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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Saying Goodbye to 2014

(This took me FOREVER to finish.  Finally posting now, but less than halfway into January, which I declare to be not bad, not bad at all.)

Since Louie's birth on New Years Eve three years ago, the holiday has definitely changed for us.  In fact, I don't even think about doing anything else that day, other than celebrating my boy, so it's just sort of something in the background.

Not a huge deal, I've never been much of a New Years person anyway, but I do like the idea of reflecting on the past year and thinking ahead a little.  Especially as we're on the cusp of another huge change for our family... I think it's a good idea to take a look back and reflect on what this past year has meant for our family, and for me specifically.  It's been a great year, but it's also been challenging in many ways, and full of as many highs and lows as you would expect raising two little boys.

I like this survey so I'm going to go with it as a way of organizing my thoughts.

What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?
Got pregnant by accident?  Eesh, that sounds bad, but it's the truth.  This baby girl is a wonderful, happy surprise, and I couldn't be more excited to meet her, but I'd be lying if I didn't note that her creation was something that was still being heavily debated when it occurred.  However if you believe in fate, or some sort of higher power, or God (which I think I do) then she's no accident.  She was meant for us, and we were meant for her, and she is a good reminder that life has a way of deciding things for you.  That things really do work out.  That control is an illusion.

Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I didn't make one last year, and I don't usually make new year's resolutions.  I am not a big "goals" person, is that terrible to admit?  Maybe it's just apathy and laziness, but I just don't get hung up on that stuff.  If I want to start doing something, I do it, and I certainly have never felt like the turnover of a new year was a reason to overhaul something huge about my life.  A reason to buy a new calendar?  Sure. 

As I get older though, I do like the idea of thinking on a mantra or a specific idea that I want to be aware of as I begin another year.  Or even something I want to try to avoid doing in the coming year.  And for 2015, I'd say I'd like to Worry Less and Do More.  I spent A LOT of 2014, and 2013 for that matter, worrying and stewing over things that were a big "unknown", and a lot of times, worrying about things that are out of my control.  And then trying to stuff all those worries deep down and not think about them.  Not do anything about them.  Mostly, I'm talking about my sweet oldest child.  I lay in bed some nights and my brain just will not shut down with thoughts of kindergarten and this new baby and all the changes that are coming that could go well, and could go badly.  I am worried that I'm not making the right decisions for Gus.  I am worried that he will continue to have issues with school and social situations and getting enough sleep and his energy level and controlling his emotions FOREVER.  I am worried he will be labeled a bad kid when he starts school.  I am worried he will get a teacher next year, or some year down the road who won't understand him.  A teacher or administrator who won't have the time or energy or ability to try to understand him and work with him.  And I worry about how all this will affect his confidence and his learning.  I worry that school will break him, and if it happens, I won't know what to do.  It feels like I'm bracing myself for a battle, but I have no idea what it looks like, or when it will occur. 

And that's really no way to live.  I can't keep thinking like this.  I have to try to think positive, and I want to take a perspective that shit happens.  Shit WILL happen.  And when it does, I will do something.  Worrying about it now and stewing about all the things that could happen until I'm truly a crazy person does no one any good.

When or if something does happen.  I will stop.  Assess.  Act.

And until then... I will live.  Trust.  Hope.  Love. 

I'm sick of thinking the worst of people, thinking that my kid is the only kid with challenges, and thinking that no one will understand him.  History has proven that that is not true.  We were blessed with a daycare provider that has made it her mission to help him grow and flourish over the last year and a half.  And he has.  Her methods or opinions on parenting might not always mesh with mine exactly, but everything she has done has been out of love for our child, she has proven that time and again, and her efforts have proven fruitful. 

We have had amazing preschool teachers whom have had to have the difficult conversations with us, but have also shown such kindness, such respect, and such clear and noble intentions.

