Friday, March 27, 2015

Puerto Vallarta

We've been back home from vacation for about a week. And I swear that's almost how long it's taken to get everyone back on schedule. Today Graham finally napped without screaming in protest for 10 minutes first. Major progress.

But let's get back to the subject at hand. 
We spent 6 glorious days away from home in the land of Mexico, specifically at the Hyatt Ziva in Puerto Vallarta. 

We left home on Sunday afternoon and spent the night at Catrina's, getting up at 3 AM to make it to the airport for our 6 AM flight Monday morning. 
Believe me, a long-awaited vacation is the only time I'm this happy at 4 AM.

We arrived at our resort in Puerto Vallarta at 2 PM local time, and in typical style began drinking and eating immediately. Once our room was ready, we wasted no time throwing on our suits and flagging down a waiter to place a drink order.

While Jared frequently stuck with beer, I made it a goal of sorts to try as many different drinks as possible. There was no shortage of new drink options.

We sat pool side or on the beach for hours each and every day. 

The service was amazing and our drinks were never empty. We took in the scenery and the sun's rays. I read an entire book from start to finish (The Girl on the Train - great beach read) and enjoyed the silence. Jared frequently checked out the activities, playing darts and even singing karaoke (a Spanish song no less! Loco Por Ti - check it out, my husband's crazy) one night after consuming a few margaritas for courage. 

We met quite a few people on our second day in Puerto Vallarta. It was overcast and rainy all day, so Jared and I took ourselves (and our cocktails) to the adults-only hot tub. We ended up socializing and drinking for 4 1/2 hours, having a lot of laughs and meeting some fun people. Jared was feeling no pain pretty quickly - partly because it was St. Patrick's Day and also because our hot tub mates had previously tipped the pool waiter quite handsomely. We wanted for nothing that day. Except maybe some sun.

The resort itself was newly remodeled, reopening just this past December. It was beautiful. Each and every detail was clearly thought out. Even the walkways through the resort were picture worthy.
The beach was clean and the views were spectacular. 
Our room was great. We were on the highest floor (other than the penthouse) and one whole wall was floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors facing the beach. Each room had an ocean view and this was ours.

We fell asleep each and every night with the door open and the sound of the crashing surf lulling us to sleep.

We stayed at the resort most of the time, but we hit up downtown one morning to see what it was all about and purchase souvenirs. It was a scenic cobblestone boardwalk with stores and restaurants flanking the other side.

The food at the resort was phenomenal. The buffet was actually delicious (which I think is probably a high achievement for an all-inclusive) and we loved eating breakfast there. Can't beat a delicious omelet and fresh baked croissants! 
Out of the four restaurants at the resort, we had two favorites and divided our evening meals between them.

And then on our last night, we didn't want to chose between the two. 
So we didn't. 
We ate first at the Asian restaurant and afterward went straight to the steakhouse. And while part of me is ashamed to admit this, another part of me (aka: the fatty part) says it with pride - we then went to our room and ordered room service. 
We ordered a pizza and dessert. 
And we ate all that food, people!
I have zero vacation shame, it's fine. 
And I can proudly say I didn't even gain weight on vacation. It's a miracle.
Thank God for the amazing resort gym because I didn't hold back on anything I wanted to eat or drink the entire time we were on vacation.

We had an amazing time. This was our first vacation alone in 6 years. And if I'm honest, it took awhile getting used to it being just us. But it was needed and well worth saving up for. We were able to reconnect as a couple - no kids, no jobs, no responsibilities. 

But when it was time to come home, we were ready. We had three little people pretty excited to see us again. And even more excited to see what we brought home for them. 

Maracas for the win every time.

** A big internet shout-out to my parents for watching our kids for most of the week and to Justy and her boyfriend Zac for staying at the house for a day or two with the kids. We greatly appreciate all your help!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Friday faves

So. I'm a day late. I started this on a Friday, so it still counts right?
Better late than pregnant.

This weather.
On my goodness we were ready for a break from the indoors! We've been outside all week. Riding bikes and trikes. Tearing up the backyard. Going on long walks. Walking everywhere actually. I've been so anxious to be outside I even picked up the girls from school with G loaded in the stroller and we walked home one day.
That being said, I'd appreciate one day of snow while we are gone on vacation so our friends and family can be a tad bit envious of our amazingly warm weather.

