maggie animals

Stuffed Animal Birthday Party

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Yesterday was Maggie’s 8th birthday, and this year she decided on a stuffed animal party theme.  (Legos were a close second, but in the end stuffed animals won.)  She sleeps with a menagerie of furry friends each night, and spends copious amounts of time rearranging them in her room each day, so we weren’t terribly surprised.

For the invitation,we gathered all the kids’ stuffed animals and set up an ET style photo shoot.  Can you find the 8 year old?

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The party started at Build-a-Bear, which is a surprisingly fun place to have a quick birthday celebration.  As a parent you set a budget for each guest, and the party consultant makes sure the kids stay within their range.  The birthday child’s animal is free, and they give lots of discounts so it’s actually very affordable.  All the kids made a wish for Maggie and placed it inside her bear before it was stitched closed, and everyone left with a new furry friend.  I’m glad the kids haven’t outgrown playing with their stuffed buddies yet!

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After Build-a-Bear everyone headed to our house for pizza and play.  We planned a few animal-themed activities (stuffed animal hokey pokey, charades, tea parties, or hide and seek) but in the end the kids just wanted to play outside.  Even better!  Today they set up a stuffed animal school, so we have some smart critters in the house!

The cake was a teddy bear – I found the idea on Pinterest.

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It’s a pull-apart cupcake cake – I love these because they make serving a snap!

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Instead of gifts, everyone brought donations to Friends of Pets.  We can’t wait to drop off all these goodies this week!

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It was an easy party to plan, and our birthday girl loved every minute of her special day!

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humpty dumpty cake

Mother Goose Birthday Party

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that beloved books make great birthday party themes.  At the age of two, our two-year-old Maggie was seriously obsessed with one book:  Mary Engelbreit’s Mother Goose.  And so it was decided:  a nursery-rhyme birthday party!

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I had fun with the invitation wording:

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The Humpty Dumpty cake, on the other hand, was not so fun.  I tried my best with the fondant frosting, but that stuff is a challenge for amateurs like me.  In the end, I was pretty proud of this adorable Humpty cake! humpty dumpty cake

Humpty’s wall was baked in loaf pans, and Humpty himself was baked in round pyrex bowls.  The hat is fake, but everything else was edible.  (Well, as edible as fondant gets…)

Most of the kids were toddlers, so the activities were all short and simple.

We read stories from Maggie’s favorite book:

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We played “Jack Jumped Over the Candlestick” with homemade candle sticks (toilet paper cores, paper plates, and cardstock flames):

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We made a Humpty Dumpty pinata, and “put him back together again” after he was split open.  The toddlers loved playing with the tape!
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An Easter egg-shaped mylar balloon was the perfect base for the Humpty Dumpty pinata.  Be sure to start your pinata at least a week in advance, depending on how many layers you will use.

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The last activity was loosely based on Jack and the Beanstalk.  We threw a tarp on the floor along with a few bins of dried beans.  Add some measuring cups, scoops, utensils, and dishes.  The kids were happy for the rest of the evening!

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The party favor was a homemade CD called “Not So Goosey.”  It was a CD of not-so-silly music with great children’s songs from Raffi, Laurie Berkner, Peter Paul & Mary, Marlo Thomas, and the Beatles.  We still play this CD in the car once in a while, six years later!  Here are some of the favorite songs:

  • Parents are People by Marlo Thomas & Harry Belafonte
  • Garden Song by Maria Muldaur
  • Marvelous Toy by Peter Paul & Mary
  • When I Grow Up by Diana Ross
  • Blackbird by the Beatles (Maggie loves ravens!)
  • Hello Goodbye by the Beatles – the finale!

Here is the cover I made for this compilation CD:

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Looking back, this is truly one of my favorite party themes.  The activities weren’t too structured, it left plenty of room for toddlers to play, and what toddler doesn’t love Mother Goose?

In honor of Maggie, here are some of my favorite two-year-old snapshots:

Messy Maggie with the ice cream face is funny, but Sam’s horrified face is priceless!

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Proud girl pouring her own cereal (oops!) and sleeping in a big girl bed:

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And both kids loving the doll furniture she got for her birthday!

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A special birthday, and special memories!  If you have a toddler, I highly recommend a Mother Goose birthday party!


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Happy Anniversary to Us!

