Saturday, December 31, 2011

Auld Lang Syne

Confession: I get choked up every time I hear "Auld Lang Syne".

I don't know why it has that effect on me, but it has for years now. It's kind of an all-purpose song meant to acknowledge both beginnings and endings, but doesn't every new beginning come from some other beginning's end? (I didn't come up with that last part. It's a lyric from a song my husband hates! So true though.)

While people are out celebrating tonight, I wonder what they'll toast to at midnight? Will they revel in the blessings the year brought, or is it a farewell to the hardships of the last 365 days? 

I, for one, am going to celebrate tonight as the official end of 2011. 

We've struggled emotionally, with stress and concern for the ones we love. We've struggled financially, due to our growing family and the debts that come along with providing for our children. We've struggled professionally, sometimes it's hard to sit back and watch when things unexpectedly take a turn for the worse. We've struggled to not only maintain, but also to improve, in relationships as well as material possessions.

You know what though? I can't say that it was the worst year of my life. In all honesty, I can't pinpoint a single year in all of my 28 that I would label as the worst year of my life. I have bad days, but I refuse to have a bad year.

The most solid piece of advice that I have ever received is to start each day anew. You have to make a conscious effort to make each day a good day, or the bad days will consume you. Whatever it is, face it, and then get over it. 

We all deserve to be happy today, and every day after. 

Whether you celebrate an end or a beginning tonight, cheers, and best wishes.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Santa Came: My Yard Has More Glitter Than a Strip Club Now

This is how I kicked off Christmas 2011.
Focus on the busted screen, not the fact that I take shitty pictures.

By "kicked off Christmas 2011", I really mean "tripped over my own feet after climbing across the baby gate with my phone and a sippy cup in each hand within 10 minutes of waking up on Christmas eve". I stood there in sheer disbelief for a good 10 seconds before a stream of mother-fuckers flowed from my mouth like molten hot lava. The baby throws my phone like a grenade a minimum of 25 times each day, and not even a scratch. I drop it while pulling Super Mom duty to quench the thirst of my two needy babes, and BAM - screen looks like it's been hit by a stray bullet.

On Christmas eve, no less!

The rest of the day was spent in a cleaning frenzy set to the tune of my trusty Christmas station on Pandora. Laundry, some dishes, bathroom scrubbed, bedrooms - I even vacuumed which is a very rare occasion for this happy homemaker. I worked like a robot programmed for perfection, one with an irrational fear that if the house wasn't clean by nightfall Christmas would be ruined. 

By the time Chris got home from work I'd had my fill of cleaning. We had a typical evening cooking and eating supper, checking out our various internet addictions, etc while waiting for Mia to come home from her dad's house before bedtime.

My big girl got home right after the sun went to bed and the stars came out to play; ready for Christmas magic.

We take this exact photo every Christmas eve

Our Christmas eve tradition is that the kids get to open their gifts from Daddy & Mommy, and exchange their gifts from each other. Each year from us, they each get new pajamas to sleep in that night and a new outfit to wear the next day. From each other, they get something useful, but a little more fun (Miles: small stacking cups and new boots, Mia & Marlee: Hello Kitty watches and winter hats). 

Did they love their gifts? Yes. Were they bummed when they realized they didn't get any toys? Yes and the tears began to flow. My kids are spoiled rotten, and even though they're very grateful for the things they receive, they're still kids. Kids love toys - not hats and watches.When kids cry, you distract them with something else.

While I put everyone in their new pajamas, Daddy went out to warm up the car. We put on slippers and the new hats and the girls doused the sidewalk, porch, and pretty much the entire front yard with Reindeer Food. For those of you who remember the fine establishment that was the Million Dollar Fantasy Ranch, my lawn is still coated with enough glitter to decorate an entire generation of single moms just trying to put themselves through college. I'll bet a crisp one dollar bill that the glitter will still be there in July.

The glitter's there. Trust me.

 Never made Reindeer Food? Here's the recipe: 

  • 2 cups uncooked oatmeal (1 cup plain, 3 individual packets apple-cinnamon flavor)
  • 1 huge ass jar of gold glitter (entire jar) 
Combine glitter and oatmeal in a large Ziploc bag. Shake until mixed thoroughly. Then shake it again because it separates every time you move the dang bag.

