securing his spot on the naughty list

I took Declan with me to the grocery store this morning to grab a few things for Christmas brunch. He got to ride in the race car cart all by himself and was especially well-behaved, even at the end during the checkout process. When we got to the car, I realized the explanation for this good behavior. He had swiped a full size BabyRuth and was sucking the chocolate out through the wrapper. Here's a picture of my little klepto, complete with his chocolate-smeared devilish grin:


happy birthday to me...

Today is my birthday. Today I went from being thirty to being in my thirties. Totally different, by the way! I think on the eve of every birthday I imagine the utterly blissful birthday that will surely come the following day. Nothing will get lost and no one will raise their voice. There will be no crying, no red lights, no temper tantrums. There will be cake for breakfast and champagne for dinner. I will get fabulous presents in all the right sizes and colors, parking spaces up front, phone calls from long-lost friends, and free coffee from the Starbucks.

Instead, I was awoken by Ava looking for her uniform. She couldn't find it anywhere. She had looked, she promised. I inch out of my bed, careful not to wake the baby who had been in bed with us since 3:45 a.m.. I put my glasses on and stumble into Ava's room only to find her standing there with her uniform in hand. She had found it. Awesome! Then Emerson can only find one shoe. There is nothing to pack for the girls' lunches and Ava won't take leftover pizza, so I have to find my checkbook to write her a $3 check (because her school doesn't take cash) so she can buy lunch. I have to put said $3 check in an envelope inside a folder inside her bag. This is the protocol, unless you want to receive a nasty post-it message. This I know from experience. The problem is, I am out of envelopes. I live in a house of little people who like to write "letters" and put them in my envelopes and draw postage on the front and put them in the mailbox out front (with the flag up of course)! So I have to put my $3 check in one of my nice stationary envelopes, which probably costs about $3. Awesome! By the time we get out the door, I am approximately 20 minutes late to Emerson's school. I then get to the mall for my relaxing day of birthday browsing with Finlay and Declan, only to find that Finlay is screaming and hungry. I pump in the parking lot, while Declan watches Charlotte's Web. He thinks Wilbur is a dog and yells "DA!" everytime he appears onscreen. Which is a lot! As I finish pumping, I glance up and notice the security camera above me, which probably has had a nice view for the last 15 minutes. Again, awesome!

The one shining star in my morning is this:

It is a birthday card from the Starbucks. It is a voucher for for a free birthday drink. Any drink, any flavor, any size, with any additional number of espresso shots. Just for me, because it's my birthday. I get so excited taking a picture of my free birthday drink card, that I leave it on the counter and forget to bring it to the mall. All in unison now...."Awesome"! Lucky for me, my mother and mother-in-law both sent me Starbucks gift cards for my birthday. Maybe my obsession with the $5 latte has gotten out of hand. It's not like I want this for my birthday cake next year:

Ok, I kind of do! But whatever...

I did end up having a great birthday. I went out to dinner with my amazing husband and 4 kids. (Boy were they surprised at the restaurant when the "5 plus a baby" they had on the books ended up being 2 adults, 2 kids, a toddler needing a highchair and a baby!) Everyone was relatively well-behaved at dinner. And we came home and I got to open presents, which were all in the right color and sizes, thanks to that aforementioned amazing husband (and the Anthropologie wish list I created online).


'tis the season

Christmas is in full swing at the Sprinkel household. We have (wait for it...) four trees up and decorated. I raided some friends' magnolia tree and even made a wreath. It was my first wreath making experience but I'm pretty happy with the result. See?

But my favorite part might be the advent calendar. Here's a look at the final product:

The girls are having so much fun with all the activities. So far we've written letters to Santa, watched a Christmas movie, drank hot cocoa (with jumbo marshmallows), decorated the (real) Christmas tree, and made Christmas cookies.

Here's a picture of them (heavy-handily) decorating sugar cookies:

There's lots more fun to be had this week. Tomorrow's going to be a surprise for the whole family, since I've completely forgotten what I wrote on Day 7's card!


a little shoutout!


