Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year 2009

Brooke wants to wish you all a healthy and very Happy New Year!


Maddie asked if she could stay up late until "the clock strikes NINE so we can party all night long." Thanks to her teachers who must have told her that 9:00 is when you scream and yell, "Happy New Year!" I suppose they could have been evil and told them it was really midnight.

Cheers to a great 2009! See you next year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas 2008


After putting some cookies out for Santa on Christmas Eve, Madison woke up about 6:00 ready for Christmas to begin. We managed to convince her to watch a little TV in bed with us while we tried to catch a few more Zzzz's. At 7:30, Papa and Susan had called us on the phone letting us know that they had been outside (even though my dad has a key!) waiting in their car for us to get up for over an hour. Maddie ran downstairs while I tried to find the camera and while Zak woke Brooke. Maddie was excited to find some unwrapped gifts:

A few minutes later, Brooke and Zak came down. Brooke was mostly glued to my leg (which is why she's out of the video) or she wanted to be near her Papa:




After all the presents were unwrapped and our bellies were full of breakfast, Maddie's most cherished gift was a pink too small fleece hat and mittens, and feather Disney princess slippers (both purchased on a whim for last minute stocking stuffers by Santa at the grocery store).



Brooke seems most impressed by her new Step 2 Lifestyle Deluxe Kitchen, books, and just having her Papa there to make fish faces with:



On Friday, we went to the Lake House for a few days where we were just happy to spend time together with our little family of four, collecting sticks, throwing rocks into the lake, and building "camping fires" in the fire pit.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008!

Our Christmas card this year was designed by Sara Luke from Life Less Ordinary Designs. She's awesome so go buy a photo card, announcement or invitation from her etsy shop.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Twas the night before Christmas 2008

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house both creatures were stirring enough to scare away all the extended family a mouse.


We tried to wear them out by playing outside at the park



and then we tried to take them for a long long walk.


After one last chance only a smile for Santa will do... with a hope and prayer he will come see you too.


Let's hope they go to sleep, but sleep? Sleep is only for the weak.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Kid Art December 2008

Have you ever visited this website that makes fun of Kid Art? It is hysterical, and every time Maddie or Brooke brings home art work (which is everyday), I think about this website (and it may not be safe for work).
In Maddie's four year birthday letter, I discussed her coloring skills. Here is a sample of her meticulous coloring:

She tends to use just one or two colors per paper. Had she known this was going to be displayed in the Internet, she would have insisted it be perfect. There are several spots where she colors outside of the lines, and don't worry, I will punish her later for this transgression. It is also very appropriate that it is from Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The original version that is on TV is her favorite. The Jim Carrey feature film version scares her and gives her "bad dreams."

Brooke, on the other hand, is at the age where the teacher does all the art work, but they use hands and feet of each child as a stamper as evidenced by this pre-school standard Thanksgiving turkey:

Because we get so much art sent home, I will begin to post it more regularly. I also will got back and postdate some artwork (my favorites I've saved from this year), but will link them in a current post so you don't miss anything. God forbid you missed ANY of my posts...especially the art from my little Picasso's!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Maddie is FOUR!

Dear Maddie,
Happy Birthday! Today you are four years old. You've been waiting for this birthday for a very long time. Now that your concept of time is relatively established, it cannot pass fast enough for Friday, a Holiday, your birthday or most importantly, Christmas!

Just like your mama, we follow the Birthday Rules, which means we've been celebrating for two weeks now. Our celebrations started with your Fourth Birthday Party. You had a grand ole time with all your friends, family, and teachers. Yes, teachers. Three of your pre-school teachers came to your party this year.

Everyone in your pre-school class loves you, and this even includes your teachers. I can see how this may be a problem as you get older because you take advantage of this fact to get your way. Hey, I can't say I blame you, ya gotta use what your mama gave ya! You have a charming personality and everyone wants to be your friend. I worry that sometimes YOU don't want to be everyone's friend, and may turn into one of "those girls" at school who rules the social circles. In order to stop this from happening, you get daily lectures on what it means to be a good friend. Congratulations, you're lucky because I'm good at lecturing!

