Tuesday, December 30, 2008

10 On Tuesday

Today is my Last 10 On Tuesday for 2008 – Let’s see if I can sum my year up in 10 single words

1) Construction (yes it’s #1 because it’s consumed my ENTIRE year!)
2) Milestones
3) Grief
4) Joy
5) Family
6) Friends
7) Growth
8) Love
9) Pride
10) ME!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Our Christmas (in a nut shell)

This pretty much sums it up and was his reaction to EVERY present that he opened up and how our morning went...

But no, really, we had a truly amazing Christmas. Having two young children who just "ooze" Christmas out of every pore in their body makes it magical and special again for Tim and I. We started on Christmas Eve day by baking special cookies for Santa.....

And then we headed over to Hank & Tricia's for a little Christmas Eve celebration and to let the boys have a little time with their new cousin Sophie. As you can see....just like the rest of us, they LOVE her! (but can you not? Look at her!!!)

Then we headed home and put out cookies & milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. Once we got the boys to sleep, the Big Guy arrived and unloaded his sack!

Christmas morning was special with the boys and Tim and I were so surprised at how controled and organized it was. Without any prompting, the boys would open a present, oooh and aaah over it and then set it aside, throw the wrapping paper away and then go get another to open. Only ONCE did we have a minor meltdown when Mason wanted to open one of Jack's presents. Santa delivered as requested....a "firetruck with a ladder that works" for Jack and a Scooter for Mason (those were their BIG requests). Santa also delivered a bowling set, more Geotrax for our trainset and probably my favorite present of all....... Mason's Superhero Cape and Mask! Now he and Jack can save the world TOGETHER!

Christmas evening we headed BACK to Hank, Tricia, & Sophie's for a little more "family time". Nothing too fancy, just easy food and fun with the kids playing with their presents. Once again, Miss Sophie was the center of attention and the focus of every camera in the house! What a truly Merry Christmas it was seeing Hank & Tricia with the precious daughter that they waited so patiently for - and in my eyes, she was worth the wait that's for sure!

Our holiday celebrations ended Friday night with a gathering over at the home of Mike & Sue Riley's (Tim's brother and Sister-in-Law) for what can only be referred to as the FASTEST GIFT EXCHANGE on record. I have never had so many presents handed to me in a 5 minute span of time! It was so much fun though and to cap it off the Christmas tree (which had to be about 10 feet tall) came crashing down TWO TIMES! Sue said now she can go buy the new ornaments that she wants to get (ha ha ha)!

So, from our house to yours - Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night! We hope yours was as Merry of one as ours was!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Welcome Home Sophie!

Yesterday we welcomed home Hank, Tricia and the newest member of our family, Sophie Lee Nguyen Belz! A true gift from heaven. She's absolutely precious and more beautiful in person that she is in the pictures. We're so happy that they are all home safe and sound. What a truly amazing Christmas present for them - their FOREVER FAMILY!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Gardenland Express

One of St. Louis’s most beloved holiday traditions is the Gardenland Express, the Missouri Botanical Garden’s annual holiday flower and train show. This year the theme was a wintry wonderland in the mountains of Vermont. Tiny villages, ski resorts, and covered bridges dot the living landscape of dwarf conifers, evergreens, succulents, and moss. Eight G-scale model trains chug through the scenery surrounded by hundreds of colorful poinsettias and seasonal flowers.

Visitors are often amazed to learn that the Gardenland Express landscape is temporary and created mostly of living plant material. In late October/early November, truckloads of sawdust are spread upon a 5,000 square foot concrete floor to create rolling hills, valleys and mountains. Approximately 1,500 feet of brass track is laid before plants and props are carefully placed within railroad tie borders. The Garden's horticulture staff uses dwarf conifers, succulents and moss to create the landscapes.

It's absolutely BEAUTIFUL and the boys and I had a wonderful time this past Saturday with a visit to see the trains. Another annual tradition that we started last year and will most likely continue as they get older and are willing to go with me.

Friday, December 19, 2008


The countdown has begun......not only until Christmas Day but until my brother Hank & his wife, Tricia come home from Vietnam with their beautiful daughter Sophie! I don't know who's more excited right now; Mason or me.

