Monday, February 9, 2015

A Very Merry McIntyre Christmas

Riding on the high of moving into our new house last year, I declared that both of our families were to attend Christmas 2015 at our house. No, not invited. REQUIRED. We've spent the last few years either with my parents or Jacob's and I never had the desire to host a holiday until we at least had a house that could accommodate such massive amounts of people. And since I've really been honing my skills in the kitchen this last year, the thought of hosting Christmas was even more appealing (although, like the Broncos, I totally choked). Additionally, since my children are getting older, I wanted to establish some holiday traditions and - my goodness! - if Zoey was any more excited, she would have exploded.

 Up first: pants-less decorating! (For those of you who did attend Christmas at our house, this is where the tree originated before migrating to the other side of the room.)

 Someone found it veeeeerrrrrryyyy interesting.

 (Photo cred to Zo)

I was curious as to what Zoey would do if she met Santa so we went to Rimrock Mall and tried it out. She was like what adults do when they encounter celebrities. We got there just in time to not have to wait long in line, but got front-row seats to the incredible fashion show that was the North Pole. Little kids were so dressed up, Zoey looked at one little girl and said, "That girl is going to a wedding!" Never one to let anything sway her, however, as I took off her jacket before meeting Santa she said, "Good! Now Santa will notice how beautiful I am!" It *kills* me that I wasn't able to hear her conversation with him!
 I'll admit, a small part of me does wish I had a picture with at least one of my children screaming on Santa's lap, but this will have to do. Maybe next year!

 She was so Very Merry this year that I'm *still* trying to get her to stop singing Christmas songs.

 All were excited for the presents from Grandma and Grandpa Donahue!

 The Best Worst Little Helper ever! He helped keep the biscuits nice and moist!

Since we're always working with zero money and trying to keep a relatively clean lifestyle, we kept this Christmas mostly completely homemade. 

 Kicking things off with homemade sugar and gingerbread cookies to thank our nice neighbors for being so neighborly this year. One routinely snow-blows our sidewalk and driveway, while another showered us with baby-boy clothes, leaving us with very little - if anything - to purchase. I don't think they were at all able to tell these were homemade... In turn, our neighbors gave us bags of cookies so we were able to enjoy a plethora of treats long after Christmas was over.

After all was said and done, one box, and a couple of cans were harmed in the making of this Christmas. We got a local, farm-fresh turkey, locally-raised, home-smoked ham, smoked, wild-caught Alaskan salmon, and I made homemade ketchup, cream sauce for green bean casserole, biscuits, (local) sausage gravy, ranch dressing, mashed potatoes, apple crisp, pumpkin pie from our Sartorie Farms adventure, whip cream, and I threw together my now-traditional Crock-Pot Breakfast Casserole. All was a hit with everybody but, naturally, I am super-critical and thought I could have done and planned a bit better. When your Mother-In-Law asks if it's your first turkey, that's never a good sign. ;-) It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed it and learned a lot. I barely ate a thing but was satisfied that I was able to feed everyone else.

Although I started preparing for the big holiday meal at the start of the month, I made time for some celebrating as well.

 My friend, Holly, invited Mer and I to her friend, Paula's, Ugly Sweater/Cookie Exchange Christmas Party and we snatched up these beauties, and some must-have Christmas accessories, along the way. I literally didn't realize my shirt said "Jingle," and not, "Jungle" until I looked at this picture a few days later. Until then, I just didn't get it; what was *so* Christmas-y about "Welcome to the Jungle?!" Turns out, nothing.

 Paula and Holly totally won for Ugly Sweater, though. It's too bad I don't have a picture of the back; Paula sewed a Santa chair-covering to her sweater in a stroke of creative, DYI genius.

With everyone's plans to come to our house for Christmas set in stone, my hope was that we could all go light-looking to *really* get in the holiday spirit. We did it last year and absolutely LOVED it. Realistically-speaking, though, this was pretty much impossible, especially since my parent's didn't, in fact, rent a 15-passenger van like I was telepathically trying to get them to do, and now that we have two children, no one else fits in our SUV anymore. So we found some time a few days before Christmas to soak in some twinkles.

We saw some incredible displays, including one in our very own neighborhood that was Zoey's favorite because it flashed lights to - what else? - "Let It Go." (This isn't it; we weren't able to get a good shot of the Let It Go house.)

After all of the planning, festivities, and merriment, Christmas Eve was at last upon us. Zoey and Holden went to bed after putting out a plate of cupcakes, cookies, and milk for Santa, and carrots for the reindeer, while Jacob went to the airport to pick up Grandma Sally and Grandpa Jeff.

Christmas morning, all heck broke loose (I can't refer to H-E-double-hockey-sticks on the Lord's day, I'm sure), as Zoey discovered her Grandparents, who caught a ride on Santa's sleigh no doubt, Holden "met" his Grandpa for the first time since he was born, and I started getting food ready.

The Merry McIntyre Men.

Thank Goodness I managed to find this gem of a shirt as well! Don't stop believin'.

As the morning progressed, family and friends braved the white (read: snowy) Christmas and began to trickle in. Here the men are bein' men, lookin' at their manly toys.

