Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas 2012

Once again we celebrated Christmas Eve this year at my parents' house in Issy.  Both Eric's and Chris's families were able to join us which always makes the evening so much funner.  As always, we had a delicious turkey dinner with all of the trimmings thanks to my mother and all of her hard work.  We then had our traditional, Christmas Eve program complete with reenacting the nativity story, singing some Christmas carols, and lighting my parents' tree with the candles.  It is always such a special evening and I am grateful that we live close enough to always be able to share it with my side of the family. 

Logan exploring the area behind my parents' Christmas tree.
The children listening to Natalee's instructions before ringing their bells.
Our "bell choir" in action.
Callie and Garrett had the roles of Mary and Joseph this year.
The entire gang minus my Lia after finishing the reenactment of the nativity story.  Unfortunately Lia got her feelings hurt because she didn't get to play the role of the angel and sulked in the other room for most of the story.  Sadly there was nothing I could do to convince her to join the group...
A semi-sulking Lia agreed to sing Christmas carols on papa's lap afterwards.
Eric helping Brynn light one of the highest candles on the tree.  I'm sure this isn't something you see in every home on Christmas Eve.
My parents' tree all lit up and glowing.
We enjoyed our first Christmas morning ever at our own home this year since we have always spent the night at my parents' house since we moved to Washington.  It was so nice to be home and share this special morning with our two children.  Lia enjoyed opening her plethora of Ariel gifts and Logan had the time of his life roaming around in the living room getting into everything.  Here is Logan trying out his new walker courtesy of Aunt Austin and Uncle Robbie.
My two cuties in front of the tree after the gift opening was complete!
Lia had woken up with a cold on Christmas Eve morning and by the afternoon of Christmas day it had completely blossomed into the flu that my cousin's children had the previous week (and apparently shared with Lia at our extended Christmas party a few days earlier).  As a result, Lia spent the REST of Christmas day and evening laying on the couch resting and sleeping.  It was so sad.  She didn't even have the energy to play with any of her toys after opening them.  Oh well.  There's always next year...
We were treated by a visit from my parents on Christmas night.  They joined us for dinner and some more gift opening.  It was so nice to have them in our home--especially since it had been such a quiet day with Lia not feeling well and Logan taking both of his naps.  Here is Logan assisting Ron in opening one of his gifts from Grandma and Grandpa.
Lia looking on while Grandma opened one of her gifts from us.
Grandma helping Lia with some gift opening.
My mom gave me a jar of homemade, raspberry jam as one of my stocking stuffers.  Logan was absolutely fascinated with it and kept on bending over to suck on its lid.  Silly boy.
The Hartland fam with a sick Lia (complete with her comfy cozy blanket and a tissue) in front of our Christmas tree.
We were able to drag Lia off of the couch for a few minutes in the evening in order to complete an adorable scavenger hunt that her Aunt Austin had made for her with an actual American Girl doll at the end of it!  Lia couldn't believe her eyes when she saw her doll. It was the perfect way to end the day.  Thank you, Aunt Austin and Uncle Robbie, for being so generous!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Greatest Gift...

that I was ever given were these two, little people!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Meeting Santa!

This past Friday night, we attended Ron's work party as a family at the home of his office manager, Kathy.  After dinner, Kathy had her grown son sneak outside wearing an entire Santa costume (complete with a bag of toys) and ring the doorbell.  You should have seen the looks on the children's faces when he walked into the entryway!  It was priceless.  He then proceeded to sit down in the living room and call the children up one at a time to give them their gifts.  It was so much fun to watch Lia and Ron's principal's children interact with Santa and receive their gifts.  It was the perfect way to end the evening!

Lia getting her stuffed pig from Santa.
Logan and Lia posing with Santa.  What an adorable picture!
Santa and the kiddos!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Power of Pixar

Last week, Lia and I were invited over to our friend's home to watch Brave for the first time in their fabulous, theatre room.  As you can imagine, Lia was just thrilled about this invitation and anxiously waited for the day to arrive for our girls-movie-date!  When she woke up yesterday, I reminded her that today was the big, movie day and this was the conversation that ensued:

Lia: "I was so excited that I couldn't sleep last night." 

Mom:  "You didn't sleep at all last night?" 

Lia:  "No, I just smiled the whole night long."

Just adorable.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Preschool Christmas Party

This morning Logan and I tagged along with Lia to preschool to take part in her Christmas party.  Logan behaved himself and stayed in his car seat the entire time (thank heavens) allowing me to enjoy Lia's mini concert and help her build a gingerbread house.  We had so much fun creating this candy masterpiece and eating some Christmas cookies.  Lia asked if she could keep the gingerbread house in her room "forever."  I consented and told her that she could even take it to college with her when she moves out in fourteen years.  :-)  Let's see if it lasts until then.

Lia and some of her classmates waiting to sing another song.

The artist carefully placing a candy on her house.

Lia posing with her finished product!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Lights Galore

Ron and I threw the kids in the car tonight to drive out to Spanaway and see the Fantasy Lights for Family Home Evening.  Like last year, we had a good time driving around the park and taking a gander at all of the Christmas lights on display.   Lia loved it and Logan fell asleep...that is until the flash on my camera woke him up.  The poor, little guy.  I'm thinking that he might get more out of it next year!

One of the many displays we saw.

My little lady enjoying the lights.

A dazed and confused Logie smiling after being so rudely awaken by my camera's flash!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Nutcracker with Lia

A few months ago, Ron and I discussed how fun it would be to take Lia to see The Nutcracker.  After some researching online, I learned how incredibly expensive it would be to take her to see the Pacific Northwest Ballet's version and we both decided that we should wait until Lia is older so that she would appreciate it a bit more.  But then I got an idea and began searching around to see if there was a more affordable and local production of the ballet that we could go see.  I was happy to learn that there were several to chose from--including three different ones in Tacoma.  After selecting the one that performs at Stadium High School's theatre (which is the school I have been fascinated with for years since it looks like Hogwarts, is right on the sound, and has had movies filmed there!), I waited til the tickets went on sale and bought them the very next day.  We have been waiting over a month for this day to arrive when we could take Lia on her special, mommy-daddy-daughter date.  In addition, I have been reading Lia a book version of The Nutcracker every single day this past week so that she would be familiar with the storyline and understand what is going on.  Lia was so excited to go and watching her watch this performance was one of the sweetest things I have ever seen.  Like the time when we saw the Aladdin performance at California Adventure, she asked question after question the entire time.  She truly knew what was going on and anticipated the ballet's every move.  Lia was so respectful and quiet and clapped every time it was appropriate.  I love that we can take her to these kind of events at such a young age and enjoy these experiences with her.  In closing, I just want to record some of the adorable things that she said.  Right after the "Dance of the Snowflakes" had ended and the ballerinas dressed in white were exiting the stage, Lia said in the sweetest voice, "I loved that!  I'm so happy!" And while we were driving home afterwards, I asked Lia what part was her favorite to which she responded, "I loved it so much, I couldn't tell you!"  Just hearing those comments made going to the ballet so worth it!

Lia and papa checking out the nutcrackers on sale in the lobby.
The three of us getting ready to head into the theatre.

Daddy and daughter waiting for the show to begin!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Camel in the Haystack

