Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Twas All About Christmas

I love Christmas! I am one of those people that starts shopping on December 26th for next year's gifts. I listen to Christmas music in July. I love carefully picking out special gifts for all of the special people in my life. I love wrapping presents. I love watching others open their presents. I love the feeling of family and togetherness that comes with the season. I love reading the story about little baby Jesus. I love singing happy birthday to the reason for this season. I simply LOVE this time of year.

We begin our holiday celebrations on Christmas Eve. The family gathers together in their finery and we enjoy a delicious dinner together. Rob and I used to host the Christmas Eve dinner, but Chris has taken over this tradition for the past 2 years. Our gathering was small this year, as Uncle Scotty could not make it home. We attempt to get a family picture most years before the evening is over. Andy has made family pictures entertaining this year...posing only when HE feels like having his picture taken.
Each of the children receives a gift from Nana and Boppa on this special night. Andy opened a set of Disney Cars that he can use on his new ramp. Katie received a set of Barbie clothes and Barbie puppies that she carried around the entire evening. This year, Bobby received a miniature foosball table...he played it non-stop until it was time to head home.
"Whoa! This is so cool big brother!"

One of my favorite Christmas Eve traditions is giving the kids their new pajamas. In the past I have bought matching pajamas for all of my little ones, however since Andy was born I try to find matching pajamas just for the boys. Target (the greatest store on earth) makes this possible every year with their door buster pajamas the day after Thanksgiving. Katie, our little princess-in-training, receives a holiday nightgown. After dinner, the kids changed into their pj's and sat with Nini on the computer to find out where Santa was. It isn't usually a late night, as we all plan on rising early the next day.

Christmas morning begins at our house. Since Rob and I didn't make it to bed until after 11:30, we hoped that the little ones might sleep in just a bit. Bobby was the only one to wake up early and was very understanding when we told him that he had to wait just a bit to go out and see if Santa had been to our house.

Bobby was incredibly patient this year! Although he woke up around 6:00, we told him that it was too early for his siblings and he laid quietly at the foot of our bed watching cartoons until 7:15. He was so excited about the gifts waiting for him under the tree. His enthusiasm is as endearing as his toothy grin!

Katie was much more enthusiastic about waking up on Christmas morning this year. (Last year, she refused to get out of bed until it snowed! LOL!!!) She was up and ready to go all by herself this year. She carefully removed each item from her stocking and showed me every special gift that she had received. She "oohed" and "aahed" after opening each package and repeatedly asked how had Santa known that she had always wanted a ______________ (fill in the blank). I had so much fun just listening to her noises and watching her open her gifts this year!!!
Andy didn't quite know what to make of Christmas morning. He opened a few presents with help from Nini and Nana, but quickly lost interest in the packages. Bobby didn't mind helping his little brother out...and has enjoyed having a second set of "boy toys" to play with! We decided to add a morning brunch to our holiday traditions, since we no longer have to travel to multiple houses on Christmas morning. We had a buffet of warm bacon, spinach salad, chocolate chip coffee cake, and bacon quiche. I made Grandma Miller's famous hot cocoa to go along with the delicious food.

We spent the rest of the morning opening presents and cleaning up some of the disaster that had invaded the living room! Around 3:00, we headed back to Chris and Bob's for Christmas day at their house. Santa makes a quick stop at the house and leaves even more gifts for the munchkins at Nana and Boppa's house. The kids love seeing Santa one last time and are so excited by their extra special visit. (I'm still not sure where we are going to put all of the new toys!)

Could Bobby be any more excited???

My brother Jesse joined us on Christmas day and assisted with making a special guest appearance possible! He patiently helped sort through and pass out gifts...and even sat down in the midst of the chaos and helped out his youngest nephew with opening his presents. He let Greta, the crazy dog, jump all over him and just laughed it off. I am so glad that he was able to join our family on Christmas day and spend a little bit of time with us. I love you, little brother!!!

We end Christmas day with the adults opening their gifts and stockings. It is always a perfect ending to the holiday season.

I would like to close by wishing all of my family and friends a Merry Christmas! I hope this year was celebrated with extra love and laughter. May 2011 be a year filled with blessings for you and your family. Have a safe and happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Holiday Traditions: Breakfast with Santa

If you follow my blog, you know that our lives have changed drastically over the last 18 months. Each season seems to bring a new change since Melissa passed away; all of the changes have left gaps in our family traditions. We have come to a fork in the road as we face the holidays without Melissa and her girls for the first time. Do we hold onto family traditions that began 6 years ago when the first grandchild joined the family or do we create new traditions?