You are the smallest little thing at just 33 pounds, and your waist is barely able to keep your size 3T pants up. Unfortunately, they're three inches to short because your legs are so long. Skirts and dresses are still a favorite in your wardrobe, and you still refuse to wear anything with a button (including coats with buttons).

Shoes are also a problem. For the past six months, you've lived in your black Crocs. You wore them nearly everyday despite having many other options until someone at school told you they were "boy shoes." That was the end of your Crocs obsession. If it's not pink or girly, it must be for boys. A few days later, I went on a shoe shopping spree without you. (Had I taken you with me, we would have 10 pairs of princess shoes). The problem occurred when we got home and you did not like what I bought or the shoes were too big. The next week, I took you with me to the store. You insisted on pink ballet slippers and pink glittery Cinderella shoes (picture Dorthy's ruby red slippers, but in pink). Once you wore the pink shoes out of the store and once we got home you decided you didn't like them anymore and have refused to wear them again. Then, my head exploded.

You are the queen negotiator and will try to weasel talk your way out of any situation that you don't like. For example, when it's bedtime, you'll say, "Mom, okay, but here's the deal...we either go out for ice cream or make some brownies right now." And, I'll say, "No, it's time for bed." You say, "Okay, then I'll get my shoes on so we can go out for ice cream." " No, BED." "Alright, fine, let's just bake some brownies at home." It's like we're not even in the same conversation. While it is completely annoying that everything is a negotiation, I really appreciate this quality in you and know it'll be a great trait one day. When you're 30 years old negotiating for a salary increase. That's my girl!

So when you're negotiating and you don't get your way, a meltdown will occasionally occur. Sometimes it's strait out defiance. The key to a Happy Maddie is positive reinforcement for desirable behavior (e.g. Great job picking up your toys! Thanks for being a great helper.) If you are ever given negative reinforcement (e.g. Pick up your toys right now or you will not get to play at your friends house) all hell breaks loose as you argue, yell, whine and negotiate your way out of a potential punishment.

Soon after I discovered this method, we immediately put up a 'points chart' to reflect all the GREAT things you did during the day. You earn points for cleaning up the living room, following directions, taking a whine free bath, being nice to us and Brooke, having a good learning day at school, and using your 'big girl' voice. It's all about catching you doing something RIGHT instead of getting on you when you do something undesirable. When you're caught doing something RIGHT you earn a point. Everyday as points accumulate, you get to cash them in for a 'prize' from the 'prize bag' (this is just dollar store junk, but you love it). At the end of the week all the points add up to a special treat (like going to see a movie, having a friend come over, getting some new ballet shoes).

This new method of parenting you caused a drastic change in our quality of life together (and my sanity). Sure, we sill have problem times that we are working on, but we're all much happier. Even Brooke is into the spirit and earns her own points for good little sister behavior.

I just need to figure out a way to award you points for sleeping in to 9 a.m on the weekends. You are in our room every morning at about 6:00 chipper and ready to begin the day. You usually take short nap (30-60 minutes) and go to bed about 8:30 every night.

I used to brag that you would be in bed by 7:30 every night, and I would love see you get back on that schedule. Mainly so I could have some alone time with your dad so we could talk. You don't let us talk because you are CONSTANTLY talking. You're like a never ending motor mouth. Sometimes I ask you to stop talking just so I can think for ten seconds. Not only do you talk a lot, but you talk VERY LOUD so the entire restaurant hears you when we go out to eat. I'm sure they're really happy about hearing your poop stories. I've been told that this is entirely age appropriate but OH MY GOD PLEASE let this phase end soon.

