Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas - Part Deux

Okay - back to Christmas:

Sunday morning the kids awoke before I headed to church and BEGGED to please be allowed to open their stockings. So, we had a quick round of that gift opening and we tortured them further by discontinuing any unwrapping until I returned 2 hours later.

But, I was barely through the door and allowed to change before we were heading downstairs to finish up the last of the Christmas unwrapping. Now, our kids hadn't actually been downstairs since our new coffee table arrived and when Jake rounded the corner and saw it he yelled, "SANTA BROUGHT US FURNITURE!!"

We take turns opening gifts so we can see everyone's reaction as well as have all the attention when it's our turn. Honestly, I think the kids actually like it - they are always pushing for their present to be next and have fun explaining how they chose it if there is a good story behind their pick. And honestly, they are so used to it by now that there's never really any arguing about the pace that things move.

This year the big presents were a "Fur Real Cat" for Maddie and an MP3 player for Jake. Mike and I were unsure about this cat thing, but Maddie really does like it and "Angel" has made it to sleeping in her bed at night - as long as she's shut off. Because this thing meows at the slightest movement we had Maddie plug her ears and sing really loud while we moved it in front of her, and then keep singing loudly while she opened it so she wouldn't hear it. We thought we were so smart and that this would get us around never getting a real pet - no allergies, no poop, no - wait on that last one. The darn thing actually sheds! We have "cat fur" all over our new table.

Jake has barely taken his MP3 player off. He's very excited because now he has something to put in the pocket in his new jacket! (To which I told him he could happily use - as long as it wasn't a school day.)

So the Christmas celebrating comes to an official close. We'll leave the decorations up through the end of the year and hopefully hit a couple good sales this week to add to our Christmas stash!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

7 is heaven!

December 28th was Jake's 7th birthday! He's been very excited about his big day coming up and after we'd been awake only a few hours on Christmas morning he asked if he could open his birthday present from Grandma Murphy. I informed him that it was Jesus' birthday - and that Jake would have to wait his turn.

So, we had a little party for him on the 26th at Grandma's house. He got a cake and some trick candles that Mike had him stop blowing on for fear that he would actually just start spitting on the cake.

He got to open the first of his birthday presents and wasn't disappointed. He's very excited to put his new football to good use and is trying to decide what to get with his new Barnes & Noble gift card.

Sunday morning we opened Christmas gifts and a few hours later...we started celebrating Jake's birthday. This poor kid is going to be so confused growing up. Some years he opens gifts ON his birthday, other years after, other years before, during, and after...his wife is totally going to blame us when he thinks his birthday is a week-long celebration! (And...he's already asking when his "MN family party will be" as well as when his "friend" party will be!)

But, now he's in the process of building his Indian Jones jungle chopper. It comes with Lego-spiders. Awesome.

He chose to head to Applebee's for dinner because they would "sing really loud to him there." We had discreetly informed the waiter about his birthday and Jake kept asking through dinner if they would know to sing to him. And at the end of the if by magic...there was everyone singing the happy Applebee's song. Birthday mission accomplished.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas - Part 1

On Tuesday night we headed down to Iowa right after the kids got out of school. As luck would have it, we managed to head into weather that, while not completely awful, was just awful enough to slow us down quite a bit. A trip that normally takes us 6 hours took us about 7 1/2 hours. But, we arrived safely - extremely late, but safe. By the time we go there it was well past bedtime, but the kids had already slept some in the car and weren't quite ready for bed. I think we all managed to crawl into bed around 12:30 or 1am - depending on who you were in the house.

Christmas Eve Day was nice and relaxing. We had a chance to just hang out with Mike's mom, Kay. Mike's family traditionally celebrates on Christmas Eve so that night we headed to church with his brother's family. Afterward it was back to his mom's house for dinner and some present opening. Each year as the kids get older it seems present opening gets pushed back; I think they realize how limited their playing time together is and they make the most of it. But, present time still comes around, and it's still general chaos:

Christmas morning found no big reason to get up early; we'd left our presents in MN. Santa had visited Iowa the night before and we had left a letter back home requesting Santa leave our stockings filled in MN so we wouldn't have to haul everything back. He's very accommodating that way. There were some presents from Grandma Murphy to open on Christmas morning and a few games that we played, but mostly we just relaxed. Later that afternoon we had a chance to eat a delicious meal with Kay, Pat & Missy's family (Mike's brother), Mike's aunt & uncle, as well as a really good family friend.

