Saturday, December 31, 2016

End of 2016. (Finally) Interview Edition!

What were the best things that happened in 2016?

Zane: In the summer, i really enjoyed doing Adventure Thursdays.
         I enjoyed going to Lansing a lot because it was awesome.
         I liked going to Pittsburgh.

Katrina: We saw baby Amiya.
              Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them came out!
              We got to see movies in the movie theater, like "Secret Lives of Pets," "Fantastic Beasts," and ... i think there was at least one more. Oh! I saw Zootopia with Auntie Beth.

Houston: I got into City High Middle School.
              I went to Papaw and JJ's house for like 3 days.
              Christmas happened.
              Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Juanito:  Building the shelf in the front room.
              Trip to Pittsburgh.
              Going to see Bassnectar.
              The zombie run.

Karen: Babies! Amiya, Karen D's baby, and Eloise and Micah, Jim and Alisha's twins!
           Painting the front room and getting shelves and generally making it brighter and happier.
           Getting a Meijer Gardens membership and getting to visit it lots of times.

What were the worst things that happened in 2016?

Zane: Donald Trump getting elected.
         In the summer when we did the Adventure Thursday when we got all itchy from the stinging nettles.
         The beach disappearing at Bops' house.

Katrina: Alan Rickman died.
             My fish died.
             People died.
             Donald Trump got elected.

Houston: Donald Trump won.
              Everyone died.
              They announced that they're making a Cars 3.

Juanito:  Everything leading up to DJT being elected.

Karen: My Aunt Marilyn died after a really short illness.
           President-Elect Trump.
           So many famous people's deaths - Alan Rickman, David Bowie, George Michael, Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fischer, Prince, Mohamed Ali, Garry Marshall, Florence Henderson, Gene Wilder, John Glenn....

Who were your best friends in 2016?

Zane: Finneus, Justin, and Will.

Katrina: Alex, Phoebe, Emily and Emily, Max, Isabella, Madison, Ella and Lorelei, Paige, and Kim.

Houston: Chauncey, Ethan, and Anthony.

Juanito:  "My beautiful, precious wife Karen," Beth, and Andrew.

Karen: Juanito, Beth, Karen, Keren, Linda and Andrew, Karla, Brooke and Travis

Use three words to describe 2016.

Zane: Deadly, exciting, and weird.

Katrina: Saddest year ever.

Houston: Tiring, long, and the worst.

Juanito: Mind-blowing, eye-opening, and "as long as a year is."

Karen: Long, depressing, over.

What were the best books you read this year?

Zane: 100 Most ____ Things on the Planet series, Harry Potter books 4 and 5 (and 3 and 1), and Calvin and Hobbes.

Katrina: The Cursed Child, How to Speak Dolphin, Heart of a Dolphin, and i re-read Harry Potter 6.

Houston: Huck Finn, Magnus Chase, and Harry Potter 7.

Juanito: Subject To Infinite Change by Andrew Moxon and Stiletto

Karen: The Flavia de Luce series, the Kate Burkholder series, The Martian, Wonder.

What was your single biggest time-waster this year?

Zane: Reading Calvin and Hobbes.

Katrina: Sleeping.

Houston: Doing dot-to-dots.

Juanito: Sleep.

Karen: Netflix.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas! Yay!

We went to church this morning, where we sang lots of awesome Christmas songs, which made me insanely happy. We rarely sing Christmas songs in church anymore, so as we were driving to church this morning, i was all, "I really, really, really hope we sing SOME actual Christmas songs! There are so many good ones!" And we did!

And then the pastor gave a sermon that ... Okay. It was a good sermon. But he was totally talking about how true stories become legends, particularly regarding St. Nicholas and Santa Claus. And there was no nursery today. So i was looking around at all of the many, many families with small children and wondering just how many of them were kind of mad that the pastor was up there telling their kids that Santa isn't real! I mean....

Anyhow! This afternoon we opened presents, and then we played with presents. I bought a couple of games for the family, and i am happy to report that both of them are totally fun. One of them is kind of practice for beer pong, but nevertheless, it's totally enjoyable. Everyone was very happy with their presents, so yay! Success!

 And then tonight we watched "It's a Wonderful Life." It's such a great movie. Even my kids totally love it.

More pictures here, if you're interested.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

December 24

Christmas Eve!

We celebrated Christmas with my family today, over at my sister Jill's house. We had lunch and opened presents and had appetizers and opened more presents and played games and had dessert and played more games and generally had a fun time. There are lots of pictures here.

We got home and the kids got to open their Christmas pajamas, which they all immediately threw on and have sworn to wear all day tomorrow. Yay! I successfully made pajamas that actually fit without needing adjusting this year! Woohoo!

