Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Memories

Christmas 2010 was a whirlwind of activity – punctuated by moments of pure joy, sweet sounds, tastes of home, and yes, a bit of sadness.

There is much to write and record, but for now, I’m trying to dig out from the pile of wrapping paper, toys, clothes, books, and other treats our children were blessed with this Christmas season.

And recovering - my Christmas gift this year was a wretched cold and cough.

We’re rapidly moving through the twelve days of Christmas and approaching 2011 with lightening speed. Where does the time go?

But stay tuned – the Party’s Christmas posts are forthcoming – if I ever find the time to pull the words from my mind and heart to the pages of this blog. (And download the 400 pictures from my camera.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Our Thinker

Over the past year or so, we've become good friends with a couple who also have three children about the same age as ours. It's been nice to compare, commiserate, and relate with another dual-working parent family with three little ones. The similarities in our children are significant- particularly in the age groups of the three kids.

Both of our oldest children are girls, born within two months of each other, and I'm not sure if it's their place in the birth pecking order - but they are very much alike - both girls have strong personalities, are way off the charts academically, both girls sometimes don't possess the most common sense, and both hold a sense of self entitlement that they should get to do things first - after all - they are the oldest.

Our youngest two children are both boys, born within four months of each other. At their tender ages of 20 months and 16 months, both are showing their independence, their sweet personalities, and can easily be described as 'all boy.' Both boys have an affinity for food - and would happily snack and graze if we allowed them.

It's our middle two children that seem to come up with the most precocious and interesting statements. Addie is almost five and James is almost four - with their birthdays not quite a year apart to the day - but the similarities between them are remarkable. Brian calls Addie 'his thinker'. She ponders things, mulls them over in her mind, and comes up with outrageous and sometimes difficult questions to answer.

James is starting to do the same - every night pounding us with questions that I can't begin to answer - from the silly and asinine (why do eagles have feathers to fly) to the bigger more difficult questions such as 'why is God in Heaven' or 'how big was the Angel Gabriel?'

He has become the 'thinker' in our family. And I wonder, does it have something to do with being the middle child - or is it just his inherent personality?

Whatever the reason, he keeps us on our toes - and his latest concern, serious concern, folks - is that Santa and his sleigh will 'break our roof.' He is VERY worried that our roof won't support the weight of Santa, the sleigh, eight reindeer (nine - if you count Rudolph if the weather turns out foggy) and the gifts he's hoping to receive.

And while we try our best to reassure - Deonne has all but gone into the intricate details of structural engineering to explain trusses and beams and other things I don't understand - all it takes is one look to see him mulling our response over in his mind - questioning if we're right - clearly not convinced that we know what we're talking about.

And for now, I'm okay with that. I'm hoping we can build the trust he needs so that when the really tough questions start coming, he'll trust his parents' advice.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Gingerbread Girl

Video posted to Youtube from one of James' classmates. So sweet and funny!

Grown Up Conversation

As part of our holiday party circuit, Deonne and I attended a dinner party last Saturday night with some good friends. We hadn't been out with just grown-ups in a very very long time (so long, in fact, that I'm embarrassed to say.)  It's not for lack of want or desire, rather lack of time with the ever growing list of kids activities and lack of baby sitters.  We have a few sitters who are wonderful, don't get me wrong, but they come at a premium for three children as young as ours - so many times we opt to either divide and conquer with one of us attending or look for gatherings where our herd of little ones is welcome.

It was so incredibly nice to get out - and such a good time.  We had the pleasure of dining with some friends who we knew (sort of), some we didn't know at all, and of course, the gracious host and hostess.  The feast was bountiful, the drinks flowing, and laughter rang throughout.  We ate, drank, and made merry until late in the night (well, late for us - arriving home just before 11pm was a big night for us old folks.)

And the kids had a great time as well, playing with their adopted grandma "Ms. Rebecca," reading stories, and watching Christmas movies.

