Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Great friends. Fun buddies. A tired Grandma. Kids falling asleep with smiles on their faces. Brandon and I closing out 2011 eating Oreo Truffles with a glass of wine and a movie....sounds pretty perfect to me!

(I know, it's only 9:35 on New Year's Eve...bear with me...I've been up since 5 am with my little buddy!)

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lookin' Back on 2011

New Year's Day is right around the corner (2 days away to be exact). Today, I find myself looking back on 2011 and reflecting on the whirlwind of a year that it was. A New Year is always bittersweet to me. And, while I love the idea of starting things fresh and new in a New Year, it also makes me realize just how fast these years keep flying by.

I love starting the New Year with a clean slate. A fresh calendar. An empty calendar to fill with new ideas.

But, today, I'm not really thinking about the empty calendar that lies ahead, I'm looking back at what happened 2011. It seems like forever ago that we had this much snow....

And, it seems like just yesterday that I was holding this little guy...

This year held so many firsts for our family. First steps, first teeth, first words, first days of school, first family vacations, first birthdays...and, believe me, it wasn't always roses and rainbows in our house....we had first tantrums, first 'you're the meanest mom', a first year full of sleepless nights...but, somehow those days and the wonderful memories are all blended into one giant year and those roller coaster moments are overshadowed by everything else.

I honestly can't remember the first time that Parker threw down his toy, stomped right up to my face, and yelled that I was a mean Mommy....and, it's definitely happened more than once this year!

I can't remember the exact first day that I was fuzzy brained, frazzled, and frustrated with my boys because they just wouldn't listen to Momma (or, most likely, it was because I'd only had a few hours of sleep).

But, I can remember the day that Parker and I were in the car and he said, 'Mom, I will love you forever...and ever, for all of my birthdays.'

I can remember the day that Andrew looked up and smiled at me for the first time....or when he crawled for the first time, and when he took those first wobbly steps.

And, yes, I remember ALL of the nights that Brandon woke up in the middle of the night to snuggle with one of the boys, so that I could sleep just a little bit longer.

I remember my first Mother's Day with my two little guys.

I remember our first family vacation to Colorado and how much we enjoyed just being together...and looking back at just how comical that vacation was!

I remember the day Parker and Andrew got the new playset in the backyard and just how excited they are every time we get to go out and play!

I remember Parker's first soccer game and Andrew's first trip to the Pumpkin Patch.

I remember so much about 2011 and I believe it might go down in the history books as one of my favorite years.

Yes, beginning a New Year is bittersweet.

So, here's to lookin' back at 2011 and to lookin' forward to 2012. You'd better be ready '12, you've got a lot to live up to!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The 26th, 27th, and 28th...

Once again, I've fallen behind on capturing our December days.

December 26th was spent cleaning. If you know me at all, you know I have some compulsive tendencies....if there's a crumb on the floor, it has to be swept up, if the clothes aren't in the must be put in, if the bed isn't made: make it, if there are toys, wrapping paper, bags, cardboard, clothes, glitter (from the tissue paper), and much, much more strewn all over my home...well, then, you can only imagine what my type A personality does. It goes into over drive!

December 26th was spent cleaning up the aftermath...

You know those gifts that you wonder if it was really something that your family will enjoy. If it is really something that we needed to spend THAT much money on...if it's going to be used. Well...this year, that was the X-Box 360 with Kinect that we purchased on Black Friday. Oh. My. Goodness. It is so much fun! On December 27th, I think we might have played it all day long! Well...Parker and Brandon played it all day long. What's so fun about it? Just ask Parker: "We get to fly with Peter Pan and fight Captain Hook! Awesome, Mom!"

Today, December 28th, I got it all together. I cleaned out closets, the playroom, bookshelves, and drawers. Brandon and I planned out our new shelves for the basement...shelves that will hold all of the Legos, Little People, Play-Doh, race tracks, and so much more...without looking cluttered...and most importantly, it will be organized! I got it all started today and I can't wait to share it with you all once it's complete!!

