Still at a loss

It's been exactly one week since Kellan passed away. I'm not sure how it's only been seven days, and so many thoughts still swirl around in my brain as I process this loss of life. This hole in Christmas for us all, but especially for Kellan's family.

I struggle because it's really not my story to tell and I don't want to share things that Brad and Becky wouldn't want me to share. I did ask them both to read my last post to make sure they approved (they did), and I think for me personally I just want to focus on my own experience. I feel like I have to write it all out so that I can really move forward: a common thread throughout the many years of my blog.

Telling Truman and Cecelia that their friend is no longer here on earth was honestly one of the hardest, saddest occurrences for Nate and I as parents. We were both crying, which stunned the kids in itself. But they are just so innocent and their comments were a lot more difficult to handle than expected.

We scripted it with the following sentence, as recommended to us by my mom : Kellan was very sick. His body couldn't get better, so Kellan died. Truman's eyes got really big and worried and he said, 'He is really dead?  Kellan is in heaven?' We told him yes, he is in heaven now. Both of the kids asked 'why' a few times and we repeated the script. You aren't supposed to elaborate or go into some long explanation, but are supposed to keep it succinct and clear. Then Truman said, 'Now Kaydin doesn't have a brother anymore. I don't want Kaydin to die, too. Kellan is going to miss Christmas.' And then I sort of lost it as I watched my first born begin to cry. We told him it was okay to be sad, because we are sad, too. 

Then Truman wanted to write Kaydin a letter, which is such a healthy and typical way for Truman to process this news. He addressed it to Kaydin, Becky and Brad and wrote 'share with Lori' on there, too. He said, 'I hope that you think about Kellan to think of the funny things he did.' Truman then elaborated to us about how Kellan would make that funny sound and jump up and down when he wanted to make Truman laugh. Sort of like a wild monkey sound with flapping arms---something that made Truman giggle every single time. Then he drew a picture of Kellan with God in heaven at the bottom of the letter. Later Truman said, 'That is God taking care of Kellan,' and both Nate and I couldn't really speak for a few moments, fighting back huge tears and a sense of grief and also gratitude. Thankful for our kind boy and his ability to talk to us about his feelings. 

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Cecelia is so much younger and at age three, I wasn't sure what she would understand. When we told them both together at the breakfast table, she asked us, 'Why did my friend die?' She asked it twice before I could swallow away the lump in my throat to repeat our scrip. And 'why was he so sick?' was another frequently asked question. But that's about all she said at first--she didn't cry, but she did comment on Nate's and my tears. She seemed a little testy to Porter right after we told them. But for the most part she didn't seem to think about it much that morning.

Later that night Cecelia was crying and disproportionally upset over something insignificant (like losing a ball under the bed). I asked if she was sad and she said, 'I'm sad Kellan got sick.' She asked me why he got so sick. I gave her a huge bear hug and we talked for awhile. She said 'I miss my friend' and I cried the ugly cry, gasping a bit, and really feeling a deep sorrow as I hugged my three-and-a-half year old who was just a few days older than Kellan. Best buddies. So many memories. She missed her friend, and I was at a loss of how to make sense of it all for her. 

Since last weekend, Cecelia has been giving a lot of frequent 'I love you, mommy' statements.
She's a little more emotional and she wanted me to lay down with her one night, which she never does anymore. She hugged me, kissed me, and said she loved me. 'Don't you love my bed, too?' She said she knows I love her, too, because she is my girl. One night she randomly said, 'I hope Kellan gets better really soon. Are there toys in heaven for him? What will he do there? Are there other kids there? I wonder what heaven is like.' It's like she understands but not the finality of it, as she seems to be waiting for a day when he is 'all better.'

Tonight as she was going to the bathroom before bed: 'Hey, we are still alive! I don't want anyone in the whole world to die, Mommy. You're the best mommy ever. I don't want you to die. I love you, Mommy. I love everything in the whole wide world. ' Lots and lots of hugs and kisses from our little girl, none of them taken for granted.

