Sunday, December 31, 2017


This year Christmas has been flying by.  Grandma Kazleman came up to celebrate with us and the kids loved having an extra pair of arms to snuggle them and read them Christmas stories--especially John,  That child has all the grandparents wrapped around his little fingers.  I think it's something to do with his particular combination of eyelashes and dimples. 

Christmas Eve went better than I expected.  We had to go to the children's mass at the church closest to our house because that's where David was singing in the choir.  As far as I can remember, we've never actually been to a children's mass on Christmas Eve before, we always either went to mass on Christmas day or to the midnight mass.  This mass wasn't especially beautiful and it was extremely crowded, but the kids certainly were entertained and it was fun to watch David sing and begrudgingly perform the hand motions that accompanied the songs.  I made a feast of appetizers for dinner and in an impulse of brilliance I had the children exchange their Secret Santa presents and reveal their identities to each other before bed.  They worked so hard doing extra chores and choosing gifts for each other that it would have been a shame to let the excitement they had be overshadowed by all the other Christmas morning festivities.  When David gave Margaret the Frozen Lego set he bought her, little John turned to him and said in awe, "you picked the perfect present!" 

It was adorable.

Christmas morning was over in a blur of wrapping paper and bows and chocolate coins and the children thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  For dinner I attempted my first ever jello mold,  choosing a recipe that included mini marshmallows just like the ones my grandmother always made which made for not as cute of a presentation, but live and learn.  I'm the only one who actually thought it was good, but then again, I'm the only one who was emotionally invested in the thing.  Don't worry, next year it's going to be even better  :)

Since Christmas day, we've been doing all of our traditional Twelve Days of Christmas activities:  visiting the Botanical Gardens train display, making gingerbread houses, eating gingerbread houses, and slowly parceling out presents--new sketchpad day!  board games from grandma and grandpa day!  Next week we'll have my birthday, Christmas for the animals, Epiphany with a special cake, and the best day of all--the day when I reveal all of the books I've been squirreling away for each child for the past six months!  The kids love books, but they can't really compete with the excitement of new toys and craft supplies on Christmas day.  By holding them back until the end it really extends the celebrations all the way to Epiphany.

Tonight for New Year's Eve I'm going to make fondue for the first time ever with the free fondue set straight from 1973 that I scored last summer (what can I say, it's been a holiday of experimental vintage recipes!).  Then we'll watch footage of the ball dropping somewhere in Europe and go to bed by 9:30.  We know how to do holidays right at the Reintjes house ;) 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  How are your celebrations going?  And more importantly, who has fondue tips they want to share? 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The First Week of Advent

A better title for this might be, There's Only Two More Weeks to Christmas!  But you'd have to read it with a desperate/panicky note in your voice to get the full effect. 

Having such a late start to Advent this year felt wonderful at the time but now I see that it lured me into a false sense of security since the late start just meant a shorter season to get everything done that needs to be done.  I finished the majority of holiday shopping before Thanksgiving but there's still so much to take care of before C-Day.  Now, I suppose referring to Christmas Day as C-Day sounds a bit combatative for the birth of our savior but every mom knows that a successful Christmas season requires a detailed battle plan and I need to get working on mine. 

I feel behind after an awful migraine took me out last weekend and I didn't accomplish half the things I thought I'd be able to, but my main goal this week was to finish up our Christmas cards and, save a couple of addresses I'm still waiting on, I think I'm finally done.  Having so many friends who are also in the military means that every year we have to go through the whole address list and figure out who moved and who didn't and track down all the new addresses--one day we'll all be retired and have our nice, stable, forever homes...of course by then we won't have cute pictures of babies to include on our cards so they might not be as exciting to receive.  It always takes me forever to get our cards out because I have a deep aversion to mailing out cards that aren't at least a little bit personalized so I persevere and send out cards the new-old fashioned way--with a family picture on one side and an actual written message on the back.  It feels like the polite thing to do.  Plus I'm the worst at keeping in touch with old friends so it's also a bit of a penance.  It would go faster if I invested in a return address stamp, but alas--all the moving means I never do. 

My goals for this coming week are to finish wrapping all the gifts and to get my cookie baking done and loaded in the freezer.  I love having a freezer full of Christmas cookies ready to pull out all season long, but I really have to gear myself up to actually get baking them.  This year is even worse since I'm off gluten and I can't even eat them.  So you can think of me this week as you're baking things you might actually eat and I'm baking things that I can't and crying on the inside.  Maybe it will be a new Christmas kitchen tradition.  Or maybe someone will invent gluten-free Christmas cookies that don't taste gross. 

If I really get going, I'd also like to firm up my plans for the Twelve Days of Christmas and make a meal plan for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners.  We will see! 

