Sunday, December 30, 2007

woohoo, I made it!

My fifth and final Christmas celebration was Thursday night at my Grandma's common room in the basement of her Eureka condos. I took off work an hour early in order to get there at a reasonable time. When I got home to shower and change, Logan had a fever and was very lethargic. We quickly decided Gene would stay home with him and I'd take Kaylin. Kaylin was excited to see 2nd cousin Lana so there was no skipping out.

Kaylin disappeared with Lana and I sat down to eat with some cousins, my dad and my sis-in-law. We talked and had a good time and suddenly everyone was leaving. The evening flew by and Christmas was over for another year! I think it was my least stressful Christmas ever. Hopefully I can look back on this blog entry next year and spare myself some of my usual holiday dread.

Turns out Logan has an ear infection and a virus that is making his tonsils HUGE. The poor kid literally didn't say ONE WORD the entire day Friday. He's still pretty hoarse, but at least can speak :) Kaylin and I both have nasty colds, but so far have avoided fever and sore throats. I'm just glad it's my weekend.

I bought a video camera today so (assuming I use it) I can scratch off another of my 40 Before 40 goals. I finally located a free feather pillow so I'm looking forward to taping the tigers tearing apart lawn bags full of feathers. Meanwhile, I'm taking plenty of video of the kids dancing around the playroom.

My boss called earlier today to let me know we're coming in to work at 7am New Year's Day. Wow. Seriously? We only work two hours, but I'm AMAZED my coworkers agreed to such an early time. I don't have to work the dreaded Day After the two two-hour days because I have (sob) Jury Duty. Since it's a holiday week I don't have to go in for jury duty until Wednesday and if I'm not picked I don't have to call or return or do anything. Cross your fingers for me that I don't get picked...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

almost there

We had a great 3 day weekend. The kids had tons of time to play with their new toys and Gene and I had plenty of time to relax and do minor projects around the house. I was kind of dreading Christmas Day because we had so much to do. I worked from 6:30-8:30am, rushed home to shower and dress, rushed to church and then calmed down and had a great day.

We went to my parents' house after church and stayed until about 5pm. The kids had a blast playing with their cousins and the adults had a nice, relaxing afternoon, playing with baby Mollie and letting our parents deal with our other kids :)

We then went to Gene's family Christmas at his cousin's house. Again, the kids had a blast playing with their (2nd?) cousins (I "think" your kids and your cousins' kids are 2nd cousins?) Gene and I had a great time with his cousins and aunt we usually only see at Christmas. His family doesn't do a formal gift exchange, but Gene always takes everyone a gift bag with a few trinkets. This year he gave everyone a travel mug, some candy and a couple of instant lottery tickets. His cousin's wife won $200!!!!! That was pretty cool.

The kids went strong all day until we left Gene's cousin's around 9pm. Logan was asleep within seconds of buckling his seatbelt. Even Kaylin went to bed right after we got home. It was rough to drag myself to work this morning when Gene and the kids were snuggled up together in bed. They're off until next Wednesday when Gene returns to work, Logan returns to school and Kaylin has to endure three days of fun at the Y. I still have the least seniority of the keepers so I can't get any time off around the holidays :(

One more family Christmas tomorrow after work...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

here comes santa claus

We got home late (gasp! after TEN pm!) from the Kaiser family Christmas last night. Logan was in bed and asleep within minutes, but Kaylin was excited and overstimulated and NOT going to sleep. This was unfortunate because I could have been in bed asleep within minutes too. Instead, I dozed in the living room while Kaylin tortured me by staying awake.

When she FINALLY fell asleep, Gene and I got to work on the Santa stuff, retrieving presents from hiding places and filling stockings. Kaylin used her allowance money to buy a "beautiful" light tree from Big Lots that she's been using as a night light. A very, very bright night light. I looked in on her one last time and noticed a wrapped present under her tree. Aaahhhhhh! I completely forgot she wrapped a box of crayons for Santa to give to the elves. I snuck into her room to get it. I was trying to be very quiet, but I couldn't possibly have made more noise. Paper rustling, crashing about as I got the package unstuck from the tree stand. I somehow managed to remove the package without waking her, quickly scrawled a thank you note from Santa and fell into my lovely, warm bed.

