Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Frenzy

I don't know if we just didn't feel this time of year was crazy enough, but the children finished school on Tuesday and Wednesday morning we headed down to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area for a couple of family fun days...

First stop was an indoor water park where Michael was scared of pretty much everything, but still in awe of the place...

I snapped the following picture of Harper right before she fell off the lily pad and, er, realized the water was deeper than she thought. Oops. She recovered enough to enjoy some water slides and the wave pool, so no harm done.

After our water park adventure we ate lunch and then headed down to the river where we caught a surprisingly enjoyable marionette show, complete with meet and greet for the kids.

How cute is that bear? It looked like it belonged in a Jim Henson Christmas special - which I think is actually a testament to the talent of the puppeteer.
The show finished just in time for us to catch Arthur Christmas which we all really enjoyed (although it did get a little long for Michael, who was involuntarily giving up his nap...).

After the movie we headed to our hotel and the kids had the run of the pool before dinner.
Neither of them would hold still long enough to get a decent photo, but look! The whole pool just for them!

We spent the night in the hotel and, despite our very active day, no one slept much. Oh well. We hung out a bit the next morning then headed back to the river to visit the aquarium. With a quick detour in front of a giant Christmas tree...

Once in the aquarium Harper happily danced with "Rocky" and then was a "grand marshal" of the penguin parade - she was thrilled!

We enjoyed the "Scuba Santa" show in the aquarium theater and he even posed for pictures afterward.

We ended the day getting up close and personal with some sharks - look at those teeth!

We left the aquarium in the early afternoon and ate some lunch on the way home yesterday.

Today I have pretty much been in the kitchen all day long (cookies, soup, bread, caramel mix...) and tonight (as though they haven't had enough this week!) Matt and his dad and sister took the kids to a hockey game. Michael came home with a puck given to him by one of the refs.

It's a good thing Christmas is only two days away - after the week we've had it will take something pretty spectacular impress the kids!

On a side note, Harper keeps telling me that this is her favorite time of year. She says she likes the special treats and the presents, but mostly she likes being with the people she loves.  Based on the greeting she gave her Aunt Meaghan today I think she means it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Visit With Santa

Who knows if this is the last believing visit for our oldest? If so, it was a good one.

We visited Santa - and nobody cried! Or hid. Or refused to talk.


Can you see the line reflected in that huge ornament?

My how they've grown.

For kicks(?) you can click here to recall how last year's visit went.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Helpful (?) Holiday Craft Post

Earlier this fall, before Harper's birthday, I began looking for gift ideas for her. We have very generous family members who give to our children at their birthdays and Christmas and they often ask for ideas - many of them don't necessarily know what we have already or what the children would enjoy.

As I was browsing in a nearby toy store I saw a kit for making Christmas ornaments. I liked several things about this as a gift for Harper:

1) It was a non-messy craft. She loves to do craft projects and I especially appreciate activities that allow her to feel crafty but don't use glitter, glue, paint, or clay. (That's what school is for!)

2) We could give them away as Christmas gifts from her. I still have a handful of ornaments made for me by former students, and smile when I take them out and put them on the tree. Of course we aren't at most of these people's homes for Christmas, so they never have to hang them and who would know?

3) I didn't have to store the finished project! My number one pet peeve about crafts (and really, lots of toys) is figuring out where to put them when they've been completed. Don't get me wrong, there is evidence of children's work all over our house, but we have limited shelf/wall space. Especially for things like the Sticky Mosaics - so nice to do, but then where do they go? In my case most of them are subtly disappeared while the children are in school.

So Harper received two kits for her birthday. One for the Very Merry Ornaments (Very Merry Ornaments Kit, here.) and one for Beaded Snowflake Ornaments (Beaded ornament kit, here.).

I want to be sure to point out that BOTH kits have been a lot of fun and a good quiet distraction during these crazy days leading up to Christmas. Having said that, the beaded ornaments turned out spectacularly, and the other set (Very Merry) I don't really see making it past this holiday.

Here's a photo of one of the Very Merry Ornaments:

Harper enjoyed making these - the sticker element was fun and the idea was to make a pattern of three different types of paper strips. I think this could be re-engineered to work a little better. The papers attach at the top and bottom of the ornament, but there is nothing but air (and a very thin plastic stick) in the middle. The papers don't really stay in place and I have noticed the little sparkling stickers are starting to fall off of the first ornaments Harper made. These are still cute, but I don't think they will hold up beyond one season. I wonder if some sort of ball to wrap the papers around would help?

