The elves are coming! The elves are coming!

You guys, Sunday is December 1st, so you know what that means? It is the Elf on the Shelf time! Of course, if your children don’t have a clue what month or day it is (ahem, mine) you can start whenever. But I would like to be more organized around our elf, Jack, this time around so I am going to elf plan each day of the week starting on Sunday. I hate the feeling of shutting down the house at night only to remember you have to hide the &*^%# elf.

I figure I am not the only one with this issue, surely. I thought I would share my plans each Friday for the upcoming week to get you ready. Some will be creative ideas and some will be putting the elf in another lamp. Here is a printable calendar as well.

 Here is my Week One.
Sunday, December 1 – The elf arrives
I am going to have Alex put this on the front door then run around to the side of the house so Zach can open the door. The mail does not come on Sunday, who could have sent this package?

Elf arrival~!!!!! Cutest I've seen!

I found a skinny shoe box that I am going to stuff with tissue paper and cover with red wrapping paper. You can print out the North Pole cancellation postage and glue it to the paper as well.

Monday, December 2 – Snow Angel Elf

snow angel elf

Tuesday, December 3 – Breakfast from Jack
Elf sized pancakes..must remember for breakfast when our elf returns!!


Elf on a Shelf Ideas for ChristmasWednesday, December 4 – Elf under a glass
Thursday, December 5 – Elf on printer/scanner

Elf scans bum (at least that's what I would do!)
Friday, December 6 – Sleeping in Daddy’s socks
Elf on a Shelf - Using a sock as a sleeping bag
Don’t forget to “modify” your elf so he/she can bend and hang better. Life so Lovely has a great tutorial.

I am thankful for you

I have refrained all season from doing the “I am thankful for…” on Facebook but it is time. I want to take this day to say I am thankful for YOU my reader friends. And to show you my hand print turkey wreath. But really to say thank you. I love doing this blog, love to talk about my babies and myself and I love that other people care and can laugh along with me. We all know I don’t speak too seriously on the blog. There was that one rare time, but today I seriously want to say thank you for following our little family each week for the past five years. I am so lucky to have reader friends far and wide concerned about my well being and, more importantly, the well being of the small people I am in charge of. I adore you all.

Now for what you REALLY want to hear about; the hand print turkey wreath.

I had a vision. A vision of combining this wreath with this wreath to form a turkey wreath using the boys hand prints.
Turkey hand wreath.                             
I used most of the excellent instructions from the Baby Rabies site for wrapping the foam wreath core. I used brown fabric that I ripped to give it a frayed edge and covered the entire wreath core with it. Then I just laid out James and Zach’s cut out hand prints in a pattern and layering that I liked. Alex was highly, highly skeptical of this vision. Which is a fairly rational response to me painting and cutting styrofoam.

But I love it. It is either super cute or super tacky and I am still a bit on the fence about which one. But not so much that it stopped me from making another smaller one for my papa’s door.

I also decorated our mantle this year. While some might not think hot pink is a Thanksgiving color, those people would be incorrect.

I had an American Indian blanket my mom purchased years ago in my Thanksgiving box and it happens to have hot pink, navy and various browns in it. And I just so happened to have purchased hot pink sticky vinyl. It was clearly meant to be.

I printed out these darling “I am thankful for” tags from Jones Design Company, which is a beautiful blog I follow. She has a bunch free for printing but the light brown one was the perfect fit for our mantle. Like how I say “our” as if Alex had any input into this at all.

Zach has had fun picking one thing he is thankful for each day to put on the tags. I write the front (as if I can give up that control) and he signs his name on the back with the date. I plan to use this for a few years until it just gets crammed full of things we are thankful for. We have much, much to be thankful for.

Like this glitter turkey that I grabbed while running out of the Nutcracker market. And you. OK it is a toss up, I am not going to lie.

I can’t be sure what came over me and why I had to have this turkey, but I did and am thankful it made it home in one piece.

Strawberry Bread

A friend of Liv’s made Strawberry Bread recently and Zach lost his mind over it. The recipe is from a cookbook that Liv and her friend’s use all the time. I, of course, didn’t have frozen strawberries but I did have frozen raspberries and mango from back when I was going to make smoothies for breakfast. That does not sound the least bit like me in the morning.

