This week started with Easter and ended with the start of our spring break trip to Florida.
For the third year in a row, we spent Easter with Matt's brother and his family in New Jersey.The Easter Bunny didn't deliver the baskets first thing in the morning since he (she?) knew the kids, ranging in age from 1 to 13, wouldn't all wake up at the same time, but he did leave a note. When everyone was awake the girls - all seven of them - went down to the basement to try to encourage the bunny to return more quickly with the baskets. While they were down there they worked hard on creating an Easter cheer. Their efforts paid off and the Easter Bunny did in fact return with baskets full of goodies.
Next it was time to head to the backyard to hunt for eggs.
After Easter the focus turned to preparations for spring break.
Packing for four people takes a great deal of planning and organization. Thankfully Matt knows how to fend for himself in that department.
Saturday was our first day at the beach.
I think this was the only time during our trip that Lucy voluntarily sat on the bare sand. It looks like she is playing in the sand but she actually never touched the sand with her hands; she is splashing in a giant bucket of ocean water here.
She asked Matt to stand at the ocean's edge while holding her, then promptly fell fast asleep.
A late lunch break back at the condo before heading down to the pool.
Claire and I during dinner in Seaside.
For better or worse, plenty more vacation photos are coming up in week 16...
Matt and I have celebrated 13 Christmases together since we got married, and we have never once had a real Christmas tree. I have always been somewhat ashamed by this fact, like it is some dark secret akin to having a dozen cats living in my basement (which, for the record, would never happen since I am violently allergic to cats).
Matt grew up with fake trees, so it was never a big deal for him. But me? Well, just to give you an idea, the first line of my high school's alma mater was: "In the land of tall green fir trees." Oregon is the top producer of real Christmas trees. Growing up, cutting down your own tree was just what you did. I didn't really even realize fake trees were an option. Sort of like when we moved to Manhattan back in 1999 I didn't realize that living in a place with no actual bedroom was an option ("Excuse me, studio apartment? No comprendo.")
Last Christmas, our lovely fake pre-lit Costco Christmas tree was starting to show its age. The base was broken and cobbled together with packing tape. Some of the lights stopped working. And I declared then and there that this would be the last year for a fake tree. In 2011, we were going to go out and chop down our very own live Christmas tree.
And so it was.
On the Saturday after Thanksgiving we drove up to the tree farm and picked out the Woodbury family's very first real Christmas tree. It was a gloriously sunny, 65 degree day (no coats required). I'm still trying to figure out where I sign up to get that kind of weather in late November every year.
We brought our measuring tape to make sure we got a tree that was just right.
Lucy mostly just walked around and looked cute. She's really good at that.
At this point, let me just say that picking out a Christmas tree is stressful for somebody like me who has decision-making issues. Now, if I do say so myself I am pretty good at the big, life-changing decisions. I analyze the facts, make a choice, and very rarely regret it. But give me a small, inconsequential (in the grand scheme of things) choice to make and I absolutely fall apart. Picking a paint color? Paralyzing. Deciding whether to send Claire to Pre-K A or Pre-K B next year (the difference of just a few hours a week)? Matt is still wishing he could get back the hours I spent debating those two options.
Deciding on a Christmas tree operated in a similar fashion. Is this one too fat? Too skinny? Too bare? Too full? Leaning 7 degrees to the right? Funny on top? There were just too many trees to choose from (funny how that happens at a tree farm).
But eventually we found just the right one.
We strapped it on top of the Volvo, brought it home, and we are now treating it like a fourth child to make sure it stays alive until Christmas.
Our Christmas elf Buddy arrived last week on December 1st. In the past he's come as soon as our tree went up, but I think he realized this year that if he comes too early, it gets hard to think of unique hiding spots by the time Christmas Eve rolls around. Smart elf.
Like Buddy, I am also really trying to enjoy this holiday season without completely burning myself out by December 24th. It helps that I've realized I can't do everything, and that's okay. I have adopted for myself this saying (from this blog): "Life is Long." Most people - myself included - are so wrapped up in thinking that life is too short. But it's good sometimes for me to step back, take a deep breath, and realize that I can do all the millions of wonderful Christmas things that I want to do with my kids. But I don't have to do them all this year.
That means that sadly, I may skip gingerbread houses this year. Just thinking about how I am going to manage a project of that magnitude with an 18-month-old who gets into everything frankly exhausts me. I'm picturing her climbing on top of the dining table, sticking her hands in the icing, and dumping the bowls of candy upside down (but not before eating a few handfuls first). And that's just in the first five minutes. So we might just stick to cookie baking and decorating this year... something we somehow didn't get around to last year.
One thing I did want to try this year was the idea of doing a holiday book advent calendar: wrapping 24 holiday books and opening one on each day of December leading up to Christmas. Our elf got the memo on this one and helped me out. When he arrived last Thursday he brought with him a basket full of wrapped books and a letter for the girls:
Dear Ella, Claire & Lucy,
I am so happy to see you once more, This Christmas many fun things are in store!
I love to read and I know you do too, So I wrapped up a few holiday books just for you.
You can open just one on any given day, The numbers on the back will show you the way.
Some books are old favorites and some are brand new, But you'll enjoy them all; I know this is true!
Remember I am watching so be good as gold, So that only nice things to Santa will be told!
