Happy New Year! Christmas review

Well, guess I’m out of the ‘post every day of the year’ game.   I’ve been out the odyssey that is Christmas and this year we decided to drive.  It is a loooong drive and not that long a break but I think it was worth it for the freedom having a car gives.

We got home last night around 5pm local and I thanked my past self for leaving a tidy house and also a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs.  That plus a decent pantry and freezer means we could make dinner last night and breakfast today without leaving the house.  I was in bed and asleep by 9:30pm and I needed it.

For future me who wonders what we did this particular Christmas trip, and, any of you all that like the details of things going on in other peoples worlds, here are the highlights;

  • Drive to NY was as planned.  Picked up kids 20min early from school to avoid the pickup rush and got to South Bend Indiana by 11ish.  We found a dog-friendly hotel that was way better than expectations because it not only had a set of queen beds, it also had a pullout that Niamh claimed with a speed that would set records.  Not the best night sleep ever because Prima was at loose ends and wanted to sleep on me (and I don’t like that) but she got us up by 7:30 so we got back on the road fast.

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    On the road!

  • Day 2 – also Driving – we found ourselves very ahead of things and looking at a going through the new york city traffic at peak time and it was looking bad.  No point in speeding toward a traffic jam so we hit the internet and pinged a friend about meeting up for dinner.  It was a great solution and we got to see two friends from college and finally meet their son and their dogs.  They have greyhounds, the only dog (before Prima) that I really liked.  Blessings upon Facebook and the relationships we have maintained because instead of bumper to bumper gridlock we had pizza with friends in Eastern PA.  We crossed the bridges and got to my parents at the time I estimated from the start and happily put kids to bed.
  • Day 3 – In NY and Miss Math stopped by and we all went to see another friend and her new baby.  I also went to see my Grandmother, one of the reasons we had to make this trip happen.  She truly isn’t herself but you visit those you love and offer the service you can.
  • Day 4 – Christmas Eve – eve – my sister arrives from Texas!  All thought of griping about my length of travel is squashed in light of her trip that is 1/3 further.  A solid 3-day drive where ours is more than 1 but less than 2.  All the kids mixed together and disappeared into the house and our youngest sister joined in with her 2 and it was a fun sleepover night.img_4894
  • Day 5 – Christmas Eve propper – we all settled into creating the holiday with wrapping, last min gift shopping and stocking stuffing.  Most of us went to church and occupied a block of seats and for the first time in ages all the kids were good enough that I could actually listen.  There may have been bribes… but they worked.  Holiday days are always hard to have go ‘right’ because of so many mixed expectations of all the different people involved but this one went well.img_4904
  • Day 6 – Christmas!  Everyone together makes quite the joyous noise.  Our kids loved everything, there was minor drama but nothing out of the ordinary.  Josie and her family arrived later to make Christmas part 2 and dinner was handled completely by people other than me so it was wonderful.  Post dinner when kids were nearly in bed extended family came over for Christmas part 3.  My rocks were well received and I left choices up to them and Lars was pretty happy his compass rose was the first pick.  In the ‘lull’ between gifts and dinner, Lars and I visited all my dad’s boats.  He is building a fleet and I can see what he sees in the newest.  Boat builders are so clever, there are endless great little space saving and making tricks.
  • Day 7 – The Texas cousins went off to visit their other grandparents and the timing was quite good.  They all had fun together and didn’t get to the point of fighting with each other.  We had fun with new toys and then headed over to see the extended family at the boxing day party.  I didn’t actually get to see 100% of my relations but pretty close.
  • Day 8 – Adventure in NYC.  My parents were probably defended by the silence since we were ALL away for the day, even the local sister had plans with inlaws who were getting ready to snowbird.  We drove in and met friends and saw a great magic show and then had a fancy dinner.  The kids held it all together very well for the cold and odd hours for eating and impressed me with their ability to navigate fine dining in the city.  The day went too fast but all of a sudden it was nearly 11 and we had to go or the parking guy would keep our car.  img_4959img_4961img_4965
  • Day 9 – Miss Math had a death in her family so I was able to help a tiny bit by watching her kids while she did the wake.  Earlier in the day, I was able to meet up with another Highschool friend and see her new house.  She said she walked in and immediately made an offer and I totally see why it is a great house.  Our kids all played, the dogs sniffed each other a lot, and we chatted about this and that.  Seeing friends like this make me miss living locally.  I have great friends here for sure, but, the shared history is something you can’t forget.
  • Day 10 – Cousins expected back in the house after lunch so before lunch we did the funeral mass, visited Grandy to say good-bye,  and lots of laundries starting the uninstall process.  The friend with the baby came over to see us and generally fun at home day.  I didn’t get very far with packing but with no flight to catch our leave time was approximate.
  • Day 11 – Crazy morning with all the kids (including local sister crew).  Got up early because it was one of those days that needed to start early.  I packed between visits and I’m really glad I saw everyone.  The end was a rush and some things were forgotten but we had to get on the road to make it to see Lars’s family for their big gathering.  This is a party we have missed every year either because we weren’t told when it was, or, we didn’t have a car to get there.  It made the trip longer but it was really nice to actually meet the majority of the Lars cousins, and, we got to spend a little time with his brother.  I could rant about the people who looked pained at being there and left asap because to them, the family is always there and they absolutely take it for granted.  Instead, I choose to remember the people in the family that went above and beyond to welcome back the lost cousin and his family (and dog).