Bag empty, we loaded into our toasty car with big cups of hot cocoa and blankets on our laps, then drove through our sweet hometown looking at the Christmas lights. "Damn it Marlee! I MEAN IT! Roll your window up or Santa's not going to bring you any presents!" followed by "Chris! Watch the road! CHRIS! YOU'RE ALMOST IN THE DITCH! Are you even watching for deer? You're going too fast - what if a deer runs out in front of us? Or a German Shepard!" I don't drive at night, so logically I don't think anyone else is really capable of doing it either.

Before long, the kids were tired of the lights and asking if we were almost done. I love when we do things with the kids, saying that it's for their enjoyment, but in all honesty we do it because it's something that us adults think is fun... 

At home, we set out milk and cookies for the big guy and Mia read A Very Marley Christmas (about the dog, not the child though it's pretty much one and the same) before my 3 sweet babies fell asleep. Not before Chris caught Marlee dunking her hands in the toilet though, and had to shower her off and change her pajama top. Three year-olds: can't tranquilize them, can't get them to fall asleep on their own.

When the coast was clear, Santa's gifts magically appeared under the tree and stockings were stuffed and hung. Not the 3 foot tall stockings (though I did conveniently find them tucked away in a box in the garage), but 3 replacement stockings.

Chris decided that it was time to wrap the gift he'd got me, and always one for surprises, called me into the kitchen "You wanna see what I bought you? Hey, where's some wrapping paper and tape?". In typical female fashion, I got all butt hurt because it wasn't what I'd hoped he'd got me. In typical man fashion, he said he didn't buy my requested gift because I'd told him that we couldn't afford it so don't waste the money. Ugh...ok, he had me there... Shit...
Inside: body wash (wrong scent), perfume (wrong scent), sugar scrub (already have). I'll keep them though!
I woke up every hour between 4AM and 8AM filled with anticipation, but the kids did not. Finally at 8:30AM, Miles started to stir and I woke the girls up asking them if they thought Santa came. Mar's response was to look out the bedroom window and say "Nope. There's no presents in da yard, Mommy..."

They made the nice list, miraculously. 

Somebody got her toy peacock. Name? Toy Peacock Girl.

Amy Rose for my little gamer!
He loves smiling. Smiling's his favorite!

See that coffee mug? My favorite Christmas gift from last year. Hand - painted by Big Sister.
The rest of the holiday was spent with our family: parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. Good food, good gifts, and good times. 

Now that it's over - back to cleaning up one giant glitter-speckled mess after the next. Why doesn't Santa think about storage before he goes shopping every year?

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hurry Christmas, Hurry Fast!

"Christmas, Christmas time is near. Time for toys & time for cheer. 
We've been good, but we can't last. Hurry Christmas, hurry fast..."

Friends, I tell you with all certainty, I'm living the live action version of The Chipmunks' Christmas song right now.
 We end each night by moving the snowman into a new pocket on the advent calendar before bedtime. The wise big sister announces "_____ more days 'til Christmas!" and the excited little sister replies "Yep! And guess what? Tomorrow when we wake up it's be Christmas!"

Toddlers have no concept of time. They do get the concept of presents though.

I've lost count on exactly how many times the words "Be good...Santa's always watching!" have been uttered this week. Once you pass 10, you realize you're only saying it to give yourself false hope that the kids really will be on their best behavior. 

When all else fails - you call the man with the bag to tattle:

"Hi, Santa? Yes, it's Jennifer Palis. I could use a little assistance here. I know you can see that they're acting like turds! I told them you were watching...What's that? Uh-huh...Uh-huh...Ok I'll tell them - Santa says that only good children get gifts on Christmas morning and it makes him sad when you guys try to murder each other/jump on the furniture like you're in a bounce house/use the Christmas ornaments like soccer balls/fill the sink drain with toilet paper/mash Pop Tarts into the carpet/cut your own hair/smear melty chocolate onto the back seat of the car. Yes, Santa Claus, they're listening. Yes, they look sorry. Santa says to promise Mommy you'll be good kids. Ok Santa they promised! Alright - thanks Big Guy, love you too! What? Yep, we're making sugar cookies on Saturday night. Do you want 2% or milk nog? Milk nog it is! Oh! Tell Rudolph that we have reindeer food & carrots ready for him and the team too. Your key will be in the normal spot on the door knob. No, thank you! Bye!"

