Friday, November 27, 2009
Our place setting, including my grandmother's beautiful china.
Rylan made the candle base out of lots of different seeds glued together using a plastic cup as a mold.
Getting ready to dig in to our feast.
Didi and Elijah
Sam and Amanda holding baby Shiloh.
Rylan and Elijah became good buddies.
My little pumpkin.
Monday, November 23, 2009
At one point, Rylan and I had a conversation about Santa Claus visiting on Christmas Eve. "He will come at night to fill your stocking and leave presents, and all kids must be sound asleep in their beds. He came last year and left your train set." Rylan thought seriously for a moment, then wailed, "But, I don't remember him!" It is so much fun to see Christmas through the delighted eyes of a child. Rylan's excitement and even Caroline's interest make me enjoy Christmas all the more.
Here are a few more reasons I am especially looking forward to this Christmas season:
1. Last Christmas was mostly a blur of exhaustion and tears. I was sleep-deprived from caring for a newborn Caroline, exasperated from dealing with her maladjusting brother, and grieving for Grace, our dog, whom we just discovered was dying from cancer. There were some bright spots, but it wasn't our merriest Christmas.
2. This fall I started reading a wonderful series of historical books on the life of Jesus. ( The A.D. Chronicles by Brock and Bodie Thoene). Books 4-6 cover the time period and events around Jesus' birth. At first I was bummed that I ended up reading the Christmas story in October, but it turned out to be a great way to start preparing my heart early for the true meaning of this season. I can't say enough wonderful things about this series. It is well-researched and although some characters and events are created by the author's imagination, it follows scripture very closely. I don't think any literature about the Bible should replace The Book itself, but even Jesus told stories to illustrate His truth. I have heard the Christmas story since I was a very young girl, but reading about the characters in the context of their culture, politics, and faith, and learning more about the prophesies of Messiah's birth made it come alive in a whole new way. I fell more in love with Jesus and actually want to spend more time reading my Bible.
3. Rylan is three now and has a better "clue" about what all the Christmas fuss is about. And according to my counselor husband, kids can start to form memories at this age. It's more motivating when you realize your kids might actually remember the results of all your effort and hard work. It may still be lost in the mush of Caroline's baby brain, but we can take pictures for her, and wrapping paper is always fun, no matter what the season.
4. At MOPS a few weeks ago, we had a great speaker talking about making family holiday traditions. It was somewhat overwhelming to hear ALL her family traditions, but I was feeling especially energetic and inspired that meeting. I stole some great ideas and can't wait to start them with our family. I'll share more on these later..
5. Baking cookies, cookies, and more delicious cookies that I only make this time of the year.
6. We live in a state with the possibility of a white Christmas. Even if we don't actually get snow on Christmas, it should definitely be cold enough for hot chocolate.
I will leave you with some pictures of our decorating. I could not distract Caroline away from the lights long enough to look at the camera.
Our beautiful mantle in its full glory at Christmas time. Thanks again, Dad and Mom!
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
She wasn't sure what to think about the birthday waffle at first.
Is this candle edible?
Caroline starts opening her presents just before an impatient Rylan takes over.
Caroline attacking a package.
Caroline's first tea set!
Caroline's first Breyer model horses, Misty and Stormy, from Aunt Bethany.
Loving her big stuffed horse.
Look what I can do! For some reason, Caroline kept trying to throw her big horse and her baby around her shoulders. This was her best attempt with the horse.
Tea with horses.
Hmm, I think these two look alike, at least in the cheeks and chin department.
Umm, I don't think that is the best way to hold baby dolls, Caroline.
Little mommy-to-be, you need some more training. I know your baby doll smells good, but please don't bite her head!
Birthday cupcakes. I love the progression in the next photos as Caroline moves from skepticism to pure enjoyment.
Can I fit this whole piece in my mouth?
The eyes are lighting up.
This stuff is great, Mom!
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Look at that, Baby Caroline!
Checking out the snow together.
A sweet hug from brother. I have been wanting to get pictures of them in their matching pajamas for a long time, but it just hasn't worked out. Even though you can't see their faces in these pictures, I thought they turned out really adorable.
Rylan loved his hot chocolate after playing out in the snow. He actually got a much bigger chocolate goatee after I took this picture.
I made it!
Look what Rylan found on his farm.
Going for a tractor ride.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Here is a synopsis of an especially eventful week in the life of the Clarkes:
Saturday night: Rylan sorted through and sampled much of his Halloween candy and promptly rejected anything "crunchy" or with nuts. Only plain M&M's and chocolate hershey bars passed his test. (Mom and dad were glad to take care of the rejected candy.) Brave Charlton decided to have a guy camp-out in the living room. I couldn't imagine taking advantage of the extra hour of sleep anywhere but my warm, cozy bed. Turns out, the kids woke up with the sun an hour early, nobody slept very well, and we heathens ended up skipping church and going to the park instead. Trick-or-treating and then playing hooky for church, oh my!
