Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Just picture the dream and then change every single thing about it

Every year I have these dreams about how Christmas is going to go. We'll wake up; my husband and I will sip on coffee, while we watch our beautiful children come down the steps of the stairs to see the stockings hung; there will be laughter and giggles as they each take items out of their stockings excitedly; they will be sweet and kind and just lovely. Maybe they'll be a fire crackling in the background. Maybe the kids will want to snuggle up with us as I serve them my homemade cinnamon rolls and they'll all say separately, "Wow! Mama these are so yummy. Thank you for staying up late to make these for us." Ha.

I won't list out the events of the morning; instead I'll let you use your imagination. Just picture the dream above and then change every single thing about it. Ha!

My Christmas photos all capture the joy and excitement of Christmas morning. But what they don't capture are the sibling fights. They don't capture the meltdown Connor had because Isabella got more gifts in her stocking than him. They don't capture the tears that spilled all over Aiden's shirt as he realized he was done opening presents and his siblings still had more to open. They don't capture the pure exhaustion my husband felt as he had spent the night awake, blowing his nose with a 101 degree fever. Of course, part of me doesn't want to remember those things. And the other part? The other part wants to hold onto all of those memories because those are the ones that make my family real. Those are the things that mean my kids are really here. I know some of you have been readers for a while and know what I'm about to say, but I'll say it again. I've lost a child. I know what it is to wish for a chance. I know what it is to wish for tantrums and crying.


And so even though next year I'll again go to bed Christmas Eve praying for the dream of a crackling fire, small sips of warm coffee with my husband, giggling fits over the perfect candy that Santa picked out, warm buttery cinnamon rolls that aren't too hot, but are perfectly toasty, a bunch of sibling hugs, and magical "thank you's" and "mommy you are the best"s...Today...Today I am just thankful for another Christmas with the people I love most in the world. Because that matters more than the perfect dream. That matters more than the unattainable perfect family.

And, of course, there were moments of the dream: The giggle fits as Connor realized that Santa had gotten him what he wanted...the squeals as they saw the gift my mom got our family (stuffed snowballs for a snowball fight)...the confusion on Isabella's face when she realized Santa ALSO got her a bike...the nervous intake of breath that escaped out of Aiden's lips as he tore threw the wrapping paper to find lots of hot wheel cars...the sound of little feet running on the hardwood floor to open a present they were so excited about.


This year for me was the year of practical gifts and I loved it! The gift that wins the award of most use, though, is the one my husband got me and I adore it! My new keurig 2.0 is a life saver. No one should have to go through life with three small children, without coffee. I love that each year my Christmas list resembles that of someone I never thought I'd be. Shhhhh. Don't tell anyone, but I'm getting old. (I'm fairly certain I let out an audible giggle when I opened my toaster!). It's sad, really.

While my husband may not have let out audible giggles over my toaster, he DID get exceptionally excited about his gas can mounts and cans for offroading. I'm 100% certain his Christmas list looks EXACTLY like it did 10 years ago.


In fact, his list probably resembles the Christmas list from when he was a kid too. The toys may be slightly different, albeit more expensive versions of the toys he wanted at 10-years-old, but they're still toys.

We were wonderfully blessed, not only in gifts, but more importantly, in friendships, laughter, family, and time spent together.

It may not have been the exact Christmas I dreamed of, but it was certainly one I'm so thankful for.

 My favorite part about this year's Christmas afternoon? When my mom and brother put together one of Connor's harder toys!
 Sorry Dad. I don't know how I got him mid-bite. It was delicious, though.



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Eve

I host Christmas Eve every year and it's now my fourth year making tamales for everyone! I love having traditions that I can look forward to and Christmas Eve has become a favorite! Since my husband always works Christmas Eve, it's always a balancing act of Mommy, Chef, Party Planner, and House Cleaner. This year we also had a leak in our master bathroom that was leaking down into our guest bedroom - so I was also wearing the hat of contractor and plummer "manager". We had people coming in and out of the house all day. In fact, we had a bit of a disaster with a contractor leaving the guest bedroom door open and a certain four-year-old wondering why Santa's presents were in the closet. Grrrrrrrrrr. Needless to say, it was one of the more crazy Christmas Eves I've had in a few years.

