Sunday, November 30, 2014

Birthday Party and Christmas Tree Lighting

Saturday evening was spent celebrating our cousin, Payton's, 6th birthday. 
Jackson disappeared in the living room along with his cousins. The triplets were passed around among the adults. There was plenty of kid-friendly food, though Maddie was quite temperamental and didn't eat for nearly an hour. Amelia created a game of shoving crackers into her MiMi's mouth. James was content eating in family members laps.

After the birthday party, we reunited at the annual Christmas tree lighting a half hour later. 

We let the triplets roam around a bit, though it was so dark and late they were happier being passed back and forth between their Mommy, Daddy, and MiMi.

The highlight of the evening was a fireworks show after the tree lighting. Amelia and Maddie were frightened by the sounds but enjoyed the colorful lights. James was nearly asleep by that point.

It was another busy, fun day preparing for the holiday season with family.

Christmas Cards

Jackson's preschool offers fall and spring pictures each year. They allow siblings to come. I decided to attempt a photo with all four two weeks ago. I dressed each of the kids in coordinating outfits. I tried to take a photo of Maddie, Amelia, and James beforehand. I was pretty skeptical of how they would do during the photo shoot considering I couldn't even get a picture of them looking at me.
The preschool director was surprisingly accommodating and allowed us to play in the nursery while we waited for our turn.
There were some unusual toys in the nursery. This Biblical superhero cracked me up.

Amelia and I were equally perplexed by the replica of the tiny table.

Last week our pictures were ready to pick up. I was pleasantly surprised to see this winning pose. I purchased three sheets of wallets.
 Last year I spent way too many hours trying to coordinate a Pinterest inspired Christmas card. The end result was a Pinterest fail, though we still went with it. This year I decided to use basic Christmas cards I already had and stick a wallet picture in each one. I am relieved at how effortless our Christmas cards were to make and send this year.

I'm so happy to have checked off a tedious Christmas task so I can experience the joy of the Christmas season.


Our Thanksgiving began like most American families, watching the Macy's Day Parade and cooking. Jackson yelled enthusiastically at every recognizable float. "Look, Mom! There's Spiderman." "What in the world? Smurfs on TV?" It was quite amusing.

Thanksgiving lunch is always served at my sister's house at 1 pm. We were responsible for bringing rolls, corn, green beans, deviled eggs, and a dessert. Considering most of these things require opening a can or package, I think we get the easiest task. My siblings contributed turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, mac-n-cheese, broccoli casserole, baked beans, pecan pie, pound cake, brownies, and cookies. There was a plethora of food to feed our large family.

My family is constantly on the move. We might eat one plate of food at a table, then eat seconds on the living room floor.

James, Amelia, and Maddie walked around like beggars demanding food from anyone who held a plate. I couldn't tell you what all they ate but they had more than enough.

At one point James fell and earned a huge knot on his head. He recovered quickly.

My nieces are such great caretakers. They loved on each of the kids.

Jackson played upstairs with his fellow 3-4 year old cousins most of the afternoon.

My older nieces and sisters entertained depressed ourselves with the "Stand Up Test".  It would appear that my sisters and I are closer to death than our brothers. Despite being able to do splits and back bends, we could NOT stand up without using our hands anywhere.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Fast forward to Friday. I spent the afternoon making sweet potato casserole, dressing, pound cake, and white chocolate dipped cookies. We then drove to Jesse's brother's house for our second round of Thanksgiving. Jackson immediately ran inside to play with his cousin Levi.

Our in-laws scooped the trio inside before I had even unloaded the food. Maddie waited rather impatiently for her dinner to be served.

This was the first time the trio had ever eaten at a table. They did a decent job of eating their meal at the table. James and Amelia got up and walked around periodically. Maddie randomly threw food on the floor so she could watch their dog eat it.

The big boys ate on the floor.

After eating, Jack and Levi ran wild while the younger kids were passed around and cuddled.

The one and only picture I have of myself from both Thanksgiving meals was this ridiculous one Jesse snapped. I was impersonating baby Davis.

We had yet to take a picture of my mother-in-law and father-in-law with all six of their grandkids. I did my best to capture the chaos and love of having six kids ages 4 and under.

While both sides of the family frequently get together, it is rare that they occur within 24 hours. Our family of introverts needed a quiet Saturday at home to recover from the business of Thanksgiving. 

Black Friday Shopping

My tradition is to buy and wrap presents for all family members on Black Friday. Each year my siblings and I provide specific gift ideas for our kids. My oldest sister compiles a detailed spreadsheet of the gift ideas so we can use as our handy shopping guide. (This is the same sister who organized our nursery closet with bins and her label maker.)  
Now that sales begin on Thanksgiving, Jesse went out on Thursday evening and I shopped on Friday. Jesse and Jackson were at Walmart awaiting the sales at 6 pm.
When I asked Jesse to provide commentary for the blog, he said, "I spent some money. Fought some old ladies. It was a good night."

On Friday morning Jesse left the house at 6 am for more shopping. He finished our kids' gifts. He also bought me a new laptop (hence the surge in blog posts) and himself a ukulele.

All six of us went out for a final round of shopping before lunch. I was getting worked up over how much we were spending. At least we only spent $5 to feed our family of 6. Thanks, Little Caesars!

We had our second round of Thanksgiving dinner on Friday evening, this time with Jesse's side of the family. Once home, we put the kids in bed. I began to sort and wrap the presents. Jesse was a trooper and ran out to buy me more tape when I ran out. I finished everything just before midnight.

