Tuesday, December 30, 2008

3 Christmases


I hear the new movie "Four Christmases" is essentially about a couple whose participation in four family holiday gatherings on Christmas Day composes a 2 hour comedy (i think? help from anyone who has seen it!
We didn't make it to FOUR Christmases. And it wasn't in one day. And only some parts were funny enough to be featured in a comedy.

But it sure was a whirlwind! And a blast. And packed with memories. And filled with love. We left Rochester on Friday night at 5:00pm and arrived in Logan, Ohio at 5:00am (11 hours of driving, including the time change)! Pulling the all-night driving drill was really smart, as it turned out, because our beloved son was a sleeping angel through 99% of the journey. Scott's Dad and Diane were first up! We got to visit in their BRAND NEW HOME (the HOUSE isn't exactly new, but the renovations and cosmetic details were all done by their choosing before they moved in - felt VERY new). This is the first home Ricci has owned, being a methodist pastor his entire adult life, so a BIG, FUN step! Speaking of steps, poor Diane had the misfortune of breaking her ankle more than a month ago and so she was hostage to the recliner most of the time. The yumminess of that visit included Scott's famous chocolate cookies, Ricci's famous cube steak and mashed potatoes, and - of course, Logan's finest pizza joint: Pizza Crossing. It goes without saying, but Jackson just fell in love with his g-parents all over again in Logan. He couldn't give them enough hugs and kisses!

Then on to Columbus to love on Grandma Lynette and Poppy (Henry). Highlights there included my first time viewing of "White Christmas" (but then those ice storms came through, so the cable was disconnected part-way through - i got the gist though). That viewing, coupled with previously watching "Holiday Inn" with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, has now transformed me into a complete and total old-movie FREAK. I'm obsessed. They are so cleverly done, funny and clean and cute and simple depictions of life and love. I'm hooked. We were able to celebrate with Doug and Aimee, son and daugher-in-law of Henry's and their darling baby Dillon. And we BARELY squeezed in a visit with Craig and Anita Sutherland and their babes, Grace and Ella, and Theresa (and family) and KK. Fairy Godmother Becky and Uncle Dick attended the Christmas Eve service at Lewis Center Church where Lynette had her biggest night of every year. She even hosted Becky and Dick to dinner at her place INBETWEEN the services. What a champ! I love the Decker home for the following reason (among many others): When I mentioned that it had been awhile since I had last eaten those no-bake chocolate treats, no sooner had the words left my mouth than did Lynette have out the Quaker oats, peanut butter, and cocoa. Aww, the sweet pleasure of being a guest!
Then on to Louisville Christmas Eve night, where we opened up gifts early (love that NEW tradition!) with us, Justin, Dad and Nancye in front of a toasty fire. We spent the next day with the McClains at Aunt Lisa and Uncle Brad's. Grandmom and Grandad never fail to impress with a family game (always, cash is involved somehow!). And the cousins entertained each other. Later that night, Scott, Jackson, Justin and I had the chance to visit with Nancye's family (kids and dad). Probably one of my favorite days overall was the 26th. We got to celebrate Mom's birthday with one of her favorite traditions - breakfast pizza - in the morning with the immediate family plus the GGs. They stayed a little longer for foot rubs (ha!) and good conversation. Then, off to bowling, one of my Dad's famous holiday traditions (who bowls at Christmas? The JOHNSON'S do!). Then, the evening meal was neat for me, because I could celebrate my Dad and brother's birthdays, which are both in December and which I am never able to be apart of, with their dinner favorite and dessert favorite.

And - to top it all off - we added a little sugar on top with a visit on our way home to the Chicago condo of cousin Steve and his girlfriend Jenn's. (so sorry I didn't contact yall, Rachel and Sarah - my other Chicago girlfriends - we just had NO POSSIBLE moments to squeeze in!). Sweet home. Sweet people. Sweet Chicago pizza that night. Thanks, guys.

We're home. It's snowing. And things are JUST about back to normal. Now, it's time to take down the Christmas decorations this weekend. Woohoo.

Happy New Year!

Would you believe...

..that a few of my high school girlfriends and I have been able to pull off a gathering in Louisville around the holiday time for about 11 years now? And that all it takes is a few short intro sentences - and we are back to the groove of our connectedness? I am amazed by that. Goes to show that hearts and souls don't change. Just appearances and experiences and circumstances (really these women all look the same the day we met as freshmen in high school, so we are doing pretty well on the aging element!).