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Sunday was our 12 year wedding anniversary.  My friend Nancy offered to watch the kids, but we decided it would be fun to get spiffed up as a family and head out to a fancy restaurant together.  Just the four of us.

It was a decent plan, but when the big day rolled around no one wanted to leave the house.  So we scratched baseball practice, home projects, most chores, and even the dinner reservations.

I know we should get a babysitter once in a while… but is it really such a bad thing that even on special occasions there is no place we would rather be than home, together as a family?

Of course life isn’t perfect, but it sorta felt like it as I was chopping up veggies for dinner.  I was enjoying the Maroon 5 Pandora channel, but some pretty special sounds were creeping in through the open windows as well.  My husband was in the driveway, scrubbing six months of grime from my car, and the kids were giggling as they chased neighbors through the yard.

Our wedding pictures were taken by my cousin, Jeff Bundy, who is now the Director of Photography for the Omaha World Herald.  He shot the entire wedding with film and assures us the negatives are locked up in a safe deposit box somewhere.  He captured some priceless moments for us:

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Our grandmothers read marital advice that the wedding guests submitted.  Clark escorted his mom down the aisle just before my dad walked me.  My mom stood by my side as matron of honor.  The entire day was about honoring not only our marriage, but also the family we love so much.

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The 12 years since the wedding have been a blur, but there are a few moments that are still in sharp focus for me.  Most are too personal to share here, but one thing is for certain:  The wedding was great, but this marriage is the real ride.


Sunset Tragedy

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Last night I was so taken with the sunset over Turnagain Arm that I decided to snap a few pictures:

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I had no idea that I was also capturing a tragic moment.

The Seward Highway, which parallels this beautiful inlet, has been named a National Scenic Byway because of its breathtaking beauty.

Sadly, this highway is also known for deadly car crashes.

As I was snapping sunset photos I noticed the lack of traffic on the highway below.  A quick scan of the road revealed flashing red and blue lights, no doubt police officers diverting traffic, and huge white strobe lights for the investigators at the scene.  A quick check of the news confirmed the severity of the situation:  it was another fatality.

I stopped taking photos.  Moments later, the sun set.

For most of us, the sun rose again this morning.  How insulting that must be for those who are in the throes of grief?

Today the highway was open again,  most drivers blazing by with no knowledge of last night’s tragedy on the pavement below.  For me, it felt like a sacrilege to drive over the scarring skid marks, and I winced at the obvious signs of disarray in the ditch.  Most evidence had been removed, but the pain for those involved must be horribly fresh.

I kept glancing in the rear view mirror at my beautiful children.  Losing them – or being lost to them – is beyond comprehension.  I couldn’t reach them, so I gripped my steering wheel extra tight for the entire drive to school.

When the name of the victim was released, I learned she was only 29.  By this afternoon bouquets of flowers lined the highway, diverting my eyes from those horrible skid marks.  I didn’t know her, but I drive this same road every day and feel compelled to add a bouquet from our family as well.

My thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved.


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Seussical Celebrations

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Last week a language arts teacher at my school asked me to write an elegy to share with her students.  At first I thought she meant a eulogy, but she set me straight:  an elegy is a poem honoring a deceased person, whereas a eulogy is a speech that is read at a funeral.  Who knew?

The hardest part was coming up with a subject that could bridge the generation gap between my 42-year-old self and a pack of 130 8th graders.  My friend Janelle had the idea to write about Dr. Seuss – which was brilliant since his birthday is today!

In honor of the great Theodore Geisel, I share my elegy to him:

A child toddles across the floor
Clutching a book, begging for more

Characters dance across an imaginary stage
Cats and fish and an elephant in a cage

Fun to read, but a message too
Here are some life lessons we learn from you:

Try new foods, cut down fewer trees
Burping can topple self-righteous dynasties
Size doesn’t matter, not one little bit
Holidays aren’t about shopping spree fits

Those who heed these tips will go far
Whether by boat or ship or foot or car

Thank you for your books and your lessons too
A child’s love of reading starts with you

I thought it would be too obvious, but the students really had to talk through each line to identify the subject.  It was a very fun activity!

Tomorrow a crew of my high schoolers will visit local elementary schools to read Dr. Seuss books with the students, and every kiddo who checks out a book from our library will get a Seuss-y treat.  (It’s a frosted pretzel “egg” with a green M&M “yolk” – so fun and simple!)  Even big kids still love Dr. Seuss!

