Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Favorite Christmas Picture

Little Man's preschool teacher was thoughtful enough to knit slippers for all her students. He was very excited about these, and also all the Star Wars stuff he got for Christmas. We used this picture as a thank you to the teacher with the following message....

"thank you very much for the bunny slippers. They keep my feet nice and warm while I fight the rebel forces"

Sincerely
DarthVader
Aka Little Man

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy 2nd Day of Christmas

The past few days have been too busy to write but now that Christmas is over and grownups are relaxing while kids are busy playing with their toys it's time to catch up.

Christmas Eve we had our traditional dinner - Honey Baked Ham with potatoes au gratin, and green beans with bacon vinaigrette. This year I also got a side of sweet potato casserole from Honey Baked Ham since Little Man liked it so much at Thanksgiving. Dessert is Swedish Apple Pie with vanilla ice cream. It's one of the few days out of the year that we eat in the dining room and bring out the fancy stuff - china, crystal, silver etc.

After dinner the kids changed in to their new Christmas pjs and my husband read Twas the Night Before Christmas and then we sent them all to bed. I prepped the French Toast Casserole for the following morning and while we waited for the kids to fall alseep. It took a while before the kids finally fell asleep and we could put the last of the gifts out, and get to bed ourselves.

Christmas morning my in-laws woke up before the kids. Not because they are super early risers, but because they kids were asleep til 8am!!! They actually didn't get out of bed until my husband and I opened their doors. It took us about 4 hours to open all the gifts (with a brief break for breakfast). The kids were all very happy with their gifts - tons of Lego stuff for everyone, and Star Wars stuff for Little Man. Our daughters both got cameras from Santa and have been having a great time taking pictures and videos of everything. This will be our most documented Christmas ever - thank God for digital cameras or we'd be spending a fortune in film :)


Since we've had hardly any snow this year my father-in-law's one wish was to have a White Christmas. Sure enough it started snowing mid-morning. It was the perfect amount, just enough to make it pretty, but not so much that we had to get out the snow blower. We took the kids out for a while to get some fresh air and have a snow ball fight.

The adults got good stuff too, I gave my husband AppleTV - we're finally joining the 21st century, and he got me a new iPad with keyboard which will back blogging much easier. But my favorite gifts as always were the crafty ones from the kids.

Little Reader painted this in art class. 


Little Hugger made this handprint ornament

Little Man made this handprint wreath.

Midafternoon we had a snack of aebleskiver and glogg, and I used the ham bone from the Honey Baked Ham to make split pea soup for dinner. 

Today I am slowly taking my time getting the house back to relative tidyness.  Dinner tonight is going to be very easy - Sloppy Joes.  I've done enough cooking and baking in the past couple of days I need a break.








Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Shopping

Christmas shopping is tough when you have little kids. You can't buy stuff for them when they are with you as that would ruin the surprise - obviously. You can't buy a lot for other people as they can necessarily be trusted to keep secrets. But as a Mom it can be tough to get away to shop.

Online shopping is a godsend of course, and I did buy quite a bit online this year. Still, I like to browse and find those surprise gifts that the kids didn't know they wanted but end up loving. I hate browsing online.

My daughters are in school full days but Little Man is only at school three mornings a week, and while I manage to pack a lot in to the 2 1/2 hours I'm without him on those days, there is a limit to how far I can go.

So for the past three years, I've picked a random night when I go to Schaumburg and get as much as I can. Anyone from Chicago knows that Schaumburg is the home to our largest mall and every other major retailer you can think of.

Before I go, I call the various stores I need to go to to find out their hours and chart my course based on earliest closing times. I make a list of stores and items I'm looking for, kiss the kids goodbye, grab a Coke to keep me going and head out.

While I usually like to go earlier, this year I had to wait until tonight to go. Usually I go midweek as it's less crowded but even for the Friday before Christmas it wasn't that bad. Long lines in some stores but not the ones I needed.

I made it home just after midnight and while there are a couple of things on my list I'd like to get but couldn't find, I am basically done. If I have time this weekend I may check around for the last few items but the fact is our kids will have a very happy Christmas with what they get - most, but not all the wishes from their lists and a couple of surprises.

