Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas and he lived alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone.
I had come down the chimney with presents to give,
And to see just who in this home did live.
As I looked all about, a strange sight did I see,
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.

No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.
With medals and badges, awards of all kinds,
A sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I'd seen.
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

I'd heard stories about them, I had to see more,
So I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone
Curled up on the floor of his one bedroom home.
He seemed so gentle, his face so serene -
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.

Was this the hero, of whom I'd just read?
Curled up on his poncho, a floor for his bed?
His head was clean shaven, his weathered face tan.
I soon understood this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night,
Owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.

Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grownups would celebrate on a bright Christmas Day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year
Because of Marines like this one lying here.
I couldn't help but wonder how many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.

Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.
He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
"Santa, don't cry, this life is my choice.
I fight for freedom, I don't ask for more.
My life is my God, my country, my Corps."

With that he rolled over and drifted off into sleep.
I couldn't control it, I continued to weep.
I didn't want to leave him so alone in the night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
But as he rolled over, in a voice clean and pure,
said, "Carry on, Santa, it's Christmas Day, all is secure."
One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friends, Semper Fi and goodnight.
(I did not write this, and I am not sure who did. I give credit to an author unknown)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Santa Experience

We took the kids to see Santa yesterday. Let me just tell you, things have really changed since I was a kid. We used to stand in line, sometimes for a little while, see the man in the red suit, tell him what you wanted for Christmas and then we got a little candy cane or something. No more. Now what you have is called the "Santa Experience."

We arrived at the mall around 9 to make our appointment with Santa. Thats right, no more lines. Now he takes appointments only. And since we arrived not too long after the mall opened, I wasn't expecting a super long wait to see Santa. Wrong again. The next available appointment was at 1:17. Apparently some families arrived at 7 to make their appointment, a full 2 hours before the mall even opened. 

So, now we had a few hours to kill before we were announced to see Santa. We spent much of that time in Build a Bear, where the girls each picked out a new outfit for their bears. Grace even had her Papa fixed (he had a hole in his back). The nice bear surgeon even offered to give Papa a new nose since his had been lost long ago, but Grace decided that no nose suited Papa just fine. 

We then spent some time getting some shoes for Michael. I made a very valuable discovery when we got him measured. The boy has trailer park feet - as in double wide. This explained why he would NEVER keep shoes on and why it was so hard to find shoes that fit. Once properly fitted he was so happy, he didn't try and take them off once. 

By this time, a few Michael meltdown and some lunch later, we were just about ready for our appointment. We headed back to Santa's castle to wait our turn, and I started to realized my kids seemed to be very under dressed. All the kids were dressed in their best clothes - party dresses for the girls and nice sweaters and even ties for the boys. There were even an unfortunate few who has been made to dress up in elf costumes. Seriously. 

No matter, we were so excited to finally be announced. Michael was still not exactly thrilled, but the girls eagerly awaited to be introduced to Santa. Once announced, Grace jumped right up on his lap. Annabelle suddenly decided she didn't want to be anywhere near Santa, so we had to settle for her sitting on a reindeer in front of him. Luckily, Michael was so confused he didn't have time to have a fit. 

We opted against paying $60 or so for a photo package from the professional photographer that was on hand. I used my own camera and took pictures of my tired, under-dressed and, in Annabelle's case, completely uninterested kids. Add in some vomit and a leaky diaper or two and it would have been almost as fun as the 16 hour car ride to Michigan. This was our Santa experience.   




Friday, December 19, 2008

Winter Wonderland

After much anticipation, the girls were finally able to play in the snow. We were lucky to arrive in Michigan when we did, because we were followed by a huge snow storm. It wasn't good packing snow, so no making a snowman, but they still had a blast. Although, they are definitely not used to the cold weather because they sure didn't last too long outside.  Here are a few highlights...




Friday, December 12, 2008

This Blog is Rockin'

You will notice that the music is back. If you can't hear it, turn on your speakers. If you don't like it, turn your speakers off ; ) 

Or if you would like a different song from the playlist, scroll down to the bright green playlist on the right side of the blog and change it up. 

Feel free to tap your toes or sing along. 

Baby Einstein to the Rescue




Ridiculously high fevers, more tissues than I care to count, and an overall yuck and blah have fallen upon our house once again.  Miserable kids are one of my least favorite things, and when it happens I begin to look for things to make them even a little bit less miserable. 