This goes out to the woman this morning at the Michael's. When Declan and Emerson were fighting (loudly and with brute force) over a plastic car and I am waiting to check out, rocking Finlay in my arms, holding back tears, while she screams uncontrollably at the top of her lungs, this woman gets out of line, comes over and says, "here you go next". A new register had just opened and although they called, "next person in line" and I was probably the 12th in line, she took my double stroller and pushed it over to the register and said, "don't worry, I remember those days". And that was all! In a store full of people exchanging dirty glances and telling me that I really had my hands full (which, by the way, is not helpful in the least!), this woman saved me. I looked for her in the parking lot after I had gotten everyone in the car and Finlay's crying had subsided, to thank her, but she was gone. I promised myself as I sat in my car, sobbing, that the next time I saw a mother who "had her hands full", I wasn't just going to stand there, I would help. So thank you lady in the Michael's, whoever you are!

2011 DIY projects

My first project of the new year is already all planned out (in my head)! I stumbled upon these amazing fabrics last night by Laurie Wisbrun:

I want to find an awesome chair that I can paint a glossy white and then reupholster the cushion with this fabric:

Get it? Chairs on a chair! LOVE it! Any of these fabrics would also make fun throw pillows! Now, I just need to learn how to sew! Maybe I'll add that to my 2011 to-do list!


day twenty two....

I would love to tell you that the reason I haven't blogged in three days is because I spent all weekend at the gym, but the truth is, here at the Sprinkel household, we have been furiously preparing for Thanksgiving. After a busy weekend of cleaning and doing what seemed like at least twenty loads of laundry, I think we are almost ready. The menu is planned, the table is set, and most of the shopping has been done. The carpet cleaners are coming in the morning. The first of the food preparation began tonight with some candied pecans, followed tomorrow night by the making of the cranberry sauce, Wednesday is pie day, and everything else gets done Thanksgiving morning.You would think after all that my only plans Friday would be to sit on the couch and eat left-overs, but no...in my classic over-achieving style, I have to work on the ten red and green tutus I volunteered to make for Ava's girl scout troop. Each girl gets a bear to dress and then the bears get donated to the Salvation Army to give to under-privileged children during the holidays. I also have to start making the advent calendar. Last year, I made a wall of 24 aluminum buckets filled with goodies, similar to this one from Garnet Hill:
The only downside to doing this again this year, is that filling 24 baskets with goodies for four kids gets pricey. Plus, I want them to appreciate the meaning of Christmas, not just the presents. So this year, I am looking for an advent calendar to fill with festive activities we can do together. Here's one I saw on Ohdeedoh:

I also found this one on flickr:

Seriously? How awesome is that?? So, I think I'm going to try to make some combination of the two. I think I'm going to cover a piece of cardboard with fabric and then attach my envelopes to it. I found some festive fabric on etsy. I ended up ordering this one:

I looked up some activities to put in the envelopes. I'm also going to mix in activities we had planned anyway, like Ava's school Christmas concert. Here are some of my favorites:
  • go ice skating
  • watch a holiday movie
  • make Christmas cookies
  • wrap presents
  • decorate the tree
  • make a gingerbread house
  • make popcorn garland
  • drive around and look at Christmas lights
  • get your picture taken with Santa
  • attend a tree lighting event
  • sing Christmas songs
  • drink hot cocoa and read a Christmas book
  • buy gifts for Salvation Army Angel tree child
  • make paper snowflakes
  • put lights on the outside of the house
  • write letters to Santa
I'm really excited and I think the kids will love it too! I'll be sure to post pictures of my advent calendar making process. If anyone has any activities I can add to the list, I'd love to hear them!


you asked for it

Here are the girls' passport pictures from the other day:

The sweet one

The funny one

The mug shot

And since I don't want to leave Declan out, here's a picture of him from the other day eating his polar bear cookie from the Starbucks. The red icing from the polar bear's scarf made him look like The Joker from Batman:

day seventeen...

Or the day I will forever remember as the day I found my first gray hair. I was in the bathroom at the salon changing into my little waffle knit robe getting ready for my first facial in about six years. I told the esthetician it had been two. I have no idea why. Like she was going to judge me less if I had gotten one two years ago instead of six. Jay had given me a gift certificate last Christmas and it expires after a year, so I figured I had until December 23rd of this year (I'm assuming) to take advantage of it. So there I am, inspecting my pores in the mirror when I catch a glimpse of it, my first gray hair. A little early birthday present to remind me that I am about to go from being thirty to being in my thirties. As I think back ten years ago, approaching my 21st birthday and the night of debauchery that followed, I think how much I have done in the last 10 years. I finished college (not in the degree-obtaining kind of way, more in the ok, I'm done, let's do something else kind of way), I got engaged, married, had 4 babies, got three dogs, bought two houses and sold one. And that's just the big stuff. When you take all of that into account, I guess I should be glad it was just the one.


day sixteen...

