Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Adventures in skiing

 We took the whole family skiing for the first time ever! Joe had the Monday after Christmas off so we thought it could be a grand adventure. Anything with 4 kids is not only an adventure but an exercise in planning, packing, and patience, so we set the bar high! When we skied last year we had 3 adults and 2 kids, so why not switch it up and completely overwhelm ourselves? HaHA, we are geniuses!

First, the planning: When Sports Authority was going out of business Joe came across great deals on their rental skis - skis and boots were only $10 each! He bought 3 pairs of skis and 2 boots, all kids sizes because that's what they had left. All of a sudden, skiing wasn't going to cost a million dollars just to get the family into skis! We got those set to Caroline, Eli, and Patrick on Christmas day (Eli ended up needing to rent boots). We looked up a few of the closest ski resorts and settled on Crystal Mountain because all kids under 10 ski free, and even though it's 2 hours away it's still the closest place. We would rent skis for Joe and and for Ethan, and I would wrangle kids in my regular winter boots and not ski.

Second, the packing: We dragged out every pair of snow pants, jackets, hats, gloves, scarves, and ski goggles because the forecast said it would be a high of 20 degrees but feel like 10, and I know the quickest way to ruin a ski day is to be COLD. We loaded up a huge lunch, because another way to ruin a good day is to be HUNGRY. The two hour drive back was sure to be a time for rumbly tummies and boredom so I made sure we had extra snacks for the drive home, and I brought along our portable DVD player so we could rest our parental ears from any potential "when will we be home???" whining.

Eli is prepared for the cold

Third, the patience: Caroline and Ethan had never been skiing before, so they would need LOTS of help and probably get really frustrated. Eli has been skiing twice before and based on his two previous experiences, would definitely needs lots of help and get really frustrated.  We're pretty sure skiing is NOT the sport for him, but he likes to think it is. Patrick would likely be no trouble in the physical portion, but he is a kid and kids can get whiney, so we needed to keep our wits about us and not lose our minds, like "we drove two hour to get here and paid good money for this skis and you will have fun so help me!!" We didn't want to be THOSE parents.

We spent the morning in the beginner zone, where they have a never-before-seen-by-me contraption that takes the kids around in a circle on flat ground. Genius! Get the feel for skis before you head down a hill! Caroline and Patrick really enjoyed this.

They had ropes for skiers/snowboarders to hold onto, and then a few tubes attached for kids who needed a break and just wanted to sit and have fun; Ethan really enjoyed THIS.

Ethan was even a step below the merry go round so I pulled him with my scarf. At first he screamed and screamed, like being pulled along at 0 miles per hour with your mother at the helm meant certain death, but he calmed down eventually and by the end of the day had devised a little "stop/go" game for me and enjoyed me taking him down hills.

So in the end, all our planning, packing, and patience paid off! Caroline ended up LOVING skiing, and Joe took her down the real bunny hill TWICE, and (with the help of Joe) she never fell! Patrick went down the bunny hill tons of times and never fell (all his own skill). Eli enjoyed the Magic Carpet zone and never broke down crying - WIN! Ethan ended up having a wonderful day with 1/3 skiing, 1/3 tubing, and 1/3 just running around in the snow. Joe had a fun day with whoever was ready and able to ski, and I had a fun day running around in my boots and not feeling frustrated that I was missing anything (like getting my money's worth, because I hadn't spent a nickel to be there myself). It was an adventure, to be sure, and took us from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with 2 meals on the road and 5 hours of driving (thanks, ski traffic), but now we can say WE DID IT.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas 2016

Some Christmases are more successful than others... and this one was one of those that make the other Christmases look like a schmuck! We had a WONDERFUL time!

I was a little stressed out at the beginning of December when my goal of having all my shopping done got pushed back, and back, and the 1st quickly became the 18th.... but I got it all done before Christmas, and it hasn't always happened that way! And somewhere in the middle there we had some friends watch all the kids for us and Joe and I had a wonderful shopping day to ourselves - it was one of the magical shopping moments where you find just what you're looking for and you're in the mood to buy it without hesitation.

Sometimes I get caught up second-guessing myself, even when it will obviously be good in the long run - this happens a lot with grocery shopping! For instance: I know I'll need more oatmeal soon, but how soon is soon? Oatmeal's not on sale right now, so maybe I should wait? But maybe I'll need it soon and I should get it now (splurge on the extra 50 cents, since it's not on sale, heaven forbid). But seriously, nobody in my family is that crazy about oatmeal, so I should definitely wait, right? I hem and haw and stand there for approximately 180478378 years, make my decision NOT to buy the oatmeal and firm up my resolve to not take this long on my next shopping purchases, but then I come to the cold cereal.... and it starts all over again. And I get home, exhausted from my mentally challenging shopping experience so I want to make No Bake Cookies, and it turns out we are OUT OF OATMEAL.

