Thursday, December 31, 2009


Homemade Christmas Gifts

Money was a bit tight this year for our family, as I'm sure it was for many other families out there. With me just coming off maternity leave and Chris having his hours cut at work, I decided to make a few of our Christmas gifts. Here are some pictures of my efforts:

These elf ornaments were and idea from and they were very easy and fun to do. I made one set for my mom and one for my mother in law. It took a long time to stitch together the hats, mittens and shoes but I found it to be very soothing.

I made sure Sammy's elf had an orange hat since he has orange hair and all the boys had blue eyes except for Luke, who has brown eyes.

These are the ribbon barrettes I made for my nieces to accompany their copies of my favorite movie, "Xanadu." I always dreamed I would pass on my love for that movie to my own daughter, but I guess passing it on to my nieces is the next best thing. I was really impressed I was able to make these just from the memory of how the ones I had 25+ years ago looked. Does anyone else remember these?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Past

I am so fortunate to have married a man who LOVES Christmas. He was raised by a mother who loves Christmas and it was passed down to him. My absolute best Christmas EVER was the first year we were married because he showed me what a wonderful holiday it could be. This is what my Christmases were like growing up:

There were four of us kids and very close in age (4 1/2 years between my older brother and younger brother, with my sister and I wedged in between.) On Christmas morning my older brother (Sorry, Steve, you know I love you now but you really were horrible to do this) would wake up somewhere between 1am and 3am and go downstairs to the living room. Our gifts were NEVER wrapped - NONE of them. There were just four piles of stuff, one in each corner of the room. I do remember there being a piece of paper with a name propped up in front of each pile one year, but I think most of the time we just had to figure out which pile was for who.

So Steve would go downstairs and rifle through each pile to see what all of us got and then after he got tired of being alone, he would come up to our beds and wake us up by telling us exactly what we got. How's that for a nice way to wake up on Christmas morning/night? I remember really wanting to stay in bed because it was always before 4am that he woke me up, but I felt I would have to go downstairs to at least protect my stuff from him. (This stems from him doing the same thing with our Easter baskets and actually losing a part to one of my Easter toys one year.) I think my parents finally got up around 7am and by then all the gifts had been gone through. I'm sure this ritual was no fun for them either, but as a parent now I wonder why they didn't take control of it by either wrapping the gifts or forbidding him to go downstairs until a decent hour of the morning when we could all go down together. At any rate, this is why I never really enjoyed Christmas all that much.

My dad enjoyed it even less, especially because although my mom obviously saved money on wrapping paper, she overspent on toys, toys and more toys. So when I was probably around 11 years old, my dad "cancelled" Christmas and we were only allowed 2-3 items after that. I'm not sure I missed getting all the stuff because I was just thankful to actually get some SLEEP!

Back with a more cheery post on "Christmas Present" in my home with 4 little boys (some pics, too!)....

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sir William!

I'm so unbelievably busy with working full time now and getting ready for our first Christmas with FOUR kids, so not much time to blog these days. But here are a few pictures from William's 2nd birthday yesterday. We had such a great time at Chuck E Cheese and just spending time as a family. I think age 2 is probably the best birthday for parents because the child has no expectations and is just thrilled with everything.
William's absolute favorite thing: "The Neigh"He went night-night with the brand new neigh his Nana and Pa got him. I thought it was a little Godfather-esque but he loved it. Goodnight to the sweetest 2 year old I know!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tree by Griswold

We got our tree on Sunday. Last year was the first year either Chris or I had ever cut down our own tree and we absolutely LOVED it! So that's definitely going to be a tradition for our family. The boys, of course, also think it's great. Last year we got about an 8 foot tree and since it had a bend in the trunk, Chris ended up having to cut about 2 feet off it before putting it in the stand. It looked really small with our high ceilings, so this year we decided to go a bit bigger...