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And of course we held a small celebration here at home tonight.  Maggie read Green Eggs and Ham while we prepared our Seussian dinner of ham, greenish deviled eggs, and Cat in the Hat bowtie noodles.

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(Yes, I apologized to my husband for snapping this photo while he was mid-chew, but I was afraid he’d whip off that adorable hat if he saw the camera in advance.  He is such a good sport!)

Can’t wait to celebrate tomorrow in the library.  In the meantime, Happy 110th Birthday Dr. Seuss!



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An Olympic Birthday Party

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Last night’s opening ceremonies in Sochi brought back memories of a favorite birthday theme:  the Olympic party.  When Sam turned six he was passionate about both sports and geography.  He especially loved to draw flags, so an Olympic-themed party was a perfect fit.

The invitation was simple and bold:

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The cake was a cinch to decorate:  five Olympic rings, served with patriotic plates and napkins:

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We made pasta with a variety of sauces for dinner, which was both kid-friendly and internationally-themed.  For decorations, we hung a few sets of Olympic rings and Sam colored flags that he taped around the house:

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Instead of orchestrating a zillion activities, I finally figured out that kids just want to play.  We threw a bunch of balls in the back yard and let the kids have at it.  It turns out the dads wanted to join in too, even though they did cheat a bit!

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We did play a round of “Pin the Medal on the Athlete” with a life-sized cutout of Sam:

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We also brought out some pillow cases for three-legged races:

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After all the activities, we blared Olympic medal ceremony music.  The kids lined up and Sam presented each child with a medal and Power Bar.  The kids were mesmerized and the parents watched with pride.  It was a shockingly emotional moment for a children’s party.  I think the music in the background made all the difference!

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This party was a great balance of free play and planned activities.  The gorgeous weather made all the difference, and Sam declared it a gold medal event!

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united

Dear United Airlines

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Dear United Airlines,

It has taken a few weeks, but I have finally composed a letter I can in good conscience send to you.  I almost mailed my first draft, but it was twelve pages long and splattered with tear drops and profanity.  In this draft I have done my best to recount our saga in a more concise, civilized manner.

Honestly, who would actually read twelve pages about our family’s little travel delay?  That would take almost as much patience as standing in your customer service line for six hours with two young children, and trust me you don’t want to do that.

It all started when you cancelled our flight from Chicago to Anchorage.  Apparently you couldn’t find your crew?  A few hours later it started to snow in Chicago, prompting many weather-related cancellations.  Before we knew it we were buried in an avalanche of cancelled flights.  We tried every possible method of rebooking:  waiting in line at the airport, visiting your web site, and calling your 800 number.  It was misery at every turn.

Eventually we gave up on everything but your toll-free customer service line (which isn’t easy to find on your web site, by the way).  I was on hold so long that my cell was nearly dead when a weary agent from your Philippines call center finally took our call.

She was the one who delivered the news:  it would be five days until we could get out of Chicago.  No, there was simply nothing sooner.  No, there were no extra flights being added.  No, no, no to every question we asked.

No, this could not be happening.  But what could we do?

We took a few deep breaths and headed downstairs to baggage claim, because we travel frequently enough to know that bags don’t fly without their passengers these days.  I must admit, this was the shortest line of the day:  only one hour!  Imagine our relief when we finally got the counter, only to learn that you sent our luggage home ahead of us.  Possibly on another airline!

At this point, we took some deeper breaths and tried not to scream.  If you knew luggage for all cancelled flights was being sent on, why didn’t someone PUT UP A DAMN SIGN?  And the bigger question:  If Alaska Airlines could get our luggage home, why couldn’t you get us home?

But why dwell on such minor details?  Honestly, we didn’t want to haul our suitcases around for the next five days anyway.  Lightened of that load, we headed outside to wait for our hotel shuttle.

A whole new level of chaos awaited us on those snowy curbs.  Everyone had just been spit out of some eternal customer service line, rejected from flights and refused their luggage.  People were hungry, children were crying, and all the mommies needed wine.  There were about 75 people waiting for 22 seats on a shuttle that arrived once every 45 minutes.  And that was just for our hotel.  When a seemingly normal grandfather threatened the shuttle driver’s life, we decided it would be best to hike a few blocks to the taxi line instead.

