Monday, November 28, 2011

A White Thanksgiving, Buying Hotels, Hunting for Trees and a Festivus to Remember

This past weekend was a weekend to wonderful!  We started off Wednesday with S working through his day off :(  Yes this is not ideal but having him home working is better than not having him home at all.  It was cozy listening to holiday music while he worked and Z and I set up the tree :)  Thursday brought snow to my mother's so we were blessed with a White Thanksgiving (this was after a White Halloween...I really hope we have a White Christmas!!).  S played in his annual golf tournament with my dad and BIL in the snow while we watched the parade with my mom, sister and my niece and nephew :) 

Dinner was delicious and my very good friend Sey joined us this year, it was so much fun to have her there.  She has always been like a part of our family and fit right in.  She and I got to have a sleepover  that night at my mom's and S took the kids home to put them to bed.  Sey, my sister K and I played HOTELS (favorite childhood board game) while sipping wine. Sey beat the pants off of us and I lost my hotel fortune to her but it was so nice to spend time together and enjoy the quiet.
Friday we went down to S's parents house and went to pick out their Christmas Tree.  My children have never experienced the process of cutting down a tree so this was so much fun for them.  It is the earliest my in-laws have ever had their tree but they wanted to involve the children and my sister and brother in-law.  It was a true family adventure.

Saturday after decorating our tree, we went to my sister's for the annual family Festivus celebration.  The years my brother in-law has to work on Thanksgiving (he is a police officer) she hosts a Festivus.  This celebration is complete with the airing of grievances, feats of strength and next year will hopefully have a pole :)
 Sunday was a quiet day that ended with an early bird date night!  We got the sitter at 4:30, went out to eat, we were home by 7pm, watched a movie and were in bed by 9:30.....AWESOME date night!!!

Here are some more photos of our weekend, I hope you had a special Thanksgiving Weekend!!

Tree Farm

"Is this the one??"
Our Pick!!
The Thankful Turkeys Traveled with us all weekend!
the cutting of the rope....drum roll please....
Time to decorate our tree!

putting on the star
Decorating the tree in his room
A Festivus Table for the Rest of Us!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Making Memories....

The gift of an almost 70 degree November day with an empty park.....PRICELESS!!!

Ended with Apple Cider Donuts at the Farm :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

An Angel Got His Wings

Yesterday S's Grandfather passed away.  Grandpa Lou was an amazing and hardworking man who always put family first.  He was 92 years old, married to his 90 year old wife for the past 71 years, ran his own company and has a big and wonderful Italian family. 

Yesterday when I shared the news with Z, he ran to get out his instrument bucket.  When I asked him what he was doing, he told me he had to ring bells to make sure that Grandpa got his wings.  He rang every bell in this house and since Grandpa was a bell maker, he wanted to make sure to ring the bells that Grandpa had made himself.  It was a sweet moment and I know will all the bell ringing that went on in this house, many angels earned their wings.  
 When I met and fell in love with S, I was shocked to learn that he had all 4 of his grandparents in his life.   I had lost both my grandfathers so it was wonderful to marry into a family where I was given the gift of two more.  Grandpa Lou was a very special person with many talents.  He was a good golfer, a tool maker, a wonderful cook and a prize winning winemaker. He loved his family, would do anything for them and would light up when anyone came to visit.  Grandpa and Z shared a love for bulldozers.

We love you Grandpa, thanks for loving us and for showing us the importance of family.  You are with Kiki now and we hope that you will team up to do lots of heavenly good.  Our candle of love is lit in the window to let you know how much we miss you (and Kiki) and that we are thinking about you!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Countdown to Christmas-Advent of Experiences

 Before we know it December 1st will be here and so for the last few days I have been focused on this year's countdown.  This is what I am planning for this year.

Advent Calendar
The advent calendar that I made last year with my best friend La will come out of the basement and I can't wait to hang it back up.  I am currently working on the experiences that will inhabit each box and can't wait for the anticipation each morning as we open the daily box to see what that day will hold.  We had so much fun last year and I know they will be even more into it this year.  Here is what I am thinking for the advent experiences......

letters to Santa, pick a charity to raise money for doing chores around the house, our toys for tots donation to the police station, build gingerbread house, night out to look for holiday lights,  our annual tradition to see the trains at the liquor store, movie night, special dinner at a friends house, a trip to the movies, breakfast out, holiday crafts, skype and sing holiday carols, Hanukkah night, make dog biscuits for our furry friends, making cookie day with friends, eat dessert first, picnic under the tree, make edible tree decorations for our Night Tree (story by Eve Bunting), write a love letter to someone special, make holiday gift tags, adventure to the science museum, Christmas Eve party

Holiday Story Countdown
 Last year I borrowed the Holiday Story Countdown from BJ Mama and plan to do it again.  It was so nice to cozy up each night, unwrap a book and read it as a family.  We kept our 24 wrapped books (which were numbered and usually corresponded with the Advent experience for that day) in a basket by the tree. I know many are scared of this tradition because of the number of Holiday Books needed.   As a former teacher (and book collector) I have more than 24 so this was easy to do but you could easily check out a bunch from the library :) 

The Elves
Park and Molly our Elf Magic elves will make their debut around the 10th or 12th of December.  They were only here for about 2 weeks last year and this worked out well.  They too worked with our Advent Calendar of Experiences and usually brought treats for the things we needed (candy for the gingerbread houses, a new Christmas movie for movie night, the ingredients for the dog biscuits etc.).  Their shorter visit also made it easier for me in terms of planning their mischief and Z's anticipation for when they might arrive was pretty big :)  He also asked in his letter to Santa if Santa could spare them for the season.