Friday, December 23, 2016

December 23

It's Christmas Adam! Tomorrow is Christmas Eve! One of our traditions is to open presents on Christmas Adam. We would open them on Christmas Eve, but on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day we do Christmas with my family, and then we do our own little family on the other day. So we either open stockings on the same day we open all of the rest of the presents, or we open them on the 23rd. And opening them on a different day than everything else is just more fun.

This year i unintentionally wrapped and put in Katrina's stocking TWO duplicate presents. One was a Harry Potter ring that came in a package of 10, so i just forgot that i'd already wrapped one. And the other was a charm for her charm bracelet that i apparently wrapped and tossed in and then completely forgot that i'd done it, so i spent ages looking all over for the charm before giving up and going to buy the same one again. In my defense, i am an idiot.

Anyhow! Christmas interviews!

What are your 3 favorite Christmas traditions?

Houston: 1. Driving around and looking at Christmas lights.
                2. Advent calendars and activities.
                3. Opening presents with everyone.
Katrina: 1. Secret Santa
              2. Doing Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa.
              3. Opening presents together.
Zane: 1. Advent calendars.
          2. Being with family.
          3. Opening presents.

Best Christmas present ever?

Houston: Either my word code piggy bank or my Tardis blanket.
Katrina: Molly, my American Girl Doll.
Zane: The giant pillow case with zebra print and a Z on it.

Favorite Christmas movie?

Houston: Elf
Katrina: Elf or Arthur Christmas
Zane: Elf or It's a Wonderful Life

Favorite Christmas songs?

Houston: "For Unto Us a Child is Born," "Carol of the Bells," and "Leroy the Redneck Reindeer."
Katrina: "Jingle Bell Rock," "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."
Zane: "Jingle Bell Rock," "Santa Baby," and "Carol of the Bells."

What are you hoping to get?

Houston: A microscope
Katrina: American Girl things
Zane: Legos

Can you name the reindeer?

Houston: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen
Katrina: Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen
Zane: Donner, Blitzen, Rudolph, Victor, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer

Thursday, December 22, 2016

December 22

Today was Houston's last day of school before break and Katrina and Zane's first day of Christmas vacation. Woohoo!

Tonight's activity was to drive around looking at Christmas lights. We drove all over the place, first to the rich area of town and then to a few addresses that Juanito found online. My favorite was the rich area, with just pretty lights and wreaths and trees, but then the addresses Juanito found were all fancy with dancing lights synchronized to music, and the kids all seemed to really like those.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

December 21

Our dog is weird and likes to be all covered in blankets. I always expect her to do the normal dog thing and fling them off, but she's all "Mmmm.... Blankets," and goes to sleep.

Katrina and Zane had a half day today. Katrina's friend was having a birthday party, so Katrina went home with her for the entire day, returning at nighttime. And Zane went to his friend Finn's house from school until City got out, and then i dropped off Chauncey and Rowen and picked up Zane and brought everyone home. So even though they only had school until 11:30, i didn't see them any more than usual. It gave me a bit of extra time to work on finishing stuff. I am kind of ridiculous, because at Christmastime i just make all the things.

The advent activity tonight was "game night," so Houston and Zane and i spent most of the evening playing games. We pulled out Mastermind for the first time in quite a while, and it turns out that Houston totally has the kind of logical mind needed to be really good at solving the pattern. He is, however, terrible at being the person on the other end - the one saying "one right color right place, two right color wrong place" or whatever. He was that person for me a couple of times, and i'd say something out loud like, "Well, green obviously has to go here because it can't go anywhere else..." and he'd go, "OH!" and change one of the previous round's answers. Zane, on the other hand, was not awesome at solving but was very good at being the master.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

December 20

This afternoon, Houston got his first (of probably many, many) stage of his braces put on. He has what is called a "Carriere" on his top teeth, with a hook on his bottom teeth so that he can attach the two with rubber bands. He also has a retainer on his bottom teeth, but it's very nearly impossible to see, because it's thin, clear plastic. I think that the retainer is keep his bottom teeth from getting all crooked while the rubber bands are pulling his bottom teeth forward. 

He was completely happy about getting the braces started - the orthodontist assistant has told me a few times how wonderful he is. For most of the day, he wasn't bothered by the stuff in his mouth at all, but then just before bedtime his teeth started hurting. I'm curious if that's going to be getting worse or not. 

So far, the biggest struggle has been figuring out how to put his rubber bands on. He has to take them out to eat, but then they're really tiny and have to go way back in his mouth, and i'm sure that everyone who's ever had braces has struggled with this exact thing, but neither Juanito nor i have ever had braces, so we're not a lot of help. I mean, we try to help, but we don't know any secret tricks or anything. I'm sure that in a month it'll be second nature. Hopefully.

