Sunday, December 30, 2007

Um, and, oh yeah . . . we celebrated this little holiday recently.

Christmas? Maybe you've heard of it.

Anyway, it tends to take up a crazy amount of time to plan and prepare, as well as involves traveling all over the eastern seaboard (for us at least), which is why I've been so scarce lately. We had a really wonderful holiday. Our families are so incredibly generous.

Here are a few pictures.

Making cookies

Contemplating the cookie decor

Very proud of her work

Mmmmm! Sugar!

An artiste at work

Future Martha Stewart (minus the jail time)

The best part about making cookies? Eating them!

Christmas Eve with my family

Ready to party!

Getting read for the party on Christmas eve

Christmas eve with their two second cousins

These are my cousin's girls and they all love each other immensely. It is too cute to see them together.

Christmas Day with my family

First thing Christmas day. Wearing their dresses from Christmas eve and checking out the loot.

Here they are checking out the loot from Santa. They got these two dresses the night before.

Two beauties

The theme this year: Princess Crap. Yes, I am an enabler. So shoot me.

Are you sensing a theme yet?

Oodles of princess stuff

Christmas with Mark's family on 12/29

Looking very serious here . . .

A little bite to eat with their cousin. (They all look so serious here).

And more!

More dress up stuff. And what's funny? The tutu, shirt and wings are from 3 completely different sets.

Surprise! More dress up!

Christmas is exhausting!

The aftermath. Whew! Christmas is fun, but it sure is exhausting.

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The never-ending alarm

The night before last, at about 2:15 a.m., our carbon monoxide detector went off.

Its “beep-beep-beep-pause-repeat” woke me before Mark, my eyes flying open and my brain going from “dreamful sleep” to “wide-awake-panic” in about a tenth of a second.

Moments later, Mark jumped out of bed to investigate. Meanwhile, the “beep-beep-beep-pause-repeat” woke Loaf, and I gathered up her up and followed Mark into the living room.

The source of the problem was easy to identify. We started a fire Friday afternoon and mistakenly closed the flue too early. Mark opened doors and windows, started the attic fan and set up a number of fans at the doors to move air around (and of course he reopened the flue).

Within minutes, the detector was registering zero again and it’s “beep-beep-beep-pause-repeat” mercifully ended.

I checked Peanut (sleeping peacefully) and settled Loaf into our bed. A few minutes later, I got into bed next to her. She was already in a deep sleep. I however lay awake for a long time listening to her steady, slow breaths, my head filled with “what ifs.”

What if we didn’t have a carbon monoxide detector in the living room?
What if it hadn’t gone off in time? Peanut sleeps much closer to the fireplace than we do.
What if it had not gone off at all?
What if, what if, what if?

The grim possibilities raced through my head.

I rolled onto my side and draped my arm over Loaf’s tiny body. Feeling safe and happy, she sighed deeply in a state of perfect rest. But the responsibility for her and Peanut’s safety and well being rested on my chest like an anvil. The incident reminded me how important my job is, how much they count on me, and the endless list of things that are beyond my control or ability to prevent.

I glanced over at the clock.

5:23 a.m.

The “beep-beep-beep-pause-repeat” of the carbon monoxide detector had stopped hours ago, but it still rang loud and clear in my head.

I think it always will.


Monday, December 24, 2007

You mean, he's coming TONIGHT??!?!




That pretty much sums up my kids' mood today.

We're at my mom's in Massachusetts.

Merry Christmas.

God bless us every one!

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Memory lane

In the last few weeks, we have received dozens of wonderful Christmas cards. The vast majority feature happy, smiling children, but a couple friends have been brave (and wise) enough to send photos of crying, cranky and rambunctious kiddos. They all make me smile, but I have a special place in my heart for the "less than perfect" ones.

Which is why I just had to revisit one of my favorite postings from last year: The ugly truth behind cute Christmas cards.

Anyone who got a card from us this year knows that I skipped right over this process and went with a collage of pictures taken over the last few months. Much easier. Less stress. Actual happy, smiling children without bribery, coercion, threats or screaming. Ahhhhh.

Happy holidays!

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Finally, a version of this song that I actually like . . .


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A holiday meme

My friend Beckie e-mailed this to me, so I thought I'd answer it here.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper generally, though for really bulky or weirdly shaped things, a gift bag is a wonderful thing.

2. Real tree or Artificial?

3. When do you put up the tree?
Usually the first Saturday in December.

4. When do you take the tree down?
I like to leave it up until the second or third of January, but last year I took it down two days after Christmas because I could not stand the nightly reassembling another day.

5. Do you like egg nog?
I do. But I try not to think about the raw egg thing too much or I may vomit back into my cup.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
The Barbie townhouse. It had an elevator!

7. Do you have a Nativity scene?
Yes, but I haven’t put it out in three years for fear of the damage little fingers will do to it. Hopefully next year.