The beaded ornaments are gorgeous and look like they will hold up - they also look like something I'd be happy to put on my tree. They could even be displayed after Christmas as winter decor!

Some photos of the process and the final products, working with the beaded kit:

The look on her face is saying, "Just leave me alone so I can finish this very enjoyable project!"

I loved that the beads came all neatly organized. The kit suggested working over a towel so dropped beads don't roll
away. I don't know if I ever would have thought of that but it was a brilliant suggestion!

Finished Snowflake and Mirror

Snowflake on the Tree

Another Snowflake on the Tree

Snowflake and Wine Glasses

I'm already thinking I might keep an eye on the price of the beaded snowflake kit and maybe purchase some for Harper to make next year... Maybe the price will drop a bit more after Christmas?

I'm not sure I would try the paper ornaments again, unless they made some changes to the structure of the ornaments.

I was also thinking it might be fun to try these for next year - we'll see if I remember in the fall.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Another Holiday Assortment

Fun with the Nativity!

Bet you didn't know that Princess Tiana bunked down with Baby Jesus! Please note that the Wise Men actually brought flowers and other purple plastic objects. Purple plastic was rare and valuable in those days. 

Also, Mary and Aurora were BFFs which is why Mary is sporting Aurora's crown. With those kind of princess connections, you'd think they might have found a better place to sleep than a stable. Where are the good fairies when you need them?


I'm not sure what the excitement is, but Michael keeps asking if he can watch me wrap gifts. I think he's just interested in what the gifts are. He keeps asking, "Can I watch you wrap them up? Are you going to wrap some up now?"

He was very disappointed when he realized I wasn't going to show him all of Harper's gifts. I only showed him two, and let him choose one as his gift to her.


I think I've mentioned before that Michael is a sensitive boy and can get emotional about movies we watch (I might have scarred him for life with An American Tail). So far about 50% of our Christmas shows have made him cry. The original Frosty the Snowman was the most traumatic.

He also gets upset when we sing,"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Every single time he asks, "WHY won't they let him play?"


I always buy nice wrapping paper but I am a decidedly unfussy gift packager. I don't even bother with ribbon and/or bows most of the time and I've started to feel guilty about the boxes we use for gifts. There will be a nice gift, and nice paper, but in between - when receiving a gift from us - you are likely to face either a) a Circo brand shoe box or b) a Market Day chicken steaks box. Classy. What can I say? They are good sizes and I have an abundance of them. Still, I'm trying to use slightly fewer of those (I'll save them for mailing you things!) and go the more traditional shirt box route.

If you expect to receive a gift from us this year, just know that you should unwrap the box and open it or you'll have no idea what you're really getting. I also have a lot of American Girl boxes in the basement. I'd hate for you to think you were getting some accessories for Molly or Kit and be disappointed with an iTunes gift card...


In a final, and random, note. I had a big spike in blog traffic today. Apparently someone found the Christmas craft we did last year and linked to it. If anyone clicks around on this blog looking for more craft ideas, wow, are they going to be disappointed!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In Which I Ignore My Own Guidelines

Several years ago I wrote a little set of guidelines for giving gifts to teachers. (You can find it here.) One of the things I suggested was not preparing food for teachers. Or, rather, I cautioned that some teachers might not eat homemade treats. This is still true, but this year we have a lot of people we wanted to do some small holiday recognition for and making something edible just seemed like the best way to go.

AND I have a snack mix recipe that has always been a huge it, so I feel pretty confident that anyone who likes a little something sweet will either enjoy it or know someone who will happily take it off his/her hands. 

The thing is, we will do a nicer/bigger gift for our children's main teachers. But, especially in Harper's case, I don't want to leave anyone out. Because of all the people who are part of our allergy plan at school I get a very concrete sense of the whole, "it takes a village," thing. We have 11 people we are bringing something to at Harper's school. And then you add the neighbors we usually give a little sweet to and Michael's 4 teachers and you have, well, A LOT of people to provide a gift for.

Don't get me wrong - I LIKE recognizing these people and thanking them for the jobs they are doing (or for being great neighbors!), so I'm not complaining, just noting, that I had a lot of people to make snack mix for!

I'm also really enjoying my new camera and this was a good excuse to take pictures of stuff.