So this year I will worry less.  And do more.  And try to trust that we will get through whatever comes our way, because we always have.  And trust that I will know in my gut what to do when and if the time comes that something must be done.

Phew.  Feels good to get some of that out.  

Did anyone close to you give birth?
Oh yes someone certainly did.  My very best friend in the world became a mom this year, in December, and we were able to spend a good chunk of the year experiencing our pregnancies together.  One of the best things about 2014 for sure.  

Did anyone close to you die?
No.  Not that I recall.  And I don't like this question because I feel like it's bad ju ju to talk about a lack of death. Like it's somehow asking for death.  And now I don't want to talk about it anymore.

What countries did you visit?
Dan and I went to Mexico for five days in April for our 10th anniversary and it was glooooooorious.  Just.  Wonderful.  I'm so glad we did that before I went and got pregnant and therefore committed ourselves to at least another couple years of likely no (kid-free) travel.  (Is anyone going to be willing to watch our THREE kids?  Am I going to want to leave three kids and know how much they will surely make me pay upon return?  I'm just going to go ahead and assume no, at least until we're out of the infant stage with this little girl.)  

What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
I want to feel like myself again, physically.  I know it will be a while before I am TRULY myself again, with the post-partum stuff and the breastfeeding and everything that means for a mother of an infant (Dan says I'm a complete lunatic for the entire first year while breastfeeding, which I resent a little, but he's probably right), but I am so looking forward to not being pregnant.  I am way over it, and okay with this being my last pregnancy.  It was definitely my most difficult, both physically and emotionally, and it seems like I experienced every symptom in the books this time around which is just... well it sucks.

So in 2015 I would like to have a summer that is not plagued by nausea and tin-mouth and fatigue.  And I would like to start running again.  I cannot wait to sweat and pant and feel strong.  I want to feel strong.  I have felt weak for the better part of the last year and I miss that.  I realize that having an infant is not going to improve my restfulness, I am not naive, but also I know first-hand that it is a different type of fatigue than I've been dealing with for basically this entire pregnancy.  And I have survived one of the worst sleepers known to man, so bring it.  I am ready with my coffee. 

Oh, and also?  A daughter.  I definitely lacked a daughter in 2014, and I am ecstatic to have her in 2015. 

What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
December 12th will probably stick with me, which is the day Lisa went into labor and Carter was born.  Other than that... I'm not much of a "dates" person.  I actually have a terrible memory with stuff like that, things come and go and are quickly forgotten.  I'm also terrible with birthdays.

Though Friday, May 30th, 2014 does jump out at me.  Yup.  That one I remember.  You can probably guess what happened that day if you count back 38 weeks exactly from my due date of February 20th, 2015.   

Also October 3rd was the day of our ultrasound, when we found out we were having a girl.  That was a very exciting and much anticipated day, so it doesn't surprise me that I was actually able to pull that one off the top of my head.  But I suspect the impending sleep deprivation and chaos of parenting three children will rip that useless knowledge from my brain.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
A promotion at work?  Feels like a cop-out, but it happened, and it was a bit of a happy surprise to find out my work is valued as highly as it is.  I wasn't necessarily feeling very valued before this promotion was pretty much dropped on my desk.

What was your biggest failure?
I am not always the best wife, or friend.  I feel like I'm in survival mode for so much of my life that when I really take stock, I don't feel like I give those people in my life that mean the most to me their proper due, nor do I nurture those relationships as much as I should.  I am pulled in many different directions for so many hours of my days, to the point where I just sometimes do not have the mental or emotional energy to be the wife and friend I want to be with that extra time I do have at the end of the day, or the end of the week.  I could do better, and I want to do better. 

Did you suffer illness or injury?
No.  I've been pretty healthy this year (knock on wood) and so far this pregnancy has been healthy and normal. Despite often not "feeling" healthy, everything has been a-ok and I am thankful for that. 

What was the best thing you bought?
Plane tickets to Mexico?  A minivan?  A new furnace (ick).  Huh.  Boring.

