Friday, December 28, 2007

Catching up.

I know it's happened to you. I have few chances to be home without kids all over me (and each other, fighting, whining, and shrieking). Today, I just had a catch-up day. I had only one child with me (and, he is pretty self-sufficient). I had a long list of home activities to catch up (laundry sorting, cleaning, routine maintenance, getting ready for weekend guests, etc.). First on the list, vacuum the downstairs and our fake fireplaces out (to make them useable again).

So, first thing after dropping the little guys at the daycare, I pulled out the vacuum. Started to push it around... bag was full, it wasn't picking stuff up. So, I changed the bag. Started again, still a bag alert. So, I started to unclog it... an hour later, I am just re-assembling it.

Start it again, it still works for shit.

Realize that the brush doesn't turn. Disassemble again to discover that the belt is too loose. So, gather the child and go out to buy a new belt (and filter, while we are there). Spend an hour out to buy a filter and belt. We get halfway home and I realize that we have the wrong filter for our model. I drive back to the store and the man assures me that this filter will work with our model. As I arrive home, I miss the UPS guy by about 30 seconds, so J's package (he's been waiting a week) won't arrive until next Wednesday.

I spend a while disassembling and reassembling the vacuum and vacuum the downstairs.

One thing off of my list in an entire day. Bonus for me.

Did Santa come?

B raced into our room at 6:15 am on Christmas morning... "It's Christmas!"

"Yeah", yawn, "so, did Santa come?"

B, wide-eyed and earnest... "I don't know... but... there's a piano in the living room".

Smiling and yawning, "Where do you think that came from?"

Big eyed and smiling "Do you think that Santa left it?"

So, the wrecking crew now own a Yamaha P-70. This is an electric keyboard (not technically a piano). The minuses: low-end, keys can be loud when pressed. The plusses: low volume (on the reviews, this was a minus... I don't get it), can be used with headphones (too cool).

It is getting a lot of use. Z and B start piano lessons in about 1 and 1/2 weeks.

The rest of us plunk away here and there (I only wish that I had the time for lessons as well).

Monday, December 24, 2007


Growing up, Christmas Eve night was the night for the Smorgasbord. The Swedes all got together and ate beige food. We started with aquavit (for the hearty souls). My father's family had made glogg, but that had waned by my generation (though, I'll consider trying it some year). The appetizers included shrimp, nuts, pickled herring (sil or formally - glasmatarsil), crackers, and cheese. Dinner included a liver sausage (korv), Swedish meatballs (kottbullar), pearl onions, mashed potatoes, gravy, peas, baked beans, and buns. Dessert include pepparkakor cookies, refrigerator cookies, fruit soup (frut suppa), coffee, and a variety of other holiday cookies. Santa then stopped by to say hello before his rounds.

One year (when I was starting to doubt Santa), we went to the Smorgasborg. This particular winter, the snow was coming down. We must have had five to seven inches of snow during the evening. It wasn't a harsh storm though, it was floating down to the ground slowly in big, soft flakes - no wind. Rather than the usual, we didn't only hear Santa's bells as he pulled up. Santa pulled up to the house in a horse drawn sleigh (the reindeer were resting up for the night's work) - talk about snowy, sparkling magical holidays. I believe, I believe...


We have some traditional foods for the holidays. We will start both dinners with cocktail shrimp (and lots of it) and crackers with cheese and pickled herring. Since we moved to Virginia, we have oyster stew on Christmas Eve dinner - it is full of cream and it is yummy and I will even post a recipe if anyone is interested. For breakfast, I'll have coffee, egg nog, hot chocolate, and OJ ready with sausages, apples, and a bun (usually it is sticky buns, another recipe I could post if there is an interest). This year the bun will be the Moosewood Cardamom Cake, both because cardamom says (Swedish) Christmas (my mom used to make the most amazing cardamom braid with almond paste in it, must find the recipe) to me and because the sticky buns didn't make it past Thanksgiving (I freeze them, but the kids plowed through - I kid you not - nine trays at Thanksgiving). Dinner tomorrow will be more traditional than I have done in a few years. I had been doing roasted cornish hens (from a Julia Child recipe, roasted with garlic and mushrooms), but I will switch to a more Smorgasbord dinner of mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, salad, kottbullar, and gravy. Pumpkin and pecan pies for dessert (store bought, I'll be more ambitious when all of my kids are potty-trained).