Here are the ingredients:
This recipe pretty much had me at butter and brown sugar...
 So you mix the dry ingredients in a roasting pan, then melt the sugar, syrup, and butter together and stir it for a very long time (lots of standing at the stove, this is a recipe that needs tending). Then you add the vanilla and baking soda, dump it over the dry stuff, stir and put it in the oven. Then you stir it at fifteen minute intervals for about an hour. Finally you dump it out to cool and it looks like this:

You will spend the next half-hour or so waiting for it to cool enough to be put into a container or gift bags/boxes. During this time you will need to stand guard and shoo away little children who will repeatedly enter the kitchen looking for, "Just one piece, please?!" And you will have to say no, because each batch will only yield four of these:

One down, nineteen to go.

I made four batches yesterday and then ran out of butter. Matt went to the store today and restocked my supplies - I will have another marathon day this week or next weekend and then we should be all set. That is, until it is time to bake cookies!

Yummy, sugary, goodness!

Friday, December 09, 2011


Hey guys - I need some help. "Gretch" won the music giveaway with comment number four chosen by But I don't know her and I don't know if she's a regular reader and there's no contact information on her profile!

SO - if you know her, please tell her she won and have her email me at kelseyjane (at) hotmail (dot) com.
If you ARE her, please do the same. Oh, and put "Midwest Mom" in the subject line or the message might get lost in my junk mail...

In the future I need to remember to ask for people to leave contact info when they comment on a giveaway - good thing I don't do this for a living!!!

(I am not sure if any of you blogged w/ a link to that giveaway, but if you did, you might want to mention to your people that they can click over here to see if they won!)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Tree Topper Before and After

Well, I knew it would happen sooner or later. When I put up the Christmas tree this year, our tree topper, the one we've had all our married lives, didn't work. It had lights in it so it was something of a Christmas miracle that it lasted as long as it did. I have an oddly specific memory of buying it - nothing fancy... We were shopping together are Meijer and picked it up - for about eight dollars. It was a "grapevine" star, painted gold, and I loved the way it looked on our tree. I especially loved the play of the lights from the star against the ceiling...

I played around with it for a while and eventually figured out which bulb was out. Eventually I was able to get 9 of the 10 bulbs to light up, but I had images of the star repeatedly going out while on top of the lit and decorated Christmas tree and that would have made me really unhappy. 

As sad as I was/am to say goodbye to that star, I figured I had better just toss it and find a new one. 

I went back to Meijer, this time with Michael (times have changed!), and purchased a new gold star. I had the foresight to purchase one without lights this time. Incidentally, this one was also only eight dollars. As long as I'm careful packing and unpacking it each year, it should last a long time. While it doesn't give the same glow to the top of our tree, I still think it is pretty. And this gold star is a bit glittery so it is especially pretty with the tree lights reflecting off it in the evening. 

I did not love it at first, but it's growing on me...

(Thanks to my friend Tracy for caring about my Christmas decoration madness and asking me to post about this.)


One more day to enter the music giveaway! Nine more entries and I'll pick two winners, tell your friends! Enter here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


Human brains are funny... I was walking from the dining room into the kitchen and I had to duck under something that was hanging from the ceiling. It was after I had sort of reflexively ducked that my brain got as far as thinking there shouldn't BE something hanging from the ceiling.

It was a spider - whee! (At least it wasn't a mouse. I've been given the gift of perspective.)


Our Christmas shopping is about 98% finished. I am good at shopping ahead, but it always lures me into a false sense of feeling prepared for the holidays when there is really a lot left to do (baking, wrapping, etc.).


Our elf is hanging out with the nativity figures tonight. It kind of looks like he's holding the shepherd hostage.


The new nativity set is  HUGE hit. Michael calls it the stable and played with it every free moment of his day.


Twins in Michael's class at school had a birthday today. I was supposed to send in a treat for him because they were bringing in doughnuts that weren't guaranteed to be nut free. This would have been no problem, except that I TOTALLY FORGOT. Good thing he can be fairly easy going. One of his teachers just gave him a safe snack they had and he was fine with it.

It is official: If I don't have something in writing I will completely and totally forget about it.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Jolly Old St. Nicholas

Here's our fireplace this evening... notice anything?

Do you see the shoes?

If you know my children, you might imagine that the shoes left on the fireplace are just the result of less than thorough tidying. But no, they are there on purpose, anxiously awaiting St. Nick's arrival overnight.

Waiting shoes...

I've written about St. Nick before, but you can read more here if the details are fuzzy for you! 

