December 23, 2013
It's funny how I'm so busy enjoying the season that Christmas seems to just sneak up on me every year. What, it's here already?!?
This weekend, I baked many dozens of cookies and attended our annual cookie swap with my neighbors. It was a lovely evening, and I now have a huge variety of cookies for the week! Perfect.
We also attended the Boston Pops' holiday concert, which is one of my very favorite traditions. The boys are able to enjoy it a bit more now, too. Symphony Hall is simply stunning, and the music and energy there is so beautiful that I find myself with happy tears in my eyes the entire time.
We've had the Christmas movies on. This weekend we watched "A Muppet Christmas Carol" and "Christmas Vacation" with the boys, and I got my fix of "Love Actually" too.
Now it's Christmas Eve Eve, and the boys are extremely excited. I am too! I am looking forward to our cozy and intimate Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, just the four of us at home. And I can't wait to see my new baby niece on Christmas day! We will be in Connecticut for a couple days, and then we're headed north to Vermont to get our first taste of skiing for the season. Fingers crossed we can get Nathan to stop this year!
Great food, music, family, games, and fun. All filled with the magic of this time of year.
December 16, 2013
What a nice weekend! Saturday was a day to celebrate my fabulous seven-year-old! We spent the morning opening a few family presents and then preparing for the afternoon party. Aaron again opted for an at-home party with a few friends - three boys and three girls. I'm so happy that he enjoys hosting these small celebrations at home. He loves being a part of the planning process and having his friends at his house, and I love keeping the party small and relatively simple.
This year, he wanted to have an art party. The main activity was doing canvas paintings. Happily, all the kids were really into their paintings, and they each got to take home their work of art! Aaron's Christmas tree, shown above, is destined to become a regular part of our Christmas decorations from now on. The other activity we did was a "blindfold masterpiece". In the spirit of a pin-the-tail game, each kid took a turn to draw a part of Aaron on a big piece of paper taped to the wall. Aaron started by drawing an oval for his head, and then each person added another feature - eyes, ears, nose, neck… Blindfolded! It was pretty funny, and the kids thought it was hilarious to see the arms way over to one side of the drawing and his eyes outside of his head!
Instead of a cake or cupcakes, Aaron and I thought it would be fun to have the kids create their own ice cream sundaes. We lined up a bunch of toppings, served the ice cream, and let them go nuts! Aaron blew out his candles in his bowl this year! It was a ton of fun.
We wrapped up Saturday with a dinner out, as the heavy snow began to fall. We got about six inches overnight, so Sunday included some shoveling and tons of sledding for the boys. Later that afternoon, I popped some popcorn, turned on the fireplace, and put 'Elf' on the TV. It was a cozy and festive way to end a really fun weekend.
December 14, 2013
photo by Kate Eden Renyi
My baby is seven. Wow. I love having the opportunity to celebrate him and to think about the cool kid he has become. Here are a few things I want to remember about Aaron at seven.
1. His favorite color is now green. Just like me.
2. His favorite food is still seafood. When going out to eat, he asks that we choose a restaurant that serves clam chowder.
3. He hates carrots with a vengeance.
4. His favorite TV show is Wild Kratts, although I also introduced him to Looney Tunes this year. He'd watch that every day if I let him.
5. He has three pairs of pants that he will wear. Comfortable, lined pants. He won't wear jeans unless forced.
6. He still thankfully loves school and is enjoying first grade. He has aced every spelling test so far, and he likes doing extra equations on his homework.
7. His best friends are girls.
8. He started piano lessons this Fall and he loves it. He has asked if he can take lessons every day. He plays every day, and he is very excited whenever he learns a new song.
9. He stays up way too late, sometimes later than me. I tell him to go to sleep, but I can still hear the click of his flashlight and the flipping of the pages. I have to wake him up almost every morning. (Weekends are nice!)
10. He loves his little brother, and he loves teaching him things. He sometimes forgets that I am in charge, though.
11. He still loves art, especially painting. Lately, he has liked painting rockets, solar systems, and christmas trees, and he still loves making patterns, using different color combinations. I love watching his creative mind work.
12. He loves legos, magna-tiles, and his marble run. He loves building things, seeing how things work.
13. He finally learned how to swim, and after months of lessons, he's swimming underwater now as well. Yay!
14. He still gives me a big hug when I pick him up at school, and it's not rare that he'll crawl onto my lap to snuggle. He gives the best hugs.
