Friday, December 30, 2011

I generally try to keep this blog light and fun. However, something has been nagging at me and I have to speak up. Even if it's just here, for me.

An Open Letter to Johnsburg District 12 from your 1996 Valedictorian.

I grew up in a small town in a northwest suburb of Chicago. It was a town that you felt relatively safe in. We rode our bikes all over town and didn't worry about being snatched or killed. I went to a small public highschool--A little less than 800 students total. I enjoyed my time there, for the most part. However, I was never proud of the administration. We had a Principal who was convicted of driving his boat under the influence of alcohol. Great role model, you say? It gets worse. He completely failed in what could've been a teaching humility and forgiveness moment. What I remember from his apology to the students and staff of Johnsburg High School was one statement--and only a part of it. The part where he did not accept the blame. He said, "when you take a cop, who's mad at the world..." and then I don't remember what he said after that, because what I heard was "the cop was a jerk and should've let me off." Great lesson for your impressionable teenagers--most of them at or near driving age. Well done on that hire, Superintendent.

Johnsburg once again failed in their administration. I read this article and was horrified. You think that the Penn State scandal was a one time thing. But no, Johnsburg pulled a Paterno. They looked the other way while parents complained about inappropriate actions by a coach to his players. The police chief said it didn't constitute criminal activity. Are you saying that a person in authority texting an underage student and asking him about his private parts is not a red flag? There needs to be a zero tolerance policy. The coach should've been IMMEDIATELY fired. A child brings a weapon to school and they are immediately expelled, in order to protect the children. A coach intimidates a student and everyone looks the other way? We have games to win--that's what matters, right? Child safety goes out the window when basketball scores are involved? When did we become a society that values sports above children? WHEN?! You want me to trust that I can send my children to school and they will be safe? How can we do that when three different sets of parents feared for their children and a school district and police department did NOTHING. Now a child has been abused. I hope that you can sleep at night, because I bet that child cannot.

Two peas in a pod

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Have I mentioned that Bill loves presents? Even more than presents, he loves to be surprised by presents. Which is why he will not allow me to purchase gifts from his Amazon wish list. I have to "put thought" into them, blah blah blah. The pressure about kills me every year. Actually, twice a year--as he likes to be surprised on his birthday as well. It's torture, I tell you.

Anyway, this year we decided we were going to do $25 gifts to each other and keep it cheap. However, I discovered the Kindle Fire. I knew he would loooooove it. He loves gadgets and while he would like an iPad, I figured he would settle for the "poor man's iPad" as I like to call it. However, there was the issue of the $25 gifts. So I decided I would cancel my fall hair highlights and skip my Monday/Wednesday coffees. That would justify the expense.

I ordered the Fire and knew I would be the best wife ever (well to him, anyway) and I couldn't wait to surprise him. Unfortunately, he accidentally found out about the surprise. I was devastated and told him that I cancelled it (which I did, but re-ordered it). I think he wasn't entirely sure if I was going to come through or not. I know he was hoping I would.

Then, I saw it! There was a Cyber Monday deal for a Kitchen Aid Professional Series 6 quart mixer. I have been dying for one of these for a couple of years. The bowl is much bigger than my regular kitchen aid and it has almost double the watts! I sent him the link and kept my fingers crossed. I was 99% sure that he would get it for me, because he's that kind of guy. Out the window went our $25 limit.

I decided I wanted to trick Bill into thinking that he wasn't going to get the fire. I am evil like that. I gave him a gift certificate for, knowing he would think it was for adding things to his Fire. Then I gave him a box about the size of a Fire. He opened it and in it was a kitchen scale. (maniacal laugh) He on the other hand smiled politely and didn't act like there was anything bad about it, since he had actually mentioned he would like one. I know that a tiny part of him died inside. And I enjoyed it--because I am evil like that.

I opened my gifts. There was no Kitchen Aid. I was disappointed, but I wasn't sure if he was going to save it for my birthday. Then as we were both cleaning up the wrapping paper, he went out to the garage and I went to the laundry room. We both returned with our secret gifts. We are soul mates who get enjoyment out of torturing each other.
my precious

say goodbye to evening conversation...