**This lengthy post is for Lia who will most likely be the one to inherit my nativity set.**
My prized Christmas possession is my Lenox nativity set. I was first introduced to it during my mid twenties by my good friend and roommate, Kerry, while living in Huntington Beach.  She had been buying pieces of this nativity set for years and giving them to her mother as Christmas gifts.  When I lived with her, she had the drummer boy in her room and I immediately fell in love with its beautiful colors and intricate designs.  However, I never imagined in a million years that I would own such a nativity set as the overall price of the entire collection was waaaay out of my budget and waaaay more than I would ever spend on a "Christmas decoration."
Fast forward a few years.  Ron and I were newly married and home visiting my family for our winter vacation in 2005.  My mom and I found ourselves shopping at the North Bend outlets and discovered that our beloved Lenox outlet was closing down for good.  In fact, we learned that all of the Lenox outlets across the country (with the exception of the ones on the East coast) were shutting down.  As sad as it was, it providing for some unbelievable deals as everything in the store was on clearance.  To my surprise, I stumbled across the Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and one of the wise men of this nativity set for an unbelievable price.  I immediately snatched them up without really knowing what I was going to do about the many other pieces of the set that were missing.  It wasn't until my mom and I got home that I started calling around to some of the other outlets.  Since I was returning back to California the next day, I called the Lenox store in the Camarillo outlets north of Los Angeles and learned that they only had one of the other wise men (luckily it wasn't the one that I had just bought).  A little disappointed, I looked over the list of other outlets on the western half of the United States and decided to call the one in Las Vegas.  To my surprise, I learned that this store had every other piece I was looking for!  I couldn't believe my luck.  I quickly called my cousin who lives in Las Vegas and not only found her at home, but available to go to the store that afternoon.  So within two days, I managed to obtain every single piece of this nativity set that I wanted at three different outlet stores in three different states for a fraction of the price.  It was a shopping triumph!  And I truly thought that my collection was complete.  Oh how wrong I was...
Fast forward a few more years to December 2011.  My mother invited Lia and me to drive up to her church on the first Sunday in December to take part in the most amazing "Night of the Nativities" that her stake puts on every year.  After being blown away by the fact that many, many people loan out their nativity set or sets for the weekend (something I would NEVER do) for people to admire, I was even more amazed by the amount and variety of nativity sets that were on display from all over world.  Lia, my mom, and I walked around at a snail's pace carefully examining and admiring all of these unique and different sets.  And then, suddenly, I found it:  MY nativity set.  Someone had actually loaned it out and there it was, on display, on a lower table that could easily be touched by any curious toddler.  Ahhhh!  After getting over my initial shock, I immediately noticed that there was an additional piece that I did not know existed--an oxen.  What was this?  So after returning home to my house that same night, I got online and learned that Lenox had continued to release a few new pieces every single year since I had bought mine.  I guess that I should have figured this out on my own, but had never really thought about it.  After perusing all of the new pieces, I decided that I really only wanted to add two of them to my collection:  the oxen that I had seen and a camel.  Since there were no Lenox outlets closing down, I would have to pay a little more than I was used to.  As a result, I decided to purchase the oxen in 2011 and wait until 2012 to buy the camel.  I found a decent price on the oxen online with free shipping and no tax and it arrived at my home a week or so later.  I absolutely loved the piece and how it made my nativity set look so much more complete!  In addition, my mother kindly offered to pay for it and give it to me for my 36th birthday.  I happily jumped at the offer and gave it to her (after I had cheated and put the oxen on display for the rest of the holiday season--oops) once I had taken my Christmas decorations down.
A month or so later, Logan was born and I completely forgot about all of this. In fact, I completely forgot about all of this until I was putting up my Christmas decorations this year.  It wasn't until I pulled out the oxen (that my mother had indeed given me for my birthday in May) that I remembered how I had wanted to add the camel to my collection.  So that same evening, after everyone was bedded down for night, I sat down with my laptop to start perusing the Internet for the "best deal" out there, but to my surprise there were barely any deals out there.  I couldn't find the camel anywhere.  There were actually two different camels released for this set--one standing with a purple saddle and one sitting with a turquoise saddle.  I could find the standing camel everywhere and the sitting camel nowhere!  WHY?  After looking for an half hour, I gave up and went to bed a little disgruntled.  So, two nights later, I had some more time and energy in the evening to look again.  After clicking on every single link from my search on google, I stumbled across two possibilities on the third page--a florist store in New Jersey and a website specializing in fine china and crystal claimed they had it.  I decided to order it from the latter of the two since the price was $30 cheaper and it just seemed more legitimate.  I was so pleased with myself when it went to bed that night.  My diligent searching had paid off and I couldn't wait for it to arrive in the mail in the next week or so.  However, the next morning, I received an email from the company informing me that they had cancelled my order due to the fact that the manufacture had stopped making the item.  What?!  So I quickly called them and talked to a woman who indeed confirmed that Lenox was no longer making the sitting down camel.  She did not know if this was was the case for just this year or if it was for good, but it sure explained why I had such a hard time finding it.  But, luckily, I knew of the other website where I could order it.  I got back on my computer and ordered it from the random florist shop in New Jersey.  I was willing to pay the additional money now that I knew how hard it was to find.  However, I had a hunch that the same thing would happen the next day and it indeed it did.  At promptly 8:30 a.m., I received a call from New Jersey stating that they no longer carried the camel and that they had already removed it from their website.  Argh. 
