Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Joyeux Noel!

For all 4 of you that are still rushing out to your mailboxes each day in hopes of finding our usual Christmas card there, I implore you to go back inside and make yourself some warm, soothing eggnog. I had high, high hopes of getting them out this year, but when Jeff got home from Asia last Saturday, it became readily apparent that we were not going to be able to take a decent family picture. By decent I mean one in which he had his eyes open. And considering I can count on at least 66% of our brood to be staring the other way, violently squirming, or grimacing from the sheer pain of being asked to look happy 20,000 times, I think at the very minimum that both adults should have their eyes open. I know. It's a lofty goal. I do wish I could lower my expectations.

Also, there was a teeny, tiny little problem with the cards. I ordered them at the end of November back when I fully believed in my ability to independently move our Annual Holiday Salutation to the Masses all while enduring an extended absence of spouse. My card selection represented that unshakable optimism, hence instead of buying cards that read, "Happy Holidays", or "Season's Greetings" or something reasonable that implies one has at least until January 1st to get them in the mail, I went with a cheery, JOYEUX NOEL! It was proclaimed four times on the inside of the card, so obviously it really wanted the recipients to have a MERRY CHRISTMAS! MERRY CHRISTMAS! MERRY CHRISTMAS! MERRY CHRISTMAS!, as sincerely do we. But alas, Joyeux Noel has come and nearly gone and even if I sent them all out tomorrow no one would receive them by today. It's a pitiful predicament, isn't it? Always practical, Jeff suggested that we just save them to use next year, but not only did I purchase cards clearly intended to arrive before Christmas, they also have 2007 plainly inscribed within. Now that is some smart shopping, if I do say so myself. Prudent procurement if you will.

As an aside, when my sweet husband proposed to me almost 9-years ago, he read Proverbs 31: 10-31 (aka: Hymn to a Good Wife) aloud as part of his, hmmm...wind-up, let's just call it. Suffice it to say, if my inability to deliver on vs. 13's requirement to "shop around" is any indication, the poor guy really got gyped. But I scored, so all is well. Maybe had he sung the hymn...sadly, I guess we'll never know.

I leave you this fine Tuesday evening with a few festive photos that will undoubtedly bore everyone but our childrens' grandparents to the point of...oh, who am I kidding? The entire blogsphere no doubt LOVES to scroll through pictures of the most beautiful, smart, kind, loving children in the world making Christmas cookies. That's why all 14 of you so frequently log in, right?

Griffin is pretty excited about the whole frosting prospect, as you can see.

Carter, like his father, takes a very thorough, methodical approach to cookie decorating. He'd be better at it if his own mother would remember that he's left handed and put the frosting bowl on the other side of the table for him. He's like a lefty we've unintentionally mainstreamed.

Griffin, like myself, is more about efficiency. He just grabs a handful of sprinkles and loads the cookie up.

We've been known to take the two-fisted approach if one hand isn't fast enough.

Whereas Carter's mission is to cover every square milimeter of the cookie so that the yellow frosting is completely void of light. But I believe the payoff for him might be a tad greater.

This is what ecstasy looks like to a 4-year old. And in case you didn't get that...

Now if you will all pardon me while I go find the DustBuster.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Saturday, December 8, 2007

It's a Kind of Love That Frequently Requires a Ladder

Say Hello to Larry.

Larry is my Father-in-law. I believe my Mother-in-law would prefer I refer to him as my Father-in-LOVE, but I just can't. get it. out of. my mouth. Without kind of smirking that is. But I do love him, really I do. And I have reason to believe that he loves me in a way that reaches beyond that of my own father, my brothers, and certainly that of my husband.

It's a kind of love that says, "I'd love to hang your Christmas lights, Melanie." And you know I've never heard those words out of Jeff's mouth.

Well, in all honesty, Larry didn't actually say them out loud either, but he got right up on the ladder and therein lies the difference. Also, as you can see here, he looks genuinely happy about it. And that was after he replaced a critical outdoor electrical outlet in order that my high voltage dream might live. Action with a smile. Now that's love. My female readers know what I'm talking about.

This is Griffin. When he wasn't trying to use the drill, he was trying to reorganize all the hooks, and bolts Larry needed to hang my lights. He was helpful in a way only really energetic three-year olds who refused to take an afternoon nap can be. Okay, he wasn't helpful at all, but he was enthusiastic.

Here Griffin is wondering why Babu didn't hang the wreath higher...or where his mother hid the drill.

Here Larry is just being thankful that we didn't buy the McMansion we were considering earlier this year. And contemplating why he didn't just say no to his Daughter-in-Love's ridiculous request for illumination so merry and bright. (Oh, I know. It's because I didn't grow up at your house and you're afraid if you deny me my electrical wishes I'll stop filling my freezer with ice cream when you come over.) I plan to milk that barest hint of uncertainity for the rest of my married life.

This is Griffin. He's scratching himself with a rake. And Carter. He's wearing every piece of headgear he owns at once. Per usual. This picture pretty much sums up my life with the two of them. Thank God for Peyton or I'd probably be scratching myself with a rake too by now.

See how Larry loves me so much that he races to LEAP up on the ladder with his hands full of lights. (It's an action shot, ya'll. That's the only thing my old Canon S30 takes these days.)
And here is his finished product. Finished for today that is. We went on a drive to see lights after dinner and the boys mutually do not feel that we've put up enough. And since they mutually agree on so little these days, I may have to accommodate their wishes for a few more.

But probably not this many more. Although, just out of curiosity, I'd like to know how much ice cream this would cost me.

Larry? Larry? Where did you go, Larry?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Our 1st Annual Day-After-Thanksgiving Event

We opted to stay home for Thanksgiving this year, one of the reasons being that we thought it was time to start some of our own family traditions, and oh baby, did that decision ever pay off today.

Just as an aside, we did the usual turkey blow-out yesterday. I have little hope of ever being able to completely ditch the turkey on Thanksgiving, but the cornbread dressing I did manage to fight off. I am, however, killing the turkey repeat for Christmas. I'm shamelessly stealing another family's tradition and making curry on Christmas. Somehow it just has a better ring to it.

But back to our Spin Around the Speedway. For the past decade or so, Lowes Motor Speedway, which is only about a 15-minute drive from our house, has sponsored a day-after-Thanksgiving fund raiser for their own children's charity. What they do is open up the track to the public and in exchange for a small donation, you get to drive your own personal vehicle 3 laps around the 1.5 mile speedway. I've wanted to do it since I heard about it last year because we do not have a Porshe or a Corvette or a Mustang. We have a Toyota Sienna mini-van and the thought of racing it around a NASCAR speed track sounds to me like a whole lot of silly.

It was a blustery afternoon so we bundled up the kids and loaded them into the moti...only to discover that the battery was dead.

But you will note from this picture that even the reality of having to jump start the van did not diminish Jeff's enthusiam for the fun that lied ahead.

This is our "ticket". You'll also notice that the gas light is on. But the "race" is only 4.5 miles, so we figured we could make it. That's right, our battery is having issues and we are nearly out of gas. Probably getting ready to drive 70 mph around a banked turn is the last place we should be.

But having come this far, we were not going to get out of line now - especially because we were in FIRST place following only the pace car. Obviously, we're going to WIN! You'll note, some of us took care to wear our crash helmets. And our Buzz Lightyear costume.

We were very, very, very, oh so very, very, very, excited. And when we weren't being excited, we were wishing we had race tires on our van like the ones behind Jeff. Or wishing we had a Dodge Viper like the guy in the group in front of ours.

I did pretty well on the straight aways.

But not so well on the banked turns. I get the concept of centripetal force mentally, but it's a completely different story when my mini-van is driving on what feels like 2-wheels on at least a 45 degree angle. All I could think was, "Please Dear GOD, don't let us roll the van with our three kids inside."

But by the third lap, I had developed a renewed appreciation for my 11th grade physics class and was even enjoying the turns myself. And, we didn't run out of gas. The gas light actually went off while we were out there driving laps.

Anyway, it rocked. We are totally going again, and again, and again. This year an event, next year a tradition. You may all consider this your official invitation to join us.

Finally, An Activity They Can All Enjoy

Hi Mom. What took you so long? We've been unloading this cupboard for like, 30 whole seconds.

I think this is the last of them, Carter.

Okay, now everybody play at once. Hey, it's where the Hansons got their start.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

McDonald's, We Bid You Adieu

Okay, so. The granite. You will remember that our kitchen previously had a kind of fast food appeal in terms of color scheme. Which was fitting since that is basically what I cook. Nothing really earns you that round of applause at dinner time as when you serve fish sticks and tater tots on the fine china.