December 22

Monday, December 26, 2011

Yes, I am a few days behind. The last three days have gone by in a whirlwind! Thursday, the kids were super excited to open their calendar and see "Zoo Lights with Aunt Nicki and Uncle Nicholas!" It ended up being a long day as we waited for Papa to get home so we could leave. We left by 3:30, figuring that at worst, it would take an hour and a half to get downtown. Almost 3 hours and two pit stops later, we arrived.

This is where I be honest with you all on how sometimes I have great intentions of teaching my children valuable lessons, but then decide to take the easy way out. We have had two DVD players for the car. Both have broken in the last year or two. Bill and I decided we were NOT going to replace them this time. We both grew up without DVD players in the car. Every year, my parents drove us to Florida--that's way more hours than my kids have ever spent in a car. We read books, slept, played games. We survived. Alas, Bill and I got to listen to, "She's touching me!" "He's singing and it's my turn!" "Can I have a pretzel?" I had to turn around and pick up Brendan's books a bajillion times, until I got nauseous and decided I'd rather listen to him cry than turn around again. It got to the point where, I'm pretty sure if we had passed a Target on the way, Bill would've ran in and bought whatever DVD player they had in stock. A sad reality. So, alas, Santa bought my kids a DVD player, along with the extended warranty. Pathetic, I know.

Anywhoo, I digress. We got to Aunt Nicki and Uncle Nicholas' house. The kids were super excited for a tour because they have only been there once, but didn't get to see the third floor and Liam desperately needed to see all 4 bathrooms. Don't as me why, he was fascinated. Maybe he'll be a plumber. They fed us dinner and we rushed out the door to see the Zoo Lights because we only had about two hours left before they closed.

Honestly, the lights were pretty amazing! We were all awestruck by how beautiful it looked. God was good and it stopped raining right as we got there, so it wasn't crowded, and the weather was perfect--just a little chilly. We got so see several of the animals--the gorillas were all sleeping right up against the glass spread eagle. I felt a bit voyeuristic, but it was super cool! I was surprised we were even able to see the lions--they were half asleep, but the kids didn't care. We got to see the entire zoo--there was even one section where the lights were timed to music. Brendan especially thought that was amazing! The kids had a great time--the two big kids fell asleep on the way home, Brendan on the other hand, told us he pooped every five minutes. We  didn't get home until about 10:00, which is why it took a few days to get this up! All in all, it was a great day, hopefully we can make this a tradition--we will just do better planning of the day we choose to drive downtown!

Thank you!

Friday, December 23, 2011

I don't have yesterday's photos from our Advent Activity uploaded yet because I left the camera in the van and Bill took it to work, so that post will be later. For now I just wanted to say thank you. I have, like I'm sure most mom's do at one time or another, been feeling underappreciated. This season, while I feel like I've been giving more of myself than ever before, I feel like some people are asking me for even more (they don't read my blog, so if you're reading this, it's not you :) ). It's amazing how just a couple of people can bring you down. It has been incredibly discouraging. So, I have been praying about my attitude and asking for some encouragement.

God has been faithful in doing that. One of the ways has been through all of you. I wasn't a very good blogger this year--I had more posts in December than I have all year. However, since I started posted daily, I have received around 40 unique hits per day. Now I know this is chump change for someone like the Pioneer Woman. But for someone like me, with a little family blog, it has meant the world. (Except for the person who googled "dirty underwear" and got this post--I am sure they were horribly disappointed, pervert). For the most part I have no idea who most of the people are that have been reading, because I don't get a lot of comments. But, whomever you are, I want you to know that it has been an incredible encouragement to me. I know that this season is incredibly busy for all of us. The fact that anyone (especially those not related to me) would take a few minutes out of their day to read about my day, means more than you could know. So thank you, and let me be an encouragement to you, today. I appreciate you and have been blessed by you all!

Merry Merry Christmas to you and your families

Day 21

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Today's Advent Activity was going out for ice cream! We have probably only gone out, just for ice cream, once since having the kids. That's mostly because they are much like their father and like plain vanilla--no mix-ins or toppings. It's not really worth the trip. However, when they have gotten to have ice cream out, they love doing it. Occasionally we will go to Culver's after church and ice cream comes free with their kids meals. Rori, in particular loves ice cream. She could probably eat a half gallon of it by herself in one sitting. I'm not sure where she puts it, but I envy her!
She can't get enough!