Do your families have food traditions for Christmas dinners?  This year I want to make a meal plan and then just always serve the same thing every year so that I can free up the mental energy involved in holiday meal planning and use it for something more important--like remembering where I left my phone or whether or not I turned on the dishwasher :)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

My Only Girl and Turning Three

Margaret turned three last week, I keep telling people she's four and Chris keeps correcting me.  She's three, just three--although she's already attained verbal capabilities that our male children don't generally have until age five.  For her birthday she requested one pink balloon and one small pink cake so that she wouldn't have to share them with anyone else.  We did get her pink balloons and a pink cake but unfortunately there were enough of both for everyone to have some.

I suppose a girl can't have everything on her birthday. 

Having no experience in pink birthday cake baking I called in Rosie for her perfect pink cake recipe and it turned out wonderfully.  Not quite as good as it probably would have been if I had made it all by myself, but I'll take an imperfect cake that I got to make with my daughter (while wearing matching pink mother-daughter aprons!) over a perfect cake that did not have a middle layer glued back together with icing any day.

She loved all of her presents, especially Big Little Baby, so named because she is bigger than her littlest baby though not quite as large as her big baby.  None of the children has ever been particularly imaginative when it comes to naming their toys and it would appear that Margaret is no exception. 


We spent most of her birthday weekend just us girls (plus the baby), since the boys were out camping with their Cub Scout pack.  We baked her cake, went out visiting, and I got to introduce her to my own childhood love--Shirley Temple movies. 

She was properly impressed.

I loved having a girls weekend with mostly just us two but it also reminded me of her sisters and the fact that they weren't there with us.  Her birthdays tend to do that in general--I think it's the pink explosion that generally comes with them.  Margaret's birthday actually falls on the day devoted to remembering pregnancy and infant losses so all during the day every time I peeked on my social media feeds I got bits of encouragement from women who were also missing their babies.  God's timing is good. 


Happy Birthday Margaret!  You are such a blessing to our family.  A crazy and very loud blessing, but a blessing nonetheless. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

On Another First Birthday

First birthday celebrations at our house seem to be in a steep decline.  I'd like to think this is true of every large family but I'm afraid it's just us. David and Henry had the works.  John John had cupcakes with all the family gathered round.  Margaret had pancakes with a candle in them at breakfast before daddy left for work since she would be in bed before he got home.

And then there's Christopher.

Christopher got a celebratory first bowl of ice cream on the lawn with no daddy at all since he is gone to work before anyone wakes up in the morning and comes home well after the baby is in bed.

Luckily babies really enjoy first bowls of ice cream so I don't think he noticed that daddy missed it.

Hopefully the children know they're loved, if not always birthday caked.  

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

On Stick Forts and Ramshackle Gardens

We spent the weekend in true Reintjes style working in the yard on ramshackle projects using bits and pieces of things lying about.*  The boys are hard at work on a new fort that Chris cleverly designed by sinking sticks in the ground and telling the kids that they needed to gather up all the sticks in the yard they can find to build up the walls by making a kind of wattle fence.  It's a win-win.  The children get a fort and the grown ups get the sticks cleared away.

It will take a lot of sticks to finish off those walls.

We also worked a bit on shoring up the garden.  It's September and the tomatoes are finally tomato-ing.  That might tell you something about our gardening skills.

We should probably not be allowed to make gardens.  This particular one was designed before we actually knew what the sun situation would be in the new backyard during the summer.  Spoiler, there's significantly less sun there than there was in the winter when the trees were bare.  Really, we mostly positioned the garden to disguise a very ugly cement wall.  If this were our forever house I would have put in hydrangeas there, but we didn't have time to grow up bushes large enough to cover that amount of ugly wall so a garden it was.

Really I like to think of all of our gardening endeavors as practice gardens until we actually have a home of our very own to put in a real professional garden.

So far we've learned that:

  1. We shouldn't plant tall things in tall planters or we won't be able to reach the vegetables to harvest them.  
  2. We should always check where the sun will shine before we plan our garden.  
  3. Also, we should put the garden somewhere we'll actually remember to look after it.  This might not work if you are like me and like the idea of gardening better than the reality of actually tending gardens.  
  4. On a related note, we probably should check our garden more than once a week.  
  5. Don't overplant the garden.  The plants will grow larger than we think they will. Really.
  6. It's silly not to harvest the lettuce.  Just make a salad for goodness sake.  But lettuce plants can turn into pretty amazing flowers if you let them just go to seed so maybe they weren't a complete waste.
  7. Maybe next time we should just stick with herbs.  My chives are doing very well.  You might even say I'm a master chive grower.  

There are probably other lessons in there as well, mostly revolving around not planting overly ambitious gardens when you have babies in the house.  I doubt we'll ever really learn that particular lesson though, hope does spring eternal.

*When I say "we" I mostly mean "Chris."  I mean it was raining most of the time and someone had to stay dry inside listening to the end of their audio book and tending the baby, right?  

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