Since December 13....
1. Gracie turned 8 and we threw a big party. It was a wonderful party, and should have been a 100% joyous occasion. However, it was hard to pull off a wonderful party that fit the 100% joyous occasion bill on December 14, 2012. We were able to shield Gracie and Bridget from the tragic news though Maddie wasn't so lucky—it's hard to play the shielding game with a ten year old. Jonah and Gracie share a birthday, and it helped tremendously to know that someone else was planning a celebration shielded from the outside world. It's hard to compartmentalize joy and sorrow.
But there were owl cupcakes
and a whole bunch of second graders building gingerbread houses (which kind of put me in a panic leading up to the party, but it went amazingly well—there's a tip on that, just a minute)
and many beautiful handmade owl greetings and donations to the Rocky Mountain Raptor Center in Fort Collins, CO
Two tips for throwing a successful gingerbread house birthday party:
1. Host at a location that isn't your house. Like the Arts & Crafts Center on base or similar. Even better if there are three adults from the Arts & Crafts Center staffed to help with the party.
2. Prepackage all the supplies. This step may do you in at the time, but it is worth it.
2. We had lots of Christmas programs to attend. Gracie was the star of the second grade portion of the show (as Frosty the Snowman) while Bridget generally sang as if she were on Broadway and not in the school gym, Maddie sang and played in the bell choir at her school, and the annual Christmas carol piano party at their piano teacher's house was great fun. Both girls played duets with their teacher, with each other, and the three of us played a "Tree-O." Ha ha. There was a terrible, horrible, no-good, no explanation gate-closure that nearly caused both Matt and I to miss Maddie's program—we slipped in separately after it started and it's a Christmas miracle that I didn't get a speeding ticket once the gate finally opened after 43 minutes of waiting (I was supposed to pick Matt up after dropping Gracie off after her 8 year checkup, but that didn't happen). Anyway:
3. There were parties to attend. Gracie was sick on the last day before break and missed her very fun party (the horror!), but Maddie's class had a little celebration, Bridget's class got to wear jammies and bring a stuffed animal (she brought her pygmy puff) and drink hot chocolate and watch The Polar Express. We skipped the Wing Christmas Party so I could go to The Nutcracker with the girls and their friends and their friends' mamas (one of my favorite things to do during December). Matt's squadron party was at The Plains and we spent an evening with our CFD family celebrating, well, life in general.
4. We hung out with school friends over break. Bridget and her preschool friend Cora got together twice, Gracie had a friend over from her class, and Maddie and her musketeers had a sleepover and an ice-skating date. We had lunch with Ms. Deb. We had a great post-holiday brunch with Abby and Wes, in which wonderful gifts were exchanged, including this one:
5. We made stuff. 8 billion chocolate covered cherries, multiple batches of pine bark, birthday treats and banana bread. A whole bunch of Christmas cards. Banners, mixtapes, framed gifts and needlepoint ornaments. Drawings and paintings, beaded jewelry and the beginnings of braided bracelets. Reindeer food and lots and lots of meals at home.
6. Someone got the biggest gift of her life and played with it nonstop. It might be plastic and ginormous, but there was never a child who wanted the Disney Dream Castle more than Bridget. She's been wishing for it for over two years now, and has organized art shows and rock shops to try and save up money to buy it herself. She told everyone for the last six months that Santa was going to bring it to her because she wanted it so much, and in the end, that's exactly what happened.
7. It snowed! It snowed! It snowed! The snow totally messed up the ONE DAY Melissa and I were able to meet in Denver for our annual Christmas shopping trip, but I still love snow. We're planning a New Year trip to IKEA in January as consolation. : )
8. We watched a lot of movies. The girls watched all four (FOUR! I know, ridiculous) Home Alone movies. The first one is practically a classic, the second one is OK... and I cautioned that the third and fourth were probably totally stupid... they were all in until the fourth one, when they agreed with me: totally stupid. We also watched Red Dog, E.T., Singin' in the Rain, and Hotel Transylvania together. Matt and I watched Lawless and Knuckleball and planned the next few months of nerdy documentary watching on Apple TV. I could easily be convinced to watch a movie every day.
9. I worked some with my camera. I took 100+ Santa photos for Operation Provide Joy and did a last minute photoshoot just before Christmas. It was terrific because a.) I have known a branch of the family since the first few months we moved back to Cheyenne, b.) I have photographed a branch of this family before and c.) they were really just happy to be together, and chose to have it in the grandparents' backyard. Everyone happily cooperated even though it was freezing, including four dogs. A sample: