Merry Christmas!

I don't know if Christmas will ever get better than this. Actually I take it back, it's going to be great for many years to come.

Our kids have reached that perfect age where Christmas is simply magical. We played and enjoyed our presents all day and just loved being together. We are so grateful for these fun, interesting, and delightful people who we live with (and also happen to have created). 

We are also grateful for the people we don't live with but who we love and think about (all the time, but especially) during this magical season. 


Tuba Christmas

We loaded our family on the train and took them downtown on Christmas Eve for Tuba Christmas, a live performance of 220 Tubas and Euphoniums (with a surprising number of Sousaphones) playing an hour of traditional Christmas carols. Paul and I had a great time. The kids mostly complained about the cold. But they did like the train ride. And the Thai food we ate for lunch afterward. 


All About that Bass Pro Shop

So, I read somewhere that Bass Pro Shops has a lot on display for Christmas.  I wasn't really expecting much, but it was worth trying anyway. Plus, I have this weird obsession with camping gear. I love camping gear. I want to buy it all. Do I camp? No. Do I want to own a queen sized cot and three room tent? Yes. And also all the gadgets. All of them.

So, even if the Christmas displays were a bust, I could always enjoy browsing the camping section. 

Well, they were so not a bust. We had a great time. They had games and carousel rides and pictures with Santa (Max and Isaac were not interested in sitting with him.) And all of it was completely free. Amazing. And fun. I didn't even have time to make it to the camping section. 


Isaac's Blessing

Well, he's only three months old, but he weighs in at about twenty two pounds so we were lucky to have so many good friends and family join in his blessing to heft that chubby baby in the circle.

There was no way he was going to fit into Max's blessing outfit, which Max was really too big for at six weeks. So we put him in the blessing gown I wore as a baby (and Charlotte and Ella). It is decidedly a dress. But if dresses are good enough for the Catholics, they're good enough for us. 

Richard and Jess, Paul's brother and his wife, are now in the same ward as we are due to some boundary changes. There have been fewer mixups than I expected sharing a name with someone in the ward, although they are not nonexistent. Mostly we are just glad to be so close to family, and it does make church convenient when Jeff and Susan visit.  Plus our kids love each other, and it's fun to see them excited about seeing each other at church each week.

Because of the recent formation of the Carrollton 4th Ward, many of our friends joined us from other congregations (our last ward was scattered between three wards). This group has representatives from all three. 

In order, by family: Bass, Graham, McNeil, Christensen, Wilde, McGee


Ella and I made a nativity today. She sketched the characters and I cut the wood on my scroll saw. She sanded (some of it) and I wood burned the faces she drew on. It was my first time using my wood burner, so I didn't let her try it, but I think next time I will let her do it.  It is (very) hot, but not really complicated to maneuver.  

All in all, it was a fun and not terribly time consuming project, so that is always a win. If it takes too long, it rarely gets finished.

Incidentally, I do take full credit for the elephant, which was not originally part of the manger scene, but I worked on that today, too, and it does kind of round things out.  Plus, he doesn't have any friends to be with yet. 

I love power tools. 



We started our Thanksgiving with a lovely hike through the hill country. And ended with a soak in Carolyn and Tyler's hot tub. There was a delicious dinner in between. And it was a marvelous Thanksgiving.



I made an apple pie today, and the kids decided they would like to make their own pie. So they used my leftover dough and did a pretty nice job. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is that they are old enough to do this completely independently. I sat in the living room and wasted my time on the Internet while they assembled the pie. 

Life is good. 

Happy Thanksgiving!



Someone obviously needs to teach this kid how to do a duck face so her selfies can be more trendy.

Charlotte is at a delightful stage right now. She is enthusiastic about pretty much anything and revels in her ability to be truly helpful. She is learning how to read and is successfully blending letters, so she is well on her way to being independent. 

I think he looks like Ella.

I mean, not exactly like her. But more than Charlotte or Max do. And that means he looks like me, too. Because we all know that Ella and I are intergenerational twins. 



We finally got a cousin on my side of the family. We love Soren and Tate, but I have been ready for Laurel to have a baby forever!

Hooray for baby Abbi! Isaac got to attend her birth. The nurses loved having a big baby around and no one gave me a hard time for toting a two month old around labor and delivery. Isaac and Abbi are two months apart to the day, and we're sure they'll be best friends. 