15. He wants to be a baseball player when he grows up.
Happy Birthday, my sweet and gorgeous boy.
December 11, 2013
It's funny how some days run more smoothly than others, and often I'm not even sure of the reason. Moods, I suppose. I strained a muscle in my mid-back, and it keeps waking me up in the middle of the night. Every shift causes a shooting pain. Lack of quality sleep definitely impacts my patience and the quality of my days.
That said, I'm still in a pretty positive space. We are enjoying all the usual activities of the season - cookies, hot chocolate, sledding, Christmas movies… It's hard for me to be in a bad mood this time of year. We got our first proper snow yesterday - just a couple inches, but enough for the boys to spend hours outside, sledding and playing and throwing snowballs. Enough to blanket the trees with a coat of white.
I'm also so happy that our family does a good job of blocking out a lot of the commercialism of the season. We spend money on good wine, chocolate and other cookie ingredients, beef tenderloin for the big day, lobster for Christmas Eve… And we love spending time together. I watch the commercials…so much crappy stuff. I see the news stories…people literally fighting each other to buy things. It makes no sense to me. Don't get me wrong…Santa treats the boys well, I send a little something to nieces and nephews, I love sending out Christmas cards, and I spend money mailing packages of something homemade to my siblings. That's a lot, and it definitely adds up. But it's nothing I stress over, and if I ever couldn't do any of those things, everybody would be totally fine with it. (I've skipped years of cards, and sending packages to my siblings is a recent activity.) Simplicity is a beautiful thing.
Speaking of Christmas, I have to admit that there is a part of me that is uncomfortable with telling my kids about Santa Claus. I love the magic of Christmas, and I love the openness of the kids to believe in it so fully. But there are times...I feel like I'm lying to my kids. Yikes. When I caught my mom filling the stockings at age five, she told me the truth. I used to be a little mad at her for not allowing me to believe just a while longer, but now I think I understand. Aaron is a solid believer - he told me this week that some people don't believe in Santa, but that he totally does. I am going to watch Miracle on 34th Street again and smile at the beauty of his belief in magic.
found via pinterest…source unknown
December 10, 2013
It's that time of year. Time to compile a list of the music that makes up the soundtrack of my 2013. As always, it's not a "best of" list, but rather the music that I've gone back to again and again. At one point, I thought I'd be able to limit myself to a top 10. Ha! Whittling it down to 20 was as hard as ever. I didn't include some awesome albums. Langhorne Slim & The Law brings me back to summer. I love Neko Case's album. I might listen to that one more if she didn't yell out, "Get the fuck away from me!" during one of the choruses. Can't really listen to that in front of the kids. I'm also digging Minor Alps at the moment. Sarah Jarosz and The Civil Wars are as beautiful as ever. And I'm still getting to know Daughter, along with many 2012 releases I just discovered this year, like Father John Misty. So I guess consider those my runners up.
The National - Trouble Will Find Me
Tanya Donelly - Swan Song Series
Kingsley Flood - Battles
Jason Isbell - Southeastern
The Lone Bellow - The Lone Bellow
Frank Turner - Tape Deck Heart
Caitlin Rose - The Stand-In
Josh Ritter - Beast in Its Tracks
The Milk Carton Kids - The Ash & Clay
Dawes - Stories Don't End
The Staves - Dead & Born & Grown
Throwing Muses - Purgatory / Paradise
Kurt Vile - Wakin On A Pretty Daze
Phosphorescent - Muchacho
The Oh Hello's - Through the Deep, Dark Valley
Basia Bulat - Tall Tall Shadow
Dr. Dog - B-Room
Pearl Jam - Lightning Bolt
The Head and the Heart - Let's Be Still
The Avett Brothers - Magpie And The Dandelion
What's your favorite music from this past year?
December 9, 2013
The fabulous Jennifer Lawrence
The title of this post pretty much sums up the weekend. We did get to see Santa at the library, and the boys attempted to drive me crazy by running and screaming through the house over and over again. They didn't want to go outside in the cold…come on snow! I spent most of Saturday in the kitchen, making granola and filling boxes of goodies to send to my siblings for Christmas. By the end of the day, Kevin and I were both very glad we had lined up a sitter and were able to escape for a bit. (I love my boys, but containing the ridiculous amount of energy they have can be exhausting. Breaks are good for all of us.)