Old stuff.
I love old stuff. Apparently my affair with old things has been going on for awhile because back in middle school I found a wedding picture of my dad's parents and had it up in my room. 
Yep, I was clearly the trendiest 6th grader.
I like doing that around our house too. Instead of switching out for the newest photos of everyone, I like to display my favorites from over the years. It will be even more meaningful as the kids grow bigger and bigger. 

So while at my parents' house last weekend, I decided I wanted to reclaim that old wedding photo I so proudly displayed in my tween years. And after digging through boxes in the closet housing all my and my sisters' old stuff, I found it.
Exactly as I remembered.

And while I was digging, I came across other old photos I'd found years ago and since forgotten about. They were carefully preserved in my tacky childhood jewelry box.

A photo of my grandmother addressed to her future husband.
Ronald, I'll love you always.  Love, Joyce

Seriously, isn't that the sweetest?!
Fifty-five plus years later and I know that statement has been proven true day in and day out.
And this is why I love old stuff.

And to my jealous sister Justina who claims the oldest child always gets all the cool stuff, I am making copies for y'all. You're welcome. 

Love Me Like You Do
I saw 50 Shades of Grey a couple weeks ago with Justy. I am definitely not a prude, but I couldn't help but giggle like a school girl on a few occasions and share an embarrassed glance with my sister.
But this song
I'm obsessed.
I'm also a chronic new-song-over-player. Sorry Jare.
He'll be hating it in no time, I assure you.

Kids in workout clothes
Bailey received this outfit from Aunt Beaner for her birthday. 
She refuses to wear it unless some physical activity is planned.
Unlike her mom who just lives in workout pants.

Travel prep
I love to make lists. 
And believe me, packing lists were made a month ago. 
Obsessive? Yes.
For weeks I've had a dedicated shelf in the closet for things I don't want to forget. I have an organized calendar on the fridge for whoever is watching our kids on each day. Copies of our passports are made. Cameras are charged. Beach books are purchased. Music playlists are finished.
So to sum it up: I'm ready.
I'm coming for you, Mexico!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

enjoying my own

I've written before - well over a year ago - about the struggle I sometimes feel with where I am in life right now. There are times when staying at home with three young kids is the best possible job in the world. 
And there are days when it just isn't. 

Yet I've come to realize that most of my insecurities with being a stay-at-home-mom come from within. On bad days I start to doubt my purpose. Occasionally I let comments made by others - at times they might even be well-intentioned comments - affect how I view myself. 
And that's crappy. 
That's on me. 

There are going to be people who don't know me well or those with limited life experience who judge my decision to stay at home. Or ask what I could possibly do all day. Or roll their eyes when I say I've had a rough week. 

But I get to choose how I see myself, not outsiders. 

And honestly, a few years ago I too would have seen only the up-sides of being a SAHM. Because staying home, raising your own kids, is a blessing right? 
And it is. 
But it's not for everybody. 
Some days it's not even for me. 
Because just like every other mom in the world - working outside the home or not - some days just suck.

Lately though, our days are better. I feel less stressed than a few months ago. 
I don't regret my decision to stay at home with my kids these last two years. 
I get to do some extras that I wouldn't if I were gone during the day, like tucking Graham in for his nap and having plenty of time to hit the library with all three kids.
I've met some friends that I probably wouldn't have had contact with otherwise.
I've had the opportunity to take better care of my health - both with eating and exercising - that I know I probably wouldn't make time for if I were working.

So I'm cutting myself some slack, not being so hard on myself.
Or maybe I'm getting more perspective as I age. (30 is so old and wise, ya know.)
Or maybe I just give less of a shit about what other people think.

I read something on a random blog a while back that said mothers are 
"the keepers of the details in their families' lives." 
I like that.
Not only are we keeping the details straight about doctor appointments and tee-ball practices, but the laundry gets done, the dirty bathrooms get cleaned, and supper gets cooked. Working mom or stay-at-home mom. We're all still moms.
So yeah, there ya have it. My job description:
I keep the train on its track. 

We all contribute differently to our kids' lives. 
I cultivate details through records of our lives: baby books, photo albums, journals I write for the kids, this blog even. That's my little extra that I add in.
Jared is a hands-on guy. He is out in the kitchen cooking and baking with the kids, letting them each sniff the cinnamon and the cumin, watching them take turns stirring batter. In the spring they'll help him pot the plants they grew together from seeds. 