I will admit to taking a little license with the purpose of recognizing St. Nick's feast day. Normally our children receive an ornament from St. Nick, maybe some candy, and sometimes holiday books and/or movies. Because we pack ALL of the Christmas items away (movies, books, CDs) when it isn't December, I prefer not to wait until Christmas Day to give them those kind of holiday items. 

This year St. Nick is actually bringing them a Fisher Price Nativity. St. Nick doesn't usually bring large items or toys but he is attaching a note to the kids explaining that he does not normally bring something like that, but he hoped it would help them remember what we are celebrating this time of year.... Both children had expressed an interest in the set earlier this fall (yes, Harper will still play with Little People sets!) and Matt and I didn't want to wait until Christmas and give it to them to play with for only a week... 

Maybe we're missing the point of St. Nick, but I don't think we'll be scarring them with one out of the ordinary St. Nick year - and very few of our friends here recognize this day so it isn't as though they will be comparing their St. Nick experience with everyone else's! 

If you do St. Nick what will your children find in their shoes this year?

There's still time to enter the music giveaway - click here!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Holiday Oblivion

Since the whirlwind that was November I can't seem to get back into a good routine, much of that is due to a long string of special events and busy weekends. While I have the sneaking suspicion that something BIG is getting away from me these disruptions to our routine haven't been all bad.

Today Matt and his parents took Michael to Cincinnati to see a Xavier women's basketball game. Harper and I got to head downtown to see a holiday window display as well as a performance of the Golden Dragon Acrobats. Holy cats was that amazing! It was a great way to spend part of an afternoon and I would have thoroughly enjoyed it all on my own - Harper's awe was like a cherry on top.

Earlier this year Matt and I decided to subscribe to a family entertainment series for four performances that take place in a historic theater in our area. Last month Matt and Harper saw a percussion group and in the new year we'll see a stage adaptation of The Sinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, as well as some kind of Magic School Bus performance. The tickets end up costing about the same as some of the community theater events we attend and we got great seats as subscribers. It was a great decision on our part and I hope we are able to purchase a subscription again in the future. As Michael gets older we'll either need to get more seats (right now we just have two) or we'll have to split the shows between the children.

Matt's parents joined us for dinner after the game and we watched the Packer game while we ate - a bonus of the living/dining room combo!

I didn't get a lot accomplished today - eh - that's how it goes sometimes. We've really been enjoying the last few weeks, just don't look at the state of my floors!


Don't forget to enter the Christmas music giveaway! Details here.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Music! Music! Music!

Ack! It's December 3rd and I still haven't started the Christmas music giveaway. Oops.

Just in case any of you are still doing the old fashioned thing and actually listening to CDs I am going to give away a custom music mix again this year. You can only enter once, but I'll make one CD for every dozen comments. If 24 people comment, then I'll give away 2 CDs, 36 = 3 CDs, etc.

So spread the word! Share the love! Enter, enter, enter.

I will make the winner(s) a holiday music mix based on answers to a few simple questions.

I suppose this is also contingent upon the main computer not completely melting down...

I'm going to be quick this year, you have until Thursday, December 8th, to enter. I'll make midnight, Ohio time (Eastern), the cutoff.

Any comment will do, but if you can't think of anything maybe tell me what your favorite holiday tradition is.

Some of my Christmas music collection... just waiting to be a perfect CD for you!

Friday, December 02, 2011

Harper's Disney Trip (Yes,Three Months Later)

I thought it would be fun to have Harper tell me about these pictures from her experiences at Disney World in September. Based on the less than enthusiastic nature of her narrative/responses*, I think I should have asked for her commentary a couple of months ago. Enjoy?

That is my brother's favorite ride. And it's my second favorite ride. I like to get squirted with water because the camel squirts water.

I got to help in The Festival of the Lion King. I got to go around the room with shakers. That's me in the orange shirt.

I met Jessie and Woody at the same time. I liked Woody the best.

(No comment on this picture...)

I met Mary Poppins. I did not meet her when I turned five and went to Disney. She is one of my favorite Disney characters.

I loved LOVED the golden coins that fell down at the end of the Disney Junior show.

This was our last day in Disney World. I met Tiana, the princess. That was our very last character. 

The end.

*When I taught first grade I thought I would go insane from reading so many sentences that began with, "I like..." Dear Lord - that was always a goal of mine for the year, to get children to learn how to write sentences/stories that didn't begin with the dreaded, "I like."

Harper didn't start too many of these sentences that way, but still, the responses would have been more interesting a little closer to our trip.