I had left the presents out because I was tired. All four kids were picking them up and carrying them around the next morning. 

All wrapped gifts are tucked away in closets, ready to open on Christmas Day. It was another productive Black Friday!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Feast

Jackson only went to school one day last week, and it was only for a few hours. Tuesday was the annual Thanksgiving Feast. I had several reservations about going (no naptime, no high chairs, pretentious mothers, etc), but I knew I had to go and support Jackson. Instead of an actual performance, the parents awkwardly encircled the kids while they participated in weekly chapel. The kids sat down and sang songs, listened to the short devotion, prayed, and sang more songs.

I kept the trio in the wagon the entire time. They were a captive audience and clapped at appropriate times. Of course, James also yelled during the prayer and Amelia flung her head between her knees and laughed.

Jackson has attended the same preschool for over a year now. I have taken the trio with me to multiple programs and field trips. People are generally nice to my face, but keep their distance. I really don't get it. If you've been following the blog for a while, you might recall our experience last year. We had a surprisingly similar experience this year. A few moms from Jackson's class had placed their purses in the chairs during chapel. When the last song ended and the kids joined their parents, I wheeled my wagon full of kids to the same table and sat down. There was plenty of room for everyone. Two moms looked at each other and said, "Where do you want to sit?" I kid you not, all three women picked up their purses and moved to a different table. Jackson didn't seem bothered to be eating at an empty table with just his mom and siblings. Thankfully I didn't have long to be upset because Jackson was truly elated to show off the hat he made.

Using the term "feast" is beyond generous. Most of it was inedible. Even James threw it on the floor. I looked around at other tables and most every adult politely nibbled on a roll and ham while the kids ate the applesauce. The trashcan revealed many plates full of mashed potatoes and strangely large carrots.

Thankfully, Jackson's friends came over to our table and talked to Jackson and the babies. All of the kids ran around the gym together and acted silly. The trio had to skip a nap in order to attend the feast, so I pulled them around in the wagon until it was time to go.

I'm thankful that I have a whole year before our next Thanksgiving Feast!

DPK with Daddy

Jesse was out of work Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for Thanksgiving break. One of the many things we did as a family was go to Discovery Place. Since there were two adults, we decided to forgo strollers. I still used the Ergo so we could navigate the parking lot, but all four kids walked around the museum the entire time. Amelia held mine or Jesse's hand so proudly. I still don't trust the kids to hold my hand and walk across the parking lot by myself, but James and Amelia did really well!
Seriously, who are these big kids?

Jackson spent most of his time working on a Thanksgiving craft. He is really great at following the picture directions all by himself. I only needed to assist because they ran out of precut feathers.

I'm not sure why, but I still find it amusing to look over and see our tiny Maddie doing big girl things. She's so independent. She climbed on top of the chair and sat down "working on a craft".
Even though the whole point of this post was to capture all six of us enjoying our time at the museum, I hardly took any pictures of the boys. They ran off upstairs while the girls and I played downstairs. Here are some random shots of the trio exploring new things:

Maddie discovering the "rain" at the toddler water area

Amelia working on the car

Walking inside the firetruck for the first time
The biggest take-away from our time at the museum was that two adults are always better than one!

Almond Bark Recipes--Times Three

Aldi has two entire aisles filled with seasonal baking items right now. I've been stocking up on inexpensive powdered sugar, various baking chips, cocoa, etc. I bought three things of almond bark for $4, and ended up using all three over Thanksgiving. Here were some of the tasty treats:
Chocolate Cream Cheese Cookies
Spread cream cheese frosting over a ritz cracker, dip in melted chocolate, and try to wait for it to harden before you eat it. Oh. My. Goodness! This is the kind of indulgence that sends people to Overeaters Anonymous meetings.
These were plenty sweet enough, but if you wanted them even sweeter you could use graham crackers or vanilla wafers. I thought they were just the right balance of salty and sweet. I used two sleeve of crackers and just over half of the almond bark (5 blocks).

I most definitely did not have any leftover from Thanksgiving dinner.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
1 jar (18 oz) of peanut butter
1 pound of powdered sugar
4 tablespoons of melted butter
1 package of almond bark
Combine peanut butter, powdered sugar, and butter. Mix until it is crumbly. While this is optional, I prefer to place the dough in the refrigerator for 10 minutes so it is easier to work with.
Line two cookie sheets with wax paper or foil. Roll the chilled dough into 1-inch balls. Place peanut butter balls on cookie sheet. Place pan in freezer for 5-10 minutes so they will be firm when you dip them in the chocolate.

Melt almond bark in microwave according to directions on package. Roll and dip peanut butter balls into melted chocolate. I dipped 4-6 balls at a time.

I used two forks to transfer the chocolate coated peanut butter balls back onto the cookie sheet.

Place them back in the refrigerator for faster chilling. They can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
White Chocolate Covered Nutter Butters
My final use of almond bark was white chocolate covered Nutter Butters. My family used to make these the old fashioned way with peanut butter and Ritz crackers. I had used up both of those ingredients and was especially short on time, so I used a package of cookies. It took an entire package of Nutter Butters and vanilla almond bark.

The "recipe" consisted of three steps.
Melt almond bark.
Dip cookies into almond bark.
Transfer to a cookie sheet lined with wax paper or foil.

So simple and so good!

My mind has been running with other flavor combinations that I might try at Christmas time. Prepare for a Part 2 to this blog post next month!