So I subbed the fruit, and you guys, this bread is good. It is not healthy. At. All. But it is delicious and super easy to make. I made one small loaf and 18 muffins. I froze the muffins to take during Zach’s snack week. This was all that was left at the end of the first day.

Seriously, make this now. Whatever frozen fruit you have in your freezer would be great.

Strawberry Bread
From Wild about Texas

3 cups flour
4 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tpsp cinnamon (I thought about omitting this but left it in and I liked it)
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups oil
2 (10 oz) packages frozen strawberries, thawed

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Sift dry ingredients together in a bowl. Make a well in dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat eggs adding oil and strawberries. Pour liquid into well of dry ingredients and stir util mixed. Pour into two large loaf pans or four small loaf pans that have been greased and floured (or sprayed with Pam baking spray). Bake 45 minutes for loaf pans and 25 minutes for muffins.

Letter of the Week

Like all Pre-K classes, Zachary has a letter of the week each week that his class works on. Last year I tried to have him do a craft in the afternoons/evenings one day a week with the letter of the week and it was a disaster. He was not as into art as he is now and it was torture for both of us. So after C I scrapped it. And with my work schedule we were lucky to do his letter book (where we had to cut out photos of things that started with the letter) and find something for show and tell. We regularly forgot both of those.

But this year he is very into art and I thought I would try it again. I found this site that has printable pages with the letters at the top and also ideas for each letter.

Since we had done some last year I tried to think of new things and asked Zach what he wanted to do. They are pretty straight forward.
A is for Ant and Anthill

 B is for Banana

 C is for Car

D is for Dinosaur

E is for Electric Pole or “poll” as I wrote it that day. Can you even believe it? Alex has since corrected it on the paper and initialed his changes. 
F is for Feather
Wait, you weren’t expecting E for Electric pole? Yeah, me neither. I tried to encourage E for Eel with visions of me finding eels he could color and cut out but he insisted on creating an electric pole. So that was the result. Those are the electric lines leading to our house and his friend Logan’s house.
We still haven’t gotten much father but now we group them together and do as many as we can in one day. We have them on display in the back room of our house. It looks so lovely with the building blocks, UT football set and dozens of balls. 

This would not happen if I worked

I hit send on this post last week a bit too quickly and it got messed up by BlogLovin. Here it is again if you missed it and wondered why the hedge trimmers were in my kitchen.

I wrote a post when Zach was a baby and got bitten in the face by The Biter in his class and ended it with, “this would not happen if I stayed at home.” Well, today, Zach locked himself and his brother in his room and I had to use a set of pruning shears to get him out. This would totally not happen if I worked.

Mornings are not my thing. At all. I detest them and pretend they are not happening. I have a friend who told me recently she loved mornings. I began immediately doubting our friendship. Growing up I would get dressed in bed to stay in there as long as possible. I picked out my clothes the night before, not due to an issue of me taking too much time picking them, but to not have to spend any time selecting them in the morning.

My point? I am not at my mothering best – or anything best – in the morning.

But when I worked we had a routine. The boys would get up and start eating breakfast and I would get in the shower. About the time my makeup was done they would be done. So they would entertain themselves or Alex would play with them for 20-30 minutes while I finished getting ready and got the dog fed/lunches packed up/car loaded. We would be out the door around 8ish. On a good day.

Now, we don’t have to  leave the house until 8:45. Glorious sort of, but they still get up at the same time. So they now have an hour, at least, of “free time” in the morning. The more time to get in trouble.

On the morning in question, I had decided to shower (it had been too long and my hair was semi-permanently in a french braid). As I am doing my quick mommy makeup Zach walks in with a toy from James’ closet. James’ closet is really both their closet’s and where I keep extra Christmas/Birthday toys to dole out to Zach throughout the year. It has a child lock on it because I don’t want them going in it. Obviously.

So I tell him, no, he can’t have that toy and that I have told him repeatedly to NOT go in the closet. I take the toy, shoo him away and re-lock the closet.

Next thing I know I hear muffled cries of “Mommy! Mommy help!”. I go to look and Zach has taken the child lock off the closet and locked he and James into his room.

His room used to be a study so he has two doors that open, hence him being able to use the locks. You can see what I mean in this picture of his very festive Halloween doors.

I was livid. And slightly panicky.

But since he was locked in it gave me a chance to calm down and decide what to do.