Kellan's story has made the news on two different stations now. After watching Lori being interviewed on the news, the kids were excited to see and recognize her. They loved all of Kellan's pictures scrolling through on the TV and would say things like, 'hey, look at his awesome blanket there! He is laughing and running!' But once the clip was over they were both very quiet. Truman said he was sad and Cecelia just kept asking why he died. Truman has frequently said 'I'm sad that Kellan died, mommy.' And I will just tell him that it's okay to be sad, that I'm sad too, and then we think of some funny Kellan moments or things that we loved about that little boy. It's been hard you guys, but as soon as I think about that statement I feel horribly guilty.

Because, really? Hard? Hard is being the mom to Kellan, losing a son who was three years old, and losing him quickly and to an illness that is 'rare' and not supposed to happen. I feel physically ill when I think about Becky and Brad having to do Christmas without Kellan there. Reading some of their Facebook updates and even getting a glimpse into their reality right now is beyond heartbreaking. I've enjoyed my children so much this Christmas and it's been a wonderful celebration---but there is definitely an underlying weight of sadness as well. Which of course doesn't touch the severity of Brad and Becky's pain.

One very significant silver lining, one positive part of the story: Kellan was able to donate his heart, liver, and kidneys to little children who needed those organs in order to get another chance at life. Talk about the ultimate Christmas gift, the ultimate selfless act by Brad and Becky. It's just amazing to me that they could think clearly enough to make the decision to donate. Truly inspiring to make something so good come out of such a sad situation.

Also, the GoFundMe site is beyond my wildest imagination for raising money. I know a lot of you readers donated and for that I am so thankful, it's really so amazing to see everyone support Brad and Becky through this. I know everyone just wants to do something that might help--I wish we could take their pain away, but since we can't it's wonderful to take the burden of finances away. They are overwhelmed and grateful for your donations, you guys. Thank you.

As Memaw said in an email to me:
"People showing the goodness of their hearts.  Empathy in its purest form.  A reverence for life as never before. The reality that death is no respecter of age. A renewing of the mind that the tangibles of this world can never compete with what really matters. A busy world coming to a halt and requiring the heart to grow quiet and ponder what it may never have pondered before.  There is no thinking of the future, only of the now." That woman sure has a way to nail my thoughts with her words. 

Other things I wanted to mention: we found out that the strain of bacteria that caused Kellan's meningitis is NOT one covered by the HiB vaccination. So it's not like the vaccine didn't work, it's just even more rare than the Type B strain that the vaccine covers. I'm not sure if that fact makes it easier or harder to believe that this is really real, and this really did happen. The worst case scenario played out with lightning speeds and we won't ever know why. I just can't wrap my head around it. The health department finally called all of us daycare moms and of course they couldn't provide the hard answers like 'WHY', but I guess I'm realizing that this particular bacteria isn't uncommon. It's out there, it might just cause a cold or an ear infection or not cause a single symptom. It's course to progress into fatal meningitis is quite uncommon, however, and they weren't able to give solid numbers for how rare 'very rare' is in Wisconsin. I just wish I knew if this particular strain causes meningitis a handful of times each year, or every few years, or what. But again---it's so rare that there aren't even reports run on it, as per the health department lady. Perplexing, right?

Lori and her husband came over to our house on Tuesday, because she really wanted the kids to have their Christmas gifts from them. Totally unnecessary, obviously, but I knew she also wanted to see the kids for herself to know they are still well. Seeing and hugging Lori made this feel real and it was hard to fight back the tears to speak, but we somehow managed to have a great conversation. Lori was happy to see all three kids and cried when hugging Cecelia---I know CC's proximity to Kellan in age and in their time spent together at Lori's through the years made her big blue eyes and loving grin difficult to handle. But it was a much needed visit and all a part of the healing process, to face reality. I just can't stop thinking about their entire family---something that numerous people have said in comments/messages/emails. It's a hard story to get out of your head.

