And together we learn

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Santa doesn't like crustaceans

The girls were talking to me about my Christmas present. Chloe informed me that I'm not getting a lobster, because 'dey pinch.'

Dang it!

Then she let me know that I won't be getting a shark (dey bite) or a river otter, since they splash.

Now that the lobster, shark, and river otter are off my list, what can I possibly be getting for Christmas??

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

A wonderful party

Ok, it's official, it's Christmas time. We just got back from the family Christmas party that epitomizes Christmas to me. Remember Thanksgiving and the 54 family members? Tonight we had our glorious party. My uncle has an 8500 square foot home. Yes, 8500. The thing is out of control huge. But it sure is perfect for a party like this!

After dinner, we all piled downstairs and began to sing. My grandma is an amazing musician. In fact, she has written hundreds of songs for children. She can play anything, in any key, so she makes the ideal accompanist. We sang carol after carol, all 4 generations of us, over 50 people. What an amazing feeling! That singing is something that I remember from every year of my life. The feeling of belonging, surrounded by these people who have known and loved me since I was born is undescribable.

When we get to Silent Night, the singing is over and it's time for the talent show. Everyone who wants to perform gets up and gets wildly applauded. My little girls sang a little song together. It's one written by my grandma, called 'I want to grow up to be Santa Claus.' They were so DANG cute!!! They were nervous, so didn't do the choreography we practicecd, but they did hold hands for moral support. So cute!!! And of course, I'm still having problems with my camera's memory card, so I don't have pictures.

My sweet aunt Janae is handicapped with cerebral palsy. She wanted her own couple of minutes in the limelight, so she was wheeled into the center of the room and sang, of all things, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Everyone joined in for the "Five Gooooooold Rings, badum dum dum", ala John Denver and the Muppets. Awesome.

All the cousins exchange presents (Calvin got a little football, so he was happy for the rest of the night), then my sweet Nana gives something to everyone. With 34 grandkids, 6 greats, and 9 kids, that is a LOT of shopping. She gave these huge baskets of fruit and a honey baked ham to all the married families. So wonderful!!

Such a great party! I wish I could capture the love and the fun and share it with all those who are lonely at Christmas. Families are such a blessing.

Oh, and today I made these with my girlies for them to give out to their friends. It was such a fun project, easy, and the girls loved it. We made a couple of extra pens for them because they loved them much. What a great day.

Edited to add: here's the link for the felt pen craft.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

She's got Madison Ave pegged, all right

This afternoon was one where the classic lines were flying out of the kids' mouths. They had me laughing all night.

We went to the mall to see Santa, incidentally the most surly Santa I have ever seen. Not once did the man crack a smile, or offer a jovial ho ho. No, he grunted at the kids and sent them packing. Oh well. They were happy with the candy canes.

I gave them each a penny for the water fountain at the mall. Chloe was a little mystified over the whole 'wishing' concept, so I tried to explain it to her. Finally I said that you say 'I wish for blah blah' then throw in the penny. So what did Chloe do? Obediently she said "I wish for blah blah". Well, I'm pretty sure that one will come true!

In the car on the way home, Hazel tasted the aforementioned candy cane. "Wow, it's like air conditioning for my mouth!"

We were listening to Christmas music on the radio, and the usual bunch of ads came on. Hazel pratically yelled at one commercial, telling the radio that Albertsons WON'T make your holidays easier because you will end up spending too much money on their expensive stuff. Then a jewelry ad came on and she got thoughtful.

"Mom," she said, "jewelry and pretty things won't make you cuter and nicer." I agreed and asked her what she meant. "Well, pretty isn't on the outside, it's when you're nice to people and do service."

Holy cow! Do you mean that some of the things I say are actually sinking in????

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

So let it be written, so let it be done

It's funny the difference a couple of years can make in your perspective. Me, I look at a calendar and all I can see is the unrelenting march towards The Big Day next week. Never enough time to do everything the way I want to. Too many parties, dishes to cook, projects to do with my babies, last minute things to buy, the list goes on and on.