Whose behavior merited celebration?
My children.  Ironic since I've alluded to Gus's behavior "problems" but when I look at the big picture, over the past year these boys have grown so much in maturity.  Their friendship and brotherly bond has flourished beyond what I could have expected two years ago when we were really in the trenches, and that really does merit celebration.  Goodness I love them so much.

I will also say Louie, specifically, because he essentially rocked potty training here at the end of the year, when we anticipated and feared the worst.  (Oh my, he is stubborn.)

And of course, Dan.  He has picked up the slack with nary a complaint (well maybe sometimes a sarcastic joke) while I've been, frankly, a bit of a beast throughout this pregnancy.  I couldn't fathom doing any of this, (this meaning, well LIFE), without him.   

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Jeez, I don't know.  Gus's behavior (and sleep habits) in December made me appalled and depressed.  But I've talked about that before and don't want to re-live it.

I have had friends go through some really rough times this year, and the behavior of certain people in their lives has really sucked... and that is a major understatement.  I am hopeful that the next year will be a much better one for those friends.

Oh, and also let's go light and fluffy and ridiculous and say... the character Captain Jack Randall from Outlander.  He just freaks me the hell out and I spent the majority of his scenes hiding behind a pillow.  And he needs to leave my Jamie and Claire alone.  Also it is appalling and depressing that the second half of the first season of the Outlander series does not continue until freaking April. (Are you people watching Outlander?  OMG why not?)

Where did most of your money go?
Daycare.  Preschool.  Student loans.  A new furnace.  A minivan.  Impulse Zulily purchases. Costco.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?
That we're having a baby girl!  Also the fact that I will have two new nieces in 2015.  And my brother's wife is also having another baby (gender to remain unknown).  And OF COURSE my best friend's pregnancy and new baby boy!  So basically... babies!

What song will always remind you of 2014?
Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran.  I'm basically obsessed with it and the kids cheer with excitement every time it comes on the radio (which is a lot), screaming "Mom, it's your favorite song!  Your favorite song! Turn it up!"

Compared to this time last year, are you:
-Happier or Sadder?
As I mentioned, the nagging worry and anxiety related to kindergarten next year and school in general just intensifies as we get closer to September 2015.  So I have to admit... probably a little sadder.  But again, I'm trying to work on that, on how I deal with that unknown and those worries.

-Thinner or Fatter?
Fatter.  About 25 lbs of baby and amniotic fluid and uterus fatter. 

-Richer or Poorer?
Poorer.  Impending 3rd kid.  Private school next year for Gus.  A busted furnace.  A new car.  And on top of that Dan started a new job this year that has been a very good change for him, but came with some minor negatives, financially.  Nothing we couldn't handle, and we went into it eyes open, but still.  We're doing more with less this year and our savings account is proof of that.

What do you wish you'd done more of?
De-cluttering.  Writing.  Organizing my photos.  I get behind on things, then overwhelmed, and then I just don't do them.

What do you wish you'd done less of?
Procrastinating.  I really do make my life more difficult on a day-to-day basis with this big character flaw.  Mornings are more stressful and frantic because I don't do things at night that I should do, like shower and prep mine and the boys clothes.  I even procrastinate getting out of bed in the morning, and we're almost always running out of the house late, and that means I get to work later than I'd like, which means I have to stay there later than I'd like.

And then I procrastinate with big projects at work, which often leads to stress and later hours in the office and arguments with my husband about when I'm going to be home for dinner.  It's a big giant circle of lateness and added stress that could be avoided if I could just DO BETTER at life.  But man.  Old habits die hard.

How did you spend your Christmas?
Busy.  Happy.  Tired.

Did you fall in love in 2014?
I've thought about a way to answer this question creatively for so long, and have come up with nada. So I guess the answer is no.