Other parents plan massive birthday party blow-outs that put the Solko Family's to shame. 
Others are great with arts and crafts and anything Pinterest can dream up. 
Some have a nightly routine filled with blankets and books that I envy. 

We're all different. And it's okay.
I didn't exactly envision staying at home full-time. And that's okay too. 
But I need to enjoy more and worry less. 
To everything there is a season, right?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday 5

My mother-in-law Cathy came to visit last week for Bailey's birthday. She always comes bearing gifts - usually for the kids. This time she had a special gift in tow for me as well.
They stole my heart
Bailey  Avery  Graham

It's a mother's necklace from Jade Vine Jewelry on Etsy.

Cathy works at a post office and meets all kinds of people that sell their creations on Etsy, including Cassia - the owner of this particular shop.
I absolutely love the necklace. It's personal and beautiful at the same time. I've already worn it twice in the past week and received many compliments on it.

Last night I attended my first Bible study ever. 

I think it was maybe a year or two ago, there was a post on a blog I typically read and she was talking about starting a Bible study as a great way to make new friends and create long-lasting relationships, your own little sense of community. I remember thinking, that would be awesome, but everybody around here already has their established friends. 
And that is actually somewhat true about a small town. It seems everybody already knows everybody and people already have those links established. But in the last year, I've been surprised by the number of new families with small children that have moved to the area. People our age, in the same stage of life, going through the same things we are. It wasn't just us. 

The tricky thing is meeting those people. And not coming across as a total creeper desperate for human contact.
Which sometimes I feel like I am...
Making friends is hard. 
I know I've said it before. I went to college out-of-state. The people I was closest with in college live at least an 8 hour drive away. So while most of us are in the same stage of life right now (married with small children), we don't get to see each other.  So the people I share a lot in common with aren't around to sit and share a cup of coffee. I have two other close friends in the area, but I don't get to see them all that often either. 

So I was pretty excited when a woman I met a few months ago at library story time invited me to a Bible study she was starting at her home. It seems like we are in the same boat, wanting a sense of community, looking for people that could possibly become real friends, desiring conversation beyond topics of preschool and sleep schedules. And it's work. It takes putting yourself out there. It's not as easy as it was in school or even in the workplace. But I think friendship is worth the effort. 

The atmosphere was relaxed and homey, Brigette (the hostess) made such cute delicious snacks, and the video series really seems like it is going to be a great fit for our group. I have high hopes to learn a lot and fill in a bit of that friendship void while I'm at it. 

We just watched the season finale of How To Get Away With Murder.

Girrrrl! That show always keeps us guessing.
Not sure how they are exactly going to transition into the next season, but I guarantee we will tune in to find out!

Random fact: I hate this blog name. 
I started this blog back in 2011 without knowing whether or not it was something I would enjoy doing. I think Jared came up with the name, and I was cool with it. But over time, I don't know... I just don't really think the name is very "me." I don't know if it's because it seems overly cheery and perfect while I am more realistic and sarcastic or what exactly.

In hindsight I wish I had picked the URL to be something less specific to the blog name, that way the blog name could be easily changed. Literally "thesolkos.blogspot" would have done the trick. But I was new to all this and thought it was supposed to be the same. So now it is in the URL and it seems like a lot of work to switch it at this point.
Like, would my 7 or so regular readers be able to find me?!
Maybe it isn't that much work. Who knows? It did take me basically two whole years to finally bring myself to create a new email and abandon the old one that I created when I was 14. So maybe in another couple years I will work up the gumption and do something about it.

Have you ever heard of or played Cards Against Humanity?

Jared found out about this "party game for horrible people" and immediately wanted it for Christmas. My apologies, baby Jesus. We have played it a few times and - shocker- since we're horrible people, we thoroughly enjoyed it.

This past weekend Jared insisted we play it with my parents, sisters, Justy's boyfriend Zac, and Jared's mom. Can we just say, this isn't necessarily a game you should play with your in-laws?! I was basically forced into playing along.

The premise of the game is just like Apples To Apples. One person reads a card (the black card) and everyone else playing chooses a card from their hand to play to answer the first card's question. The original reader picks the one he or she likes best. There are usually some good ones, sometimes some that aren't as funny, and then there are some like this:

My dad read the top card.
The winning card (the white one) was played by my mother.
I almost nearly died laughing.
It was funny when it was read aloud, but it was even funnier when my mom raised her hand to admit she played the card.
They sell expansion packs and we most definitely will be needing one of them soon.