Now I am sitting by my tree in a quiet house with a quick glass of wine to counteract my 9pm Coke, before heading off to bed. Tomorrow I need to start wrapping.



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Card Display

One of my favorite parts about Christmas is getting cards from everyone. Even though I am more up to date with friends lives due to Facebook I still enjoy seeing pictures of everyone's kids. We don't send a newsletter but I enjoy most of those too - as long as they are not 8 pt single space chronicling every detail of that family's life that year. Feel free to brag, but let's stick to the highlights please.

For a while I put the cards in a little bin as we received them and even though it was a cute Christmasy bin, the cards were quickly forgotten. So a couple of years ago I bought some red velvet ribbon which I attach to the doorway between our living room and front hallway.If we get a lot of cards I also run one along the top of the doorway connecting the two, but I feel like people aren't sending as many cards as they used to.

I use clothespins to attach the cards but to make it more fun I had the kids paint them in Christmas colors. They were 5 and 3 at the time, and now want to repaint them as they think they can do better now that they are 3 years older, but I won't let them. I kind of like their imperfection.



Monday, December 17, 2012

Pick Two

My parents arrive today which means I spent the last week trying to finish my Christmas shopping, cleaning the house and converting our playroom to a guest room.  In the middle of the craziness a friend posted this on Facebook, and I couldn't agree more.  Right now I had to pick to let my sanity go by the wayside, hopefully once the parents get settled my sanity will return.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Holiday Sing

This past Wednesday Little Man had his school's holiday sing. He was very excited and knew his songs well. Wednesdays are always logistically tough as my daughters have piano lessons after school. So after Little Reader's lesson I dropped her off at Little Man's school to save seats and then headed back to pick Little Hugger up from her lesson. Little Reader was all excited as she felt like a big kid being trusted with a big responsibility.

We got seats almost in the front row so Little Man found us in the audience right when he got on stage and gave us a big smile and a wave. His class sang one song "Wrap It Up" a song about the elves getting the toys ready for the sleigh. I'd never heard it before but it was cute.

After a couple of other classes sang, all the kids came on stage for a finale. Silent Night, Jingle Bells, and We Wish You A Merry Christmas. Everything went well for the first song and then right in the middle of Jingle Bells the boy next to him started crying. Big sobs, so Little Man stopped singing and was staring at the kid, who then tried to push Little Man's face to face front. He kept staring at him for a while and then faced front again. As soon as the song was over the teachers got the boy off stage and brought him back stage.

After the show I asked Little Man what had happened and as I suspected the poor kid had wet himself.

The school had arranged for Santa to come and see the children but since we had already seen him we skipped that part and went out to eat instead.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Lights

Along with the traditions of decorating the tree, baking cookies and doing crafts with my kids, I have always enjoyed seeking out the over the top house.  Here is a video of this years' find.  I was in Target buying lights for our bushes when an employee came up and started talking to me about lights.  This is her house.

Unlike a lot of other houses where the lights are on a timer and you never see the owners, this family comes out and greets everyone and hands out candy canes.

video

In case you're wondering, they have over 18,000 lights and it takes them 17 days to set it all up.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Card Pictures

I love decorating our house for Christmas. We have a lot of decorations collected from various travels over the years, and while they are all Christmas themed they still remind me of the places they are from and the things we did there. I'm always a little sad to put it all away at the end of the season.

My favorite Christmas decorations are not ornaments though, they are our Christmas card pictures. A few years ago I saw this idea (I think in Parents magazine) suggesting that each year you frame the picture you use for your Christmas card and put it out with your Christmas decorations. After Christmas you pack them up with the rest of the decorations. The reason to pack them away is that while I have lots of other framed photos around our house, I hardly ever really look at them. I see them, I know they are there, but I hardly ever take the time to look at them.

We now have a collection of nine pictures of our kids growing up through the years. I love unpacking them every year and seeing how much they've changed. I purposely get a different frame each year to take the pressure off of finding a match the following year (or having a huge stockpile).

