Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Help, thy name is Megan

Paul's sister Megan is currently attending Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, and this is the second year that she has flown to Minneapolis to stay with us en route to South Dakota for Christmas.

It... is... awesome.

She has this uncanny ability to know exactly what needs to be done and when it needs to be done, in order to save me from the greatest amount of stress possible. Sometimes it's dishes, sometimes it's cleaning out the toy corner, sometimes it's playing with Max so I can do those things. She just knows. Our house has been cleaner since she got here than it ever has been for a five-day stretch! Honestly, I could just sit on the couch all day and things would run more smoothly than they do when I'm here alone with the boys.

She has done crafts with Max, baked with him, become best buds with Lucian, gone shopping with me, watched the kids so Paul and I could shop for stocking stuffers... I want to hire her as a nanny! Plus I've had the added benefit of having someone to converse with all day when I usually speak only toddler between the hours of 7 and 4.

Megan had the option of leaving a day early to get back to Rapid to help out the family with World Youth Day fundraising... but I didn't let her go. I'm really sorry, Maureen, but I'm enjoying having her here just a little too much to let her leave early (plus I'm looking forward to having another set of hands to help out on the car ride!!)

The boys are going to really miss Auntie Meggie when she leaves... but not nearly as much as I will!

You'd better watch out...

Santa Claus is coming to town!

Last week, I watched Anna for a day, and let me just say- it was one of the easiest babysitting jobs ever! That little girl slept, ate, smiled, and slept some more. All chaos that occurred throughout the day was directly caused by my two little munchkins. J&S, I'll do it again any day!

When Anna arrived, she was wearing an adorable little Santa hat, knitted for her by her grandma. Max took one look at it and decided this little girl was the coolest thing in the world! Her baby chair instantly turned into a sleigh, he piled her lap high with toys, whipped out reindeer antlers for himself and Lucian... and off they flew to deliver toys to all the good girls and boys in our living room!

Anna let the boys have fun, but I think she felt it was all a little beneath her dignity. So instead of whistling, shouting and calling her reindeer by name, "Santa" took a little snooze in her very comfy sleigh. I hope Reindeer Max knew the way!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Thrift Store Goodness

Anyone else love getting good deals? I mean, sure, it's super fun to stroll down the aisles at Gymboree and browse the pages of an Anthropologie catalog, but when it really comes down to it, most of us would have to forgo food if we wanted to do all of our shopping at places like that! For the most part, I am a Target one-stop-shopper, because I know they'll have what I need at a reasonable price, they bag groceries for me, and I've been there enough that I don't have to wander to know where things are-- three must-haves when shopping with two children under three.

But if I am feeling ambitious- and have the opportunity to go out without children- I really enjoy thrift store hunting! Especially when it comes to kids items that will only be used for a limited time, it just makes sense to finish the work that someone else began... i.e. buying those slightly used 12mo jeans for child #1, breaking them out again for child #2, and using them until they are patched and full of holes. Reduce, reuse, recycle, yo!

I wish I had more time to wander the aisles of the local second-hand shops, because I have found some gems in the past. Bar stools? From Unique in Burnsville. Entryway bench/shoe bin? Also from Unique. Computer desk? Salvation Army in Rapid City. I'm not saying that we'll never buy new furniture- there is definitely something to be said for good quality, and I'm looking forward to picking out couches that match someday!- but there is so much stuff out there, I like knowing that I can put to use something that someone else was finished with. It's easy on the pocket book, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment.

Contained here are a few of my latest thrift store finds. If this doesn't make you want to run to your nearest Goodwill, I don't know what will!

1. Complete set of plastic Nativity pieces in great condition, in a plastic Rubbermaid container: $2.99

2. Toddler fleece mittens, velcro around the wrists: $0.96

3. Formal shoes, size 7.5 and infant: $0.75 and $1.99, respectively (Imagine what we would have dropped on those new!)

4. Six by Seuss, by Dr. Seuss and Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein (both in very good condition): $2.99 each

So next time you drop off a load of "junk" at Goodwill, think of me and know that it may very well find a wonderful new home!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

An Okee Dokee Feast Day

Okee Dokee Brothers at Wild Rumpus

December 13 was the Feast of St. Lucy, so in honor of our Goddaughter's feast day, we went out to an Okee Dokee Brothers concert! The concert was at Wild Rumpus bookstore in Minneapolis, and it was packed. We found ourselves some seats on the floor, with just enough room for Luci and Max to stand up and dance... although Max did more standing than dancing. I decided that he gets a little star-struck when he sees the Okee Dokee Brothers in person. At home, he dances and sings to their songs, he builds likenesses of Justin and Joe out of Play-Doh, and he plays a cardboard banjo, pretending to be Justin. But when he is in their presence, he can do little else but stare at them. Luci, on the other hand, danced up a storm! She has quite the moves, that girl.