Christmas Magic

Wow! I've finally gotten all of the boxes to the recycling center, the shreds of paper are all picked up, new batteries are in new toys, I've got a new organization system worked out, etc., etc. And, while I sit here proud of my cleaning abilities, I get a little sad that the magic of Christmas won't happen again for what....another 362 days.

I loved Christmas as a child. I never thought anything could be better than being a child on Christmas morning. But, I was wrong. The BEST person to be on Christmas is Mom. Having my own children has opened up a different kind of Christmas magic within my heart and right now....that heart is bursting!

The most fun I've had all year can be wrapped up in our three days of Christmas magic.

Yes, that's right. I said 'three days.'

This year we tried out something new. Not rushing....not scurrying from one house to the next, but taking our time and taking all of the magic in, one moment at a time.

It worked for us. I loved it.

First Up (The Eve of Christmas Eve): Christmas in DeSoto with Grandma and Papa

We had tons of delicious food and joyful time with our Riffel family. We made memories that will last...forever.

Christmas Eve: Christmas at the Farm
(Disclaimer: On Christmas Eve we realized that the camera was broken...I apologize for any blurry photos from here on out....I was probably the one that took them.)

When we pull down the gravel road that leads to my Mom's house, it feels like we've entered a new world...or maybe it feels like we've entered a different time. Everything seems to slow down a little bit and there's some unseen excitement in the crisp, fresh air. Add this to a Christmas celebration and you get the ultimate in Christmas magic!

Yummy food, fun with cousins and grandparents, the beautiful outdoors, and a few dogs, all add up to make a wonderful Christmas Eve!

Christmas Eve at Home

Last year we ran, and ran, and ran ourselves ragged at Christmas time. It was almost miserable for sleep-deprived parents of a newborn. So, this year, I decided that we needed some time at home. Time to have our own traditions and our own potion of Christmas magic.

Simply put: It was a time full of joy, love, and magic that I can't wait to relive year after year!

The evening of Christmas Eve was spent at home...snuggled in our Christmas jammers, eating food that I got to make for my family, making cookies for Santa Claus, and watching Christmas movies with my boys. This year, my boys were totally into Christmas and all of the fun traditions that go with it.

Christmas Morning

Our kids wake up early. And, Christmas morning is no exception to this rule. Before the crack of dawn, we were up, running down the stairs, and ripping into gifts....watching eyes light up with excitement, boys smile from ear to ear, and toys being played with, rocked on, worn, and carried throughout the house. Dinosaurs, Batman, bikes, cars, umbrellas, socks, Mickey, and so much more, filled the living room and made Christmas morning truly magical. So. Much. Fun.

Christmas Day

After playing for a few hours, we packed up and headed to Topeka to spend time with our family there. Traditionally, we would go over to my grandparents home to spend time with extended family....this being the first year we didn't do that (it had to happen one day), we did get to spend time with my dad and stepmom, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and my siblings. It was a wonderful day that was the topper that caused my heart to overflow with Christmas magic and love for my family.

We ate the most wonderful food, laughed a lot, and I, once again, counted my many blessings.

We even had time for a drive through the 'Winter Wonderland!'

(Sorry, no photos....I volunteered to drive home and the camera was in the waaaaaay back of the's awfully hard for Brandon to climb back there, especially with his current back issue!)

Parker said it perfectly: "Mom, this Christmas is AWESOME!"

Here's to our Christmas Magic lasting the whole year through!

Thursday, December 22, 2011


B and I have this that we've had since 2007...that sleep, it's WAAAAAAY over-rated.

In reality, we've been so sleep-deprived for the past four years, I think if someone told us we could sleep all day and all night, we wouldn't know what to do. I know, I know, I'm preachin' to the choir. You all have (or have had) young children, young children that get up at the crack of dawn (or earlier) and children that are restless at night, come up to your bed, want you to snuggle in their bed, etc, etc, etc.

So, for those of you that have lived through have you taught your children the importance of sleep? I'll admit- my kids have really bad sleeping habits.

