Fall woods

Fall woods

Monday, December 31, 2012

Dorothy Covers Jay-Z

I told you I have a weird sense of humor.  Happy New Year's Eve, all...


She's Crafty

Most of my Sunday was spent refinishing a dresser for Thing Two.  The boys have been sharing a big dresser for years (they room together), but it is too small to hold all of their clothes now, and there is only so much refolding of jammed-in and tossed-around duds that Mama D can do without erupting like Vesuvius.  More storage space was sorely needed.

I wish to heck I'd had the sense to take a 'before' picture, but I didn't.  Imagine unfinished pine with round pine knobs...the dresser was a relic from my graduate school days, banished to a shed years ago and rescued Sunday morning.

This is the 'after' picture.

    
My mother made the boys beautiful matching bedspreads and curtains as part of their Christmas gift, mostly in navy and light blues and white with accents of red, with the spreads quilted in a star pattern.  (Bless the woman, she has lovingly and skillfully sewn every curtain in my house and all but one current bedcovering!)  The boys' other furniture is dark brown oak, and I was not about to try to match it exactly with stain--that way lies madness--so instead I painted the salvaged dresser cherry red to bring out the red accents in the fabric and replaced the old knobs with new white ceramic ones.  It looks pretty good, if I do say so myself...certainly a big improvement over its former state!    

And it has enough room to hold all Thing Two's folding clothes, even better--leaving Thing One with more than enough room for his in the old dresser.  Sometimes, instead of picking your battles, it is just better to make the battle unnecessary in the first place!



Sunday, December 30, 2012

Good Timing

When I wrote this post about the sameness and routine of my children's lives a few days ago, it had temporarily slipped my mind that they were actually going to be having an adventure yesterday: they went into the nearest big city with their father and grandmother to see the holiday lights show.  This involves taking the train to and from the city, eating lunch out, seeing all the holiday decorations and the department store windows...it is an annual pilgrimage and they always come back tired but happy.

And for me, it was a day of peace and quiet...the dog and I went for a lovely brisk walk, and then I ran some errands.  Yes, I know that I should have been curled up on the sofa with a book--I am so bad at just sitting down and relaxing; I think I need professional help--but I got a lot done,  and it was all stuff that was much easier to do without small fry along for the ride.  There was so much cleaning and laundry and tidying that I could have done as well, so much putting-away of decorations that still needs doing even now, but at least I did give myself permission to ignore all that at the time and it was a beautiful thing.

The children and Himself return to their usual pursuits on Wednesday, and all will be quiet at home during the day again.  Perhaps I will take a day or two (at least during school hours!) as my vacation then.  I will take deep breaths and relax over my morning coffee and try to get out of my own head for a while.  It's crowded in here!            

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What Ms. Moon Said

I read this today: I wish I could write like her, but I can't.  She is one of those people with the gift of being able to capture in words what others feel but can't manage to articulate.

Hopefully she will be ok with me capturing a paragraph of the post I linked to above: if not, I'll take it down.  This is what she wrote, in reference to her grandson play-hiding in the house and scaring her to death when she couldn't find him:

"Owen was not really lost, but merely, as he said, "peek-a-booing" and has no idea why we were so upset he was right there, right THERE, and so clever, we came and went through the library and never saw him and I told him that he has no idea how much I love him, NO IDEA, and he doesn't but someday, he will. It makes no sense, our fear of a loved one just disappearing, it is perhaps one of our deepest fears, it resides in the bones next to the exhaustion, next to the heart by our love and our pumping blood. When you have a child the blood pumps out a new message, never before heard or felt,  which is keep the baby safe, keep the baby safe, keep the baby safe, and every breath we take after that is a whisper of that prayer, that command."


This struck me so hard: from the moment my eldest was born, keep the baby safe became all that mattered.  In a way that I had never anticipated.  Yes, I'd known that babies are tiny and fragile (but blessedly, as it turns out, less fragile than they look) but something about being handed that tiny bundle upon discharge from the hospital completely floored me.  I'd never spent much time around babies before, and these (surely delusional) nurses were trusting that I! I of all people! would be able to figure out how to take care of this tiny whimpering bundle in my arms, or even to understand what he needed.  My parents were there to help at first, and thank God for it, but when they left I watched their car leave from an upstairs window and cried, I was so overwhelmed by the sheer dull weight of the responsibility that was suddenly squarely upon me.    

Fortunately, as it turned out, my son did fine.  As did his two younger siblings, when they came along later.  But to this day I am overprotective.  I know it, I understand it, and I couldn't change it if I tried.  It is part of who I am, the mother hen who watches over her chicks and protects them from all threats, real and anticipated.  It is a sign of my love for them.  As my own mother has said to me more times than you could even begin to imagine, "If I didn't love you, I wouldn't fuss."  

However, I can also recognize that there is such a thing as too much protection.  Too much blunting of the world's risk.  Too much of not allowing a child to fail or be hurt or make a mistake or learn to deal with adversity.  I don't want to fall into that trap either, so it becomes a balancing act: on the other side of the scale are my husband and his father.

Let me hasten to add that either man would willingly give his life for these kids if need be.  They are loving and protective as well, but in a different way.  Were it left to me, the kids would never swing too high on a swing and jump off or stand on the monkey bars or play football or do anything in which there was a real possibility of them getting hurt (well, I have held the line on football so far, but they do need to take physical risks as part of their development and I know this although I hate it) so I hand them over to one or the other of the men and ask them to please return the kids with minimal bleeding if at all possible.  And then I go away so that I don't have to see what they are letting my children do!

It really does take a village...

   

Friday, December 28, 2012

Clearly We Are Not Thai

Himself and I had a date night tonight...we tried out a new BYOB Thai restaurant (perfect for the man whose hobby is wine collecting) and then stopped for a nightcap on the way home.  Lovely evening.  And the sitter can now finally drive herself to and from our house, even better.

This restaurant allows you to choose the heat level of your dishes on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the hottest.  We requested medium heat, and our meals were delicious but definitely spicy!  I would take the same again, but my husband wished he'd gone one level lower.  How embarrassed were we to find out after the fact that the heat number for both our meals was a 2??

And neither of us are wusses when it comes to spice.  You would need an asbestos tongue to eat a level-5 meal at this place: not sure how Thai nationals do it!

I Want A Richer Life

Yes, I know it's the 28th, not quite resolution time yet.  And I'm not into resolutions much anyway, especially other people's fitness resolutions that make it hard for me to get an elliptical at the gym come January.  But I was just reading the blog of a friend of mine, and some of her posts and pictures really struck me: she is better at living life than I am, at trying new things and finding new experiences for her kids and traveling with her family and generally not being in a rut.  I hereby resolve to spend 2013 trying to be more like her.

In fairness, she has some advantages over me, or at least some differences in lifestyle, that help her: she homeschools her two kids (ages 8 and 14), both she and her husband work from home, and she is a travel blogger, to name a few.  It's much easier to pick up and go places under those circumstances.  The good Lord knows that I should not be a homeschooling mother--I don't have the patience or the temperament for it--so I am grateful for the proximity and quality of our local schools.  A lot of her activities come through her homeschool co-op.  And my husband leaves the house at 5AM for the office and returns about 7PM five days a week, so his flexibility is limited.  I get all this.  I also get that our after-school hours and weekends are full of activities, virtually all things that the kids have chosen for themselves.

BUT.  They don't understand what they are missing, and as parents, we could still do better than we're doing.  For two people who were both already seasoned international travelers as small children themselves, we've done a lousy job of broadening their horizons so far.

