Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Peace Out 2014

2014, you can SUCK IT.
 
You've really kicked us in the balls this year, and frankly I can't wait to leave you in the dust.
 
With the exception of the birth of our son, this may have been one of the hardest years of my life.

My pregnancy was extremely difficult. Ryder's delivery was one of the most painful, scary things I've ever experienced. We lost Steve, Liesbeth, and Doug. Relationships with friends and family members have crumbled before our eyes and despite our best efforts. And we've learned the hard way that having a new baby isn't sunshine and rainbows all the time.

I'm thankful for the bright moments... vacations, friends getting married (and of course the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl). I'm grateful for all the people who have been there for us -- throughout the good, the bad and the ugly -- during this incredibly trying and often tragic year. Without you, we wouldn't have made it through.

 2014, I bid you farewell, and not at all fondly.

Peace. Out.
Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.
 
 
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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

More Christmas Traditions

I thought I had a pretty complete list of Christmas Traditions going, but after the holidays were all over, I realized that there are still a few more I don't want to forget!
 
Puzzles
 
My dad always gets a puzzle for Christmas. I do not have a single holiday memory that doesn't include a card table set up in the corner of the room, colorful puzzle pieces spread out, beckoning to passers-by. My dad is a serious puzzler. In the midst of the holiday craziness, he will sit quietly with his puzzle and a cold glass of beer until he has that thing completely put together. He always welcomes help, but I never last more than 10 minutes at a time and a few pieces. I just find the other holiday festivities too distracting!
This also brings up another tradition...
 
Opening One Present On Christmas Eve
 
After weeks of anticipation, Christmas Eve finally arrives, and the expectations and hyperactivity of children waiting for Santa Claus reaches an all-time high. My parents always helped us take the edge off by allowing us to open just one present on Christmas Eve. A tantalizing little preview of the insanity and greed to come the next morning...
 
And for my dad, this has always meant opening and beginning his puzzle (usually given to him by my sister, Erin).
 
Chinese Food
 
This is a fairly new tradition for us.

Christmas Eve is always pretty busy in our family, with people arriving from various destinations at all different times, filling the house full of people, gifts and suitcases. Many of us have to work Christmas Eve as well, which means sometimes we don't arrive until dinner time. Since my mom always attends Christmas Eve mass, it's a little much to also ask her to prepare a lovely Christmas Eve dinner. So instead, we've started ordering in Chinese! It's a fun, easy tradition that takes the pressure off everyone's schedules. You just arrive, grab a plate, and dig in!
Moscow Mules
 
This is a new tradition that Stew and I decided to try this year for the first time, and I think it's going to stick! We've become absolutely obsessed with Moscow Mules lately, and we wanted to share this delicious newfound drink with the family for Christmas. So we bought a set of copper mugs, stocked up on vodka, ginger beer, and limes, and hauled all the supplies down to my parents' house for Christmas.

They were a hit!

We ended up drinking so many of these fresh, delicious drinks on Christmas Eve that we had to go back out for more supplies the day after Christmas! We then proceeded to have a post-holiday party that involved many more Moscow Mules and, eventually, this...


{Drink at your own risk}
So there you have it. The conclusion of my favorite Christmas traditions.
 
I hope you and yours had a very merry Christmas!
 
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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ryder's First Christmas

I'll be home for Christmas. You can count on me.
 
For the first time in many years, Stewart didn't have to work over Christmas! Instead, he got off shift the morning of Christmas Eve, and we were able to spend four whole days at my parents' house in Olympia, making memories (and taking embarrassing photos and videos).
 
Sharing them here will be my Christmas gift to you.
 
Enjoy!
 
 
Putting together Ryder's "big" Christmas present for the year -- a Bounce, Stride & Ride Elephant.


We let him play with it on Christmas Eve (because what the heck, he doesn't know the difference... and let's face it, we were excited).

 
First Christmas morning with Daddy.


"Opening" his first gift.
 

Cuddles with Aunt E.

My brother went all out this year with the Christmas spirit.

Ryder was extra spoiled by Nana, but how could she resist?

Getting ready for the White Elephant gift exchange with my cousins.


Great Grandpa and Grandma with Ryder on Christmas morning.

All decked out in our holiday finest.
 
How to embarrass your dog on Christmas.

How to embarrass your baby on Christmas.



Playing with his new toys and being entertained by Daddy.
 
video

Classic family holiday photo.

 Remember all those gifts I had on Ryder's Christmas Wish List? Well, he got the vast majority of them, and that kid should be good on toys until at least his birthday.
 
I can't even express how wonderful it felt to be home relaxing and celebrating with my family for four days. We made and ate delicious food and drinks, played games, watched movies, told stories, and really just enjoyed each other's company.
 
