Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Photos - What a Process...

Isn't this year's Christmas photo lovely?

Christmas 2009

Trust me, it's not an easy process.

First, we have to wait, and wait, and WAIT for Hollywood to finish doing her hair. While we wait, I take a few shots to check out the lighting in the sun room:

Bumblebee has the giggles. Uh oh... this might take a while.

They start playing with the props. First the candy cane's a gun:


Then it's a guitar:


Finally, Hollywood shows up, and we think it might be a good idea to take the picture with the dog because she's very sick and this will be her last Christmas with us. So we have The Husband carry her up the stairs and by the time she gets into the sun room with us, she is stressed out, won't look at the camera, and you can see her furless neck and gross scabby sores, so this one's definitely not a keeper:


When she finally does look at the camera, she gives me a pathetic "Do I HAVE to do this? You're freaking me out... Please let me go lay down in peace" look.

We decide she's been tortured enough and let her limp out of the sun room.

We take some more group shots and Bumblebee is going crazy with the fake/manic laughter. She looks like she's trying to poop here:


We move to individual shots of Hollywood and we realize that her fly is down. (she'll kill me for posting this picture)


After looking at the picture, she decides that she has too much eyeliner on, so she takes some of it off and we retake her shots.

We decide that we don't like the sun room lighting, so we move this whole operation to the living room, where we take some very serious shots:


Then, The Boy complains that his legs are hurting and Hollywood says he's a wimp (except that she uses a much more awful word for it) and they all think this is hilarious so they laugh so hard that they pee their pants:


Just kidding about the pee.

We take a few more shots, most of them are passable, and they pose for one last 'crazy' shot.


I think this one's my favorite, but it might not go so well in my silver Christmas frame.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Music Programs

I might just rethink my take on December.

Babies, cookies, and today - music programs. That's not so bad!

Oh, but wait. Bumblebee's teacher gave her a noisemaker in her holiday goody bag, and they're forecasting another blizzard for tomorrow. AND, I don't have all of my shopping done and instead of braving the crowds tonight, I'm being lazy and putting it off until tomorrow. You know, the day before Christmas Eve? How in the snowy winter wonderland did it get to be December 22nd already?!!! Yeah. December still pretty much bites. And it didn't listen to my request to slow the hell down this year either.

But still, the music concert was nice, so I guess it's not all bad...

Bumblebee always finds me in the crowd and smiles big for my camera:

Christmas program

Today she was hopping around, twirling, and squirming all over the place. One of the other parents laughed and asked if she has ants in her pants. Yep. That has to be it. Here they are singing about Santa's hat:

Music program

And she got a solo! On the triangle, which of course I didn't capture in the picture. And yes, she is that much shorter than most of her classmates. She's hyper AND little... kind of like the Tazmanian Devil:
*photo of Bumblebee with two other kids doing their triangle solo:
Solo

Then it was The Boy's turn. Here are the guys in show choir singing Dust in the Wind. That's The Boy in the middle there. He looks irritated to be there, but in reality, he loves show choir.

Show choir

And finally, the band concert. Thank God we rent that French horn... He clanged it around and smacked it on a few chairs and music stands while they were getting set up. The horn's got a giant dent in it. Oops!
*photo of the band as they get ready to play a song:
Band concert

Well, I'm going to make a list of all of the things I need to do if I ever decide to get up and do something.

Here's to procrastination!

(oh, and by the way, or 'bee tee dub' as Hollywood would say, I was totally kidding about wanting another baby. Sure they're adorable and they smell awesome, make you grin from ear to ear, and you can squish them and make them giggle. And they sure do have unreasonably adorable feet. But in an instant - before their sunshine and powder scent wears off of your clothes - they turn into grouchy text-messaging machines who constantly ask for gas money and new clothes and ridiculously expensive Christmas gifts.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

All I Want for Christmas is one of These...

We had Christmas at The Husband's dad and step-mom's house this weekend.

All I can say after this weekend is that I want another baby.