At this point, I decided that it was time to get to the bottom of all of this.  I called a random Lenox outlet in North Carolina and got a very helpful salesclerk on the phone.  After confirming that she hadn't seen the camel in her store for a few years, she gave me the number for the main Lenox warehouse in Pennsylvania that specializes in helping people locate "hard to find pieces."  I quickly called the warehouse and learned that the camel had been RETIRED in 2010.  Retired!  Why?  The lady had no idea why, but she confirmed that I would no longer be able to find this camel anywhere in any shop in the country--Lenox outlet or not--because it had been a few years since the last one had been made.  As silly as this seems, my heart dropped a bit.  For some reason, I just really wanted to add this piece to my nativity set and the harder it was to find, the more I wanted it!  The woman at the warehouse informed me that the only way I was probably going to find this camel was on eBay.  As a result, I decided that it was time to play the eBay game for the first time in my life and quickly opened up accounts with both eBay and Paypal and jumped in feet first!  As I thought, there were a ton of standing up camels for bid, but only three sitting down ones.  Two of them could be bought right away if I was willing to pay $140 or $165 which I was not.  The third one was in the throes of a seven-day bidding war and was currently at $50!  That made me happy and so I started to patiently watch and wait out the remaining four days....and then it just got depressing.  Every day the price went up more and more til it finally closed on a Monday night at $152.50 with 14 different people bidding on it.  During this process, I realized that I was NEVER going to get this camel at a decent price as clearly the retired aspect of this piece made it very hard to find and very valuable to those who wanted it.  It was during this time that I was talking to my mom on the phone and expressing my eBay woes.  Being the wise woman that she is, she stated, "There has got to be at least one camel left on some shelf in some random store in some state in this country!"  I quickly replied that if there was, I would never be able to find it.  It would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack, or in this case, a camel in haystack! 
So after the camel closed on eBay on that Monday night, I went to bed and realized that I had become a little obsessed with this entire thing.  I had spent HOURS online in the past week trying to find this camel and watching eBay like a hawk.  It was not healthy and it needed to stop.  As silly as this seems, I actually asked Heavenly Father while saying my bedtime prayer that night if there was anyway possible that He could help me find the camel.  And if this was impossible, I asked Him to help me let it go and move on.  I then woke up the next morning with an idea.  What if I just gave up on the dream of finding the sitting camel and bought the one standing up that was still available everywhere for a decent price?  Surely this would help me let it go.  So this past Tuesday, while Logan was taking his morning nap and Lia was watching a Tinkerbell movie, I sat down on the couch and began my hunt to find the best priced standing camel.  I had clearly remembered seeing it online the previous year for $50 with no tax and free shipping while searching for the oxen, but much to my chagrin, I was annoyed that I couldn't find it anywhere for this same price.  In fact, the cheapest price I could find anywhere was $70!  The more I looked, the madder I got and the more determined I became to find it for the price that I had previously seen.  I mean, there is NO logical reason why this piece should have increased in value this much in just twelve months!  Since Logan was still sleeping and Lia was still watching her movie, I just kept plugging along, clicking on every single link I came across on my google search and, before I knew it, I was on the sixth page!  Yes, that's right, the sixth page.  While on this page, I clicked on a link, and to my surprise, a picture of the sitting down camel popped up.  A little surprised, I did a some research and learned that the website indeed claimed that this item was "in stock."  Hmmmmm.  Not to be tricked again, I asked Lia to get up and bring me the phone.  Before I knew it, I was calling the Santa Claus Christmas Store (yes, that really is the name of the website's store) in Santa Claus, Indiana (yes, that really is the name of the town).  A very nice lady answered the phone and after explaining to her what I was looking for she said, "I think I've seen that before.  Let me get your number and I'll go look for it and call you back."  Yeah right.  Totally doubting what this woman said, I gave her my number anyways and waited.  Sure enough, a few minutes later, she called back and informed me that she had the camel right there in her hand.  WHAT???  No way.  I said, "You really have the sitting down camel with the turquoise saddle?" to which she replied, "Yes."  I said, "You don't understand.  This camel was discontinued two years ago and is not to be found in any store anywhere in this country.  It simply doesn't exist!"  Happily she replied that she really had it and that she would put it behind the counter to be shipped to me and that I should order it online and not over the phone so that I could get the 20% off online special.  I almost fell off the couch at this point.  As one would imagine, I bought that camel before you could say "Merry Christmas!" and was delighted to learn that not only was it 20% off, but there was no tax or shipping charges.  Take that, eBay!
And so for the next week, Lia and I waited with baited breath for our beloved camel to arrive.  In fact, I kept on worrying that it would either get lost in the mail or that it would arrive and be the wrong one.  But thanks to the UPS tracking system, I carefully watched it travel across the country and was delighted the morning I learned that it had finally crossed over the state borders into Spokane and was scheduled to arrive a day early!  A few hours later, the doorbell rang and Lia and I immediately started jumping up and down.  Thanks to all my hype, that girl was as excited about the  camel as I was.  We frantically tore open the box and there she was, the sitting down camel in all of her new and discounted glory.  We truly had found the camel in the haystack! We carefully placed her on the table and she fit perfectly with the rest of the set!  Our camel had found her home.  So, in closing, I would like to say that I am so grateful for the tender mercies of Heavenly Father and for the fact that He does hear and answer our prayers--even when our requests are sometimes small and simple.  And on a less serious note, I also have a renewed belief in Santa Claus and in the fact that he really does make your Christmas dreams come true.  There's just one difference--he doesn't live in the North Pole anymore.  Apparently, he lives in Santa Claus, Indiana!  :-)

