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November 2012
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January 2013

snowflake/xmas/2012 wrap-up

(don't be afraid: this post will be way less wordy and ambitious than the title suggests. i'm just sweeping the past 10 days under the rug in one big whoosh.)

we left off with snowflake bidding us adieu ... we were off to indiana for the christmas holiday. harper was a bit worried about snowflake finding us, but never fear ... she awoke to gray kitty dangling outside her bedroom door on saturday morning, clinging onto a note from snowflake that stated she would meet us in indiana, after running a quick errand for santa.


10 hours in the car later ... we were at my parents'. and it was good. until we discovered at bedtime that harper had failed to pack her pajamas. this did not go over well. in fact, it's a wonder she calmed down enough to go to sleep. but she did, and i promised her i would find her some pajamas on sunday.

the next morning, harper was so excited to see if snowflake had, indeed, found us ... and sure enough, there she was: sitting on the fireplace mantle. WITH gray kitty.

and she had a note for harper, along with a present. apparently, santa had heard about harper's lack of jammies, and allowed snowflake to bring an early gift: harp's xmas eve jammies. (this actually solved a myriad of problems: how to dress harp for bed on the night before the night before christmas; how to give jammies to harp without giving some to henry, who had said he was "done" with santa this year; how to not raise questions from harp if wyatt and nora didn't get jammies, since the pjs are our tradition, not theirs.) harper was thrilled ... and even more so when she discovered that santa had also brought matching pajamas for julie, her american girl doll.

and there was peace.

later that morning, my aunts and uncles and cousins and their families from my dad's side were over, and there was a lot of noise and talking and catching up.

marc and the kids and i managed to sneak away for two hours to meet up with one of my oldest and dearest friends, katie, and her family. we had a great visit, wondered how we can get together more often than once every four years or so, and harper appeared to make a new friend of her own: their daughter, abbie.


monday morning, christmas eve, snowflake was again hanging out in a tree. her farewell ... watching over us all day long.

we went through all of our xmas eve traditions: last minute shopping (i had forgotten to pack harper's santa gift, among other things (like, practically every stocking stuffer, etc.), last minute wrapping, and then the fun stuff ... hanging stockings, writing letters to santa, reading "'twas the night before christmas," playing games and snacking and so forth. and then it was time for christmas.

amazingly, the kids let us sleep until 7:30 christmas morning. when they got up, they immediately went out to check their stockings. harp came running over to me: gray kitty was in her hands, and in gray kitty's hands was a rolled-up note. from snowflake. telling harper how much she will miss her this year, to be good, and to look on her ipod ...

harp went running to the bedroom and returned with her ipod. she turned it on and there, on her lock screen, was this:

can you see it? harper, sleeping, snuggled with julie, and snowflake and gray kitty snuggled up with her as well.

her eyes were huge. "snowflake snuggled me?!" she asked. "how did she take a picture??" "i don't know," i told her. "maybe santa took it."

oh. man. she was over the moon.

(even now ... if you ask her what her favorite gift was, she'll tell you it is the picture of snowflake sleeping with her. so totally worth the riskiness of getting said photo.)

and then ... christmas. and all of its joy and craziness.

and to spare you endless scrolling ... here's the holiday weekend in one neat spot:

Xmascollageand an extra pic of wyatt and nora, because they are stinkin' cute.

on wednesday, we were to have another gathering with my mom's side of the family, but a winter storm blew through, dumped a bunch of snow (5" is "a bunch" in indiana), so no one drove around, the gathering was cancelled, and we went sledding and ate snacks all day long.

decent trade-off.

and then it was over. 10 more hours in the car on thursday, and we were home.

then i got sick.

now it's monday, and i'm still sick. so much for new year's plans. i'm just going to assume that this means 2012 is going out like a lion, and 2013 will come in like a lamb.

or something like that. who knows. i've been drugged and napping for the past four days.

tomorrow we wake up with a fresh start, and on wednesday the kids go back to school and i will make eggs benedict for me and marc to celebrate a quiet house, and then i start making lists. because that's what i do every year on january 2nd. projects and cleaning and personal "to do"s and grocery re-stocking ... i have a brand new notebook all ready to go.

so, i raise my 2 tb of nyquil to you with wishes of a happy new year! see you in 2013.


snowflake round-up

it's been a week. time for more of snowflake's adventures ...

day 17: she decided to hang out in the tree, snuggled with gray kitty, and spend the day looking out the window.

day 18: harper came home from school and decided to draw pictures of reindeer for everyone she knows. that night, snowflake drew some reindeer of her own for harp.

