Saturday, December 30, 2017

Christmas Eve Eve, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

 We had the best Christmas ever. What makes a "best Christmas", you ask? Chillness. Stayingathomeness. Gettingalongness. Camaradieness. Also known as just camaraderie.

We finished up our Christmas caroling Christmas Eve Eve. We visited 19 homes in total this year, and it was awesome. Our favorite night was Christmas Eve Eve because we caroled to our neighbors. It was so easy walking up and down the street instead of driving really far in between each house. Plus, we love our neighbors and somehow--even though we live so close--we don't get to see them often enough. And nobody carols anymore, so they really thought it was something. Even if we are the worst singers ever. And I mean EVER. Everything sounds like it's in a minor key. Halloween Christmas carols!

Harris the Reindeer!

Dan also took the girls to a movie that morning so I could wrap the presents. I know most adults stay up laaaaaaaaaate Christmas Eve night to wrap, but I can't do that. I don't know if we've met but a well-known fact about me is that I canNOT stay up late. To save my life.

Then Christmas Eve, we went to church. Christmas Eve on Sunday is the best, right?

We came home, talked with extended family and then had dinner at a friend's house. It was so fun.

Then, the BIG night came. Christmas Eve night. As I mentioned before, I cannot stay up late. But I was still determined to stay up a little to "assist" Dan in his big project for the night--building a gigantic dollhouse.

We started at 9:30. So I was already doomed. To illustrate the desperate state I'm in after it's dark outside, let me tell you a true story of what happened Christmas Eve night.

Dan started putting together a monster dollhouse. It took him an hour just to unwrap all of the parts.

I "assisted" by watching White Christmas on the couch while making unhelpful, yet witty, comments.

It was about this time I heard a strange noise. Like a waterfall from the ceiling. I looked over to see the basement ceiling leaking all over the floor next to me.

True to character, I freaked out and started screaming. Dan ran upstairs to see what was leaking.

He came down to tell me that I had left the bathroom sink on upstairs.

All I ask is that you choose a room with a view for me, people. That's all I ask. Because I'm clearly not okay upstairs.

He turned off the sink and we mopped up the floors and were back at our stations--Dan building and me couching--when the next thing I knew, Dan was poking me awake.

"Heather, why don't you just go to bed?" he asked. "Because I want to help youuuuuuuu" I moaned underneath 5 blankets. He shooed me off to bed. That was around 11:30.

Dan crawled in bed a little after that. "Did you finish?" I asked.

"Yeah, I finished," he said.

"What time is it?" I asked. I figured it was about 1:00.

"4:15," came his tired reply.

4:15!!! That man worked all night to finish that house. Just to review--Dan stayed up all night making a dollhouse for his children. Heather almost flooded the basement and fell asleep watching a movie. You might say we are equally yolked.

The finished product:

Harris woke up at 5:00, and I managed not to be a total curmudgeon and fetched him and fed him. The girls slept until 7:30.

We found a little frost outside. Perfect for Christmas. And now that Christmas is over, it can stop snowing and Spring can come. Right? Right?

We started the day with a Christmas devotional in our room and finished our 25 Days of Christ.

Then the girls found the dollhouse. And there was much rejoicing in the land.

And then we did something my mom always wanted to do growing up but we terrible ingrates would never allow--we stopped and took a break from opening presents and had breakfast.

We had biscuits and gravy and orange julius and just sat around.

Then we opened presents under the tree and took more breaks throughout. Whenever someone wanted to stop and play with something they had opened, we just stopped. It was SO nice and made Christmas morning last. My poor mother--I should have listened to you!

We tried to keep it pretty simple this year (okay, besides a ginormous dollhouse), and it was really nice.

Surprise hit among the other presents? Bunny pajamas.

June has worn them non-stop this week.

We also opened this gift called "Battle of the UFO's" handmade by a couple in Rexburg, Idaho. Our neighbors came over and played.

