Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Merry Christmas!

So, with all the joy and happiness, "ohhhhs" and "ahhhhs" that 2 little girls can celebrate with, the train table made it's debut Christmas morning, a big gift from Santa Claus that couldn't be topped. They have played with it every day, and are starting to incorporate their dolls and Littlest Pet Shop pets into the community. They are very cute when they are playing and I'm glad it all worked out in the end...

Christmas Eve with Mike's family was lovely. The girls enjoyed going to the Children's Service at Trinity with Grandma and dinner was delicious. Lauren and Tara received interactive Buzz and Woody dolls from Uncle Mark and Aunt Kara -very cool- and new bikes, Leapsters and a learning Globe from Grandma and Grandpa! The time went by too quickly, and with the girls tucked snuggly in their beds, we waited for Santa to arrive the next morning.

We had to wake the girls up Christmas morning! They were still snoring at 8:15am and we needed to be to my sister's house by 10am. They loved the new camera's from Mom and Dad, some clothes and coloring/crafty stuff. Off to my family for the remainder for the morning-tons of gifts and wrapping paper, tags and bows and little girls who were over tired and over excited. It made for an interesting, but fun time! Brunch really hit the spot, too, and then it was back home to re-energize, make a fruit salad, gather more gifts and head to my Grandparents for more Christmas cheer! 

Dinner was great, as always, and I actually thought everything tasted extra good this year. More presents for all, playing tricks on my Grandma, cringing every time their life-size Santa started to sing & dance, and savoring my Aunt's homemade treats! Love it!

By the time we arrived home Christmas evening, we were spent. We slept in late on Saturday and it felt so good! It was another fun filled, love inspired, wonderful Christmas Holiday spent with our family and I'm already looking forward to next year! Merry Christmas Everyone!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Train Table Saga - Part II

In November, I related a little story about my horrific experience at Toys 'R' Us, regarding a pair of train tables that we were purchasing for our girls and my niece, Hailey. About 3-3 1/2 weeks ago, we went into the store to pay off the remaining balance on the layaway, so that when the tables came "in", we would be all set and could send someone else with the receipt to pick up the tables if need be. All seemed well...

Then, last week, we get a call from an employee at the store asking us if the pickup of our products went well and if there were any problems with the tables. Ummmm....we haven't been called to pick them up yet, nor have we been back to the store after paying them off. So Mike makes a quick phone call and finds out, to our relief, that the young lady had just grabbed the wrong list and was supposed to leave us a message that our tables had arrived and we could pick them up at our convenience. Alrighty.

Mike has been working a lot of long hours and things have just been so crazy that we thought it would be best to just keep them at the store for a few days, then pick them up closer to Christmas. At a minimum, they had to be retrieved by Wednesday, so that Hailey's Grandpa could give her the train for Christmas on Thursday, Christmas Eve. Lucky for us, the store was open til Midnight on Wednesday (last night), so after our other plans for the evening, Mike went to take care of the trains.


I know you are going to be shocked! This is going to come as a great surprise! They didn't have our trains......

Manager man was back at it again, saying that the delivery trucks from Flint and Lansing were supposed to be bringing more, but kept leaving them on the dock. He had *1* that had just come in and he would be more than happy to give us that one for now. Oh, how generous of you! Again!

The other train, he would be personally picking up from the Lansing store tomorrow morning and have it back in his store between 9:30-10am. He was going to make sure "that things are done right" by getting that table for us personally, no matter "what the weather is like". Wow. You're a really great guy, Manager Man. I guess that I'll just go ahead now and forget the fact that you SOLD OUR TABLES TO SOMEBODY ELSE! Oh, the nerve of that guy! I have lost so much respect for that store, the company and customer service in general...

So, Mike hauled the other table over to my sister's house, making sure that at least Hailey had hers to open today. If our table doesn't make it in before Christmas, so be it. Our kids won't know any different, but I will. I'm so upset over the whole thing but I know that no matter what, we will have a wonderful Christmas, spent with our family and loved ones, making memories that will last well beyond the "train table incident".

To quote a classic:

Narrator: "Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small, was singing, without any presents at all! He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming, it came! Somehow or other, it came just the same."

The Grinch: "It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags! 

Narrator: "He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!"

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Photos

When I found out that our favorite place to get photos taken was closing, I was heartbroken. I like taking pictures myself but I actually like to be in them sometimes! Imagine my surprise when our studio re-opened right before the Holidays with the same sets, same props and same photographers....just under a different name! Hooray!
We always opt for the CD. That way, you get all of your photos on a disc, with rights to the photos, and you can edit them any way that you like and print them wherever and whenever. Very convenient. My sister and I also try to split the session, getting all three girls pictured together, so that we can split the cost of the CD. Much more economical that way!

