And it all comes down

There is always a bit of mourning when Christmas ends. The baubles come off the tree, the twinkling lights are taken down, the nutcrackers are boxed away. Every year I consider leaving it all out at least until the New Year, but a large part of me craves our normal schedule and an end to the insanity, not to mention an end to the sweets when I finally gain the bravery to step on a scale and see the results of all those cookies and fudge and caramels and birthday cake and kettle corn. My love for regularity inevitably beats my love for chaos and fudge, and so every year I end up taking down the tree as soon as we are back from our Christmas travels.

And then the house, despite my best efforts at winter decorating, seems suddenly desolate. I go overboard for Christmas, for sure, filling every nook and corner. But part of the problem is there just isn't much to put out on the shelves come winter time. In the Spring I have a seemingly endless supply of pink and girly baubles and fresh flowers and paper flowers. In the Summer I get out my collection of seashells and Zeke brings in his favorite rocks and sticks and the flowers just keep coming, switching to the sturdier summer varieties. Fall has its pumpkins and scarecrows and dried corn and fallen leaves gathered.
In the winter I'm left with...pine cones. And old books, and teacups, and a great collection of beeswax candles that I received for Christmas and thought about doling out over the whole year but in the end set out in one grand display, figuring I could use a little excess during these short, cold days. But it still just doesn't compare with the effect of 3o something little wood soldiers and a freaking TREE in the house.
So this week we wean ourselves off of Christmas. We will finish off the truffles and caramels and candy canes. We will skip chores to build really, really, big train tracks for Thomas to explore. I'll look thru my new hymnal to find songs to replace all the Christmas tunes I've been singing the kids to sleep to. Zeke will go to bed every night hugging his plastic Lightning McQueen to his chest, the special Lightning McQueen cup Santa was good enough to bring by his side (oh yes, we are a bottle-free family now). Malachi will ignore all his toys to chase after Zeke's tricycle, despite being way too small for it.
I suppose it isn't all bad, either. This weekend we will have New Years to celebrate. On the eve we have a party to attend and on the day itself I've got big plans for caramel corn, sparkling apple cider, and playing Wii all day in our pajamas. So its not as if we will be quite to life-as-normal for at least a few more days.
And Zeke and I are both geared up to re-start preschool after our long- since Thanksgiving- winter break. We are doing S is for Snow next week and the paper snowflakes and sock snowmen we're making will in part make up for the lack of Christmas decorations around.

Happy Birthday To Me (#98-206)

Christmas, as wonderful as it is, seems to take over the entire month of December. Any poor soul with a December birthday can easily account to that. For those of us with the ill luck to have been born on THE DAY itself, well, we get lost in the shuffle even more then most. Heck, even I regularly forget about my birthday.

I turn 25 in 5 days, on Christmas Day, and I'm not complaining but in the last 10 years? I've had 2 birthday cakes. I've counted. Maybe pointedly enough that my husband will be sure I get one every year from now on.

And that is why #206 is my leftover birthday cake. It seems obscene, birthday cake this close to Christmas...but I am enjoying every bite.

I'm well loved.

98. The fact that every time Zeke breaks out in song (which is often), Malachi stops whatever he is doing to dance.

99. My husbands mad cookie decorating skills. He wont admit it, but he's way better then me.

100. New recipes for veggies that are starting to feel very old.

101. Piles and piles of cookies on the counter.

102. 45 degrees and snowy.

103. Cowboy boots.

104. The silence of naptime.

105. That we have the wealth to pick out gifts for the needy.

106. Dripping icicles.

107. The smell of Christmas trees.

108. Piles of presents under the tree.

109. The last person crossed off my list.

110. A whole morning of nothing but fudge.

111. The last cookie.

112. Making another batch.

113. Real mistletoe and the bestest man to kiss.

114. Can I say fudge again?

115. Zeke's constant chattering of what everyone should get for Christmas- if he were in charge there would be a lot of trains passed out.

