Monday, January 31, 2011

Rite of Passage

I was just reading (and commenting) on my friend Kathy's blog the other day about the difficulty of seeing your babies grow up.  Sure, it's exciting to see your children reach their appropriate developmental milestones, and it's wonderful to see the helpless little infants grow up into little people - but it's also very hard.  Bittersweet, is the word that comes to mind.  Especially for us sentimental mommies.

I think it was also Kathy who pointed out on her blog ages ago that she had reached an important milestone in her life - she had a child approaching two years old and wasn't pregnant.

Deonne and I realized that the other day - or rather, I realized it - when I discovered that I seem to be much more myself in getting the kids out and planning activities with Jack as an almost two-year old.  Well, duh - of course.  I'm not five months pregnant - am not lugging round a baby belly - and am not constantly feeling like I need to haul a bucket around with me due to never-ending-morning sickness.


How did that happen?  How did it happen that Deonne and I are approaching the end of 'baby' parenting in our life as parents?  Where did the time go?  How is is that little sweet baby Jack is no longer a baby (by any stretch of the imagination) and is rather a full-fledged toddler going on two-year old?

I suppose I'm excited about some aspects of non-baby parenting - finally cleaning out the baby bottles and training sippy cups from my cupboards and reclaiming the space for baking supplies, ending the weekly purchase of diapers and wipes, using 'real' plates and utensils for all five of us rather than the cartoon plastic ones. 

But I'm not excited about losing the soft squishy baby cheeks to kiss.  I'm not exciting about losing the way Jack fits just perfectly in my lap when he decides he actually wants to snuggle.  I'm not excited about him outgrowing his little rompers and jon-jons in lieu of 'big boy' jeans and pants. 

And I was especially not looking forward to his first hair cut.  I prolonged it as long as possible.  I kept brushing his blond locks to the side of his head in hopes I could keep his baby curls just a wee bit longer.

But when I realized that I could pull it back into a ponytail - it became inevitable that we would have to address his hair.

So on Saturday, Jack took his first real step into 'little boy' world.  His hairstylist asked - are your ready for the 'little boy' cut?  Sadly, I nodded my head in affirmation, and his sweet blond curl - the one that lived at the back of his head like a little duck tail - was snipped off.  Taped to a card.  And tucked into my jewelry box along with Anna and James' first locks.

He looks so sweet now - and is definitely a handsome little boy. 

But he's not my baby anymore.  And that makes me a little bit sad.

*Pictures to come of the big First Haircut - if I ever remember to download them off the camera to document...

Friday, January 28, 2011

And the Oscar Goes To....

Time:  12:09 pm
Place:  My van.  En route to Anderson, South Carolina to deliver a proposal to Anderson County.
The Caller ID:  Forest Lake Elementary School

Me: Hello?  (cringing - nothing good can come of this?)

Voice on the other end: Mrs. Long?

Me: Yes, this is she.

Voice:  This is Mrs. So-and-so (I don't remember the name), the School Nurse.  I've got Anna here with me in the office - she says her tummy isn't feeling well and she doesn't want to stay at school.

Me:  Has she vomited yet?

Nurse So and So:  No, not yet.  But I took her temperature and it went up a degree over the last hour, from 98 to 99 degrees.  I think she may be brewing something.

Me:  ???  Well, is she okay - or are you asking me to pick her up?

Nurse So and So:  Well, she says she doesn't feel like staying.

Me:  Well, okay.  I'm out of town for work - but I'll call my husband and see if he can come and get her.

So I call Deonne.  Who proceeds to tell me that the nurse had called him a half an hour ago (why didn't he call to tell me this?) and that Anna was to sit tight and see if she felt better.

Obviously she's not feeling better if they're calling again for someone to come and pick her up.  YOU go get her.  I can't.  I'm somewhere between Pelzer and Anderson, SC.  Your turn.

So Deonne dutifully goes to retrieve Anna and bring her home.  Calls me from home to say 'she looks and acts just fine.'


I keep calling throughout the afternoon to check on her.  "Is she okay?  Any barfing yet"

Nope. She's fine.  Really.


So I return home.  Deonne goes off to work for a few hours.

