Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Say Cheese

When did "Say Cheese" go from this:

to this?:
(Tera said to shake their heads so it would make the picture blurry.)

Often times they just plain ignore me
and/or cover their faces.

With photo saboteurs such as these, it won't matter how great my camera is!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Prep and Landing (part two)

Christmas Landing

We woke up Sunday morning to find Santa had paid us a visit.
This year he brought the usual stocking stuffers but also Razor scooters!

After we tore through Santa's gifts it was off  to the presents under the tree.
(clockwise:  Dippin Dots Maker, Ninjago Lego set (one of many), Angry Birds on Thin Ice, American Girl Doll Trundle Bed)

For the most part I really enjoyed watching L and T open their gifts but to be completely honest I did reach a point where I thought they were not especially appreciative.  If one opened a gift the other wanted than the other would pout.  If one perceived the other had more gifts than the one would throw a fit.  Perhaps it was because they were hungry (we had not eaten breakfast yet) or they were just being normal kids but I'm also thinking I went a little overboard on the gift giving. 

fun with presents 

(to be noted:  After breakfast it was a completely different story.  They spent the rest of the day and the following day playing with and appreciating all of their gifts.  I feel much better now but I think I will still try to scale it down next year.)

Not only did the children receive gifts but so did the rest of us.
Matt and his new frying pan and Chloe and her cat-nipped mice.

My new SodaStream is on the left and the blue rectangle next to my iPad is my new Jawbone Jambox wireless speaker.

Matt and I also got a new digital camera.  The Canon PowerShot SX230 HS.
Pictures should be spectacular from now on.

Maybe we all got a bit too much this Christmas but we sure did enjoy spending time together as a family.
In fact, Matt remarked today that he usually feels the evenings fly by when he gets home from work but the past two days have been very laid back and relaxing.

 Here are some more pictures of us enjoying our gifts and spending time as a family.
Lego Creations
Tyler's Alien ship and Lauren's house

modeling their new skull robe and PJs

Hot Wheels wall track and all our new video games.
(Wipeout for the Wii is trending as our family favorite)

Acrobatics with Daddy.

Christmas has Landed!

Christmas Prep and Landing (part one)

Christmas Prep

I want my children to grow up to have wonderful childhood Christmas memories.

Maybe it is because we live so far away from any family but every Christmas I worry I'm not doing enough to instill those memories.

I do have some "traditions" that we tend to do every year...
and this year was no different.

We prepped for Santa by making: 

and baking:

and preparing:

(we also made Cinnabon for the bread machine Cinnamon Rolls and frosting - not pictured)

Christmas Prep:  Accomplished

(We may eventually outgrow some of these "traditions" so I'm anxious to hear new ideas.)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas Eve!!
Matt is out with Mr. Mike doing some last minute Christmas shopping and the kids and I made our traditional Christmas Eve cinnamon rolls.
(Let it be known Lauren does not like cinnamon rolls nor the vanilla icing but she does like to help make them.)

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas as we celebrate Jesus' birthday.

Question:  What are your Christmas Eve and Christmas traditions?  I need some more ideas.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Break 2011

School is out for the year!
Tyler is SO! excited.
(I asked him to smile nicely and this is what I got.) 

Today we had Tyler's classmate Ford over to play.  (You remember Ford right?)  Although Tyler and Ford were a bit shy at first they quickly warmed up and all three of them (Lauren, Tyler, and Ford) had a great time.  
I also, had a great time enjoying some adult conversation with Ford's Mom.  
We're all looking forward to many more play dates with Ford.

With two more days until Christmas we are chilling out.
The Santa Clause movie is in our immediate future.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Adventures of a Room Mom (Assignment #2)

Tuesday was Lauren's school Christmas party and as the Room Mom I was in charge of putting it together.  Her teacher told me she wanted it done in 4 stations and the children would rotate stations every 15 minutes.  She gave me a $50 budget for supplies (money our class earned earlier in a fundraiser) and let me have at it.  I'm seriously not a party planner but I think I pulled it off.  (I don't want that to get out so don't tell anyone.)  I'm also very lucky to have a great group of parents who were beyond generous and helpful.