I wish I had videos of my kids during a tattle call with SC. Their faces are a combination of shame, betrayal, fear, and hope in the purest form. They go from tears to relief through the span of the call and then? All is good, for minutes until someone gets busted again...

Mia had her First Grade holiday party on Wednesday morning.

The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig
My big girl decided to read me a story while some of the other kids played a game of Christmas Pictionary on the classroom whiteboard. She's such a good reader! The only word she needed help with? Pneumatic.

Craft time: Metallic plastic ornament with glittery stickers = Mama will keep this forever
Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells
 Girls were asked to bring a book for a girl, wrapped, with a price limit of $5.  Mia brought in a La La Loopsy book, wrapped in pink Christmas paper with kittens on it and made no secret of announcing to the other girls which was her present and what the book was. Her friend Morgen will likely be reading a little La La Loopsy over Christmas break! Sister received her friend Lily's gift - a book AND a big box of M&Ms! Score!

This is the kind of picture you pull out on Graduation day. Adorable!
Yesterday was our company Christmas party at work. Staff breakfast provided by the senior managers, employee breakfast served by all staff, games, crafts, photos with Santa Claus, and an awesome talent show. By far, the company Christmas party is my favorite day out of the work year. 

This year, the employees decided to forgo their Christmas bonuses in favor of collecting money for another local non profit. A total of $800 was donated to a women and children's shelter. My cup runneth over.

We also held an ugly sweater competition for the staff this year. Jimmy and I searched high and low for worthy gaudiness. We found them at the Christian thrift store in town, and seriously thought I was going to have to fight an older lady for it. Eyeballing my sequins? Aw, hell nah!

Sibling Rivalry: Ugly Sweater Edition
Sadly, neither of us won the cash prize for our sweaters. I can't speak for Jimmy, but as for my sweater, it's in good hands now that I'm done with it. The girls are absolutely loving it!

We're off work until after the first of the year now. Hallelujah! Hello, Christmas vacation, I've been waiting for you!


Our next door neighbor, Jack, brought over bags of Christmas gifts for the kids yesterday. He is SO good to my kids, and they love him like he's just another grandpa. So thankful to have him in our lives!
The perfect fit!

Well, I'm off to clean my house before it gets destroyed again on Sunday. Have a wonderful holiday everyone, and if you don't have a reason to celebrate this weekend - find one!  Life is a gift...

P.S. Christmas Dinner 2011's dessert? Cake pops from Bitty Bites Cake Pop Company. Granny won an assortment of them in a pictures with Santa contest on Bitty Bites' Facebook Page. Check these beauties out - I'm DYING to eat them!
Flavor varieties shown: chocolate, vanilla, red velvet, lemon coconut, and mint Oreo

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Weekend Wrap Up

As of tonight, I haven't wrapped a single gift, haven't properly grocery shopped in roughly 2 weeks, haven't found the perfect hideous sweater for the company Christmas party, haven't the foggiest as to what the hell happened to the 3 giant stockings that Santa has filled for the last 4 years, and haven't figured out what's caused my car's heated seat button to go on the fritz. I'll save those worries for a Tuesday or a Friday.

In Momland, Monday through Friday holds the same old work/school schedule, and Saturday is the day to play catch up on all of your other priorities. Sunday is fun day: the day to relax, the day to do something special, the day to simply reward yourself for the battles won the six days prior. And then? You get to start all over as the sun rises on Monday. 

So, I sit here on Sunday night, wrapping up what's left of my weekend, and tying a big red bow on top for your reading pleasure. Life is a gift, that's why they call it the present.

Behold, the gifts I've been given:

Hello, beautiful...
Thanks to this crazy December heat wave, the weather is a comfortable 50F during the day, and just chilly enough to warrant fleece blankets and hot coffee in the evenings. I'll take Sunny Days/Cozy Nights for $200, Alex!

Mia, Marlee, Miles
The postman delivered Christmas cards from Santa himself to my 3 babies. Not just any old cards though, pop up cards - with glitter AND Christmas ornament stamps. I believe Mia's exact words were "Santa...sent...a card to MEEEE! I know I'm on the Nice List now!" through a fit of excited giggles. Helpful hint: Santa's handwriting looks just like everyone else's, but he adds little circles to the connecting points of each letter. Crafty old elf, that St. Nick.