I don't know why we went with the full 12 footer, but it seemed like a good idea when he was cutting it down. Once he started dragging it back to the car, however, we started second-guessing our choice. The guys at the tree farm estimated it weighed between 300-400 lbs. It took three people to get it on the top of the car.
When we got it home, we realized that although we have really high ceilings at their peak, the place we wanted to put the tree near the wall was only 9 1/2 feet high so we had to cut it down. Still, the tree has the girth of a 12 footer so it's pretty obnoxious.

The good news is that we finally have a tree that can very comfortably accomodate all our ornaments. Chris has many from his formative years, as he got one or two every Christmas growing up. Here's his ornament from 1978 when he was six:
It was really cool to show it to Owen and tell him that this is the ornament Daddy got when he was exactly his age. We have carried that tradition on to our boys so they get a special ornament to remind them of something that happened that year. Eventually they will take their ornaments with them when they move out and have families of their own. This is the one we got for Owen last Christmas to remind him of his first trip to Disneyworld:
We also try to get a "family" ornament that will stay with Chris and I forever. We bought one when we were in Disney last year, we had a "new home" ornament in 2002 for our first house and again in 2006 when we moved here. But my favorites are the pregnant snowman ornament my mother in law got me in 2002 when I was pregnant with Owen and the ones from the year we got married:
This bride and groom were given to us at our wedding shower by my mother in law. She even made a special padded box for them to be stored in.
Look how happy we looked on our wedding day!
I also have a ton of Santa ornaments because one day I would like an artificial tree in our foyer that is just all different Santa ornaments with our Santa tree topper. Then we will have the real tree with the hodgepodge of ornaments. I love how our tree tells the story of our life together. I look forward to adding many more ornaments to it over the years.

What we woke up to....

It was a glorious "snow day" here in southeast Wisconsin! I called off work because I've learned not to try to brave these country roads when it's really bad like this. At the very least, I would have certainly gotten stuck somewhere or worse, I would wreck another car like I did last year. Neither option sounded as good to me as staying home and playing outside in the snow with the boys.

Chris got all fancy and spray painted the snowman to look like a hobo.

Even Luke went out in the sled, but he didn't last very long. Who doesn't love an infant in camoflauge?

Sipping hot chocolate by the Christmas tree afterwards, I thought of all my blessings and smiled.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Mother's Take on Christmas

When I became a mother 6 1/2 years ago, I was unprepared for the way it would change my life forever. It came with a level of responsibility I had never known and I was forced to reevaluate my priorities at that very moment my doctor said "He's here."

But the most important way motherhood has changed my life is the way it has opened my heart. I read somewhere that having a child is like having your heart walking around on the outside of you and that's so true. Suddenly I felt a kinship with all other mothers in the world throughout time. I can feel the pride of a mother whose child wins a gold medal at the Olympics, the shame of a mother whose child commits a horrendous crime, and the indescribable pain of mothers who have lost a child to sickness or war. I routinely cry when I watch the news. I try not to watch the news.

This is the second Christmas I've had a brand new baby. This year I have Luke who will be 3 months old at Christmas and William was born on December 14, 2007. That year I had thoughts and feelings about Christmas I had never had before. I looked down at my sleeping infant and felt that same connection between myself and Jesus' mother, Mary. And I saw baby Jesus in little William's face.

Don't we all see God in our babies? They are fresh from heaven, the sweetest, most innocent beings on this earth, more precious than anything we could ever imagine. And this is what Jesus was, only more so because he was God.

He had sweet little dimpled hands like my Luke does. He didn't have teeth or hair. He was completely dependant on his earthly parents to carry him, feed him, diaper him. I realize now how amazing it was that he humbled himself like that. How difficult would it be for me to be that dependant on someone?

When did Jesus learn to crawl? To walk? Talk? What was he like as a child? Was he like my William? Did he giggle uncontrollably when tickled? Did he sing silly songs? Was he a perfect child or did he sometimes throw tantrums or hit other children? Did Mary kiss his soft skin and cry at the thought of him growing up? Did his smile light up her world?
As much as I love my four beautiful boys, how much more could Mary have loved her son, knowing that He was sent by God to save all of humanity? At Christmastime, especially, these are the things I think about.
Merry Christmas to all the mothers out there! We truly are blessed beyond words, aren't we?