The four stations:
1.  Christmas Brunch
2.  Decorate Ginger Bread Houses
3.  Craft
4.  Another Craft
Lauren decorates her "gingerbread house"
(milk carton)

The details:  (since I'm sure you're dying to know)
1.  Christmas Brunch
I sent an e-mail out to parents with a list of Brunch items and asked them to contribute.  And ho boy did they contribute.  We had 2 quiches, sausage balls, Chik-Fil-A nuggets, bacon, pigs in a blanket, muffins, biscuits, jams, juice etc. etc.  One of the classmate's older sister works for Chik-Fil-A and actually served the brunch.
Station #1 = HUGE SUCCESS

2.  Decorate Ginger Bread Houses (milk cartons)
I didn't ask for any donations for this, or the other crafts, but I used part of the $50 to buy all the supplies.  Icing, Graham crackers, peppermints, marshmallows, M&Ms, sprinkles, gummy bears etc. etc.  This was a fun station and the children really enjoyed decorating their houses.  There was a sprinkle mishap but a parent cleaned that up quickly with a broom.
Station #2 = HUGE SUCCESS

3.  Craft #1
A Google search for "easy ornament crafts" turned up these Layered Christmas Tree Ornaments.  I cut all the felt pieces out ahead of time and also prepared the popsicle sticks.  Lauren painted them brown and I hot glued a string bow to hang them.  All the kids had to do was glue on their felt cut-outs.  This was a cute and easy craft but they finished it in 5 minutes or less and then waited patiently went stir crazy until it was time for the next station.

4.  Craft #2
Stamped Gift Bags based on (this craft)
With the left-over party money I bought a piece of Styrofoam and made my own stamps (like this.)  I also bought paint and let the kiddos decorate and stamp paper bags so they could put their tree ornaments in them.  This was by far the messiest station.  Paint was all over and the stamp shapes turned out to be a little abstract on the gift bags.  2nd graders aren't huge fans of abstract art yet.
Station #4 = MESSY, a bit SLOPPY but FUN = SUCCESS (next time I'll skip the homemade stamps and let them use markers.)

A parent volunteered to work every station so I got to bounce around them all.  Almost every child had either their Mom, Dad, or Grandparent there.  Everyone was a great help.  If someone could guarantee the same group of parents every year than I'll gladly be ROOM MOM every single year.

My next "official" Adventure as Room Mom will be the Valentine's Day Party.  If you have any suggestions please send them my way.  I'm already stressing about it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dinner Idea...If You Dare

Tonight I made an interesting looking soup for dinner.  Due to the unappetizing dark greenish brown color I didn't snap a picture.  (you're welcome)  I also didn't have high hopes my family would eat it so I gave Matt left-over Jambalaya and made the kids chicken nuggets.  BUT...the soup tasted great and I can feel the healthy just oozing out of my pores.  I recommend you give it a fact I Dare You.

Herb, Chard and Feta Soup
(adapted from Bon Appetit magazine January 2012 edition)

1 T. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 bunches swiss chard (I used 1 bunch red stalk and 1 bunch white stalk), coarsely chopped, about 10 cups
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 T dried parsley
3/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 c. fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 T. dried mint
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 T. fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
5.3 oz. plain Greek yogurt
4 oz. feta, crumbled, divided

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until translucent and soft, 8 minutes or so.  Stir in chopped chard, broth, parsley, cilantro, fresh and dried mint, and nutmeg.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chard is tender, about 20 minutes.  Stir in lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth.  If you don't have an immersion blender put one on your Christmas list immediately, in batches, puree in a blender until smooth and return to pan.

In a medium bowl add 1/3 of the Greek yogurt.  Add 1/2 c. of warm soup: whisk until smooth.  Repeat process twice more.  Whisk yogurt mixture into soup in saucepan.  Stir in 1/2 of the feta cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle into serving bowls and top with remaining feta.

Serves 4.

Mint, Cilantro, Swiss Chard and Feta....all delicious and even better together when made with this recipe.  I promise it is not overly minty and for you leafy green can't taste the swiss chard at all.

I Double Dare You.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Whirlwind of a Weekend

I'm glad Christmas break is only three school days away because this has been a whirlwind of a weekend.

Tyler had his school Christmas party.  We had brunch, decorated cookies, us parents chatted and the kids danced and acted crazy until the teachers had enough and quickly, yet politely told us parents to GO.  A successful Christmas party in my book.

Friday night I had neighbor Miss Shirline come over to baby-sit the kids.  (Miss Shirline, her sister and parents moved into Lea's old house.)  After she was settled in I drove into Atlanta (let it be known I despise driving in Atlanta) met Matt at his office and then we went to dinner at Kyma for his office Christmas party.  (His office consists of himself and one other employee so it was a fun and relaxed dinner with just the four of us...John and his wife Mary, Matt and I.)  You can't really tell but I dressed up for the occasion.  Here's a head shot.

