Thursday, December 30, 2010

Zoo/Food/Shopping

   The girls and I went with Granny and Poppy and Juliet (the Ugandan graduate student who has lived with my parents for the past six months) to the zoo.  The weather was gorgeous - 68 degrees this afternoon!  There is a new baby chimpanzee at the zoo and we were able to watch him up close for a long time.  He was adorable! 
   We met Robie at her office and admired the view from the 11th floor.  Rachel thought Robie worked in a hotel...  Robie took us to a really good Asian buffet for lunch.  Katherine had 6 different kinds of dumplings, Rachel ate half her body weight in noodles, and I tried everything in the dim sum steamers so we were all happy.
   We waddled around and did a little after Christmas shopping after that.  The most interesting part of the day was when Juliet took us to an African American hair products shop.  I'd never been in such a store, but it was so interesting.  The girls had a grand time checking out the many styles of wigs and the packages of beads and barretes.  I even found (and bought) the ever-elusive little girls red hair bands for Rachel.  It was a new cultural experience for us and we loved it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Part 2

We spent a couple of days with Steve's parents and celebrated a second Christmas.  Steve's mom is recovering from knee replacement surgery and thought it would be less stressful if everyone did not come at once.  So, we were the 3rd wave of family to spend some time with them.  Of course, there were more presents to open.  Rachel happily voluteered to "help" Grandma open hers.
Katherine got some zhu zhu pets - she'd been longing for some since Rachel's birthday.

Some of the cousins gave Rachel a backpack with a little tent and sleeping bag inside.  That was a big hit!  Rae even tried to sleep in it, but that only lasted until she was up jumping around in it at 4:30 AM.
Another set of cousins gave both girls new pajamas.  They always love new PJs.  It took me a while to convince Rae that there were not any pants with hers, but then she was so pleased about a "night dress".

We visited Great Grandma, who turned 94 the day after Christmas.  She loves hearing about our girls and just likes to see them play.  Rachel turned on her charm and was a big flirt!

Katherine spent some time building with the Lincoln Logs - relics of Steve's childhood.

Rachel discovered the book cupboard and spent most of her time begging people to read to her.  Grandpa was happy to oblige.


We're glad to be back home now and I am really ready to find a spot for all the new treasures we've acquired.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas

Christmas finally arrived!  The girls were up at 6:00 to see if Santa had come.  And he had!  The only thing Katherine had asked for was a remote control dog, but Santa didn't bring it (because Granny and Poppy did).  Instead he left her a letter written in fancy silver ink explaining why he left other gifts.  Katherine was impressed - and perfectly content with the MP3 player and Mary Poppins movie that Santa brought. 
Santa left Rachel a baby doll and a PINK shopping cart.  She was delighted!
There were other presents too, mostly books and games and puzzles - the things we all like best.  Both girls got new clothes and wore them today.  Rachel's dress had a matching outfit for a doll, but her Christmas baby was too big - her kitty wore it instead.
Then we went to Granny and Poppy's.  It was pretty much like Santa all over again.  Rachel got another baby doll with lots of accessories.  She will have so much fun with it.

After most of the gifts had been opened, Poppy drug out a box for Katherine.  She pulled off a corner of the paper and realized that it was the present she had been wishing for...

A remote control dog!  It is pretty cute.

We had my family's traditional homemade pizza for lunch and then spent the afternoon napping, doing a big puzzle, and playing with all of the toys.  Rachel really liked the kitty piano that Robie gave her.


However, Rachel's very favorite gift of the day was her own pack of pink gum!  Kate, of course, had her dreams come true with the remote control dog.

It was a fun, relaxed day.  The girls were thrilled with their gifts and we all just enjoyed spending time together.  One of the things I have loved about this Christmas is that Katherine made gifts for everyone.  She has worked for weeks.  She painted and colored and put together craft kits.  This is my favorite of her creations (with Granny's help) - puppets of our family for Rachel. Merry Christmas!




Friday, December 24, 2010

The Christmas Eve Crazies

When I was a kid, Christmas Eve always seemed to take forever.  Now that I'm a mom, it still does!  Both girls woke up wild, excited about Christmas and with energy to burn.
They bounced off the walls for a while and then went to Granny's to help her make her famous candy cane bread.  At least I got a couple of hours of quiet!
   Back at home the girls spent some time speculating about Santa.  Yesterday Rachel and I had a conversation about Santa Claus.  She told me he would bring toys.  When I asked her what kind of toys she likes to play with, she quickly answered "Katie's.  Katie's toys."  Well, that is an accurate response!
   This afternoon Katherine and I made snickerdoodles for Santa.  (Steve insists that snickerdoodles are Santa's favorite.  Coincidently, they are Steve's favorite too.)

