Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas 2012

The weekend before Christmas Riley and I made cookies for Santa. I tried to make the process as simple as possible, such as buying sugar cookie dough, so that Riley was left with the fun stuff like decorating.

Do they make belts for 2 year olds? - because this girl needs some help.

Riley decided to add her own little flair to many of the cookies, but mostly wanted me to let her play with the sprinkles that are behind her. They included Christmas sprinkle favorites such as cows, dolphins, and dinosaurs.

This was after eating half a cookie - total zombie face. I don't think she even finished eating the cookie, but I had two. 

Finished product

On Christmas Eve, we headed over to my side of the family to celebrate. My brother, John, and his wife, Jodi, hosted once again. As mentioned in my last post, my dad didn't attend (and a few others were missing), but we had a pretty good turn out. 

Jesse asked me to delete the above picture, but seeing it's the only one of me that I could find over the two days I decided to keep it.

While I was busy snapping pictures and laughing with my family, my child was crying because the cat scared her. I was totally oblivious to it when I took this picture, but she made sure I knew that she was upset and then insisted that we find the cat. Actually, she became obsessed with finding the cat. Luckily, Nemo and Uncle Chuck were able to distract her for much of the evening. 

The kid's gift exchange was supposed to happen at 7:30, which was the time we planned to leave, so we didn't bring anything for Riley to open. Guess we won't make that mistake again since they decided the kids should open gifts at 6:30 instead. I distracted Riley by taking her into the basement to find the cat, but when we came back upstairs she got to try on the cowboy stuff that her cousin's James and Alex received. She seemed pretty delighted with it. 

EDIT: My sister provided me with another picture of me:

Before we left, my sister, Judy, gave Riley and her cousin, Rocky, each a gift. Judy said she thought she might have mislabeled them and wanted to make sure they received the right one so we opened them while we were still there. Riley and Rocky each received the very same silver 'R' ornament. Oh, Judy.

Once we got home we selected 4 cookies to put out for Santa. I later found the cookie plate like this...

Christmas morning we opened gifts at our house. And when I say 'we' I mean Riley. Jesse and I decided to not exchange gifts this year so this was all her.

I took a video of her first view of the tree, but it's on the video camera I can't pull off of so you will just have to imagine the look of shock when she saw the tree with all the gifts. The initial expression of shock seemed to be focused on the very large giraffe her aunt and uncle bought her, but it soon changed to excitement when she saw the doll house we had all set up for her. 

One of two harmonicas she got from Santa

Oh my gosh... so many big things from other people. I had totally intended on following the "want, need, wear, read" rule of buying gifts this year, but Jesse did all the shopping on Amazon one day so most of her gifts fell into the want and read area.

After Riley opened all her gifts we headed to my in-laws house. I had a hand me down dress all picked out for Riley, but gave her the choice between that and staying in her new Christmas Jammies. She, of course, selected the pajamas and I might have too if mine were in better shape.

While these Mr. Potato Heads came home with us, several other gifts stayed at grandma and grandpas. We are going to have to do another toy and book purge to accommodate all the presents she received this year. And to think that her birthday is just over a month away. 

After spending the morning watching some cheesy Christmas movie about dogs that wasn't about dogs at all we headed home to put Riley down for her nap and I went to my dad's for the afternoon to round out the holiday celebration. It was another year filled with good times with our families and reminders of how fortunate we are.

Happy Holidays to all!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ho ho ho bah

Well, Christmas is over and I am back to work already. For while it seemed like Christmas was never going to come, but that's probably because I was seeing it through the eyes of my kid and we were doing more 'Christmasy' things which felt like it prolonged the season. But once it got here it was two days of celebration and then *bam* back to work. I'll talk more in a future post about our family celebrations we attended, but I wanted to talk a little bit more here about my crappy mood.

Happy Holidays, ya'll! Yeah. Just spreading the joy.

I love Christmas (as I've expressed before), but I am in a funk that I can't seem to shake. Sure, part of it has to do with having to be at work today when my husband and kid are at home (and only 7 other people were on my bus today - obviously approximately 75% of the downtown work force is not working today). Plus, I have to work on Saturday. Bah.

But it's more than that. Christmas isn't quite the same as it used to be. There are some small things (we can't stay to exchange gifts on Christmas Eve since it's past Riley's bedtime), but there is a significant change that started a few years ago - my dad has opted out of Christmas. It started not long after we moved Christmas from his house to my brothers. He stated he'd rather it be that way, but then he stopped coming. He gave away his decorations, and he stayed home declining any invitation that came his way.

2008 - The last Christmas Eve spent with the family

As I said, this has been going on for at least a few years, but this year seemed more difficult for me to stomach. Maybe it was knowing that my step-mom, Ann, died in May so my dad wouldn't even be visiting her at her memory care facility. Maybe it's because my dad has had a lot of health issues this year and I'm scared that our years to celebrate might be limited. This past year alone my dad had surgery on his eyes, got a pacemaker, had surgery for carpel tunnel (and another one planned in 2013). Plus, there are the thyroid checks, the eye infection, the cancerous moles... he even had a doctor's appointment on Christmas Eve.

