Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve in Arkansas

I hope you will forgive me for not keeping up to date on Advent calendering... I have just travelled far, far away!

We are having a great time so far. Our first day, we spent the daytime with Dad and Matt, Charity and Ava (brother, sis-in-law and niece). Dad and we did some grocery shopping in the morning, and then we went over to Matt's and then out to lunch at Panera Bread Company. Oh, freakin yum. I forgot how yummy Panera is. That night, we went to my mom's for the Herring family Christmas. It was great too, seeing my aunt, cousins, and grandpa. The kids enjoyed playing with the dog, and I enjoyed cuddling my wee Ava. And of course, we enjoyed the turkey, venison, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green bean bundles, rolls and pies! And Diet Dr. Pepper. Oh, my, Diet Dr. Pepper is so delicious.

The next day we went shopping at Hobby Lobby (and luckily Scott managed not to claw his eyes out while we canvassed the entire warehouse), then had lunch at Mean Pig. I'm not kidding, I would move back to America just for the Mean Pig. I think I'm going to suggest going there again today. Even the kids loved it. I could not believe my picky-eater Fifi ate a whole pulled beef sandwich... And Lolly loved her hot dog. And me and Scott decided it's not going to be Small pork sandwiches with hot sauce for us ever again - it will be Jumbo!! We came home and chilled out in front of the TV for the next few hours (which is a luxury for us even just watching TV since we don't have TV at home) then went out to Dixie Cafe for dinner. I cannot believe how much food we have eaten, but it's all been soooo yummy.

Today is Christmas Eve. Dad and I are going to Wal-Mart this morning for Christmas dinner groceries (and Heather, if you are reading, no, I am not making it!), then I imagine we will lay low most of the day until tonight. I think the plan for tonight is to go drive around and look at Christmas lights, go to a Christmas Eve service at church, then come back, light a fire, drink whisky and hot chocolate - not together - and play a board game.

And then tomorrow...


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reindeer Food and Stuff

Oh dear... big jumbles of Every-Day-Blends-Into-The-Next.

So, what have we done in the past Days 14-17 (and 18 too)?

First off, we made Reindeer Food.

It was easy. I didn't follow any recipe (though recipes are found all over the internet), I just used up stuff that was in my cupboards. We ended up with Reindeer Food made from oats, three different types of cake sprinkles, raisins and glitter (which I discovered afterward is bad for animals, so, um, don't use craft glitter. Use sparkly cake sprinkles or edible glitter...)

That was it. The kids enjoyed pouring and mixing the ingredients, as well as eating the cake sprinkles and raisins along the way. Then we poured the mixture into little craft bags with a Reindeer Food poem (found here - literally the first in my Google search). Easy peasy.

The next few days were equally easy. On Friday, they packed their bags for a sleepover with 'Auntie' Lorna, and I must say, they had the time of their lives. This was Lolly's first sleepover anywhere besides Granny's house, and I was nervous for her, but she did so well. Today, Saturday, they went to see Santa with Granny and Auntie Katie (while Scott and I leisurely enjoyed doing nothing in a quiet, child-free house). And tomorrow, Sunday, the activity is to go to our church's Christmas Night. Easy peasy lemon squeezy (as Fifi would say).

So, besides that, let me just say, Happy Birthday to Scott today and Happy Birthday to Lolly and Uncle Faisal tomorrow. :) What were we all thinking, planning so many children to be born right before Christmas? Sheesh.

And here are some promised photos of the girls' homemade Christmas cards (inspired by Auntie Rebekkah).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Days 12 and 13

Just a quickie here, to keep up to date. (Photos to follow in next post.)

Day 12, Monday, was the day after the party, and the kids forgot to check their calendar before school. So while Fifi was at school, I had a quick look to see what it was. 'Wrap presents to take to America.'


I had already done that myself, forgetting it was on the list.

