Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Tea Party 2007

Yesterday our house was transformed. It is now decorated with leftovers from another successful Christmas tea party. Bits of feather boa adorn the carpet throughout our house. Our pantry and refrigerator are stacked high with uneaten tea party treats. If you want to stop by and stuff yourself silly with Christmas cookies and hors d'oeuvres, please do. We'd love to have you. Don't mind the mess. And...if you don't have appropriate attire, we have plenty to share. Hats, boas, frilly girly things, and even a pirate costume if girly-wear isn't really your style. :) Merry Christmas fellow bloggers!

My girl...My favorite tea party guest...

Here is Major in his tea party costume. He was part pirate, part gladiator. There wasn't enough room for the Maje at the girls' table, so he sat on the floor next to the fireplace. He had a little place card just like the girls, except that his place card was decorated with a picture of a pirate and a sword instead of red Christmas ribbons... I felt sad for him to be eating all alone, but he didn't seem to mind.

My sister, Tessa, and her friend, Ashlee, came to get the girls fancied up for the tea party. They put some sparkly makeup on the girls and put fancy jewelry on them. Mary Alice loved her new look. She even commented that her blue eyeshadow looked "just like Giada". I wish I had gotten a better picture of Tessa and Ashlee's beauty shop. The other ones were too blurry to use.:(

I read the Christmas story to the girls. Here they are, painting their edible Nativity scenes. Notice that they used animal crackers in their scenes. I think I saw a seal in one girls' scene. I am aware that seals were not a part of the Biblical account of Jesus' birth. Hopefully this inaccuracy didn't confuse anyone too badly.

Sweet tea party girls....(Notice Major on the sidelines...) Mary Alice's only regret about her tea party was that her "best friend" and second cousin, Megan, wasn't there. If only Megan lived closer!

Silly tea party girls....

Monday, December 17, 2007

Joys Of The Christmas Season

Right now, the kids and I are in the kitchen together, cooking sausage balls, decorating the table for Mary Alice's tea party tomorrow, and listening to some of our favorite Christmas music. What more can I ask for? Life is bliss.

Monday, December 10, 2007

My Little Giada

Today was Mary Alice's ballet class. Her teacher went around the room and asked each little girl what they would like for Christmas and what they were thankful for. The little girls each described one thing on their Christmas wish list. Most of them wanted some kind of a little horse that eats carrots. A few wanted dolls. When it was Mary Alice's turn, she described to the teacher how much she desperately wants this. The thing that my daughter wants more than anything is a pancake puff machine so she can make delicious puffy little pancakes to her heart's content. She told me that if she receives this pancake puff maker, she will definitely be making me breakfast each morning. Sounds pretty good, huh? I'm thinking for less than $20, I can cook one less meal each day.

My girl LOVES cooking. She would rather be cooking than doing nearly anything else. Another thing that she loves right now is the food network. Occasionally, we watch it together. We stayed up late the other night watching a Pie Making Championship. I think that fueled the desire for us to try our hand at a few pies. With the exception of the sour one that I described a few days ago, they have turned out alright. About the food network.... The chef that she loves more than anyone else is Giada on Everyday Italian. She thinks she is so beautiful and creative and wants to be a wonderful cook one day just like her. Anyway.... I bought something at a store the other day and received some free sample perfumes. Mary Alice smelled each scent until she found one that she really liked. She said, "This one smells SO good! You know, it smells just like something that Giada would wear!" So in case you're wondering... Japanese Cherry Blossom from Bath and Body Works will make you smell just like Giada. :)

One more thing.... I just remembered that I never showed you the puppets that the kids made. They had fun performing a puppet show for their Grumpy, Nonnie, Uncle Chad and Aunt Miranda on Thanksgiving. The puppets still had a few issues, just not nearly as many as the first puppets we made together.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Signs of Early Dementia

Yesterday morning, during church, Mary Alice tapped me on the shoulder to inform me that I had accidentally left a sponge roller in her hair that morning. Here she is, with her hair beautifully fixed, with a bright yellow roller dangling off of the side of her head!