A while back Griffin had pushed a kitchen chair into the corner of our klassy mottled green laminate, and with his mighty, 2-year old strength managed to take a big chunk out of it. Additionally, the laminate had some stains and burn marks on it - a few of which were made by us. We have a hard core caffeine habit here and are apparently pretty messy in our haste to inject it in the morning.

For some reason I feel right now as though I have to justify dumping our ugly old laminate. Okay, that's the real reason. We just thought it was ugly. It had some problems, clearly, but it was the ugly factor that drove us to it. But we lived with it for 4-years, so I think that's laudable. Especially considering that we took down the hideous wall-paper almost immediately. This is why (It's a very small picture of the corner of our kitchen, but I believe you will get the drift.)

I think we can all agree that Fast Food Kitchen is better than early 90's Country Kitchen.

So after Jeff and I went through our brief bout with lunacy, we realized there were a lot of things to like about our current house and that we should just fix some of the stuff we don't like...such as the funky green countertops. The following is what has transpired over the last couple of days.

Say Hello to Julio and Jose. They look like they genuinely like working at our crib, don't they?

Until they encountered a minor problem. Yeah, our cheap Taiwanese supplier had cut the backspashes a whole 1/8 of an inch too short. How do you make a gross error like that?

Needless to say, we suffered backsplashless for a few days, but now our granite installation is complete and, as predicted, I indeed feel more like a chef than a short order cook.

One moment while I just turn on the oven so I can put the chicken nuggets rosemary-olive oil foccacia in to bake.

Doesn't my new faucet look fabulous? I wish I could say that I did an extensive amount of research to pick the one that would best suit our current and future needs, but I shamefully admit I was reeled in by Delta's latest ad campaign. I feel compelled to support levity in the world wherever it happens to be. Even if it involves a talking sponge.

(Also, for those of you out there planning a kitchen remodel, www.vidavici.com has really competitive pricing on faucets. By competitive, I mean about 25% less than our friends at the Home Depot. Additionally, it pays to marry a plumber like I did because you can save at least $200 in installation costs. Though for some of you that little tid-bit may be a hair too late.)

And would you take a look at my cavernous new sink?!! I think I spent more time hunting down a decent sink than I spent picking out granite. My one non-negotiable was that it be big enough that I could soak this giant frying pan in it.

(Yes, I realize my disposal is full of yuck. I promise to run it just as soon as I publish this post. And to never take a picture of my full disposal again. Or to at least make sure there is only one meal of grossness sitting in it before I take a picture of it.)

What's that? You'd like to see another picture of my whole kitchen rather than a bunch of pictures of my new fixtures?

If I must.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Old News

I have been so busy lately that I have allowed my poor blawg to languish. But today I plan to pay retribution with one spell binding post after another, because not only is our INTERNET CONNECTION AT WORK DOWN THIS MORNING, even if it comes up no one can call me to tell me to get back to work because I've UNPLUGGED THE PHONE. Wait, it gets better. The little bandits are all off tormenting the seraphs at Wachovia's back-up care site, and my really hot husband is home today. Oh Lover Boy! (Wait, did I just say that?) Sadly, as enticing and irrestible as I am, Julio and Jose are also here because we are having new kitchen countertops put in today. Truth be told, any sort of willy nilly would probably give me performance anxiety, assuming I didn't giggle myself to death for fear of discovery. I'll dedicate an entire post to it (the granite installation), but in the meantime, here is a little of what you've all been missing. I originally thought I would try to be creative and compose a song to encapsulate it all, but I think I've taken one too many sniffs of the epoxy.

We went to the NASCAR speed park a couple weeks after Griffin's birthday to putt-putt golf.

Here is Jeff explaining the finer points of the game which, if I remember correctly, amounted to, "Carter, your ball is green. Griffin, your ball is orange. The end."

Putting is Griffin's forte. He totally got the concept that he was supposed to get the ball in the hole (which is pretty easy when you are teeing off only a foot away from it).

I think Carter missed this shot. He's a sore loser. As a matter of principle.

Overall, I believe Jeff was pleased with their progress. Personally, he double-bogeyed every hole, which explains the big 5 he's standing by. And to think when we met he had a 12 handicap.