We slept in until 9:15.  That was a first! (since having kids)  Then it was off to Walmart to grab a few things (omg...Do Not Go To Walmart the weekend before Christmas.  MaDnEsS!) and then basketball.  Lauren and Tyler both won their games or maybe they didn't...they don't keep score but they both had a F-U-N!  In the middle of Lauren's game Tyler and I had to leave so we could make it to a classmates birthday party.  It was a fun party with a scavenger hunt, rolling contest (with toilet paper,) pinata and of course, cake and ice-cream.  We had a chilly good time.
 When we got home from the party I found these waiting for me.
Matt had said he was craving Lobster Bisque and I told him I would make it for him.  All he had to do was find me some cooked canned or frozen lobster.  Well he couldn't find that so I had to learn how to make Lobster Bisque from fresh Cold Water Lobster Tails.  This YouTube video helped a lot.  I completely forgot to take a picture of the finished product but it was Perfect (Matt's words.)  I used this simple recipe.

I did my usual (the family knows not to bother me)  1. Read the AJC (newspaper) front to back.  2. Cut coupons  3. Prepared my weekly menu and grocery list.

While I did that Matt took pictures of our Christmas tree.

One of these things is not like the others.  Can you see it?

Chloe's eye shines in this one.
The crazy cat is obsessed with the tree.

Sunday 1pm:
FOOTBALL!  Matt and his friends headed down to the basement for the rest of the afternoon and Lauren and Tyler played with any kids who accompanied their football watching parents.  

Lauren and Tera reluctantly smile for me below.
Tyler and big Tyler are up to no good (I'm sure) out of sight.

While the kids played I prepared dinner (Jambalaya) and also my healthy lunches for the next week.  I've been watching what I eat lately since my original plan of exercising like crazy but also eating that way was not helping me lose weight.  Next weeks lunches will consist partly of Cheesy Cauliflower soup.  (despite the name it's really tasty!)

On a positive note...After two weeks of watching what I ate,  I wore a size 8 jeans today.  (yeah!)

Monday will be here soon enough so I better get a move on.  It's been a Whirlwind of a Weekend and now it's time to relax with some T.V. time (the Season Finale of Survivor.  Go Team Ozzie.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

a quick and funny Tyler story

My children do not normally volunteer a lot of information about school but if I ask specific questions they are more than happy to chat.
Today I asked Tyler who he played with on the playground and instead of  hearing the usual, "Harrison."  He told me he played with "Ford."  I couldn't help myself and I had to clarify so I asked him, 
"Is there really a Harrison and a Ford in your class?"
He said, "well yeah"  (in a "well duh" tone of voice)
He does not know how cool that is!

Monday, December 12, 2011

"REACH"ing out

A couple of months ago I mentioned that Lauren's teacher sent home a parent evaluation for the REACH program at her school.  I filled it out very honestly and sent it back to the school.  I than had a one on one with Lauren and let her know someone was going to talk with her about REACH (test her) in the next few weeks.  I told her it wasn't a big deal and to just do the best she could.  She immediately told me she hoped she would get in because all the smart kids go to REACH.  (The kids are already talking!)  I reassured her she was smart no matter what.

Well today Lauren brought home an envelope containing the REACH results.  I'm happy to announce that Lauren was deemed eligible into the program.  Congratulations Lauren!!
I'm a bit anxious as well since we will be "REACH"ing out of our comfort zone and learning a whole new program.  (a program with many benefits though)

It's a bit of a coincidence but I was also tested for the REACH program when I was in 2nd grade.  (Back in the day we called it TAG.)  However, after the first day of testing they told me I didn't need to test anymore.  I soon found out that meant I didn't pass.  I still remember the whole experience vividly.  And that says a lot since my memory is definitely sub-par.
(I did eventually get into the TAG program in the 7th grade.) 

I'm glad Lauren got in because hanging onto a memory like that is just plain silly and irrelevant.

More about the REACH program:

REACH: Relishing Education And Conquering Heights
Program for Gifted Students K-12

"A gifted student is one who demonstrates a high degree of intellectual and/or creative ability(ies), exhibits an exceptionally high degree of motivation and/or excels in specific academic field(s) and needs special instruction and/or ancillary services to achieve at levels commensurate with his or her abilities."

Education Program for Gifted Students    State Rule 160-4-2-.38, effective August, 1998

What is the REACH Program?
REACH provides differentiated instructional services in core academic content areas to eligible students in grades K-12. These services are based upon the system's aligned curriculum and checkpoints, with instruction presented in an accelerated and interdisciplinary fashion. At least five (5) segments of differentiated instruction weekly (or its annual equivalent) are available for eligible students. To continue receiving gifted services, the student must maintain an overall "B" (80) average in the subjects of mathematics, science, language arts, social studies and foreign language, if such language study is included in the student's records. The student must also maintain a "C" (71) average in each gifted class attempted. In grades 6-12, the student must also have no semester grade below a "C" (71). 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

a Proper playroom table

When Grammy visited last month she spent a lot of time playing Legos in the playroom.  

