It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…

IMG_9370 (1)I am always a last minute Christmas person.  I can remember back in the day when we didn’t even put up our tree till Christmas Eve–that was the tradition–and then we left it up till New Year’s Day.  Now it seems that people are putting up decorations after Halloween!  Not to sound like an old fogey, but I can’t see the point in starting THAT early!

Since we don’t have kids at home, we don’t go all out on decorations any more. In fact, I sold/gave a lot of stuff away when we left Alaska.  But I finally put a few things up on our mantel and hung the wreath my friend Tammy made me a few years ago.  Today I actually got out and did some shopping, and I’ve mailed most of my cards. So I suppose I am getting closer to being ready!

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Sarah invited me to go with her to a gathering of a group called Seek the Peace the other night.  The organization works with refugees and has a weekly meeting with young girls to work on self worth and decision making and empowerment.  One of the struggles of refugee children is that they often do not feel that they fit in and are sometimes targeted for bullying and ostracism.  Unfortunately, the graduation rate for refugee kids in Dallas is very low (33%).  Through Project Shine, it is hoped that young women will feel supported in their efforts in many areas of life, including finishing their education. Seek the Peace does lots more (read about it here) but we joined in a holiday party hosted by Project Shine.  We took Elle with us and all of us enjoyed interacting with the “Shine Girls” who were mostly from Malaysia and The Congo; we had snacks, made wreaths, and took photos together.  Elle made some sweet new friends and it was great to see her talking and laughing with girls from differing backgrounds and customs.  She has a tender heart like her mom and grandmother.  🙂

I picked the grands up from school yesterday and we hung out for awhile so Sarah could get some errands done.  We had a lot of fun as always.  Love having these kids nearby!

Susan and Corey’s kids will be here on the 26th for a week and we are looking forward to that. Everyone’s schedule is off this year so we won’t have all the kids and grandkids at the same time. Bonnie and David won’t be here till the 1st of the year.  But I am counting my blessings that we are not so far away any more and we will get to see everyone at some point!

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!

 

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And before you know it…

Friday we slept in a little and then hung around the house for the morning because we finally had some living room furniture delivered. Hurray! Then we’d told all the kids (except Jack who would be napping) that we’d take them to a movie in the afternoon.  The guys went to see the new Star Wars and the gals agreed on “Sing.”  It was cute, but, again, I am not that crazy about kids’ animated movies so I got caught with my eyes closed a couple of times.  🙂   After the movie, we went back to Sarah and Miles’ and ended up staying through dinner so the kids could play. They really do have a great time together and we love seeing them enjoying themselves with their cousins. Ally and Elle had been begging for a sleepover but there were reasons it wouldn’t work just about every night–Elle was going to be playing in a soccer tournament Saturday so Sarah wanted her to get enough rest.  We were consoling them over no sleepover when Sarah realized the tournament didn’t start till 10:30 rather than 8:30, so she relented and the sleepover was ON. Two happy girls!  I’d told Elle she could join us at our house but Ally thought Elle’s house was much more fun (which is admittedly true with all of the toys and activities that I am lacking).

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Saturday morning, I met Sarah, Miles and kids at Elle’s first soccer game–tied 1/1 with a boys’ team and were ahead most of the game–go, girls! Afterwards,  we took Beck with us, went home, made lunch, and took off for the Perot Museum of Nature and Science for a couple of hours. The Museum is super cool and has all kinds of great exhibits, as well as interactive areas for the kids.  I bought a family membership last year so I am determined to get my money’s worth!  The kids had a great time and didn’t really want to leave so I consider it a successful outing!

Sarah and Miles had already planned to have several families of friends over for New Year’s Eve so we dropped Beck off and went to do our own thing. First we risked running out of gas because Rich likes to get his discount gasoline at participating stations once he has enough grocery store points. LOL  Our gas gauge showed 5 miles left and suddenly dropped to zero so I “made” him stop at a little convenience store near our house to get a gallon before we continued.  The things we do to save a couple of bucks!

Though it was still early, we decided we were hungry enough to stop for a New Year’s Eve fried chicken dinner at Popeye’s.  🙂  The kids deemed the chicken good enough but no one was too thrilled with the spicy Cajun gravy on the mashed potatoes.  Lesson learned.