Friday night we switched some kids around and Maddie slept over at her cousins' and Aaron, our nephew (about Jake's age) slept over at Grandma Murphy's. The boys were in bed by 10pm...sleeping??? I'm not really sure what time they finally retired; Mike threatened them around 11:30 I think.

Saturday we headed right across the border to Illinois to celebrate with Mike's cousins. HUGE houseful of people and I believe the adults were outnumbered by the kids. But, it was a great chance to catch up with people we only see a couple times per year. During the white-elephant gift exchange Mike was the proud recipient of soap on a rope. I zeroed in on what I thought was a deck of cards; I was right - they'll be put to good use during next year's card party.

We left for MN straight from there at around 5:30pm. Because we had such fun on the drive down in crazy weather, we decided it would be good laughs to do it again - only in a greater capacity. It took us 5 hours to get the distance that would normally take 2 1/2 hours. I thought for sure Mike was going to pull over and call it a night when we hit the crazy snow storm (after all the ice, rain and sleet we'd already plowed through). But, I had church Sunday morning at 9:30, and while I would have happily gotten a hotel room, we would have had an early morning leaving to get me the rest of the way on time. Luckily things returned to "mostly normal" once we got through that snowstorm. We only dealt with a lot of wind for the rest of the way. And, at 1:30am we pulled into our driveway, unloaded the kids, and crawled into bed.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sitting in comfort

On Friday we had a wonderful delivery from the furniture people - our sectional arrived! The delivery guys kept bringing down piece after piece and I was getting a little nervous that it wouldn't fit (and yes, we really did tape out the measurements before ordering so we knew it would).

Anyway, it's awesome. It's flippin' huge, but awesome. I fought to get this chaise thing added to the end; Mike wasn't crazy about it. But, I did remind him that he got the t.v. he wanted and I didn't really put up much of an argument about it (until it started to grow in size every day), so I should be able to get one measly chair. For the record...everyone wants to sit there now - I have to fight for it.

So, after informing Mike he was sitting in my spot, he said he wanted to put his feet up, but couldn't if he sat in the middle. So, we looked online and found a coffee table that fit the space and what style we wanted. We went to get it Saturday, but due to a pesky snow-storm it took us 30 minutes to go what should have taken 5 minutes. So, we turned around and stayed home. We were able to pick it up today.

So, here's our new t.v. area:

This was the best picture I could get and still try to get it all in the viewfinder; it really is prettier colors than what this next one shows:
On Friday night we all sat and watched movies. I just kept thinking about how much work went into finishing this area - but so worth it! This is going to be our new favorite hang-out, I'm sure!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Looking Ahead

Tonight Jake got his haircut. Not normally a big occurrence here, since I do most of the hair cutting in this house. But, Jake announced awhile back that he wanted to grow his hair long enough on top to be able to part it. I wasn't sure if the sides needed to be cut differently, so I took him to the hair place to watch them cut it. Turns out it's even less work than before so I'm good to take over from here.

Anyway - as Maddie sat also getting her hair trimmed, Jake and I were chatting. He was pretty excited with his new look and suddenly we had this conversation:

Jake: Mom...I'll probably have a lot of girlfriends in 2nd grade.
Me: What??? Why do you think that?!?
Jake: I was talking to my friend, Jason, and he told me that in 2nd grade there are a lot of beautiful girls.

It wasn't even that he said the word "beautiful". It was that it was accompanied by a complete change in demeanor for that one word. His eyes kind-of closed, his head came forward and he almost whispered he was really trying to express the phenomenon that is to be second grade.

My eyes made a similar change - except they rolled back in my head and I wondered WHY doesn't Mike get to have these conversations?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Girl Thing

When the kids and I went shopping for Mike's Christmas presents, we also decided to get their Christmas outfits - as you've seen in the previous posts. But - I have to tell you about Maddie's dress.