What was your favorite TV program?
The aforementioned Outlander, of course.  I've also been binge watching The Good Wife throughout various parts of the year, and Scandal as well, though I'm kind of over it at this point, I did love watching the first couple seasons on Netflix.  The Mindy Project makes me belly laugh like nothing else I'm watching right now.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Terrible, weird question.  Bill Cosby?  Still love Cliff Huxtable though, so that is all very confusing.

What was the best book you read?
I read both Gone Girl and Sharp Objects in Mexico and consequently am a big fan of Gillian Flynn. Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes was heartbreaking and wonderful and perfect.  Moved me more than anything else I read all year.

What was your greatest musical discovery?
None.  I am music-lame.

What did you want and get?
I finally decided to take the plunge with a DSLR camera, and so Dan and I bought a Cannon T5i for Christmas.  I have no idea how to use it, outside of auto mode, but there is plenty of time for me to learn.

What did you want and not get?
A new kitchen.  We've been dragging our feet, not sure if we are here in this home to stay, but it's beginning to look more and more like that is the best plan.  So with that decision made, we plan to remodel the kitchen, but haven't been ready to make the decisions and spend the money and deal with the inconvenience just yet.

What was your favorite film this year?
The Veronica Mars movie was awesome just because it was Veronica Mars in a movie theatre.  I also really liked Gone Girl and Mockingjay Part I, and I'm sure I saw more movies than that this year, but nothing jumps out at me.

What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
I turned 33, and I have no idea what I did, but Dan made me this cake.  I'm guessing I requested an early bedtime for the kids and a quiet night at home.  Living. It. Up.  :)


What is one thing that would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Less stress and worry over things I cannot control.  Less gross pregnancy symptoms.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
Well since I was pregnant for the 2nd half of the year, I'd probably say making non-maternity clothes work as much as possible.  For some reason I REALLY hated maternity clothes this time around, and ended up purchasing a lot of non-maternity stuff that would work with an expanding mid-section. Not sure what my huge aversion was, but I remember going through my boxes of maternity clothes when the time for that came and hating almost everything.  I donated most of it and ended up barely wearing the stuff I saved.

What kept you sane?
Sparkling water saved me during the times of intense nausea this summer/fall, and I totally stocked up on Pellegrino at Costco and chugged that stuff right from the glass bottle.  Stay classy.

As for my general sanity, I think just saying no more often has helped me this year.  I have a really hard time saying no to people, but I've made a concerted effort to give myself a little grace this year and try not to be the doer of all the things.  I have tried to remember that I do actually have a choice in how I live life, in the things that I do or don't do.  Yes, I tend to fall back on my old ways, but just making a concerted effort to be okay with staying home more often and not booking up every free second of the day has been freeing.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I find Sam Heughan just dreamy and got somewhat Google-happy when I was watching Outlander this summer or fall or whenever it was.  Also, find Ed Sheeran to be too cute for words in the Thinking Out Loud video.  What is with me and the gingers this year?

What political issue stirred you the most?
The racial divisions in the country being magnified by the Ferguson riots and the Brown/Garner decisions.  I've followed all of it with mixed feelings, but mostly a lot of sadness.  And the reactions of people on social media... well a lot of that can be just gross and I have determined that I don't even want to know how a lot of my "friends" feel about certain issues.  Which makes me feel like part of the problem, pretending these issues don't exist.

Who did you miss?
My brother Nathan, for sure, especially this year when he had to make another big move and wasn't even able to make it home for Christmas.  We saw him and Eric over labor day, but it's of course just always hard to have family live so far away.  Especially since my life is such right now that a trip to Chicago or St. Louis to visit my little brother would be quite complicated.  I would like to make it a priority in 2015 though.  I say that, but will I really want to travel that far with an infant?  Right now the prospect of such a trip just makes me feel very tired.

