Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pardon the Absence

Hey friends in Blogland:

Just wanted to apologize for my absence on your sites and lack of productivity on my own blog - we are in the process of switching up laptops here in our home. So that means that I have no bookmarks or nothing in my browser to get me back to many of your blogs to visit. No complaining, I'm tickled to pass on my older computer to the kids - but, as if it knows it's being rejected, it's being very difficult in giving up its information!

I hope you all are recovering from the long and festive weekend and pressing on through the's already Wednesday, so that's a good thing!

Blessings to you,

Sunday, November 27, 2011

O Christmas Tree!

It's been a pretty long standing tradition that the Riley Christmas tree is obtained on the Sunday following Thanksgiving - and this year was no exception. Soon after the Schillings' departure, we took off, hoping to beat the storm that was set to come in for the afternoon and dump rain upon us. (And yes, we did beat it!)

Our adventure took us to Carroll's Country Christmas Trees again - owned by family friends I've known since I was a toddler. It still irks me that it took us until last year to discover their the farm itself is so cozy, they employ high schoolers to help earn money for the FBC Mexico Mission, and the quality of trees - how they last and how fragrant they are......ahhhh, I'm still able to smell it as I walk into the living room nearly two weeks later. =)

These beautiful ladies are Chantal and Sharon - part of the Carroll family that I've known for so long and have loved so much.

A pic of the Forrest family that we saw pull up just as we were pulling out....

My above pictures are a little out of order...not sure why Blogger did that to me, but I'm so behind in posts, it's gonna have to do for now!

When we returned, Daddy took a little nap while I finally organized my Black Friday finds. This led to the kids being left unattended...and with Daddy napping, I thought I ought to put them to task. Just call me Martha Stewart....this idea came from Pinterest. Squirt a little Pledge into the middle of a glass ball, swirl it around the interior completely, dump about a TB of fine glitter into the ball and then roll it to coat and ouila! - a beautiful and homemade for the living room tree!

This is the bonus room tree - which we put all of our "acquired ornaments" on - can I just say how thankful I am that the kids are old enough now to do this all on their own?

As for the living room tree...that's John and I's to decorate and this year it included applesauce/cinnamon snowflake ornaments (I made) along with the kids' glitter balls. This is the first time we've gotten a tree that perfectly fills the space...that we've longed for ever since we moved into the house. It's 9 feet tall - and with 12 strands of lights, to me, it's ideal....

To top the evening off, Heather Spinney stopped by and acknowledged that our tree decorating is actual "more labor" than anything highly traditional in and of itself. The festivities happen in the journey to get it, not so much hanging precariously from the ladder to hang the garland! I love Heather and how perfectly she fits right into our home, no matter what we've got going on!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Friday

Well, folks, the cards are all out on the table here at the Riley Home. A couple of weeks ago, Mikayla and I had "the talk". No, not the one regarding sex....we've already had THAT one with both, this was the even more important matter....SANTA CLAUS.

The whole issue of Santa Claus can be a hot button topic for parents, I know - but for OUR family, we embraced it. It was a magical part of our childhood (dashed all too soon, I might add..hhhmmmm....Dad.....), so I've been especially vigilant in trying to let the kids learn on their own time the truth about the big guy in red.

It was a sweet conversation with Mikayla - I breached the subject by asking how she distinguished between gifts from Daddy and I under the tree and those from Santa. She said she didn't know, but had a sheepish expression. After some playful back and forth banter, it was revealed she knew the truth.....and I gotta tell you - WHAT A RELIEF! All of the typed out tags and special wrapping paper and explanation as to why there's a pile of gifts stacked in boxes in our boat are a thing of the past. It's a grand conspiracy that now the whole Riley clan is a part of - happy to keep the charade going, but delighted to know the "real story". You'd think I'd be disappointed about losing this chapter of our life, but instead, I'm thankful that we pulled it all off and both kids are genuinely happy that we didn't scar them for life in leading them to believe in such things, but instead are eager for their own role in keeping the "magic" alive in others.

All of these details eventually lead me to the conclusion that times will be a'changin' soon regarding Black Friday. Already, Brayden took place in his second year of midnight Woodburn Outlet shopping with John and Travis. And, Mikayla now desperately wants to be part of our girl adventures. We put her off this year, explaining we weren't sure where the Schilling kids stood with the whole Santa issue - and if she went they'd want to, and the whole purpose of Black Friday kind of ruins the idea of Santa. But, next year....I suspect she'll be coming along...she'll have to practice her stamina weeks in advance though.

BECAUSE....this whole midnight Black Friday's TOUGH! Michele and I started off at Walmart at 8:30pm scoring deals much earlier than we ought to have (and leaving shoppers that arrived "on time" deeply disappointed). This picture was then taken in the rain at Target, where we waited from about 10pm until the opening at midnight.....

It was while we were waiting here that we got the VERY SAD news that Mom would not be joining us. BOOOOOOOOOOOOO! She came down with a fluke issue that had her recovering in bed and in a good deal of discomfort. What a huge bummer....first we have to start the night before, and now, Mom can't join us. Sigh....

We trudged through, though - hoping to make Mom proud in finding everything on our list despite the hours waiting in line and nastiness of sleep-deprived bargain hunters. Kohls was the killer for me....the 2am 90 minute wait just about did us in.

When we finally made exited the mall around 5:30 am, where I was ready to curl up in fetal position among the J.C. Penney slippers - I thought to myself, this is what my brother-in-law, Jeff (John's twin brother) does in staying up for 24 hours straight in his races, but only he's running at a ten minute mile pace throughout!!!! Unbelievable....again, I'm in awe, because I was done in.

So, next year might look even more different, but despite all of the physical detriment to my body, I'm already excited for it!!!

An Unforgetable Thanksgiving

Oh what an outstanding day. I guess if you are going to pick a day that you'll decide to stay awake for all 24 hours of it, this would be an ideal day to pick. More on the second half (the part that took place in the dark hours...) in the next post.

With this being the year that the Schillings joined us, we got to have them spend the night Wednesday night. After indulging in Costco's version of Cinnabons Thanksgiving morning, we settled in to the living room with our Macy's Day Bingo sheets to watch the parade.

For Michele and I, though - we were a bit distracted with the ads. Now, if you've followed my blog or have known me long enough, you would know that it is a sacred ritual to save the mighty newspaper full of Black Friday ads to devour after the Thanksgiving meal with Mom and the rest of the family at our side to peruse and contribute ideas. HOWEVER, due to "Black Friday" now beginning at midnight - or even 10pm on Thanksgiving, we decided we had to stomp on tradition by opening up the newspaper early. This shows our mock alarm and disapproval over having to start our shopping so early....

While our home is definitely not big enough to accommodate a family of 11, the dogs sure don't mind it. People everywhere....they are very thankful.

Around 11am, we joined Mom and Dad out at their house. With the Whites, Kenjon, and his brother Martel joining us, we had to reposition and make the table even bigger this year.

While the "menfolk" were hanging out in the living room, and us girls were working away in the kitchen, the kids decided to entertain themselves with Mom's hats in the rec room. I guess that makes Stephie a kid too....

I'm not sure at what point we are going to invite our girls to join this point, the three of us are far too efficient and having way too much fun together to let anyone else in the kitchen. The preparation of all of the food is almost as enjoyable as feasting on it....for sure it lasts longer!

Not sure when I got this apron, but John wanted to take the pic, so I indulged him.

I think this is the first time we've ever taken a pic of the turkey before its been carved up. Our family carves it prior to serving it on the table, so we never get that "Norman Rockwell" image of everyone drooling over the perfectly prepared bird.

Raspberry Pretzel Salad....Travis would enjoy it if only the raspberries were seedless - an ongoing issue of discussion with him.

Oh, speak of the "devil"...(ha, he's sitting next to me as I'm typing this post and I'm enjoying messing with him). If he looks a little tired, it's because he ran the 5K Turkey Stuffer with Heather Spinney in the morning. Good for NOT the choice I made.

The one job we did give to the girls was to get the "drink orders" and work on filling them.

Caught in the act - Brayden's supposed to be helping, but he's captivated with picking his fingernails (of which he has none left....)

Nothing like "Sour Melon Gatorade" to make a Thanksgiving meal complete. They even had the audacity to ask if they could keep the bottle underneath their chairs to accommodate for easy refills.....

As for us "grown-ups" - we went for the hard stuff....Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Cider. =)

Following our delicious meal (we didn't waste time taking pictures when the food was hot at the table) - Stephie sat down with the girls to get some Christmas present ideas.

About an hour after eating, Kenjon finished his practice and meetings and was able to join us along with his brother, Martel - who surprised him by driving up from California so he wouldn't be without family on Thanksgiving. =) We let them fill their plates with the abundance of food still remaining, and after they had their turn filling up - we headed outside for some "Close Encounters of the Equine Kind"

Kenjon has never been around horses, much less close enough to touch them or feed them. It was a whole new experience for him. He was blown away with how big Selila is (much less Holly, the other horse not pictured), but we were all quick to point out how they are actually small in comparison to many horses. (He would have really been intimidated by Merlin!)

Mom was in Heaven showing off her "pride and joys" - teaching Kenjon how to keep his hand flat when feeding them, and so on. Priceless.

After visiting with the horses (and securing them safely in their stalls), we took over their arena and turned it into the gridiron. Now, those of you concerned with Duck football, rest assured that we made Martel and Kenjon the team captains, coaches, and "non-contact" QB' there would be no chance for injury....

Kenjon played with the kids, and Martel captained John, Michele, Mom, and myself. I'll tell you now, we lost. By quite a bit. But, that's how we wanted it to happen, of course. In fact, Brayden was REALLY GOOD. We actually tried when we played against him...and what we got was him intercepting our passes, juking around our attempts to pull his flags, and his TD pass receptions from Kenjon. I guess that kid really has learned some skills in his years playing on Pop Warner. =)

It was also so fun to see the littler kids getting their chance to play - oh so precious. Especially Ellie running along the sidelines with her big score.

(This next one is one of my all-time favorite pics....oh Mom....I just wish Grandpa Plum could have witnessed this....)

A parting shot of the Turkey Bowl participants - SOOOOOO great!

Soon after heading in, we indulged in all of the pies and desserts, did some more dishes and loaded up to embark in "Part Two" of the Thanksgiving Day Adventures. John, Brayden, and Travis were headed north for the Woodburn Outlets - and Michele, Mom and I were preparing for Walmart, Target, Kohls, and the rest of the offerings here in Eugene....more about that in the next post.....