Monday, December 30, 2013

13 in 13 Lucky Link-Up!

Dwija is hosting a 13 in 13 photo link-up to commemorate 13 memories from 2013. 

Have I lost you yet?

No? Great!

So, here we go.....
Killian and I (and Will!) visited NIU in January. It was the first time the realization of his impending "nest-leaving" hit me. 
In February, Will turned ONE! Well, technically, we celebrated his Leap Day birthday on 3/1, but he IS a February birthday. OK????

St. Patrick's Day is always fun around here and this year, Will got to wear the Dempsey Baby Boy kilt (along with rabbit fur sporran!). 
We ended up March with Easter at the lake. A newer tradition that I really love.
In April, Will and I tagged along on one of Kyle's business trips to Cincinnati and Columbus. We managed some quality sightseeing time, too.
In May, my oldest baby graduated high school. 
The pool opened in June! Yay, Summer!
In July, I turned the big 4-0 and Kyle threw me an awesome pub crawl party!
Kyle drove a Lambourghini in August. Nuff said.
By the first week of September, everyone was back in school. We had a college freshman, high school sophomore, 8th grader, 5th grader, 1st grader, and a Pre-K!
October brought Halloween!
November brought sugar highs!
And Christmas added more costumes and weaponry to our already burgeoning arsenal.

Happy 2014!!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Catching up & Christmas

Joining Jen for some quick takes this week....

1) Last week, our furnace broke.


    While Kyle was out of town.
   In the middle of a crazy cold-snap (windchills of -25 degrees).
This is pretty much what the entire family did for 3 days. Brrrrrr....
 Fortunately, we have a couple of emergency space heaters and my brother "has a furnace guy". Two days, three major parts, and $1000 later, we are fully heated again! Merry Christmas to us!

Thanks to Cari Donaldson for mocking up this awesome graphic for me at a moment's notice!!!
Sometime back in January, Kyle realized that he hadn't yet eaten any McDonald's food in 2013, and so he decided to make this "Kyle's Year Without McDonalds". I'm sheepishly proud to report that with 11 days left before 2014, his goal is within reach. Being that Kyle is extremely "frugal" and that McDonald's food isn't that appetizing, I don't think he struggled a lot with this endeavor. But, Shamrock Shakes are his favorite milkshake and March was a sacrifice for him. Won't you all join me in congratulating Kyle on sticking to The Man (in this case, Ray Kroc?)?? He's planning on breaking his fast with a McRib. Help.

3) This past summer, we gifted  our 25 year old pontoon boat with a motor that actually functions. Our boat guy (who lives across the lake from our lake house) had not been able to contain his delight every time he saw us broken down on the lake -- he knew we'd break down eventually and buy that new motor. So, when Kyle, Killian, and Joe arrived to pick up the boat after the motor was installed, he took their picture and put it into his latest newsletter. 

Kyle wants it framed and hung up in the lakehouse. Also, Maeve will only refer to Killian and Joe as "and sons".

4) As of tonight at 6pm, every member of the family will be on Christmas Break! Besides trips to the zoo to sing Christmas carols to the polar bears (for real!), we also have frantic birthday (Jack!) and Christmas gift wrapping, baking, and celebrating to do! As expensive and hectic as this season can be, it still remains my favorite time of year. 
This is pretty much how it is 24/7 during Christmas Break.

5) Oh! Tonight is the 2nd Annual Elf Live-Tweet Event hosted by the mashup of Dwija and Cari! Just begin watching Elf  (DVD, AmazonPrime streaming, etc) and search #clanunseen on Twitter beginning at 8pm CDT! It's a fun family event! (Until Cari starts in with the language... "Son of a nutcracker!")

6) This week, I took this quiz to determine what magical Tolkien creature I be (arrrrgh). First result: "boring" Human.
THIS is BORING?! I don't think so, Zimbio!
Second result: "greedy" Dwarf.
I got nothing....

Perhaps you'll have better luck.

7) From our home to yours, we wish you a blessed Christmas and a peaceful 2014!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

WWRW: I Have TWO Book Reviews This Week!

I know.... I'm probably going to burn myself out at this rate.

Linking up with Jessica for the second week in a row for What We're Reading Wednesday!

