Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas 2010

Christmas has come and gone which means it's now time to pack up the decorations and pray that this short week goes just as quickly as 2010!  Robin and I had some very great Christmases with my family and with his.  We received many gifts that were both useful and meaningful and thankfully most of the gifts we gave were welcomed and needed as well.  I suppose I should not focus on what we received as that isn't the real reason for Christmas but I'm not feeling as though I should go into deeper meanings and will just stick with the superficial ones.  Hopefully that is good with you, reader!

We left Kansas City after work on Tuesday of last week.  We took our time getting home and spent a lot of the drive talking.  I almost always enjoy car trips with Robin because he has finally gotten the hint that now and then he needs to be awake and interactive rather than fall victim to what we kindly refer to as "carcolepsy."  It's a nasty case of "I can't stay awake in the car" syndrome and Robin's got it bad.  But this trip was an exception and we had some good conversation on the 3.5 hour drive home. 

We had plans to see a movie on Wednesday but my parents live in a small town that is about 20 minutes from the nearest theatre.  That theatre wasn't showing the movie we wanted to see and another wasn't showing it until 3:00 p.m.  Unfortunately we had dinner plans that night so we chose to stay home.  Robin worked a half day from his computer and phone while I did a whole lot of nothing except watch tv, read magazines, etc.  We ate lunch at the local cafe, Goldies, which used to be an ice cream joint only but now serves pretty darned good food.  We were even served by Goldie who had to give Robin a hard time about being such a picky eater.  I'm glad we went!  That night the four of us (Mom, Dad, Robin and I) went to Altoona (local city) to have dinner.  It was an interesting time.  Robin was of course absorbed in football.  Dad was his usual clumsy self and spilled an entire beer, barely missing Mom's lap.  Mom and I attempted conversation...until the food came!  What can I say?  My family knows how to eat!

Thursday Mom, Robin, and I went to Pella to meet my Grandma Mac and Uncle Rod for lunch.  First, Pella is this completely Dutch city about 20-30 minutes from our house.  It's really unique...and we love to make fun of it!  It's so weird!  It has some amazing attractions though...okay, make that a bakery and a restaurant but I do like the little town.  Anywho, we couldn't go to my Grandma's for Christmas so we chose to do lunch.  We had Chinese which was wonderful and exchanged gifts there.  My Uncle brought us a dish set for the baby.  We're pretty excited to have thsoe for her!  After lunch, we walked the streets and visited many of the local shops.  Our first stop was Smokey Row, my favorite coffee shop of all time.  While standing in line, my Grandma slipped me a folded up Kleenex and said to "unwrap it carefully."  As I unwrapped it, I found a ring but not just any ring.  It was my Great Grandma's ruby ring.  I think I was in shock!  I still can't believe it!  I'm going to get it sized for my fingers so that I can wear it but I'm so happy to have it.  Shopping was a lot of fun as Grandma said she hadn't gotten to do that for a long time and we found some unique items you can't get just anywhere.  I have to admit I love little towns like this that have shops that aren't chains.  If you're ever in the area, check this little town out or make a special trip to Tulip Time.  It's a good one for locals and for one timers.  My favorite places to stop are Jaarsma Bakery (better than the one just a few doors down, if you ask me), Smokey Row, and a fantastic little kitchen store that I can't quite recall but it's right on the main square.

We woke up on Friday morning to snow and lots of it!  Dad was already outside with the snow blower then graduated to a bigger piece of machinery to help the neighbors.  One thing you can never say about my Dad is that he's not willing to help his friends.  He spent the first half of the day on snow duty, even catching my Grandpa out attempting to scoop snow.  Remember, my Grandpa just had both knees replaced a few months back.  Naughty, naughty!  Meanwhile, Mom, Robin, and I stayed cozy inside and watched some movies from home rather than our traditional trek to the theatre.  We were a little worried about the weather and none of us felt that adventurous!  I made some hot cocoa and we snacked on Mom's goodies most of the day.  That evening we had Christmas at my Grandma and Grandpa's house which was a lot of fun too.  Grandma made quite a spread of food this year and we took some leftovers home.  Grandma gave me a really beautiful blue scarf and a robe that'll fit my ever growing belly, plus can stick around after the baby is born.  The dogs even got toys which they had to fight over, of course!

