Sunday, December 23, 2007

Memories that stay in your head

Yesterday was one of the funnest days!
My friends, Dave and Tara, wanted to go to the big city to do their Christmas shopping, so I volunteered to watch their four kids for the day.
A lot of fun can happen with six kids.
We started the day by building a fort out of blankets, chairs and the broom.We read Christmas stories inside our fort.
Then we did wax art. You light candles, hold the crayons over the candle and then drip it on the paper. I have tons of Christmas stencils--the kind from the fake snow you put on the windows--and we had so much fun creating our pictures.
Josiah, the five year old, said,"This is fun. I like fire. My name means the "fire of God", so fire and I are a good match."
Quick lesson and reminder on fire safety and no playing with matches.
Lunch came without much fanfare and after it we had 15 minutes of quiet time while I put my Brie for a nap and little Hannah for a nap.
Time to make a gingerbread house! We followed the instructions and played hot potato with squishing the premade icing in the bag for 60 seconds. Then we "glued" the house with the icing. Naomi, the four year old, got the icing bag as we were erecting the walls and poured some directly in her mouth.
Then we played the Eye Spy Christmas book game while we waited for the house to settle. Everyone was having fun until everyone found the thimble before Anne. She loudly declared "I hate all of you and I'm never gonna be your friends again." She stormed off in a huff. Five minutes later, she was back. As she approached the group, Abby, the eight year old, asked Anne if she was ready to forgive them. "Never, but I still want to play."
The timer went off and we headed back to the gingerbread house. Thinking that the house was actually ready to decorate, I started layering on the icing while Abby divvied up the candy. Then the house collapsed. We iced it back into position, set the timer and played Eye Spy book. We did this three more times before the house remained standing. Everyone dumped their candies on the house.
Abby said,"Wait, we need a mint for the house. My Dad loves mints." Everyone had already eaten theirs and there was one left--only slightly licked by Naomi. Abby said,"This one will work. It's for my Dad and we're family, so germs are ok to share." So, on went the slightly licked mint.
Then the roof slid off the house and the walls caved in. Abby, the oldest of the kids, made an executive decision-"Let's just eat this thing." And,so, that's what we did.
After that, the napping toddlers were awake and we attempted a game of Candyland that ended with everyone yelling at eachother that they were never going to be friends again.
To cool everyone off, I decided to bring the snow inside. We got two huge ice cream pails filled with show and set them on the kiddie table.
"What happens when we mix paint and snow?" Josiah asked. So, we hauled out the paints and found out what happens to snow when you mix it with every paint colour you have (it turns black). We continued our experiment with observing what happens to snow when we added many glasses of water (black paint splashes all over the floor).
I set the kids to the living room to dance and Josiah helps me mop up the floor.
A fight breaks out and there's a stomping of feet and proclamations of, "Yeah, well, if you don't say I'm the best then I'm never gonna be your friend again." And on it goes.
Five minutes later, everyone was friends again as we did Colour Resist painting. Out came the crayons and watercolour paints as we painted different winter scenes.
And then, with dinner only an hour away, we had to do what we had to do. On came the ski jackets, and out came the silver bells. I lit a candle inside the hand held lantern for Josiah who, I was reminded, means "fire of God". And then off to our neighbours to sing the one song everyone knew the words to-Jingle Bells.
Oh, the fun of Christmas carolling. What a blast, as we knocked on our neighbours doors and their warm light covered us on the porch.Naomi rang the bells, Annie played the whistle, little Hannah banged the tambourine, Josiah swayed with the brightly shining candle lantern and we all belted out Jingle Bells. The neighbours smiled, cheered the kids, and Merry Christmas rang out to everyone. Once home, Josiah summed it up best. "That was good. I liked that. We made people feel happy. They were smiling." So were we.
Dinner consisted of a brilliant meal of chicken nuggets and mac and cheese. As Josiah ate by the candles, he asked if he could roast his chicken over the flames. Ah, why not? I showed him how close he could get to the flame and we agreed, after some debate, that four inches from the flame was a good comprimise. Dinner consisted of Josiah roasting everyone's chicken, which, as he explained it, made sense since he name did mean "fire of God".
Pajamas, clean up and a bowl of freshly made popcorn brought us to movie time where we set up the tent in the living room and popped in "The Polar Express". All the lights went off except for the myriad of Christmas lights I have in the house.
We watched the magical story of believing and Christmas dreaming and the gift of friendship.
And bedtime approached quickly. Annie and Naomi snuggled up in Anne's bed. Apparently, one of them had admitted that the other ws the best because they were friends again. Brie and Hannah were put in the crib and play pen respectively. And Abby got to sleep in the tent...only after I coaxed Josiah out of it and onto the couch-with the promise that I would light a taper candle in the living room for him to watch as he fell asleep. He agreed that this was a good idea, "After all," he said, "my name does mean fire of God."
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

