Happy December

things on my mind as we roll into this last month of 2017…

gift spreadsheets
I remember when I was a kid trying to spy over my mom’s shoulder at the hand-written list of gifts for all us kids. To stop my own kids from doing the same I made that most boring and tedious of documents, A SPREADSHEET that I colour-coded and shared with Taylor. I think this will also help us to avoid a replay of last Christmas, (I gave you my heart? no) when we kept forgetting what we’d already bought and kept buying more and ended up with WAY too many gifts.

holiday concerts
Gwen’s school concert was last night (so bizarrely early imo) and it was cute in the way that elementary school concerts are cute. Gwen did a great job and Nicky really enjoyed himself, jumping up and down in our laps and clapping, through about half of it before becoming overtired and angry. Thankfully Gwen’s class performance was early in the show so Taylor was able to leave early without missing her.

decorating, decorating, decorating
I keep rearranging the lights. I’m pretty happy with how they are now, although I feel like I need oneeeee moreeeee strand to put around the fence railing above my stairs to really complete the look outside. We’re going to be decorating the tree tonight and I think getting started on building some holiday Legos this weekend? Then there’s the holiday Playmobils as well, and the little paper houses and garlands and and and…

advent calendars
Taylor and Gwen have Lego advent calendars this year, and I really wanted one for myself but I couldn’t find one I liked. So I guess next year I will have to make my own! I didn’t have time this year but maybe it would be cool? I had a brief idea of making them to sell but the packing sounds like a logistical nightmare. Oh, I and I need to make a new regular calendar for 2018, so keep your eyes peeled for that since I’ll prob be offering it as a free download again

vacationnnnnnnnn
I typically schedule my winter vacation to sync up with the school break, and this year it’s the last week of December and the first week of January. There’s three more weeks of work left, but I can do it. I can do it. This week Taylor’s had out-of-office training and hasn’t been able to take Gwen to school so I’ve been doing drop offs and pick ups with all the little kids. It’s been… ok. Last week I had one of the daycare kids walking so Nicky could go in the double stroller with the other daycare kid, but he (the walking kid) is not yet two so it took a long time and on rainy days we got drenched. I got a stroller board for him instead and it’s been so much better not having to a) walk at the speed of a toddler, and b) wear Nicky for hours every day. I’m thinking I can start doing drop offs regularly a few days a week so Taylor isn’t always getting into the office so late, but still, I’m glad this week is over (it’s a pro-d day) and I don’t have to go down to the school for three whole days!

one one two two

Those poor palmiers, I very very diligently halved the recipe and then grabbed the wrong size of measuring cup and used twice as much sugar as they needed! They were (mostly still edible) but pretty well encased in carmelized sugar. I need a do-over on them.

Last week Gwen had her first-ever Pajama Day at school and honestly you’ve never seen a more excited kid. Also: they were allowed to bring stuffies and two of her friends brought toys Gwen gave them for their birthdays.
Pork chops with apples & onions are a favourite family dinner, but I need to talk about those peas. I threw them together at the last minute, cooking them in butter with lemon zest and smoked salt and they were delicious. Even picky eater Gwen admitted she liked them “a lil bit,” and Nicky couldn’t get enough.

I spent a few evenings sewing a couple of rag rugs together using this DIY to make a new pouf. The rugs were $13 each and I stuffed it with old duvets and pillows I was planning on getting rid of so in addition to being easy it was very affordable! Initially I wanted more neutral-coloured rugs but the ones I found were much more expensive and I decided to go with the thrifty option. The kids and pets certainly think it’s great.

I have been working hard to slowly but surely refresh our living space and HONESTLY I am so happy with how it’s all turning out. The living room/playroom switch has opened up so much more space for playing, and just makes so much more sense than they way it was before. The simple act of repainting the (new) living room and dining room all the same colour makes those areas seem so much bigger as well. We shortened Taylor’s desk which got rid of even more wasted space and clutter, and opened up the office into the living room. And other than our new couch (which was sorely needed) I think the only purchases have been paint and a few small decor items. Other than that, it’s all been rearranging.

This weekend I’m going to repaint the wall where Taylor’s desk used to be (there were a couple of shelves above that we took down that left a major amount of holes behind), and next I’m going to focus on the playroom. I want to finish repainting, move the blackout blinds to make more space for naptime, create new book storage (shelves? a bookcase? boxes?) and invest in a new play kitchen. I got rid of Ol’ Bluey when we had the floors redone but I need a new one. I just feel like it’s something kids really love! I’m like 99% decided on this one, although I loathe the pink and would paint over it/replace it. It has a lot of space for play and I like the shape a lot. I have it planned out in my mind how I’m going to install it in this weird, awkward corner while still leaving space behind it to store the folded minicribs when they aren’t in use, with a shelf above it that has a framed poster mounted on the front to store the minicrib mattresses. It’s hard to explain but I’m very confident that it will work. I’m just hoping that the kitchen drops in price a lil more before I pull the trigger on it.