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    All sorts of family, so much family!

  • Day 11.5 – this deserves its own bullet because we made plans to stay over with another old friend from PA.  These were friends we used to see weekly or more frequently and we were in their wedding.  Drift happens when everyone gets busy with building businesses (them) and families (us) but when we got there it was like no time passed.  Their house was also FANTASTIC.  I remember them building but never saw more than a few pictures but the original house is created by an artist and it shows and THEN they kept going and have added rooms that are worthy of a movie set.  For people with no kids the house was pretty good for kids, maybe without kids, you get to just stay young?  We stayed up far too late but I woke up rested since it was just that comfortable a house
  • Day 12 – New Year’s Eve – breakfast with our friend and a friend of his was a great way to start out trip home.  We headed out at noon and our goal was Indiana for the night.  We discussed trying to push further but with our late night, we decided to just make reservations at the same hotel again since we should make it there by 10. Enough time to settle the kids and do something of a NYE countdown.  About 10 min before our exit we drove into a whiteout snowstorm and I am extremely happy we had reservations, and, that we only had to drive a few miles in the storm.  We got everyone in and settled easier than ever and did a Netflix countdown at 11pm EST to ring out the new year.  I was asleep by midnight local time but we did midnight somewhere…
  • Day 13 – up and out and past the carnage of the snow storm.  The roads were decent but slow and on either side of the road were cars and trucks in the ditch.  Some were new, some from last night, every single mile I felt lucky that we avoided it.  All the typical boring drive stuff for the next 8 hours but the kids were decent and the dog was chill and we made it home without incident.

 

I feel like the moral of this trip is that friendships don’t expire.  Every time we made plans with someone we hadn’t seen in ages it was nerve-wracking for a moment and then as soon as we saw them everything was great.  True friends are true.  I’m sincere in my offers to all of them to come visit and I hope sometime someone does!

This ended up long but that is how 13 days recap is.  I was never bored, I never got to read my book, we didn’t look at a TV for 13 days.  I think we did our best to see as many as we could but I always wish I could see everyone.  We kept everyone fed but bedtimes and reading practice and workouts were cut from the list so now we have to reestablish a normal routine.  Today I just let everyone wake up when they wanted, we ate, we had our final Christmas and I have to say the kids choose well for each other.  We unpacked, we are taking it easy because tomorrow we start up life here again.

 

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Home mini christmas

 

I hope you all had a productive or restful or fun or all of the above over the holiday week, can’t wait to see what we do in 2018.

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Dashing through the snow…

Today we GO!

(lets not talk about when we get there…)

I have spent the past few days chipping away at the pile of things that need to be done as well as getting in a few things that would be harder to do later.  My NOT procrastination totally paid off because Lars and I were in HomeDepot, the 6th shop for the day, on a fact-finding mission about suites of appliances and we happened to see a fridge-sized box with a price tag of $160.  I dismissed it, figuring it was some odd special thing or something that needed to be part of a larger, much more expensive, system.  The sales lady just mentioned to us “hey, you guys need a fridge?” and we are like “um… yes?”  Apparently, the warehouse missed this one and now it had to GO because they couldn’t inventory it anymore (or some such inventory reason) so we got a fridge originally priced $860 for $160.  We have been working with our tiny fridge in the garage for extra milk but this will be way better.  I see it as our reward for #1 checking out appliance prices for the house months in advance and #2 already have a clean car ready for travel that all we had to do was move car seats.  #3 I just happened to have organized my ‘car bin’ of useful things including tie-down straps AND put it back in the car that day so we were able to fit the fridge in, and, tie the back gate down since it was just a little longer than our cargo area.

Don’t you just love a deal?!?

At this point, I have lists about my lists but we are near the end of them all.  All trip stuff and clothing is assembled and job #1 today is to pack.  People talk about ‘packing’ like putting things into a bag is hard, that is the easy bit – finding all the things you want for 5 people and a dog is the hard part.  There is one load of laundry to do, final dishwasher load to run for today’s things.  I need to make up the guest room for the house sitter but since we have guests often that is an easy thing.  Books reserved at the library for pickup, food ready for prep for the trip.  Lots to do but I’m in the last bit and positioned well.  Thank you yesterday self for NOT falling into the new book you just downloaded and have waited for a year, You can read that tomorrow as a reward.