Here are a few of my favorites through the years.... 
Little Reader as a baby - she's now 8

Little Reader (4 yo) and Little Hugger (2yo)


All 3

2 years ago




Monday, December 10, 2012

Getting into the Christmas Spirit

Today was a busy but fun day. I don't think we could have crammed more Christmas activities in if we'd tried.

This morning we got the kids all dressed up and went to a Santa brunch at Makray Golf Club in Barrington. It's a public course so the brunch is open to everyone. It's reasonably priced, they have a professional photographer there and let you take your own pictures (the one on the right was the one I took, not quite card worthy but still cute). They email you their picture so you can use it however you want.  The one weird thing though was that when my kids started to tell Santa what they wanted he told them to write him a letter instead.  I guess because they do take their time with the pictures, they don't have time for the actually telling about wishes.

After we were done eating we all changed into warmer clothes and headed out to cut down our Christmas tree for the first time ever.  A friend of mine had recommended Oney's Tree Farm in Woodstock IL so that's where we headed. The weather wasn't that great. It was raining most of the ride there but by the time we arrived it was just misting and eventually stopped.

There is a little store and bakery right by the entrance but we skipped that and headed straight for the trees. You can bring your own saw or borrow one of their's (with a $20 deposit that is returned when you bring back the saw). There is a horse drawn wagon that brings you to the middle of the field and you just wander around among the trees until you find one you like. In the past we've usually gotten Fraser Firs but at this farm (and maybe it's this way at all of them), they are all mixed together which made finding the right tree a little trickier but still fun.  Little Man loved looking at all the little trees, especially the ones smaller than him.

It was extremely muddy after the rain, but the kids had fun with that ;). When we finally found our tree we were a little further and downhill from the wagon stop than the entrance so we walked back. Pretty tricky with a nine foot tree in the mud, but we made it back.

The farm workers shook our tree (to get any critters out). The kids thought that part was hysterical, and they bailed it for us and helped my husband get it onto our car. Note, they only lift it on the car, you are responsible for tying it down.

We stopped in the store to pay and have some cocoa, before heading back home. It took us a little over an hour to get back, but part of that was I didn't want to be barreling down 90 at my usual clip in case the tree did come loose - which it didn't.

We got it into our house really easily since it was bailed, and are letting it settle in a bit before we decorate it. Ok, ok, it settled in pretty quickly since it was so fresh, we were just too tired to do it.

After dinner we decided to keep the Christmas theme going and we all sat down to watch Charlie Brown's Christmas. It's fun to watch Christmas movies with the kids cause my daughters now know them well and often giggle in anticipation of the funny lines, while Little Man is really only appreciating them this year.

Nyhavn in the snow
We all slept very well after a fun but Christmas packed day. The only things missing were the Christmas cookies (I'm catching up on those today) and the fact that we still haven't had any snow. I read in the paper that if we didn't have any measurable snow today - we didn't - it would set a record for longest gap of snowy days for Chicago - 282 I think the number was. It makes it a little harder to get in the Christmas spirit without snow, but thankfully my friends and family in Denmark have been posting some gorgeous snowscapes on Facebook so at least I can enjoy their snow.

The view from my aunt's apartment





Sunday, December 9, 2012

Feeding Therapy Success

As I mentioned in a previous post, my son has officially been discharged from his feeding therapy.  It's amazing to think that this time last year he was still eating only stage 2 baby foods and yobaby - and pretty specific flavors at that.  If you tried to put any regular food on his plate he would scream and cry and refuse to touch it.

While he is still technically a picky eater, he probably eats more variety than his sisters did at his age.  For dinner in the past week he's had chicken, shrimp, italian sausage, and beef.  He loves raw carrots, and has been willing to try pretty much anything we put on his plate.  Last night's cheesy zucchini rice was a surprising hit.

Admittedly his breakfasts and lunches are still very much in the "beige" category of typical toddler fare - pancakes for breakfast, peanut butter or cheese sandwiches for lunch.  I insist that he eats some sort of fruit or veggie with every meal and he often chooses applesauce, but since I get the no sugar added variety, I'm ok with that.

