Sunday, December 30, 2012

Jack's 4th Birthday

Jack turned four the day after Christmas. We celebrated the big day with a Thomas the Train birthday party. Jack as a three-year-old was a challenge. He tested boundaries and threw fits the likes of which I had not seen from our sweet boy.

But three was also a big year. Jack started preschool. He is hilarious and fun. And kind and sensitive. I love that kid. Four is going to be amazing.

As is our tradition, we had a few questions for Jack.

What is your favorite color?
Green and blue and pink

What is your favorite food?
Mac-n-cheese and steak. (I don't think Jack has actually ever eaten steak)

What is your favorite toy?
Monster trucks

Who is your best friend?
Wynn and Libby

What is your favorite thing to do?
Play monster trucks in my room

What is your favorite game to play?
Soccer and hide-n-seek

What do you want to do when you grow up?
After we offered a few examples Jack said "monster truck driver. No, I want to be a motorcycle driver." Later when I repeated the question he said, "I want to do the money stuff." Then he looked at Christian and said, "I want to do what you do."

What are you most thankful for?
For all of my friends. I then said, "Does that include Gracie?" To which Jack shook his head no.

What is the best thing that happened to you this year?
My birthday party was fun. And the Monster Truck Jam

What do you like about being 4?

What a darn funny kid! Happy Birthday sweet Jack! You are my sunshine.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gingerbread Party

Enjoy these few photos from Jack's preschool gingerbread party. Christian and Jack had fun making a fishing pond and skiing snowmen. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Bread

As a child each Christmas my mom and I would make Jiffy mix banana bread to give to our neighbors. She and I would spend the Saturday before the holiday in the kitchen opening the little blue twenty-five cent boxes. We would add an egg, a bit of milk, stir and put into the greased bread pan. After the bread cooled we wrapped the loaf in plastic and put a bow on top. I was then sent out to deliver the bread to our neighbors.

We didn't have much but my mom always made sure I knew two things. One was how to give. The other was to be a grateful getter. These are lessons I haven't always practiced perfectly over the years but they are part of my core, my foundation.

Now that I have Jack and Grace watching my every move, I am responsible for passing along my mom's lessons. One tiny thing we did this year was make Christmas bread for a few of our neighbors. Jack and Grace helped crack eggs and stir batter. They licked spoons and munched on pecans.

We cooked our bread and waited for it to cool before wrapping it in plastic and delivering it to neighbors.

The lesson I want my children to have engrained in their hearts is that giving is not about the biggest or most expensive gift. A gift of time. A gift of love. That is what sharing is about. And I want them to receive the simple gifts with grace and joy. To learn to appreciate someone thinking of them and sending a blessing their way.

Here is Christian's favorite holiday bread recipe. A recipe his mother, Catherine Anne, made for their childhood holiday celebrations. This is now a part of our children's holiday memories. Plus this bread is crazy delicious.

Orange Cranberry Nut Mini Bread Loaves

Grease and flour 3 mini loaf pans (3 x 5 3/4 inch)

1 3/4 cups unsifted flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup cold butter
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons orange juice
1 egg beaten
1 cup cranberries halved or quartered (Do not use a food processor! You want them barely chopped)
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut butter into the flour mixture.
Combine the orange zest, juice, and egg. Add egg mixture to the flour mixture all at once. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Mix in cranberries and pecans.
Spoon batter into pans. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Cool loaves in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on a wire rack. Wrap and refrigerate overnight before slicing. "If you can!" (Anne's note on the recipe that makes me smile.)

Here's wishing you all the joy of simple gifts this holiday season. Hug your babies and be grateful for this beautiful life.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Best Present Ever

This morning Grace had an appointment at the Children's Hospital to check her hips. The x-ray looked perfect. Absolutely no sign of any issue with her hip joints. She now only has to go back once a year for x-rays. That means no more hip appointments until December 2013. 

Seriously y'all, I don't need another thing for Christmas this year. Today's news is the best present ever.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Praying for Patience

Lately I have been praying for patience. Being a full-time mom sometimes leaves me feeling frustrated with my children. Don't get me wrong. I adore my kids. Just recently I told someone that I wish I could do each year twice just to double the time they will spend in my home.

But sometimes the not listening, whining, crying, fighting and general toddler and preschool behavior leaves me feeling overwhelmed. Me being me, I internalize this behavior and look for the failure within me that is leading to my children's frustrating behavior. This led to the prayers for patience. I don't want to be the grumpy momma that is always correcting my children. I don't want to let the work of raising them consume me to the point that I miss out on the blessing of them.

