Monday, January 30, 2012

Snow Week

It happened.  After a year of waiting, it snowed in the Pacific Northwest.  Joe and I grew up in states where snow was just a winter standard.  We now live in a state where snow is the exception (at least snow in the lowlands).  Needless to say, we miss seeing snow, but we've learned to deal with our new climate.  However, when snow is forecasted for WA, we jump for joy!  We were delighted to see the arrival of the white fluffy powder early last week (as in the week of Jan. 15... I'm posting this a week late).

Evelyn caught a nasty cold two weeks ago and was still having some nose troubles when the snow arrived.  I was determined to give her outside time, afraid she was going to miss out on a rare opportunity to "play" in the snow.  So, against my better judgement as a mom, I took her outside on Sunday, January 15, just for a quick 10 minute stroll in the dusting of snow.  Our snowy adventure was short lived; Evelyn was too bothered by her runny nose and the restrictive nature of her snow clothes (several onesies, sweatshirts and jackets--- just think "A Christmas Story") to enjoy the new fallen snow.  I swear I spent more time getting her ready to go outside than the time we actually spent outside!  I was disappointed that she didn't last longer or really pay much attention to the snow, because I had such high expectations.  I was also a little sad when we came inside because I was sure the snow would be gone by morning.

I was so wrong.  Instead of being gone by morning, the snow just continued to accumulate.  By Tuesday we had a solid inch (any accumulation is a lot for us) and by Wednesday we had around 7 inches.  Joe came home from work early on Wednesday afternoon, just so we could all play in the snow as a family.  Evelyn was happy to be out in the snow by Wednesday and we enjoyed making snow angels and posing for pictures with a snowman (woman, actually) that the girls next door made!  We would have loved to have made our own snowman but time didn't allow and our little girl didn't have a proper snowsuit (footie pajamas are a great substitution for a snowsuit)!!

Evelyn sporting pj's as a snowsuit!

Thursday morning the snow stopped the fun in its tracks!  We still had about 7 or 8 inches on the ground, but now there was at least a half inch of ice on top of all the snow.  I think this was the first time we had seen icicles in WA.  Joe didn't go to work because he was fighting the same cold Evelyn had and the roads were a mess for the morning commute.  We just hunkered down for the morning and watched the freezing rain turn to sleet, then snow and then freezing rain again.  Around 11:00AM we lost our power (the power lines just couldn't handle the weight of the snow, ice and tree limbs that had fallen).  Luckily, our wonderful friends, Joe and Anna Skillman, came to our rescue.  They weren't planning to stay in their own house, for fear of falling trees, but they were headed to Anna's parents' house.  Not wanting to wait out the power outage at our house, we packed up and headed to Anna's parents' house too.

The storm dragged on well into Thursday evening.  We felt fortunate to be safe inside with friends and power.  We ended up having an impromptu sleepover party and Evelyn and Gus (Joe and Anna's son) had a great time playing together.  Our power returned around 1PM on Friday afternoon and we settled back into our condo as the snow and rain ceased.  It was certainly a memorable snow week!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Christmas Chronicles: Part 2

Every fall (because we have to book plane tickets in advance) we have to make a big decision; who will we go visit for Christmas?  Most years, we've traveled to see both families (Michigan and Massachusetts).  This year, we concluded that flying all over the country might be too much for Evelyn (and us) to handle.  Evelyn's a frequent flier already (with over 18 flights under her belt) but as she gets older, she wants to move more, and airplane seats are not designed for movement!  We decided that we would go to Michigan to spend Christmas with Joe's family and that Evelyn and I would travel to see my parents in February.  It's always tough to be away from family at Christmas, but it was really wonderful to actually get to settle in and stay put for the whole Christmas break!

One of the greatest things about spending this Christmas with Joe's family was the chance for Evelyn to play with her three cousins.  Christmas morning (in Chicago at Joe's sister, Kate's house) was full of excitement; it was so special to see all the cousins together.  Evelyn finally had her older cousins (Sean and Kylie) to show her how to properly unwrap a gift!
Sean, Kylie, Evelyn and Braden
Evelyn's new roller suitcase!
Quiet time with Grandma
Kisses for Kylie

Hugs for Kylie
Joe and Kate (his sister) treating us to a duet on the piano

Evelyn trying her hand at piano 
Hugs for Daddy

We all drove from Kate's house in Chicago to Joe's parents' house in Michigan on Christmas night.   My mother-in-law (Carlene), was hosting her family Christmas party on Dec. 26, so we needed to be back to help get the house ready!  On Christmas night, the cousins had an opportunity to open their presents from Grandma and Grandpa. 
Evelyn loved Kylie's new pillow pet
Trying to figure out what's inside the box
Checking out Grandpa's new meat grinder with Sean

Seeing Carlene's family on Dec. 26 was terrific.  We hadn't seen many of them since 2008 (I believe that was the last time we were in Michigan for the party).  It always falls right around Christmas, and we have typically visited Massachusetts first and then headed back toMichigan in time for New Year's.  