Who was the best new person you met?
I really have enjoyed getting to know the other moms/dads at ECFE with Louie this year, and the parent ed teacher has been delightful.  More of a support group moderator than an instructor, which I have appreciated.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.
Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions.  Sometimes they end up being made for you.  But control, in general, in this stage of life is pretty much an illusion.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas 2014: The Good, the Bad, and too many Pictures

The Good: 

-The whole Christmas experience with kids really does continue to get better with age.  Gus and Louie were both so excited and so funny and so silly and so enthusiastic about everything Christmas this year.  The spirit of Christmas really does come alive with children.  The twinkly lights and singing ornaments, the claymation specials on TV, countless tellings of both The Night Before Christmas and the Nativity Story.  Louie could often be heard singing to himself Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (obsessed) and Gus's skepticism-turned true believer of the Elf on the Shelf this year was absolutely hilarious.  To quote: "Dad, I know Elvis (our elf) isn't real, he's a stuffed animal.  I saw the tag.  Louie don't worry about him, he's just a stuffed animal."  But then later in the month, Dan caught him peeking around the corner from the kitchen, staring at the elf who was hanging from the ceiling fan on a helicopter made of K'NEX.  He then admitted to Dan that Elvis must be real, because that morning he was looking one way, and now he was looking the other, so he must be real.

-Baking cookies, eating cookies with my coffee every morning, basically everything that has to do with cookies this time of year, I am all about.  We had a really fun baking party at my mom's with my aunts, cousins, and sister-in-law this year and I hope we make it a tradition in coming years.  We all went home with a ridiculous amount of baked goods after like 8 hours together listening to Christmas music and chatting.  Super fun day.







My dad entertained the boys outside for hours while we baked, and when Dan came to pick them up they made their first snowman of the year.  So cute.  The next day every drop of snow was gone and temps were in the 40's.  Such weird Christmas weather we had this year.



-I really do love buying things for my kids.  There.  I said it.  Dan and I know these two little rascals better than anyone out there, better than they know themselves at this point, so we have the ability to pretty much nail it with the gift-giving.  And yeah.  We did.  I don't even actually think we went that overboard, (though I know others do things differently and might disagree), because truly this is the only time of the year that we actually do go out and buy them the stuff that we know they will lose their $hit over. Christmas and their birthdays.  And that's the truth.  So when those days come, it is just so fun to give and make them happy and see those smiles and join in the excitement of being a kid and receiving the most perfect present.

On December 23rd, we had breakfast for dinner and got the boys in their jammies and opened presents from ua, which has become our tradition over the last few years, because with all the other family Christmases we have it's really the only time left for just us.  It was such a happy and care-free night, despite how it started (see the sleep portion of my next category of bullets).

Here's a little montage of the boys while Dan passed out the presents that they have been looking at under the tree for weeks...
Gus was pretty excited, to say the least.








-We were healthy this year.  Crossing my fingers that continues, but at this point it's safe to say that at least we were all healthy over the holiday, and I'm going to go ahead and declare that a win.  I know the crap that is floating around out there, and this year more than ever I have actually been somewhat okay with trying to just lay low at home relatively often.  Today, for example, the Monday after a Sunday during which we never left the house because we spent the whole day organizing and purging toys, and the boys and I are still just chilling at home.  Of course they asked what we were doing today.  They wanted to go to some play place or the zoo or really anywhere, but I resisted.  We are fine playing with all the new toys, getting Louie a nap, sharing snack time with Optimus Prime.  Part of my willingness to stay at home is because I'm way pregnant and doing stuff on my own with the boys takes a lot out of me these days, so for that reason and to help avoid sickness, it really has been good to slow down.

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-I am just 32 weeks pregnant this year, rather than 38 weeks and ready to pop.  It's nice not having that hanging over my head quite so close.  We've got time.  Not a ton of time (like whoa, I have a feeling the next 2 months will go by really fast), but still time.  Time to slow down again and regroup before the next big thing.  When Louie was born New Years Even almost three years ago there was very little regrouping time and it was very overwhelming. 

The Bad:

- The boys' "Advent" calendars were overall fails in my book.  They loved them, of course, but those blasted things were the bane of my existence and the cause of much missed sleep throughout the month of December. We first got Gus this Lego one and then found an animal calendar for Louie. Both very fitting, very much geared towards their interests and individual personalities... but the whole countdown thing and opening something new every single day proved to e just too much for our oldest.  Every damn morning they were both up in the 5:00-6:00 hour (and it just got earlier and earlier the closer we got to Christmas) and the first thing they wanted to do was open up that day's box.  Gus also created very high expectations in his head about what he would be getting, based on the pictures on the box and simply because that is what he does with everything, and the letdown when things to not go the way he had built them up is a lot for him to handle.  He wanted the Lego guys, or the little vehicles or sleds, and after days of fruit stands and coffee stands and (god-forbid!) GIRLS, we reached a point where each morning just turned into disappointment for him and my frustration with his inability to be grateful that he was getting anything at all.  It was too much for our guy.  Sure, good teachable moments in there, but in general just a lot of crabbiness way too early in the morning.  I don't need that with my coffee every morning for a month before Christmas.  On the plus side, Louie's reaction each day was awesomely hilarious and so sweet.  I had one kid crying in his room because he got an ice-skating GIRL Lego and another one grinning ear-to-ear over opening up his third piece of connecting fence.  My two children couldn't be more different.

- I already mentioned the lack of sleep but it needs its own bullet.  We had a really crappy month of sleep and that is putting it mildly.  The sleep deprivation got so bad that Gus was having behavior problems at school, his issues with focus and impulsiveness were magnified tenfold this month and I spent a lot of afternoons crying and google-ing and despairing after long conversations with his teacher.  The anticipation of Christmas had him on edge, "big days" are hard for him and high expectations are difficult for him to manage, and maybe years from now I can look back on this month and laugh that he would wake up at 5:00 AM every morning practically fist pumping and screaming "It's almost Christmas!", but today it's still too raw.  The memory of December 23rd when he was up for the morning at 4:15, and all the yelling that occurred as a result, and then my sobbing meltdowns (I'm way too pregnant for this) over the next two hours as we made him stay in his room and prayed he'd go back to sleep, and then the severe regret over my own behavior that I had to sit with at work all day...  Suffice it to say, Dan and I got to the point where we just wanted Christmas to get here, and be over.  

- I'm still not sure how to manage or even react to the greediness that comes out this time of year.  Or how to teach my kids that regardless of whether or not a gift is something they're excited about, they should be grateful for the fact that someone purchased something for them with their own money and spent their own time wrapping it for them.  I hate seeing them throw half-opened boxes of clothes to the side with barely a glance, or open something maybe "educational" (i.e. not super hero/Transformer/Star Wars related) and just look at it with confusion and disappointment and ask to move on to the next.  I know these are things kids do, and all you can really do is talk to them about being grateful, and model what it looks like to be grateful, but it still happens and those moments are awkward and admittedly embarrassing as the parent.  I also know that I have two kids who hate to be on display, and opening a gift from someone in front of many people is the definition of being put on display.  I want to give them grace and time and skills to learn to deal with those moments appropriately.  I know that it's counterproductive to be thinking about myself and what their behavior says to others about "me" in those moments.  Still, as a people-pleaser from way back, it's hard to not.  We did bring the kids to a local Toys for Tots drop-off to donate a few Paw Patrol toys that they REALLY wanted to keep for themselves (there were tears the night before when we discussed the plan), and I think we will work on some thank-you notes this week which we did for Gus's birthday as well, and it was a good exercise for him then.  But certainly this year the more gifts they got, and the more Christmas-s we had (this year it was five separate days of opening presents) the worse it got.  By the last celebration they were both all MORE PRESENTS I WANT MORE, WHAT THIS IS ALL I GOT?  GIVE ME ALL THE TOYS!  RAWRRR!