The one thing you don't talk very much about is what you did in school on any given day. I only know from what your teachers tell me, the work that you bring home, and the snippets I can get out of you. I do know that you have mastered all your phonics for every letter and have begun to blend letters using phonics. You are essentially on the verge of reading. Apparently this is a little advanced for your age because your teachers seem to think this is a big deal.

You also get compliments from teachers on how well you color. When I first heard a teacher say, "Maddie colors very well" I asked her to repeat herself. I didn't know a measurement of pre-school success was coloring, and I didn't know that this was a unique skill. You're always in the lines. Sticking to just a color or two. Very detailed work. This is not at all in my DNA that I passed on, so your dad's obsessive compulsive gene must have made it through. I still don't see much of a purpose doing anything neat, orderly, or within the lines.

The relationship you have with Brooke is blossoming into a true sister relationship. In other words, you love each other and can't stand each other in the same sentence. One minute you two are yelling, and the other you are laughing hysterically together. It's charming to see this develop. I try to stay back as much as possible to let you work it out, and only insist that sisters are NOT ALLOWED hurt each other (feelings or physically) on purpose. Ever. Even in retaliation.

Whenever I take Brooke on some errand without you, she asks, "Dee Dee?" and points to your chair every thirty seconds. Even when you're at school, teachers report that you run to each other on the playground to exchange hugs and kisses. One time, when you were not permitted to go hug her on the "baby playground," both of you had screaming crying fits. The teachers haven't denied you of this privilege since then.

You do a great job of making her laugh when she's cranky, singing to her when she is crying, and translating for her when we can't understand what she wants. Like I always say, "sisters are forever and ever" so you better take care of each other forever.

Maddie, here are some pictures of your third year:


Loving on your baby sister in the bath in January 2008

Still sucking your thumb in February 2008 (now that you're four, you've promised that you will stop.)

At the beach in May 2008





At the Lake House in June 2008






Laughing in the corner as you torment your sister in July 2008
Laughing with your dad in August 2008


Riding on your pet deer (as your pet Bear looks on) in September 2008


Monkeying around with Brooke in October 2008





A pirate in November 2008




Leaping for joy in December 2008




Lovin' on your mama at your birthday party in December 2008.

Happy Birthday! Booya, Peace Out, I love you, Gotcha.




Loves,

Mama

Monday, December 15, 2008

The best Christmas card of the year--2008

Every year we are lucky enough to get lots of Christmas cards from our friends and family. I always look forward to photo cards, especially if kids are involved, mostly because I can appreciate how difficult to whole Christmas card process is to complete. It seems simple, yes, but it's not...

In October you need to schedule a photo session, buy Christmas clothes or figure out what you can wear from what's in the closest, and get haircuts. In early November, you get your photos taken and hope that no one is cranky, sick, or uncooperative. If you have a baby, you pay extra attention to their razor sharp fingernails because they will likely scratch their little faces a day before the photo shoot.

So, let's say that you have not done any of this by Thanksgiving....you're too late. Now, you will need to go through your photos from the year, and piece together a card using some online photo card website (like I did this year). After you place your photo card order, make sure you have all your addresses ready to go (labels if you're extra awesome). Oh, and stamps, that's always an unforeseen purchase. I think I spent $100 on stamps this year!

Once your photos arrive in the mail, you'll need to assemble and stamp them all. Preferably without two little ones demanding to "help" or insisting your attention be 100% on them. Maddie got excited and yelled that she found some "new Christmas stickers to play with." I stopped dead in my tracks realizing that there were no new Christmas stickers. I ran down the hallway and found her playing with her "Christmas Stickers" that I call STAMPS!

Maybe it's just me, but no matter how much planning I do, I cannot complete this process in less than 3 weeks. I did all the Christmas card planning again this year. Zak says he just doesn't think about cards and would never send any. Ever. Zak did help with the labels after I nearly threw the printer out the window in frustration. Last week I threatened that I wasn't going to send cards in 2009, Bah Humbug!