116. Taking a long hard look at my to-do list and playing the Wii instead.

117. Twinkling lights.

118. Finally getting the boys to smile- at the same time- in the same direction- with snot free noses.

119. Sweater vests.

200. A night out with friends. Or rather my husbands friends? Or the fact that really, they are all the same.

201. 36 hours (and counting) with no puppy accidents, that's thru a night people!

202. Zeke's version of "Frosty the Snowman"

203. Malachi's "momma momma momma momma!"

204. A re-commitment to lookign nice from time to time.

205. Re-bleaching my hair, twice because its so overdue that my peroxide actually expired.

206. Leftover birthday cake.


Mal is 11 months now (today in fact) and the boys are hitting a stage for the first time where they will run off and play together. I mean, they always played, they would wrestle and hug and tickle with mommy supervision, but it was always Zeke playing with the baby. The last few weeks have been the first time they have really played together as equals and friends.

Let me tell you, it makes showering around here a whole lot easier.

Brotherhood is just such a funny dynamic. It's very different then sisterhood. Different then friendship. They love each other, and they are merciless with each other. And watching their relationship develop has been a true joy. I've always been a bit of a believer in the influence of age order on people's personalities (the fact that before Malachi we were a family of first-borns always seemed a bit telling to me, for example) but Malachi and Zeke seem to defy all the rules with each other.

Zekey is so phlegmatic, so passive and so slow to act (or react) that Malachi has really taken charge between the two of them. Mal is of course too small for much of his personality to be set but I think he might be the first loud Clark. We are many things, us Clarks, but loud isn't really one of them. We are a decidedly understated family, soft spoken and not much for forcing our own way.

Mal seems to have more personality then the other three of us put together.

So Mal may be the little brother, but he is quickly becoming the brother in charge. 90% of their games are Mal-invented games and without fail every time I leave them in the toy room playing their separate activities, when I come back Zeke has joined Malachi.

I read somewhere once that your siblings will be the people with you for the longest. Friends can come and go and even parents will die, but your siblings will always be there. The person that knows you the longest is almost always your sibling.

I'm so glad they have each other.

Christmas Pictures

I was without the internet for a while...something about construction and moving us to a new server, and then forgetting to move us back to our old server all happening of course on a weekend when they aren't open to complain to.

The funny thing is I didn't really miss it. Sure there was that recipe I had bookmarked, and the address to that birthday party in my email, and the pattern in my ravelry queue. There were opportunities missed, and irritations. But for the most part? Didn't much miss it.

But now, of course, I am sadly behind on everything internet related. So instead of writing out the post I was planning I will just leave you with a few complaints on how very hard it is to get a good Christmas photo of the kids.
First they wont look at me.

Then, my favorite, a yawner and a nose picker at the same time.

Then they aren't looking at me again.

Then the dog butts in.

And for my money. One.

I'm trying again today...wish me luck.

Getting in the Spirit

We've really kicked into the Christmas spirit this week, despite the fact that I have been sick pretty much since Thanksgiving. The holidays wait for no man, after all. Not even for a sick mama.

So we started by baking up a cookie storm. Sugar cookies, and mexican wedding cookies (aka snowballs), and my "famous" mint chocolate cookies. And when those dwindle down we may start thinking about fudge.
This is my first year in quite a while not participating in a cookie exchange, and I have to's kind of nice. I think in the end we baked a little over 6 dozen cookies for home and office use and that was a BIG difference from the 15 dozen I made last year, plus fudge, plus caramels, plus truffles. I'm not saying I wont ever do it again...just that the break was enjoyed.
After that we set up our Christmas tree.
Or shall I say Christmas bush? Zeke picked out the fattest tree I think I have ever seen. But it looks just perfect all dolled up with ornaments.

We even went Christmas shopping to fill out the bottom of the tree, and Zeke picked out and wrapped a gift for a little boy his own age who's family our church is sponsoring. We had been worried about how well this would work out for him, picking out a toy that he will probably want to keep, but he did great with it.

