Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Few Good Christmas Stories

I have a couple of specific Christmas stories that I didn't put into my last post, but that I believe are very worth mentioning!

Dressed to Impress -- Again...
Last year, Faith and Grace wore these adorable red velvet dresses to Christmas Mass. One was borrowed from ZZ and had been worn by all three of her girls. The other was borrowed from one of my best friends, Sheena, and had been worn by her two girls. They didn't match exactly, but complimented each other well.

As I was getting the girls' clothes out for Mass on Monday, I came across these same dresses. I looked at the tags and decided that they may be able to wear them again. Todd got the girls dressed and, sure enough, the dresses fit. They were much snugger and much shorter than last year, but they still fit! I guess there is some advantages to having kids who don't seem to want to grow very fast!

Merry Christmas, Mommy! Oops...
Weeks ago, I told Todd that I wanted him to buy and install under-counter lighting for me for Christmas. I hadn't made much mention of it since then and when he and Devin went on a covert shopping mission this weekend, I had to wonder if Home Depot was on the list of stops.

Later that day, Devin and I were standing at the kitchen counter, making cookies. In a moment of sheer evil, I told Devin that I would love to have some lights under the counter so that I could see better when I was cooking. With a face full of delight, Devin turned to me and said, "That's exactly what we're doing!"

As if this isn't funny enough, as Devin is blurting out that he and Todd just bought under-counter lighting for me, Todd comes running into the kitchen from the dining room yelling, "No no no no no!!!" in an effort to get Devin to keep his mouth shut.

I baited him, I admit it. But it was so worth it, especially to see always-calm-and-collected Todd lose it for just a moment.

Hello Devin? This is Santa!
That same day, a little while later, the five of us were playing in the front living room. A shadow was cast from the window in our two-story entry way and made a shape high up on on the wall that Devin deemed to be a sleigh on our roof. He ran outside to see if he could see Santa and his team and swore up and down that he heard jingle bells.

During all of this, I slipped away and found a Web site that allows you to place a personalized call to your child from Santa. As if that weren't enough, you got to pick the theme of the call -- the elves are wrapping presents, we're loading the sleigh, etc.

One of the themes happened to be "Flight Practice," so I chose that one, made sure they had the pronunciation of Devin's name correct and placed the order.

Sure enough, seconds later, our phone rang with Caller ID reading, "North Pole." We picked up the phone, put it on speaker and there was Santa, telling Devin all about how he was in the area, practicing landing and taking off from San Antonio rooftops. The call lasted for about two minutes and we missed parts of it because Devin kept yelling into the phone, "I love you, Santa!"

When the call was over, Devin looked at me and Todd with tears in his eyes. We recently taught him about tears of joy and I asked him, "Are you crying?" He answered, "Yes." I asked, "Are they tears of joy?" and that's when he lost it.

I'm not talking about a little bit of tears and sniffling, I'm talking utter wailing and sobbing. He just couldn't believe that Santa had placed a personal call to him and that he, Devin Pruetz, had made it to the top of Santa's "Nice" list.

It was the happiest and yet most pathetic thing I have ever witnessed. If I had known that the phone call would elicit that kind of reaction, I would have broken out the video camera!

And a Devin's Doozie for good measure
The girls gave up morning naps a couple of months ago, but often go down for "quiet time" around 10:30 a.m. if they become cranky. It's a good time for them to decompress and for me to get a few things done.

On Friday, the girls were staring to get restless upstairs, but before I could go get them, Devin volunteered to go upstairs and play with them.


2 19-month-olds entertained
+ 1 four-year-old doing the entertaining
A few moments of peace for Erin

"Sure Devin -- go on up there!"

Devin loves to play, "Boo," with the girls, where he runs down the hall and does a flying-leap into the twins' room and yells, "BOO!" making the girls laugh hysterically.

Sure enough, it didn't take too long for me to hear lots of jumping around and laughing upstairs, and I assumed that it was just another rousing game of, "Boo."

A few minutes later, Devin came downstairs, breathless. I said, "It sure sounds like you all are having fun up there!"

He responded with a question, "Do you know what game we were playing?"

Knowing fully well what the answer would be, I still asked, "What?"