Also this weekend we’re going to start putting the tree up! Long-time readers will know I like to have it up, bare, for a while to let the kids get used to it, so we won’t decorating until December 1st. A little Christmas has already started sneaking in though: the new mushroom ornament and the felt Santa (made from a kit by Gwen) are already brightening up the room with holiday cheer.

Halloweenies

You know, I made sure to charge the battery for my camera so I could take proper pics of the kids in their costumes but the battery is still in the charger and all my Halloween pictures are on my phone.

Gwen chose to dress up this year as a Chocolate Chip Cookie Kitty Cat Princess and no lie, I killed it. Her costume turned out perfectly and at her request I also made a Chocolate Chip Cookie Kitty Cake Royalty costume for Nicky. She had a great time at her school Halloween party, and so much fun trick-or-treating! We went with her best friend Hugo, Hugo’s sister Frankie and their cousin Taiga, and also went to one building with her friend Danielle from school. She is still a little shy and requires a parent when going up to most houses and Taylor had Nicky in the stroller, so Sym handed out candy at our place so I could go with Gwen. After we’d gone around the block Taylor took the little kids home and put them to bed while I took over candy duties from Sym.

We decorated and tantset up our Halloween candy station at the front of the house this year and I honestly don’t even know how many kids came through. Hundreds, literally. We were giving out candy for around three to three and a half hours! We actually didn’t run out of candy but we had over 700 and there’s maybe 100 left? I think for next year I need to get some larger decorations and more spooky lights for my display.

Now that Halloween is over I need to REALLY get to work on Gwen’s birthday party plans. I have some half-formed ideas for her outer space-themed party but everything is still very nebulous (GET IT) and this party is… this Saturday. OOPS.

october

Hmmm two-thirds of this month have gone by and I haven’t posted at all. I’m still trying to get a handle on our new schedule, and it hasn’t helped that Nicky is getting molars (I think, he won’t let us check). The past few weeks he’s been up multiple times during the night, crying and fussing, which is unlike him. His constant wake-ups mean Gwen ends up sleeping in our bed, which means either Taylor or myself end up sleeping on the couch. It’s not ideal, and on Wednesday night I reached my limit of Nicky-Up-All-Night and just let him cry. And you know what? He fussed for a little while and then slept all night! The same thing happened last night so I guess that’s just the way it is. Letting him cry is hard for me, partly because it breaks my heart but also because I know our neighbors can hear him and I feel like they will judge me! Although if they have to hear him making a noisy fuss I suppose it’s better at 9pm vs 3am.

Gwen is still settling in at kindergarten; she loves it and has made a lot of little friends (and was the only classmate invited to one friend’s birthday party) but she struggles a little with stuff like… everything. Paying attention, accepting disappointment, following instructions. She will be working with a speech language pathologist for her delay and a resource person for her fine motor skills. I had a “goal-setting” conference with her teacher earlier this week and it was hard not to cry afterwards and feel like I’ve failed her, but as my friend reminded me last night, she’s still only four!

With everything that’s going on with the little kids, I’m also having some struggles of my own. I can’t remember if I mentioned this on the blog but my Graves’ disease came back this summer, so I’m being treated for that again, but on top of that my back pain (I injured my lower back when I was a teen) has been truly terrible lately. I’m worried that having the wear Nicky in the Ergo for school pickup is basically destroying it, and if it turns out that’s the case I really don’t know what I’m going to do. I saw a doctor about it two weeks ago and was giving a prescription for some EXTREME muscle relaxants, but tbh they don’t really help? So it must be a problem with something else: bones or nerves or connective tissue. I’m also supposed to have an MRI but I don’t have an appointment for it yet, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

This post seems pretty negative, but in spite of it all I’m feeling pretty happy, calm and content (although maybe it’s the pills, haha). I’m deep in my holiday season planning; we had a great Thanksgiving (Taylor and I made the traditional chicken & waffles), and I’ve already bought birthday gifts for both girls as well as ordered the new pieces we need for this years Christmas pajamas. It’s going to be so cute; I can’t wait! We should have Symphony for Christmas this year but her dad got mixed up and made plans for her with his family and, being the very gracious person that I am, I did not insist we stick to our regular schedule. So we will be doing Mini Christmas again this year with Symphony. Unfortunately, there is no Christmas light Maze here like last year (although if you are in or around Arlington, Texas I recommend it) so I will have to find a different fun holiday activity for our weekend.