So, I thought, to make their boring (to me) vanilla ice cream trip more exciting, we would go BEFORE dinner! That's right, Grandma Casey, we are spoiling their dinner :)
Brendan mushed his to get to the bottom 

Then finished Liam's cone...he looks a little intoxicated by ice cream

Since this is kind of a non-exciting post, and the next three days are going to be super busy, I wanted to give a shout-out to my friend, Leslie, for sharing the whole Home-made Advent Calendar idea with me. Without her, we would've missed out on the wonderful month of building memories and traditions! She is also doing these kinds of activities--I wish she had a blog that I could direct you to, but she's posting pictures on facebook and she has had some wonderful ideas! Leslie and I have just become good friends this year. She and I have several mutual friends, but hadn't ever spent time together, and unbeknownst to us, we live less than a mile apart!  Earlier in the year, she came to Karen's Twi-Night and then we became facebook friends. Then we learned we both had Legoland passes and decided to meet up there and an instant friendship was born!

Leslie is someone that, while I haven't known her for years, I feel like I have. She, like me, is an open book. She shares, openly and honestly, her joys and struggles with motherhood (she has 4 boys 5 and under!). She's always willing to share tips and ideas and is one of my favorite bargain finders! She knows who she is, and I can tell has always known--she's not wishy washy about her faith. It's clear she loves Jesus and she walks the walk and talks the talk. Sometimes I think she and I grew up in the same house (and I mean that in a good way--our parents both did an excellent job of raising us)--we've seen the same movies as children, we had similar high school experiences, and have the same appreciation for butter! She has an amazing amount of energy--if you could see all the things she does with her boys (you really need a blog, Leslie) you would wonder when she sleeps. I have decided that she doesn't. You're a great mom, Leslie, and I'm so glad to call you a friend! Thank you for inviting me to Legoland, and thank you for letting me steal your Advent Calendar!

Day 20

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I have been looking forward to today because it was also an Advent Activity for me! We got to go to our friends' house. They are dear friends that we met when we started going to our current church and we've been in small group together. Unfortunately they live about 30 minutes away from us. We used to be able to get together more frequently, but now that the kids are in school, it's  hard to get all the kids together (us moms still manage to find time, thank goodness) We had today's playdate on the calendar for probably 6 weeks! I was extra excited because I also got to see my friend, Beth--read the end of the post to find out why there are no pictures of the adults.
We were really excited to see my friend, Beth's, kids there as well--Brody, Liam, and Micah!

Anyway, Rori was especially excited because the house we were going to was Rachel's! Rachel was her very first friend ever. When we went to Calvary the first time, several of the parents we met had children the same ages as us, however, the ones Rori's age were boys, except Rachel. This is not to say that Rori "settled" with Rachel. Rachel is a very sweet spirit who loves Rori as well. All of April's kids are wonderful, sweet, kids who clearly love Jesus and aren't afraid to share Him. And I know they get a lot of their wonderful qualities from their mom (their dad is pretty cool too, but this isn't about him). She is a wonderful mom that is passionate about her children.
Sweet friends!

I love April. She is one of those special friends that you want to hold onto forever. She is one of those friends that empathizes with those she loves. She will cry with you at the drop of a hat--her compassion knows no limits :) She would drop everything for a friend in need--I have seen it first hand. She is open and honest about her feelings. There is no question that is "too personal." I know, I've asked. She is the kind of friend that you can have belly laughs with, but also share the depths of your soul. She is one of those people that you know exactly who they are and where they stand. And I really feel like she knows who I am--deep down. She's knows I'm crazy, needy, in constant disarray, but she loves me in spite of those things. I'm so happy that I have an April in my life--and I have managed to finagle my way into other parts of her life so that church isn't the only common ground that we have. I am currently working on some sort of arranged marriage between our children--I don't care which set--so that we will be related. This way, she can never escape me :) There is no picture of April and I--you can check my post about Karen if you want to see her. The reason is because while she looked lovely and even had make-up on, I on the other hand have a lovely red pimple on my chin and this is my blog, so I get to choose :) It's good to be in charge.
I'm sorry, Maya! This is the only picture I got of you!

Brendan is showing Claire he would make a good husband someday!