So with little time to scramble about, I decided to swap it around with something else and resolve it later. But the Tuesday activity was ideal for Tuesday, and so was the Wednesday activity, so I just pulled out the old tried and true parenting trick of pure and utter deceit.

Fifi can't properly read yet, and what she can read is better in Gaelic than English, so when she got home from school, I just made something up. I told them it said we were to go to Blockbuster, rent or buy Mr Popper's Penguins and then watch it under a cosy blanket. It sounded believable enough! So that's what we did. And they all enjoyed it.

Today's activity, being a busy Tuesday, was to read a book about Mary, Joseph and Jesus. I got out a very special, beautiful pop-up book about the nativity that my dear friend Devon sent me a few years ago, that I don't let the kids play with, and I read it to them.

But we had lots of unexpected free time today because I didn't take them to dance (I had a training course on tonight and didn't think I'd be able to get them back home from dance in time to get to the course), so I stole my sister-in-law's activity from a few days ago, and we made Christmas cards. We did just what she did; we used cookie cutters as tracing templates, cut them out, glued them onto card, and then decorated with glitter. It was fun, if not a bit stressful, and we will finish them tomorrow. Fifi wants to make a four in total for her four teachers/ class room assistants, and she only made three today. Plus I wanted to let the copious amounts of glue dry before they continued embellishing their work. I have ribbons, beads, and jewels I figure they can add on to the cards tomorrow, and Fifi can make her last one.

They turned out quite cute, and I will take photos of the finished products.

So, did I say this would be a quickie? Oh well, that's me, never knows how to just shut up and get to the point.

Off to bed now to sleep to the sounds of yet another raging wind storm.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lolly's 3rd Birthday Party

Today was Lolly's last minute, thrown together tiny birthday party. I really did intend to throw her a big bash, like I did on Fifi's 3rd Dora the Explorer party, but this year, with panto the week before, and packing for America the week after, I just didn't have time. So I invited just the smallest group of kids I could manage (only the kids her exact age from toddler group), meaning there were only 7 kids total, including Fifi and Lolly. Five three year olds and two 5 year olds (the siblings).

I thought it would be rather relaxed that way.

To be honest, it wasn't bad. But hosting in your home is always stressful, with all the friendly chatting, food preparing, drink serving, and overall managing that needs to be done. So the first half of the party I spent jumping back and forth between trying to be social with my guests in the living room and keeping on top of the food in the kitchen. Scott helped get drinks out and served to everyone, which helped loads. But it was still wild with kids running everywhere, particularly into the kitchen asking for food and drinks. So we did the food thing early. I set out a blanket in the living room (knowing in my heart there would be disaster, but what else could I do?) for the kids to eat on, then we did the birthday cake first so they could eat the cake with their food. (I've never understood this thing they do over here of cutting the cake, wrapping it in a napkin and sending it home in the party bag... bizzaro if you ask me. And messy.)

We went with star-shaped cupcakes this year instead of a cake for the sake of ease, and because the cupcakes fit in with the Dora theme (estrellas! and all). So I arranged a few on a platter for blowing out the candles and then we set one of those celebration firecracker Roman Candle sort of candles on top of the cupcake tower for effect. Scott carried the cupcake tower, and I carried the cupcake platter out and we all sang happy birthday.

Except we barely got past the first Happy Birthday to You when...

The Roman Candle cupcake fell off the top of the tower, landed on the floor, and kept shooting off it's sparks.

Right into my new cream carpet.

Obviously there was no way for Scott to catch it bare-handed. I mean, this celebration candle sends off firecracker flames literally a foot and a half high in the air. So all he could do was reach down as quickly as possible and get it off the floor.

By which point a black hole had already burnt its way through my carpet.

It was all I could do not to cry. After the song ended, and Lolly blew out the candles on her little cake, I got down on my hands and knees and cleaned up the (blue, of course) icing off the carpet and investigated the burn. Everyone was watching me, all probably feeling my pain (in fact, I heard Maria say if it was her, she'd be crying). But I managed not to cry. I just went back into the kitchen to regain my composure.