So here are some of my favorite shots from this year's session. If you received our Christmas card, you might have encountered a couple of these already..... I hope that you enjoy!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Making a List!

Do you ever get so overwhelmed by the "things" in your life that you just want to crawl into a small, dark space while quietly rocking back and forth mumbling incoherent crap? No?

I love this time of the year but as the years progress through my life, I realize that the things we "always" do just because it's "always" been that way, are not "always" the best ideas. We buy A LOT of presents for our family and friends. I love this aspect of Christmas mostly because I like giving. I love making other people happy and I like being creative to the point where the gift recipient knows I specifically thought of them when choosing a gift. I don't always get it right but that's ok. It really is the thought that counts.

All these gifts and giving cost money. This I don't have a problem with other than I wish that I had more money to give more things! The real trouble I'm running up against is time. Wish I could buy some of that! It takes tons of that precious commodity to think up, find, research, purchase, make, & wrap all that "stuff". And if it was just Christmas presents, it wouldn't be as bad hard to accomplish. For example, each of the girls has to bring a brand new book to school tomorrow, wrapped, with a "TO/FROM" label on it for a gift exchange and we are having a gift exchange for the kids at our monthly Geocaching event tomorrow as well. Not to mention December Birthdays! And trying to plan and organize for our Annual New Year's Party and a trip to Disney in a couple of weeks for the girls 5th birthday! Crazy!

So, let me sum up....

I am feel like I have so much to do that I can't possibly do any of it. I shouldn't even be writing this blog but it makes me feel better and gives me a chance to catch my breath. I am going to make a list, check off one thing at a time, put on my favorite Christmas music, build a Gingerbread House with my girls and take several deep, cleansing and calming breaths. I will appreciate those big moments and not sweat the small stuff that no one will remember next week.

And to borrow a quote from my dear friend, Andrea, "It's your presence, not your presents that people really care about." -Thanks for that! I feel much better! On with the festivities!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Santa's Little Helpers

Mike and I are crazy. Let me just be upfront about that. We hop in the car and drive anywhere, sometimes with no reason at all. It's a good thing that the kids are used to this or else I'm sure we would have more mutinies on our hands....

This weekend, we needed to make a special trip to Pennsylvania to pick up some Christmas gifts that were being hand made by an artist there. Yes, if I could have found someone closer to do the job, I would have. And no, shipping was not an option. We were given a specific date to pick the items up on and we communicated with the artist on several occasions, including a call from my sister only a few days prior to our arrival. We were also given a specific time frame during the day in which to come.

We left on Friday night, after Mike got home from work, and drove to Toledo, OH, were we got a nice room for the night. The girls do great in hotels and we all slept well. Saturday was gorgeous, with sunny, blue skies and warmish temps for the middle of December. Once we got near Pittsburgh, we ended up making a little detour due to traffic but still arrived at our destination within the allotted time slot. Owner greeted us, asked which order we were picking up, and promptly turned white.

Owner: "But I don't have those ready yet..."

Me: "You told us to come pick them up on Saturday, December 12th."

Owner: "I must have gotten your order mixed up with someone else's."

Me: "We've spoken several times and you assured me they would be completed. My sister just added one to the order on Wednesday and you told her that was fine."

Owner: "Yes, I got your sisters order done. Just not all of yours." (mind you, I ordered mine a month prior)

Me: "Well, when will they be completed?"

Owner: "Maybe tomorrow or early next week..."


Owner: "Oh....that's right....I forgot....oh, dear......ummmmm................"

Needless to say, I was not particularly happy at this point. Mike and I just kept looking at each other, thinking that the whole situation was hilarious and freakin' ridiculous at the same time! After a lot of scrambling, phone calls, apologizing, more phone calls, etc. we were finally assured that our items would be ready by 6pm that evening. Resigned that we had no other choice, we get back in the car to find somewhere to eat lunch. Our car promptly gives us the "Check Engine" light and flashes that the car is low on oil. What? This can not be happening...well, we've got time to kill now, right?

So we get the car taken care of, eat lunch and go find a few Geocaches. Thank goodness for that or else I have no idea what we would have done with our time. At 6 o'clock we get a call that the items will be done in 30 min and to head back to the shop. They somehow pulled it together and got the "stuff" done for us. It was 7pm by the time we were rolling again, with no hope of making it back home like we had intended. We decided to crash in Cleveland for the night and finally made it back to GR around 4pm this afternoon. Wow.