Rachel refused to take a nap, so she didn't get to help make cookies.  Instead, she bounced around in her room for 2 1/2 hours.
   Robie arrived this afternoon and provided a welcome distraction.  We all had supper at Granny and Poppy's.  The girls were so wound up they could barely sit through the meal.  Then we headed to church for the early Christmas Eve service. Of course, there was a brief photo shoot first.

Yeah, Rae's looking pretty cheesy.  That's her newest camera pose.  Some of the other shots looked like this.

The Christmas Eve service was beautiful, as always.  Rachel just looked around in awe when the lights went off and we were all bathed in candle light.  That made the long, crazy day worth it.
   Now the girls have changed into pajamas, brushed their teeth, read some stories, and are finally in bed.  Of course, I can still hear Rachel jumping on the bed, so it will be a while before Santa can safely arrive.  But when he does, we'll be ready.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

School Parties

Since I'm a teacher, I rarely get to attend my own girls' school parties because I'm in the middle of my classroom parties.  This Christmas the schedule worked out so that I had the chance to go to both girls' classroom parties.  What fun!
Katherine's party was yesterday afternoon, just before our school let out for Christmas break.  There were 22 first graders, lots of parents, and half a dozen younger siblings crammed into a too-small classroom.  Let's just say it was barely controlled chaos.  Kate's teacher passed me and whispered "I hate party days".  I can see why...  Katherine, however, thought it was all grand.
Rachel's "Cowboy Christmas" party was this morning.  It was my first chance to visit her classroom and see her in action.  There are 11 three year olds in her class, which should be a handful, but her teacher is terrific and the kids were under control.  Santa visited Rae's school last week, so her teacher decided to make today's celebration part Christmas and part cowboy party.  It was fun!  The kids started off by making "guitars" out of styrofoam trays, paint paddles, and rubber bands. (Rachel was not in the mood to pose, so the pictures aren't great.)

Then the kids paraded around the school playing their guitars and (not) singing Jingle Bells.  After that they made s'mores around the "campfire" (a microwave with tissue paper flames taped on top).  The kids thought it was fabulous, even if there wasn't any real fire!  The Cowboy Snack had a chocolate theme - s'mores, chocolate milk, and hot chocolate.  Rachel was all for chocolate snacks.
Then it was time to open gifts from the teachers.  Rachel and the other little girls received small dolls with tiny pet dogs.  Rae loved hers.

Rachel's doll had tiny shoes, which Rachel insisted on removing.  Then she spent the rest of the class time trying to put them back on.

We all sang Jingle Bells one more time (adding a big cowboy Yee Haw! at the end) and it was time to go.  Although Rachel was tickled that I'd come to school, she wasn't about to go home with me.  She rides the BUS home!  So she rode the bus and I picked her up in front of her daycare provider's house.  It took her a long time to get off the bus because she had to tell everyone goodbye!
I'm pretty much partied out now, but it was fun to share some time with my girls.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Good Deeds

Despite our many Christmas parties and assorted other Christmas events, I do try to downplay Santa and the whole gimme gimme part of Christmas.  Actually, the girls have always been good about Santa and the toy frenzy.  Katherine has always asked for exactly one item for Christmas, no more.  Rachel just says she wants "presents".  We have several simple nativity sets that the girls have had fun playing with (although we didn;t get out the fabulous Playmobil set - it's still not Rachel proof).  The girls also look forward to putting little dolls on our Advent calendar.
I've had this calendar for years (long before I had children) and I have always loved it.  Each little doll represents a different country.  Katherine likes seeing where each one is from - and the girl from China is always the first doll to go up.

This year I tried a new idea and it has been such a hit that we will do it every year at Christmas!  Each day the girls have a "good deed" to do, usually a chore or doing something nice for someone.  Each girl pulls out a slip of paper every morning with her good deed printed on it.
Katherine's good deeds have included cleaning out the car, loading the dishwasher, sending an e-mail to someone far away, making cards, holding the door for people, and sweeping the kitchen.  Rachel's good deeds are simpler - setting the table, telling someone Merry Christmas, picking up her toys, and (her favorite) cleaning the glass on the front door.

The girls have been SO excited about their Good Deeds.  They can't wait to see what their next deed is and they really try hard to accomplish it during the day.  They're so into the Good Deeds they've paid very little attention to the presents under the tree and hardly talk about Santa.  At the end of the day they put their slips of paper into a special box.  We're planning on leaving it as a present for Santa.

The Good Deeds have been a lot of fun.  I've had lots of "help" around the house (both girls love to clean!) and I like the lessons about helping others that the Good Deeds are teaching my girls.  This is definately our new Christmas tradition!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Family Party #2

Last night we had our annual Christmas gathering with my mom's family.  Mom comes from a big extended clan, with lots and lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins.  They are big and loud and VERY friendly and always have enough food for a small army around.  When Steve first saw the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding he commented that he had married into The Big Fat Dutch Family and I must say, there are some similarities. There were at least 50 of us together yesterday (including five 3 year olds!) and I think Rachel talked to every single person!  She is SUCH a social butterfly. 
We chatted with the relatives, munched on goodies, and looked at old pictures.