Here I sit.

Anna is acting surprisingly well for a child that was on her death bed a mere four hours ago.

Finally - I pulled her onto my lap and said "Anna.  I need you to tell me the truth.  You won't get in trouble if you tell me the truth - but you have to tell me the truth, okay?"

Anna:  Okay Mommy.

Me:  Do you feel sick to your tummy right now?

Anna:  No.

Me:  Did you ever feel sick to your tummy today?

Anna:  (A sideways glance and a smirk - checking to see if she's really off the hook if she tells the truth.)

Me:  It's okay - just tell me the truth.  Have you been feeling sick - or did you just make this whole thing up?


Anna:  I made it up.

And the Oscar goes to - Miss Anna Long.  For her portrayal of the sick child who must be sent home from school.

Oh, the reason, you ask, as to why the stellar performance?
She didn't want to go to AfterCare today.


But who also looked disappointed and sad when I reminded her that today was ballet day.

Maybe she will be a famous actress someday - and support me in my old age.  And make this all worthwhile...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Potty

Once again, the Potty has become my nemesis.

Jack (although not quite two) has become very interested in using the potty.

When any member of our family goes to the bathroom to do 'our business' - he is sure to follow. Which isn't surprising really, when it comes to his older brother and sister. Because it's still a big announcement for them. They still feel the need to explain where they're going as they run past us shrieking 'Mommy! I haf'ta go potty!'

Okay. Awesome. Bathroom's still in the same place it was last time. Let me know if you need anything.

So it really isn't any wonder that Jack is fascinated by what happens in the magical chair. He likes to toddle in. Observe. And if he times it right - gets to be the 'flush man.' Exciting things in the realm of almost-two-year-olds.

The last few days he's insisted on sitting on the potty himself. Starts clawing at his outfit saying 'close - off' - trying to undo snaps and buttons and pull his diaper off.

So we dug out the little potty seats that the older kids used - you know, the ones that sit on the floor. Said 'here Jack - your own little special potty.'

He will have nothing to do with such childish things, however.

No, he prefers to either dangle precariously over the 'big' seat - or put the little potty ring on and sit on that. The first time we tried to have him sit on the little floor seat - he actually started lifting it up - trying to place it on the actual toilet. Which was funny in and of itself, albeit very frustrating.

I suppose I should be happy about this - that at the tender age of 20 months he has an interest in the potty and desire to use it - and seems to be getting the idea that you are supposed to do something other than just sit there a few times a day.

The truth?

I'm not.

And I'm really not looking forward to potty training. One iota.

So it looks like the Potty and I will once again face the battlefield in the very near future. Only this time I'm much more prepared.

Game on.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Life with the Party...

I've been neglecting the blog again.  Not for lack of deep inspiring posts that will surely make an important contribution to the literary world (yeah, right) but for lack of time.  The week + of time away from work with the little ones derailed me more than I'd originally thought.

And while I loved the time at home playing with the kids and staying on top of household duties (my laundry pile has grown to enormous sizes again) I must admit that I'm glad we're back into a routine.  I feel confident that if I were to be able to stay home full time that we would develop a routine of our own - but we didn't have time to really create one in the extended absence from our 'normal' lives.

So it's back to life - back to reality - with the day-to-day grind.  School, homework, tap class, church programming and dinners on Wednesday nights (can I just say hallelujah on that one?), French class, and just starting up - soccer for James.

And back to work for me - getting caught up on project work, back in the groove of designing and coding websites, creating PR materials for our projects, the stuff I actually really like.


I'm starting to plan James' 4th birthday party - which amazes me.  Not the party planning part ('cause you all know I L-O-V-E an excuse to plan a party) but the fact that my first born son is going to be four years old in a few short weeks.  It just doesn't seem right that he should be so old.  So grown up.

I think part of that is due to the fact that I feel like I missed out in his baby-hood and toddler-hood.  I was in such a fog following my mom's stroke that I honestly don't recall a lot of his teeny-tiny stages.  I realized this the other day when I started hunting for pictures for his annual banner.  I've stolen the idea from mommy blogs - but I love seeing how the children grow from infancy through the years.  So there is one picture from each year of their life in a banner - infancy, one year, two years, etc...on display at their birthday party.  I looked back at the pictures of James from his first birthday and don't remember much of it.

