Sunday, December 30, 2012

Carolina Christmas

It’s always envelopingly sweet to return to my childhood home – a place that holds so many memories. From eagerly awaiting my parents’ return when my brothers were born, to secret spy missions in the crawlspace with my sister, to our blissful wedding reception in the backyard. Christmas recaptures some of that magic by bringing us all back together. And to top it off my mom has the loveliest Christmas decorations creatively reconfigured each year, all in a peaceful country setting.

Last year when we visited, Ellabelle was still a toddling babe, but this year she and Luke were a duo of kid energy and exploration.

They loved to play outside and mostly delighted in my parents’ dogs, though a few times Eleanor shrieked, “Puppy eating me!!!” to let us know that her personal space was endangered. Then when the puppy romped off she would grumpily declare, “Puppy bothering me. That puppy bothering me.” Perhaps this love/fear relationship with the canine residents explains our kids’ newfound zeal for tree climbing.

Old family standbys were not neglected either. Wild horsie rides on Papi,

Family walks through the woods (Luke is still asking for his treasures – aka pinecones – that he collected there),

Gingerbread house decorating (Eleanor quite preferred the ‘circles’ for both decorating and eating),

Holiday movies (this was the Grinch Who Stole Christmas),

And darling church clothes.

Christmas day held stockings by a fire,

A tree surrounded by presents

and our traditional brunch of eggs benedict.

Then there was present playtime! Luke’s new truck was loaded with all manner of cargo.

And Eleanor rocked her new babies in the very same doll cradle I adored as a little girl.

What a fun, full Christmas it was. On our way home from the airport (after wailing his desire to go back to Nika and Papi’s) our sensitive Luke-boy earnestly declared, “I hope February comes really, really soon!!” since we might see Nika and Papi again then. We miss you all!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Festive weekend report

Last weekend was chock-full of Christmas cheer. On Saturday morning we attended a Santa party, our first event in our new neighborhood. It was fun and relaxed with cute activities and several families we know from our street and the local park. We don’t talk Santa up much, so we wondered what the kids would make of him. Eleanor panicked when I stepped away for the photo, and never did warm up to old St. Nick.

Luke, on the other hand, got very chatty when Santa asked what he wanted for Christmas. It’s reported that he requested a giant lit-up Christmas train like the one outside our neighbor’s house, among other things. I don’t think he realized that our Santa doesn’t stock giant lawn decorations…

Saturday evening, just before this bitter cold front blew in, we visited the River of Lights, a fantastic holiday light show at the botanic gardens. Surely seeing their grounds covered in glimmering decorations is sufficient fulfillment of Luke’s Santa wish?

It was our second visit (pics from our first trip here). What fun to see it with friends and our Ella-princess this time!

On Sunday we moved on to the edible side of Christmas festivities. We had a pancake brunch with my beloved Christmas pan, made scrumptious cookies with friends, and tried a little candy cane craft.

What perfect Christmas cheer spreaders to spend the season with!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Preparing for Christmas

First we put up our trusty old tree,

Which prompted half a dozen photo shoots.

Once that excitement subsided a bit, I made a felt tree for the kiddos to play with.

Online this tree is described as a means to prevent children from playing with the real Christmas tree, but I’m not sure that point was kid-tested. In our house, the felt ornaments usually can be found wedged in toy trucks while our real tree’s ornaments are still regularly investigated. But we keep our main tree’s bottom half kid-safe and don’t really mind a little sensory exploration as long as the ornaments are put back periodically.

We added some other holiday touches around the house, including another felt project – a little advent calendar for the mantle.

But I haven’t done too much holiday decorating this year, I think because we have a number of house projects ongoing. On Friday, we painted Eleanor’s room a soft pink and finally put up her curtains. I love having a pink room again, but I may have kicked my slipper into the roller tray in my fast and furious painting zeal.

But back to Christmas… after setting up the trees, we started our evening advent time. Each night the kids eagerly open our advent bag to find a couple Christmas books and a decoration or toy.

I originally considered buying or making treats to put in an advent calendar but realized that we have so many special decorations and Christmas items that I could parcel those out over the advent season instead. After being in storage for a year they’re almost brand-new to Luke and totally brand-new to Eleanor anyway. So their advent surprises have ranged from Christmas plates to a nativity, and from singing snowmen to holiday pajamas.

After they open the bag, we put up the decoration or play with the toy and then read the books.

Next we might sing a song, depending on their moods (Erik and I love the singing segment but the kids often lose focus here). We finish by reading part of the Christmas story from one of our children’s Bibles. Our hope is that by going over and over different pieces of the story, seeing different people come to hear and rejoice over Christ’s birth, L and E will have time for the wonder to sink in of God coming to dwell among us. It’s hard to find the right advent ‘balance’ between fun childhood activities and the life-changing message of God’s love through Jesus. But we’re working on it and pray that God will use us to point the Christmas season festivities back to the greatest Gift that motivates them all.

The first few nights of advent Luke was so delighted that it took him forever to settle down to sleep. Then the next morning he would come charging into our room extra-early to request another advent time! Here’s a pre-advent-time dance pic to attest to the kiddos’ enthusiasm.