Tuesdays are usually pretty lazy days around here, since we don't have to be anywhere until we pick up Ava from school. We usually end up lying around in our pajamas for most of the morning, maybe catch up on last night's episode of Gossip Girl, eventually venture out to the Target for a latte. This morning started off like any other Tuesday, until I realized that we had absolutely no food in our house. Declan ate animal crackers for breakfast. So, I had to take Emerson, Declan, and Finlay to the grocery store... in the rain. I was prepared for disaster. I decided to put Finlay in the Baby Bjorn so that I could actually put food in the cart, and Emerson and Declan got in the front of the car cart. We weren't even inside yet, when the bickering started over whose yellow plastic steering wheel was whose. I stop at the Starbucks to grab my daily Peppermint Mocha, when I spot the giant frosted polar bear shaped cookies that you can only get during the holidays. I ask for two and fork over $3 a piece. Best six dollars I've ever spent. Ever. An hour and a half and $184 later, I had bought enough food to sustain my family of six for at least a week, plus grabbed some Thanksgiving essentials that come next week will be scarce. All without a single peep from the front of the cart.
The rest of the day seemed to go just as smoothly. I was on time to pick up Ava from school. I took all four kids in the haircut place after school so Ava could get her hair cut. Between losing one of her top front teeth last week and her scraggly hair, she was starting to look like one of those kids from that 20/20 special on Appalachia. So now she has a cute little bob! Emerson got her bangs trimmed too and Declan, he got a lollipop! (I refuse to cut his hair!) Then since everyone was looking so presentable, we headed next door to the Kinko's for passport photos. Finlay's picture is sweet, Emerson's is funny, and Ava's looks like a mug shot. So their pictures pretty accurately reflect their personalities!
We came home and much to the surprise of my husband, I fixed lemon roasted chicken with olives and capers, lemon orzo, and a yummy salad. And it was actually good! We packed lunches, laid out clothes, and read books. I even got to take a bath. All because of the good people at Starbucks and their polar bear cookies!

half way day...

It's day 15 of my challenge. It's time to assess where I am with my giant to-do list. I think my list can be divided now into four groups: things I've done, things I will get done, things I'm doing better with, and things I should give up on.

Done: finished my dressing room, decorated for fall, cleaned my office, organized everything in the attic, finished my book club book, and took Finlay's 3 month picture.

Will do in the next 15 days: plan/cook Thanksgiving dinner, finish my Christmas shopping (I only have 4 people left), clean out garage, back-up photos, read one more book, keep blogging once a day, get a Christmas card picture, schedule doctor appointments and write them down everywhere, get passports and find some fun (cheap) things to do with the kids.

Getting better with: drinking more water, reading to the kids every night, laying out clothes & packing lunches the night before, not leaving the house in workout clothes and no makeup (I've been picking one or the other), fitting into pre-pregnancy jeans (only 2 pairs left that don't fit), my weekly budget and washing my face before bed.

Give up on: making my bed every day (I'm 1 for 15), going to the gym every day (or ever), limiting my Starbucks and my trips to the Target (who am I kidding? I love it there!), planning out dinners in advance, time-sucking websites and the laundry!

I feel pretty good about my progress. I've gotten a lot done. And I'm slowly starting to become a little more organized, a little less stressed. The point is that I'm trying, right?


day fourteen...

Today we attempted to take the Sprinkel family Christmas card picture. I knew it would not go well and my chances of getting the perfect picture on the first try were slim to none. So even though Declan's tie hasn't arrived yet from Etsy, I thought we should try anyway. We got one half way decent one, but I'm convinced we can do better. Check it out:

These are the funniest of the outtakes from today:

And my personal favorite:

And these are the best outtakes of Christmas pasts:


day thirteen...

Wish me luck! Not because it's day thirteen, but because Jay and I are taking the kids to Tyson's Corner for our annual pre-Thanksgiving shopping trip. I need to pick up some new Christmas decorations from West Elm, because as soon as the plates are cleared from Thanksgiving dinner, it is officially Christmas time at the Sprinkel house. We are putting up our trees (yes, that was plural) the day after Thanksgiving this year. The holiday season always seems too short, we decided. So instead of waiting until the first or second week in December to decorate, we are getting on it this year. Black Friday isn't when we start thinking about Christmas, it's when Christmas will be in full swing here! There will be trees, lights, ornaments, cookies, eggnog, and some ABC Family movies to boot. Even though I'm almost done my shopping, I think I will head to the Target at 4 a.m. this year just to get me in the mood. I mean, why not? Why did we have all these kids if we weren't going to do Christmas Griswold-style!


day twelve...