Deonne and I realized that we need to make more time for things like this - to preserve our sanity as well as connect as grown-ups, friends, and a married couple.  I hope for more adult evenings, and maybe even a date night (?) or two in the New Year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sugarplum Fairies and Nutcracker Sweets

Anna and I had our annual trip to the Columbia City Ballet's performance of the Nutcracker on Sunday afternoon.  It was the 30th anniversary of the CCB's holiday show - and it didn't disappoint.  I have to say, I've seen some pretty famous productions of the Nutcracker in years past - the Houston Ballet, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and used to watch the Gelsey Kirkland/Mikhail Baryshnikov televised version every year that it came on PBS - and this local production is right up there with the best.

The dancers twirled and pirouetted and arabesqued across the stage to the familiar sounds, while Anna's eyes were wide with delight.  This year we attended with some dear friends, which was lovely.  (The only distraction was reminding Anna and Ella Grace to stop talking ... mostly instigated by Anna who couldn't wait to discuss all she saw with her little friend.)

It's funny to see Anna's progression through the years - from the very first time she saw the ballet, perched on the edge of her seat - wide eyed and silent the entire time - absorbing every sound and sight she saw - to this year - where she chatted and giggled and sighed at the beauty of it all.

We had wonderful seats - fourth from the stage in the orchestra section - which I feared might be too close - but ended up being perfect.  The three little girls had an excellent vantage point, as did the mommies and grandmama in our group.

Following the show - Anna and I took the backstage tour (like last year) where we got to sit in Clara's sleigh, sit in her throne from the Land of Sweets, hold Clara's nutcracker, and this year, go under the hoops of Mother Ginger's skirt.  And finally, after waiting patiently in line, Anna was able to meet Clara - so excited she could barely say hello to her.

Anna and Clara

It was a wonderful time together - a mother/daughter tradition that I adore sharing with my own little girl.  Of course I missed my mother terribly - as this was 'our thing' for as many years as I can remember.  The only years we missed seeing the ballet together were when I was away and living in Europe - and then the early years of Deonne and I's marriage when we didn't travel west for the holiday.  That's a lot of Nutcrackers we
saw.  Or participated in - back in the day - when I had ridiculous aspiring dreams of being a ballerina myself.  Dreams that mom supported - all the way to helping do make-up for us Bon-Bons (the girls that came out of Mother Ginger's skirt) and through my yearly drama of not being cast as Clara (or a child in the party scene.... a childhood scar I'll never get over.)  Ha!

So when the overture started yesterday, I felt that familiar lump swell up in my throat, and tears prick my eyes.  I managed to keep it at bay, until the Snow Queen and her Prince performed their pas de deux.  That was always my mother and I's favorite part.  And it was so beautiful - it brought tears to my eyes.

And I let them fall.

(Pictures below are completely out of order - but are lovely nonetheless.)

The Dew Drop Fairy and her Cavalier - and Anna -
we ended up being at the right place at the right time to get this photograph.

The Chinese Girl - probably one of the favorite acts
from the Land of Sweets.

Sitting in Clara's Throne
and the Nutcracker!

Clara's Magical Winter Sleigh

My Precious One

Anna has started a collection of snow-globes as a special treat
from the Nutcracker each year.

Addie Mac, Ella Grace, and Anna

The Snow Queen!
(my favorite)

Pre-school Performance

Want a sneak peek at what James will look like in 50 or so years? 

James Donald Long.  A.K.A. - Little Old Man.

I love this time of year - and all of the little school performances the kids' classes put on.  This year it was James' turn to shine.  He was cast as the Little Old Man in his class play "The Gingerbread Girl."  It was hysterical.  He did such a good job with his lines - said them loudly and clearly - and you might just be able to hear him on the video - if it weren't for me cackling and giggling the entire time - as he was so cute I couldn't help myself!

