Boo-yeah

So I don’t really like to brag – really.   But I must say I feel a bit like this lady this year.

Not only am I done with Christmas shopping (a whole 15 days early), I am back on the coupon wagon.  And every time I get a good deal, I say “BOOM!” in my head a little and imagine myself looking like that lady…I think I even have that sweater.

I was off the coupon wagon for a bit because it is time consuming and once you’re off, it’s hard to get back on and get organized again.  It doesn’t help that I keep forgetting to get a Sunday paper.  But now, me and coupons are tight again.

I was also assisted by my sister.  She sent me a link for a $4 off coupon for a sweater at Target…the sweaters were on sale already for $8.99 – you guys!  That’s a sweater (and a nice one) for $4.99!  So I got two.  Plus she sent me this link to a $10 gift card when you purchase $50 worth of stuff, which ain’t hard to do at Target.  So I added a few necessities to my sweaters, like Aveno lotion for the kids (cause they both have exzema and it’s now winter) – which I also had store and manufacturer coupons for, thank you very much.  It was a super sweet deal.  And even though I’ve already said “BOOM!” in my head, I still feel the need to tell everyone who compliments me on my sweater that it was only $4!  It blurts right out of my mouth.  I can’t control it.

THEN, I got diapers at Babies ‘R Us with $5 off coupons AND got a $25 gift card.  I’ve totally been buying our Christmas presents with the gift cards I’ve accumulated by watching the deals.  OOOOO – I love it.

I had cut back on our eating out, but on Friday after my good deals at Target and Babies ‘R Us, we splurged and went to Chick-fil-a because I had accumulated 2 free chicken sandwich and 2 free chicken strips coupons….and also packed the kids drinks and sides…so maybe we didn’t actually splurge all that much.  But we FELT like we did, so that’s nice.

This saving money, couponing, deal seeking stuff is a huge rush and completely addictive.  And also completely necessary since we went WAY over budget in November – the sheer amount we spent on food last month is unspeakable.  But that’s what happens when you fall completely off the coupon wagon and also eat out way more than we should because who can make dinner when there is a toddler hanging on your leg for all the hours of the day, especially when you’re in the kitchen and he senses that food is eminent.

But now I’m planning ahead for meals and planning to get to know my crock pot very well.  I feel so very domestic.  Saturday night (because we know how to party), we all straightened up the house and folded the laundry.  Then after the kids went to bed, Russ and I made deviled eggs for a church lunch on Sunday and made a whole pot of chili soup to freeze (5 meals worth), AND I sewed the strap back on Taylor’s $.99 Christmas apron.  Cleaning, cooking, and sewing…what is this? 1950?  But I don’t care – I LOVED every minute of it – feeling productive, taking care of my family, and doing it all with the best partner in crime.

BOOM!

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what dreams are made of

Last Christmas, my sister and brother-in-law gave us a fire pit.  We were really excited about, but there was always some reason we didn’t actually USE it…it was too cold or too hot or too light outside or raining…or Russ was working late…or I was working late.  You know, life.  But last weekend, we decided it was the perfect time to try it out.  So great! And now we are hooked.  We did it again last night.

I mean, really, what’s better than sitting around the fire on a crisp fall evening sipping hot chocolate, listening to Christmas music, roasting marshmallows, making s’mores and hanging out with your favorite people?  Nothing.  Nada.  The only thing that would make it better is if Caleb would refrain from trying to touch the fire and therefore be allowed to hang out with us.  So far, he’s only made it 5 minutes before I put him to bed so we can enjoy the time without fear of third degree burns and a screaming toddler.  But the upside of that is that Taylor has gotten some good quality time with the undivided attention from both parents.

Last night we sat around talking for a while.  Taylor finished her hot chocolate, then pulled her s’more apart, ate the melty chocolate, then scraped the gooey marshmallow off the cracker, then decided to put the cracker in the bushes for the ducks.  Then she wiped melty chocolate and gooey marshmallow on her jeans (*note to self:  bring wipes outside next time).  She sits back in her chair for a minute gazing into the fire before looking at Russ and saying:

Daddy I want to cuddle with you.

and climbs up into his lap with her blanket in hand.

His face was covered side to side with a grin of perfect contentment as he says back to her:

I love you so much.

She gives him a kiss and says:

I love my whole family.

Then she snuggles her hello kitty hat covered head under his chin as he and I share a glance that confirms that this is what dreams are made of.

fresh

I think I started a new tradition this year.  It is December 7, and the Christmas cards went in the mail yesterday; the house is decorated and clean(ish); and we have all but three gifts wrapped and under the tree.