Today, Mary Alice and I were making rolls and apple pie. I got the idea of putting the rolls in the oven to warm. I turned the oven on at a low temperature, then turned it off, thus creating the perfect environment for my rolls to rise. Unfortunately, when I warmed the oven to bake my apple pies, I forgot that the rolls were still rising inside the oven. I turned the oven to 425 with the rolls still inside!!!! Thankfully, I remembered that the rolls were in the oven just in time. Only the edges of the towels that covered the rolls were singed. The rolls still turned out okay, but they almost didn't!!!

Tonight, while coming home from BUNCO, I turned the wrong way onto a one way street. Headlights were coming toward me....quickly. Not to worry....I thought fast and jumped across the median into the traffic that was going the right way.

Back to that pie I made earlier....This particular pie was made to accompany a dinner for a new mom. I made an identical one (dinner and pie) for our family. When I got home from BUNCO, I asked Josh how dinner was. He said that it was great, but that the pie was a little bit sour. I tasted it. A little bit sour??? That was definitely an understatement! A dinner meant to help out that poor new mom just might make her sick instead! I'm blaming it on the apples. With all that has happened over the past day or so, though, I think it might more likely be some mistake I made.

I hope tomorrow is a better day. I feel like I am losing my mind!!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Favorite Decorations Continued...

I decided to go out of town instead of update my blog. Sorry. :) So....These are my two favorite Christmas decorations. The first one is my nativity set. I think it is just beautiful! The figures are so detailed! Each piece looks like a work of art. You can't really see all of the pieces. I just zoomed in on the main ones. It is difficult to see just how pretty this is. This picture doesn't really do it justice. I absolutely love this the most out of all of my Christmas decorations. I'm not really a collector of anything, but I do hope to eventually have a little town of Bethlehem set up, complete with villagers, the wise men, etc. I like this set more than some others I've seen because it is so lifelike. I feel like I am right there looking in on the time when Jesus was born.

Over the past few years, Mom has given me a piece of this set each year for Christmas. (Christmas 2003-2006)

My other favorite Christmas decoration is one that I bought for myself a few years ago. I bought it when Mary Alice was about 2 or so. They could definitely improve it by making it more lifelike and attractive. I didn't buy it for its beauty, but because of its functionality. I love getting to read a part of the Christmas story to the kids each day of December, letting the kids put a piece on the calendar until the final day, when they get to place baby Jesus in the manger. The kids really look forward to this special tradition. At the end of the month each year, they are both quoting nearly the entire Christmas story by memory because they have heard it so many times!!! I love this little Christmas tradition. We have enjoyed this calendar so much that I have given it out several times as a baby/Christmas gift to family and friends. I tried to link to it, but couldn't find it anywhere!! I e-mailed the place where I bought it and am hoping that they can shed some light on why my special calendar is no longer available!!! I will be seriously disappointed if one of my favorite Christmas items is now out of production. :(

Noel Piper Advent Calendar...Christmas 2003

December is tomorrow! I have almost all of my Christmas shopping done already! This is a major first for me, as I am usually still shopping during the few days before Christmas. I am so excited to have so much more free time this month to just relax and really enjoy this time of the year with my family. Let the Christmas season begin!!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Favorite Christmas Decor

I love pulling out all of my old Christmas ornaments. I have so many of them, some that I've had for more than a decade. I know that you're not supposed to be attached to material things. I think that my sentimental attachment to my Christmas ornaments is probably as much as I am attached to any "thing". Each one is special. Some are more special than others. As I've said before, I have a love for silly Christmas ornaments. Here are a few of the ones hanging on my tree...

Note: For the first time ever in my blogging history....Blogger says I have "exceeded my photo upload quota". HA! I thought about this and just couldn't bear to delete any of my precious ornaments. Each one has its own reason for being too special to delete. I'll have to wait and post my last two and absolute favorite Christmas decorations tomorrow.

Some of my ornaments mark special occasions....

Our first Christmas ornament as a married couple...Christmas 1998

Mary Alice's first Christmas....Christmas 2001

Pregnant with Major....Only four more months to go...Christmas 2003

Some of the ornaments were gifts from special people....

Grandma Stewart gave me several Waterford Christmas ornaments the first year that Josh and I were married...They are still some of my very favorite ones and have a special spot near the top of the tree....Christmas 1998

A special gift from a special little Tessa...Christmas 1993

Another precious gift from my youngest brother, Ben...Christmas 1995

One of the pretty ornaments that Tessa gave me. She has given me a new ornament every year since 1993...Christmas 2005

My mom picked out this shoe for me when she went to New York. She bought it from the Metropolitan Art Museum...Christmas 2000

We all made these one year on a long family road trip. We had this box full of different colored sequins and small pins. These things take forever to make!!! I think Tessa made this for me also...Christmas 199?