Once or twice a year we could pack up and take a weekend away, even within driving range.  We could finally throw the kids on a plane and head to the West Coast to visit the family out there.  For years the thought paralyzed me because Thing Two was so difficult, but now he's past that and the holdup is entirely in my head, although it pains me to admit it.  Even if we didn't leave the area, we could make more of a point of seeking out activities...corn mazes and apple picking and shows and hiking and historical stuff, just to name a couple of things off the top of my head.  We don't need to be in the same routine of school and activities essentially year-round.  Even if we just started small with summer and built a week or two of family adventure in with the summer camps and soccer when making our plans, that would be a good start.

You see, I'm afraid that we will keep on with our routine usualness and one day look up and find that the kids are gone, that we lost that special time with them because we were focused on the day-to-day and didn't see the big picture, the life-as-an-adventure-to-be-experienced aspect of it all.  I want their lives to already be bigger than this tiny, homogeneous corner of the world before they leave it for wherever they will end up as adults.

Hence my resolution.  This kind of richness cannot be measured in money, only in quality of life and breadth of life experiences, and by that standard I hope to be much richer by this time next year.      



Thursday, December 27, 2012

Vacation (Or Not)

I'm lucky to be able to stay home with my kids--I know this.  It's only possible because my husband has a good job and works long hours to support our family.  I switched from working the same crazy hours he does to working part time from home shortly before Thing One was born, then later began consulting from home.  When it became apparent that Thing Two needed as much of my time and energy as I could find for him because of his learning disability, I stopped working entirely and never looked back.  That was a few years ago now.  I liked my job, and I was good at it, but he was the priority.  Now my life is primarily home- and kid-centered: I cook, I clean, I shop, I drive the kids from here to there and back again and make sure they get their homework done.  

Generally, I'm OK with this.  It's an important job, even if it is mundane and routine-bound.  The problem is that it comes with no vacation days!  Reflecting on this during this "holiday" week: the kids and Himself are off, but mine is a 24-7-365 kind of job (at least if we want to eat and have clean clothes and not live in a pigsty.)  And arguably a holiday week is even crazier than usual for me, even without the holiday itself, just because everyone is home.  For it to be a real vacation for me, we have to leave town! 



      





      

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Reason For The Season

Got some news today that I wish had been different. Those of you who pray, please say an extra one for Mama D's special intention.

Spent the better part of yesterday and the day before at home, as I mentioned.  I went out for Christmas Mass, and that was about it.  Of course, the price to pay for such inactivity (ha! like I was just sitting around!) was a to-do list six miles long for today.  While Himself was with the boys at their soccer clinic all morning, The Girl and I attacked the list of errands.  She was outstandingly well-behaved at stops 1-9 (really) on our list, so stop 10 was our local pizzeria for lunch, one of her favorite spots.  It's family-owned and one of the few restaurants in the area, so you really see a full cross-section of the local population there.  Since we arrived at the tail end of the lunch rush, it was just the two of us and two other guys in the room; the two men were having a conversation, which I overheard only because it would have been pretty much impossible not to have done so given the circumstances.

For all that I live in a very small town, I didn't recognize either of them, which is odd in and of itself.  From the first part of their conversation, I gathered that one is a farmer--he was talking about putting in a field of oats for straw--and that the other operates a tree service of some sort.  They were wearing full Carhartt gear and heavy work boots and were probably in their early-to-mid 30s...they both initially struck me as the hard-working, tough and macho type.  Then the conversation changed and I was reminded for the thousandth time that I need to stop making snap judgments based on appearances, even when I keep them to myself.

Tree Guy had apparently been up half the night before with his two year-old.  He was telling Farmer that there is nothing like the feeling of holding your child in your arms.  That he hadn't wanted children for years, but that now he couldn't imagine life without his son.  That, if Farmer had the slightest desire to have a child of his own, he should go for it ASAP and not look back because he wouldn't regret it.  All said with such simple and evident sincerity that it touched me all the way across the room.

And if THAT isn't a wonderful conversation to have overheard during Christmas week, I don't know what is.  Stripped of all the crazy trappings, at its core this season is all about being happy that a baby boy was born--Tree Guy had it right.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

It's Over

Right after I hit 'publish' on the last post, my in-laws and Matt and his dad arrived, starting up another round of pleasurable gift-opening chaos.  I sometimes wonder if my kids are irredeemably spoiled, but it's hard to argue when it is so clear that the gifts that they receive are solidly rooted in love.

I'd been concerned about dinner, because it's been so long since I prepared a full holiday meal by myself.  Those critical 20 minutes before dinner goes onto the table when half a dozen things need doing at once especially worried me--there's only so much that can be done in advance.  Bless my mother-in-law...she stepped up to fill the kitchen void left by the absence of my mother and even washed most of the dishes afterward!  Dinner wasn't perfect, but that's okay...the nice thing about family is that perfection isn't required.

Seems like an amazing amount of time, effort and preparation went into making Christmas happen...so much buildup to just one day and it went so fast.  But it was a good and happy day filled with family time and that's the way it should be.  And the rest of the holiday break is low-pressure (New Year's isn't a big deal around here), so we can actually relax and enjoy it!


And So This Is Christmas

Himself dozing on the sofa.  Me sitting on the hearth by the fireplace, the dog curled at my feet.  The kids quietly playing with their new toys in the basement.  Presents opened at the crack of six (the earliest the kids are allowed to wake us!), Mass attended, dinner preparation attended to...this is the lull before the guests arrive.  Peace on Earth...

Monday, December 24, 2012

I Feel Like There Is Something Else I Should Be Doing

But I have no idea what.

It's been such a crazy few weeks that I've become accustomed to a frenetic pace.  And this morning was busy, too, but everything to be done was at home, mostly cooking to get ready for tomorrow's guests.  And it never felt frantic, which was wonderful.  Everything is now done but the turkey and rolls, and the turkey is already nestled in its bed of aromatic vegetables in the roasting pan; nothing left to do with that but toss it into the oven.   I've been in pajamas all day...when was the last time I spent an entire day in the house??  Can't even remember.

My to-do list was done by early afternoon.  I had time to write a thank-you card and paint my nails red and take a long shower and play way too much Angry Birds and drink tea spiked with applejack with Himself and play with my children and actually relax for the first time in I don't know how long.  It was a beautiful thing.

And tonight I am going to eat a lovely meal prepared by my husband, bless the man (London broil with port and shallot sauce and roasted potatoes and salad) and listen while he reads 'Twas The Night Before Christmas' to the kids as he does every year.  And then we will play Santa and retire to our bed with our heads full of sugarplums.  Welcome, Christmas spirit...

A Huge Thank-You To The Good Folks Of NORAD

Whose website tracking the progress of Santa across the globe will be occupying all three of my children all day today!

It's actually a very cool website...check it out if you haven't seen it.  Santa and a very solid geography lesson besides...what's not to like?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I Will Not Be Going To The Grocery Store Again Until Dec 26th At The Earliest

I have to say: if there's a more "Bah, humbug" kind of place in the world than the parking lots of major stores this time of year, I can't offhand think of where it might be.  Hell's fricking bells.  Went to pick up a few last things this afternoon and saw a bird flipped, refusal to let pedestrians cross, refusal to let people come out of parking spaces, and two people arguing over a cart, and that was just at the grocery store.  I think all the holiday spirit has been squeezed in miserly gray droplets out of everyone who was shopping today, maybe because of the reality of the looming two-day holiday deadline.  I did what I needed to do and got the hell out of that place as soon as I could.

The Girl was with me, and she wanted to stop for lunch on the way home.  In an attempt to be a good mother, I took her to Wendy's--her choice--and we ate.  She looked up from her burger at one point and commented how nice it was that it was just the two of us out together today!  Talk about a dose of perspective...would love to see the world through her eyes.  She apparently didn't notice the bad moods and craziness and anger all around us and was just happy for some one-on-one time with me, grouchy mother that I am.  