These are the 24 books we will be reading (I was able to get an advance copy of the list), just in case you are looking for some fresh holiday-themed books. There's also still time to do something similar (a "12 Books of Christmas" countdown maybe?) if you've been wanting to do this but couldn't quite pull it together by December 1:
About one third of these books are new, and the rest are ones we've collected over the past few years. If you know of any must-read Christmas books that we don't have, I'd love to hear about them so we can add them to our list to check out!
Around this time every year for the past five years, we've been getting ready to board an airplane and spend Thanksgiving with Matt's parents in St. George, Utah. My kids don't know this holiday any other way. To them, Thanksgiving is always spent with cousins, aunts, and uncles they don't get to see very often. It's about making gingerbread houses with Grandma Kathy. It's when Matt goes golfing with his dad. And even for me, Thanksgiving is now about enjoying a little desert air before heading back to face an East Coast winter and stuffing myself with turkey andCafe Rio. It's also about figuring out how in the world we're going to get a full-sized gingerbread house through airport security intact on the trip home.
So I'm a little sad to report that we won't be flying west for the holiday this year. Part of it is that the trip just seems like a lot of effort considering we can't stay as long as we used to now that Ella is in school. But most of the reason has to do with this:
This was Lucy on the plane as we were getting ready to take off to Orlando for our Disney trip back in September. She looks angelic, doesn't she?
Well, this was her after that flight on the Magical Express bus to our Disney resort:
Yeah, that bus ride wasn't so "magical" for me or anyone else who was lucky enough to be on board with us.
So this year, instead of flying for five hours we'll be driving for two to spend Thanksgiving with cousins, an aunt, and an uncle who we luckily do get to see fairly often. We won't have Grandma Kathy to help with the gingerbread houses but we will have Grandpa Paul (aka my dad) visiting from Oregon. Maybe Matt can play pickleball with him instead of golf? Sadly there's really no replacement for Cafe Rio, but there's always my old standby Panera Bread. And at the very least, we won't have any gingerbread houses stuffed into overhead bins this year... or screaming and belligerent one-year-olds sitting in a window seat.
I really loved the girls' costumes this year. Ella was The Cat in the Hat, which was perfect for her. She has loved that book since she was in preschool, and I really credit Dr. Seuss with helping Ella learn how to read.
Claire was Madeline, a costume idea I have had in my head for her for well over a year. She has always reminded me of Madeline. I think it's the hair. I was worried she wouldn't go for it, but she ended up absolutely loving the costume.
I tried to keep the book character theme going with Lucy, but in the end I just went for the cute factor with this puffy strawberry. I think I made the right choice.
And for the first time ever, Matt and I weren't total Halloween party poopers in the costume department. We wore Thing 1 and Thing 2 t-shirts to coordinate with Ella's costume. Yes, perhaps we could have taken it one step further with a pair of blue wigs, but people seemed to appreciate our effort nonetheless.
Claire was a bit disappointed that I didn't dress up as Miss Clavel, but a nun costume was more than I could muster this year. There's always next year though...
Ella is in the white shirt, front and center (it pays to be petite).
There is 21 more minutes of video that I didn't share here. It includes the kids singing The Beatles (I Want to Hold Your Hand) and a demonstration of what happens when you hand 70+ five and six-year-olds kazoos. Kindergartners gone wild!
I was doing so well at blogging over the past several months, and then October happened.
We've been apple picking and to the pumpkin patch:
My dad came to visit from Oregon, and we took a weekend trip to Boston:
Of course there was also Halloween last weekend. Ella dressed up as Supergirl, Claire was Olivia the Pig, and Lucy was a puppy dog.
Once again this year, Halloween proved to be one of my favorite holidays. As I pushed Lucy in her stroller around the neighborhood on Halloween night, I watched Ella run at full speed from house to house while Claire, terrified of being left behind, yelled at her to "Wait up!" I saw my girls shout "Happy Halloween!" as each neighbor opened their door, absolutely bursting with excitement. After trick-or-treating I listened to Ella & Claire waiting with great anticipation for their "friends" to come ring our doorbell, strategizing about who would hold the candy basket ("I know...you hold one handle and I'll hold the other handle."). I laughed as Claire sternly reprimanded a group of older trick-or-treaters ("Don't take all of it!"). And I was taken back to the Halloweens of my own youth as I watched the girls carefully laying out all the candy they managed to collect. As I observed all of this I decided that when I look back on my children's young years, memories of Halloween will definitely be some of my fondest.
I think this Halloween photo so nicely illustrates the balancing act that is three children. While trying to get a picture of everyone in their costumes, one of Claire's ears kept falling down. As soon as Matt was able to fix it, Lucy would inevitably fall down (notice Ella holding her up by one of her dog ears). Then one of Claire's ears would fall down again (oh how I wanted to hurt somebody over those blasted ears!)...you get the idea.
Eventually we were able to get this (don't mind the baby poised to eat a leaf):
And now we move on to turkeys and Christmas trees. Hopefully I'll be back before December.
I hope you are all enjoying the holiday festivities.
In 2010, my goal is to finally catch up on my 2009 daily photos (believe it or not, I did keep up with taking them every single day, they just need to be edited and posted) and reacquaint myself with this blog, which I have done a fairly good job of neglecting this year.