Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Saturday 7 (just a few minutes late!)

I did it again. I accidentally deleted half of the entry I wrote. Seriously. I am not 10 years old. I've been blogging for many years and using a computer longer than that. How do I keep having this problem? Ugh. I was mad and shut my computer in favor of taking a nap this afternoon, and just remembered I never finished this. So here's a quicker version of the original:

1. We had a wonderful Christmas. Everyone came to us this year so I didn't have to go out in the snowy cold. We ate lots of good food, got lots of great gifts, played lots of great games, and enjoyed spending time with family. I'm going to save all the pictures for the end, so hold your hats . . .

2. It was weird having Christmas on a Monday, because Justin and my mom went back to work on Tuesday just like normal. My dad took the day off and helped me take the Christmas tree down. I'm not usually as efficient about being done with Christmas, but the tree was so dead and the pine needles were so out of control.

3. The rest of the week was kind of brutal, though. Justin's car was having problems and was in the shop from Tuesday to Thursday, so he took my van to work. If it wasn't bad enough being stranded at home for 3 days, the weather has been unseasonably (unbearably) cold. With wind chills below zero, I couldn't really send the kids outside to play. And because of the way we heat our house, when it gets horribly cold and the wind whips from the west, we close off a big area of our living space and use the indoor fireplace to supplement the heat. So we shut the doors of our main living area and huddled around the fire like stinkin' pioneers all week. If that's not a recipe for disaster, I don't know what is. Haha. I was actually amazed at how long we made it before cabin fever set it. It helped enormously that my kids had all their new toys to play with (and mine - "Alexa, what's your favorite color? Alexa, tell me a joke. Alexa, you're beautiful. Alexa, when's your birthday? Alexa! Alexa! Alexa!). The girls each got a big Lego set and a bunch of other crafty stuff (weaving loom, perler beads, library kits, beados, etc.) plus a couple games that kept us all entertained. And Levi was pretty content with his piles and piles and bins and bins of cars. God gave me grace to not lose my mind until late in the week. But don't get me wrong. There was plenty of impatience and whining and short-tempers this week. And by yesterday, I was literally lying on my bedroom floor partially hidden under my bed so Lena couldn't find me. (Justin was home. Don't get your hackles up.) I just needed a break. Oy. I think I'm going to write a whole entry soon on some of the stuff I'm struggling with in motherhood lately, but now is not the time.

4. The other reason this entry is so late is because I was feverishly reading my last book to reach 100 tonight!! I read 4 books in 4 days this week, plus another novella. I also remembered 2 books in a series that I read a few months ago and never recorded! Ta-da! 100 books in a year! I was planning on making my goal for next year 100 (since this year's was technically 75), but Lucy says I have to make it more than what I read this year. So how about 101? Haha. I've loved keeping track of everything on Goodreads and will have a more thorough recap in my "2017 Year in Review" post coming up soon.

5. I tried to find out what my top 10 posts from this year were, but blogger doesn't let me see my stats by year - only day, week, month, or all time. But while I was searching, I came across some other interesting statistics. For all time - so 7.5 years, I've had over 220,000 views. In the past year, most of my entries were viewed around 200 times each. My most viewed entry of all time is the recipe I shared for chicken and dumplings (that I stole from another blogger! ha - I gave her credit, don't worry). My second most viewed is the pictures of my stomach before during and after my pregnancy with Lucy. But what really gets me is the audience. In the past 7ish years 190,000 views came from the United States. But the other 30,000 are from Russia, Canada, Ukraine, France, the UK, Germany, China, Poland, and Ireland. That mildly freaks me out. Haha. I know I had some friends in Russia for a while, but I don't think I know anyone in those other countries. That's a lot of complete strangers reading my blog. Does it stop me though? Nope! Lol.

6. We have one more Christmas party tomorrow, a New Year's Eve party, and my sister's birthday on Tuesday (with the obligatory and wonderful trip to Olive Garden), but then it's back to reality . . . and dieting. I've been gorging hard-core for the past couple of weeks knowing that the end is near. I don't have a plan, really, for dieting. No Dr Pepper. Way less sweets. I think I'm going to stick with my same (unhealthy) breakfast (bagel with butter and coffee with sugary cream) because it's quick, easy, and filling. But I'm going to try my hand at "meal prepping" chicken and roasted veggies for my weekday lunches. And maybe just try to make meals for dinner that aren't quite as heavy on the cheese and fat. For the most part, though, I'm just planning on starving myself and being really ornery for a while. Consider yourselves forewarned.

7. And now for pictures!
Cookie decorating on Christmas Eve

We have a tradition of hiding the kids' stockings on Christmas Eve. Levi's was pretty tricky. ;-)

Checking out their haul after finding their stockings Christmas morning.

Driving his new cars on the stack of presents. 

We always take a picture of the kids in front of the tree on Christmas morning. This year was a fail. Lucy refused to cooperate, Levi wouldn't sit still, and Nova was asleep. But won't this picture be fun to recreate in 10 years? Lol

The two willing participants. (Don't judge our present pile - that's for 19 people!)