She wasn't really into the whole shopping-for-clothes-adventure that night. We happened to be at Kohl's and I pointed out a dress that I thought was very classy - grown up, but not too much. She said it was okay, but wanted red or something with color. So, we looked a little more, found a couple and just before we went to try them on she decided to give my first dress a try.

It was the first one she tried on - and I'm not kidding that I got a little teary! She just looked so grown up in it - but then SHE lit up when she did a little twirl in the dressing room and it was this great twirling dress! She said so excitedly, "Mom! I'm like that girl in 'White Christmas' - you know where they dance outside and she's in that twirly dress?'" (For "White Christmas buffs - it's the pink dress she's referring to when the boys/girls first meet.) So, she tried on the others, but we were both sold on the first one and couldn't wait to show Mike.

And she twirled for him. And he just smiled - he might have been thinking back to when she was little and she would get such a kick out of her clicking shoes and twirling dresses. He may have been wondering what this cost. I don't know. But, he did smile and told her she looked lovely.

Sunday morning when she got to wear it for the first time she tested it out again -

It's a girl thing.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Visiting the Big Guy

Sunday after the church festivities (and after we had made Jake presentable again) we headed to Nordstrom's to visit Santa.

There used to be this AWESOME Santa there. He had this gorgeous Santa suit and best of all was fantastic with the kids. We've gone to see him for six years! One year he said to Maddie, "My! You've grown so much this year!" He would ask them what they wanted and listen carefully. Then he would tell them how they had to be good all year long and that whenever they were good, then bells would ring at the North Pole - and he would know. I'm not exaggerating when I say that it would be our house in MARCH and one of the kids would do something that we would commend them on and they would say, "I bet the bells are ringing in the North Pole for me now!" After talking, we'd get our pictures with him - which were FREE because I got to take them - as many as I wanted - then we'd head home.

Notice this is all past tense. We headed to Nordstrom's this year and as we rounded the corner - out comes a Santa. Not MY Santa. Not the beautiful red suit - instead it was a crazy elf shirt, velvet knickers and black shoes with funny socks. I'm a bit of a Santa picture nut - I love these and I have them lined up each Christmas. (This is genetic from my mom - we had to take them with Santa until I was 21! When I got engaged we all had an intervention for her and told her it was the end of the Santa pictures.)

When Mike saw this Santa he did everything he could not to burst out laughing because I stopped in my tracks and shot him a panicked look that said, "Where's my Santa!?!?!" But, it was too late - the kids had seen him so we were stuck there.

He was okay with them. Maybe one too many high-fives for me to connect with him. No story about the ringing bells at the North Pole.

So, next year's goal is to find another Santa. With a real suit. And one who is free.
In other words - Mission Impossible.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Wardrobe Malfunction

Sunday morning was the kids' Christmas program at church. Mike and I and my parents seated ourselves near the front and the comedy program began.

When we arrived this is what our children looked like. Please note:

Jake's shirt is a little big but 1) his shirt usually comes untucked - I figured there was no way that could happen with this one and 2) it was the only shirt remotely close to his size that I could find two weeks before Christmas.

The program was titled "Hats off to Christmas" and basically it involved all the different manger scene players finding hats for themselves. They had a lot of songs to learn that were fun to listen to. And who can resist a giggle or two when all the preschool girls in the front are twirling and lifting their dresses instead of singing?

During one portion of the play I mimed to Jake to fix his collar - it had flipped up. Suddenly - Ploop! - off comes the whole tie. Then he was unbuttoning his collar buttons and all I could think was, "Please stay dressed. Please stay dressed." He finally did manage to get the tie replaced...then it was his scene with all the shepherds.

Classy. I've realized I could buy him a shirt that reached his knees and he'd still get it untucked. The tie placed two buttons down his shirt adds that extra flair. Note to self: no more clip-on ties.
But we weren't finished yet - suddenly Jake had to find his hat....

As Mike is lowering himself into the pew he leaned over and said, "Geez....he looks like he hit the tequila a little hard last night!" I practically have tears running down my face from trying not to laugh and I looked at my mom who was in the same predicament. We've decided it's a bad idea to sit so close at these things.

Maddie managed to redeem the Murphy name when she and another girl sang a lovely song together. They really did have a nice sound and I'm planning on recruiting them to sing in the near future.