8. Hardest person to buy for?
My husband. Seriously. The man is impossible. He wants nothing, thinks he deserves nothing and rarely offers up a single idea.

9. Easiest person to buy for?
Peanut. Walk into the Disney store. Pick up any random item. You are done.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Oh mail, definitely.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
An Office Max gift card. What the hell?

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
The Polar Express. I cried rivers

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Yes. Sorry. ::ducking::

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
I like white. The kids like colored. If you read regularly, you know who won this year. If not, scroll down to see.

17. Favorite Christmas song??
I like so many. Do You Hear What I Hear, O Holy Night, Silver Bells and Sleigh Ride are my favorites though.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
We travel to Massachusetts every year. On Christmas eve, there is a large family party with all of my aunts, uncles, cousins and their children. It is a wonderful, fun time, though I must admit it makes me sad to think my kids won’t have any Christmas memories in their own home. I would hate to miss the family party, but some year before they outgrow Santa I think we’ll have to stay home just to give them a chance to wake up and experience Christmas morning around their own tree. I haven’t been able to bring myself to actually do that yet though.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
A star.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
We open some gifts – from my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.- at the above-mentioned party on Christmas eve. The rest we open Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
Stress, trying to make everything “perfect,” rude, obnoxious people.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color?
I have an eclectic tree with everything from expensive blown glass balls to the popsicle stick reindeer my daughter made at school last year.

24. Do you have a stocking?
No! But my kids do.

25 Favorite for Christmas dinner?

26. What do you want for Christmas this year?
A new winter coat and maybe something smaller and sparkly to wear with it. ☺

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I wish . . .

. . . I could sleep like this.

Asleep on the couch

(Though perhaps without the tutu).

And yes: Like sister, like sister. Those of you who have been reading for a while may remember this post from last spring. I can't imagine where they get this from . . .

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Oh Christmas tree

So finally, here is a photo of our tree. It's been up for over two weeks. I have not felt much like photographing it.

Admiring the tree

We made the switch this year to multi-colored lights (not my choice AT ALL) because my kids LOVE themselves some colored lights. The more colorful and gaudy and cheesy and blinky the Christmas lights are? The more they like them.

I like the classic, white, simple lights. Like our pretty tree from last year. Oooo. Ahhhh.

But because I firmly believe Christmas is for kids, I had to go with colored lights (for a few years).

However, I must look on the bright (pun intended) side here. The switch prompted us to make the move to LED lights. One small step . . .

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We'll frolic and play the Eskimo way . . .

I was home alone here with the girls this weekend.

My husband was away – way far away – in Oregon visiting his sister. I didn’t want to post that I was here alone for fear that stalkers or crazies or escaped convicts would read my blog and come after me in the night (yes, I am totally chicken that way and don’t think for a minute that I didn’t sleep with a big heavy club-like weapon beside my bed), but he is back home now and I feel much better.

That said, we fell victim to an ice storm while he was gone and I did NOTHING to clean up the aftermath.

By the time he pulled in from the airport this morning at 7 a.m. (after 3 hours of sleep on the redeye), the entire driveway and every walkway to the house was a solid sheet of ice. Seriously. If you live in the general area of northern New Jersey and need a place to bring the kids ice skating, come on by. It’s not just the driveway either – it’s the entire yard. We have well over two acres of skating rink right now. BYO skates.

Also? We have a really freaking long driveway. Which is a good part of the reason why I had no interest in going out in a storm and trying to clean it off. It would have taken hours and hello – it was hailing out there and I was soley responsible for two small children. What if I got whacked on the head by falling ice or a tree limb (they are all over the place) or something? So it wasn’t just rampant laziness that kept me inside, but common sense, solid thinking. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it).

Anyway . . . Poor Mark arrives home after hurtling through the air at 35,000 feet for six hours and is nearly injured just trying to stay upright long enough to make it to the front door. It is treacherous. On my way to the gym this morning, the truck did a gentle, slow slide right toward the gate until I finally remembered (duh) that it has four-wheel drive. Thank God. Though the car may not see the street again until later this week when it warms up above freezing. Mark just sort of slid it 2/3 of the way down the driveway and left it there. (Thanks, dude).

So what, you may be asking, is the point of this post? The point, my dear readers, is that despite the fact that I spent four truly terrifying trips down the walkway to the car and back today, shuffling my feet an inch at a time along a surface so slick I saw a squirrel wipe out as he leapt from a tree (hysterical) and cursing myself for not at least shoveling the walkway (OK, really, if we’re being honest, I was cursing Mark for not being here to do it), late this afternoon while Loaf napped, Peanut and I ventured out – bundled up like Eskimos – and slid all over the yard.