Of course, before Christmas comes Halloween, and I need to go out today and buy the things I need to make Gwen’s costume. She wants to dress up as a cookie princess (???) so I need… to make… that. I have a surprise day off today so we’re going on an adventure to the fabric & craft stores for supplies. Gwen is actually off school today; for some reason I always end up not working on her school’s professional development days, which is pretty cool but it would be cool to one day have a day with JUST Nicky (this has never happened). Anyway. I’m not sure what to dress him as yet, but I’m thinking… maybe… cookie prince?

it’s fair

Last year when we visited Taylor’s family over May long weekend we took Gwen to a small fair and since then she’s been obsessed. We usually go to the Fair at the PNE in the summer and go on a couple rides, but last August I was so pregnant & we were so busy we didn’t manage to do it, so Gwen has been waiting a whole year to go to a fair again. We went on Saturday and she was SO EXCITED. She’d been talking non-stop about going on a ferris wheel so I was happy to see they had one, and that she was tall enough! I took her on the ferris wheel and she went on a couple kiddie rides with her cousins and by herself and had a blast. She probably could have done more (and definitely wanted to try the bumper cars) but it was getting late so we had to leave. I’m happy that I will have someone brave enough to go on rides with me at the PNE this year though (Taylor and Sym are total chickens and literally will not go on a single ride with me).

Nicky did not go on any rides but it was incredibly hot that day so he very much enjoyed eating ice from my sno cone.

mother’s day

Gwen woke me up this morning before my alarm went off, to ask me if it was still my special day. I told her no, Mother’s Day was just one day, but that we could still have a nice day today. She told me “yeah, we can build your new Lego together!” (I got the Lego Disney Castle this weekend and she really likes to help me build it, which is good because with over 4,000 pieces it’s going to take me FIVE-EVER to finish it).

My Mother’s Day was very nice and relaxing, I slept in a little (what a sorry state this world is when sleep is seen as a treat, though) and then watched Guardians of the Galaxy* with Gwen while Taylor made stuffed French Toast with strawberry compote for brunch. Later, after he’d gone to bed Gwen and I started building the Lego castle, and played in the backyard with Nicky. In the evening we got a babysitter (SUCH LUXURY) and went to the movies- to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Yes, I watched three movies this weekend; two were Guardians of the Galaxy and the third was its sequel.

* With Gwen’s speech therapy, we are working of F, S at the start of a word when followed by another consonant, S at the end of a word, and two-syllable words where she drops the middle consonant. Gwen gets bored/frustrated/overwhelmed if we do too much at a time so I’ve been incorporating it into all of our games and activities, including watching this movie (which she is obsessed with). Stuff like… “That’s Drax. Drak-ssssssssss. Drax says the Sakaaran are paper people. Pay-Per. Pee-Puhl. That’s Gamora, she has purple streaks in her hair. Pur-Puhl. Sssss-treak-sssss. Groot is drinking out of the fountain. Fffffff-ountain. That boy goes by the name of Starlord. Ssssss-tarlord.”

late easter


I ordered these dolls for Gwen & Nicky in NOVEMBER lol glad they arrived in time for something.

Because Easter weekend fell the week before we were having our floors replaced, we were able to celebrate with the kids. We had to finish packing and get out of the house on Sunday so any kind of special meal or Easter egg hunt just wasn’t happening. So instead, we did it this past weekend. I bought a bunch of Easter stuff on clearance (really to best part of the whole thing) and after brunch Taylor took the kids on a dog walk-slash-Pokemon hunt while I set up in the backyard. I laid out a blanket for Nicky to roll around on and hid candy, toys and other treats (the Easter Bunny brought Sym a giftcard to Forever 21, so modern) around the backyard. Gwen in particular had a BLAST hunting for all the candy-filled eggs hidden in the flower gardens.

Historically I haven’t done an Easter egg hunt for my kids (except for one year when we did one with a tiny Gwen at the beach), because hiding chocolate around a house full of idiot dogs is… not a great idea. Usually a basket of treats just appears in their rooms when they are sleeping. But It was so much fun I think from now on we’re going to do it every year.

hard candy mini christmas

I’m having a little trouble getting into the holiday spirit this year. Usually I take two weeks off at Christmas so I have time before the holiday to really get into it and time after to relax, but this year I had to use half of my vacation to you know, HAVE A BABY so I can only take a week off. I chose the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and I’m really really really looking forward to getting a little time off then, but I haven’t really been able to get as into Christmas as I normally do. Taylor has been off this week and has been a big help but working + looking after my own kids has left me exhausted and with no time to shower, let alone spread holiday frickin’ cheer.