Toothless: take 2

We were not expecting Charlotte to be anywhere close to losing a tooth. She is just barely four and a half. So when she informed us that her tooth was loose, I admit I was pretty skeptical. (I was sure that it was all in her head.) But in fact, it was loose and it did come out and I don't think there was injury induced. So she was visited by two tooth fairies, because I didn't expect Paul to remember and I got up in the middle of the night after nursing the baby, so I didn't spend a lot of time messing around under her pillow. 

My friend recently told me that her tooth fairy growing up requested that teeth be left in a cup on the kitchen counter. Brilliant. Well, I tried to get Charlotte  to do that, but she said, "No! Mom, that is so silly! On the counter!? We out it under our pillow!" And so, we are stuck with the pillow tooth fairy forever more. 


So he's chubby.

No surprise there, really. That's how we make them at our house. But I never really get over the chubbiness. 

Isaac has recently become a lot more smiley. Which is super fun, of course. But today he stopped breast feeding to smile at Charlotte. 

Um, how is he going to maintain that physique if he cannot focus on his food? Seriously. 


Charlotte the photographer

Char decided she needed to pose Isaac with a variety of toys. I personally appreciated that I didn't find dozens of the same picture in a row, which is Ella's typical approach. Although the upside to that one is that out of thirty or so, there is usually one that isn't blurry. Then again, the downside is, often they are pictures of inanimate objects. Ella definitely specializes in "still life" photography.

This is Charlotte's first venture into phone photography that doesn't consist of selfies with half of her head out of the frame. I am rather pleased. 


First day of school.

This is not technically school. But we are attending homeschool classes this year once a week and here is our first day of classes. Our first day of homeschool was completed while in our pajamas. 'Cause that's how I roll. 

Let's contrast that with our second day of classes, where I let Charlotte choose her own outfit.

I think it really reflects her individuality. 


He scowls.

Max is really a good natured kid. Even more than that, he is a perpetual flirt who wins hearts wherever he goes. I often have people asks me if he ever stops smiling. 

Well, let me tell you, he does. Not only does he have quite a temper (which is softened by his easy going nature), he has a mighty scowl.

I have decided he is just a high personality modifier. Which makes sense, because I am, too. But it is surprising that it is evident this early in life. 



I have mixed feelings about introducing our kids to chopsticks. On the one hand, I applaud myself for exposing them to Culture. On the other hand, it is a big mess. 

On the other hand, they do clean up the mess for us when we leave the restaurant. So that's a factor. 



I admit that I was a little disappointed when I found out we were having another boy. This really had nothing to do with gender, and I could go on and on about why that is, but it's not really relevant. 

I just didn't want their to be a gender divide in our family. I kind of figured if we had a girl, that Max would be equally close with his big sister and little sister. 

But when you have two girls and them two boys there is this expectation that the girls will be close and the boys will be close. It has already started.  I get lots of comments like, "Another boy, huh? Now he will have someone to play with." 

Well, he already has someone to play with. Two someone's actually.  But, he and Charlotte do play better together than he and Ella right now. I imagine it's an age thing more than anything else. And just like the rest of life, I expect that will change. So we will just see how these sweet friendships grow and develop over the next twenty years. 


Birthday boy.

We had yummy birthday pie and celebrated with the Bean family. Max and 8 year old Preston played together all evening and were so cute.



So, Sprouts sells these lollipops at the register that are so delicious. And at $.16 each, I just can't pass it up. So much so, that when we arrive at Sprouts, Max yells, "lollipops!!"  Paul totally judges me for getting everyone a treat every single time I go to Sprouts. Oh well. 



Max is, of course, changing the fastest out of everyone right now. It all comes with being on the cusp of age two. He has lots of words and speaks in sentances, but usually needs me to translate. Although, I am very pleased at how much his articulation has improved in the last month. We are a little more aware of speech after having Ella in speech for so many years. (Two or three, I think.)

As of two weeks ago his preference was to sleep with a baby and a book. He is our best sleeper so far, by the way, in terms of independence and willingness :)
In the last week he has shifted to wanting a train or two to hold while he falls asleep. Tonight he was distressed because he could only find one train under his crib, so we walked around the house looking for his other train. Paul tried to give him a car. You should have seen the look of distain that was bestowed upon his father for offering such an inferior vehicle. We found the other train and as I write this he is laying happily with his two trains in the crib. Although I do think he might be asleep by now if all he had was a baby and a book. 