In this picture, you will find a nurse practitioner who works on the side serving inmates in correctional facilities around the state of Kentucky, a communications professional working for the nursing school at University of Louisville, a brilliant art designer working for a small company in Louisville, a resident-going-on-doctor in the field of anesthesiology, and a part-time math teacher/mom (no hints at revealing that last identity!). Bottom line - pretty amazing women. I'm proud to know them all.

Where to put it all?

EVERY year a new round of gifts enter our home around this time and I can guarantee that the volume of these new additions far exceeds the volume of the items that get packed up to Good Will within a year's time. So that leads to only one possible resulting reality: we keep adding to what we've got.

It was challenging enough to find a smart place for all of Scott and my new fun toys each year. Now add a toddler to the mix. Ha! The kid's possessions were quite strategically "tetris"-ed into our Saab on the way home and when we safely arrived in our driveway, opening one car door was like turning the final crank on the Jack-in-the-box: EXPLOSION!

I spent most of Sunday afternoon through today organizing...and I am happy to say that everything has a home.

Did I mention another child is coming in April?

How did Neanderthals do it with only one cave and no Goodwill?

(P.S. I am most obviously a) exxagerating and b) attempting to be witty and funny so loved ones, please do not take this entry in any way as a complaint about all of the blessed giving! We are so appreciative!)

P.S.S. Much much more in the way of pictures to come.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I am NOT kidding when I tell you...

... that the high temperature today in Rochester, Minnesota is -1 degrees F.

And I have a slight cold, resulting in the faucet to my nose being constantly on. Let's just say snot freezes at the same rate as any other substance. Speaking from experience, of course.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

No modesty here... 24 weeks and loving it!

Peanut Butter Balls turn Buckeyes

For as long as I can remember, December held one very special night in our home (in addition to the 25th itself): Fudge and Peanut Butter Ball-making night. My brother and I would sit on the counters (through high school, I do believe!) as Mom directed our efforts (and, of course, supervised the appropriate licking opportunities). Since I graduated from college and began spending my Decembers in my own residences, I have held together that tradition. But, for the most part, it was MY deal. MY responsibility. MY thing. Last year, KK joined in. She was a faithful peanut butter ball dipper. But THIS year was the first year it felt like the tradition had translated into a TRUE Arthur Family tradition. Lynette faithfully balled the peanut butter dough with me while she visited (about 250 in all. YIKES!) and the rest of the project happened Sat with just our fam. Take a look below at my boys in the act!

Especially take note of the baker's outfit (apron and hat) Grandma Lynette gifted Jackson...
Scott carving out the marshmallow cream

This captures one of my favorite moments in Jackson's 18 months and 12 days of life... he patiently played while Daddy and Mommy did their diligent work. But when his curiosity got the best of him, he joined in on the fun on a chair. With no tutorial other than observation, this child went right for a toothpick and stabbed one of those balls in preparation for dipping. He's a natural! It makes me so psyched for next year, when he becomes more and more aware of those
magical traditions we all cling onto, child and adult alike!
PS. As for the title of this blog... in Kentucky, the treats we made were called "peanut butter balls" (and were completely coated in chocolate). When I moved to Ohio, I was alarmed to find that an entire GLOB of chocolate was missing from the top of each delicacy, revealing a small circle of the peanut butter dough.... hence the Ohio name: Buckeyes. Despite the 10 years I resided in Ohio, I resisted making anything BUT the full-out peanut butter balls (let's face it, they taste identical, but it was the principle of the whole thing... in my family, we made PEANUT BUTTER BALLS!). But this year, given that our friends here call us their "friends from Ohio," I buckled to make this year's gifts to them symbolic of our "home" state, good ole O-HI-O.

Friday, December 12, 2008

There's nothing like...

... a visit from a grandparent. We have had such wonderful visits from grandparents since we moved to Minnesota. And, for me, watching a young one experience a grandparent in high, concentrated volume a few times a year is a new concept; my kid days included grandparents RIGHT THERE IN TOWN. So we saw them ALL the time.

