Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cold but fun

We experienced ICE! at the Gaylord Texan again this year. (Last year we went with Uncle Jim, Melane, Brooke and Molli on Christmas afternoon, a wonderful gift from Jim and Betty.)

This year we waited for the crowds to lessen (and for a little more energy for Mom -- Christmas Day outings are ambitious). We met Jackie and Sydney at the massive hotel after Christmas.

Katie with a very tall soldier

Joyful Sydney after sliding down an icy slide

Sydney, Katie and Cooper in Snoopy's doghouse

Cooper and a cowboy Santa

Sydney and Katie

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 25

LRC left a letter for Cooper and Katie:

Dear Cooper and Katie,

My friends, it’s been so much fun hanging out with you this Advent season. I can’t believe how quickly the time passed. I really wish that I could spend more time with you.

I am proud of you two. And here are some of the reasons why.

I can’t count the number of days I watched you help your Mommy with dishes and laundry. And almost every time, you were cheerful!

You both do your homework without arguing.

Last year I never heard you play the piano, and now you do it all the time. And you’re really good!

You share with each other and your friends.

You show compassion toward others.

You give me marshmallows to help me with magic. How did you know that I love marshmallows? I mean, I really love marshmallows.

I will miss you both but can’t wait to come back in 2011!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 24

Tonight Little Red will hitch a ride with Santa back to the North Pole, and he won't be coming back for 11 months. He thought the Christmas tree was an appropriate spot for the day, sitting next to a Santa ornament and close to a photo of Steve holding baby Cooper in 2001. Little Red never met Steve, but he's certain they would have gotten along well.

LRC is one lucky elf, getting to spend so much time with Cooper, Katie and furry Margie. And though he's sad to leave, he returns to his permanent home with plenty of memories and stories to share with fellow elves.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 23

It's a little chilly in Frisco today, so LRC chose a cozy spot. He's nestled inside Steve's stocking, which hangs from the mantle in the family room.

His people weren't home much today. Cooper and Katie spent last night with their friends Asher and Autumn, and they were home for about an hour in the morning before they left for Grandma and Papa's house (and Uncle Jim's home for the week), where they made Christmas cookies and jumped in a giant pile of leaves. Little Red heard from reliable sources that they behaved well.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 22

Little Red feels secure in his perch today. He's attached to a stable fixture (drapery tieback) and away from high traffic areas.

He is also feeling a little anxious. In just a couple of days, he'll make his final return to the North Pole for the year, where he'll stay until next Advent. He's going to miss Cooper, Katie and Margie and is taking care to soak up all the details that make his charges so unique.

He especially loves Cooper's jokes and deep knowledge of Greek mythology, Katie's impromptu performances and art creations, and Margie's vigilant guarding.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 21

Little Red's favorite music is, of course, Christmas music. From this spot at the piano, he can hear lovely melodies played by Katie, who is working on "Jingle Bells," and Cooper, whose newly acquired repertoire includes "Jingle Bells," "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," "Away in a Manger" and "Jolly Old St. Nicholas."

Update: Uncle Jim accidentally knocked LRC over. Four magic-restoring marshmallows have been placed by his side.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 20

It's difficult to tell in this photo, but LRC was quite brave to choose this vase as his Monday home. He's many feet in the air, in a narrow window above the sliding glass door in the kitchen.

Little Red continues to contend that the kitchen is one of the prime spying spots in the house because of the frequent meals, snacks, drinks of water and general congregating that goes on there. Plus, there's been an increase in the frequency of hot chocolate servings, which equals an increase in the distribution of marshmallows. Little Red wants to be in a good location in case some get dropped or left behind.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 19

LRC draped himself overnight on a 2002 Damm family photo that's tucked into the television cabinet in the family room. He's got easy access to the chimney (possibly how he escapes to the North Pole and back here each night) and oversees all kinds of action from this perch -- piano practice, reading, coloring and even present-opening. (Jackie and Sydney were here today for our annual Christmas celebration.)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 18

Little Red Charlie is spying from Katie's bedroom today. He was there when Katie woke up at 5 a.m. to wake up Mommy and there when Katie returned to her room at 5:05 a.m.