My advice to anyone who has a kid like this who is over 2 years old, has hit all the other usual developmental milestones, and still refuses to eat table food, get some help.  For a while my pediatrician and I pushed it off as something he would grow out of, but honestly it would have taken a long time and possibly affected his future growth if we hadn't gotten some help.  He had a strong gag reflex which created a psychological fear of eating.  My husband insisted this was a first world problem and I was enabling him by giving in to his food requests.  While the first part of that is probably true,  I was never so sure about the second.

When I brought him in for his 2 1/2 year well check the pediatrician recommended trying feeding therapy. Once diagnosed he was prescribed a 8 week feeding group with other kids with similar issues, as well as weekly in home visits with a therapist.  Thankfully, most of the cost of that was covered by the state until he turned 3 - in our case Illinois - I don't know if every state covers it.  We did have to pay a small monthly fee (based on a sliding scale of income).    After he turned 3, the state stopped covering the weekly therapy (we only did one session of the group therapy), but insurance still covered a large portion of the cost.

In the beginning stages the therapists would just have him play with the food, and the more he tolerated the more they encouraged and gently pushed him to go further.

Some weeks he refused to do anything, other weeks he happily did whatever was expected of him. The main thing was the therapist made it fun coming up with silly games to get him to try the food. Finally he started eating - at first tiny nibbles, but over time he would take bigger and bigger bites. Once he was comfortable with the mechanics of chewing it became less about play and we worked on getting him to try more flavors, encouraging mixing things together. For example instead of just eating scrambled eggs, make an omelet using cheese we knew he liked and adding one more ingredient. Once you find something they like, change subtle things about it to encourage trying new things.

After about 9 months of therapy he built up to about 30 different foods that he likes (10 fruits & veggies, 10 proteins and 10 carbs), and he was ready to be discharged. He does still occasionally refuse to try something new, but now it's just typical 3 year old stuff, and I know that if he doesn't eat his dinner, he'll make up for it the next day at breakfast and lunch. I've also told him that the more dinners he tries and likes the sooner he can get a night of the week where he chooses our dinner just like his sisters get.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Moloka'i

My in-laws lived on O'ahu for a number of years so I was lucky enough to travel to Hawaii 4 times and able to visit the main islands on those trips. I never made it to Moloka'i though I was always intrigued by the history.

Anyone who has been to Hawai'i has probably heard that Moloka'i used to be a leper colony and that is the focus of this story. It's historical fiction starting in the late 1800s in Honolulu. It tells the story of Hawai'i through the Kalama family (but mostly the daughter Rachel).

Rachel contracts leprosy at the age of 7 and after a quarantine on O'ahu she is transferred to Moloka'i. On O'ahu she was still able to have her family visit on occasion, moving to Moloka'i makes visits difficult and expensive . Upon arriving on Moloka'i, Rachel sees leprosy patients who are far more advanced in the illness than she is. She is both repelled and scared of them, as she hadn't seen anyone so advanced in the illness before and worries about her own future.

Over time Rachel settles in to the routine of the hospital and befriends some of the nuns working as nurses. She is both fortunate and unfortunate to have a very slow progression of the disease so sees people younger than her pass, but also forms strong bonds with some of the long term residents of the island (healthy and not).

While children are required to stay in the hospital until they are 18, after that they are allowed to leave the hospital as long as they stay on the island. Not long after Rachel is allowed a little more freedom, a young Japanese/Hawaiian arrives on the island. They fall in love but are still exiled from their families and have a hard time feeling that their lives are complete.

I always enjoy well researched historical fiction, and this was one of those books.  While Rachel does have a rough life, this is not a depressing book.  There is humor, and the compassion displayed by many of the characters is heart warming.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas Traditions

I'm posting about my favorite Christmas tradition over at Chicagoland Moms Blog today.  Click on over and check it out.  What is one tradition you enjoyed as a kid that you are contributing for your own kids?


Monday, December 3, 2012

Tortellini Alfredo

Linking up to Mom's Test Meal Mondays - favorite recipes using cheese

First of all, asking me to pick which is my favorite recipe using cheese is like asking me to pick a favorite child.  I love them all for their own reasons.  The best I can do is narrow it down to my favorite app and favorite pasta dish.