We made a decision as Christmas was time for new family traditions. So, the first new tradition that we began this year is an outing to Rancho Del Lago for breakfast with Santa.
The gorgeous view from the patio

Hacienda Del Lago

Chris, Courtney, Bobby, Katie, Andy and I headed out to the Hacienda Del Lago for breakfast on Saturday morning. The children began the breakfast with hot cocoa in keepsake mugs and deconstructed snowmen (aka: marshmellows). cocoa...

After going through the buffet line, we all sat down to enjoy our breakfast and make our letters to Santa. The restaurant staff had prepared a few activities on the patio for the kids. They each got to make a foam Christmas tree and decorate a sugar cookie. Then Santa made his appearance! He walked around the tables and said hello to the kids. Bobby and Katie were excited to see Santa and couldn't wait to give them their letters. Andy didn't mind handing his letter to Santa, but he didn't want to get too close.

Pictures with Santa

We all had a wonderful time and will definitely be adding this to our new list of Christmas traditions!

Friday, December 17, 2010


Last week, my dear friend Charlotte told me I had to watch "The Sing-Off" on NBC. Since we are both Gleek's, she knew I would probably enjoy it. I DVR'd it and just had a chance to sit down and watch it. Please don't laugh at me when I tell you that I cried when one of the groups sang Landslide. As one of the groups sang these lyrics, I began to cry.

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
And can I sail through the changing ocean tides
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

On Monday, the day started out with a positive tone; we were expecting to read Dave's blog update to find out how Kim's day was. The day ended with the ground crumbling beneath our feet. Kim Conca lost her fight against cancer. Although I did not have the opportunity to get to know Kim, I can still recall the few times that I spoke with her. She was a beautiful, graceful angel sent to this earth. She had the special ability of making people feel special just by being with them. Each person that has reflected on their relationship with Kim said the same thing about her...her smile and laughter were contagious. She lit up the room. She was the embodiment of love and hope. Everyone admired and respected her.

Angels come in many forms,
from helpful animals to
mysterious strangers, from
glorious heavenly angels to
earth angels, those human
beings who generously assist

My heart breaks for the Conca family. There are no words that can heal their pain. Kim is in a better place now. She is no longer suffering or in pain. I am confident that she is watching over her family and will be with them always.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Home is Where the Heart Is

My children are blessed. One of the things that I wanted more than anything when Robby and I began to plan for a family was a close extended family. He grew up with tons of cousins to play & conspire with. I grew up spending weekends and summers at my grandparents house sliding down the stairs, raiding the Avon closet, and walking to the neighborhood park/pool. These memories still have the ability to make us smile and laugh. We both wanted our own children to have these close relationships and cherished memories that we had been blessed with in our younger years.
If you had asked me two years ago, I would have told you that life was almost perfect. Our third, and final, little one was on his way. Auntie Missa was also expecting her 2nd little one. Bobby and Katie got to play and grow with their cousin,Peyton, daily. Katie and Peyton did everything together. They discovered baby dolls together. They had sleepovers together. They took baths together. They started pre-school together. The laughed, played, cried, argued, but most importantly loved together. They were so close sometimes they acted more like siblings than cousins. Every weekend, the Lofgren family would get together for a family dinner and share our lives.
Fate stepped in on August 6, 2009 and forever changed the dynamics of our family. We don't get to see Peyton and Reagan anymore. Bobby, Katie and Andy don't get to play with their cousins. They don't get to talk with their cousins. They don't get to share secrets with their cousins. They don't get to laugh and discover with their cousins. Robby and I can do nothing to fill this aching gap in our family. We can only hope that God and a judge will restore that which has been lost.

My children are blessed! They have 5 GREAT grandparents in their lives...yes, I said 5! They finally got to meet all of their great grandparents this October when we visited family in the mid-west. Great-grandpa Miller made them homemade banana ice cream. Great-grandma Joy took them to Walker Brothers for breakfast and sent them each a gift thanking them for their visit. Great-grandpa and grandma Goldsmith live in Green Valley. They absolutely loved meeting each of their great's and can't wait for a return trip to the mid-west.