The story goes that the Little Old Woman and Little Old Man decide to 'bake again' after their first-baked child (the gingerbread boy) is eaten by a fox.   
The teacher narrated the story, and the children acted it out.  It was remarkably good - especially for a bunch of three and four year olds. 
I love that the teachers take the time and go way above and beyond the call of duty to have the kids put on plays and have parties.
James and Ms. Sam
Following the performance the cast and family members were treated to a class party - James' teachers know how to throw a party!  There was food and goodies galore - and each child was sent home with a sweet gingerbread ornament that they had made to hang on the tree to remember their special Christmas performance. 

James and Ms. Niko
I love the Children's Center - and both Deonne and I feel it has been worth every penny we've shelled out and every sacrifice we've made for our children's care.  Not only are they teaching our kids wonderful things, and preparing them for elementary school (which is why, in part, I think Anna is excelling at the rate she is in kindergarten) but they truly love our children.  Ms. Niko and Ms. Sam taught Anna - and we couldn't wait for them to be James' teachers.  We are so blessed to have them our little boy's teachers - to provide him with the loving care that I can't give him on a day-to-day basis as a working mom.

And as you can see from the above photo - he adores his teachers.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Date Night

Anna and I had a little Mother-Daughter date night yesterday.  She's been feeling out of sorts and left out recently and in need of some one-on-one time.  I'm not entirely sure where this stems from - as out of all the Party kids, she gets the most attention - but for whatever reason - she felt it, it was valid, and I needed to address it.

I must admit, my first reaction when she shared with me that she was feeling needy was twofold - first, that she was once again being dramatic and second, defensive that I've not spent enough time with her.  As a working parent of three children, I often feel like I'm stretched incredibly thin, and am doing the best I possibly can for everyone.  And to hear her tell me that she was feeling sad and lonely felt like a kick in my gut.

So to remedy the situation, Deonne and I looked through our uber-busy calendar to find a night when I could take her out - just the girls.  Through a weird series of events, it turned out great.  I ended up leaving work early yesterday (and am not thinking about the pile of unaccomplished tasks awaiting me on my desk), picked her up at school (a surprise in and of itself as she is usually picked up on Thursday by my dear friend Nici who takes her to tap class) shuttled her to tap, then took her shopping to pick out her Daddy's Christmas gift.

We had a quiet dinner together at T.G.I.Fridays (not my first choice but it was an actual sit-down restaurant located in the mall we were at) and followed it up with the biggest hit of the night - seeing Tangled together.

Talking to her Daddy before dinner arrived - geesh - she looks like a teenager!

This child is not excited to see Tangled at all!

She jumped up and down and squealed with delight when I told her we were going to see the movie - she's been dying to see it since she saw the first trailer last summer.

I look like one tired-droopy mommy.  I didn't want to post this picture - because I look so awful - but did anyway.  Someday I'll look back on this and say 'who cares', right?

It was so nice to have some one on one time with her - to hear her silly stories - to see her carefully choose her gift to her dad - to hear her shrieking with laughter and giggles during the movie.

I wish I had more time to this sort of thing more often.  So many days it seems that while I do have her around - I rarely get to listen to her or learn her personality.  It's such a rush to get her off to school, then pick her up, rush home to cook dinner, review homework, have a bath, and tuck her in bed. 

Which made our time together particularly sweet.

I hope to do it again very soon - and to plan date-nights with James and eventually Jack when he gets older.

It was a really fun time, I love you Anna-boo!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Run Run As Fast As You Can...

 ...You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!

Sunday afternoon we made our annual Gingerbread House.  Thankfully I'm married to a structural engineer who has not only the patience but the intelligence to put together a gingerbread house that is secure.  We learned the lesson a few years ago - make the house before hand and let it dry - then let the kids have at it with the candy decorations.

 Another lesson learned - decorate the sides of the house before assembling - so the icing doesn't slide off in a puddle of white sugar before you're even finished.  I did, however, have to put up with ridicule from Deonne - who upon watching me pipe the windows and doors asked me 'what are you going to let your children do.'