A few days before Christmas Eve, a very sweet friend always has a tamale making party and I am so thankful! We are able to bust out a bunch of tamales amidst friends, laughter, drinks (of course!), and stories. It's amazing and I usually make 4 dozen (some for Christmas Eve and some for friends).
This year I got adventurous with my dinner and desserts and tried a whole bunch of new stuff. The first thing I tried was a new dessert (Christmas Eve isn't the only thing we celebrate - we also celebrate my father-in-law's birthday!) and it was Oh-So-Delicious. They were Red Velvet Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting from Cooking Classy. I'm definitely going to print the recipe and add it to my list!
 I made four dozen carnitas tamales with red sauce!
 I also make cookies early in the day for our Cookie Decorating for Santa.
The nice part about cooking tamales on a night like this is that they're pretty no-fuss once they're made. You just put them in a steamer (I cook three dozen at once so I need a big pan!) and let them go for about two hours.
This year I also tried two new sides, which I will tweak a bit next year. I did an Oven Baked Spanish Rice and an Avocado, Corn, Tomato, Black Bean Salad.  Everyone LOVED the salad; I just need to make more of it next year. 

Then, after dinner, the kids decorated cookies for Santa. They decorate a lot of cookies, but then only put a few on Santa's plate. 
My parents and hubby's parents all sat and chatted at the table, while all of us younger peeps decorated cookies with the kids. My sister, Andy, Uncle Colin, Daddy, and I all helped! My sister even got a photo of me (a rarity!). 
My husband was feeling very sick and didn't want any photos of himself, but I assure you he was there! He worked like a crazy person (boo for retail management) and ran himself down into the ground with a horrible cold and fever. I'm so thankful he was able to be home at night for Christmas Eve and during the day at Christmas, though. It could be worse!

We ended the night with pictures by the tree in our matching jammies from Grandma. I am one lucky MOMMY!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Maisons en Pain D'├ępice

I texted my in-laws when I found out that Mr. Howard had to work on the day that I was going to be making tamales, in order to see if they could watch the kids. My mother-in-law texted back saying that it might be fun to make gingerbread houses. So I hurried off to target to see if I could find any kits left and, miraculously, found three kits only a few days before Christmas!

Grandma Howard set them all up while the kids were napping - so that they could each decorate their own.

After I left to go make tamales, they had a fun pizza dinner and then PopPop, Grandma, and the kids set to work decorating gingerbread houses. It was the kids' first time doing it and they turned out so great!!
We even used them as centerpieces, lining the big tables of our big Family Christmas Eve Tamale dinner. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Nobody did what they were supposed to do...and half the kids cried...

Aiden and Isabella's Christmas Play:

Every year my kids' preschool does the Story of Christmas play. Oh my goodness; it's so adorable. Last year Isabella played the angel; Aiden was a wise man; and Connor was Joseph. This year, because there were soo many littler littles (there are at least five kids 2-years-old and younger), their teacher switched it up and did a Christmas in the Kitchen version. Isabella played Mary and Aiden played a chef in the kitchen. It was adorable.

Nobody did what they were supposed to do...half of the kids cried...and kids were wandering on and off "stage," but boy did it make my heart happy. Isabella hysterically sobbed from the second her costume was put on her. She has so much anxiety about standing in front of people. But then at the VERY end, she busted this out:
video
While Aiden didn't really sing, he did perform one of his lines and stood up there the entire time (which is a huge improvement from last year!).

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Rock 'n' Roll Snowman

Connor had his very first Winter Performance at school and holy moly was it adorable. He sang Rock 'n' roll Snowman and even did his very own air guitar. Goodness gracious, folks, there is something about watching your kid SO excited on stage that just makes me smile from ear to ear. Unfortunately, Daddy couldn't attend because he had to work - so I took videos and lots of pictures. **I put Christmas hats on the kids, since I do not know any of their families.

My mom, Dad, and brother (sorry Colin! I didn't get a picture of you!) all came to see him perform.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Three, Trois, Tre, Tres

For Hubby's Birthday, he had three celebrations! What a lucky man!