He's seen Katie come and go as she's created a magazine, a popup magazine and a cross collage representing every member of the family. She's also played Legos in the room with Cooper and pulled out a few stuffed animals for impromptu dramatic action.

Little Red is exhausted and is hoping for a nap.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 17

LRC is in Cooper's and Katie's hallway today, surrounded by special images. He's leaning on a painting by Steve (depicting a part of our family room). He's resting on top of family photos. And he's staring at the word "Believe" -- one of the most important phrases of the Christmas season.

The only trouble with this spot is its instability. He fell twice this morning, while Cooper and Katie were packing their backpacks on a bench just below. Katie cried both times, realizing that Mommy would have to pick up Charlie and place him back -- all at the risk of Charlie losing his magic.

If you look closely, you'll notice two marshmallows by his side. He's already eaten two. When he finishes his fourth, the magic will be fully restored.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 16

We found Little Red this morning hanging out in the playroom, next to some Cooper and Katie art and posters. From here he can watch children play and put away their toys. And he can keep an eye on Margie, our sweet Scottie that spends much of the day by the front door, seemingly eager to run out and chase rabbits and cats. Santa discourages runaways.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 15

Little Red heard that Mom had a lot of work today, so he chose her room for his Wednesday home. From this window, he can watch her write, edit, answer e-mails and phone calls -- and see when she's slacking.

He can also hear children who run into the room for help mediating disagreements and is most pleased when the arguments require little help from Mom.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 14

Katie found Little Red this morning on the back door that leads to the garage. He's realizing that it's a risky spot -- the door opens and closes all day. But it's the perfect place to listen to Cooper, Katie and Mom as they come and go. Are children arguing? Is Mom short on patience? Did anyone buy extra marshmallows?

Cooper's new glasses

Cooper has new glasses, fit with prism lenses designed to help his eyes work together better. Here, he is showing us how much smarter he is with his glasses.

He told me last night, "I look like a miniature Daddy."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 13

Little Red, like all his fellow Elf on the Shelf friends, loves marshmallows. In fact, if a child accidentally touches an Elf, the way to restore his/her magic is to feed it marshmallows. Four is the magic number, I think.

We found LRC this morning in the kitchen, on top of our candy stash. More importantly, he's staring longingly at our supply of snowman-shaped marshmallows. Katie asked that I move them out of his reach today. I convinced her that LRC has no way of opening the plastic bag.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

After church this (very cold) morning

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 12

Little Red Charlie doesn't like to complain, but sometimes he does get tired of being little. Earlier this week, when he was hanging out on the dining room chandelier, he spotted this Lego Advent calendar. He wasted little time in choosing the snowy village as a perch. It offers an excellent view of happenings at the front of the house (where Katie performed an impromptu play this morning) and makes him feel like a giant.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 11

Cooper and Katie finally spied Little Red yesterday around 5 p.m., which freed him to fly to the North Pole last night and settle in to a new spot today.

Little Red has never won a trophy for anything -- his lack of muscle tone, fingers and toes makes him particularly unathletic -- so he was eager to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with Cooper's sports trophies. From this spot, he can observe Cooper and Katie playing with Legos and Cooper putting away shoes, jackets and clean laundry.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 10

Sometimes Little Red is too clever for his own good. Cooper and Katie couldn't find him before they left for school this morning. Perhaps his mistake was hiding so high (on the dining room chandelier) AND in a room that matches his outfit.

If they still can't find him before bedtime tonight, he faces one of the biggest elf dilemmas: Do you keep the same hiding place for tomorrow or relent and move to an easier-to-spot locale?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 9

Little Red's spying spot today is borderline inappropriate. He's in the kids' bathroom. But he wants to be clear that his eyes are averted from anything he shouldn't see. He's mostly there to make sure children wash their hands thoroughly and brush their teeth well. Santa is as concerned with hygiene and healthy habits as he is with good manners. Plus, there are bonus points for water conservation.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 8

Little Red loves reading Christmas cards and newsletters. He's all in favor of technology, but he's a little disappointed that blogs and Facebook and other means of communication have reduced the number of Christmas cards coming to the Damm house.