Day18(by the way: my daughter draws some great reindeer, in case you were wondering.)

day 19: harp had made a little "dressing room" for julie, her american girl doll. she had all the shoes and accessories lined up. (which sounds way fancier than it is; she has three pairs of shoes, and the purse and belt that came with julie. "accessories" might be overstating.) snowflake and gray kitty did a little "trying on" and got caught.

day 20: harp awoke to find snowflake had baked her some special snowflake cookies. she decided they must be "north pole" cookies because they were really crispy and tasted "kind of like a cracker." and then they got sweet. and she ate three for breakfast.

day 21: yesterday, harper's class had a gingerbread house party. the kids all made and decorated their own gingerbread houses. harp's house was ... minimal. however, her yard was landscaped within an inch of its life: gingerbread man making a "snow angel" in the frosting and shaved coconut snow, a marshmallow snowman, two gingerbread men riding on a sled she made out of a candy corn and candy cane-shaped sprinkles, etc.

so this morning, we found snowflake had added some visitors. to my countertop. gonna have to scrub that down tonight when snowflake ... flies away.

continuing with the light & cheery and "christmas spirit." trying. i'm writing again - elsewhere - for an online magazine called "get born." the article i'd planned for the 18th, my day, got scrapped at 1:30 a.m. that morning. i couldn't sleep. the thoughts of sandy hook kept rolling through my brain and heart, and i couldn't stop crying. so i got up and wrote, and this is what happened. it helped a little, but my emotions are still raw. the idea that these beautiful children were taken the way they were ... that the last thing they saw in their lives was evil ... i'm having a hard time shaking that. maybe it's because i am a writer; the only way i can truly convey emotions and feelings is to be able to put myself in the shoes of the person and feel. and right now i feel too much. i look at harper and think: she's seven. last christmas, she was right where those kids were ... first grade, no front teeth, sweet little face, thinking only of christmas and all things wonderful and good. and my heart breaks. for those kids ... for their parents and families ... for that school. and i get so mad that it happened at all.

so to focus on snowflake and getting through the month with my christmas spirit intact for my own kids ... that's what is keeping me going. otherwise, i'm not sure i'd be looking forward to the holiday much at all this year. right now, all i want is peace and time with those i love. hopefully, that will be easy enough.

snowflake - days 11 through 16

right now, i'm so thankful for that crazy elf that i can't even say. my heart and mind have been so mired in friday's events in connecticut that all the christmas spirit that i'd tried desperately to flame into existence this year was extinguished completely. somehow, christmas music seems all wrong, and planning festivities seems so inappropriate. "heartbroken" doesn't seem quite right for what this is. neither does "furious" or "horrified." i look at my sweet little girl, born in 2005 like so many of the victims, and i can't even begin to put myself in the shoes of so many families.

and yet, you keep going. you have to. and you create yet another magical morning for that little girl who so looks forward to it, and who cannot wait to hop out of bed in the morning to see where snowflake landed.

christmas will come. it will be different - at least for parents - but christmas will come.

and so will snowflake.

on the 11th, snowflake sat atop the most relevant word of the season: believe.


we all need belief. in faith. in magic. in hope. in love. in goodness. in peace. without the belief that those things are possible, the worst elements in this world will win.

on the 12th, snowflake and gray kitty sent harp on her way with a little mudroom encouragement:

on the 13th, snowflake and gray kitty found themselves a little hiding spot in the kids' bathroom, and brought nightlights along just in case:

on the morning of the 14th, when all was still right with the world, snowflake and gray kitty dressed in crowns and pretties, and took a drive to the sliding doors, to watch the sun come up.

friday night, after henry's swim meet, harper asked if she could make her own bed of pillows and blankets on the floor of her room and sleep there. we said yes, and snowflake apparently needed to be snuggled nearby ... just out of reach of harper's feet so she wouldn't accidentally be kicked, but close enough to feel safe. on the morning of the 15th, harper found her elf there as soon as she awoke:

Day15this morning, harper had to look all over before finally finding snowflake and gray kitty in the basement. they had been busy overnight, decorating a small tinsel tree that is in the tv room, and putting together a paper chain. (a paper chain that fell apart in numerous links all night long. apparently, it's been so long since i used scrapbook adhesive that it just wasn't sticky anymore. poor snowflake.)

and tonight snowflake will fly somewhere else, and do something else that will delight harper in the morning. and then harp will eat some pancakes, brush her teeth, and hop on a bus for her last monday of school in 2012, where they will talk about building gingerbread houses on thursday, and pajama day on friday. and all of the teachers will look at those eager, trusting, beautiful faces, knowing that a "normal day in elementary school" will never be "normal" again.