Claire! We love her!

Day 19

Monday, December 19, 2011

As a child I used to watch the Sally Struthers commercials where they would encourage you to sponsor a child. I am sure you remember the ones I am talking about. She used to say that for less than a cup of coffee a day, you could change a life. I used to wish that I bought a cup of coffee a day, or that my parents did, so that we could quit doing that and sponsor a child.

Fast forward several years, to 2007. I went to a Todd Agnew concert with Bill. The concert was sponsored by World Vision. Todd talked about visiting a country in Africa and how much these children needed and how big a difference being a sponsor could make in the life of one of these children--I honestly don't remember the details. All I remember was thinking...I am an adult now. I can do this! I can make whatever sacrifice I need to in order for us to afford to sponsor one of those faces. For some reason I didn't tell Bill my plan. I didn't want anything to talk me out of it. At intermission, I told him I was going to use the washroom. Instead, I stopped at the World Vision booth. They had pictures upon pictures of children that needed sponsors. They were sorted by date of birth. You could choose. That's when it hit me. I wanted to choose a child born on January 15.  Unfortunately I couldn't find one with that date. A kind woman offered to help me find whatever date I was looking for. She found January 14 and 16. She asked if that was ok. I nodded, feeling a disappointed lump forming in my throat. I explained to her why I wanted the 15th. Her eyes filled with compassion and she told me that they could try and find a child with my chosen date and mail it to me. She took down my address and I walked away, wondering if I would ever hear from them. I told Bill about it on the way home, and of course he was supportive.

A few weeks later, Sytenise Dorvil appeared in our mail box. Her birthday was January 15, 2000 and she was from Haiti. We have been sponsoring her for about 3 or 4 years now. At Christmas, we always make a larger donation and are always super excited to see what our money was able to help provide for her family. It's usually a goat, a dress, some shoes, and some hair ribbons (we aren't able to give a lot extra, but the dollar goes pretty far). This year, along with our financial gift, I wanted the children to make something for her. So...after a really long introduction, that was our Advent activity for today.

Bill found a Christmas craft that was handmade ornaments that we can glue pictures of the kids to. The thing about sending things to sponsored children is that they need to fit into a flat 6x9 envelope, so it's kind of tricky to think of gifts. These work out perfectly. I realize that she won't get them in time for Christmas, partly because of the distance and the process of getting through the sponsorship offices--it can take a couple of months, and partly because I am not going to brave the Post Office until after Christmas :)
That's chocolate on his face from a granola bar--apparently nobody washes his face for him.
Rori loooooves crafts! She would do one everyday if she could

Liam without his shirt...again

Even Papa got into it--I got to tie the ribbons, again.

The kids were really excited to make them--Brendan even got to help this time! We talked about Sytenise and what life is like for her, and while my kids really can't grasp the difference in our lifestyles, they are beginning to appreciate that they are very blessed and we need to do what we can to love God's children that have so much less.

Day 18--the home stretch!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Today begins the last week of our Advent activities. I have reached the end of my creativity and the end of my energy level, so I felt a little bit like we were grasping at straws. I had planned out the whole calendar in advance, but there were some occasions where we needed to switch things around. Today was originally "bring a meal to Tim." Tim is our neighbor that I recently was upset with because he sent away the little girl and her mom that he had invited to move in at the beginning of the school year, and didn't allow us to say goodbye. It's a long story, but I wanted to teach the children that we could be forgiving and loving. However, Tim moved out earlier this week. Oh darn. Is it bad that I was relieved--mostly because I didn't feel like making an extra meal? So, instead of thinking of another family that could use a dinner, we swapped it out with a Christmas craft. But, tomorrow's day was going to be a craft too, so I was kind of bummed at my lack of originality. In swoops our friends Dan and Karen to save the day!

