Sunday, December 30, 2007

Nine

A certain boy in our house turned nine yesterday. Carter, our #2 son (in birth order only), was born nine years ago yesterday. And, boy, has it been an adventure with him.

Carter was the one who wore a Power Ranger costume everyday for many months (years?), without even watching a single Power Ranger episode. Then he was Spiderman. He was obsessed with boots (snow, cowboy, whatever) and wore them, even if he had nothing else on (see above). We were always asked by strangers if he was going to a costume party. He was a character. He was a handful, and still is some days. He has a spunky spirit.

Yesterday afternoon we had a small friend's party for him. He invited several friends, but one was out of town and the other was sick at the last minute. He had two show up and that was enough.

For entertainment, we had "geocaching" in the backyard. Joe jotted down clues on some lunch sacks and we divided the kids into two teams (Carter with his friends and Taylor with the younger siblings).


Simple clues like: Are you thirsty? for the cache behind the old lemonade stand. I smell mint for the mint candy cache in our mint patch. Cock-a-doodle-doo for the cache near our chicken coop.

There were seven caches total. Most were filled with candy. Some were filled with small Play-doh or pencil cap erasers. I think the boys had fun. It was really a last minute idea. Joe and I were gathering things just an hour before the party. (It's mentally strenuous to plan a party just a few days after Christmas.)

And, fear no more, new Chuck's (birthday Chuck's) are in the house. Thank you, Overstock. You saved me lots of money!

I think he had a happy birthday.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Family Time

One of Joe's Christmas presents was a handheld GPS. I bought it hoping we would be able to go geocaching as a family. After all, what boy (big or small) wouldn't like treasure hunting?

Yesterday was our first try.


We found the site quite easily (it was less than three miles from our house).
The boys looked high and low ...
And then Joe found it.
They were so happy. It was cold and damp, but we had a great time.

We're already planning our adventure for today ...

Monday, December 24, 2007

May Your Days

be merry and bright,


and filled with goodies to eat,


and lots of good quality time with those you love.

Merry Christmas, friends.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Home Stretch

I'm trying to keep my head above water. Yesterday was a busy one. It started with the final, major gift wrapping session, candy making (toffee, fudge, and raspberry-chocolate truffles), spiced nuts making, and ended with a sore back.

I still have a few small gifts to package up for the teachers and the bus driver for tomorrow and make more truffles, peppermint bark, no-bake cookies and macaroons. I think that's it. My cookbook from last year is so very handy. All of my favorite recipes are right there. All bound together!


And, yes, to answer all of your questions, this is our family Christmas photo, mailed out in postcard style. Mason (orange shirt) is shivering.

(This morning was Joe's followup appointment with his surgeon. He seems to be healing very well. He is on convalescent leave for three more weeks.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Every Year ...



Every year I say, "I'm going to make everyone a stocking that matches mine." And I don't.


Every year I say, "I'm going to replace that ugly twist-paper angel," that I made 15 years ago at church ...


And, this year, I finally did.

Every year I think I want a new white or pink tree for our upstairs front hall ...


And I finally got one ...

And decorated using my vintage Christmas ornaments.

Every year I think I need to buy a copy of A Christmas Story and The Year Without a Santa Claus ...


And, apparently, I do! I have one VHS of each movie, three DVDs of A Christmas Story and two DVDs of The Year Without a Santa Claus. Can someone remind me next year not to buy more?

[Note: My Christmas stocking is truly vintage. It is as old as I am. All of my cousins that are my age and older have matching ones. My grandmother had them made for us.]

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Towels

Last year we had such a hard time finding a present for Joe's mother. We eventually settled on a German treat basket, filled with goodies that would be reminiscent of the time she spent in Germany as an Army wife.