Mike and I ambushed Jake as he left the sanctuary and put him back together. I trust God has a sense of humor.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Smith Christmas

Last Saturday afternoon we celebrated Christmas with my family. Our traditions may differ a little from most families (shocking...I know...):

When we were smaller my parents decided that instead of a big, fancy dinner, that we would instead all go to the grocery store together and get to put ANYTHING into the cart that we wanted to eat on Christmas day. I remember asking them everytime we picked something out, "is this okay?" Yes was always the answer. We had candy, cookies, chips and dips galore. What I don't think my parents expected was for us to pick things like crabmeat, shrimp and other more expensive items. But, it all went in the cart and every year we went on this annual shopping trip.

Well, not much has changed - still tons of candy requests and still lots of shrimp. We've branched into a few more appetizer things and some other more solid food to get us through the day. My parents do most of the grocery shopping now, asking for requests a week in advance. Maddie and Jake went shopping with them a couple years ago and had such a good time getting to throw whatever they wanted in the cart.

Once we were all back in MN a new tradition began - we started taking a family picture before gift opening began. This year I was about ready to throttle Jake because he wouldn't smile for ONE picture. When I finished the pics and saw this I pulled him upstairs and railed into him for being rude about it. He said, "I just didn't feel like smiling." I wanted to say, "I hope Santa feels like bringing you a present Christmas Eve because right now HE DOESN'T!!" But I didn't.

So here are some pics from the day with the fam. Filled with good food, good games, and good memories:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bad Sign

This is what I walked into the other night:

That's right - our fairly-brand-new dishwasher (less than 6 months old) is not working. We realized it wasn't draining water after each cycle. Several test cycles were run by Mike with he and dad brainstorming on what the problem might be. After completely disassembling it (the night before our family Christmas gathering at our house) they decided that some valve on a hose isn't working properly. Awesome. We haven't looked it up, but my guess is that the day before this happened the warranty expired.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Most years we try to head downtown to see the Holidazzle parade. For those not in the metro area, this is a parade done four nights each week in December. All the floats are lit up with Christmas lights as are all the characters. I think it's been going on for around 15 years. It really doesn't change much year to year, but it's still a fun tradition for us.

Tonight was the night we decided to go. I think the temp was around 26 degrees - with a windchill of like 19 degrees or something like that. It was cold, but it could have been colder. We had the kids bundled up - Maddie came down and announced she had pants, pajama bottoms, two pair of socks, long sleeve shirt and sweatshirt, plus the snow pants, winter jacket, gloves, boots and hat she was going to wear. I was going to grab a blanket for them to sit on but completely forgot.

We left at 4:55pm for a 6:30 parade. We got to the corner where it starts at about 6:10. People were already lining up, but there was still plenty of spots for us up front. This is a first for us, actually. We normally arrive about five minutes before it starts and end up prodding our kids up to the front while we stand a few feet in the back watching them mostly and missing the parade.

While we were standing in line at Caribou my dad had the fantastic idea of getting their car seats for them to sit on the curb so their tushies didn't freeze off. It worked fantastic and Jake was thrilled when he realized they also had cup holders for the hot chocolate!

And honestly, it wasn't that bad in terms of the cold. I mean - it was cold, but as my dad and I discussed, once you got over the initial shock, it really wasn't terrible. By the end Maddie swore she had frostbite on her toes but they are all still there and of good color. The only downside was that I think we were all definitely ready to have it be finished when we saw Santa's float start moving...then stop. Completely. For almost five minutes it was stopped about a half-block from us. Finally a police officer walked over and came back about a minute later saying someone had proposed on t.v. in front of the float and they were going to be moving shortly. For all our sakes, I hope the girl said yes.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mike's rival

Tonight we got to go see Harry Connick, Jr. in concert at the Orpheum.

[Moment of silence.]

Background: I am a gigantic fan of Harry's. Huge. My best friend, Melissa if perhaps the truly great fan between us, but she lives in Albuquerque and couldn't go to this one. Mike is actually signed up to receive emails from his fan club or whatever announces his concerts just to make sure he doesn't miss his responsibility of getting us tickets whenever there's a concert.

