Oh my, it has been a busy week! Festive, productive, and just a touch of crazy here and there. Eric coincidentally chose this week to start climbing EVERYTHING—and yes, I mean everything in the least hyperbolic way. The kitchen chairs, couches, teetery things that could result in dire injury…and he can navigate his way from Katie’s hassock, to her cozy chair, to the foot of her bed and onto the bed.  Landings he can’t quite reach with his knees? He solved that by Tuesday: get a pillow or some other toy/box, throw it next to his desired climbing object, and use it as a stepping tool. There’s no outwitting these children. Sheesh.

So cooking a party feast and prepping our house took several days. Thankfully, my mom, my dad, and Bill all took shifts at crucial moments with the children, mainly with Eric. Katie helped me much of the time, cooking, setting the table properly, and reporting on her brother’s activities (“Mama, he’s climbing the kitchen chair!”).

Still, we had plenty of time for fun this week, too, and of course, we all enjoyed our party immensely last night. Today (Sunday) has been a day to laze about in comfy clothes, watch movies, eat leftovers, catch up on e-mail, read, and generally just rest with no particular objective. Ah. Every once in awhile, we need a day like that.

Our week, in pictures:

One morning this week, Katie dressed up as a “Christmas angel.” This outfit is her creation; I only helped to tie some of the bows.

We spent another day completing “Christmas Cookies, Day 2” at my mom’s house. Actually, looking back, I am not sure the kiddos or I made any substantial contributions to the creation of these particular cookies—except tasting. But it was festive and we felt like it was a baking day. I mostly ran around after the kiddos. Katie helped a bit on the counter. My mom is the Christmas Cookie Powerhouse in our family. These cookies are: almond clouds, fruitcake brownies, oatmeal-white-chocolate-cranberry-hazelnut, chocolate thumbprints with Nutella filling, anise biscotti drizzled with chocolate, and the humorously named “raspberry strippers” with my mom’s homemade raspberry jam.

Somewhere around mid-week, we took a night out to attend the annual Valley Winds Christmas concert at the Temeku Clubhouse. Our former TVHS band director Tom Hrbacek is the conductor of this band, one in which my brother, sister-in-law, and my brother’s father-in-law and other family members have all played in at one point or currently. We drank hot chocolate, sang carols, and felt Christmassy.

Katie and my mom… I have one somewhere of Boppa and Eric, but it is not uploaded at the moment.

Then the kiddos helped to make the green bean casserole for our McGaugh Christmas party menu. I set out the ingredients and told Katie what to do, and she did it all herself!

Eric helped with the fried onions.

Grinding pepper… it was important to involve them in the prep as much as possible. I can get away with getting quite a bit done when I involve my children in whatever it is and use it as a teaching time. That is one of my biggest tricks, actually. And they learn at the same time, so it is a win-win situation.

One night we visited Pennypickle’s Workshop in Old Town for their annual Winter Wonderland event. The kiddos got to play in some real snow, and they visited the Snow Princess. I was able to help out earlier in the week with a small aspect of the Snow Princess station: she gave out affirmations on little paper doily snowflakes, and I had fun helping to write those earlier this week. They said things like, “You are helpful” and “You bring delight to your family and friends.” It was a small contribution to an event that had many, many hours of other volunteer and staff labor, yet it was fun to be involved again in the community and to use my words for the good.

Then it was party day! We love spending time with our family! Uncle Chet had a bird count in Yucaipa this year, so we had a late afternoon/evening party this year. I loved how cozy it felt with all of our outdoor lights on and all eating dinner together. We served turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, glazed carrots, creamed corn, rolls, cookies, apple crumb pie, and ice cream—a traditional feast. What a fun way to kick off the last week before Christmas with our McGaugh kin!

Aunt Sharon (married to Bill’s brother Seth) brought their three grand-daughters, Bernicie, Sharon, and Marcella. Katie always gets along so well with these sweet girls. In fact, Katie had so much fun last night—all four girls played the whole time together, and extremely nicely, too. They are just little darlings. Aunt Sharon was great, too, about letting her presence be known, and the girls would all help each other clean up one set of toys before going on to the next. The four of them colored, built with blocks, played Candy Land, and cooked in the little kitchenette.

The teacher in me is a big believer in ice-breaker activities for children when a party starts—something children can do together to get the playing off to a good start and to remember who each other are. A few days ago, I suggested to Katie that we print out several Christmas-themed coloring pages and put them out on the table with some crayons. Katie, instead, came up with the idea we eventually enacted: huge pieces of butcher paper taped to the table with crayons for free drawing. That turned out to be a big success, and Katie felt ownership of the idea and therefore confident in her hosting/socializing. She can be shy with new people/people she doesn’t see all the time, but when the girls arrived, I told her to show them the drawing station, and it gave Katie a definite role in our house. If one of the girls went off to play by herself, Katie asked, “Do you want to come back and play with us?” This was a big step for Katie, and I told her over and over again last night how proud I was of her being such a nice hostess.  I saw her grow last night, and that was cool.

Playing in the kitchen

More drawing before dessert. I still have the paper up today. There are Christmas trees, poinsettias, angels… And many of the drawings had an element of collaboration to them. I might have to keep this for awhile as a sweet memory of a great night.

At dinner with Uncle Chet

When we were setting the tables earlier this week, Katie was clear that she wanted to sit next to the adored Uncle Chet. So sweet.

Aunt Sharon, Uncle Patrick, and Uncle Seth

Uncle Seth

What a beautiful memory with Bill’s side of our family!

After everyone left, it was bathtime and clean-up time, and then story time! Katie and I have started reading some of my Nancy Drew books. We started out of order and chose to read The Hidden Window Mystery. We love it. I love my memory of reading it as a child. I have the original 56 stories, and four of those (including the The Hidden Window Mystery) were actually my mom’s volumes when she was a child. She gave them to me as a present when I was young. So, how truly awesome it is to be reading to Katie out of a book that once belonged to my mom when she was little! We are reading with the fervor of reading Harry Potter, and Katie keeps wanting me to assure her that we’ll start another as soon as we’re finished with this one. I have to say, reading Nancy Drew again is so cozy!

Merry Christmas week, everyone!