That makes me sad.

But thankfully we (or rather I) seem to have pulled out of the fog - and can now focus on the little boy he is becoming.  And what better way to celebrate my super-silly son then with a non-sensical Dr. Seuss party?

I'm having so much fun reading and re-reading all of the Dr. Seuss classics to pull ideas from - from "One Fish Two Fish" to the old "Cat In The Hat" to the "Sneetches" and the Grinch - all of the characters will be there - in one form or another.

And I've even hired a really awesome treat - that I can't wait to have at the party - but I can't tell you just yet - lest the secret get out.  (Hows that for a teaser?)

We'll celebrate his big day the week after his birthday - as we'll be out of town for his actual birth-day.  Our new church parish retreat to the mountains of North Carolina is the weekend of the 19th - and we're attending with some new friends.  I can't wait.  Fresh mountain air.  Growing friendships.  Space to run and play.

Of course we'll find some way to celebrate his actual day there - probably cupcakes and a few gifts from mommy and daddy - and then the BIG day on the 26th.


Other random thoughts - the boys have both been sick.  Ear infections - again.  Apparently Deonne and I breed children with bad ear canals.  All three kids have tubes - but apparently James and Jack's are starting to come out and/or are clogged with who-knows-what precipitating the ear infections.  They're both just finishing up their antibiotics - hopefully they'll stay clear - at least for a little while.

And I'm battling walking pneumonia.  Turns out that really bad cold I thought was just a cold wasn't just a cold after all.  I finished the antibiotics - but still don't feel 100% - so probably need to go back for another evaluation.  Awesome.

Deonne and I are taking a parenting bible study class at church.  We're following John Rosemond's book "parenting by the book" - as in - the Bible.  It's been really good.  We're learning a lot.  And implementing some of his techniques with our most head strong child.  Anna has been having a hard time.  I wish I could say this was a first - but if you've read this blog for any amount of time you'll know that it's a common occurrence.  She is so smart.  So bright.  Seriously - off the charts smart.  But also very headstrong.  And stubborn.  And sassy. 

Without going into the long drama and details - I'll sum it up by telling you that she's effectively lost everything in her room.  Seriously.  She's down to a bed, a nightstand, a chest of drawers, and two lamps.  We did leave her bookcase and books - but every toy, every barbie, every 'thing' that she had in there is gone.  Harsh?  Perhaps.  But she's working to earn her things back - and hopefully realize they are a privilege and not a right.

Sometimes parenting sucks, doesn't it?


So totally random post - updates from the Party of Five.  More to come in a more timely manner - I hope!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Four snow days.

One teacher in-service day.

One day reserved for Martin Luther King.

Six days out of the office.

Six days away from work.

What does all this add up to?

One unhappy employer.

And one surprisingly happy mommy.

I've loved this time at home with my children.  I've loved the idea of being a Stay At Home Mom. 

I'm caught up on the laundry.  Not only is it washed and folded but actually put away.

We've enjoyed yummy meals each night - shrimp and grits, homemade spaghetti and meatballs, pulled pork and black bean enchiladas.

We've read so many books that I can't even begin to put a number on them.

We've eaten almost an entire BIG box of goldfish.

We've had loads of arts and crafts activities - stamping, painting, drawing, making snowflake cut-outs.

We've had two play dates with other moms and kids that I wouldn't otherwise get to see during the week.

We've played at the library mid-week.

We've watched movies - old and new.

Oh, we've had our moments.  there have been times when I've wanted a 5,000 square foot house to separate the elder two children who are at each other's throats for lack of another playmate.  I've struggled with no outside time - or hardly any - because of the icy and wet snow conditions that can be fun to play in at first but results in wet cold grumpy kids.

But all in all, it's been nice.  Surprisingly nice. 

Except for that one little nagging fact.  That I have fourteen-thousand work emails piling up.  That I can't seem to answer because every time I start - someone needs a drink, or a bottom wipe, or a diaper change, or a snack - or I need to mediate an argument or help with a snowflake cut-out or read a book.