Funny.  They DID tell me what kind of windows and doors they wanted - I just executed.  So there.  So what if I did have fun doing it?  I was channeling my inner child - or crafty person - whatever....

Anna and James each had their own side of the house to decorate - I squeezed on the icing and they carefully chose what type of candy and where they wanted to place it.

I think this might be the prettiest gingerbread house the Party kids have put together yet!

See the happy smiles?  This was before I told them they couldn't eat their masterpiece...that we'd made it to look at - and not consume.  They looked at me like I had three heads.  I explained that I was making fresh gingerbread cookies later in the week - and that they really didn't want to eat gingerbread that had been sitting in a box from the craft store for who knows how long.

They still looked at me like I had three heads. 
But they had fun creating a pretty house - and I had fun watching them.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Party Meets Santa

Saturday night was the Party's annual trip to the Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zoo.  And the first stop of the evening was to meet up with Santa (in James' case - to make one last plea that he'd been good.)   
He couldn't wait to sit on Santa's lap and tell him all about Happy (the Elf) and how he was really (weally) trying to be a good boy.  So endearing.
Anna balked - she's still carrying her childhood scar from seeing this Santa several years ago when he freaked the ever loving daylights out of her by pulling a Hershey's kiss out of her ear.  She bravely walked up to him - after turning around and saying/asking that Santa really just pretends to pull candy out her ear...right?

After reassuring her, she finally approached Santa - but refused to sit on his lap.  And Jack?  He was not interested in least in seeing the Big Man - which is funny to me because when they spent an hour with Santa during their annual visit with Grookett Photography - he had no issue. 

And then we walked around the zoo and looked at all of the lights - took a ride on the endangered species carousel, and tried our best to see the animals (the majority of whom were sleeping or tucked away for the night.)

And it would be lovely to end the story there - but the reality is - I turned into some version of 'Mommy Dearest' about half-way through the visit.  I was just tired of Anna and James both wandering off (or running off in the case of James.)  I know they were excited.  I know the lights were amazing. 

But it was dark.  The Christmas music was blaring loud.  And there were loads of people - seeing as it was the first night in about a week with temperatures above freezing.  And by the time Anna wandered off again (after I'd JUST told her to stay by my side) and was so far ahead that she got caught up with another family of about our size, and took off with them by mistake - well, I lost my cool.

Which resulted in me taking the stroller (Jack was in Deonne's arms) and heading to the front entrance of the zoo while Deonne continued strolling along with the other two.  

Not one of my proudest moments as a mom - thankfully they have a Daddy with the patience of Job.

But not all was lost, we drove around town a bit so the kids could see the lights of the city as we headed for home - James protesting the entire way that he didn't want to go home - and he was NOT tired.

He was the first one to get quiet - his last words being something along the lines of how much he didn't want to get home.

Jack was the second to drop off - shortly before we arrived home. 

And tucked them all into bed - their sweet little faces like angels.  Making me wonder how in the world I could ever lose my temper with them.

Christmas With The Party

A few boards with some of the sights of our home this holiday season...  our annual 2010 Christmas Ornament, and some favorites from our "live" Christmas tree...

The ornaments that are the most dear and precious to my heart - the ones the kids make every year - that adorn our "family" Christmas tree that goes up the day after Thanksgiving in our den.  (Thankfully this one is artificial - so I don't have to worry about needles falling out - only the cats who seem to think its their own personal chew toy...)

And our annual "pizelle" making day.  The day I commit to staying by a hot pizelle iron for at least two hours to complete these delicate but oh so loved Christmas treats.  This year Anna sat by my side (for most of it - until she bored and decided to read books to Jack).  I entertained her by telling her about the first time I made these cookies with my own Nonna.  The day she and I sat for hours at her kitchen table and she entrusted me to the batter, the oil, and the hot iron.

She and I wiled away the afternoon, making pizelles, while she told me stories of how she met my grandfather, what their wedding was like, how she came to know the 'secret' recipe for making these treats.  It was later that day that she pulled her wedding gown out from the bottom drawer of her dresser, wrapped in a thick heavy canvas blue cloth.