We've even "unwrapped" our first Christmas gift...
Even though she is technically MY Christmas gift Zeke has been telling everyone how "daddy brought him a doggy for his own". And maybe it is partly true. We had pretty much decided on the name Kaylee after all when Zeke ran down the hall yelling "Come on Cla-la-la, I will show you my dinosaurs!!" And of course, off she ran and as Claudia she was forever known.

Other holiday activities have included, watching classic Christmas films (most notably Frosty the Snowman), singing carols (Jingle Bells was an instant hit), drinking hot chocolate (Zeke prefers tea, the wierdo), eating snow...

And passing out from the exhaustion of it all.

Oh yes, and oh so pathetically trying to get a good Christmas card picture...but perhaps that deserves a post all its own?

A Dirty Rotten No-Good Day (#82-96)

Yesterday afternoon found me crying, in public, in the snow. (And I never never cry, let alone in public) You see my car was stuck in the snow, my baby was screaming in the backseat, a plow was coming up behind me, a tow truck was on it's way, my car keys were lost in the street, my husband wasn't answering his phone, and I had just gotten 2 simultaneous text messages- one from my babysitter saying she had heard my kids had pink eye and wouldn't be able to babysit that night if it was true, and the second isn't actually my story to tell but let's just say it made the rest of it look like a vacation.

So there I was, crying, in public, in the snow.

Did I mention that my cat had been missing for a few hours already? Yes, my Mony Mony, who never ever leaves the yard, had gone out this morning and not come back. If it was Ziggy I would have shrugged it off as a protest of the new puppy (new puppy!), and expected him back when he decided rotten looks are better punishment then silence. But Mony never leaves the yard and she wasnt even wearing her collar so she had no registration tags on. She is also the epitome of catness and far far too aloof to admit something as measly as a dog could affect her. She had taken one look at the puppy from the top of the stairs and continued on with her day.

So by hour 6 of being missing I was pretty sure we'd find her corpse in the spring thaw.

I was, in fact, looking for her dead body when I got stuck in the snow.

And the blessed thing about days like that, the days where just everything seems to go wrong, is that you hit a point where you really notice all the small things that go right. There is always light somewhere.

And my husband did eventually call me back and remind me that we have a spare "valet" key in his office. And after that quick run into the house I got my car at least started back up which made it possible for my mail man and the elderly man that lives across the street to give me the push I needed to get into the driveway. The plow came thru, which made me give up all hope of finding my keys, but at least now I know I wont get stuck again (at least until another snow). Allowed into the house the baby took a 5 hour nap and when I went outside to shovel my neighbor, bless his soul, helped me clear out the snow against my driveway that the plow created. It turned a 3 hour job into a 1 and a half hour job and I almost cried again in pure thankfulness.

I convinced my sitter that she wouldn't catch pink eye as long as she didn't rub her eyes incessantly- which is true, the boys had been on meds for 2 days and their eyes were no longer pink or weeping, just a little swollen, in fact today is our last day of medicine- and she agreed to come after all. So I was able to make it out to Josh's office Christmas party. Thanks to the neighbor's help shoveling, I was even able to look good. All the pity I received at the party, the hugs and the donated drink tickets (everyone got 2, I assume to avoid a repeat of last year's party where everyone got drunk), made me feel a fool, but also made me feel very very loved. Between people that get my facebook status' and people that were in the meeting Josh left to answer my frantic phone calls I think everyone got to hear about my day.

And then, when I got home and put the puppy out to do her business before bed, in walked Mony, and I went to bed telling myself "do over". And that is why #96 is- That you get to start fresh every morning.

Moments of Grace

#82 I'm thankful for myself. I know my sister said it in jest at the Thanksgiving table but it still stuck with me all day. I'm very thankful for the opportunity, the freedom and ability, to become my unique self.

#83 The kid's table.

#84 Leftovers, particularly when eaten before the day is even thru.

#85 The magical being that is "uncle" to Zeke and all the years he has to enjoy it.

