Wednesday, December 31, 2008

lego my lego

It was a costume and Lego Christmas. Bug received no less than four dress up costumes. Pook counted the number of pieces combined in all the Lego kits and it came near 2000 just for him. Yikes.

My concern wasn't for Pook. He got his first large kit for his 5th birthday, from Sister MD I think. It was a jet and it's assembly came with lots of tears. (Piece #425 was pressed on too hard and pieces #287-#399 now needed to be fixed...) At age six, he became a pro. Since Bug is usually reluctant to accept help, I'd been reminding him every time the Santa request for Lego came up that he would need help. And so far, so good. They each managed to do a small vehicle kit the morning of Christmas independently, relieving some of my concern over Bug's potential frustration.

Because we were leaving on the 26th for our second Christmas out of town, I didn't want the big kits started Christmas day. They weren't too bothered. Pook occupied himself with a cool ferris wheel of K'nex and Bug was preoccupied the rest of the day as soon as he opened his Dash costume.

I found the costume at Halloween and made it the first purchase of the season. Bug has wanted a full body costume for ages, and had even tried on an Incredibles costume at a friend's house. It has it's own muscles built right into the arms and chest. "Feel here" he'd say before he began another lap around the rooms of the house, beaming. "Do you think these muscles or these muscles are stronger?" He put it on straight from morning pj's and kept it on through Christmas dinner all the way til bedtime pj's again.

In Nashville, he opened a Spiderman costume, an Air Force pilot costume (in birthday wrapping paper accidentally under the tree) and a real dishdash straight from the UAE. We haven't seen much of Bug himself ever since!

Home once again to Atlanta, they both tore open their Lego kits and began working. Muffin tins worked great to sort pieces and I realized that Bug really didn't need help, only random checks for missed parts. In two days (taking a break yesterday afternoon to go biking with a neighbor) they both completed their huge sets. The playroom is now divided into harbor and city. And yet there is more to come.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


The car radio segued from the news and suddenly Pook was attentive. "Shh" he asked Bug. ["Santa's sleigh is tracked by satellite and radar..."] They were both very quiet in the back seat while the newscaster explained the technology involved in the project.

As it finished, I could tell Pook was impressed, as he mumbled "radar..." aloud. Bug, however, completely surprised me. "I have two ideas about Santa" he began. I smiled to myself at what I expected to be a cute comment. "Number one I think Santa is real." Ok. He had my attention now. "Number two I think Mama and Daddy come downstairs in the middle of the night and fill our stockings." I gasped silently and waited, concentrating on my driving, but not wanting to miss a word. "But we always put things in the stockings before we ring the bells" pointed out Pook. Bug agreed and Pook continued, "But Santa puts in candy and stuff later." The conversation ended.

Now the conversation itself doesn't surprise me a ton, but the roles are completely reversed. Pook is Mr. Logical, Mr. Enumerate-Your-Points. Bug is Mr. Pretend, Mr. Random-Thoughts. And plus, he's only four!

Fortunately the topic never came up again. Santa arrived, enjoyed his cookies and milk, fed the carrots to the reindeer and left treats and gifts. All was well. Silent Night.

addendum 12/31/08

Bug was getting some candy from his stocking after lunch. I was in the middle of poorly multitasking and not paying much attention.
"Mama, is Santa real?"

ulp. I wasn't supposed to answer that. He wasn't supposed to be the child who was going to ask me that. I was going to be prepared. What did I do with "We're all Santa"? What did he do with his role as the baby brother? One more year! Give me one more year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

super zipper mom

Starting the kids off the way I do, "Have fun. Be good. Learn something" sometimes gets turned around on me. Bug thinks I should learn something myself. He recently suggested that I (finally) learn all the names of the Star Wars characters. Not gonna happen, child. Sorry. I just don't have enough brain cells left unused to bother with that sort of trivia. If I could only forget Jenny's grade school phone number, well then maybe I'd have space. But for now that will have to wait.