Our Advent activity tonight was to make glow jars. We basically just took little jars, cut open glow sticks, poured the glowy stuff into the jars, shook them up, and added glitter. It worked surprisingly long as we used yellow or green. The pink didn't work at all. (Katrina was disappointed about that.) All three kids took them to bed to use as nightlights, and they were totally bright enough to do the job. Fun!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

December 17 and 18

Yesterday (Saturday), we went to the library to see sled dogs. We've gone a few times before, but my kids all really enjoy it, so it's one of those things that i tend to put on the Advent calendar every year or two. It's always done by the same guy, and every time he starts talking, i suddenly remember that he's remarkably sexist. He is constantly saying things like, "And that's how you find gold, which is important for all of you ladies who love to have lots of gold!" and "Because, guys, once you're married, your wife makes all of your decisions for you...." I do kind of think that he maybe toned down those types of comments this year, which makes me wonder if someone said something to him.

Anyhow! In the morning, i thought, "Hey! I bet that Brooke's kids would probably enjoy that too...." so i texted her to let her know it was happening, and she and her kids met us there. Zane was chosen as the guy to model the coat and boots and all of the other gear needed for racing sled dogs in freezing temperatures, and he really enjoyed being up on stage and getting to be a tiny bit silly. Afterwards we went outside to meet the dogs. Katrina and Houston both went from dog to dog, petting them and letting them lick their faces and petting them some more until we were the very last people left. Meanwhile, Zane looked at the dogs for a minute and then ran off to play in the snow.

Today, Katrina had her 5K for Heart and Sole. It was so cold, but she was completely positive and cheerful, and she ended up being the only girl from her group who ran the entire 5K - all of the other girls turned around midway through. I'm so proud of her, and so glad that she did the whole thing, because she really has been working hard to run farther and faster, and i'm just really glad that she was successful!

Beth and Keren came to the race to cheer for Katrina too, so while she was running, we all stood around and shivered. Well, all of us except for Zane. Zane spent the entire time playing in the snow. By the end, most of us were all, "I am SO COLD! My fingers are numb!" and Zane was all, "Katrina! When we get home, do you want to play in the snow with me?!" Kids.

This afternoon we hung out with Keren and Beth, ate waffles, and opened Christmas presents with Beth. She gave Houston a horse head mask, and i'm pretty sure we'll never see Houston's actual face again. He wore the mask to church for Anthem, even. And, among other presents, she made me a sloth ornament that is one of the cutest things i've ever seen.

And then tonight we had Fifty6 (and the element and Anthem). There's kind of a lot of times when we leaders all kind of go, "Geez, Kyle. What were you thinking?" (Kyle is the Fifty6 pastor.) But tonight? Tonight beats all of the other nights. We had a "dress a group member up like Frosty" contest. They provided white sweatsuits, buttons, corn cob pipes, hats, and brooms. And also packing peanuts. Millions and millions of packing peanuts to stuff the "snowmen" with. It is astonishing how gigantic of a mess a huge room can become when millions of packing peanuts are given to dozens of fifth and sixth graders. ALSO, if you give those packing peanuts to kids right before you sit them down to listen to a sermon? They will not hear a word you say, because they will be busy breaking the peanuts up into tiny little pieces, throwing them in their neighbors hair or down their shirts, and making piles of tiny pieces to throw into the air like snow. Worst. Idea. Ever.

That is all.

Friday, December 16, 2016

December 14, 15, and 16

Zane discovered Calvin and Hobbes this year, and has been absolutely loving the comic strip. Of course, Bill Watterson has completely forbidden the use of Calvin and Hobbes in any kind of merchandising, so buying stuffed animals or anything else with Calvin and/or Hobbes (besides the books) is impossible. And so i went around that by making a Hobbes myself. He's obviously the real version of Hobbes, not the imaginary one, because i figured that if that's what Calvin had, that's what Zane should have. Here's hoping that Zane likes him.

The past few days were really busy, and ultimately we ended up not doing the Advent activity on Wednesday OR Thursday, which actually ended up working out quite well for today. Today's activity was meant to be going to an outdoor Christmas celebration in a little town nearby, but it was SO cold and we were all ready for a night in, so we just did Wednesday's activity tonight. It was to do Mad Libs, which is always one of the kids' favorite activities (weirdly). We did pizza-movie night and watched "Fred Claus," which is one of my favorite Christmas movies. (I have kind of a lot of favorite Christmas movies.)