I remember running my fingers over the heavy satin, smelling the musty smell that mixed in with the scents of pizelle batter frying in the iron, and thinking what a special moment it was - one I hoped I'd never forget.

And I haven't.

But that was a side note of another story - pizelle day at our house was fun indeed... and Jack got to taste his first cookie (remember last year we were barely able to get him to swallow baby food) - that he savored and gobbled up - and kept coming 'round, little fat fingers outstretched saying "mo cookeeee."  How could I say no to that?
And then I caught him in the kitchen sink - standing on the chair one of the older kids had pulled over to the counter to 'help' me mix sugar cookie dough batter on. 

Little stinker.  Sneaky, silly, grinning stinker.

Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel...

...And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to you, O Israel!


I'm loving this time of year - how warm my kitchen is with the ovens burning as I make our holiday treats - the smells of gingerbread and melting chocolate - the delight in my children's eyes as they wait with anticipation for all hallowed Christmas Eve...

So why is it that I'm so melancholy???

The Second Sunday of Advent

We've been attending a different church in Columbia for the past, well, six months or so.  Our old church, while beautiful in architecture and full of lovely people, sort of stopped feeling like home to us.  And while it cause both of us a lot of angst to look for a new church home (because our whole married Christian life is tied to our old church -where we were married and our three children baptized) we knew we needed to find a place where we were welcomed as we are, a place where we could build memories as a family.

We've been pleased as punch with the parish we've been welcomed into.  The kids have looked forward to the Wednesday night programs and Sunday school activities all fall, and Deonne and I have enjoyed the adult Sunday school lessons, the people we're becoming friends with, and the witty sermons from the Rector - who is always able to bring the scripture into today's world (sometimes with a sarcastic sense of humor that I love.)

One of the programs we participated in as a family was to adopt a child during the Christmas season - a child who is in need of prayers and thoughts as much as the toys, pajamas, and clothes we purchased for him.  We involved the kids in most every step (except the shopping part - I know my limitations - and shopping with the Party Kids for toys might push me over the edge...)  They helped wrap the gifts, asking a zillion questions about Cameron, the 5-year old little boy we adopted.

And on the second Sunday of Advent, we delivered our packages to the church - Anna and James hauling the bag all the way up to the front altar.

The only 'issue' we had was James (of course) who was extremely (loudly) disappointed that he didn't get to meet little Cameron on person - he didn't quite understand the idea - and wanted to see the 'little boy open his presents.'

 Following church that day, we stopped at Forest Lake Gardens to pick out our tree - having learned the lesson that when it comes to live trees, it pays to purchase the tree from a place that keeps their trees in actual tree stands - you know, that hold water.  Too many years we cheaped out and bought inexpensive trees at places where they were not watered daily - only to have them drop all their needles shortly after coming inside.   
Of course, when we found the 'perfect' tree, we did realize that there was a big hole on one side of it with very sparse limbs.  No matter, we thought, we'll put that side toward the corner.  No big deal, right?  Wrong.  (See leaning tree post.) Turns out the weight of those missing limbs is important in balancing the tree - leading to our whole debacle.  
Anna and James had fun running and running and running around the trees.... which is fun for a kid - not so much for the parents who are concerned about them running into the parking lot or overturning the other plants and bushes in pots around the garden...

But it was a fun morning - and thankfully the weather cooperated and it was acutally COLD.  You'll never hear me complain about the cold weather we're having - and I loved every minute of bundling the kids up in winter coats to pick out our tree - just like I did as a kid in Washington State.

A Class Trip To The Zoo

Jack's little toddler pre-school class had it's first family outing - a trip to Riverbanks Zoo.  It was a cold, chilly day - but the kiddies had a great time howling with the monkeys, looking at the fishies in the aquarium, and riding around in their strollers (in the case for Jack and his bff Jasper.)

So much fun to see our little ones enjoying the company of each other!

