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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The easy way to do a year-end recap

Slacker working mom here again putting forth minimal effort to wrap up the end of another wonderful year... enjoy!

1. Click here to see a flipagram of some of my favorite Instagram pics from the year, to the tune of Taylor Swift (I tried embedding it but it was taking a sweet eternity to load the post!)

2. And one of my annual favorites, DJ Earworm's United State of Pop 2014 Mash-up:

I enjoyed (over-)sharing 2014 with you all and look forward to doing the same in 2015. Happy new year, my friends!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

House drama

So in case you haven't noticed, I have refrained from whining about mentioning our former house (and the fact that it has not yet sold) for the past month or so. And I'm sure you've really felt like you were missing out on the inner workings of my First World Problem, so I'm here to remedy that.

Brian finally gave in to my desperate pleas to just get the dumb house sold already and he agreed to lower the asking price. We lowered it pretty substantially in early November and within a week or so, had an offer just slightly above asking price. Hallelujah! The offer was contingent upon the buyers selling their house, but they were out of the option period and there were no red flags (AND WE WERE INTERESTED IN SELLING OUR HOUSE, IN CASE I HADN'T MENTIONED IT), so we accepted.

Brian, the occasionally more level-headed one of the two of us, suggested that I not shout from the social media rooftops about our good news just in an effort to be a little guarded in the event something didn't work out. But believe me, if it were up to me, there would have been excessive public celebrating to share the good news.

The closing date was set for mid-December and everything was moving smoothly along. At one point, a clerical error with the sale of the buyers' current house caused us to have to extend the closing date by 5 days. I'm not a patient woman, but 5 days later still meant closing before Christmas (best present ever, in my book), so onward we marched.

Apparently, however, this Christmas gift wasn't meant to be because on the very night of the original closing date, one of the co-signers on the loan very suddenly and unexpectedly experienced medical issues preventing him/her from being able to close on the house. And just like that, the deal was off.

As you might expect, I was irrationally upset about the whole situation and quickly convinced myself that our house would never sell and we'd be stuck paying two mortgages for the rest of our lives. And I was also certain that anyone else that would have been interested in buying the house had already come and gone while we were under contract.

Honestly, the whole house-selling process can be a bit like dealing with infertility. You wait and you wait and you wait - all the while watching other people lament their woes of unexpectedly getting an offer within the first day of putting their house on the market (aka: newlyweds getting pregnant on their honeymoon) - and trying not to scream at everyone asking you, "Why don't you just rent it?" (aka: "Why don't you just adopt?").

Ok, I'm reaching with the analogy. But still, you get the idea... waiting stinks! Being patient stinks! Having no control stinks! Owning two houses stinks!

But alas, just as was the case with infertility, God had not forgotten us after all, and a mere 7 days after receiving the disappointing news, we received word from our Realtor that another offer had been made on the house. And as of 2 days ago, the papers are signed and we are under contract... again!

So if you want to avoid having to read updates that are this boring in the future (and me having a nervous breakdown), please, please, please join us in praying that everything works out with the current buyers/contract!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Another Christmas come and gone

Because I'm sure no one else thought to do the same, allow me to share with you the Joiner family's Christmas 2014 recap:

We spent the 23rd-25th at Brian's grandparents' ranch in La Grange. The twins are the only grandchildren on Brian's side of the family, so as you can imagine, it's safe to say they were the center(s) of attention for the duration of our stay. There was no shortage of attention, gifts, sugar, or new (un-childproofed) territory to explore and they loved every second of it. 

December 23rd: This is when much of the exploring occurred. And once everyone arrived with their cars full of wrapped gifts, things got really interesting, because guess which two toddlers were intent on carrying them around/opening them/destroying them?

I know, seriously ugly scenery we had to deal with, right?

Christmas Eve: more exploring, more playing, more eating, and lots of picture-taking, thanks to Brian's generous sister. After putting out cookies for Santa and tucking the twins in bed, we also convinced his family to play Cards Against Humanity that evening, and though some were hesitant at first, we all laughed ourselves to tears before the game was over. I also had the privilege explaining what several of the terms meant to my in-laws (Brian's grandmother included) and I think they were all both impressed and disturbed to find out how much I knew, ha!

It's too bad we had already sent out Christmas cards before this gem was taken:

Wait, maybe not.

Christmas: Presents... so many presents! Santa thankfully got the memo that we had traveled to the ranch, so he graciously brought the twins' something(s) you want/need/wear/read with him (ok, he actually left the "something you want" back at our house because it was too big, but we'll cut him some slack on that). Brian's family also apparently got the memo because they very generously and thoughtfully spoiled the twins rotten (in the best way possible)!

This toy Dyson vacuum cleaner from Mimi and Granddaddy was a huge hit and has since caused many a twin fight (the true sign of a good gift)!

That would be Colby's reaction once we let Clara have a turn with the vacuum. Surely they'll be having the same kind of battles over the actual vacuum cleaner in years to come?

Owl jammies for the win!!

After much-needed naps, we headed back home to unpack, and the twins were excited to find their main gift from Santa:

Don't worry, the Christmas celebrations didn't stop there (and neither did the pictures). We spent the 26th-28th celebrating with my family here in Sugar Land, and once again, the food, attention, and gifts abounded. It rained most of the time, which meant a lot of indoor lounging, and miraculously, none of us really went stir crazy. I guess that when there are 7 adults and 4 children running around, there's enough entertainment to keep things from getting stale.

You'll see the twins' new play kitchen in the background (a gift from Franny & Pop Pop), also a big hit!

First time we got to entertain with our Christmas dishes!

That guy in the middle would be my older brother, Andrew. I talk so much about Allison that some of you don't even realize we have two other siblings: Andrew and our older sister, Elizabeth!

Amongst their toys and books, Colby and Clara also received a bunch of new clothes and - my favorite - jammies! I love these Hanna Andersson jammies almost as much as I love this picture of 3 of my most favorite people in the world.

My family has all headed back home now so our house is once again just occupied with our little family unit. I'm sad that all of the concentrated family time is over (and let's be honest, sad that all of the concentrated eating time is over), but looking forward to getting back into our routine. I just wish that routine didn't mean waking up at the crack of dawn and heading back to work/daycare today. Woe is me.

Here's to hoping that the transition back to real life goes smoothly for us (and all of you) today! And even if it doesn't, at least we have New Year's Eve/Day to hold us over for a bit, right?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas from a new perspective

As I'm sure many parents can attest, your perspective of Christmas changes once you have children. There are the obvious reasons: you're the one buying the presents, stuffing the stockings, arranging visits with Santa, establishing traditions, and generally responsible for ensuring that your kids think of Christmas as being as wonderful as you remember it being as a child.

And then there is the less obvious, but equally overwhelming shift in perspective: suddenly, you are all too aware of what the original Christmas must have been like for two major players - Joseph and Mary. Yes, there is the ability to relate to the fact that they had to go through the same anticipation that comes along with pregnancy and eventually welcoming a child into the world. But then there is the ongoing realization that after Jesus was born, these people were parents to this little boy (who just happened to be the son of God... minor detail).

I wouldn't venture to say that the whole story of Christmas and Jesus coming to earth as a real, live little boy with two parents entrusted to take care of him (um, and I think raising the twins is a lot of responsibility) is any more significant to me now that I'm a parent, but I guess it has just taken on a new meaning. Anyway, I'm sure some of you can relate and so I just wanted to share two of my favorite (non-traditional) Christmas songs that have brought this home for me:

(Sorry for the cheesy, lyric-printed music videos)

"You're Here" by Francesca Battistelli

"Joseph's Lullaby" by MercyMe

And as a bonus, my (likely along with every female child of the 80s) favorite:

"Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song)" by Amy Grant

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas entertainment not inspired by Pinterest

While all of the dedicated moms out there were crossing items off of their family advent calendar activity lists and scheming new poses for their elves on a shelf, I did what any overtired working mom would do and resorted to the internet for Christmas entertainment instead. Lucky for you, I needed blog material am feeling generous, so I'll share these festive ideas today:

1. Elf Yourself - Yes, I do this every year, and it never gets old. Here's the 2014 Joiner family edition for your viewing pleasure.

2. Reindeer Cam - In case you haven't been introduced to this massive waste of time awesome source of amusement, it's a website featuring a live feed of Santa's reindeer... sitting around and being reindeer. It's pretty boring for most of the day (much like being at the zoo during the animals' nap time), but 3x/day on weekdays and 1x/day on weekends, Santa makes an appearance to feed the reindeer!

3. Google Santa Tracker - Phone Call from Santa - This allows you to have Santa make a personalized phone call to people! It prompts you to enter a variety of information, like the person's name and location, but it also lets you throw in some important details, like what kind of food Santa should request they leave on Christmas Eve. Choices include chicken and waffles, two chicken tacos, and more!

This would be great for those of you with kids old enough to actually listen to a phone call, but we mainly used it to prank our adult family members.

4. Google Santa Tracker - As the name suggests, this allows you to track Santa on his journey around the world on Christmas Eve. We obviously haven't been able to use this yet this year, but will definitely be watching Santa's progress the day after tomorrow. (Oh, and if you go now, there are other activities in Santa's "village" to tide you over, including the phone call option.)

5. Video Message from Santa - My friend, Heather, told me about this gem and it did not disappoint. Similar to #3 above, it allows you to input specific information about the recipient, and even lets you upload a picture of the him/her. We created one for Colby and Clara and they were glued to the screen:

If you have any other similar ideas, please share!

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Year of the Collage

I had grand plans of forcing politely requesting that Allison use her fancy pants camera to take some posed family pictures for us this year to use in our Christmas card. But then I realized that attempting such a photo shoot with two, ahem, "spirited" toddlers and one, ahem, "neurotic" mom would be a disaster for everyone involved.

And so, much to Brian's delight, I declared that 2014 would be The Year of the Collage. And behold, our Christmas card was born:

And because Shutterfly enjoys taking all of my money inspired me to do so, I decided to include a picture on the back as well from the twins' baptism back in March:

So from our family to yours, Merry Christmas! 

(I'm not sure if this still works, but once upon a time, you could get $10 from Shutterfly for "sharing" one of your projects on your blog (hence the pic below)... so here goes nothing!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fewer words than normal Wednesday

I have a few pictures from the weekend that I want to post, but am feeling too unmotivated to tie them together with anything other than captions, so basically this is like "Wordless Wednesday"... except with some words. 

My parents were in town this weekend and my mom had a good time watching for birds outside the front window with the twins (PS- Clara, way to rebel and wear polka dots instead of stripes.)

Franny also relived the glory days of mine and Allison's childhood by getting stuck (literally) in the middle of a twin fight. This particular fight was over a very serious issue: mini marshmallows. 

While Colby was unwilling to share his marshmallows with Clara, he had no issue giving some to Pop Pop. 

I'm sorry, but how cute is this little girl?

Big girl testing out the big girl swing

And brother following suit

We celebrated Brian's sister's birthday at Pappasito's on Saturday and someone was apparently sleepy...

... not too sleepy, however to take a few bites out of the raw tortilla dough that the waiter brought out before the meal for the twins' entertainment.

I'm sure one kid has fun alone in the bathtub but I have to think it's not as much fun as these two have together.

The twins both insisted they were done with breakfast on Sunday after only eating a few bites. Once removed from their high chairs, they scurried promptly over to examine the Christmas tree, and then came back to the kitchen and demanded the rest of the food they hadn't eaten (which we served to them on the floor because we're awesome parents). 

Colby watching one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies in his rocket ship jammies

After a busy end to the week, I declared that Sunday would be "take it easy day"... and then I remembered that we live with two toddlers and will probably not take it easy again for another 18 years. Case in point: this would be Clara having a meltdown about something that was "MIIIIIINE" [hers]!

How much longer will they think helping with yardwork is fun, I wonder?

My two favorite guys playing at the (very cool) playground on yet another unseasonably warm December day

Best friends forever

The new Rudy's just opened up in Sugar Land last week, which basically makes Brian's life complete. I also don't think he's sad about the fact that he ended up eating most of Colby's banana pudding in addition to his own.