To demonstrate his dismay (even though the Damm house hasn't sent cards in a couple of years), today he's spying from the mostly empty Christmas card holder near the back door.

Before and after

Cooper chose blue and gold brads for Michigan and his Daddy.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 7

Little Red has keen observation skills. (It's how he got his job and how he keeps his job; Santa needs reliable intelligence.) He's noticed that his biggest fan in the Damm house is Katie. She wakes up every morning eager to find him, and she checks on him throughout the day. She visits with him more than the other people in house.

With that in mind, he settled in overnight right next to Katie's stocking in the family room. Sure enough, he was rewarded with a happy shriek of joy around 6:30 a.m.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 6

Little Red has learned that the busiest room in the house is the kitchen. From this corner, near the breakfast table, he can oversee three meals, newspaper reading, homework time, crafty projects and more.

He's perched atop a photo of squirmy 2-year-old Katie, who at the time wanted nothing to do with Santa. Little Red understands. The boss can be intimidating to little people.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec 5

Little Red looks so innocent in the kitchen, sitting near favorite family photos (3-year-old Katie and Santa; 3-year-old Cooper and Santa; and Tyra and Steve on the day of Tyra's college graduation in 1993). What you can't see is the stash of nearby candy. Our elf is (1) watching to be sure no one snags a peanut butter cup without asking and (2) planning his own snack attack.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Dressed to visit Santa

Dec. 3, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 4

Little Red is resting in the dining room, surrounded by some other Christmas friends. He enjoys the afternoon sun in this spot and the ability to listen to children playing (and never, ever arguing) in the nearby playroom.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 3

Weekdays can be dull for Little Red. Kids are at school. Mom is working. With that in mind, he chose a bookshelf in the family room for today's hiding place. When no one's around, he can take a peek at books including How Santa Got His Job (career development), NurtureShock (child rearing), The Secret Garden (classic about a "bad" girl turning good) and I am America (And So Can You!) (political satire for elf cocktail parties).

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 2

From this Christmas tree branch, Little Red can see who comes in and out the front door and can overhear conversations in the playroom and kids' bedrooms. He can also dream of a Parisian vacation, well deserved after what will be a busy month of spying and reporting.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Little Red Charlie: Dec. 1

Little Red Charlie likes to make a grand entrance during the night after the star is placed atop our Christmas tree. So, he settled in to a sneaky spot the night of Sunday, Nov. 28.

His perch was so sneaky, in fact, that he went unnoticed until this morning. Katie spied him tucked into a vase on top of our piano and in front of the gorgeous Lee Weiss watercolor (a gift to Steve from his parents for his 40th birthday).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Four years later

When Cooper was in kindergarten, Katie was 1. She tagged along to every school program, many of my volunteer shifts and countless lunches long before she was a Bledsoe student.

Now Katie gets to experience the same kind of fun firsthand. And I have the privilege of watching her while reliving the joy of Cooper's kindergarten year.

Mrs. D and Cooper, November 2006

Mrs. Harris and Katie, November 2010

Cooper, Tyra and Katie, November 2006

Katie and Cooper, November 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Katie the skeleton (costume/pajamas by Gymboree), Cooper the wizard (costume by Tyra)

The mustache got itchy, so we pulled it down.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Me: Cooper, I'm sorry. I misunderstood what you were saying.

Cooper: That's OK. I sometimes don't understand you, either.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Our Saturday was packed with fun activities.

1. Cooper and the Dolphins played soccer. They lost 4-1 against a really good team.

2. We celebrated Reese's and Adam's fifth birthdays at Pump It Up.

3. We saw the new film Secretariat in Plano with Melane, Brooke and Molli. (And I coveted Diane Lane's classic, retro wardrobe.)

4. We continued the cousin fun at a nearby shopping center in Allen.





The whole gang