On Wednesday, Katrina had her Heart and Sole end-of-season party after school. They'll have their 5K on Sunday, unless it's below zero (which is entirely possible). She's been asking me if we can go shopping for her to buy Christmas presents, so when i picked her up, we went straight to Meijer and walked around looking for things that Houston, Zane, and Juanito would like. We both agreed that Juanito is one of the hardest people in the world to find presents for. He has things that he likes, but they're either things he likes but not the stuff that goes with it (Zumba) or stuff he likes, but it has to be really specific and nobody else understands his qualifications (bits to make speakers). Her: "He likes art....?" Me: "Yes. But i've bought him art supplies in the past, and he just never uses them." Her: "Books?" Me: "Yes. But he only reads them on his phone." Etc.

Yesterday evening i had book club. By yesterday morning, i had read approximately 30 pages of a 330ish page book. It was a combination of being busy with Christmas stuff and being uninterested in the first 30 pages of the book, so i kept picking it up and then putting it down immediately. Needless to say, i spent nearly all of my time reading it right up until book club started. I ended up finishing all but about 10 pages, and i don't think anything vital happened in those last 10 pages, so it was fine. Nobody really liked the book a lot ("Code Name Verity"), but it did end up being a fairly good book for discussion. It's weird how that goes - sometimes the books we love and i think will have great discussion end up being us all just going, "Yup." And then books that are just "meh" end up being the ones with the easiest talking points. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

December 12 and 13

Yesterday all of the kids had a snow day, which thrilled them to no end. Katrina and Zane headed out in the morning to go sledding on Big Butt, and stayed out until they were completely frozen. They watched a movie and read books, and we did our Advent activity: "Do Christmas Crafts."

I left it purposefully vague, because i have found, in previous years, that some of my kids *coughZanecough* don't really enjoy some of the crafts that i pick out, but they DO enjoy doing other things that i wouldn't necessarily choose. And so i gave the kids a few ideas but let them do their own thing. Turns out, Katrina, Houston, and i all wanted to do the same thing: a contact paper/tissue paper/black paper stained glass window nativity scene. They took a while to cut everything out, but the end results are really pretty.

Zane initially decided to make a paper wreath, but after essentially having me do all the things for almost the entire project, he abandoned it and instead made a pop-up Christmas card for Juanito. It's super cute, and he had fun. Yay.

Juanito and i abandoned the kids for a few hours in the afternoon for dinner and to do some Christmas shopping. Our Christmas shopping actually mostly takes the form of "this material, and some thread, and laminating sheets, and yarn." We went to Michael's, JoAnn's, and Hobby Lobby, and while we did buy a few small gifts, nearly everything was stuff to use to make other stuff. About half of the kids' presents this year are homemade, and most of the rest of them come from China. We are apparently terrible Americans.

Today i worked on Christmas presents in the morning and then wrapped all of the finished presents. Years ago i started wrapping presents in cloth so that we could just reuse it year after year - it's cheaper, pretty, and better for the environment. It also takes a LOT longer to wrap presents. Last year i bought pretty Christmas paper and wrapped everything in it, and this year the kids asked me to please go back to cloth. So. Yay for the environment! Boo for extra time wrapping!

And then tonight, Beth and i went downtown to walk around and look at Christmas lights. Our town is all pretty and lit up, and it was fun to wander around and see it all. Of course we chose the coldest night of the year so far to do our wandering, so we were fairly frozen, but it was still fun!

While we were downtown, the kids did the Advent activity of the day: make paper chains. Katrina made one long, long chain and one small one that counts down to Christmas and has one link to be removed each day. Zane made a cute short chain with really fat links. I can imagine him doing it for a short time and then getting bored.

And Houston made little chains for Juanito and me, with a note with a few words on each chain. It's SO sweet and cute and i love it. Mine says, "Dear Mommy, Thank you for being my mom. You are by far the best mother i could have ever asked for. You always support me and forgive me quickly. Even if i did something that you specifically told me not to do and i get hurt, you will help me through the pain. Overall, you are an absolutely amazing person. -Houston Moore." Awwwww! He's such a sweet boy. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

December 11

Despite the roads being terrible today, what with quite a steady fall of snow and absolutely no snow plows to be seen, we had a progressive dinner with my family. We started at our house for appetizers, went to my parents' house for soup and salads, and then finished off at my sister Jackie's house for desserts. There were babies to be held and delicious things to eat and fun people to talk to, so it was all very lovely.

This morning, Katrina and Zane went out to the "forest" by our house to go sledding down a hill that they call "Big Butt." I think it has that name because it's a big hill and they used to slide down it on their butts, but i don't actually know for sure. We skipped church this morning (see: terrible roads), and as soon as they heard that we weren't going to church, the two of them wasted no time throwing on all of their snow gear and heading across the street to Big Butt.

Before everyone showed up here, i suddenly realized that we should probably shovel the walk so that people could get to our house without wading through half a foot of snow. As soon as i said we should shovel, Zane leaped up and said, "I'll do it!" got on the snow gear that he had just removed, and completely shoveled a path from the street to the house. He was all, "I LOVE the snow!"