His answer surprised me, "We're playing, 'I'm not the baby!' "

"How do you play that game, Dev?"

"Well, I climb into one of the the babies' cribs and say, 'Hey! I'm not the baby!' and then I jump out!"

Hold mean that my kid has been climbing into the cribs and jumping out of them for the last half-hour?

A lecture ensued.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Our Big, Fat Christmas

Lordy! I'm having a hard time just determining which day of the week it is! The past seven (or so) days have flown so fast that I can hardly remember what I've done. I'll try to recap is as best I can, but remember, this blog is as much for my memories as it is for everyone else's reading pleasure, so if this gets long, feel free to just say, "Forget it!" and wait for my next post. :)

I guess the Christmas holidays really started last Thursday with Devin's class party. We arrived at 1:15 and the kids were already in full swing with a craft of making a bell-shaped tree ornament. There were games (musical chairs, snowball races) and a snack and then a story. We got out of there at 2:00, but not after the gift exchange in which Devin received a pirate ship complete with a cannon ball shooting cannon. I've been picking up little plastic cannon balls ever since.

Friday was our "final preparations" day where I spend much time wrapping and getting ready for the big event.

On Saturday, we trekked to Yoakum to celebrate Christmas with Todd's parents. They opted not to join us this year for the holiday, so we joined them for some Christmas cheer at their house. We munched and laughed and opened gifts. Devin got two new Transformers, a new Lightning McQueen (just what he needs for his already amassed collection of more than a dozen), the Dinoco Helicopter, Al Oft (aloft -- get it?) from "Cars," and a few odds and ends. He was in hog heaven, playing on the floor with his new loot. As far as he was concerned, Christmas was a success and we needed to go no further! :)

The girls got strollers for their yet-to-be-delivered baby dolls from Santa -- strollers that they promptly got into and took turns pushing each other around. They also got dolls and stuffed animals and, like Devin, they were as happy as two kids can be.

We returned to San Antonio on Saturday evening, got the kids in bed and had a low-key night.

Sunday morning brought Grace looking a little puffy and red in the face, so I spent all day near the phone, waiting for the doctor to return our call -- something that never happened (I plan to have words about this). We were worried that she was having an allergic reaction to something, but it didn't seem to get any worse over time, so we determined it was probably just going from warm to cold temperatures or maybe hand slap disease, which the boy across the street had a couple of weeks ago. During this whole time, Devin and I made cookies to leave for Santa.

My dad arrived on Sunday evening and we all had dinner over here and we all folded in early.

Monday, Christmas Eve, was a flurry of activity, as it always is. We got up pretty early and I started making the Christmas day casseroles -- one for breakfast in the morning and a green bean casserole for Christmas dinner at my sister ZZ's house. We also decorated Santa's cookies and made reindeer feed.

The children's Mass at our church was at 4:00 and ZZ and I got there at 2:30 to get seats. Our 1,000-seat church fills up with standing-room-only by 3:00 and we wanted to make sure that we would have room for five adults and seven kids.

Mass started and the kids did their reenactment of the Christmas Story (we opted for Devin to not be in it because we weren't sure he had the ability to stand still that long). After sitting for nearly two hours before Mass even started and just being over-tired from the adrenaline and excitement of the season, Devin was in a poor mood, kicking at his sisters and cousins, whining, crying and just plain being loud. Todd finally took him out of the sanctuary with Grace, while I stayed in the pew with Faith.

I did a cardinal "no-no" in the Catholic church and skipped out after Communion. We never do this, but Devin just couldn't take any more and frankly, neither could I. Todd was much calmer than me, thankfully, and talked me off the ledge in the parking lot. I am so glad Christmas Mass only comes once a year.

We got home, got changed into our "comfy clothes" and headed over to ZZ's for our traditional BBQ dinner. Afterwards, we had a "Come to Jesus" talk with the kids, in an effort to not have a repeat of last year's Christmas Eve event where the kids went completely berserk and started ripping into packages without even bothering to ask who the recipient was supposed to be.

While 2007's gift-opening event was still pretty wild, it was definitely tame by last year's standard. We all made out like bandits, with my highlights being an iPod, under-counter lighting for the kitchen (which has already been installed by my fabulous husband!) and a Pandora charm bracelet. What more could I ask for?