Got home and immediately started to cook, always something that soothes me.  I remember being in high school and my own mother going through the pre-holiday stress--although I didn't really understand it then--and her asking each of us what traditions were important to us so that she could make sure they were kept when the more extraneous sorts of things slid to the wayside.  Baking cookies with her was always the thing I associated most with holidays, so that was my choice.  My grandmother had a real old-fashioned pizzelle iron that none of the rest of us could really operate, but pizzelles are a traditional holiday cookie for us.  I received an electric pizzelle maker as a wedding gift and we use it every Christmas.  Usually Mom makes them, but this year it was my job--I made almond and lemon flavored ones today.  She also makes the traditional pinwheel cookies, but I just don't have the energy to try those this year.  She should be here to do it and she isn't: she's exactly where she needs to be and I support it a thousand percent, but her absence (and Dad's) sucks gigantic MFing rocks.

Anyway, today's cooking efforts yielded the pizzelles, a batch of soft pumpkin spice cookies, an apple strudel made with puff pastry dough (Thing One's request) and a large pot of my mother-in-law's gulaschsuppe, which we will eat with pretzel rolls for dinner.  Somehow the house still smells good with all of those aromas mixed together!  Tomorrow I start the pre-cooking for Tuesday's dinner--all the stuff I can do ahead of time like the orange-cranberry sauce and veggie prep and the baking of Dad's mother's famous chocolate pie--but today was all about the cookie plate.  I am choosing to do the things that make me happy, and having lots of pretty cookies on the plate at Christmas is important to me, dammit.

It is what it is.    

      

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Saturday

A quiet day, mostly spent at my in-laws' house eating delicious German food: wienerschnitzel, red cabbage, bratkartoffeln.  A good day for battery recharging.  Only two full days to Christmas and so much to do yet to get ready for the holiday guests: the final push starts tomorrow.  I will clean and wrap and shop for perishable foods and make pizzelles and pecan cookies with my daughter because she loves to help me bake.

And my husband spent a good chunk of the first morning of his Christmas vacation helping me to hang a curtain rod.  It was important to me and not at all important to him but he did it anyway because he loves me, which is more in the spirit of Christmas than so much of this other stuff!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Things That Make Me Laugh

Needed one today.  This helped a lot (many thanks to my husband for finding it!):


(For the purists, here's the original...)


Nobody ever said that my taste in comedy is highbrow.

And of course, a few more T-shirts...







And, of course...


I Like This Santa

So...we got through this week.  It's been a very rough one between unbloggables and the inevitable craziness of the last week of school before Christmas.  The good news is that we are now looking at school in the rear view mirror for a couple of weeks...no more class parties, baking, teacher gifts to coordinate, homework, projects etc for a while.

Two of the three kids had holiday parties today.  Murphy's Law being what it is, they were at precisely the same time at two different schools.  Himself went with Thing Two, and I with The Girl. Her class put on a holiday show, which was followed by a surprise visit from Santa.  At the end of her conversation with him, he told her to make sure that her parents cheered for Notre Dame in the BCS championship!  I am not making this up.  I shook his hand and told him that it would not be an issue.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

For Sale: One Slightly Used Dog, Cheap

Baked and decorated about 6 dozen more cookies this afternoon for The Girl and Thing Two's class holiday parties tomorrow.  Left them on the kitchen island for the frosting to harden while we did the usual Thursday post-school rounds of speech therapy, soccer and basketball.

Got home from that craziness, let the dog out of her crate, threw the kids sequentially into the shower, put them to bed and showered quickly myself.  By the time I came back downstairs, she had eaten a full dozen cookies right off the cooling racks and left a few more scattered on the floor.

It's a good thing she's cute!  She'd better not have an upset stomach from this, because I will have zero sympathy...


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I'm Back

It's been a tough couple of days, including some serious unbloggables.   Please pardon my absence.

Had a school board meeting last night.  After the craziness and tragedy of Friday, I expected a ton of parents to show up, mostly with questions or suggestions about security.  Was astounded to see a total of five parents and one district teacher in the audience.  And two of the parents were a couple who came together.

This means one of two (maybe three) things:

1) this close to Christmas, everyone forgot that the BOE meeting was last night
2) parents think that we are doing such a good job that they don't need to show up to question or comment
OR
3) they are too apathetic to show up even for something as important as school security right after a major shooting incident.

My money is on #3.  Ridiculous.

Anyway, I was very glad that the couple came, because each brought fantastic perspective to the discussion.  He is a retired SWAT-trained cop; she, an elementary school teacher in a neighboring district.  Both spoke persuasively in favor of putting armed and uniformed policemen in schools.  He spoke of the studies showing the deterrent value of having police onsite and the fact that most shootings stop as soon as the police arrive.  She, identifying with the Connecticut teachers, is afraid of effectively being "trapped in a fishbowl" with nowhere to hide herself or her children in case of intrusion, and told us how difficult it can be under stress to complete the lockdown procedures.

Apparently, as a nation, we are increasingly putting police in schools, and also moving toward having double-doored main entries with a mandatory ID check and in some cases, metal detectors.  This was confirmed by our superintendent, the retired policeman, and also our current Chief of Police.  How sad is it that these precautions are needed for an elementary school??



Monday, December 17, 2012

Friday's Aftermath

Was at the boys' school twice this morning: once to drop off a project for Thing One and pick up a school board packet, and once later to help my mom find Thing Two's classroom so she could read to his class.

Now, we have always had good security measures in place at this school.  The school board had all the doors and locks replaced over this past summer, too.  I don't think anyone felt unsafe there until Friday. Probably someone with semiautomatic weapons and mayhem in his heart could shoot through the front doors of our school as well. At any rate, when I went in the first time today, there was a locksmith working by the main doors and a state trooper in the parking lot.

The faculty had a meeting before the school day started to decide how to talk to the kids.  The counselors will be available all day.  The principal cancelled a meeting we were supposed to have this morning because she needed to spend the time in classrooms talking to frightened children instead.  When I dropped off Thing One's project, there were two men I'd never seen before in his classroom (his teacher is small and female) and it really shook me.  I actually stood out in the hall for a while watching them do math games with the kids.  Crazy as it sounds, even though what they were doing was innocent, I was glad that the teacher came out to get the poster and that she looked okay.  The second time I went to school, while Mom was reading, I was looking around Thing Two's classroom wondering if there were enough hiding places for 19 kids in that room.  What a hell of a way to think and live.

Now, this is where I probably piss a bunch of people off, but it is what it is.  If you have a child with known mental health issues, you don't buy a bunch of goddamned guns, keep them around the house and teach him to shoot on top of it. You just fucking don't.  Yes, we need to have major national discussions about mental health.  We need to help these people, destigmatize their disease, find better meds with fewer side effects and make effective counseling available.  Totally, 110% on board with that.  But the sad reality is that some people just can't be independent and do whatever they want to do.  Civil rights my ass.  You get your civil rights right up until the point where you become a menace to society, and then somebody else needs to step in and save you from yourself and save all those innocent souls as well.

I looked a bunch of beautiful small children in the eyes this morning.  Any bastard mentally sick enough to aim at even one of them and pull a trigger has no goddamn business being on the loose.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Welcome Home, Matt

I first met him when he was 7.  It was my first Thanksgiving with Himself's family, and he was sitting next to me at the dinner table.  He was the youngest cousin, full of personality even then.  What I remember most about that night (about him, anyway) was that he had somehow gotten hold of a can of whipped cream and managed to spray about half of it into his mouth before his mom caught him.

Fast forward a few years.  His mother passed away unexpectedly, and complications from that event tore apart a good chunk of the extended family.   After a rough patch, his father managed to get him into a good private high school, where he did well.  But then he decided to enlist in the Army right after graduation against his dad's wishes, following in the footsteps of his three older half-brothers (two Army, one Marine.)  After Basic Training, he was shipped to Afghanistan for a full tour.