snowflake brought the north pole with her

to get up to speed, on friday we found snowflake and gray kitty hanging with the snowman crew:

saturday morning, snowflake was a bit trickier. as in, harper was totally freaked out that snowflake wasn't here. turns out, harper just didn't look in the basement:

i guess snowflake assumed that harper could look harder on a saturday. bad assumption.

so sunday, she was a bit more obvious: she held a braveheart-type meeting with some littlest pet shop warriors:

harp was so excited about that that she colored (half-heartedly, per her norm) a picture for snowflake and folded it up and laid it on the table beside her. snowflake must be more impressed by harper's skill than i am, because she put that picture on the fridge for this morning:


the best thing snowflake did over the weekend, though, was bring some of the north pole back to minnesota with her.

we had been hearing since thursday that snow was coming, and when i went to bed at midnight on saturday, it was indeed coming down. and didn't stop for the next 19 hours.

we woke up to a world of white on sunday.

before lunch, we sent the boy out to shovel ...

(okay, both boys ...)

and harper tried (again, half-heartedly) to make a snowman.

she quickly gave up and went exploring instead.

when the driveway was done, marc went inside to thaw, and henry and harper made snowcones out of snow and sunny d ...

then they stayed out to roll around in the white stuff while we made lunch (mini quiches and cheese & crackers ... perfection), and then we used the snowy day as an excuse to finally decorate the tree.


and a few hours later, we all went back out for round two of shoveling. we got about 11" in all ... more than all of last winter's snowfall combined.

we may get a real winter this year. and that makes us all happy.

so, thanks, snowflake, for bringing our missing holiday spirit back to us. i guess all we needed was snow.

day 4, 5, & 6 with snowflake

(i just can't update snowflake every day. i'm not that kind of girl.)

snowflake's visit continues to bring harper joy each morning ... with all the "where is she?" ... "how'd she get there?" ... "isn't she amazing?"

on snowflake's fourth day here, she and gray kitty hung out on the ceramic deer head on the mantle all day.

on the fifth day, snowflake was a bit trickier: she and gray kitty took a swing on the mudroom ceiling light.

we were under harper's strictest orders all. day. long. that we couldn't turn on the light because it would burn and/or blind poor snowflake and gray kitty. which made it really interesting to come home from swimming at 6 p.m. and put away shoes and coats in near pitch darkness.

today, day six, harper awoke and immediately checked downstairs for her elf ... and found that snowflake had painted her a picture in the middle of the night. harper had painted her own picture before bedtime (of tulips and ants and a solar eclipse and an alien in a spaceship. true story.) and failed to pick up those paints, so snowflake got artsy, too. thus inspiring harp to wonder what else she could leave out for snowflake at the end of the day ...

regardless, harper was thrilled with her picture.

tonight: henry's first swim meet with the high school/junior high team; his first school dual meet. he's excited, i'm excited, harper's griping about having to go.

maybe snowflake can bring her some cheese to go with that whine tomorrow.

snowflake cometh

the minute thanksgiving was over, harper started in on, "we have to find the elf book so my elf can come back everyone else has their elf already and i don't and we need to find that book so we can read it and my elf can come back and where! is! my! book?!"

five times a day. every day.

i knew it was in the bins of xmas decorations, so i spent two days going through them, knowing the elf and book needed to be found by november 30th ... but no elf. no elf book. crap.

so i did what i always do in times of need, when something important is lost and my brain cannot manage to figure out where i put said thing: i borrowed st anthony from my catholic friends. and lo ... within 15 minutes, i'd found that stupid elf AND the book. the elf was in the xmas stuff ... wrapped in a tree skirt, and the elf book was in the kitchen with the cookbooks. duh.

props to st anthony.

harper came home from school to find the book on her bed - on november 30th. relief and glee returned.

that night, while getting ready for bed, harper found barbie blankets and a barbie nightgown and gray kitty (snowflake's favorite stuffed animal), and got a comfy place all ready for snowflake's arrival. she even told marc that i was not to go in and check on her when i got home (i was at a neighbor's for girls' night), because snowflake might be flying around, and if i caught her or accidentally bumped into her, her magic would be lost and i would have, essentially, ruined harper's christmas.

yes, that was the thought going through her mind.

the next morning, much to harper's extreme joy (at 6 a.m.), snowflake had not only arrived, but she got into that nightie, crawled under those blankets, snuggled that kitty, and left a "hey, how are ya?" note for harper.

encouraged, harper then laid out a lovely outfit, a fake present, barbie ear buds, and plastic carrots, just ... you know ... in case.

yesterday morning, harper was once again up at 6ish, ready to find that elf. obviously anticipating the early wake-up call, snowflake wisely chose to stay in harper's room, and brought another note for her. downside: harper was so excited about the note that she came into our room after reading it, begging to read it to us. at 6ish.