Kaylin was up at 6:20 (I was reading the paper) so I sent her back to get Gene. I went myself and gave fair warning that he better get up. Yeah, yeah, he was getting up. Logan was up by 6:30. We brushed Kaylin's hair for pictures and called and called for Gene. He was doing his usual morning ritual of slowly dressing in his 14 winter layers and couldn't be bothered to come out to open presents until his shirt was buttoned and his shoes were tied. The kids were getting so impatient they had their first presents unwrapped before he completely entered the living room. Kaylin ripped her paper to bits and threw it wherever it landed. Logan carefully removed his paper and pitched it into the garbage bag before opening his next present.

For the first year since kids we had absolutely NOTHING Fisher-Price so unpackaging the toys was a snap! I used a scissors a couple of times to slit packing tape, but didn't need a wire cutter or screwdriver once! Woooohoooooooo! One definite benefit of being out of the toddler toy stage. The living room was a wreck, with paper, packages and toys covering the entire floor.

Gene and I got straight to work on assembly. I put together Logan's wooden parking garage, Playmobil plane and boat while Gene worked on Kaylin's Playmobil princess castle. Logan's stuff was easy, but the castle took FOREVER to assemble. Gene and I tag-teamed it and worked almost continuously from about 8:30am until 3pm. It's almost 8pm and Gene's putting together a princess carriage and I'm getting ready to assemble the castle kitchen accessory set. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm sick to death of assembling Playmobil!!!!

It was a fun, relaxing day! I stayed in my pajamas until 3:30 when the neighbor girl came over to play and I figured I'd better shower and dress before her mom came to get her. The kids played and played and had a wonderful time with their new toys. By 5 I had most everything cleaned up and was itching to leave the house. I couldn't think of anywhere I actually wanted to go, but I lost my car keys at Evergreen Square the other night (fortunately Gene and the kids were at karate 1/2 mile away so I walked over there and got Gene's spare key to my car...) so I thought I'd try the stores to see if anyone turned them in.

We ate at CiCi's Disgusting Pizza Buffet with Pizza Worse than Chuck E. Cheese. While Gene and the kids were finishing eating, I started trekking around to the different stores to ask if anyone turned in my keys. I tried Dollar Tree, Factory Card Outlet, Steve and Barry's and Kmart with no luck. I had only actually been inside Dollar Tree and Kmart the other night, but walked across the huge parking lot so had no idea where my keys could be. I went into Marshall's and asked some harried clerk who was counting out a money drawer. She dug through about five drawers and called her manager. I was just apologizing for taking her time when she looked at one more spot on the counter. Voila! My keys! I was completely shocked! Totally worth eating at CiCi's!!!! Merry Christmas to me :)

Oh, that reminds me, Gene got me a cell phone for Christmas. That moves me into the late 20th Century with everyone else. Gene liked his beautifully wrapped giant fork and spoon and hung them in the GARAGE!!! What a GREAT day!

I forgot to mention how much Kaylin LOVED the letter from Santa. She totally bought it :) And I keep forgetting to correct my Terrible Error from two weeks ago when I (gasp, gasp) called a Kitchen Aid mixer a MixMaster. Silly me. At this rate I'll NEVER be a baker!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas stress?

Christmas has always stressed me out. Even as a kid I couldn't stand going from one family celebration to the next, hurry, hurry, hurry, open your presents so we can get to church on time and fly home to grab our stuff and hurry to Grandma's. It's never been fun, just work, work, work so we can accomplish a zillion things by X time and breathe a huge sigh of relief when it's done.

Having kids made it worse for a few years- more people to drag around quickly from place to place while toting babies and all their stuff... But, the past couple of years I've been coming around and getting into the Christmas hype. It seems the extended families have caught on to how many celebrations the younger generation are required to attend and have moved away from Christmas Eve and Day. This year we have five Christmases (including our own.) We only have multiple celebrations on Christmas Day, and then only two. Gene and I have done as many as four plus church on Christmas Day. That is too much!!!! Add the fact that I almost always have to work at least a couple of hours early Christmas morning and that makes a looooooong day!

Anyway, back to the point. I'm really excited about Christmas this year! Our five celebrations are spread out over nearly a week. I took Saturday off work so I'll have Sat, Sun, Mon and most of Tues off :) I told the kids that I emailed Santa to see if he could come early this year and he said YES!!!!!! Santa's coming Friday night so we'll open all our presents Saturday!!! We have Sat, Sun and Mon without family celebrations (other than our own) so the kids will have TONS of time to play with their new toys and I'll have tons of time to put together the jillion pieces of Kaylin's Playmobil princess castle. I'm even excited about giving Gene his giant wooden spoon and fork set :) (I hope we don't actually have to hang it...)