Did I mention it is only December 7?  It is a pretty incredible feeling to look into the horizon of the second week of Advent and Christmas with a weight lifted.  This is all because I took the week of Thanksgiving off.  I didn’t go anywhere the first half of the week and didn’t go far the rest of the weekend, so I got a lot of stuff done.

And Monday of that week, I got NOTHING done.  It was fabulous.  I got up and got the kids ready for school*, then after Russ drove off with them, I got back in bed and did not get up again until lunchtime.  At lunchtime, I heated up some pizza and got back in bed to eat it.  I did not get up again until it was time to pick the kids up at 3:00.    I had been fighting a sinus infection and working doubletime the week before (because my boss was on vacation), so this day of nothing was the best. day.

The rest of the week was very productive because I was fully (well, almost) refreshed.  I got back my go-get-him and my giddy-up.  So by the evening of Sunday, the house was really clean and decorated and most of the shopping was done (plus I got to spend some quality time with my mom and Taylor on Girls’ Day).

I highly recommend a staycation with no agenda, no plans…the chance to just be and to get as much done as you feel like getting done….and watching as much trashy TV as you want without anyone judging you.  It’s a good thing.  So I think from now on, I will take this week off and plan to go no where in order to find some order before charging full steam ahead into Advent and Christmas.

I really think I will enjoy this year more without the stress of shopping on Christmas Eve.  The Advent season is supposed to be about waiting and preparing for Christ’s coming, but with all the hustle and bustle, you lose the chance to wait and prepare – the pace is fast and furious.  I’m hoping that this year, I will really be able to celebrate Advent with some patience, some stillness, some silence, and a lot of joy and anticipation…hoping that my four year-old will rub off on me a bit.

*1) So, yes, I know that for Caleb especially it is more daycare than school, but I just don’t like the term daycare, and it’s my blog.  2) I used to think that if I wasn’t going into work, I had to keep the kids home (mom guilt).  HA!  Then I got a bit of sanity and perspective and learned that a little time off with the kids at school allowed me to be more rested and productive so that the time spent with them was that of a much higher quality.  So I cut myself a break.  Plus they both dig school a lot, so that helps.

Build-A-Bear

I worked at a Build-a-Bear one summer in college, and it was the funnest job.  But it was a funner experience to take Piglet.  Aunt Kathryn wanted to take her for Christmas so she could build her very own bear.

Step One:  Choose Me

Of course, Piglet picked out a cute puppy instead of a bear.

Step Two:  Stuff Me

Master Bear Builder “Can I hold your dog?”
Piglet:  “No”

It took some coaxing, but she finally let the lady hold her dog to get him stuffed.  Though she was a little scared of the stuffer – it sounded much like the terrifying vacuum cleaner.

Step Three:  Wash Me

Step Four:  Dress Me

(first of all, notice the puffy eye – In addition to all of the toys and books and clothes she got for Christmas, she also got pink eye)

We looked at all of the cute pink and girlie shirts, and Piglet thought she found some she liked, but then Aunt Kathryn brought over the USC shirt and asked her which one she wanted and she said, “THE COCKY ONE!”  She has been well indoctrinated.

Step Five:  Name Me

Aunt Kathryn:  What do you want to name your puppy?
Piglet:  Snack.
Kathryn:  What is your puppy’s name? (checking to make sure)
Piglet:  Snack.
Kathryn:  Ok then.

Step Six:  Take Me Home

Kathryn:  Do the birth certificates print out here?
Check out girl:  Yes.
Kathryn:  Do you have one for snack?
Girl:  laughter.
Girl:  Um, do you like have a professional photographer following you around for the day.
Kathryn:  No, that’s her mom.  She got a new camera for Christmas.

Building a puppy really makes you work up an appetite, so we had to make a stop at the cookie place.

After our snack with Snack, Piglet put her new puppy in the stroller, but then tired of pushing her around.   Then she saw the escalator, which she had never seen before, and was quite intrigued.  So she made Kathryn and Grammy take her up the escalator.  Meanwhile, I am pushing the stroller (which is not allowed on the escalator) with the stuffed puppy in it, around to the regular stairs so I can meet them at the door where we came in.   I suddenly realized how odd it must have looked that I was pushing a stuffed puppy in a stroller in the mall by myself.  Guess I can’t mock those people who push real dogs around in strollers anymore.

But once we were all together again and I was sufficiently mocked for pushing a puppy, we got in the car to meet Pops, Daddy, and Uncle Josh for an early dinner.

I think she likes Snack.

