Friday, December 28, 2012

White Elephants, quite possibly, our best ever

The tradtion started a number of years ago with John's family.
We were trying to cut back on presents and save some money.
We started drawing names and buying a gift for that person, after a few years, we just bought a $25.00 gift card to anywhere and exchanged those.
To add some excitement to the day, I suggested a white elephant gift exchange, too.
We had many fun gifts during those years and I think everyone enjoyed it very much.
When our Christmaas Eve at Kev's was getting noticably smaller without Courtney's family, I suggest a white elephant gift exchange there, too.
It was a big hit the first two years.
This year Courtney and company decided to join us, Vikki and Nic were there, too, so it was a big group of white elephanters.
We even let Nic and Tiz be a part of the fun.
I always have so much fun shopping for the perfect white elephant gift.  This year Alissa and I shopped together at Bethseda Thrift shop.  There were so many good choices it was difficult to choose, but choose we did!
When all was said and done, we all agreed this year was our best white elephant yet!
 Alissa received this lovely Santa from Paul.
 Tiz got this beautiful arrangement that actually lights up from Mallory.
When Mallory was checking our at Bethesda Thrift with this piece, the lady actually asked her if it was for a white elephant.  So ugly, I guess no one would buy it except for a joke.
 Nathan got a stocking with the name Andrew on it stuffed with some fuzzy dice.  Alissa bought that one.
 Courtney got this hedgehog from Vikki,
She actually purchased it at the World Market, but it was ugly enough to be a White Elephant.
 Paul got beer bracelets from Kev so everyone knows whose beer is whose.
 I got some lovely shit in a bottle from Courtney.
Instead of a ship in a bottle, the bottle was filled with ugly flowers.
 Nic got the ever popular stollen from Marge.
 The stollen than appears in lots of photos just like last year.
Here Kev is wearing my dad's robe from years ago.  The robe was a honeymoon gift to my dad from my mom.
Ken only wore it on Christmas.
 Here are Alissa and I with the stollen.
 John and Vikki got exersize equipment from Nathan and I

 This is Billy the Bass that Kev got from me.
No picture, but Marge got a light up slap bracelet from Nic.
Even with all these wonderful white elephants, we did all agree that this was the best present of all!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Now the sadness and quiet after the storm, which wasn't really that big of a storm

Today Courtney and her little family left.
They were the last of our Christmas guests to leave and the house is too quiet and empty, not to mention a bit on the messy side.
My heart is empty, too.
I miss my little girls already.
The time went so quickly as it always does.
All the planning and prep is over before I was ready for it to be over.
We had a wonderful Christmas making memories along the way.
I will post a few pictures for your enjoyment.
I am sad, but this is life.
My dad used to always say, "This day is over and it will never come again."
A man wise beyond his years.
This Christmas is over and it will never come again.
 We started it all with a visit to John's dad, Pops in the Care Center.  It was a fine visit which included a manhattan for Jack.
 There was so much cousin fun.
Here they are modeling their new pajamas and some indian headresses.
 There was wine for all and laughs all the way around.
 We were so blessed to have Courtney and her family with us for Christmas Eve and Day this year.
 My mom and her lovely granddaughters who
 sometimes can be very silly.
 There was lots of time for cuddling and fun with Uncle Cheddah.
 Me, my mom, and my brother.
 My family
 My brother, Kev, my niece Mallory and his fiance Vikki and her son Nic.
So glad they could join us, too.
 Sweet Soli
 and sweet Tizita.
 Nic has a special liking for Nathan and is always so happy when he is around.
 Our family gift exchange and homemade items from last year.
 My sweet granddaughters on Christmas morning
 Is there anything better than sleeping sweethearts on a grandparent's lap?
 The making of the annual donut holes on Christmas morning.
 Pround grandparents.
 Godparents and Soli
 A happy Gigi, my mom with the great granddaughters.
 The white elephant exchange was so much fun this year.
 More white elephant.
And the stollen has made its appearance again.
I feel much better after posting these photos and remembering the fine time we all had.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Calm Before the Storm