Later, I went to the store to buy some ice cream and non-alcoholic bubbly for our NYE celebration. I also found a “party for four in a bag” and threw that in my cart.  Hats, garlands, masks, noisemakers, horns and confetti–what else could we possibly need?  And very ugly and cheaply made, to boot!

We played a messy game of “Pie Face,” Grandpa won AGAIN at Rack-o, we ate ice cream and candy, and watched the NYE festivities on TV.

We took selfies and posted our greetings on Facebook and Instagram (these photos crack me up!)  We waited it out till the ball dropped in NYC at 11 PM Texas time.  We blew our horns, yelled “Happy New Year!” and made a fuss.  We toasted with our sparkling apple-cranberry drink and the kids rated it “too sour.”  So much for that.  We stayed up till midnight in Texas, blew our horns again, yelled “Happy New Year!” some more, kissed and hugged and what do you know…it’s 2017!

Susan and Corey came to get the kids today.  The house sure is empty and quiet! We visited awhile and then went over to Sarah’s to hang out a bit and let the kids play together one last time.  Rich and I are chillin’ but it won’t be quiet for long!  Bonnie and her three will be here tomorrow till Friday!

I know 2016 wasn’t the best for many people and I am still appalled by the election, but all in all our family was  fortunate to have had a good  year.  I feel very thankful because I know that is not the case for everyone in our state, in our nation, in our world.  Maybe not even in our neighborhood.  I hope 2017 brings more peace, love and justice to all.  Let’s do our best to make things better in our own little corner of the planet, and then reach out as far as we can go.  It’s up to us.

I want this sign for my yard.  Want to join me?  You can get it here.

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All this and chocolate chip cookies

Yesterday we spent several hours at Sarah’s so the cousins could play together. They had a great time on the trampoline and just hanging out.  It’s always fun to see them together and I’m glad they all get to build those cousin relationships.

When we left, we stopped by the garden which is very close to Sarah’s house, checked on our remaining plants and gave them some water.  Came home and played half a game of Mexican Train, Ally helped Rich make pizza for dinner, we watched some TV, and off to bed.

This morning we got up and headed to Urban Air to meet up with their cousins (and their cousins’ cousins from Miles’ side).  It was big fun jumping on trampolines, climbing on obstacle course equipment, playing dodge ball and running around to their hearts’ content.

We came home, made some lunch, and then set out on a shopping trip to spend their Christmas money.  Susan had told the kids “there are more places to shop in Dallas!” but when I asked Ally where she wanted to go, she said “Target!” LOL We went to Target, which is at least a “Super Target” compared to the regular Target in Abilene…but she couldn’t really find anything she wanted.  Aidan, however, found a video game.  From there we went to Best Buy where Aidan got some more Playstation stuff, and to Toys R Us, where Ally stocked up on several items: two games, some aqua beads, and a pocket puppy play park (something new to me).

Supper tonight was spaghetti with garlic bread, we finished our Mexican Train game (Aidan won with Grandpa a close second and the females pulling up the rear again…dang it!)  Rich and I helped Ally set up her aqua beads set and she made her first design, which thrilled her to death.  At 10 PM, Rich decided that chocolate chip cookies were in order.  Yum.

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Merry Christmas

We had a lovely dinner with Sarah, Miles and kids, as well as Miles’ parents, grandmother, brother, sister in law and their two kids.  After dinner, we exchanged gifts-mostly the kids, but Rich and I got a gift certificate from West Elm so we can get some more furniture for the house.  Nice!  Although Breakfast with Santa was our gift to the grandkids, we were at World Market recently and all of their toys were 40% off so I couldn’t resist getting them each a little something to open on Christmas.  Elle got a set of stencil tattoos, Jack got some little cars, and we gave Beck a box of “classic jokes” and some laser fingernails. LOL  The jokes were a huge hit–including a ring that squirts water, a “nail through the finger,” ice cubes with bugs in them, and a pack of gum that snaps your finger when you pull out a piece.  Beck had more fun trying them all out on the “unsuspecting” crowd.  We were cracking up at how much he loved them.  Grandparent gift win!

It was warm today after the recent chilliness and raininess. We enjoyed sitting outside; sure did not seem like December!