For Jenny...

The Christmas pic I didn't send...our "artsy" family picture

A night with Miss Iz

My friend Inez came over last night. She is our adopted family member.
Peter and I love adopting college students, feeding them, encouraging them, hanging out and hearing about the drama of learning to live life on your own. Our family gets bigger every year! And Inez is as quirky and crazy as the rest of us, so she fits in perfectly.
Here's some things Inez and I learned last night:
*Jesus is the best (naturally, this is a given. But when you really look at what He's done in your life the past year, you come to the conclusion that "Jesus is the best")
*When it comes to decorating sugar cookies, there is no such thing as too much icing or sprinkles
*Foam gingerbread houses can be finicky--nothing a bottle of glue can't fix
*You can't have pizza without cheese
* You can't go wrong with a Jack Johnson song
*Soy products offer Noel Nog...because egg nog just wouldn't make sense
*The Nanny Diaries is a movie worth skipping
*Jesus is the best (Again, some truths are obvious but bear repeating)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Happy Birthday to Brie...belated

My baby girl is two!

Time has whipped by and I'm here holding two years worth of wonderful memories. My daughter Brienda is nicknamed Sunnybear. She has the sunniest disposition in the world. She wakes up and says, "Oh, hi!" She lies on the floor and extends her arms and hands and says,"I'mflyin'!" She is very polite and almost always says,"Thank you, Ma-ma." And when she is in one of her two year old moods instead of saying "no", her eyebrows come down, her lip pouts out, she waves her hand and says,"Never!"

She is complete and total sugar. Thank you God for the sunshine that my daughter brings.

Monday, December 10, 2007

PIkku Joulaa (That's Finnish for "Little Christmas" and Diva-ese for the "Gong Show Continues!")