I think my mom loves Ryder even more than she loves me, so of course she was more than happy to basically take over his caregiving while we were there. Twice, she even got up at the crack of dawn with him to let Stew and I sleep in... it was a Christmas Miracle.
 
Stew and I didn't exchange gifts this year, but my parents got us a Burley Bee Bike Trailer! It was such an awesome surprise gift, and we can't wait to try it out.
 
I know that Ryder won't remember this Christmas, but it was very special for me and Stew -- our first as a family of three.
 
Ryder Steven, all I want for Christmas is YOU.
 
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
 
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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Traditions

I am a creature of habit and routine, so traditions are definitely what make Christmas special to me. And now that it's Baby Ryder's first Christmas, Stew and I are having a blast making memories and re-establishing some of the traditions that were part of our holidays growing up.

Here are a few of our favorites...
Santa


Growing up, we went to see Santa every year, shaking with anxiety as we waited in line to climb onto his lap and whisper our Christmas wishes into his ear. Is there anything more special and magical than believing in Santa? I don't think so, which is why we'll choose to lie to Ryder and tell him all about this jolly fat man and his eight tiny reindeer. This year we took him to see Santa for the first time and he wasn't even afraid! We'll see how it goes next time when he's a year older and a little more aware...


Tree


Putting our coats and boots on, piling into the car, and trudging through the cold and mud to find the perfect Christmas tree for Dad to cut down is one of my favorite holiday traditions. My birthday is December 10, and when I was little we always went tree hunting the next day (so that my birthday would still be special and separate from Christmas). Stew and I have been happy with our little four-foot fake plastic tree for the past few years, but this Christmas, in our new home with our new baby boy, we wanted a REAL tree. So we bundled Ryder up and took him to Enchanted Winds Tree Farm, where we wandered through the snow dusted forest until we found the perfect noble fir. We chopped it down, hauled it home, and displayed it oh-so-proudly next to our fireplace. 


Ornaments

When Stew and I first started dating, we gave each other ornaments for Christmas, and the tradition has stuck all these years. Now, we also often purchase ornaments when we travel, and we've developed quite the collection! One of my favorite parts of Christmas is getting the decoration boxes down out of storage and looking at each ornament as we place it on the tree. Every one has a story and a memory. I also love reminiscing as I look at the ornaments on my parents' tree, which even includes one that I made when I was only two! Here are a few of our 2014 additions...


Cookies

Growing up in my family, we always made sugar cookies with homemade frosting while listening to John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together (my absolute favorite Christmas album). I have the best memories of being in the kitchen with my mom, using a stool to reach the counter, wearing an apron covered in flour. We would use little metal cookie cutters in the shapes of Santa and stars while we sang along with Kermit at the gang, licking frosting off our fingertips. As an adult, sugar cookies aren't my favorite anymore, but I've got a couple new recipes I'm going to try this year...


Movies

Christmas movies are a holiday staple, and I start to get in a deck-the-halls mood just as soon as they start appearing on TV after Thanksgiving. This year I am determined to watch all of my favorites, and I sent the following list to my mom so she could make sure each and every one of these classic holiday flicks will be waiting for me on her DVR...

The Polar Express
A Muppet Family Christmas
Elf
Home Alone
It's A Wonderful Life
The Family Stone
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Frosty the Snow Man
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (cartoon not Jim Carey)
A Christmas Story
The Santa Clause
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Miracle on 34th Street

Stockings

When Stew was a little kid, his mom handmade beautiful Christmas stockings for him and his brothers. Seriously, I've never seen anything like it... bright and elaborate, a three dimensional Christmas scene with Santa and adorable woodland creatures decorating a shining Christmas tree. It put my stocking to shame. So a few years ago, Stew decided that I needed a matching stocking, and as a surprise he hired a seamstress who made a similar style stocking for me! It was hanging on the fireplace on Christmas morning, and might be the most thoughtful Christmas gift I have ever received. Then Ryder was born, so of course I had to make sure that he had a matching family stocking, too. I enlisted the help of a very talented co-worker, and his gorgeous handmade stocking was completed just in time for Christmas. If he's a good boy and starts sleeping through the night, it may get filled with something other than coal.


Lights

For the first time this year, we had lights put up on the outside of our new house. This is something we always did growing up, so it felt wonderful to be doing it ourselves (i.e. standing in the street watching the guy we hired perch precariously on our steeply sloped roof). I love driving onto our street every night as I'm greeted with those twinkling white Christmas lights. And when I was little, we would always drive around the neighborhood on Christmas Eve, looking at the neighborhood lights and debating which house had the best display. That's definitely a tradition I want to continue with Ryder.