From then on, people kept telling me how it wasn't that bad and how it could be fixed, but I just couldn't listen. From that moment on, I had a hard time focusing on my precious baby's party. We still had fun though, don't get me wrong. We had a pinata and the kids had great fun trying to bust it open. I think I may have had the most fun as I violently bashed it over and over, releasing a whole lot of tension in the process.

The party was still a success, and Lolly had a ball. She loved all of it, and loved her presents too. The cleanup afterwards was a bitch, but that's children's parties for you! Now I'm sitting in a freshly hoovered living room, and Scott managed to cut away most of the black bits of the burn so now it's just a brown singed smear, so I'm not feeling as distraught as before. But I think I will maybe never have another party in the house ever again. Sports Centres and community halls from here on out.

(What's left of the 'carpet burn'. Not too bad. Annoying, but nothing like it was before Scott cut away all the black.)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

PPPP Night and Red Grape Shloer

Before moving on to housework, a little blog.

Today's activity was have an indoor picnic in our pajamas. This is really just a secret way of getting them to bed twice as fast, but as long as it works! Daddy requested a picnic of pancakes so it was our Pancake Picnic in Pajamas Party (PPPP).

We've done this the other years too, but this was the first attempt at eating in the living room on my new cream carpet. I was really nervous about it, so I chose a huge thick, heavy old blanket to picnic on, and nixed the syrup. Kids had chocolate chip pancakes, sweet enough.

So everything was going fine, and that's when everything went wrong. I let my guard down.

(Behold, what comes next is super overreacting on Mummy and Daddy's parts and hardly worth the phrase 'everything went wrong'. But it involved my cream carpets, as I'm sure you've already guessed, and I *heart* my new carpet nearly as much as I *heart* the children who are determined to ruin it.)

I had bought a bottle of Red Grape Shloer for Lolly's birthday party tomorrow and told the girls it was special wine they were allowed to have a taste of. Well of course, they couldn't wait to try it, so I got out the special port glasses and poured both a small glass of 'wine'. Fifi loved it. Lolly didn't and asked for milk instead. I then told them to go out of the kitchen, get the picnic ready and I'd come through with pancakes shortly.

As we sat on our blanket, merrily watching Charlie Brown's Christmas eating pancakes, the girls began complaining of thirst. Lolly kept trying to go to the kitchen to help herself, so I ended up going through and bringing the port glasses through. Fifi's had only half her juice left and Lolly had only half her milk, so I thought, 'What harm can they do? They'll drink it right up before they could spill it.'

I gave the girls their glasses with the admission that if they spilled their drinks I would 'cry all over them'. (I'm a good mum, I know.) Several times I warned them to watch their drinks. Things were going fine. The girls sat quietly, eating and watching Charlie Brown buy a sad, pathetic little tree when suddenly, Fifi had one of her classic freak-out-go-crazy-excited moments and just literally exploded like a bomb, crossed legs and crossed arms just bursting out with a sudden cry of hysterical happiness and of course... she knocked over her red grape juice all over the blanket.

I screamed. I actually screamed.

Scott screamed. He sent Fifi to her room.

I freaked out, grabbed a nearby towel and started mopping it up hysterically off the blanket, like that would save the carpet or something. Then I realised I should lift the blanket to save the carpet just to discover... the blanket and the spill had been laid over our red throw rug.

So absolutely no damage whatsoever. Except the damage to Fifi's sensitive heart, of course. She was still in her room, sobbing, crying how sorry she was, totally devestated. So Mummy and Daddy had to go through, hug her, explain to her how important it is to be careful with drinks in the living room, etc etc etc. Fifi couldn't stop crying and saying, 'I'm so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so [she must've said 'so' about thirty times] sorry!'

I think indoor picnics will be taken off next year's activity list. Because it very well could be me next year who ends up spilling the juice.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Painting Decorations for Day 9 and a Birthday to Boot

Today's activity was painting tree decorations.