On Dec. 27, our close friends, the Dykstra's came to Joe's parents' house for a visit.  Ben Dykstra used to work with Joe at Boeing and was in our wedding many years ago.  Ben, Mary and their children (Annika and Lane) moved back to MI (where Ben and Mary grew up) over the summer.  We've missed them in WA and it was a real treat to catch up in person.  We visited for several hours and went outside for a little walk around the Joe's parents beautiful farm.  The most hilarious part of the walk was that we (me, Joe, Ben and Mary) were each wearing a different pair of Alan's (Joe's dad) boots.  It was snowing out and none of us had the appropriate footwear, so Alan was kind enough to lend us his boots (we were grateful that he gave us so many to choose from).  We should have taken a picture!!  Evelyn enjoyed reconnecting with Annie and Lane but wasn't too excited about being photographed...just see the group photos below for evidence.
Lane, Annika and Evelyn
The Sosinski's and Dykstra's together again
Happy to have a decent group photo

I mentioned that Evelyn really enjoyed playing with her cousins.  She just wanted to shadow/mimic Sean and Kylie in everything they did (I think she's just at that curious age).  She had plenty of hugs and kisses for her younger cousin Braden, but seemed to prefer playing with Sean and Kylie.  In this picture, I caught Evelyn playing with Kylie's stuffed animal, while holding a block from Kylie's toy and standing quite close to Sean's Hotwheels track.  Sean and Kylie were incredibly patient and kind to let Evelyn play with them and all their toys.

Later in the week, we went to visit Joe's Grandpa Smoker (Carlene's maiden name is Smoker).  He lives in the same town as Joe's parents.  I love visiting him because it brings back fond memories for me of my own grandparents, who are now deceased.  Certain things about Grandpa Smoker's house also remind me of my own grandparents' houses; it seems familiar or something.  Grandpa has a favorite chair in his house and Evelyn thought she'd try it out for size!  She wasn't too keen on sitting down on her great grandfather's lap, so Grandpa moved so she could have the chair for herself!

 Carlene's birthday is Christmas Day.  We managed to give Carlene her special birthday presents on Christmas, but we weren't able to make her a cake until almost a week after the fact!  Sean and Kylie helped me decorate it and Kate did all the baking!  The rest of the family helped by eating it!
Happy Birthday, Carlene!  We love you!
Evelyn "helping" Braden with his milk
Sean, Evelyn and Kylie in adorable pajamas
The rest of our time in Michigan went by all too quickly.  We were able to visit with some of Joe's best friends and their children at the end of the week.  It was great to catch up with them all!  We had a great time as a family too, playing during the day and relaxing together.  We played Scrabble or cards most nights and went out for a nice dinner at the local steak house.  Kate and I spent our final morning trying to capture a picture of all four cousins together.  I wasn't very successful at catching all four kids at once, but I did get some cute pictures!
Evelyn: 18 months old
Cousins in Grandma's rocking chair 
Giving Braden kisses
On the rocking horse in the loft where we stayed! 
In the loft with the teddy bears
Good times with Uncle Jay
Well, we're back home now and missing all of our family, but happily recalling all the wonderful times we had this Christmas break.

The Christmas Chronicles: Part 1

We began our Christmas celebration a little prematurely this year!  Evelyn was actually able to open a few of her gifts (mostly from relatives) on the eve of Christmas Eve.  Our flight to Chicago left the morning of Dec. 24, so we celebrated with Evelyn on Dec. 23 while our Christmas tree was still standing (just barely however, since we had forgotten to cut a fresh slice off the trunk when we brought it home on Dec. 3!  Needless to say, it was a little dry 20 days later!).