I bought this from a Romanian missionary while we lived in Dallas...Christmas 2003

Some of my ornaments I have no real reason for loving...They are just crazy and make me laugh!

A crazy pelican with feathers and silly red boots...I bought him at the Gaylord Texan gift shop...Christmas 2005

A dancing fat lady...She just makes me smile...Don't know the exact date? Miranda may, though, because I bought her a similar one.

A frog with freaky lips...Just plain silly...Christmas 2002

This ornament reminds me of an opera singer for some reason...I used to have her sitting on a shelf in my living room year round. She is a little bit scary, but I always look forward to putting her on the tree. She always gets a prominent spot right at the front of the tree...Christmas 1999

This ornament just looks yummy! My mom had one on her tree one year. I rushed out and bought one too...Christmas 2003 or 2004

She is part mermaid, part drama queen...She has the same "look" as the opera ornament. I really really like this one...Christmas 2000

Here is my favorite of my Dickens villages. I love to put these out each year! My mother gave them all to me, but this is the one I like the best...The marionette shop. If you look closely, you can see a little man selling puppets in the front of the shop. My mom had a little village collection when I was a little girl. I remember looking inside the little houses when they were lit up at night and imagining the people that lived inside of them. Mary Alice looks inside my little villages today. These tiny villages seem so magical. I am always sad to take them down after Christmas. I usually leave them up a little bit longer, maybe through the month of January....Christmas 1995-2001

Coming top two favorite Christmas decorations... Christmas just wouldn't be the same without them. Stinky blogger is making me wait to post them! Check back later. What are your favorite Christmas decorations?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Want More

Our preacher quoted this hymn on Sunday night. I've been thinking about it ever since. Read the words slow-ly. I want faith like this!

Oh, for a faith that will not shrink
Tho' pressed by every foe;
That will not tremble on the brink
Of any earthly woe;

That will not murmur or complain
Beneath the chastening rod,
But in the hour of grief or pain
Will lean upon its God;

A faith that shines more bright and clear
When tempests rage without;
That when in danger, knows no fear,
In darkness feels no doubt;

Lord give us such a faith as this;
And then, whate'er may come,
We'll taste e'en here the hallowed bliss
Of an eternal home.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Puppet Making 101

I recall hearing once that when asked about his success, Mister Rogers attributed much of his creativity to a few key events that happened in his childhood. His grandfather spent hours playing puppets with him as a child. They worked together to create puppets and puppet shows. I'm sure that this grandfather never imagined the impact that time spent with his grandson would have on his future, or on so many others around the world.

Mister Rogers died when Mary Alice was a baby. I remember hearing about all of the quality time that this beloved grandfather spent with him and resolved to have that kind of a relationship with my own kids someday. Some of Mister Rogers' well-known phrases that he used repeatedly on his television program were inspired by the encouragement that was given to him by this grandfather. The relationship between this child and his grandfather impressed upon me the importance of words, of play, and of taking the time to make a child feel special. This is something that I try really hard to do, but I cringe at times about the things that my kids might remember... As a parent, I can only hope that when they are adults, they will focus on the good and choose to forget the bad. Let me tell you...we do have some bad around here, I just don't document it on this blog. :) If they do happen to forget, I will not help them to remember by publishing it here.

On a side note:

One of my friends told me that it depresses her to read blogs because it makes her feel unhappy about all of the things that she isn't doing that other people seem to be doing, that other people's lives seem so together, that their lives seem to be without problems of any kind. I agree with her. Many blogs paint a rosy picture, but the truth is that everyone has problems, and that most people don't choose to share them with the whole world. So, just to clear up any doubts, we also have problems here at the Smith house. I just try to focus on the good times, the highlights and joys of being a wife and mother. If I were keeping a scrapbook, the pages wouldn't be filled with pictures of the sad times. That is exactly what my blog is for me, a scrapbook of sorts. Just thought I'd let my blog readers know, lest they mistakenly envision the Smith family as having a life of unending fun and laughter without any bumps in the road. Not so.