Now please.
*photo of my niece:
1209 146

I mean it. Tick tock...
*photo of another niece:
1209 130

Ack! I can't stand it!
*photo of another niece:
1209 118

And then they went and ganged up on me. Three adorable baby girls dressed in frilly Christmas dresses. How can you see these little balls of sweet smelling squishiness and not want to order one up for yourself?
*photo of the three babies playing together on the floor:
1209 145

Where'd that husband of mine run off to? He's got some work to do.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Photo Journal - A Day in San Francisco

I went to San Francisco last weekend, to visit my brother and his wife and baby. I had such a great time! I flew out there with another brother and left The Husband and critters at home. It was nice to have a weekend away, though I missed the family while I was gone.

I mentioned before how wonderful the trip was. Not only was it great to spend time with my brothers and my sister-in-law (not to mention that adorable nephew of mine), but the trip was just an easy one. All four flights landed early, the weather cooperated, and I even found the boots I was looking for when we went shopping in the city!

I love taking photos (can you tell?) and so here are some of them from the day we went into San Francisco:

Here's a view of the Golden Gate bridge (and my adorable nephew), taken at the Crissy Field park. Beautiful place, and some of the BEST people watching ever!
*photo of me holding E with the bridge in the background:
Everett and me Golden Gate

It was an usually clear day, so this shot of Alcatraz was a nice surprise. Remember, my camera is a junky little point and shoot, so I was happy that it wasn't foggy or misty there that day:
*photo of Alcatraz:
Alcatraz

Here's another shot at Crissy Field - this one is of the city, facing away from the bridge:

SF Crissy Field

I think this is my favorite shot. I've always been in awe of houses built into the hills - stacked right next to each other. It's about as architecturally different as you can get from where I live surrounded by cornfields... Look at these hilly streets! How would you like to drive a stick shift on those?
*photo of a street with a very steep downward hill:
San Francisco Street

We did some shopping. I love watching people while we're out and about. So much fun, and so many things to see!
*photo of a street packed with shoppers and storefronts:
SF shopping

More shopping:

SF Shopping 2

Union Square is all decked out for Christmas. I loved watching the ice skaters there!
*photo of Union Square with a giant Christmas tree in the middle:
SF Union Square

Those are some of my favorite pictures that I took of the city. I can't wait until my next visit out there!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sure Looks A Lot Like Christmas Around Here!

First of all, it's my brother K's 30th birthday today, so I have to give a shout out to him.

Happy Birthday, K-Man!
***
I've done a lot of complaining about December already. Mostly because I hate the cold and the stress of December. But I LOVE the decorations. Through the years I have accumulated so much junk stuff to decorate with at Christmastime that I have an entire closet full of storage tubs of it!

I'm typically not a knick knack gal. I prefer clean lines with little clutter, but at Christmas, well, I display stuff. Lots of it. And I love it.

I have a giant tree in the sun room that is full of ornaments made by my kids through the years. There are also keepsake ornaments given to us as gifts on the tree. One of my favorite things while on vacation is to pick up an ornament for the tree. Cheesy? Maybe, but it sure does get us talking about our memories as we put them up. This year we remembered The Husband's grandma as we put up our collection of ceramic ornaments that she'd made. It's a beautiful tree:
*photo of the sunroom Christmas tree:
Sunroom tree

We have another tree in the living room. The kids call it 'mom's tree' because it's decorated with purple and gold ornaments. It's pretty and it matches the decor in the room, and I love it. But it's got none of the sentiment of the big tree. Having a fireplace is so much fun, our old house didn't have one. I love decorating it:
*photo of the fireplace in the livingroom with mom's tree next to it:
Fireplace

And then there's the Nativity Set. My mother-in-law gave me this set, and it's similar to the one my mom has displayed ever since I can remember. I display it on my piano, and the Angel got broken, so the angel we replaced it with doesn't quite fit the set scalewise, but it's still beautiful, and reminds us why we celebrate Christmas in the first place:
*photo of the Nativity Set:
Nativity set

My kitchen has room for some fun decorations too. I made a curtain that hides the garbage can out of an old Christmas table cloth, and our Christmas dishes are on display along with the cookie jar and a beautiful cookbook:

Kitchen christmas

On the newly painted (shockingly) red wall, I have some snowman plates:

kitchen christmas wall

But my favorite decorations are the lights I have everywhere. I've got them strung on the staircase railing, piled in bowls, and placed in glass jars full of pine cones. I love the way they look at night!

*photo of a wine bottle with lights in it and a jar w/pinecones and lights:
Lights christmas

*photo of a wooden bowl full of clear ornaments and white lights:
Bowl of lights

If all of these decorations won't get you in the Christmas spirit, I don't know what will. So tell me, what are your favorite Christmas decorating traditions?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Thundersnow!