All of the church events were cancelled tonight because of the snow, which was actually quite nice, because the rest of our weekend has been filled with one thing or another. We read some Christmas books and the kids took showers and everyone got a chance to just relax a little bit. I am a fan of being home and having time to just be still. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

December 10

This morning Travis and Brooke and their kids and Beth all came over to hang out for a little while and to eat lunch. It was so much fun to see Brooke and Travis again! We got to see Brooke a little bit when there were a million people around for the Fantastic Beasts party and movie, but this is our first time seeing Travis since they got back, and it was just really fun to get to sit and talk to them.

Before they came over, Katrina went to her room and set up "stations" for the kids: "Like, a coloring area and an area where they can play with my dolls, and that kind of thing." She put tattoos on the kids and just generally made them love her.

At one point, Zane started wrestling with Travis, and Travis was all, "You should get this kid into jujitsu!" and they were both having a good time. After a couple of minutes of watching them wrestle, i went to the kitchen to say hi to everyone else in there, and then i wandered back to the family room, where Travis had Zane in a headlock and Zane was crying and looking terrified. I quickly said, "He's crying!" and Travis immediately let go, and Zane just kind of quietly freaked out for about 10 minutes. I think he really, truly couldn't breathe, and it just scared him a lot, so then his body over-compensated by making him hyperventilate and still not be able to breathe. I got him a glass of water and helped him concentrate on slowing his breathing, but what finally actually helped was showing him a video of cats being jerks. And once he was calm and could breathe again, he was immediately fine with Travis (who felt really bad), though i noticed that he didn't try wrestling again.

This afternoon, our Advent activity was to go and see a church's Christmas show called "Guardians of Christmas." Going in, i had absolutely no idea what to expect, and i warned the kids that it might be awesome, but it could be terrible too. It was an original show, written by people at the church, and it was surprisingly good. Totally cheesy, but fun and silly and completely entertaining. Katrina didn't like it, but the rest of us did. 

As soon as we got home from the show, Katrina and Zane desperately wanted to go sledding (we just got a few inches of snow for the first time this year), so Juanito took them to the park nearby until it got dark. 

And then we all went to Beth's house to help her decorate her tree and to have hot chocolate and delicious molasses cookies. 

So it was a busy but fun day. Yay!

Friday, December 9, 2016

December 9

It's Friday! Tonight's Advent activity was to sleep downstairs by the Christmas tree. We do this every year (although Houston has decided that it's too uncomfortable, so he heads upstairs sometime around 11:30), and the kids love it. A big part of their enjoyment is the fact that we watch movies late into the night and they get to stay up late, but i think it's also just fun to sleep by the tree.

Tonight we had pizza-movie night, and we watched Elf, which is just one of my very favorite Christmas movies.

Earlier today, Juanito randomly put a big sweatshirt on Emma, and she immediately just became this weirdly calm creature. entirely different Emma. There's a goat that was in the news recently who lives at a shelter and is all anxious and has other mental issues, and one of the workers randomly bought a duck costume and put it on the goat, and suddenly the goat was miraculously calm and happy. This sweatshirt is Emma's duck costume.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

December 8

For literally weeks, Katrina has been looking forward to her band concert - asking everyone if they're coming, playing the songs for anyone who will stand still, and telling me all about what's happening in concert news.

There's a new band director this year. She started off the year with actual rules and discipline and a requirement that the kids practice their instruments. Katrina was initially all, "She's kind of mean..." and i suggested that maybe she was just making sure that they actually learned something in band this year, and she agreed that that would be a good thing. And within about two weeks, she was fully in this director's corner. They were playing songs! That were recognizable! And they were learning new things! And lo, band was FUN! The teacher was NICE!

Katrina practices. A lot - without ever being reminded. She is loving playing the flute this year.

So the concert was tonight. It was a joint concert between the 7th and 8th grade bands, and they played five songs. And i knew all five songs! They were actual songs! (The previous director chose the worst music in the history of ever.) The kids all looked happy and proud of themselves - and they had a right to! They were SO good! Not, perhaps, professionals, but the difference between last year's concert and this year's concert was drastic. Everyone was duly impressed.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

December 7

Today's Advent activity was to make snowflakes, and make snowflakes we did - lots and lots of them. But i failed to take a single picture. Sad me. Making snowflakes is a tradition in our family. I've been doing it every year since before we had kids. It's fun to see the snowflakes change every year - the kids are obviously getting better at it, but even my snowflakes are different from year to year. Some years i think i can make really intricate ones, and then the next year i'm all, "Here's another boring snowflake." It used to be that i could immediately tell which snowflakes i made and which ones were made by the kids, but now i'm not always sure, unless i specifically remember making one.

