Saturday, December 27, 2008

Boxing Day, Remixed

The last several years we have enjoyed celebrating Boxing Day -- primarily because the idea of giving to others out of the abundance of what we have is appealing right after Christmas. We usually fill some boxes up to take to a donation center, and then get together with the extended family for some other "box-related" fun.

This year, though, most of us felt like we weren't quite up for another big gathering right away, so we've decided to mix it up a little. We did go through the house and find a bunch of things we no longer needed to box up and give away, but we're going to do our big group gathering next week. This year we've decided we're going to have a "Trash-to-Treasure Auction" to raise money for a charity. The idea will be that everyone can bring items they no longer want but would still have value to someone else, and then we'll auction them off to the highest bidder. (We may also throw in some baked goods or other homemade items as well, to see if there are any interested takers there) Whoever brings the item that garners the highest bid will be rewarded by getting to choose the charity the money goes to. We'll probably also combine the auction with a boxed lunch of sorts, to carry the the boxing theme through. Otherwise, we'd have to go with what Strider votes for, which would be boxing matches...

So, if anyone wants to join us, feel free!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Scenes from Christmas, '08

We really missed seeing all our family in Ohio this year, but were thankful for a merry Christmas here in NC, too!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

This morning as we set out in the car to go visit the greater Wray family, we were all bubbling with excitement. We started to talk about all the things we were most looking forward to...

Strider said he was most excited about the pizza for lunch and the cookie contest. Had he known just how varied the different homemade pizzas would be (Santa Fe BBQ chicken; Spinach, sausage and herb; cheeseburger; katahuna (or something like that?); etc., he might have been even more giddy. And had he known that the cookie contest, known as the "Great Uffle-Off" was going to be as tasty as it was (with entries of mint oreos, mint frosting, peanut butter rice-krispies, and orange/coconut varieties, as well as the original Druffle) he would have talked about that for hours.

I said I'm most looking forward to seeing everyone, and doing the Grab Bag game. Had I known that there was also going to be a big group gift with building blocks that are addictive for young and old, that would also have made my list.

And had I known the grandchildren were all going to receive special blessings from the grandparents, that would have been at the top of my list. But when we asked Rayna what she was most looking forward to for the day, her answer was, "Worshiping God." I'm not sure she really understood what she was saying, but I loved Strider's response: He got quiet and then said, "Good point, Rayna."

And it was a good point. He's the reason for all this celebration after all. :) As we drove home tonight, there was a rare moment of silence in the van and I had time to reflect briefly. I thought about how every year Christmas Eve brings at least a few minutes of calm and quiet that is so mysterious and wonder-full. It may not be much of a Silent Night all the time, but it is always a Holy Night, I think. So Happy Christmas Eve to everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Breaking it down for us: the kids' thoughts on Christmas songs

We went caroling tonight with some friends, which was a highlight for all of us. On the way home, we were trying to talk about how meaningful it was and asked the kids about their favorite songs.... but Rayna just kept singing "Shrek the halls with boughs of donkey" all the way home. This was NOT a song we had caroled.

And last week, the ever Mr. Literal-and-Practical Strider was listening to "What Child is This?" The only comment he had about this beautiful (and rhetorical) song was, "This song is weird. It's too easy! It's Jesus!"

He also doesn't like one of the Oak Ridge Boys' Christmas songs (this album from 1982 plays daily at our house throughout the whole Advent season) called "Christmas Carol" because he thinks it's dumb to write a carol about a carol.

So, the kids' wackiness notwithstanding, the merriment continues. And we wish you all a Happy Christmas Eve Eve!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

One of my favorite days of the year

The fact that my birthday fell on a Sunday this year was a gift: usually on Sundays I feel like I just want a break from being a mom.... and this particular Sunday I got just that! Pete and the kids let me rest and play games all afternoon, and I had my favorite dinner ever (pizza, salad and ice cream cake) without having to lift a finger. They all were very sweet to me... Pete even tried to get all the kids to tell me something that they loved that I did this year, but we didn't get very far before Colsen chose that opportunity (dinner time) to assert his stubborn 2-year-old-ness and he ended up sucking the life out of it all quickly.... but still I did feel very blessed. It was nice to hear from various family members throughout the day as well -- and from a bunch of facebook friends (gotta love fb!).