Recently I received a package filled with Baby Einstein products. And originally I was going to tell you about how much fun these products are in general, because long before the kids got sick they were certainly enjoying watching the Baby Mozart DVD and dancing up a storm to the CD of Lullaby Classics. These products are ones that I enjoy with the kids, so many an hour has been clocked watching Miss Grace choreograph routines for Annabelle and her to perform. They love it, even though Michael is determined to get right in the middle of it all. 

But while searching for something to engage and soothe, I discovered that Baby Einstein is up to the challenge of entertaining my miserable, sick children. The music and images from the books, CDs and DVDs are entertaining, for Michael at 16 months and even for Bellie and Grace and 3 and 5. Even when nothing seemed to make them feel better, some how the soothing sounds of Lullaby Classics and Baby Mozart made things a little better, if even for a little while. 

When the kids are well, the CD provides the backdrop for some pretty fantastic dance routines in the living room.  But while under the weather, Lullaby Classics has helped calm them, and I have been playing it upstair when they go to bed. 

There is a huge assortment of Baby Einstein products available these day, ten years after it all began. I have never been disappointed with anything I have given the kids and now that I know how helpful Baby Einstein when the kids are under the weather, I am even more excited about their products. 
 

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Friday, December 05, 2008

Mike's Farm - Take Two

This is Grace's class at Mike's Farm. This is the second time Michael and I have been there this fall. The first, loyal readers will remember, was with Annabelle when the farm featured pumpkins. Fast forward from Halloween to the Christmas season and now it is magically transformed into a Christmas tree farm.  Halloween decorations turned into Christmas lights, jack-o-lanterns into snowmen. Everything else - hayride, apple cider presentation, Granny, and Cowboy Earl - was EXACTLY the same. Although to be fair,  Cowboy Earl did add a Christmas song to his show. 
It was a nice time, but it was freezing and threatening rain all morning. We were lucky to be done before the rain finally came down.  Grace, Michael and I thawed out pretty quickly, but everyone had a very quiet afternoon. Michael napped for a whopping 5 hours. Yay naps.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Feasting

Here are some pictures from the feasts the girls had this week at school. I was sad to find out I was not invited to Annabelle's feast (apparently it is a kid - only event. Very exclusive.) At least she got to wear the turkey shirt I had made for her. 
I was able to attend Grace's feast. She had made a headband, vest, necklace, placemat and place card for the occasion. 

Monday, November 24, 2008

TokBox


Everyone seems to have a cell phone attached to their body these days, and now you are never more than a few clicks form your inbox. But that just doesn't compare to being able to see your loved ones talking right to you.

Being far away from family and friends just got a little bit easier. You must check out TokBox, a free (yes, I said free) online service where you can send video email messages and make video calls.  Have family in a couple different places? Then try a video conference call and be together in cyberspace all at the same time.  You can even send themed greeting cards, complete with a video message. 

With your internet connection and a webcam, you can do more than just talk about how your kids are growing. You can let your family and friends actually see for themselves. TokBox is easy to use and for no charge, how can you resist? 







SeatSnug: A Safer Way to Ride



It is not unusual for me to look in the rearview mirror and see one of my kids tipped to one side in their booster seat. Either from trying to reach something that fell on the floor or attempting to hit the nearest sibling within reach, the girls are constantly pushing the limits of the seat belt. Not only does this drive me crazy, it certainly is not safe. And if they are able to wiggle and wriggle their way across the backseat, I am pretty confident they are not very secure in general, and most importantly they are not safe if we get into an accident. 

That is what makes the SeatSnug such a great tool. It is used with a booster seat to keep the wiggles from loosening the seatbelt. Attaching to the seatbelt in your car, the SeatSnug keeps the belt snug to their hips and prevents slack, gapping, looseness and anything else that is caused by the inevitable wriggling that goes on.  



Not convinced? Check out the SeatSnug website and watch the videos of the SeatSnug in action. Or, if you are in the neighborhood, you can catch a ride with the kids and I and we can do a little off - roading. 

The installation is really simple. (There is a video on that, too). But as we all know, sometimes you have guests so you need to do a little rearranging in the car. The SeatSnug doesn't have to be removed, you can simply turn it too the off position when someone who doesn't need a booster seat is riding along.  