Me, April (she's awesome too, but we're going to her house Tues, so maybe I'll share her awesomeness then :) , and Karen--who on top of her other gifts, can take self portraits with a heavy DSLR camera)
This morning Bill got a text from them inviting us, after church, to their house for lunch and the men would watch the football game and the women and kids could visit. Yes! Perfect Advent activity! All of our kids love each other and all of the grown ups love each other--it's a love fest. I knew the kids would love to go there and I could get away with calling it our Advent activity for the day. I love win/win situations :) 

Karen is the person that I want to be when I grow up :) She is the most generous, kind hearted, loving, caring, creative person in the world. She is the kind of person that will drop everything to listen to you and the first person to offer to pray with you. She is an encourager, and always has a positive outlook on every situation. She is the perfect hostess--I have visions of one day being a good hostess instead of the crab I usually am. She planned our Twi-Night and several other parties since I have known her. She leaves no detail forgotten and no guest left out. She is one of the most honest people I have ever met. Ask her anything and she will tell you the truth--which makes her a great person to go to for advice. She is spiritually wise beyond her years! Karen, I love you and am so glad that I get to call you friend!
Karen is super patient with the kids--she showed them all their hamsters
Karen's daughter, Keira, is just as sweet as her mom--Rori loves her!

Liam  loves her boys, Christian and Carter--For once, Liam has his shirt on and someone else doesn't ;) 

Day 17

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Today our Advent Activity coincided with celebrating Ryan, my brother-in-law's birthday. Jenna and her family, my parents, and my grandma all came over for pizza and to decorate the 120 or so cookies that I had baked--that was 8 sticks of butter, 8 egg yolks, and 9 cups of flour. I am going to put in another plug for a Kitchen Aid Professional Series 6 Quart mixer that could have done that in one batch as opposed to the two batches I needed to make.

I felt little stress today because normally I make the frosting right before we start and then end up having to make 2 or 3 more batches during and I don't get to have fun decorating. This time I made a huge batch before everyone came over. I wish I would've thought of doing that 2 years ago when we started this tradition. Sometimes I am a little slow. I may have also been a little less stressed than normal because I dipped into my airplane prescription of Xanax....maybe.

The kids did a great job decorating, and I was only a little scary. I may have thrown a tiny temper tantrum because when I opened the tins of cookies there were quite a few broken ones. But, I think I was justified. If you had spent two days mixing, rolling, cutting and baking cookies, you'd be irritated if they broke too. But honestly, it was a relatively calm and fun experience. This year all of the kids helped--even the babies. I think Noah enjoyed it the most though! This is a tradition that I hope we do as a whole family for years to come.
That thing on the bottom right, was Bill's contribution--it's a Star Wars ship--don't ask me which one, all I know is it's not  the Millennium Falcon

Day 16 of Advent fun

Friday was a really hard day for me. I think the stress of everything I felt I needed to do the day before, caught up with me. And I still needed to make a batch of butter cookie cutouts for the following day. I was kind of getting to the point of hating cookies... Anyway, I got hit with an incredibly bad migraine right around lunch time. I took my prescription medicine and ate some lunch and drank some caffeine, but I felt incredibly nauseous and was worried I might throw up. I've only had a migraine that bad once before. I ended up calling Bill and asking him if he could come home as soon as he possibly could get out of work. About an hour and a half later, it dulled and I felt like I would be ready for our activity for the day. We were going to drive around and look at Christmas lights. It was something we used to do with my Aunt and Uncle when we were little. Unfortunately, about an hour before we were going to go, the migraine came back full force. I took some more medicine and laid down. I still felt kind of bad, but good enough to go for a drive.

We decided to make it more fun for the kids by letting them get milk shakes to drink in the car. Rori didn't want one unless I got one too, so I did. I think it helped my headache :) So we drank our milkshakes and drove around looking at lights. The kids all really liked it, even Brendan. We counted the number of Nativity scenes--at least 18, and Rori planned out how she wants our yard to look next year. Papa's really excited about that :) There's just something about driving around and seeing the Christmas lights that really bring out the Christmas spirit.
I love it when houses go crazy for Christmas lights!

This house had homemade Disney and Pixar Characters--really cute!

Day 15, a few days late

Ah, day 15, it was actually a day I had been dreading. You see, it was Thursday. The day before Friday, the last day of school before Christmas break. I had the bright idea of making teacher gifts. It's been an expensive year for us and so I wanted to do homemade gifts instead of spending a lot of money because I needed 4 gifts. People seem to really enjoy the gourmet popcorn that I make, so I wanted to make that for them. For some reason, I get these grandiose ideas and then end up killing myself to do them, and swear I will never do that again...and then I forget and do it again. I decided to make all three flavors of popcorn for each teacher. Unfortunately they need to be pretty fresh because I haven't determined the shelf life on them, so I needed to do them all the day before. It wouldn't have been so bad except for the vast amount of dishes that I created.