So, a month or so ago when Tracy arrived at the gym and announced that she'd just read in the paper that Harry was coming for a Christmas concert I wasted no time in getting home and interrupting Mike's work-day to tell him this. He hadn't gotten the email. Then I logged into my email and found that Melissa had sent me an early-bird buying opportunity. That Friday Mike got us tickets and I had a whole month of waiting.

Now, Mike thinks that if Harry Connick were to show up at our door and declare his undying love for me that I would absolutely walk out and run off with him. That's so crazy. I mean, really.... if Harry were to sing his undying love for me....welllll..........

Anyway, it doesn't matter. He married a Victoria's Secret model years ago (to which Mike replied, "Really? Wow...good job, him. I mean....I'm sure she's smart too....")

The concert was awesome. Started a little slow, but they got their groove and it was just an honestly good time and two-hours of smiling. He's actually very funny in concert and one of the more enjoyable parts, for me, in his humor is that he's SO sarcastic. This may have drawn Melissa and I to him in the early years. He's not above making fun of his audience and there was some crazy lady obsessed with him in the balcony that provided some chuckles for us all.

And balcony people are crazy....oh wait, I've always sat there. Actually, Mike really raised the bar this year. We were a whole balcony section lower. I kid you not when I say that I have been within three to five rows from the top of the Orpheum for every concert. This year we were close enough to actually see facial expressions. I may have had a few choice words (to Mike only) about the six-year-olds that were in the front row. Seriously??? Should be outlawed. You should at least be able to spell the performer's name before getting a front row spot.

But it all came to a close WAY too early. Then we headed to Kincaid's for some appetizers and drinks (hadn't really eaten since 1pm this afternoon....). As we were getting ready to leave the waiter said, "You guys look really nice...did you go somewhere special?" So, I mentioned that we had just seen Harry Connick, Jr. To which the waiter looked at me and smiled and said, "Oh yeah? Was he funny?"

I just looked at him and explained, "He's. A. Musician." And the waiter was all taken aback and of course! He recognized who I was talking about...he'd been thinking of someone else. Mike just looked at the waiter and said, "Well, he was funny too."

The waiter will probably be the guy in the front row at the next concert.

I just hope to be in the next balcony section closer next time with the ultimate goal being the front row before Harry retires. That's right, Mike. Start saving.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Friday night Mike and I hosted our annual "500" Neighborhood Card Party. This was our fourth year and each year we figure out something to make it run a little smoother.

With the basement finished we were able to invite a few more people and ended up having 8 full tables! There were tons of people here, but we had such a good time! We have fun getting this ready and it's the one time of year that we make my grandma's eggnog recipe. So, Thursday night found us (mostly me since - we're getting better and more streamlined with this after four years too...) making eggnog late at night. This isn't a "buy-from-the-store-add-liquor" recipe. This is the real thing, people! Fresh eggs that are separated, heavy cream (extra whipped by you!), 1 quart brandy, 1 quart whiskey - and the kicker "for taste" as my grandma told me - 2 oz. Jamaican rum. I'm not sure how I'm tasting 2 oz. of rum over 2 quarts of brandy/whiskey, but maybe it's the secret ingredient...don't tell anyone.

Anyway, Friday night came and our house was FILLED. Everyone brought great food to share and there was plenty of drinking! A few of my neighbors may have left a little inebriated, but luckily they were walking and not driving! Beauty of neighborhood parties! We even saw a couple neighbors make some snow angels in the fresh snow in our yard. That eggnog is some powerful stuff! And this was a first for us...we only had enough leftover to fill one cup! This was a double batch! We reserved it for my dad so he could get a little taste - he's a fan of this eggnog as well and likes that we make it once a year because he usually gets some leftovers. Usually more than a cup, but beggars can't be choosers.

Saturday morning Mike and I were up by 7am to sell CDs at a local holiday boutique. We finished around 1pm, came home and craved a nap, but we had other things to accomplish. Mainly we got organized to do our Christmas shopping so instead of sleeping we made multiple lists and brainstormed. We left a little before 5pm, grabbed some dinner and power shopped. We have almost every bit of shopping done - at least for my mental listing of things. We'll go over them tonight to make sure. But, I'm so sore I can hardly move. Tracy and I started a new workout on Friday and it's a killer. I hurt everywhere and it isn't getting better, it's getting worse.