I hate snow but it's hard when it's this pretty!
Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa Wicker's house, 12/24/10.

Finally, Christmas morning arrived and I awoke to Robin and my Mom singing a few lines of Christmas carols in the kitchen.  They are two peas in a pod!  We ate a great breakfast of our traditional pepperoni bread and eggs, mimosas for the non-preggers, OJ for me.  Then it was time for presents.  Everyone received amazing gifts this year and there were even tears, as we knew there might be.  My Dad was the big winner in the giving department.  He and my sister worked together to get Mom airfare from Des Moines to Taos, NM in February.  That's where Sarah and Ben, her fiancee, live now so we don't see them as often as we'd like.  Mom cried and hugged Dad and I'm pretty sure there was a smooch in there too.  I cried because she was crying...and Robin lied and said there was something in his eyes.  LOL!  I gave Robin the router he wanted and Mom and I both gave him tool bags, a commical mistake on our parts.  Robin hit it out of the ballpark by giving me several bags of loose leaf teas (mostly decaf, of course), a travel tea cup that can even go in the microwave when I'm at work, chocolate, and a book.  Mom and Dad gave me a couple really great gifts too like a tea pot to heat water up at home, maternity pajamas which I sorely needed,
It's slipping my mind what my Dad received though I know we got Mom and Dad a Shark Steam mop and Cranium so they can play with friends.  I would say we had a very successful giving and receiving year!

Mom was SO excited to get airfare to see Sarah in New Mexico!

I got a super cool cup that has a built in tea diffuser.  Hubby done good!
Robin and I had to leave around noon so that we could go back home, clean, and prepare for his family Christmas at our house on Sunday.  Robin even took time to grout and clean up the new tile in the spare full bath upstairs.  I got all of the cooking done, just in the nick of time, and all of the family was able to come.  We haven't gotten to see Robin's Mom, sister, or neice in a while as they live in Arizona but hopefully they got their gifts and enjoyed them.  I'm just hoping they can come up when the baby is born!  Back to the Simms - Sol family Christmas.  We had lots of food and all of it was good!  The kids each got a gift from one of the families and we even did a gift exchange with the adults this year.  Next year, Robin will need to be smarter with the rules!  We took family photos which I must say is quite a fiasco with so many family members.  I'm crossing my fingers we get another good one as we did have a great one last year.  It'll be hard to beat that one!  The kids ran around like wild ones in the basement and the adults had time to talk...while yelling at kids.  Ahhh...the sounds of Christmas in our home!  Everyone left by 9 p.m. at which point Robin took my picture for Week 26 and I went directly upstairs and collapsed.  I could barely move by the time I crawled under the covers.

The Simms-Sol Christmas.  It would not be complete without feeling cross eyed (LOL)!

Week 26, after the Simms-Sol Christmas, 12/26/2010
Which brings me to today and the fact that I'm back at work.  The office is quiet with only a few of us here and my boss has come in only a few times just to ask a question now and then.  I have nothing on my "to do" list so I'm sitting here writting this and sipping on some peppermint hot tea, thinking about how blessed we are to have such great families.  Our Christmas card holder has overflowed with all of our friends' cards and we're also thankful that we have so many to share our time with.  I hope that all of you had a very Merry Christmas, no matter how you spent it or what you gave or received.  My favorite parts, in recap, were these:

1)  Spending Wednesday cooped up with Robin because we almost never just stay home these days.
2)  Lunch with Grandma Mac and Uncle Rod Thursday followed by shopping with Grandma, Mom, and Robin.  I wish we could do that more often!
3)  Receiving my Great Grandma's ring.  I am a traditional kind of girl and I love having heirlooms that my little girl will receive someday.
4)  Christmas Eve with Grandma and Grandpa!
5)  Christmas morning with Mom and Dad.  Specifically, Mom's excitement at getting the airfare to go see Sarah!
6)  Sarah's texts to say she loved the watch I got her.  I was so worried she'd hate it!
7)  Christmas with Robin's family at our home.  It's work but well worth it!