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Should I have his hearing tested?

Kaylin learned the song "Feliz Navidad" at school and has been singing it nonstop this weekend. I understand that these words make no sense to Logan, but this morning he was singing "police lollipop." Poor kid had no clue why I was laughing so hard...

Saturday, December 15, 2007


We had one of those crazy holiday weeks of parties and programs. Mix that with all the snow and ice storms and I was either too busy or too tired to blog.

Logan's school had an open house with a progressive dinner. You took a map around to all the different rooms, many of which had food, drinks or crafts, got a stamp for each room and turned your completed map in for a chance to win a free week of daycare. It was actually fun and the kids loved it! They each made three Christmas-themed crafts and got to visit with Santa. Logan was proud to show off all his art projects hanging in his classroom.

I had my work Christmas party at Old Chicago (pizza.) It was a good time. I wrote my annual Christmas spoof song and Roz, Colleen and I sang it. The past two years we've had our party at a restaurant with a private room. This year we were among many other diners so we decided we had to sing LOUD so everyone from the zoo could hear. Apparently we attracted a lot of attention... At least we didn't get kicked out :) We always have a white elephant gift exchange and it's a competition who can bring the dumbest thing. I brought home the most amazingly wrapped giant fork and spoon set- each tine of the giant fork is wrapped with different ribbon! For some strange reason Gene absolutely LOVES giant wooden fork and spoon sets so I hid it for part of his Christmas present. My coworker Jill crocheted EVERYONE an afghan. Mine has lions on it!

Otherwise, I spent my week chipping ice and blowing into frozen padlocks, freezing my butt off and coming home to snuggle with the kids under my lion afghan.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

cookie baking machine

I was "forced" to take a day off work due to too much e-time. I took Saturday so I could go to my friend Jenny's Christmas cookie baking party. Jenny lives an hour and a half away (near Springfield) and though we talk on the phone and email regularly, we have different work schedules and rarely get together. I wasn't overly excited about spending my day baking cookies- I don't think I've EVER made cookies from scratch, or if I did I helped Grandma 30 years ago. I WAS excited about having a day with a bunch of women and no children. It turned out to be a strange but fun experience.

Jenny was already making dough when I arrived at 10am. I jumped right in and started measuring flour and sugar. Three of her friends showed up between noon and one and I don't think the two big MixMasters (or whatever those gigantic mixers are called) were ever idle between that time and the time I left! I left the dough mixing to the experts and did easier jobs that didn't involve mixers and ovens. My two successes were peanut butter buckeyes and almond bark pretzels. I know this isn't that impressive, but I made both of those totally on my own :) My giant failure (and the joke of the day) was my fudge. Jenny mixed the original ingredients and then put me in charge. I put in a candy thermometer, put it on the stove, and followed the directions EXACTLY. I have absolutely NO IDEA where I went wrong, but my final product resembled caramelized dog poop. It took about five minutes for me to chip the "fudge" out of the pan. At that point it was more like a partially melted Tootsie Roll. I joked that we should try pulling it like taffy. I then tried to fix it with the mixer and the end product resembled brown concrete. I think it took ten minutes to coax it out of the mixing bowl at which point it lay in a disgusting pile on a plate for the rest of the day, perfectly placed for everyone to laugh at. One girl even took a picture with her phone and sent it to her husband to show him what he had to look forward to. The fudge was hard and dry rather than smooth and creamy, but still tasted good in its own special way :)

An ice storm forced me to leave earlier than I would have liked (6:30pm), but I got home early enough for the kids to enjoy some cookies before bed. As mentioned before, I don't EVER bake so their eyes about popped out of their heads when they saw me carry in three heaping plates of cookies. I was very happy that Logan's favorites were almond bark pretzels and buckeyes :) Kaylin had a bit better taste!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Christmas show

Sunday evening we went to the Caterpillar Children's Holiday Show at the Civic Center theater. We had been out doing other errands and got there early. We got a great parking spot on the road, right in front of the entrance. They were already admitting people so we headed in and up to the balcony level. The usher asked if there was anywhere we wanted to sit? I jokingly said "How about a box?" and she said "Sure, c'mon!" and led us to our lovely, private box with plenty of room for the kids to run around and play before the show started. It was really fun to have the box and an added benefit was that after the show ended we had NO crowds to fight- we walked right out of the balcony and down the stairs, collected the kids' "presents" and were among the first in line to see Santa Claus :) (Avoiding/beating crowds is my passion.)

