Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Breakfast With Santa 2011

While I was in the hospital, I missed the annual Breakfast With Santa. Jeff remembered to take a camera...but the pictures didn't come out well. I hope the kids have good memories of it since the pictures...are barely blogworthy.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Dinner

We lounged about all day, the kids playing with their new toys while Mom rested on the couch watching Hallmark channel holiday movies. When night fell, it was time to head up to Grandma & Grandpa's for dinner.

Everyone arrived...for Grandma's famous croissants. The Christmas miracle is always if they make it to the dinner table without being eaten.

The kids got at the gifts before dinner; Bayley loved his Legos and starting building them right away. Hayden wasn't in the mood for his How To Train Your Dragon book set, so he opted for putting together his Ninjagos. Grace simply liked twirling about, as usual. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Morning

 By franitcally monitoring NORAD's Santa Tracker, the boys decided Santa must arrive just after midnight. And be in a hurry, since there is so much to do. They told everyone (Grace, Mom & Dad) to be sure to be asleep early so as not to miss their shot with the big guy.

Hayden was in Mom & Dad's room at 6:30, announcing that Santa had been here. We coaxed him into ten more minutes, so he brought in the reserves -- Bayley. We snuggled them until they couldn't take it anymore and woke up Grace. They all raced downstairs, thrilled by the gifts under the tree. Gracie shouted, "Thank you, Santa!" which became the mantra for the morning.

As did "Santa is kind of a pig." Apparently the boys weren't expecting the jolly one to down three cookies AND a cupcake.

Grace loved her new plush horse stable, Hayden his lego boombox and Big Time Rush CD, and Bayley seemed unaffected by everything except the Wii Points. OK, then.

After checking that there were still Hanukkah gifts to be had for the rest of the week, the kiddos started playing. The boys on their DS's thanks to Bayley's Action Replay score, and Grace with her Little Miss Muffins.

Once our cinnamon roll breakfast was finished, the boys escaped upstairs to try out their Skylanders gift from last night, and Grace followed with her new tray of cupcakes to play 'restaurant' with them.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve

We were late to the annual McCauley Christmas Eve dinner...and it started on time! Very odd, since these events notoriously run on McCauley time.

Hayden attacked the Swedish meatballs, while Bayley was all about the refrigerator rolls. Grace was more adventurous and went after Uncle Jim's rice pudding and Aunt Mary's jello salad (two helpings of each!).

We talked of new jobs and of the cousins who couldn't make it home this year. I'm excited for stories of Colorado & Switzerland when they return.

I think this might be Grace's last year in the family high chair... It's never out of use for more than a few years :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Bayley Christmas

Uncle Matt & Aunt Courtney hosted the Bayley Family Holiday Brunch again this year. Everyone raved over the bubble bread so much last year, Courtney made two this year - one with nuts and one without.

The kiddos had fun running about, dodging the mistletoe, opening gifts...the biggest hit had to be the mustaches. Who knew?

We also took family portraits at the end, trying out our camera skills. The funny part? Dan - with no camera classes at all - did a great job with ours.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Wonderland

Since I wasn't up for walking around the zoo for Zoolights, we opted to view the lights at Winter Wonderland at the raceway. It was great to get to enjoy the lights and stay warm at the same time.

For the drive up there, we got kids meals and let them munch. By the time we arrived, the chocolate milk had them excited to see anything at all. They gave us a CD of holiday music, a bag of candycanes (because my kiddos hadn't had enough sugar) and let us on the track.

We liked how they had displays for each of the 12 days of Christmas, and some of the sillier set-ups like the juggling dinosaur. about five minutes in, Grace wanted to get out and play, and Bayley had a fit of the sillies, but other than that normal business, it was a hit.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Countdown

We had so much planned in the run-up to the holidays...and then, I wound up in the hospital for a week.

Grandma Bobbie rushed down to help with the kids for the first few days, and Grammo & PopPop arrived as reinforcements. The activities in the Santa advent calendar had to be paused...and rethought.

Cookie day didn't have to mean baking, it could mean eating cookies. Walking through Zoolights could be driving through Winter Wonderland.

It was wonderful to have so many friends visit me in the hospital, but as lovely as the distraction was, I missed my kiddos painfully. So much so that I talked my way out of my festively decorated hospital room in time for the first night of Hanukkah.

I have to take it slow and not fall into doing all I normally would, and follow a bizarre diet, but being with my babes is worth the effort.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Tree!

A local Christmas tree farm offered a tree to some friends of ours who's son is battling cancer. We wanted to support such a generous place, so headed there for our first u-cut Christmas tree adventure.

The weather was cold, but clear, with ice on the ground that crackled beneath our winter boots. We were after a Nordman, a tree we'd heard of because it doesn't release po
llen (for Jeff) and doesn't drop many needles (for me). We wanted a tall one since our tree last year seemed short.

Bayley selected a great one, but on closer inspection it had lots of brown needles on the inside, so we kept looking. Funny, as we picked trees they seemed to get taller every time. Jeff found the perfect one and got to work with the hand saw while the kids played Marco Polo through the maze of trees.

Lucky for them, the tree had a really thick trunk, so they got in lots of play time while Daddy hacked the tree down. They called to us whenever they found something new - frosty spiderwebs, mushrooms, stumps where people had oddly left the bottom two feet of the tree behind.

Once the tree fell, it was up to Daddy and his soon-to-be boy scout to carry it back to the truck. When we thought about a tall tree, we never considered how heavy it would be. They did a great job, save one point where Bayley fell and the tree did a head stand.

The tree got hoisted onto the roof, and the boys got in some play time while Grace opted to warm up in the truck with a graham cracker. They're not usually into having their pictures taken - OK so Bayley hates it - but they were all about posing for some reason.