Today for the next hour or so, I am going to just sit here and enjoy the calm.
At 3:00 today, we are meeting Lissa and Nathan, Courtney, Paul, and the girls at John's dad's care center and thus begins our Christmas celebration.
I cannot even imagine what large families feel like as their home fills up with family.
I only have two daughters, two sons in law and two little granddaughters, but my house gets very small when they are all here.  In all fairness, the house is small to begin with but with the addition of added people it gets even smaller.  The walls actually close in on us in the living room.
We lived in the same town as my parents and grandparents, so we did not have to spend overnight holidays at their houses.  John's folks owned a motel in Janesville, so we always had our own room to sleep in when we visited there.
I have tried to think about how to make this house seems bigger, but nothing is working so we will be on top of one another for a few days, but hopefully the magic that is Christmas will overshadow the crowded conditions.
I am sure it will.
On a totally different topic, but related, I suppose since it involves Christmas.
The above picture is the only on of have of either of my girls with Santa.
This was taken in 1979 shortly before Alissa was born.
Courtney was 1 year and 9 months old.
I don't remember exactly where we were, but I am guessing a mall and I remember having to purchase this picture.
Courtney seemed pretty relaxed with the big fella.
Santa never had a big part in our Christmas.  He paid us a visit on the night that we put up our tree.  The girls would hang their stockings and leave him some cookies, milk, and a carrot for the reindeer.
He always filled the stockings quite generously, but that is the last we saw of him for the Christmas season.
John and I always wanted to take credit for the big expensive presents.  We didn't want to give that credit to a big old fat man.
I guess that explains only one picture with him, not sure.
I also have a problem with putting your children on some stranger's lap after telling them time and time again, "never talk to strangers."  And then expecting them to talk to said stranger and smile for a picture.
Doesn't make sense to me.
However, I have no problem with anyone else celebrating Santa and I talk about him in my class of Preschoolers.
Every year without fail, one student will blurt out, "There is no Santa."
I, then, work really hard to reassure the sad faces looking at me, that, "Yes, there is a Santa to everyone who believe in Santa."  I tell them that some families have Santa come and some do not, so no big deal.
This year it was Tizita who looked right at me and announced, "Santa isn't real, you know."
I wonder who she thinks this man is in the picture.
Merry Christmas to all!
I am off to start my celebration now.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Living in a Winter Wonderland

 Yesterday, December 20 we got hit with our first big snowfall and blizzard of the season.
Schools were closed both yesterday and today.
John stayed home both yesterday and today, too.
The roads were just too treacherous for travel.
John shoveled three times yesterday to try and stay on top of the almost 15 inches of snow.
Today he went out once and cleaned everything up.  The snow has stopped but the wind is till whipping it all around today.

 The snow was so wet and heavy that many trees and big branches broke down under the weight.
This big pine tree, now under the big snowpile you see in the photo, snapped off at the top.

 When we got home from our walk, we built a snowman.
The snow was perfect for packing.
And here is our finished snowman standing proud and tall in our front yard.
It really is pretty after such a big snowfall and life will soon be back to normal.
That's the way it is in Wisconsin in the winter.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Revisiting the Weekend

Life goes on, but we will never forget the victims of the CT shooting.
I am going to do a recap of our last weekend.
It was our first time to keep Soliana overnight without her parents
We drove to Oshkosh on Friday afternoon to pick up the girls and bring them to Watertown.  We dropped Paul off at Courtney's craft show in Madison and headed home with our little ones in tow.
Alissa and Nathan were here for the weekend and we all enjoyed Little Ceasar's pizza for dinner that night.
Both girls went to bed very nicely on Friday night.
I slept with the girls in our king bed and John slept on the futon in the guest room.
Here is proof that we actually did sleep.
 We were up early on Saturday morning and started out by baking Tizita's birthday cake.
 Gigi helped her frost the cake.
 After the cake baking, we frosted Christmas cookies.
 And of course, there were dishes that needed to be done after all the baking and frosting.
Tiz was more than willing to do those dishes.
 After all that work, we decided it was time to open a gift.
I bought this leapster and ten games from an online rummage sale with a bunch of friends on FB.
The whole deal only cost me $25.00 and Tiz was thrilled to have her own Leapster.
 Mallory joined us on Saturday afternoon.
She had a birthday on Dec. 13, so she had a goody box to open.
Both birthday girls enjoyed some time together.
 Gigi brought out her gift in this large bag.
It was full of teacher supplies for Tiz when she plays school.
She was thrilled with all the new stuff.
 Of course, she had to conduct class right then and there.
Grandpa was her wall holding up the pocket chart for her.
 This is the cute outfit I bought for her birthday.
Here she is ready to put on a magic show.
John and I bought her a magic kit and we had spent the afternoon learning how to do a few tricks.
She did a great job entertaining all of us and I think she actually stumped a few people with her magic.
 Posing after dinner on Saturday night with Lis and Cheddah.
Courtney and Paul returned about 7:00 and joined in the fun.
 On Sunday morning after my Christmas program, we had chicken and ham.
Tiz had requested meat she could eat off a bone, so that is what she got.
 Here she is with her birthday cake.
 So proud of my big six year old.
 She did talk while eating her cake so she had to sit under the table and finish eating her piece of cake.  She has now joined the ranks of the best of us who have had to sit under the table at one time or another.
 It was a wonderful weekend.
So much time to be with Tiz and Soli.
I did not want to forget to post a picture of my students during the Christmas program.
The did an awesome job and I was one proud teacher.
Below are my four and fives.  They sat alone up on the altar and did fine.
 And these are my threes who sat in pews but turned around, kneeled and sang.  They, too, did a fine job.
 And here is the whole group including the K-2 grade singing our favorite, "Go Tell it on the Mountain."
I hope all of you had a great weekend, too.
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