Sym is spending Christmas with her dad this year so last weekend we had a little Mini Christmas celebration. On Friday night we opened our matching family Christmas pajamas and all the new holiday Lego sets. This year’s sets included a train and a couple small Santa-themed items, which we built that night. Saturday we had brunch and then that afternoon headed over to Enchant, the Christmas light maze. I’d bought the tickerts weeks in advance and was worried it would be raining, which it thankfully wasn’t, but unfortunately it was F R E E Z I N G instead, and Gwen was not dressed warmly enough which made her a little miserable. I ended up bailing out of the maze a little early so I could take Gwen and Nicky to the baby changing tent to hog the heater (and change the baby) while Taylor and Sym finished the maze. We all met back up for mini donuts and soft pretzels, which cheered Gwen up immensely, but when we got home she was still so chilled I ended up tucking her in on the couch with two blankets (faux fur AND wool) and a heating pad for her frozen little feet. I wasn’t planning on buying her a pair of winter snow boots this year (I figured her brown boots from the Gap and her Hunters would be enough) but after that experience I broke down and ordered her a pair after all.

Anyway. Today is my last day of work this year, THANK GOODNESS, so hopefully I can get myself out of this rut of grumpiness soon. Here are a few pics from our Mini Christmas night…

I couldn’t get a pic of all five of use together so you get a variety of groupings instead. This years pajamas are from Hanna Andersson, and while in the past I’ve said they are TOO UBIQUITOUS across the blogosphere I’m actually super impressed with them, and here’s why: I realized a few days AFTER these pictures were taken that Nicky’s sleeper has a huge printing flaw in the design. The fabric must have been folded or something during printing because there is a white wedge-shaped gap in the pattern about 15 inches long. It was obviously too late to replace them (even if they weren’t sold out, which they are), so I emailed asking if I could get a partial refund on the sleeper due to the flaw and they immediately responded, offering a FULL refund. Excellent customer service, so thank you Hanna Andersson! Oh also I know Taylor looks super not thrilled/long suffering in these pics but ACTUALLY he was the most adamant that we ALL had to match.

shark bait hoo ha ha

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01-bw-cat

02-nicky

03-new-ornaments
I swear I bought a new ornament this year that isn’t a deer.

04-bare-lighted-christmas-tree
A few years ago I bought a large wicker basket to use in lieu of a tree skirt. I really liked it; tree skirts are a pita imo; always getting mussed up by pets and kids and sucked into the vacuum cleaner. However, the basket somehow vanished from my storage room after just one Christmas so I had to go buy a new one this week because fuck a tree skirt, honestly. I needed something at least 21″ in diameter to accommodate the tree stand and all I could find was one that was one miserable inch too small, and this fricking enormous one, oops.

05-gwen

06-shelf-with-small-toys

08-gwen-picking-her-nose-at-the-door
Tried to get a nice picture of her with our Christmas wreath…

07-wreath-bird

09-serums
All I care about right now is my skincare regimen. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

10-shark-nicky
This is just beyond. I mean come on.

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Shark-shaped baby sleeping bag from AliExpress.

12-pomegranates

the storm before the calm

nicky-in-grey

Right before Nicky falls asleep is when he tends to have his biggest fusses. You can’t do anything about it; he’s not wet, or hungry, or in need of cuddles. He’s a really good sleeper so he’s not even overtired. It doesn’t happen every time, but usually once a day he’ll cry and yell before passing out, hard, for a good long while.

• • •

Now that we’ve all mostly gotten back into our regular sleep/work/life routine after the drama of last week, I can focus on the holiday season! I had planned to make a spreadsheet to plan & organize the kids’ gifts but I have somehow managed to accidentally buy most of them already? With the combination of all my recent stress and being stuck in the house due to illness I’ve been doing quite a bit of online shopping, and as it turns out have gotten quite a few things for the kids. WHO KNEW. We still have to pick up a couple of things but it’s all pretty much planned out, so now I only need to decide what to get Taylor.

Sym is at her dad’s for actual Christmas this year so we’re doing Mini-Christmas with her in mid-December. My and Taylor’s Christmas pajamas haven’t arrived yet but the kids’ have (see below for a sneak peek…), so we’ll open those, and build all our holiday Lego sets (including maybe a NEW set…). We usually watch Elf on Mini Christmas but we have tickets to the Enchant Christmas light maze so we might not have time. The Christmas Elf may also stop by to leave candy in our shoes if everyone’s room is clean.

I’ll probably start setting up the Christmas tree this weekend; I like to stagger the set up and decoration over a few weeks (just tree; tree+lights; tree+lights+ornaments) to try to get the kids used to it so they are less likely to pull everything off of it. This technique has worked with every child I’ve had in my house EXCEPT for Gwen, but hopefully this year she will be a little less destructive? She’s been a little sassy lately with climbing the furniture, taking things she shouldn’t and making huge messes. Last year we couldn’t put any presents under the tree because she kept unwrapping them all, and just two weeks ago she did the same with her birthday presents so I guess we’ll just have to see how it goes.

gnome-hat-gnicky