Ahhh, traditions. Aren't they a wonderful part of Christmas?
This year I was adamant to create some sort of Christmas tradition including my heritage: Finnish roots!
We already have a little Finnish tradition in our advent celebrations-we open our gifts on Christmas Eve and our stockings on Christmas morning. But I wanted something a little more. I remembered that Pikku Joulaa is celebrated in the first week of advent-so I decided to do a smaller, less elaborate version of Pikku Joulaa.
This was the plan:
Invite Grandma Jill over to join us for a traditional Finnish meal of Mojakka (stew) and rice pudding with prune and raisin soppa (sauce). Make Finnish ice candles and decorate our tree together while singing Christmas carols (all in English because I don't have any Finnish music)
This is what actually happened:
**Jill helped make the rice pudding and soppa as I had to walk Annie's little friend home. Failed to mention that it was brown rice that Jill would have to work with and that she should boil it longer than the recipe suggested. It took over two hours to cook and still had quite a delicate crunch--this was after the attempts of cooking it on the stove top, in the oven and in the microwave.
**We take out the Finnish ice candle from it's mold and with great jubilation dance about rejoicing that it is all in one piece and has not broken. Anne is given the honour of lighting the first candle and we place it outside to send a warm and friendly glow to our neighbours. We also decide to put on our outside lights--which need to be plugged in from the inside since we have no outdoor plug--the door won't shut. This doesn't bode well. We compromise and have the door as shut as it can be and stuff towels around the open orifice trying to squelch any hopes of the cold air coming in.
**I had planned on making fish mojakka but when Peter got home after a full day and saw that he would have to clean the fish (rainbow trout) scales, head and all he opted out of cooking preparations--which left Jill and I to decapitate and de-scale the fish. New solution: Downgrade dinner to a meal of milk potatoes and fresh cut veggies. Is it Finnish? I don't know--both my Finnish grandmothers would make it for me so there's always the possibility
**Jill and I congratulate on how scrumptious the prune and raisin soppa looks and set it to simmer. Put the milk potatoes to boil as it is time to set the tree up!
**Peter wrestles with the tree stand for 10 minutes and abandons hope in search of some hot cider to settle the nerves. Jill decides to tackle the tree and untangles the lights....for ten minutes! Peter and Jill threaten...ahem...agree that my light fetish needs to be scaled back. To quote Jill when I agreed to two strands of lights : "Quick, Peter, take it. You aren't going to get a deal like that again...maybe not for years!"
**Forgot to watch the milk potatoes, milk evaporates into soft curds. With this knowledge Jill whispers to me the cooking secret her mother told her: "What the eyes never see, the heart doesn't grieve over." We decide to keep the disaster to ourselves and add more milk. Set to simmer.
**Jill and Peter join forces and try to set up the tree. They decide that someone needs to invent an Acme tree stand that is in the cartoons-you open the box and it's all set up. The tree finally stands while Anne announces that she has just found a new use for the scissors and Brienda chucks an ornament across the room. It falls and breaks. It's broken pieces lay scattered in Anne's newest creation--her My Little Pony Barber shop! The ponies have just undergone radical hairdo's!
**With the tree half-standing-half being held up by the corner of the wall, we eat our meal of twice cooked milk potatoes. Everyone is ravenously hunger, as the hour is late, and no one notices the milk curds until the end. Time for dessert...thrice cooked rice pudding with--oh no--simmered-too-long soppa sauce. I forgot to turn the sauce off--all evidence of liquid has evaporated leaving a thick mess of prunes and raisins. Oh well, everyone eats up. Peter dodges the crunchy rice, while Jill and I compliment eachother. "Allie, this sauce is delicious and perfectly made."
"Why Jill, this rice has almost a nut-type texture to it. Well done!"
Anne pipes up,"Hey, not bad."
And Brie throws rice across the table.
**Nearing two hours past their bed time and a half-empty box of chocolates eaten the girls start to dance and jump around...and Brie throws an ornament across the room. It's time to put the ornaments on the tree. Anne goes first, followed by Grandma Jill and Brie. Everyone places their favourite ones on and whatever ones they happen to catch as Brie launches them across the room. Grandma Jill places her special ornament on. Then the girls finish trimming the tree with their special daughter and Dad tradition: taping Hershy kisses onto all the branches.
Stepping back, we all wait with baited breath as the tree is lit. It would seem that my light fetish has paid off.
The room twinkles and sparkles as we sit and laugh about best intentions for the evening. We say, "Merry Christmas" and duck as Brienda finds an ornament on a low branch and hurls it across the room.
Houska Joulaa!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Yahoo! Advent calendars open up today!

Hooray! It's December 1st.
As soon as my girls woke up and came to our bed for a cuddle I was whispering to them about the surprise that awaited them in the living room.
"What is it?" SuperGirl asked, wide-eyed.
"Come see, girls," Daddy said.
They raced out to the couch and ta-da! There they found there pocket calendars, complete with a scripture to read for today, a winter activity that we all do today and, of course, a little treat--misty mints!
We are all very excited as today's activity is to decorate the house. Everyone has their own little jobs and excitement is in the air!
Crank up the Christmas tunes!

Today's Favourite Carol: The First Noel