Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Still Holly Jolly-ing

Hello again! It's been a while. In the midst of the holly jollyness of this time of year, I'm finding I am not the most responsible person. I've been staying up way too late working on Christmas gifts, dance costumes, and if I'm totally honest watching Hallmark Christmas movies. I might have a problem. But...since I'm no longer going into the office since the semester ended, I've been letting myself sleep knowing I can come home and do everything I normally do in the morning. Unfortunately, that means I've been missing my writing window, though, too.

This weekend was filled with going to see Rudolph (which was incredible), baking cookies with friends, and a declared pajama day on Sunday. We finished edible gifts and watched Christmas movies all snuggled on the couch. It was lovely.

This week, I'm dividing my time between the school and working on projects around the house. We've had big fun in kindergarten decorating gingerbread men and making reindeer. I'm down to one costume to finish for dance, and the only glitch has been the little sequin pieces that are stuck in my area rug. Word to the wise: do not cut sequins over carpet. Just don't. I think I will declare it Christmas magic and roll on!

For now, off to make more magic...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Just Yes

So, yesterday was one of those days that was just blissful and better than imagined--even though it was a relatively ordinary Thursday. Maybe that's what made it so wonderful.

Most importantly, Issa had her tooth extracted with zero issues. I will be forever grateful Dr. Crisp came into our lives. Issa was a bit nervous on the way there, but she came bouncing out to get me when they were finished. Apparently, they started the whole thing by adjusting the chair so she could perfectly watch all of the holiday specials on Disney while they worked. Sophia the First and Doc McStuffins make anything more fun. The tooth popped right out and the spacer popped right in, and they did a fabulous job of keeping Issa just loopy enough with Happy Gas and explaining what they were doing just enough that she proclaimed the whole experience, "Fun!" The tooth even came home in a special treasure chest for the Tooth Fairy.

The only hitch was that as fabulous as she felt she couldn't go back to school. We would have made it in time for lunch, but she couldn't eat until 15 minutes after her lunch ended. So...we had an impromptu girls' day. She helped me run errands, and then she and I went out for a nice soft pasta lunch. It's so rare that I get completely unrushed time with just her, and it was lovely. I now know all the third grade social dynamics, and we had just simply had a fun afternoon.

Later that evening, I dropped her at dance and then took Evan to ninjitsu. They were working on punching this week, and Evan throws a mean punch. It's his strong suit, so he was one happy kid. We went back to the studio where I dropped him off with Miss Gabi so I could go to a Mom's Night Out. Bliss. There is nothing better than knowing your kids are very happily playing with a sitter while you sit with a group of other moms. I always feel rejuvenated after these dinners with my little tribe.

I got home in time to tuck, and then I Christmas crafted until way past my bedtime. I realize I am not always the most responsible human being around Christmas, but I am in my happy place, which is well worth the extra cup of coffee this morning.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Elfin Kindness

When Brad and I agreed to let Santa send us an Elf on the Shelf, we also requested that he be a particularly kind elf--no messy pranks or crude humor. We wanted an Elf that celebrates Christmas the way we do, focused on Christ's birthday and giving. Thankfully, Buddy is just that kind of elf.

What I've noticed about Buddy is that he helps us stay even more focused. Yesterday morning, he left some mini-cupcake wrappers and a note suggesting we bake some treats for the neighbors. As it turned out, last night was cold and rainy and I was tired. But Buddy's note was sitting there, and so we started baking. Soon, I wasn't so tired, and the look of sheer joy and surprise on the neighbor's faces by fresh treats on a Tuesday night was priceless--elfin kindness.

This morning, Buddy left two huge gift bags for the kids, but they were empty. He reminded them that although Santa brings them three gifts, he likes to bring kids with less toys more gifts, and he also likes to be sure every toy has a home where it gets played with often. Buddy suggested we put a few things in the bag for Santa to share with other kids. Issa and Evan were nearly late for school because they couldn't wait to fill the bag, and we had a great conversation about giving on the way to school. Elfin kindness.

Buddy has helped me stay focused on what matters, and he's writing whole pages in the kids' storybooks. It's magic, and I couldn't be any happier.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Promised Pictures

As promised, a post full of pictures!

I love our tree this year:
 The ornaments the kids have made are always my favorites, and the highlight is that Brad repaired the angel so she glows again! We purchased that angel on our honeymoon, and I might have burst into tears when he fixed it.