I've found myself in a puddle of tears when listening to music this last week. During the Christmas Eve service at church, I had to wipe my eyes many times when listening to the children's choir sing with their sweet little voices. Thinking of Kellan and how he was probably singing two weekends ago and now he is gone....thinking of how the Christmas story is so full of hope and life and excitement, and losing Kellan has been so devastating....thinking of how I know God must have a plan and this life on earth is not all there is, but taking a child away from this world is just beyond any comprehension to me. Then the congregation sang the song 'Silent Night' and although I was walking around the hallways with a very antsy Porter, I still cried at hearing the lyrics. I know Brad and Becky's house is so painfully quiet now. And sleeping in heavenly peace is such a reassuring, fragile way to think of Kellan. I hope heaven has plenty of toys for him this year, something I know Cecelia wonders, too.

I heard a new song by William Fitzsimmons called 'Funeral Dress' and it sort of took my breath away with the lyrics:

And don’t worry if laughter is on your lips
Cause you wouldn’t be you if you changed for this
And I won’t measure love from the tears that drip
From your face

I can't wait for you

-The song 'Atlas Hands' by Benjamin Francis Leftwich:
I will remember your face
'Cause I am still in love with that place
But when the stars are the only things we share
Will you be there?

-A quote that my mom found that seems so fitting:
'Grief never ends...but it changes. It's a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith...It is the price of love.'

-A poem that a friend on Facebook found:
"Little Angels When God calls little children to dwell with Him above. We mortals sometimes question the wisdom of His love. for no heartache compares with the death of one small child, who does so much to make our world seem wonderful and mild. Perhaps God tires of calling the aged to His fold. So He picks a rosebud before it can grow old. God knows how much we need them and so He takes but few, to make the land of Heaven more beautiful to view. Believing this is difficult still somehow we must try. The saddest word mankind know will always be "Goodbye". So when a child departs we who are left behind, must realize God loves children, Angels like Kellan are hard to find." -unknown

I realize this is a busy time for everyone and not many are reading blogs right now. Everyone is high on the Christmas experience and should be happy/celebrating, not reading sad thoughts from me. But I just wanted to get a lot of these thoughts off my brain and onto a post, as I process all of my thoughts. I know that many understand the experience of losing someone in their lives, so perhaps just sharing my thoughts could help someone else. So many of you have said you are thinking and praying for Kellan's family, and it's truly appreciated. The visitation and funeral are on Tuesday 12/29/15 and I know it's going to be really difficult to go, but I am also looking forward to having some closure with the services.

I hope you all had an excellent Christmas and have been holding those dear to your hearts even closer than before. I know I've gained perspective though all of this and hope it doesn't slowly slip away. Life is really unfair and scary sometimes, but it's also still quite beautiful.

Thank you readers, for listening (reading). ;)

Merry Christmas 2015

Love, the Goolias





(Card from Pear Tree Greetings)

No Appropriate Title Goes Here

The past three days have been surreal, they've been heartbreaking, they've been nearly unbearable. Now is one of the times in my life when I'm at a loss for words. I'm grieving, I'm mad, I'm sad, I'm scared, and I'm confused. But I'm determined to find a few words for you here because this story deserves it.

Our daycare provider, Lori, has two grandsons who have both grown up with Truman and Cecelia. Kaydin is two weeks older than Truman, and Kellan five days younger than Cecelia. On Wednesday after work, I went to Lori's just like I've done for five years. Kellan was there and he and Porter were playing with legos. He helped me look for Porter's lost Thomas train and was just his usual self: spunky, hilarious, full of personality.



On Thursday morning, December 17th, I got a message from Lori while I was out shopping with Cecelia and Porter around 10:30 am. She said there might be a bug going around the house, and Kellan had a 103 degree fever and had vomited. Minutes later she said his parents, Brad (Lori's son) and Becky, were taking Kellan to the ER at Children's Hospital because they thought he might have had a few seizures. By 4pm, Lori said that Kellan was in critical condition and getting a cath to the heart for faster medication administration. That night we knew he was in a medically induced coma and they were waiting for the official diagnosis for which type of meningitis. We were hopeful, albeit scared, that he would pull through this just fine and we could all tell him how much he scared the living crap out of us that one time he had meningitis.