Every night after dinner and before bedtime, Mason and I have gotten into a routine of going into the office and logging onto "Sophie's Story" to see what new videos they've posted (aka "pictures that talk" in Mason's terms) and to read all about their adventures in Hanoi while they've been over there. Seeing Sophie at the Zoo, eating Spaghetti and reading books with Aunt Tricia growling at her.....They've all made us smile and fall in love with her more and more!

I think Mason & Jack both finally understood that Sophie was not just a picture in a picture frame, but an actual little, walking, talking person when they saw her with Hank and Tricia for the first time. THAT brought it into more of a concrete concept for them. Both of them, since day one, have understood that Sophie is very, very far away from where we are and that Uncle Hank and Aunt Tricia were waiting patiently and had to get on an airplane and travel a long time to get to where Sophie is. They know that a very nice man and lady were taking care of her until Hank and Tricia could go get her and that now they are her Mommy & Poppa and that they are bringing her home to live with them forever. And that she is THEIR new cousin.

Becoming an aunt the very first time when my sister had her daughter Sarah, was an amazing experience and exciting for me as it was a big "first" in our family. But this time, I think I have been MORE excited for my brother to become a Father because I now know what it feels like to be a parent. That it's the most amazing feeling and experience that you can ever go through. To love something so much that it hurts is just a feeling that is too powerful for words.

I know that Hank understands it now too, because I've read it in his posts and heard it in his voice. I have known for a long time that Hank and Tricia will be two of the most wonderful, loving and caring parents because they have taken a very adverse situation and turned it around into a positive one. They have opened their hearts to a little girl from half way around the world who needed someone to love her. Someone to call her THEIR daughter.

I'm just so happy that our children will be able to grow up together and play together! I can't wait for them to get home!!!!! Hurry home guys! Safe travels and I'll be waiting for you at the finish line!!!!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dear Santa,

I've been a good Mom all year. I've fed, cleaned and cuddled my children on demand, visited the doctor's office more than my own doctor, sold sixty-two cases of candy bars to raise money to plant a shade tree on the school playground. I was hoping you could spread my list out – over several Christmases perhaps.

Since I had to write this letter with my son's red crayon, on the back of a receipt in the laundry room between cycles; and who knows when I'll find any more free time in the next 18 years, so now - -

*** Here are my Christmas wishes ***

I'd like a pair of legs that don't ache (-in any color, except purple, which I already have), arms that don't hurt or flap in the breeze; but are strong enough to pull my screaming child out of the candy aisle in the grocery store. I'd also like a waist, since I lost mine somewhere in the seventh month of my last pregnancy.

If you're hauling big-ticket items this year, I'd like fingerprint resistant windows and a radio that only plays adult music; a television that doesn't broadcast any programs containing talking animals; and a refrigerator with a secret compartment behind the crisper where I can hide to talk on the phone.

On the practical side, I could use a talking robot that says, 'Yes, Mommy' to boost my parental confidence, along with two kids who don't fight and three pairs of jeans that will zip all the way up without the use of power tools.

I could also use a recording of Tibetan monks chanting, 'Don't eat in the Family Room' and 'Take our hands off your brother,' because my voice seems to be just out of my children's hearing range and can only be heard by a dog.

If it's too late to find any of these products, I'd settle for enough time to brush my teeth and comb my hair in the same morning, or the luxury of eating food warmer than room temperature without it being served in a Styrofoam container.

If you don't mind, I could also use a few miracles to brighten the holiday season. Would it be too much trouble to declare ketchup a vegetable? It will clear my conscience immensely. It would be helpful if you could coerce my children to help around the house without demanding payment as if they were the bosses of an organized crime family.

Well, the buzzer on the dryer is ringing, and my son saw my feet under the laundry room door. I think he wants his red crayon back.

Have a safe trip Santa, and remember to leave your wet boots by the door, and come in and dry off, so you don't catch cold. Help yourself to cookies on the table, but don't eat too many or leave crumbs on the carpet please.

Yours always with love and appreciation,

A Mom

P.S. One more thing - You can cancel all my requests, if you can keep my children 'young' enough to believe in you forever.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer

Yes, you can hear my lovely voice over the boys but please watch Mason in the background singing his little heart out! He loves to add in the "extras" like a "ho ho ho" and a "yipee!" Just makes me love Christmas time that much more now that they old enough to get into it!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Who Doesn't Love A Gingerbread House?