In addition to the lots of snowflakes, i was busy making lots of Christmas presents. Today i made three pairs of pajama pants and the shirts to go with two of them (though that was simply appliqueing a picture onto a ready-made shirt). I also made, for Katrina's American Girl dolls, a fancy dress, a fancy skirt, two pairs of tights, a hat, and a pair of leggings. Also (not for American Girl dolls) a weird floppy monster thing from felted sweaters, which i am hoping the kids will find endearing and not totally stupid. I think that's all.

Also today, I brought Houston to the orthodontist. He just had to get a mold made (again!) for the device that they're going to install in a week or two. I wasn't sure how long it would take us to get there, and i didn't want to be late...and instead we ended up 20 minutes early. I was all ready to settle in to wait for our appointment time, but the lady immediately told Houston to come on back, and five minutes later we were back on our way home. It was quite lovely.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December 6

All three kids and i had dentist appointments today. (Have i mentioned that i hate the dentist? I hate the dentist. Not my particular dentist - he's fine. Just going to the dentist in general.) I had to pick everyone up early from school, and i meant to give Houston a note for his teacher to let him out, but i forgot until after he was already at school, so i texted him, "Oh no! I forgot to give you a note! Can i just text: 'Dear Miss Spanish Teacher, Please let Houston leave for the dentist'?" He eventually texted back, "Giggle. I'll show her." Except then he had a substitute teacher, so he was all, "She might think it's a plot." And then he didn't text again. Meanwhile, i was texting him, "Do i need to call?" "I'm on my way. Let me know if i need to call!" "HOUSTON!!!!" and "Are you coming?!!?!?!" Shortly after that last one, he ran out of the building and was all, "I forgot, and then i saw your text that said you were on your way, so i ran down three flights of stairs!"

The good news is, there were no cavities, so we don't have to go back for 6 months. Yay!

We ate dinner practically on the run the past two nights, so we finally lit our second Advent candle tonight. Halfway through dinner, Houston randomly stuck his hand over one of the candles and held it there for a couple of seconds, and then was all, "OW! That's hot!" To which the rest of us were all like, "DUH!" And so then Juanito started showing them how to put their finger through a candle flame ("It doesn't even hurt!") and how to put out a lit cigarette with your fingers, and i was all, "Why are you telling them this?!"

So yesterday was Handel's Messiah, which couldn't be moved, obviously. And the day before was the Nutcracker, which couldn't be moved. So even though December 5th is when Sinterklaas is supposed to come, i had the kids put out their shoes tonight for the advent activity, and i'm just not telling them that it's technically the wrong day. I'm pretty sure Sinterklaas will make an exception for our house. :)

Monday, December 5, 2016

December 5

Tonight we went to see Handel's Messiah. It was at a beautiful local church, so the setting was lovely, and it was free, so the price was right. It was put on by GVSU, and was the students and also some staff and professors, and most of it was really, really fantastic. The guy who sang the tenor solos was absolutely wonderful, and the bass and soprano were also very good. (The alto, however, was quite remarkably not good. It was surprising how much i disliked listening to her.)

It was preceded by a brass ensemble playing a couple of songs, and Zane was absolutely enthralled with them. I think that if the entire concert were nothing but the brass ensemble, he would have been completely happy. Once the chorus got up and started singing, though, he completely lost interest fairly quickly, and spent the rest of the concert sitting on the floor, wiggling in his seat, stripping off his outer shirt, and just being the epitome of misery and boredom. Poor guy.

Houston was also not very interested. He spent the first 10 minutes bouncing his legs like crazy until i couldn't handle it anymore and physically held them down, whereupon he grabbed onto my arm and snuggled against it and refused to let go. I eventually had to extricate myself (i kind of hate having my arms held like that), so then he had to make do with just leaning his head against my shoulder.

The boys were on my left side. That was the "Is it over yet?" side.

On my right were Katrina and my mom. My mom was, y'know, an adult. She really enjoys Handel's Messiah (which is why she came!), so she was quite absorbed in the music. Katrina was also very much enjoying it. She was listening and paying attention and was keeping track on her program of which songs she liked and which ones she didn't. (She really liked the songs by the tenor, "For Unto Us a Child is Born," and most of the other songs by the chorus and really didn't like any of the songs by the alto. So...same as me.)

So i think that this is one of those activities that i can chalk up as "this was probably a good one, because it's a cultural experience and one of the kids really liked it, but i wouldn't do a lot of things like this."

Sunday, December 4, 2016

December 4

Today after church, we all ate something as fast as we can and then ran off to the library for a mini-production of "The Nutcracker." It was only about half an hour, and "Godfather Drosselmeyer" paused the ballet between songs to read the story from a book so that the kids would know what was going on, so it was a very different experience than the actual ballet, but it was performed by the same people who do the big production in town. My kids all love the story of the Nutcracker, so seeing even a shortened performance was great.