Monday, December 10, 2012

10 Months Old!

It really has been an eventful month for Logan as he started doing so many new things in the past few weeks.  He now loves opening doors, cupboards, and drawers.  He has learned how to clap, shake his head, and wave "hi" and "bye bye."  He waves all the time and it is just the cutest thing.  Logan popped his fourth tooth on the top of his mouth and his fifth and sixth tooth on the bottom.  He has also developed what I call the "turbo crawl."  When he wants to get somewhere fast, he will tilt his face down to the ground and just cruise with immense speed while he face remains looking downward the entire time.  It is the funniest thing!  Logan normally does this when he sees the dishwasher door open or when he wants to be held by mama or papa at certain times.  He has also started getting upset when toys (or nontoys that are slightly dangerous like knives from the dishwasher) are taken away from him.  Luckily his tantrums only last a few seconds.  Logan became a pro at climbing our stairs this past month as he figured out almost overnight how to climb all fourteen of them.  As a result, the gate went up and his stair climbing days are over.  Sad.  I keep on thinking that I need to take him on an escorted, practice run every day, but I never get around to it.  Logan is still eating lots of different table foods.  In fact, the meat baby food that he eats at dinner time is really the only baby food he consistently has every day at this point.  He is a really good eater and is yet to refuse a single food that we have given him.  And, last, but definitely not least, we finally got Logan back on track in the sleep department.  After seven weeks of poor sleeping due to two colds back to back and the teething of his top, two, middle teeth, we had created a sleeping monster who needed to be rocked back to sleep in the middle of the night.  After letting Logan cry it out (for the first time in our parenting career) for six nights, we got our old baby back who would immediately go back to sleep after having the pacifier placed in his mouth.  It was an ugly few nights, but so worth it in the long run.  Feeeeyoooh!  I am now paranoid about him catching any bug and hope we don't ever have to go through that again!  That's our Logie boy in a nutshell.  He just gets cuter and cuter by the day and I can't wait to celebrate his first Christmas with him!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Austin's & Robbie's Visit!