It is amazing to see the difference once the SeatSnug is installed. You think that the booster seat itself is enough to keep your kids safe. Surely a booster is better than nothing, but a SeatSnug is so much better than a booster alone. 

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Raking Leaves




The girls had so much fun raking leaves with their Uncles. I wish I could tell you the yard still looked beautiful and leaf-free, however Mother Nature made sure it didn't last too long. But now that the girls know how, I plan on sending them out to do it again. No free rides here. 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Newcastle

What happens when Uncle PJ and Uncle Christopher are left alone with the boy? 

I find my son smelling like a brewery, clutching an empty bottle of Newcastle. But, as they pointed out, he was NOT crying. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Both Grace and Annabelle woke up a bit under the weather this morning, and spent much of the day early on curled up on the couch watching movies. Grace decided she would feel better if she looked a bit more like a princess, so she announced she was going to change. I was expecting her to come down and have one of her princess dress-up dresses on. 

She was taking quite a while, so the rest of us ventured upstairs to see what she was up to... 

This is her princess creation. 
It is made from three pieces of her fabric and she put the whole thing together all by herself.  

I don't know why I bothered making her Halloween costume for her. I think she has a pretty good handle on things, don't you? 

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Barbie and the Diamond Castle

Before I saw my first Barbie movie, I would never have thought that her movies would be so incredibly popular with the girls. I can't remember which one it was that we had first, but now we own (and frequently watch) all of them. 

When we received Barbie and the Diamond Castle, Grace and Annabelle were so excited. They snuggled up on the couch and watched the entire thing without moving. It was fabulous. The second time (which may have been immediately following the first) they switched between sitting and watching intently and signing and dancing. 

The movie tells the story of two friends, Liana and Alexa, who try and help save the muses of music from the evil Lydia. With the help of Melody and a few other friends, the girls struggle and sing their way through this adventure. 

I think the music is my favorite part of this one. The story line is nice, but the music is really great. Unlike so many children's movies that make you want to shove something sharp and pointy in your ears, the songs in this movie make you want to sing along. 

After the movie, a cover of the song Connected is sung by Katharine McPhee (former American Idol contestant). It is safe to say we have played that video so many times I am expecting it to wear out the DVD. 

I don't mind when the girls want to watch this one over and over. In fact, when they can't decide on a movie for Friday night pizza and a movie, I often suggest this one since I know I will be entertained as well. 



Saturday, November 08, 2008

Fall Festival

Today was the Fall Festival at St. Anne's. In reality, it is three hours spent pumping the kids full of sugar, followed by an excited 15 or so minutes in the moon bounce and finally a crash of epic proportions.  The kids had a blast and actually the crash has not been all that bad - so far. 
Grace got her hair painted with purple stripes, which are fading fast and she is trying to figure out a way to keep them. Annabelle wanted nothing to do with the hair painting. 
They had popcorn, which is one of their favorite treats.  

Although Michael didn't get to play many games, he still had fun, too. He was in the nursery while I worked the cookie walk and he didn't want to leave. 

The girls also won vouchers to take to the pet store for free goldfish. It remains to be seen if those vouchers will get "lost" or not. 

It was a very nice afternoon. The only thing missing was their Daddy.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Saturday, November 01, 2008

She was not so happy about getting her picture taken before she went to school Friday, but here is Grace, Indian Princess. 
Annabelle was not interested in getting her costume on, since she knew she couldn't go to school or trick or treating because of the pox. Hopefully she will put it on later. And then maybe Michael will give it a try as well. Look for a cowboy and cowgirl coming soon... 

The Face of the Pox

Here is a shot of Mr Michael. He is looking better, but still some pox on his face. 
As you can see, pizza makes it all easier to deal with. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The universe seems to be upset with me lately. We had the flat tire in the pouring rain, the broken camera, the pukey stomach bug that caused Annabelle to vomit in her sisters backpack and all over the backseat of the car to name a few things. So what on earth could possibly be next?

We have the pox. Chicken pox, that is.  Happy Halloween kids.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Take Two

These are the same pics, but after I have played around with them. Because, of course, I could not just leave them alone. 



New Camera Test - Extreme Close Up