Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Merry Christmas From The Shuler Family

 I always like to finish my Christmas shopping early. I always think it's going to give me a good chance to enjoy the season and spend time with family and friends. In retrospect, I feel like I should shop later so I don't take on so many commitments close to Christmas. 

One of my great ideas this year was making cinnamon rolls from scratch. Who wouldn't want homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning? They turned out beautifully, and there were plenty to share with friends. We ate them for two days, and I feel like they were worth the effort. Aren't they pretty?
 The best part of the whole adventure was this... He even told me that they were yummy. God bless that boy.
For Christmas Eve, we got dressed up and headed out for Christmas Eve service and dinner with friends. Last year, my mom bought Cullen a precious blazer. This year, it finally fits. He was pretty much the cutest kid at church. He even held his own candle for the candlelight service. 

After a late dinner, James and I got Cullen into bed so we could wrap up the rest of the Christmas gifts and help the Santa gifts appear. There's a really attractive picture of me in Cullen's Power Wheels, but I opted for this one instead. 
The next morning, Cullen found his Santa gifts under both trees and got so excited. He didn't seem even remotely concerned that there were other gifts under the tree. We waited until my parents arrived to open the rest of our presents.
 For the longest time, I've been asking James to buy me a cute apron. I have no idea why I haven't just bought one for myself at this point. Needless to say, I got three precious aprons for Christmas. Two of my best friends got me aprons and so did my aunt. I can't wait to have some time to cook to make sure they all get a turn in the rotation!
 I think one of James' favorite gifts was his autographed Mike Singletary football. Cullen was pretty peeved that it couldn't come out of the box to play.
 It was really fun to host Christmas morning at our house with my parents. I've hosted Christmas dinner plenty of times before, but it was the first time I've hosted Christmas morning at our home. So fun!
Cullen is learning to be a fan of his new truck. On Christmas morning, putting the truck in reverse made him cry. Then, he wanted the car to go without him pressing the pedal. With a bit of coaxing, Cullen is successfully making the car go on his own, but he's not wanting to steer. One step at a time...
The day after Christmas, James and I ran errands and had lunch at Lupe's with friends. Cullen's favorite part of lunch was the pig on the front porch. He'll learn to appreciate those fajitas someday.
One of Cullen's other gifts was a set of Woody pajamas. When he put them on last night, he was so excited to be a real cowboy. James got him a hat and coached him on what to say. He's my little buckaroo.

xoxo ashley

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

You Can't Stop Santa

Cullen is growing up so fast these days. He speaks in sentences. He runs. He plays like a little boy. He is incredibly rough and strong. Just last night, he played Roly Poly with James for what seemed like forever. Cullen calls it Poly Poly, and his version usually involves body slams and kicks.

He loves pretty much everything about Christmas. He loves the trees and the lights. Until today, I also thought he loved Santa. Around our house, we have dozens of Santas. We tried to explain to Cullen that our wooden ones were hand carved by Papaw, so now he just thinks that Santa is Papaw. We took Cullen to see Christmas lights on Sunday night. He slept through it all. James and I enjoyed the lights and drove home.

Cullen is also in love with my new car. I remember James' cousin once telling me a story about how her then 2 or 3 year old daughter loved her new minivan. How Lauren actually sang louder and more happily. I get that feeling now. Cullen calls it the new car, the big car, or Mommy's big car. He is beyond fun, and I am loving his refreshing attitude about car time. I just hope it sticks around.

We are working more on potty training these days from the perspective that Cullen will now ask to go potty every fourteenth time he needs to go. That might even be a generous estimate. When he asks, we run to the potty and wait. The one time it wasn't a false alarm, he managed to pee all over me, himself, and the floor. All I could do was thank him for telling me he needed to go and making it to the toilet. Then I started the laundry. Now he likes to prepare for such emergencies by holding wads of toilet paper.
This week is Cullen's last week of school until after the new year. I wanted to make something cute for each of his teachers, so I decided on homemade goodies. Who doesn't love malted chocolate chip cookies? I boxed up a dozen for each of the teacher's at Cullen's school, wrapped them up, and gifted them with a handmade gift tag complete with Cullen pictures. I was pretty proud of my creativity. 
In total, I made 25 dozen cookies. All but two of those cookies left our house bundled or boxed in some form or fashion. They went to Cullen's school, my office, and James' office. From what I hear, Cullen cashed in on quite a few cookies at his school by "sharing" with the teachers.