This year we were at a loss again. I decided to buy a set of bath towels, hand towels, and wash cloths and monogram them. We bought the towels at Target (from the Thomas O'Brien Vintage Modern collection). They are very soft and reasonably priced. I think two towels, two hand towels and two wash cloths cost about $60. They are a pale green, embroidered in dark green. The bath towels are monogrammed with their first-name initials (B and E) and the hand towels with their last-name initial (C). We also picked up a bottle of Method Hollyberry soap to go with it. Now, all we need is a nice basket to put them in.

We were going to buy some for my parents, but the color we chose didn't have enough bath towels. We will have to check back. Plus, I think I want a set now ...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Goodness

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas ...

On Friday I went to the post office to check my mail and I had a package. Yippee! Except, the post office was closed for lunch. Thinking it was only just some Christmas stuff from recent online shopping, I wasn't in a hurry to run back (I had to finish cleaning for Taylor's birthday sleepover). I was sorry I hadn't rushed back to the post office when I went Saturday morning and discovered, it wasn't Christmas gifts, but a wonderful package from Karyn.

It totally felt like Christmas to me. I can't even remember everything that she sent. There is so much. There's a sewing bag, zippers, a homemade vanilla bath bomb, a pyramid pouch, a covered notebook, Christmas cards, snowmen pencils for the kids (who are fighting over them) and other little doo-dads.

And you know she is totally a good friend when she sends:


additions to the boredom bucket! For someone who doesn't have any kids, she was right on with the stuff she sent. Oh my! (The kids haven't seen it yet! I'm waiting until Friday when they only have a half day of school and then are off until Jan. 2nd.) Christmas origami! Notebooks, stamps, stickers, paper doll kit. The goodness goes on.

Thank you, Karyn. You are so very generous! I can barely stand it!

Last night to add to our excitement, Santa stopped by on a fire engine to wave to the children. His helper brought some candy canes to our door. We thought we missed Santa this year, but he just made his town run last night.



This morning we lost our power. When I called the electric company, the estimated return of power was 11:30 a.m. (not too bad) ... December 19th. No. NO! NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I nearly died. I could handle the 11:30 a.m. part. Not the two days part. Thankfully the power was restored a little bit ago, leaving us without power for only two hours. We had some leftover pancakes, so Joe put them on top of our gas fireplace to warm up. Spenser loved it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Crafting


There's not much I can show of my Christmas crafting, but I'm pretty sure Sawyer doesn't check my blog.

I had seen several of these peas in blogville and when I was buying books for my children for Christmas, I couldn't help myself when I saw this. Sawyer loves balls, so I am sure he will adore this pea.

It is made from wool felt. His mouth (also wool felt) is satin-stitched on. His eyes (also wool felt) is hand stitched. He has three little red french-knot freckles on each cheek.

I actually had a lot of fun making this little guy. First it was just a ball. Then it was a ball with a mouth. Then it was a ball with one eye. Then two. And then the freckles gave him personality. And I'm happy I had fun making him because when I was working on him late one night last week, I realized it was after 12:30 a.m.

* * * * *

Thanks for the birthday wishes for Taylor and the well wishes for Joe. Joe is recovering. Slowly. He can now bend three of his five fingers. He had to sleep sitting up last night to prevent blood clots, so he slept on our family room couch. His throat is sore, too, because they intubated him during the surgery. He has drugs, so I think he'll make it.

Enjoy your weekend. We have birthday party #2 tonight. A sleepover. Three and a half boys. One boy can't sleep over. :-)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

11

He's growing up too fast.

Just yesterday he was ten. Today he is eleven. Another year has flown by.

Happy birthday, Taylor. I love you. And I love our morning snuggles. You've been a joy in my life.

* * * * * * * * * Other random news * * * * * * * * * * *

Joe is having shoulder surgery today. He broke his arm May 2006 (which went undiagnosed for months) and it has never properly healed. He's having repairs to his rotator cuff and some ligaments or something.

We don't have our Christmas trees up yet. We are waiting for Taylor's sleepover to be over (Friday night). I'm in full panic mode.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Soaping

By day I sew.


By night I soap.