I am always particularly impressed when people do something extra than a photo....like a Christmas letter, creative rhyming poem, or the year in review to the tune of "Twelve Days of Christmas." Because that takes forever!

So this all leads me to the point of my post....My favorite Christmas card for the year. (I know it's only December 15, but I cried when I read this letter, so it's the winner).

This year's favorite card is from our friends from Chicago, Jack and Michelle (and their kids, Lily and Jack who are close in age to Maddie and Brooke). Their letter begins with how busy, demanding and crazy life is and how they just want peace, quiet, and order. Then they are reminded that in all the chaos, there are hidden blessings:

"Trying to wake the kids in a good mood, and get them dressed and out the door every morning on time....means we're blessed to have jobs to get to in the morning."

"Not being able to sneak out of the house to to go the store alone anymore means....I am blessed to be able to go shopping with my best girl."

"Being woken up at the crack of dawn means...We are blessed to have a darn good reason to start the day."

[this is where I started to cry as I saw my family in the same light]

"Having little to no time to check things off the ever-growing list of things to do means....we are blessed to have such a great circle of family and friends to enjoy fun times with."

"Falling asleep on the couch before our favorite sitcom of the day is even over means....I am blessed to never know boredom. "

"Refereeing the 'sibling wars" of sharing means...we are blessed to have a family."

"Having a messy house and no time to clean it means....we are blessed to have more important things to do.

Well, it was obviously so touching to me because it hit home. Hard. It's so easy for me to get frustrated with my endless to do list, my messy house, and endless demands for my undivided attention. Jack and Michelle reminded me, just when I needed it the most, that these are things to be THANKFUL for and will pass way to quickly. It won't be long before my Girls will be too busy with their own lives to pay any attention to me!

Thank you, Jack and Michelle. I miss you guys SO MUCH.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Maddie's 4th B-Day party

Madison's actual birthday isn't until December 17, but we always celebrate her birthday a week or two early. Mainly because I still feel terrible that she has a holiday birthday. I make a special effort to distinguish between the two events. In addition, people are always so busy during the holidays, and going to a child's b-day party are the last thing anyone wants to do.

I rented out this place called Dynamoze for 20 of Maddie's friends. Many of Maddie's friends have siblings that are close to Brooke's age, so Brooke had lots of fun with her friends too!



We had been to Dynamoze once before for a party, and I decided it was the perfect place for kids aged 6 months-7 years because there is something for everyone...including the adults like this monster tricycle course (featuring Aunt Terra and her boyfriend, Pio):


I was worried that Maddie would be intimidated by all the attention, but she did a great job of greeting and playing with all her guests.


Ever since her 1st b-day I've insisted on making her cake. This year, however, I did not:
I suppose I didn't need to confess that I didn't make it. I assume you would have figured that one out. She saw this at our local grocery store, and LOVED it. I ordered it with vanilla cake and white frosting, so I decided to make some chocolate cupcakes with strawberry frosting for the chocolate lovers in attendance. I'm so glad I did because had I not, we would have not had enough cake!


She got a ridiculous amount of gifts, and people spent entirely too much money on them. Since Maddie wanted a "princess party" we got a zillion Disney Princess and Princess Barbie type gifts. I was shocked to see how generous people are, and I realized that I must look like a total cheapskate when I buy birthday gifts for kids. People easily spent about $40 per gift! Am I cheep or is that crazy? After she opened them, we hid most gifts to pull out for a rainy day. Thank goodness that she still forgets quickly.







We shot this video of the Happy Birthday song just in case you couldn't make it to celebrate her big day:

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Neil Diamond Christmas

Have I ever told you how much I love Neil Diamond's Christmas Album? Oh, that's right, I've only told you about my other favorite 70's singer.

Anyway, Neil rocks, and I highly encourage you to take a free listen to these songs to inspire your holiday cheer.

Neil Diamond made my all time fav Christmas Album. Here are some highlights of the most rockin' songs.