After many hours in the playroom and many Lego masterpieces she decided the tables they used were quite inadequate and very much outdated.
(the old train table & a plastic Ikea kids table with a blanket over it)

Next she took to the Internet to do some research for a Proper playroom table.
It wasn't long after she left for home when boxes started showing up at our door-step.
(for a grand total of 8!)

Slowly but surely we Matt started to put the pieces together.

And today (before football started) Matt finished and L and T immediately started to enjoy the new 
Proper playroom table.

 Even Chloe likes it.

Then it was out with the old and in with the new.
(Anyone (local) want to buy a train table & a bunch Thomas the trains?  Let me know.)

Legos now have their own bins!

.  A Proper playroom table that looks amazing in there!
Many memories will be made with this new table.
Thanks Grammy (and GG and everyone else who unknowingly took part in the purchase!!)  

Our playroom looks so sophisticated now.
(and Lauren can't help but pose like a princess anytime a camera is around)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Upward Basketball FUN

Today was our second Saturday of basketball games.  Wait, What?  I didn't even tell you L and T were playing basketball?  How could I let something so FUN slip past this blog?

Well...They practiced once a week in November and their games started the first week of December.
Our children (possibly? due to their Mom and Dad's genes) are not very aggressive nor super out-going.  Because of their personality style we chose the Upward program for basketball.  Upward is a Christ-based program which focuses more on teamwork and having fun than being the best and winning.  I think we made the right decision because after every practice and every game Lauren and Tyler have both said they had fun.  FUN!  I want them to play sports (because that is what I did growing up and it is good exercise) but mostly I want them to have FUN!  Well I won't just talk about it.  Let me show you video from their first basketball games ever.

Tyler:  Coach Matt (aka Daddy.)  Playing for the Lions.  Age:  Kindergarten
(I love that Matt is coaching because it reminds me of my Dad who coached just about every team my brothers and I ever played on.)

Tyler is the yellow #3 with the tie-dye undershirt.

Lauren:  Coach Tommy.  Playing for the Penguins.  Age:  1st and 2nd Grade
(Coach Tommy is wonderful!  He always and only points out the positive and he always has something positive to say.  Our Penguin girls are very blessed to have him as our coach.)

Lauren is the yellow #1 with the long-sleeved green undershirt.

Christmas Light Madness

Thanks Uncle Brian for the sarcastic comment just now on my last post.
(touche by the way)

Well I'm bringing Christmas back tonight with our crazy, out of this world, Christmas light display that Matt spent two hours setting up.  Like he does every year he debated whether or not he should get the big ladder out and put lights up on the roof.  Like he does every year he decided (wisely) that he is too old to be up on the roof.  We are thinking we may switch it up next year.  Maybe wreaths on the windows instead?

why is my front door open?
it's 45 degrees outside

Christmas Light Madness
(you may have to look can only absorb so much splendor)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Shrinky Dinks

Apparently these have been around forever but thanks to Grammy (via Uncle Kevin & Aunt Mili) we just discovered the wonderfulness of ShrinkyDinks.  If someone at ShrinkyDinks corporate wants to provide me with some free product I'll be glad to write a glowing review.  Oh wait...I guess I'm going to write that glowing review anyway.

While she was visiting Grammy ordered the kiddos the ShrinkyDinks Christmas Tree set.  It arrived after she left but upon arrival we got right to work.  First they colored the *dinks.  (*I made this word up.  I'm guessing that is what they are called before they are "shrinky'd")

 (still growing her bangs out)

colored *dinks waiting on non-stick tin foil for their visit to a 350 degree oven

Three minutes later they turn into ShrinkyDinks!
it's really cool!!

After they cooled I hooked them up and turned them into ornaments for the Shrinky Dink tree.  
Then Lauren and Tyler (well mostly Lauren) hung them on the tree.

Aren't they CUTE?!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

You couldn't tell by the weather (t-shirt temps again (yay!)) but it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at our house.  I finally got my decorations up.  I don't do much because I prefer a homemade/handmade look and as the children grow it is a work in progress.  Here is an inside look at our Christmas 2011 decorations:

 the mantel
(cornucopia painted by Lauren)

Lauren added a note to Santa in case he didn't know she had sealants put on her back teeth and is not supposed to eat hard candy.

the coffee table

book shelf
*countdown Santa painted by Grandma Jan*

the tree
(the fake tree that is)

L and T really enjoyed decorating it.

Chloe was happy to join in the fun and be left alone.
(black mass on the red tree skirt)

 I even got some easy smiles for pictures.
(that should tell you how much fun they had)

I really enjoy this festive time of year and I hope you are enjoying it as well.
I (finally) ordered my Christmas cards today.
I think they are cute, clever, and funny....Matt wasn't so sure.  
We'll see what you think when they get here.

(P.S. No DVD again this year...sincere apologies)