Every Christmas I make at least two large (quadruple) batches of soap. Chocolate-mint soap. With lye. I wasn't looking forward to making it last night. It's a long process. From start to finish this batch took just a little over three hours. Most of it is waiting. Waiting for the lye + water mixture to cool down. Waiting for the oils to melt and cool down. Waiting for the soap to trace. Waiting for the soap to cook.

Yes. I take some shortcuts. I cook my soap. In the oven. It speeds up the saponification process greatly, which is very helpful when I am running out of time between now and Christmas. While it's not my preferred method, it fits into my schedule better. I even pleaded with Joe to take Spenser and Sawyer to karate last night so me and my lye could have some uninterrupted time together, which is always my preferred method.

I hope to make another batch between now and Saturday (at the latest).

My house really smells good right now...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Matchiness

I've been thinking about making a Christmas something for Spenser. A skirt? A dress? A shirt? I'm not sure what. I bought some fabric on etsy a couple of weeks ago and it's just been sitting there awaiting inspiration. On Friday I decided I was going to make her a dress out of a shirt pattern (Simplicity 4206), but I wanted to make a trial one first so I wouldn't mess up the good fabric.

I grabbed some fabric out of my "to be donated" pile and got to work. I let her try it on before I hemmed it and ... she loved it (unlike in the past, when altering still needs to be done and she hates it). In fact, she liked it so much, she wore it the rest of the night and fell asleep on the sofa wearing it, totally unhemmed. (Note to self: pattern would make a cute nightgown.)

Then I decided I must have a matching shirt (Simplicity 3835). We wore them Sunday to church and to a family reunion/Christmas party. I really like the patterns and will definitely make them again. The only slight problem I noticed with my shirt was that it seemed a little snug under my arms around my chest, although it could also be that I am still lactating.

(Spenser is blowing raspberries in the above photo. Silly girl.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Karate


The karate tournament was Saturday. This was the second one our boys participated in. They did so well. Jackson placed sixth in "One Step." Carter placed sixth in "Forms" and fifth in "Fighting." Taylor placed second in "Forms" and first in "Fighting." I almost cried. Almost. We are so proud of them. I guess taking the boys to karate every week pays off. I will remind myself of that the next time I take the kids when Joe is out of town, leaving me with Spenser and Sawyer to quietly entertain in confined quarters for an hour.

And, while I'm already bragging about my kids, I wanted to say that last week at Taylor's instrumental band/chorus school concert Taylor played a clarinet solo. It was actually a "soli," where several children played solos, along with another instrument. Taylor played his piece with a boy who played saxophone. They both did a great job.

We don't have any photos from either the concert or the karate tournament because we were too busy videoing it on the camera. I guess the convenience of having a camera that takes videos has its drawbacks ... no photos.

(And a note about the karate ornaments. We gave them to the boys on Saturday night after the tournament. They seemed okay with them. They didn't love them at first as much as I had hoped. However, by last night, they were loving them more. Hopefully by the time we get our tree up and decorated, they will love them even more. Fingers crossed.)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Karate Ornaments


My four oldest boys take karate. I think Taylor is a green belt, Carter (?) is red, Jackson (?) is yellow, Mason is white. This year I decided to make karate uniform ornaments to reflect their current belt color. (Spenser gets the pink karate uniform and Sawyer gets the baby blue one.)

The uniform is made from felt. The belts are just ribbon. I didn't have yellow on hand, so I'll have to find some in a hurry or use some bias tape temporarily.


Each uniform is hanging on a handmade, wire hanger (made from 16-gauge crafting wire).

The boys have a karate tournament tomorrow. I was going to put them in our advent stocking tomorrow night, but our tree is not up yet (waiting for a birthday sleepover next Friday to be over, I don't need my Christmas tree flipped). I'm not sure if I can wait until next week. I'm so excited about them.

Every year we buy the children a dated Christmas ornament, with the hope that when they move out, they will have their own set. Last year I made some and bought them each a dated one. You can never have enough. Right?

