"Christmas in Virginia next year!" Little did I realize when my parents made this declaration last year, that everyone would take it so seriously. So five of my seven siblings and my parents made the trek to our house and made it a very fun, exciting Christmas here in VA...with a grand total of fifteen people sleeping and eating here!
The only ones who didn't stay here were my brother Pete, who lives locally and just welcomed a new little baby into their home a few days before Christmas. And my sister, Kristina who lives in CA and is expecting a new little baby any day!
My kids are reveling in all of the aunt/uncle/grandparent attention and staying up way too late in the process. I fear a grumpy, lonely rebellion in a few days after everyone has left!
I, too, have been enjoying the reupholstered dining room chairs, reorganized closets, pleasant conversations, board game challengers, and free babysitting that has accompanied the influx of visitors. I'm sure that my own withdrawal symptoms will be acute when "real life" hits hard very soon!
We can do Christmas in Virginia any time and to all of you that have already left...
Cami's school started this fantastic program called, "Girls on the Run". A group of girls meets twice a week and they train for a 5K. Being a high school cross country and track runner, I am a huge fan. After all who can hate it when your ten year old comes home from school bragging about how she just ran three miles? So here we were at the culmination of their training...The Reindeer Romp. Cami's training paid off well and has given me a shot in the arm that I need to do my own training!
Cami's official time: 32:09 My official time: 33:34 (yes she beat me!)
Gingerbread houses are such a fun part of the holidays for me and the kids too. Despite the extreme craziness of the time of year, I try to set aside one afternoon or evening for the kids to invite friends over to join in on this sweet tradition. Although family starts arriving tomorrow, Ellie's been quite ill, and my list of things to do is endless...here's our dining room table converted to gingerbread house construction zone! There were TWELVE kids here to join in (although Spence's friends only ate the candy and played Nerf gun wars the rest of the time).
Adam and his friend, Garrett with their creations!
Cami and Megan with their elaborate designs that ended up looking a lot like churches.
Emma with her friends, Morgan and Elena. Emma and Elena had some collapsing issues, but it did nothing to diminish the fun and thrill of using sweet treats as construction materials!
Even Ellie wanted to join in on the fun. She was still too weak to do much, as even sitting up at the table seemed strenuous to her. However she still wanted to hold her own house and pose for a picture then pull off the sides and eat them. (Today Ellie finally starting talking, responding, and smiling again...tomorrow we're hoping for walking too.)
Here's my poor baby who has spent yesterday and today lying on the kitchen floor...completely pathetic! Until early this morning she was throwing up instantly after even half teaspoons of Pedialyte. Thankfully she has not vomited today and has been able to keep a little liquid down, so hopefully the worst is over.
In the meantime...we're waiting for our sweet Ellie smiles to return! :(
Part of the fun of the holiday season is all of the concerts we get to attend. Spencer's middle school band concert was Tuesday night where Spence was clarinet player extraordinaire! And tonight was their elementary school's production of the Nutcracker, in which Cami had three parts.
Cami with her three best friends..Mikhaela, Megan, and Ariana wearing Russian, Arabian, and reed flute costumes
It was a fantastic program which was a lot of work for all involved...especially the school's music teachers, art teacher, and a parent volunteer who sewed dozens of costumes herself.
Glen is out of town, so I was on my own in the audience with the other four kids...a challenging enough prospect in and of itself. But to add to the thrill and excitement of the evening Ellie used this opportunity to throw up for the first time this season!
With the increasing insanity level in my life, the amount of time I spend inside stores has dramatically decreased. In fact I've only been into a couple of stores this whole holiday season.
Evidence of this fact and the fact that we've got a house full of people coming for Christmas (so others are sending their packages here as well)...the US Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx have begun to make almost daily stops at our house! It's a rare day when my entry way doesn't have one or more boxes cluttering it up.
My wrapping "machine"--Adam has wrapped dozens of presents for Nate, Kristina, Grandma, and Me Look closely and you can see whether any of these are for you!
In order to avoid the inevitable wrapping crush that will shortly befall us, I've employed Adam as my wrapper in chief (an unpaid position, but one which brings him much joy). He's a great little wrapper and he's saving me loads of time!
If it wasn't bad enough that I like to bake...and then Cami took a strong liking to baking...now Emma's creating culinary masterpieces. I'm afraid these 20 lbs. will never go!
1/2 cup butter 1/2 cup peanut butter 1/2 cup brown sugar 1/3 cup sugar 1 egg 1 tsp. vanilla 1 cup flour 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 3/4 cup tiny marshmallows 2/3 cup peanuts 1/2 cup mini M & M's
Mix butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, and sugar. Then add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Then add the flour and beat just until mixed.