The sleigh is packed...

As per Chris at, I spent yesterday sorting and wrapping. I, too, did the Christmas shuffle (is each pile fair?, will someone feel slighted?).

It is difficult, because the holidays and indoor idle time bring out the worst in our kids. Pair that with a pre-Christmas birthday, and the house has unwrapped plastic stuff strewn about already. The wrecking crew really is a wrecking crew when they have too much idle time. Yesterday the count included a caned stool, their over-the-door basketball hoop, part of Z's new magic kit, an ornament, and I am certain some otehr stuff I have't found yet. It all makes me want to curse the marketing gods that turned a Christian holiday into a pagan gluttony extravaganza.

That said, we are pretty secular about Christmas here anyway. I am not terribly religious. At a recent Christmas party, Z pulled on my sleeve midway through and in his full out-loud voice asked, "Who was Jesus and why was it important that he was born anyway?" I, of course, used this as a learning opportunity - learn to be quiet and ask me that some other time.... shhhh.

So, I guess we were just fodder for the marketing extravaganza.

I see the holiday as a good chance to tuck in as a family, create contemplative and lovely family traditions, and savor the moments that our little ones are still happy in our company. The time will come all too soon that they eagerly wait for the holiday to finish so they can catch up with their friends. Now, any one of the three will still let me bundle them on my lap and squeeze the stuffing out of them.

The sleigh is packed, as Chris says, and our gifts are under the tree. I see some real surprises coming from the creepy stalker that comes down chimneys (unless the kids have been too nosey). I know that they have been inches from blowing the big surprise - but, I think that it still is unrevealed.

We have the loveliest tree ever this year, but it is no longer thirsty, so we have needles scattered all over the house. This wasn't helped by Katie (the dog) that sniffed her present under the tree and took off after it full throttle - she came out shaking needles everywhere. She did have to put the present down, I'll let her open it tomorrow. Hopefully it is big enough that she can stay out of her crate most of the morning while she chews the pigskin to smithereens. (Do I have the only dog that uses pig twists for appetizers, rather than long-term chews? She has a three twist / day habit.)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Christmas Peace.

I once had a string of unfortunate Christmas holidays. It kind of took the stuffing out of me on the whole Christmas thing for a while.

Christmas One:

I was living with my soon-to-be first husband. His sister decided to beat us to the altar. So, she got knocked up. We had to take an impromptu trip to Florida (what a Christmassy feel south Florida has... the palm trees, the traffic, the slow-driving old folks). I went to the most unusual union ever. I was responsible for driving my soon-to-be father-in-law's land yacht Lincoln Town Car around south Florida with a variety of distant relatives (several of whom liked their cocktails - at breakfast). The wedding included all of my favorites, an inappropriate toast from the best man (including a full description of the intended one-night-stand from a drunken night out that initiated the relationship), the argument between the new spouses, the five-month pregnant bride, the smooshing of cake, the couple sucking face a bit too heartily for public consumption... you get the picture. What a relief to return to graduate school.

Christmas Two:

Getting ready to move four states away from my then husband so that we could do the long-distance marriage thing for our careers. Everything we owned was in boxes, and we forgot to buy anything for dinner. No restaurants were open in our podunk town, so we got burritos at the local convenience store for Christmas dinner. Then, we listened to our neighbors get drunk, argue, and play music all night long so that I could be well-rested for an 18 hour drive away from everything that I knew.

Christmas Three:

My father-in-law dropped dead of a heart-attack on the 21st. Apparently, he had spent the better part of the day knowing he was ill and might die, but was so afraid of having to go to hospital that he decided not to say anything. I had to tell my office-mates, that, nevermind, I can't keep the lab running over the holidays all of you with young children will have to come in over the holidays. Then, I flew to South Florida to attend services and witness his children going through his effects and helping their mother grieve. It was tragic for them, and difficult to witness. There was really nothing to say. That year, there was record cold in Florida. While we didn't have a white Christmas - we did get a frost.