What are you planning for this Holiday Season???

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Simple Christmas

Over the past few years, S and I have worked hard to simplify our Christmas.  Each year the budget gets smaller and each year I try to be even more creative with how I use my allotted funds.   In doing this, I have found the true meaning of Christmas for myself.   

To quote one of my favorite movies, 

"It came without ribbons!... it came without tags!... it came without packages, boxes, or bags!"

Even as a child, the rituals and coming together of family and friends was my favorite part of Christmas.   I loved serving as an acolyte during Christmas Eve service, loved the traditions that my family would follow each year and loved spending 2-3 days with family and friends.  These traditions were so important to me but the gifts were also a big part of the holiday.  Just like every kid, I would lie awake Christmas Eve wondering what would be waiting under the tree....I LOVED presents :)  As I grew up, I took more of an interest in the giving aspect of Christmas but I still LOVED getting presents!  When I became a mom, the presents for me took a backseat and I focused only on showering my baby with presents.  Now that we are forced to be real with our finances and refuse to spend a lot of money on things that we don't need....Christmas has taken a whole new focus.

I am trying to help my children focus less on the gifts as well (tough to do in this society).  They do not watch TV with commercials, all catalogs have been recycled before they have laid eyes on them and with my holiday shopping complete....we will not be going to the Mall or a Toy Store between now and Christmas.  We are trying to focus less on what we will get and focus more on the gifts we will make, the items we will donate and the experiences of the season. Though Z's list is already written but I hope to show him that the season is more about toys (although they are lots of FUN).  This season will be all about Love, Family and Friends, Ritual and of course little baby Jesus.

Friday, November 11, 2011

When Mommy's Sick....

-The Laundry Piles Up
-The dishes don't get done
-The kids watch WAY TOO MUCH TV
-Z misses way to much school (although he was sick too)
-Lil C runs the house and goes into the pantry for snacks whenever she wants
-Toys are scattered through out the house
-There are crumbs EVERYWHERE
-Z takes over the camera and takes A LOT of pictures (the pictures in this post ;)).

and Mommy is too sick to care :)

 I have been sick for a week....I am slowly feeling better but this cold has been AWFUL.  I am so looking forward to feeling better. 
Happy Veterans Day and Birthday to my very good friend Sey :)

more photos from Z:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Our Tree of Thanks

In keeping with our theme of the month, Gratitude, I wanted to do something in addition to our Thankful Turkey to show Z (and hopefully C) how much we have in our lives to be thankful for.  Tsh over at Simple Mom mentioned doing a Tree of Thanks on FB and I loved the idea and decided to create one in our home.  I went outdoors, found a lovely branch from the big snowstorm, placed it in a pot of rocks, worked with Z to make leaves and voila....a new ritual was born.
Each night at dinner we light our Thanksgiving Dinner Candle (we have a special dinner candle this month) and one person has a turn to share one thing they are thankful for.  This thing is written on a leaf and then Z hangs it on the tree.  We keep track of who's turn it is by using photos in a frame :)  Z has fallen in love with this new tradition and his questions about Christmas have slowed down.  He is no longer wishing this month away and enjoying this time of thanks.  It is also kind of fun to go against mother nature and add leaves to a tree as she is busy taking them down.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Little House in the Suburbs....

This year has been an unusual fall.  The second week of October we had temperatures in the 80's and people were water skiing on Columbus Day weekend.  A few weeks later we were hit with a very large snowstorm where local areas got hit with up to 2 feet of snow and this week once again it is warming up and we will be close to 70 degrees!   Throughout this season I have been feeling a lot like a chipmunk preparing for the cold dark winter, even better Ma Ingalls :)  Yes I know that I have so many conveniences that Ma Ingalls (and the Chipmunk for that matter) don't have.  I can run to the supermarket for food, shop online for winter outerwear, turn on the heat with the push of a button and have a much better built home......but despite all this I still have the nesting instinct that the fall brings on.
This fall I have spent many hours canning and dehydrating the beautiful tastes of summer.  I made big vats of homemade tomato and carrot soups to freeze for those cold winter days.  And S and I have been working hard to prepare our home for the cold and critters that are to come.

The pellet stove was a large investment for our family this winter but I am happy to say that we have yet to turn on the heat in our home!  It works very well at heating the entire house, some rooms are much toastier than others (we call them the Island Rooms), and we are so glad that we made this investment.  We were paying about $800 a month in oil during the winter months last year and this year we hope to pay much less.
I have so much respect for the women of yesterday who had to work morning, noon and night to prepare their homes for the harsh winters.  The little I have done has been very hard work and I can't imagine working in the kinds of conditions they had.  I lost a lot of what I had prepared when our generator broke.  I couldn't bring all of the stuff in our freezer so I lost some purees, soups, rolls, muffins and my homemade applesauce.  This was heart breaking for me, all that hard work wasted.  Yet I can go to the store to buy more...those women did not have that option...they were simply amazing.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Making Memories....

Our Thankful Turkeys :)

We are excited and thankful that we have already received a few feathers in the mail :)