Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas Day

We went down to my parent's house for Christmas day around lunch time.  We started with pictures because we know how challenging it can be taking pictures with young kids.  We started with just the cousins (sorry about Natalie's dress in the first picture, she doesn't wear dresses often), then grandparents and grandchildren then Grace with the kids.  The older kids clearly wanted their m&m!

We then had a delicious meal of brisket (requested by Amelia), smashed potatoes, vegetables, strawberries and grapes, cranberry sauce, and rolls.  Nathaniel loved cranberry sauce!  After dinner we opened presents.  Natalie got a little sad because she thought she didn't have any presents but I told her that the huge present in the corner of the room was hers and that she would love it.  She helped me open my presents and Grandpa's presents.

Then it was finally time for her to open her big present.  This was from Marcie's family and Amelia and Megan were SO excited for Natalie to open her present.  They saw this and immediately thought of Natalie and wanted to buy it for her for Christmas.  What a wonderful thing to celebrate the season of giving!

Amelia and Megan were completely right when they thought Natalie would love this gift.  She truly does!  We have had to set down some ground rules and there have been some tears but she has excitedly shown it off to anyone who has come over and she rides on it every day.

After the gift giving and opening the kids played with new toys (i.e. the horse) while Nathaniel fought napping.  We got out the ag board for the kids to play a game.
Nathaniel wanted to play too so he got his own board and played with the marbles.  He was great at matching them up!

We definitely had a fun Christmas and we're looking forward to celebrating with David's family too!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


A few days before Christmas we went downtown with Mom to see the Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute decorated for Christmas and to see the windows at Fields (which I know is called Macys now but it will always be Fields).  We took the L train downtown and caught the last purple express train which was awesome.  The train was fairly empty so we had half a train car to ourselves for a while.

We first visited Millennium Park where we saw the big Christmas tree which was moved there from Daley Plaza, the bean and took the bridge over the road to the Art Institute.  The Thorne Rooms were not highly decorated for Christmas.  They had signs up about several rooms and what traditions were for Christmas during that time period.  Some of the rooms that had signs didn't have anything changed in the rooms.  It was not as interesting as we thought it would be.  We also went to see the large creche that they have and the suits of armor because no visit to the Art Institute is complete without seeing armor :)

We had gotten a pager from the Walnut room before we went to the Art Institute and knew when we needed to be back.  We saw the windows while we were waiting.  They had a story about a boy who went into space with Santa and visited all the planets and saw how each planet celebrated Christmas.  They were really well done but it was too crowded to take many pictures.  Here is what Mars looked like.

The tree in the Walnut room was large as always and beautifully decorated.  The lights around the bottom of the tree behind the buildings would change colors about every 30 minutes.  The lights illuminated the ceiling would also change as would the images they projected on the wall.  The lights on the ceiling changed from blue to red to yellow.  The Walnut room was not quite what I remembered.  It's so much busier and crowded.  There were at least 5 fairy princess floating around the room but they never came to our table instead they visited the middle aged men at the wine bar.  I don't think my kids were enchanted by the experience so I'm not sure that eating in the Walnut room is something I am going to wait to do again unless they ask to do it again.
 After the Walnut room we headed to the Chriskindlmarket at Daley Plaza.  This place was insanely crazy and packed shoulder to shoulder.  We decided to go because N2 had studied about them in school so we figured we would take them to see one.  They were not impressed at all.  We then went to the State of Illinois building and played around in the sculpture in front.  The elevators aren't open to the public to ride any more so we just went on the L back.