Zoey with Libby and Layne.

Santa never forgets the boys! After all, Louis single-paw-edly controls the cat population.

 Christmas H-E-double-hockey-sticks. Just what I wanted.

 This was - if I'm being generous - about a minute after the dogs got their Christmas stockings.

It was a great day that was enjoyed by all. Society can fight all it wants about the meaning of Christmas and the proper way to celebrate it, but it is what you make of it. While it was stressful, busy, time-consuming, and costly to a certain degree, it was also fun, loud, happy, traditional, and entertaining. I'm glad we hosted and I hope we have the opportunity to do it again. We had a very happy holiday, indeed.

If nothing else, Durbin thought the day was a success.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Straight Trippin'

We join the rest of the world in pondering the incredibly fast year that was 2014, and in questioning, is it really the end of the first month of the new year (well, it probably will be by the time I get this posted)?! They be straight trippin'!

I don't like to do look-back, Year-In-Review-type things, my tastes souring on them after a particularly nasty year. To ring in the last few new years, Jacob and I continue on like its just another day. Because it is. So the following isn't so much a 2014 Retrospective as a This Is What We've Been Up To and I Forgot/Got Distracted/Was Too Lazy to Post These Earlier-spective.

 We hadn't been roadtrippin' in awhile so after Holden was born and I developed Cabin Fever, it seemed like as good a time as any. Dealing with a newborn left Zoey with little else to do than watch Jake and the Neverland Pirates non-stop for three months so I decided we needed a cerebral day and headed for the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman.

 She wasn't at all impressed.

 We've definitely been to bigger, more inclusive museums before, but this was pretty impressive.

 Holden - only a few weeks old - was awake the entire visit and looked at everything.

So, funny story about this picture. *chuckles* We happened to visit the Museum on the same day a fancy fundraiser was to be taking place. As we were leaving, a woman was getting out of her truck who would be working said fundraiser, and being the only one around, I asked if she would take our picture in front of the dinosaur. Before leaving the museum, we walked passed the dinosaur kid play area where Jacob passively suggested to Zoey, "say goodbye to the dinosaur toys." As we rounded the corner, Zoey burst into full-blown tantrum, exclaiming that she wanted to say goodbye to them. We managed to calm her down and leave the building in good spirits, but just as this picture was being taken, she dissolved into another meltdown, this time I'm not sure for what. As we tried to quickly calm her down so we could get a decent picture, people began arriving for the fundraiser. Upon seeing that we were trying to take a picture, the cars stopped and waited, but everyone arrived at once so cars began lining up around the parking lot merely to wait for this little family to take a picture in front of the dinosaur.

For the most part, Holden is a tremendous, happy, lovely little baby, but he is exponentially more high-maintenance than Zoey ever was (above-story aside). Holden physically reaches for me and I don't think Zoey ever - *ever* - did that as a baby. And while I enjoy being someone's one and only, taking care of him, Zoey, and the house in general proved to be more overwhelming than I anticipated. Since he was born right when I would have gone on the annual Girl's Weekend to Elkhorn, by the time he was two months old, I was beyond thankful the girls decided to postpone our trip instead of just going without me (it happened to work better for everyone, and the weather turned out to be the same, so goodness for all).

 Fourth year with the original four! Tara, Me, Mer, and Breyon.

Throwing it back to our first Elkhorn year: Breyon, Mer, Me, and Tara in August 2011.

These are the only these two pictures because that is all we did. We arrived, we sat, we drank, we ate, we laughed, we cried, we slept, we watched 80's movies, we read, we talked, we didn't leave the deck, we didn't feel bad about it, and we made sure to take the traditional group photo in front of the tree that is rapidly growing larger. It was the perfect medicine for this new mommy. Then we grudgingly headed back to our responsibilities.

A weekend away with great friends having done the body (and soul!) good, we stuck around the home-front more, especially with the impending busy holidays and the fact that I demanded that all of our family members come to our house for Christmas. While we managed to change our scenery a few times, it was never too far from home. Fortunately, through - what else? - great friends - we had an opportunity to drive to Winnett, MT - a place an old friend from high school now lives, and one we'd never seen before.

 Nicole and I went to high school in Colorado, randomly wound up in the Deep South (Florida for me, Georgia for her), met then followed our men to Montana, and now live 90-miles apart. We have children of similar age so we try to get together whenever she has to be in Billings for errands, but we made the trek to Winnett one Winter day to help her youngest cowboy rope in his third birthday.

 "I'm Cowgirl John!"

 Apparently cleaning up was an integral part of the party fun.

The Birthday Boy getting in on the action.

That was the last of our traveling for 2014, and we don't have many plans to do so in the coming year. We'll venture South to see my parent's new house in Arizona when we're just about sick of the cold, and we hope to make it to Boston this summer to witness what no one thought would happen: my brother's spawn. That's right - the Donahue name lives on!

This last year was neither great nor terrible. It had some high moments, some low moments, was stressful from sun-up to sun-down, but none of that changes or stops when the clock hits January 1st. It's just life as it continues to happen, which could always use some straight trippin'.