Finally, the hotel.   We had the luxury of paying the distressed traveler rate of $70 for what was clearly a $200 room.  The only food was a fine dining restaurant on site, where our hungry young children enjoyed yet another opportunity to sit down and be quiet.  What’s more, 2 oz. bottles of contact solution only cost $12 in the gift shop.

We had just tucked the kids into the stiff hotel sheets when my now recharged phone gave a familiar chime.  It was an email from you, announcing that our rebooked flight had been cancelled.  You know, the one we waited in line and on hold for hours to book?  So much for sleep.

Suddenly I pined for the time I spent on hold with you, because now your phone-bot did nothing but hang up on me.  The first 10 times I called we followed all of his directions:  enter 6 digit reservation code, enter flight number, enter first three letters of last name, confirm first name of one person in our party, explain purpose for call, narrow purpose for call.  It was a good 5 minute process before Mr. United would say, “I’m sorry.  We can’t help you right now, call back later.”

If by “call back later” you meant in three seconds, we certainly obliged.  By 2 AM I was ignoring your every request and jamming the “0″ on my phone, so the robot started getting snippy with me.  Eventually it dawned on us that your call center was closed for the night.

The United-bot kept disconnecting us the next morning as well, but we did receive a call from some fellow stranded passengers.  They had waited in line at the airport for seven hours the previous night, and for their patience they were rewarded with an 800 number that was answered by a human instead of a robot.

I’ll admit – this was one bright spot in our hellish experience with your company.  A lovely Ms. Powers answered our call on the third ring.  No hold music, no robo-prompts.  But sadly, still no way we could get home in time for work on Monday.  However, she delivered the news with empathy rather than disdain, and that went a long way.

It turns out our quickest way out of Chicago was driving.  We offered to rent a car and drive anywhere within a 12 hour radius, and mentioned we had family back in Omaha where we could avoid hotel fees.  She laid out our options:  stay in Chicago for 8 days, or drive back to Omaha and fly home in 5 days.

So off to the car rental agency we went.

The man behind the desk at Hertz Rent-a-Car was quite possibly part robot.  He clanked away at his keyboard for all of 10 seconds – without making eye contact – before declaring that a 24-hour economy sized rental to Omaha would be over $300.  When I showed him deals I could book online he nearly rolled his eyes at me.

We were desperate enough to pay his rate if he’d shown an ounce of compassion, but the fact that another human could be so utterly and overtly indifferent made us turn around and march out of that business.

The snow was blowing sideways as we traipsed through the back parking lot, over traffic spikes and around a malfunctioning traffic arm, which was the only way to liberate ourselves from Hertz.  The next closest agency was Budget Car Rental, but we may as well have landed on another planet.  A nice one.

We walked in the door to a chorus of welcomes.  We approached the desk and said we’d found some deals online, and the young clerk tried to match them.  She couldn’t find a fare quite as low, so encouraged us to book with our cell phone.  When my out of state cell didn’t have enough bars to complete the transaction, one of the employees actually whipped out his personal cell phone to help us.  He pulled up the same deal we had been trying to book, and passed the phone across the counter.  ”Just enter your name,” he said.

Thank you, Budget Rental Car guy, for giving us enough hope to get out of Chicago.

A few seconds later we had a confirmation number, and for a mere $126 we got this compact cruiser:

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Now I don’t want to appear ungrateful to Budget, but in hindsight renting this car was a big mistake.

It’s a Ford Fiesta, but it may as well have been a coffin.  It was white knuckle driving across both Illinois and Iowa in this tin can without snow tires.  We fishtailed across black ice, prayed through blinding white outs, and bottomed out every time we switched lanes.  The wind could have easily whipped us under the tire of a passing semi, where its driver would think he had run over nothing more than a wayward rabbit.  Looking at the road ahead was paralyzing, so I spent most of this journey staring out the passenger window with tears of panic streaming down my cheeks.  The kids, on the other hand, were oblivious.  They happily entertained themselves by scraping pictures in the ice that continuously formed on their backseat windows.

The only good thing about this car is that filling its gas tank cost less than the 2 oz. bottle of contact solution we bought back at the hotel gift shop.  So that’s something.

The drive between Chicago and Omaha usually takes seven hours, but it took us over twelve.  When we finally pulled into my parents’ driveway I wasn’t sure which to kiss first:  the ground, or my husband for putting up with me the entire way.