Spread out dough into a circle shape on large cookie sheet and bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown.
Shortly after removing from oven sprinkle the center of circle with chocolate chips. Let stand 1-2 minutes or until softened. Then carefully spread the melted pieces over the circle. Then sprinkle with marshmallow, peanuts, and M & M's...or anything else that strikes your fancy.
Put cookie sheet back in oven and bake for five minutes more or until marshmallows are golden brown.
As the mother of 2 boys and 3 girls I've come to see first hand the gender differences that kids are born with.
When Spencer was only 6 months old he could throw a ball across the room...no problem and boy did he have a knack for making the simplest objects into weapons. He could shoot a plastic golf club across the room by pulling back on a plastic hanger and using it as a very effective bow. One time Adam came home from a friend's house telling me that he'd played with dolls while he was there...ohhh how sweet, right? Then he went on to explain that they were using them as sort of a target practice by throwing them at the wall. Okay I guess I am not as impressed, but it certainly made more sense! Of course I think my boys are also very sweet and sensitive, but it comes right down to it they love dinosaurs, cars, weapons, and all the other stereotypical boy paraphernalia.
Adam and his friend playing with dirt, rocks, and sticks
Our little girls have been as girly as our boys have been boy-y (sorry I know that's not a word)! They've all loved dolls and dress-ups and sparkly things...but out of all my girls I daresay Ellie takes the cake on girliness! Not only does she have a strong passion for her dolls, spending HOURS each day dressing and undressing them (Barbies, Polly Pockets, American Girls, Build-A-Bears...she doesn't care, she loves them all), but she even will turn her fingers into dolls when there are no real ones around (a very rare occurrence). Her pinky is the sister finger, then the brother finger, then the Mom finger, Dad finger, and her thumb is the bad guy finger...and she's consistent about which is which! She also completely refuses to eat from any dish that is not pink, calling them her "girl bowl" or "girl cup". Of course this obsession with pink also means that she considers all non-pink clothing "boy clothes". So just to ensure that no one ever question her girliness... her pink, flowery tutu rounds out just about every outfit.
With Glen's late work hours we have completely stopped watching the news. As a result this early snowstorm totally took us by surprise! The kids are SOOO excited and will definitely be taking advantage of all 1.5 inches of it with sledding, snowballs, and tiny snowmen speckled with dirt and grass!
The Minnesotan in me is laughing that it seems like such a big deal to get a little snow in early December...but after 16 years away from the frozen tundra I guess I've become a little wimpier!
So what do you do when your 12-year-old won't eat his vegetables and keeps trying to sneak bags of chips? You lock him into a high chair of course. Works every time! °Ü°
Just in case some of you are reading this and don't know about Crain sarcasm yet...it's a joke. Spencer put himself willingly into the high chair to tease Ellie and gave me the dirty look because I got the camera out!
As a Thanksgiving tradition, on Friday we took the kids to the movie theater (a rare treat) and saw, "Enchanted".
I often enjoy kid's movies, which is probably because I'm more of a kid at heart, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed "Enchanted". It left me feeling, well, ummm, enchanted, for a lack of a better word. The movie was definitely aptly named!
Everything about it...from the story line, to the characters, to the music, was delightful. My whole life I've always loved happy endings, romantic comedies, and musicals and this fun show combined all of these elements into one delightful package.
It's definitely one that will be added to our DVD collection in a few months, which in our book is the hallmark of a really good movie...one that we'll watch again and again!
Every year for Emma's birthday, I find that the timing of it makes it challenging for me to put together a birthday party...so this year we decided to forgo the big party with friends and do a day out on the town! So, on Saturday (I have NO idea how to fix or turn off the incorrect date stamp on our camera), Emma, Mika, and I went to Benihana's in Georgetown. We had so much fun watching as they cooked our food right on our table and tapped their knives like drums and entertained us. Emma did awesome with her chopsticks---even eating her rice!
Then, we had to drop off Mika, so we picked up Adam to head to the mall to finish our night on the town! We had smoothies and....
Adam holding "Michael" and "Daniel" and Emma holding "Amanda" and "Sophie"
off to Build-a-bear. Our very first time, but surely not our last! They had SOOOO much fun choosing their new stuffed friends, helping the workers to fill them with stuffing, putting in a heart, sewing them up, and choosing their clothes.
I'll take this kind of birthday party any day over sending invitations, taking rsvps, making lots of food, and entertaining 10 children for two hours!