Thanks for the birthday wishes for Jack yesterday, I truly appreciate them. Blogger has not been notifying me of comments lately.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Seven

Another year has passed and my sweet, Jackson, is now seven. He is a very sweet, affectionate child. He is creative. And articulate. And fun. And very active.

He did not want to turn seven. He said his "fun-ness" would end at six. I think he will see that seven is heaven.


(I promised this photo last year and found the print in a box of old photos last week.)

Enjoy your day, little man. I think you are going to have a great year. I love you.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

December Happenings

On Friday I hung up our stocking advent calendar. The children were excited to see it come out. I can't fill the stockings ahead of time because it is hanging within arm's reach of many curious little ones who peek and squeeze it, looking for hints and clues for the evenings' activities. Another reason I don't fill it ahead of time is because sometimes the activities have to fit into our schedule. Late nights out mean a small, quick snack or activity.


On Saturday, the first, we planted Christmas tree seeds. I found a little tin with a peat pellet and seeds in the dollar bin at Michaels. I thought it would be fun to see if anything will sprout by Christmas day.

Sunday we ate swirled Lifesaver lollipops. I had totally forgotten about those things until I saw them at our local grocery store, 10 for $1. Mmmm. They brought back some memories. (Remember Strawberry 'n Cream, Orange 'n Cream, Blueberry 'n Cream, Strawberry 'n Banana? Any more I forgot? Was there a Cherry 'n Banana? The sticks weren't labeled like they used to be.)

Monday was a late night out (school Christmas concert), so the children enjoyed Cereal Straws and a glass of milk.

Tuesday (last) night was the littlest nativity set I have ever seen. My plan was to talk about the different people who make up the nativity. It was a late night (karate) and the boys were having attitudes, so we briefly looked at it and they went to bed. I told them we would try it again tonight.

And tonight's schedule? I haven't decided yet. I still have time ...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Tears


Big tears this morning from one of my boys when he announced his favorite, well-worn, and much-loved Chuck's were too small. It broke my heart. It broke my heart even more when I realized the cost to replace them. We lucked out buying these (and three more pairs in various sizes) at Marshalls a few years back for under $10 a pair. A new pair is between $24.95 (for kids) and $41.95 (mens). Do you believe that "mens" sizes begin at size 3.5? (I'm sorry, but what man wears a size 3.5 shoe? None that I know.) That's a huge price difference.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Calm Before the Storm


Saturday was Jackson's birthday party. Two words. Holy. Cow.

Thank goodness it is over. Thank goodness we survived. Thank goodness is all I can say.

We all know that I have five boys. A few more (four to be exact) shouldn't really make a difference. Or so I thought. My boys can be rowdy at times. They are boys, you know. But this was different. These weren't boys. They were like wild animals being led into captivity. Oh yeah. It was that bad. It started at 2 p.m. They all arrived at 1:50. By 2:41 p.m. I was wishing it was over. In a good way. My mother, who raised eight children, agreed that it was wild and hairy. At times we would look at each other and just shake our heads.

Let's see. The highlights? Besides the "normal" wrestling, running, attacking, jumping on the furniture, screaming, running through the house with food, and lack of manners, we had "choking." Apparently it's a fun thing for boys this age to put their hands around someone's throat and "choke" them. Uh. No thanks. And, the best part? Oh, that would be when the boys flipped over my sofa. Hands down. In an act of desperation, after the crafting (that took all of 15 minutes, I think) and make-you-own mini pizzas, I resorted to allowing them to watch Meet the Robinsons. I was desperate, you know. (They saw my older sons watching it in the family room and wanted to watch it, so I caved.) At some point in the first five minutes of the movie, the sofa was flipped. They all "won" a seat on the floor for the rest of the party.

Now I have two more birthday parties to look forward to this month. Taylor's and Carter's. One down. Two to go ... Oy.

(I should mention that one nephew and two nieces were there and you barely noticed them. They are so well-behaved. I should also add that the boys who attended the party are not bad children. I think they were just excited to be together.)

