Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Arizona is always awesome

We've been a little too busy basking in the sunshine and fun with family to take pictures of our trip so far, but here are a few highlights:

- We went again to see the lights on Cherry Lane, and this time the girls were head over heels for all the penguins, Santas, and lights - they were dragging us from house to house!
-Elena smacked her hand (purposefully) into a catcus - a mistake she is unlikely to make again.  While pulling out the prickers she told Christina she didn't like the "citrus" so it may steer her down a path without lemons or oranges, too!
-We went to the Phoenix Children's Museum, and enjoyed it just as much as ever.
-We have twice pushed the baby carts around at Trader Joe's, in utter delight.  We may have eaten more than our share of Peppermint Joe-Joe's, too.
-We swam in Nana and G-Daddy's pool.

We did take pictures today, for two exciting events.  The first was a trip to Smeek's candy shoppe, which was delightful.
Did anyone see that girl swipe a candy??

Somehow, even though she is checking out the taffy, she is licking chocolate off her finger...hmm, something got away from us here!
Fun to fill up your own little box with candy delights - and Santa filled his bag, too, while the girls played at the toy shop next door!
Then we headed over to Steve's grandmother's house for a big family get-together.  It was wonderful - one of the easiest, happiest parties we've ever had with the girls.  After an initial bout of shyness, both girls warmed right up to everyone.  Elena saw a TV on, and headed over to snuggle into the couch near Uncle John and cousin Megan.
Megan became a fast friend - absolutely engaged with the girls for the hours we were there.  Cousin Rachel did the same - and Steve and Christina sat on a couch eating pie, sipping coffee, and telling stories with the other adults - amazing!!
Our girls were the only two little ones in attendance, and they had the attention of everyone in the house.  They took full advantage, too.  At first they were monsters, running into the room to scare us (Elena doesn't see Uncle Billy behind her, just about to scare her right back!).
Then they played a game where Elena was a kitten and Clara was a puppy, and both girls were on leashes Megan would hold (imaginary leashes, that is) and they'd come into the main room and "lick" everyone and get petted on different people's laps.  It was so funny!

It was also, apparently, utterly exhausting.  For the first time ever we carried Elena from a carseat, sleeping, laid her down in her bed, and she turned over and never woke up.  Clara woke up momentarily to get some water, then she also just turned over and went to sleep.  THANK YOU COUSINS!  And all the wonderful family who loved on the girls tonight.  We are so happy to have  celebrated early Christmas with you!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas countdown continues

We haven't been posting every day of our Christmas countdown, but the girls have been having a really fun time opening a different envelope every day - they always ask what we're going to get to do that day.  Yesterday it was have a family picnic dinner - we tried for a Christmas-y theme by making the girls candy canes out of chicken and cranberry sauce, and we sprinkled "festive" peas all about. 

Today we went to our annual neighborhood cookie-making party.    It's been enough years now that the girls now have a good idea of what to do and how to help.  This year they helped mix a batch of the sugar cookie dough.
Our neighbor Linda had set them up with a nap area, in case they needed some down time.  They just loved running in for a "reading nap" and although their eyes never closed it was a nice space for them to get away from the cookie activity here and there when they needed to.
Most of the time, though, they rolled and cut and sprinkled and shook sugar and just had a blast.
Some of our creations:

One girl there, Emma, was especially sweet to the girls, and took them for piggyback rides.

We can only hope our girls will be this sweet as a preteen!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Soft Dog's Birthday

Today was a snowy, snowy day.  But that was not the most exciting thing about it.
Today was Soft Dog's birthday!  Elena had asked a month or so ago when his birthday was, and we said it was near Christmas.  We decided today was the day, so when the girls woke up we announced that it was Soft Dog's birthday and both girls were beyond excited!

We went to have "Doughnuts in the Dark" as the girls named it - we took Soft Dog and headed out for doughnuts at 7am, when it was indeed still dark.  Then we bought Soft Dog a balloon.  We came home and baked him some cupcakes (they were really corn muffins...shh!).

While they were baking, the girls worked on some ornaments they had made (salt dough -that stuff is great!) that they were making for some people who help us.

Then we put candles in the finished "cupcakes" and sang happy birthday to very dear, dear Soft Dog.
Elena wanted to invite our friend Rachel over for the birthday party, so we did.  She took the girls outside for great snowy fun.
Clara has this devilish look because she is coming at Christina with a snowball. 
She got me!!
Rachel conned the girls into helping her "wash" her car with the new snow.

Then she initiated a super-fun game - throw a girl into a snowbank!  Clara especially loved it.
Elena especially loved the snow angel part.

And that is how we celebrated Soft Dog's special day.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

One of those days

Lately, if we are saying "It's been one of those days" it means one of those days that has tested our patience, our intuition, and our sanity - two three year olds are wreaking havoc on all three of those things.  But today, when we say it was "one of those days' we mean one of those days we dreamed about as we waited for Clara and Elena to come into our lives.  It was simply a wonderful day.
We started out by doing our family Christmas (before we travel, so that we make good use of our tree and we don't haul our presents around the country).  Christina color-coded the presents, so the girls ran upstairs and began assembling a pile of "their color" presents.  Who is that little girl behind the tree, grabbing the big present?

