Friday, December 25, 2009

Our Christmas

Christmas Eve we visited Grandpa Norton (Matt's grandpa from Pennsylvania) at his hotel in Glenview.

In the evening we went to church, and then the kids opened one present before bed, (that's what I did as a kid).

Claire wrote a note to Santa. Her notes are so cute I can't stand it.

Then the kids left cookies for the big guy, and went to bed. Santa wrote them back, of course.

In the wee hours of the morning, the kids woke up and stockings were torn open. It was so cute to listen to them (from upstairs in my bed) as they tore open stocking gifts and compared what they got.

Then, after we got ready, had breakfast, and generally tortured the children by making them wait....

PRESENTS were opened! Swords and shields were opened...

...crossbows were discovered....

...knitted cell phone holders were given to daddy...

...hugs were shared.

Claire's big gift was a digital camera. She was very happy! I think she took about 400 blurry pictures. I'll have to post them soon.

Then Matt's family came over. Aunt Rebecca gave Sammy candy. Thanks Aunt Rebecca! He wasn't riled up enough! :)

Aunt Sarah brought her new boyfriend, Tom. I won't blog him's too early. Haha. But she seems very happy with him, which is nice. We love Aunt Sarah.

This is "Uncle I-hate-having-my-picture-taken-by-my-dorky-sister-in-law David". He's in 8th grade and hasn't actually looked at my face or addressed me directly since Matt and I got married 8 years ago, but today he said to me "Susan, where can I find a glass?" and I almost fainted! He's literally managed to never directly address me before! I think we're getting closer. We're growing.

Naps on couches were taken.

Colorforms were played with...

Needle felted families were made, (the little needle felting kit was a huge success...Claire made this little family all afternoon).

Goodbyes were said.

The aftermath was assessed.

An arsenal was collected, (yes, he did get this crossbow, cowboy gun, sword, and slingshot all for Christmas) and it was our 4 year old boy's dream.

Claire could open a library with all the books she got today! I'm very excited about Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenske.

And finally, goodnights were said and the day was ended. It was a really good Christmas.

***For those interested in a funny Sammy story: Sammy had technically requested a "real" sword, and asked Claire to put that on his Christmas list (since he can't write/spell).  She did, but instead we got him a wooden one, (of course). When he opened the box he looked at Claire in a very exasperated way and said "Claire....what did you WRITE?!" I laughed so hard. He actually ended up loving the sword, especially with this sweet sheath from etsy, but I love that he thought Claire just must have written it down wrong. ;)

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas week

As I checked on Claire last night, I looked at her sweet sleeping face and I vowed to spend more time looking at her and smiling at her and being with her this week and less time trying to get her and Sam to go play so that I can cook and clean and generally stress out.

The morning didn't start great. My back was hurting. Sammy threw fits.  I wanted to stress about the house and worry about when I'm going to go to the post office, finish the photo collages for grandparents, and buy stocking stuffers. But...but...this light fluffy snow was coming down and had covered the ground enough for such things as sledding.

So I mustered what little character I seem to have right now and decided to put on snow clothes and take the kids sledding. They had a blast. Claire was very daring (even going down backwards) and Sammy, of course, wanted to use everyone's sled but his own and finally convinced some giant man to let him borrow his saucer sled. He watched some big boys running and jumping on their sleds, so he did that as well.

Claire made a pretty good little snowman this afternoon in the backyard. I made sure I took lots of pictures and said how great it was rather than just saying "great! Okay, keep playing I'm trying to finish dinner!" I even put my boots on to go out to see it.

I know. I'm mother-of-the-year right now. But at least they didn't spend their day running errands with me. And that is something.....