Well hello, Winter!

Now that's what I call a snowstorm! We actually had lightning and thunder as the snow was falling. I've mentioned that I hate the cold and snowy weather that Iowa brings each year, but I have to admit that was cool. I've lived in Iowa for 35 of my 36 years and have never seen (or heard, as the case may be) thundersnow before!

We got about 14 inches of actual snow, and yeah, that's a ton of snow, but the drifting is what's crazy. And the wind's still howling like crazy out there, so it'll continue to drift even more. Looks like we'll have a blanket of snow on the ground all winter long:
*photo of my deck with 3 ft snow drifts:
Snowstorm - deck

*photo of the snow drift coming off the roof:
Snowstorm - deck 2

*photo of the snow covered back yard:
snowstorm - steps

*photo of the snowdrift in the driveway:
snowstorm - driveway

There is some good to this, however. Giant Ass Bank actually closed their offices today so I have a snow day home with the kids! I'm going to hang out in my pajamas and bake Christmas cookies all afternoon!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Blizzards and Babies

We're getting a blizzard today. 12-14 inches of snow with the possibility of 9 foot tall snow drifts. NINE FEET!

At the moment, I'm sitting in my sun room, next to the giant Christmas tree, looking outside as the white stuff comes down. I'm working from home today, and thank heavens that the powers that be at Giant Ass Bank allow that, because the stress of driving in this crap is just not worth it. Oh, did I say 'crap'? That white, pretty stuff?

Yeah. It's crap.

I shouldn't live in Iowa. Well, not this time of year anyway. I think a nice sunny condo with a pool in Arizona sounds nice right about now.

Anyway, while the weather is making me grouchy, I can look at this picture to cheer me up. This is the nephew I got to spend the weekend with:
*photo of Nephew E:
everett
Isn't he adorable?

My brother and I were spoiled by our brother and sis-in-law. We had the best time relaxing, watching football, doing yoga on the Wii, and just hanging out. (Note to self: playing brain games against my two nerdiest brainiest brothers and my brilliant sister-in-law is never a good idea. Do not be tempted into trying it again.) And oh my... the food. Among the many, many things we ate were sushi, burritos the size of New Jersey, and Filipino BBQ. Oh my YUM. I will have to eat like a rabbit for weeks to counteract that splurge.

San Francisco was beautiful, the rain held off until the day we flew home, so that was good. I'll post some pictures of the City by the Bay soon.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dear December,

Dear December,

Really? You again? Already? You know that you stress me out and that you’re not my favorite month. (At least you aren’t January, so take it as some consolation that I don’t downright despise you.) But here you are again, all needy and excited, hurrying up to get here and all. Seriously, you couldn’t have taken your time this year? You could have done what I did this morning: get up late, swing by McD’s for a coffee and a biscuit, take the long route into town, and show up for work half an hour late. Using my laziness this morning as an example, for illustrative purposes only, of course, couldn’t you have followed suit and been a week or two late? No… Right on time you are, all eager to be here and everything. You’re like an ignored dog, pleading at me with those eyes, wagging your tail and all: Look at me, love me, pet me.

But no, December. I will not love you. And it’s impossible to pet a month, so stop being weird.

Are you surprised to hear me complain about you? I know that you rank right up there as a favorite for lots of people. (Lots of crazy, dumb people who need to have their heads examined.) I know that those cheerful crazies will call me a Grinch because you stress me out, December. But hello… when my six-year-old’s top two items on her Christmas list are an iPod (she learned from her sister to ask for a 16G 4th Gen Nano - hot pink please) and a Nintendo DSI, both of which cost around $200, I get a bit stabby. No, she’s not getting either of those things, December. She’s SIX. Besides, the money tree I planted can’t stand the numbing cold that you bring to us each year, so it withers up and dies just when we need it the most.

So anyway, you stress me out and turn me into a big ball of nerves. And it’s not as though you’re a month where I can go for a nice long hike or a bike ride to relax after a long day of work or baking or shopping for expensive, breakable crap for my children. No… you’re cold and usually gray and dreary. And for the love of God, why do you and your friend The Wind have to hang out so much? Stop having parties together, send The Wind away and tell her to come back in August when we really need her.