Along with the three batches of popcorn, I made sugar cookie dough because somehow all the cookies we made with Auntie Val the previous week had disappeared. Fortunately Auntie Val was coming over again so she happily helped the kids roll out the dough and put sprinkles on them while I barked orders like a drill sargent. I may have frightened myself. I think I was losing the Christmas Spirit...But to be fair, I still needed to tie all the ribbons and package the popcorn so I was a little overwhelmed.

Anywho, back to the Advent Calendar. It was supposed to be dinner at McDonald's Playland, but the day before Bill and I agreed there wasn't really time to do that, so Bill stopped at Michael's on his way home and picked up a Christmas craft. The kids were none the wiser. They got to color little vinyl Santa's. Bill wanted to help them because he said he felt jipped by always being banished to the family room with Brendan. So, I happily snuggled in with him to watch Mickey Mouse before bed.

This is pretty much his picture face...I think he thinks if he opens his eyes, the camera will steal his soul...

Fortunately the kids are loving doing the Christmas crafts, so it was once again a big hit! And after they went to bed, I watched fa la la la lifetime (thank goodness for cheesy Christmas movies) and tied ribbons on 30 bags of popcorn.

I bought these cute buckets from Target to hold the popcorn and those are the homemade cards the kids made

inside the bucket--they each held 4 bags of popcorn

My mom made adorable tags for each flavor

Peanut butter crunch, peppermint bark, and cinnamon caramel corn

Day 14 and some bonus rambling

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Remember when I said I would regale you with stories of Smiley Face Cookies and Wacky Pack Wednesday's? Well, today you get 50% of that. Today is Wednesday, so I am at work all day. Then, at 5:00 tonight is Bill's work Christmas party, and the kids have AWANA, so I will not get to spend much time with them. I hate that. Grandma Casey is going to give them dinner and take them to AWANA> So, anyway, I picked them up smiley face cookies from the bakery as their special Advent treat. They seemed excited enough that I only felt a smidge of guilt.

So, they didn't have smiley face cookies, but the kids thought I was a rock star for the santa ones. Win/win

Now, I bet you just assumed that would be the end of my post today, right? Wrong. I am feeling wordy, so there is something that I want to discuss. Well, one-sidedly of course, this is a blog, not a panel discussion. But we're all friends, right? I love you all, and I so very very much appreciate it when you leave me comments, whether it's on the blog or facebook, but I want to make sure that none of you have any incorrect perceptions. I don't want you to read my blog and say, "wow! She's amazing, I want to be more like her! Secretly I hate her a little bit because she is doing all of this for her kids, and I am not." I don't want my blog to make people feel badly about themselves. Now, maybe none of you are thinking that and all of this wordiness is for naught. If that's the case, feel free to move on, catch up on the newest episode of Psych, and forget I said anything. But, I just want to make sure that I am not giving false illusions. I have blogs that I read and sometimes I can't read because I feel like they are so put together and my life couldn't possibly live up to them--why can't I look this cute all the time, why can't I be this holy and peaceful all the time, why can't I develop a healthy relationship with food, like this person? The list goes on and on. I don't want people thinking that I am creative, or energetic, or a better mom than the next person. I am tired, disorganized, disheveled at least 4 days of the week, constantly battling the 300 lb man that lives inside of me, cranky, and impatient. However, I, like all of you, love my children with my entire heart and soul. I would die for them. So, with an incredible amount of help from Grandma Casey, Grandma Hoo Hoo, and most of all from the most unbelievably patiently helpful, and amazing husband in the world, I am working my way through Advent, even if it physically kills me (which at times, I have thought it might), to give my children memories of a mom whom, while full of imperfections and flaws, loves them even more than myself (and I can be pretty selfish). And, I know, that those of you who have commented on facebook and on my blog (you know who you are), are just as amazing and your kids look at you with the same love and awe as mine, and don't see the same flawed person that you see when you look in the mirror. Ok, thank you, if you have stayed and read this whole thing. Now, since flattery gets you everywhere with me, leave me a comment about how much more amazing I am than you even thought before--and you can throw in a "you're pretty" if you want, and I will consider us BFF's for life.

