Sunday, December 29, 2019

Gingerbread, Grinch, and Go-Karts

Good morning!

Here we are, on the other side of Christmas, where everything looks a little less shiny and a little more cluttered. All the days between Christmas and New Year's feel the same and I have to often look at my planner to remember what day it is.

I hope you had a great Christmas! Ours' was fantastic. Thankfully (miraculously) everyone stayed healthy!

The Friday before Christmas, on our way home from taking Granny to a procedure, our neighbor Mallory asked if we wanted an extra gingerbread house kit from the local cookie shop.

Um, yes.

Everyone was smiling while building and decorating the house, although Dan had to re-build it after my first attempt was a little crooked. Ina preferred being in charge of the entire process and breathed a sigh of relief when her sisters gave up and opted to eat cottage cheese instead.

Everyone (including me) was more than happy to eat our masterpiece the next morning.

Ina, Lola, and I started Saturday off with a walk. I think we both enjoyed each other's one on one attention for 40 minutes.

After I made a few patient calls, my mom came over to stay with the girls while Dan and I helped a family in our small group move into an absolutely beautiful house. Of course the men had to go on a little exploration hike after most of the heavy lifting was done.

Although my holiday shopping was complete, my Saturday afternoon was free and I felt the lights of the plaza calling me. I put Mira down for a nap, handed Dan the TV remote, and loaded Ina and Cora in the van.

The weather was perfect, the streets and stores were full of people and the lights were beautiful. Cora danced down the sidewalk to the saxophone playing on the corner. There were carolers singing as we walked into Barnes and Nobel where Ina thoroughly inspected every single book and activity and I spent $40 on stuffed animals we didn't need. We came home to game night with the Champ boys.

Sunday our church had a little donut party for Christmas.

Then I dropped the girls off at Grandma Frankie's and met Chessa and Danielle for some tapas and sangria to celebrate Chessa's birthday. We went for coffee afterwards and the time it took me to find a parking spot and then actually park in said spot reminded me why I don't often leave the house the few days before Christmas.

I said bye to them and then met Brooke and Mallory for some drinks and cards while exchanging Christmas presents. Can you tell that I am living my best Christmas life right now? Also, have you played Five Crowns yet? It is my new favorite game.

Monday morning I went to the gym and then met my friend Ryann for coffee. I adore her and left there wondering why we haven't done this more often. Then I went to Target to finish off my holiday shopping.

I came home to an empty house (the girls were still at Frankie's) and didn't know exactly what to do first, but soon Brooke texted me and I was over at her house for coffee and her daughter Holland came home with me to keep me company until the girls returned.

Christmas Eve started off very low key with me switching from my 2019 to 2020 planner, but we eventually got ourselves together and headed out to visit Dan's grandma in the nursing home.

We then went to our church's Christmas Eve service, where we watched the most awesome drum performance (Mr. Kyle is basically a rock star), laughed at parts of Elf, and celebrated the birth of our savior Rock Brook style.

I know I mention this a lot, but I love, love, love our church and the people who go there. Mira is not pictured because she stayed with the wonderful people in the nursery which was 100% the right decision.

We then headed back to Grandma Frankie's to celebrate Christmas where I took exactly zero pictures. Grandma Frankie spoiled the girls and started the 24 hour gift opening marathon out with a bang.

As we were walking up the stairs to go to bed, Ina frantically reminded me to put out cookies and carrots for Santa and the reindeer. This came as a relief, because two days earlier she sat me down and said, "Mom, I need to know the truth. Is Santa real?"

To which I replied, "What do you think?" Ina, like the rest of our family, loves to talk, so she started down this long explanation of how she can't quite figure out if it is truly possible for Santa to get to all of the houses in the world, even when taking time zones into consideration, and three minutes later forgot what question she asked. I doubt I will be so successful next year.

Granny came over Christmas Eve morning and we tried to wait until the girls woke up on their own, but just couldn't. At 7:40 she went up and "Ho Ho Ho"ed until everyone was running down the stairs and ready for the scavenger hunt.

Last year we were puking in between clues, so this year was substantially better and I cried while Ina was reading the clues out loud to us.

Scavenger hunts were my favorite part about Christmas at my grandparents' house and sadly knowing they will never happen there again while also being happy that these memories are being created for my kids was more than my exhausted emotions could take.

The crying continued as they found their stockings and went on while I read both Cora and Mira's first year photo books that I made and ordered way too late.

We were all spoiled. Ina received a Fitbit (which is already lost) and a kids planner. Cora received a purple dinosaur with a purple remote (the only thing she would ask for), and Mira received the Olaf costume that I ordered for Halloween and couldn't return.

Granny gave Dan and I the best gift ever - piles of things we need, but typically buy the Aldi version of. I can't remember the last time we had brand name Ziplock bags in our drawer.

I gave Dan a Hawaiian Chiefs shirt and he gave me the most amazing coffee grinder/brewing system that does single cup and whole pots and is seriously the best thing ever.

We cleaned up and headed to my sister's house where she had a spread of delicious brunch food and my dad surprised the kids with GO KARTS.