We went to see the latest Hunger Games movie. I think I may've liked it even more than the book, which is rare for me to say about a movie. All the actors were perfectly cast and put in wonderful performances. Jena Malone is especially memorable as Joanna. We also saw the movie in a "premium cinema" that has reserved, large seats, and alcohol. I may never see a movie anywhere else.
On Sunday, we had some friends over for brunch. When they left, we were all feeling full and lazy, especially on another cold and dreary day. Kevin and I didn't feel like being productive, so we decided on a movie afternoon. What a good call. Since we were in a Hunger Games mood, we rented the first movie for ourselves and put on The Polar Express for the boys. The boys and I then decorated Christmas cookies. It was peaceful…and quiet…and lovely.
December 6, 2013
Musical Gifts from Joshua Bell and Friends is the Christmas album I'm adding to my collection this year. I've been a fan of Joshua Bell for a long time, and I love adding new holiday music to my mix each year. This is a collection of songs featuring collaborations between Joshua's amazing violin and other musicians, from Kristen Chenowith singing O Holy Night to the a cappella sound effects from Straight No Chaser to Branford Marsalis on his sax. I like some songs better than others, of course, but the album is worth it for the above song alone. I'm sorry for the cheesy image montage, but I had to include this one. It's gorgeous. Play it and get in the Christmas mood!
December 4, 2013
I've been reading a lot lately. We've had wide open weekends, and the boys are learning how to occupy themselves. I have actually picked up a book during the day! Oh what a wonderful thing that is. To be able to devour a book. Here's what I've been reading...
Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes. Oh my. I may tear up just thinking about it. I adored this book and could not put it down until it was over. And then I thought about it for several days after. I'm not even going to say what it's about. It's a love story. And it's heartbreakingly wonderful.
The Mermaid of Brooklyn, by Amy Shearn. I really wanted to like this book, and overall I'd definitely say it was worth reading. The first half was really tough, though. It is the most honest depiction of motherhood I've ever read, and that made it difficult for me to stick with. Perhaps I am not far enough removed from those days - the bleary-eyed days when you fall asleep doing something, look down and realize you have breast milk leaking through your shirt, yell at your toddler, lock yourself in the bathroom just to get a moment of peace… I'm happy to be beyond that phase, so it was hard to revisit. But it was a worthy read.
Divergent, by Veronica Roth. It's a young adult trilogy, so if you liked The Hunger Games and Twilight, you'll like this one too. I read all three books in less than a week, and that's only because I had to go out and get the last two books. Extremely addictive and fun. Similar to The Hunger Games, though, I loved the first book, liked the second, and was disappointed by the third.
December 3, 2013
I've been doing it all week, and it's been wonderful. I woke up early on Thanksgiving morning to attend a yoga/boot camp class at a yoga studio right down the street from my house. What a glorious way to start an otherwise gluttonous day. I earned that cheese! and wine! and pie! As the sun was rising, I was doing my pigeon pose to stretch out my hips after doing what felt like a million squats. I was ridiculously sore the next day, and it felt so good. I was reminded to give thanks for my body. My strong, healthy body that takes me where I need to go and allows me to do everything I want to do.
The rest of the day was spent in the kitchen, where I cooked a feast. A fresh turkey from the farm, roasted acorn squash, green beans, salad, garlic and sage mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. I was reminded to give thanks for good food, and the ability to fill my plate with it.
Kevin's mom, sisters, and brothers-in-law all came for the day. We had a wonderful time hanging out, catching up, playing games. The boys wanted to play numerous rounds of checkers and connect four, and they even got outside for a bit to play football on a really cold day. Family is what the day is really all about. My sister-in-law is due to have her first baby any day now, and we give thanks for an uneventful pregnancy so far and hope for a smooth delivery as our family continues to grow.
The boys and I put together our annual soup can turkey, and he had a lot of feathers this year. Aaron asked everyone what they were thankful for, and he wrote the answers on each feather. A nice family, health, good food, Buzz Lightyear, everybody here, Woody, baby Alex, cute boys, good music, a warm house, a nice brother, friends, Uncle John… A great list of things for which to be thankful. (Can you tell which are Nathan's contributions?)
After the big day, we got our Christmas tree and decorated the house. We watched A Charlie Brown Christmas as we decorated our tree, as we do every year. And Aaron had Grandma's help making the paper chain for the tree this year. I'm thankful for traditions, and I'm hopeful that the boys will cherish them as they get older.