The morning was very good, too... At church Strider and Rayna had their singing debut as part of the children's Christmas choir this year. It was so fun to see all the kids up on stage doing random funny things.

So, this evening I'm thankful... though sorry it all will be over in a couple hours. Fortunately, there will probably be some other exciting things going on this week, too....

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Some Colsen-isms

Colsen is very busy trying to be like everyone else -- imitating all of our speech patterns, among other things. So most of the time he sounds quite grown-up and we laugh about what a little man he is. But sometimes he comes up with his own little words and phrases that we enjoy...
For instance, he calls a banana a "go-vayna." And he likes to refer to Rayna as "Rayna-go-dayna." (Since these 2 things rhyme, we think that if he composed a song about her eating a banana, it would become a family favorite.) He also says, "Have a big, please" when he means that he wants an apple cut into big pieces, and not baby-size pieces. And when he's done with a meal, he always says, "Have a get down now."
Here are a few of my other favorite quotes of his lately...

"Wook, Mommy, it's darking outside!" (he says this a lot in the evenings when he notices it getting dark)

Pete: Colsen, should we go change your diaper?
Cole: No. Maybe tomorrow.

Me: Hey, baby!
Cole: I'm not a baby! I'm just Colsen!
Sadly, I guess he's right.

He's recently started climbing out of his crib. The first time I heard a big thump and went up to find him walking around on the floor saying that his head hurt. But after that first time he improved his technique, and now approaches it as if he was scaling a fence, putting a leg over and turning around so he lands on his feet. I guess this crib stage is about over.

And here's a little video doing some of the pretending he likes to do. In this one he's acting like he's an old man and needs a cane because his back hurts... but then he falls out of character a bit by the end. :)

C as old man

He definitely keeps us entertained.... except for when he's throwing a tantrum or a crying fit, which are becoming a little too common these days!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Food that regenerates!

Am I the last person to find out about this? I may very well be, but I'm excited about it nevertheless.

When we were visiting my bro and sis-in-law in California recently, I noticed that Keiko had the ends of some scallions stuck in a bowl of water. Knowing that she often has some good Japanese tips for cooking, I asked her about them and she told me that after you use up the onion, you can stick the white end in some water and they'll grow back!

So I tried it this past week, thinking it would be a long-term science experience we could all enjoy. To my surprise, they grew back in a matter of couple days -- this picture was taken a week after I put the white parts in water. Even Strider is impressed (although I have to keep calling them scallions -- if he ever gets wind of the fact that they're also called green onions, he will never go near them again).

Anyway, isn't this cool? As Strider says, "We'll never have to buy scallions again!" Talk about a "buy-one-get-some-free" deal!

In these economically-challenged days, it's good to find a food that re-grows itself!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ah, the joy of the season

A large percentage of the time we will find Colsen near the Christmas tree these days-- he's mesmerized by it. And this particular day he announced he was going to sleep under it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Serenity Now!"

This morning I've been feeling like George Costanza's dad (on Seinfeld) a lot -- wanting to throw my hands up and yell "serenity now!' over and over. Here are a few jpeg-less snapshots of the past few hours in my life:

--Being awoken at 4:30 am by Colsen (who then went promptly back to sleep) and lying awake in my bed listening to what I'm pretty sure are rodents inhabiting our attic.
--Coming downstairs a few hours later to find the computer desk broken. As I type this, the keyboard is slanted at a 45-degree angle, and the mouse (electronic, not a rodent, thankfully) keeps sliding down into it.
--Trying to do dishes and discovering the garbage disposal is not working.
--Realizing all through our school time that I kept having to have 3 conversations simultaneously, which gets taxing after awhile. At one point Colsen was on my lap making me "read him" a unit study book about dogs, Rayna was on one side of me counting by tens and wanting my approval, and Strider was the other side asking me if 9/15 is 60%.
--Looking outside 5 minutes after "recess" started to find that Strider had taken the other 2 kids into our neighbor's backyard and locked them in their dog pen. (Both of them were yelling to get out of jail)
--Discovering that an entire load of laundry I was taking out of the dryer had what looks to be permanent black marks all over! Every single item may be ruined.
--Looking in the dryer and seeing the tell-tale black streaks throughout. While I'm busy scrubbing it out, I realize I've now over-boiled some eggs on the stove.
--Explaining to Rayna for the 217th time that she cannot wear her footless tights as pants. Then 5 minutes later explaining to her that no, she still cannot wear her too-small patterned pajama bottoms as daytime pants.
--Having a "2-towel" lunch -- one to clean up spilled milk on the rug and one to clean up spilled egg-water when the egg pan tipped over and fell on the floor.

So, Pete just came home and I'm off to do some quick Christmas shopping, but since one of the stores on my list is Wal-Mart, I'm not sensing that I'll be obtaining any serenity there.... Maybe it will be found in the car on the way to and from.

(Overall, though, I know this has been a very good day and we have much to be thankful for. Sometimes you just have to laugh at all -- or blog about it all -- so you don't go crazy!)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

As I type this, the kids are all upstairs (finally), supposedly in bed, and this is the scene by our fireplace. And "dreams that St. Nicholas soon would be there" are likely running through the kids' little heads.

We've had a fun evening celebrating this "Santa" holiday again this year, with some friends joining us for the festivities. Before dinner all the kids enjoyed making little gingerbread ornaments (gingerbread is something like a delicacy the real St. Nick likely handed out in his day), and then after we had our Middle Eastern dinner (food St. Nick would have likely eaten), we all gathered to hear the story of St. Nicholas, read by Mr. Timberlake. Right when the story ended, there was a mysterious "ding dong" of the doorbell, so off everyone ran to see who was there....

No St. Nicholas showed his face, but he apparently left some little goody bags for the kids, which they all enjoyed. But the best part of the evening, in my opinion was when Pete shared with everyone about some kids we had just heard about who are in need this Christmas, who won't have any stockings unless people give them to them. When he asked if any of the kids would like to give away any of their new things they had just received, every single kid -- even the 2-year olds -- enthusiastically brought forward items to put in the new stocking to give away. Just like St. Nicholas would have done!

Now we'll just have to wait and see what St. Nicholas might bring the kids this year while they sleep... And then all of our "Santa" stuff goes away after tomorrow -- and we focus only on the Baby in the Manger now.

So, happy St. Nick's day to you, and to all a good night!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Celebrating the beginning of Advent

The season of hope and waiting has now begun and we are happily celebrating here at the Frank house. We enjoyed having Bud and Jane here for the first Sunday of Advent, and we used the day to make our wreath and Advent chains -- some of our favorite activities.

Then on Monday we went on our first big outing of the season -- a field trip to the Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child distribution center here in Charlotte. Each year they have an annual Family Day, during which they shut down all the processing activities so they can explain to kids what exactly happens there. We were very impressed by what we all learned there: the Charlotte center is the biggest one they run -- and this month alone 2.1 million shoeboxes will be going through this building! Over the 2 hour tour, they took the kids through all kinds of stations so they could see exactly how their boxes would be processed, which countries they would go to, how kids react to receiving them, etc. Mom and Dad joined us for this trip, and I think we adults enjoyed it as much as the kids did!

And it was fun to even see a familiar face -- our friend Mr. McManus!

After our tour, we headed into the city to see some of the decorations and have some dinner. We had hoped to see the animatronic singing bears we always like to see...

Alas, they didn't start their concerts until the next day. :(

But we still had a fun evening anyway... dinner with Nonna and Poppa and dessert with Graham and Katie...
A very fun way to kick of the Christmas season!