He got back home two days ago, thankfully in one piece.  The police force of his town sends someone to pick up every returning serviceman/woman at the local airport as a show of respect, and he was no exception.  The rest of his return was a little different, though.

His dad is a local judge, very tightly tied into the community.  His dad was so far beyond overjoyed about the safe return of his son that he organized a huge surprise welcome-home party .  150+ people in the ballroom of a local hotel.  Friends, neighbors, family down to the smallest kids, mine and others'.  A state senator.  A state representative.  The mayor of the town.  And not one person spilled the beans.

Kid got off the plane.  Cops and his dad picked him up.  They said there was a police benefit dinner that night, and would he please stop by quickly and say a few words.  He walked into the room to a standing ovation.

   
The politicos said a few words, but they were short and sweet.  Then he took the microphone.  It's hard for me to remember that he's grown up now.  He's 20, and much more man than the boy I first met.  But his presence when talking to an unexpected crowd was really something to see.  He thanked everyone for coming, then commented on how lucky he was: that some of his friends, friends who he felt were the real heroes, would come back to nothing special, certainly nothing like that huge celebration, and that some wouldn't come back at all.  In his eyes, he's just doing his job.

He'll be at my house for Christmas.  He and his dad come every year.  A smaller, quieter "welcome home" than last night's, but no less heartfelt. We're proud of you, kid.

 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Friday, December 14, 2012

So...

I was going to post today about how Mom and I finally finished decorating all those cookies for The Girl's cookie sale and turned them in this morning.  And about the crazy schedule for the weekend and the fact that I am the only female basketball coach of a boys' team I'm aware of at the kids' school (which will be interesting at the first official team practice tomorrow) and also to share the good news that Himself's cousin is safely home from Afghanistan.  Maybe even something about some of the ongoing drama with several of my girlfriends.

But then I looked at CNN and all of that went out the window.  I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am that all three of my kids came home today and how unimaginably devastating it would be if they had not, like all those little children in Connecticut.  That gunman was a sick bastard (literally and figuratively) and good riddance...I don't care WHAT issues he had with his mother, those kids were innocent and now they are gone.  What a senseless, devastating waste.  I don't know what is wrong with us as a society that anyone can even imagine for a second that this is a good way to express their sickness or frustration or anger; something of our essential decency as human beings is eroding and I'm scared to death.  

These words aren't coming out right.  Maybe there just aren't any good words.            

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers--so many caring people in this world.  --  Mr. Rogers

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Greater Love Hath No Husband

Than the one who deliberately goes to sleep on his wife's side of the bed on a cold night so that she will have a warm bed to get into when she comes in later, even though he knows that she will have to wake him up to move him over when she comes to bed.  Just sayin'.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

One Way Or The Other...

I will blow off some of this stress.  I took my first yoga class in a long time today at Himself's urging...between that and taekwondo I will either serenely 'om' my aggravations away or pound them into submission with kicks and punches!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

No Way To Go But Up

You know how it is when you're climbing a big hill or a mountain or something and you finally think that you can see the top, only to discover when you get there than it was only a bend in the trail and that there is a ton more mountain ahead?  That's exactly how I feel right now.

I have been going flat out for days now and getting nowhere.  For as many things as I crossed off my to-do list today, and there were a lot--I am nothing if not efficient--as many more went onto it.  Whatever I need to get done will get done, it's just a question of at what cost to my well-being, sanity and stress level.  The tanks are empty again heading into the fortnight before Christmas--aka some of the craziest days of the year--and I am officially overwhelmed.  This sucks.

Monday, December 10, 2012

What A Way To Run A Railroad, Part 2

Had a long and crazy day today...dog with an upset tummy going to the vet, lots of errands, dealing with Christmas cards, getting ready for houseguests.  So I really didn't need the phone message I got right before leaving for the kids' taekwondo classes after school, which said that the flooring company from which the tiles for the new floors (of last week's construction project) came has no record of me paying for them when I picked them up.

Now, I picked the blessed things up at the beginning of August.  They were ordered in July.  Had I actually not paid for them, you'd think they would have noticed sometime before December!  And as it turned out, I paid for them by credit card the day I ordered them, as confirmed by our credit card statement, so these folks are screwed up two different ways.

And I probably now have another gray hair or two.  Was grateful to have taekwondo class myself tonight...a much better way of blowing off stress than wine, which would have been the alternative!



Sunday, December 9, 2012

I Have Seen Hell

And it is being trapped in a car with my three children for two hours.

One of my current hats is chair of the town's Recreation committee...we put on fun stuff like the Easter Egg Hunt and Town Day.  This time of year, we have a holiday decoration contest, and everyone on the committee has a section of town to prejudge before the final judging later this week. Hence the time spent in the car tonight with my kids, all of whom lost interest in the undertaking very early on and spent the rest of the time poking at each other, making weird noises and generally causing mayhem and aggravation.

If I were one of those parents crazy enough to go to all the effort of moving an elf every night, there'd be a bad report going to the North Pole...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Question Of Fairness--Opinions Wanted

All, I'd really like your take on something.

A while back, Thing One's team played another team in a soccer tournament and scored five goals on them in the first ten minutes of play.  Being up five goals triggered the "mercy rule" in that particular tournament, so our boys effectively played a giant game of keep-away for the entire remainder of the game--they were not permitted to go up any further, so they could not take any shots.  Not fun for either team.

Tonight, Thing One's team played in a tournament against three other teams, all of which are much better than his.  Not sour grapes speaking, just reality: his team plays in flight 5, two of the other teams in flight 1, and the third team is a professional development team (think feeder for the junior Olympics) that is well superior to flight 1.  Thing One's team never stood a chance.

This tournament had no mercy rules.  Thing One's team lost to the professional development team 20-2.  Their boys might have enjoyed that game, but ours certainly didn't.

So, is it better to beat the hell out of another team or embarrass and patronize them by benching your best players (another common variant on the mercy rule) or playing keep-away instead?  Mercy rules or no mercy rules?  Would love to hear some thoughts on this.

(And yes, setting up fair matches in the first place would be ideal, but often doesn't happen for practical reasons in big tournaments.)  

I have Seen The Future And It Punched Me In The Gut

Slept off the frustration of the last post...woke up in a decent mood and ready to tackle putting the second coat of paint on the powder room walls.  Which of course explains why I am blogging instead.

Thinking about my big boy this morning.  It is just the two of us and the dog here this weekend--Himself packed up the other two kids and drove off yesterday afternoon.  They won't be back till sometime Sunday.  Himself is running a marathon in a different state (as I type, actually) and because Thing One has various soccer-related things all day today, my sainted mother-in-law offered to watch Thing Two and The Girl for me for the weekend.  Himself dropped them off at her house on the way to his race and will pick them up tomorrow.

So, last night I took Thing One out to dinner, then we ran a couple of errands.  I was looking at him across the dinner table, and for one moment his face had an expression that was so adult...I swear I could see him as a young man for that second and it sent a chill down my spine from the unexpectedness.  He's handsome now, and is going to be a heartbreaker as a man...more importantly, he's just a good kid and I love him to pieces.  He's heading into those really tough adolescent years and it's going to break my heart watching him navigate the bumps, I just know it.  He still kisses me goodbye at the bus stop and hugs me good night (and regularly on other occasions for no apparent reason!) and I SO hope we can manage to keep that closeness as he grows up.

Anyway, the last stop for last evening was the dojo.  Although he is too young to take the adult evening classes, I had requested and received permission for him to come with me last night, and so he did.  I won't lie--it was tough for him.  The focus requirements are more stringent than he's used to, as is the level of sheer physical exercise.  But damned if he didn't rise manfully to the challenge.  He behaved himself and tried his best (and cracked the entire room up when he did a dive roll back to his lineup spot for the dismissal ritual at the end of class--youthful enthusiasm in action, even if slightly lacking in decorum!)  I wouldn't bring him to my classes every week, but he made me proud last night.