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The good and the not-so-good

We've been busy this week. I was in the play that the teachers at Sam's school put on for the children each year. It's a little over their heads, but it's a good, meaningful, and funny play about the shepherds who go in search of the Christ child. I am always an inn-keeper in the play. Matt was out of town last week, which made things even crazier and busier. I helped with a lot of end-of-the-year preparations at Sam's school, went to parent night at Awana (with Sam in tow) and generally held down the fort while finishing Christmas preparations. Matt's mom is getting her house renovated by Mr Tommy, so she just asked if we could host Christmas at our house this year! Aaaaah! I'm becoming way too much of a grown up way too fast. First Thanksgiving and now this!!! I think I'm ready for it, but I think I'm going to improvize with a Honey Baked ham rather than making a turkey for this one.

Some things are going well and as planned. We just had our parent's group from church over for a little Christmas dinner/party. I made this white chicken chili recipe which I love and it has never failed me. The kids still ate hot dogs instead, however, and then about 100 Christmas cookies, so everyone was a little crazed by the end of the evening, but all in all, it went well.

I got Claire this Christmas dress/jumper at The Children's Place on sale for $10 so that was a good thing too.

We are not sending out Christmas cards this year because I just can't handle one more thing, but my dad really wanted a picture of us in front of our new house for HIS annual Christmas card, so we spent a crazy half hour one morning outside on the stoop trying to take a picture. I'm not sure I would call it a success, but my dad was happy with it so THAT is also on the list of things that went okay.

Claire is rocking at Awana as usual. I had to take Sammy with me this week to take her to parent's night at Awana, so I got to see her in all her glory. Here she is getting her red jewel in her new Sparky crown or whatever it is. She loves this kind of stuff. I was, however, affirmed in my decision that Sammy should not ever go to Awana because it is much too late at night and he will indeed melt down half way through. But we made it through without too many tears, so that's also a success.

We keep getting awesome Christmas cards in the mail every day. I keep wondering if all these kind people will keep sending me a Christmas card each year even though I never send one out, but so far I don't think too many people have dropped me, so...success!

We are pretty much living on clementines as our main source of produce. They are so delicious and convenient...I think I ate 4 the other night. And an entire bag of frozen asparagus from Trader Joe's and 4 Christmas cookies. Matt threatened to sleep in another room that night, but I was totally fine!

Claire brought this cute ceramic Christmas tree home from her last pottery class. I love that class. So does she.

Okay, so our failures are two fold: 1) each night of this month we have lit the appropriate candles of our advent wreath, read the scripture, and sang a little song about the advent candles. The kids LOVED this last year. However, this year they are old enough to help with the matches and the lighting of the candles, so it has turned into nothing but a huge fight every night over who gets to light which candle and who gets to blow which candles out. Really, this consumes the entire thing and all the specialness is lost. We have tried so many different things to make it peaceful, but it's all about my two little pyromaniacs and not about Jesus at all. Boo.

2) We started a tradition last year of snuggling together in Claire's room and singing Christmas songs in bed while looking at the beautiful glowing ceramic Christmas tree that my mom made me as a child. It was so sweet last year. Again, though, the whole thing has become a fight about the songs and about them being goofy the whole time and about how many songs we are going to sing, etc. etc. It's not going well and usually it leads to bedtime taking way too long and children crying.

Why can't it all go well? I just want a nice, worshipful, peaceful Christmas! Maybe next year. There have been so many changes this year....maybe we're just not settled here yet.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Apartment Therapy

I don't know how many of you know about Apartment Therapy, but it's a site that has house tours of homes in various cities as well as design ideas and stuff. Well, guess what!? My house is on there! Ha! In the comments below, the readers seem to want more pictures, (and they want Mr Tommy's phone number!) but I don't know if the main Apartment Therapy people will allow me to put more on. Anyway, there it is.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Ellie

Seven years ago today, my niece Ellie was born. She was my older sister's first child. Three months later, I had Claire. And, of course, my sister Laura and I have never been the same since. Ellie was a beautiful baby who I loved the moment I held her. We took a million pictures of her and, when Claire came along, we tortured those poor babies with countless baby photo shoots. "Let's get one of them in the basket"...."oooh, let's get them in their matching sweatshirts"....."lets get them with their daddies".....etc, etc.

Well, most of those baby pictures were lost to one of the TWO times my computer hard drive has crashed, taking all my digital pictures with it, (sob!) so now I only have the "big girl" pictures.