My dad got our family (and my sister's) each a Wii gaming set, so we've spent the weekend learning how to play. I don't know if you've ever played a Wii, but it may be the single coolest thing on Earth. I have always been very anti-video games, as I can think of a thousand things better for my kids to be doing than sitting in front of the TV. But the Wii is different, which is why I acquiesced. Rather than sitting and just passively playing a game, Wii players use a gyroscope-controlled remote that knows where it is in space and in relation to the Wii console. So instead of pushing a button to steer a car in a racing game, you actually use the Wii remote to steer the car. And instead of using a joystick to roll a bowling ball or hit a tennis racket, you actually roll or hit the ball yourself, using the remote.

I think I may be the one in the family who uses this thing the most, as I have already become addicted to the boxing game and the "Cars" racing game. And let me be the first to tell you that I suck. But hey -- I can get better, right? It just takes practice. :)

Anyway, after opening all of our gifts from our family on Christmas Eve, we returned home, got the girls into bed, set out a note, cookies and a Coke for Santa, cheese for Santa mouse and put out our reindeer feed. Then we put Devin into bed and put up a baby gate in the upstairs hallway so he couldn't get out and get downstairs without us!

After Devin was fast asleep, Santa's helpers, known to most as Todd and Erin, set out in putting together a Christmas wonderland. On Devin's side of the room was a bicycle, an enormous Hot Wheels track, FireStorm McQueen (just one of the many marketing ploys of Disney), two Wii games and a bevy of die-cast Cars characters (did I mention Disney marketing???).

The girls each got some clothes, a baby doll, a purse and the biggest crawl-through toy you've ever seen. It's like one of those habitrail deals you see in hampster cages, only for kids. It's got a big, circular center "hut" from which three tunnels radiate. One tunnel leads out, one leads to a tent and one leads to a house. The darn thing was so big that we couldn't even set the entire thing up. Regardless, though, it's already been used a LOT.

Christmas night was a tough night, as all of the kids were over-tired and had pretty bad dreams. We were up a couple of times with the girls and for awhile with Devin. 7:00 rolled around pretty darn early on Tuesday morning. I had set my alarm the night before so I could get up before everyone else and get the breakfast casserole into the oven.

Unfortunately, it seemed that my whole family was really ready to get up, because they all heard my alarm, so while I was trying to get the casserole ready to go, the boy was upstairs begging to come down and see what he got from Santa and Todd was telling me, "I can't believe you're doing this to him!" Hey -- it's not my fault. I tried getting up before them all to avoid this situation!

Finally, the moment arrived and I videoed while Todd walked the girls and Devin down the stairs. Devin just stopped and stared for a moment while he took in the awesome sight of a dozen new toys, just ready to be played with and all for him.

We set up the crawl-through toy to where Devin actually had to crawl through it to get to his gifts, so he dived right into it and made his way across the room. The babies, ignoring everything else, climbed right in and started having a blast. Money well spent, for sure!

Devin had a great time exploring his new Cars toy, climbing on and off his bike (which is just barely too big) and climbing through the crawl-through toy. It was so much fun to see.

Papa had spent the night at ZZ's house but came over shortly after we got up. He played with Devin and the girls and had some breakfast with us. We spent the rest of the morning playing and enjoying the fun of Christmas.

Around 11:00, we headed to ZZ's house, but by then, we were already exhausted. Turns out, they were too, and the kids were all pretty cranky. No one wanted to share their toys and there were a lot of tears and, "No, you can't have that!" statements thrown around. We finally sat down to eat and we all gobbled the meal up, as we were so ready to get our kids down for their naps!

So we came home, rested and napped and then spent the rest of the day playing, riding the new bike, giving bottles to the new dollies and setting up the iPod.

The night winded down with some pretty tired children (okay -- and adults too) and we were all in bed pretty early.

Today was more family togetherness, with a walk/bike ride through the new nature trails near our home (and some good play time at the local playground!). We learned the Wii, played the new "Cars" board game that we got from my stepsister, Heidi and tried on new clothes. So much fun!