Here's to you, Thing One.  Even though watching you grow up sometimes cracks my heart, you're going to be a fine man someday.

Friday, December 7, 2012

F%$king Moron Dipshits

The so-called technical writers who work for the Kwikset Corporation should be summarily dismissed for gross incompetence.  I have never, and I mean NEVER (in years of putting together kids' toys!) seen a more unhelpful set of directions, and the accompanying pictures were infuriatingly useless.  (Yes, I'm pissed off.  Can you tell??)

(deep cleansing breath)
(deep cleansing breath)

The wave of guys who came through today finalizing the floor/powder room construction project were the last straw for the knob on the door from my garage to my laundry room.  It has been fading for a while, but something inside it broke today and I discovered when I went out this evening that the door latch would not catch, meaning that any gust of wind would cause the door to swing open.  Not the most secure state of affairs.  And of course, Himself is out of town (Mrs. Murphy's Law) so getting it fixed ASAP was all on me.

Thing One and I stopped and picked up a new lock set while we were out, and I set to installing it as soon as we got home.  An hour of trial and error and cussing later, it was finally in, but there is at least one part left over that looks like it should not be left over, and who knows what else I screwed up?  Bloody hell.  Long week, long day, so did not need that.  But it's done, and the door is acting functional again, at least for the moment.  Go me.    


 

Hands-On Life

Was looking at my hands last night and thinking that I really need a manicure and to actually remember to put on lotion every once in a while and for Pete's sake, how pathetic is it to have scraped the one knuckle so badly on the inside of a laundry basket of all things??  If I'd gotten it from punching a heavy bag or something it would be a lot cooler.  These hands are strong, but not beautiful--banged up and sinewy, a few spots, rarely nail-polished.    

But then, they have held babies and scrubbed floors and grown food from bare dirt and changed diapers and painted walls and grouted tile.  They have pressed the keys of saxophones and trumpets and held drumsticks and cooked huge festive meals and small family ones and folded thousands of loads of laundry and washed mountains of dishes and sewed elaborate pieces of cross-stitch.  They have typed legal documents and lab reports and a thesis, held test tubes and plates of cells and pipetters in a lab, and pulled me up rock walls and rough trails.  They can throw a baseball and make a jump shot and wipe away the tears of a crying child.  They cradled our beloved cat as she went to sleep for the final time last year, and soothe the dog when she's feisty or upset.  They proudly wear the ring of the man who loves me.  And they can deliver a hammerfist punch or knifehand strike that can break a wooden board when the situation calls for it.

So, all in all, I guess they've earned their bumps.  I could make them prettier (maybe red polish, Ms. Moon??), but I should probably just consider them a badge of honor.

They may not look like this:


But that's




The Home Stretch

Life in the construction zone should end today!  The plumber is banging away in the powder room, installing the fixtures so that it will no longer be an empty room with a new no-longer-ugly floor.  But while it was still empty last night, I painted it (remembering what a pain it was to paint behind the sink and toilet the last time), and the paint I chose too hastily because I ran out of time actually looks good with the floor tile.  A boon from the gods.

There is only so long I can be "on," and this week I have hit my limit with the people constantly in and out.  The floors are done, the plumber will hopefully follow suit soon, and my deer-hunting contractor will be in later this morning to replace the trim...that should hopefully be the end of it.  Then, if I wanted, I could dance naked in my living room and nobody would would be there to see it!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

You Know You Live In The Sticks When...

...your contractor schedules his visits to your ongoing home renovation project around deer season!

Sadly, I am not exaggerating in the slightest.

I Said "No" Today!

I was asked to do something that I could probably have managed with some trouble, but really didn't want to do.  Instead of figuring out a way to do it and then dealing with the resulting hassle (as would be my normal SOP because I am a sucker), I politely declined!  Catholic guilt complex notwithstanding, it felt fabulous...


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Know Why I Can't Remember Anything Anymore...

Because all of my brain cells are occupied with stuff like this:


This song came out in 1984.  I must have played my tape of it a thousand times that year, but I would swear to you that I have not heard or thought about it since then.

It played on the '80s radio channel tonight--I listened to it in the car as I drove Thing Two back from his doctor's appointment.  And damned if I didn't remember every.single.solitary.word.

Clearly, my brain is full of very useful things.  (ha)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My House Is A Ticking Time Bomb

We bought this house from an older Italian couple whom we suspect were/are mob-connected.  It was an entertaining series of interactions.  His stated occupation was building contractor, which sounded good upfront, but we've since come to realize that there is no way in hell that could have been true based on the work that was done in this house while they lived here.

Case in point: the hall bathroom that we are currently renovating.  The tile guy had to take the sink and toilet out to redo the floor, and in the process discovered that the base and top of the sink were not a matched set (the bowl was attached to the misfit pedestal with shims and caulk.)  Also, the toilet base was literally glued to the floor.  Can't even begin to imagine why.  The tile guy begged me to go out and buy a new sink and toilet, which I did yesterday.

But the icing on the cake was the light fixture.  Ugliest thing in the world: I had already planned to replace it.  I had the tile guy (who is somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades) take a look at it to see if there was anything I needed to keep in mind while choosing a new one.  He made the discovery that there was no box behind the old fixture, which of course made it a raging fire hazard!  The electrician came yesterday to put in a box and install the new fixture, and he determined that the support for the box had been put in incorrectly, which was why the box wouldn't fit.  Instead of trying to fix the support, the previous owners just left the box out completely and installed the old fixture without it.


I shudder to think where else in my house these bombs lurk...I was unaware of that one for nine-plus years!  Thank God it never caught fire.  Wish I could think of a tactful way to ask the previous owners for a list of everything they did in the house so I can have someone else check it!

P.S.: Oh, and Ms. Moon...I discovered yesterday at the plumbing supply store that some people are actually willing to pay $800-900 for a faucet-and-handles set for their bathroom sink.  Must be the same ones who take baths in leftover champagne!!




This Is Why I Am Going Gray

In the car this morning, completely out of the blue:

The Girl to Thing Two: "Do you know a word that starts with P and ends with S?"

Me to her (alarmed at where she could possibly be going with this): "Do you know any words that start with P and end with S?"

The Girl: "Of course.  Platypus!"  (She's a fan of the kids' TV show Phineas and Ferb, which features one of these creatures.)

Me: (greatly relieved)

Not sure if this episode speaks more to her precocious spelling ability or my dirty mind!


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday Night

It's been a good weekend.  I have eaten and drunk well with friends (my children asked when we could have them over again when they woke up the next morning!) and laughed and sung and cleaned and shopped and cooked and ordered the Christmas cards.  A total of 18 1/2 dozen Christmas cookies are in the downstairs freezer awaiting icing etc--yes, I went a little overboard, but now I have the cookies for The Girl's school done plus enough for our family holidays as well.  (The more I cross off my to-do list ahead of time, the less witchy I am.)

I love this!!!

And some of the Christmas decorations are even up...the kitchen and family room ones, mostly.  The Girl was highly annoyed to be reminded that the first step to decorating is cleaning (moving furniture to accommodate the tree and dusting) but she had enough fun helping me put out the decorations afterward that she forgot about that.  As a side note, can I just tell you how happy I am that my decorations no longer have to be at least six feet off the ground to keep them from being destroyed by some combination of the kids and the dog???  While the girls put out the holiday stuff, the three boys went tree shopping and came home with a beauty.

And I found a new decoration for my collection today, which was the icing on the cake!  Years ago, I picked up a painted tin Santa on a whim, and then a year later the tin snowman and Christmas tree that really started me on the hunt for more.  I'm up to eight now--today's find was a reindeer.  They are inexpensive and nothing fancy, but I enjoy searching for more...every year or two I find another one.