Friday, November 30, 2007

I Never Want to Forget ...


how my eldest comes in to my room in the quiet of the morning to snuggle in bed with me until my alarm goes off. He gets up early to eat breakfast alone (his preference) and then comes to my room. He slides into my bed and cuddles right up next to me. Most days I'm lucky to get nothing more than a "side" hug from him. But in the morning it's different. And sweet. It's only on school mornings. And I get a kiss from him before he leaves.

This morning was different.

At 12:30 a.m., my bedroom door opened. I was startled and begun, "Shhhhhhhhhh," so he wouldn't wake the smaller kids in the adjacent bedroom. I asked him what he needed. He said he just ate breakfast. You just ate breakfast? ::looking at clock again:: He tried to tell me it was 7:00 a.m. ::looking at clock again:: ::looking towards window (it's still dark):: He said his alarm clock had gone off, saying it was 6:00 a.m. and so he went downstairs and ate breakfast.

I finally convinced him that it was only 12:30, and that he could get in bed with me if he wanted (Joe is out of town).

As I slept, I wondered if he was sleepwalking. Or confused. Or if the power surge earlier in the night had messed with his clock settings. When the "real" morning approached, I asked him if needed breakfast again. He declined, at first. (I was still wondering what actually happened. Did he imagine eating breakfast? Was he dreaming? Did he even look at the clock in the kitchen? Did the neighbors think we were weird?)

When I opened my bedroom door, I heard his alarm clock beeping. He went in to check and it was set to the proper time. When I went into the kitchen, I noticed his cereal bowl in the sink.

While it is still a mystery to me, I will appreciate the extra time I had to cuddle with him. I know that one day soon it will end. Maybe this will be his last year. He starts middle school next fall and he might realize that it's uncool to snuggle with your mom. I hope it's not the case, but I'm prepared for it. I'll just appreciate the moments that I have with him now. And I hope I never forget it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cards


Last year Jackson loved to decorate these little guys. When I found some among Christmas crafting supplies, I showed them to Jack. We liked looking at his creations and he wanted to make more. We decided that it could be one of the crafts for his birthday party on Saturday.

Yesterday I got the idea to make them into cards that the children could decorate, instead of ornaments. After I made a stack of little people cards, I thought about Christmas tree cards. Then I had to make some of those, too. And, before I knew it, it was midnight. As I was packing it up for the night, I thought about stockings. That would be cute, too, but I think I'll just have to stop here. Maybe next year. Or the next birthday party ... in two weeks.

The cards were printed on cardstock (two to a page), cut in half and then folded. The "invitation" envelopes are the perfect size for these cards. And they are readily available in the stationery aisle of Walmart. Now I just to buy some Christmasy buttons and a little more rickrack and ribbon and lots of glue and we'll be all set for the crafting portion of his party.

I finished 18 stockings. Two didn't turn out. I tried a different decorative stitch on one but the two layers of felt didn't feed smoothly through my machine (I probably should have used my walking foot). The other was when my machine started having issues. Either way, 18 is plenty.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Arrow of Light

Last night my eldest, Taylor, received his Webelo and Arrow of Light for Cub Scouts. It's a big deal for cubs. Taylor is now out of cubs and in the 11-year-old scouting program. Maybe that's why he is smiling?
Oh, now that's the Taylor I know. Hating his picture taken. Just like his mama.

Last night I busily worked on getting new patches sewn onto his uniform. Yes, that would mean that my sewing machine is working again. I had the machine unplugged all night and in the morning I wound a new bobbin. Then with all of my hot air, I blew away all (or most) of the felt fuzzies. It worked like a charm. Thanks for all of your suggestions. I appreciate your knowledge and expertise.

And, just another question: Have you ever used invisible thread before? I use it on all the boys cub scout and karate patches. I use regular, color-coordinated thread in the bobbin to match the uniform and the invisible thread for the needle. I am very impressed with it. It's a little bit like thin fishing line. Sometimes it's hard to tell if the needle is still threaded. Cool stuff.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The First of Three



The first of three December birthday parties is upon me. Jackson is having his birthday party on Saturday. We talked about different crafts and foods. We decided that we would do another "decorate a stocking" craft and make-you-own mini pizza.

