Monday, November 26, 2012

The Joy of a Family Tradition (KC Parent article)

I had so much fun with this month's KC Parent article, "The Joy of a Family Tradition."
We have so many of them, too many, so I've tried to slow things down and focus on our favorites--gingerbread houses, Advent, unwrapping picture books by the tree, caroling with Daddy on piano, visiting the nursing home with L's violin in tow.  But our most cherished tradition came by way of Polar Express minivan train last Friday night...

An overview of our Polar Express tradition, from the article:

The children and their friends, donning pajamas, faces smattered with spaghetti dinner, were giddy. They had discovered them: golden tickets and curious sleigh bells which, to grown-up ears, were distinctly broken.

“Mom? Can’t you hear it ringing? Listen!” insisted Lorelei as she and little brother Gryffin jangled them, yet again, at my cheek. I shook my head densely and shrugged. 

“Just believe, Mom!”

The anticipation built as my friends and I herded our three families outside, bells and tickets in hand. The children’s cherubic faces beamed red and jolly in defiance of the frosty blue night.

“May I have your golden tickets?” the fathers asked sternly, bowing in train conductor hats and sporting thick moustaches grown for the occasion. The passengers lined up rapturously for rapid-fire ticket punches, then boarded their respective train cars. We three moms in elf hats converged dotingly with candy canes and mugs of steamy hot chocolate. Then our three minivans, windows frosted with snowflakes and the words “Polar Express,” caravanned off to the Overland Park Arboretum’s Luminary Walk—our North Pole.

Our Polar Express Luminary Walk, Year Two:
Daddy in his train conductor hat, the kids with golden tickets.
Jena, Jalen and Jennifer decorating cars.
Even our neighbor Charlie got in on the fun.  It just happened to be pajama day at school.  He fit right in!

We hosted a few more families this year (from small groups) for soup and chili before meeting up with Mothers Together friends at Starbucks.
The ladies, looking festive!
There's this Irish proverb I love:
"May your house always be too small...
... to hold all your friends."
Then from Starbucks, we all caravanned on the Polar Express to the North Pole.
It was a gorgeous 60-degree December night!

You cannot pull me away from the cider, bonfire and carols.
There's something so earthy and yet ethereal about the energy there, especially when huddled with beloved friends.
Lost in a maze of prairie grass.
This little furniture arrangement reminded me of Salisbury Plain.
And to crown the night, a visit with jolly old St. Nick.
December is officially here!
(We had so much fun, our family visited the Luminary yet again on Saturday night with the neighbors.)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gingerbread Building

Our church has done a November fast until Thanksgiving, so my friends and I banded together for a "sugar free to a more thankful me" snubbing of candy, a very difficult thing to do as kids raid the Halloween cauldron all month.  But it's a good thing I left the candy well alone, because tonight we put it to good use.
 Daddy helped Lorelei get the building up to code, but she did all the design elements herself.
 Gryffy got a small bit of assistance from Mommy, but soon took over the icing.
And he did an amazing (clean!) job with the frosting bag.
 Gryffy loves to tell people, when they ask his age, "I used to be three but now I am four."
I feel like he is growing so quickly this year and really blossoming with new skills.  I credit a lot of that to his amazing preschool teachers.  He is thriving, and I'm so happy he's happy.
 Back to gingerbread.  Look at that girl piping.  Her concentration with anything art related is intense.
She is totally her mother's daughter.  I love that we have so much in common; it's so fun.
The kids dipped into the candy.  Sugar high, here.
And now, for the big reveal...
 Gryffin's.  Adorable!
 Lorelei's.  Always creative.
 Mommy's.  Yeah, it looks more British (thatched) than Bavarian, but it's redeemed by the Gingerbread Witch with Hansel and Gretel.  Probably should have stuck a tree on that rooftop at least while I was building it, to make it officially German.
 And Daddy's.  I know, takes the cake with that portico and carefully sculpted tree star, doesn't it?  Highly creative.  He groans and grumbles, but honestly I think he loves our little family projects...
Maybe even as much as the rest of our little family!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

It's Turkey time!
Welcome back, Mr. Gobbles.
Instead of a Gratitude Tree this year, we took a project out of an article I wrote for this month's KCParent Magazine, and made a Gratitude Jenga game.  
When we stacked the pieces, we could see what we were grateful all over again.  We've spent a lot of time counting our blessings this month.  The other day at the Kolache Factory, before we ate, the kids began their litany of blessings and couldn't seem to stop.  I'm glad that they're grateful.  And I'm so grateful to be married to their dad and to be their mom.  Best job in the world with the best people I know and love!
 I'm tickled by the concentration on Gryffy's face and the cringing dread on Lorelei's.

 Let's look at those cutie-pie kids again with Mr. Tubbins and Mr. Gobbles.
They are quite a pair. Never have two kids loved each other more.
We made our traditional Mayflower with the long chain of all our ancestors, beginning with William and Mary Brewster (pilgrims on the Mayflower) and ending with the kids.  Only I don't have a photo, because Lorelei brought it to school on Share Day and Mrs. Brahl kept it for display :o)
Lorelei was pretty proud of that.
 We spent Thanksgiving Day with Grammy, Bpop, Grammy Great and Meg.
 The kids have endless fun with this remote-controlled flying bird.  The thing swoops around and around the room and generally pelts someone in the head.
 The feast.

 Just had to throw this one in there.  Gryffy's usual get-up.  Can't have enough helmets or weapons.
 The day after Thanksgiving was our Thanksgiving at home.  
We brined a turkey (thanks, Alton Brown) and cooked up a storm:
Strawberry spinach pecan salad, green bean casserole, corn casserole, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberries, dinner rolls (from the Kolache Factory), and every variety of two-buck Chuck.
 We loaded up on so much food that I forgot to bring out the dessert!  Oops.
 High school friends: Alex, me, Annie, Katie, Kelsey, Debbie
And this year was the baby boom, so we had lots of kids toddling about.
It was so cozy with all these friends and families together.  They are all remarkable people and our friendship carries on always where it left off.  What a blessing, old friends!
It seems like it was yesterday when we were roaming these magical halls...
 I thought a stranger came to the door when I first saw Kelsey's red hot hair.  Love it!
 Here are the Darbys--Rowan and Isla were great buddies to Lorelei and Gryffy.
 Our family and Mr. Gobbles.
 And now, the stockings have been hung by the chimney with care...
 ... in hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be (t)here.
Happy Thanksgiving!