Meet Drosselmeyer:
 Please keep in mind he is taller than I am and filled with white lights for the evening. I'm still giddy.

The kids were thrilled to know Buddy, our elf, can string popcorn and cranberries:
 One morning he was stringing on our mantel. The next he had placed his string on their little desk tree.

But my favorite under the tree scene:
Viv has finally decided a bed may not be a bad idea, and Neela wants to be where ever Viv is. So...I pulled her bed right beside Viv's, and the two of them have taken to sleeping all curled up in front of the tree. It makes my heart happy.

Monday, December 8, 2014


The last part of last week was, well, a hot mess. Admittedly, I had no emotional reserves to cope, and Brad being out of town left me sulking and overwhelmed. Thankfully, it was also full of silver linings, and this weekend was just what my soul needed.

So Wednesday. Wednesday morning I was supposed to have an off campus meeting. When I arrived, I discovered the other person had forgotten. The responsible thing would have been to go home and grade. Instead, I went home and decorated. Our house went from turkeys to festive by the time the kids got off the early dismissal bus. I was up until all hours grading, but I don't regret that decision one bit.

Wednesday afternoon we went to Issa's annual physical (she's awesome) and then for dental cleanings. Good news: both kids are great brushers, flossers, and have no cavities. Hurrah! Bad news: Issa has an abscess. Yeah. It seems that 1% of the time if kids get hit in the face as young children, when the tooth begins to get loose it can just abscess. Of course Issa is in the 1%. Thankfully, the routine x-rays caught it before it caused her any pain, and it's an easy removal scheduled for this week.

Thursday morning, I started my day at the body shop getting an estimate for our front bumper, which is now tastefully duct taped on after a run in with a raccoon. This is so not my happy place, but we have great insurance who sent us to a great place with Bobby who is my new hero. He takes care of everything--right down to the rental car. Just as I was almost to work from that fun, the school called. Issa was sick. Awesome. I turned around to get her, and thankfully we really think it was some bad lettuce. She bounced right back and all was well by noon. It also gave me an excuse to change back into comfy clothes and grade from my couch.

Friday, I discovered I can't see. I knew my vision wasn't great, but it turns out I have developed a major astigmatism. Thankfully, Issa helped me pick out some great glasses. I also am quite certain I was the subject of my optometrist's dinner table conversation. He asked if headlights looked odd to me at night, and I said absolutely but I assumed they looked that way to everyone. Apparently they do not. Now I know.

Friday night, the whole family came with me to a study break party for my students, which was very fun, and then we went home and stayed up way too late. Saturday, we had hair appointments, and Issa asked for a new look, and then asked me to get the same one. We are twinsies. I know this will be the first and last time for the request, but it did my heart good. We went from there to a surprise holiday lunch at one of our favorite spots--because Daddy is tricky--and then spent the day decorating our tree before going to a neighborhood Christmas party.

Yesterday, we had Ryan and Felicia over for brunch, and they helped finish our tree and bake gingerbread cookies. Issa had asked if they could help decorate because they really are like family, and yesterday that was so obvious. The tree may be one of my favorites yet, although some of the gingerbread cookies are very scary. Ryan and Daddy decided to make some zombies and some weeping angels, and my life may never be the same again.

The day ended with our little crew decorating outside. Our herd of deer officially needed to be retired, so we went on a mission for some new holly jolly. Enter Drosselmeyer, a tinsel, white light nutcracker that is taller than I am. He now stands watch in front of our pine tree, and he and the lit garland on the porch make me giddy.

After the weekend, I finally feel like I'm resurfacing. Our week looks shockingly calm, and we are settling in to just enjoy the season. Maybe tomorrow I'll share some pictures of our holly jolly fun, but for today I am just basking in this this joy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


We have a new member of our holiday celebrations. Buddy the Elf. After a couple years of begging, Daddy relented and said Santa could send us an elf. I think that has a lot to do with the knowledge that we are on the brink of magic changing for Issa. Right now, though, we are all still basking in the glow of Christmas magic straight from the North Pole.

Buddy was waiting for us when we arrived home from Thanksgiving, and Monday morning he was hanging from Issa's hair bows and had drawn a Santa hat and beard on the mirror for them to "wear" while they brushed their teeth.