After some reflection what I realized is that I wasn't actually praying for patience in myself. What I really wanted was my children to behave perfectly. For them to be different. For me not to have to do my job of teaching them boundaries and correcting the challenging behaviors. In a way I was being self-centered because the perfectionist in me was viewing myself as failing because they do not always behave perfectly. Instead of seeing the truth which is that kids are supposed to test us. This is how they learn right from wrong. Acceptable from unacceptable. Kindness from selfishness.

I can simultaneously play, giggle and see the joy of these little loves while also teaching them to be responsible and generous people.

Isn't it funny how prayers are often not answered in the way we want but instead in the way we need. I am thankful for this lesson of insight as we approach the holiday season.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Jack's Santa Hand

Jack has had three "homework" assignments for preschool. Each one was an art project to put on the classroom bulletin board. Each time I have forgotten about the task and rushed to get Jack to do it. The first two I let Jack do all by himself. I told myself this is the correct approach. Let kids do the work themselves. However, what I have come to realize is that preschoolers need a little help. 

Jack's assignment for the December bulletin board was to trace his hand, cut it out and decorate it. I asked Jack what he wanted to put on his hand and he had no idea. Now, I must be honest, I don't like crafts. I just don't find it fun. I actually find it stressful and messy. But, I wanted to help Jack produce something he could be proud of without doing it for him. 

First Jack and I searched for "christmas hand crafts" on the internet. Wow! There were tons of options which was a relief because I am not creative in an artistic way. I think Jack actually is creative, and he enjoys cutting and gluing. 

I showed Jack about five different hand options and he liked the Santa face. I dug under the bathroom sink for cotton balls, pulled out the glue and scissors, grabbed my gift wrapping box and we got started. 

I traced Jack's hand and helped him cut it out. He then looked at the picture on the computer and put glue on each finger and placed a cotton ball on each glue spot. Jack chose a blue nose from our craft box. (I do have a craft box for the kids even though we rarely do crafts.)

I then asked Jack what he wanted to make Santa's hat out of. I pulled out a red sheet of construction paper. Jack said he wanted to use the Christmas ribbon. I thought that would be way cooler than my idea. So I cut out a piece of ribbon for him with my big scissors. Jack glued the ribbon on and then glued a cotton ball on the end. Jack's one request was that I draw the eyes because, "we don't have googlie eyes like at school."

The result was a super cute Santa hand. Jack's art project is now proudly displayed on the bulletin board at school. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gracie's Baby Doll

This picture shows Gracie with a paper doll wrapped in a napkin. Poor Gracie needs a real baby doll from Santa.

We live in a house full of trucks, planes, trains and automobiles. Jack has Legos and blocks and gadgets of all sorts. And while Grace will play with them she really loves girly stuff.

It is hilarious that both my kids are drawn to traditional toys for their genders. Jack discovered trucks at a play date when he was 10 months old. He fell in love with all things that go. Before that point we didn't have any trucks at our house. I had this theory about raising kids with gender neutral toys and letting them decide for themselves what they like. But now we probably have 100 trucks because Jack discovered what he liked and I supported that.

And Grace did the same thing. She loves babies! She loves Minnie Mouse. She is all girl. And I had nothing to do with it.

So this Christmas Santa is going to have to bring Grace a baby doll and some girly toys. Otherwise she is going to start tucking Jack's trucks into bed.

She is such a cute and sweet girl! Love her!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Tis the Season

My sweet babies have brought me a new love and appreciation of the holiday season. Jack is so excited for Christmas. And while the thought of new toys is exciting, it is the little things that have him enchanted. He loves the "instruments" (ornaments) on the tree. He loves the Christmas songs on the radio. He wants to bake a holiday treat everyday. I love that he is waiting for the day Santa comes.

A trend has emerged to take Santa out of Christmas. While I understand the importance for Christians to make the holiday Christ focused, I take issue with demonizing St. Nick. I think it is some crazy, confused Jesus movement. Poor Jesus. I don't think he minds our sweet children believing in Santa anymore than he minds them believing Mickey Mouse is real when they see him at Disney World.

Children are smart. Their minds are complex enough to grasp both Jesus and Santa. Santa is a fun way to celebrate the magic of the holiday.

From where I am sitting I worry that the anti-Santa movement may only serve to make children resent religion. But if Santa is not in your family's tradition, I respect that.

God is always good. Any time religion leads to negative words or actions that is not God but man's abuse of religion. God and religion are not the same thing.

As we move through this holiday season let's not nitpick each other's traditions. Instead let's focus on the love and joy of the season. Let's take time to love our neighbors and share our abundance.

I want Jack and Grace to experience the fun and magic of the holiday. Childhood is oh so brief and I don't want them to miss a minute of the joy.

It is gonna be a fun month! Christmas at the Driver house is gonna be a blast. My goal is to post a lot this month so that our distant family and friends can share in our celebration. So stay tuned...