I can say however, that I have learned a new skill in 2008. A really useful skill. With only a pair of scissors, a pair of pliers, either hot glue or needle and thread, (plus or minus a crying child standing naked in front of me holding his favorite zip-all-the-way-up-the-front-sleeper) I can repair a zipper. I learned on a jacket this summer and just did it again. Proof that I really know this skill.

And for further proof, I will now teach the skill to others.

1. Take the zipper, attached presumably to only one side, to the lowest position
2. Make a small cut through the teeth of the unattached side just at the bottom of the zipper
3. Feed it into the zipper from the top
4. Zip the garment up and down a few times, tugging to align if off a bit
5. Sew or hot glue the garment above the point of the cut so the zipper won't slide off again

1. Take the zipper to the lowest position
2. With pliers, pinch the zipper from top to bottom (inside of fabric to outside). Do this gently several times instead of once harder Each time, test drive it to see if it is tight enough to zip.

We had both of these problems this morning, but the sleeper is saved and Bug will live through another night.

Friday, December 19, 2008

stocking stuffer spirits

My favorite Christmas tradition might just be stockings. Well, maybe a tie, because I couldn't go a Christmas season without my mom's nutmeg sour cream cutout cookies with all the little sprinkles either. (I can share that recipe if anyone wants it. Best sugar cookies ever.)

Our stocking tradition started when I lost a tooth early in one school year. By the time I got from the bus stop to the house I had learned way more than I wanted to learn about the Tooth Fairy and all her cousins- namely the Easter Bunny and Santa. It was all rolled into one for me. I headed into the house and confronted an unprepared mom with the famous question Virginia once asked. The answer, "What do you think?" put me on the spot myself. Was I grown up or was I a little kid? For ages I wished I'd gone for Little Kid instead.

And on Christmas eve, all that came together and I realized the injustice of it all. Here was my mom, providing all that candy that she usually didn't want us to have, but giving it to us anyway. And nothing for herself! My poor mom spent Christmas eve in our basement sewing two more stockings for herself and my dad. But, a new tradition was born.

As the youngest, I was the first Santa. I filled the stockings with small items or candies. Then my sister, then my dad, then the head of the elves herself. We'd put in candy or nuts, little toys, batteries or canisters of film, fun socks, etc. We'd ring the sleigh bells and each head upstairs to bed, leaving behind the temptation to peek. Hopefully the stockings were too full and heavy to hang by the fireplace and were snug on a chair in the morning.


Bug just reminded me that he wants to put nuts in all the stockings this year. I've had the boys participate in filling the stockings from the start. They know that everyone takes a turn, leaving them for Santa to complete. They certainly believe in the jolly red-coated, white bearded elf but I hope the transition to Christmas Spirit is simple for them.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I've been forced to update our address book. We've had a list of names, numbers and addresses on our computer for years. I add people and update when they move, but when someone dies I don't make any changes. I did the same thing when it was in paper form. Erasing or deleting someone seems so cruel. How can I delete a person who was worth being in my address book? When I glance through the names and numbers for someone and I come upon the name of someone I loved, but who has died, it reminds me of them. They have a memory saved in that online book. I can't delete them.

This year we figured out how to print address labels from said computer address book. And as I added stamps to the envelopes, I realized that some of them couldn't be mailed as is. I might enjoy the memory, but it might be an uncomfortable reminder if mail arrives to their spouse. Same with divorce.

The summary of changes we made for the year 2008:
2 divorces
2 new homes
3 deaths

When I was using a paper address book which dated back to at least high school, sometimes I would forget a friend's married name. The phone would be picked up by a familiar but unexpected voice- the friend's mom. I enjoyed the mistakes; I had known these women closely while I grew up, but seldom heard from them or about them after I moved out. When I put all the data into the computer years ago, I left this information out. There was really no need to know the house number for a friend who no longer lived in it. I never phoned someone's mom on purpose, so adding them to the computer was foolish. But I miss them. And I'll miss those who have been deleted in this round.

Monday, December 15, 2008


I decided to make apple butter for teachers and neighbors this year. Well, yes, I still made lots of the pretzel candies, but there are a lot of teachers and neighbors. I'll give it all away. Except what we eat. My house smells fantastic right now. I've heard that you can sell a house faster if it smells like this. So, whether you want to sell a house or just have your house smell great, here is a cheater's apple butter recipe.