It's 11pm now. I'm heading upstairs to sit in a chair. We are going over our list, find out what we need still, then going to sleep. Up at 6:30am for church tomorrow until about noon, then we are coming home and doing nothing that requires movement. To make sure, I bought a puzzle for us to work on tomorrow. Wait until you see it!!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Around Europe in 9 Days

This is late in getting posted, but I thought I'd update you on Mike's European travels from a couple weeks ago. For those that don't know, he went to Spain, Germany, Italy, and England. I don't think he was in any place more than two days and he was exhausted when he got home. But despite going for work, he did get to see a few sites.

The trip began in Madrid, Spain. They were really here a very short time and only got to see the city at night. So, there are not a lot of pictures to show for their time here. However, his group did get to go eat at the oldest restaurant in the world. Here Mike bought himself a pitcher for Sangria's. Good for his future bar.

Below is their wine cellar. I'm not sure if the bottles on the right are original to the establishment...

Afterward it was off to Frankfurt, Germany. Mike and I were able to travel here last spring but we stayed in the Marriott in downtown Frankfurt. I'm not sure where this was located, but apparently bringing your wife on a trip doesn't upgrade you to staying in a castle.

Mike's room was pretty nice. The guys he was traveling with liked to meet in there because it was round and I think a little bigger.

Hard to believe such a frilly room was the meeting place for four guys. Below is my favorite picture from here; ornate armoire, feminine picture, frilly vanity with the BEER BOTTLE on top and Mike's boss sitting in front with a pose of defiance against anything girly.

From Frankfurt they traveled by train to Milan, Italy. Mike said they almost didn't make it to Milan. After the train was stopped somewhere for awhile they all decided to head to bed being that they were so exhausted. Mike stopped to asked the waiter if they were still on time to arrive in Milan and the waiter's response was, "Milan? This train isn't going to Milan. We stopped to split the train and this half isn't going to Milan." Apparently it was a whirlwind trying to get off that side and onto the other before the train took off (they'd already been stopped for 10 minutes). It wasn't made easier by the fact that when you board the trains they take your passports. Luckily they did get onto the correct train in time - with passports. Mike was a little disappointed that he didn't stay awake because the train passed through the Swiss Alps and he thought that would have been neat to see.

Again - he didn't get to see much other than at night. Below is a shopping area they were in. He has no idea who the people are in front, but they wouldn't get out of the picture.

From Milan they flew to London. Here they were able to spend the weekend so he got to see a bit more of this city than any others.

Big Ben:
He did see Westminster Abbey but no great pictures exist.

They walked into Harrods - and two minutes later it closed so they didn't see much.

And the palace. He was not invited in for tea by the Queen.

Mike did do some shopping for all of us. He got each of the kids a watch and some candy.
We each got a hat. A particular thrill for me because I love hats. I got three, in fact!
After he got home he did his best to get back on our time frame, but there was about a week of him getting up at 5am or earlier simply because he couldn't sleep any longer. This did help on Black Friday - he couldn't sleep so he went and got some of our Christmas shopping done....and I got to sleep.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Officially Christmas

We decorated our Christmas tree last Sunday. We've decided to put in the basement in hopes that Santa Claus delivers our ordered couch a little early and we can enjoy the festivities down there....

Until then, we are trying to get in the spirit of Christmas and Mike has been working to make that a whole lot easier!

This morning I came in from shoveling and heard Christmas music piped through the house! Not just the radio, but the Christmas music CDs we've collected through the years. After almost a whole year without our music system working because it was shut down to work on the basement, it's back! As we sat eating breakfast listening to Bing, Harry Connick, Jr, and Josh Groban we all started getting a little bouncy in our seats.

And to prove that the music is doing it's thing...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Bad Genes?

Apparently anal-retentive tendencies are hereditary.

Recently my mom came home with a small pack of M&M candies for each child. To most people this would take approximately one minute to gobble up.
Not my kids.

First there was the sorting. Each child has their own preferred method:

I believe mixed in with all this there was some counting. After the sorting was finished it was on to the

Hence, M&M's can last a good 30-45 minutes in this house. Unless I get near them. Five minute tops on a King Size bag.