And now the kids are in bed, Todd is getting ready to go back to work tomorrow and I'm wondering where the holidays went. In a way, I am relieved that it's over and that, soon, life will return to normal. But on the other hand, I'm sad to see the magic of the season go, only to return again as the buildup begins around Halloween 2008. October first always seems to be the kickoff for the holidays, while January second seems to be the official "end." It's bittersweet, I guess.

In closing, I'm happy to add that one of Todd's gifts this year was a contraption that allows us to upload video to the Mac. As you may remember, from previous posts, our DVD cam is not compatible with our Mac computers, so we were not able to put any video on our hard drive or my blog. But this new piece of electronic fun will allow us to do so, but first I need Todd to show me how to work it. Look for video and photos later -- hopefully not too late.

And finally, Merry Christmas. Technically, the Christmas season just started yesterday and goes until January 5, the Epiphany or the 12th Day of Christmas, when the Wise Men reached Bethlehem, bringing gifts to the new King of Kings.

May the spirit and magic of the season be with you both now and throughout the year. May Emmanuel, King of Kings, Lord of Lords and the Prince of Peace guide your life and bring you the peace that only He can provide.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cast Your Vote!

Methodist Hospital, where Faith and Grace were born and where they spent five weeks in the NICU, is holding a "Times of your Life" contest in which people can share the experiences they had at Methodist. Each story can be voted on and those authors with the most votes at the end of pre-determined time-periods (quarterly, I think) will be given a $1,000 donation to the 501(c)3 organization of their choice.

I was told about this contest by a friend who suggested that I post my story. I did so and it is now ready for voting. If you'd like to read it and vote, you can do so HERE. You can vote once a day until the contest ends.

If my story wins, I plan to donate the $1,000 to Threads of Love, an organization that provides clothing, blankets and other care items to local NICUs. Often, NICU babies are too small for traditional blankets, swaddlers and clothing, so Threads of Love donates hand-sewn items just to fit them. At the end of your child's stay, the clothes come home with you and Todd and I still marvel at the tiny gowns, blankies and positioners. I would simply love the opportunity to give a significant amount of money to Threads of Love, in appreciation for the kindness they showed my daughters.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Just Another Day in Paradise

A friend of mine emailed me the other day and said, "Do you ever ask God, 'What's next?' " I told her that I try not to, because I don't like to ask questions to which I may not want the answer.

I got a call from the Pediatric GI doctor last week. The girls' paperwork had made it from their pediatrician's office and the GI doc wanted to see them as soon as possible. I doled out the insurance and contact information to the administrator on the phone and then she said, "And what are Faith and Grace coming in for? Oh here it is...'Failure to thrive.'"

My heart sank. I realize that "failure to thrive" is an general medical term for people who don't gain weight or develop normally. But the word "failure" just threw me into a tizzy because I don't really believe my girls have failed to thrive, but rather are doing so at a slow pace.

Again, I know I'm just mincing words here, but nothing strikes fear in a mommy's heart like the idea that her kid (or kids) may truly be very ill.

On top of all of this, the girls have contracted another something or another that's causing them to produce snot like it's water and hack and cough just like they did when they were diagnosed with RSV last month. So far no fever, but I don't doubt that sometime this week we'll be back at Dr. T's office for another round of looking into their ears and swabbing their throats.

And a second ago, I caught Faith (who is my climber and will craw up on anything she can get her hands on) standing upright on her little ride-on toy. I promptly picked her off of it, verbally scolded her and told her that it was dangerous and "ouchie" and then trotted to answer the phone. Before I could even pick up, I heard a thud and there was Faith, lying face-down on the tile floor next to the toy. Sure enough, there is a goose egg on her forehead and while she doesn't seem to be greatly injured, I think it really scared the heck out of her. Who knows -- maybe we'll get to go to the ER today. Wouldn't that be fun?

Why can't anything just go normally for these girls? My heart just breaks knowing that they are constantly being scrutinized by doctors or plagued by some sort of ailment. From the moment they were conceived they've faced adversity and while they come through every test with flying colors, I have to wonder if they'll ever just catch a break and have a chance to be normal.

On a lighter note...