Fast Slow-Cooker Applebutter

(I really love the name)
50 oz jar of unsweetened applesauce (I said it was easy!)
1/3 cup sugar or brown sugar (or more if you need it, but I decreased it until we noticed and that is where we stopped)
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
Spray edges of slow cooker. Cook on high for 6-16 hours. (Until you have time to put it in jars)
Eat on biscuits, bagels, pancakes, spoons....
Or give as gifts.


One of my favorite childhood Christmas memories was the cutting of a Christmas tree. Our family drove to Mud Creek Farms (true name) and wandered around in the cold until we chose a tree. My father pulled out the saw and we cut it down ourselves. Then he'd stuff it inside the station wagon. Why inside and not on top, I'm not sure. Sister MD would squish herself in the back with the tree, (seatbelt probably not on) and I would squish myself into the front, sharing a seat (not even a bench seat) with my mom. Then we'd spend the rest of the afternoon decorating the tree at home.

On Sunday, I convinced CD to drive an hour to cut a tree at the Sleepy Hollow Tree Farm. They had three types of trees: Leyland cypress, Carolina sapphire and Virginia pine. The first two weren't the type of needle that seemed Christmas-tree-like to me, so we chose among the pines. We had one picked out before settling on a smaller, narrower neighbor to it. Seems like they always look bigger once they're in the house, so it seemed the wiser choice. The kids held onto it while CD used the saw. They barely had time to yell "timber" before it fell. The boys carried it without help over to the car and we tied it up on top. We only had to stop once on the way home to retie it. Decorated and lit now, it looks dazzling. Or at least festive.

Friday, December 12, 2008

a hard case

Sister MD asked me, "What don't you buy for yourself?" It was a perfectly innocent question, but I've been thinking about it for days.

I think I am in the category of "hard to shop for". I should have been born during the Depression. I don't need much. I don't want much. I don't really like to shop. I'm not good at spending money. I don't have a list of ideas for gifts to share with my family. How did I become one of these people?

As a kid, I would have a very specific idea of an item I wanted. It would invariably be hard to locate and somewhat pricey. I would visit store after store and everything would be Not Quite Right. Sometimes I couldn't state what was wrong, but I knew I'd know the right one when I saw it. And I usually did. I drove my mom and Sister MD crazy.

Sister MD was always a gatherer. The more low-priced items, the better. But unfortunately, the more she spent, the more I held tight to my wallet. Eventually her spending would frustrate me so much I'd be unable to make myself spend a cent and I'd go home without my desired purchases. Oddly, I've found that some friends actually influence me to loosen my wallet. With others I can enjoy vicarious shopping and not mind coming home empty-handed.

Harriet has just posted twelve things she wants for Christmas. Her struggle to come up with them is the same as mine, "a) that the gift was picked out by someone else who thought I would like it is a crucial component of any present and b) ditto on the element of surprise."

So here I am at Christmas once again. And I don't know what I want. I want to remodel the kids' bathroom. I want to terrace the backyard. I want to improve my kitchen (remember, the new fridge doesn't count). But things I want that are less than 10K? Harder.

good ole Setu Cloz

The boys just mailed their annual letters to Santa. This is the first year Bug has written his own. In past years Pook has thoughtfully included a request for his brother. They have been carefully mailed to Indy the North Pole but they read:

SANTU (remember your short 'u' sound, like in 'umbrella')

I think it translates something like this:
Dear Santa, For Christmas this year, I would like a pair of rear viewing spy glasses, a new stuffed teddy bear (not to replace Ted, but just as a new friend), Lego and some candy. Love [Bug])
...and on the envelope, SETU CLOZ

The second letter was written with something called a "sloppy copy" and then recopied onto nice paper before being mailed to "Santa Claus at the North Pole." It said:

Dear Santa Claus,
For Christmas I would like spy glasses. I would
also like Transport Ferry City Lego, Police Pontoon
Plane City Lego, and Patrol Boat and Tower
City Lego.
From [Pook]
(I'm a kid)

He is not leaving anything to chance this year. The "sloppy copy" included model numbers. Not sure where they both got the idea for spy glasses and I hope they don't disappoint. They're only $2.99 on Amazon....