Yeah, right...

The only fly in the ointment relates to the ongoing bathroom and hall construction, naturally.  One of my projects for the weekend was to buy the new sink and toilet we need, which we planned to do today.  Except that every single plumbing supply store in the area is closed on Sunday and my tile/construction guy hates Home Depot with a passion...I am not allowed to buy anything there because he swears everything they sell is irregular seconds!  Anyway, guess I will be making that run tomorrow...at least I don't need those until later in the week.  I did need to buy the light fixture today, though, since the electrician is coming tomorrow morning--I bought that at Lowe's but fully expect to get an earful about that purchase too.  The contractor-approved stores are open 8-5 during the week, Sat mornings from 8-12, and closed Sunday!  Given that I spent Saturday morning at three consecutive basketball practices, that wasn't an option.  (And I'm a coach for two of the three kids' teams, so this is going to be an interesting winter.)

So...tomorrow morning, I will be juggling the search for acceptable plumbing fixtures, a contractor, an electrician, a doctor's appointment, and a trip to school to read to Thing Two's class.  Starting off the week with a bang!  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Aftermath

Hell of a party.  Ended early because one family's kids had a swim meet in the AM...probably just as well as much wine had already been consumed!  I'm stuffed full of good Cajun food (the gumbo was out of this world) and high on the warmth of laughter with good friends, the kind that leaves your belly hurting afterward.  In this company, it didn't matter at all that our front hall is currently plywood and the downstairs bathroom a vacant shell...there aren't many people I would invite to a construction zone for dinner, but these guys all make that cut.

Comic moment of the afternoon: while in the kitchen getting ready for the party, I overheard Thing Two and The Girl in the family room debating what music videos they were going to play from the on-demand part of our cable service.  I was only half listening until I heard them settle on Chris Brown.  The problem was that I knew they were looking for one of the CHARLIE Brown holiday clips!  Close, but no bananas...glad I intervened in time.  ;)

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Good Friday Night

Himself's gumbo preparation is in full swing, I am on my eleventh or twelfth baking sheet of cutout cookies for The Girl's school bake sale (pecan, gingerbread and now sugar), and zydeco music is blasting.  The kitchen is a complete disaster, but that's okay; it smells amazing in here!

Himself has the stovetop and one end of the island, I have the oven and the other end of the island--so far, we are managing to stay out of each other's way while both getting our cooking done.  Good wine, good company, and good smells...this is a soul-feeding evening and for that I am grateful!

I Just Sat Down For The First Time In Two Days

Thursdays suck.  I don't even want to go into the whole schedule for that day because it makes me tired to think about it, but in general:

get kids up and to school
knee rehab (bike)
taekwondo class
errands, errands, errands
get kids from school
kid activity #1
kid activity #2
kid activity #3 (which ends at 7:30-7:45PM)

all in a row, with time somewhere stolen to be home with the dog.  Oh, and in there I have to feed the kids dinner and make something for Himself to eat when he gets home, too.

Enough by itself, but then last night a friend had a holiday get-together at her house that started in the middle of kid activity #3 (Himself very kindly relieved me from kid detail on his way home from work so I could go.)  And I still had to pack lunches for the kids and get my house ready for a construction crew when I got home from her house!  I accepted the party invitation earlier in the week, when I didn't realize how bad Thursday was going to be: I would SO have cancelled yesterday if it wouldn't have been rude.  And you know what?  That party was the best part of my day, and probably my week.

It wasn't a huge fancy deal, either.  The lady who hosted it is a bigwig in the local community, but very nice and involved in absolutely everything related to the boys' school (in a good way.)  It's a lovely group of women who are involved in all that stuff in general, but we are usually so busy with whatever events we are organizing that we don't have time to enjoy the company.  The point of last night was simply to spend quiet time together socializing before the holiday insanity gets too insane!  Wine, low-key food, good conversation, and re-grounding in the friendships that keep us going in the midst of all the stupid stuff we have to deal with every day.  I walked out of there with recharged batteries...funny, I hadn't realized how empty my tanks were until they were filled.  And they were very, very empty.

Got home at 10PM and started on the rest of the day's tasks...primarily, getting the house ready for the influx of workers today.  When we bought this house, there were six different flooring materials on the first floor alone: two kinds of (heinous) linoleum, two kinds of carpet, wood in the front hall, and nasty institutional white tiles in the hall bathroom.  Last year's kitchen renovation took care of the two kinds of linoleum--they were replaced by porcelain tiles that look like slate.  The current job involves tearing up both the hallway wood and the hall bathroom tile and replacing them with the same porcelain tiles that we have in the kitchen and laundry room--to get ready for the demo crew, I had to clear out the bathroom and hall closet and hallway.  My guest room looks like a bomb hit it at the moment, but oh well.

And of course, this couldn't just be a flooring job--I was told this morning that I need a new sink and toilet and I already knew I needed to replace the light fixture, so apparently we are now doing a total gut job on the bathroom as well!  At least it should still be done by the end of next week (please???)  We'll need both an electrician and a plumber to finish the job, too.

Thank God that the friends coming for the Cajun feast tomorrow have good senses of humor and are okay with big chunks of plywood floor and having to use a second floor bathroom!  Never a dull moment around here...    

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Warning: Scroogelike Rant Ahead

I have 10 stations pre-set on the radio in my car.  Two of the ten have been playing nothing but Christmas music since several weeks before Thanksgiving--one adult contemporary, the other best-of-the-70s-80s-and-90s type.  A third just started playing Christmas-only this week, this one a country station.  (And the countrified versions of Christmas carols it is playing are really awful, too--just saying.)

Dammit all to hell, it isn't even December yet and a full 30% of my pre-sets are already off limits to me!  Just can't face Christmas music yet.

Bah HUMBUG.


She's Got The Fever

My daughter has just discovered Justin Bieber, God help me.

The video for "Baby" has been in constant play on YouTube for the last two days, much to the disgust of her elder brother.  :)



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Power Struggle

Just for something different, we lost power today.  Five or six times, actually, but fortunately only briefly each time.  The electrical grid around us is so old that a breath of wind or a drop of rain takes it down, sad to say: part and parcel of living out in the sticks across the street from cows!

I had intended to bake some of the cookies for The Girl's school fundraiser this afternoon, but decided not to risk using my electric oven with the power popping in and out.  Ended up making two more batches of cookie dough (caramel malt chip and thumbprint tea cookie) and calling it a day instead.

On the bright side, the school board meeting tonight was blessedly uncontroversial and world-record short--on balance, I'll take it!      

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Cajun Feast

It's always a good thing when Himself looks over at me and remarks, "I feel like cooking.  Let's have some friends over this weekend."

Now, he is not a day-to-day sort of cook.  99% of the time, the kitchen is my domain.  His repertoire is limited and he cooks almost exclusively in crowd-sized quantities.  But what he makes is amazing.

Back when we lived in Texas, one of his best work friends was a good ol' boy from eastern Louisiana, a proud graduate of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.  This guy hung out with a crowd of his former frat brothers, all also from Cajun country, and every single one of those boys could cook like a dream.  (One of said frat brothers actually went to middle school with me in the United Arab Emirates, proving definitively that this is an inordinately small world.)

Anyway, under the guidance of this motley crew, Himself learned to make real gumbo, red beans and rice, and jambalaya, all of which he is going to cook for us on Saturday!  My involvement will be limited to procuring the ingredients for him and making rice and garlic bread (and possibly a salad.)  My kind of entertaining.  Two families of close friends are coming over, bringing kids, dogs, a dessert and an hors d'oeuvre between them.  We will stuff ourselves silly, drink lots of good wine and just enjoy the company.  I can't wait!