Teacher and friend gifts are ready for delivery, already delivered, or ready for when we get back.img_4884

 

I think I’ve completed all the things I NEED for Christmas and I packed supplies for cooking and final projects at my parents.  Driving may mean 2x travel time but it also means I can bring more ‘stuff’.  The kids are so used to a second Christmas when we return that they asked about it so we made the decision that all the things that the kids picked for each other and us can stay for mini Christmas.

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Kid wrapped gifts under the tree ready for mini Christmas!

I’m writing this at 7:30 in the morning and our go time is 3:30 so I have time to do what I need to do as well as go to my birthday massage appointment.  I’m getting in the spirit here, things are looking good.  This is the first year in YEARS my sisters will both be at my parents so I’m excited to see everyone. I hope to avoid the panic of leaving last minute and so far so good.  Time to get breakfast, school lunch, kids to school.  T-7h to takeoff.

 

Happy Birthday to me!

I’m now a whole year older but you want to know something funny, I’ve accidentally been telling people I was 38 for months because somehow in the birthday blitz of the summer where every other person in my house has a birthday, I just gave myself an honorary year.  So, I feel younger today, I get to re-do 6 months of 38.   This error in memory was found by a friend who is a Feb birthday in the same year and he insisted that he was 38 so I was 37 and I was pretty sure he was wrong because he just had a baby (really the wife, but, team effort of not sleeping) but nope, he was right.

Most years I have a ton of fun planned for the day.  With a birthday a week before Christmas, if you don’t make your own fun, it gets lost in the holiday crazy.  This year I just didn’t have plans.  The universe was helping me out because last night Fiona was up at 3am with a runny nose that kept her awake and the school nurse called about 10 min after school started so she is home with me.  Really, my plan for the day was to do the normal Monday and maybe go to the gym so having a Fiona just means I will schedule in some extra snuggle time instead of a workout.

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I did benefit from older children today though.  I remember birthdays when they were little that they didn’t know and/or care that it was ‘my’ day, they still wanted their mom 110%.  Today my oldest woke up early and made me breakfast brownies.  Opening your door to the scent of brownies is a beautiful thing.  They also succeeded in keeping a big gift secret from me.  That would have never been possible in the past and this morning I got to open an actual surprise birthday gift of an Apple watch.  Perfect timing because my Fitbit has broken for the final time…

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The day is going to be full of relaxing, finishing a few little projects, and reading all the nice birthday notes from facebook (and my normal Monday laundry, need clean Gis for JuJitsu)

The softness that comes in time

All my life I had known that the stereotype of ‘grandma’ included soft edges, kind words, endless encouragement, and cookies.

My grandmother, who we call Grandy, was basically none of these things.  She was always game to read a book to us and I remember sitting in laps long long ago, her encouragement was more in the form of challenge, her kind words were rare but insight or conversation was common and I learned more about avoiding sugar than eating it from her because she is a diabetic who gets sugar rage when it is out of control. She would hold us all to an internal standard and was not afraid to call us out and if you chose to fight about it she was up for a fight, often at volume.  She was a teacher, a mover and shaker, a businesswoman and the person who taught me first lessons about finance and investing (at probably 5).  There was time for us, when we fit in, because she was the glorious center of her solar system.  She loved us without question, wanted the best and helped push us all toward her vision of ‘the best’.

Every so often I wished I could have that soft grandmother figure but I was always proud of the grandmother I had.

Today I realized I have a soft grandmother now.  She is rounded around the edges. The fight is a flicker.  She may still be fiesty with aids but it is more petulant then defiant.  I talk and she listens and I know she loves me but she isn’t hearing me anymore. I’ve called every week for years and at one time I could talk to her for hours and these days she can only hold the conversation for a few minutes.  He voice is softer, her words are softer and I worry that it isn’t just a bad day anymore.

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4 year old picture – If I put a picture up now she would kill me

 

Suddenly Christmas is in 2 weeks

How does this happen to me every year?  I feel like there is ages to go and then suddenly it is crunch time.

I got the Christmas cards created, printed, address updated and printed, stamps and all in the mail.  I must say that Avery templates have gotten really good.  I used them to make super cute return address labels and they printed out so much easier than using the mail merge.

We have completed our holiday craft item.  I’m experimenting with essential oil sprays and settled on 2 – one full of anti bug stuff to repel anything crawly, and, the other is just good smelling and with the high alcohol content it is really good at taking the smell out of non-washable things.  We did a very scientific test – we took Lars’s riding gloves that are full of years worth of hand sweat and sprayed one and not the other and then got everyone who came over to do a sniff test.  I think we actually did it because while the experimental glove never exactly got to smell ‘good’ it no longer smelled bad and the control was found every time.  More credit to Avery for their printable templates.  I buy the labels and go online and super easily create the perfect size graphics.  I got the kids to do the drawings and I uploaded and tweaked them to fit and I’m happy with the results.