Rewind just a few short years, and the feeling is so reversed. Rather than wishing for more time, oh, the anticipation is excruciating! I took Hazel shopping with me today (note to self: the mall on the Saturday before Christmas just might not be the best place to go for 'just a quick minute'). On the way home, we were talking about how many days until Christmas. She decided she'd had enough of the whole waiting game, and announced, "I'm done waiting! Christas is now TODAY!!"

If I had my all powerful abilities, I'd roll the clock back a couple of weeks to give me MORE time.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Toddler days

Toddlers have kind of a bad rap. Whenever I mention my Calvin's age, or encounter another mom with little ones, the response is usually a sympathetic look and a murmured, "it's a hard age, isn't it."

And it is. Don't get me wrong. It's a crazy, rocky, frustrating, tiring age.

Calvin is 16 months old. He pulls hair, sits on top of his sisters' coloring books, steals spoons and puts them in people's shoes, breaks Christmas ornaments, and throws things (like my camera) in the toilet. But there's another side to this baby boy of mine. And oh, that side makes all the other things so inconsequential.

Calvin dances that delightful toddler dance with bum outstretched, arms pumping, and knees bouncing. His face radiates joy as his whole body shakes with the music. If you could only bottle toddler dancing and uncork it when they're smelly teenagers, how wonderful it would be! Calvin is old enough now to adore reading. He drags his little animal picture books around the house, and in his funny babyspeak, tells me quite plainly that he wants to be read to, NOW. He plunks down in my lap and we make the signs and sounds of cows and lions and kittens. His favorite book has a page with baby seals on it. He turns to it and goes, "ark ark ark" over and over again. There's another memory to bottle up and cherish.

There is nothing quite like the heavy satisfying feeling of a toddler sitting in your lap. When you're putting on their shoes, and for a brief moment their busy legs are sitting still, and you rejoice in the sturdyness of their bodies, of the intoxicating smell of their heads, and the unbelievable softness of their peach skin cheeks.

We went to see Frosty the Snowman at the Children's Theatre today. I was worried about Mr. Perpetual Motion and a live performance, but he was entranced. He sat on my lap the whole time, spell bound by the lights and singing. He clapped enthusiastically and chuckled. When he was really excited, he shook his fists and made the Mr. Furious face. Then the second the house lights came up, all the pent up energy of 30 minutes of sitting still broke through, and he ran like a little dervish.

He loves to play not really catch, more like fetch with us. We throw a ball and he runs so fast on his stubby little baby legs and brings it back, like an exuberant little puppy. Watching that run of his cracks me up every single time.

He was on my lap while I was sitting next to Steve. I leaned over and kissed Steve, then Calvin put up his little face expectantly, waiting for his. I want to eat him up! Since it's so easy to be frustrated with the craziness that is a toddler, I'm so grateful for days like these that remind me of the loveliness of that life.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Guess what???

Steve is HOME. Not home for 24 hours before he flies out again, not home preparing for his next trip, just home. Home for good until the end of January!!!!! When we got home from the airport this afternoon the biggest feeling of peace washed over me. We made it through another semester! He has worked so so hard and now he'll get a much deserved rest. And I'll say it--I've worked hard also. I'm so happy right now I just keep grinning. I feel like this huge burden has been lifted from my shoulders, and now I'm free. I can leave the house ALONE now!

Ok, I'm sorry for the excessive use of exclamation marks. But really, if there's ever an occasion that warrants it, this is it.

The semesters are brutal, but this winter break, and then the summers are what keep us going.

We had a family meeting tonight to decide all the wonderful things we're going to do in the next few weeks. Christmas can begin now.

I got my girls these Christmas dolls--aren't they cute?

I was showing them to Steve while the girls were playing, but they wanted to see the screen so I shut it quickly. They persisted, then Steve told them that if they looked they would be getting brooms and dustpans so they could clean all day long.

Hazel's reaction? "Hooray! I've always wanted my own cleaning things!"