Now that we were safely out of the Ford Fiesta, our five day compulsory bonus vacation began.  We spent much of it dialing into work, especially since my absence was unpaid and my husband was being charged vacation days.  We treated ourselves to new underwear and a few toiletries, but for the most part relied on free laundry at my mom and dad’s.  We also called our special United number daily, but had no luck booking earlier flights.

Through it all we tried to keep a sense of humor.  ”Nice outfit,” my husband would say to me each morning.  Funny, he is.

I kept my sense of humor pretty well until we got a call from our fellow stranded passenger friends who had stayed in Chicago.  It turns out they got out on a flight after only two days.  And the kicker?  The plane was less than half full!  Imagine that!

We made the most of our travel delay, but it’s not easy to miss so much work and school.  We were all stressed.  Even worse, our itinerary home entailed 26 straight hours of travel time.  We woke at 3 AM Central time to fly to Denver and then Seattle, where we had a twelve hour layover.  Maybe we should have embraced Seattle for those twelve hours:  Space Needle, Pike’s Market, museums, all that fun stuff.  But it was raining, we had all been wearing the same clothes for five days, and our only shoes were snow boots.  I just wasn’t in the mood.

The final leg of our arduous journey was booked on Alaska Airlines, one of your partners.  It was with high hopes that we approached their customer service counter in Seattle to inquire about all the earlier flights to Anchorage.  The agent chomped her gum as she made a few obligatory clicks on her keyboard.  ”I’m sorry, all of our flights to Anchorage are full.  Overbooked.  My advice is to take the train downtown, grab some lunch, and enjoy a day in the city.”  We must have looked pretty dejected, because she quickly added, “But I can print you boarding passes for your 11 PM flight!”

How sweet of her.

I pouted as we rolled our carry ons toward the train station.  On the way we passed another Alaska Airlines service center, and I couldn’t help but get in line.  Maybe a seat had opened in the past 5 minutes?  My husband agreed to humor me with this last ditch effort.

And again, we got someone who didn’t care.  She didn’t care that we had originally been booked on United.  She didn’t care about ticket change fees.  She didn’t care what anyone else had told us.  You know what she did care about?  Getting us home as soon as possible.  And guess what?  Because of all the delayed travelers, Alaska Airlines had added a 6 PM flight to Anchorage that evening.  She could confirm us on that flight – a full 5 hours earlier than our scheduled departure – if we didn’t mind sitting in the very last row?  We assured her it wasn’t a problem.

She didn’t stop there:  she also put us on standby for the noon flight, which departed in only 2 hours.  She told us to grab some lunch and get to the gate as soon as possible, and promised she would have her fingers crossed for us.  Oh the kindness… it was almost too much!

It’s not very lady like, but I wanted to march back to that awful other agent and shove our 11 PM boarding passes right up her ass.  I envisioned something like that moment in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts confronts those snobs on Rodeo Drive and says, “You work on commission, right?  Big mistake!  BIG!”

…Except airline ticketing agents don’t work on commission and my children are still young and impressionable enough that I only think these horrible thoughts, I don’t actually act on them. So instead we grabbed some lunch.

And guess what?  All four of us scored seats on the noon flight.

Finally, we were home.  Five days late, but ten blessed hours early.

So, dear United Airlines, maybe it isn’t fair to single you out.  We encountered good and bad employees with a number of companies throughout this ordeal, and we know that customer service is a tough job.  We’ve been on the other side of the counter, dealing with toxic customers.  It’s not fun.

But here’s the deal:  when polite people are propelled into bad situations – in our case, one that cost over a thousand dollars in lost wages and travel expenses – it’s nice to be acknowledged by a human.  We don’t expect you to control the weather, but we do expect you to answer your phone.  We don’t expect you to tolerate abusive customers, but we do expect you to accommodate the displaced ones.  And when customers take the time to write, we do expect a response.  We hope to hear from you soon.


Ready or Not, Christmas is Tomorrow!

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We returned from Maui three weeks ago (eventually I will get around to posting some pictures from that amazing vacation!!) and since then it’s been all about Christmas.