He likes to say family prayers, but still relies on us for the words. Occasionally he will say an independent prayer, but even I have no earthly idea what he is saying until he gets to "amen". 

Playtime generally consists of following his sisters around and doing (generally) whatever they say. He is often their puppy, or trained pet of some sort. Sometimes he plays the baby and Charlotte spends lots of time putting him to bed and waking him up again. Sometimes he just plays alone with trains or cars, or with his baby, or other little people. He does some kind of conversational play with little people or animals, but I have no idea what the people/animals are saying to each other. That is the perk of playing alone, no one else needs to know what's going on. 

Animals and animal noises are a favorite topic of conversation. And he is getting pretty good at names and noises. He also like to scare people and is actually pretty good at it. He sneaks up to a corner and waits quietly for a bit and then pops out and yells "Boo!"  Sometimes he just yells "boo" in your face, too. 

He is still 80% compliant when I ask for a kiss. But he has started refusing. It's always sad when that happens. I love it when they are young enough that a kiss always sounds like a great idea. Charlotte and Ella are to the point that they pretty much refuse to kiss me unless it is their idea.

He is shockingly obedient. He loves to play on my phone and will snag it whenever he gets the chance, but will usually turn it off the moment I ask him to. Not normal. But nice. I am certainly not complaining. 

Max wants to be carried around pretty much any time we are going somewhere that is not his idea. I am in the process of forcing him to walk on his own, because there will be another baby to carry before too long. This process has never been a favorite of mine and I am reminded of that frequently now that I'm doing it for the third time. But it is nice that both of his sisters are old enough to hold his hand safely and help him, and sometimes just the idea of holding their hand (instead of mine) and walking into the store is enough to quiet the protests. So that's a unique twist on the process. 



The first thing you notice about Ella is her lack of teeth. She is missing four across the top. It has given her a little lisp , which is (I think) completely darling. But it does not stop her from talking. 

She has reached a point where she loves to talk to anyone, especially strangers. She loves to tell people at the store how old she is and when her birthday is , and how she is on the swim team. Luckily she doesn't know her social security number or my maiden name, or we might be at major risk for identity theft.

Her best friend du jour is Eliza and they are on the swim team together. We are also in the same homeschool group, and most recently, now attend the same church. (Our ward boundaries were recently rearranged.) So they are in the same church class, too. 

The majority of the time she is obedient and eager to help. She is darling with Max and mothers him, which is fun to see. Their relationship is very different from Charlotte and Max's relationship. 

She recently saved up her money and bought an umbrella. Let me clarify, she saved up her money (for weeks) so she could buy her own umbrella. We lucked out that day because it rained like crazy as we were coming out of the store and when we got home, so they got to actually use the umbrella for its intended purpose. I have no idea what the appeal of an umbrella was, but I did help her find a good sale. She has gotten good at saving her money, and I think her next goal is to buy three minutes on one of those crazy trampolines hooked up to a bungee cord. It is seven dollars. 

I don't know if cheapness runs in the Christensen genes, or if it is passed on by children observing their family, but she is already showing signs of it. Here is a conversation that occurred today in the Wendy's parking lot:

(Context, I bought one frosty to share among the four of us.)
Charlotte: When I'm a mom, I am going to buy a Frosty for every kid I have. (In a snotty, angry tone.)
Ella: You mean you are just going to waste all your money buying Frosties for everyone when they don't even need their own. 

Not kidding. 

Ella loves to read and is reading at a second grade level. She often surprises me with the words she reads.  She has progressed a lot this summer, and it will be interesting to see how that plays in to school in the Fall. 



After about six months of giving Charlotte allowance, she is just starting to be interested in it. We probably started allowance too early with her, but we decided to give Ella an allowance, so it made sense to do the same with Charlotte. I imagine for Max we will just have a rule that allowance starts when you turn four. 

Until the last couple of week Charlotte mostly just gave her allowance to Ella. Not kidding. And then Ella would buy things for both of them. (Without prompting.) She's a good kid. So it worked well enough. But Charlotte recently bought this bear at an estate sale with her allowance, and took it home with her as proud as can be, buckling it safely in the car seat. 

Charlotte is also starting to show an interest in letters and writing and words. I have been waiting for this to happen for a while. It stressed me out at first that she didn't seem to care, but I got over it and just waited. I'm glad I did. She has learned her letters quickly and I think she will be ready to try reading on for size when we start school back up in the Fall.

