"When you called me to be a Mama, You didn't ask for perfection. But that with every breath, I'd point them to You."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

And so it's begun...

After three days of hustle and bustle and eating and picture taking and decorating and more eating... a peaceful Sunday afternoon has arrived. Thanksgiving weekend has come and gone as quick as the flash on my camera did all weekend long. Christmas season is officially upon us, and this mommy - though tired and slightly overwhelmed - is content. It was a weekend where we unbox the Christmas tree, bake the pumpkin goodies, say an extra dozen prayers of thanks, and revive yearly traditions. All with two small boys underfoot that make you want to soak up every single moment before it's gone. We packed it all in the last few days, and we've only just begun.

We woke up to a leisurely Thanksgiving morning with nowhere to be until mid day. We stayed in our pajamas, brought up all of our Christmas loot from the basement storage room, and told Brandon two dozen times, "be gentle" while hanging the ornaments on the tree. Last year, we decorated while the boys napped. This year, we let them help. (I did have to tell Jaden a couple of times not to hang three ornaments on the same branch).

Brandon got really into "Coming to America" during the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. In fact, when they went to commercial, he hit the TV and yelled in protest. (True story).

It was Brandon's turn this year to help put the star on the top of the tree.

I absolutely love Christmas decorating. I love pulling memories out of a box that you haven't seen in a year.

I love adding that one or two new ornaments to the tree and reflecting on the ornaments from year's past.

There's hanging the stockings...

...and turning off all the lights in the house... even in the middle of the day... so that the white lights can shine with just a bit more sparkle...

...There's looking at old Christmas cards... while adding new ones to the mix...

...and there's Jesus in a manger. Always.

After we finished decorating, we headed to my parents' house for our first Thanksgiving meal of the weekend. Last year, a new tradition was started when my dad purchased a Christmas train for their house. Jaden couldn't wait to help Papa put it together this year. He's been talking about this train since football season kicked off.

And then it was time to eat. The turkey this year was extra delicious, and I have to admit that I'm pretty proud of how my pumpkin layered cheesecake turned out. It was my very first attempt at a cheesecake... and it won't be my last.

Friday night we continued another tradition that we had to miss last year due to cold weather and sickly kids. I was really excited to return to Holiday Hoopla downtown Cedar Falls this year. It was perfect weather, and the perfect night. It started out a little shaky when we first got there -- Jaden was afraid of the giant snowman character, and Brandon wanted nothing to do with his stroller or Daddy's shoulders - he just wanted to run wild up and down Main St. independently. But once that helicopter appeared overhead, and Jaden realized that it was carrying none other than Santa Claus himself... the night turned "just right." There is nothing like the feeling of watching hundreds of kids on their daddy's shoulders squeel in delight with eyes wide as can be when they catch their first glimpse of Santa. I'm not embarassed to admit that a lump formed in my throat as I took it all in. Holiday Hoopla is another event that makes our town pretty special. And this year, the crowd appeared to be the biggest yet.

And once that giant tree was lit and those fireworks started exploding in the sky, our kids did not want the night to end. (And neither did I). This was their first experience watching fireworks. Brandon couldn't take his eyes off the show, and Jaden said, "somebody is playing those drums really hard!" -- every time one exploded with a boom.

It's that time of year -- where everything is extra special, extra sparkly, time with family means more than ever, and adults get to be kids again.

Merry season of Christmas to you and yours...

...from all of us!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

It is has been tradition in my family to always decorate for Christmas during Thanksgiving break. But with two young boys and a very busy schedule ahead, I decided that we needed to get a jump start on the decorating... for my sanity. (And okay... part of me just couldn't wait another day to get started!)

My parents had a smaller tree that they used with purple lights and sports themed ornaments to help decorate my dad's beloved "Panther Pit." Earlier this year, my dad told me we could have it for a special tree for the boys in their room. And when I found a particular set of Nativity Scene ornaments at Hobby Lobby for 50% off... I knew it was meant to be. The ornaments actually match a Christmas book the boys own that used to be mine when I was little.

Last night, while Cody took Brandon to convenient care so we could get a double ear infection diagnosis, my parents, Jaden and I quickly set the tree up, and Jaden helped me carefully place each ornament. It was a wonderful surprise for Brandon to return home to.

We also quickly set up the boys' little Cherished Teddy Nativity Scene. This set also used to belong to me when I was a little girl and collected Cherished Teddies. I love passing things like this down to my own little ones!

The next phase of our decorating will be completed on Thanksgiving morning. We don't have anywhere to be right away so I have visions in my head of waffles for breakfast, staying in our PJ's, watching Boz's Christmas and putting the tree up as a family.... all while talking about what we are thankful for most this year. Sounds just about perfect to me...

...In other news... I walked into the kitchen the other day and found Brandon completely cuddled up on the kitchen floor with his new Christmas puppy.


