Tis the season to be jolly

Yep, I'm feeling pretty jolly right about now.  This feeling has nothing to do with the mulled wine I consumed a few hours ago or the vast quantities of cookies I devoured.  Honest!  Rather I feel content knowing that we are spending time with family, enjoying the excitement of our children's anticipation of Christmas day and finally realizing that there is nothing left to do other than play Santa Claus. 

I have tried to keep this holiday season fairly low key.  I haven't spent hours in crowded malls, felt the pressure to create a perfectly decorated home, nor have I found myself staying up late to ice that last batch of mocha frosted drops.  I did fail to find a pink horsey for my lil bug (mainly because I decided to pass on buying into the mass marketed my little pony or large stuffed unicorns).  Hopefully the cute brown stuffed Ty Beanie baby horse along with a horse book will be a sufficient substitute.  

Despite my attempts to be calm and relaxed I have had my testy moments with the kids and my spouse at times.  I have lost my patience and have been pretty tough on my monkey boy.  Hopefully he and I can weather through our battle of wills and continue to find special snuggle times to help us through his growth in independence and bossy tendencies. 

I honestly tried to keep up my family advent calendar.  The days however started to blend and like any good cookie were quickly consumed in a brief memorable moment of pleasure.  The last days of our family advent calendar were filled with decorating sugar cookies, creating tree decorations, tobogganing down a small hill at the farm, having a bubble bath and making a play fort/castle/house using a table and old bedding.  

Other than our trip to Heritage Park and our family snowball fight, the highlight event from the advent calendar was trimming the tree we had chopped down from a stretch of forest in the foothills west of my in-laws homestead.  Thankfully our tree-hunting expedition took place in late November since the last few days have been bitterly cold (as in -25 degrees celsius with a windchill of -30 or so) and there is no way I wanted to be in isolated country hunting the roadside for a suitable specimen to drag home. 

Today was fun.  A chinook wind blew in stirring up the snow, causing blustery conditions on the roads but heralding warmer temperatures.  We managed to go outside twice today.  The second time provided an opportunity to ride my father-in-law's new snowmobile.  It was so much fun!!  I love speed!  Monkey boy went on a quick run with J and lil bug ventured out with her grandpa (who can do no wrong).  

We had a nice super of chicken wings, rice, broccoli, veggies and dip and sweets.  The kids had a great time playing kitchen.  My father-in-law drew a stove top onto a large box and my mother-in-law located a vast array of kid's cups, saucers,  and other various kitchen paraphernalia for them to use.  We ended the day with setting out a cup of water and orange for Santa as well as 8 slices of apple for the reindeer.  The kids received matching monster truck pajamas from their grandparents and crawled into bed, excited but not overly bursting at the seams. 

I'm looking forward to tomorrow.  I've promised myself to relax and enjoy the moments.  I also want to find more moments with my honey like this:

Hiatus from family fun

I have laryngitis. It started Friday afternoon along with a monster headache and it has only been in the last few hours that I can talk above a whisper. It has been a challenge to reign myself in from commenting on my children's play, behaviour and squabbles. Perhaps it is a good lesson to use my words a little more wisely and efficiently (at least in the verbal realm, as we all know I can't stop my overzealous use of words in my writing).

Now laryngitis shouldn't have put a stop to my creating family memories in our lead up to Christmas but combined with -21 to -27 degree celsius weather, I decided to forego the outing to view the Christmas lights display on 14th Ave near Confederation Park. I also lost any desire to go on a shopping trip to purchase birdseed and then create a feeder with the kids. I really just did not have it in me to be any more ambitious than wasting some time at the nearby Chapters on Saturday or to venture outside and play for 10 minutes today.

I did manage to finish most of my Christmas cards. J put together a great picture collage of the kids combined with some witty text. I will hold off posting the card here as I am sending the card to the one or two readers that check out my blog (sometimes surprises can be nice).

I am almost done all my baking. Here is the current tally of yummy goodies sitting in my freezer ready to be doled out to family and friends:
-nuts and bolts
-mocha frosted cookies
-pecan balls (as this is a personal favourite of my mom and son, we are on batch #2)
-gingersnap cookies
-pinwheel cookies
-coffee cheesecake squares
-caramel squares

I still need to make some pistachio cocoa nib cookies and sugar cookies. I am stalling on making my famous (per my fellow co-workers opinion poll) sugar cookies (the secret is in the icing) until we go to my in-laws. My mom-in-law is the sugar cookie expert and loves to get the kids to help bake and decorate.