The show itself was pretty good. It was a laser light show set to Christmas music. Santa came onstage in the middle of the show and led a singalong. The kids loved it. It was like a fireworks show without all the terrifying bangs. Santa ruled! This was no 24-yr-old kid dressed in a suit. We're talking real snowy white beard and a short, chubby Mrs. Claus. Perfect! I got a great photo and now we can avoid the horrible mall crowds.

On Tuesday I spent seven hours raking the tiger yard. I begged my boss to give me a project day to get it done before it snowed. The grass was really tall so it was almost impossible to actually rake. I ended up using a high powered path blower to move the bulk of the leaves and then using a gas handheld blower to blow the leaves out of the clumps of grass. It was a horrible job and took forever, but I got it done. (Fortunately, we have a large leaf vacuum so I just had to blow the leaves out of the yard and the maintenance guy sucked them up into the truck.)

I went home exhausted and was asleep by 8pm. At that time there was no rain or snow. I woke at 2:30am to a winter wonderland. I was so excited about beating the snow and being done with the tiger yard leaves I could hardly fall back asleep!

We like to keep the grass tall because it helps the tigers keep away from the flies. I told my boss that next year as soon as the flies die down but before the leaves fall, I'm cutting the tiger grass short like a golf course! If the grass would have been short I probably could have finished in 3 hours instead of 7.

Ooooh, ooooh! Logan's starting to get into action figures! This makes me happy because up to this point in his little life he's ONLY cared about vehicles. If something's not a plane, train, car or truck he pretends it is. Even most of his food is turned into some sort of vehicle. I love action figures :)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

ice storm

We had an ice storm yesterday. Roads were ok, power is still on- just the annoying kind of ice storm where you walk very carefully and spend 15 minutes scraping car windows. The storm happened to fall on Critter Christmas at the zoo. This is an event where we give Christmas trees and gift wrapped packages containing treats to the zoo animals. It's fun to watch the spider monkeys tear gift wrap off their bars and the tigers tear into huge wrapped boxes. The camel devoured a fruit covered wreath in under a minute :)

Anyway, the keepers are in charge of putting all the treats into the exhibits while the education staff talks to the zoo visitors. I was rushing around all morning, trying to get animals on exhibit as well as delivering many huge boxes and Christmas trees before my animal programs started at 10am. (Not a big deal, just had to meet the ten o'clock deadline.) The camel was my last program at 10:15. As soon as the visitors left for their next program, I cleaned the camel yard. It was a giant ice rink. I figured the zebras were probably in the most danger from the ice so I quickly cleaned their barn and put them away for the day. I then put all the other animals in their barns except for the Aussie animals. The emus and black swans were enjoying the icy rain and the wallaby was happily eating leaves, sheltered under his favorite bush. I gave them access to their barns but let them stay outside. Whoops.

Every night we lock most of the outside animals into their barns for their safety and/or the public's safety. I went around to check all the animals and put away the Aussie animals at about 4pm. The icy rain had turned to regular rain so the frozen Aussie yard was extra slippery. Black swans have very short legs with big "duck feet." They were sliding all over the place, but at least they're low to the ground. I actually had to lift them into their barn because it was so slick they kept sliding backwards. I went to get the wallaby from his bush and he took one hop and slipped over. After that he was VERY careful. I never knew a wallaby could hop so slowly. It was hilarious. He was hopping in "super slo-mo." Fortunately, he was pretty close to his barn and was very happy to get inside (though he could have gone in at any time on his own.) It took me forever to check on the rest of the animals because I had to move so slowly. I never did fall!

It took a while to chip the ice off my car after work, but the drive home was easy. The only slick spot I encountered was when I turned into our driveway I slid a few feet. Amazing I didn't take out the new mailbox Gene installed last week :)

New topic- baby toys. I've gone Christmas shopping at several educational toy stores and visited several more online in the past few weeks. I've been checking the baby toys and have been shocked to find most of the high end toys are now made of wood. I know there is major controversy about all the chemicals in plastics, blah, blah, blah, but WOOD??? We all know that babies put EVERYTHING in their mouths, do we want them chewing up wood? Perhaps I'm the crazy one, but this is totally unappealing to me! (Can you sanitize wooden toys in the dishwasher?)

It made me think back to the Little House books where Laura and Mary made a button necklace for baby Carrie's Christmas present. Gasp! What a choking hazard!!! Did the pioneers whittle their babies chew toys out of sticks? How about rocks? They'd make good teethers until the teeth erupt!