Tuesday we are meeting Susan halfway and picking up Aidan and Ally to come stay till New Year’s Day.  We’re excited to see them and have them visit awhile.  Then Bonnie and her kids might come see us for a few days after the 1st.

Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Holidays, no matter what you celebrate!

 

 

Breakfast with Santa

We are striving to gift “experiences” rather than more toys that the grandkids don’t really need.  This year we bought the Dallas kids tickets to “Breakfast with Santa” at the Hotel Anatole downtown and today was the day!  First off I had a dream that I didn’t wake up till 8:35 and I was supposed to be at Sarah’s house by 8:25.  In my dream, I hung my head under the faucet in an attempt at a quick hair wash and tried to hurry up and get ready.  I hate those kind of dreams!  I woke up, looked at my phone, and it was only 5:30. Whew.  My alarm went off at 7 and I drifted for a few more minutes. At one point, Rich said “Don’t go back to sleep!”  I laughed and told him about the dream I’d had earlier, then I made myself get up and get ready.

I wasn’t sure what to expect (maybe a chaotic madhouse with a ton of kids running wild??) but the whole morning was quite lovely.  We checked in right away and were shown to our table, then worked our way through the buffet line full of yummy breakfast: egg casserole, potatoes, bacon and sausage, fresh fruit, cinnamon rolls, pancakes with all kinds of toppings, oatmeal with more toppings, and more.  Something for everyone and all of the kids found items they wanted to eat, plus orange and apple juice to drink.  The kids were also given gift bags with coloring books, crayons and a bell necklace to keep them occupied at the table. While we were eating, Santa, Mrs. Claus, and an elf made their way from table to table, chatting and taking pictures with the wide-eyed kids.  Jack has been scared of Santa so we didn’t know how he’d do, though he kept saying “Santa, Santa” in the car on the way to the event.  He watched Santa from afar and seemed to like him, waved at him a couple of times and repeated his name.  When Santa finally reached our table, Jack was a little leery but not too scared, gave the jolly old guy a high five, and posed with the rest of the family for photos. Success!  The kids got to slide down a slide for awhile and then Santa brought everyone to the front to read a Texas Christmas tale that was very cute.

Then it was time for a 10-station scavenger hunt, which was a big hit: decorate a gingerbread man, make an ornament, create a photo frame, get their faces painted, play “Santa Says” with the elf, fix themselves a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows and other goodies, and so on.  They had a lot of fun and it was a wonderful morning.  So glad I got to have this experience with them!

Winter

We’re having a little cold snap in Dallas.  The heater is running tonight and we went by the garden earlier today to cover up our plants.  They’re not doing great–we are getting a lot of lettuce and chard, but the cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower look like they’re being eaten up by something…critters or insects, hard to know which.  And the carrots are barely growing so I am not sure if we’re going to end up with any or not.  It’s a little discouraging but we signed on for another year recently so we are hanging in there!

Most of our days are still being spent unpacking and trying to arrange the house, plus I am wasting a lot of time looking online at furniture, rugs, and decor. Sometimes it’s a chore to start fresh!  I can’t believe it’s taking so long!  I did take a break to watch Elle play indoor soccer today–my first time to see her with her new team. They are pretty hard-core for 8 year olds!  Oh, my goodness, some rough play was going on! They competed against an older team and came out on top–Elle scored a goal, so it was a good game all around.

Rich made us his world famous fish tacos tonight–we haven’t had them in a really long time and they sure were good.  Reminds us a lot of our time in Alaska.  🙂

I’m trying to get into the Christmas spirit–it’s a little bit hard with the house still in disarray and I haven’t even found my box of Christmas decorations yet.  I did put up my wreath made by my friend Tammy a few years ago (see above!), and Friday morning I ran out into the street in my pjs and my bedhead chasing after our sanitation guys to give them a little holiday gift card.  Isn’t it funny how you see yourself in your head one way and then realize you actually look like a crazed grandma?  Those poor guys probably didn’t know what was going on!

I’m still working on Christmas cards, and ran around to buy a few things for our gift exchange at my volunteer work, and a few that needed to be mailed (yes, they’ll probably be late, as usual! And I don’t even have the slow Alaskan island mail to blame any  more). OH, and I passed my background check to volunteer with the refugee agency so I am excited to get started!

It’s 2:22 AM and I should probably get some sleep!  Sweet dreams!