 But Ellie is still a beautiful, smart, energetic girl who loves animals and rocks and American Girl dolls and Egyptian history and her sister and everyone...even Sam!

She's always been very good at humoring him. Happy Birthday Ells! We love you!

Brown paper packages tied up with string

Things keep coming in the mail. I did almost all my Christmas shopping online, mainly from this place called Vision Forum, (which is a really funny conservative Christian catalog that sells all these outdoorsy "boy" toys and then these modest long dresses and women-of-the-faith dolls for girls).

I'd love to mock them for segragating girls and boys so strictly and for acting like playing with sticks and guns is more Biblical for boys than it is for girls or something; but at the end of the day, my kids made their entire Christmas lists based on that funny magazine, so I can't make too much fun I guess.

We also got a lot of stuff from Amazon because Matt paid some yearly fee to get free 2-day delivery and that is definitely paying off. I love stuff coming in the mail in 2 days! I have yet to walk into a store to buy Christmas presents and I'm almost done shopping! But, another place we just ordered from is Abeka. I'm sorry, because workbooks should go against everything I believe in regarding education, but lately Claire has been loving anything that she can do independently, so I figured a few spelling and cursive writing pages a day might give us both a little needed space.

And since Sammy knows his alphabet sounds, I went ahead and ordered these tiny reading books for him that have short words in them like "cat" and "sat" and all that good stuff. He read a whole one tonight, so I gave him a sucker. Not wise probably, but he and I have such a tenuous relationship regarding him letting me teach him things, so I decided to try something that would make it really fun from the start. And what is funner than a sucker? To Sammy, probably nothing. Except maybe being allowed to say "fart" or something. He would get a kick out of that as well.

This did not come in the mail, but my fabulous Aunt Becky and Uncle Rich came down Sunday and brought me this great hutch for my dining room. Storage! Hooray!!! I may paint it or stain it or probably leave it exactly how it is all distressed-looking. The possibilities are endless.

***Warning: Matt is out of town this week, so I may only be posting things between tomorrow and Friday that sound like I'm in emotional duress, but don't worry: I always bounce back within a week or so. We won't talk about how I spent the entire morning with Claire cleaning our old condo so that we could show it to a realtor and her client this afternoon. We won't talk about how they walked in and out in about 5 seconds and acted liked they hated the whole thing. We won't talk about how Sammy is about to run in the back door screaming that Claire has hurt him. We'll just talk about how I'm going to Jason's Deli with the kids since it's "kids-eat-free" night. California club: here I come!*****

Friday, December 11, 2009

Letters to Santa

Claire and Sammy have been entertaining themselves occasionally by going through the toy catalogs in the mail and making "wish lists" for Santa. Now, honestly, both my kids know Santa isn't real (I think...Sammy's on the fence). And they also know that we don't just make a selfish little list of our hearts desires and expect to get everything on them. But, they work together so cutely while they do this project (Claire writing while Sammy dictates his desires) that I usually let them carry on with this project. Claire sealed her letter to Santa this year, but I broke into it last night because I was dying to see what she came up with.

If you can't read this, I'll just interpret: "Dear Santa, I've been a good girl, (a very good girl). This is what I want for Christmas: travelers calligraphy set, girls heather harp, advanced communicator watches, my own radio, camera, Iphone, (her friend Annabel's daddy creates "aps" for Iphones so she's played with one over there. We, however, still have the first cell phones ever made). Waterproof digital camera."

She goes on at the bottom of the page: " own computer, spy set, candy making set, chemistry set, invis(ible) ID black light spy pen. Love, Claire H."

She includes a separate "change of address" card in the envelope as well. It says, "Dear Santa, I have moved to 908 S Claremont. Up at the top of the page you can make "dorecans" (directions) to my house! Love, Claire". At the top of the page she draws a picture of the north pole and then on the other side she drew a picture of our house and then leaves space for Santa to figure out how to get from one to the other. Haha.