Well, that's it for me. I am off to bed early. Tomorrow Justy and I are going to go get cheap reflexology sessions at the massage therapy college and then see a matinee of 50 Shades of Grey. I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess the book isn't actually better in this instance.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bailey turns 5

Bailey turned 5 years old last week. 
And like every other living, breathing preschool-aged girl, a Frozen party was asked for. 
(And asked for. And asked for. And you get the point.) 
So at her party this past Saturday, she got what she wanted.

She was especially excited about the larger-than-life Elsa balloon. Even I was surprised by its size when it was inflated.

One word to sum up her mood of the day: Sassy.
She was sashaying around the house in her beloved maxi skirt, throwing spunky attitude for every possible photo.

(Isn't this the most pathetic "wall" banner ever? Negative Amazon review coming soon.)

It was a good party and Bailey soaked up all things Elsa and Frozen, including a large majority of her presents. 

Graham is also particularly Frozen obsessed, so he had to give Bailey's new sneaks a test drive. 
He heartily approves.

Some other pics from the day.

Saturday, February 14, 2015


I realize that recently I haven't had a lot of quality in this online space. I used to blog pretty regularly - about kids, life, my opinions, or just random updates. I am lucky if I write something twice a month lately. 

Blogging became sort of an escape for me back in 2011. It was basically the only thing I did for me. I've always liked writing, so it was a good fit. And it stayed that way for a long time, until this past year when I moved my health and fitness from the (way, way, way) back burner up closer to the front. 

And it's not only that. My mind has been occupied with other things, and quite a lot of it is stuff that isn't truly *my* stuff. It's some deep shit that is mostly other people's deep shit, but it affects me too. They're people I love and care about, so I worry. I pray. I am a sounding board. I'm trying my best to be a solid support person. Situations like these are the ones that remind me of a country song: You Find Out Who Your Friends Are.  (Gotta love a good Tra-Law reference!) I want to be that friend. 
Call me - I'll answer. 
Need to cry/scream/vent? I'm here.
Need a hug? I love a good hug!
Not sure what you need? I can bake some cookies and we can drown your/my/our sorrows in chocolate together.

So while writing has always been a cathartic process for me (Your Honor, I submit into evidence my angst-filled pre-teen diaries), this isn't the place for all the emotions and thoughts running rampant in my mental space these days. And with those emotions and thoughts tied up, I am feeling zapped for inspiration. I hate to make this blog a periodic catch-up list of what we did each week, and that feels like what it has been lately. It used to be more than that to me, but everything changes and evolves. My efforts and time are just being put to other uses right now. So for those who check in here periodically and wonder why I seem to have slid off the grid, now you know. 

So now for the randomness I referred to earlier:

Jared's little Etsy business was a bit ridiculous in January. Last year, after a big (for us) Christmas rush, it was complete crickets for months. We expected the same this year. Surprisingly it was busy with lots of orders. Also helping traffic recently is the Etsy Lookbook for Spring 2015. Jared was contacted to submit an item for consideration back before Thanksgiving. Both of us were like, Is this a joke? Is someone just trying to get free stuff? but apparently it was for reals. He was eventually selected and notified last week. His item is featured with only 20 others in the "Kids" section. 
I have zero idea how his item got the committee's attention in the first place, especially since Jared has just a small shop with only 100+ sales, but it happened. Obviously Jared isn't trying to grow his shop exponentially, but it's nice to get noticed and hopefully gain a few more orders. 

Today is Valentine's Day.
So... Happy Heart Day!
Y'all know my opinion on Valentine's Day - it's kinda silly. 
It's great that people want to show some love and affection. But the best part of Valentine's Day is observing the boyfriends and husbands that are normally total dicks 24/7 go out and buy a dozen roses and get called the "Best Husband EVER!!" Am I right? But that is beside the point...

Anyway, now that I have kids that (sort of) care, I gotta step up my V-Day game a bit. 

We baked cookies for Avery's class party and got crazy with the pink glittery stuff. Both girls gorged on candy after their school parties this week. Today Jared and I gave them tiny Russell Stover hearts (Target for a whole buck) and a new rubber duck each for the bath tub. (Weird I know, but they've been whining since I threw their others away. I don't do moldy ducks.)

My Valentine's spirit on display:
Nail tutorial from The Small Things blog
Nails and cookies, that is as festive as I get.

