2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 22,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 5 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

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What Are Wisconsin Children Made Of?

When you’re from Wisconsin like my family is, you have to have some thick blood. The winters here are long and cold. People here are well versed on driving on icy roads and having fun in the snow. A blizzard doesn’t scare us and school closings are few and far between. We are tough.

I shouldn’t actually lump us all together. I used to be tough. I could stay outside for hours upon end playing in the below 0 degree weather when I was a kid. After many years of extended outings and near frost bite several times; my feet and hands ache if I spend more than 15 minutes out in the conditions. I tend to stay home when the roads are bad after so many spin outs in my lifetime (I almost always got them under control though because I am a Wisconsinite after all) to keep the kids and I out of harm’s way.

My kids have proven this year that their blood is getting thicker. In years past I would send them outside and 10 minutes later they would be back in, dragging snow all over the house and requesting hot chocolate immediately to warm them up. I thought I had produced wimps and that they had their Dad’s New Mexican blood coursing through their veins instead of mine.

Last week, Iris and Bency built snowmen outside for 1 ½ hours. I gave them their leftover Halloween candy and they decorated their snowmen with Starburst eyes, Whopper mouths and whatever else they could find.

Iris and Bency outside building snowmen

Iris and Bency outside building snowmen

The other day I took my kids and nieces sledding at my parent’s house. Everyone stayed out playing except for me and Cesar. I was cold after 15 minutes and Cesar’s face got dragged down the length of the hill when he wasn’t quite on the sled all the way when it started traveling downhill. He called it quits right after that.

All of the kids going sledding at Grandma's

All of the kids going sledding at Grandma’s

My two older kids really earned their Wisconsin wings yesterday. They were outside for 2 hours and Iris only came in once to ask me for a plastic bowl and piece of paper.

Apparently after reading a book called Snow Babies they were inspired to build a fort for snow babies in our yard. Snow babies are similar to fairies but only live in the….snow. They made a sign that said, “All Snow babies Welcome! If you come inside, please put some coins in the bowl.”

The Snow Baby fort

The Snow Baby fort

And if the fort wasn’t enough for the snow babies they also built a wall around the perimeter of the yard to keep out the “Snow Baby Monster” (the Snow Baby Monster was completely made up by them because there are no monsters in the book we read).

The Walls of Safety

The Walls of Safety

In addition, Iris made booby traps (her words) out of icicles to fortify the safety of the snow babies. She said the Snow Monster would slip on the icicles that were placed strategically at different entrance points around the wall.

Iris building a booby trap

Iris building a booby trap

So yes, my children have finally got that thick Wisconsin blood. Snow and below 0 degree temperatures will not get in their way of having fun…until they get old like me and a warm heated house, blanket and a good book is equally exciting!

Iris and Bency

Iris and Bency

Hide the Bee

With the kids out of school this week and winter break in full swing you may be surprised as to what we have been playing.

Under our Christmas tree was many boxes filled with games and toys and though they have been dabbled in we have spent hours upon hours doing something else.

It started a little over a week ago when I was cleaning out our game cupboard and came upon this:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We have had this bee since my 7 year old daughter, Iris was 2 years old. I don’t remember where it came from….a gumball machine, I guess.

Many toys have come and gone in our household in the last 7 years. Broken, lost or just grown tired of but here sits this 2 inch bee, safe and sound… a true head scratcher and a slight jaw dropper if you ask me.

What is the significance of this silly little plastic bee you may ask?

When Iris was 2 year old I would hide this little bee in different places in the living room while she closed her eyes. She would have to come find it. A hide and seek of sorts with this little bee. This game could go on for hours with her never getting sick of it.

When my next child Bency came along all three of us would play this.

Bency is 5 years old now and we haven’t played “Hide the Bee” in a couple of years. It was replaced with the kids turning their attention to Legos, puzzles and Barbies.

When I found it the other day in the game cupboard, I immediately stopped organizing and introduced my 2 year old, Cesar to the game of “Hide the Bee.”

He was in stitches finding the bee sitting in a dish on the shelf and then later resting on a pillow on the couch. Cesar’s eye closing skills were not good…he kept peeking. When he found the bee really quick after it had been placed among a pile of toys I knew he was cheating and he got banished to another room completely to wait while I hid the bee from then on.

Cesar cheats!

Cesar cheats!

When the older kids came home from school that day they were astonished we were playing “Hide the Bee” and immediately wanted to join in. They remembered it well and said it was always one of their favorite games.

And since that day, the four of us have played hours upon hours of this simple little game.

Of course you don’t need a “bee” to play this game but I’m glad we never lost it. It’s a sweet reminder of the simplicity of childhood.

It’s a good thing we never played the game of “Find Mommy’s Sanity” because that was lost years ago and I’m sure will never be seen again.

Viva Gordita

Santa brought my 7 year old daughter, Iris a puppy this Christmas.

She was desperately hoping for a puppy. She talked about it all month long. Even though I told her I wasn’t ready for a puppy as I already had my hands full, she still held out hope that Santa would override my wishes.

Santa did indeed come through, and Iris got that puppy.

Iris's new puppy

Iris’s new puppy

I believe Santa bought this puppy at our local thrift store for 25 cents. It was supposed to be a joke. When Iris looked in her stocking and pulled it out, we all shouted, “Oh wow, look at that, Santa really did bring you a puppy this year!”

Instead of the look of disgust I was expecting, Iris’s eyes actually lit up. Her mouth turned up at the corners and she exclaimed, “This is awesome! I love Chihuahuas! He even has a beret on!”

Iris received many great gifts for Christmas. Santa knew about her love for music and singing and brought her a karaoke machine. This was new, in a box and I’m sure cost Santa more than 25 cents. My husband and I bought her a new doll and lots of other little things.

Iris liked all of her presents but as the day wore on it became clear that her “new puppy” was her favorite. She carried it around everywhere and wouldn’t stop talking about it. As an added bonus, when you squeeze the puppy’s belly it says, “Viva Gordita.”

Our Christmas day was filled with many renditions of Tonight Tonight by Hot Chelle Rae courtesy of Iris’s karaoke machine and in between …the house echoed “Viva Gordita” all day long.

I’m sure Santa was unaware about this added bonus because clearly what was supposed to be a joke for Iris became a joke on me.

When I laid down to go to sleep last night, even though the puppy was tucked under Iris’s arm in her bed, I could hear  a dog with a Mexican accent saying “Viva Gordita” over and over.

Give a Random Hug, Kick Up Your Heels and Jingle Your Bells

Last week was my children’s Christmas concert at school. I absolutely adore watching children sing. It is hands down one of my favorite things in the world.

I have been going to the same school for years now to watch this event. It started when my nieces went to school there and I would go to watch them sing. Two years ago I got to go watch my daughter Iris’s first performance and this year began the tradition with my son, Bency.

I have come to anticipate the hilarity and sweetness of this event.

My daughter’s performance was at 8:30 in the morning. Two hundred 2nd and 3rd graders filled the risers. 400 family members filled the bleachers. The children sang their hearts out, played their instruments and tried their best to get their hand motions in sync. Iris was picked to do the polka this year and her heel kicking had me in stitches! My family and I were high in the bleachers. My 2 year old son sat on my husband’s lap enjoying every minute.

Iris all ready to sing her heart out!

Iris all ready to sing her heart out!

My son Bency’s performance was at 1:30 in the afternoon. Two hundred Kindergarten and 1st graders filled the risers. 400 family members filled the bleachers. The children sang their hearts out. My family was on the very bottom bleacher. My 2 year old son was antsy. He didn’t want to sit and enjoy this performance. He wanted to run free. We tried to contain him but he kicked and whined. In an attempt to not have the gymnasium filled with screams we let him go. He stayed near us for the most part, doing spins and twirls, minding his own business.

Cesar spinning and twirling and doing his own thing during the concert

Cesar spinning and twirling and doing his own thing during the concert

I kept my eyes on Bency who decided to make up his own hand motions to the songs and put a twirl in here and there when the spirit moved him.

Bency at this first Christmas concert

Bency at this first Christmas concert

A group of 1st graders gathered on the gymnasium floor to sing a special song and play the xylophones. Cesar stopped twirling momentarily. He gazed at the performers. Something struck a chord in him because out of nowhere he ran over to one of the 1st grade girls and gave her a hug mid dong on her xylophone.

I immediately ran to retrieve him and felt hot, redness fill my face knowing the whole gymnasium of people just watched me scrape my 2 year old from the embraces of one of the performers.

As I sat there trying to recover from my embarrassment, my son Bency and his class made their way to the gymnasium floor to perform a special song with the accompaniment of bells. The music teacher began playing the piano and cued the kids to begin singing. All the kids began caroling except for Bency who stood up and began walking around and searching wildly for something. Bency lost his jingle bells.

The music teacher noticed, stopped playing the piano and announced, “I have never stopped during a concert before but this is really important.” She then proceeded to find another bell and go give it to Bency.

More redness filled my face thinking about the fact that my child was the first to ever cause a concert to be stopped before.