I'll move on to some of those fun things, which is the reason I got on the computer in the first place! Mary Alice has been begging me to make puppets with her for some time now. We made some together about a year ago. We used scrap material and odds and ends from around the house. I even got out my sewing machine. (gasp!) Needless to say, the puppets didn't turn out exactly as planned. Their feet were all turned the wrong way. They looked, well....just freaky. Mary Alice really loved them, but they just weren't functional. The mouths didn't move. They had no motion. Basically, to use them, you just bobbed them up and down. When you did this, their heads wiggled around in a weird way. It was a learning experience.

This time around, we were a little bit more prepared. We checked out way too many books from the library (thirty-three to be exact), both on puppets and puppet shows. We picked out a type of puppet that I actually thought we could make. I was careful to look out for design flaws that would result in a bobbing head, freaky turned-in feet puppet whose mouth wouldn't move. We also checked out some books on various puppet shows. Of course, Mary Alice's first idea was to perform The Wizard of Oz. That puppet show required way too many characters. I told her that we needed to start out very slow and not get in over our heads. She finally picked out a puppet show that had only three characters. It is a very amusing little tale. I can't wait to watch her perform it for her dad.

Mary Alice really enjoyed working on this little project with me. Her eyes lit up as she shared the details of her "plans" of how we should paint and construct the puppets, what clothes they would wear, ideas for making props, etc. At one point, while we were working together, she looked up at me and said, "Mom, you're such a beautiful young woman. I'm so glad that you're my mom." Too funny. She is always full of silly sentiments. I love it! I noticed how much fun she was having just being creative.

So tonight, amidst a pile of gluey newspaper, Mary Alice and Major and I worked on the puppets. They are drying overnight. I'll let you know how they turn out.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Girls/Guys Weekend 2007

This past weekend, my mother and sisters and I went away for a few days for what I know will be a much anticipated yearly tradition. On Thursday night, we headed up to a nearby city for a girls shopping trip. We first heard about this idea on Girl Talk and decided that it sounded so fun that we had to make it one of our traditions too! It sounds like our trip was similar to the one the Mahaney girls described here. Each person brought her own special something to the group.

We had so much fun and enjoyed almost three days of uninterrupted shopping. I got almost all of my Christmas shopping done and am now free to really enjoy the holiday season, rather than to face the stresses of unbought Christmas gifts and fighting the holiday crowds at the store. Yea!!! I am so thankful to have this done, but, more importantly, am so glad that I was able to spend this fun time with "just the girls". We split off to shop on our own or with one other person during the day, met up for meals, and crashed in the hotel room each night. Of course, we weren't too tired to stay up half the night discussing just about everything ranging from appropriate Christmas gifts to the role that the Holy Spirit plays in our lives. We always seem to get around to discussing some sort of controversial topic when we are together. It is always interesting to see each person's unique point of view. We laughed a LOT.

One very funny thing that happend on our trip.... All of the sisters (Hannah, Alisha, Taylor, Tessa, and myself) and Mom were supposed to bring a fun ornament to exchange. We had a Chinese Christmas ornament exchange. You know, drawing numbers, stealing from each other, etc. Anyway.... When it was all said and done, we figured out that 3 of us bought the exact same ornament. The ornament was not just any ornament either. We are especially fond of random, silly ornaments in my family. The ornament that three of us chose was a beaded pink flamingo!!! My mother, Taylor, and myself all brought the exact same ornament to exchange. Crazy! And...if that wasn't enough, we all bought our ornament in three different places/towns. Taylor bought her flamingo at Hallmark in Arkansas for $4. I bought mine in Canton for $7. It looks like my mother got the worst deal of all! She bought her flamingo at a local shop in Cleburne for $9. Can you believe this?!? What was also funny was that Taylor and I purposely bought our ornaments at "different than the usual" locations to avoid getting the same ornament as someone else. Also... Tessa had seen the flamingo ornament in a fourth store and almost bought it too, but decided on another one instead!!! And we all thought we were being so creative with our choices! HA! Better luck next time!

(The famed pink flamingo ornament....that almost everyone thought was a great purchase. At least we know that the recipients liked it!)

We had so much fun on this trip. I am so excited at how much I got done and am so excited about making this a yearly tradition. Thanks to Mom for putting us up in such a nice hotel for three nights. It was wonderful! What fun memories for us all!