The idea came when I opened up a box of Christmas things, and found a bunch of unpainted wooden ornaments with the tags still on them, and I remembered my friend Maria using the same type of ornaments a few years ago for painting.

There's not much to say about it, other than the kids enjoyed painting them. And surprisingly, they didn't get paint everywhere. Not even my childminded 18 month old! She was perhaps the most precise of all!

So what could be more interesting to tell about today?

How about the fact that I spent a ridiculous amount of money at Tesco buying stuff in for Lolly's birthday party this weekend? See, this is what happens when you don't count how much you are spending as you go. I just saw stuff and put it in the trolley. When the total was rang up at the end, I nearly collapsed.

I can't believe Scott and I did not think ahead when we decided to have another baby. Why, oh why did we not think about the fact that 9 months later would be Christmas?

There's also that worry that poor Lolly will get fewer presents because her birthday is close to Christmas. This could so easily happen so the way we get around it at the moment is I buy both Fifi AND Lolly's birthday presents at the same time so that no matter how much Lolly insists, I can assure her she got AS MANY PRESENTS AS FIFI GOT. This year they both have exactly four presents from us for their birthdays, three of them being somewhat identical, and one being individually unique to the child.

So Sunday after church we will have just a small, mostly family thing in the house for her. It is a week early, and it is also not what we planned, but with trip to America right around the corner, and Christmas and everything everything everything else, we decided it was the best way. I would've liked to give her a big party, but it just isn't going to work out that way this year.

But more about that on Sunday! (Lolly's party being the Advent Activity of the day.)

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Some Catching Up To Do: Days 5, 7 and 8

Day 5
On Day 5, we made paper lanterns. For the last two years, we made a long string of paper lanterns and hung them out on the handrail of the staircase in the close. But since we aren't going to be around for Christmas and beyond, I decided not to clutter up our communal walk way this year. Instead we just made individual ones to hang on the tree.

Fifi is getting very grown up with scissors. She was able to do her lanterns much on her own. Lolly, however, is still a firecracker in a tornado, and had to be stopped before she cut her sister's hair off with the scissors. Gahhhh.

Day 7
Yesterday, on Day 7, we were supposed to make a 'family video e-card'. Well, that never happened. We were too busy trying to make up for the Tuesday we missed, so we spent the time cutting out snowflakes. The activity said colourful snowflakes, but I decided last minute that snowflakes AREN'T colourful at all, so we used plain white computer paper. And made some stunning snowflakes. Fifi found this a bit more difficult with the scissors, since it was cutting through thick layers of paper, but still had fun. Then we hung them in the living room window for all to enjoy.

A video e-card may or may not happen at the weekend.

Day 8
Today we got back on schedule with our gingerbread men making. But only barely.

Today all the schools were shut because of the imposing doom of today's Hurricane Bawbag. So instead of only having my one toddler I look after during the day, I had her big brother and sister too. I also couldn't get out of the house to buy any groceries so we were living on scarcity. Still, I assumed I had enough in the pantry to make gingerbread men, so we went for it.

Well, as it turned out I had only EXACTLY enough flour to make our cookies - 200g exactly. So I melted the sugar, butter and golden syrup together, added the flour and baking powder and finally the ginger-- except, oops. I was out of ginger. Gingerbread men with no ginger?! I rallied quickly and just replaced the ginger with cinnamon for some delicious Cinnamonbread men. The kids would never know. I let the dough cool, then got out the cookie cutters for the kids, and discovered... I had no flour left to roll the dough out onto! Oh geez. So the poor kids had to watch, longingly, as I carefully rolled the sticky dough out onto greaseproof paper with no flour. Anyway, in the end they got to cut out their shapes and bake them, decorate them and eat them. Good thing they ate them right away, though, because an hour later, they were hard as rocks.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Day 6

Yes, I have skipped Day 5. I have photos for Day 5 which have not been uploaded yet, and I don't have time just now to upload.