Tiny nails were also painted fitting colors for today.

And this wasn't even a sugar-induced crazy face.

Speaking of that crazy face, Bailey turns 5 next week. Grandma Cathy is flying in for a few days, and we will be doing it up Elsa style at this time next Saturday. And hey, maybe if we're lucky she'll make the above face when she sees all the Elsa and Anna and Olaf crap plastered everywhere!

Oh, and it's exactly 30 days until Jared and I visit this luxurious paradise for 6 whole days. 
Are you tired of me rubbing that in your face yet? Well too bad! It's getting me through some challenging workouts, carpet pee stain cleaning sessions (toilet train yourself already, Graham!) and some freaking cold days around here.

And speaking of vacation, if anyone reading this post is a reader and has some great beach reads they'd like to recommend, please leave a comment. I'd really appreciate it! I want to be prepared with a good book or two to enjoy.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

February this and that

The book nerd in me is coming out a bit again lately. 
I've always loved to read, but sometimes after I finish a book, I get in this weird slump where I am lazy and don't want to start another one. But the good news is that our local library (which is awesome, by the way) has about 15 of the 30-ish books in my current to-read list on Goodreads, so I have zero excuse to not be reading.

I most recently finished Yes Please by Amy Poehler. 

I'd heard a lot of rave reviews about it. Lots of "empowering to women" comments, that kind of thing. Jared downloaded it to his tablet and read it thinking it would be funny. He's always thought Amy Poehler was hilarious. So when he told me he didn't like it, I was thinking maybe it was too much "girl power!" or she referenced her monthly flow a couple times or something. So I picked it up at the library and read it anyway.
The following sentence sums up my feelings:

That's my official book review. 

It wasn't really funny. 
Yes, I laughed a few times because I think the woman could rewrite the dictionary and still make it funny, but it wasn't a funny book. There were too many parts that I was like, "Yep, don't care." "Yep, still don't care." *skimming. skimming. skimming*

A whole chapter on her drug use. 
As someone who has never done a single illegal drug, this was interesting for a few pages, but it started to give that feeling you get when you're stuck talking to a 19 year-old, and all they can talk about is how awesome some party was last weekend. And how many people were there. And oh man, how drunk everyone was. 
And you're standing there, glazing over, trying to pretend to give a shit. 
And it seems like no one is ever going to come save you from this tedious conversation. 
That was my feeling during parts of the book. 
So in total, I don't recommend. 
Also, it's a memoir, so please write something we can't learn from reading your Wikipedia entry.

This past Sunday was the Super Bowl. Despite the fact that I have always despised the Patriots and don't give a flip about the Seahawks either, we watched. We always watch. As a football fan, it's what you do.
Oh, that and we always eat snacks.

Our kids thought it was the coolest thing ever that they didn't have to eat at the dining room table. 
A table? 
Filled with snacks?
In the living room?
While we watch TV?!
It was apparently special in the world of toddlers and preschoolers. 

It was a great game, even though I did lose the family pool to Justy.

Let's see. What else is new? 
What else... what else...

Oh, I've been obsessively reading reviews for our vacation to Puerto Vallarta in March. I am jotting down notes of people's tips on restaurants and tours and how to go bars at night without risking our safety. I realize this might be borderline obsessive, but since we haven't gone on vacation in forever, I want to make this the best vacation possible. 
Also, I bought a bathing suit.
Annnnnd it has two pieces. Eek! 
I feel okay about it. 
Wait, can black still be slimming even if your stomach is showing???

And speaking of my stomach, I am only showing you this photo because I am proud of where I've come in the last few months. And I know I posted it on instagram, but since I have like 12 followers on there, I am posting here too. Deal with it. 
Those are my shorts from this past summer, I was still wearing them in August. I can't even keep them up at this point - they slide straight down. I'm excited to need to buy a new pair of shorts for vacation. 

I know some people losing weight take all kinds of progress photos, and I can see why. It's motivating to see the loss. You see the scale number decreasing, and you feel yourself getting stronger, but it takes your brain a while to catch up. Seeing it in a photo helps.

What else...?

Lots of snuggles. With blankets. And books.
It is so freakin' cold outside. 
And even if I did want to throw them outside in the snow for a few minutes, Avery is currently minus one snow boot. I can't find that sucker anywhere.
(Maybe I should check in the magical drawer that Blankie always disappears into...)