Friday only brought horrible news, the worst possible news. First came the official diagnosis of bacterial meningitis, with the bacteria being extremely rare and one that is usually wiped out with vaccinations. It just didn't make sense. It still doesn't make sense. Kellan was fully vaccinated and he didn't seem sick prior to Thursday morning when the world came crashing down. The doctors say that before the HiB vaccine, this type of meningitis was alarmingly common and now it's not, so obviously the vaccine does usually work. Maybe Kellan's body just didn't take to the vaccine, or maybe it was a different strain from what the vaccine protects us against. Who knows, we probably won't ever really know. {Update, weeks later: the strain of bacteria was even MORE rare than they originally thought. Type F and not Type B Haemophilus Influenza. Not vaccinated against because Type F is rarer than rare.}

More horrendous news followed on Friday, as the physicians painted a very bleak picture for prognosis. Within 36 hours from the time Kellan first showed signs of anything wrong, the entire world had changed for his family. 

On Saturday, December 19th, Kellan passed away as the infection was unrecoverable. He was three-and-a-half years old. It happened so fast, nearly instantaneously. All from a rare, highly unlikely illness. Life can change in a moment, I've always 'known' that. But in this moment, I feel it in my heart more than I could have ever predicted before. We are all heartbroken. I cannot even begin to imagine the depth of sorrow that Brad, Becky, Lori and their entire family are feeling. 

When I think about Kellan's mom, Becky, never being able to kiss her buddy goodnight again I can't handle it. When I think about his Christmas gifts that he'll never get to tear open, I can't handle it. When I think about his big brother whose life has forever changed, I can't handle it. I look at Cecelia and I know I have to tell her that one of her best friends is gone and I truly cannot handle it. 

Both Truman and Cecelia know that Kellan has been very sick and in the hospital. We've prayed for him each night and to hear their innocence nearly breaks me. 'Dear God, please let Kellan get a bandaid for his owie. Or let him go to the doctor to get better.' Several people have sent us ideas on how to navigate this subject with the kids. But the bottom line is that life is really effing unfair sometimes, and there are no good answers. I believe in God, I believe in heaven, and that Kellan is up there waiting for us. But to be very honest with you, I don't know how God could allow this to happen. 

We were dancing in the kitchen this morning, and I just started sobbing as I buried my nose into Cecelia's intoxicating curls. Why are we the lucky ones who get to experience the little treasures with our kids, and Brad and Becky don't? The pictures of Cecelia and Kellan through the years are both gut wrenching and the most precious gifts. I know she is going to miss her friend but I also believe she is probably too young to fully grasp the concept of death. We are going to tell the kids tomorrow and I'm dreading it, but know it has to happen. Pray for both of them, but I have a feeling Truman will take it the hardest, my sensitive little guy.

Porter is on some pretty hard-core antibiotics as a precaution, even though many of the doctors say the chances of this spreading are basically zero. After many calls to my pediatrician, the pediatric infectious disease doctor at the hospital, and then NO call from the health department as was promised I decided that giving Porter the antibiotics would give me a slight piece of mind. Again, his chance of getting this infection is basically nothing...but I also feel like nothing makes sense, statistics don't soothe me, because Kellan wasn't supposed to get it either. So we will do meds for four days, and once the week long window of incubation ends next week on Wednesday, I might stop watching him for the slightest sign of a fever/lethargy. But actually, nothing will change my anxiety when it comes to imagining the most outlandish things happening to my children. Kellan's story has only heightened this anxiety. 

I remember Kellan's phase of running into Lori's kitchen, as I would drop one or two of my three children off before work, and he would just roar like a tiger. It was a tiger phase and he didn't want to speak, only roared at me. Lori called both Kellan and Cecelia 'sassy pants' because they sort of ruled the roost around there for a few years, when they were big dogs on campus;)

On Cecelia's final day at Lori's, two weeks ago, I remember taking a few pictures of CC with her buddies. Kellan happily posed for a few of my shots, and it was bittersweet because Cecelia and Kellan have always been so close. Two peas in a pod, troublemakers, always talking about having sleepovers and taking over the world someday, sweet talking their way into Lori's candy drawer more often than not. 