Christmas 2010 - The Year of The Leaning Christmas Tree

I've come a long way.  There was a point in time when something like a Christmas tree that is clearly off kilter would bother me to the essence of my being.  I suppose because I'm just wired that way.  I've been described as anal, particular, uptight, and on more than one occasion, OCD. And I probably am.  I admit that I like things clean, put away, and in many cases 'just so.'

I think I may have watched too much Martha Stewart as a new bride.

But I've come a long way, oh yes, I have.

Three kids who can only be described as tornados of destruction have taken their toll, and I'm either worn down or fed up or very possibly just plain tired - I'm not entirely sure which.

So when it became clear late in the night that our Christmas tree was clearly leaning - and the only way to secure it from falling over was to either A) take the lights back off, take it outside, and let Deonne have his way with it with a chainsaw and a pair of pruning shears or B) turn it so the side with the gaping hole faced the corner, prop it up in the stand so it's secure, and pretend its not horribly leaning - I chose B.

In another lifetime - I would have chosen A.  I would have made Deonne trim and shave and prune the tree to perfection.

This year?  I'm just glad the stupid thing has lights on it and is finally decorated.  (It's been sitting in its stand - leaning - for the better part of the last week.)

I try to pretend it's really not that bad.  I arranged ornaments and the bow under the angel to make it appear it is straight - at least in one direction.

It's not working.

Anna stepped back after hanging the last crystal icicle and exclaimed "Mommy!  The tree is leaning!"

Yeah - but it's not going anywhere - so there.

So I've come a long way.  The tree is up.  It is trimmed.  The possibility does seem to exist that it may fall over at some point in the next few weeks.  And it lists terribly to the right.  But it's still a pretty tree.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

'Tis The Season...

For Holiday mayhem.  Don't get me wrong - I love this time of year.  I love the hustle and bustle to decorate our home, bake goodies, shop for treats, wrap presents, plan outings, experience the things Columbia has to offer, see friends.

But beneath it all - we're trying very hard to keep the spirit of Christmas true to its meaning.

One way is through our nightly reading of the Advent Story Book.  It's a great book broken into 24 stories about a little bear on his journey to discover the true meaning of Christmas.  We read one page each night after we've read our other nightly stories, and talk to the kids about the meaning.  It's lovely, the kids look forward to it, and I do as well.

Another is through our nightly lighting of candles on our Advent wreath.  When we settle down to dinner we take time to light the candles on the wreath, bless our meal, and then read the daily scripture from the Prayers for Advent for Children pamphlet I picked up at church.  (Reality check - that sounds lovely and romantic and sweet, doesn't it?  It conjures up images of a family quietly gathered together around the table, bowing their heads in prayer and reflecting on the coming of the Christ child.  Yeah - most nights it really involves a lot of protesting to come to the table, whining about who gets to sit where, babbling about things Deonne and I think are inconsequential but have deep meaning to 6 and 3 year olds, shushing from us parents to keep quiet during the prayer, and arguing about who gets to blow out which candle.... but we try - and that's the important thing...)

Of course Happy (our elf) has made his appearance - which constantly strikes me as remarkable how a red felt clad elf can be such a positive behavior incentive....

And we've been enjoying the sights and sound of our town - last Saturday night I gave the kids an early dinner and bath, bundled them in the van with cuddly blankets, and took them to the drive-thru lights display at Saluda Shoals (Deonne was en route from his trip to Atlanta to see the Gamecocks unfortunately lose the SEC championship game - which was disappointing for him - but tempered by the t-total good time he had going with a friend who happened to provide tickets to all of the SEC staff events, including the swanky pre-game party where he rubbed elbows with high-rollin' SEC and BCS folks.)

We're hoping the cold snap lets up a bit this weekend so we can take the kids to Riverbanks Zoo to see the Lights Before Christmas, and Anna and I are gearing up for our annual mother-daughter afternoon to see the Nutcracker the following weekend.  This year we're going with some dear friends (grandmother, mother, and two daughters) so a true girls afternoon out.