As soon as I relaxed and stopped worrying so much about falling, I found my balance was actually decent. I could get a little speed and slide across the yard in my boots and Peanut did the same. We then sat on our butts or lay on our bellies while we propelled ourselves – sled free – down even the slightest incline. We laughed and squealed and sometimes wiped out, which only made us laugh and squeal more. We held hands and giggled and helped hold each other up. And when it was over, we went inside and sat at the kitchen table sipping hot chocolate and reliving how much fun it was to “ice skate” in our yard.

When she asked me if we could go outside, I didn’t want to go. It was really cold today and I'd already convinced myself that it was foolish to try to walk around on the ice. But in the end, she persuaded me and I’m so grateful she did. What fun! I hope it’s one of those things she always remembers. I know I will.

Winter Wonderland

Our Winter Wonderland

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

A star is born . . .

The girls had their school Christmas pageant yesterday and it was totally adorable.

Loaf was a "little angel" and sang in the chorus. Here she is making her entrance:

Coming into the church

Peanut was a sheep. She "b-a-a-a-ed" all the way down the aisle and delivered her line clearly and loudly (even us suckers who didn't show up 45 minutes early and had to sit in the back could hear her). Here's her entrance:

Her big entrance

And here she is about to deliver her line:

Peanut getting ready to say her line

Here's Loaf during the show (she kept turning around, so it was hard to get a good shot of her):

School Christmas pageant

Here is Loaf exiting the church:

Exiting the church

And here's Peanut waving to her adoring fans. (OK, really, that was just us):

Waving to her fans . . .

Finally, a shot of the costume up close.

The sheep costume

"Yes, acting is hard work, but the fans make it worthwhile."

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Christmas story

Tomorrow, in her school’s presentation of the Christmas Story, Peanut will play a sheep. Since Thanksgiving, she has practiced walking down the aisle while “ba-a-a-ing” realistically. Then (hopefully), she will recite her line on cue: “Mary and Joseph’s trip ended in a stable filled with hay.”

However, at home, she clearly has her eye on a more prominent role:

Pretending to be Mary

Pretending to be Mary. That gray thing on her head is Blanket.

Playing Mary and "Baby Jesus"

Check out “Baby Jesus” in the pink carseat. She tried to convince Loaf to be Joseph, but she wasn’t hearing it.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The kindergarten conundrum

Since September, we (well, mostly I) have been wrestling with what to do with Peanut next year.

She is in preschool in the “fours” class, but her late August birthday makes her one of the youngest in her class. Since the beginning of the school year, a slew of her classmates have turned five. Some are nearly a full year older than she.

If she goes off to kindergarten next year, she will one of the youngest in the class, especially since there are many families around here who intentionally keep their children out the first year - even if they have spring birthdays - to give them a leg up in size and maturity later. Thus, it’s very likely she’d enter kindergarten next year with children who are six years and several months old.

So the question is: do we send her, or do we suck it up and pay another year in somewhat hefty tuition to send her to her preschool’s pre-K program?

In addition to being young, she is small. She stands a full foot shorter than some of the girls in her class. And, as I’ve posted before, she struggles a bit socially.

She has a good friend at school.

One. Good. Friend.

Last week, that girl was out sick for three days and it threw her into a tailspin of whining and crying every morning. I’m not foolish enough to think that in a year she’ll be “cured” of her shyness, but I have hope that she’ll be able to relate to more of her peers, be more on par with them socially and size-wise, and thus be more confident.

Of course, nearly everyone else has an opinion about what we should do. Other parents from her school, while not coming right out and saying, “send her to pre-K” nod knowingly and tell me how quiet and small she is.

Others have told me that these differences in maturity don’t often manifest until the children reach high school. Suddenly, you have a 15-year-old with a bunch of 16-year-old friends (who are driving and doing Lord knows what else). This is not to say that every child is influenced by the stupid things their peers do, and everyone knows even older “more mature” kids make stupid choices, but it seems to me to be tempting fate a bit.

Meanwhile, our family and friends who know the Peanut I do – the vivacious, inquisitive, bright girl who can read and spell close to a dozen words and whose vocabulary includes the likes of “enchanting,” and “magnificent” and “complicated,” think I’m crazy for even considering keeping her out of kindergarten next year.

Much to my chagrin, like a lot of parenting issues, there is no clear-cut answer to this. Instead, I have to go with my gut.

I hate having to rely on my gut. I don’t do well trying to rationalize these squishy issues. I much prefer cut-and-dried answers written by “experts” in parenting books or websites. But alas, there is no formula, no “here’s what to do if your child has a late summer birthday” solution, despite my best efforts to find one.

I put Peanut on the list for pre-K months ago to hold her a spot. The program is popular and fills every year. We have to make a decision next month – a deadline that looms ever closer and will be here before we know it.