I cut out the stockings on Saturday night. I started to sew them last night. I bought some craft felt at the store on Saturday for $1.99 a yard. I used white baby rickrack for the hanger, like last year.

I decided to be fancy and use a decorative stitch. I regretted it shortly thereafter as they were taking about five minutes each to stitch. I finished eight. When I started on #9, I had machine problems. My new machine. The bobbin stitching was bunchy. I cleaned the shuttle numerous times. Rethreaded the bobbin and the top thread many times. Nothing seemed to help. I was so sleepy from the night before, but I was persistent and wanted to fix my machine before I went to bed. I didn't fix it. Then I heard more spooky noises. I heard a knock or something and then a voice. I packed it up immediately and went to bed, scared out of my wits and mad that I forced myself to stay up and sew when I should have been sleeping.

I still have several more stockings to sew. If my machine will cooperate. Is there anything else I should try to get rid of the bunchy bobbin threads? I unplugged my machine all night, hoping it is just a glitch and will work perfectly today.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Powdered

This past holiday week went by quickly. The boys had off of school all week and Joe had been home from work since Tuesday. Joe didn't take off for pleasure. He just finished taking a class and had a ton of assignments due by Saturday. I don't think I ever told you, but Joe is a PhD candidate. He was working towards getting his second Masters degree, but decided to look into the PhD program. He applied and was accepted before he even told me about it.

Joe had seven writing assignments and a final exam to finish this week. His final grade in the class? 97%. Wow! On some of his writing assignments he earned 100%. [I think those were the ones I edited and proofed. :-)] I'm so proud of him.

And remember how I was worried about flashing people in my Thanksgiving skirt? Well, I'm happy to report that I did not flash anyone due to running out of fabric. However, I have to sadly report that I think I flashed some people about three times when I was getting in and out of my car and I was sucked into a wind vortex and my skirt flew up to my face. I'm not sure if anyone was looking out the window, so I don't know if my flashing was noticed.

And this. It almost makes me laugh. Look how guilty she looks. Not to mention she is holding the incriminating evidence in her hand.And the pattern in his hair confirms that he was only an innocent bystander. Poor guy. He smelled great, though.

* * * * * * *

I feel like Night of the Living Dead. Sawyer was awake quite a bit last night with a congested nose and moaning. I brought him into bed with us and he laid across my chest and slept peacefully. Until my back started to hurt and I had to get off my back. Then I laid him between us. Then he tossed and turned and thrashed until I finally but him back in his bed.

Poor Joe has to travel today and has a long car trip to make. I feel terrible for him.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

I am thankful that I have another Thanksgiving to spend with my family. I am thankful for six beautiful, healthy children. I am thankful for Joe. He works so I can stay at home with my children. I am thankful for my home. I am thankful for an unseasonably warm and sunny day. I am thankful for my sewing machine. I am thankful for my family and friends. I am thankful for yummy food I am about to partake.

Enjoy. I'll meet you back here on Monday.

(Pilgrim hat cookies information is here. It's an annual treat at our house.)

P.S. Spenser refuses to wear the dress.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Thanksgiving Dress

What started out to be a square-neck smock turned into a dress. Joe thought I should add sleeves. And so I did. And then I added ribbon for ties. And I think it's wrong.

And then I swapped out the zipper for a vintage button and modified it a bit. And it's all gaping and weird now.

And then I made her a matching ponytail holder because, you know, she is three and hates all things in her hair. Including this one. I just wasn't finished torturing myself.

And it all started because of this cute vintage pattern I found while thrifting a year ago.

(She did like the dress before I hemmed it, unlike at Halloween. After hemming, I tried to assess the damage and she wouldn't stop dancing around with it on. Maybe today she will stand still long enough so that I can figure it out.)