I told him that he got it off one time, to try and do it again. I needed to go put some clothes on that are not a robe.

He tried to start to cry but I calmly told him to suck it up and remain calm. I had to go put clothes on.

It soon becomes clear he is not going to be able to do it again as he has James helping. James is not a help to anyone.

I consider the option of removing the door handles (won’t work, the screw holes are to the inside where he is) and taking the door off completely. But then I wondered if the doors would open enough to fit our small pruning sheers in there.

Yep. Worked like a charm.

The boys were free and Zach was in trouble…..

I told him he was something called “grounded” and was grounded from watching TV all day. That really made him start to cry.

This would not happen if I was at work.

The real reason to have boys: Mums

I am not even going to waste everyone’s time adding the “I love my boys.” part because you all know that I do. And more importantly (no offense), they know that I do. I tell them 52 times a day and kiss their faces off. Plus I am now their personal chauffeur in addition to being their cheerleader, waitress and nurse. So let’s all just dispense with the need for me (or anyone) to say “I love my kids, but…”, and focus on the only real thing that makes having boys vs. girls exciting – Homecoming Mums.

I saw an excerpt from Debra Duncan this morning and she had a lady from Micheal’s, aka my mothership, talking about their mum selection and I remembered! In 12 years I, Kinsey Wall, will get to make a mum for Zach’s date to Homecoming. I am already getting the glue gun ready.

Should I pause and ask if some of you are wondering what exactly I am talking about? Are you not from the south? Did you not have to have your giant mum pinned to your bra? I am confused….

So in small towns in Texas for Homecoming the boys (aka their moms) give their dates giant fake mums decorated with ribbons, teddy bears, other flowers, plastic shapes footballs, dancers, etc.. Now some girls wear them to school – I hope Kaitlyn doesn’t do that. She will sound like a cow coming down the hallway with all the little cowbell’s dangling. Plus she can’t wear a backpack (you know for all her AP homework) and she will want to save the big mum reveal for the football game. Obviously.

Typically, everyone goes to the football game and wears their mum, then you go to the homecoming dance also wearing the mum. It is a thing. A slightly trashy thing, but a thing none the less.

I asked my dad to dig up my Homecoming photos to show everyone what I am talking about.

That was my boyfriend Senior Year of high school and his mom made the mum. And I loved it. I saved it – for years. I think I finally threw it away after college. Yes, you read that right, after college. She just put so much time into it, and totally got me and my 16 year old self.

I know I will be that mom. She too, only had boys, and she too, obviously knew how to work a glue gun. I am so excited to head to Michael’s to buy the biggest mum grouping I can find and all the ribbons and crap to glue to it. So. Excited.

There could a slight hitch in my plan. My friend Hillary (mother of Zach’s favorite baby) said that she did not recall having mums in high school and she went to the same high school the boys will attend. I am basically refusing to hear that. If I have to force Zach or James to be in the FAA to get a mum out of them I will do it.

I have lost Barbies, American Girls and ballet recitals; that is clearly the least they could do.

As an aside, the lady on Debra Duncan mentioned that there is a “homecoming expert” in each Michael’s and you guys, I think I have found the reason I left my job. I wonder what the qualifications for that job are and if the one near me has that position filled….

One of these things is not like the other, sort of

When you have somehow given birth to twins, separated by two and a half years, people want to know – do they have the same personalities? The quick answer is: no.

As a great first example is I had to really search my archives to find a photo of Zach not smiling. He was always smiling. Even when he was making my life miserable, like his brother does now, he had the best disposition. On the other hand you have James. He is a super happy guy, but as we all know, is not impressed with much. OK with anything. I have to search for a photo of him where he is smiling. He does not give it up as easily as his brother.

James is much more stubborn and screamy but, is also much more affectionate and huggy. Zach has always been my kid who would prefer to high five vs. hug. Even as a baby he wanted nothing to do with rocking/cuddling. You had to just put him down in his crib and walk away. Any attempts to sooth him would only anger him. But James loves to rock, he would routinely sleep on me when he was an infant and to this day still turns on his side and tucks his head under my chin when we are rocking before bed. He loves to kiss (“kip”) his dad before he leaves for work and insists on hugging everyone before bed – Norman included. I know, this doesn’t really fit his unimpressed persona.