Once the tree was secured, we all took off our muddy boots and the kiddos ate their grahams on the way home.

We're all excited to decorate the tree tomorrow!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Giving Tree

Every year we find a giving tree and the kids help me pick out the gift the child requested. When the tree in the gym lobby got decorated with tags, I gave the boys the job of picking one out while I was at Zumba.

When I came to get them, they asked if they could both choose a tag this year...and since they already had, plus we've been truly blessed this year, I agreed. The tags they selected were for little boys who'd asked for shoes, which the boys found sad. Some of the other tags were for a kareoke machine and toys, but the boys thought the kids who asked for shoes probably needed a gift more than the other kids.

They wanted to give some of their toys to the boys, but the gifts had to be new. We decided to pass on the toys instead.

Last holiday season Grandma & Grandpa gavet he boys each $20 to spend on charity. I've suggested things throughout the year, but nothing motivated them to give, until the giving tree. They wanted to spend their $20 on a fun gift for their boys, while Mom & Dad sprang for the shoes. Deal.

We're so proud of our boys for thinking of others. They truly have the holiday spirit.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cocoa With Claus

Our gym put together an event that wasn't quite what we expected. I don't think it was what they expected either...since they started setting up AFTER we'd been told to be there. Um...yeah. Such a great idea with an impatient toddler in tow. Especially on a day where she'd opted out of naptime.

The boys really enjoyed the giant bounce house and slide. Grace wanted to enjoy it, she was quite excited to look at it, but the idea of going in plain freaked her out. Even Ava and her friend Adilyne from school couldn't coax her in.

Once the gingerbread man decorating station opened, she had something to do. Get sticky. I got the kids cocoa, but Grace was only interested in licking the whipped cream from the top. Hayden declared the cocoa undrinkable, and Bayley thought it was watered down. That's what I get for making Swiss Miss with milk instead of water - cocoa snobs!

Grace was exited to see Santa, not so excited about getting close to the big guy. Bayley decided he's too old to sit on Santa's lap, but he wanted to be sure to get his wish list passed on. I hope I'll get a good shot of all three of them at Breakfast With Santa next weekend.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Jeff's Trips

When Jeff takes off for a wind farm, he always hopes he'll have time to climb a tower. He loves the view, and talking with the people who work with the turbines in reality, instead of on paper the way he does. I always tell him to take pictures, but he never remembers a camera. This last trip to Mojave I zipped a camera in his jacket pocket.

Most of the snapshots were too blurry to make much out, but these are the few that came through. Now that I know he'll use it, I'll send him with a better one. I gave him the camera Hayden uses in case it didn't make it back with him. And it almost didn't.

They get project jackets whenever they go to site builds, so he and his project manager had matching jackets. They didn't come home with their own. Luckily, all was resolved at work the next day.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Advent Begins

Last year my friend Paula made the kiddos a Santa Advent calendar. They were excited to bring it out again this year to see which activities had been stuffed into the pockets.

This year, I tried to make the activities easier on all of us. We started off with holiday puzzles, and followed up with holiday movie night, hanging lights, bubble baths, and making snow (science experiement). Outside activities (like Cocoa with Claus, Breakfast with Santa, Nutcracker, Zoolights) count as the activity for the day. Last year, I kept the at home separate and it made me more frazzled than usual.

I'm excited for Write the holiday letter and Mail holiday cards. Not sure the boys are though!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Not Quite Red Velvet Beet Cake

The mommy-guilt can really get to a writer who's had her head in a novel for an entire month (ahem, NaNoWriMo anyone?). I stepped into the kitchen to try and ease some of the angst the family collected while surviving on skillet meals and crockpot fare.

Bayley is allergic to red food coloring. If you're kid is going to have a food allergy, it's teh one to get. I mean...if it's red, it's not for him. Easy. And he gets a rash, not some scary rection. No big deal most of the time.

He only really mentions it for two things - Fruit Punch Kool-Aid and red velvet cake. Not a lot I can do about either, being red is part of their schtick. Except I got to thinking...what if there were a natural way to color the cake?

I found lots of recipes online, with lots of different results. I combined a few in what I hoped would give me the reddest cake. The reddish brown. BUT it tastes like red velvet cake. That dense, rich with hint of cocoa flavor. I suppose it's not the best recipe for Valentine's Day, but I think the tall boy appreciated the effort.

1 ¼ cup - sugar
1 cup - (1 stick) butter, softened
3 - eggs
2 cup - cake flour
½ cup - unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp. - baking powder
½ tsp. - baking soda
1 tsp. - salt
1 cup - buttermilk
2 tsp. - balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. - vanilla extract
1 can shoestring beets, pureed

Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs. Sift the flour and dry ingredients. Add the beets to the butter mixture, then half the flour, then the buttermilk, vanilla, and vinegar, then the rest of the flour. Bake as you'd like to serve, we tend to bake in 13x 9 pans (45 minutes).

I frosted it with my go-to cream cheese frosting. 1 brick of cream cheese, 1/2 a stick of butter, 3 cups powdered sugar, 1 t vanilla.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Salmon Release

Bayley's 5th grade class took part in an education program through the Fish and Wildlife Department where they got to learn about salmon by raising them from eggs. Once the fish had matured enough to lose their yolk sack, they needed to be released into the Tualatin river.

On a chilly Saturday morning, most of the kids from class and their families gathered at a local park to watch the kiddos send their fish into the river.

Their teached helped the kids scoop the fish into a baggie of water, then they took the baggie to the waters edge and released the fish. It was a little murky, but they managed to see them swim away.

Bayley really enjoyed this unit. There were lots of learning opportunities between egg and fry. I remember the kids being very excited by the effect of light on the newly emerging fish. This, and last year's Columbia Gorge field trip, have really taught Bayley a lot about salmon.