Great-Grandpa and Grandma Miller

Great-Grandma Joy

My parents, Granny and Grandpa, moved to Kansas a few years ago. Due to the distance and a lack of funds, we don't get to see each other as often as we would like to. That doesn't stop anyone from cramming as much fun, laughter, and love into the visits we do have. Bobby and Katie love when Granny and Grandpa come to town! They tickle fight, sword fight, and play games until Granny or Grandpa are worn out. Then Granny shows me how to sew or cook something new; things that someday I hope to pass on to my own children. I'm so thankful that we have these special times together and look forward to future visits.
Tickle time with grandpa

Granny and Grandpa

Rob's parents, Nana and Boppa, live about 20 minutes away in NE Tucson. Bobby, Katie and Andy get to see Nana almost every day. She takes Bobby and Katie to school 3 days a week and watches Katie and Andy 5 days a week. Since economic times make it impossible for me to stay at home with my little ones, I get the next best thing...a grandmother who loves them every bit as much as I do. Nana spoils them rotten, but I guess that is what a grandma is for. (When
Bobby knocked Katie's teeth loose a few weeks ago, he told Katie not to worry because Nana would take her to Toys R Us if she lost a tooth. The voice of wisdom!) Boppa also helps take care of Andy and Katie on the days that he is home from work. Andy loves napping and chillin'
with Boppa. When they are not providing care for the children, they are planning special evenings and events for them. They have sleepovers, take them to Disney productions, go to the circus, the park, etc. Every year, we go to Apple Annie's in the fall. We spend every holiday together. We eat dinner together at least once a week. We go out for dinner for birthdays. They are such an important part of my children's development and I am thankful that they are able to spend so much quality time together. Bobby wrote this note to his Boppa on Thanksgiving:

Boppa is the best Grampa evr.
I love boppa.
Boppa is nise.
Boppa plays with me.
Boppa wochis moovese.
From: Bobby

Apple Annie's 2010

American Girl with Nana

Disney on Ice

My children are blessed! While I may long for the seasons of the mid-west, my children's hearts are here. Home is where the heart is!!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cheesecake Heaven

I decided to experiment with my basic cheesecake recipe for Bobby's Friendship Feast and received positive feedback. So I thought I would share the recipe this week.

You can either make the graham cracker crust from scratch or you can use the Keebler Ready Crust. It is completely up to you. If you use the Keebler Ready Crust you will need 2 pie shells. If you make the crust from scratch you will need:

1 1/2 cups graham crumbs

5 Tbsp. butter, melted

1 Tbsp. sugar

Combine the above ingredients. Press into the bottom and 1/2 way up the sides an ungreased 8" springform pan. Bake for 5 minutes at 350 degrees. Let crust cool before filling with cheesecake filling.

Cheesecake Filling

3- 8oz.pkgs. cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup canned pumpkin

3 eggs

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in large bowl. Mix until smooth with an electric mixer. Add pumpkin eggs, and spice. Beat till smooth and creamy. Pour the filling into the crust. (If you use the ready crust, you will have enough filling for 2 cheesecakes.) Bake for 60-70 min. or until the top turns a golden color. Gently feel the center of the cheesecake to make sure that it is firm. Remove from oven and allow to come to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight.

**To prevent cracking, place a baking dish below the cheesecake with 1" of water. You may need to refill the water halfway through the cooking time.**

Before serving, edge the cheesecake with whipped topping and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Enjoy! My next experiment is going to be a holiday mint cheesecake using Andes mints. I'll let you know what my taste testers think!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I'm All Out of...Ideas

I'm all of ideas. The only thing running through my mind right now is, "I'm nearing the finish line! Only 3 more posts before I've completed the November blogging challenge." Some days have been easier than others to generate ideas for a post. Tonight is one of those nights where I am feeling uninspired.

My father-in-law is going in for a minor procedure in the morning. He is having a scope in one of his major arteries to ensure that there is no blockage. Although it is a rather simple procedure, there is always the fear that something might go wrong. Tonight has been filled with anxiety about tomorrow's upcoming events.

So I leave you with a picture of my littlest one finishing the race. Love the utter look of concentration on his face! :) Until tomorrow everyone...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cheese Gone Bad!

I like to try to get Christmas photos and cards out of the way long before the holiday rush begins. Robby and I picked out outfits for the children back in September. I'm one of those OCD moms who loves to coordinate her children's outfits. I don't know what I will do when they outgrow Gymboree. We had the clothes, we had the picture date, we got up early to get spruced now all that was left was to show up and smile, right? WRONG!
Say what?!? I have to take pictures today?