Christmas Four:

We were still doing the long-distance marriage thing. I spent days getting everything just-so to make up for the horrible holiday we'd had the previous year. He arrived on Christmas eve and seemed distant and unhappy. That seemed reasonable. I didn't feel that terrific about the whole thing either. It seemed we'd grown apart some. Then, late-night on Christmas eve, I learned that he had been involved with a younger woman (named "Nanette", I kid you not).

I last saw my first husband walking away on Christmas day when he couldn't really decide which of us he loved. Lovely.

Christmas Five:

I was housemates with my dear husband J (this was before the whole husband part of the equation), and he had invited me to spend the Christmas holiday with his family. I just couldn't face another crappy Christmas or any false cheer, or getting over the angst of the previous four years... I wasn't fit company for anyone and just plain wanted to weather that Christmas by myself. So, I sent him on his merry way, let gun borrow my car as his was a little sketchy. His car stranded me no fewer than six times that week (it started like shit, so it flooded regularly when you didn't get it to turn over easily enough). I drank too much alone on Christmas Eve and sulked alone on Christmas day flipping stations in bed wearing sweat pants and drinking diet coke. It is kinda weird to say, but that was absolutely the kind of Christmas I needed at that moment.

That year, I bought myself a little ornament with a dove carrying a branch. I decided that that was my symbolic way of letting that string of bad-luck holidays go. I remember to be at peace with my life whenever I put it on the tree.

Christmas is a whole different joyful thing with children in a loving house. I really do appreciate what I have (even if I bitch constantly).

If you've got it, savor it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I'll just sit this one out.

When women get together as a group, they sometimes play a little game. I'll call it "mine is more clueless than yours". It is remarkably similar to a game we all played when we were teenagers, but then it was "Mine are so square".

For some reason, this game is pretty popular with some of the women I drink hang out with.

Here is how one round goes.

"When I went on vacation, I had to leave a list of the food we had and how he might cook it".

"When I left, I had to find someone else to do my daughter's hair. He couldn't figure out how to make a proper ponytail."

"Oh yeah, when I left, I had to lay out his clothes for the week, so he'd wear clean clothing".

"When I left, I had to make individual meals and heating instructions so he'd be able to eat."

"My husband is soooo clueless"

(How clueless is he?)

"I have to remind him to feed the kids their lunch". As an aside, the husband of a close friend of mine actually does win with this entry... mind boggling - isn't it?

Round One goes to mom whose husband doesn't remember that children eat.

The thing is, I've got nothing. I sit out each and every round of this game.

You see, my dh (J) is anal retentive ultra-organized.

When we first moved in together, I tried to do J a favor and do his wash. Since then, he doesn't let me touch his clothes because I don't fold things right.

The man keeps a cleaner and tidier house than I do. His desk has the pencils lined up like an OCD poster boy neatly organized. He knows when I have been in his drawers, office, or cabinets because things aren't still exactly lined up as he had left it.

In our family... I am the one that forgets anniversaries (and, we were married on New Year's Day for crissakes). I forget birthdays (J's two years ago). I have clothing strewn about (not always, but more often than I like to admit).

He didn't faint at the birth of our children - he caught one of them and held me while I gave birth to another one. He watched my c-section and held my hand. He changes diapers, gets the kids breakfast, understands the baby better than I do, and did everything for the little ones but breastfeed or give birth.

We are a team, we both play to our strengths and parent as a team. He is best at being calm no matter what, coping with vomit, letting the kids play dangerous games, and playing ball in the house. I am best at shrieking shrilly, losing my temper, signing us up for activities, and buying stuff.

So, in the clueless hubbie game - I sit, forlorn, losing, unable to contribute.

I wonder if this is how Scarlet Page (Jimmy's daughter) felt when her friends played the square father game. I can just see it now...

My folks are so square:

"My parents are so square they won't even let me go to a concert yet ".

"Oh yeah, my father is so square, he won't even let me listen to rock music".