- I totally need a sugar detox after this holiday.  Holy mother.  I mentioned the cookies (the leftovers have all been relegated to the freezer which makes things a little better... out of sight, out of mind), and now it's the stocking-stuffer candy that sits on our dining room table and my grandma's pecan pie she sent home with us on Christmas Day and the cherry cheesecake dessert Dan's grandma brought out at 9:00 pm on Christmas Eve and the chocolate covered almonds I'm eating RIGHT THIS SECOND and and and...

The rest of the pictures

(And if you make it through all of these... thank you, and I'm sorry.  I got a new camera this year for Christmas and went a little crazy playing around with it, and I really wanted to do Christmas in just this one post... so it's a bit of a doozy.)  

We did Christmas on December 21st with my parents and Ben and his family.  Nathan and Eric just started new jobs in St. Louis, so couldn't come home at all this year.  :( Sad panda.  Wasn't the same without them.

We spent the whole day at my parents'.  Starting with brunch, then presents, then football and lounging, then a movie (A Muppet's Christmas Carol!) and finally Chinese food for dinner and early bedtimes for the non-napping kids.  Great, easy, low-key day.

















Absolutely went crazy for this thing.  Like, he squealed when he opened it.






Christmas Eve started with church (so exhausting with these boys) and then was spent at Dan's grandparents' home.  Christmas Eve was, and always is, Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes for dinner, and trays of sweets in every room of the house.  Screeching happy children running throughout the house, mix-and-match transformers from great-grandma for all the little boys, singing Christmas knick-knacks in the stairway (a favorite of Louie's, always), a dance performance by my nephew in front of the jukebox, quiet moments, loud moments, sweet kids, naughty kids, tired kids, frustrated kids, occupied kids and parents who actually get to sit around the table and talk and just be.

















This shot really shows the chaos that is gift-opening on Christmas Eve.





Abby was desperate to find someone to play Barbies with her.  Poor thing, surrounded by boy cousins... though not for long.





One last time this year, "Twas the night before Christmas..."

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Playing Santa...

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And then Christmas morning's Santa excitement.  (Gus finally slept past 5:30!  Almost to 7:00 in fact! Thank God, since he went to bed at 10:30 on Christmas Eve.)





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Lots of lounging in pajamas on Christmas Day until it was time to go to my parents' for the extended family gathering.  It was exceptionally warm, so we walked through the quiet, deserted streets and then Dan walked back once we got there to go get the car and all our "stuff".  Really nice to get outside and get some fresh air, we took our time walking and jumped over cracks and said "Merry Christmas!" to everyone we passed.  Lovely.

Very concerned about Graham messing with his snacks.

No Graham!  Get your own!



Out like a light after the meal, during The Grinch.  All Christmased out at this point I think.  (Me too.)





And finally,the Saturday after Christmas we closed out the holiday at Dan's parents' house with all his brothers and sisters and the big gaggle of cousins.  We were able to make a day of it and it was wild and fun and chaotic and exactly what it always is.  The kids were absolutely in their element and it was great to all be together in a very easy way.  

Just a sample of all the gifts.  Big family = a lot of garbage bags of wrapping paper at the end of the night.



A snacky h'ourderves graze-all-day kind of day.






So begins the wild paper-bag-puppet show.  Pulling out all the stops trying to stall gift-opening until James was home from basketball.  These pictures make me so happy, so I apologize for the ridiculous number I have chosen to share here.








A little iPad time on grandma's bed (more stalling/placating before presents).  

Oh the things I find in this house...



Almost time.  Waiting patiently as we began passing out gifts.




Poor buddy.  So so tired.  He needed a pick-me-up for sure at this point.

Enter: Aunt Heidi


Old dance costumes were unearthed from the basement.

Chocolate cake.  Because... why not?  Grandma doesn't need a reason.