Andy was not in a picture taking mood today. We arrived at the mall 10 minutes before our scheduled appointment ready to go. Andy wanted to walk around, so we took turns following him in and out of the store. The young photographer told us it was out turn and we all moved to the back room. We got situated and then she said, "Let's try a photo with everyone standing first. Mom and dad in the back facing each other. Kids in the front facing each other. Little one in the front by himself." Lets just say that did not work out. Every time we'd place Andy in front of his brother and sister, he'd run off. We tried this at least 6 times...and then he began to scream every time we'd pick him up and try to hold him for the photo. After several attempts to calm him down, we called it quits for today and re-scheduled.

The minute we walked out of Picture People the tears stopped...go figure! :)

Since our Christmas family photo had been a bust, we came home and decorated the house for the holidays. Threw a Garth Christmas CD and sprayed some cinnamon air's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!!

Christmas tree up and decorated...check!
Andy hanging his very first ornament on the tree

Bobby's new favorite lights up and Darth and Luke talk!

Katie having fun putting her own ornaments on the tree. Her favorites this year...the evil queens from Disney!

Icicle lights hanging and programmed on a timer...check!

Countdown to Christmas angel hung on the wall...check!

Christmas photos finished and cards ordered...uncheck!

What's an OCD mom to do??? Smile and keep swimming! These moments remind me that I am not really in control! LOL! I can only hope next week's photo session is a success. ALL hints and helpful advice for getting a 19 month old to participate in the family photo session will be greatly appreciated!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bb is for Black Friday

I am one of "them". I wake up in the middle of the night to seek out the ultimate deals on Black Friday. I sleep over at my in-laws on Thanksgiving night and the girls head out bright and early to shop till we drop. Our routine over the years has become Kohls, then Target, then various other stores and sales. This year, we broke from tradition and went to Target first.

I don't know what made this year different, but Target seemed much more crowded than usual. I didn't feel like the deals were as good this year...regardless of my lackluster list, there were hundreds of people in front of us when we arrived to line up for the grand opening. Since I'm not after the major electronic deals, I usually don't have a hard time finding the items on my list. This year my list included: a $3 toaster for work, a new piggy bank for Katie, a computer chair for my father-in-law, Christmas pajamas for the little ones, and an Itunes gift card for the hubby. I gathered all of my items only to discover that the line wrapped halfway around the store and was quickly approaching an hour wait time. Thankfully, my mother-in-law accidently got in the electronics checkout line and we only had to wait about 20 minutes.

Next, we headed out to Kohl's. CRAZY!!! The line wrapped the entire way around the store and was running about 2 hours. My mother-in-law volunteered to get in line while I shopped. I found some cute Christmas tees for the kids and a few toys for my princess.
By the end of our Kohl's stint, I was beginning to reach my sleep deprivation limit. We ran to a few more stores for a quick item here and there...finally, I picked up the kids and came home. Can anyone say NAP TIME??? Unfortunately, my little ones had different plans.

So, without further ado, I am off to bed. I hope everyone's Black Friday experience was as fruitful as mine! Family Christmas pictures at Picture People tomorrow. (I'm sure that will be the theme of my next blog.) I love the beginning of the Christmas season!!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Things I Am Thankful For...

Turkey Day 2010

It is a family tradition to stop what we are doing, take a moment, and to think about things that we are thankful for. These are just a few:

"Car! Vroom!" -Andy

"I am thankful for you!"- Katie

"I am thankful for God, Jesus, and my family."- Bobby

I am thankful for my family and friends. I am thankful for the 3 beautiful children that God has given me. I am thankful for a wonderful husband who almost always gets me. I am thankful for my sister who is always there to listen. I am thankful for my family who helps take care of my little ones. I am truly blessed!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sit, Ubu, Sit...Good boy!

This weekend at Bobby's baseball game, Katie and Andy came across a friendly dog. Katie nicely asked the owner if she could pet the dog. The owner was very kind and agreed to let them pet the dog. The owner asked the dog to sit and Andy politely obeyed! :)

Sit, Ubu, Sit!

Good boy!!!

It is these moments that I want to hold onto forever!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pumpkin Sandwich?!?