We always do a Family celebration with my small Howard Family of 5, but this year since my sister and Andy couldn't come to the Kirkpatrick celebration, they came and joined us at ours.

I went and got cupcakes for everyone and they are by far my favorite part about celebrating birthdays. I bought gingerbread, vanilla, peppermint, German chocolate, snicker-doodle, chocolate, and a special Blackberry Pie cupcake for the birthday boy.

Then a few nights after his real birthday, we got a sitter and hubby and I went out to Studio Movie Grill. I don't know if you have one of these near you (we JUST had one open last week), but it is the coolest concept. It's a movie theatre with a restaurant and full bar. Amazing! We got drinks at the bar while we waited for our theatre to open. Then we went in and got our seats. You have a full menu to order from and the servers bring you your food in the theatre (during previews...and then during the movie, if you want).
We ordered appetizers, dinner, and drinks - and everything was so delicious. I do not have a single complaint about the food, except that I was too full to order dessert. Ha! 
You can order anything you like during the movie (including popcorn and candy) and I thought that would be ridiculously distracting; but honestly, it wasn't bad. I think, of course, it's sort of a give and take. You have to sacrifice a little distraction in order to get the benefit of having a full service restaurant in a movie theatre. But for me, as a mom of small children, it's an amazing opportunity for a date night. You can get a babysitter for only a couple hours and get both a movie and dinner with your spouse. I think in a month or two too, the theatre will have worked out some of their kinks and probably have the service down to an art (we went the very first week they opened), which will make the service even less distracting.

For our third and final celebration, Mr. Howard had his annual Kirkpatrick family dinner. He requested my mom's famous steak salad (about the only kind of salad I've ever seen him request) and then we had my mom's homemade chocolate cupcakes!
Obviously, my husband is so ridiculously loved!

Nine

Over the weekends, I've been trying to get in a few longer runs. I'm not training for anything in particular yet, but I just don't want to lose my ability to do them. I did nine chilly miles in the middle of December.

 Because of our rains here, the trail was breathtaking. The grass was so green. The skies were overcast. The creeks were overflowing. And there were even a few wildflowers peaking out! I love running on days like this.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Magical Twinkling Lights

We have one of those Christmas Lights streets near us that goes all out for Christmas. There are even companies who sell limo rides with hot chocolate through the neighborhood for families wanting to experience the lights in a more luxurious way. It's always a fun night!

A few moms in my mothers of multiples (M.O.M.) group agreed to come with my little family to walk around and look at Christmas lights. It lightly sprinkled while we were walking around, which was the only slight bummer. But I was so thankful for the company and Mr. Howard connected over all things boy with one of the M.O.M. Dads.

 Hubby and I stayed bundled up and walked with Connor, while the twins sat in the stroller.
I think we are going to try to go again one more time, since it was sprinkling and so many moms couldn't come. This will actually be the third time the kids go because they went (on a non-raining night) with Aunt Becca and Uncle Colin! The kids got to sit in the back of Uncle Colin's truck.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Card 2014

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Kwanzaa!

I hope you enjoy time with your families wherever you are and however you celebrate!

*One of my love languages, I swear, is Christmas Cards. They just make me SO happy! Ha!* 

If you live in the Sacramento, California area - be sure to check out Awe Captures Photography. They take our photo every year and do an amazing job! 
 We like to take a bunch of funny ones too!
 This is my extended family:
 The original Kirkpatrick Children are all on the right:
And, lastly, my Howard Bunch Family!
I'm linking up with Faith for her Christmas Card Carousel!

Santa's Coming?!? He's my Favorite!!

Every year we get the opportunity to take a photo with Santa with my mothers of multiples group. This was the first year we didn't have a crying picture, and while that is a very exciting milestone, it's also a little sad. I don't know if I will ever have a crying Santa photo again. Oh my goodness; even typing out that sentence breaks my heart.

They were SO EXCITED. They talked about it for three straight days. Even Isabella told him what she wanted (a cat and a ball). Connor wanted hot wheels and a leap frog pad. And Aiden wanted hot wheels. I love how simple their requests are.