Let's talk about Parker first. Every night Parker wants to be 'snuggled' til he falls into a deep slumber. Don't get me wrong...I LOVE this. As a WM, I am always super duper eager to get more snuggle time...but, I'm also super duper eager to do the dishes, pick up the toys, fold the laundry, and maybe, just maybe, I could watch that TV show or movie that B and I want to watch...maybe. Then, halfway through the clockwork...I can hear little (but fast) footsteps on the stairs to our room. And then my little heater crawls into bed with me and snuggles me until my tushy is hanging halfway off of the, that's some good sleep. (sarcasm)

Andrew on the other hand, just likes to wake up early. Plain and simple, my littlest man wants to be the first one (in the world sometimes it seems) to greet the morning hours. Sometimes it's 4 am, sometimes is 5:45 am...either way, it's WAAAAAY too early. The best part is....he's the happiest little man you'll ever see!

And, seriously, how can you resist these two??

So, why am I writing this today? I'm looking for advice. Help me teach my children the importance of sleep. And, even further than that, the importance of independant sleeping...which I think is very important (Not a fan of co-sleeping. Can you tell?). I know this is a basic part of life, but leave some comments and some advice. You can lay it out there and be brutal...well, okay, not too brutal, but let me know how to change our habits!! I'll try it, I promise!

The Meaning of Christmas on Day 22

Every year I do it. I tell myself that this is the year I'm going to cut back on gifts and focus more on the real reason we are celebrating Christmas. But, I did it again...I've bought way too many gifts for my friends and family and I've spoiled myself with some new items, made and then eaten way too many treats, I've spent too much time worrying about what to buy, trying to make sure that I check everything off of my list.

And, today, as I sit in my office (and it's probably the super slowest day of the year), I find my mind wandering to such thoughts as this:

"What if I took all of the gifts back? Would my friends and family...and most importantly, my kids think that Christmas is fun? What if I made every gift I gave to my loved ones? Would they think they were just as nice as the name brand toys and clothes that I've spent hundreds of dollars on? Did I really need to buy myself a new pair of jeans yesterday? Did I really spend that much on gifts for my dog?"

Yes, these are all questions that I've asked myself this morning (it's going to be a long day if this keeps up). It's probably because I'm like the only person at work today. My boys are at home without me. And, maybe it's because the fun Christmas parties have all come and gone, the Christmas gifts are all wrapped and ready to go, the Christmas goodies are baked, and I find myself having time now....I guess it's become time to really think about why we do all of this Christmas Craziness.

Or, maybe it's because last night....this happened:

We have a Little People Advent Calendar. On December 25th, we will get to put baby Jesus in the manger and the Christmas scene will be complete. Last night, Parker, who has been counting down the days, started more time...just to make sure he knew exactly when Christmas is at our house...exactly when Santa would be making his way through our chimney.

But, instead of talking about Santa, about presents, and about all of the things he wanted for Christmas, Parker said, "Mom, it's only four more days until Jesus's birthday!" Wow. This is the year. Yes, this is the year that my oldest son learned the true meaning of Christmas. He's learned that Christmas is not about all of the presents (although they do brighten the day). It's not about the food. It's about a celebration of the birth of Christ.

(Parker listening closely during the children's sermon at church.)

And, while I don't claim to be super religious...I've certainly become more and more thankful for all of the Christmas blessings we have and I am thankful for the true reason to celebrate this season.

Merry Christmas my friends! May you find peace and joy in the celebration of Christmas and much happiness in the New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Catching Up!

Wow! What a weekend (and now it's Wednesday....I started this post on can see how our week has been)! I know I'm a few days behind on 'Capturing December', so let's catch up, shall we?!

Picking out Presents on Day 16

I borrowed this idea from a friend of mine and I think it's a new tradition for my sweet boys! I decided to take Parker Christmas shopping (Andrew can go next year) and boy did he pick out some unique items for our family members (don't worry, they were all from our local dollar store and we didn't spend more than thirty bucks)...and Parker and I had a fun shopping experience together! I'm not sure how he decided on some of these gifts, but I know our family will enjoy opening them!

Here are some of the 'special' presents that Parker picked out!!