Cecelia's last day at Lori's, 12/3/15
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I remember that for the last two weeks, when Cecelia has been at home with Tony, I would sometimes take CC with me to pick up Porter at the end of my day. Most of those times Kellan seemed indifferent towards CC, almost like he was punishing her for being gone. Like he didn't really want to say goodbye, or even 'hi, there, friend!'. But then on Monday, the last time that Truman and Cecelia saw Kellan, I saw Kellan walk slowly by the kitchen where we were all standing. He grinned at Cecelia in a knowing little smirk and said, 'Hi, CC.' They hugged, she said 'hi' to him. And then he wanted to pull her into the front room to show her some toy he'd been creating. It was like he forgave her for leaving him, and to see her face light up at his affection melted me. 







We've created a Go FundMe site for Kellan's family, as I'm certain the medical bills, time off at work, and funeral costs will be an added stress for Brad and Becky. If you feel touched by Kellan's story, and if you feel as helpless as we all do, this would be a tangible way to help. I think the success of this fundraising so far speaks volumes about Brad and Becky, and about Kellan. But I also think this story really affects people because of how sudden Kellan left this world. Because of how unfair it is to lose a child. Because bacterial meningitis, and especially the strain of bacteria that infected Kellan, is supposed to be one of those things that statistics say won't likely happen. Or if it does happen, mortality is supposed to be low. His story touches people because he was so obviously loved, and because it's the week of Christmas and this family has to find a way to continue living when it seems like this loss might actually kill a person. Nothing will be the same for them, certainly.

When I think of this family and what they've endured in the past three days, and the magnitude of grief that has just landed on their shoulders, I want to cry for the millionth time. But I also want to share Kellan's story and do whatever I can to feel less helpless. If you are the praying type, I'd like to ask for your prayers for Kellan's family. It's just unfathomable. 

One final note: when I was talking to the infectious disease doctor on the phone yesterday, she told me something that brought me to tears yet again. She said that Lori and the family told her that if any of us daycare moms called, she was supposed to tell us one thing: to hold our children even tighter, to soak them in and never take a second for granted. 

Because sure, parenting small kids is freaking hard sometimes. But the things that seemed hard on Wednesday are laughable right now. Thank you, Kellan, for that perspective in my own life. Thank you, blog readers, for reading along. 



Cheers to the Holidays, Wisconsin Style

It's the final week for Savvy Sassy Mom's Holiday Blog Hop, and the topic is Holiday Dranks. Or 'drinks', if you are classy.

Yessssss, you know I love me a cocktail and I'm going to represent my great state of Wisconsin with this one today. It's not in a cute Christmas cup, there aren't holiday berries sitting in front of that glass to make the picture more festive, but this is still an excellent cocktail. It's legit Wisconsin-style: straight-forward, no frills, loved by hearty Mid-westerners, and with plenty of alcohol;)


Now, I'm told that Wisconsin has the highest sales for Brandy more than any other state in the US and that is probably because we make our Old Fashioneds with the good stuff. Not whiskey, which is the standard for an Old Fashioned, but Brandy. And here in Wisconsin, we sure do enjoy our alcoholic beverages, pretty much throughout the marathon of mental endurance that is winter. All six months of it. Hold me.

But really, the Brandy Old Fashioned is a fantastic Christmas drink. A lot of my WI friend say these are the drinks their parents used to make for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so just sniffing the Brandy brings them back to the good old days (or something).

I just made these for a girls night out I hosted and they were a huge hit. I just had to dial back the amount of Brandy that Nate and I usually include in our BOFs to make it more acceptable to the general public, since we tend to make ours eye-twitching strong. I did a post all about our beloved cocktail a few years ago but it's time that I revamp the instructions a bit (hint: we are off the Squirt kick and totally on the 50/50 kick for the mixer).

Ingredients (except not Squirt, 50/50 is my preferred):

Step one: put a little teaspoon of sugar at the bottom of your glass. Sometimes we skip this if we are feeling hard-core and not too sweet.