We sat on the porch and watched the kids live their best lives driving go karts on a 60 degree Christmas day.

They all loved them. Ina was a tentative driver at first, but by the end was flooring it. Cora was happy to ride, but also liked going inside to play with Bauer. Mira insisted on having a helmet on the entire time and rode along with anyone who would drive her. Kauffman had her the most and would often stop to ask if she was okay. I love that kid.

My dad and grandparents left and my mom and grandma came over to spoil us yet again. We ended the night with more food and cards.

Dan and I loaded up our kids and Jessie's kids to stay the night at our house.

The next day I walked around aimlessly in the way that only a mom the day after Christmas in a house filled with unwrapped gifts, lots of blankets, and six children can. Then by brother in law came and picked up his kids, plus Ina and Cora. I put Mira to sleep with Granny and then headed to the salon to get my hair chopped off.

Eight inches, gone. It feels so good, but I still surprise myself when I look in the mirror and I haven't quite mastered the curl. There is time.

Instead of doing anything on my to do list, Dan and I took advantage of only having one kid who usually plays in the toy room by herself and watched Jack Ryan and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The next morning Dan went to work and I put away all of the Christmas decorations and found a home for all the new gifts. And didn't change clothes.

Last night Dan and I met The David Nashes (what Ina called them when she was little) for dinner on the plaza. We didn't let the rain get to us as we walked the streets to window shop and grab some coffee. This was the first time we have ever seen them without our kids and I so enjoyed the uninterrupted conversation. They are such a blessing and inspiration in our lives and I can't wait to see them again!

Before dinner we completely cleaned and purged my office. Eight bags to trash and ten bags to donate later, we are now ready to paint! Any color suggestions?

I hope you have a fantastic New Year! 2020 is looking bright! Thank you for reading! You are such a blessing in my life. <3

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Week Before Christmas

Hello there!

The weekend before the weekend before Christmas was a fun and busy one! So busy that Cora had a meltdown at a party, which left me so surprised/stressed/flabbergasted that I had a meltdown, that made Dan have a meltdown, that made us get in a fight, that made Ina write a prayer request for her parents to stop fighting, that led us all to take a step back for the next few days, quite possibly the next few years. But we aren't going to dwell on that here, because there are other, good things to talk about that are easier to say right now. Writing about self reflection and life adjusting are for 2020 Racheal. She can handle it.

(PJ Day at school!)

The weekend started with my aunt, uncle, and cousins arriving from Texas on Thursday night. They made a grand entrance with many gifts, which the girls promptly surrounded themselves with for the next 48 hours. At one point Mira was sitting on one, with her feet propped up on another. Then she made a ring of stuffed animals and firmly told them they could NOT open their presents.

Friday night they kept the girls and took Ina to basketball practice while Dan and I went to my part time job's Christmas party.

My friend Chessa and I have the same part time job, which of course made the Christmas party extra fun. My only regret was not getting a picture of Dan, who chose to wear a flamingo shirt and shorts to this otherwise business-ish party. I am sure it won't be too hard for you to picture that.

Saturday morning I woke up to make cinnamon rolls and drink coffee with my aunt, which will always be one of my favorite things.

We then watched the girls open presents and gave my family their presents. They immediately changed into their very adorable new clothes.

Mira was particularly enthralled with her Moana figurines and Elsa and Ana dolls. I don't think she could have been more pleased. Ina played with her Legos and art set all weekend. Cora has not put her baby Marie down. (When we were on the cruise, Cora agonized over which baby Disney stuffed animal she should pick with her allotted spending money- Lady or Marie. She stood there forever, holding both of them and not wanting to leave the store with just one, but finally decided on Lady. Imagine her surprise when my cousin Ashley sent her Marie for Christmas. She literally squealed, "Its Marie! Now her and Lady can be together again!")

After we were full of presents, cinnamon rolls, and then pizza that Dan ordered, we headed to my brother and sister-in-law's house to celebrate my nephew's birthday with ice cream and cake. The kids loved playing with their cousins and I sat down and talked to my sister for a few hours.

Looking back, it probably wasn't the best idea to take my highly sugared and low on sleep children to a very fancy and full Christmas party that our dear friends were throwing.

But we did, and things went downhill fast and hit rock bottom when I tried to get a family picture. But not before Cora answered the door to Santa and Mrs. Claus.

We regrouped by watching (and thoroughly enjoying) The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. 

Sunday morning the snow started and didn't stop until dark, but we didn't let that spoil our plans! Ina went to "big church" with us to watch her little sisters sing and then a few good friends get baptized!

Then we drove to The Champs house for chili and a sock gift exchange.

School was snowed out on Monday and Tuesday, but work was not, so the girls went to Nonnie's house while I worked from home. I realize how blessed I am that both options are available to me and am reminded of how thankful I am for my current place in life.

After work, the snow called for lots of round of snow fights, snow angels, and a less than enthusiastic attempt at snowman building before we gave up and went inside for hot chocolate, which Mira calls, "chocolate coffee tea."

Wednesday was Ina's dance team Christmas party, where she exchanged presents with her dance buddies. One of the teachers told me that she wished she could watch Ina open presents all day long because she has the best and most enthusiastic reactions to every single one.