Yesterday morning, he left us sugar seeds with instructions to plant them in a bowl of sugar:
I mentioned that I thought we could eat the extra seeds, but the kiddos wisely thought we should wait and see what they grew into first.

They were so excited, but not quite as excited as when they realized the seeds had grown into candy canes overnight. They even checked for the seeds in the sugar, but sure enough: the seeds had transformed. I thought it was safe to eat the extra seeds, but the kids reminded me that the candy canes were wrapped, which means the hard shell on the seed must be plastic. I have such good thinkers.

I love the magic of all of this. I love seeing their faces light up in the morning. I love hearing them giggle and puzzle things out. I love that we are writing pages of their storybooks again this Christmas, and that is the greatest magic of all.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Bring in the Holly Jolly

Following tradition, we headed out to find the perfect Christmas tree last night--the Monday after Thanksgiving. We went back to the fire department, and we were not disappointed. Life doesn't get much better than trees and fire trucks. After looking at every tree, we finally found the perfect one:
 I can't explain Issa's whatever that is face. I did insist on a new picture:
 The firemen that put our tree on top of the car were awesome. I really think one of them was part elf he was having so much fun.

Our tough guys brought the tree in:
 Look at that: inches to spare:
It is up and filling the house with pine. Once it's decorated, I'll post the final pictures!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Still Thankful

Well...this Thanksgiving didn't go exactly as planned. Tuesday morning, as I was beginning to pack and send the kids to school, Mom called to tell us that Grandma Luzny had gone Home. After years of suffering with dementia, she passed very peacefully and quietly, although unexpectedly, in her sleep. After the shock, we packed a little quicker and headed North. We are so incredibly grateful for a peaceful passing just as the whole family was already headed into town.

Wednesday was spent gathering the family together, looking at pictures and telling stories. One thing I will say for my family is we rally. Mom's house was filled with family, and thankfully laughter and warmth. We played cards in her honor, pointing out when she would have been proud of when she would have told us we were playing it too safe. The kids played in the snow, and we all knew she would have loved watching--and was watching. (I will always remember her building little snow people--and occasionally saving them in the freezer.) We were together, just as she would have wanted. While we are all so incredibly sad to not hear her voice any more, we are so incredibly grateful her struggle is over and we could all celebrate her life together. A few extra relatives filled the Thanksgiving table, and we saw more old friends at the visitation and funeral.

I am also so, so grateful that Issa and Evan were able to celebrate her with us. They have so many clear memories of her, and they loved looking at old pictures and hearing more stories. One of my favorite moments was Evan announcing he would wear Christmas socks to the funeral because Grandma always wore Christmas sweaters.

I will admit today is hard. Returning to "normal" when I'm feeling far from normal just feels so wrong. So, to honor Grandma and in the spirit of continuing the celebration, I am beginning my day with a list of the top ten things I learned from Ann Luzny:

10. When playing cards (Bridge, Euchre, you name it), always count on your partner for one and when in doubt pick it up. There is no sense playing it safe. If you ended up taking all the tricks and hadn't called "alone alone" you would hear about it.

9. Hot glue fixes just about everything--and it is, in fact, hot.

8. Always wear appropriate, matching undergarments. Preferably pretty ones. No one else will know, but you will--and it matters.

7. You are never too old to use nail polish to paint acorns. Hot pink really does look best.

6. Take a moment to enjoy God's creation. A gorgeous rose. A sunset. The trees. You always have a moment and time for a quick walk about the yard.

5. The holidays are meant to be celebrated in a big way. Decorate. Eat. Sing with great joy and gusto. Christmas was her favorite, and it's all her fault Christmas is about to explode in my house. If one strand of lights is enough, let's go with two.

4. Always tell the truth. Always. Even if it's not what someone wants to hear, they will eventually appreciate it, and you will be able to sleep at night.

3. On a related note, don't be afraid of a good confrontation. If you see something you think shouldn't be, speak up--and then be willing to be a part of the solution. She lived this model, and it was fabulous unless you were the one on the "shouldn't be" end.

2. Family first. Period. Always. We can be mad as hell at you, but everyone else better leave you alone.

1. Above all, do everything you do with great love. She loved fiercely, and everyone knew it. She lived it every day in all of the small ways. We felt it. I still do, and I always will.