"Geez, my dad is so square... he thought I tried marijuana, so he looked at my arms for track-marks".

Scarlet sat there, forlorn... unable to contribute to the game.

Scarlet, I feel your pain. I got to play the "square" game, but I am flat-out of the clueless husband game.

Do you get to play a game?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

For sale to the highest bidder.

One, slightly-used, four and a half year old.

Attractive, gregarious, must give up as our house isn't quite large enough for this particular child. Must go to a good home with a safe yard and lots of loud activities.

Inexpensive upkeep: He eats anything (except carrots), doesn't use too much water (showers only rarely and flushes only when the HAZMAT team requires it), and will hardly use a bed (sleeps only sparingly). Doesn't make too much of a mess (even puked into the trash can during our kid party over the weekend, lesson learned - more than one bag of gummy worms can have unfortunate consequences).

WARNING: Not responsible for any of the following compulsions the child has: feels compelled to use power tools, bang on things (anything) that make noise, refuses to put his shoes on, is apparently unable to lift dirty clothes off of the floor, but can throw a football forty yards (sometimes even tries in the house), sometimes doesn't smell very fresh, is a morning person - but not a happy one, plans on being a jouster and a rockstar when he grows up (armor ain't cheap anymore), must have help selecting the proper toothbrush and storybooks or screaming fits and panic ensues... oh, and likes to create fire.

(By the way, before you refer me to Child Protective Services, I am really just kidding - but, sometimes it sounds attractive. As I said in my original introduction, B is the most likely to melt my heart and the most likely to be responsible for my being institutionalized).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Whew, it's over.

I will try to say more about it later.

But, it was exhausting, fun, and hectic.

The kids all had a good time.

It's partytime (nearly).

We are ready...

  • The dry ice will start to fog our tables at 2:45.
  • We have the dark blue cloths on the tables, strewn with gold and silver stars.
  • Our professors robes are hanging in the closet and the children's robes are still ready (remember them from Halloween?).
  • The star garland is strewn about the house.
  • The sorting hat is ready. The nametags with house colors are ready.
  • The dragon eggs are ready to be hidden (once I take the miscreants out for lunch).
  • The house banners are up.
  • The balloons are (mostly) placed.
  • The cookies are ready.
  • The potions class is prepared.
  • Wand craft is ready to go.
  • Transfigurations assignments have been determined.
  • The Quidditch cake is here.
  • Divinations tasks are ready to go.

Much glitter glue and sparkles will be involved. Lots of sugar and some scary punch will be ready.

This will be our first major-league kid party.

All we need now is 19 screaming children.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Get the Led out.

Z checks out my iPod. "Mom, you've got to listen to this... this is so cool".

"What'd you find?"

"At-chills last stand?"

"At-chills?... oh - Achillles?"

"um, I don't know, it is by Led Zeppelin".

"Yes, dear, I've heard that before".

"No, really, you've got to hear - really cool".


I'll look forward to surfing the internet tomorrow and the day after.

One of my favorite all-time bands is going to play tomorrow night. Of course, they'll be a million miles away.

At the time of evening where people in London will be gearing up to see them play, decades after their last show - I will be decorating a tree, feeding people egg nog, and reading bedtime stories (and loving it, but a smidge wistful perhaps about the music).

Hope that they have a rocking good time across the pond. I'll look forward to reading about it, maybe hearing bits of it after the fact.

It's been interesting to hear about some of the adjustments already made for the fact that voices get deeper as folks age - Plant can't hit the high ones like they used to, so the band has key-adjusted some of their work, according to the music blogs.

He also has indicated that his shirt will be less open. And, that as we say, is a good thing.

That said, Jimmy isn't hard on the eyes for his age. Ironically, he has kids about the same age as mine... as well as a daughter about my age.

Oh, the weather outside is...

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for Christmas this year... it looks like it is going to come anyway.

So, we broke down and got an absolutely lovely eleven foot tree today and set it up. It is settling out a bit, waiting to be dressed for the dance. It is really big - but, we've a lovely place for it.

I am all "wintery" here... tree in the house, pot of soup on the stove, snowy scenes on decorative platters, splint on wrist from ice-fall the other day (just a sprain, good grief).