This morning was Cullen's Christmas party at school and a Santa visit. Cullen was thrilled when I showed up. He walked me around the room and introduced me to his little friends. He was so excited that he was going to get to see Santa. He even told me he was going to ask Santa for a truck. I think James taught him that one, but I'm not sure.

Here's a little peak of Cullen dressed up for Santa in his precious sweater. He was standing in the hallway, whispering in my ear about Santa, trucks, and teddy bears.  
Then came Cullen's opportunity to see Santa. He wanted nothing to do with it. He climbed onto Santa's lap all on his own while tears poured down his cheeks. He wanted the bear Santa was offering, and I think he was willing to do whatever it took. In between sobs, he even thanked Santa for his bear.
Better luck with that picture next year. Now I'm wondering if I need to hide all of our Santas before he sees them again. I don't know if he's going to lash out or see that they're different. Cullen is also not really taking to the whole Baby Jesus story for Christmas this year. I'm hoping for better luck with both of those next year. Until then, we'll focus on smiles, family time, and presents.

xoxo ashley

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chuck E Cheese

December rarely holds a dull moment in any household. There is decorating to be done. There are cookies to be made. There are friends and family we want to see. Not everything can be done. It just isn't possible. I think admitting that there is too much to be done is the first step to completing a positive, successful holiday season.

In the spirit of doing too much, I entered a holiday cake competition at my office last week. I didn't win. I didn't even place. I was actually told by one of the judges that they didn't believe my cupcakes were homemade. I was torn between being flattered and ticked off.
Saturday morning, we got the DVD player installed in the new car. While it was in the shop, we decided to take Cullen over to Chuck E Cheese for his first arcade-type experience. He had an absolute blast.
He and James played games together. 
They won a ridiculous number of tickets. 
And I followed them around taking blurry, clumsy-looking pictures with my iPhone.

With Cullen's 500 tickets, we came home with a tiny thing of Play-Doh and a Hot Wheels. It was completely worth it to watch him yank tickets out of the machine.

Saturday night, we got to watch on live TV as Baylor brought home it's first Heisman trophy. It was hours before we could get Cullen to stop chanting "RG3!" and get him in bed. We are a proud Baylor family, and we love it when the rest of the world gets to see why we are Baylor proud.

Here's hoping that work gives me a lunch break next week to post before Christmas. It is so fun now that Cullen "gets it." I am really looking forward to instilling some family traditions!

xoxo ashley

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Merry Christmas To Me

Every single day, we make a choice. We can let life get the best of us and be stressed, or we can appreciate what we have and make the best of things. More often than not, I let myself get stressed beyond recognition and wear myself thin. Over the past week, I let life wear me thin to the breaking point until I was reminded that things aren't so bad.

Last week, the a/c and heater in my Highlander just stopped working. The worst feeling in the world for me is when I feel like I've failed my son. When he had to tell me that he was cold last week on the drive home, I wanted to cry. On top of that my low tire pressure light was on, so my car was irritating me to say the least. On Friday morning, James took my car in to be looked at while I took his truck to work. Cullen could not have been happier about the arrangement.
He had his blankets and doggie pillow, AND he was riding in Daddy's truck! We got caught in some really bad traffic, but it didn't dampen his spirits a bit. He was just happy about being in a big truck. I felt awful that James was stuck in my car with no a/c, but I was so thankful that he is such an awesome husband and dad. He didn't want us driving around in a car that we had questions about.

Friday night, we found out that my car was in need of a litany of repairs. As James listed off the wrongs my car was committing, I was freaking out. The total wasn't an amount we had on hand since I've just finished Christmas shopping, and we have our recently increased HOA dues coming up at the end of the month.

We picked up my car on the way to James' company Christmas party with the intentions of dropping it off with a family friend who owns a car repair place. We knew we could get a better deal, and they would help us out where needed. While I waited for them to pull my car around, James said something he may have come to regret. "Why don't we just get you a new car?"

So I called a lady I work with over at Fred Haas and told her what I'd like and how I don't really want a new one since spending that much money on a car makes me want to puke. And then the owner's wife turned in her demo later that morning with the exact specifications I had asked for. With even lower mileage, but they were still willing to sell it to me for the used invoice price. And then we somehow got the car below invoice.
Cullen was a trooper through the whole process. He played with my wallet, he colored a wedding invitation, he made animal noises, and he threw a tantrum in the parking lot when we left "Mommy's car."

We were there as a "family" member of the lady I work with, and we were treated incredibly well. I realize we got some special treatment because of it, but I would still recommend that anyone should look at Fred Haas for their next car. It was a great experience.