And it's hard to tell your child 'no - I can't play with you because I have to work.'

So I'm behind.  Horribly behind.

I'm actually fearful for my job. 

So I'm ready for the snow to completely go away.  All four little icy patches that seems to exist across the county that is causing schools to be closed day after day after day.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Once Upon A Time...

Once upon a time I lived in Washington State.  Eastern Washington State.  And once upon a time, a big volcano erupted.  Two days before my 6th birthday, to be exact.

We happened to be visiting family friends in Spokane the weekend that it happened.  Spokane being the metropolis located a few hours north of our rural Tri-Cities.

When the mountain blew up at 8:30 that morning, nobody thought much about it.  Thought the big boom we all heard was the sound of one of the friends' children falling out of bed upstairs.  Even though said child denied it fiercely...

So we loaded up in the motorhome (yeah, Dad was a true man of the '70s back then) and we shuffled off for home - and drove right into the pitch black ash cloud.

I remember my mom packing my brother and I under the table in the back of the motorhome - stuffing pillows and blankets all around us in case we had a horrid crash - because no one knew what it was we were driving into.

We had recently moved to Washington from California so my dad could work at Hanford.

My mother thought perhaps one of the reactors had blown up and we were in a nuclear hollocaust.

We were stopped along what was then a two-lane highway in an itty-bitty town called Ritzville.  We were some of the lucky ones - we actually had a hotel room to escape the ash - lots of others who were stopped after us had to camp out in the high school gym.

A true disaster situation.

But the ash cloud - that was a big black hole - in every sense of the word.  So thick and black that it completely blacked out the sun, street lights, anything and everything.  You could barely see your hand in front of your face.

So we huddled together in our hotel room - mom and dad in one and my brother and I in an adjoining room.

What stands out most in my memory from that awful night wasn't the scare of the big unknown - the fear of what had happened to our home or if we would ever make it home.

No, it was the fact that my mother kept trying to put my brother and I to bed.  Early.  Like, four in the afternoon early.  Her rationale - it's dark out kids, time for bed.

Nice try.  We could read clocks by age almost-six and eight. 

But now I understand.  I totally get why mom wanted us to go to bed at four in the afternoon. 

I've been at home with my loving, sweet, dear children.

For a full twenty-four hours. gasp

In the ice and snow - so much ice and snow that school has been canceled for two days straight.  There is no end in sight.  And although all three want to go outside and play - being southern kids - we just aren't equipped for wet snow play - and no sooner do they get started making snow angels or a few balls rolled to make a snowman - then they're screaming and crying that they're cold.  Because the cold wet has seeped through their clothes, all the way through to their undies, as evidenced by their bright red, cold, wet skin when we strip them down to warm up inside.

Poor little things. 

Three little ones.  Cooped up indoors.  Way too much energy.  No place to go.  Not the grocery store.  Not the library.  Not a friends' house - because the roads are really bad.  Really bad.  Especially for Southern drivers who have no clue how to operate motor vehicles in inclement weather (which is why the City has pretty much shut down.)  With only the company of each other to play with, argue with, bicker with...

Darkness has fallen.  It's 6:15 as I'm starting this post.

Is it too early for bed?

If I use my mother's rationale that it's dark outside - will they buy it?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ten Years

Ten years ago I married my best friend.  And in tribute of the last ten years:

Ten years of marriage.  I often wonder how it is that Deonne stays married to me - with my impatient tendencies, my temper, and my need to always be right.  (Yes, D, I did just type that for all the world to see.)  It's been a wild ride with lots of ups and downs, laughter and tears, and I'm thankful and grateful to have taken this journey with my very best friend.

Nine-hundred laughs.  One thing I love about being married to Deonne is our ability to see the humor in things.  From the obviously funny things (usually related to something stupid one of our children has done) to the times when we're at our worst (angriest, saddest, completely frustrated) one or the other is able to take a step back, see the silliness of it all (because, really, what truly is there to be so frustrated about) and start laughing.  And as laughter is infectious - it turns things around - and we're able to work through the situation.