Favorite app is the Kraft Cheesy Spinach and Artichoke Dip

My favorite pasta dish is tortellini alfredo, because it super easy, and very filling.

1 lb of tortellini
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup shredded parmesan - the good stuff, not the powdered or preshredded stuff (no offense Kraft but it just doesn't melt as well)
3-4 slices prosciutto, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup frozen peas (thawed)

Make tortellini according to package directions.  Combine cream, butter and parmesan in a pan, warm over medium heat stirring occasionally until well blended. Reduce heat to low. Add the prosciutto and peas, stir some more to combine.  Once pasta is finished drain and add to the pan.  Mix the pasta in until well covered.  Serve with a little more shredded parmesan on top.

One tip: the sauce is smoother if the ingredients are at room temperature before you start. For me that just means, getting the cheese, cream, and butter out at the same time you start the water boiling for the pasta.

Tip:  the cheese melts better and the sauce combines better if the ingredients are at room temperature before cooking.

Makes about 4 servings




Making Up for A Wasted Sunday

Yesterday was a beautiful day in Chicago. 60 degrees, kids were outside playing most of the day.  I had intended to enjoy it too, but had a bit too much fun Saturday night and felt like crap for most of the day.  I did sit outside for a little while watching my kids play, but there was no way I was going to be able to run.

Still since running the Hot Chocolate I've run one time.  Pretty pathetic.  It's pretty obvious I need a goal to keep me disciplined and on track.  I hope my husband gets his schedule for next year soon so I figure out which half marathon I'm doing and start training.

Until then, I need to just start getting in a routine again.  So this morning since it was still pretty warm out (although a bit foggy), I got my butt in gear and went for a run after dropping off the kids.  It wasn't pretty.  I cramped up a little and had to walk a couple of times.  I barely made it the 3 miles I wanted to hit, but.....





Sunday, December 2, 2012

Lights




It may not have felt like December today, but at least it was warm enough for my husband to finish putting the lights up in front of our house.

December in Chicago



Saturday, December 1, 2012

December Goals

I'm not going to go crazy with goals for this month as I want to enjoy the Christmas season.

But there are a few things that I do need to take care of, beyond the usual getting ready for Christmas stuff.

1. Sew curtain for laundry room
2. Work out. I know that as the weather gets colder I won't be motivated to run.  I haven't been in almost 3 weeks and my clothes is starting to feel a little tight. Not good. Luckily our local community center has a daytime membership for $200/year or $16/mth. Pretty good deal. I don't like running on treadmills but I do like the ellipticals and some of the other machines.
3. Start teaching the kids Danish. We're going this summer and while most of my family speaks English well, my cousins' kids don't speak it yet. They'll have more fun if they can communicate on a basic level. It's hard though cause I have yet to find any resources to use as teaching tools, so will just have to make it up as I go. 
4.  Go through my Pinterest Recipes To Try and Desserts and try to make a bunch of new things.  Some I have purposely been saving for this time of year, others I just haven't gotten around to. 

That's really it.  

Kicking off December

As I mentioned yesterday my husband and daughters went to the tree lot to sell trees last night. They left around 630 and figured they'd stay an hour. They ended up coming home after 9pm. They had sold a lot of trees and the kids mostly ran around with their friends and made s'mores. They came home sticky with tree sap and marshmallows and some pine fronds and cones that had fallen off some of the wreaths, and definitely in the Christmas spirit.

After they went to bed I did some Christmas shopping on-line and finished organizing all my pre-Christmas gifts.

The kids were all excited this morning to go down and check their stockings for the first Pre-Christmas gift. As has become the tradition for the first day, they each got a Christmas calendar. I just get a paper one with pictures as my parents usually send the chocolate ones. Those haven't arrived yet but I'm sure the kids won't mind catching up when they do arrive ;)

This morning I hung our wreath, and we are going to our first Christmas party this afternoon - our neighbor's annual open house. Part way through the party I have to take Little Reader to a birthday party. After that my husband and I are going out with some friends and then we have a holiday brunch tomorrow.

A busy weekend but fun.