Monday, December 29, 2008

A Coffee Table Book

Travis is the photographer of our family. Virtually every picture you've seen on this blog, he's taken. And since I've enjoyed the benefits of using his pictures to illustrate my words, I thought I'd give a nod to that by showing off his new coffee table book. It's a collection of our favorite landscape and photo journalistic photos he's taken over the past year or so, with quotes sprinkled in every few pages. We created it as a Christmas present, using an online self publishing web site. The book is supposed to invoke a sort of "smell the roses" moment, so you might slow down, notice little things you might not have before, and appreciate our beautiful land. So, if you've enjoyed the pictures here, chances are you'd like this book too. Actually, if you're interested, you can preview it...

By Travis Taylor

Our Christmas Story

Hello! How're you? How was your Christmas?

Ours was nice... Pretty much your average family Christmas. We spent most the day in our jammies, watching the kids open presents and then enjoying them. Of course, once the wrapping paper comes off that's only half the job. Have you ever noticed that they package toys like they're on the FBI's most wanted criminals list? Seriously, how many little twisty wires do they really need to hold the thingamabob in place, I ask you! It takes a good 20 minutes just to free the toy from it's cardboard, tape, and wire display. Not to mention you need scissors, a screwdriver, a Swiss made multi-tool and may have to resort to using your teeth to gnaw through some parts just to get the toy out of it's packaging. Meanwhile, you've got an impatient kiddo bouncing from foot to foot and going, "Mom! What's taking so long? Is it out yet?"

But, I suppose any amount of packaging frustration is worth seeing the smiles on your kids faces. And, I guess the one positive about that is that it does prolong the moment. Bree actually shrieked when she opened her "Tini Puppini," (which is basically the puppy version of Barbie, it has cloths and you can do it's hair and stuff). The puppy came with a bone name tag as well. "Her name is Toffee." I told Brianna. She said, "Mom, I don't like that name, can I rename her?" "Sure," I said, "You can call her whatever you like." "Okay," she said, "Her name is... HoHannah!" I don't know where she comes up with them, but the whole naming of the toys is still a fascinating process for me. She actually got another stuffed puppy which she dubbed "Wexkin." I dunno.

Noah's big favorites included an electronic piggy bank with big plastic coins that sings and counts when you put them in, and a little Tonka race track. It was really cute, you just put the cars in place and push one big button to make them race and Noah was really into it, after a few times he was even yelling "Go!" when he pushed the button.

Naturally though, the day wasn't without a few hiccups, like children getting completely overwhelmed and overexcited and trying to share and having complete meltdowns. And then there were a few toys that, while the kids were excited about, we couldn't play with immediately since Mom forgot to stock up on the batteries! Oops! (I actually had to make a run the day after Christmas to grab some batteries and a 100 watt bulb for Bree's new Easy Bake Oven, another oversight by Mom... the devil's in the details!) Actually, the batteries were for toys that I thought I had planned ahead for. See, I thought it would be fun to get the kids a remote control car that they can drive around the house. Especially since we're cooped up more during the winter, I thought this was a brilliant idea. And, to avoid fights, I even got them EACH a "My First Remote Control Car" with big easy buttons, but in different colors so we could tell whose is whose. Alas, there's just no predicting these things. Noah decided he liked the pink one best and kept chasing Bree down, trying to take it from her while she ran and screamed... Maybe I was onto something with the no batteries thing...

But, overall we had a very relaxing and fun few days, just taking it slow and enjoying our kids.

Hope yours was nice!

Oop...gotta run, the kids are fighting over the remote control cars again. No really, I'm not kidding...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Happy Christmas all! Hope it's a merry one!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Housing Crisis

The American middle class aren't the only ones facing a housing crisis this holiday season....