Eight-thousand 'I Love You's.'  Deonne is always so good about saying 'I Love You' - every time we part, every time we say goodbye on the phone - every email he closes - always ends with 'I Love You.'  It never gets old.

Seven trips to the hospital.  The birth of three children (and a few false alarms), the Thanksgiving I almost cut my finger off trying to prepare a fancy schmancy meal for Deonne's family, one vomit session that I never ever want to relive where the pediatric resident had us convinced Anna was going to St. Judes, and that weird 4th of July virus Jack had as an infant that scared the bejeezus out of me - Deonne has been there for all of it.  His calming demeanor when I was scared or nervous (or throwing up or bleeding) helped me get through them all.  And seven trips in ten years ain't all that bad.

Six years of parenthood.  After trying to start our family unsuccessfully for over a year, we were beyond thrilled to find out we were going to finally be parents.  Never in a million years did either one of us think it would be as fun or fulfilling, or tiring or exhausting, or sticky or messy, or frustrating as it has turned out to be.  I often look to Deonne as a model parent (even though he probably doesn't think so) - as he is able to look at the bigger picture.  When I get frustrated with one (or all) or our children for any sort of behavior problem - he is able to put it in a frame of reference that somehow makes sense.  He is the best father in the world - and I am so lucky he is the father of my three little ones. 

Five traumatic  events.  I have to put this here - even though it isn't fun or something I particularly want to remember.  But the truth is - these events shaped us - made us who we are today as a couple.  A lot of crap came down the pipeline early on in our marriage - and I think it is a testament to the strength of our bond that we were able to weather the terminal diagnosis and eventual death of my father, the death of my grandmother, two miscarriages, and the stroke that stole my mother and ripped her away.

Four family trips to the beach.  Having three children so close in age such that all three were in daycare at the same time zapped us financially.  There were times when we weren't sure we could make ends meet, pay the bills, and feed our family.  But we were able to save and plan and take our children on several week long vacations to the beach - much needed time to get away and be together as a family.  I hope we can continue to carve time (and finances) out for family vacations each and every year.

Three beautiful children.  It's unfathomable to me that we have three children.  We never expected to have three - always said we'd start with one - and if that went well - have a second.  Now we are a family of five - and are blessed in ways I can't articulate.  One girl.  Two boys.  And a lifetime of love in front of us.

Two houses.  In ten years, we've been homeowners of two great homes - one in Heathwood that we outgrew and our larger home in Forest Lake.  We've worked hard to provide for our family - and make these walls more than just a house - but a home, indeed.

One guiding force, our Lord and Savior.  Through this all, we have been guided by our Savior.  And when our faith has been tested, due to the challenges we've faced, we turned to Christ for prayer and strength.  There were times when we felt displaced and without a church home - but are thrilled to have found a new parish home - and look forward to raising our children and continuing to strengthen our relationship with the Lord in such a friendly community of faith.

Ten years.

One decade.

Here's to many many more to come.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cool New Website

A very good friend of mine, Ashley, is starting up a super cool website.  For all of you local Columbia mommy readers, check out  She's in the process of loading up all sorts of information about the hidden treasures to be had in our fair city.

You can also find her on facebook -!/pages/Hop-Skip-Jump-Kids/164810843539116

Cool beans Miss Mary Mack!  Can't wait to see all the hidden gems you discover!

Merry New Year!

One of the best movies of all times has to be 'Trading Spaces' with Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy. Classic humor. And one of the best lines from the film has to be when Eddie's character pretends to be a foreign exchange student from Africa - proclaiming "Merry New Year" to anyone and everyone on the New Years Eve Train.

I giggle thinking about it...

So the Party of Five became the Party of Nine on New Years Eve with the help of some dear friends and their two boys. We threw together a last minute - impromptu party (truth be told, I cleaned out the fridge to make fun party food and snacks) and gathered to eat, play, watch the Gamecocks miserable showing at the Chick-Fil-A bowl, light off some fireworks, dazzle each other with sparklers, wear funny New Year hats and crowns, and have super fun doing so.

Deonne and I used to entertain all the time (prior to having children.) I love to entertain - I loved it then, and I love it now. Something about setting a pretty table, preparing fun food, and making people feel comfortable in my home channels my inner Martha Stewart. (In a good way.) I've missed entertaining bunches - for the fellowship and fun with friends as much as the opportunity to cook and make things pretty.