Disclosure to our families: Try not to laugh too hard when you open these...Parker put a lot of thought into picking them out and it may hurt his precious feelings if there is too much snickering. Get your laughs out now, so you can thank him on Christmas!

Exchanging Cookies on Day 17

My friend Joy is amazing. She is a working mom...She has kiddos that are the same ages as mine...she is involved in just about every organization in town...and yet, she still has time to throw the most wonderful cookie exchange party around!

Just look at this spread.

And look at all of these friends! (Yes, I am the one in the Pitt State sweatshirt. I had to represent on Saturday and we WON! Yipeeee!)

Oh my goodness. We had a hot chocolate bar with candy canes, marshmallows, and biscotti...we even had a little marshmallow flavored liquor to liven things up. Joy handed out coffee cups to everyone...we shared stories...and laughed about our most memorable Christmas. And, most importantly, we had time together as friends to enjoy a few minutes of peace in all of our the Christmas frenzy. Thank you Joy!

Bundling Up on Day 18

Not really. It's been so warm outside this past week that we haven't really been able to bundle up and head out into the blustery snow (no snow...yet)! Actually, it's been so nice, that we've been playing outside and trying to get in every last minute of outdoor fun that we can!

And, while we have drawers full of hats, mittens, gloves, scarves, and closets full of coats....we haven't been able to show off all of our favorites yet this year! By favorites, I mean, yes, my boys have their favorite hats and gloves...everything from the hats and gloves from Peru (thank you Aunt April) to the new KU hats we picked up last weekend, every night while we're playing, Parker and Andrew try on a new hat and gloves or mittens, and they wear them around the house! So cute.

When we headed out the door to go visit Crown Center, I threw in the hats and mittens...just in case. Low and behold- we got to wear them! There's something so sweet about little boys all bundled up in their hats, coats, and mittens.

And, WOW, did we have fun at Crown Center! (Although this topic deserves it's own post, there's just not time for me to write one up, so I'm spilling all the beans in this post.)

We met up with Aunt Dani at her new apartment downtown and decided that the Sunday before Christmas is the perfect time to go to the beautiful winter wonderland at Crown Center.

We even ran into Aunt April and Lee to make the day even more fun!

(Lee is taking the photo!)

If you've never visited Crown Center during the holidays, you're missing out!

Late Night Grocery Shopping on Day 19

There's nothing I dislike more than going to the store that begins with a 'W' around the holidays...or any time, really. Call me a grocery store snob, but you should see the crowd at our local 'W'....makes me thankful for the life that I have...but, it also makes me feel all icky. (Yes, I am being judgemental.)

So, I tend to go to the store reeeeeally early in the morning or reeeeeally late at night (well, after the boys are in, late to me anyways).

On day 19 all I could do was think about the gazillions of the groceries that needed to be purchased (thank you, Pinterest, for all of the new recipes I'm going to try on Christmas break) and I was dreading this trip to the store...especially because it was cold and rainy.

But, I rocked Andrew to sleep, read Parker his books, and even picked up the house (my normal routine) before heading out to the store. Finishing up at 10:15 pm and $225 later, I felt really good about accomplishing this task that I was dreading so much. Now....all I can think about is the yummy food that will be devoured in the next couple of weeks!!

(Tip for my grocery shopping friends: Aldi's has gallons of milk for $1.99- you can comp the gallons of milk at 'W' for $1.99! Score!)

Preschool Christmas Party on Day 20

Day 20?! It's really day 20?!

Parker's preschool class had it's party today. Every class party is so much fun with Parker's teachers and all 15 of his classmates!! Here are some photos that capture the day waaaaay better than I could write about it (and I think by now you're all getting tired of reading)!!

(Parker is mad because I wouldn't let him eat his candy cane from his craft project. Meanest. Mom. Ever.)

A Birthday on Day 21

Today is my older sister's birthday. Aunt April old again?!

Happy birthday big sister! We love you!!!

Whew! I think you're all caught up! More later my friends...I'm off to finish up some shopping (I know...I know...I said I was done....just. one. more. shopping trip....Please??!!)