And intermingled with the 'big' events, we've been busy making cookies (Anna and James helped me make Pecan Sandies after school yesterday- and had a big time rolling the balls of dough into little 'rainbow' shapes.  Jack helped too - until I discovered he was no longer rolling dough but rather stuffing it into his mouth.  He was promptly removed from the kitchen table...)

I've been woefully behind in taking proper pictures - and the few I have are still locked in the camera - so I hope in the next few days to snap some good shots and actually upload them here.

And maybe tonight we'll actually get some lights on the 7 foot Frasier Fir tree that has been standing in my living room since Sunday - and start decorating it.  (Which has been pushed back due to malfunctioning lights, fatigue, and my going out last night for a much needed and super fun moms-night with some of the other moms at Anna's school.) 

So 'tis the season ...  it truly is the 'most wonderful time of the year' ...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tough Love

There's times when being a parent is so frustrating - and so hard.  There are times when you know what the right thing is to do as a parent - even though it is tough on everyone.

Yesterday was one of those days.  James and Anna both have been having a very hard time listening, obeying, and being respectful of others.  I'm not sure if it stems from the sibling rivalry that has descended on our house, the anticipation of Christmas, or just the barometric pressure - but truth be told - both of them spent the better part of their Thanksgiving holiday in time out.  Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration - but really, they were separated from each other quite a bit, and both did spend a significant amount of time 'thinking about what they had done.'

In addition to sparring with each other, they have been horrible about not listening to Deonne and I.  When we try to talk to them or direct them to a task - they either blatantly refuse, ignore, or do the complete polar opposite.

Which is frustrating in and of itself - but compounded when safety is a concern.  It may be one thing for James to ignore me and skip and run away in the backyard - but when he's headed down the driveway for the street - or away from me in the parking lot at school - then it's a whole other issue.  Patience runs thin. I get very upset and angry.  He listens even less.  Repeat cycle.

So far it's been limited to home - but yesterday surfaced in his preschool class.  The kids work hard to earn their symbol of a 'good' day at school by a colored bear system.  Green Bear - awesome day.  Yellow Bear - okay day.  Red Bear - horrible day.

I think if they had a Black Bear that James would have earned it yesterday.

The same old stuff he's been doing at home - not listening, disobeying, not following the rules, being unruly, talking out of turn - being a disrespectful turd.  Apparently he was SO bad that they had to take him to another teacher to administer a stern talking to.

So when I picked him up yesterday, I was very excited as we were off to the church Advent activity party for kids.  Dinner and crafts for children all centered around this season of expectation.  The kids had been looking forward to it all week (they'd been given handouts about it in their respective Sunday school classes), and truth be told I was as well.  Deonne and I had arranged for him to pick up Jack so I could spend some time with my older two without wrangling a 19 month old.

When I found out about his day - his teacher and I had a talk - and we were both of the opinion that he shouldn't get to participate in the Advent party.  Fun things like parties are rewards for good behavior.  But his little face fell when we talked to him about staying until Daddy could pick him up and not going to church just about broke both mine and his teacher's hearts.  And it was church, right?  How could I deny my child the opportunity to learn about the LORD?

So we talked, and negotiated, and decided that he could go to the Advent party - but in exchange, he was losing his family movie night on Friday.  Now, Friday Movie Night is a big deal for the Party kids - so to tell him he had to stay in his room while we all watched a movie was devastating to him.  However, we all agreed that if has Green Bear days both today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday) he could earn it back.

So.  Off we go to pick up Anna from her school and head to church.

In the car on the way there we talked at length about staying close to me - not running off - listening and obeying - as I could only imagine how crazy the Fellowship Hall would be with the entire congregation of children doing crafts at different stations.  I didn't want to risk losing track of him and having to chase him around in circles to obey.

He agreed wholeheartedly - that he would be a good boy and "obey right away without delay."