Zane was at his sleepover until this afternoon, so he missed most of the day's activities. But he DID get to have a sleepover with his best friend, so he wasn't too sad.

After the Nutcracker, Juanito and Katrina went to get Zane and Katrina's friend. And then we all left for church again (except Juanito) for Fifty6 (or the element or Anthem). Fifty6 and the element were combined tonight for "glowstick night," and it was entirely insane and chaotic and loud, and i didn't even remotely understand what was happening for half of the night. But the kids all had fun, so ... yay.

We came home a little before 9:00 to find our neighborhood's power knocked out - presumably by a squirrel trying to get warm in the transformer - so the house was completely dark. I handed out tiny electric tea-light candles to each of the kids, and they all were like, "Really?"

And that was our night.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

December 3

There was an artist market today, and so that was the activity we did for Advent. We spent about an hour wandering around, and afterwards Houston said, "I thought that things were going to be really expensive. I didn't expect them to be really, really ridiculously expensive!" It was quite remarkable how much some of the things were selling for. (Based on those prices, our kids get REALLY expensive homemade presents every year.) Everyone enjoyed seeing all of the things, and i declare it a success. (Though probably not one that we need to put on the calendar next year....)

Zane left for a sleepover at his friend Justin's house this afternoon, and was super excited about it. He'll be gone until tomorrow afternoon, and let me tell you: Life is just quieter when he's gone.

We got our Christmas cards, so i put "Miracle on 34th Street" on while i sat and addressed envelopes. There are fewer and fewer people i have to call or email to ask for their addresses, which is possibly a sign that i'm getting old. My people aren't moving every couple of years anymore. It makes the job a lot easier. Katrina sat next to me and stuffed the envelopes and put return address labels on them for me, and it was lovely to have a helper. Now i just have to try to make sure there's nobody that i've forgotten....

Friday, December 2, 2016

December 2

Several years ago, the kids wanted to do a Secret Santa in our family. They, of course, were little and didn't have the ability to drive and didn't have money, so we decided to do an actions-based Secret Santa. Make your person's bed! Put a cookie with their name on it somewhere! Just do something extra, whatever you wanted. This ultimately failed horribly, partly because Zane was too little and Juanito and Houston kept forgetting. It was disappointing all around. I quietly let the idea die for the next couple of years.

But then last year, Katrina really, really wanted to do Secret Santa, and the boys joined the "We want to do that!" bandwagon, and so i added it to the Advent calendar. We drew names, made a trip to the dollar store with the whole family, gave each person $5, and set them loose. And it was surprisingly successful.

Today's activity was the same Secret Santa thing. We drew names and set off for the dollar store. Everyone went through the line alone, and i don't think anyone saw what anyone else had in their basket. Juanito dropped us off at home and took off for the pizza place for dough balls, i started chopping mushrooms, and the kids headed off to all corners of the house. And two minutes later, Katrina yelled, "Thank you, Secret Santa!" (Me, to myself: "Well, clearly Juanito doesn't have her!") Clearly they are all super-eager, and probably half of the presents will be given by the end of the weekend.

I spent most of the day sewing and making Christmas presents. My sewing machine is being bratty and keeps quitting working, so then i have to stop for the day until Juanito can fix it again. It's making projects take longer than they should, which is not ideal at Christmastime.

We made pizza and watched "A Christmas Carol." We were eventually all piled on the couch together (minus Juanito) (plus Emma), mostly because the kids were all a bit frightened by the movie, but also because cuddling is happy. And thus ended the night.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

December 1

Today is the first day of the advent calendars. Every year we have several, partly because the kids all want to open one thing every day, but mostly because i'm a dork and am willing to make three.

The first one is just one verse of the Christmas story from Luke every day. They memorize it as we go, and we've been doing it for years, so today was easy. "In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world." They all rattled it off like pros.

The second one used to be Christmas jokes, but i can't find any new jokes, so this year i just recycled the old jokes and added a Christmas trivia question. Today's joke: "How do snowmen get to work?" By-icicle. (I never said the jokes were great.)

The third calendar is really the best one. And the most work. It's the activity calendar, where we do something fun each day. Today's activity was getting an online advent calendar. It's a fun interactive one, where you can decorate Christmas trees and explore a Victorian town, and there's something new every day, so hopefully it'll be fun. Everyone's already completely enjoying decorating the trees, so that's a win!

Everything since Nov. 8th

I have a lot of pictures - most from a few specific days - from the past month. These are some (lots) of my favorites: Pictures on Google Albums

So it's been a long time. Just over three weeks. I've meant to blog. I've thought about blogging. But honestly, i just didn't have the heart to do it after the election. But life goes on, and things keep happening, and now it's December and Christmas is coming, and so.