I’m in the middle of the sewing project for the kids.  This year I’m inspired by the fact that they constantly steal all the living room blankets and find ways to tie them onto themselves as capes or dresses or disguises…  I decided to make each of them a cloak with a hood out of a blanket BUT they have built-in scarf/tie to make them easy to keep on AND little hand pockets on the edge that can either be for better wing shape, or, putting things into.  I wish I had a loner kid to test the design, I can’t wait to give it to them!

 

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modeled by Good Girl Puppy who is about the same size as Fiona’s head and torso.  Note the paw pocket on the right. 

 

Decorations are on the scant side this year.  We put a bunch of them into storage and I don’t know where they are.  The 2 boxes we kept out did have some of the most important ornaments and there is enough to look festive overall.  It did hower prompt a Dad-joke.

Lars – “look there is a bare spot”

Me – “where, I thought we found enough to look pretty good”

Lars – “right here” lol

Me – eye roll and laugh, I do love a good bad joke.

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I’m glad the major projects are winding down and the decorations are all up (rather than in totes around the house waiting) so the house can get back to a mostly clean status.  I was reluctant to put up the tree given the ornament situation and that we are always away for actual Christmas.  However, all three kids have remarked on how much they love it and how magical it is that I’m glad we did it.  One bonus to not having our decorations – we had to go get new lights and we finally found a solution to our White v Color lights situation.  Target had lights that are BOTH!  and also LED so I don’t feel bad leaving them on for maximum magical moments.  Even being woken up by a 2am nosebleed is more magical when gently lit by a Christmas tree.

 

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color

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white

 

This is my last full week in MN for the year – next week is my birthday and then we take off for the holiday to return sometime near newyears (not totally planned).  I hope to do the gift rationalization where I go investigate my hidden stashes and see what I need to finish up.  That is my plan for the rest of today before kid time, just wanted to hop online to see how the blog world is doing.

Dress for cheap = cheap

We have all seen the super inexpensive sites with cute dresses or coats for unbelievable prices.  You know there is a catch.  There is always a catch….

When I saw this one though I was hooked.  It was the A-line, it was the cool top, and the real reason I forked over the price of 3 coffees was the fabric.  I wanted it for Christmas and it has been ages since I got a dress for an occasion so I took the risk.

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Note!  I have done some research on this topic, I’m not the first person to take a risk and so I learned from others that the sizes are very very very different.  I zoomed in on the size chart and found myself ordering an XL as that best correlated to my 6-8 American size.

I also know that shipping is slow but since I was seeing this two weeks before Thanksgiving I crossed my fingers and hoped it would arrive before Christmas travel.

  • It arrived yesterday, about a month later but in plenty of time
  • Right out of the package it needed an iron but otherwise, construction was decent.  Finished seams and the zipper worked.
  • Fabric was as cute as I hoped, very pleased with the print.

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The real test was fit.  I tried it on and it was both too big and too small at the same time.

I absolutely had to do some tailoring on the sides so I didn’t even bother taking a picture of it on me before I took out 2 inches on each side because instead of the hourglass shape in the model picture, mine was more of a cylinder with a pleated skirt.  Trimming in the sides did  make it better, I solved the ‘too big’ issue in just a few seams.

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black lines are where I pulled it in.

So here you see it.  It isn’t ‘bad’ but it sure isn’t good.img_4744

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Do you see where my hands are? They are on my natural waist, about where the skirt should be…  it isn’t.  It is two inches or more off and it makes the proportions of the top look wrong to me (and to the other people who saw it on me).  It looks frumpy and even if I carved out another inch or so to make it actually tight I can’t fix the length of my top.

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The second odd situation is the bust area.  I like the way the structure looks (still needs an iron) but it too high for my chest.  Ironically if I pull it down to be in the right spot for my chest then the waist is closer to correct but it is impossible to actually make it stay like that.  Maybe the shoulders are wrong?  If I added length to the shoulder then the armhole would be so big you could see my entire bra.  The armhole is actually the only thing that is about perfect.

I think the only way to salvage is to chop the top off and have a cute skirt with adorable fabric.  This is a test shot with the top folded down.  While I’m at it, I might shorten it a touch to be knee length instead of tea length but I’ll see about that later.  Since I’m cutting and sewing already I’ll probably add pockets.

In the end, I’ll end up with a skirt I can probably wear more frequently than once a year for Christmas but I’ll also have put in the time to make it happen.  I do like that it already has a zipper, that is my least favorite part and if someone said that they would do the zipper on a skirt for me for the price of 3 coffees I would absolutely do that.

I think I learned my lesson on internet cheap dresses.  Unless I’m looking at it for the fabric, it is not worth the price regardless how low it is.