For some reason, Sammy's is even funnier to me. It's funny because Claire wrote it for him. It's funny because she puts the very specific description straight out of the magazine; and it's funny because of what he wants. It's also a little funny because, believe it or not, I got him about half of this stuff. It reads: "Dear Santa, I've been a very good boy. This is what I want for Christmas: compound bowspecs, the William Wallace sword, the red ryder (bb gun), remote-controlled tank, crossbow, sling shot. Love, Samuel".

I'm pretty sure this was Napoleon Dynamite's Christmas list as well. So for you relatives that want to know what my kids want for Christmas, now you know.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Our house before and afters

I know I've shown a few of these, but I never showed the complete before and afters of the house, so here it is in it's entirety.

The living room before when the wall was up dividing the house into a 2-flat.

The living room now with the wall removed and the wood floors restored (and decorated for Christmas with a 9 ft tree!).

The staircase before covered in tons of [probably lead-based] paint.

The stairs after, with new treads, the risers and spindles painted white, and a restored banister. That's a jump rope with goggles tied to it hanging down in the last picture (Sammy's spy equipment).  Behind the tree was the old door to the kitchen, but that's gone now and you go into the kitchen from the dining room instead.

The storage room that had no windows off the back of the living room.

The new dining room once we took the wall down between the living room/storage room and added lots of lights.

The downstairs bathroom before.

And the downstairs bathroom now. We actually decided to wait on really updating the bathrooms until we could afford to do it properly, so for now they are just repainted and cleaned, (Mr Tommy cleaned both of the bathrooms with some kind of crazy acid that burns stuff off).

The kitchen before. No cabinets on the right side and about 6 layers of old lenolium were covering up the old maple floors.

The kitchen now with inexpensive Home Depot cabinets installed on the side of the kitchen which previously had no cabinets. Tommy painted them white and put a coat of clear to protect them. We got new appliances, granite counters, and had the lenolium pulled up and the maple floors restored. The whole kitchen was less than $6K with appliances...not bad!

This breakfast eatting area had pergo floors that had taken a beating and low ceilings since this room was part of the addition off the back of the original house.

Tommy moved the wall back about 3 feet to make it a bigger room, pulled up the pergo floors to reveal the old pine floors, and raised the ceiling about 2 feet. We haven't decided if we're going to bother making this into an eatting area or if we're going to let it be a bit of a family room/TV room.

Next to that eatting area was this little green bedroom that was a part of the addition as well.

This room actually got smaller because of the fact that we moved the eatting area wall back 3 feet, but that's okay because it is officially my "mud room". Now all the crazy winter apparel has a place to live. And, remember, we're in Chicago so that usually adds up to a LOT of winter apparel.

This room extends across the entire front of the house upstairs. It was an open space that had no door.

Now it is Claire's room and it has a door. It's a big room, so it will be shared with the baby eventually. I'm about 14.5 weeks, by the way.

Sammy's room (I can't find a time to take a clean picture of that room) with a train track leading to Claire's room.

This was the moldy, nasty upstairs bathroom with the corroded shower door.

Again, we didn't do much to it except for taking off the door, painting it, and doing that acid wash thing to the tub. It's pretty tiny, but it's less to clean, right? I have visions for a better bathroom some day, but I was pretty stoked about just getting to hang up the Anthropologie shower curtain I'd been saving since I got it for half-off last winter!

I don't have a real "before" picture of the landing that was at the top of the stairs, but it was like this only without the bricks, (this was during the demo, obviously). It could have been a little sitting area, but...

Mr Tommy suggested we turn the whole thing into a closet for the master bedroom and just leave a little hallway on the right going back into our room. Brilliant!

This upstairs kitchen....

...and this little adjacent bedroom....

...were demo'd and combined so that they take up the entire back of the house. The ceilings (since it was the addition) were also raised about 2-3 feet.

Here is part of that room now. It's hard to get good pictures of this room for some reason.
Anyway, that's it. Home sweet home. Sammy just informed me that he likes our old house better, however, "because of the door handles." What????