So I was worried it would be like this with Christmas shopping! But NO, it was AWESOME, and on top of it all we got to go out to lunch without kids, so we had huge, greasy, delicious burgers from Five Guys. Anything that wasn't purchased that whirlwind day was bought with Amazon Prime and came in plenty of time for no-stress wrapping (and led to plenty of  remember when Amazon was an online site for buying books, and who even needed that? conversations.)

As a common-but-still-cute-tradition we bought new pajamas for the kids to wear Christmas Eve. The Cat&Jack line from Target had adorable stuff that really fit each kid's personality, so Ethan got diggers, Eli got a bear, Patrick got a Triceratops, and Caroline got a dress.

Debbie and John sent their packages with LOTS of time to spare, and far exceeded our own purchases in sheer volume! By the time we had all presents set out, our tree skirt was full to the brim... but there is a moment if disappointment when you come out Christmas morning and the presents look basically the same as the night before (even though seriously, there are a million presents), so Santa came by Christmas Eve and added chairs and tables for a multi-layer stacking effect. And, as is our tradition, the stockings were removed from the mantle, filled with candy and a few small gifts, and set by a large Santa gift somewhere in the room, so there were presents everywhere.

Sure enough, Christmas morning there were GASPS of delight from the kids (yessssss!). You know it's a good gasp when you can hear them all the way down the hall in your bedroom :) We got clothes and books and toys and gifts-asked-for and total-surprise-gifts, we got games for now and experiences for later (paid-for classes starting in January). The big surprise gift was a keyboard for the kids, with a set of headphones (for the parents' sanity). We were SO BLESSED with gifts!

Ethan left the hubbub after he opened his matchbox cars from Debbie and digger from Santa - he was content to play in the other room on his road!

Christmas on a Sunday is looked forward to with dread, but we decided we would use 11:00 church to slow down our morning and stretch it out into a whole day, so we opened most of our gifts before church, then attended a special one-hour service that was centered around music (which makes me cry) and had a few speakers (which also made me cry). It was a wonderful break from the physical to appreciate the spiritual. I had a moment, while we were singing and I was crying, where I could see the older members of the ward as the young children, when they were singing with their parents and their grandparents, and I could see the very young children in the ward and how they will be the grandparents, singing alongside their children and grandchildren, and it all happens in the space of a moment. The days are long, but the years fly by, and all of these generations pass in a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things, and we are ALL blessed by the birth of our Savior, and by his sacrifice for every single one of us. Including me! In that very moment! It was a wonderful moment.

 Wonderful days filled with wonderful moments: a Christmas miracle.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Finished! In that 98% Kirsta-kind-of-way

 I have continued working on the tree skirt, and I am pretty darn pleased with the results! There are some ornaments that are just basics, some based on actual ornaments on our tree, like the bell and the candy-cane mouse, and there are some that are based on the spirit of the holiday. Here they are in all their glory:

 And the effect under the tree is quite lovely!

The kids obviously couldn't look forward to unpacking it with their stockings, since it didn't exist until just now, but they have enjoyed helping me along as I make the designs, and we even had a nice night where I taught them how to embroider! Ethan was, of course, not a part of that crowd.

But that's it for my holiday crafting this year! I've learned that it's important to have a craft to look forward to because planning is half the fun, I've learned tree skirts don't need to be nearly as big as you think they do (I cut this one down 3 times), and I learned I need to move out Christmas tree next year because in its current location it gets walked on a lot and white felt was a bad choice for that. Ahhh, so much learning every time!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

How to party when you're 6

Caroline's birthday was on Thursday and the only thing more disappointing than a December birthday is a middle of the week birthday, especially when your mom makes you ride the bus as usual and also chooses not to bring in treats to your class. There just are already TOO MANY TREATS floating around in December, including the birthday cake she was getting that night, so was practically doing her and her insulin a FAVOR... though I don't know that she saw it that way.

The day certainly wasn't a bust, though! It snowed the night before so school started 2 hours late, meaning she had lots of time for her smoothie and blueberry muffin breakfast, and to open gifts before school! Then we had pizza for dinner, her special request, followed by chocolate cake, and I am not exaggerating when I say it was the best chocolate cake I've ever made. From a box mix, but the frosting was homemade and fudgy, and I opted for a 2-layer round cake, which means MORE fudgy frosting!! We were in heaven.

The a.m. gifts REALLY worked out great because there wasn't much time the night, as picking up her special request of pizza made me re-think all my life decisions as we waited for nearly an hour for 2 pizzas that, we found out as we opened the box at home, they got WRONG. Next time I will settle for pizza I cook myself; at least I'll know what I'm getting and when I'm getting it. In the end we DID get some pizza and the worldkept turning despite my first-world problems, but HUMPH.

She got fuzzy sweaters from the Gustavson grandparents, a book and a chock-full-of-baubles jewelry box from the Jacobs grandparents, and hair accessories from us because we've really been tring to tame her mane for kindergarten and church. Good thing she's my only lady, I fall down pretty hard on the hair game! But we try.