Another big difference is the running factor. James loves to run. He runs over walking any day and kicks balls over not kicking anything. Every morning he wants to play “football” which means we run through the house while he holds a football and Alex, Zach or I chase him and pretend to “tackle down”. Zach is not and has  never been a runner. I loved that about him as a toddler and especially now that I have a runner. I never worry about him running off in the street or shopping malls. He always preferred to be in the stroller than walking when he was little, and James is that way a bit as well. I am certain James’ affinity for running comes from wanting to keep up with his brother, but it is so, so different than I am used to. 

But man do they look alike.

Especially when I make them match.

I have been Wall-itized

My mom’s dad moved to Houston a few weeks back. He had been living in North Texas close to one of my aunts and my mom. I was selfishly happy to have him move here so I could see him more.

The last time I saw him, prior to him moving, was after the terrible road trip when the boys and I went to Denton. I took Zach to Dallas with me one night, so I could see my Vegas girls and he could hang out with his cousins. The next day I took Zach and Charlotte to see my papa, who we call their Big Papa.

His assisted living center was having a church service that my mom thought he would like to attend, but would forget about. So she thought if we went at that time we could encourage him to attend.

The timing is perfect and we arrive right before it started. He had forgotten (or didn’t want to go) but we made him go anyway. Unfortunately it was Rite I of the Episcopal liturgy.

Ugh, I really, really don’t like Rite 1 (which is just the language in which the read the service). It is all “thoust” and “wilst”, and basically hard to understand. No thank you, I am a Rite II girl all the way. Plus the priest kept encouraging everyone to visit his church online, as his sermons are posted there. OK, calm down, Father. We get it; you are tech savvy, but no one at the service was below the age of 85, don’t push your luck.

My bad attitude aside, the kids did awesome. Zach and Charlotte each sat in the chairs and pretended to read the hymnal the entire time. It really was a miracle. The priest was clearly nice to bring the service, any service, to an assisted living center as well.

Our my mother’s plan was for the three of us to eat lunch at the center but Big Papa said Charlotte and Zach would prefer to go to Whataburger. I, personally, think he didn’t want to deal with all those other old people coming up and chatting about his “precious” grandchildren the entire time. My papa is not a chatter. He does not like small talk and especially with strangers.

So I tossed his walker in the back of my car (it would not fold as he had drilled a tray on it), loaded up one old person and two kids and off we went.

It was at this point in the story that my mom stopped me. She was aghast. Her comment, “Let me get this straight. You took a two year old, a four year old and a very unsteady 88 year old man to Whataburger??” I had not even given it a second thought. Both she and my aunt were shocked.

In a very unlike-me move, I had not even thought about anything going wrong. “What if he had fallen?” “What if one of the kids had run off or knocked him down?” “What if someone had to go to the bathroom?”

Because, you see, Alex had just been to see his grandmother (she is only 94) the weekend before and taken the boys and her to McDonald’s for breakfast. And he never thinks anything can go wrong.

It is official, I have been Wall-itized.

I mean, I guess it had to happen at some point, we have been married eight years and together for twelve this Halloween.

And in true Wall fashion, everything was fine. We got to the restaurant fine (though I was convinced we were lost), everyone ate their Whataburgers and drank their chocolate milk (well, Papa drank Charlotte’s). We then we loaded back up to head down the freeway to his apartment.

Really it was a nice trip., Papa enjoyed watching the kids and Zach had very important questions for Big Papa like why he could not hear even though his ears were “huge” and was he going to die before or after Grandma Ena. You would think the kid had money on it or something for as much as we have to discuss that last one.

Now I am glad that I was Wall-itized then, as Papa is not really up to going to Whataburger these days. But don’t worry James and I just bring it to him. I know his order and taking James out to eat is basically not an option. He needs to roam around while eating, which is very easy to do at Papa’s place.

Plus Big Papa has chocolate that he lets the boys eat entirely too much of. 
But isn’t that what a Big Papa is for?

Empty the freezer Chicken Pot Pie

Two weeks ago I was determined  not to go to the grocery store for more than milk and fruit. We are a one income family and I have thousands of recipes at my disposal. Surely, I could clean out our freezers and make dinner for my family.

My favorite meal of the week was the chicken pot pie I made on Thursday. I used defrosted chicken breasts, a bag of mixed veggies and the puff pastry that may or may not have expired in September. Don’t tell Alex.

