Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Variety is the Spice of Life

There are lots of pictures that I've wanted to blog about but have never gotten to post. In the interest of efficiency (and to make sure that I don't forget altogether or remember a year from now), I'm going to put them all in this post! A quick last quarter of the year in review.

These are just some of the goofy things that went on in our house that made the last few months of 2008 lots of fun!

And she's off! These are "skis" that Gracie fashioned (with a little of Daddy's help). It's a two-for-one; she has Swiffer cloths on the bottom of those skis!

Many thanks to our neighbor, Terry, who put up a really nice new mailbox stand for us (the other one had quite a tilt!). Mike took the girls out to watch the final installation and Terry let them bury some pennies. Check out those outfits on the girls - obviously, I didn't get a look at them before they headed outside (hats & flip-flops? and the hat was pretty much on backwards & not cuffed - good look!)

Look - it's Halloween - no wait, it must be Sesame Street Dress-up Day (November 17th). I suppose I am partially responsible for this one - I got the costumes out for them when they asked. I don't really know why they were dressing up, but they wore the costumes around for quite a while that day (longer than on any Halloween).

Schwind Outdoor Cafe
Things were a little chilly this day, but the girls were sure they wanted to eat outside. Halfway through the meal they wanted gloves, but I explained that it might make eating a little difficult. I think they made it through most of the meal and compromised by having desert inside.

Coloring Night at the Schwind House
A rare chance for us all to do something together. Of course, it only lasted about 2 minutes. Then I had to get up and chase down John Michael. He wasn't really into the whole "coloring" thing, more of the "chewing" thing.

Here's little "boo-bear." She loves her bath time. This night she was having a grand time with her bath dolls. She loves telling stories about her dolls (any kind - not just the bath ones).

Two passions combined - "performing" & scrapbooking. This was scrapbooking night - everyone was supposed to come & share their scrapbook. I love the fact that she got the microphone from the piano and is using it, unplugged. Gotta use those props!

Check out the next 4 photos - all four were taken in December.
Can you say Seasonally Challenged?

And what is up with the chicken hat & mask you ask? Mimi bought that for the girls from Ikea. They have a dog mask also, which isn't nearly as funny looking. They are really into wearing the chicken hat & mask lately. Somehow it has ended up in the van - I can only imagine what the other people on the highway are thinking!

Kind of still looking seasonally challenged her, but this is actually what happens when you don't really pay attention to the older ones because you are too busy trying to get the baby to sleep.
Quite the look - PJs (on Clara) with a poncho, mary janes minus the socks on the feet and garden gloves of course, to keep your hands warm. Gracie is looking oh so sporty in last year's blue outfit combined with this year's boots and of course, garden gloves (it was a little chilly that day!)

And last, but not least, what happens when Dada says "Stick out your tongue!"
I bet next year, we'll be 3 for 3 on that one.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Preparations for Christmas

Yes, yes, I know it is the day *after* Christmas and I am putting up a post about getting ready for Christmas. But we were so busy getting ready, that I didn't have time to write. Also, Mike is home for a few days & I don't have to wait until nighttime to write this! So, here we go.

We finally got the tree up a few weeks after Thanksgiving. In fact, we waited so long that we hadn't decorated it when Uncle Scott came to visit. He was heading up to Amarillo for his Christmas break. We got the tree decorated & also managed to go out one night to look at Christmas lights. We stopped and got ice cream (and I do use that term loosely!) at Dairy Queen before we started driving around. The plan was to let the girls eat the ice cream in the van while looking at lights, hoping that would keep them entertained a little longer than normal. We had only looked at a few lights when Clara was done - "I want to go home - I'm sleepy - no more lights!" I guess she hadn't had a nap that day, because we hadn't really been driving around that long! I tried to convince her she could rest in her car seat, but she didn't really like that plan. And she must really have been tired because when we got home I saw that she had only eaten a few bites of her ice cream.

Our tiniest bear in his Christmas jammies, "helping"
& enjoying time with Uncle Scott

Next, we moved onto Mike's big event of the season - the Making of the Gingerbread (okay, the eating, too!). This had to get done because some of the cookies get shipped to family & friends.

Gracie & Clara worked dilligently on decorating the cookies
after Mike & I had a late night frosting marathon!

Next up were the Christmas cookies. I wanted to wait as long as possible for these, so we would still have some on Christmas Day! I like to make the cookies we had growing up - Christmas Trees & Camels. They are both spritz cookies that you make with a cookie press. I remember every year we wondered if the dough would be the right consistency to work in the cookie press. The press I use belonged to my Grandmother Toth (I think - Mom will have to correct me if I am wrong). Clara & I were in charge of making the Christmas Trees this year. They turned out just right - no problems coming out of the cookie press - and light and buttery and almond-tasting!

Clara was really intent on being in charge of the mixer this time & while that made me a little nervous (some of you know why ...), she did a really good job. She liked to lock it down & then turn it on slowly and then click it up to a higher speed.