Next update...New Year's!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

'Tis the Season!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I finally eased into the holiday spirit and now that we're just a week away, I am feeling 100% festive!  I have caught myself staring at our beautiful Christmas tree more than a dozen times and when I go to bed, I shut the lights off and just look at how it sparkles.  We have our lights on a timer so don't worry, Earth savers!  It's only on for a few hours every night.  I have also been known to stand at one of our front windows (we have a lot of windows) and look at the neighbor's lights or our lights.  I am proud to say I love our light display.  We like the simplicity of white lights so we hang a line of white "ice cycle" lights along the top of the first story and for a little flair, we have red and white lights around the two "mini Christmas trees" that line our walkway.  The red really sets off our red front door, if I do say so myself.

Honestly, it isn't any of these things that really gets me excited about Christmas.  I grew up in a house with a Mom who is a Christmas fanatic.  Not the weird, Clark W. Griswold, kind.  No, my Mom just perked up around Christmas.  She has always told/called/emailed us 6 months out; "Only 6 more months to CHRISTMAS!"  Mom has always had a way with traditions, things I hope that we can do for our kids and add a few of our own to the mix.

The first tradition begins on Thanksgiving.  Christmas movies are reserved for Christmas in our family.  That means you don't watch the movies until Thanksgiving is over, or that night sometimes.  When Christmas day has come and gone, you put them away with the rest of the decorations and look forward to them next year.  My favorite Christmas movie, "A Muppet's Christmas Carol," was often the first one to make it to the VCR on Thanksgiving, probably because it's my sister's favorite too.  I have most of the movie memorized but I truly love it.  This makes sense.  I never missed the Muppet's on Saturday mornings, either.

A few traditions are strung in there before Christmas in no particular order.  My Mom is one of the best cooks around (if you ask me).  She bakes and creates all kinds of Christmas goodies.  You can almost always stop in and find something sweet or delicious to have with your coffee, or hot tea like me.  Some of the regulars are fudge (now peanut butter fudge for my's his favorite!), peanut clusters (my personal favorite), chocolate peanut clusters, caramels (sometimes), butter spritz cookies, kiss cookies (my other favorite), and any number of other creation she chose.  I'm telling you, this lady knows how to make some good stuff!  There's also the decorations to think about.  Our Christmas tree is fake, always has been, always will be.  Honestly, I prefer it that way.  No mess and reusable from year to year.  But it's not the tree that's special at Mom and Dad's.  It's the ornaments.  Mom still uses our ornaments we made as kids or one of a huge long line of ornaments that my Grandma gets her every year, a tradition that started when my parents were married.  There are also our first ornaments.  Mine is a bulb that's gold with a scene on it and Sarah's is a pair of porcelain booties.  This year, Mom made the mistake of saying her decorations were "out dated."  I think she's gone a little nuts.  I love the feel of our house during Christmas!

Then comes the days leading up to Christmas.  For our family, Christmas begins on Christmas Eve.  Mom would take the day off from work and take Sarah and me to a movie.  She said it was the only way she could keep us entertained and out of her hair.  What she thinks we didn't know is that she loves the movies and she really would have taken us anyway.  Excuses, excuses!  At the movie, we'd get popcorn and a snack, find our seat, and the few hours we were there seemed to fly by.  Some of the most memorable movies we saw on Christmas Eve were "Fantasia", "A Muppet's Christmas Carol", and "The Lord of the Rings 1".  Now, sometimes we don't plan ahead very well.  For example, Fantasia was a 3 way pick but turned out to be REALLY long, and fairly boring.  We were little and it was all music.  Then there was the year of "The Lord of the Rings 1."  We didn't plan ahead and we let Sarah choose.  Nothing else rang a bell, including this movie.  Some 3 hours later, Mom and I were not so awake and Sarah was SO excited.  She LOVED it!  Not my thing or Mom's but Sarah sure had a good time!  We still joke about the year we saw "that Lord of the Rings movie."