Since you decided that you had to be here so quickly and all, I have one small request to ask of you. Can you at least relax and enjoy your stay? And pleeeeeeaase not rush out of here like you did last year? Because I have a shit-ton of things to do during your stay. There’s the visit I have scheduled to see my brother and his family, and then there’s Christmas shopping – I haven’t even started that yet, December. You know me, I’m a wait until the very last second when you can order gifts online and still have them delivered in time kind of gal. Oh, and I have working, baking, cleaning, parenting, and so forth all to do while you’re here too. And then there’s the Christmas celebrations, December. Two sets of divorced parents equals four Christmases to schedule. Which is fun and all, it’s just that, well, you're only 31 days long, you know. It’s hard to fit it all in!

So are we on the same page here? Will you at least stick around and take your time this year? Promise not to fly by in the blink of my puffy, sleep deprived eye?

You’ll try? Honest? I sure hope so.

Signed,
Monnik, that cranky woman who always curses your name when she slips on the ice of your first winter storm.

P.S. Just so I’m not all gloom here, I will say that I do like at least two things about you, December. I love sparkly Christmas lights. They're pretty and fun to look at. And, I especially like the way you smell, all crisp and fresh-like. So there. I’m not a complete hater.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Brothers

Happy Thanksgiving! We spent the day relaxing at my brother and sister-in-law's house with too much food, probably too much wine, and lots of laughter and fun together.

I have the best family ever. Seriously, I do. 30 years ago when my parents kept bringing baby brothers home from the hospital one after another, squashing my dream of having a pretty little sister to dress up and play Barbies with, I wasn't so sure about this 'best family ever' status. When I was in junior high school and my brothers got into my make-up and drew all over the walls with it, I wasn't so sure either. In high school, when they'd hide my car keys from me... you get the picture.

But now that we're all grown up, they're not so bad. These are our senior pictures. They hang prominently in my mom's house, above her staircase, forever capturing the youthful optimism we all had.
*photo of our senior pictures on mom's wall:
senior pics

Yesterday, as most of us hung out together to celebrate Thanksgiving, I thought about this gift of brothers that my parents gave to me.

My oldest brother, is Brother E. He and I once ran across a field together because there was a rainbow on the other side of the school that was behind our house. I remember running and running, but that rainbow never got any closer to us. We'd have been probably five and three at the time, but it's one of my earliest and clearest childhood memories. Today he lives closest to me of all my brothers; his house is only 10 minutes away. He and I also work downtown in buildings right near each other. He's got a wicked sense of humor, is a great father and husband, makes beautiful things out of wood, and can play a mean game of soccer. I mentioned that he's funny - yesterday at Thanksgiving, he was cracking me up about every other time he spoke.

The next brother is Brother S, who lives in the San Francisco area. He and I were four years apart and I still remember one time when I was back from college for some reason. I'd been asked to drive him home from driver's ed class before I left to go back to school, but I had totally forgotten. I remembered as I was about halfway back to school. This was before cell phones, so he had to walk home. As I recall, it wasn't very cold out and the walk was about two miles, so of course it didn't kill him, but I still feel guilty about it to this day. Brother S has been all over the place. He was in the Peace Corps for two years in Kazakstan, he's traveled all over the world, and of course he lives out in California now with his beautiful wife. They are new parents - their son was born at the end of May. I'm going out to visit them next weekend, and I can't wait!

Brother K is next. My kids call him their Crazy Uncle K because of his sense of humor. I remember one time, we were watching an exhibition soccer game that was being put on for charity. One of the teams was from the local hospital - full of medical professionals and the father of one of Brother E's best friends, who was a well known doctor in town. During the game, someone got hit with the ball in the face (nothing serious), and Brother K, who couldn't have been older than 7 at the time, stood up in the stands and yelled melodramatically, "Is there a doctor in the house?" Today, he's a successful CPA, and you'd never guess with his career choice that he's got the most off the wall sense of humor ever. He used to live nearby, and we'd see him about every other week. When he and his wife moved from Des Moines to KC last year, I wanted to kill him. Turns out that being 3 hours away didn't change things all that much - we still see him about once a month or so, which is great.