And, it all feels kinda wrong... because it is nearly 70 degrees F today (21 degrees C).

Santa is going to have a terrible time with his sleigh if this keeps up.

Friday, December 7, 2007


Terribly icy this morning.

I checked the weather first thing, anticipating possible closings, as we had an unexpected bit of ice. No luck.

J fell while getting the newspaper.

We did the usual frantic morning rush to get kids fed and dressed and out of the house.

I stepped outside to empty my car of Christmas gifts to wrap - slipped and fell (on my other wrist - not the one I broke last summer - the same damn way). It hurt, but I shook it off and got in the car.

I followed J on his way to drop Z at school with B and T to take to the daycare. We passed three cars off the road on the one mile of our road we both travel. Then, J passed me on the way back to the house. I knew, then, that school must have cancelled (after I had checked) so, I waited until I could safely turn around and headed back home.

By then, the daycare, the schools, and my college had been cancelled (the schools all day, my college until my ten o'clock class). Crap.

J will work at home until I get back from class. So, at nine-ish I head out for the college. I made it halfway and the roads are so bad (I have seen four more vehicles off the road) that I call the school to see if we still open at ten - nope, closed 'til noon.

I come home.

My wrist hurts more and more. Hopefully, it is just a sprain. It should be a festive purple by tomorrow.

My last day of fall classes end somewhat not how I had planned.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tis the season.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I am going to host a party for 26 young seven-year-olds. I come by this disorder genetically. My sister (the overachiever) regularly hosts parties for dozens of small children. There are always lots of planned activities, treats to take home, special experiences, and memories of a lifetime.

So, I usually try to beg out of these affairs. For real - dozens of kids ten and under.

This year, however, she coerced me into taking my kids (and my hesitant husband and skeptical father) to her annual Christmas party. She lives five hours away, so this is an overnight affair.

You see, she has a special connection - and the old man* stops by to get everyone's special requests and to drop off an early toy...

It is too early for the sleigh, so he pulls up in a rigged red pickup truck, with a wood frame on the bed, and speakers playing carols.

B was hooked on the old man. Look how excited he is.

Z was more skeptical, but more than happy to chat with him and explain why he needs those items on his list.

T was more reticent. I thought he was just frightened of the jolly old guy.

That was before he started to cough, just a little one that started to build.

I was embarassed (there were over thirty kids there, and lots of parents). So, there I am in the middle of explaining that, "really, he was healthy when we left the house this morning".

That was when the flood gates opened and he hurled all over both of us. Not much to say at that point, but to vanish and clean the little guy up.

While I was hosing off the little guy, and changing both of us, tops to toes - B learned that a gentle little blow could make the angels ding.


That meant that if he blew the hell out of it - the angels would fly all over the place... cool.

So, I cleaned up the little guy. There wasn't anywhere else to go, so we rejoined the festivities.

Boy, he looks just full of the old Christmas magic. Doesn't he?

B loved the "footie" that Santa gave him.

T was willing to examine the footie that Santa gave him (as long as that scary old man kept at a safe distance, thankyouverymuch).

Z loved the rubiks cube that Santa gave him. And, once J finished figuring out how to solve it again (hadn't solved it since the early 90's), he even let Z play with his own toy.

I'd show you the family photo we took, where we got the whole family in the photo with Santa and Mrs. Claus... but, we didn't get a good one before T hurled a second time all over his second outfit, his dad, and Mrs. Claus (I am not kidding). T and his dad left for a costume change while the Claus family made a break for it.

On the plus side, good old Mrs. Claus was just as jolly afterwards as she was before (a candidate for sainthood, I believe).

Time to get geared up for the holidays.

(oh, and if you were worried about the little guy - he perked up as soon as the scary red guy left the house - then, asked for a snack)

Then, Monday, he took his new footie to daycare with him, and hugged it all day.

*Is it just me? I find Santa Claus a bit creepy. This old guy sneaks around your house at night, snoops on your behavior all year, and (on the rare occasion you actually see him) wants you to sit on his lap. Weird, or what?