All of that to say, I have a new Sequoia. It is beautiful. It is big. It is my Christmas present (and probably a birthday). Cullen now loves riding in "Mommy's Big Car," and he's going to love it even more when he finds out we have a DVD player. I love that I have leather seats. I love that they are heated. I love that my side mirrors have their own defrosters. I find it hilarious that it barely fits in the garage and will only be there in emergency situations like hail and bad storms. I am a lucky girl.

Photos to follow maybe next week. If I am ever actually home during day light.

In more important news, Cullen has become quite the vocalist. He sings along to just about anything. He breaks out into song even when you don't expect it. We were making gingerbread cookies the other day, and he was helping me stamp out the stars. When I asked him what shape it was, he told me it was a star and started singing. He knew every single word to "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." James taught him "Jingle Bells." Last night, during the drive home, we listened to "Valerie" by Amy Winehouse on repeat. Cullen apparently loves that song, and he knows most of the words. See below for video examples of his vocal prowess. Such a verve for life. :) 
Last night, Cullen insisted on eating his dinner (an entire box of mac and cheese, an apple, AND a banana) while wearing his jacket. I pulled out this precious hand-me-down from his cousin this morning to find out that his only other jacket doesn't fit. I guess I need to do laundry tonight. Because I'm a good mom, I sent him to school in this one, because the sleeves aren't THAT short, and his shirt covered the gap between the bottom of the jacket and his jeans. I just love this picture, because it reminds me of the Gorton Fisherman. 
Tonight we have a fun Christmas party and prep work for a Christmas cake contest I entered. I'm interested to see how my cake stands up to the competition.

xoxo ashley

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Carousel

The last week has been wild per the usual. We have gotten to spend so much time with our family, with our friends, and as a family. I am ever so thankful for that!

On Wednesday (of last week), James and I both got off work early. We left later than we were supposed to, but it was still earlier than usual. James thought it would be fun to take Cullen to the zoo, and we really had the best time. A cool front had moved in the day before, and it was just enough to keep the animals out and about later in the day.

Cullen really enjoys the zoo, and he has so much fun on the carousel.The picture is a little washed out, but you can see that huge smile on his face. We even let him pick the animal he wanted to ride. After circling the entire carousel, he decided on a raccoon. He kept saying, "Good doggy" while we were riding. As long as he's happy!
The next morning, we got up and headed to my parent's house for Thanksgiving. Cullen made this precious place mat at school, but I couldn't bring myself to let him eat on it. Among the million other things I've saved, this wound up in his box of special things he may or may not appreciate later. 
 As usual, Cullen refused to nap during the drive, so he made it through the entire day with no nap. He ate an entire apple while the rest of us ate dinner, so I only felt mildly bad about letting him eat an entire piece of chocolate pie. Apparently, he loves chocolate pie. Loves it. 
Because James and I just aren't tired enough, we bribed some friends with breakfast and asked them to spend Thanksgiving night with us. Megan and Lee are too good to us. I may have to raise their first child to make it up to them. Needless to say, James and I waited in the cold at HEB Plus for two and a half hours.

After covering every range of emotion, the doors opened at 4am. James took the time to scout out the store through the windows and find Cullen's Christmas present. Our next goal was to just get there before anyone else. James listened to the manager and actually went to the register like we were supposed to. I ran to the nearest truck, attempted to climb on top of it, and bear hugged it while saying, "Mine!" over and over again. I may have left my pride behind. The important things to focus on are that Cullen will have an amazing Christmas, and I saved $230. And I paid for the rest with cupcake money. God bless those cupcakes.
Saturday morning was completely and utterly lazy. Cullen made himself a home between the couch and the coffee table. I'm sure he might have been more comfortable elsewhere, but I love it when he tries to be like Daddy. 
Saturday night, James and I went on a double date to dinner out and The Nutcracker. James took me to the ballet. I'll give you a second to crawl back into your chair before I remind you that our tickets happened to fall during the Baylor game. I enjoyed the ballet, Uncle Andy texted James game updates, and we both had a great evening. It was so much fun!
As Christmas edges ever closer, I am happy to say that the majority of my Christmas shopping is done. That makes it so much easier to focus on the reason we celebrate and spending time with family. This weekend will involve a lot of quiet time as I get wound up and prepared for the general storm that is Christmas cookies in the Shuler house. If you're lucky, you just might get some for yourself!

xoxo ashley