My dad will be 85 in February. I know he could live many years yet, but this was the year the health issues ramped up and the year Ann died. It seems different. I know my dad knows it too, but he doesn't talk about it. That's not like him, whether it's his generation, gender, or just him. Sometimes I wish he would open up to me about these things and then I think I'd probably rather not know. I worry enough as it is.

Through this all my dad doesn't seem depressed or anything (there have been times in the past I've been worried about that). He is still active and engages in other family events (sometimes a little prompting is needed). He's sort of an old curmudgeon, but that's been holding pretty steady for 20 some years. Nothing new there.

So he might not have attended a family Christmas, but I made a point to go see him after visiting with my in-laws on Christmas Day. With Riley down for her nap, I headed over to my dad's with a couple packages from family that I picked up on Christmas Eve. My dad is at that age where he says he needs nothing so we all buy or make him food. Soup is a big item for him this time of year. I made meatloaf and cookies (with Riley's assistance, of course).

And each year I make a family calendar. It really started out for him so he could remember everyone's birthday, but he always displayed it at Ann's facility. I started making two, but he still wouldn't use his to write on. If anything, I think he enjoys being able to see the pictures from the last year.

This year I got him one more gift. Something I have been working on for years and finally decided to complete. Years ago, my dad gave me an old Huber beer box filled mostly with pictures from when he was in the Army during the Korean War. He was drafted to build bridges in Germany - bridges that were destroyed during World War II. I put most of the pictures in a couple albums, but never finished until recently (ok, I still have a few more pages to complete, but it's almost done). I brought these over to my dad's and got to listen to my dad share some stories of that time that I had never heard before.

I now know how to use a bayonet to find a land mine and that his company (company A) lost a couple "Indians to them because they didn't like to listen to directions" (yeesh, dad).

I know that the ship engine broke down on the way home from Europe during a huge storm. They were told to prepare to abandon ship, but weren't sure that would help them based on the size of the waves. My dad made a point to share how much the boat smelled from all the guys getting sick. Luckily, they got the ship up and running and returned all the soldiers stateside safe and sound if not a little woozy.

I got to learn about the other guys in the service. This one hated it. That one loved it, but was a huge drinker. My dad expressed  regret over the pictures he didn't get (like the big guy who didn't make it through basic training), but was more surprised at the number of pictures he did take.

My dad, Frank, is on the right.

There are pictures of him and the guys with artillery draped  over their shoulders, of them hanging out at their camp near Hamburg, of the travels they made to Italy, France, Holland... There are postcards from the 1950's and other trinkets.

I love when my dad talks about these moments. Not only does the topic interest me, but I see him light up a little. Some of the curmudgeon disappears. I forget for a moment that I am hanging out alone with my dad on Christmas day when just a few years ago 30 + people would fill his house with holiday cheer. I think "at least I still have this". I have my dad right now. He might not be around forever, but I am going to take advantage of the time I have with him... curmudgeon and all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Book Review - Following Daisies

Following Daisies by Heather Pardon

Heather Pardon decides to sell her home, give up her job, and gets rid of most of her belonging to travel across Canada in an RV. Always a lover of large trucks, this adventure fulfilled many dreams of hers. She shares her journey of how she came upon the decision, the signs she looked for to confirm her path, and the stories she comes upon along the way.

It's a great story about finding the right path for your self...for learning to let go and take the road least traveled... about acquiring items based on need vs want... and about trying to live life to the fullest, among other things. So it might be surprising to learn that I almost didn't finish reading this book.

Heather attempts to be witty and engaging (and sometimes is), but it felt strained - like she was trying to hard. She likes daisies. A lot. She ends up using the word 'daisy' far too often, and 'Nanaimo Bar'. It didn't help that there were random grammar issues and misspellings. Plus, I read it on my iPad and the author's name or title of the book would be randomly placed in the middle of a sentence (I don't blame the author on this, but just found it to be a slight annoyance).

However cheesy her writing is, I decided to keep reading because she did have a good message to share, and perhaps one that I really needed to hear right now. No worries though; I don't plan on giving up everything to RV it across America. At least not yet.

Grade: C+

Books read since the beginning of 2012: 25

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Countdown to Christmas

As Riley approaches the age of three her awareness of the holidays has astounded me. Sure, she doesn't quite get what Christmas really means. I don't totally blame her because 1. she's a little kid and 2. we don't talk a whole lot about religion. Even so, I've recently been reading her the story of Baby Jesus. In the end I don't want her to think this holiday is all about getting gifts. And in the future I really want to teach her the value of giving (and not just at Christmas, of course). But for now it is pretty fun to see how excited she is about the whole holiday.

Since she has been so focused on when Santa is going to bring her some presents I figured we needed to create a visual to help her understand. "Tomorrow", "next week", and so on are still concepts that she doesn't quite get. Once again, other bloggers have inspired me to make a paper chain to demonstrate the number of days we have until Christmas.

I took a snowman that she made at daycare and added the chain, and each day we take off one link of the chain to show that we are one day closer to Christmas.