I had a pretty good day today. It started with a coffee date with one of my best friends. As we chatted and sipped our warm beverages, I remembered what fun it was to have an adult conversation. One of my main reasons for wanting to write a daily blog was because I need a creative outlet that I don't always get being a stay-at-home mom. I want to stimulate that part of my brain that comes from developing the random thoughts bouncing around in my head into something tangible, something I could see. It's not always easy to commit those thoughts to paper or in this case, screen. Sometimes I feel that in the six years since I started having babies, that my brain has turned to mush. I have come to realize that while the part of my brain that can form complete sentences and have intellectual conversations without losing my train of thought have become a little rusty, I have instead been developing other parts of my brain.

For one, I have vastly improved my problem-solving skills. I can fashion a diaper out of a roll of duct tape and a Shamwow in a pinch. Or if Finlay's hungry at the exact time I have to leave to pick up Ava from school, I can plug my breast-pump into the cigarette lighter, pump while driving, get out at a red light, prop Finlay's bottle up with a rolled up blanket, and she can feed herself while I drive. Also, my navigation skills have improved. I have learned how to get anywhere in town without having to pass a McDonald's or an ice-cream shop. I can also get to all the stores I need to in the mall, without passing the indoor play-ground or the Build-a-Bear. I have also improved the risk analysis part of my brain. For example, if I leave Ava in charge to take the world's fastest shower, the damage they could possibly do to the house or each other in two and a half minutes is minimal, right? I also use cost benefit analysis on a daily basis, as in, if I give Declan my iPhone to play with and he breaks it, was it worth it for the five minutes of peace and quiet I got before he threw it across the room. And answering questions like "what are ghosts made out of?" and "how did Finlay get in your belly?" have kept the creativity/ improvisational part of my brain sharp.

While, I do find myself forgetting what I walked all the way upstairs for or what phone number I just dialed, I have developed what I like to call my McGyver-mom skills, the skills that can keep four kids alive for a good week with just the contents of my diaper bag if we ever got stranded in my car in the middle of winter. And that to me seems more valuable than being able to discuss what might be going on in the world. I mean, if something huge happens, I'll learn about it from Moose and Zee, right?


day eleven:

Confessions for day eleven:

-I did not have to be anywhere until 11 a.m. today and I still managed to be late
-I wore workout clothes
-It's a good thing I wore workout clothes because I spent the entire hour of Emerson's first gymnastics class chasing Declan around the gym because I forgot to bring him a stroller (because of previously-mentioned lateness)
-I feel as though I've worked out now, so I will not feel guilty today about not going to the gym
-Instead of going home after gymnastics class, to put my clearly-exhausted toddler down for a nap, I chose to go to the Target for a coffee (and groceries...but mostly for the coffee)
-I asked for an extra shot of espresso
-I bought a lunchable at the Target, so I don't have to pack Ava's lunch tonight
-I am writing this blog entry on my laptop in the car, which is parked in my driveway so I can get wifi, because the kids are confined to their carseats and watching a movie, with their snacks and sippy cups and it's the first peaceful moment I've had all day!

day ten...

Yesterday was day ten and I spent most of it on a mission at the mall trying to find the perfect four outfits for the kids for our holiday card. Yes, ordering online would have been much easier, but not faster. And when I get it in my head that I want to do something, I want to do it immediately! Well, since Ava and Emerson are in school all day on Wednesdays, I took Declan and Finlay for a day of shopping. Here's what I purchased for Ava (left) and Emerson (right):

Trying to find something for Finlay and Declan did not go as smoothly. I did end up finding this bodysuit and tutu/pant combo for Finlay. :

For Declan, I bought this sweater that I do not love. Even paired with skinny jeans and his new Clarks, it's a little more "ski chalet" than I was going for.

I'm thinking of maybe going with black skinny jeans, a white button down and a festive necktie, loosened up a bit. Here are some options I found on etsy:

Now I just have to get all my kids bathed, dressed, and in good moods...at the same time! Stay tuned for the outtakes! If they are anything like last year's they will not disappoint!