Family game time.

Bible reading time.

Present time!

Lucy with her favorite person.

And her second favorite person.

Pie face

Lena pie face

Christmas selfie! 
Craft table

Another hit from Christmas: a tie-your-own fleece blanket. Lucy loved it, and I enjoyed making it with her!

Lena trying on Levi's new tool belt.

What our poor house has looked like for days. So many new toys plus limited space to play.

One time, many moons ago, I counted how many matchbox cars Chase (the kid I nannied for) had, and made a snarky facebook post about how spoiled he was. This is karma. (And this picture doesn't even come close to representing how many Levi actually owns.)

Thursday. Lol. Fortunately, Justin got home half an hour after this picture and we went to the library for a while.
Sorry for the delay. Thanks for bearing with me - this week and for the past 7.5 years of blogging. I hope none of you are mass murderers scoping out my pictures and plotting your kill. (You don't want to kill me! You'd miss this weekly dose of wit and wisdom!) Stay tuned for my Year in Review coming up soon!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Saturday 7

1. Lucy puked a few times Sunday night and got out of going to school on Monday. It's inevitable that Lucy will have the flu around Christmas. I think she has every year since she was a year old. But at least she got it out of her system quickly and before her class party and the other various Christmas events we have going on. She actually felt fine on Monday, so she and Lena played together all day and we made some fun ornaments.

2. Tuesday was the girls' school parties. It was the first year I had to bounce back and forth between them since their parties were on the same day at the same time. I feel like it was kind of a fail. Every time I'd switch to another class they'd be in transition between activities so I missed a lot. Oops.
Levi loved tagging along

Bean bag toss - she got all 3 in a can. She definitely didn't get her hand/eye coordination from me.

He found some cars.

Pin the nose on the snowman

Lucy is in a "no pictures" phase, so I didn't document her party.

3. Our other Advent activities from this week included making gingerbread houses (from a kit!)

These are the faces I get when I try to take her picture.

We also spent almost two hours yesterday morning making Christmas-themed Lego creations. It was way harder than I expected. Haha.
Christmas tree

4. I realized recently that I only have a few more books to go to reach 100 this year. I was going to just be happy with meeting my goal of 75, but now I feel like I have to push for 100. I read 4 books in 4 days this week. One of them (If Ever I Would Leave You) was a novella, which is kind of cheating, but my game my rules! I also read Edenbrooke (loved it!), The Memoir of Johnny Devine (good, but not great), and Troubled Waters. I only have 6 more to get to 100, so I guess I know what I'll be doing next week during Christmas break! (The high temps are supposed to be in the single digits, so we're definitely not going anywhere if we can help it. Hopefully the kids will be content to play with their new toys and I will be able to sit by the fire reading. Ha! Hahahaha!)

5. Lucy had a doctor appointment yesterday for a well-child checkup. She weighs as much at 7 years old as I did entering 7th grade. Lol. But she's also probably as tall as I was in 7th grade! It never ceases to amaze me how big she is compared to Lena and Levi - and even Justin and I as kids! But the doctor was perfectly fine with her BMI and said she's not worried. Whew! Guess that diet of mac n' cheese and pizza is working for her! ;-)

6. Our Christmas festivities start tomorrow and I couldn't be more excited. I love Christmas so much. I have all my wrapping done and can't wait for everyone to open their gifts. My mom and I spent all day cleaning today. It's kind of ridiculous because the only people coming over are our immediate family. They're here all the time and we don't clean for them then! Lol. But I think we use the holidays as an excuse to deep clean and do more than we usually skate by on. We also made sugar cookies this afternoon. Lena loves making "the frosting cookies." She adores using cookie cutters to help cut them out, and could spend hours slathering layers of frosting and sprinkles on each cookie. Lucy, on the other hand, cut out two cookies and decorated one before she declared it "boring" and moved on to better things (screen time). Sugar cookies are one of the few sweets I don't like. If it doesn't have chocolate it's not worth the calories. ;-)

7. Pictures!
Can you see the additions Levi made to the Nativity set? #anachronism! 

Playing cars with this cutie

I made chicken and dumplings for dinner on Monday. The girls refused to eat it, but Levi loved it. He couldn't shovel it in fast enough (and spilled half of it down the front of himself in his haste to get it to his mouth). 

One night I sat down to watch Jeopardy and all 3 kids piled on top of me to do their screen time.

Tuesday morning while both girls were at school. Precious boy eating breakfast and watching cartoons at his Thomas table.

Lucy modeling her "Oh Snap" shirt and demonstrating the snap.

Lena had to pose too.

I found this on my phone. Apparently she was startled by what she saw in the reverse camera! Lol.

Justin and Lena used our new silicone gingerbread molds to melt crayons. Some of them suffered a little upon release from the mold.

