Monday, December 30, 2013

The Days Before Christmas

The time preceding Christmas is always my favorite, when there is a cozy anticipation in the air, along with the smell of baking goodies and the sounds of classic holiday tunes. The only thing missing was the snow, so we had to make extra paper snowflakes this year. For Misha's holiday party in school, the children threw crumpled paper snowballs at each other and then taped them together to make a snowman. Oh, poor Texas children!

First things first - let's get that Christmas Countdown calendar going!

Sebby made one too this year.

Making greeting cards with tons of glitter.

Paper chains unlimited 
The boys created a hammock.

Up next - gingerbread houses from graham crackers, frosting, and baby m&ms.

Our best work.

We visited a Festival of Lights at a park.

No shoveling, but we swept up leaves!

Face of contentment

Daddy's rubber-band instrument turned out great.

Projects in the house - painting the front room

We painted mountains up the stairs. 

Sebby came home from school saying, "I saw Santa AND Elmo!"

Trips to the park to admire the snails.

Making 3D snowflakes.

Misha winterized his room.

Decorating stockings

Making up their own Stratego rules

Sharing a shake

Delicious fudge - four flavors

Peanut butter balls!

Sugar cookies with seven colors of frosting. My most elaborate yet!

We found some great second-hand bikes!

Josh has since painted Sebby's white. :)

Trying out the pogo stick we found for Bud.


Christmas Eve dinner!

A view from outside

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Road Trip to Albuquerque

For Thanksgiving, we did a crazy 15-hour road trip to Albuquerque, because as fate would have it, many of Ashley's relatives as well as Bud's and Josh's live there. It was a great chance for Josh to see his mom after two and a half years - and if he had waited any longer, he would probably never have lived it down! Aside from the harrowing drive, the trip worked out well. The kids loved seeing Grandma Kate, and our little family of four really enjoyed staying with her in the house where she is renting a room. The family she lives with is amazingly generous, and as an additional perk, they have the hugest, furriest, sweetest Japanese Akita that we all loved.

For Thanksgiving day itself, all of us joined Ashley's relatives at her uncle's mansion, snacking on delicious appetizers, feasting on turkey and all the trimmings, playing, talking, and singing. The impromtu talent show put on by her aunts, uncles, and cousins reminded me quite a lot of my own family reunions.

Albuquerque itself is incredibly beautiful, with scruffy desert plants adorning front lawns, natural sand-colored adobe buildings, and the majestic mountains looming to the east. Though the weather was chilly, the sun was smiling most of the time, and we managed a brief trip to the mountains to walk around. Unfortunately, we all came down with colds over Thanksgiving weekend, which prevented us from doing extended mountain walks, but at least we got to do something. Misha and Sebby had been asking to see the mountains, and Sebby had the cute (but mistaken) impression that we could simply walk right into the mountains from our house, though they were a good half-hour drive away. When we finally released the boys at the foot of the mountains, a block from where Josh's grandfather had lived, they took off up the mountain, two wayfarers making their way over the sandy, rocky, cactus-riddled slopes. They didn't want to stop, but the setting sun provided a natural reason to descend.

Reunion with Grandma Kate

Grandma Kate with her sons and grandsons

The beautiful Akita was so friendly with the kids.

Bud and his Aunt Dora

Game night - Ashley and her nephews


Misha's new box robot :)

Roaming the streets of Kate's neighborhood, where Sebby wanted to keep walking until we reached those mountains in the distance.

Chicken tortilla soup night!

My handsome husband and me

Off to the Thanksgiving party!

Ashley at her aunt and uncle's

Brining out the food

Sebby going all out in the musical room

Let the feast begin!

On our last full day, we visited the cemetery to look for the graves of Josh's grandparents and father. No one could remember precisely where they were, so we spread out and scanned the rows and rows of stones with interesting names and inscriptions, some covered with fallen leaves and some adorned with flowers. Misha was so proud to be the one who found the Kula graves.

Now for the beautiful mountain shots. Note the prickly pears, yucca, and (perhaps?) the cane cholla cacti.

Snow at the bottom of the mountains.

Off they go!