Christmas Eve night, we go to my Grandma and Grandpa Wicker's for their Christmas with us.  My Dad is an only child and I think I've mentioned before I have a very small family.  When we were little, our Aunt Hazel would join us or sometimes Joyce Kholer, a family friend.  Sometimes boyfriends would come along and now there's my husband and Sarah's fiancee, when they can make it up.  Grandma cooks a great dinner and now that we're older, there is always wine.  I never knew Grandma liked wine but she sure does!  Grandma's tree is a sight to see.  It is one of my favorites!  It too is fake but that's not the deal.  She uses white lights and mostly white decorations.  The decorations she collects are these ornaments shaped like shells and made to look like various angels.  They are so beautiful!  I love to look at them as each one is a little different from the year before.  A comical part of Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa's is that she never (ever) remembers which stocking is whose and sometimes, you'll open a gift inside it that is actually meant for someone else.  While she seems frustrated, to me, it just adds to the fun!

After we are finished there, we usually go home and Mom used to give us new pajamas to wear that night.  She said it was so that her Christmas morning pictures wouldn't look horrible with us in our worn PJs or me in my basketball shorts and a t-shirt.  Our pictures still looked pretty crappy, if you ask me.  Who looks GOOD that early in the morning?  Still, this is yet another tradition that was a lot of fun for us.  We all love our cozy PJs!  Then Mom would read us "Twas the Night Before Christmas," we'd put out cookies and milk, and then off to bed we went with the tree still lit up all night.  These days, we don't do the PJs or the story and we usually skip the cookies and milk.  My parents don't drink milk; they both hate it!  Why waste?  Instead, I usually go back to Grandma Wicker's and take her to midnight service at Church.  I do love midnight service.  The church she goes to has dark wood, red carpet, and red poinsettia's all over.  They keep the lights low and there are good songs and usually a short but good sermon.

Finally, it's Christmas morning!  We wake up and there were always a TON of presents under our tree.  Let me back track, we wake up and it's barely light outside, sometimes it's still dark.  Finally Mom put a stop to this.  "You can only come wake us up when it's past such and such time."  No worries.  Sarah and I just cuddled together after waking each other up and as soon as that clock hit the correct time, we were up and in my parent's room!  These days, the roles are reversed.  My MOM wakes US up!  My parents have always been amazing with Christmas gifts.  Big or small, there were always a lot of presents, plenty more than we probably needed.  As I got older, Mom told me her secret.  Put aside money year round into a savings account, then use it only for Christmas, unless there's an emergency.  If it's a harder year, put less in but still get good, worthwhile gifts.  If it's a better year, go all out!  No matter what kind of year they had financially, our Christmas mornings were always AMAZING! 

We also have a traditional breakfast that morning; pepperoni bread.  I know what you're thinking.  "Pepperoni...for breakfast....on Christmas???"  I say to you, don't knock it until you've tried it!  One year, Mom got this recipe and ever since, it's been our request!  Simply put, you take frozen bread dough, thaw, roll it out, put an egg/spice mixture on it, put cheese and pepperonis on it, roll it up, form into a loaf, and let it rise.  Then bake while opening gifts.  Voila!  Best Christmas breakfast ever!

After gifts are opened and we've messed with them a bit, it's time to get ready to go to Grandma Mac's house.  My Grandma Mac used to live on a farm outside of Eddyville, Iowa.  Now she lives in Oskaloosa.  Both places are about 45 minutes away.  The farm was fun because it's Christmas and you get to have a real, down on the farm, Christmas experience.  Either way, walking in the door, the first smell that hits you is baking pies!  Grandma makes her own pies, from scratch, dough and all.  With the extra dough, she makes these small cinnamon and sugar bites which are so good, I crave them (like right now).  We always have something different for dinner but it's always excellent and each family contributes something.  After dinner, the men watch football and talk farming or hunting.  The women sit around the table chatting like women do.  Uncle Warren, however, falls asleep on the couch and snores.  Now my cousin, RJ, has also begun this tradition.  It's quite comical to see!  We open gifts at Grandma's too and the most traditional thing there is that we all get a scratcher ticket for the lottery.  Sometimes we win but most of the time we lose.  Still, it's fun!

We trek back home later in the evening, stuffed to the brim with lunch, coffee, and pie and usually find something to watch on tv while messing with our gifts.  After Christmas day, it's time for things to get back to normal in our home.  The tree gets put away (sometimes sooner than later, sometimes later than sooner) and the movies go with it.  We go to bed early, tired from excitement and the food coma.