Lucy reading to her siblings. <3 

Have a Merry Christmas, y'all!!!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Saturday 7

1. Wow. I feel like we crammed so much into the past week! Last Saturday the girls and I went to see "The Star" movie. I was a little nervous that it would be heretical and I've heard almost no reviews about it, but I was pleasantly surprised! It was cute and surprisingly Biblically accurate. I mean, it was definitely a fictional representation, but they referred to Jesus as the King of the Jews and the Son of God, they bowed before him, etc. And at the end a little blurb came on the screen saying, "We took some creative liberties in the making of this film, but tried to stay as true to the most amazing story ever told as possible." Impressive!

2. Watching movies/reading books about Jesus' birth since becoming a mom has a whole new meaning for me. It's actually kind of heartbreaking to look at that sweet baby and know what will happen to him. It's horrifying to think of it from Mary's perspective. You know that song "Mary Did You Know?" It talks about how her son would grow up to do miracles and save his people and fulfill Messianic prophecies, but it really should say, "Mary did you know your son will be hated and hunted, mocked and spit upon, beaten and flogged, nailed mercilessly to a cross to die a brutally painful death?" Ugh. How can a mother handle that? And how could Jesus choose that? I've been trying to get that across to my kids this year. Christmas isn't just about Jesus appearing as a baby. He voluntarily chose to leave perfection to come to a dirty, stinky stable and deal with dirty, stinky people, and die a horrendous death because that's how much he loved us! Incredible!

3. On Tuesday we went to Justin's grandparents' for dinner, followed by our annual trip to the gardens to see the trees and trains. It's always so good to see Grandpa and Grandma. I hate that we live so far away and don't take the time to visit them more often.
Great-Grandma has the best snacks.

Posing with the Brazil tree in honor of our friends the Millers! (Lucy came too, she just didn't want to be photographed.)
Waving at the trains.
4. I was so excited for Levi to see the gardens. I knew he'd love all the pretty trees and freak out over the trains. But as you can tell from the above picture, he was still not feeling the best. We actually went to the doctor on Tuesday because he seemed to be getting worse instead of better! He puked for the first time on November 30th and never really got over it. Then it turned into a cold, which turned into a fever by Sunday and a double ear infection by Monday. The doctor put him on a strong antibiotic to wipe out any possibility of pneumonia, bronchitis, or strep as well as the ear infections. By Wednesday, he was already feeling much better. And he hasn't puked in two days! *knock on wood*

5. We tried to make treats for the mail lady as one of our Advent activities this week. I found a cute gingerbread mold at a thrift store, but the molds were really deep so I decided to make brownies in them instead of cookies. I sprayed it well because I knew they'd be impossible to decorate if they didn't slide out nicely. But apparently I didn't spray well enough. By the time I pried all the brownie pieces out of the mold, it looked like a gingerbread massacre. Now I know why that mold was at the thrift store! Haha. The good news is at VK Christmas today, I got some silicone gingerbread molds off the Bunco prize table! Hopefully those will work better.

6. Today was an all day Christmas party extravaganza. We left our house at 10:30 am and got home at 9:30 pm! First was Justin's extended family at the gym. All three of our kids had a blast. The girls adore playing with their cousins, and Levi adores running around the gym, playing with balls, eating non-stop, stealing cars off the Bunco prize table, and making friends.

I couldn't get a non-blurry of him because he never holds still!

Lucy, Meika, and Lena with their loot from Great Grandma and Grandpa!
We ate way too much good food, had a family game of soccer (I eventually had to leave the gym with Levi because I couldn't keep him off the playing field! And those VanderKoddes do not play nicely just because kids are present. They are hardcore.) And of course we played our annual Bunco tournament. Every time you win a round, you get to pick a prize off the table. Everyone brings prizes so there's a vast assortment of treasures - Christmas decorations, pencils, stickers, jewelry, stuffed animals, etc. The kids love it. And I love spending time with the extended family. I'm so fortunate to have married into such a godly, loving, fun family!

After we'd exhausted ourselves with the big family, we headed to Justin's parents' for our immediate family Christmas. More food, more presents, more games. It was quite the epic day.

This car carrier was a major hit. Levi spent a good half an hour lining up matchbox cars on it.

Getting in on the Wizard game with the boys.
Levi slept for a grand total of 15 minutes all day on the ride from the gym to Justin's parents', but he was amazingly good all evening. He was definitely sleepy, but he didn't get ornery, he just got quiet and snuggly. And then he didn't even fall asleep in the car on the way home! Crazy kid. It was a great day for everyone. The girls did a good job saying "thank you" for their gifts, everyone got along, we all got spoiled with gifts, and just enjoyed spending time together.

7. More pics:
Snuggles with Sicky and Chocolate-Face

We'd been doing so well with limiting the Binky to bedtime until this awful sickness rolled around. 

Advent Activity for Thursday: Red and green pancakes (with sprinkles!)

We got lots of snow this week - but no snow days!

Elf, hot chocolate, and popcorn Friday night

Ready to brave the elements (with Daddy's hat)

Not too sure about all these layers . . .

Happy boy at the doctor's office (thank goodness for goldfish!)
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