Things got competitive and children kept sabotaging everything. Our neighbor Phil came up with the great idea that the kids had to pat their heads in order to give their adult partner more power to win the game. That kept June busy. Our neighbor Sarah finally just pinned Gwen down with her leg to keep her from knocking over the pieces of the game.

Getting everyone in the picture:

That night, we had chicken cordon bleu. This is what Dan's family did every year growing up, but I've always been too intimidated to try it myself. It. Was. Awesome.

What a fantastic Christmas. Now we are just soaking up the rest of the break together before life hits us hard again next week.

The End.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Card and Newsletter 2017

Dear Friends:

Well our Christmas cards are ready to be mailed, so I can check another thing off my list! Of course, I’m looking at my list from 2010, when I first made the goal to mail Christmas cards. Seven years later, and nothing is stopping me now! Welcome to the First Annual Jolley Christmas Letter!
We moved to Morristown, New Jersey in January of this year. The day we boarded a plane in Jacksonville, Florida, it was 75 degrees. We deplaned in Newark, and it snowed the next day. It was quite a shock, but has turned out to be a great move.

Dan graduated with his MBA from University of Florida in April. He works in category development for Reckitt Benckiser and travels back to Florida regularly. He is an active participant in the Sunday School lessons at church where, even if it’s not his turn to teach, he still makes the most comments. He enjoys playing golf, or at least he thinks he still would if he ever had a minute to play. Playing golf was so two kids ago.

June started kindergarten this year. She’s in a great class at school where she receives occupational, physical and speech therapy. She loves to draw, bake and swim! She recently fractured her arm again and is now winning the world record for hairline fractures (3 before the age of 6). She was one of the first kids to have her part memorized for the primary program, and she was the only kid to stick a tic tac up her nose and swallow it during the primary program.

Gwen is 3 and is a force of nature. She both falls asleep later and yet wakes up earlier than the other kids. She keeps everyone around her moving so that we don’t miss a thing. Though she and June are opposites, they are also best friends. Gwen loves to play outside, ride a tricycle and has a knack for getting herself into precarious situations. This year, we have found her on top of a ladder resting against the roof of our house, leaning out of an open window in her bedroom at midnight and leading a revolution at her YMCA swim class.

Harris came to us on April 14th in a record-breaking 40 minute delivery. We almost didn’t make it to the hospital in time, and I may have screamed at everyone within earshot. I’m determined to never show my face at Morristown Hospital again. Despite his violent entrance, he has been an extremely calming presence in our home. He’s sweet and smiley and drool-y. He has been wearing a cranial helmet since September, but he doesn’t mind.

And then there’s me. I am busy with raising and hiding from three little kids. I play the organ at church, work part-time from home and find writing our family blog to be a good outlet for me. New Jersey was the hardest adjustment for me, but now I love it here.

Our family photo was taken by a dear friend, and I couldn’t believe it turned out. That morning, there was much screaming, fighting and gnashing of teeth. The kids were bad too. I’m grateful for this time of year to remember that a Savior was born so that families like ours can try and try again.

Much love to you and yours,
The Jolleys

Friday, December 22, 2017

'Twas the Week Before Christmas

 'Twas the Week before Christmas
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Because they all ate too much.

What can I say? Poetry is my thang.

I've been reflecting a lot about Christmas traditions this year for two reasons: (1) our kids are finally at the age where they understand Christmas traditions and (2)for the first time since June was a baby, we are celebrating alone. It's been sad because they past several years we were able to drive up to Atlanta from Florida to be with Heidi's crew. But this year we are too far away and are doing our own stuff.

So there are tons of ideas for Christmas traditions, but traditions are something that have to fit with your individual family. We have tried a couple of new things this year but have also kept a few older ones.

So here's what we have come up with:

1. 25 Days of Christ

We painted these sets as part of our Super Saturday at church. It's a kit of 25 ornaments and a booklet that has a devotional for each day. The devotional highlights a story for Christ's life and the ornament goes along with the story.

For example the "10" ornament is from the day we read about the 10 lepers. The donkey is from the day we read about Christ's triumphal entry (Palm Sunday).