So, Faith's 4th Birthday was the day after Thanksgiving this year and her godmother, Aunt St. Liz (Faith canonized her), gave her a bunch of goodies. In those goodies were two books which have become fast favorites in this house already. They are both authored by Charlotte Zolotow, but have different illustrators. 

Our "flava flave!" book is "Over and Over", and it's illustrated by Garth Williams (of Little House fame!). Aunt St. Liz told Faith that the little girl reminds her of Faith in many ways. For anyone who spends a great deal of time around little ones, the storyline of a little girl who keeps asking "What comes next?" after every holiday and season will ring very true. The simplicity of the wording is good for reading it to small children, but it also is an honest rendering of true childhood from the child's point of view.
Another thing that really struck me is how very few recently-penned children's books have truly beautiful illustrations. (Begin sarcasm font) You are free to correct me, but I was a child raised on the likes of Tasha Tudor books, so my standards are fairly high. 
"Over and Over" is one of those books that will stand the test of time and I'm so glad Aunt St. Liz chose it for Faith!

Her second equally- awesome choice was "I Like to Be Little". Again, Zolotow has an uncanny ability to grasp the very essence of what it is to be a small child, while still tugging at the heart strings of the parental reader. This book follows another little girl (totally different illustrations by Erik Blegvad) who explains to her mother why being little is preferable to being big. It's just as sweet and simple as "Over and Over", but with a slightly more mature view (as in 4-6 year olds!). 

If you're looking for some very wholesome and enjoyable books for the under-7 crowd, I highly recommend both of Zolotow's books. (Probably, I should add them into the link-up...).

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Gift-Giving Link-up

Welcome to my first ever link-up! I feel so officially....bloggy.

Here's how this is gonna go down, people...

I will share my ideas for gifts for various genders and age groups and then wait patiently for you to link up with your ideas. I'm leaving the link up open until December 31st, just in case you like to play the 12 Days of Christmas game.

Over the years, Kyle and I have (painfully) come to the conclusion that it is better to spend more money on a single quality item than it is to have lots of cheap garbage under the tree (and, later, broken and scattered on the playroom floor). Also, we spend the same dollar amount on each child and that amount has not changed since Killian's first Christmas in 1995. As the kids get older, more kids have been added, and the economy has worsened, it has become quite a challenge to stick to this budget but we have been successful so far. Bear in mind that while my suggestions are plentiful, it doesn't mean that we have purchased all of these items in a single year. That would be insane. Don't do that. OK?

Let's git 'er done!

Ages 0-2, "Huggers & Haulers"
-Clothes (for the under 6 month crowd)

-Shape sorter. The one below has stood the Dempsey Test of Time and Brutality.

This is our favorite!

-Pounding Bench. Again, we have used and abused this toy and it still looks practically new.
Pounding Bench

-Farm Animals. Besides being great for chewing on, these are also terrific for teaching your little one all the barnyard sounds.
Moooo! Baaaa!!!

-Toy food sets. If you have a toddler, this is just obvious.
They can practice "cutting" on this set!

-Teething Necklace. No, this isn't witchcraft. And, until we tried this Will, I was a total skeptic. The succinic acid contained in the amber transfers to their skin when it is warmed by their body heat. The acid has a safe analgesic effect that is truly wonderful. We notice a huge difference if Will goes without wearing his for more than an hour-and-a-half. GET ONE.
Pretty OR Manly!

-Walker Wagon. This is great for the baby who is just learning to walk (make sure you weigh it down with a 5lb bag of rice. No, I'm not kidding.). It is also very useful for the older toddler who can use it to pick up his own toys or play "grocery store".
Lasts for years!

Ages 2-4, "Pretenders & Creators"
-Dress up! Superheroes! Princesses! Mommy! Daddy! Firefighters! Office workers! Kids this age LOVE to dress up and pretend. We keep a couple of bins filled with various costumes and accessories that have become a favorite standby over the years.

-Magna-Tiles. While these may look overly simplistic, they provide my kids (even the 11 year old!) with HOURS of entertainment. They also build confidence in their ability to design and create, so hat when those tiny Legos come along, they will feel less frustrated. These are also an "add-on" gift, as you can build your collection over the years and ask relatives to help you!
Comes in clear or solid colors.