Thankfully Luke’s mostly fallen into the routine now and is sleeping better. So now we’re all loving our special evening family time!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Our friend Jake

It seems our home is making a name for itself in snake circles. Slithering guests Hissy and Bully have now been followed by a permanent resident of the reptilian class. He descends from ancient cobras and is distinguished by gleaming red eyes. Fortunately this most recent critter is a little more predictable than his predecessors, thanks to a hand-held remote controller. We’re all quite fond of Jake {the Snake}.

It took the longest for Jake to earn Eleanor’s trust. Even now she still has moments of gleeful concern, but she squeals with joy when she wields the controller and will bravely dash in to save people from Jake in the little game we play.

Luke has mastered the controller, and delights to slither Jake forward full-speed to strike his target. Oh the peals of laughter that follow each bold attack!

Every once in a while, in dim lighting, I start at Jake’s suspicious silhouette in the corner of the living room. But those few moments are far outweighed by my appreciation for Jake’s sturdy construction and easy-to-use buttons. He has freed me up to accomplish more than one household task. Thank you so much H, G, and J for sending him to us. We take good care of him – as you can see he’s become quite comfortable here, even in our private med clinic!

PS: I just love all three videos here from Jake’s first few days with us, and there are a few more photos here.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Feast with friends

Thanksgiving morning, our kitchen fell prey to a shocking predicament. We were ready too early! The turkey package instructed cooking for 5 hours, and we loaded our lady bird into the oven a touch early to be sure. But then at just 10:15 a tasty turkey aroma enveloped our home. I tried to believe that she couldn’t possibly be done, but when we checked her at 10:45, she was already 15 degrees above the target temp! Ay caramba! Fortunately the internet came to our rescue with a ‘turkey emergency’ website. We quadruple-foil-wrapped our birdie and kept her warm until the meal, and she only dried out a little.

What a fun feast it was, followed by a lovely walk around our neighborhood to see the sun set and luminarias light up rooftops. {I’m quite taken with the southwestern Christmas tradition of luminarias -- candles in paper bags lining walkways or rooftops -- and am hoping to get a set now that we have a stucco home.}

We spent the rest of the weekend with a few more casual get-togethers, some little projects, and lots of relaxed family time. A perfect holiday!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Our first Fiesta

Somehow Erik and I managed to live in Albuquerque for four whole years without ever properly attending her annual Balloon Fiesta. But last month we remedied that and were so smitten by the beauty and excitement of the event that we can’t wait to go back next year. Plus, our new house affords a spectacular overlook of the balloon dotted city to entice us.

The ten-day festival was long enough for Luke and Eleanor to fall into the routine of running to the window each morning to look for balloons. Then we’d take to the driveway in our PJ’s for a closer look, watching to see which way the balloons traveled and where they would land.

Our first official event was the evening balloon glow, during which the balloons all inflate, filling the field with glowing jewels of light. But first Luke fed his need for speed with some rides down the super-slides!

Even more than the Fiesta, my weekend highlight was having Papi in town! We were delighted that my dad’s business trip brought him out our way.

After a little time for sideline attractions, twilight fell and the balloons began to glow, sometimes blinking in unison and swaying in the light breeze.

As it got darker the balloon lighting grew even more surreal, as you twisted and turned through crowds in a forest of glow. {Made much brighter below by Erik’s slow shutter on a tripod.}

The next morning we underestimated the notorious Fiesta traffic a bit, and saw the first of the 500+ balloons ascend from Solveig.

We feared that we might miss much of the spectacle, but thankfully traffic sped up and there were crowds of balloons left to launch when we arrived.

It was chilly, and early, but the kids were mostly enthralled.

The balloon propane tanks flashed flames and whooshed noisily slowly giving form to limp plastic that awoke in wild shapes.

All around us the riot of colors and shapes soared off filling the sky.

There was always a new shape to point out in the sky or puzzle at as it filled on the ground. Here Spidey-Pig and Lion King face off.

And my favorites, the classic bumblebee lovers.

Instead of being kept behind caution tape, the crowds stream freely amidst the balloons. In fact, if you aren’t watching your step you might trip on the anchor ropes held by the ground crew or bump into an inflating balloon.

We didn’t get quite that close because the propane tanks were so noisy, but we did catch a basket photo op.

By mid-morning we were starting to run out of steam, but nonetheless we all left exhilarated. Being so close among the balloons as they filled and sailed away, it felt like we were part of the ascension event, rather than mere spectators. What a blessing to find more and more to love about ABQ each year, even though we do miss being closer to family and friends. Any more visitors for next Fiesta? (:

{More pics here.}

Under the sea with L & E

After their initial debut at Luke’s preschool party, Luke the Shark and Ella the Fish paddled back for Halloween, ably crossing boulders and bushes alike.

They checked on their glitter-painted pumpkins,

Biked the perimeter,

And inspected our pebbles.

We had to watch out because you never know when a shark may sneak up…

And ATTACK!!!!

After our backyard photo shoot, we had a lovely time trick-or-treating with friends. Happy Halloween, from the cutest pair of fish in the sea!!

{More Halloween pics here.}