So hopefully this case of laryngitis is on the way out the door as the countdown to Christmas quickly evaporates into thin air. I'm just glad that the only shopping that I have left is for my husband...though this may prove to be the most difficult task I have left on my to do list.


On Day 11, lil bug was thankfully napping away her grumpiness, so monkey boy and I found some time to work with on a pre-packaged foamy project. Personally, I'm a pretty crafty kind of gal. Heck I made over 100 place settings of tiny flower pots filled with plaster in order to support a hand crafted wire spiral which in turn held a paper flower printed with a quote for our wedding day. A little over zealous on my part but my roomate at the time helped with finishing it as well as finding time to mock me in a good natured way.

However, I now have 2 kids under 5 years of age. I don't have the luxury or desire to develop my own craft idea, purchase the supplies, or be patient with setting it up. I have grown to like the instant kits, especially when they involve foamy pieces with adhesive already on the back. The downfall is sometimes they don't always stick but a little glue or willingness to try another one seems to solve that problem.

So monkey boy and I created some Christmas trees. He found it very amusing that we were making Christmas trees for the Christmas tree. I love the fact that he is starting to see the humour in life's little things.

Day 12 of our family advent calendar focused on decorating again. This time with lil bug. I have fortunately re-connected with a friend (my birthday twin) from my college days. She has two children as well and we are both recent Calgary inhabitants. We have been trying to get together with our youngest kids on a regular basis while the older ones are in school or pre-school. Yesterday she arranged for us to have the kids decorate gingerbread cookies. After lil bug overcame her shyness and indignation over going somewhere she thought she didn't want to go, we had a good time watching them paint their cookies and eat their way through candies. Lil bug's final assessment was "that wuz fun".

Family advent calendar: Day 8-10

Day 8: activities scratched as no interest was shown for making cards or decorating an ornament

Day 9: Donated toy to Salvation Army toy drive; this was such a great opportunity to teach the importance of giving even if it is to "someone we don't know". Monkey boy picked out a John Deere excavator because he thought someone would like to play with it and because it wasn't too big or too small. I was so proud of him when he placed the toy into the donation box and truly listened to my words about donating.

Day 10: fell a bit off the advent bandwagon again; my in-laws were in town and my mom-in-law wanted help shopping for the kids. It was nice to spend time just with her and have the kids taken care of by J and my dad-in-law

Snow Day

Day 7 of our countdown to Christmas found us having a family snowball fight (impromptu).

Big fluffy flakes floated down from the sky. It was a perfect day for snowballs.

My sister and her kids had decided to drive down to Calgary to spend the day (there was no snow in her part of the province, a mere 150+ km north). After lil bug's nap, we hustled over to the grandparent house and delved into a fantastic family snowball fight. The boys delighted in socking their parents and grandparents with snow. The girls attempted to hold their own though lil bug discovered that snowballs are good eating and proceeded to devour two or three while the snow flied around her.The adults found their inner child and enjoyed plowing each other with a barrage of snowballs. J thought it was a hoot to stuff snow down my pants as I took pictures. Someday I will pay him back.

Day 6 of our family advent calendar took us to Heritage Park and their seasonal event, Once upon a Christmas.

Perfect day, happy kids, happier parents, mild weather, fun activities, great escape.

There was:
model trains - have I mentioned that both my kids LOVE trains and they easily spent 30+ minutes watching them go around the tracks waiting for their favourites to reappear.

gingerbread people decorating - icing and sprinkles everywhere!

candy store - they each picked out a candy to try. Monkey boy wanted gummy bears, lil bug chose gum drops. The gum drops were quickly spit out by both parties but monkey loved the gummy bears.

straw fort - this was a little anti-climatic as there were probably only 15 bales placed in a loose rectangle shape but they loved to run atop them nonetheless.

Victorian decorated homes - one of the homes I use to work in as an exhibit interpreter was open. It didn't take long for me to lapse into my spiel on the place...egad how long will useless historical facts persist to take up space in my brain.

wagon rides - they were fun to watch and held the kids attention but we passed on taking one due to large crowds. Lil bug managed to pet one of the Belgians and loved it, of course.

We capped the morning off with lunch out at a coffee shop/cafe (similar to Bridgehead or Wild Oats in Ottawa but a little more commercial in feel). Finally we piled into our house and beds at 1:45pm and we all slept soundly to 3:30pm. I guess the fresh air, exercise and excitement wore us out.

It truly was a great morning!

Family advent calendar: Day 3-5

Day 3: Letters to Santa.

