Home for the Holidays

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We went to one of my favorite places for the weekend.

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We left the minute school was out for the winter break, and the moment we arrived, I felt a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders.

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Home is where the heart is, and my heart is always with my family.  Knowing that I was at my parent’s house gave me such a warm feeling.  I have been sick, my littles have been sick, and it had been an emotional week – teaching, being a mom, and feeling the great sense of sadness surrounding the Newtown tragedy.

When I am at my parent’s house, it is truly like a bed and breakfast for us.  My littles are loved and tended to by amazing grandparents, our meals are hot and fresh, and our laundry is washed and folded for us daily.  I cannot even put into words how nice it is to just go home and relax.

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We started the visit with Chinese Christmas.  We had so much fun.  It was oddly peaceful to look around the room and realize that our family of 11 were at a place where we could play a fun Christmas gift exchange game, and everyone was old enough to enjoy it.  It was truly one of the highlights of the trip.

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On Saturday, we had a fun day of gift opening,

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picture taking,

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celebrating,

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and playing.

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Of course, trip would not have been complete without some kitchen time with Nonna

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and a little bow and arrow practicing.

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Going home for the holidays was such a wonderful way to begin our Christmas break.

Thank you, Nonna and Gran, for giving us a wonderful, beautiful, blessed weekend.  Being at home with you was the best possible Christmas present.  We love you!

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This Amazing Little Thing Called Family

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Each time we travel to spend the weekend with my in-laws, especially when that weekend happens to be for Christmas, I feel especially lucky, incredibly blessed.

You see…I am the baby of my family.  And, as such, I guess that my parents and sister have always done things to spoil me just a little.  It did not take my mother-in-law long to do the same thing.  Case in point.  We had spaghetti Friday night for dinner.  I do not like chunks of tomatoes in my sauce.  So, she blends the sauce for me.  She knows me, she loves me, and I love her.  I have been sick off an on since Thanksgiving, and my littles have been sick off an on since the beginning of October.  I have been doing a lot of loving on my littles, and this weekend, I needed a little mothering of my own.  My mother-in-law was happy to spoil me.

My nephew is not quite 15-months old.  Since they live about 4 hours away, we do not see them often.  When we do, it is special, and there are almost always tears (usually mine) when we part ways.  I know how lucky I am to live next door to my nieces, to be a second mom to them, to see them almost every day, and to be a big part of their lives.  While we do not have that exact relationship with my sweet Garrett, I know that we will always do whatever possible to make sure that he knows that we love him so very much.  He might not live next door, but he is always in our hearts, our minds, our prayers.

This weekend was special.  We celebrated Christmas, which in and of itself is special. However, this weekend we seemed to just appreciate each other a little more.  We all seemed to have an unspoken understanding that we are so blessed to be a family.  We are so lucky that what started out as four sixteen years ago when I met them has more than doubled into a present-day family of ten.

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This weekend, as we played outside,

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took pictures,

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opened presents,

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loved with all our hearts,

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and enjoyed just being together,

I was very mindful of the fact that I am a very blessed.

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My in-laws gave me more than just a remarkable husband.  They gave me the beginnings of my very own family, and, for that, I will be forever thankful.

Christmas 2011 – Recipe: Burgundy Mushrooms

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Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are always filled with magic for the littles.

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It all starts with Snowman Pancakes on Christmas Eve…

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Followed by a bit of present opening.

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Usually, they spend the day playing while I spend the day cooking and finishing up the final details for Christmas morning.

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It is at this point where I have to remind myself of all of the things that I have done with my littles instead of thinking about the things that I did not get around to doing – not enough crafts, books, or movies (all things that I will figure out how to incorporate more next year, when, hopefully, a few appointments, procedures, and a hospital stay will not be added into the holiday mix).  I am slowly learning, after almost 9 years of parenting, that I simply cannot do everything that I want to do.  All I can do is the be the best wife and momma that I can be on any given day.  And, I think that Sean and the littles believe that wife and momma is a pretty good one.  🙂

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We end the day with a special Christmas Eve dinner

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Happy birthday, Jesus cake,

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And, sprinkling reindeer food on the driveway.

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Letters, cake, fruit, and carrots are put under the tree,

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And, excited littles are put to bed to dream sweet Christmas morning dreams.  They all chose to sleep in the same room this year, and watching them all just filled my heart with complete and utter joy.  In that moment, all of my Christmas dreams came true.  Being a mom is truly the best present in the world.

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Christmas Day…well, Christmas Day is just pure magic.  It is one of those days where unicorns and rainbows just magically appear without even trying.  All of the work that has gone into preparing for one very special day is so worth it.

I always try to capture the looks on their faces when they see their presents from Santa.  I thought that the boys’ sweet faces were pretty priceless this year.

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After Santa presents and stockings, we moved on to unwrapping presents.

Summer quickly tore through all of hers, just stopping long enough to squeal and say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” She soaked up all of her presents later in the day, but the first order of business for her was to open, open, open as fast as she could.

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Gabriel was smiling the entire morning.  He would open one present, smile even bigger, say, “Thank you!”, put that present in an organized stack, and then move on to the next one.  He was very deliberate with his present opening.  He was savoring the moment.

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Ethan is very slow with his present opening.  And, he wants each thing opened before he moves on to the next present.  Sometimes we can convince him to wait.  It all depends on how magical, how special the present is to him.  We always give them a box of new clothes.  This year, that was the first gift that sweet Ethan opened.  You would have thought that it was a box full of toys.  His eyes lit up, and he said, “Thank you, Momma!”  He has such super-sweet manners.  Needless to say, that made me even more excited for him to move on to all of his new cars, books, movies, and games.

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After presents, we had our special Christmas morning breakfast.  And, then we spent the day opening boxes, putting together toys, and playing.

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I honestly think that the littles smiled most of the day.  Gabriel and Summer both expressed that it was “the best Christmas ever!”  And, Ethan smiled and nodded with complete agreement.

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We ended the day with a “fancy” dinner – grilled chicken, Pioneer Woman’s mushrooms, twice baked potatoes, green bean casserole, sparkling grape juice (for cheers, of course), cake, homemade ice cream, Our Best Bites hot fudge sauce, and whipped cream.

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The day was everything that I had hoped and dreamed that it would be for my littles.

And, that moment on Christmas Eve when I worried that I had not done enough?  Well, it disappeared on Christmas Day amidst all of the smiles, laughter, “thank you’s”, and “the best Christmas ever” comments.  It was magical.  It was fun.  To us, it was good and perfect in every way.

Burgundy Mushrooms

Burgundy Mushrooms

These mushrooms are slightly adapted from Pioneer Woman's Burgundy Mushrooms. Mostly, I just halved the recipe and added just chicken broth instead of the water and bouillon cubes.

Ingredients

2 pounds White Button Mushrooms

1 stick Butter

1-1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce

1 cup red wine

1 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper

2 cups chicken broth

5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 teaspoons Salt

Instructions

  1. Thoroughly wash the mushrooms and throw them into a large stockpot. Add all the remaining ingredients except the salt. Stir to combine.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for six hours.
  3. Remove the lid, then continue cooking, uncovered, for three hours.
  4. Add salt to taste at the end if desired. The mushrooms will be very dark in color. Simmer until needed. Server straight from the pot or in a serving bowl. They are amazingly awesome with grilled chicken.
http://cookingformykids.com/2011/12/28/christmas-2011-recipe-burgundy-mushrooms/