The official start of the Christmas season. I’m a firm believer in not celebrating Christmas until Thanksgiving has received its due attention, but once that has happened I love Christmas season as much as the next person (in spite of my opinions on the “big man”). We kicked off the season by checking out some of the Olde Golden Christmas activities.
We hope you’ve had some reasons to celebrate lately too.
My brother Spencer’s birthday was this week. He’s on a mission for our church at the moment, so we just sent him a care package in the mail. I had Cooper and Ellen draw pictures as part of Uncle Spencer’s gift and I explained to them that we were sending Uncle Spencer a special package for his birthday. Cooper’s eyes lit up as he said, “Uncle Spencer! Birthday . . . cake!” I could see the gears working in his head and I like the way the kid thinks. We’ll jump on just about any reason to try a delicious new recipe around our house, so we of course made a cake in Spencer’s honor. We tried out Smitten Kitchen’s Bee Sting Cake and like most of her recipes, it didn’t disappoint.
Last weekend we drove to Utah for a quick trip to see my sister graduate with a Masters of Social Work from the University of Utah. Logistically, the whole thing was a bit of a fiasco, but once it unfolded it was quite fun. We’d found a great deal on a rental car, that according to our calculations would actually cost less to rent and drive than to drive our 18-year-old car. (See what a difference fuel efficiency can make?) Then, Noel got unexpected last minute permission to go to a conference which made it so he was unable to drive to Utah with me. My brother was coming to visit right after our trip, so I first tried to switch his flight so he’d fly out before the Utah excursion, drive to Utah, drive back to Colorado, spend a week with us, and then fly back to Utah on his originally scheduled flight. But, he had finals and apartment checkout. Then, I tried to talk some friends into going on a road trip with me and the kids, but the work schedules of husbands got in the way. So, we bought Noel a ticket to fly to Utah after his presentation at the conference so he could be there for Cooper’s birthday and I wouldn’t have to make the drive back alone. I was all prepared to drive solo to Utah, but my parents took pity on me and purchased a ticket for my Uncle to fly to Colorado so he could lend a hand on the trip to Utah. Then there was a huge snowstorm predicted for the day my uncle was going to fly in, so we changed his flight so he would arrive just as I was picking up the rental car. Are you still following this? No? Well, basically there were a lot of plans made and deserted, and while the end result was a little crazy (and probably more expensive than we’d intended) it worked surprisingly well.
Here’s the brief recap: Thursday my uncle David flew in and took a shuttle to the rental car agency where I was I picking up the car with the help of the children. (Turns out the secret to avoiding all the tricky upsell questions is to bring your kids with you. Cooper and Ellen were running around like hooligans and the desk agent didn’t try to schmooze me at all. I literally got the keys within two minutes of approaching the desk.) After taking our car back to the house, we made the long, boring journey across Wyoming. Friday morning Hope graduated and Noel flew in that afternoon just in time for her celebration party. Saturday, we had a big family birthday party for Cooper with lots of delicious food my parents made. Sunday morning, we caught the beginning of church before making the long journey back home. Monday morning I returned the rental car with my friend Serin’s help. That evening we had our small family party for Cooper. Then my brother Spencer flew in after the kids were asleep. Phew. It was just about as exhausting as it sounds, but the fun kind of exhausting. Also, I of course forgot my camera while in Utah, so I mostly have low-quality phone pics. Considering all the things that could have gone wrong though, forgetting the camera seems pretty small.
Apparently, people can go pretty crazy about their child’s first birthday. When I was “doing research” (AKA googling stuff on the internet) in preparation for Ellen’s birthday I found this poll on Baby Center and was shocked at how much money some people spend on this special occasion. I like to think birthdays can still be fabulous without emptying your bank account, so that’s exactly what we did. We didn’t really decide on any sort of theme, but looking back I think “Pretty in Pink” would be an adequate description.
The mailman diligently delivered the multitude of packages that family members sent and every time the doorbell rang Cooper would excitedly shout “Box!” and run to the door. On the eve of Ellen’s birthday Noel and I gathered all the gifts in the center of the living room (reusing all the cute girly bags people brought gifts in a year ago) and blew up a bunch of balloons. When Ellen woke up we let her crawl into the room and tear apart a few gifts and then fed her as many raspberry pancakes as she wanted. (Which by the way, is a lot.) We left the presents in the living room all day and she just gradually unwrapped everything at her leisure.
The weather was beautiful and spring-like, so we went to the park and met up with a bunch of our friends. Ellen mostly chomped on graham crackers and whined. (Turns out she was cutting a tooth.) A big lunch and two teething tablets later, Ellen zonked out for a nice afternoon nap. I turned on Thomas the Train to distract Cooper and decorated Ellen’s cake. I altered this recipe for Cherry Vanilla Layer Cake for high altitude, skipped the suggested frosting, and instead doubled the buttercream filling (maybe even tripled I just kept making more as I ran out). I used an entire bottle of maraschino cherries to make the cake, which may seem sort of hypocritical considering my bash on red food dyes in my last cake post. My only retort is, you’re right it is hypocritical, but it was so beautiful and so tasty.