But there's something special about this version of Grandparent love too. Jackson got a visit from Grandma Lynette last week and he was stuck to her like glue. I still worked my normal morning schedule, so he and she had a few hours to themselves in the morning. By the time I got home, Jackson still greeted me with enthusiasm. But the hugs to Grandma were hard to compete with! He just had such an affection towards her. Grandma Lynette did a lot more than love on Jackson during her time here too: celebrated an early Christmas (the toy gifts for Jackson she had mailed here so that prevented us from having to drive them back), laundered and ironed, helped me around the house, and tons more. Thanks, Grandma. It was fun!

Jackson, see your really great outfit? Headed for the truck, Grandma.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The infamous first cut

Well, technically I butchered Jackson's hair awhile back and got TOTAL flack for it from Scott. But when Lynette was visiting (MUCH MORE ON THAT LATER!), we decided to go to "Little Dudes and Divas," a place here in Rochester that - as the title indicates - is kid-friendly-to-the-max, to get the first REAL cut.

The pictures tell all.

So far OK...

Mild panic begins

Reached full escalation to severe panic (holding onto bribery sucker, but not gotten the first mesmerizing suck yet)

Ahh.... there we go. First-time-ever-sucker sooths all panic. Hair cut over.

As promised, a few pics of our fun Christmas Decs

Sunday, December 7, 2008


On Friday of this past week, I was so groggy getting my morning routine going that instead of applying the lotion that normally goes on my belly (to keep stretch marks at bay) where it belongs and the lotion that normally goes on my face (the sunless tanner kind that keep me looking not-dead during the winter months) where it belongs, I reversed them.

Let's just say that day that my belly was tan and I may have helped my face with long-term wrinkle effects????

Monday, December 1, 2008

Chocolatey Peanut Butter on Vanilla Wafers and other Wintery Delights

Scott is having a ping pong date with a local buddy, so I am having a date with my blog. I tell you what, it is AMAZING what can get accomplished in an afternoon when one chooses NOT to touch the computer or her cell phone. It's a love/hate thing for me.... I feel more productive and happy with myself when I steer clear of such technology and communication devices and yet I LOVE email, blogging, and keeping up with folks on the phone. What's a girl to do? Needless to say, I've been a bit lagging on my verbal descriptions of life due to the productive side of me winning lately.

But since I have the writing bug now, let me indulge in a few random updates.

#1) I have developed a new (desperate) snack. When my sweet tooth is a raging and no major Christmas baking/candy-making has been accomplished to provide sugar at my beckoning call, I have found myself opening and closing cabinets - the same ones - over and over at around 8:00pm each night. A few nights ago, I FOUND IT. THE perfect bad-for-me-and-probably-for-my-baby-too snack... Simple recipe: place several (oh, alright a ridiculous amount of) chocolate morsel along with two heaping scoops of peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave until melted and gooey. Proceed to dip either vanilla wafers (my fav) or pretzels in substance. Then, lean back and let your belly just hang out (not a pregnancy-specific set of instructions!).
I'm eating my concoction right now. Mmmm.

#2) The Minnesota snow has made its first REAL mark. We've had an inch here and there that never made its presence lasting previous to this weekend. But on Saturday night it really started going. It was the REALLY fine, REALLY light kind, so we don't have serious depth.... but it's the kind that sticks. And, given our temperatures in the low to mid 20s, it's the kind that STAYS. We have been told that, after the first REAL snow of the season, you can expect a white coat THE REST OF THE WINTER (well, some of you folks might even call it Spring.... thru part of April anyway!). I actually woke up this morning and ran all the way to the TV to check if school was delayed. Yeah, right. I asked in class today if today was the kind of day where you could expect for some sort of delay or cancellation. My kids said, "Mrs. Arthur, it's gonna take a lot more than this." RATS.

#3) Given the wintery weekend outside, you can imagine what an ABSOLUTE BLAST I had in my home decorating once we returned from Thanksgiving. Hot cocoa. Fluffy robe. Christmas CDs blaring. Bare in mind, I have two homes' worth of Christmas fun to decorate with; I proudly inherited the product of my mother's years of holiday collecting. She loved Christmas. And I have inherited that passion as well. In fact, the first Christmas Scott and I were married I remember feeling so confused about how our decorating day unfolded. It went something like this: Scott brought up the boxes from the basement in lightning speed. And he proceeded to randomly disperse decorations on any surface at an equal lightning speed (I had to explain to him that if the nativity scene went on the toilet base, baby Jesus had a strong chance of ending up in the Cleveland sewers! Who puts Jesus ON THE TOILET???) . By the time he was ready to lay horizontally on the couch - his portion of the decorating "job" decidedly complete -and proceed with a relaxed Saturday of TV-watching, I hadn't even finished carefully unwrapping, then gazing sentimentally, then hanging the first of about a bagillion ornaments! Let's just say, I LIKE TO MAKE AN EVENT of the decorating. Scott (and most men???) look at it as a job to be completed as quickly as possible.