Next up were the camels & Gracie was my helper for that round. They also turned out great (better knock on wood for next year!) - I like to take them out of the oven before they get too crispy - soft & chocolately, yum!

We were almost ready for Christmas now. Just unload the numerous boxes that kept arriving everyday (thank you family & friends) and keep wrapping, wrapping, wrapping. Mike & I did a lot of ordering online this year and he commented that the delivery people must wonder if we know that you can go out to the store & shop. One day we had six packages arrive by 3 different carriers - FedEx Ground, UPS & USPS. At least they've learned to just drop the packages over the fence & leave them (no waiting on me to straggle out & actually sign for them).

JM loved all the ribbon and colorful packages under the tree!

Thanks to Aunt C for JM's cute Christmas bib!

Finally, it was Christmas Eve. The girls were pretty excited. Mike had taken them out to the park to check on our "treasure box" (geocache), play and then do some shopping. This was in hopes that they would go to bed early. It worked pretty well for Clara, she fell asleep easily at 7pm, but we had a few moments before bedtime (see below). Gracie was too excited to go right to sleep, but after a few visits out to us to tell us how she couldn't sleep, she finally settled down and was asleep by 9pm. Not too bad!

Blowing out the last Advent candle - how sweet, right?

"It was *my* turn, Clara!"


'Twas the Night Before Christmas by the tree

Cookies, milk, pictures and gifts for Santa

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Gracie's School Christmas Program

I meant to post about this about a week and a half ago (right after it happened), and I realized when I was looking back at pictures tonight that I had never posted any.

They did a nice little program. They all had a line to speak and did a summary of the nativity that was based on the Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? book. Gracie was Mary & did a great job with her line. Unfortunately, Mom did not do such a great job remembering to capture that on video, so you get a some pictures instead! I did get some of the singing on video, so there is also a snippet of the last song they sang (I lost track of how many they sang, but the last few were sung with the pre-k 3 class, so they are the ones standing in the front in this video).

There's the sweet Mary in blue!

That "I'm concentrating on singing" look

A proud sister, who liked the program, but was glad to be moving on to the party!

Gracie Bear listening intently to Mrs. Brannon for instructions about the gift exchange (they listened to a story & passed the presents to the right (very confusing for 4 & 5-year olds!) every time they heard "Santa")

Finally, I know this is what she would sing for each of you if she had the chance!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Whistle Stop Park - A Christmas Tradition

We took advantage of the nice warm weather we were having and headed down to Cleburne to see one of the neatest displays of Christmas lights I've seen. The city park is decorated with lots of different free-standing light displays and it's been really fun to take the kids there the last couple of years.

This year Gracie & Clara were patient enough to stand next to the van for a few minutes (while we were finishing bundling up JM, getting the camera, etc), but as soon as Mike told them they could go ahead, they took off at full speed! Too bad we didn't get a video of that part...

Anyhow, I enjoyed being able to carry John Michael in my arms instead of my belly. I remember last year I thought this was the most tiring thing ever, & I thought the park was very big. This year I was able to run some and almost keep up with the girls. What a change in a year!

If you live around here and are looking for something fun & free to do, this is it!

Okay - so we did get the running one after all - it was just after they had been there a while!

Poor John M
ichael! Nothing like too much lovin'

Don't Turn Your Back - even for a minute ...

Well, I knew it was bound to happen. I "lost" John Michael on Thursday morning.

We have a corner kitchen cabinet that we keep some toys in for him. I decided to open the cabinet, pull a few things out and leave the doors open as well since he had been playing with the door the day before. So I got all of that out and then went to do something at the other end of the kitchen (probably fetching something like more food, or a snack for another child).

After a minute or two, I realized I had better check on JM (he's pretty fast these days). I glanced down to that end of the kitchen, expecting him to be sitting chewing on a Little People figure or maybe heading off to explore under the kitchen table. But he wasn't in sight. Oh, I thought, he's already made it to the living room. I walked a few steps further, no John Michael in sight. That's when the "I've lost him" mini-panic set in. But as I turned around to make sure I hadn't missed him in the kitchen, I discovered where that monkey was.

A picture is worth a thousand words!!

Isn't he the happy camper?
The girls thought it was great fun, too!

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Follow-Up : He pulls himself to standing!

So - we got out all the Christmas decorations (last week, finally) and got the tree decorated, etc. It's nice to have everything all decorated, but it is also a big baby hazard! Since the girls were 3-4 months old for their first Christmas, I haven't had this experience of the baby getting into all of the holiday decorations. We did pare down on what we put out ((a little, Mike would probably say - I got the polite, "you know, we don't have to put it all out") , but of course there is still plenty for an inquisitive little boy.

One of our "decorations" is an empty popcorn tin that we got several years ago. It's a medium size can, and apparently just the right height for John Michael. Check out the video below.