Monday: I worked the night before and slept for half the day, then woke up to do four loads of laundry, vacuuming, and preparing for Charlton to come home in the evening with the do-it-yourself carpet cleaner. We cleaned the carpets last May... just before Caroline learned to roll across the floor happily spitting-up all the way, Rylan had multiple "accidents" while potty-training, and Caroline perfected her habit of tossing half of each meal onto the floor. Needless to say, the Resolve just couldn't keep up with all our spots and we were way overdue for a deep cleaning. I was really exhausted at the end of the day, but the carpets look beatiful again, except for the area by the kitchen where Caroline likes to sit and pull it apart.
Tuesday: MOPS play group at Focus on the Family. I'll explain more about that later with the pictures. Rylan had fun running around with his friends Jimmy and Dain, and stealing Jimmy's chicken nuggets at lunch when no one was looking. Caroline was still a small baby last time we visited, so she enjoyed being able to crawl and climb over the obstacles in the baby area for the first time. Before going home, I took a quick trip to Victoria's Secret to redeem a birthday coupon, and frantically looked for my size on the sale rack while trying to keep Rylan from dismantalling racks of undergarments and bins of lipstick.
Wednesday: More fun with Jimmy and Dain at play group at our house. We raked leaves in the backyard and the boys jumped in the piles in between arguments over sharing toys and whose turn it was to hide under the plastic swimming pool.
Thursday: Story time at the library. Rylan behaved very well until the very end when he and another boy both lay claim to the same giant stuffed animal and had a shouting tug-of-war match. The librarian was so disgusted she confiscated all the stuffed animals and hid them away in a closet. Rylan has been re-telling the sad story of the "puppets" being taken away every day. Charlton met us at the park, then we ate lunch at one of our new favorite restaurants, Jack-in-the-Box. I am happy to say Rylan did not steal anyone else's chicken nuggets. After nap we went to the grocery and only had to make one mad dash across the store to the potty.
Friday: We went to the zoo with Daddy in the morning, had our eardrums blasted by the howler monkeys, narrowly avoided some uncomfortable questions about the bear's obscene behavior, and only handled about a half-dozen temper tantrums. One of the highlights of our trip was seeing some wild deer up close in a wooded area in the zoo. We celebrated my birthday a few days early with my favorite pizza from Old Chicago's and Charlton and I enjoyed a rare relaxing evening at home, together. Charlton also surprised me with a dozen, beautiful red roses. Thanks, honey!
Saturday: Charlton went to his karate class in the morning and as soon as he arrived home, I dashed out to get a quick hair cut. The kids and I scarfed our lunch and then went to celebrate our friend Izzy's first birthday party. Her party was in the clubhouse of the condo complex, and we were amazingly one of the first guests to arrive. Some family members were putting the finishing touches on the delicious food and charming decorations. An impressive bouquet of colorful balloons formed the centerpiece of the room. Rylan, and his accomplice, Buzz Lightyear, just couldn't resist a little balloon combat. Fearing disaster after the second blow, and with Izzy's family members watching with baited breath, I decided to halt the attack. Too late. Turns out the helium balloons weren't really firmly attached to the cute miniature gift bag that looked like a weighted tether. Gradually the entire cluster broke loose and gently drifted towards the ceiling,.... one with exposed beams and bolt ends sticking out. POP, POP, POP went the balloons, one after the other as I frantically tried to grab the strings and pull them to safety. In the end only three balloons met a tragic end, just the prettiest pink ones that actually had the "Happy Birthday" writing on them. One thoughtful family member even ran to his car for a pocket knife to remove the shredded remains before the birthday girl arrived. It was all I could do not to hang my head, grab my children and run for the door, before the party had even started. We managed to behave ourselves for a whole hour before I caught Rylan "helping" Izzy open her presents and decided enough was enough. Besides, we had to get home and prepare for Charlton's "fight night" party with the Training Ground guys. Fifteen hungry guys, plus three MMA fights on TV, plus thirty grilled brats, three hasbrown casseroles, three bags of chips, one pan of brownies, a dozen cupcakes, and five 2-liters of soda equaled a great time for everyone.
Sunday: My actual birthday was really a very ordinary day. We went to church, I opened my presents, took a lovely long nap and went to work in the evening.
Whew! What a week. No wonder I am tired. Maybe next week will be calmer... :-)
Happy Birthday to me! Thanks everyone for all my great gifts.
Caroline and her friend Izzy go for a canoe ride at Focus on the Family. Izzy's first birthday was November 6. Her mom Bekka and I were in a MOPS care group last fall and bonded through being pregnant at the same time.
Caroline looking oh so adorable on Sunday morning all ready for church. She has gotten very good at taking her shoes off. I think I popped them back on three times before we walked out the door and when I picked her up from nursery she was only wearing one.
Caroline's birthday cupcake shirt. I thought it turned out pretty cute and you can't really tell the cupcke ended up being a little crooked. She wore this to our "birthday" celebration at our MOPS play group on Tuesday. We had to fudge a little because Focus on the Family won't let you reserve a play room unless it is for a child's birthday. So, we gave them the names of Caroline and Izzy, our November babies, brought sprinkle cupcakes to share, and Caroline wore this shirt to enhance our credibility.