My sister, Kristina, is only 2 1/2 years younger than me, so growing up we occasionally had a few little cat fights, mostly revolving around her wearing my clothes...however now that we're all grown up (sort of), Kristina, like all my siblings, has become a best friend.
Kristina is an awesome mom who is not afraid to get down and play with her sweet Andrew. And not afraid to go through another 9 months of heck to have another one in a few weeks!
Kristina is the queen, or maybe I should say "King" of thoughtful surprises and finding the best deals...whether it be at Kohls, on an airline ticket, or car rental, or the latest hot toy that's impossible to find (thanks K), somehow she always finds the bargain of the day.
Back row: Nate (4), cousin Aaron, Kristina (2 1/2) Front row: Me (5) holding Peter(baby), cousin Ashley holding another unknown cousin
Being the big sister that I am, I have to put in a little embarrassment into her birthday blog post.
Kristina used to be deathly afraid of dogs, hence the dramatic screaming in the above picture when a dog walked nearby. I actually vividly remember this picture being taken, because it was so traumatic and confusing for me when everyone else started screaming ! Thankfully, she has outgrown her dog and screaming issues quite nicely!
Over the last couple of years Emma has developed a strong interest in the time of the Revolutionary War. Her book choices each night usually alternate between "When Washington Crossed the Delaware", "The Child's Biography of Patrick Henry", "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere", and "Oh Say Can You See: A Story of our National Anthem". Even her favorite American Girl doll is Felicity...a red head from that time period.
She is well-versed with Revolutionary War terminology, such as Redcoats, Tories, Patriots, Loyalists, etc. and can easily recite the first stanza of the "Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Last year she literally begged for weeks in advance for me to take her to Mount Vernon on President's Day, so she could see where her hero, George Washington actually lived!
It's been very amusing and heart warming as this interest has literally become a passion of hers...the first one of my children to develop such an abiding, long-lasting love for any topic, yet alone one of such good educational value. In fact, it's also been very enlightening for me as her interest continues, as I continue to learn things I'm sure I've never heard before.
So, with all that I shouldn't have been too surprised when her somewhat dramatic friend, Elena came over to play, that it wouldn't be too long before a performance of some kind of ensued. I had to smile when they came out of Emma's room wearing colonial clothes and enthusiastically singing the National Anthem.
A couple of weeks ago, my brother Matt called me and told me of a grandiose surprise he was playing on Karey, his wife. He was taking advantage of the Veteran's day long weekend (some people actually get that off apparently) and surprising her with a trip back home to Pennsylvania.
He informed me that there would not be time to come down and visit, but that we could try to meet him half way on their way to the BWI airport. I agreed, but then quickly realized I was completely in over my head that Monday (see previous post as to the reason for my crazy state) and there was NO way on earth I was going to be able to drive an hour and a half to meet him at the battlefield.
So in complete Matt-like fashion...he drives way out of his way and shows up on our doorstep, to spend 30 minutes with us before needing to leave for the airport.
It was a whirlwind 30 minutes with the kids going crazy and jumping all over the two of them. Matt found 2 sacks of potatoes within a minute of walking in the door!
Emma completely enjoying her Uncle Matt time--full of energy and loads of giggling!
Ellie and Adam sharing a quick snuggle with Karey. Ellie wouldn't leave Karey's side the entire time she was here. Apparently she was getting a little bored with her Mom and needed a fresh face to talk, snuggle, and giggle with.
More of Uncle Matt's crazy antics...giant jumps to the ceiling!
This picture just about perfectly sums up the mood in our house during their quick visit.
Thanks for making us feel so loved Matt and Karey!
Six months ago, before our cool new computer and high speed internet entered my life the term "digi-scrapping" was foreign to me. Since then, I've been introduced into a whole new world of mess-free scrapbooking! And I'm completely addicted.
So being the slightly over-zealous person that I am, it wasn't enough to just start digi-scrapping for my family.
No I needed a challenge...and a deadline.
Since it was my turn to teach preschool this week, and I had "Families" as my topic, I got this great idea of how cool it would be for all the kids to be able to truly see what their family history looks like first hand.
So my totally insane idea was born and now after hours of collecting photos from everyone, scanning like crazy, and days and days of really getting to know my Adobe Photoshop Elements--here is a glimpse at one of the EIGHT finished projects!
Eight years ago we were just getting ready to move from our home in Baltimore, down to the DC area. We had loved our time in Baltimore, but we were excited to take a step forward in our lives and move on to somewhere where we could settle down a little.
Due to the fact that our ward there was quite spread out (45 minutes tip to tip) and the primary was very small, Spencer and Cami had not had very many opportunities to interact with other kids from the ward very often. Imagine our delight when we moved to our DC area ward when Spencer was 4 and found that his Primary class had 12 kids in it and no one lived more than 10 minutes away. What a fun development this was for our family!