Santa Claus is Comin to Town

Jingle Bell Rock

White Christmas


And his Little Dummer Boy version just makes me laugh

Zak and I try to out perform each other with our Neil Diamond style impersonations. Zak always wins. It's his favorite party trick, so be sure you ask him for a demonstration the next time you see him.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Lake House Weekend

We spent the Thanksgiving weekend at the Lake House, and we had the pleasure of Aunt Terra for a night. Maddie and Brooke love her so much because she's always willing to participate in any and every shenanigan that they suggest.



When I was a little girl, I absolutely adored my Aunt Diane (I still do!). She is 8 years younger than my mom, so she was instantly more cool and fun to be around. I remember that she would take me to the movies all the time. She would buy my brother and I our own popcorn, drink, and box of candy. This was 300% more than my parents would allow, so needless to say, she was PERFECT!

Even as adults who lived half way across the country from each other, we still maintained a close relationship. I don't see her or talk to her nearly as much as I wish I did. When we do talk, it's like nothing has changed and I just spoke with her the other day.

The fact that Maddie and Brooke love their Aunt Terra so much warms me to the core. I am SO thankful that when we decided to move back to Texas, she decided to do the same. She moved from California to Texas (primarily) to be close to us.

I forgot my camera last weekend, so only had access to my semi-crappy cell phone camera. Terra emailed me these pictures today!


On Saturday night, we (or actually Zak and Maddie) built a fire in our back yard pit. We fully intended to roast marshmallows (and drink some adult beverages), but it was so cold** that we only lasted about 45 minutes. Maddie got her grubby hands on the bag of marshmallows and ate about four of them before I figured out what she was doing. She went crazy and bounced around for about 30 minutes entertaining us. She was singing, dancing, laughing, and talking like a sugar high maniac.

She loved Terra's winter hat, and insisted on trying it on. It looked adorable on her, but was too big and covered her eyes.

And also? If this picture doesn't scream TEXAS! I don't know what does. Maddie's sitting on a fake deer (not a Holiday decoration, but year round concrete "deer yard art" left by the previous owners that we are too weak to move) like it's a horse and fake FISHING with flip flops on in a light jacket.

**Okay, Chicago friends, it was only about 45 degrees and windy. But...look at us! In fleece, PJ pants, Crocs and flipflops! We had no hats, gloves, or regular shoes. Don't hate the playa...hate Chicago weather (and come down for a visit!).

Monday, December 01, 2008

ETSY--my newest obsession

Have you ever heard of Etsy.com? It is the coolest, most addictive website on the planet (or on the Internets). Their tag line is "your place to buy and sell all things handmade." You can find ANYTHING for ANY price on etsy. You can also ask for something and people send you emails wanting to make it for you!

I'm doing lots of Christmas shopping here. First of all, it's not the kind of homemade crap that I would make and call a craft. These are actual talented people. Second, I feel good that I'm supporting local artists. Third, it's totally one of a kind unique gift.

So far, I've purchased:
1. A custom Christmas card design--completed by a graphic artist for $15. I printed 50 of the cards at Shutterfly for free. FREE! I just need to mail them off to you for your enjoyment. The stamps will cost more than the design and cards!

2. Ten handmade hair clips for the girls-- $6.50 and free shipping.

3. A very special Christmas present for Zak that I will write about later. It is custom made from and idea in my head. An artist interpreted my design and will create a special something for him.

4. Leg warmers for the girls--$12 for two pairs...free shipping! I know, you're thinking....Leg Warmers? Huh? Trust me...they are cute!

I'm looking for:
1. clothes (skirts/dresses) for the girls (no buttons!)
2. Texas Tech junk (for obvious reasons)
3. Hand blown glass art (cause I like it)
4. jewelry
5. vintage clothing
6. baby gifts (for some expecting/new moms I know)
7. homemade soap and lip balm
8. purse
9. a new banner design for this boring looking blog

It's kinda turning into an addiction. You should go take a look!