This was my favorite Christmas concert I have ever attended. This concert took place on December 14, 2012. This was the same day that 20 elementary children were killed in Newtown, CT. I learned a little bit about this right before I left for my daughter’s concert. I learned a little more throughout that day. Today, I know a lot.

I know that I am very blessed I got to see my children sing.

I am blessed that I got to see my 2 year old give someone a random hug for no reason.

I am blessed that Iris kicked up her heels to the polka and that Bency got to jingle his bell.

I am not embarrassed anymore.

Does Christmas Time Make You Feel Like Crying?

Does Christmas time make you feel like crying?

Iris & Cesar Dec. 2010

Iris & Cesar Dec. 2010

 

Iris Dec. 2006

Iris Dec. 2006

Or make you want to scream?

Iris and Bency Dec. 2007

Iris and Bency Dec. 2007

Does it make you grumpy?

Cesar Dec. 2010

Cesar Dec. 2010

Maybe just a bit overwhelmed?

Iris Dec. 2007

Iris Dec. 2007

Cesar Dec. 2010

Cesar Dec. 2010

 

Iris Dec. 2008

Iris Dec. 2008

Maybe, you’re just feeling a bit blah?

Cesar Dec. 2010

Cesar Dec. 2010

Well, come on dear fellow…

Cesar Dec. 2010

Cesar Dec. 2010

Take some time to think….

Bency Dec. 2007

Bency Dec. 2007

Iris Dec. 2007

Iris Dec. 2007

Sit back and relax a spell…

Cesar Dec. 2011

Cesar Dec. 2011

Anticipate the joy and surprise that Christmas brings…

Iris Dec. 2006

Iris Dec. 2006

Iris Dec. 2006

Iris Dec. 2006

Take time to act silly…

 

Bency & Iris Dec. 2008

Bency & Iris Dec. 2008

Find something that makes you smile…

Bency Dec. 2007

Bency Dec. 2007

Cesar Dec. 2010

Cesar Dec. 2010

 

Iris Dec. 2005

Iris Dec. 2005

And please folks, have yourself a merry little Christmas!

Iris Dec. 2008

Iris Dec. 2008

The Wish Catcher

As I mentioned before, I am a Girl Scout Leader for my daughter’s Brownie troop. This week we wanted to do a Christmas craft. Seeing as we are a new troop and don’t have any money yet it had to be something not only simple that this 7-8 year old age group could do but more importantly not cost a lot of money.

Two weekends ago, I went to an estate sale and bought a huge bag (about 40 unopened rolls) of crochet thread for $1.50. I put my mind to work to somehow utilize this in our Girl Scout craft and this is what I came up with:

The Wish Catcher

The Wish Catcher

After I made one it dawned on me that it resembled a dream catcher so I decided to name this the Wish Catcher.

I turned to my sister who is an amazing poet and asked her come up with poem to include with the ornament. This is what she wrote for me:

Make a special Christmas wish, as you hang me on your tree. I will catch your wish and send it out to the Christmas Wish Fairy. So close your eyes and wish away on Jesus’s Birthday each year and just BELIEVE it will come true sometime in your Happy New Year!

Supplies:

  • Heavy paper or card stock (I used brown paper grocery bag)
  • Glue
  • Crochet thread or any thick string
  • Glitter & sequins optional

Directions:

  • I traced an oatmeal container on my piece of paper for the circle (you will need two for one ornament)
  • Next, I traced a smaller bowl in the middle of each circle
  • Cut out the middle so you are left with the shape of a wreath
  • Line glue around your circle
  • Begin laying your thread in different directions
  • Once this step is complete glue your other circle and place on top to seal this together
  • Decorate with glitter and sequins
  • Punch hole and add string hanger
  • Make your wish

She Was Thinking About Him

Last week, my 7 year old daughter, Iris came home from school and said she had a sad day.

This was the first time she has ever come home and made this statement so I was very alarmed and immediately asked why.

She said, “I couldn’t stop thinking about Papa Bency (my husband’s Dad). I miss him so much. I was thinking about him all day at school and didn’t even feel like playing at recess.”

My husband walked into the room and asked what we were talking about. When I told him, his jaw dropped. He said he too had been thinking about him all day as well and had not been able to shake it.

The strange thing about this is the fact that Papa Bency passed away 12 years ago and my daughter Iris had never had a chance to meet him.

Papa Bency comes up in conversation occasionally but it had been awhile since we talked about him so there was no real reason he should have been on her mind that day and she herself couldn’t explain what caused her to think about him.

Papa Bency

Papa Bency

My husband who was still in awe that he and his daughter had been having parallel thoughts that day called his mother to tell her.

His mom was surprised too because earlier in the day, one of my husband’s sisters had been talking about how much she missed her Dad and another granddaughter who is also too young to have ever met him expressed her sadness about Grandpa Bency as well the very same day.