Just prior to the head-bonk incident, Faith was carrying around her sippy cup of water. She set it down, it toppled and dislodged the valve. A little bit of water spilled out onto the kitchen floor.

Upon seeing the "mess" she created, Faith toddled over to the drawer where I keep dish towels, pulled one out, toddled back to the spilled water and mopped it up.

So proud! There may be hope yet for this mess of a house of mine. :)

Friday, December 14, 2007

World's Best Hot Chocolate

There are so many things to love about the Christmas season, not the least of which is the food. Sweet cookies, sticky cakes, warm dips, tender roasts, juicy turkeys, endless pies and mounds of whipped cream.

Sadly, though, at least in our house, Christmastime beverages seem to take a back burner (pun intended!) to baked goods.

Until today.

I thought I'd look up a recipe for real hot chocolate, as I am pretty sure I've never had anything more than Swiss Miss from a package.

I am so incredibly happy with this recipe, I thought I'd share it with the world. I found it on my favorite recipe-sharing Web site I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Oh, and for those of you who like a good nip to warm up those winter nights, add some Rumple Mintz peppermint schnapps. Yum!

1 cup water
2 (1 ounce) squares BAKER'S Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Place water and chocolate in heavy medium saucepan; cook on low heat until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring constantly with wire whisk. Add sugar; mix well.

2. Bring to boil on medium-high heat. Boil 3 min., stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, stirring with wire whisk until well blended. Stir in vanilla. Reduce heat to medium.

3. Cook until mixture is heated through, stirring occasionally.

Makes four servings.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I'm Rubber, They're Glue

Wait...let me amend that statement. I'm glue and they're even stronger glue.

Lately I have noticed that my kids cannot seem to cope unless they are with me at all times -- and this goes for Devin as well. Whether I am in the kitchen, on the phone, in the bathroom or stepping out on the front porch for a much-needed breath of fresh air, my kids are constantly at my side.

This is especially annoying during meal times (Casey, you're going to have to share those Crock-Pot recipes with me, because I've about had it with dinner time too!), when I'm trying to move between the fridge, the pantry, the oven, the stove, the sink and the island. If the twins aren't each hanging onto my two legs, then they are going through the Tupperware cabinet and pulling out every piece of plastic I own. Normally, I don't mind this, as it keeps them entertained, but when the oven is at 400 degrees and I've got boiling water going on the stove, it's just not a good time to create an obstacle course.

And why is it that I can't so much as walk into another room when I'm on the phone? They follow me no matter where I go and if happen to lock the door (such as my few-and-far-between potty breaks), they scream and cry until I let them in our I come out.

I know this is every mom's complaint. I can just hear my Aunt Shirley in Kentucky laughing about how this would happen to her and her five kids who were spaced awfully close together. And I know it will be worth laughing at in years to come.

But for now, this is my reality and I still dread trying to get anything done, as I know I will be pulled in a hundred directions and whatever task I have at hand will take ten times longer than it should have.

'Tis the season, huh?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Devin's Doozie

As you know, we have in our possession (and displayed in our front window), the leg lamp from A Christmas Story. We are very proud of this piece and have become the envy (or laughing stock) of the neighborhood.

If you recall, the lamp is referred to as "A Major Award," in the movie, as it was an award for some sort of contest Ralphie's dad entered.

So, it stands to reason that we would refer to this beauty as our own, personal, "Major Award." Such use of that term may go something like this:

"Honey...please plug in the Major Award."
"Wow -- I love your Major Award."
"Have you seen our Major Award?"

You get the picture.

So today, Devin and I are shopping for a friend's birthday present (happy almost birthday, Amy!) at a store that sells jewelry -- specifically Pandora Jewelry. In the display case was a delicate blown glass hand and wrist wearing a bracelet full of ornate and beautiful Pandora charms.

Devin, very loudly pointed to the display case and said, "Look mom! They have a Major Award too!"

Saturday, December 01, 2007

More Please

Faith just combined her first two signs to make a sentence. "More Please..."

Sign language has been slow going with these two. Devin could speak in complete sentences with his signs, so I'm a little frustrated and don't practice as much as I should. But now that I see it working, I think I have incentive to keep going.