It was a bit of a struggle to build my kid's enthusiasm for this activity. I definitely need to work on my advertising pitch and perfecting my timing of activities a bit more for my two munchkins. Nonetheless as a grumpy momma I plowed through with the idea, prompting them to provide me with the contents of the letter. Thankfully, they seemed to enjoy decorating the cards with stickers and foamy pieces.

The letters are as follows:

Hi Santa,
My name is *. I am 2 years old. I want a horsey for Christmas, a pink horsey.
Thank you,

Hi Santa,
My name is *. I am four. I'm going to be at Grandpa and Grandma's for Christmas. I'm going to leave a snack for your reindeer in the snow by the apple tree. Could you bring me a present for Christmas? I would like a Ming-Ming the Wonder Pet stuffed animal and a car that lights up but no sounds.
Have a good Christmas,

Day 4: Pick out Christmas books at the library for us to read.

As always the library continues to be a favourite outing for the kids. The Christmas selection of books at our library was significantly picked over. Everyone must have had the same idea as myself. The three bays of shelving held a scant 15 books. We came home with four and so far the favourite is Spot's Magical Christmas (not necessarily my first choice).

Day 5: Paint Christmas ornaments

I chose to dig out this activity to keep us busy during that restless witching hour before dinner arrives on the table. Thankfully J was home to help...he chose to make dinner (mainly so he wouldn't have to agonize over the mess the kids would undoubtedly create). The kids donned their smocks/aprons and plastered a couple of wooden ornaments with paints. My kids are free spirits when it comes to crafts. I have really tried not to put parameters on where or in what manner to paint, colour or draw. Yet tonight a little assistance was needed. I wiped off monkey boy's first attempt at painting the ornament when I realized he was just using it as a palette for mixing colours. We then worked together to sort-of paint in the lines. Lil bug patiently put up with my holding her hand to paint but was delighted when she could just freehand paint on paper and play in the water bowl. After a period of soaking the newspaper with water and getting paint up to their elbows, we put the paints away for another day. This was a great activity. Both the kids and I had fun just being creative and messy.

A friend of mine, Karen, pointed me in the direction of a delightful blog, A peek inside the fishbowl, by a fellow Ottawanian. I was inspired to organize my December calendar after reading her 25 days of Christmas challenge. My calendar is now officially loaded with a fun activity for each and everyday, though I have yet to create funky envelopes to hold the day's events. Thankfully I brought out my fabric advent calendar with the tiny pockets I like to fill with stickers, cars and odd ball dollar store items. Monkey boy and lil bug receive instant gratification with counting down the days on our advent calendar and I know that I have something extra up my sleeve for their day.

I started the countdown to Christmas off with a bang. Day 1 and 2 were occupied with creating a gingerbread house. As kids, my sister and I rarely received a gingerbread house kit. If memory serves me correctly, I think the few we tried were pretty awful looking or never structural sound. Yet I felt ambitious this year. I'm not working, I have a desire to create and bake, and I want to share special moments with my kids. So I figured how hard could it be to make a gingerbread house from scratch. I poked around the internet for directions, recipes and templates. I meshed some information together and decided to plow headfirst into the project. The kids helped me prepare the dough. It was a hoot to see them mixing the enormous pile of dough. Monkey boy's running commentary regarding texture and colour kept me entertained.

The only glitch was the dough was too dry. I knew I couldn't roll it out, there was absolutely no way it would stick together. I had this huge mound of dough (the recipe called for 9 cups of flour) and I wasn't about to start over again or let it go to waste. Crap what should I do? Well, call my mom of course. With rolling pin in hand (our rental place was devoid of one), my mom came over, suggested I try adding milk in small batches while she occupied the kids. It worked enough for me to roll out the dough on a cookie sheet and have it more or less stick together.

After the kids were in bed, I cut out the house shape and baked the dough. While assembling the two houses, I realized I probably should have copied a template off the internet rather than create my own. The pieces fit together fine for monkey boy's house. The problem rested in the aesthetics and the lack of dough for lil bug's house. Let's just say that it is a good thing I found a fantastic icing cement recipe which would hold the patchwork roof together on her house.

Upon waking the next day, monkey boy was itching to decorate his house especially after glimpsing the assembled product on the dining room table in the morning. By 9 am the kids and I were decorating the houses and working on a mini-sugar buzz for ourselves.

It was fun watching them decide how to decorate. Their stamina was limited as was my selection of candies. However for a 2 and 4.5 year old they did pretty good.