I am currently reading a book that is nearly 20 years old.
It was an Oprah book club selection back in the day. 
This could be good or bad.
Oprah has done right by me (Pillars of the Earth), and she's also done me so, so wrong (Freedom).

In all honesty, I started this book almost 2 months ago. It didn't catch my attention right off the bat, and I just wasn't in the mood for it, and I read another book in the middle of it. I was about to quit altogether, but then I read some reviews on Goodreads and felt like thousands of people couldn't call it their favorite book ever and it be absolutely horrible. So I decided to keep reading. And when I think back, some of my favorite books were ones that built slow, establishing solid characters - ones that stick with me to this day. I'm about halfway through. And it's a good, solid book so far. 

So that is what is going on in my world. That and planning an Frozen-themed party for a certain girl who is turning five in a mere two weeks. Five! I can't even believe it!
Check back in later this month to see the huge, kick-ass Olaf balloon. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January jumble

It's been a lot of every day normal stuff around here lately. (For January in Iowa at least.)

Snow coats the ground, the wind chill has dipped down to 30ยบ below zero on more than one occasion, and we've been hunkering down. School was cancelled 4 out of 5 days last week for my preschoolers, and I have felt a bit stir-crazy.

It's impossible to get anything done amid the continual begging to go outside and numerous requests for the movie Frozen, which I must admit is extremely appropriate.

So there really hasn't been much happening. Lots of kleenex and antibiotics. Strep throat and ear infections. Warm blanket snuggles on the couch. We did brave the temps and the wind and escape the house a few times though.

I took the kids out to my parents' one day to eat lunch and celebrate my dad's (belated) 55th birthday.
Bailey helped my mom pick the frosting color for his cake, and we all sang Happy Birthday to Papa Jeff.
The kids assisted in blowing out the candles. 

And it is a {sick} fact that one of them literally sneezed a candle out. (Granted this particular child was using the "sneeze into the elbow" technique, so my nurse's heart was happy.) And in case you are wondering why there are exactly 6 candles forming a semi-circle: this was the excited work of a 4 year-old.

Last weekend I promised the kids a movie at our local $2 theater. Excitement abounded. I said we would go Saturday afternoon at 2:00.
Cut to 1 pm when I realize that they no longer do afternoon shows and the only option was 7:30pm - way too late for Mr. G.
We settled for bowling instead.
They had never gone bowling and it was a fun, exciting new experience... for the first 6 or so rounds. By the time the last round approached, Jared and I were both thanking God and were ready to run out of the bowling alley.
But they all looked so darn cute in their tacky bowling shoes!

The only other new thing around here...
Jared and I booked a vacation!

This is huge news in my world.
Our last vacation was in 2009 - not counting our trip to Colorado in October with our kids. Because as fun as that was - and it was fun - it still doesn't feel quite like a vacation with toddlers in tow. 

In March we are going to Puerto Vallarta to an all-inclusive resort for 5 days. 
Of beaches.
And sun.
And quiet.
And all the adult beverages a carefree parent could ever dream of.

To say we are excited is a big understatement. We have been saving up money in a special vacation fund for a few years, and it feels good to finally put some of that money to use. This trip is giving Jared and I both something to look forward to and work toward. 
I am definitely using it as my mental Happy Place when the snow is blowing, the kids are whiny, or my workout is kicking my butt.
I think the anticipation of an awesome vacation is almost as great as the vacation itself. 
I can't wait for March to get here!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

post-Christmas catch-up

It's 2015 and we all survived the holiday season. There isn't much to survive in our world. We only attend two different Christmas get-togethers, which I find to be a real rarity after talking to other people. And especially since Jared has divorced parents. But I am not complaining. I find it way more enjoyable to go to a Christmas celebration and just stay, as opposed to running here and there, making sure to "make an appearance" so no one's feelings get hurt. Especially with kids in tow. Kids that probably missed naps and way overdid their allotted sugar intake.

We had a great Christmas.
As usual we attended Christmas Eve church service and hosted a meal of appetizers at our house for my family.
There were the usual pictures in front of the tree.

I felt like Christmas was relaxed this year. That is a goal of mine - to not become that frantic, crazed person rushing around buying gifts and thinking that perfection is what makes Christmas special. Santa didn't spoil our kids. Their grandparents and aunts do that. Our kids got one present each from Santa and the other two were from Mom and Dad. Santa of course gets to be the fun guy, while Mom and Dad gave books and clothes. 