It was delicious. I used Martha Stewart’s recipe from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook as a base but just used what I had. I highly recommend trying this if you need to clean out a freezer. 
James liked it once I spooned it out for him (though he did enjoy stabbing the breading) and Zach liked it once he figured out he could eat the breading off the ramekin.
Here is my version of the recipe – creepster face from Zach not included.

Chicken Potpie
Serves 4 (generously)
1 package boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bag mixed veggies (that your family likes)
2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 – 1 cup milk
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 sheet defrosted puff pastry (or crescent rolls, really any dough will work great)

Directions
1. Cut the chicken breasts into cubes. Salt and pepper the cubes.
2. Brown the chicken in a skillet with the olive oil until brown on the outside and just done on the inside. Set aside.
3. Wipe out skillet and heat the butter. Once melted, add flour and whisk for 1 minute.
4. Add chicken stock then milk and salt and bring to a simmer. Cook until thick and bubbly, stirring the entire time.
5. Add the reserved chicken pieces, thyme, lemon zest, veggies and pepper. Taste and add more salt as needed. I needed to add more milk to this stage as well to fully cover the veggies.
6. Transfer to oven safe baking dish(es).
7. Flatten out puff pastry and cut to fit your dish. Slice a few holes in the top for venting and press to the sides.
If you have an egg, you can do an egg wash by whisking one egg and using a pastry brush to coat the top of the dough. I didn’t have an egg (again, not going to the store) and it was fine without.
8. Bake according to the puff pastry package directions until the tops are golden brown.

Mom Fail

Each day something happens in my life that causes me to text my sister with the hashtag #momfail and an accompanying story. Usually, they are poor choices I have made throughout the day versus true failures. Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Still heating up milk for that terrible baby so he doesn’t scream at me. 
  • Constantly engaging in the question and answer period of my day with Zach when I should just say “yes” vs explain what acne is and why it does not wash off. 
  • Scheduling any doctor’s appointments for the boys on days they are IN school.

You get the point.

But on Wednesday I really did feel like I had a big mom fail. Last time we went to the dentist with Zach it turns out he has two cavities. That was my first #momfail, I felt, as that is so my fault, right? Well, his dentist told me it was not mom fail but his super sticky saliva that is genetic (thanks a lot, Walls).

His cavities were in-between his molars on each side, which can, obviously, only be prevented by flossing. Which we don’t do. I don’t floss my own teeth (to my mother and Alex’s horror) but I am expected to floss my four year old’s? Yes, apparently or cavities are my consequence.

Anyway, I moved past that failure, deciding to blame it solely on the Wall genes. But we had to get rid of the cavities. I had to take my little, scared, four year old, who had not eaten a thing all morning, to be gassed and given Demerol. You all know I play it pretty cool and loose but I was a nervous wreck with this. Plus I could not even walk him back (which turned out to be a good idea in the end).

Of course, everything was fine. The dentist said he was the best patient of the morning, so “laid back”, you would not know he was nervous. I guess those Wall genes are good for something.

But when we got home he was starving. He could not really eat and drinking through a straw was hard too, as he could not feel his lip. I just felt so helpless. At one point he started crying that he was just so hungry. Which just crushed me. So I let him have bell peppers (he loves those) and crackers. What I didn’t think about was how all that chewing would hurt his lip. It swelled up huge.

And he was still hungry. But he could not have dairy yet so basically he couldn’t eat anything else. Again, I am so out of my league here, so I just tell him to go lay down in his room, maybe not in the nicest of tones (#momfail 2). I could tell he is still out of it and maybe he is sleepy? Well, he falls right asleep and does not want to get up an hour later.

Well crap. Now what do I do? This kid does not nap. Has not since he turned three. And he is not stirring after an hour and a half.

I finally do what I should have done from the beginning- call my mom. She says to get him up, maybe they gave him too much gas or too much medicine in general.

I do and he is totally fine. He eats an entire turkey sandwich and drinks a glass of milk and is totally back to his old self in about thirty minutes.

You know there are like 500 blogs on potty training but nothing on this? 

Wait, I didn’t actually look online. I just thought I “knew” what to do. 
False. #momfail.

Oh, and if you need me I will be flossing my child’s teeth in the bathroom and wrestling the baby to get him to even brush.