Meanwhile, while the girls were shopping, the guys were camping. My dad bought a boat for the occasion. Nearly every time my Dad has tried to take his grandkids out on the boat, the boat wouldn't start. Dad, Adam, Ben, Josh, Scot, and the boys (plus Mary Alice) all went camping. I was told that the boat worked this time. Yea! They celebrated Landon's third birthday and ate all kinds of junky junk food, such as Adam's specialty "superdogs" (Yuck!) and s'mores. Josh took a few pictures from this trip. Looks like they had fun!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Excuses Excuses.....

Just had to share something funny that Major said today. This morning, when I asked him to do his jobs around the house he came up with this excuse. He said, "Well...I can't Mom. You see, my legpits hurt and I think I need to rest them."

Where do they come up with these things? Legpits?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Hedwig's Swiss Restaurant

These kids are constantly cracking me up! Today we finally got around to having Mary Alice's (a.k.a. "Hedwig's") little Swiss restaurant. We finished studying Switzerland about a week ago, but due to illness and other things, we are just now getting around to doing this.

We set up our kitchen area like a little Swiss restaurant. Mary Alice made a menu a few weeks ago and planned the whole thing. She chose Swiss foods that she wanted to serve from some books that we had borrowed from the library.

Here is Mary Alice making "Kabisuppe", our main dish.

And of course....What would an activity at the Smith house be without costumes? Mary Alice came dressed as "Hedwig", William Tell's wife. She really got into the act and continually reminded us about how things are done in Switzerland. For example, right before the meal, Major asked if we were going to pray. Mary Alice said, "Oh yes. We always pray to God in Switzerland!" Many times she said things like, "Oh this is how we do things here in Switzerland. We do such and such...." It was too funny!

Major was "William Tell" and dressed himself. He's been learning about Switzerland right along with us and did surprisingly well choosing his costume. He appeared downstairs looking like a crazy mountain man. He even had an imaginary bow and arrow, which was actually a weed eater. He looked pretty close to his character with the exception of the safety goggles and Cars slippers. He was hilarious and seemed deathly serious about his role. Of course, Major's funny beard and mustache made another appearance. At the restaurant, Hedwig praised him for giving all of the Swiss people their freedom. It was amazing just how much the kids got into this whole thing.

He put this costume together entirely on his own! Here he is striking another one of his thumbs up poses.

Mary Alice picked out Josh's clothes for him. She went in our closet and picked out "church pants", black dress shoes, and a navy dress jacket worn over an undershirt. Josh was sweet to play along and came to the restaurant as "Hans". Mary Alice waited on him hand and foot and refused to sit down until both "Hans" and "William Tell" were completely served.

Taking Josh's order.....and then...

Here is Hedwig taking Major's order.....

My role in all of this was slightly less glamorous... At Hedwig's request, I was Hedwig's kitchen help, "Charlotte". I was scolded by Hedwig a few times throughout the evening for being "rude to the customers." I am not joking. Charlotte and her costume was slightly unattractive and are thus not featured amongst the pictures on this post. Mary Alice was cracking me up with her pretend play. She acted so much like a little Swiss restaurant owner and even said things like, "I speak German most of the time." Silly girl.

We ate Kabisuppe (Cabbage Soup), Leckerli (Special Swiss cookies), Swiss chocolate, "Swiss" chocolate milk (Nestle Quik), toast, and Swiss Cheese (which was decidedly disliked by all of us who ate at Hedwig's restaurant). Major said that his cheese tasted "sour", to which Mary Alice replied, "I must have put too much butter in it. I'm sorry." She also was explaining how she had gone to special pains to put holes in it and was sorry that it tasted so funny.

My chocolate faced girl...after dinner

Anyway, this was a really great experience for all of us. I remember really enjoying playing restaurant as a child, especially with adults. I would encourage any of you with children to play restaurant one night for dinner.

Major had a change of heart a few times about his costume. He first came downstairs wearing this as his Willam Tell costume.

Next he came into the kitchen wearing this as his costume... I think he looks like William Tell, don't you? (Notice his beard sticking out beneath the pile of towels.)

I was glad that he finally got his creative juices flowing and just went all out. Here he is......fully decked out... He even has a weed eater that doubles as a bow and arrow.

I just love this picture! Mary Alice jumped up into Josh's arms after we were done eating. What a girl!