Monday, December 31, 2012

December 2012 Videos

New Year's Eve

We attended the annual "It's Midnight Somewhere" family New Year's Eve party hosted by a good friend.  After a potluck supper, the highlight of the evening is always the countdown and release of confetti setting on top of the ceiling fan blades.  And the noisemakers.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

6 years + 2 months

It is appropriate that Emily's picture this month is taken in pajamas since that's pretty much the only thing she wore while home for Christmas break.  She spent hours and hours taking apart, reassembling and role playing with her growing Lego Friends collection.  It has been a great source of imaginative entertainment for her.

The holiday season was quite a learning experience for Emily this year.  In school music class she learned a lot about Hanukkah.  She asked a lot of questions at home and even made her own menorah.  I have absolutely no problem with her learning about the traditions and history of a Jewish holiday at school.  I do, however, find it a little annoying (and hypocritical) that it's fine to do a unit on Hanukkah, mention Kwanzaa and spend three weeks learning Christmas "carols" about Santa, jingle bells, snowmen and reindeer for an all-school "Santa Sing-along," but not a single mention or note was uttered on anything remotely Christian related.  I don't really fault the school.  I just consider it a sad commentary on our current culture and society.

The other major thing Emily learned this month is that Santa isn't real.  We have never talked about or played up the whole Santa thing, and she has always been somewhat skeptical when the topic came up in the past.  They never mentioned it in preschool.  Exposure in Kindergarten got her thinking, though.  She badgered us about it for weeks, trying all sorts of sneaky angles (including revealing her contrived plan to use the video monitor to spy on the stockings all night).  I tried to remain vague and non-committal without outright lying.  Finally, I asked her if she wanted to really know the truth.

We had a talk about the story of the real St. Nicholas and how the legend of Santa Claus came out of that.  We didn't talk about the whole naughty/nice/being good thing because that part really irritates me--sorry all "Elf on the Shelf" fans, but I had to get that off my chest.  That thing is just plain creepy.  We did, however, talk about the joy of secret giving and random acts of kindness.  The kids did get small things in their stockings this year on Dec. 27 with no real mention of Santa.  Emily & I discussed starting a tradition of leaving secret presents for each other in our stockings in future years.  We also talked about how other families have fun traditions that include Santa Claus, and it wasn't our job to tell them if that was right or wrong (in other words, don't be the kid who ruins another kid's Christmas by blabbing about how Santa isn't real).  Emily was satisfied and actually seemed a little relieved about the whole thing.  Now she's contemplating the tooth fairy...

**Side note** I have begun to realize how much influence the outside world has on our kids.  Lincoln has mentioned the idea of "Santa" way more than Emily ever has.  Yes, there are lots of innocent, heart-warming books (The Polar Express has convinced Lincoln but actually caused Emily to doubt), and you can't miss the image of Santa around Christmastime.  I think the thing that annoys me the most, though, is when people (in absolute, complete innocence) ask the kids what Santa is going to bring them or if Santa was good to them or what they got from Santa.  It's always an awkward moment because Lincoln doesn't completely understand the concept since we don't practice it at home, Emily knows the truth and doesn't know what to say (especially after the talk about not dissing other people's traditions), and I don't know what to say either.  I don't want to come across sounding all self-righteous by replying, "We don't do Santa in our house," but I sort of feel the need to explain the kids' silence-bordering-on-rudeness-shyness whenever the question is asked.  What would/do you do/say?

Emily's December artwork from school

Christmas vacation fun

The kids had a lot of fun playing with toys and each other over Christmas break.  Here are a few snapshots...
Emily's first loop weaving project--a doll pillow

Fun in the snow
Race track
Christmas pajamas

I also had the chance to catch up with a dear friend who now lives in Washington, D.C.  Angie & I fit in a lot of words in our brief hour together!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Our Christmas

We celebrated our own family Christmas when we returned home.  Emily acted out the Christmas story using the Little People Nativity set, additional Lego people and various scenery while I read it aloud from Matthew and Luke.  The kids opened their gifts and stockings.  They received a few small things and Tidmouth Sheds as a joint gift.  The rest of the day was spent playing happily with all their new toys. :o)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


We had the opportunity to visit all of our grandparents/great-grandparents.  After having us over for lunch, Emily played a piano concert for Great-Grandma Freking.

At Great-Grandma Boote's Christmas Eve dinner, the great-grandkids and younger grandkids had fun playing with race cars.

Emily performed another piano concert for Great-Grandpa Vander Kooi at the nursing home.  Then he was able join us at my parents' house on Christmas night.

Austin & I also visited his Grandpa & Grandma Lorenzen on Christmas afternoon.  Grandpa Lorenzen has Alzheimer's and is in the nursing home.  It was bittersweet, because we're pretty sure we said goodbye for the final time.  We're lucky to have been able to visit all of them as much as we have.

Boote Christmas

We attempted the ever-elusive happy cousin/grandkids picture once again.  Here are the best results:

Emily received her Campsite Lego set from my parents (see Santa letter).  Her reaction was priceless.  She almost started crying she was so excited.  I wish I would have had a video.

Emily tried out her new stilts while Cousin Saylor helped Austin unwrap his new yard tools.