The pitcher and the bowl are from the Last Supper.

And there are many others. This tradition has definitely been a keeper. The girls don't quite grasp the stories from the scriptures yet, but it starts a family discussion. And they get excited to take turns putting ornaments on the tree. And because we are always missing nights and playing catch-up, it usually works out that they each get to put up an ornament every night.

What is sweeter is that I helped run Super Saturday this year, so I didn't have time to paint my kit. One of the sisters noticed this and took my kit home and painted it for me. She told me that she knew that I would never have the time to do it because of the energy levels of my three little kids. I was beyond touched by this act of service.

May I never forget what it's like to have little kids. I hope I will watch out for those young mothers when I'm past this stage.

2. Christmas Caroling

This one is an oldie but a goodie. I used to do this with my own family growing up. My brothers had a tradition of wearing shorts, no matter the weather.

Each year, we make Dan's mom's doctored up hot cocoa mix and deliver it to neighbors and friends while singing. We are truly terrible singers. Truly. So hopefully the mix makes up for a lot.

This trash can is our special hot cocoa mix container, saved for this one purpose all year.

This year, we actually took the time to write out the recipe for future years. Because for the past 5 years, we just guess at what we are doing while grumbling that we didn't take the time to write down the "perfect" mix from the year before.

Then we get everyone dresssed up! Dan always wear his famous "Grinch pajama pants", and the girls are usually reindeer. Begrudgingly.

We have 20 houses to hit up this year, and we have about 8 left. We have gone out two separate nights so far. The pattern we follow is that we are strong for about 3 houses, after which we are prompting the girls every third word. By the end, one or two (or three) kids are asleep  and whoever is remaining gives the saddest solo or duet known to man while everyone else waits in the car.

A major highlight this year was when everyone else was sleeping in the car, so Dan and Gwen went to sing to a guy from church by themselves. Just as the guy came to the front door, Gwen's hand got caught in his front door and she started screaming. Dan decided to carry on singing "Jingle Bells" by himself whilst she screamed, only to forget what he was singing halfway through and say "Sorry, we're done. Merry Christmas!", all while carting a still-screaming Gwen back to our car.

Also this year, June fell asleep one of the nights and then came home and threw up.

You know that song--"Grown up Christmas List"? I do not like that song. One bit. If I were writing the lyrics, they would go:

No more barfing in my car/
I'd like to stay up late enough to see the stars/
And my Wal-Mart is just too far.

The other verse would definitely have something to do with no more kids (cough cough Harris) twisting around during a poopy diaper change.

3. Advent Calendars

We did advent calendars for the first time this year. I have mixed feelings about this.

First off, these were a buck each at Aldi, and you know I feel like I've achieved something when I get a good deal.

But it definitely promotes the "gimme gimme" attitude of Christmas that is a pain. I think I'll go to Trader Joe's next year and get one of theirs because they have an act of service under each tab. Or maybe I'll write up my own service ideas because I need very simple things if I want to accomplish them around here.

4. Letters to Santa.

We wrote Santa letters this year. It seems like everyone is pretty passionate and divided on their opinions on Santa these days. My thoughts are--it's fun but I don't kill myself to keep the tradition alive. I think it's fun for small kids and then it's over.

5. Christmas Cards.

I actually did a Christmas card this year, complete with a newsletter that everyone could throw away without reading. It's something I have wanted to do for years but was always overwhelmed. And then I had so much fun doing it that I would like to do it every year. I ended up accidentally sending two cards to one of my friends (sooo shocking and doesn't sound like me at all!!), and she made one into this ornament and gave it to me. And so a new tradition is born. I love it.

And now the miscellany:

June's musical program at school.

It was very snowy so she changed her shoes there.

And I bawled through this thing like a fool.

 And I still have "Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel" and a song about snowflakes stuck in my head. But just the cutest concert ever hallelujah and amen.

Dressing festively for church:

Just like all of my cute clothes, my sister gave me this dress. And then I took a nap after church and lost my brooch and I'm still sad about it.