Today was my last day of work for this year and I have a mostly fun and stress free few weeks ahead.

On the fun schedule:
- Helping some friends move
- Celebrating Chessa's birthday
-Meeting a dear friend for coffee
-Going to Grandma Frankie's house for Christmas Eve
- Going to my sister's house for Christmas.

On the to-do list:
- Wrap presents. Like, all of them.
- Buy stocking stuffers. Why do I always put this off until the last minute?
- Purge the toy room.
- Organize my office to pave the way for a successful 2020!

Recipes to share:

The best cinnamon rolls we made last week would be great for Christmas morning.

Curried Cabbage (added ground beef and it was delicious)

That chicken - with the hash and added roasted sweet potatoes. Make this now. Trust me, you need some kale in your life this week. Expect to see this every other week for most of 2020.

Easy cranberry margaritas. I am going to go ahead and say, you're welcome.

Just in case you were wondering what I am bringing for my Christmas contributions:

Cuban sandwiches (just go ahead and make the rolls won't regret it)

My (and the internet's) favorite salted shortbread chocolate chunk cookies

Marinated cheese (trying a new recipe)

...and my favorite kale salad - using 1/2 kale, 1/2 lettuce, Parmesan cheese, roasted garbonzo beans using this method, and this Cesar dressing. The best.

I hope you have a ridiculously Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Out Gallivanting

Cora has taken to telling me lately, "My hair isn't red. It is golden brown."

I hope this isn't a sign she is starting to dislike her hair, because its fiery brightness and her matching personality are my absolute favorite things about my favorite middle child.

Also, just to document a few other things she has said lately:

"Mom, where do you think we can buy Frosty's magic hat? I want one!"

"We have to get a new baby because Mira is going to live with Nonnie. He will be in your belly and I will name him Jesus."

Since we last talked I joined my friend Brooke as her +1 for her company's ugly sweater Christmas party because her husband was out of town. They played a fun murder mystery game to start the party off, which I found quite entertaining.

While I was gone Dan and the girls lived their best lives by eating pizza rolls for dinner and watching Robin Hood on Disney+.

Then Saturday was Ina and Cora's (5 hour) Christmas dance recital rehearsal for the real deal on Sunday.

Ina is practically a pro by now and required almost zero help/supervision/make up touch-ups from me after her initial visit to "Momma's Boutique."

They both don't like having their hair done, so I blasted some Christmas music in my bathroom, let them touch all of my make up that is typically off limits, and told them they could pick out their eye shadow color.

Cora did a great job for the first dance and her desire to return on stage drastically declined with each additional four occurrences.

There were minimal tears and candy bribes, which I consider a win compared to last year.

Unfortunately, I did sort of talk back to/argue with another dance mom, but two seconds later ran back to apologize profusely. Over and over again. I might try to call her today just to make sure she believes I am sorry. Who am I?

Ina's class sang and danced to Jingle Bell Rock and then had a short appearance in the closing number.

Cora's class danced to a Mickey Mouse version of Jingle Bells and were the cutest when they each had the own set of bells to shake around.

Ina and Cora were most excited to see all of our friends and family who came to watch them sing and dance. Ten years ago, if you would have told me that my dad, brother, and grandpa would sit through a dance recital, I would have laughed until I cried, but I am so thankful to say they attend multiple of these things a year.

When Ina's kindergarten teacher (from last year!) walked through the door, I ran backstage to tell Ina, who gushed with excitement over and over again. I have always been so thankful for teachers, but I had no idea how much more thankful I would be when I see them loving on my babies like they were their own.

After the first show a few friends and family stopped by the house in between shows for some of Dan's chili and watching thirty minutes of the Chiefs game before it was time to head back and do it all over again.

Once again I am continued to be blown away with gratitude for our village and the love and support that surround our family.

Monday night I went with some friends to a wine dinner, which was more than fabulous.

Each course was paired with delicious wine and my favorite by far was the roasted mushroom lemon couscous salad. I will be trying to recreate that dish ASAP. I also met some new people and enjoyed the adult female conversation.

While I was "out gallivanting" (as Dan likes to say), Cora had her last dance class of the season and Ina started her first ever basketball practice. When my saint of a sister said she was coaching Hallaway's 1st and 2nd grade team, we immediately signed Ina up. Never mind the fact that practice is 40 minutes away from home and we don't really have any free nights on our calendar. Time will be created and dinners will be eaten in the car for the opportunity to see Ina play with her cousin.

I woke up this morning with last night's makeup still on and earrings still in after only a few hours of sleep and slowly made my way through this morning's workout at the gym. Sometimes something is better than nothing.

I have spent a lot of time away from home being out with friends or transporting children and my house is a little worse for the wear. But, I have to get my life together because things are happening this weekend. We have some family coming from out of town this weekend, three Christmas parties to attend, and the little girls sing in church, so lots of things to look forward to. I hope you are enjoying your December!

A recipe to try: Creamy Tortellini Soup - so rich and past-y, but one bowl is all you need to be so happy you made it.

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