I barely have time to post Day 6, but I am trying.

Day 6's activity was to cut out snowflakes from colourful paper and hang in the windows. I would love to say this project went well, but truth be known, it did not even go.

I forgot Tuesdays are our Busy Day.

A normal Tuesday goes like this:
-Wake up, get kids ready, take Fifi to school for 9am.
-Go to Tesco for sandwich stuff for Toddlers for 10am.
-Go to Toddlers (preferably before 10am to set up) until 12pm.
-Go home and get kitchen ready for cleaner (and put babies to sleep)
-Cleaner comes just before 2pm.
-Leave before 3pm to pick up Fifi from school.
-Get Fifi and Lolly their snacks, then take them to ballet and tap at 4pm (until 6pm)
-While kids are at dance, take minded children for weekly grocery shop, ensuring I am home before 5pm (not easy).
-Get dinner on table as soon as possible (and before 5.15pm).
-Minded children get picked up anywhere between 5.30-6pm.
-Rush back to dance to pick up kids at 6pm.
-Give them their dinner and get them in bed before 7pm.
-Rush to Gaelic class which starts at 7pm.
-After Gaelic ends (9pm), I usually go to Craft Night for the last half (until about midnight).

The only difference with today was no Gaelic class, so I have an extra hour before Craft Night starts.

So as you can see, there was no time for snowflake making. Which means we will need to double up on projects tomorrow. Which will not be that easy either, as Fifi has Drama class at 4.30, but if we get home straight from school, that gives us an hour to have a snack and make some crafts.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Days 2, 3 and 4

I am awesome at this blogging every day thing, aren't I.

I have my excuses though. Last week, Monday through Saturday, I was performing as Principal Boy in a pantomime, and therefore had very little to no free time whatsoever. Now that the panto is over, I will have marginally more free time, but considering I am going to America in just over two weeks, I know I will still be very busy getting caught up with everything and ready to go.

So, Day 2:
The elves letter told them they were going to see the Panto with Daddy and Granny. Which they did. I managed to get them reserved seating in the front row, so there they sat, loving every minute of it. At least, Fifi did. Lolly was petrified. You can't blame her. The opening sequence is the Evil Sorceress and her demons in black cloaks and UV masks singing and dancing in the dark, with only their white glowing faces and white glowing hands. She never really recovered from that frightening experience. My character, the lead boy, doesn't appear on stage until the third scene. When I did, all I could hear was Lolly shouting, 'Mummy! Mum! Mum! Mummy!' I managed to keep a straight face, but oh, it was tough. Luckily, very soon into that scene, I am introduced to the audience, so I was then able to look directly at the girls and address them as the audience, which satisfied her.

Fifi, on the other hand, ate up every second of it. In panto, there is a lot of audience participation, and the cast gave her a lot of individual attention. At one point, the Baddie, a miser called Titus Tightwad, has the chance to pick on an audience member, and he chose Fifi and Lolly, which they loved. Later, one of the silly duo characters, while running through the audience chasing another character, ran up to Fifi and shouted, 'FOUND HER! Oh wait, it isn't her, it's only Princess Fifi!' Fifi was absolutely giddy at that point, and asked her daddy, 'How did she know I was Princess Fifi?!'

It was a good night. Even with Lolly finding it all a bit too scary and in-your-face, they had fun. And even took pictures with the Baddie in the end.

And of course, the Hero.

I asked Fifi what her favourite part was. She said all the parts I was in. I asked Lolly if she liked the show. She said, 'No.' I said, 'Did you like it when Mummy was singing?' and she said, 'No.'

Day 3:
Mummy was at panto all day doing a matinee show and then an evening show, so Daddy did this activity with them. They were to write their letters to Santa.