This is a still shot from a video of Luci dancing. For some reason I can't post videos!
But this gives you an idea

Max and Justin the Banjo player.

After the concert, we went back to Aaron and Emily's house for pizza and cake. Emily made an amazing Raspberry Angel Food cake with whipped cream frosting. Yeah, I know. I can hear you licking your lips. Max, Luci and Lucian played in the toy room while the adults watched the rescheduled football game (collapsed Metrodome, anyone?) and chatted.

It was definitely worth braving the craziness of Minneapolis winter driving to attend the concert and celebrate with Luci!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Visiting the Gerardis

To continue with our holiday celebrations, we traveled down to Chicago this past weekend to visit Monica and Glenn. They invited us to come down for their second annual Christmas party, and we are so glad we went! Their house is B-E-A-UTIFUL, and it was decked out in Christmas decorations. When we walked in the door, a miniature Santa and his bell choir were playing carols for Max- what a welcome!

Glenn made a divine breaded pork dinner for us, then we put on Polar Express for Max while we cleaned up the kitchen. However, a few minutes into the movie, when the train pulled up in front of the house, the noise drew us all into the living room and we ended up watching the whole movie with him. I have never seen him so entranced by a movie before! Usually, he gets distracted after about 45 minutes, but this time he could not take his eyes off of the screen. I had forgotten how cool the visual effects in that movie were. After Max went to bed, we played Hearts until 1:00 in the morning... late night #1.

Saturday, we had a yummy breakfast, then Monica and I went thrift store shopping and to her favorite local coffee shop, the Metropolis. No visit anywhere is complete without sampling the local brews! We picked up some amazing bread from their grocery store (baked fresh 3 times daily) and went home for pork sandwiches. After lunch, the men went out to do a driving tour of the area, and we stayed in with the kiddos. Then the party preparations began! I was able to squeeze in a catnap before the guests arrived (the late bedtime plus a cranky baby meant little sleep for me, and exhaustion hit around 4:00).

It was so fun to meet friends of Monica and Glenn- some of them were quite interesting characters, and all of them were super nice! Most people at the party are in choir with them, so we had some fun caroling toward the end of the evening. Max was the star of the show until he finally fell asleep, running around in his jammies and chatting up all the ladies. Amazingly, Lucian slept through just about everything! Honestly, I had been a little worried about how the party would go with two kids, but my worries were totally unfounded. Everything was smoooooth sailing. With a long drive ahead of us the next day, we finally had to go to bed at 2:00, even before the last guests left... late night #2!

Mass in the morning, lunch, packing, then back on the road! The trip was short but VERY sweet. Thank you for having us, Gerardis! It was wonderful. We miss you already!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Early Christmas

Matching jammies from Grandma and Grandpa

My parents and brother Ben leave tomorrow for Vienna!! I am so excited for them! I really wish we could be going to see Tony, Catherine and Alexander, but it just wasn't realistic for us this year. Have an amazing time, and think about us often... drink some gluhwein for me, please!

Since we will be apart for Christmas, we celebrated in early December instead. Aside from the obvious glaring absences (T,C & A), we had a terrific time! We munched on goodies all afternoon and played some Buck Euchre, of course. We opened presents before dinner, which Max really got into! He got a work bench and tools, a battery-powered guitar, and some cute clothes. Since that day, he has become "Max the Builder", even though he still refers to the rest of us by our pirate names.

Lucian received a cool Mozart Cube- and I don't know if he or Max enjoys it more! He was a little confused by the idea of ripping paper off of presents, but Max made sure he figured it out.

From my parents, Paul and I got... drum roll please... a DEEP FREEZE! Since our new fridge has a much smaller freezer than our old one, we wanted some extra space so that we can buy larger quantities of meat on sale and make extra food to freeze. Super exciting!

After our traditional yummy Christmas Eve dinner of clam chowder and twisty breadsticks, Paul, Ben and I went out bowling- we decided that time spent together is better than any gift we could get for each other, so as our gift to each other we bowled, played darts, and played Buck Hunter late into the night! Thanks, M&D for watching the kiddos!

Sunday morning, we were greeted by an amazing brunch (my parents are brunch superstars! No one has ever outdone them in my book) and we chilled out at home for the rest of the morning. What a great time spent with family!

I'm very low on pictures- I forgot to change the battery in my camera before heading down to Burnsville, but when I get copies of my mom's pics, I'll try to post some more.

Uh...what am I supposed to do with this thing?

Here, let me help you!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Goose or Gray Duck?

I will be blogging soon about the many awesome holiday get-togethers we've been enjoying recently, but I've had something weighing heavy on my heart lately that I need to ask.

Max was born in South Dakota, where (like the rest of the country) the popular children's game is called "Duck Duck Goose". However, when we uprooted him to the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes, he entered "Duck Duck Gray Duck" territory. Now, I was raised a Minnesotan, but after three years of ridicule by my husband and the youth at my parish, I converted (at least publicly) to Goose-ism.