After having (surprise) Jack, our entertaining that had dwindled since the birth of Anna became non-existent. As he approaches two, however, I finally feel like we're able to manage our three children and our home to the point we can open it up to friends.

I truly had a wonderful evening - and look forward to many more in the new year. And to Michelle and Phil - thank you for helping us ring in the new year in style - it was a blast!

So, in true Eddie Murphy fashion - Merry New Year to all!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dreaming of a White (day after) Christmas

Seeing as I'm not a South Carolina native, I can't tell you the last time (if ever) the Midlands had any sort of snow in December (but I'm betting it's been a really long time.)  And I'll admit that I'm a bit of a skeptic when it comes to weather forecasts calling for flakes of white fluffy goodness.  Too many times I've fallen for the tales the weathermen have woven of snow only to be sorely disappointed.

When local meteorologists started predicting the possibility of a Christmas snow, I scoffed.  When James (who clearly has read and seen too many Christmas specials complete with White Christmases) started asking if we'd get snow for this holiday, I said 'no, not likely.'  When he complained and was sad that 'there was no Christmas without snow' I told him he needed to go hang out with Bing and Rosemary in Vermont - because here in the South - it just ain't happenin.'

So you can imagine my surprise when it actually started snowing on Christmas night.

We were delighted to wake up to a coating of snow across the yard.  (Including me - even if it did make a liar out of me.)

The children adored playing in the snow - making a tiny snowman, running amok in the softly falling flakes, trying to catch flakes with their tongues, and sliding down their new slide - until James slid one too many times, soaked his jeans right through and proclaimed 'I'm finished being cold mommy!'

Then it was inside for big mugs of warm (not hot) cocoa.

I think these pictures say it all.

Christmas Day Festivities

Following the absolute torture we inflicted on our children   the nice sit down breakfast of sausage and egg casserole, fresh fruit, and warm from the oven cheese danishes, we proceeded towards round two of present opening.  (As if the gifts from Santa weren't enough....)  Late Christmas morning is when we exchange gifts from each other (the requisite books and clothes from Mommy and Daddy), little toys from each sibling to one another that they picked out and helped wrap themselves, and of course, the generous gifts from friends out of state.

All that adds up to a little bit of Christmas overload.

And once everything was opened, it was time to play!  And dear Jack found a new improved use for his little wagon (that really is supposed to hold big legos, but also is the perfect size for a little 20 month old.)  He insisted that we each take turns pulling him around in laps around the house - from the den, through the kitchen, and down the hall, through the living room to the dining room, and back to the kitchen again.  Over, and over, and over again....

Pure unadulterated Christmas excess.
A few of the Christmas cookies I packed up to share with Deonne's family on Christmas Day - gingerbread cut outs, sugar cookie cut outs, Italian sesame seed cookies, pizelle cookies, sand tarts,  salted praline bars, and almond roca.
The Christmas Cake.  I have to say, even I'm impressed with myself over this masterpiece.  I'd seen the tutorials across the world of baker blogs and thought I'd try to make a ribbon cake for Christmas.  It turned out so well, and was actually so easy, it may be my new favorite way to decorate a cake!  Inside was a dark chocolate three layer cake with chocolate ganache filling, and the icing itself was a swiss meringue buttercream.  Oh.  So.  Yummy!!!
And the stars on top are edible glitter starts found at Hobby Lobby - thanks to the tip from Nic!

After we'd all had a chance to play with our new Christmas goodies - for me, a chance to flip through the new Barefoot Contessa cookbook - and Jack had his nap - we piled in the car for a trip to grandma and grandpa's house where we dined with a traditional turkey dinner and all the trimmings.  And, then, time for more presents!

Anna has been dying for a Pillow Pet forever - at least since last spring.  She was tickled purple to receive her prized purple unicorn pillow pet from Aunt Mary and Uncle Harry.

And not to be left out - James also received a monkey pillow pet - our little monkey-man - and Jack a puppy.

Oh, what a glorious and generous Christmas we had!