On December 26th, the countdown for next year begins!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Baby Bonanza Begins!

I still can't believe December is here and that Christmas is just a few weeks away.  Our house is all decorated and feels cozy most of the time (assuming the heat is turned to a "human" temp).  We got snow and a lot of wind last night but thankfully we didn't get a lot and no ice.  We had Robin's company Christmas party on Friday and walked away with one tipsy husband, one Keurig coffee maker, and lots of candy!  The season is definitely here!

The last few weeks have been fairly uneventful but the last week alone brought the best of things to tell you about.  Baby Kimber Payton Elo was born on Tuesday evening and that marks the first of the babies to come in each of the next 6 months!  Kimber's mommy, Nikki, is one of my sorority sisters so a few of us drove up to visit on Thursday night.  Though Mommy and Daddy seemed elated, both were pretty worn out and I hope we didn't stay too long for them.  Kimber is adorable and I think she looks like her Daddy, though her Grandma thinks she looks like Nikki.  Funny how everyone perceives babies looks differently.  I have to admit that all of my friends having babies has been really great practice for me as I've noticed they've stopped instantly screaming when I hold them.  My Mommy confidence is growing!

DZ Girls!  Courtney, Danay, Nikki, Kimber, Kristin, and Me

Up to this point, I've been fairly "bah-humbug" about Christmas.  I have had a lot of trouble feeling the spirit and no matter what I tried, very little seemed to help.  Slowly I feel the fun of the season, though I think I'm a lot more excited about Christmases from here on out when our baby will be here too.  My mom has always said Christmas is nothing until you've experienced it with kids and that is something we can't wait to see firsthand.  We finally took our picture for our Christmas card and I have to say, it turned out decent but only took all of 10 minutes.  We were pretty no-fuss over it this year and I'm lucky that it happened at all.  I think Robin felt it unnecessary but I really love receiving the cards so I feel I should return that favor.

Christmas 2010 - In front of our fireplace
Today I got up and purchased Robin's Christmas presents.  I'm not a good present buyer at all, for anyone, so I just hope that he likes what he got and doesn't automatically know what it is.  I wouldn't be surprised though.  He likes to guess what he's getting which in turn pisses me off to no end.  I'm much more of a PLEASE surprise me type of person.  Robin spent most of the day working on new shower and tub hardware in our spare bathroom so that we could raise the height of the shower head and re tile.  I spent most of my day curled up on the couch with a blanket, drinking hot cider, and watching movies or reading.  Gosh it was such a rough day...  You can probably see just how hot I looked all day in this fantastic picture of me at 24 weeks.

My day of laziness equated to looking super hot for my 24 week pic!
This leads me to a thought.  I will never understand why everyone, well almost everyone, feels it necessary to remind new or soon to be parents how "horrible" their lives will be when the kids arrive.  Some of the most irritating statements I hear repeatedly:
"Sleep in while you can.  That won't happen when you have kids."
"You won't have lazy Sundays anymore."
"Spend time with your husband while you can.  You'll be busy with kids later."
"Do this or that before the kids come because you won't have time."
The list goes on and I just do not get it.  If life is so horrible with kids, why on Earth do you think so many of us do it?  And if the only advice you have for us newbies is heed for how bad it will get, don't you think that makes your opinion of family life look pretty bleak?  I respect parents and that they surely know more than me but for once, could you please tell me something useful or good rather than following up your negative advice with, "But it's all worth it"?

Anywho, my pregnancy is going great.  I have stayed right on track with my weight gain and though it's hard to resist the treats that have come around for the holidays, I'd say I'm still doing better than I thought I would.  I have some aches and pains now, namely in my feet, lower back, and an issue with my sciatic nerve and left leg.  The two are not friends right now!  Baby Sol spends a lot of time rolling around and kicking me, mostly after I've eaten.  Give it 30 minutes to an hour and she is super excited to show Mommy how much she loved whatever I ate!  Earlier this week the girls in the office saw her kicking for the first time on the outside.  I really think that has been my favorite development.  It's just really cool to see.  Robin can feel her just fine now and sometimes he just lays his hand on my belly to feel her.  Overall, things are going great.  I can't complain!