Lincoln & Cousin Ryan got matching sets of mid-size Lego people.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Meeting Cohen

Our new nephew/cousin, Cohen James was born on 12-12-12.  We were excited to meet him!  Both kids really enjoyed holding him.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Lorenzen Christmas

Our Christmas travels began with a somewhat harrowing drive to Waukee.  We had a full-scale blizzard on Thursday with no school for two days.  We left on Friday afternoon because Austin's mom & I were planning to go to the Mannheim Steamroller concert that night at the Civic Center in Des Moines.  The roads weren't as clear as we had hoped.  What is usually a 2.25 hour drive turned into a 5 hour drive.  We had to get off I35 at Ames because of accidents that had shut it down and took backroads the rest of the way.  We missed the concert, but we arrived safe and sound.

After a good night's sleep, we opened presents.  Lincoln got a fun set of superhero costumes.

He also received the Imaginext castle and a fun race car track.  Dad & Grandpa had to figure that one out.

Emily spent the rest of the morning putting together her new Lego set.

Thankfully, because of the weather, Cheryl & I were able to exchange our tickets for the Saturday afternoon performance.  We enjoyed a nice lunch downtown and an incredible Mannheim Steamroller concert in better seats than we would have had the night before.  It was the perfect Christmas present!

Meanwhile, the kids spent most of the afternoon playing outside with Dad & Grandpa in the foot of snow that had fallen.  They went sledding down the backyard hill and even put together a little snowman.  Lincoln was all tired out!

We all went out for pizza at night and enjoyed the Holly Jolly lights display.  It was a fun-packed visit!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

3 years + 7 months

Lincoln has taken some steps forward and some steps backward this month.  He has been practicing cutting with a scissors.  He has also figured out how to zip his coat by himself.  (Yay!)  He really wants to buckle himself into his car seat, but he just doesn't have the finger strength to snap in a five-point harness, let alone not pinch a finger off in the process.

Lincoln has gone backward in the eating department.  He has become increasingly pickier and would live off of noodles (mac & cheese especially), pizza (beef--a.k.a. "meatball") and fruit if we let him.  His eating has also slowed to a snail's pace.  Sometimes the only way to even get him to eat is to put individual bites on his fork/spoon and coach him through it.  I know I eat too fast and mealtime is supposed to be quality family time, but most days I just don't have the time or patience to sit at the table an extra 30+ minutes after I'm finished while one or both kids lollygag, or worse--whine, complain or try to negotiate.

Other than that, Lincoln continues to be a sweet, cuddly, compliant child.  His latest saying whenever you ask him to do something is an enthusiastic, "Of course I can!"  He also continues to often say, "Mommy, you need to hold me."  That is great unless you're desperately trying to pull dinner together or really have to go to the bathroom or are trying to get out the door in the morning.  I think he has also recently gone through a growth spurt, because it has becoming noticeably harder to hold him while standing up and almost impossible to do anything else with him on my hip.  Most of our cuddle time has to take place in a chair now.

Dear Santa...

This is the "Dear Santa" letter Emily made at school.  It was one of the ones featured in the special section of the Waverly newspaper.  The letter says, "The only thing I would love is a Campsite lego set at the Waverly Walmart."


**It's another blogging marathon in a desperate attempt to catch up, so keep scrolling and check out "Older Posts".

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dippin' fools

Today was dipping day.  The kids helped decorate with M&M's and sprinkles.  Emily declared that dipping pretzels was her favorite tradition.  I think she just likes to eat them. ;o)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas cookies

After we got home from the train ride, the kids & I decorated cookies.  I frosted most of Lincoln's cookies and had to ration his sprinkles, but Emily did everything herself.  It was a mess, and definitely not Pinterest-picture-perfect, but it's a fun tradition for the kids.

Snowflake Express

"Magic Mix Kids" is a charity linked to a local radio station that takes terminally ill kids to Disney World.  This year, in partnership with Northern Iowa Railway, they put together a "Snowflake Express" fundraiser using the Hawkeye Express passenger cars.  There were five hour-long train trips from the Rotary Reserve to Shell Rock and back.  During the trip Santa & Mrs. Claus visited the train cars, The Polar Express was read aloud and each child received a beautiful gold sleigh bell.  Tickets were a hot item and sold out in a week.  We kept it a secret from the kids until we were pulling into the parking lot.

Both of them were pretty excited for their first ever train ride.  I hadn't been on a real train since my college days.  The kids had a great time.  I got pretty woozy.  It was foggy, and our window was dirty with really scratched up tinting.  The cookies and hot chocolate afterwards were nice, though. :o)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gingerbread workshop

The Kindergarten classes at West Cedar have a "Gingerbread Workshop" in December.  I signed up as a parent volunteer.  We made reindeer peanut butter sandwiches for a snack, tree ornaments and a "gingerbread house" consisting of graham crackers and various candies plastered to the outside of an empty milk carton using lots of frosting.  It was a crazy hour of controlled chaos, but it was fun.  Emily & Lincoln ate the entire house creation after school before I could even get a picture of the finished product.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas on Main

Tonight was the annual "Christmas on Main" in downtown Waverly.  The weather was decent, and it was packed.  The event features decorated storefront windows on an 8-block stretch of Bremer Avenue.  Many of them are live displays with actors, musical groups and other performers.  There are also "hot spot" stations handing out free popcorn, chili and hot chocolate.  The kids were in awe, and it was fun running into lots of people I knew.  Here is a picture of Lincoln with some elves and his favorite window display.