Step two: Add your bitters. We LOVE that Angostura brand you see above and we are not light on the bitters around here. Maybe a solid 8-9 shakes per glass.

Step three: Fruit! Add one maraschino cherry and an orange slice, peeled. A little cherry juice is alway nice, too.

Step four: Muddle the heck out of it all! We have a real muddler but a kids' wooden block or something would do just fine. I like to smash it up pretty good in there but I don't know that it matters much.


Step five: Add ice cubes. We now have very fancy 'high ball' ice spheres we should use to seem even more grown up.

Step six: Time for Brandy! I don't measure the alcohol here, which could be a problem for some. I think it's supposed to be about a shot but in the dead of Wisconsin winter, you better believe we amp this baby up with Brandy.


Step seven: Soda to mix it up, we just fill to the top of our glasses. I love carbonated drinks so much, so this part is very important to me. If you get a 'Brandy Old Fashioned Sour' in bars, they won't always be carbonated as I think they must use lemon-lime juice to mix. My version here would be more of the 'Sweet' version with soda and if you ask me, it's seriously delicious.


That's it! Enjoy your wintery/Christmas-y beverage with loved ones around the tree, making memories that will last for years to come. Or just have one on a Tuesday night if you dare. I approve;)


Holiday Checklist time

Truman's school holiday concert:

I was able to rearrange my Wednesday schedule to include some time at Truman's school for their hour long concert. This was the day that the junior kindergarteners all the way up to the third graders performed (the fourth and fifth graders had a separate program). So this basically means that when Porter is in JK, Cecelia will be in first grade, and Truman in third grade and we will have all three kids singing for the holiday concert---2018 here we come!

But this year was adorable with our big senior kindergartener putting on a show. They sang two songs (and then apparently another two at the very end with the whole group but I had left by then). I cannot get the 'snow pants' song out of my head and if you watch this video, you might feel the same way, too. The other song included drum sticks for each child and they totally nailed it, a bunch of 5-6 year olds can be REALLY good at singing in tune it seems! I was amused by the song choices for this program, although I really shouldn't have been surprised that zero songs mentioned Jesus or anything remotely close to the Biblical story/classic Christmas songs. Duh, Truman goes to a public school, but even Hanukkah had it's own song. Many songs about snowflakes and winter and cookies and Rudolph where there, but nothing about a manger or Baby J. I guess we have the next topic for that, anyway.

Christmas program at church with two kids:

This year's theme was 'A Savior for all Nations' and it was really adorable. The three year olds through the first graders all sang together for the same two songs. One was a Christmas song set to 'Twinkle Twinkle' and one was 'Noche de Paz' which was basically Silent Night sung partway in Spanish. The whole program was very international, Truman was dressed as a shepard and Cecelia an angel. Porter was yelling out various words throughout the show like 'ball!' when a video of a spinning globe came up on the walls, and 'Dee Dee!' when he saw CC. Also 'Cookie!' because he had at least three cookies from the back table during the program, so whatever. I was super proud and kind of choked up a bit at the sweetness of it all.

Before the service, all amped up.

An angel that sort of resembles a marshmallow with a crown, and a handsome shepard.

Tried to steal the show.

Cecelia front and center, Truman back right.

Obsessed with her here, such a CC face.

My big boy. (also, completely unrelated: I am obsessed with that teacher's ankle boots. I only want to attempt the bootie look if they are FLAT as I don't believe in any heels ever, no way. Are these cute? I wasn't sure they made flat ankle boots and these seem trendy but adorable. Almost stopped her after the program to ask where she bought them but didn't, regretting it now. Any idea where from? Or other similar options? And are flat ankle boots cute or hideous?)
(Edited to add: I think I found those booties online!!!! HERE)

Now CC is front right and Truman towards the back and right. I love that he is looking right at me here.