Yes we were WAY skinnier back then!
At that point Spencer had never been to preschool before as we were WAY too poor to pay to send him to a private preschool. So in another life-changing development for our family, someone in our ward invited Spencer to participate in a Joy School group.
Wow what a cool concept! Although I had never heard of such a thing up to that point in my life...I fell in love with everything about it! Spencer loved it! I loved it! And we have never turned back! I grew dissatisfied with the Joy School curriculum and system after a couple of years, but we made some changes and went on. And now it's been 8 straight years without break of participating with one (or more) of my kids in a co-op preschool!
Adam's preschool (plus one) wearing the shirts they tie-dyed and painted with a fish while they were learning about oceans!
The kids get the fun and independence of going off to preschool, but instead of being taught by overworked teachers in a big classroom, they're taught by loving, talented mothers of other preschool kids. It's come far past the point of financial restraints being the driving force and it's evolved into a passion...so much so that this year I even designed a curriculum for Adam's Pre-K group to help prepare them for all-day kindergarten which awaits them next year. Although it is sometimes stressful, especially when it's my turn to teach, I seriously couldn't imagine it any other way!
I guess I shouldn't have been too shocked when I walked into the kitchen and found Ellie had just marked a giant X onto the linoleum in PERMANENT green marker! After all, each one of my kids has gone through a phase using the world as its easel...thankfully most of them have had the lucky fortune of using something other than a Sharpie for their masterpieces.
X marks the spot that will remain until we replace our kitchen flooring someday!
However...this was a lot more unexpected!
Of course I thought Cami had outgrown this phase like 8 years ago, but apparently she had a short relapse into her toddlerhood after I informed her that she could no longer wear these jeans in public due to the large hole in one of the knees. So being the creative soul that she is--she made them into her fun jeans by creating a matching hole in the other knee and "decorating" them ankle to waist band!
No I'm not having twins (or even one)-- Kristina! After a lot of begging and convincing their mom...the kids are delighted to announce that we've officially become a pet family!
Meet Fui--the gerbil (pronounced "phooey")
And Lucy--the other gerbil
The maze Spencer and Glen created for a science project (the final impetus for getting out the door and actually acquiring the gerbils)!
And in a sick twist of irony...on the day that we purposely brought 2 rodents into our home we caught (yes caught!) our first wild rodent that had made its way in our patio door. It was almost as cute as Fui and Lucy, but this little rodent did not receive the same welcome response! After a quick trip to the woods we were back to only two again!
On an interesting note, while at our trip to the National Zoo today we learned that of 5000 species of mammals in the world, over 2000 of them are rodents! Ack!
Cami kept having these great ideas for what she wanted to be for Halloween, but when it came right down to it she just couldn't decide which one was the best. So rather than being boring and committing to only one, she decided to wear a different costume to each Halloween event.
Costume #1--"Halloween Girl" worn for Activity Day party
Costume #2--"BYU girl" worn for ward Halloween party
Costume #3--"Colonial girl" worn for trick or treating
Seven years ago today I was giving birth to our very prompt little girl--right on her due date! We continue to delight in her red hair and happy personality that coordinate so well with her fun birthday.
Having a birthday on Halloween has become part of how she identifies herself. She loves that her birthday is so easy to remember and that everyone seems to have so much fun on her special day! From a mother's perspective, I have to admit that it's always a very hectic day anyway and throwing in birthday excitement is always an adventure!
So as per our tradition, Daddy got up extra early to make crepes for her special birthday breakfast. Since Halloween afternoons and evenings tend to be a little over-scheduled she also gets to open most of her presents at breakfast!
Then it was off to school for the big 1st grade Halloween party where I got to help 80 kids make some cool 3-D spiders.
Then it was back home for Ellie's nap, then back to school AGAIN for her individual class gathering out on the playground, where they had pumpkin relay races and lots of healthy snacks.
And last, but not least...trick or treating!
Despite the craziness, it was a very fun day for all!
Happy 7th birthday to our sweet little M & M and Happy Halloween to all of you!
Welcome to our family blog where you can find the latest on our family and read all about Spencer's battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (subtype M5). He was diagnosed in January 2012 and was released from the hospital after successfully defeating it on May 31, 2012. Every day he is in remission is a gift to us.
In amongst the leukemia updates you'll find a random conglomeration of humorous, boring, goofy, and inspiring tales (with photos of course) from the adventure of our life with five kids. An adventure that we're taking ...a day at a time.