He sure is a silly one... :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Writer's Block

I realized yesterday that it has been two weeks since my last update. Seriously... time flies. It's not that life hasn't been full or busy - it's not that we haven't had plenty to talk about. But for some reason, I've had a case of writer's block. I love to write. I think it's one of my God-given gifts. (And I should probably give my mom some credit for the ability, too. It's kind of in my blood.) But the past couple of weeks, the words haven't been found, and the camera has been somewhat tucked away. I guess there are times where even I believe that not everything can be put into words, and a camera is not always capable of capturing every single memorable moment. Daylight saving's time has brought about a hibernation of sorts in our home, and evenings are spent in a new way. No longer able to play outside but more time to spend building Lego towers taller than Brandon and more time to spend with Jaden learning our letters on the giant chalkboard wall in his room. What is it about shorter days and the anticipation of all that's to come that brings about a sense of calmness - even though life is anything but calm? Days are still filled with their own struggles - the kind of struggles that come when raising two very young boys with two full-time working parents - and only a somewhat healthy husband. But blessings still come through each and every day, and lately I have been feeling more than thankful. 'Tis the season.

Feeling thankful for my 20-month old that now enjoys hearing Mommy sing "You Are My Sunshine" and "Jesus Loves Me" every night in his room before placing him in his crib. He shows me he appreciates this by placing his fingers on my lips as soon as the lights get turned off... it's his way of saying "Sing now, Mommy."

Feeling thankful when I hear Jaden and Brandon playing in Jaden's room together with their chalk. Jaden points to the letter 'A' on his wall -- "Brandon, did you know this is the letter A? Look at the A, Brandon. Do you see it? That's the letter A!"

Feeling thankful when my oldest reminds his Daddy that he's supposed to pray every single morning to start their day.

Feeling thankful when I see Brandon's pure delight at the sight of a waffle popping up from the toaster... his new favorite food that causes him to squeal, clap, and literally skip from room to room because he's so excited to share this breakfast with Daddy.

Feeling thankful when Jaden draws "Jesus' cross" all over his chalkboard. I never showed him how to do it, but it's the one thing he gets excited to draw over and over again.

Feeling thankful for Brandon's shouts of "Mama Mama Mama!!!!" when I arrive at daycare at the end of the day.

Feeling thankful when I overhear Jaden singing words from a Life 101.9 song.

Feeling thankful when my kids are so excited to get to church every Sunday.

Feeling thankful when Jaden tells me often, "I love Brandon!"

Feeling thankful when watching my children get into arguments... because it means I have two healthy boys that get to grow up as brothers and friends.

Feeling thankful when Brandon comes over and wraps himself around my legs in a hug - for no reason at all.

Feeling thankful that they really are both so very cute and sweet, and at the end of the day -- they really do love each other. Jaden never lets Brandon go to bed without giving him a kiss first.

Not every moment with these two is bliss. I could talk about Sunday afternoon when we tried to treat them to a visit to the indoor inflatable park and instead of playing and having fun, they both threw tantrums on the floor and refused to even jump in the inflatables at all. I could mention that Brandon is becoming more strong-willed by the minute and threw the bathtub drain plug at Cody just a few days ago because Cody wouldn't let him dump water out of the tub. I could mention that we are having to use time-outs with Jaden more often so that he learns that no really does mean no.

But that all comes with the territory of this parenthood business. They are teaching us, challenging us, making us pull our hair out one minute and making us laugh the very next. They are making me want to be a better person every single day.

There's lots of good things ahead - holidays, birthday celebrations... and a pretty neat change coming after the first of the year. Something we can't talk about yet but are feeling pretty excited about. (And no, it's not a new baby!) How's that for a teaser?

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Trick or Treat!

This year was our first true trick-or-treating experience. Last year, Halloween was a dud with two sick kids. The year before, Jaden wasn't even two yet, and Brandon was just a baby in my belly. I wasn't sure how the kids would do or if they would even be interested.

But... they loved it. Jaden started off shy, but was a boy on a mission for candy by the end of the night... not hesitating at all to go door to door knocking and saying, "trick or treating!"

Brandon was the social one of the neighborhood, waving at everyone we passed, and being bound and determined he was going to walk the whole thing, pushing his stroller by himself. They looked adorable in their costumes and received lots of compliments and lots of "awwwws!"

And now the fun really begins. We've made a "countdown to Thanksgiving" chart on Jaden's chalkboard wall. We watched "Boz's Christmas" before bed tonight. Jaden and I read Turkey Trouble for a bedtime story. In three weeks, our Christmas tree goes up, and tomorrow I am bound and determined to update my Pandora Christmas playlist so that it's all ready to go with my latest favorites. Their daycare theme of the month is focusing on Family. This is what it's all about. The memories big and small, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the countdowns and anticipation. Every year I enjoy this season even more than the year before. My two precious bundles have a little something to do with that, I think. It all goes by so fast... so I'm savoring it. Every last drop... including the seasonal Starbucks drink I'm going to indulge in tomorrow... filled to the brim in a jolly red cup. Happy month of Thanksgiving to you all!