In other notable events, I had my pacemaker replaced on October 23rd. I'm on the 8-year plan. We had to call in the grandparent reserves to help see us through.

Griffin and Peyton are not friends, as you can see, but it's a great shot of my mom, don't you think?

And this is a purely gratuitous picture of Peyton. Because I am about to post some Halloween pictures of the boys and I couldn't pull it together enough to find her a costume too. I was busy undergoing potentially life-saving surgery, remember?
Here is Buzz Lightyear getting his suit zipped up.

And Woody getting some help with his boots.

Voila. Carter remains in costume and character even 9-days later.
I think there was probably a better picture of the three of them together, but look! In this one I actually combed Peyton's hair. I'm such a good mom, caring for all the little details and such. She's going to be really proud years down the road when she uncovers all 40 of these 2007 Halloween pictures only to find she is not only sans costume, but her hair was only combed for one of them. This is what the rest of them looked like, poor thing.

Lastly, we bought a new car. New to us, that is.

It looks surprisingly like our old car, doesn't it? But the price was right.

Now if we could just get someone to come clean out our garage so we could get it in there.

See, we really have been busy. And now Jeff and I are off on a romantic excursion in the new car to go look at hardwood. Oh be still my beating heart.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Belated Birthday - Part 1

I think blog posting should work kind of like a 21-day billing cycle. As in when something noteworthy happens, you have a 21 days of grace to post about it. In this case, Griffin turned 3 back on September 29th, so I believe I am just barely within the grace period here. And since I'm working with such a tight deadline - also because I'm trying to cook dinner simultaneously - you will all please pardon the lack of creativity and humor.

Exceptional child that he is, Griffin enjoyed a rather extended birthday extravaganza this year. On the Thursday prior to his birthday, we took cupcakes and balloons to his preschool class and had a little party. One in which we were not responsible for the clean-up. I believe this is explanation enough as to why we are so happy to bring the festivities there year after year.

The theme was Spiderman. It is mere coincidence that he is sitting next to a pink bag with three Disney chicks on it. Just thought I should clarify that. Jeff and I have pledged to stick with theme parties inspired by their given gender until our kids turn at least 12. After that, if the boys would like to dress up like ballerinas and have a princess party, so be it.

Our big plan on Griffin's actual birthday (Saturday) was to open some gifts and then go to Chuck E. Cheese, followed by a trip to the NASCAR Speedpark for putt-putt golf. But during the gift opening ceremony, my really, really old digital camera failed to perform...

causing me to throw a fit of rage. It's had some on-going issues for over a year now so I'm at the end of my proverbial rope. See how it is incapable of focusing if any part of the object is moving? Here, I'll give you another example. This is Griffin playing with Moon Sand. Note what portion of the picture is completely out of focus.

Every picture is like that. In my world, there is no such thing as a picture of a child in which the child isn't moving. This camera was great when my kids slept all day, but now it only works for still life photography. Or turtles munching on cantaloupe. Which could be considered still life.

It was fortuitous that I did not realize the camera was not working until we were trying to get out the door to Chuck E. Cheese or my tantrum might have put a bit of a damper on several precious gift giving moments (all of which I have very fuzzy pictures of). Instead it prompted a last ditch effort trip to the camera store for a new rechargable battery which put us a little behind. Speaking of rechargable batteries, is it entirely unreasonable to think that they should come charged like regular batteries? Fortunately, my quick thinking husband packed the charger, but when we got to Chuck's, we couldn't find an outlet. Anywhere. Look around next time you go. There is clearly an abundance of electricty flowing through the place, but nary an outlet to be found. Alas, I have no pictures of Griffin's party at Chuck's either. You'll just have to believe me that he had a fine time. So fine, in fact, that we didn't get out of there until 2:30pm and then he napped until 5:00pm. Effectively killing the minature golf outing.
Over the course of the next week or so Griffin...
made roads out of Moon Sand with Carter,

watched Peyton learn to navigate the play area at Northlake Mall,

and showed his support for Calvin College where Aunt Emily coaches.

We finally made it to play minature golf last weekend, but Blogger is having some problems at the moment and won't let me import any pictures of the event, so I will leave you all here in suspense for a few hours. Or days. Depending on when I can steal another few moments to continue this chronicle.

(Any Blogger users out there thinking about moving to Word Press or am I alone in my frustration here?)