All I have to say is this....to those of you who benefit from this little excursion to help out Santa, I hope you realize just how much we are willing to go through to make sure we stay on the "NICE" list!  :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Reindeer Games

Saturday night we finished decorating the tree with the girls, and once they were in bed, decided to catch a few episodes of "House Hunters" on HGTV. As I was relaxing on the couch, I got that creepy feeling that someone was watching me. Usually, in cases like this, I find one of the kids has escaped from their bedroom and is looking at me through the banisters on the stairs. Not this time....

I look up, only to see a very large face staring at me through our front living room window! I jump! It's not a person but a big deer, trying to find something to eat under the snow. I tell Mike, who doesn't believe me, and he gets up to look out the other window. Imagine our shock to find not one, but 5 deer munching on our lawn. There was one big doe and four smaller deer, all enjoying a snack less than 10 ft away from us. They actually stayed for quite awhile before heading across the street single file, down towards the river.

This whole idea of have animals the size of small horses roaming freely in our yard is still new to me. I'm a girl from suburbia who still lives in a suburban neighborhood, yet now we have black, gray, brown and red squirrels, plenty of deer, tons of birds I've never seen before and let's not forget the "bobcat" episode. I guess that life is just full of so many surprises, big and small, that it makes the ordinary things seem special too.........

Bring on the reindeer!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Despair, Inc.

I buy calendars and other gift items from this company almost every year, and I have to say, I just love their style. This is the message that they send you once you have made a purchase. Hilarious....it's a must read!

E.L. Kersten, Ph.D
Founder and COO of Despair, Inc.

Let the Buyer's Remorse Begin!
It's official. Your credit card number is valid. Even as we speak, money is virtually flying out of your pocket and into our bank account. As you wait an indeterminable span for the order to arrive, your enthusiasm for this purchase will wane and be replaced with an alloy of buyer's remorse tempered with unease about the ridiculous interest rates you're paying on your credit card. And Another Dissatisfied Customer™ is born!
You should receive an email shortly notifying you of your order number, final cost and how to track your order status. This will only reinforce your unease, and at no additional cost!
You're More than Just Another Customer
You're more than just another order to us. In fact, you're the sum total of the amount you've spent with us, minus the designing, printing, fulfillment, licensing and other costs incurred to bring our products to you... Now that you've given us several dollars, feel free to share your two cents with us, as well.

Satisfaction Guaranteed*! With every order made, Despair, Inc.™ offers my unlimited personal guarantee. With every credit card effectively processed, my personal satisfaction is completely guaranteed*. And it is my promise to you, the holder of someone's valid credit card information, to commit myself to even greater degrees of self-satisfaction in the days and weeks to come, as I invest your hard-earned money in ever more gratuitous and hollow displays of wealth- with which I will intimidate and demoralize my narcissistic and materialistic peers in industry. Ah, the relentless pursuit of dejection!

* customer satisfaction, while theoretically possible, is neither guaranteed nor statistically likely.

Friday, December 4, 2009

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas....

     We went from zero snow flakes to almost a foot of snow overnight! The girls were so excited, they were waking me up at 7:30 in the morning asking if they could go outside and play....crazy kids. We did get a chance to play in the snow later in the afternoon, after school, making snow angels and catching snow flakes on our tongues. Tara was so exhausted this evening, she fell asleep on the couch before dinner! Very rare indeed!

     This is the first official snowfall since living in our new house. Everything looked so beautiful this morning and our neighborhood was like a picture....just lovely. I made Mike brave the cool temps to snap a photo of the house for me tonight. I hope he didn't mind too much! :)   Not only is it something that I wanted to share on my blog but a picture that we will look back on in the years and Christmas's to come.

It's still snowing now, and who knows how much more we'll get, but 'tis the season! I might as well enjoy it while it's here, because thankfully, it never lasts! ;)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

And the verdict is....

The School pictures are awful! Ok, maybe that's a little dramatic but the company that is doing them should have their photography license (not that there is such a thing) revoked!

Here, I was so worried about the clothes the girls were wearing or their hair. The last thing I thought about were the cheesy background photoshop jobs and the fact that one of my kids isn't even smiling! Nor are they centered in the picture and Tara's head is like 50% larger than Lauren's because they cropped in too tight.

Now, to be fair, Lauren's picture is cute-ish and she IS smiling (which can be hard to get sometimes) and the GREEN shirt obviously wasn't a problem. Tara's picutre is a whole other issue.....

Oh well, it's just their preschool pictures and I'm sure 20 years or more from now I will look back at them and laugh. Let's hope the girls will too!