Gumbo...

            
Red beans and rice (my absolute favorite...)


And jambalaya.  Yum.



Sunday, November 25, 2012

It's A Good Thing I Like To Bake...

Did not get any more holiday decorating done today, but had a nice long walk with the dog (good for both of us!) and made a bunch of necessary cookie dough instead.  I'll take it.

For various logistical reasons, The Girl does not attend the same school as her big brothers (although she will from next year on), and her current school has a big fundraiser every December that involves selling cookies.  It brings thousands of dollars into the school, but the catch is that each child's family must (yes, must--not sure what they do if you refuse) send in 12 dozen cookies by the middle of December sometime--I forget the exact date.  This means that you are seriously up a creek if you have more than one child there: one of my friends is expected to send in 36 dozen (!!) cookies, and since she is a working mother of her three children, I have no idea when the hell she is going to have time to bake that many cookies.  Especially since they want pretty holiday cookies, not run-of-the-mill chocolate chip.  Yikes.  And my mother, who ordinarily would be ALL OVER my part of this job (she is a primo baker) does not arrive with my dad for their holiday visit until a day or two after the cookies are due in.  (Never fear, she will be put to work making the traditional family favorites after she gets here!  And helping me paint my hall bathroom and take down shelves in The Girl's room and a hundred other things, but that's another post.)
Since I am constitutionally incapable of waiting until the last minute to do anything major, I started browsing cookie recipes on the Web this afternoon, printed out a stack of potential candidates, and then made two batches of cookie dough, which will be sitting in the freezer until whenever I actually have time to bake and decorate the cookies.  These two are pecan (above) and maple-walnut spice (below middle) respectively...I will also be doing gingerbread men, sugar cookies, and I think probably chai shortbread and chocolate malted cookies as well.  I don't need all of these kinds just for the cookie sale, but since I have to bake for it anyway, I will make a bunch of different kinds now and just stick some in the freezer so there is one less thing on the to-do list before Christmas dinner, which is always at our house.
 



I haven't even thought about what to serve for Christmas dinner yet, but that's OK.  One thing at a time...I think that will be my mantra for this crazy month.  In any other direction lies madness!



Okay, I Promise To Stop Posting About College Football For A While...

But I have to share this.

On Oct. 28th, ESPN analyst Mark May promised (former ND coach and fellow analyst) Lou Holtz that he would dress in a leprechaun suit and sing the Notre Dame fight song on national television if Notre Dame made it to the BCS National Championship Game.  Well, it did and he did...


He's a man of his word, anyway.  Funny clip!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

We're Going To Miami!!

ND 22, SC 13: ND is 12-0 and headed to the national championship game at the Orange Bowl!

Fall Is Officially Over

This morning I packed away all my Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations (and cooked and pureed two small pumpkins that were on my dining room sideboard, which will become pumpkin bread later this afternoon) and then dug the first of the Christmas decorations out of the basement.  The house now looks like a bomb hit it with all the boxes everywhere, but it's a step toward getting ready for the holidays, and I had to get some Christmas things out anyway to use as props for our Christmas pictures.

My friend Gretchen is a professional photographer, but would not let me pay her for the shoot at our house today.  And God knows she deserved to be paid--we must be five of the least photogenic people on Earth!  Who's not looking at the camera, who's blinking, who can't follow directions, who's making a funny face...it is virtually impossible to get a decent picture of us all together.  And we didn't even try to get the dog involved!  Hopefully one picture of the whole family came out well, but if not, we will revert to our usual practice of sending out a card with three separate pictures on it--one of each kid--and call it a day, since this is definitely one of those holiday things that is just not worth becoming crazy about.  (See?  I'm learning...)

Gretchen is also in my taekwondo classes...she is relatively new in town but we immediately clicked as friends, so it feels like I've known her much longer.  While I was shopping in a kitchen store yesterday, I saw these cookie cutters and immediately bought a set for her as a small thank-you, in addition to one for myself--she cracked up when she saw them, as expected.   I know what I am bringing to the holiday party at the dojo this year!


Having temporarily OD'd on holiday stuff, I took a break from the activity with a cup of tea and the Wireless catalog just now and just have to share some of my favorite t-shirts.  (Bear in mind that I am a raging dork and please don't judge me...)



  




  And last, but not least:


Over and out...

Friday, November 23, 2012

I Bought A Pair Of Shoes Today

Yes, I realize that most women aren't all that excited about finding one pair of shoes.  But I am!

I've mentioned before that I am very tall: about 5'10."  Many people who are tall have correspondingly large feet, and I am no exception--size 10 or 11 depending on the shoe.  Let me just tell you how much fun it is trying to find shoes in those sizes...most of the cute ones max out at size 10.  (In fairness, I'm told by my aunt, who wears a 5 narrow, that a similar problem exists at the other end of the spectrum.)  Because shoe designers are apparently total morons who have not grasped the connection between shoe size and height, the ones available in my size often look like this:



Because I'm not tall enough already (yes, I am being wildly sarcastic), I clearly need four-plus inch stiletto heels!  GROWL.  At any rate, our Black Friday expedition invariably includes a stop at a particular large shoe store, which I almost always leave empty-handed, but not this year.  Cute flats in my size and on sale...the stars must be aligned for me right now!  Guess I should go buy a lottery ticket before they move too much.

It was a successful day overall, too.  We left my in-laws' house at the highly civilized hour of 7:30AM and returned at 3:30PM, during which time I found Christmas gifts for my mother, my mother-in-law, my three children, two of my nephews, my husband, all of my kids' teachers (homeroom, special ed, and CCD), my dog, and even a girl whose birthday party my daughter is attending next week.  And as the icing on the cake, something for my father, who is the single most impossible person in the universe for whom to shop!  The man has everything, and whatever he may decide he needs, he goes out and buys for himself, so this is a real coup.  (Bless you, Apple Store!)  To celebrate, I bought myself some mascara and eyeshadow at Sephora and a ring at Macy's in addition to my shoes.  Merry Christmas to me...

A very good two days of extended family time, delicious food, and productivity.  Not relaxing at all (I had to steal away for a few minutes alone when we got home today to recover my equilibrium), but that is the goal for the next two days...peace and quiet, maybe a little puttering with decorations, and having our pictures taken for the Christmas cards.  Small, low-key goals: balance for the craziness.  It was good for my type A soul to get so much accomplished, though, because it takes some of the pre-holiday stress away.

But now I am tired: time to curl up with a cup of tea and watch some mindless TV!

 






Thursday, November 22, 2012

Full Of Turkey

And beyond tired.  Can't imagine that some hardy souls are, even as I type, gearing up to go out and shop all night!  More power to them...they can have the early bird bargains.  I am curled up on my in-laws' sofa in my fuzzy pjs and will not be moving until bedtime!


A Traditional Thanksgiving

Another pet peeve of mine!

I know that we will be listening to Christmas carols for the full hour it takes to drive to my in-laws' house today; the deal I have with Himself is that he will not subject me to anything Christmas-related until Thanksgiving Day!  I'm with Nordstrom on that.  


The hatches are already battened, although I do feel slightly better about the impending season since we finally sat down and decided what we are getting for the kids and placed some online orders.  I'm not quite so far behind the 8-ball anymore.

And I even relented when he wanted to watch Love Actually last night, even though it is technically a Christmas movie.  Of all the tangled plotlines in there, my favorite is Jamie and Aurelia (no surprise given my adoration of all things Colin Firth!) closely followed by John and Judy.  Laura Linney's character makes me so sad...clearly I am lower than dirt, but I'm not sure I could make that kind of sacrifice and I really have a hard time watching her scene with Karl after the Christmas party.  And of course, after a glass or two of wine I find myself flipping off the tramp secretary and her slimeball boss every time I see them on screen!  (Ahem.)