.... gingerbread men are feeling the crunch too!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I am a Griswold

Call me Scrooge, but just about every year by the time I'm done putting up all the holiday decor I'm feeling more Grinchy than festive. I mean, it's a lot of work, hauling the boxes out, untangling lights, taking each ornament out of it's newspaper cocoon... Add a couple of feisty kids and cats into the mix and in the end you have a house strung with lights that, due to interruptions and distractions, you've managed to put on so that the plug is nowhere near the power outlet and/or you've somehow connected them all so there's too much juice running through and one strand keeps blowing fuses. (While somewhere the spirit of Clark Griswold chuckles at you.) After that it's on to the inside of the house where you put up the tree. You turn on Christmas music and let the kids help. And, while the cats repeatedly climb up the tree every few minutes you hang your ornaments. Once you're done, you stand back to admire the majesty, its lower branches over-laden with ornaments hung at child height and near the top, an attractive saggy portion the cats have weighed down where they like to lay. (Wouldn't Charlie Brown be proud!) Still, you decide it has it's charm and that you'll cherish memories of putting the tree up with your kids. It's the next morning when you discover that during the night the cats have knocked off quite a few ornaments, including a clear ball filled with sparkly snow that is now sprinkled around your carpet, that your Christmas spirit starts to flag. But, you redecorate the tree and vacuum the mess, then turn to tackle writing those Christmas greetings to everyone you know, and try to think of charming, yet affordable ideas for the people still left on your list. Thinking of everything you have left to do in the dwindling amount of days left until the big day starts to give you a headache, not to mention the ache in your wallet. This headache is only exacerbated by the fact that while you're trying to compose complete sentences in your holiday correspondences, and thinking of non redundant ways to wish folks a Merry Christmas, you have small children to take care of who need snacks, naps, hugs when they disregard your warning not to run in the house and manage to bonk their heads, and so on. So, you head into the kitchen to pour yourself a third cup of coffee for the morning. That's when you turn to the living room and realize that, despite the fact you swore you hung them all out of reach, the baby has somehow managed to get a hold of one of those darn sparkly snow balls, opened it, and festively sprinkled snow everywhere. Even Father Christmas himself would heave a sigh at having to vacuum up heaps of sparkly snow several times a day. While you're vacuuming up the sparkles, and vowing to yourself next year you're NOT using those ornaments even if they are pretty, your preschooler starts snooping around and shouts out, "Hey Mom! What's this toy in here in this sack?! Is it for me? It is for Christmas?!"

It's then that you realize there's no need to watch the movie, you are living the National Lampoon's Christmas...

Well, okay, maybe I'm making it seem a bit worse than it really was, but actually, all that really did happen at our house over the last week. And it just got me thinking, isn't it kind of ironic that in a season meant for joy and family time we all get so crazy and stressed out and expect ourselves to accomplish 30 hours of work in each 24 hour day? We just expect so much out of ourselves trying to make things special and wonderful, that sometimes we don't even enjoy it! We just lose perspective and get all frustrated and fizzled out because we have such high expectations.

So, heave a sigh, get done what you can, don't forget that a good cup of coffee can restore a bit of Christmas spirit (at least for me, coffee solves everything) and join me in smiling into the madness. Embrace your inner Griswold!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Liar Liar, Pants on Fire

No surprise, it's a phase kids go through, but recently at our house we've had a bit of an issue with Bree lying. Even when we walk into the room and catch her in the act of breaking a rule she still tries to say, "It was Noah!" or "The cats did it!" (Both sources of convenient scapegoats.) Needless to say, we're doing what we can to nip this little habit in the bud. (We just have to make telling the truth more rewarding.) But then, it's to be expected, kids do these things. Sort of a gut reaction, "Oh no, I might be in trouble! Evasive manuevers!" Even as adults, we continue to have "white lies" "omissions" and gloss over things to avoid conflict and adverse consequences. But hopefully, it's something we all grow out of.

Yes, it can be a bit of a tricky subject, lying, for everyone from 1 to 100. I think my favorite comedian, Eddie Izzard, puts it in perspective though, and with this being a bit of a serious topic, I thought I would end it with some comedic relief. So, here you go, Eddie Izzard's thoughts on lying and how it changes as we grow up. Oh, but watch out, it's rated PG-13. He refers to "shagging".....