And that was Caroline turning 6! What a day.
Her crown from school, taste-testing her frosting

 Trying on mom's boots, wearing her new sweater

Checking out her new jewelry box 

 Gifts and brothers <3 nbsp="" p="">

 ...and a dad :)

Monday, December 12, 2016

How to party when you're 33

I don't think I was EVER much for going out, not in my teens OR my 20s, so turning 33 was not the time to begin a wild life of debauchery! And so, homebody that I am, I stayed up late the night before, waiting for Joe to get home - there was a catered dinner for the 2nd shift at work, served at 10 p.m., and he was one of the people in charge of doing that serving. So he got home at 12:30, right as I was giving up and going to bed, and I was so glad I caught him because he walked in with a beautiful bouquet of flowers! He admitted he didn't know where we had stashed the vases so he would have had to wake me up anyway :) 
The flowers were the only thing he brought me on my actual day because just the week prior my birthday present was delivered, and I certainly wasn't going to twiddle my thumbs for a week waiting to open these beauties:
So awesome, right?! Up until they arrived the only place we had to sit was the dining table, which is also the kids art area, and you have to fully clear one vefore you start the other and sometimes I just want a soda and a snack and to NOT clear the table, so this bar has been crying out for some seating! Mission accomplished.

My other birthday wish was to not cook, so we ordered pizza. Hooray, I felt like a kid again! Pizza on my birthday and I was so stoked! I thinks adults are supposed to be stoked about fancy restaurants and extensive dessert menus and such, but we polished off our dinner with made-from-scratch homemade ice cream (as opposed to the "homemade flavor" ice cream from the store, which should be ashamed of itself because it's not even close to fulfilling its claim [except Blue Bell, which isn't sold here]). It was a WONDERFUL evening. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Piano Forte

Two of my kiddos are enjoying the piano! One of those "if I were a better mom" guilt traps is that I do not have a set practice time or amount for them. Once they start playing I think, "oh yeah! I wanted to make them practice!" But as soon as they step away I think, "Oh, yeah! I wanted to house to be quiet, I'm so glad they're done, but TOMORROW I'm definitely setting a time and a timer so we can get serious...." Ahhh, the eternal optimism - it's hopeful yet maddening. 

I've taken a few videos of them playing, NOT to brag (because let's face it, Patrick is almost 9 and there are concert pianists his age) but to enjoy watching the kids do what THEY enjoy. Caroline especially enjoys it, and will find a few moments, opportune or otherwise, to practice the piano (while I make dinner? Great! After I've asked you 3 times to find your shoes because we're late? Not so much!). Patrick enjoys it BUT... I think he mostly enjoys being better than Caroline, however so slightly. When she can't quite figure out a note or a phrase, he will step in and step on her toes - often literally, hip-checking her to the side so she can "see how it's done." This, not-so-shockingly, drives Caroline insane, thus driving me insane. I think he practices juuuuuust enough to stay ahead of her on a song. I've noted to Patrick's teachers, and I think it remains true here, that Patrick is motivated by praise for being the best. I suppose it's fortunate that Caroline is setting the bar high for him ;) 

I posted most of these videos on Facebook, but that was a terrible combination of oversight and laziness** on my part. I don't really like posting on Facebook - I find it more a useful platform for getting information like, "Where's a good Mexican restaurant Joe can take me for my birthday?" and, "What was the book club book this month?" And I also enjoy funny videos people post, so if it made my day, it made my wall! But I REALLY don't like multiple posts of the same event, and I could not for the freaking LIFE of me get the videos to upload into one post! But the videos were too long for instagram (where I ALSO hate multiple posts of one event), and people... it's just been so long since I was in the habit, I FORGOT ABOUT THE BLOG. So now, for your viewing pleasure AGAIN, but all in one post where I can easily find them, are the piano videos. With a bonus video of Patrick playing Jingle Bells, his new all-day-every-day song.   

**You should know: It took me 2 hours of wrangling my phone's countless (ok, 1,830) picture and video files onto my external hard drive just so I could post these videos. I can only hope one of my kids turns out to be a tech whiz 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Skirting the Issue

Who doesn't like a good Christmas project? 

Last year my big project was (finally!!) making family stockings. I did them from felt and my very biased opinion thinks they are SUPER cute. This year as I unpacked our Christmas decorations the kids were first and foremost ready for those stockings, but I came up dry in terms of a tree skirt! I've previously used blankets, and now I see I was using those blankets as a placeholder until those stockings were done so I could creat a MATCHING SKIRT!! Not for the first time, procrastination served me well! The stockings dont have a theme exactly, but "colorful" and "felt," "embroidery" and "ricrac" come to mind, so with that I am making colorful felt ornaments that decorate the edge and "hang" from colorful ricrac. For your (ok, MY) viewing pleasure, here are the more detailed ornaments I've finished, and on the bottom is a more general view of the project. I am approximately one million hours away from finished, but I am having lots of of fun in the process.