Although Ron and I have been married almost 7.5 years, we have never been fortunate enough to host either one of his brothers in our neck of the woods.  We have seen them many times over the years, but it has always been at a family gathering in another state.  So you can imagined how thrilled we were to find out that his brother, Robbie, and his lovely, new wife, Austin, had planned a trip out west to see us!  They booked their tickets way back in the summer and the much anticipated weekend finally arrived this past Friday.  Robbie and Austin got to meet Logan for the first time and bond with Lia again since it has been almost a year since she had seen them.  We took them out a couple of times for some sightseeing and holiday fun.  Overall, it was a wonderful weekend and we can't wait to see them again!

Since Robbie's 30th birthday was the day before they flew in to Seattle, we held a birthday dinner complete with cake and candles in the dining room soon after they arrived on Friday.  Here is the birthday boy and his blushing bride moments before blowing out his candles.
After dinner, we braved a storm and took the gang over to the Pt. Defiance Zoo to take in the "Zoo lights."  We had a great time marvelling at all of the lights--even in the rain.  Even Mr. Logan had his own umbrella that he insisted on holding with his cute, little hand.
Austin, Robbie, Lia, and I posed for the obligatory picture at the entrance of the zoo.
Our South Carolina couple toughing it out in the rain.
A family of umbrellas amidst the lights...
After Lia's swim lessons on Saturday morning, we packed up everyone and headed into Seattle!  First stop included lunch at Ivar's Fish and Chips down on the waterfront.
While I stayed down on the pier with Logan, the rest of the group tried out the brand new Ferris wheel and enjoyed the stunning views of the city.  Here is Lia posing high above the Puget Sound.
Robbie and Austin
A view of the Space Needle.
After the Ferris wheel, we forged through the wind and walked along the waterfront and up to Pike's Place Market to take a gander at all of the goods for sale AND to see some flying fish.
We caught some Dickens Carolers right outside of the market.  Lia managed to sneak into the picture while we listened for a few minutes.
After returning back to Puyallup Saturday afternoon, we headed downtown to catch our town's annual Santa Parade.  As always, it is such a fun tradition to participate in at the beginning of the holiday season and fun to share with Austin and Robbie.
On Sunday, we hosted a dinner party for our guests of honor and invited my parents and Aunt Pat and Uncle Oscar to join us.  Good food, good times, and good company.
All ten of us squeezed around our dining room table for dinner and dessert.  Here is part of the group diving into the meal!
The brothers with their Uncle Oscar.
What a great weekend, Austin and Robbie!  Thanks again for making the effort to come out and see us.  We love you!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Lia's Four and Three-Quarters Report

Just a quick post to record the latest happenings of my grown-up girl who is now officially three-fourths of the way through her fourth year.  Oh my.  She is growing so fast!  Lia is loving all of her regular activities of this school year--preschool three times a week, gymnastics twice a week, and swim lessons once a week.  She absolutely loves her preschool class and adores her teacher, Miss Vera.  I am so happy that she has this in her life as it just makes her so happy.  I am also proud to say that my baby girl is now swimming without a life jacket.  I was so amazed when I saw it for the first time a few weeks ago, I actually had to fight back tears.  I had no idea that she could swim without a life jacket at such a young age.  Needless to say, she is doing a great job in her swimming class and advanced to the next level after the first session ended in October.  Her teacher informed me last week that Lia will advance to the next level after this session if she gets a little more confident swimming on her back and her side.  Hooray!  Here's to another fish in my family!  Lia still loves Princess Ariel and all things mermaid with a passion.  Our Christmas is really going to be a Merry Ariel Christmas!  It actually made Christmas shopping a breeze this year.  Lia still loves her brother to death, loves the color turquoise, loves acting out movies while watching them, loves taking showers, loves people who will play games and activities with her, LOVES wearing her "jama dresses" whenever she is home, and loves dragging her "comfy cozy" blanket all over the house.  She really is growing up--the picture above is all the proof you need of that one!  Love you, Lia!

This is what the men of the household...

are doing today while I am making pies.
Just precious.
Happy Thanksgiving!