Riley loves being able to take a link of the chain off each day. At first she wanted to take all the links off, but finally seems to understand that we only take one off today and have to wait until after we go to sleep and wake up the next morning to take off another.

Riley has really been into Christmas lights as well. Car rides at night include her yelling from the back seat "LIGHTS. THERE'S LIGHTS. AND THERE. MOMMY, I SEE LIGHTS. LIGHTS. LIGHTS.LIGHTS".

One night as I was walking home from the bus I noticed that quite a few houses on the next block are now lit up and a couple of them have some unique decorations that Riley might enjoy. We had been intending to go to Macy's Santaland last week, but it's amazing how a 4:00 am wake up can ruin your plans for the whole day (and a day I specifically took off of work). I was determined to do something related to the holiday season so I suggested we go out for a walk before Riley's bedtime. And hey, it was snowing! It was going to be sooo picturesque!

Yeah, not so much.

It was cold. And Riley did not like the snow in her eyes. And those 'unique' decorations? They moved and things that move seem to freak my kid out (with some exceptions). She wanted to be held much of the time, which was incredibly difficult to do (slippery winter coat against slippery winter coat just doesn't work). We did a loop so that we could see a couple blocks worth, but it wasn't as awesome as I hoped it would be. I guess next time we'll just stay in the car.

Yes, that's a couple of penguins on a igloo canon. Yeah, I don't get it either. It moved, but was behind a fence so Riley tolerated it.

I thought Riley would love this, but she made us carry her as we walked past it. It didn't move, but it was quite big and swayed a bit as the air swirled around in it.

Begging to be picked up.

Ok, so I know this is a terrible picture (at least worse than the others), but Riley made a cute comment when we walked past this house. When the deer's head bobbed up and down, Riley stopped to watch him and then proclaimed "that deer has the hiccups". Ah, out of the mouth of kids.

This weekend we did make it to Macy's Santaland. As I child, my mom took me each year so we started this tradition last year with Riley. The display has been the same for a few years, but it was still new to Riley since she doesn't quite have that long term memory thing down yet. Since Riley has the opportunity to see Santa at a family Christmas party we skip the part of having Riley sit on Santa's lap which is fine with me as the line for that is usually long.

Waiting in line. Accessories chosen by Riley.

As expected this place was packed, but we were still able to get some pictures without other people in them.  

Riley started to lose it a little about here. She's not really a fan of animatronics - especially if they are big and close by. We walked through the rest of the display fairly fast, checked out the gift shop and then got out of there.

It seems like a lot of work to head downtown, pay for parking, wait in line with a crowd for this display - especially when I am unsure how much Riley likes it. She seems interested, and then overwhelmed. Perhaps I am doing it more for me than for her, but it's hard to tell at this age. I hope that she likes it in the future, and if not, I hope I know when to honor her wishes to not go (and not push my agenda).

In the end we headed back to the skyway where Riley could run around freely, which apparently, was where the real fun was at. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Party

Saturday marked our first Christmas party of the season. Jesse's mom is one of 11 kids so each year they rent out a local town hall which provides enough space for everyone to celebrate together. Like every year there is a ton of wonderful food, great conversations, Christmas songs being sung, and a visit from Santa.

Riley was clingy for a little bit when we got there. I don't blame her -  this many people can be overwhelming even for me (even though I also have a large family). But soon enough Riley discovered kids playing in another room... and more importantly found a similar aged buddy named Jackson. She and Jackson spent a fair amount of time running around after each other. Or, more accurately, Riley spent a lot of time running after Jackson. I hope this isn't a sign of things to come as it isn't the first time we've seen her enamored with little boys.

So much food!

The kids all colored pictures which they then gave to Santa. Here Riley presents Rudolph's cousin, black nosed reindeer.

We had been preparing Riley for at least a week that she would get to see Santa this day and that he would bring her one gift. She was quite excited about this and informed me that when she saw Santa should would say "give me my one present please". At least she was going to say please, right? I tried to convince her to say "nice to meet you", but ultimately she was too petrified to say anything.

In the past two years meeting Santa has not gone over so well, but we were hopeful this year since she has a better understanding of who he is. We were prepared that she would still freak out when close to him - so we were pretty proud when she shook his hand. Sure, she looks a little apprehensive, but no freaking out. She even walked right up to him to hand him the picture she colored. Amazing.

So she didn't sit on his lap, but we didn't really push it either. Maybe in a few more years... and Santa had plenty of other little and big kids willing to sit on his lap.

We left shortly after Santa did. Riley had gone without her nap and was actually asking to go to sleep in her bed. As we were leaving Riley kept asking if Santa left in his sleigh. We assured her that he did, but I think she was bummed that she didn't get to see it.

Oh and what did Santa get Riley? A fox backpack. It had a coloring book and crayons in it, but she didn't seem to care. Actually, I think she was too tired to care about any of it until she got some sleep.

Since then she is all about putting stuff in her very own backpack and taking it with her... where ever she goes.

Just wait until Santa come on Christmas, kiddo!