I think I already know the answer. I think I knew it months ago when I signed her up. Maybe my gut instinct isn’t so poorly honed after all.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Still looking for the right gift?

How about a cat? Gift wrap included.

Free: One cat, gift wrap included

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Gun shy

As the mother of two girls, at times, I have looked jealously upon those who have only boys, knowing they don’t have to deal with the negative female stereotypes perpetuated by the omnipresent princess craze.

I have envied the fact that they will never have to stand in a toy store and watch their son coo over a Bratz doll dressed like a cheap streetwalker and try to explain to their child that no, Santa is not going to bring you one of those (fucking ugly horrible nasty sleazy hootchie) dolls.

I have on occasion peered over the fence at the very green grass of the parents of boys while thinking about how they don’t have to worry about their seven-year-old sons asking to wear belly-baring shirts or eyeliner or high heels.

But yesterday, all of that envy faded away.

We were at the home of our dear friends who have two adorable sons. The men were outside hanging Christmas lights and my friend and I were inside with the kids. As she dashed upstairs to put her younger son down for a nap, I was left in the living room with Peanut, Loaf and their older son.

He opened the toy chest in the center of the room and pulled out two shiny toy guns and handed one to Peanut.

“Do you like guns?” he asked.

She took it gingerly in one hand and rubbed its sleek silver surface with the other.

“Sure,” she said.

He raised his gun with one hand pointed it at her. “BLAM!”

“I know your mom and dad say you’re not supposed to point those at people,” I interjected, not really knowing for sure if that was indeed the rule, but he acquiesced and pointed it toward the empty kitchen instead. “There’s a bad guy in there. BLAM!”

Not knowing quite what to make of it, Peanut held hers like a baby doll, cradling it in her arms.

“You hold it like this,” he corrected her, showing her how to wrap her hands around the handle and lace her fingers through to the trigger. She obliged smiling sweetly.

The effect was unnerving. There she was – my angel - my gentle, happy child with her giant green eyes, soft creamy skin and rose petal lips holding a gun like a character out of Pulp Fiction. Even though the guns were styled to look like futuristic laser guns and not the bullet-bearing variety that kill so many in today’s world, seeing her like this made my blood run cold. I shifted uncomfortably on the floor while chewing the inside of my lip. I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

“Why don’t we find something else to play with,” I suggested carefully, not wishing to call too much attention to the fact that Mommy doesn’t like toy guns. The last thing I wanted to do was draw more attention to it.

“OK,” she agreed dropping it on the carpet and picking up a toy keyboard instead. To my relief, she didn’t touch either gun again for the rest of the day and neither did Loaf.

So while I still worry about the amount of influence Disney has on my girls, and the oversexed dolls and clothing being thrust upon them at much too young an age, I know now that the parents of boys have their own set of challenges to deal with. I think I can stop looking over that fence now.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Can someone please tell me . . .

. . . at what age does the ritualistic, daily carnage wreaked upon the Christmas tree by small children end? Because our tree has been up exactly three days and I am already sick of it.

Last year, I was so tired of reassembling the bottom third of the tree every night—restringing garland, re-hanging ornaments (and mending broken ones if possible)—that I took the tree down two days after Christmas (seriously) and gave fleeting thought to not even getting one this year.

Of course, those thoughts were dismissed immediately. I like tree almost as much as they do, which is why the idea of not getting one was so surprising to me. I was really in a snit.

I just cannot take it. Today alone? Three broken ornaments. And these are not glass ones – those are way at the tippy top and hooked around the branches in an ornament hook death grip. These are plastic or wood ornaments that they take off and then “play” with. A male reindeer is now a female having been relieved of its antlers, a snowman has undergone the world’s cruelest nose job with his big orange carrot unceremoniously broken off leaving just a little nub, and a little Christmas fairy was snapped in half at the waist.

All have been super-glued and will likely be just fine, but seriously . . .what the hell? And this extends beyond the Christmas tree.

My. Kids. Touch. Everything.

Years ago, I removed absolutely everything breakable that I valued from display. Even items formerly up on high shelves because my kids are not above pushing a chair or stool over to a bookshelf in order to retrieve something that has caught their eye.

And I watch them. I do. But you know, not every solitary second of the day. They just seem to KNOW when I’m wrapped up in something (in the basement throwing laundry in the dryer or prepping lunch in the kitchen) to strike. Crafty little munchkins, they are.

I have at least two friends with older children who say their kids simply weren’t “touchers.” I remember visiting one friend’s house when her children were 18 months and 3. All over her home were spindly-legged tables loaded with crystal frames and vases with flowers untouched—not even noticed—by her children. I can’t even fathom having such items in my home for at least 10 more years (maybe 15).

So tell me, are everyone’s kids this destructive or do mine have an extra-special proclivity in this department? And further, what can I do to break them? The Christmas tree and I desperately need your help. Soon.

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