Anyway, the turkeys for the kids' dessert are made, and actually came out very well (not quite as pretty as the picture below, but hell, I'm a scientist, not an artist!)  If you ever try to make them, do use the kind of chocolate cookie frosting that comes in a pouch and is designed to harden quickly for the 'glue' that holds them together--this is critical.  And it is much easier to pipe the details if you use the small tubes of decorating frosting (not gel) rather than the large tubes.


Per tradition, we will go down to my in-laws' house early, let the kids and the dogs (ours and my sister-in-law's Belgian Malinois) run outside until they tire themselves out, and then eat.  At the end of the evening, Himself loads up the kids and the dogs and comes home, while I stay over in preparation for the traditional Black Friday shopping experience with Himself's mother and sister.

Now, let me say that I had never in my life shopped on Black Friday before marrying into this family, but it's one of those bonding things.  (Much like running all those races with them early on!)  Ours is a fairly civilized version of the insanity--we leave at 7, not in the middle of the night--it's more a girls' day than a frantic search for bargains or I would have opted out long since, tradition or no tradition.  We do the same route every year, pick up some Christmas presents, have a nice lunch, buy shoes at DSW and makeup at Sephora, and return exhausted and with a full car mid-afternoon.  Himself and the kids will have come back while we're out; we eat leftovers and then all load up and go home in the evening.  Then we have Saturday and Sunday to recover!

Wishing you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving, wherever you may be and however you are celebrating it...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Roads Not Chosen

Thinking again today about how I ended up living here, of all places.  The short answer is that I followed a man (who subsequently became my husband) when he chose to take a job in this state.

By my count just now, I've had five serious significant others, including Himself.  The other four men are (now) an anesthesiologist in Texas, an Air Force pilot in Louisiana, a civil engineer in Wisconsin, and a chemical engineer in Pennsylvania.  Besides the fact that my beautiful children would not exist, just about every element of my life would be different had I married any of them rather than Himself, which is a sobering thought.  Of the four, we had, in no particular order;

Mr. Good Guy At The Wrong Time,
Mr. Okay Guy But Wrong Guy Altogether For Me,
Mr. Geographically Inconvenient Who Subsequently Became Way Too Much Of A Thumper For Me Anyway, and
Mr. More Baggage Than Continental Airlines.

One was way too possessive and made me cry.  Another would doubtless have been unfaithful over the long haul (and could have been in the shorter term for all I know.)  The other two are genuinely good men, both happily married now with children of their own.  I've kept in touch with both of them, but not the first two.

Each of these guys helped me to learn what I need in a relationship so that I was able to recognize the real keeper when he came along: something else for which to be thankful this week.  Even if I did end up living in a small town with cows in the field across the street from my house!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pride Goeth Before Turkeys

Was awarded something for the wrong reason this morning and that fact is stuck in my craw like a jagged boulder.  The fact that I arguably deserved it overall isn't helping, since I essentially got it out of sympathy today.  I know this probably sounds cryptic, but it's not a big secret or even anything important--it's a petty situation and just not worth the words of explanation that would be required.  The bottom line is that I don't want anything I don't earn fair and square...call it stubbornness or pride or whatever you like. (I have both of those in spades, unfortunately.)

So, I came home, loved on the dog for a while, and then got to work in the kitchen, which brings me peace.  To my great joy, the boys' Thanksgiving celebrations at school tomorrow do not overlap, and my daughter's school party is kids-only and blessedly does not require any party contributions from home. (Logistics are [is? singular or plural?] half the battle on holiday party days with three kids in two different schools.)  I just made a chocolate cream pie for Thing One's party, and when I get home again later this afternoon, will be making a plate of these cookies for Thing Two's class:


 Oreos, peanut butter cups, malted milk balls, frosting and candy corn.  Cute and easy.  These will be my Thanksgiving dinner contribution as well if they work out...my mother-in-law asked me to bring a kid-friendly dessert.  And as long as I manage not to eat too many of the component pieces while making them, I should be able to avoid any more pre-Thanksgiving trips into the insanity of the grocery store as well!


Monday, November 19, 2012

Doing Better Today

Cleaned house for five hours straight this morning and feel slightly better; it's one way of claiming control over my surroundings and I am nothing if not a control freak!  Our office was a flaming disaster and is now actually presentable...no more teetering stacks of paper on every flat surface.  Mind you, next week's recycling will now be a significant undertaking given the current overflow of paper in the bin, but sufficient until then is the evil thereof.  I also finally mustered the strength of will needed to tackle the Halloween decorations--they are down, if not yet put away.  One step at a time.

Nearly rear-ended someone on my way back from taking The Girl to school this morning...fool slammed on his brakes at the last second before making a turn.  First turn signal...THEN brakes!

But it gave me a chance to find some funny bumper stickers:
Love this one!
And, of course...
And then, my favorite of all:

Ok, I feel a lot better now.





Sunday, November 18, 2012

Weekend Recap: The Good, The Bad, And The (Very) Ugly

The Good:

*Notre Dame's football team is #1 in the country right now!

*Thing One scored a beautiful goal yesterday (on a free kick!) to tie a key soccer match for his team, and earned the captain's badge for today.

*Thing Two played goalie for three quarters of his soccer game today, and did a great job focusing (for a borderline ADHD kid, this was awesome.)  The other team only scored on him twice, and they were totally legitimate goals. I was so proud of him!

*Beautiful clear, sunny weather for all four soccer games of the weekend.

*Himself and I had a lovely dinner out with friends last night (sans kids)--can't remember the last time we managed to synchronize babysitters with another couple, but we need to do it again soon.  And much more often in general.

*Tonight's dinner: roast pork tenderloin with homemade peach chutney, smashed sweet potatoes with rosemary and onion, and green beans with bacon.  Yum.


The Bad:

*Weekend totally overscheduled, as usual, leading to highly crabby parenting.

*Thing Two also played goalie in his game yesterday, and apparently spent the whole game watching his shadow and counting airplanes or picking daisies or something.  Himself about had a heart attack watching (I was with The Girl at her practice and mercifully missed this.)

*In today's game, Thing One was playing center defense when the other team scored four goals in a row.  Not quite sure what happened, but it was painful to watch.

*My right hand is still seriously bruised from taekwondo on Friday night...yet another reminder that technique is far more important than power in board breaking!  Ouch.

*Spent a stressful hour this morning working out the kids' winter after-school schedule--regular soccer being done for the winter, now we are juggling basketball and once-weekly soccer clinics for all three at their respective age and skill levels into the schedule with all the other crap they are already doing.  Came to the conclusion that I will need to clone myself (and my drivers' license) if there's to be a prayer of getting all these kids where they need to be when they need to be there.


The Ugly:

Actually had a crying breakdown this afternoon out of sheer overwhelmedness (if that's a word?) on the way home from the grocery store.  Thing Two didn't mean to throw a carton of eggs into my shopping cart upside down in such a way that every single one broke (he was trying to help me load the cart in the checkout lane, bless his heart, and I didn't notice him picking up the eggs) but that was the absolute last fragile straw at the end of a long day at the end of a long week.   At least I managed to cry rather than yelling at him...a small victory.

My Halloween decorations are still up.  I don't have the heart or energy to take them down, because that means I will then have to think about Christmas and I REALLY don't have the energy for that.  Christmas used to be my favorite holiday, way back before I became the one who has to make the holiday happen for everyone...now, just the thought of all the shopping, baking, wrapping, organizing, decorating and dealing with class parties etc times three is enough to make me want to go to bed now and get up sometime in January!!  The season officially starts this Friday whether I want it to or not, and it will drag me along with the flow whether I like it or not.  The radio stations are already playing carols, and I turn them off every time I hear them.

Bah, humbug.  Maybe a good night's sleep will help...