Thanks Aunt Kathryn and Uncle Josh!

tradition

Being Grisswaldesque is in our genes I believe.  My Papa put giant wooden cut outs of Santa, the sleigh, and Rudolph on his roof.  My uncle carries on that tradition and has a Christmas tree in every room in the house.  My dad is truly insane.   His last Christmas in his old house he won second place in the city’s Christmas Decoration Contest.   There were tons of lights, inflatables, multiple trees, and the words “Merry Christmas” on the roof.  Every year he would hit the after Christmas sales and buy one more tacky decoration and hide until the next year.  We had to wait until decorating day to find out what the new tacky thing would be.

Even though I wasn’t as into all of the outside crazy decorations, I did always get excited about playing my Amy Grant Christmas CD and putting up the tree and decorating the inside of the house.  And now we are passing one the tradition to Piglet (complete with Amy Grant), and it is so much fun.

We just have to work on the placement technique, she put all of hers on the same two branches.

She also helped set up the nativity.  I have set up this very nativity every year for as long as I can remember.  It was difficult to pass along the role since I have set it up the exact same way every year for as long as I can remember.  But it was fun watching her put all of the characters in their places as daddy identified them.

However, we also need to work on her nativity placement skills.

Of course, my OCD self had to rearrange the nativity and the Christmas tree decorations when Piglet wasn’t looking.

cheating on Thanksgiving

I am usually a stickler for not rushing into Christmas:  No shopping, no decorating, no Christmas music, etc until after Thanksgiving.  But this evening, we cheated and went to the James Island County Park Festival of Lights early to avoid the massive crowds.  We even turned on the Christmas music while we toured.

It’s a really neat park.  You drive through several miles of light displays.   We were going slow enough that Piglet just sat in my lap so she could see the lights better.  She got so excited and kept saying “Look Daddy” whenever she saw one she really liked.  I think our mutual favorite was the bridge that morphed from the old bridge to the new bridge.

The pictures would be better if I had a nicer camera, but what are you going to do? (hint, hint)  In addition to the lights, there was also a train to ride.  Piglet also thought this was super cool, and we actually got a family photo, which is a rare treat.

Then there was a carousel, which caused Piglet to laugh out loud with pure delight.  Of course in this picture, she is not laughing, but telling me something that I’m sure is very important.

There was also funnel cake and other attractions that were for big kids only – like the rock climbing wall.   Piglet and I watched some big boys climb the wall while Russ waited for our funnel cake.  When it was time to go get our funnel cake, I said to Piglet, “Where is daddy?”  And she began RUNNING around YELLING, “Russ B***der, Russ B***der, where are you?” until we found him.

Once we were reunited it was time to go, so Piglet said “Goodbye Christmas lights”

wild goose chase

A week before Christmas, Piglet went outside on the playground at school for the first time.  Ever since then, she wants to be outside all the time.  We have not been good about letting her play outside because our yard is such a mess.  The back has had dangerous construction debris, high weeds, and fire ant hills all over the place.  And the front yard has a road in front of it.  Anyway, we cleaned up the back yard and decided that Piglet needed a little playset for Christmas. 

So, on Christmas Eve Eve, we went to Toys R Us (not our best idea).  There wasn’t much left, but the one we liked the best was actually still in stock.  And when we got to the counter, we found out that it was on sale ($30 less).  woo-hoo!  Then we waited for the guy to bring the box up front so we could load it in the car.  and we waited.  and waited.  and waited.  He finally came out to tell us that they in fact did not have it in stock.  So we got our refund and went on our way, quite disappointed.  We figured that she would have plenty to open on Christmas morning, so we could wait a few days to get the playset – spread out the excitement – don’t want Christmas Overdose.

Then I went to another store to check out their selection, only to find that they didn’t have any in our price range…the had all gigantic playsets.  cool, but unrealistic. 

Then we tried to go to another Toys R Us.  But drove back and forth on the street where it was supposed to be 800 times before giving up and finding out that the store had closed.  Bummer. 

So I took my love to the other store to convince him and myself that we could spend a little more…I was now determined.  He wasn’t convinced and said we should try the first Toys R Us one more time.  So we did, still nothing. 

Then I had a idea – we went to the children’s consignment shop.  And the first set that we liked was there!  So exciting, but as we got closer, we saw that it had a sold sticker on it.  We were 15 minutes too late.  Defeated.

Then another idea, Craig’s List.  I’ve never used it before, there’s some pretty crazy things on there.  But I did find a play set with a little slide for $30.   It is not my favorite (I got attached to the fancy ones), but you can’t beat the used price.  We went and picked it up last night.  I THOROUGHLY cleaned it this morning, and voila – fun outside time for Piglet.   Mission accomplished. 

And then she played.  This face was totally worth it:

taylor-213