I predicted LAST year that it would be our last crying photo and I was correct. I do have to say, though, that this Christmas is so much more magical. The kids all understand the excitement, ask about doing family activities (like looking at Christmas lights and baking Christmas cookies), and are fascinated with the story of Christmas and baby Jesus. I'm, of course, thankful for all the new joys we get to have during this special time!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

If you wait for the sun to come out

You may miss your chance to dance in the rain.

We are so not prepared for all this rain. The kids and I don't even own rain boots (I'm actually thinking this might be the year to invest in a pair for myself). But we NEED the rain and it's not going anywhere. So I thought it might be a nice treat to dress the kids in their rain jackets and play outside.

If you can't beat the rain, you might as well join and go with it! We were outside for about an hour just playing around in the puddles, playing with the umbrella, and riding our scooters and bikes in it. The kids were thoroughly entertained!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

In a Meadow of Green

I have been on a little hiatus. My laptop died. Kaput. El fin. It was going to cost $150 to have a diagnostic test done on it and then who knows how much to actually fix the problem. So, instead, I spent that money on a new laptop. But now I am happy to report that I have a device to blog on!

When we moved up North, there were a few things I was so excited to do (that I couldn't have done in Palm Springs where I grew up!) and one of those things was to get a fresh tree! Ever since the kids have been born, we've made a tradition of going to a place where you can cut your own tree and the kids just adore it! Secretly (or not so secretly), I adore it equally.

We had had a lot of rain the days before, so it was VERY muddy.

My dad, mom, brother, and sister-in-law came with us! 
After we picked out our tree, I asked my dad to snap this photo of us with the tree, below. But, honestly, the best part about this photo isn't our cute little family; so I zoomed in to give you a good idea of the real life moment we're having with a three-year-old. Poor baby. It's hard to be three. 
I have the newest iphone 6+ and one of the coolest camera features is this time lapse it does! I took a time lapse of me decorating the tree with three small ones. My hubby wasn't home for most of it, but came home at the very end. Then after the kids went to bed, Mr. Howard and I "fixed" the tree (aka spread the ornaments over more than just the lower third of the tree).
video

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Weather

We are in a crazy weather storm here in Northern California. Some schools near us have been canceled due to potential power outages and flooding. Of course, lucky me, my school was not one of them - so I went to work. I am so thankful for the rain (as California is currently in one of the worst droughts in decades), but would much rather it not come in this form. Our buildings are not made for these kinds of storms - and my classroom leaks in a normal, simple storm (see below. That was from a pretty basic storm earlier last week) - let alone the kind we're having now! My family doesn't even own rain boots. P.S. That picture below? Well, they came and fixed it after that storm. And lo and behold...it's leaking from that exact same spot again today. Hmmm.

So what does one do for PE when there are 40 mph gusts of winds and pouring rain and you have no gym at your school? Why, do a beanbag shooting game and calculate percentages, of course! They actually had so much fun!
I do have to say that the nice part is that I am getting A LOT of use out of my rain jacket. Haha! It's really the first time in a few years it's been a necessity!! 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Make your Own Snow

 On the morning of our Elf on the Shelf North Pole Breakfast, my sister-in-law brought over the ingredients for the kids to make fake snow (only two ingredients)! It was SO EASY and brought about an hour of fun (which is a lot in the world of three and five-year-olds)! All you do is add 3 cups of baking soda for every 1/2 cup of conditioner. Easy peasy. And, honestly, it really did feel like snow. 
In addition to the ingredients for the snow, she brought over lots of little decorations, so they could make their own snowman, by molding little spheres (sorry...force of habit. As a middle school teacher, I avoid saying, "little balls" at all costs.) She had stuff that they could use for eyes, noses, mouths, and even scarves. So, while the men in my family were watching the football game, my mom, sister-in-law, the kids, and I were all making little snowmen.
 After they molded their snowmen, we pulled out all the supplies and just let them play in the snow.
If it hadn't been naptime, I am fairy certain they would have played in the fake snow for another hour! In fact, I'm definitely going to do this activity again before the holiday season is over.

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