Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A (Seriously) Merry Christmas To You!

You might recall Christmas last year was a rather somber affair, and in spite of some of the serious faces this year, I assure you a very merry time was had by all. I was fairly excited myself since this was the first year my boys really seemed to "get" what Christmas was about. As such, I took a picture of the tree and presents before they woke up this morning for posterity:

And then I made a little noise and peeked in the boys' room a few minutes later to see a couple of sleepy heads beginning to stir. I love Seth's still-sleepy eyes in this picture as they survey the loot under the tree for the first time:

Of course, Seth did his due diligence since the first thing he did after that was to make sure the plate of cookies and glass of milk we'd left out for Santa were empty:

– Carrots for reindeer is also gone. I is convinced everyone!

The boys tucked into their stockings first. Well, Seth tucked into his stocking – Nate needed a little coaching after he unloaded half of it and started putting things back in. Still, his look of concentration is admirable:

And unlike last year, Seth showed us all how to unwrap a present like a pro (or at least in record time):

– 'Dis is how it done, everyone!

Nate needed a little coaching here too (and in case you were wondering, that's a pensive look Seth is giving his brother even though it looks a little like nose-picking):

This is easily one of my favorite moments from unwrapping presents today. Nate finally got the paper off and the box open and exclaimed "Paper!" and the truth is, he was pretty excited about getting a box of paper. I had to tell him to keep looking since there was a gift (other than paper of course) still in the box:

I love the look on his face when he found it! Nate is fairly obsessed with foxes lately and he didn't let his new friend out of his sight all day:

This is the last of the Santa gifts that were opened before breakfast. Twig was a reasonable hit, but required some serious concentration:

After breakfast (and a change of clothes later) we got down to the business of opening up the rest of the presents. I didn't have anything special planned in terms of "Christmas outfits", but their shirts from last year still fit so I went with it. I'm glad I did – same shirts, but a year later and oh... how things have changed:

One of the boys' favorite presents were some new slippers courtesy of Gamma Rita. Said slippers by Gamma Rita's own admission are "so ugly that they're kind of cute". Truth be told, I kind of love them too.

Mr. Potato Head was also a hit:

... but not so important that Nate couldn't take a break to hug his new best friend:

Of course the gift that got the patented "big smile" from Nate was courtesy of Uncle P.:

It even warranted a "really, really big smile" as things turned out:

Merry Christmas everyone!

- L.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Time Travel

There is a certain cleft chin on this one... 

... but no one could figure out where it came from for a long time.

Grandma Leslie solved part of the mystery awhile back while I was going through some old family photos when she suddenly said, "That man in the picture – he has a cleft chin!".

The man in the picture turned out to be my great-great grandfather Herbert alongside his wife Maria: 

They are posing for a photo that must have been taken circa 1900 in Russia. They were prosperous enough to afford a photo when photos weren't easy to come by and it's clear they had to stand quite still for it even though great-great-Grandfather Hubert looks like he's about to fall over despite the propping stick. I suspect there is another (and much bigger) stick just out of field on the right.

I don't know much about these people to be honest, but I do know that they were Germans living in Russia and not long after this picture was taken World War I happened and Germans weren't especially welcome after that. Many fled, giving up their land and livestock and only took the things they could carry.

The only reason I have the photos I do of my ancestors are because someone considered them important enough to carry. They travelled over land and sea and land again. It was a long journey. My Grandma was a 6 year old child at the time who showed up in Canada speaking 3 languages, none of which were English. English was her fourth language and she never lost her accent, even at 99. Herbert and Maria were too old to travel when they had to evacuate. They were put on a train – likely to Siberia – and they froze to death before they reached their destination.

There is another picture from happier times though, and although I'd looked at it before I only noticed the other "that man" a few days ago. He has a cleft chin too, but it's a small one like Seth's. He also has a certain smile I recognize and I'd be willing to bet "that man" had a few shenanigans up his heavy coat sleeve or at least a few tricks under his hat. 

I don't know who he is other than a distant relation from "the old country". I imagine he is related to Herbert, but whether he's a son or a grandson or a nephew or a cousin twice removed... well, that's anyone's guess.

The one thing I do know is that a certain chin made it's way through a lot of time and space to end up on Seth's face. 

I call it "Mommy's spot" and give it kisses especially often. 