I'm no Annie Lebovitz. Also, I take most of my pics on my phone. It's handy.
Mia spotted 7 cardinals in our front yard today. Growing up, my mama always told me that when a cardinal lands, it's a sign that snow is on its way. Lo and behold, the forecast shows a possibility of snow on Tuesday. I love when I get to pull out my Farmer's Almanac knowledge with the kids. It makes me feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I REALLY love that!

"Purple is the Mommy flower, pink are the babies" - Mia
It was candy-making day at Great Granny's house today. We were invited to come by and sample the wares, so of course, we complied. You don't pass up an invitation to Great Granny's - especially when there's taste tasting involved. Great Granny is recovering from her second mastectomy and decided that she had enough flowers in her house, maybe a few blooms would like to come live at our house with the girls. P.S. I'd like to recommend the peanut butter fudge and the lemon cake balls dipped in white chocolate. Have mercy on my thighs...

Shock me, shock me... Marlee isn't wearing pants...
We surprised the kiddos with a TV for their bedroom. With a pricetag of $10, it was a deal too sweet to pass up. Squeals of delight, I tell ya! So far, it's been well worth the price, based solely on the fact that they're able to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas in a room separate from Daddy and I. I swear, when I was a child, The Grinch was on once a year. Fast forward 20 years, it's on every night from Thanksgiving to Christmas on one channel or another. You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

Next week, we'll take down the Christmas tree. Until then, we'll be fighting what's sure to be a losing battle with Brother. Bless us, everyone.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

For Your Listening Pleasure

"Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from Heaven to the soul."

I've been in a funk for the last few weeks. I'm not going hash it all out here because let's be honest - a real man hides his emotions from the outside world (a little something I picked up from the Old Man) so that no one thinks he's a pansy. Also, I realize that I have a uterus and that actually makes me a woman, but I tend to have a man's mentality a lot of the time. 

Anyway... I feel like I've been going through life on autopilot lately, and that has left me with little motivation to enjoy daily life and little motivation to write. I apologize for slacking off. This isn't exactly Rolling Stone, but I love that my little blog allows people to escape from their lives and experience mine momentarily. I hope you take what you like from my ramblings, and leave behind the words that hold no value for you.

Music is - and always will be - the cure for what ails me, and I feel like that rings true for a lot of people. I like to think that people don't make a living in the music industry simply because they want fame or fortune, but because they want to create something powerful and share it with others.

I love that music has the ability to be interpreted differently by each person, and to take on a new meaning to the listener each time they hear a song even if it's been heard a million times before. To inspire us to live and to feel through the good times and the bad, and to encourage us to carry on when things don't go as planned. 

Last Friday, I started my day feeling emotional as a result of the ups and downs I'd experienced during the week. I drove to work, my mind stumbling across various low points, driving my outlook into darkness. And then, a song I've heard a million times before came on the radio - "The Cave" by Mumford & Sons

I've always enjoyed the song - the driving rhythm of the drum and banjo combination, the empowered rise of the chorus, and the cadence of the lyrics as they are sung. A million times before, I'd heard the song and sang along, tapping my foot to the beat. A million times before, I'd heard the song and in my mind it represented the struggles of someone I love. In that moment though, the song represented my own struggles and served as reassurance that after darkness always comes the light. I love when that happens.

The rest of my Friday was great, as was my Saturday. Now that Sunday is here, I need to clean my disgusting house. To motivate myself, I created a little playlist to get the job done and it starts with "Soul Singing" by The Black Crowes. (Even if you don't like the song itself, watch the video and witness the way Chris Robinson dances like a cross between a VH1 Diva and a hippie on the best trip of his life. The power of music at its finest.)
My request for comments: What inspires you?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ho Ho Holy Shit...

Before I go into the rundown of last night's visit from Santa, let's take a peek at the technology that makes tonight's post possible...

We don't eat in the kitchen anyway. Hence, my carpet is Dalmatian colored.
You might remember the laptop from this post. You might also remember that my husband actually sells computers for a living. How does this contraption work? Well, you take a laptop with a broken screen, hook it up to a separate flat screen monitor, then - here's where it gets good - you keep the laptop open and type on it and then the words will appear on the second monitor. Like something straight out of Star Trek, huh?