Neighborhood House Crawl:

This included a night when all three children slept over at my in-laws' house. First ever, hallelujah! It was a ridiculously fun night for all involved, and I will not show you any pictures from the flip cup tournament that happened in a neighbor's kitchen. Too many red solo cups to exhibit here, I'm afraid, too incriminating of myself and my neighbors who would not enjoy having those images on the 'nets. (Also won't show you how I looked like death the next day, suffering from an immense hangover of epic proportions. Serves me right for playing flip cup with spiced microbrews). Vomit. No, just no. (But still, yes! So much fun! Mama still has the magic touch with flip cup, kids, no worries). Kids did amazing with their sleepover, too, so it was a win-win for sure. Also we went to bed at 2 am and slept in until 10 am and for that fact alone, I wanted to kiss my in-laws square on the lips. Because I might not have survived the day/hangover without a decent amount of sleep. Next time I will try to utilize the 'sleeping in' that comes with a sleepover for all three children without copious amounts of alcohol to ensure the proper amazingness of fantastic sleep.

So the actual house crawl pics have been outlawed, but a pre-party bathroom selfie? Yes. Nate was so confused by this, he didn't know where to look and feels like it's not a real 'selfie' without using the front camera. Or something.
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Finally sewing our embroidered name patches from Etsy onto our stockings.

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This got a little tricky as I cannot really sew. I gave up on searching for the 'P' pin that would have completed our set so perfectly, since I looked everywhere with no luck and again this year--nothing. I bought the name patches on Etsy and made sure they were not the iron-on kind, since that wouldn't work with our knitted stockings from World Market. When they arrived I thought they were way too bright white and decided to stain them with a coffee soak. Google told me to do it and Google did not fail me, they turned out the perfect shade of cream to match our stockings. Then I decided I didn't love the thick rectangle shape that I ordered, so I turned down the top and bottom edges when I stitched them onto the stockings to make them narrower. Also I stuck myself at least 12 times that night and consumed approximately 2.5 glasses of wine. Very proud of how they turned out although they are very obviously 'hand stitched.' 

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Before the coffee stain and tucking of edges.
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Next up on my check list?

-Sitting on Santa's lap (the kids, not me)
-Baking Christmas cookies.
-More ordering and starting to wrap gifts.

Truman's hand-made list, should be easy enough as he is consistent with his Skylanders and Angry Birds requests.

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Really trying not to let these next few weeks become stressful with the check list stuff. It's seriously so ridiculous to worry about the 'right' gift to give our family members, but I really do enjoy giving awesome gifts that people didn't even know they wanted/needed in the first place. And yet, I realize that giving and receiving gifts are not the purpose of Christmas. Nor is getting that Santa photo, or baking.all.the.cookies. But these things are fun and I am promising myself to step back if I'm getting all over the top with the need to whip through The List. Focusing on enjoying the holiday magic with the kids and not hurrying through everything just to get something accomplished is not the easiest for me. But I'm trying to chill out and look at the big picture, which proves that life is pretty fantastic. Even if I can't find the most perfect gifts to give our family, and even if I never bake those freaking cookies. Yes, even then.

What is on your check list and how do you manage to keep the holiday crazies at bay? Wine helps, yes.

Christmas Traditions

I mentioned this on Instagram, but I totally caved and bought Elf on the Shelf for the kids this year. Or more specifically, for my daughter who has been casually mentioning her love for the Elf and how she wants us to have an Elf and how Lori showed her the movie about the Elf on the Shelf and pleeeeease, mommy? (Insert puppy dog eyes and pouty CC lips here, and tell me you'd say no to that face!)

We made it to Christmas number six with children before we caved, so I guess that deserves a medal of sorts. But really, I haven't been too thrilled with the idea of the (somewhat creepy-stalkerish) Elf because I want my kids to behave well because they are well behaved. Not because they are worried about the Elf reporting bad behavior to Santa, thus not getting all of the toys they WANT AND NEED for Christmas. Lots of thoughts on this, including my reservations with really 'doing' Santa at all. And my reservations with giving them excessive gifts (er, being the only grandchildren on both sides of the family doesn't help with this at all), and making Christmas about Santa and gifts and everything decidedly NOT what Christmas should be about.