My grandpa and his family immigrated from Holland as children.  Once in America, they became completely assimilated, giving up their language and all of their Dutch traditions.  All except one.  Every Christmas we make oleykoek, a fried dough fritter, studded with raisins and apples, and dusted in powdered sugar.  They are delicious and it's impossible to eat just one.  For many in my family, Christmas tastes like oleykoek.  This year my Uncle Don was the chief oleykoek cook.
When I was little, Santa always visited during our family Christmas event.  We had to sit on Santa's lap long after we thought we were too big to do so.  Eventually, Santa stopped visiting.  But a few years ago the tradition was revived, to the delight of the kids (and the parents, too).  Last year Rachel was terrified of Santa and wouldn't even stay in the room.  This year she was all about Santa!  She was the first to volunteer to sit on his lap.  Of course, when he asked what she wanted all she could say was "presents".
Katherine had her turn a few minutes later.

Then it was time to open the gifts Santa had brought.  The girls got Sing-A-Ma-Jings, little stuffed toys that sing and make sounds in silly voices.  They thought they were funny and judging from the number of people that tried them out, the adults thought they were hilarious!


It was a fun evening.  I am so glad that most of my extended family lives near and that we get together at Christmas, even if it's hectic at times.  This weekend I saw my sibling, all of my aunts and uncles, and many of my cousins and their children.  And that makes me very lucky indeed.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Pageant

Katherine was in our church's Christmas pageant this morning.  Last year she had one line and was so nervous about it that they ended up having three kids say the line.  This year she volunteered to have a bigger part and ended up with a lot of lines.  She memorized them all the first week and was perfectly confident to be on stage.  We could hear her loud and clear during the program.  What a difference a year makes!
The pageant director (the woman in red in the middle of the kids) wrote the play and it was cute!  Katherine played a sister to an ornery boy who was sneaking peaks at his Christmas presents and got caught.  When their stressed out mom found out she cancelled Christmas.  The kids decided to go ahead and do the church Christmas pageant themselves and all ended well with a Jesus is the Reason for the Season message.  Since the pageant in the play was suposed to be kid-run there were funny lines and scenes.  Mary whined a lot, the littlest shepherd didn't want to take care of her sheep, and Katherine, as the inn keeper, had a line where she looks at a "pregnant" Mary and announces "Wow! You look like you're about to pop!" 
Of course, there were dropped lines and missed cues and the microphones didn't always work, but the pageant was marvelous anyway.  That's half the charm!  I love church Christmas pageants and I love that my often shy and reserved girl was willing to step up and play a part and play it well.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Family Party #1

We got together with my dad's family for our annual Christmas gathering.  All the little cousins were busy doing other things, so my girls were the only kids.  We had fun with Robie and my aunts and uncles anyway.  We ate soup and goodies, had an ornament exchange, and looked through the family cookbooks my aunt made for everyone.
We took family pictures in front of the Christmas tree.  We almost never have pictures of all four of us together.  Rachel is a real pain about posing right now, so this may be the best photo we get.

My Aunt Sonja and Uncle Gary did the coolest thing this year for Christmas.  Instead of giving presents to all of the great-neices and great-nephews (who all have way too many toys, anyway), they made donations to Heifer International in the kids' names.  Katherine and Rachel now "own" a llama that is helping some family in Peru earn extra income.  I love thinking about that llama enabling some little girl (or boy) go to school...  What a wonderful gift!

Friday, December 17, 2010

But I'm BIG!

Rachel spends Fridays with Granny and Poppy.  Today they went to the Mexican restaurant near their house, where the wait staff all know Rachel by name.  One of the servers seated them and then asked if "the baby" needed a highchair.  Rachel quickly set him straight - "No baby!  I Big Girl! BIG GIRL!"  For the rest of the day she kept talking about "that man"  and "Say baby.  BIG GIRL!"  Oh the indignity of being three...

Steve's brother was released from the hosptial Monday.  The doctors never found what caused the TIAs.  Tim is still having some weakness and motor problems with his left hand, arm, and leg but the doctors seem the think that it will eventually be resolved.  For now, he is on medication and doing therapy and just feeling like a lucky man.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Girls

We had a little photo shoot before church yesterday.  Katherine wore a beautiful red dress that Robie sent her - so grown up.
Rachel wore her Santa dress.  I must say, she was just adorable in it.  She happily wore the hat and hollered "Ho, ho, ho!"  (Later she was the hit of fellowship time at church.)

Sisters at Christmas.


I love birthdays!

the ladybug cake

The Ladybug Sisters

Sisters

Sisters
Jie Jie and Mei Mei

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Peeking through the windows

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Katherine and her toothless smile

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
The little one leads the way