Last year I decided that one of MY traditions with my children would be to make a gingerbread house. No......not from scratch! I may be creative and talented in some respects, but I'm not THAT good! I cheat and buy the kit but who cares - the boys still have fun with it.

This year, as soon as Thanksgiving had passed and Jack heard us utter the word Christmas, he immediately asked me "Mommy, are we going to make a gingerbread house?" so I knew that it had to be done.

This weekend it was on our TO DO list. Saturday morning I assembled the house and we gave it a few hours to set up before we jumped in with both feet and decorated it. Mommy was in charge of the icing and the boys were in charge of the decorating (and eating the "ingredients" as Jack kept on referring to them). I was very surprised at the precision to which Mason put into HIS side of the roof design. He was so meticulous and had such a good time.

The end AWESOME house that the three of us put together - with a pretzel fence, icing trees, and 4 gingerbread people representing Me, Tim, Jack and Mason.

Oh....and we came up with a new "ingredient" that a gingerbread house needs.....Pepperidge Farm Goldfish!!!

So here it is........Gingerbread House 2008!

Red Velvet Cake Balls

I'm so proud of myself! Every year I go to a Christmas Cookie Exchange Party and am always tasked with finding a new and cool cookie recipe to wow the other ladies who attend. This year I decided that I'd tackle Red Velvet Cake Balls from one of my favorite Blogs, Bakerella.

I started working on them on Thursday night as there was a process that had to be followed. Thursday night-baked the red velvet sheet cakes, Friday-rolled the balls, Saturday-dipped them in chocolate (and burned my fingers in the process) and this was the result.....

Not too shabby huh? Tim and the boys seem to be impressed and say they taste good, we'll see what kind of impression I make at the party today! I'll let you know.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Good Morning Vietnam!!!

Hey Aunt Tricia, Uncle Hank & Sophie! We just want to say hello and that we miss you guys!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Worldwide Candle Lighting - 12/14 @ 7pm

The Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting®, held annually the second Sunday in December, this year December 14, unites family and friends around the globe as they light candles for one hour to honor and remember children who have died at any age from any cause. As candles are lit at 7 p.m. local time, creating a virtual wave of light, hundreds of thousands of persons commemorate and honor the memories of children in a way that transcends all ethnic, cultural, religious, and political boundaries.

Now believed to be the largest mass candle lighting on the globe, the Worldwide Candle Lighting, a gift from TCF to the bereavement community, creates a virtual 24-hour wave of light as it moves from time zone to time zone. Hundreds of formal candle lighting events are held and thousands of informal candle lightings are conducted in homes as families gather in quiet remembrance of children who have died, but will never be forgotten.

Please be a part of this beautiful celebration and light a candle in memory of two children who lost their lives this year and became God's Angels.

Jack C. & Julia F. - you are in our hearts forever!

Power Rangers!!!

This is Jack's latest CRAZE! He draws and cuts out Power Rangers. (Just another thing he's picked up at school). But look at them - they are people with a head, eyes, mouth, body and legs. But for some reason, he said Power Rangers don't have arms (I dunno!). And like people....Power Rangers come in all shapes and sizes too!

Oh and the scribbling over the eyes......that is their MASK! Cute huh?

Christmas Pageant

Every year the boys school puts on a little Christmas Pageant. Last night was this years and the boys were both SO excited about it. They both have been walking around the house singing Jingle Bells and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town all week and Jack kept saying "I'm going to be a Christmas Tree!". So after dinner last night, we changed clothes and headed over to the Ballwin Pointe for the party. true Riley fashion.....stage fright set in! are the videos that I was promising everyone!

See what I mean by STAGE FRIGHT??

The next one is a great (but a little long) - it's Jack's class doing "Going On A Bear Hunt". Yes, they know it's not a Christmas themed skit but the kids love it. At the end Jack is the bear in the cave. THIS is when he started to perk up!

And the finale - Jack didn't want to go up with the rest of the children.

Isn't he just a "little dear"?? - the teachers fight over him!

That's Jack's teacher Miss Sarah. He LOVES her! We just wished he wasn't so shy.