Nate tells me to lighten up, it's fun to have the elf and fun to believe in Santa and our kids won't be spoiled brats because of the toys under the tree. I do think it's possible to celebrate the secular part of Christmas along with the Biblical meaning. Why can't Santa and Jesus *both* get the spotlight? It doesn't have to be all or none, right? We frequently talk about the real meaning of Christmas, they are going to Sunday School and learning about baby Jesus, and they get really excited about the prospect of his birthday party (ahem, possibly because of the gifts, yet again).

But I digress, because this post just got way too deep for my liking. Let's just look at pretty pictures instead, shall we?  {Side note--both Truman and Cecelia are bonkers for Candy Cane Jane, our elf, and it's quite entertaining to see their excitement each morning when they find her! She is not a crazy-Pinterest-worthy elf making huge messes or anything elaborate. But she seems to give them a little thrill, and I'm a sucker for the extreme happiness that silly little things like an elf bring to my kids.}

Candy Cane Jane has me thinking a lot about Christmas traditions lately. Apparently we are going to make the Elf on the Shelf a part of our tradition, and we have numerous others that will contribute to our memories looking back on these Christmases with littles.

Face Under The Paper Shots
This is a tradition started by my mom's family, so Memaw and Papaw were the initiators. Looking back through the pictures from my childhood, were is always one 'money shot' image from every Christmas. We always took a picture under the wrapping paper chaos/aftermath and it's hilarious to see the changes over the years. Sometimes I'm a cute little innocent three year old, sometimes I'm an awkward pre-teen, and sometimes I'm glaring at the camera as a teenager. Most of the time my brother is ultra adorable. The more I think about this tradition, the more I realize I probably love it because of my obsession with comparison photo collages. So there you go;)
All Photos-596


2011--not quite the 'money shot' but still cute!



Can't wait to force the children to do this for many many years to come!

Christmas Eve Church Service
This is just an excuse to show you my kids all dressed up and adorable. But we really do try to go to the Christmas Eve 'family' service at our church each year. I remember going to church on Christmas morning at times and it was BRUTAL to wait to open our presents until after church. I think going on Christmas Eve, then doing some gifts with my in-laws that night is a great way to spread out the madness a bit. Christmas morning has always been 'just' our little family opening gifts and I hope we can keep it that way in the future, too! But yes, church. We go on Christmas Eve and I don't hate to don festive apparel on these baby faces of ours.






Christmas Pajamas
Hardly a tradition specific to our family, but still a fun part of the holidays. With each successive child I get more and more excited for matching Christmas pajamas, too!




Two pictures from that year because, OMG, baby CC.


Yessssss. You know there will be plenty from 2015 to satisfy my desire for all things matching.

Snow Ice Cream
This is a little less generic than the tradition above, more unique to our family (perhaps?). But my mom always made my brother and I 'snow ice cream' after a fresh snow. Which, looking back, growing up in Missouri compared to my kids growing up in Wisconsin probably meant a lot fewer opportunities for the goodness of this treat! All you need is a bowl of snow, then pour in some milk, give it a few shakes of vanilla extract, several heaping spoonfuls of sugar, and then top it with food coloring. Easy peasy, delicious, and obviously a big hit with the kids. We don't just do this at Christmas so it's more of a 'winter tradition' thing, but bonus if we get a fresh blanket of snow on Christmas Day here (as if we need more sugar on Christmas, but whatever).



Fun in the Snow
Yep, not a Christmas-y thing really, but chalk this up to 'reasons why winter is somewhat tolerable in Wisconsin.' Because playing in the snow is ridiculously fun, even as an adult---but especially through the eyes of a kid. And especially when there is still a baby in the house that despises the snow, thus allowing me to come inside early with that baby as Nate plays with the bigger kids. I have this all worked out to make 'fun in the snow' JUST the right amount of fun for me.





2014 (note the pumpkins in the background, this was definitely in November but it counts!)

How is that for a walk down memory lane? What traditions does your family do for Christmas? Do you love/hate the elf like me? Most importantly, have you ever tried snow ice cream?? ;)
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