And then we arrived at Anna's school - and as soon as he was unbuckled from his seat - he was off and running away.  Down the sidewalk and into the school, long before I could ever reach him.  And upon entering the cafeteria, he started grabbing the pen parents use to sign their kids out from After Care, then running around the tables, digging in the cart of craft stuff, and NOT listening to a word I was saying.

Anna, thankfully, had a great day (she's been an angel at school - she has incentive.  She needs 10 days of Smiley Face Days in a row to get to go see that new movie Tangled.)  She happily put her homework away, picked up her coat, got in the car, buckled herself in and was excited as all get-out to go to the Advent party.

And then I had to make the call - I had to make the decision. 

We didn't go to church.  We missed the Advent party.  I just couldn't risk James' behavior being so awful, nor could I continue to reward his behavior. 

So we went home.

James went to his room (screaming and stomping the entire way up two flights of stairs.)  Anna was sad about not going (my little craft girl) but perked up when I told her she could watch a movie before dinner.

It would have been much easier to just let it slide - to let it go - and take him to church.  And that little voice in my head kept saying 'it's CHURCH - how can you deny them that?'

But the bigger voice told me I was doing the right thing.  Even though it was hard.  And it sucked.

This is one of those parts of parenting they don't tell you about in that "What to Expect" book we all read as pregnant mommies....

Research Help

I just participated in a survey for bloggers - please see note below.  After researching and writing my ridiculously large masters thesis - I'm all about helping others out with their research.  So, please take a moment and complete the survey to help this student out.

"If you are a woman who writes a blog with content predominantly about her family, and you have 10-15 minutes to spare, we would love to hear from you! We are doing research on bloggers, and invite you to take a survey at Your participation will help one graduate student get one step closer to completing her thesis, and one step closer to graduation! Thank you for your input and for your time!"

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Let the Holiday Madness Begin!

The Holiday Season is now upon us - which baffles my mind and quickens my pace.  I often think of the newspaper cartoon "Family Circus" when this time of year rolls around - one publication in particular - where the kids are whining and complaining that it is SO LONG until Christmas, while the crumpled and defeated looking parents exchange glances of pure fatigue. 

As a child, I remember thinking that Christmas would never get here - that twenty-four days of December was an eternity ...  oh, how I wish for those days again.

So we started the season this past weekend by decorating the house.  I'm happy to say that with an exception of the 'live' Christmas tree that goes in our living room - our house is complete.  (Oh dear, I am forgetting the trees in each of the kids' rooms - something Anna reminds me of HOURLY - we'll hopefully get those up tonight.) 

It helped to have a set goal in mind - my friend Nici and I are hosting a home show for several local vendors on Friday - so I had the incentive not only to have a clean house, but also a festive one, and thankfully we were able to get it all complete.

 The kids loved decorating the 'family' tree in our den - James especially, who bounded back and forth from the box of decorations to the tree.  And the kids did a really good job of hanging ornaments this year - we didn't have to go back and 'respace' many of them at all.

Sunday afternoon we voyaged out to Uncle Harry and Aunt Mary's house to watch the annual Batesburg-Leesville Christmas parade in Deonne's hometown.

Jack loved sitting in the big chair with his grandpa...

...while this one scowled as soon as he saw me with the camera.  Sigh.  I guess we're entering the age of funny faces for this little boy - which I understand, but it makes me sad - I'd love to be able to capture his sweet smile.

At least this one still poses and smiles for the camera.  (Disregard the marks on her face - the one on her cheek is marker, while the one under her nose is from a mishap that happened when she fell out of a chair during a time-out.  Don't ask.  One for par around our house.)

 James thought the marching band was neat - but clearly too loud...

 And where else but Leesville will you see a modified airplane in a Christmas parade?

Or a tractor pulling a trailer of stuff that I can't begin to explain?

And as with all Christmas parades, this one ended with SANTA.  Just in case you couldn't recognize the star himself sitting atop his sleigh...

Oh, what a fun kick-off to our holiday festivities.