We found out that morning that the Holiday Train was on the purple line that afternoon.  We didn't stay downtown long enough to ride it back to Evanston but we thought we could catch it somewhere along the way, ride it one or two stops back towards the loop and then get off and continue on to Evanston. We caught it right when we got to Horward so we hopped on and rode it to the next stop which unfortunately was 20 minutes down the line because the purple line is express from Howard to Belmont.  I say unfortunately because it was PACKED inside and not a pleasant ride.  It was definitely fun to see the train but not to ride.  It was decorated inside and they played holiday music but there wasn't too much Christmas cheer from the elf on our train.
There is a flatcar in between two of the cars where Santa rides.  Luckily it was a warmish day and not raining so Santa must have been comfortable.  It was really fun to see the train and if we were going downtown next year and we had several days to choose from I might choose the day where we could see the train but not ride on it again!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Gingerbread houses

We saved decorating our gingerbread houses until winter break started.  N2 were very excited to decorate them and asked almost everyday when we were going to decorate them.  It was very interesting to watch them decorate their houses.  One of my children is much more methodical and followed a pattern whereas the other one is much more random.  I bet you can guess which one is which. :)  It was also interesting to see how they tried to negotiate with each other to get more of one type of candy.  They wanted the other one to trade with them but weren't always willing to trade when the other one asked.

Notes to remember: I made one batch of royal icing to put together the houses and for them to put the candy on the house and it was just enough.  Natalie probably could have used a little more at the end but she ran out so she was done.  I put all the icing in one piping bag and they shared it.  It worked fairly well but I did put most of the icing on Noah's roof for him so that he had lines of icing and just had to put candy on.  That worked really well.  Natalie put one piece on at a time.

For future reference I need to remember to use less flour and bake for less time since my pieces were all burned.  Oh well, it's not like they eat that much of the house anyways.  I bought 4 boxes of candy-Mike and Ike sours (not too many in the package-not worth it), Dots (they didn't use too many of these), snowcaps (used most of them up), and sweet tarts (used all of these up-need more like this). We also had some gum drops, candy corn (which they used as icicles), and rainbow Airhead squares.  They wanted gingerbread people but I didn't end up making any.  Also, keep the door pieces that I cut out.  Natalie wanted her door.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Tree

Back the first weekend in December among all the events going on that weekend we went to pick out a Christmas tree at Richardson's Farm.  We've been cutting down our Christmas trees there since we got married.  Dale and Mary Kay go with us and help keep N2 busy and occupied while I search for the perfect tree.  I know at some point my kids are going to have more of an opinion but so far I have been able to sway them to like the tree that I have picked :)

 Here Natalie is guarding one of the trees that I thought would be good.  We ultimately decided on a different tree.
 My kids pretend to be trees while they stand on tree stumps around the farm.
 N2 decided they were going to haul the tree themselves.  Didn't work too well.

There was tons of greenery around where we were waiting for the wagon to come back.  Natalie decided to be a peacock and Noah had fun hiding (again channeling his inner Peeta although the picture does not show how well he could hide with his green coat).

There were tons of these milkweed pods around the trees and I thought they were really cool looking.
 We decorated our tree later that same day after all the craziness of the Girl Scout/Boy Scout stuff.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Minute to Win It Games Part 1

N2 and I went up to Marcie's house the first weekend in November.  We stayed overnight on Friday and some of the kids were up at 5:20 am on Saturday morning.  Needless to say the kids were tired and we needed something for them to do (Megan ended up developing a fever so we needed something for the older 3 to do while Nathaniel napped).  We decided to have N2 and Amelia play minute to win it games.  It was hilarious watching them!

The first one we played was using a straw to transfer m&m's from one plate to another.  It was hard!

Then we had them use their straws to blow pompoms across a line on the table.

We then had them balance dice on a tongue depressor in their mouths.  Marcie didn't have dice ready but she had story cubes.  They may have been a little large.  I think the most the kids could get were 4.  The tongue depressors were colored and the dye came off when they were in their mouths.  Natalie had quite red teeth!

 We then got out some tights and put a penny in the bottom of the feet that they had to get out while having each arm in each leg.  I think this was an easy one for them.

Then we put lots of pennies at the bottom of the tights, put the tights on their heads and had them try to knock over a line of water bottles.  Marcie and I participated in this one.  It was pretty fun!

We then gave the kids a thin mint and placed it on their forehead.  They had to use their facial muscles to get the cookie to their mouths.  This was hilarious!  It was really hard.  You have to start with the cookie by your eye rather than in the middle of your forehead.