We can certainly say we had a very Merry Christmas - and by the end of the evening on December 25, tucked three little ones to bed whose Christmas dreams had been fulfilled.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Christmas Morning - pre-breakfast

Christmas morning began bright and early - with the sounds of the pitter patter of little feet coming into Deonne and I's bedroom.  James crawled into bed with us - not quite awake yet - but within moments, started getting up and back out of the bed.  Deonne asked him where he was going - he said 'downstairs.  To see if Santa came.'  Nice try. We told him he needed to wait until everyone was up and awake.

So, Jack was the next to arise.  Deonne went down to get him - and start my morning coffee - then back upstairs to wait for Anna.  We turned on the TV to let James watch some Christmas specials, and after tormenting him enough, finally said 'go, wake up your sister.' 

Anna was none too thrilled to be awakened - but once she realized what day it was - she eagerly got out of bed and allowed me to brush her hair and pull it back.

So down the stairs we went - Deonne going first to 'check out what Santa left.'  His tradition is to stake out the room, make sure everything is okay, and grumble a little over Santa leaving such a mess while the children wait around the corner in the kitchen.

All traditions went out the window this year - as James went running - no - barging into the den with full speed.

Stockings were the first order of business - and Jack was delighted to find a carton of goldfish crackers.  So delighted, in fact, that once he had that carton of 'fishies' open and tucked under his arm, he had no interest whatsoever in any of the treats or packages that had been left for him - he happily wandered around, one arm around the box and one hand going from his mouth to the insides of the box - stepping over presents, occasionally squatting down to look at something - but all in all - just stuffing fish into his mouth.

Anna carefully sorted through each and every item in her stocking, then slowly and carefully unwrapped each package that Santa left for her.  She ooohhed and aaaahhed over everything, setting things aside slowly to go to the next present, admiring her loot all the while.

 James?  Well James ripped through his stocking, then his packages in about ten minutes - and that is being generous.  He'd open something up - toss it aside - then move on to the next package.  It was kind of funny - and if it had been any other day -we would have made him slow down - look to see what he was opening - but since it was Christmas - we let him have at it.

So funny to see the differences in the kids personalities.

Jack did finally decide he liked his Little People wagon - and would pull it around the house - but make no mistake - he'd pause frequently to stuff more fish into his mouth.
One of Anna's favorite gifts this year was the Rapunzel doll from Tangled.  That and the Barbie Glam Cottage - and I can't say I blame her.  I had fun 'helping' her put the house together and accessorize it with all of the cool stuff it came with.  I miss playing with Barbie.

And finally, even though Jack still had a pile of presents left to open - it started getting light outside - and magically, the kids found one last gift hanging out at the back of the tree.  It was addressed to all three children - and inside - there was a special note from Santa.  It read:


My dearest Anna, James, and Jack

My little helper Happy has been providing updates on you.

Letting me know of your good deeds, all the long year through.

I hear you have been three good children, and trying your best to obey,

So I hope you enjoy and laugh and play with the goodies I brought on my sleigh.

My elves and I have one last gift, a big one for you to find.

We worked hard all through the night to bring you a place to slide.

So look out the window and out in the yard, and see what you might see,

a place to climb and play and swing and let your spirit be free.

Happy Christmas to All!



After running to the window - James was ecstatic.  I think he almost peed his pants.  We could barely get his hat, shoes, and coat on him before he was out the door and onto the new play set.

Anna was thrilled as well - but a tad disappointed.  Apparently when she told Santa that she wanted a 'play house' to go in the yard, she meant a play HOUSE.  With an attic, a bedroom, a kitchen, and a bathroom. 

Uh, okay.  Maybe Santa thought you could PRETEND.

After letting the kids run and play on their new huge present from Santa - how did those elves get something so big built in just one day? - we brought everyone in from the cold - and forced them to sit down to a nice breakfast in the dining room.

It was Anna who asked the question - shouldn't we be singing Happy Birthday?  Isn't today Jesus' birthday?  And she was right.  So following our blessing, we sang Happy Birthday to Jesus - then moved on to round two ......

Christmas Eve (and Christmas Eve, Eve)

Merry Christmas Eve, Eve!

