself on the end of it and spent pretty much the rest of the day screaming :-(  The My Little Ponies have a nice Christmas tree now though.

Undeterred, I moved on to my next idea which was to make a gingerbread house.  Emily has been begging me for at least 2 years to let her make a gingerbread house, so I set out to altering gingerbread recipes to make them whole-wheat and naturally sweetened and collecting artificial dye-free and (when possible) naturally sweetened candy for our house.  The frosting was pure sugar though.  I still haven't found a way to make frosting healthy.  And let me tell you, gingerbread houses are tougher than they seem.  We eventually managed though, and Emily has been enjoying snacking on the house a little bit each day.  I tried to explain to her that gingerbread houses are not for eating, but she just looks at me like I'm crazy and to be honest, I see her point.  It IS kind of crazy to go to extremes making a large structure completely out of edible items and then not eat it.

We also made a snow globe out of a baby food jar.  The santa inside stuck to the bottom for about 5 minutes before the glue let go.  Now when you shake it poor Santa is just tossed around in a sea of glittery water (which is leaking out bit by bit).

Today, as I picked Emily up from preschool, she announced that she'd like to make peanut butter cups.  I was delighted to be able to tell her that yes, we could totally make peanut butter cups, because I had been planning on making buckeyes with her today anyway and the procedure for peanut butter cups is much the same.  Our conversation went as follows:

Emily: Mommy, can we make peanut butter cups today?
Sara: Why yes we can!  Why do you want to make peanut butter cups?  Did you have peanut butter cups at preschool today?
Emily: No, I just want to make peanut butter cups.

Later that day, as I am making said peanut butter cups....

Emily: Pinkie Pie is coming down and eating them every time you make one, but they are reappearing.
Sara: Uh oh, she'd better not eat all of them!
Emily: I'll talk to her.  Pinkie Pie, I know that these peanut butter cups taste good, just like the peanut butter log I found in the gym today, but you can't eat them all, Daddy and Charlotte need to have some!
Sara: Wait, what?  What peanut butter log?
Emily: I found it in the gym at preschool.
Sara: So you found a peanut butter cup on the floor of the gym at preschool?
Emily: No, it was a log.
Sara: Did you tell your teachers?
Emily: No, I ate it.
Sara: Emily, you can't just eat things you find on the floor.  What if it had been poop and you had put it in your mouth to taste it?  Then you would've had poop in your mouth.
Emily: I knew it wasn't poop, because poop is straight.
Sara: Is that why you wanted to make peanut butter cups today?
Emily: Yeah.

So there you have it.  Our magical Christmas mother-daughter togetherness activity for the day was initiated because of a piece of discarded food my daughter found and ingested off the floor of the gym at preschool.

At least they turned out pretty well

I am realizing I should've cut one in half so you could see the peanut butter on the inside, and maybe not have put a crooked cup on top, but hey, as I have said before, I am definitely not a food blogger!

Once Charlotte woke up I was very glad we had made them because they shortened her post-nap screaming period significantly.

Please forgive my crappier-than-normal pictures.  I have lost my camera charger, so once again I am facing a Christmas season armed with only a cell phone for my picture-taking needs.  Hopefully you will see a marked improvement in my photo quality after the Christmas holiday!