Today it occurred to me (I'm still clearly in the Mommy-thinking-oh-so-slow mode) that we should get down the toy that's actually made to help little ones learn to stand out. Of course, I remembered it when we were all playing in John Michael's room. Gracie was sure we needed to go get it right away. I tried to put her off, but a few minutes later I heard the inside garage door open and shut. Then she came back and announced, "I remember exactly the cover Daddy put on that toy and it is in the barn." Well, good to have the bigger ones around to help you when your memory fails. This evening, Gracie proceeded to announce to Daddy that we needed him to get that toy for John Michael tonight. Hmmm, good thought except for the sleet and freezing temps! She'll probably have to wait a few days until it's warm enough for a native Texan to venture outside at night!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

He sits. He stands. He climbs?

Yes, John Michael is on the go. Well, not when he is sitting. He's pretty content to sit and play with something for quite awhile if you sit him down with a toy (and there is nothing else too interesting going on around him). One of his favorite toys is the Fisher Price Bus - he loves to take the people out, play with the stop sign and "inspect" (the girls' word) the wheels.

He loves to practice standing. Oh and jumping when you are holding him upright. You pretty much better hang on for dear life if you stand him up on your lap - he likes to do quick deep knee bends and spring up and down (too bad we don't all find that such fun exercise!) I thought he was going to fling himself out of my lap Sunday at church!

So the climbing thing must be one of those "boy things" that everyone has warned me about. I've never seen the girls try and get up on all the things he does. The keyboard on the floor in the living room was a mountain to be conquered until yesterday afternoon (he finally got up and over it). Tonight he had both hands up on Tommy Turtle (maybe the wrong name, but it's a red, round turtle stool that's in the girls' room) and who knows if he would have gotten all the way up if I hadn't dragged him away.

One last thing - he's in the kitchen right now trying to open one of the bottom drawers. There's no end to what he will try - thank goodness I have two extra pairs of eyes to watch him during the day!

Jeans ... finally!

So I've been slow to post lately. John Michael is on his second round of antibiotics for an ear infection and should be getting better but has felt the need to wake up screaming every two hours for the last five nights or so. Needless to say, I haven't been getting a whole lot of uninterrupted sleep. Which makes the brain a little foggy for things like writing. I started to write about our Thanksgivings (yes, plural!), but kept getting stuck and not able to think of the word I wanted to use. So I'll have to finish that one later. But I thought of a much easier topic I have been wanting to write about for a while - Jeans!

If you've heard me talk about Gracie & clothes, you probably know about the jeans thing. For the first five years of her life (or at least the part of it where she has had any say), Gracie has not wanted to wear jeans. When she was smaller, I always tried to put her in outfits that looked comfy (not necessarily just cute!) and I guess I started a bad trend. The first time I tried to put jeans on her, she wore them for a little while but then decided they were too tight and uncomfortable. (That was probably around age 2). Since then I've been trying to convince her that jeans are actually great things! But with Gracie, if you work too hard trying to convince her, she will decided she is never going to do what you want!

So when I went to my big consignment sale (JBF - Just Between Friends) this September, I didn't buy any jeans for her and only got things that looked "comfy." But that ended up amounting to mainly skirts and dresses. Since she is in school 3 mornings a week, she didn't need too much clothing this fall. But she didn't really have any pants to wear, and it does actually get a little cold here in Texas. So I told her we had to get her a pair of jeans.

She agreed to getting a pair of jeans, but I wasn't convinced (like mother, like daughter). So naturally, I waited until we went to Dallas and talked Mimi into going to the mall with us. I'm no fool - go to the mall to get a possibly controversial pair of jeans with three kids and no backup? I thought if I couldn't talk her into the jeans, Mimi could! We headed to Dillard's since I wanted plain jeans for Gracie and the department stores seemed a likely place to find them.

At first, I thought we might have gone to the wrong store. When I asked the saleslady to show me some plain jeans, she was a little stumped. On almost every rack were jeans covered with glitter and designs up and down the legs - yikes! But then she found a plain pair - I went over to take a look - hmmm just $55 for a pair of DKNY jeans for a 5 year old! She found a few more pairs, but they all seemed a little pricey to me. Finally, I spotted what we needed - a nice shelf full of Levi's. Just what the Mommy ordered.

So we grabbed a ton of pairs to try on in sizes ranging from 4 slim to 6 regular (Clara had to try something on too, right?) and headed to the dressing room. Thank goodness for Mimi. We would have been in there an hour with me trying to get them both in and out of jeans. Skinny Minny (Gracie) ended up in a 6 slim (which blew me away, I thought she would be a 5 but who knows!) and Clara ended up with no jeans (didn't really need any - she's got a drawerful of clothes) since she is in some limbo size between a 4 and a 5.

Gracie ended up loving her jeans and here she is modeling them. Oh - forgot to mention - she ended up getting 2 pairs! And then a few days later talked me into buying 2 belts (okay, they came 2 for 1) at Target. She's been dying for a belt for a few years, but never had anything with belt loops! She & Clara are currently sharing the two belts (Clara is modeling the second belt).