December 23 was a quiet day for the Party kids - Anna was home from Grandma and Grandpa's house, the boys were home from school, I took the day off, and we spent it lazing around in our jammies for most of the day. We lounged around, made cookies, watched Christmas movies, and had a few arts and crafts activities to keep little fingers busy.

Even Jack loved coloring his stand up Santa Claus. It's funny, his vocabulary has really grown in the past few weeks, going from a few words to more than I can count. And because of the holiday season during which he started putting things together, his favorite words are all holiday related - "no man" = snowman, "santa", "reindeer", "man" = gingerbread man...
James carefully colored in his Nutcracker - recognize this Kathy? I'm telling you - we were separated at birth...
Of course Anna loved this activity - she spent significantly more time at the table finishing up her craft, perfecting each ornament and bow on her tree.

James was quite proud of his Nutcracker...

As was Jack....

Christmas Eve was a whirlwind of activity. I'm so glad that we had the 23rd to relax and enjoy some uninterrupted quiet time - because starting on the 24th, it all changed. As soon as everyone was up and dressed, I whisked the Party kids off to Aunt Mary's house in Batesburg. We had word that Santa's elves might be up to something at our house - so it was important to keep the kids out of the house for the day.

Which ended up being loads of fun - Anna and James got to help Aunt Mary make some super yummy hazelnut cookies that I can't wait to make myself. They tasted so good (what little I could taste, that is - as my Christmas gift of the wretched cold settled in on the 23rd - making everything sound like I was underwater and everything taste bland.)

The kids did such a good job rolling the cookies in powdered sugar - I know they'll be big helpers whenever I can get around to making them. As a side note, the recipe calls for an entire container of Nutella spread along with chopped roasted hazelnuts. What can be bad about that?

Anna and James 'rested' and watched some of the ABC Family Christmas special marathon while Jack took a nap, then it was time to get dressed to make it to church by 3pm for the children's program. Both Anna and James participated - singing sweetly "Sing Hosanna, Sing Hosanna"and "Away in A Manger" - complete with hand motions that just about made me cry when they put their little heads on their hands pretending to sleep during the stanza "the little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head."

Like the halos? I made all thirty of those (with help from Deonne.) It was so incredibly sweet to see the expressions and hear the remarks from the little girls who I helped "halo" before the program. The most adorable was from a little tiny girl named Mary Lee. Her big brown eyes grew huge when I pulled her halo out - and she said "oh, my, it's beautiful! Can I keep it? Can I wear it all night? Oh, thank you so much!" So precious!

After the service we headed to Deonne's brother's house where Aunt Carla prepared a yummy dinner. Burke (the eldest nephew) snapped this picture of us. Isn't this typical? Trying to get a picture of three kids the night before Christmas is just about impossible - I'm surprised it turned out as well as it did!

After enjoying the company of family, and a great dinner, we bundled up the kids (it was freeeezzzzing cold - something I welcomed greatly!) and headed for home - me with a fresh cup of hot coffee in hand (thank you Carla!) And upon arrival, the kids got to open their one gift on Christmas Eve - their traditional new Christmas jammies. (James, of course, complained that he didn't want new pajamas - he wanted a toy...) Sigh.
...and then it was time to prepare for Santa - by putting out egg nog and cookies - which was no small feat - with little Jack who was more interested in carrying around Santa's plate and eating the cookies himself... and reading the Christmas Story from the book of Luke and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...

...then saying goodbye to Happy - see him perched in the branches of the tree? Both Anna and James ran in in to say goodbye - as Happy flies back to the North Pole with Santa on his sleigh - per the terms and conditions of the book. It was absolutely adorable to hear Anna say "thank you for all the treats Happy" in reference to the chocolates he left daily in the windows and doors of our advent house - and to hear James say "yeah, thanks Happy - hope to see you next year"...

...and then head up the stairs with one last peek before the children literally ran to their beds. Anna in James' top bunk, James in the bottom bunk (and little Jack back downstairs to the safety of his crib.)
And late in the night... Santa came!!!

And made a big mess - knocking over his egg nog, leaving cookie crumbs on the floor, and on the pages of the book he paused to read....