But what to do now?? We are back in Minnesota, and all the kids will be playing Duck Duck Gray Duck. Do we stick to our (ahem, Paul's) convictions or go with the locals?

I'd love some input. This is a big deal.

Even Max is taking this very seriously

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Amazing Shoes (or the Feast of St. Nicholas)

We checked out a book on St. Nicholas from the library last time we were there, and it contains all kinds of stories and legends about his life! Did you know he was (and still is!) the youngest person ever to be ordained Bishop? And that he had twenty miracles attributed to him during his life? He was a pious, faithful, generous man who truly lived his life by the beatitudes, and is remembered as the patron saint of children.

But the most famous story of the life of St. Nicholas is one that emphasizes his generosity, and has led to traditions around the world of children leaving stockings or shoes to be filled by St. Nicholas.

St. Nicholas had a heart for the poor, and wherever he saw a need he filled it. He heard of a man with three daughters who was too poor to provide dowries for them. Each night for three nights, Nicholas snuck to the house and threw a bag of coins in the window. The last of the bags supposedly landed in the youngest daughter's stocking! With the money, the man was able to find suitable husbands for his daughters and save them from a life of poverty.

So in remembrance of St. Nicholas' great generosity, we left Max's shoes outside of his bedroom door to be filled with sweet surprises. When he woke up in the morning, I was downstairs with Lucian and I heard him say, "What's this??" I went upstairs and he was closely examining his shoes. "There's candy in my shoes! Is there candy in my shoes?" I explained that St. Nicholas had come with treats for him because he loves children so much and loves to see them happy. "St. Nicholas brought candy to me! I got candy of St. Nicholas!" was his cry for the rest of the morning.

Happy St. Nick's Day, everyone!

If you want more information about St. Nicholas, the real "Santa Claus", check out this link.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Guess This Mess: The Answer!

Thanks for your very creative guesses in my little game, but the correct answer is:


We were drinking tea, and I left the bag on a napkin on the table when I went upstairs. When I came down, the sodden tea leaves were covering the table, and Max was trying to wipe his tongue clean. I could have told him that tea leaves weren't good for eating! But he had to find out for himself by chewing on the bag and ripping it open.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ode to Bisquick

When that 4 o'clock hour rolls 'round
And I stand at the fridge with blank stare,
All is truly not lost, I have found,
Even though all the cupboards seem bare.

Down below, behind sugar and flour
Near the pasta, potatoes and oil
Stands the box that makes dinnertime hour
One of joy, not of tears, sweat and toil.

Oh, dear Bisquick! How I do love thee.
You make quick, simple meals on demand.
Whether breakfast, lunch, dinner or tea,
Sweet Bisquick, my wish is thy command.

Spinach egg bake with cheese is a treat,
Simple pancakes so fluffy and light,
Breaded chicken makes dinner complete-
Even kids finish every last bite!

So when that dreaded hour draws near,
And it's time to make dinner tonight,
Do not fret, do not sigh, do not fear!
Grab your Bisquick and all will be right.

Yes, I actually just wrote a poem about Bisquick. Yes, I actually took a picture of my Bisquick box and posted it. Don't judge me.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

This beautiful statue was given to me at a Prayer Shower in Rapid City when I was pregnant with Lucian. It is on display in our home year-round, but it becomes especially relevant during the Advent season when we are preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ at Christmas.

Advent has begun, and I believe that this year Max is old enough to have some understanding of the season. We set up our Nativity set, and he loves to point out and name each of the figures.

He helped Daddy light the first Advent candle before dinner on Sunday, and he sat mesmerized as we prayed by candlelight

Today, December 1, was the first day of Max's Advent calendar. We picked one out with little chocolates behind each door, so now he's REALLY looking forward to opening the next one tomorrow! I read him the Scripture verse on the door as he scarfs down his chocolate square; it's a genius idea - give a kid a piece of chocolate and he'll sit still long enough to hear you read a verse from the Bible. Amen to that! Today's verse-

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light" -Isaiah 9:1

I also decided to revive a tradition that I remember from when I was young- making a Christmas chain! Each day of Advent, we are going to add another link to the chain, so that by Christmas we have a long paper garland decorating our home!

I love that this craft is so simple that Max can do most of it himself! I cut the strips and helped him figure out where to put the tape, but he gets the satisfaction of attaching the links and watching his very own chain grow longer and longer each day!

A blessed Advent season to each of you!

Guess This Mess

I have a new game for you! The goal is to guess what Max used to make his latest mess. I'll set the scene for you:

Max, Lucian and I were eating a mid-morning snack when Louie started to get fussy. I brought him upstairs, put him in bed and came down (only minutes later) to find this on the table.

Hint #1: It's not as bad as it looks

Hint #2: It did not come from inside Max. I promise I will never post a picture of that.

You can leave a comment with your guess, and I'll post the answer in 24 hours (give or take a day or two, whenever the spirit moves me...)