My husband has spent the last four years transforming his view of the big decorating day as a gift to me. If he had it his way, he'd still have the whole thing haphazardly completed in 20 minute's time. But he humors me - and I really believe he even has inadvertently tricked himself into loving the day's tradition.

Two very specific moments that I loved were: when I stood back and gazed at our beautiful mantle in the formal living room and had a "oh-my-gosh" experience (we hung a stocking for "sesame" and also decided we wanted duncan's present this year againt too - making a total of 5 oversized socks dangling away) in thinking that ALL THOSE STOCKINGS belonged to OUR family, MY family (I'm an adult. I'm a wife. I'm a mom. Scott and I are creating a LIFE and a FAMILY together - does anyone else get these weirdo moments?) AND (moment #2) when Jackson happened upon the framed matted set of 8 or so photos of Mom from the time she was a baby to her most recent pics (this had been created for her visitation and the GGs brought it along for me to keep when they visited... i had moved it around when we were holiday decorating) and he plopped down in front of the glass pointing to each of her faces saying a two syllable baby-version of "Grand-Jan." Precious moment.

Anyway, Saturday was it for us. And it looks like Christmas just EXPLODED in here. How did it EVER fit in my quaint little cape cod home in Clintonville? It must've tripled on the moving trip.
Yeah, that's it.

#4) Remember when I posted about "circling the pool" and not knowing when/how to jump in here in Rochester? Here are my decisions... drum role... I have applied to be a Girl Scout leader and am in the process of gathering my 4th grade girls for my troop! YEY! I have contacted the community coordinator of the Ronald McDonald House here in Rochester and will begin serving as a welcome volunteer immediately following the pregnancy (looking forward to April as my start time!). I put my hat in the ring and accepted the position as "welcome team member" (it sounds more official than it is) for the Moms and More group I've grown involved in (I can see future leadership here being a good thing for me - awesome group of intelligent, interesting, caring women). I am corralling some ladies from Scott's work and my work to consider a book club starting January at our home. I feel good. Progress has been made.

#5) Grandma Lynette is visiting Wed. YEY!

#6) Update on Dad: He is marrying on Jan 11. He and Nancye will have a very small and private ceremony in Charlotte, NC (where my uncle lives, who will marry them) and then head on down to Hilton Head for a honeymoon. They are busy reorganizing their condos to squeeze into one and joining together for Christmas plans.

Scott is back home. And I have done NOTHING productive while he was gone. See how dangerous the computer can be? Over and out.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Turkey Day in West Bend

Scott and I spent our second turkey day away from our own immediate families yesterday (his first was when he was in Europe - my first was during my Peace Corp stint). Since we already celebrated an early Thanksgiving in Ohio in October (cheaper flights then), this year we packed the car and headed to West Bend, WI where Scott's aunt lives.

It was YUMMY. Thank you Tolly, Steve, Jenn, Jim, Brad, Bailey, Sadie, and Sequel for some GREAT memories. We did NOT leave the house all day (with the exception of Scott and Steve picking up a movie - Tropic Thunder - do NOT recommend it :). Otherwise, we talked, cooked, ate, read, napped, drank, talked, ate, played cards, ate, and then ultimately slept. Great day.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

By Thursday...

... I'm tired. And, even though I could do without TV every other night of the week, Thursday is a TV treat night to myself... Just bundle up in some PJs, get horizontal, and plan on some no-thinking-no-hassle-no-conversation drama-watching. Last year The Office was how I spoiled myself. This year Grey's Anatomy snuck right up and bumped The Office out of its position.

Speaking of which... 8:00 central, 9:00 eastern is ticking closer.

FYI, if the phone rings, I won't answer it tonight.

Where Jackson's Socks Go

Every few days, I have to use this "sock fetcher" (a used wrapping paper roll) to collect all of Jman's socks. EVERY nap starts with socked feet and ends with bare feet. And this is where they go: between the wall and the crib rail. Heaven forbid he do his sock-tossing over the outer edge of the crib, where retrieval is much less of a hassle. It's his thing, God love him.