Hmmm, better rethink that shopping list!

Hazel went with Steve on this last trip to New York. Since it was just a fast trip, we figured she was old enough, and sure enough, she did great. They left Steve's employee at the sale and took off to enjoy New York together. They watched the ice skaters in Rockefeller Square and saw the big Christmas tree.

Then she got to sit on Santa's lap (why do they always ask for really really different things each time they talk about Christmas? Would a little consistency be such a bad thing?)

But isn't this just an idyllic father/daughter moment? Then they went to the American Girl store and browsed around. I hope that memories like these will just cement themselves in her mind. How wonderful for her to feel so special to her Daddy.

Tomorrow morning, first thing, I'm going shopping, and I'm going alone!!!!!

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

The pizza party

So the pizza party? It was so so fun. Steve the amazing brought home all of the pizzas, but in order to do so he drove from Boston to New York, picked up the pizzas and then flew out of Long Island. Holy cow!! Those are some dang precious pizzas!! He had originally planned to carry them on the plane, but he called ahead of time to make sure it was ok. Well, apparently TSA is worried about the SAUCE on the pizzas (it's liquid). Riiiiight. I know I feel safer knowing that my next flight will be sauce free.

So anyway. He stuck them in big rubbermaid containers and they were perfect! We stuck 'em in a hot oven for 4.5 minutes and they were so fabulous. There were about 45 people there--crazy!! but it was a blast. Definitely one of our coolest parties ever.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Joy cometh in the morning

Thank you all so much for the expressions of love and encouragement. THIS is why we blog, I think. To be part of a community that is so much bigger than our neighborhoods, where wonderful and supportive women can come together. It means so much to me to know that even when I feel isolated, there are people who are so quick to offer a word of advice and hope. Thank you all!!

Today is a much better day. I actually slept decently last night. The last couple of nights all three kids have been in bed with me, and that just doesn't lend itself to restful slumber. My dear neighbor showed my girls 'Goosebumps' videos...Chloe thinks the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is 'vewwy scawwy' because the letters fall out of the coconut tree. Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, all far too frightening for them. Basically anything with conflict is not ok. So Goosebumps??? Yeah, they've had nightmares for days.

In trying to help my poor paranoid little girls, I encouraged them to sing Primary songs, say a prayer, or think happy thoughts. I told them a long and involved story about the princess of the butterflies.

Do you ever wonder if certain phrases that come out of your mouth have ever been uttered before? How about "The Princess of the Butterflies put wings on Hazel and flew with her to Makeup Land." Or another, that we wondered about over Thanksgiving. "Does your plastic Bok Choy want to wear the lace trimmed jacket that is on my broccoli?" (We were dressing the play food in doll clothes).

I'm finding as a mother that I say some really weird things.

Steve is flying home tonight from New York. He went to his favorite pizza place, got 22 pizzas, and is bringing them home tonight for a party!! We invited around 45 people, and we have some kegs of rootbeer (yes, actual kegs), and it should be wildly fun.

So I'm taking a quick blogging break, then I'll return to my frantic cleaning of my out of control house. Mrs. Darling, you'd be so disappointed in the state of my pantry and closets!!! I need your wise tutelage on this one. But I'm trying, dang it!

Whew! This was a rambling post. Thank you all again!


Thursday, December 07, 2006


This is not going to be a very fun or clever post. I'm in one of those funks right now, and I'm having a hard time shaking it. Steve is done traveling next Tuesday, so I'll get him home, finally. I think that's the biggest thing right now. The cumulative effect of months of doing this parenting thing largely solo. That there is never ever anyone here to share the responsibility of these kids. Well, that's not entirely true. Steve is usually home about 24 hours a week, so there is that break. But I'm just tired. And I want to be able to actually leave the house all by myself. Not trying to juggle all the kids and naptimes and mealtimes and trying to stay cheerful.

This is so depressing. I hope no one is reading, but I have to just vent someplace!! I been crying for a few days now. I know I just have to snap out of it, but saying that is a lot easier than doing it. All I have to do is make it through a few more days, then Steve will come home, we'll all recharge our batteries, and be ready to face the semester again in late January.

I shouldn't even be complaining at all. He's the one who is every day in a different city, eating all his meals in crappy restaurants, and always always on the go. I really have it easy, but I'm just burned out lately.

So there is my silly little bit of sadness. I'll be over it soon, I promise!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Early Reading Meme

One of my favorite bloggers, Nina over at Painted Rainbows and Chamomile Tea, tagged me for this fun meme. I've seen it around and wanted to do it, so this is a perfect opportunity.

1. How old were you when you learned to read and who taught you?

I have only one memory of NOT being able to read. I remember very clearly sitting in my car seat, watching the billboards go by on the freeway. I was quite frustrated and remember distinctly saying to myself, "I have got to figure out what those mean!"

I taught myself to read shortly after that. I think I was around 2 1/2, and I first read something over my mom's shoulder in the newspaper. I was one of those slightly weird kids like that.

2. What books do you remember owning as a child?

We had lots of picture books. I remember The Little Rabbit and all the other charming animal books in that series. I remember my grandmothers voice reading Paddington Bear and Dr. Dolittle to me. There are so many books that I loved as a child.

3. What is the first book you remember buying with your own money?

That's a tough one. I'm not sure, but it was probably some silly Babysitters Club books. Preteens aren't the wisest with money.

4. Were you a re-reader as a child? If so, what did you read the most often?

I was, and am, a complete re-reader. I read really fast, and as a little girl I just couldn't get new books fast enough. So I had to re-read out of sheer necessity. Not that I minded. I still love to read books over and over again, because they become part of you. I can quote whole passages from many of my favorite books. Things I read the most as a child...let's see. The Beverly Cleary books. All the Frances Hogson Burnett books. Louisa May Alcott, over and over again. Encyclopedia Brown, The Great Brain books, Caddie Woodlawn, Little House, and basically anything and everything I could get my hands on.

5. What is the first adult book that captured your interest and how old were you when you read it?

The first really adult books I remember getting engrossed in were probably the James Herriot books--All Things Bright and Beautiful, and the rest of them. I read those dozens of times, starting when I was probably 13 or so. I loved the Piers Anthony Xanth books, and Agatha Christie mysteries. These are the adult books I started with, because these were some of the adult books we had in the house.

6. Are there any children's books you passed by as a child and learned to love as an adult?

I just recently discovered Understood Betsy, and I'm amazed I never found it as a child. I would have read it obsessively then! And Cynthia Rylant books are pure gold. It's so fun having these little girls so I can introduce them to my old favorites, and discover new ones together.

I'm going to tag my wonderful sister in law Emily and Amanda atOur lot in life.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Junkies from birth

Calvin has all kinds of new skills. No bowhunting or nunchuck skills as yet, but he does know how to move a chair and climb up it. This has really put a cramp on my normal laissez-faire kitchen standards. Especially after he found the steak knives! Flylady, here I come!

But I know that I am truly in trouble after this evening. At Mom's house for dinner, having a glorious time, I noticed that Calvin was suspiciously quiet. And as we all know, that can only mean one thing. Trouble. He had pulled a chair up to the counter, found an open can of Diet Coke and was joyously engrossed in it. But he didn't just stop with the can. No, my 15 month old child poured it into a cup to get his caffeine fix! Oh yes, we are big on the manners around here! Not so much on the spotless counters, perhaps, but at least the child is a refined one.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Nine Lords a Leaping, Ten Toms a Peeping

My darling and wonderful sister Mrs. Face posted the other day about people trying to sound clever, and not really succeeding so much. Her example? A post on a message board was trying to really emphasize the importance of her final point, so she called it the "piesta resistonce". Awesome.

Well, I was just poking around on one of my message boards and the topic was Holiday Traditions. One woman said they don't do gifts in their home, only stalkings.

Wouldn't you love to be a part of that Christmassy fun??