And together we learn

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Who knew she only came in one color?

We have the darlingest little Fisher Price Nativity. The kids adore it and play with it by the hour. It's dang cute, and I don't stress about them breaking Baby Jesus. Everyone wins!

Like with most seemingly perfect arrangements, this one also has it's downside. Hazel is now convinced that our nativity is the nativity. What I mean exactly by that is that she's convinced that Fisher Price's rendition is the true and living Holy Family.

My mother has a fabulous collection of nativities from around the world. They're gorgeous! Big ones, little ones, all different nationalities--fabulous. We were admiring them the other day, and Hazel was pretty disturbed. "Mom", she whispered anxiously, "the Mary isn't right."

"What do you mean?"

"The Mary isn't BLUE!!"

Since the Fisher Price Mary is wearing a blue dress, all Holy Mothers everywhere must now and forever be clad only in blue. And let me tell you, once a five year old has a strongly held opinion, just try reasoning with her!


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Baked goods everywhere tremble in fear

Just when I was convinced I had nothing to say to the internet, inspiration struck in the form of a 3 year old.

Stark naked, she wandered into the bathroom where I was finishing bathtime with her siblings. She stomped and called out, "Fee fi fo fum, I smell the blood of an English Muffin!"

Oh yes, I was amused. I love these kids!!

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The very best part

We were listening to some Christmas music this morning and heard a song called "The very best part of Christmastime." The message is that the best part is the present you give away. Well Hazel looked puzzled and told me emphatically that that is NOT the best part of Christmas.

I was waiting for the inevitable part about getting stuff, or Santa, or any one of those typical answers when I asked what she thought the best part was.

"Thinking about Baby Jesus being born and feeling joy in my heart is the best part!"

How humbled I am.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Once again, we're back!

Another week, another terribly long blogging pause. Sorry!! We spent all of the glorious Thanksgiving weekend in our mountain condos/timeshare things. So much fun!!! 50+ cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings, and 7 condos. Games galore, way too much food, generally awesome times.

How to recap such an amazing and richly blessed time? Just dive in the middle, I guess. There were 54 of us up there for Thanksgiving dinner. Holy cow, that was a lot of mashed potatoes! You always err on the side of preparing too much, but when you multiply that little extra by all the dishes, there were a lot of leftovers! My grandma has 9 kids, and 8 of them were there with their families. There are 6 babies in the 4th generation (3 of them mine) so our days of being able to all get together are limited--as more and more cousins get married and start families it just gets too big! So this might have been our last year, and it was so fun.

Like most families, we have our favorite games that we always play. In this clan, the game is Shanghai, a card game with 7 rounds and collecting runs and sets--basic card game. But we play constantly when we're all together. My immediate family has the reputation throughout the group as the Shanghai card sharks. Undeserved! We're good at it, but not intense and anal, as some people claim. So Uncle Doug (or UD as Steve calls him) set up the First Official Annual Family Shanghai Tournament. We were very official--scorecards, semi finals, and the most intense final round ever! All of my siblings plus mom advanced through the ranks to the final playoff. It was me, mom, brother Jevan, Andrea, one uncle, one aunt, then the wildcard--16 year old cousin Hayley. For the final round, there was a crowd of probably 15 people watching, chanting 'Hayley, Hayley' periodically. Led by my husband! She was the underdog...

But we so triumphed! The four of us came in first, second, third, and fourth!!

The rest of the weekend was spent in pure blissful relaxation. Games until 3 am almost every night, long conversations, football games. IOh, and speaking of football games, my darlingest husband made two touchdowns, including a rolling catch in the endzone!! It was so great. One of the best parts of the whole trip is that everyone participates--it doesn't matter the 'generation' you are, it's all just family. You could walk into any condo and find people to play with. I love my family! The kids had a ball. They hated to leave, but I'm once again glad to get back to real life.

My favorite quote from the weekend: I was teasing Hazel on Thursday morning, asking her if she wanted Top Ramen for dinner. She got a very earnest look on her face, looked into my eyes, and declared, "FEAST!"

I took pictures, but I got a new memory card and I'm having a hard time getting it formatted. Maybe some other day.

Oh, my other favorite part. We had church services in the lodge with everyone. It was so humbling to worship as a family like that--so intimate and personal, and it really hit home the love and bond that we share. Singing I am a Child of God with my grandma, aunts and uncles, cousins, sisters, brothers, husband and children. Now there is something that no amount of money could ever replace.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Steve flew out this morning at the crack of dawn. I can hear the collective gasp right now. "Flew out this morning?" you say, "Isn't this just two days before Thanksgiving?"

Why yes it is. Steve has a sale in Canada tomorrow, and is getting on a flight first thing Thursday morning, which should put him back here at around 2 pm. So, barring any major snowstorms in Buffalo, NY, we should be good to go for family togetherness this Thursday. Hooray! We were thinking for a while that we should all head up north together, and maybe feast on chicken nuggets or a meatball sub. Fortunately the Master of Logistics (or the MOL, as we call him) worked it out. Lovely!

So anyway. Woke up 5:45 with him, as did all the kids. Not just sleepy 'goodbye daddy' waking up, but running through the house and dancing to very loud Christmas music awake. Going back to sleep was not going to happen. "Great!" I thought. We'll get so much accomplished! Umm-hmm.

Breakfast--done by 6:45. On track for massive task busting. Then after I had a nice, hot, long, yummy shower, the bed just looked so dang inviting. The pillows--they had so much softness. And the quilt--it beckoned. So I succumbed, and dozed for a few minutes. Then Calvin climbed into bed with me, snuggled in, sucked his thumb, and fell promptly asleep. Well, I'm not superhuman. There aren't many people who can resist the cozyness of a sleeping toddler snuggled next to you. Who am I to fight it? We snoozed for half an hour, or until the girls got fed up and came and jumped on us!

So much for my super productive morning. But honestly, time spent snuggling my baby boy and breathing in his delicious baby smell is time much better spent than chores, any day!

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Thanksgiving plans

Does anyone else absolutely adore Thanksgiving?? It is definitely one of my favorite holidays. The eating part of it is a bonus, of course, but it's more the whole package deal. The togetherness. The warmth and love in the kitchen with my sisters and daughters. The thanks. Gratitude is such an important and underlooked part of life, and I'm very thankful we have a holiday to help us think about it more!

We have a family friend who's convinced that gratitude is the root of most everything good. That an attitude of thankfulness attracts more blessings into our lives, and the more mindful we are, the more we're able to feel joy. I must say that I agree.

My girls love old musicals, and one of their favorites is White Christmas. You know, the old one with Bing Crosby. Well, there's a song in it about falling asleep counting your blessings. Hazel will always remind me to do this, and tells me it will make me happy. How right she is!!

Every other Thanksgiving, my extended family on my mom's side gets together. My grandma has 9 children, most of those with large families of their own, so you can just imagine the numbers here. Over 50, easy. Usually pushing 60. We have a block of timeshares in the mountains that we go to for the whole weekend--Wed through Sunday. It's an absolute blast that we all look forward to all year. Lots of games, lots of snacks, lots of movies. What's not to love?

Since there are so many of us, planning a meal this size is a little daunting. I get to do green beans, cranberries, and 3 pies. Perfect amount! It's enough cooking to make me feel all Thanksgiving-y, but not enough to get me stressed out. On my green beans, there will be not one smidgen of mushroom soup around. Instead, I'm sauteeing them with garlic and olive oil, then topping them with caramelized onions. Mmmmm. You can caramelize onions in the crockpot--just toss them in with some butter or olive oil and put it on low for 24 hours or so. I haven't tried it before, but it sounds delicious!

As for the cranberry sauce, nothing is allowed to come out of a can. I always cook a bag of cranberries with some sugar, orange juice and orange zest--sometimes a little ginger, and they are so so delicious and so easy. I think I'll do another kind as well--maybe a relish with jalapenos? I've got a recipe for that and it looks intruiging.

In the pie department, I was voted to do the apple pies. So I'll do one standard apple, one apple cranberry streusel, and one berry. Can you tell that I absolutely love to cook?

What are all your plans for this wonderful holiday?

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

We're home!!

After a very long blogging delay (sorry everyone!), we're home. Hooray! There's something so very wonderful about my own bed after a long trip with lumpy hotel pillows. You know that feeling of complete luxury when you stretch out on your own soft sheets? It makes the whole trip worthwhile, right there.

We got home last night at 11:30. I've never seen Hazel run to bed like she did when we finally got home. They were their usual fabulous selves on the plane, despite the late flight.

So many posts swirling through my head!!! We did so much in California and had a perfect time there. Spending the week with Steve was so so wonderful. The kids love Daddy time.

We went to the SF zoo and it was awesome. 70 degrees and clear sky, plus absolutely empty, so we got it almost all to ourselves. Right as soon as you walk in you see this:

Calvin about went crazy over the giraffes. He was as excited as only a 15 month old baby can be. Those are the moments we live for as mothers! Oh, it was yummy.

We had great times playing with cousins. The girls were delighted by their manicure and pedicure, compliments of cousin Sarah.

And they LOVE playing dress ups with her!

But it's always good to be home.

Oh, one oh-so-bloggable moment of the trip. While I was going through security with the three kids, the lady screening the boarding passes and id's actually said to me, "How many more of kids do you think you're going to have??"

Rest assured this was not in a chummy, matey sort of voice. More one of screeching condemnation. From the woman sitting there checking ID's for heaven's sake!!! While I do delight in discussing my reproductive decisions with accusing strangers generally, under the rushed and harried circumstances my ignoring of her question I hope can be accepted. Brother!

And don't even get me started on airport security. That's another whole post... Patient Steve does it several times a week, and doesn't let it bother him at all. The man's a saint, that's all I can say!

So bottom line--we had a fabulous trip, and I'm so so glad to be home!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Magical Moments

Sorry for the uncharacteristically long blogging delay. We're spending the week in Northern California, and internet access is hard to come by. Right now we're cruising down the highway, and thanks to the miracles of laptops, wireless cards, and digital cameras, I get to blog!

Steve's family lives here, and since he had a bunch of sales in the area we all decided to come. Kind of an early Thanksgiving, if you will. Having Steve with us is such a beautiful treat and we're loving this time. So, here are a couple of photos of the great times that we've been having.

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Calvin with Grandma, discovering the wind chimes.

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Hazel playing house with random cosmetics.

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Chloe and Daddy.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I'm not ready for this!

What is it with boys and bathroom humor? And how did my tiny 14 month old baby boy suddenly decide to enter this strange fraternity of male culture?

Chloe loves the Signing Time Dvds, and has gotten really good at signing. She amazes me with new signs every day. So she signed at dinner tonight that she needed to use the bathroom. Fine. Then Steve shows off one of the signs from his extensive reperetoire--poop. Demonstrated here by this fine google friend.

Well, every single time Steve did this sign, Calvin about fell out of his high chair laughing. You know, that huge belly laugh that comes up from their toes? He couldn't get enough of the sign for 'poop' and thought it was the funniest thing he'd ever seen.
Boys! Honestly!

Friday, November 10, 2006

One of those days

Today was one of those days. Big time. One of those stressed, irritable, uptight and definitely not the kind of mommy I'm trying to be days.

It's funny to look back over the day to see just where we went wrong. What was the pivotal moment that sent things spinning over the edge into chaos? Was there such a moment?

In retrospect, yes, I think there was. One moment that caused a spiraling chain reaction throughout the rest of the day.

The girls and I were talking with Steve on the webcam while the baby was taking his morning nap. Steve has been gone for a long time this trip and has missed the kiddos alot (of course). So he asked me to take the camera and just show Calvin sleeping. I knew it wasn't a good plan, but Steve really wanted to get a glimpse of his sweet sleeping baby self, so I gave in. I tiptoed in, balancing the laptop and the webcam, but instead of a tender father/son moment, we got the moment that began it all. Calvin woke up.

So after a grumpy morning with him, I decided to take the kids to the aquarium. I thought that we could have an early lunch, see the aquarium, and make it back for afternoon nap time. And there was the second fatal mistake that led to 'one of those afternoons.'

Of course we ran late at every step. Of course we stayed longer at the aquarium than I meant to. And of course they all fell asleep for 10 minutes on the ride home, so that all hopes of afternoon naps was destroyed. Why is that? Why is it that a few measly minutes is all they need to reset their bodies sleep timers? Weird.

I tried all my tricks to get that baby to sleep. I even resorted to my strongest weapon available--the bosoms! Snuggled in my bed, warm blanket, soft pillow, little nursing--what exhausted baby could resist? Mine. But I sure couldn't resist! I fell asleep while he happily climbed around and whacked me with a sippy cup that he found.

I thought the evening would never end, but finally, finally they all went to bed. How grateful I am that tomorrow is a new day!!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Six Beautiful Years

Six years ago, my darling Steve and I were married. Here, to be exact.

It snowed that morning--the first time of the year. There was just enough snow to cover the grass and leave the world a delicate, pearly white. I have never smiled as much as I did that day. And I have never felt that beautiful.

I thought then that I was in love with him. I thought then that things were wonderful and perfect.

I had no idea.

There's so much more now. So much more depth to our relationship, so much more appreciation for him. So many more kids!!

I'm sure that 40 years from now I'll look back and laugh that I thought I really understood love here at the measly age of 29. But for now, I'm amazed just how happy we are.

Since he's (of course) gone today, I wasn't expecting a fabulous anniversary. Imagine my surprise to answer the door and find this.

Aren't they stunning? I feel so loved!!! Happy Anniversary, dearest.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Works for me Wednesday

My first ever Works for me Wednesday!

I've had a hard time teaching my 5 yr old left and right. But then today she asked me to play Twister with her. Amid my protestations at the thought of actually getting down on the floor and contorting myself, I realized that this just might have educational potential.

So we set it up, and started to play. Within just a few rounds, she was a pro at distinguishing left from right. And I only had to play 2 rounds--the rest of the time I just worked the spinner. Plus, she had a blast and didn't even realize she was learning anything.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Tofurkey? I don't think so!

We had a homeschool fieldtrip today at the health food store. They taught the kids about healthy eating, but mostly it was a shameless plug for their products. At one point the lady asked the children what their favorite foods were, and I kid you not, one very vegan child raised his hand and said, "tofurkey!!". Yes, his favorite food is tofurkey. Then the very health-concious lady turned to my girls and asked them what they had for breakfast.

Inwardly, I'm groaning, and hoping that somehow they forgot. But no, they announced proudly, "McDonald's Egg McMuffin!"

Oh yeah, it was awesome!

Early mornings and a contest

Jenny at Home is where you start from is having a 100 post milestone contest. Go tell her hello--she has the cutest blog!

It's 7 in the morning and we've already been to and from the airport. We're all piled on the couch with blankets and pillows, just snuggling and watching PBS. If I was a homeschooling mom worth my onions, we'd be reading some classic novel, but I've been up since 4:30, so PBS it is!

On the upside, we got to watch the most beautiful sunrise. Normally I'm not such a fan of the sunrise, preferring instead to sleep and let it rise unappreciated. But it's a beautiful, peaceful time. I'm not saying I'll willingly repeat this whole crack of dawn experiment, but it's sure lovely on these early airport mornings.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Oh, the horror!!

Calvin is a tender-hearted baby. He doesn't like certain loud noises, and is deathly afraid of a few things. The vacuum cleaner, and the garbage truck, for example. Oh, and the car wash. Talk about trauma!!! But tonight I found something to top all the rest of his fears.

He was in the bathtub (quite possibly his favorite spot in the world) and I was putting some clothes away in the hall closet. He started shrieking that cry--the one that makes you run because you know it's something really serious. I dashed in there and found him frantically trying to climb out of the tub, downright hysterical. Why--What was so horrible? Snakes in the plumbing? No, much much worse.


Yes, that's right. There was a rogue thing of baby wash that was partly open, and there were bubbles in the tub.

He curled up on my lap, a shaking, shivering, dripping wet little bundle of baby. He averted his head away from the terrifying bubbles and nestled into me for a long time. Only when all the horribleness had popped could he get back in the tub. Then he was happy and splashed like there was never a problem.

I was laughing, but his terror was very real to him. He's loved bubble baths in the past, so I guess I'll have to chalk this one up to an emerging random toddler fear. Poor baby!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Attack of the Jewish Buccaneers

Hazel is turning 5 this week. Instead of the standard princess party, she decided to mix things up a little this year and chose a pirate theme. So we transformed the living room into a grotto and set sail for high adventure!

We invited 12 little kids, and it was bedlam around here for a while. My kids are shrill and squealy on their own, but shrill and squealy multiplied by 12 is a lot of very high pitched noise!

Favorite moments:
Hazel couldn't remember the stock pirate phrases. You know, like Ahoy there, avast, shiver me timbers, etc. She went around practicing and practicing how she would greet her guests at the door. But she couldn't quite wrap her mouth around 'ahoy.' She had a Jewish sounding 'ch' in there. Achoy there matey. A Jewish pirate??? It was awesome.

My little brother is 9 and he was the captain of the crew. He was giving pirate-y orders to the littles, including the command to 'swab the desks.'

The cake was truly spectacular. Made by my amazing incredible sister, Mrs. Face. Go check out her Halloween costume, by the way. You will be so glad you did! But she did an amazing incredible job with the cake.


She made it with 3 9x13 sheet cakes--2 on the bottom and one for the top. Isn't that awesome?

The kids oohed and aaahed over the cake, then we started our games. When I announced it was time to eat the cake, they stampeded in, and found this.
That led them on a treasure hunt to find the missing cake. When they figured out the final clue (it was in the minivan), it really looked like pirates storming a ship--there were kids climbing over, around and through it!! 14 kids is a lot...

So the party was so fun, and now I'm very very glad that it's quiet.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Christmas Dresses

The Christmas dresses I wanted to buy were all sold out. By the middle of October! So I began my quest again. Finding reasonably priced, cute, matching dresses is so frustratingly hard!! But I found these and ordered them. What do you think?

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Oh, and I got the dresses at Forget Me Not Kids. $25 apiece!! Incredible.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Mr. Clean eraser warning

Like so many other moms out there, I love cleaning with the Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. They get any stain out, easy to use--perfect kid-friendly cleaning product, right? Dead wrong. I read this post by Kerflop, and I will never ever again let my kids touch them.

Go read it for an informative look at what can really happen. I'm locking them up right now!!

New records that I hope never to break

6:48 pm. All three of my children are in bed, sound asleep. Incredible!! The evening stretches in front of me with alluring possibilities. Blog--done by 8! So do I relax in a bubble bath? Cross-stitch with a movie? Actually, I'll probably clean my house, do some laundry, and plan a birthday party, but it's nice to know that my options are unlimited.

I love daylight savings--it's so easy to convince them that it's really late at night. Of course, today was a full day of activities and errands, and no one (including Calvin) took a nap. So by 6:30 they were all begging to go to bed. I know I'll be paying for it at 6:00 in the morning, but for right now, this is bliss.

So that's record number one. Record #2 is our errand day yesterday. We went to SIX different banks!!!! Why? Because I am the primary go-to for our business, and there are always various emergency/urgent needs that I have to go do. Trust that I am not involved in any money laundering or other questionable activity!! We just have a crazy lot of banking lately. Add to that daily jaunts to the airport, and you have three very stir crazy kids.

Just going to the banks is no big deal. Going to the banks with the three children under four IS the big deal. Poor Calvin--by the last one he was pretty fed up with life! I'm so looking forward to STAYING AT HOME tomorrow. Scheduling is right near close to impossible when there are so many emergency errands to run.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween...and the next morning.

He's ready to go!

What I found the next morning when I got up.

Pictures say it all!!