First on the to-do list was the family tree.  This annual excursion is usually more National Lampoons than Norman Rockwell, but this year I must admit it was pretty darn easy.  The snow was only ankle deep and we found a perfect tree in minutes rather than hours.  It wasn’t too cold, the roads weren’t too treacherous, and (best of all) Sam didn’t get tangled up in any dog team harnesses and dragged down the trail.  Maggie didn’t whine, let alone cry.  It was sort of shocking.

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Raffi’s Christmas music is an essential part of this trip, so here’s a (dirty) window into what it sounds like in our truck as we travel to the perfect tree chopping spot:

It was Maggie’s year to hang the star – a tradition that may end soon since the kids are getting too heavy to lift to the top of the tree!

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Of course with the tree comes the train.  This is Clark’s obsession and this year’s track circumnavigates the entire living room.  It’s been fun listening to the Polar Express whiz around the house for the past few weeks.

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Speaking of trains, this year we booked a ride on the Alaska Railroad Christmas train.  It was a boisterous two hour ride with visits from Santa, several groups of carolers, and a balloon artist.  The popping balloons (and ensuing tears) had us all wishing the train served wine, but luckily we were surrounded by good friends and had Moose’s Tooth pizza waiting for us at the end of the trip.

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Another holiday tradition is Tam’s annual mother-daughter (+little boys) cooking and craft party.  This year the kids got to make chocolates – an added bonus to an event that is always so fun and festive!

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The practice schedule for the kids’ school choir concert was pretty intense the past few weeks – an hour each day before school, and nearly 2 hours each day after school!  Our little elf and zebra were exhausted, but loved every minute of it!

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Of course we took time to bake cookies for Santa.  This is a much more enjoyable activity ever since I accepted that it’s all about process over product in this household!

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One afternoon Clark took the kids on their first skiing expedition of the season, while I stayed home and wrapped every gift.  It is my goal to be asleep before 3 AM this Christmas Eve!

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Somewhere amidst all this we also finished the shopping, the teacher gifts, and the gingerbread house.  We attended a few birthday parties and read Gift of the Magi for this month’s moms + kids book club meeting.  We finished up gymnastics and flag football.  And of course we still had work and school full time… no wonder our house is such a mess!  It has been a whirlwind, but now the holiday is finally upon us and it’s time to relax.

Right now we’re off to a Soup and Songfest around a campfire at a friend’s house, and then we shall try to get our overly excited children to bed at a reasonable hour.

As for tomorrow… we probably won’t even get out of our pajamas!

Merry Christmas!


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Unchoppable

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This summer my parents introduced us to Chopped, a competitive cooking television show on the Food Network, and it has become an obsession in our family.

On family movie nights, we pop a giant bowl of popcorn and huddle under the blanket for a Chopped marathon in lieu of anything Disney.

And I hate to reveal this secret, but thanks to Chopped I actually enjoy folding laundry.  The heaping, wrinkled baskets of clothes used to intimidate me, but now I just let out a big sigh and proclaim, “Family, I must go fold laundry.”  I hang my head and march up the stairs, shut the bedroom door, and giddily cue up an episode of Chopped.  It turns out I can fold about 8 loads in the time it takes to watch a single episode.  Talk about win-win.

Those Chopped mystery baskets are far more intimidating than my laundry baskets, so it’s all about perspective.  And alone time.

Best of all, Chopped has inspired our nine-year-old son to become a chef.

It started with a spicy taco seasoning.  Sam found a recipe online and actually ran to a neighbor’s house to borrow chili powder so he could make it immediately.  A few weeks later he dreamed up his own rib rub, and Clark donated a rack of ribs to the cause.  We had to admit, it was pretty tasty!

Before we knew it Sam was whipping up double batches of his grandma’s banana bread, with very little assistance from us:

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One night last week I was making chicken noodle soup, and Sam asked if he could make the egg noodles himself.  It’s not like I enjoy dousing my hands in eggs and flour, so of course I said yes.  He promptly whipped off his shirt (apparently his sleeves were getting in the way) and got to work on the dough:

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This noodle cutter belonged to my great-grandmother, and we are so honored that it was passed it on to us.  I hope she would be proud to see her great-great grandson learning to use it:

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Unfortunately, the dough kept getting stuck, so Sam switched to a pizza cutter instead.  Please forgive us, Grandma!

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You are looking at a boy who loves the noodle in chicken noodle soup best of all, and I’m sure he’ll be cooking this simple pasta for years to come.

Probably not on Chopped, but hey… you never know!