Day2today, harper had a harder time finding snowflake. she looked "everywhere," she claimed, and no snowflake. so i told her that snowflake would turn up, and to please get dressed and brush her hair and teeth and come down for breakfast. five minutes later, harper runs downstairs ... still in jammies, hair wild, yelling, "snowflake is IN the medicine cabinet! and she's holding that thing you use to look at my expander, and gray kitty is holding my chapstick! ha! isn't that funny?"

yup. it's funny.

and it's only day three.

... and then it was december.

i'm really struggling with the idea that 2012 is nearly over. there are, what, 30 days left?


the past month has been a blur ... and it seems like i said that every month this year. our days are too full, our weeks are too full, and our months go too quickly. and yet? there's nothing extraneous. nothing that can be given up to ease the pain. chiro three times a week for me and marc ... turns out, i am profoundly out of whack. who know. and marc has alignment issues that are affecting his knees, and there's always the migraine issue. chiro an additional two times per week with henry: he goes on different days, in the evening, after swimming ... it's the only time that works. one shoulder and one side of his pelvis are higher than the other, so the chiro is helping him with that.

and swimming? henry is now swimming for the high school, practicing every day after school until 5:30. that eases up the late nights that we've had while he swam with the club, but now the minutes immediately following school are crazy. harper gets off the bus and we meet her in the driveway, to jump in the car and speed to the school to drop off her brother.

and harper? she goes to learning rx three nights a week for an hour ... but it's likely that will go to four nights a week for 75 minutes. she has no short-term memory, no ability to focus, her reading/tracking skills are terrible, and she is incapable of multi-tasking. we're trying to work through these things to find the solutions before school becomes an even bigger stress and harder problem to solve, but it's three - soon to be five - hours a week that we're gone from 5:45 to 6:45 (soon to be 5:45 to 7. do the math: henry's done swimming at 5:30, harper goes to rx at 5:45 ... we are gone from 3:15 to 7 - soon to be 7:30 p.m. - daily.)

and she has swim lessons every friday at 4 p.m.

there is nowhere to cut anything or ease up an hour or two. henry's homework time? late in the evening, or at rx while harper is in her training. dinner? seriously? family dinner doesn't exist. and when marc is gone (like he's about to do for the next two weeks, and like he did the week before thanksgiving, naturally) there are no other options for the kids. we are all in, all the time.

it's exhausting. and i don't know how moms with more than two kids manage.

speaking of thanksgiving, we had a lovely one.

i learned my lesson from years past: let people do things.

i want to everyone to feel at home and comfortable when they are here, but truth is ... then the holiday is stressful and expensive, and i'm always alone in getting ready (see aforementioned "naturally" comment in regards to marc's travel schedule around the holidays.), which leaves me tired and crabby and unable to enjoy it myself.

so this year i instituted "potluck thanksgiving": i did the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and rolls, and marc's mom brought the traditional (and always yummy) corn casserole, assorted breakfast breads, pies, and this year made fresh green beans; and marc's sister made amazing stuffed acorn squash; and our sister-in-law brought a relish tray and snacks. it all worked out, and the crazy was alleviated. and instead of crawling into bed for a four-hour nap, like other years, this year i was able to enjoy the holiday with everyone else ...

we played games, sat around and talked, went to see "wreck-it ralph," and played more games. harper and kayla had a great time together, and all was well.

(by the way: the last time i took a photo like this was in 2006 ...

some things have changed.)

speaking of harper and learning rx ... we had made a deal with her when she began - grudgingly - to train: if she put in the effort and the work, she would get an american girl doll when training was completed. the timeline at the beginning was 12 weeks ... which would have been right around thanksgiving. well, due to us being gone, and the center being closed for various things, and harper's trainer being periodically unavailable, as well as harper's skills not improving on target, the timeline has been pushed out. however, she was heartbroken at the idea of not getting her doll before kayla (and her doll) arrived for the holiday. so harp and i made a deal: if she was good about training and regular school's homework up until thanksgiving, she would get her doll by thanksgiving. but if her attitude deteriorated again, the doll would be the first thing to go until she's done. so in the week leading up to thanksgiving, she asked me daily, "when are we going to get my doll?"

she didn't know i already had it.

and on wednesday, when she got back from running an errand with marc in the morning, she found this sitting on her bed:

a happier girl couldn't be found. now we just cross our fingers that Julie Magic works for the next, oh, eight to twelve weeks.

when it's 2013.

good grief.