She is very social and will gladly play with anyone available. She and Max are buddies, as well as she and Ella. She also loves her cousin Soren, who is almost three and lives just 10 minutes away from us. She asks to have him over to play regularly. She has other friends from church and other homeschool activities, too. She is not big on independent play, and it bugs her when Ella wants to play alone. Luckily, Max is nearly always willing to be with her.



Ella lost two teeth in the last couple of weeks. One on each side of her front left tooth. I happen to think that the snaggle tooth look is a great look for her, but she is very excited for this last (loose) tooth to come out.

So this happened:

I mean, it didn't happen to us, but we saw it while we were driving and Paul insisted on pulling over. ("How many times in your life are you going to get to watch a van on fire?!")

And then after we pulled over we got to watch this:

We pulled in about the same time as the fire truck, and it must have been a pretty persistent fire, because it took them a good ten minutes spraying to get the fire completely out. 

In other news today was Ella's first swim meet. She swam backstroke, and she would have competed in freestyle, too, but the event was projected to go until 4pm and freestyle was the second to last event. So we stopped at backstroke. Next time maybe. 

We had two birthday parties today also, so it was a busy, but enjoyable day. 



We came to Brownsville last year for vacation, and when the chance to come again this year (mostly sans Paul) came up, we took it. Our friends joined us, and we have had a lovely time. 

Today we visited their zoo, which is surprisingly large for a town this small. It was a long full day, and I fully expect my children to collapse in their beds any minute. 



So, I checked out my photos because I was sure I must have taken a few good photos while at the beach for the last few days... But apparently not.

Photos or no, we have had a lovely time on South Padre Island. Paul, Jeff, and Susan have been with us since Saturday, but everyone just left, and now it is just me and the kids until next Saturday. 

So, I am sure we will continue having fun, but it is different without lots of other grown ups. Charlotte cried for, literally, twenty minutes when she realized that Grandpa and Sudie were not coming back. She loved jumping the waves with them. 


White Sands National Monument

This was the most incredible park ever. Besides being breathtakingly beautiful, with some 300 square miles of white sand dunes, they actually sell sleds at the gift shop and encourage you to slide down the dunes. It was a blast. You never really get going fast enough to risk injury (besides, um, you just land in the sand) but it is definitely fast enough to be totally fun.  The kids had a blast, sledding and building sand castles and just generally frolicking.

Ella made a friend and they spent most of their time going down on a sled together. Which was more than fine with us since that meant we got more turns on our sleds. (Her friends family had one sled per person, but we, of course, are far too cheap to invest in sleds for all. Two sleds between the six of us. We were only going to buy one, but someone gave us one for free when they were done.)

The best part about the day, well, another great part of the day, was the way our children just flopped into bed and went right to sleep.

Snow Day

We are just about 45 minutes from a ski resort here in New Mexico, so we dressed for the cold and headed up there for some snow frolicking.

The odds of an alien invasion.

I would guess that we have about the same odds of all three of my children looking at the camera at the same time.

Roswell was fine. We saw some cool conspiracy type stuff, but mostly just souvenirs.


The World's Largest Pistachio

Oh yeah. We were there. We are vacationing in New Mexico this week. I always feel guilty posting when we're on vacation, just in case there are creepers reading. But the truth of the matter is, I don't have it together enough to remember to post when we get home. So. I'm risking it.

We have a pretty fun lineup planned for this vacation. Plus Charlotte's birthday is this week, so that's fun, too. So far we have visited an old fort and a ghost town, we went to church on an Apache Reservation, and we have been swimming at the indoor pool at least six times. Plus Pistachio Land. We are about to hit the zoo. And tomorrow we are going to Roswell.

Oh yeah, and if you can't tell, I'm pregnant. :)  I have decided that I really like this stage of pregnancy.  My friends can tell I am pregnant (as in, they are not surprised when I tell them) but strangers don't say a word.  After three pregnancies, I am kind of over talking to strangers about it.  I just end up having the same conversation over and over again.  "You'll sure have your hands full" or "Three kids!" (The latter, I swear, always comes from middle-aged men.)

When I was pregnant with Ella it was truly exciting for people to notice that I'm pregnant.  At this point, I am like, "Really?  I am so much more than a babymaker.  Let's talk about that instead."  So I am embracing the ambiguous bump for as long as possible.