My second youngest brother, is Brother L. He lives in KC with Brother K. Brother L was the closest thing I had to a sister when he was tiny because he had these amazing blonde ringlets that my mom didn't have the heart to cut for a while. Today he looks an awful lot like Jusin Timberlake, and he's our family's computer doctor. Every time there's a problem with one of our PCs, we call Brother L. Poor guy, I'm sure he's sick of it! He's got a great job working for a healthcare IT company, and he's wicked smart - he's one of the most well-read people I've ever met. He reads just about everything - from Buddhism meditation handbooks to classic novels. I like to ask Brother L for reading recommendations because if I've heard of the book, chances are he's read it. He's going with me to San Francisco next week; I'm looking forward to spending the weekend with him.

Brother Z is my baby brother. He was born when I was in fourth grade. When I went away to college he was 8 and couldn't pronounce his 'r' sounds. I remember being shocked when I came home on Thanksgiving break and he could say 'rickety rackety rail road track' like a pro. He's the only one of my brothers smart enough to attend the same college as me. (Iowa Sate - go Cyclones!) The others had to settle for second-rate schools like Central College, the University of Iowa, and UC Berkeley. Brother Z is getting his Master's degree in Forestry at our alma-mater. He knows everything you can think of about trees and has a respect for nature that is admirable. He's also into photography and he lets me borrow his cool camera from time to time. We're lucky enough to get to hang out with him quite a bit.

Yesterday as I was relaxing in my food and wine coma, I sat back and watched my family interact with that easygoing, goofy way that we have. I thought about how thankful I am to have these brothers of mine. And also the sisters-in-law they've brought to the family. We have good memories together, and are making new ones each year.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Grandma B.

The Husband's grandma passed away on Sunday.
*photo of Bumblebee hugging Grandma B:
Grandma B and Bumblebee

What a sweet woman she was - I have so many fond memories of relaxing, old-fashioned family gatherings out at her farmhouse. My kids were lucky to be able to know their great-grandma for so many years.

I'm sad for The Husband, he seemed surprised at how emotional this made him. Grandma B. was his last living grandparent, and her death was sudden, so I know that has to be hard for him.

And my mother-in-law, poor thing. She's handling this very well, from what I can tell, but she has had such a crazy year - so many things to deal with, and now the sadness of losing her mother will bring 2009 to a close. When it rains, it pours. I just really hope that 2010 is a sunny year for her. She needs a good year after this one.

Tomorrow is the funeral for Grandma B. Funerals are always such a mix of sadness and fellowship. It's nice to see the people who are gathered to celebrate someone's life, but it's unfortunate that an event like death is what brings everyone together.

Having her funeral the day before Thanksgiving will be hard. But I like to think about how long and full her life was, and what a wonderful family she leaves behind.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
~Kahlil Gibran

Friday, November 20, 2009

Licensed to Drive

Hollywood got her driver's license on Tuesday. I embarrassed her by taking a photo at the DOT. She was mortified, but I was actually surprised that no other moms had their cameras out too.

This is a momentous occasion, people!

And anyway, I only have a short time in this life to embarrass my kids, so I'll enjoy it while I can:
*photo of Hollywood in front of the DOT sign:
Hollywood at the DOT

Here she is after getting her license. I waited until we got outside in the parking lot to take this one, at least:

Hollywood with her license

It's really hard for me to believe that she's old enough to drive by herself now. But don't get me wrong... I'm not hating the idea. I sent her to the grocery store first thing. Having a kid who can drive is going to be veeeeeery useful, I think!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Squeaky Season

It's that time of year again, can you hear the squeak of basketball shoes on a gym floor?
*photo of the Boy in his basketball game:
The Boy Basketball Game

The Boy had his first junior high basketball game last night. Here he is (#2) on the court with two of his best friends - that's trouble right there...

See the kid on the floor in the picture below? There's always a kid on the floor of a 7th grade boys' basketball game. It's how they roll. Girls' basketball? Not quite so crazy. Boys, though? Chaos!
*photo of the game:
The Boy Basketball Game 2

It was an exciting game that went into overtime. Our Comets lost. But... it was a good start to the season.

The very long season.

The very, very, very long season.

I was adding the games to my google calendar earlier this week and couldn't believe that I had game entries in November, December, January, and February.

That's a lot of basketball to watch!

Good thing my guy is fun to watch:
*closeup photo of The Boy playing:
The Boy Basketball