As for time travel... I'd have to say it's definitely possible and even quite probable if you're willing to wait.

- L.

PS. This post wouldn't be complete without a picture of Nate who stood so still and was so good about it he eventually enticed his brother to stand still enough for a picture too. 

Nate also has a "Mommy's spot" and it's on his face also (and when I figure out how to take a photo of it you'll be the first to know). No worries – it gets plenty of kisses too.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

When all you need is love: 

And maybe some new friends (courtesy of Uncle P.): 

Plus one that is nearly as old as me (and first sat atop our tree when I wasn't much older than my boys are now):

Also important – two boys decorating a tree for the first time because they are old enough now to get excited about Christmas: 

– I would look more excited everyone, but as it turn out...

– ... this tree decorating business is serious business!

– I would also look more excited everyone, but as it turn out...

– ... I totally messing with you. Nothing serious about this and I love it!

And even though the wooden candy canes I made three Christmases ago will be forever known as "the letter J" – as they were last year also – it was easy to overlook... especially since Nate and Seth were so pleased to be reunited with them:

– Look! It's letter J!
– That's a letter J, alright!
– Too bad Mommy hang thread on wrong end.
– Also a shame Mommy forget rest of alphabet for tree.

On the other hand, I think watching my boys roll around on the floor before bed with their Uncle P. was easily my favorite part:

And since Nate's got his "really big smile" on, I think my boys felt the same way:

My least favorite part however was realizing if I lean over like this I look like I'm sporting a fine Viking beard:

It was too funny not to share though. 

- L.

PS. A picture of the finished tree for posterity in case it gets demolished before the big day:

With two toddlers on the loose and all those tempting "J's" I can't guarantee the tree will be in the same shape come Christmas.

PPS. A very special thanks to Uncle P. for photos 4 through 9 (and most especially number 12 in case I ever want to tell the boys I once worked with a traveling circus). 

Monday, December 3, 2012

And Sometimes We Make Requests...

If you've been reading along for awhile then you already know that we did Christmas boxes for Samaritan's Purse two years ago and last year we decided to keep it local with the Salvation Army's Fill The Kettle Campaign.

This year we are doing something a little different and splitting our donation four ways. Some are local and some are farther away, but each of these causes have touched our lives over the past three (or more) years in one way or another and so in that sense they are all close to home.

I'll be putting links to all four registered charities in the left sidebar for the rest of the month. If you're looking for a worthwhile cause to donate to this Christmas season, I would ask that you please consider a donation to one of them.

– L.

The Kidney Foundation of Canada

For little Squirtle who takes excellent care of Uncle P.  and for which I am eternally grateful.

You can donate here (or if you are donating in the United States here).

The Canadian Diabetes Association

For an old friend who got in touch and answered my questions when I was still so worried about Nate

You can donate here (or if you are donating in the United States here).

CrossBridge Family Ministries 

For Mason and the families of the 1/100 children everywhere who are born with a congenital heart defect (CHD). Everyone should have someone like CrossBridge on their side in a crisis.

CrossBridge helped out Mason's family following his emergency transport and surgery, and if you aren't familiar with their story you can read about it here.

They provided a home for us to stay in during Mason's surgery, brought meals to the home, brought us meal tickets to the cafeteria, visited us and called us regularly. They're simply amazing. 
– Mason's Mommy 

You can donate here.

Children's Brain Tumor Research Foundation 

For Tristan and his family.

The CBTRF focuses on brain tumors that affect children, which are different than brain tumors in adults and is an area that is underfunded in general when it comes to children's cancer research – particularly rare forms of tumors like Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumors or AT/RT.

AT/RT has a 10% survival rate. It's aggressive and cruel and it kills kids under the age of five 90% of the time. It was my privilege to pray for Tristan and it's my privilege now to try to raise some money to help out with research so that surgeons and science someday will know how to heal AT/RT. Tristan died May 25, 2011 following a period of remission and after it was discovered tumors had reappeared and were inoperable. He had a glorious crown of red hair like his Mommy and his big sister, and cheeks you could kiss for weeks. I never met him in person and I've never met his family in person either, but I am mindful to hold my babies closer and am thankful for all of the minutes I get – even when my boys are driving me sideways – because of Tristan. He was a bit of a firecracker too.

You can donate here