Daddy chose to have them list what they wanted and draw pictures of these things. Lolly had quite a bit of Daddy's help, but Fifi did her drawing herself and only asked Daddy to do the writing. Rather than describing them here, I scanned them in this morning to keep for life, before putting them in the fire place at Granny and Grampa's to be sent to Santa up the chimney. (Apparently, the smoke flies all the way to the North Pole, and it's magic smoke that Santa can decipher or something. This is what Scott and his brother and sister did as kids.)

Day 4:
Today, they were to check their email for messages from Santa. Oops... since I wasn't in until late last night, and because my darling husband let me have a nice long lie in this morning, I'd forgotten to prepare for this one. So I told the girls Santa hadn't been on the computer yet this morning, but normally gets all his emails sent by lunch time. Then I quickly put together these brilliant video emails from Portable North Pole. These are the messages they got from Santa this year.

Fifi's Email
Lolly's Email

And that is me all caught up for Advent Blogging for now.

Thursday, December 01, 2011


Cheryl reminded me of something I had vaguely remembered this morning, but couldn't quite put my finger on.


December Blogging Advent Month.

So the idea, to remind you, is to blog each day of Advent on the run up to Christmas.

So for today, we'll start with the beginning of my Advent Activity calendar.

Last night, a friend excitedly commented that the next day was December and thus the day to open her Advent calendar.

I had completely forgotten about Advent Calendars.

Well, not completely. The chocolate ones (Peppa Pig, Hello Kitty for the kids, Disney Princesses and Thomas the Tank Engine for me and Scott) had been bought, and the felt ones made by Scott's Auntie Debbie had been filled with chocolate. But the important one, the Activity Calendar, hadn't been sorted yet. So late last night, I worked out 24 activities to get us ready for Christmas, printed them, cut them out, and stuffed them into their calendar.

It was so well worth the effort; this morning, Fifi and Lolly came bounding in, exclaiming that Santa had been and had filled their calendar with letters. (I tried to explain it was actually the 'elves' because Santa is too busy with other commitments, but Fifi insisted she had heard the sleigh bells last night and had seen Santa out the window, and besides, how would the elves fly without Santa? So who was I to argue?)

Today's activity will be to make paper chains to help count down to Christmas.

It's actually one of the least fun activities from my perspective, because they get bored halfway through, and heaven forbid the kit I bought will be the lick-n-stick sort rather than the self-adhesive. But it's sort of a ritual-turning-into-tradition, so I will just get on with it.

Below I've listed the activities for the month that we are doing in case anyone wants some ideas for your own family. Obviously some of them pertain only to our family, but it might give you some ideas for yourself.

And please, if you decide to blog about it, leave a comment and your blog address, so I can link to you!

Happy Advent Blogging!

1. Make paper chains and use them to count down Christmas!
2. Go to see ‘Goody Two Shoes’ Panto with Daddy and Granny!
3. Write and post our letters to Santa.
4. Check email for message from Santa.
5. Make paper lanterns to decorate for Christmas.
6. Cut colourful snowflakes and hang them in the window.
7. Make a family video e-card and send to family and friends.
8. Make gingerbread men for the Christmas tree and deliver some to neighbours.
9. Paint Christmas tree ornaments.
10. Have a Christmas picnic in our pajamas on the floor.
11. Go to Lolly’s birthday party!
12. Eat dinner by candlelight only with the fancy dishes.
13. Read a story about Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus.
14. Wrap up presents to take to America.
15. Make reindeer food and put in little bags for your friends.
16. Pack bags for a sleepover at Auntie Lorna’s!
17. Visit Santa at Daddy’s work.
18. Go to Christmas party at church.
19. Drink hot chocolate and watch a Christmas movie.
20. Look through old photo albums and talk about the pictures.
21. Fly to America for Christmas!
22. Have a Christmas dinner with Mamaw’s family.
23. Build a fire with Musha.
24. Put out a carrot for Rudolph and milk and cookies for Santa.
25. Eat chocolate gravy for breakfast and open presents!!

(Want to read about last year? Day 1, 2010)