Duplos. You know, the big and clunky Legos. Pretty much, they serve a similar purpose as Magna-Tiles, but require a tiny bit more fine muscle control.
Not as painful as small Legos! ;)

Schleich Play Figures. Holy cow, are these things gorgeous!! My boys have been collecting their knights and dragons over the years, and Faith has recently begun collecting their fairies and princesses. For his birthday, Eamon received a HUGE castle and my kids love playing knights and princesses. So fun!
Awesome, right?

Play-doh and Paints. Yes, I hate the mess, but my kids gain so much pride in their own creations, that I tolerate this stuff in small doses. When my oldest kids were little, they only knew Play-doh as an "outside toy", but when I came to the realization that the pieces were easier to clean up after they had dried (vacuum those suckers), I relented and allowed it to be played with indoors. Faith just turned 4, and her only request was for an easel and paints. She loves her new "artist's set"!

Ages 4-8, "Enter the Big Kids"
-Legos. I have a complicated relationship with Legos. They get scattered easily, cause massive pain when stepped on, and are the source of many a sibling squabble. But, they keep my boys endlessly entertained, force them to use their imagination and fine-motor control, and are the cause of much pride in their creations. Since 1998, we have amassed easily over 20,000 legos. Wanna come play?
OUCH! But, fun for kids!

-Polly Pocket Dolls. These little dolls and playsets are fun to collect and easy to take with you for long car rides or to Grandma's house.
Disney Princesses, too!

 -Calico Critters. I remember these from my childhood and I'm so glad they have made a comeback! Little animal families and their cute homes! I die!
How cute is this??

-Cooking and baking sets. Yes, real ones. This age loves helping in the kitchen and when the tools fit their hand-size, they are much more competent. We've gotten sets like the one below from Amazon, Ikea and a few other places.
Cookie set

Ages 8-12, "Tweens!"
-Mad Libs. Remember these? They still exist! And, they are a crazy-fun way to build grammar and spelling skills without your child realizing it!

-Magic Trick Sets. Nearly every kid goes through a Houdini stage and they love to think they are pulling one over on the family. I love the focus required to learn various tricks; some mental, some physical. 

-Shrinky-Dinks. Fun for boys, but girls, in particular, gravitate towards these artsy items. Maeve has made pretty Shrinky Dink earrings and necklaces for herself and her friends.

-Duct Tape. You think I'm kidding? Nope! There are all kinds of tape out there -- colors and designs -- and my kids have made wallets, bracelets, coin purses, picture frames, etc from online tutorials. Maeve also took a free class at our local Michaels' store that was geared specifically towards the tween crowd.

-Gift cards. I know, I know. Ugh. But, it can make those kids who are looking to establish some identity as "not a little kid anymore" feel a little more grown up. It also teaches them how to spend money ("sales tax? What?") and many times, I find that they use their gift cards to purchase gifts for their siblings' birthdays. 

-Scooters, Skateboards, Inline Skates. I love giving a gift that is fun AND encourages my child to get off his/her bottom, don't you?
This one can be adjusted to fit from ages 3 to teen!

Teens, "Go ahead, Impress Me!"
-Gift Cards. Let's just get this out of the way. Make peace with the fact that these people generally want to choose their own clothes, accessories, books, what-have-you. A gift card might be boring to us, but it makes them happy. Isn't that what it's all about?

-Clothes. If you have a specific request from your teen, go for it! Otherwise, see above.

-Vera Bradley purses/totes. Obviously, this one is for the young ladies. I have hit a couple of sales (both online and in stores) and some young teen girl may be getting a nice purse this year. (St. Nick already left her some hair accessories!) 

-Fashion Accessories. The accessories aren't only for girls; this year, my boys will be receiving bow-ties! The teen boys have requested self-tie bow-ties --- this is a "thing", I gather...

-Board Games. This includes trivia games, role-play games, and card games. One of the most played-with gifts is a poker set that Killian received about 4 years ago. 
Ante up!

-Anything based on shows or activities they love. There will be a flurry of Duck Dynasty, Doctor Who, Volleyball, Tennis, and Golf gifts this year. Their interests change almost daily, but if you can keep tabs on them for the next 2 weeks, buy an interest-based gift!

Now, I'd LOVE to hear all of your ideas! LINK UP!!!

Or use the new Add link method ?

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