 Grinch Snacks:

Let's play my favorite game of "Review what's in this photo".

That would be a plate of snacks, about to fall off of a crowded table, sandwiched between vegetable shortening, mittens and dryer sheets. My picture-perfect life!

And! Cutest baby of the year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Worst Decision I Ever Made.

This morning, I made the worst decision of my life.

Worse than the time I decided it would be okay to walk through the mud in my dress on the way to my junior prom (dumb).

Worse than the time I decided to eat IHOP for breakfast and then Olive Garden for lunch and then attempt to squeeze into my wedding dress. Yes, those are the meals I ate on my wedding day. (duuuuuuuuuuuuumb.)

What's up with me and ruining my dress for formal events? Is that psychological?

You see, this morning I decided to run at 5:00 a.m. when it was 19 degrees outside.

Though it's no secret that I'm not a fan of winter, I do enjoy running in cooler temperatures. Even down to the 30s. After a block or two, my body heats up and I am fine. It's like running in the air conditioning. I'm also motivated to not slow down because I don't want to get cold again.

But this morning, I didn't even check the temp before heading out. The second I stepped out the door, I realized it was cold. Super cold. I maybe could have handled that, but--oh the wind! And I wasn't properly dressed for it.

Nevertheless, I told myself to carry on and I would be fine. But I was not fine.

I did my normal loop and by the time I was on my way back, I started imagining my imminent death and wondered--How is my family going to identify me? I figured that because my face was now permanently disfigured from the wind beating it mercilessly, I would have to rely on the hope that no other girl in her young 30's has an entire Pandora station dedicated to Hall & Oates.

But I persevered and arrived back home and checked the temp. And then I vowed to never exercise again. Not. Worth. It.

In other news, yesterday we made sugar cookies. This was my first time ever doing it with my kids. Of course, June wanted to help with the mixer. She started out doing a great job, but one time pushed the knob just one increment too far, and then . . .

Flour everywhere. Everything was a total mess. I was SO mad. Dan came up the stairs at just that moment and began to laugh uproariously.

May he rest in peace.

Despite the mess and the long time the cookies took, we had a great time and the cookies were yummy too.

We frosted a couple, but then it was time for bed. So we froze the rest and will frost them another day.

This morning, I tried doing some cute girl hair and failed miserably.

First off, this is what the top of June's head looks like now that she's given herself a new cut.

Oh my Billy Ray Cyrus.

But with a lot of water and a lot of hairspray, we managed to get it like this:

Hopefully it stays down.

I also did the most darling thing to Gwen's hair. This style took 4 minutes to do it and then only stayed in 2 minutes. That's a bad return on my hair investment.

I wanted a picture of the front too, but of Gwen objected.

Speaking of Gwen and objections, I've been really trying to figure out how to parent her better. She is a doll, she's fun, she's spunky, and she's going to kill me. She's very stubborn. This morning, she was spitting at the breakfast table. I told her to stop. So she spat. So I told her to stop. So she spat.

So I finally just stared at her. I always hear people say, "When I was a kid, all my mom had to do was give me one look and I stopped doing whatever I was doing." I have not had success with this, but I decided to really try to channel this "look" power this morning.

So there we were at the breakfast table, staring at each other. I wouldn't even allow myself to blink. And Gwen stared straight back, with her tongue close to her lips, ready to spit again.

But I continued to stare. And finally she looked away.

And then she looked back again. But I hadn't stopped staring. I wouldn't stop.

Finally, after maybe 2 to 3 minutes, she started begging, "MOMMY PLEASE STOP LOOKING AT ME."
And then I was satisfied. I won a fight with my three-year old!!!

You can see what these children are doing to me. Recently, I made a pb&j for one of the children, threw the dirty knife in the sink and turned to give the sandwich to the child. But the sandwich was gone. I looked high and low and found it in the sink. Where I had not placed a dirty knife at all.

I'm running in the freezing weather, styling mullets and putting sandwiches in the sink. I'm losing it, people.

The End.