Is this all a huge coincidence? I have no idea. No one can know for sure.

In the past week, I have tried to wrap my mind around why four people were all thinking about the same person on the same day. Of course, I couldn’t come up with a concrete answer as to how this occurred.

I realized I didn’t need to know why it happened either.

What I did realize though is that this is a comfort to me.

Whether or not Papa Bency whispered into my daughter’s ear that day and held her hand, I do not know. I don’t know if Papa Bency guided one of his family members out of harm’s way. I don’t know if he helped them understand a problem they were struggling with. It would be nice to think this happened and that there is someone looking out for us and our loved ones.

What I am most comforted by is the fact that our loved ones can live on in our memories and be shared through our stories. That the ones we have lost or never met can always be remembered.

(when Iris was 2 1/2 she also had an experience with Papa Bency that I have posted about before and you can read here.)

You Have A Piece of My Heart

In my 2nd grade daughter, Iris’s school the word “friend” is not a part of children’s vocabulary. Everyone is referred to by BFF (Best Friends Forever). Iris calls about 20 kids her BFFs (both boys and girls). This term of endearment started in 1st grade but it wasn’t until this past summer that Iris actually learned what it stood for. She came home excitedly from a friend’s house one day and asked if I knew what BFF stood for. Before I could answer, she yammered out the answer for me and stated how unbelievable it was that she had so many people in her life that were going to be her friends FOREVER! Up until that point she just thought she had best friends.

Dear Iris,Thank you so much for being my BFF! I remember the first time we met the first day of first grade. You are the best friend I could ever have.

Dear Iris,
Thank you so much for being my BFF! I remember the first time we met the first day of first grade. You are the best friend I could ever have.

The other day, Iris came home from school and said one of her BFFs had downgraded her to a BF (best friend). She wasn’t terribly upset about this because there had not been a fight or drama. The girl just merely dropped a “F.” Iris couldn’t understand how once you make a promise of “forever” how you can just go back on this eternal promise. “Forever is forever. It never ends.” is how Iris put it. If being downgraded to a BF wasn’t bad enough, the same girl dropped Iris down to an “F” (friend) later in the afternoon because Iris put a snowball down her 5 year old brother, Bency’s coat. All of Iris’s friends have taken a shining to Bency and are all mother hens around him.

As we sat at the dining room table discussing how it’s possible to go from being a BFF in the morning to only an F in the afternoon I found myself reflecting on my own childhood friendships. I remember the excitement of exchanging gold heart necklaces with my best friend. My half of the heart read “B FR” and her half read “EST IENDS.” When you put them together it spelled BEST FRIENDS. I remember sitting perched on top of the monkey bars together and making promises to grow up and live next door to each other.

I explained to Iris that as lovely as forever sounds that it really isn’t the reality of how many relationships will be in her life. As we grow and change so do our friendships. Not necessarily because of fights or that we don’t like each other but because our interests or outlooks change. Childhood is the time to learn how to be a “good” friend and how to receive friendships too. It’s a process that takes practice and reflection like anything else. It’s wonderful to have a lot of people we call friends and if some of them stick around forever, what a truly great blessing that is.

I haven’t seen that girl that I exchanged heart necklaces with in many years. Life got in the way and we ventured down different paths and created families that keep us busy. I’m certain though that if we ran into each other we would laugh and reminisce about our childhood days. The countless sleepovers and the sledding in my backyard that always inevitably got me stuck under the chain link fence and she would have to help me get out. The sledding in her woods; which made us pros at weaving in and out of trees and stopping just before we would land in the creek at the bottom of the hill. The year she received the BB gun when she was 8 years old and how we would go and shoot squirrels in her backyard with it. And the hours upon hours we spent building forts out of tree limbs; never bothering to go in for lunch because we were having too much fun. And of course I would bring up the necklace. I still have it in my jewelry box.

Friendships have a way of making an imprint on your heart. A memory that is forever. No matter if it is a BFF, BF or an F.

My half of the heart

My half of the heart

Angry Bird Art

Yesterday I posted about the Unicorn poster I made my daughter for Christmas. Today I got my son’s art done and got both files sent in to be made into posters for their Christmas presents.

In case this is something you are interested in doing yourself, it can be a very affordable and easy present for anyone. I did do drawing and painting in addition to some graphic design to create my posters but you can use free photo editing sites. I tend to use pixlr.com the most. This way if you are not into drawing and painting you can upload a photograph that you have taken and do many wonderful things with it to make it something really unique! I then send my files into walmart.com and have a poster made for $5.97!

Angry Birds2