The saddest thing about celebrating early was that we had to take down our real Christmas tree during Evelyn's nap on Dec. 23, and bring it out to the trash before Christmas Eve even came!  Our condo neighbors must have been perplexed watching us... for all they knew, we had the dates for Christmas mixed up.  The plus side of taking your tree down and opening gifts before Christmas is that you're not fighting with anyone for space in the condo dumpsters! :)

Either way, our premature Christmas celebration was wonderful!  Evelyn wasn't sure what to make of all of it.  She could tell that things looked different in the living room, but couldn't quite put a finger on it.  I think she also felt that we (her parents) were a little off.  She could tell that we were super excited about something, but she wasn't sure what that something was.  She looked around cautiously and then started to find her stocking and some presents that were under the tree.  With a little encouragement and perhaps some extra nudging from us... she started to unpack her stocking and open her gifts.  We had to remind her every so often to keep pulling at the wrapping paper until it was all off.  Her favorite gifts were a kitten purse (thanks Aunty Sue) and a kitchen set (from Santa).

A Mini-Sosinski Christmas on Dec. 23
A Christmas reindeer from one of Joe's co-workers

Opening up raisins that she found in her stocking
Evelyn sleeps with this kitty.  She calls it "CAT."
A cute headband from Aunty Sue!
You can never be too careful when opening a gift!
A grin of approval for the stove knobs that turn and click
Showing Daddy how to use the stove

Advent: A Time of Preparation and New Traditions

As described in an earlier post, Advent came and went, mostly because of the frenzy caused by hand making 85+ Christmas cards.  With that being said, Advent was really wonderful.  I started two new traditions this year, that I hope I can keep up in the years to come.

1. I made an Advent calendar for Evelyn using an old mini muffin tin (saw the idea on Etsy).  I liked using the tin because I knew it was something that I could easily take apart at the end of Advent.  Since our storage space in the condo can be limited, all of our Christmas decorations and anything related to Christmas, must fit in two plastic bins (with the exception of our Advent wreath and door wreath).  If the bins get too full, I have to make decisions about what we can keep and what we must give away.   To avoid having to take a yearly inventory, I try to keep some space in the boxes!  Anyway, knowing that I could make an Advent calendar that I wouldn't have to store was VERY appealing!  Also, I couldn't beat the cost... I used things I already had in the house, so I didn't spend a dime on making it!

I made circles using leftover scrapbook paper and attached numbers to each circle.  On the back side of each circle I wrote one letter.  There were 24 circles in all, so I was able to spell out, "Have a very Merry Christmas!"  I then attached magnetic strips to each circle using non-permanent double sided tape, so we could switch the magnet to the opposite side when we turned the circle over.  The magnetic strips were from old "Office" themed magnets that I gave Joe as a stocking stuffer one year.  Because the magnets were just short words or phrases, they really didn't even have to be cut up!  The only drawback was that they weren't the strongest of magnets, so when I stuck the laminated circles to the tin, some would slide down, creating a domino effect for the whole column.  Next year, I will probably buy stronger magnets!  I then wrote 24 statements (mostly tasks or activities) on strips of computer paper and rolled each strip up.  I placed one in each compartment of the tin and covered it up with the magnetic circle.

Evelyn loved pulling a magnet off each day and carrying around the new strip of paper.  We usually let her pull one off in the morning before Joe went to work.  I would take the liberty of pulling the magnet off one side and turning the circle to the opposite side, exposing the letter.  Someday, when Evelyn can read, it will be fun for her to turn the circles and try to figure out what the secret message will spell out before Christmas.  This year, it was just nice to read the new letter to her daily.  She was able to identify "E" by the end of Advent.  Here are some pictures of the "no frills" Advent calendar!

2.  I made a pseudo Advent calendar for Joe.  It was a wonderful task!  At the beginning of the Advent season, I wrote down 25 statements about my husband (things I love about Joe, thoughts about our marriage, happy memories, etc.).  I wrote one statement on each strip of paper and kept them hidden away.  Each day I would sneak one strip in his lunch bag or under his pillow (if I remembered)!  It was a nice little surprise for Joe and it was a fantastic way for me to brighten his day or bring additional peace and joy into our home as we prepared our hearts for Jesus.  I pray that I can keep this little tradition up in the years to come; I'm so blessed to have Joe for a husband and I want him to know how truly grateful I am to have him in my life.

You are probably wondering what some of the activities or tasks were on Evelyn's Advent calendar.  So here's a look back at some of our favorite days of Advent (when we actually took pictures).
Getting our Christmas Tree at Sprouffske Farm 
Zoolights at Point Defiance with the Skillman's
Watching Santa swim with the sharks!
Zoolights: Evelyn and Gus Skillman
Decorating the house for Christmas: Finished product
Singing Christmas Carols...after lunch!