When Noel came home from work we played in the backyard for a little while, then started on dinner. Ellen (and everyone else) loved the orange chicken, brown rice, and cooked carrots we made. After dinner we gave our stomachs a break by Skyping with my parents. Cooper had a really hard time sharing screen time, he doesn’t seem to get that not everything is about him. Next came the cake! To say Ellen loved it was an understatement. Now, this wasn’t Ellen’s first taste of cake, but it was the first time she got a whole piece all to herself. She was thrilled.
After we bathed the kids, we Skyped with Noel’s parents and then got ready for bed by reading Ellen’s new book Olivia and the Fairy Princesses. Then Noel wrapped Ellen up in the new blanket I’d made for her and snuggled her for a little longer than he usually does.
I get excited about weird things (Groundhog Day, cloth diapering, bread, etc), so it shouldn’t really come as any surprise that I’ve been dying to celebrate Noel’s 12/12/12 birthday for almost a year. When one has a birthday on such a cool day, one must celebrate in style. So I plotted, planned, and managed to keep secrets (no small feat for me). I wanted the day to start off right from the very beginning, so at midnight (12 am) Noel started receiving emails every hour for the first twelve hours of his birthday. (I used Right Inbox to send the ones from 12-7 since I didn’t want to be waking up any more than our children already force us to.) When I woke up way too early to feed the baby, I hid a dozen dark chocolate treats for Noel to find throughout the day. Then I sent Noel to work with two dozendouble coconut muffins to share with his co-workers and half way through his work day I emailed him a playlist of twelve songs to help him survive his grueling half-day.
Noel came home at twelve to find that I’d gotten rid of the kids so we could go on a noon date. (Thanks a million, Serin!) Now what do we do when we have an afternoon all to ourselves? We go on a six mile trail run, duh! (Here’s a story problem for you: If you have 2 people each running 6 miles, what is the total amount of miles run? 12 of course!) Now, many people would not consider running to be a very fun date, but since the kids crashed the party we don’t get to run together that often and when we do we have to haul the double jogger, so we never trail run. This made our hardcore six mile course both extremely fun and extremely difficult.
After quick showers, we grabbed some lunch and went to the grocery store. Do you know how wonderful it is to grocery shop without grabby little hands? I think we did our shopping in twelve minutes flat. Then we picked up the kids. They’d hardly even missed us. Ellen was sound asleep and Cooper was hoping he could be adopted so Tanner could be his older brother.
We’d had plans to make a fancy dinner, but were so exhausted that we opted to defrost some soup. Noel decided to take a nap while I slaved over the stove and Cooper kindly found him a blanket so they could snuggle.
By this point, the kids were on the verge of melt-downs, so we put them to bed twelve minutes early. Once they were asleep which was sadly way more than twelve minutes later and Noel was done fielding his half a dozen birthday phone calls, we watched Midnight in Paris and I gave Noel a twelve minute back rub. Before falling into bed just before midnight, we read some words from a former member of the quorum of the twelve apostles and fell soundly asleep for twelve hours until someone started screaming. It was a pretty good 12/12/12 at our house, you might even say it had energetic significance, or something like that.
Our Cooper isn’t quite as mini as he used to be it seems. He turned two this past week. We had wonderful plans of going to the zoo, but we literally could not find a parking spot within a 5 mile radius. Fortunately, Cooper had no idea and was not at all disappointed when we went to the park instead.
We took him to California Pizza Kitchen and uncharacteristically ordered Cooper his own BBQ Chicken Pizza. (PS This recipe for it is to die for, we just forgot to make pizza dough that morning.) He downed half the pizza in about 30 seconds flat. He also was spoiled with gifts that had been arriving all week in the mail.
We of course had Tres Leches cake that we decorated with Cooper’s favorite thing in the entire world: raspberries. He ate all the raspberries off the cake and only then did he try the cake itself.
This year we spent Thanksgiving with my family. It was our first time driving back since we moved here and we remembered why we’ve previously chosen flying over spending 9+ hours crammed in our car. BUT, the weather was more than cooperative and the cold Wyoming wind didn’t blow us away, so we really don’t have much to complain about. While we were in Utah we also celebrated Christmas since everyone wanted to see Cooper’s reactions to their gifts (hopefully he doesn’t start expecting Christmas gifts to be a twice a year occurrence) and my birthday. The visit was short, but definitely sweet.
To commemorate Cooper’s first year we gave him special treatment from the moment he woke up (Wait, how is that different from usual?) and threw a true fiesta (minus the piñata since he can’t wield a bat yet) that night.