Pumpkin is one of my favorite flavors. I love pumpkin pie, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cheescake, etc. (You get the idea. :) Last year I came across this recipe and decided to try it. I made it for my 2nd grade girls and they loved them. I made them for my family and they loved them. So here is the not-so-secret Land O Lakes recipe for all you pumpkin lovers.

Pumpkin Sandwich Cookie

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice*

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter softened

1/2 cup canned pumpkin

1/4 cup milk

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla


1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons butter softened

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups powdered sugar


Powdered sugar


Heat oven to 350°F. Combine flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Set aside. 

Combine brown sugar and 1/2 cup butter in large bowl; beat at medium speed until creamy. Add pumpkin, milk, egg and vanilla; beat until well mixed. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture. Beat until well mixed. 

Drop batter by level measuring tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. (I use a Pampered Chef scoop for this.) Bake for 9 to 10 minutes or until set and lightly browned around edges. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheets; remove to cooling rack. Cool completely. 

Combine all filling ingredients except powdered sugar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until smooth. Gradually add 4 cups powdered sugar, beating well after each addition until creamy.

Spread 2 teaspoons filling onto bottom-side of 1 cookie. Top with another cookie, bottom-side down. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling. Sprinkle filled cookies with powdered sugar.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Yard Sale Madness!

Until today, I was a yard sale virgin. Sure, I've been to my share or yard/garage sales searching for the ultimate find. I have never been the sales person type. If you ask me how much, I pause because I really don't know how much to ask for. I throw out a number in hopes that it sounds good. Also, for those who know me, I am not good at saying no. So, when the other person starts to negotiate I inevitably cave.

Me...feeling very uncomfortable about the upcoming sales event

I was SOOO not ready for the mad rush of people that would be at my house at 6:40 this morning...even though the sign clearly said 7. I dragged the folding table out onto the driveway and began to bring out the plethora of baby items that we would hopefully be selling today. The second I put the first item out, cars started pulling up. I was completely by myself outside trying to set everything up and all the sudden there were 10+ people asking how much, pulling items to the side so that no one else could buy them, and asking me to make change. I felt extremely overwhelmed and underprepared!

What the oncoming shoppers looked like to me at 6:45

It all worked out though. It is with a hint of sadness that I watch the highchair, bouncy seat, and other baby items disappear. It means no more little ones...the baby toys are being exchanged for the "big boy" toys. I'll miss those days, but I look forward to all of the adventures each stage has to offer. The definite upside is that I now have a little extra cash to spend on Black Friday!!!

How I feel now...
"Hakuna Matata"

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pp is for Play-Date

Bobby and Katie are finally at that wonderful age where they are developing friendships. One of the things that is really important to me is that my children stay in the same area and have the opportunity to form a lifelong camaraderie with their friends. They've made some wonderful friends at Cottonwood and I can't wait to see how those friendships develop over the years.

Playing store together

We are now looking forward to their very first sleepover play-date in December. We will be hosting the event at our house. We'll plan a fun night for the munchkins and hopefully they'll all fall asleep on the living room floor. I'll keep you posted! :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Two for Tea, Please!

If you have a young daughter, you absolutely have to visit one of the American Girl stores and experience afternoon tea time. It is 100% a girly-girl event, complete with fine china, crystal glasses, and hors d'oeuvres.

Chris, Katie, Julie and me

While visiting family in Chicago, Katie, Chris and I made reservations for tea at the American Girl Chicago store. Katie brought Julie with her, one of her American Girl Bitty Twins. I had never been to the store before. It was one of the biggest stores I've even been in. (The fact that it was filled with just dolls and their accessories is a little scary!) Katie stopped every few feet to show me something that she wants Santa to bring her.

Katie absolutely LOVED taking her dollie to tea and talked about her tea time for weeks! They have a special seat for your doll and a miniature tea cup. The waitress was wonderful...she took pictures for us and brought Katie a special wishing cake. The dessert included a keepsake flower that Katie now keeps on her shelf in her room.

Waiting for our tea to arrive

Julie is a little thirsty

The adorable dessert plate

Katie making a special wish to celebrate her first visit to A.G.

We had an amazing time and I will definitely be taking Katie back before she outgrows the dollie faze. These times are so special and I am blessed to be able to share these moments with my little princess.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Righty or Lefty???

Let the great debate begin! Will he be a lefty like his brother???