Jammies

 This is a newer tradition for us. Last year I gave my entire family matching Christmas jammies as a surprise (yes, even the dog). I had so much fun watching everyone open their packages, exclaim, and immediately begin to model their new holiday outfits. Of course an elaborate photo shoot followed. This year I planned ahead and ordered Ryder matching jammies as well, and I can't wait to add him to our 2014 Christmas Jammies Family Photo.


What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ryder's Christmas Wish List

Having a child at Christmas time makes everything more magical.
 
I know I've said this before, and that it's super cliché, but it's so true!
 
Typically, I think shopping for Christmas gifts is a huge chore, but this year I actually had some fun with it, because I got to spend most of my time looking at TOYS! After quite a bit of research and browsing, here are the items that we liked most for Ryder, who will be almost 8 months old this Christmas.
 
 
 
3-in-1 Bounce, Stride & Ride Elephant
Ryder is right on the verge of crawling and pulling himself up, and he loves things that bounce, so I thought this was the perfect gift. This adorable elephant friend has lights, music, fun sounds, and three "grow-with-me" ways to play to get him moving: first bouncing up and down, then steading his first steps as a walker, and finally as a baby-powered ride-on pal! (Fisher-Price)
 

Laugh & Learn Click 'n Learn Remote
This kid LOVES electronics. He has lots of awesome toys, but does he want to play with them? Not if there's a remote control or iPhone in his sightline. So I thought I would indulge him with his very own remote control! Somehow I doubt he'll be fooled or lured away from the real thing, but we'll see... (Fisher-Price)
 
Baby's First Blocks and Rock-a-Stack
These are just some classic toys that I knew Ryder would like now that he's getting better with grasping and hand/eye coordination. (Fisher-Price)
 
Wood Blocks
Contrary to what you've seen above, I really don't like electronic toys. I think good old-fashioned, wooden toys are everything that a kid could want to stimulate the imagination and promote learning. Plus, I had a set like this when I was a kid, so I wanted Ryder to have his own wooden block collection. He may be a bit young for them now, but I got excited and put them on the list. (Melissa & Doug)
 
Wooden ABC/123 Blocks
Once again, this is something that I had as a kid and loved, so of course it went onto Ryder's list. (Melissa & Doug)
 
Shape Sorting Cube
And once again, a wooden learning toy. I was beginning to go overboard here, I think... (Melissa & Doug)
 
The Night Night Book
I saw a Groupon a while back for Personalized Kids' Books, and immediately snagged one. I am a huge book nerd, and I really hope that Ryder inherits my love of reading. And hopefully having a book specially made for and about him will help! I can't wait to start reading this to him every night at bedtime... (Put Me in the Story) 
 
Fire Station Set
Of course this one went onto the list right away. I think it's inevitable that Ryder will develop a passion for Daddy's line of work, so we might as well go along with it. (KidKraft)
 
My First Fire Station
And what kid doesn't have fond memories of playing with LEGOs? It seems fitting that Ryder's first set should be a fire station. (LEGO)

Snowsuit
It's winter, and we're going to White Pass in a few weeks, so of course Ryder needed a snowsuit on his list as well. (Carter's)

Santa Christmas Hat
And Christmas would not be complete unless we got our new baby boy his very own Santa hat. Oh, the photo ops... (Carter's)

Is Ryder going to get every single one of these gifts? Absolutely not! I don't want to spoil my child rotten. Is he going to get the vast majority of them? Probably.
 
It's a complicated situation.
 
(1) I'm sharing an Amazon Prime membership with my mom this Christmas, and when I set up a Wish List for Ryder, she immediately noticed it and proceeded to buy almost all of the gifts I had selected! Therefore, I had to shop for more. Obviously.
 
(2) Shopping online, with free shipping, is just way too easy and fun.
 
(3) Gifts for kids are just so darn cheap! And when you're buying them here and there for $14.99 or $9.99 or whatever, it doesn't seem like you're spending a lot of your Christmas budget. Until you do the math on Christmas Eve and realize that you can't turn your heat on in January. At least Ryder has a brand new snow suit he can wear.
 
 
I've definitely learned that it's extremely easy to go completely overboard on your kid for Christmas.
 
Luckily, this year Ryder is too young to realize how spoiled he is. But next year we should probably rein it in a bit.
 
I talked to some of my friends about this conundrum, and my friend Jamie probably gave the best advice. She said each year her girls receive four presents from Santa:
 
Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.
 
She said those things alone are more than enough gifts, but when they're also combined with presents received from family and friends, her girls have a fantastic Christmas filled with gifts, but not complete over-indulgence.
 
I like it.
 
What are your gift giving strategies for your kiddos?
 
Good luck!
 
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