We have an annual tradition of having Santa make an early visit to the kids. He does magic tricks and lets the kids help, then each child gets a turn to sit on his lap. Everyone gets to tell him what they would like for Christmas, and everyone gets one gift from the big guy. Santa then thanks everyone for being good boys and girls, and warns them that he's always watching and he hopes to see their names on the Nice list on December 24. It's a fabulously festive passive aggressive way of telling the kids to chill out for Dad and Mom or they won't get the good stuff.

Santa Saturday kicked off with my sister-in-law, Laura, being rushed to the emergency room with mystery internal pains. Not rushed as in taken by ambulance, but rushed as in my brother drove her there in a Ford Contour. Turns out, it was just a kidney infection and once she had a few pain pills in her system, she couldn't feel the outside of her body, let alone her kidneys. Fa la la la la, la vi-co-din!

Granny and Papa went over extra early to sit with the kids, and make the $75.00 worth of pizzas purchased for the night.

LADY @ PIZZA PLACE: I always forget your name...
ME: Jennifer
LADY: Jennifer, that's right! You're in here every week and you buy at least 4 pizzas every time. You know that you can call your order in ahead of time, right?
ME: Yep.  I always remember that when I'm standing in line.
LADY: uncomfortable laughter

Back to the story. Sorry!

To help out with the kids, I went over early too with Marlee and Miles. Chris would be there when he got off of work and Mia was coming with her dad at 7PM to get dressed up.

What happened between supper and Santa? Behold, holiday hijinks:
  • I became the juicebox police. "NO! There's only enough for each of you to have 2 juices. Nah! You've already had 2! Put it back and I'll get you some water!"
  • PaPa cussed the TV because he couldn't find the remote and the channel was set to Disney.
  • 2 kids fist fought over whose turn it was to play with Batman, and who got Joker.
  • Marlee ate half a bag of lemon cough drops - the Halls kind. Yum!
  • Got to hold down my 2 year old nephew so that I could wash the pizza from his face and hands. He proceeded to scream bloody murder because I'm probably the meanest aunt in the world, and baby wipes are like sandpaper to the skin...
  • The dog sat in the front yard the entire night howling and yelping because he wanted inside. If the dog were a man, I would've punched him. I love the idea of a dog, but in real life, I hate them because they're almost always buttholes.
  • Talked to Mia's dad at 6:45 to make sure that they'd be there by 7 and wouldn't be late. They were taking family pics in front of their tree. He assured me that they were almost done and would be there on time.
  • Chris arrived, just as PaPa realized that the porch light wasn't working. "Well God damn...Pitch black out here. Someone's gonna fall down these steps and kill themselves." Thankfully, it was just a burned out bulb and there was no need to cut a hole in the side of Jimmy & Laura's house.
  • Mia's dad pulled up around 7:15 - just as Granny was heading across the street to wait for Santa to pull up in his 'sleigh'. From what I'm told, an ass-chewing was dealt out by Granny to Uncle TyTy, and vice-versa over being late. Once inside, tensions were running high, so it was mutually agreed upon that Mia would stay with us and see Santa and I'd run her back over to them later. I've said it once, I'll say it a million times, it's not a family gathering unless someone leaves pissed off.
  • Jimmy and Laura walked in just in time to give hugs before Santa showed up. Laura: "I had pain pills so I don't hurt anymore. P.S. I'm high as a kite...Can we move a bench in here to sit on now?"
Then...Santa walked in. It. Was. Great. That jolly old elf really has a way of boosting everyone's spirits - young and old, and all of the frustrations of the day simply vanished. 

I don't remember what gift each of the kids specifically asked Santa Claus to bring them. I do know that Marlee and Jonis were slightly astonished when they opened their gifts and found Doodle Bears instead of a peacock and blue Batman. When all else fails, give a toddler markers. Works every time.

No description necessary. Adorable!

Miles liked Santa's jingle belt

Have you ever made Tootsie Rolls using Tupperware, a coffee table, and magic?
Big kids = trying to figure out HOW he does it
Before Santa came, it was unanimously decided that this would be the last year for this tradition. Once he left, plans were already in motion for next year. 

Christmas magic, Christmas magic, Christmas magic!