The 13th day

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I have been really excited about this day's activity! We are baking cookies and bringing them to the fire station as a gift to the firemen. I want my kids to realize that giving is often as much fun, if not more fun, than receiving. I picked the fire station because they have been called to our house on multiple occasions--you can read about a few of them here and here. I am so thankful that they have always been so pleasant and helpful and willing to come to our aid--especially with my allergy attack.

I decided that Liam would make a batch of cookies while Brendan napped and then Rori would make a batch when she got home from school. I have been wanting to try out a Cadbury Egg Cookie recipe from my favorite blog. This recipe calls for smashed mini Cadbury Eggs, which for the first time ever, I saw Christmas ones in the stores! So, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to give them a try. Now, here comes a very important Public Service Announcement. Butter flavored Crisco is of the devil. I am a butter snob. However, when I make a recipe for the first time, I always follow it exactly. Then, the next time I make it, I make any changes that I want. This recipe called for butter flavored Crisco, along with a stick of regular butter. I went ahead and made it with the butter-flavored Crisco. When I tasted the dough, I felt like something was off. So then I tried a cookie. The off flavor was more subtle, but still there. I started to be worried that I had somehow poisoned the cookies. I checked the dates on my eggs, the butter and the Crisco. I had visions of giving the fire department food poisoning and then someone calling 911 but all the firemen were in the loo! Fortunately they were all good. So, I decided to taste the Crisco straight up. Yep. That was it. Tasted a little bit like evil. So, lesson learned. Butter-flavored anything, probably really doesn't taste like butter. Take that little tidbit and file it away for future reference, and then thank me later. Anyway, I know plenty of people like margarine and things like that in their cookies, so I am hoping the firemen aren't as snobby as I am, and will enjoy them. If not, they'll throw them out and we will be none the wiser--except for when they lock the doors if they see us coming next year.

We had to crush the Cadbury Eggs, so we tried a rolling pin

And moved to a rubber mallet 
Rori's cookie uses the same basic recipe (minus the lesson learned about aforementioned Crisco) except we added dark chocolate and mint chips in place of the Cadbury eggs.Her cookies were AMAZING! They tasted like an Andes Mint or a Mint Meltaway. Lesson learned.

Liam liked his evil cookies

Brendan liked them too. Clearly they do not have their mother's discerning palate 

Rori had zero interest in trying either of them

When Bill got home, we loaded up the car and went to the fire station. We had to be buzzed in and the fireman seemed thrilled that the kids made cookies just for them. He invited us in to see the fire trucks and then he offered to take a picture of us in front of the fire truck.

 Five minutes after we left, I realized that I forgot to get a picture with the kids and the fireman. Argh! I'm seriously irritated about that, but oh well, maybe next time. I am going to blame my tired brain from making two batches of cookies plus I made the dough to roll out another batch of cut outs tonight because we need them to frost on another day. Boy would a Kitchen Aid Professional Series 6 quart mixer help...I'm just sayin'...
I hope my face doesn't freeze like that.

The 12th day of Christmas

There--look at my creative blog post title! We did the Christmas cards for the teachers Take Two. This time I decided to research ideas the night before so that I wouldn't go into full panic attack mode when it was time to make a craft from scratch. I found a Christmas tree card that was very simple yet super cute. Bill even made the template because it's Wednesday and I work so I get home after he does. Man I wish I had gotten a picture of that!

Liam, shocker, didn't want to do it. Are you getting a theme here with him? Somehow we convinced him to participate and he had fun gluing the parts together and then trimming the tree with stickers. He even wanted to write Merry Christmas all by himself! Rori wrote a long note to her teacher--I am so impressed with her writing this year, she loves it--maybe she'll have a blog someday!

After we did the cards, Brendan wanted to snuggle--poor kid has been left out of quite a bit of the Advent activities because he's too little :( Next year he will get to participate much more!
I wasn't going to say anything, but my vanity or lack of self esteem--you pick--got the better of me and the reason there is a glare off my face and my eyes are dark is because I am in my pajamas and had just taken a shower. So there you go. I am shallow and couldn't just let it go. I like to keep it real--about my inner and outer flaws :)