Our families usually ask our opinion on presents to buy for the kids. Most of them know I hate the clutter of a thousand toys. Toys are important for kids, but we want stuff that makes them use their imaginations and be interactive. And they all did so great picking out stuff that they will use again and again, without driving Jared and me insane.

Princess dress-up stuff for the girls. Instant hit.

"The Little Blue Truck" board book. Graham is obsessed.

Little People. They've already been in the plane, bus, tractor, barn, you name it.

A unique, personalized board book made by my mom on Pint Size Productions. Graham loves this book. It is all about farm implements with pictures of his papa's tractors, combines, wagons, etc. And he can't get over that there is a picture of his grandparents in a book!
ThinkFun Roll & Play Game (G's present from Santa). All 3 kids love it. They learn and have fun at the same time. And it entertains for a long time. I highly recommend.

Tool set. Tractor repair was going down just yesterday morning.

This adorable Melissa & Doug doorbell house. Jared hid their snacks in it one day and Avery couldn't stop laughing at the fact that her fruit snack was hidden behind Door #2.

And of course they got clothes, and leggings for the obsessed Bailey, and other books. It was all stuff we can use and I appreciate all the thought that went into getting them meaningful gifts.

We went after-Christmas shopping on December 26th and scored some good deals on decorating stuff. Now that all my sisters have their own houses, we can all behave like old ladies excited over new decor items. :) 

New Christmas tradition for next year!
My sister Beaner told me of an ingenious idea that a friend does for Christmas each year. Every year she individually wraps every Christmas book they own and places them under the tree. Each night in the days leading to Christmas, the kids get to pick a book, unwrap it, and read it together that night. They are all books they have already read, but it's like they are brand new. It's a unique tradition that is essentially free and fun for the kids. Another way to get in the Christmas spirit. I am so going to do this next year!

Other stuff:

I don't know about you, but man we are getting lame on New Year's Eve. And when I say "getting" I really mean that we have been this way forever. We even had no kids for the evening (Thanks Mom!) and we were still lame. As my sister Justy expressed, it's all the pressure that comes with New Year's supposedly being this awesome, great time. I haven't ever had an amazing New Year's experience. Maybe one day? 

This year Jared and I went out for dinner and drank too many margaritas. We came home and drank some wine and played some games, passing time until it would be suitable to go to the bar. And then around 9:30 our couch started looking pretty amazing. And we did have a long list of movies DVRed. And with that showers were taken and jammies put on and we snuggled up on the couch to watch "Dallas Buyers Club." Yep, that is how behind we are on new releases. We were in bed before midnight. And it was pretty great.

I reached my goal and lost 30 pounds a few weeks ago. Christmas happened and I took the liberty of still working out but eating whatever indulgent crap I wanted. I gained a pound. Oh well. I would have been in a pissy mood passing up delicious food at Christmas for the sake of a calorie count. 

And despite the Christmas food free-for-all, I bought my first pair of jeans (not counting one pair of maternity jeans) in 8 years. 8 YEARS. That's pathetic. I have been getting by using some of Fe's jeans that she couldn't wear anymore (because sister lost like 60 pounds in the last 2 years!), but those are now too big. It was time. 
I am pretty ecstatic to report that I now fit into a pair of 9/10 jeans. That's amazing for me. I haven't been that size in probably a decade. 

On the exercise front, the week of Christmas I decided it was time to rededicate myself to actually getting more fit. For a while I had been coasting by, still losing weight, but not really challenging myself with workouts. So I started a new workout routine. It's called The 90 Day Warrior Workout by, and it's a calendar with 3 months of workouts planned out for you. Some of the workouts are ones I have already done while doing the 30 Day Beginner calendar, but there are quite a few new routines that are kicking my butt at times. And that's a good thing. As always they are all exercises that are done at home with only handweights. I highly recommend if you are looking for something to challenge you without shelling out money for a gym membership you aren't sure you will use all that much.

I think that is about all for now. I put the kids in front of some Looney Tunes so I could have a minute (or 30. or 60.) to myself. Hey, at least it is the classics and not Caillou or some crap. Man, I hate that little, annoying brat... Him and his grating personality and that hat he always wears. One shouldn't have such aggression towards a PBS cartoon character, but it is what it is (to quote my mom).
I digress...
Time to go make lunch!