#86 Online weather reports.

#87 Neighbors who offer their car out for loan, because they know mine cant get anywhere.

#88 Pediatricians who come to my door.

*89 New puppies.

#90 People willing to give you that push you need, whether its a literal push on your car or something more more abstract.

#91 Phone calls in sympathy...right when the tears start.

#92 Plowed roads.

#93 Someone to shovel with, side by side.

#94 Hugs. In particular I will say Nathan's hug, I loved his "Oh Courtney, I was watching on Facebook and was going to leave a comment but I'd just rather say it tonight, I'm soo sorry" or something like that.

#95 The cat coming back.

That's What I Get For Making Plans

My last post was auto-posted, and full of misinformation. Which just goes to show that I probably shouldn't make plans, because I am not nearly as predictable as a mouse or a man. We actually got snowed into Idaho and had to stay an extra day, so Sunday I wasn't driving home so much as enjoying an extra day of Thanksgiving. And therefor we didn't start Advent on time, we started a day late.

It was a good Thanksgiving, however. Full of family and food, and aren't those the things that Thanksgiving is about?

Malachi was mostly enjoying the food:

While Zeke mostly enjoyed the family:
and the "pajama party" (aka sleeping bags on grandma's floor with the cousins) that I didn't get caught on film memory card.

The other thing I feel foolish about is after visiting family, and my moms three schnauzers, and Josh's mom's scotty, and his grandma's scotty, and most deadly his brothers brand new australian sheppard (my favorite breed EVAR) I started thinking about getting a dog again. I started thinking hard and admittedly not with my head.

Even though Josh and I have been seriously talking about a dog for almost 2 years now, and have almost come to the brink of getting said dog numerous times, we have always decided that the timing wasn't right yet for our family. Most notably, 4 weeks or so ago.

But even though all those arguments still exist...I have a baby...I have limited time for training...ect. Well how much my kids loved that aussie, despite the fact that she is a rambunctious critter and jumping and kissing them everywhere, it took me over the bridge.

The really embarassing funny part is that Josh and I said in October that if we were to get a dog right now it would be 1. Not in the winter when the 3 feet of snow outside would inhibit both potty training and leash training. 2. Not a small breed, as Josh calls all dogs under 30 pounds rats. 3. Not a puppy, because oh Lordy are puppies 1,000x more work then a dog. 4. And a mutt, because Josh has strong feelings about the purposeful breeding of dogs when there are so many good ones that need a home.

And here we are, talking to the owner of a 9 week old (puppy), Toy (aka small breed), Australian Shepard (purebred) that he purchased and then quickly decided he couldn't keep, in December (winter).

Which just goes to show that I shouldn't make plans. Again.

It's not that we don't have our reasons. There are pluses to puppies, most notably that we have small children and cats and not many dogs are socialized well for both. There are pluses to getting a small dog, most notably that we have small children and a small car. There are even pluses to this dog's purity in breed. Our local animal shelter has a bad habit of selling pit bulls and calling them something else and this dog was going to end up at an aussie rescue anyways. And despite my brother's taunting of being an animal racist, the risks are too high to allow a potentially aggressive animal into the family. There is even a plus to it being winter (I'm impatient?).

But I suppose the real lesson here is that sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants. It wasn't exactly a "good" idea for Josh and I to get married right out of high school. Looking at statistics we are pretty much guaranteed to divorce...3 years ago. It wasnt a "good" idea to have our first child when we did, we were poorer than poor and riding on the expectation that things would work out.

And no, getting a puppy right now is probably not a "good" idea. Heck, if this puppy went to rescue I'm not even sure that our application would be accepted. Aussies are notoriously hyper-active, stubborn, and destructive when bored. They are also loyal, great with kids, smart as all heck, and eager to please...but lets look at all the facts straight. This is not only a puppy, but a puppy that will require a strong hand.

But I'm in loooove.

So hopefully next week I'll be inviting everyone I know over to help me get this puppy used to crowds :)