Christina's mom always hand made at least one Christmas gift for all of her children, and Christina strives to do the same (four years down!).  Here the girls open the Princess and the Pea play sets Christina made them this year.

(Later when we asked them what their favorite present was, they said they liked the doll with the rock in her bed - hooray!).

Both girls were also into the giving part of the event - even before they were done opening their gifts they were bringing us our gifts and insisting we open them.


 Steve got Christina this beautiful necklace that is an image of two adults and two children in a hug - the girls absolutely adore picking out who is who in the necklace.  Beauty and entertainment in one!
We let them open presents that had been sent early, too - thank you Grandpa and Grandma Mary, for the new toys the girls were THRILLED with.  (Auntie Laura made us open hers earlier than today, and so let us add that the girls loved those gifts, too - we just didn't get a picture of the opening!).

After some chocolate chip waffles, we had fun with friends who came over for coffee and play.  Clara and Elena taught their friend, Scott, how to babysit them - as an eight year old, he is just getting the skill!  He taught them how to play football, and brought a new level of excitement to hide and seek!

Then, it was off to an ice-skating party!  Clara and Elena have never ice skated, but they have watched their favorite tv character, Madeline, do it countless times, and they were thrilled to try.

They were actually really good at it, for being only three!   They got the hang of walking on the skates inside really quickly, and then when they went to the ice they did great, although we never let them go off on their own.  Clara needed two-hand holding most of the time, but she was excellent at gliding.

And Elena was pretty good with only one hand held most of the time, and she started getting the hang of sliding her feet in the right alternating pattern so that she was even doing some of the skating herself!  We'll definitely be going back.
After decompressing at home for a bit we had a tamale-making party, with just the four of us.  They unfortunately turned out a bit too spicy for anyone but Steve, but it was great fun making them and we now have tons (local friends, let us know if you want any!).

We listened to Christmas music, watched some Christmas movies, and the girls had long bubble baths.  They went downstairs and insisted on reading to one another in their beds, and they didn't fight once!

Not only that, but this peaceful one is the one the day ended on for them - they both drifted right off to sleep as soon as we turned out the lights.  AMAZING!

We are so grateful for our good fortune - and so glad to have had "one of those days!" 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Oh, Christmas tree

Today we set out on our annual pilgrimage to Ovando with our neighbors to cut down our Christmas trees in the forest.  As tradition goes, we had lunch first at Trixie's, which was as yummy, fried, and fun as ever.
They had hoar frost all over up there;  it was really beautiful.

Our intrepid group, ready to head out to get our trees!
We tried a new part of the forest this year (Christina sprained her ankle a week ago, and was hoping not to have to climb so much of the mountain this year!).  Our friends brought a sled, and Emma began pulling Clara off into the forest.
Soon Elena jumped in too, and Steve took over the pulling.
As is their fickle way, fairly soon into the forest Elena and Clara both decided they didn't want to sit in a sled anymore.  Being the fantastic Dad he is, Steve toted and guided them, while Christina semi-hobbled and followed behind taking pictures.  Here Clara was telling Christina: "Look, it's a tunnel!" about this tree bent over the path.
Super Dad, the tree chopping champion!

Clara, oh Clara.  Without saying too much that will embarrass her in later years, let's just say that she frequents a restroom more than almost anyone we know.  And she's very good about it, and hasn't had an accident in ages, and really doesn't want to have an accident, either.  And even after three trips to the bathroom at Trixie's, she found herself in the middle of a snowy forest.  So she and Christina headed back to the car a little bit early.

Steve took care of getting the tree out of the forest, while neighbor Blake took over getting Elena out of the forest!  You can see Elena didn't mind a bit.

Elena got her photo collage a few days ago - here is Clara, in her may faces of pout and prettiness.  (We had some time to kill at the truck while we waited for the others to find their trees).
Steve trimmed up the tree on the side of the truck, and then turned around and told Clara that this was our tree.  You can see she mostly knows it's a joke...mostly.
Favorite post-tree-cutting ritual - hot chocolate with candy canes!

We were trying for a good group shot in the woods.  The light was waning, but we got a pretty good one:

Clara didn't have an entirely bad time...she and Christina got to get over their frustrations and have lots of silly time together.

And little snow-loving Elena got lots of sledding time in with her Dad and Blake, so she as pretty happy too.  We had the fewest tears on the drive we've ever had (actually - no real tears!! Just  bit of whining) and we attribute that to their vast maturity and also the fact that we let them watch Frosty and Rudolph shows in the car.
As we were leaving Ovando, we saw these elk passing over a ridge.  We stopped and stared.  Christina later commented that she was thinking how beautiful they looked.  Steve commented that he was thinking he'd found his next hunting spot.  Hmmm....
The tree was full of snow and ice when we got it home, so it is currently thawing and dripping - tomorrow morning, we decorate!