(A quick aside. I am really quite heartbroken about the election. Not because i loved Hillary so much, but because i'm just so incredibly disappointed in people. I realize that people don't like Hillary, and that's fine. And in any other election in my lifetime, i'd say, "I'm bummed that my guy didn't win, but i'm sure the other guy will be able to do the job too." But Trump? He's just so offensive and unqualified. And so many of his followers are far too happy about being given leave to be openly racist and offensive now. And so far, since the election, nothing has lessened my fears. So. There. There's that for posterity.)

Anyhow. Things that we've been doing in November:

  • Family Drawing night. It's always a favorite activity and really something we don't do often enough. Everyone has a special sketch book used specifically for family drawing night - the kids are all nearly finished with their second books (theirs are quite thin books...) - so there are drawings going back several years at the beginning of their books. They all started looking at what they'd drawn 4-5 years ago, and it really is fun to see how much better they are at drawing!
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The movie came out on the 18th, and so we got a big group together and had everyone over for a pre-movie party and then all went to see the movie together. Beth and Juanito and Keren and i made party favors - bookmarks and cookies and origami rats and suitcases (for where the beasts lived) and passports and little tiny beasts. Everyone brought food, and we had cupcakes to sort people into their American Magic school houses. Brooke even got to come, having just returned from New Zealand. Yay!
  • We went to Meijer Gardens for the Tree Lighting. It was a members only event (fun!), and it was quite packed. The tree lighting itself was quite lame, but we got to see all of the trees and decorations at night, which was really pretty and totally worth it. My mom came with us, which was extra fun. It's been several years since we've gotten to all go, and i'm happy we got to see it again! Plus there were carolers and cookies, so it was extra awesome.
  • Thanksgiving! We went to my parents' house for Thanksgiving this year, and we had lots and lots of people to celebrate with us. My aunt and uncle and cousins who we always do Thanksgiving with were there, along with my cousin Cindy and her family and my mom's cousin and her husband. We ended up with two long tables full of people. And i remembered again that i really like my whole extended family.
  • The kids and i decorated the house for Christmas while Juanito was sleeping. He's not actually a fan of the decorating, and we all are, so we figured that there was no reason to wait for Juanito for us to get started. Katrina and Zane woke up early and brought up all of the decorations from the basement. (If i'd known this ahead of time, i'd have been extremely worried about all of the very fragile things they were maybe going to drop and break, but they didn't break anything at all! Woohoo!) We set up the fake tree (but didn't decorate it). We hung up the stockings and the advent calendars and the mistletoe and all of the other decorations that we put on walls. We found places for the snow globes and snowmen and nativity scenes and all of the other stuff that goes on random shelves. And the kids were actually helpful! Like...actually helpful! This is a wonderful new phase!
  • We went to get a real Christmas tree. We met my parents at the same tree farm we've been going to for years. We fully planned to get a "pretty tree," but then we just happened along a really cute wonky-ish tree. The past several years we've looked for wonky trees and haven't found any that were remotely cute, so when we saw this one, we were like, "Huh. We kind of can't pass this up, can we?" Katrina was a little bit devastated - we'd just been looking at pictures that very morning of the year that she thought we were joking about getting a silly tree and then was completely crushed when she realized that we actually were getting a silly tree instead of a pretty one - but she was placated by my mom's kind offer to let her borrow a little fake tree for her own bedroom. Juanito got the tree all set up and the kids put their ornaments in the most ridiculously random pattern ever, and once it was decorated it's really quite adorable.
  • We went to Meijer Gardens again. This time we went with my sister Chellie and her kids. Going with different people always makes it a whole different experience. It was fun to see the trees when it wasn't so completely mobbed. Katrina and Zane had fun getting to show their cousins around. Juanito and Houston came later to meet us so Chellie could take family pictures for our Christmas cards. Yay!
  • Advent started, so we got to light our first candle on Sunday. My goal this year is to actually get all the way to the last candle. Every year we do the first 2-3, and then by the end we're all busy and we just forget. 
  • I got to babysit my friends' kids today. They're between 4-8, and they're all adorable, and i was reminded of just how short kids' attention spans are at this age. And also how much little kids like to touch All! The! Things! They were all very disappointed in me for not having more toys around for them to play with, but my kids weren't home, and i didn't want to offer their toys without their permission. I did teach them "Guess Who," and that continues to be a game that every single kid ever loves to play. We played lots of other games too, but Guess Who was the hands-down favorite. And they spent half of their time here holding the guinea pig and only stopped when i insisted that the poor little thing needed some quiet alone time. (Me: "Y'know how, when you're really tired and you just want to be quiet and alone for a little while?" All of them: "I never want to be quiet! Or alone!")