Now, I'm off to meet CD at the Lego outlet near his office.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

the old toys are the best toys

Our dinner group party last weekend involved eight children, ages 2 (three of them), 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. When I called AM, the mom of two of the tots, I asked what they could get into these days. "They can reach the kitchen counter, " she replied. So, up to the five foot mark it all went. I remember those days and am glad to be past them. We're full of dangerous marbles, magnets and Lego pieces around here now. I piled it up high and went to the storage room to see what I could pull out to play with instead.

Because I used to be a preschool teacher and hope to teach again sometime, I am saving all the preschool toys that my kids outgrow. Bug gave up the baby stuff much sooner, trying to teethe on Star Wars figures and skipping rattles and favorites of Pook's. I'd bring items out occasionally, but when the Big Kid toys were an option, the Little Kid stuff got ignored. I love some of those toys and I'm happy that I might get a chance to watch children enjoy them again sometime.

For the party, I pulled out a grocery cart and lots of plastic toy foods, big zoo animals and dinosaurs, a train and road set, and lots of Duplo. Turned out that the three toddlers stayed downstairs near their parents and I could have left the playroom as it was. However, this week has been fun. Pook and Bug haven't yet reclaimed the Lego or other standbys. They've been building with what they had. And by building, I mean that the room is all one big city and there are no leftover pieces of Duplo. Every toy has been incorporated. There are two trains- the Birthday Train and the Circus Train. There is a Stray Animal Zoo, a Hotel and row of restaurants, an Indian Village with totem pole, a playground with a fancy tube slide, and much more.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

scientific breakthrough

I know what black holes are! They are the place where one would find all the erasers that came on the pencils, all the erasers bought to replace the original erasers which were used up on the pencils, all the cute birthday favor erasers which really don't erase but just smear, and all the pink big erasers bought to keep at the homework desk. Or at least one would find them in a black hole if they hadn't erased it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

news of the day

Did I mention that on this day of refrigeration, or lack thereof, Bug was home sick from school after a night of vomiting. I dragged him with me to my appointment with the podiatrist. Good news: no more cortisone shots, the swelling is down. Bad news: the pain isn't any better. She's stumped.

refrigerate after opening

"So, what color do you want your new refrigerator?" (said by the repairman)

no time for elves

My children's friends have elves. The elves sit in the homes without moving and watch the kids by day. They report to Santa each night. They return before the children wake but are usually found in a new location each morning. Some of them create mischief and are found next to a pile of food or toys they didn't clean up. They might even bring early Christmas presents to kids. I've even heard of one who moved the car overnight from the garage to the street and was found inside the car the next morning.

I don't think to myself, "Oh, how creative." I think to myself, "Oh, that mom is making my life too difficult." Because I do not have time for an elf. I do not want an elf. I do not like the idea of a snooping elf in my house. But my kids keep hearing about the elves which inhabit the homes of their friends. They want to know why they don't have an elf.

I don't want to get into the issue at all, it feels too much like lying. Yes, Santa comes to our house, but really, I try to say as little about him as possible. And I never pull out the "Be good or Santa won't come" sort of stuff. But now with the elves, I'm getting forced into conversations about specifics. Last week a friend explained to my children that she had to have an elf at her house because her kids were naughty, but maybe we were lucky because we didn't need one. I'm not sure what the boys thought of that explanation, but it only solved a temporary problem, if that. It created more myth about the elf than I really wanted.

How does one deal with this? I ignored it last year and hoped it would go away. It didn't. It came back this year with more intensity and more questions. If I explain the truth to the boys, no matter how carefully I word it, they will spill the beans to the kids who have elves. After all, Bug is only four. He lives in Pretend and Fantasy every day. This fits right into his view of the world. But if I let it go, they'll continue to feel cheated out of this fun. And I do believe it is fun. I just don't want to be coerced into playing.

Monday, December 8, 2008

appliance roulette

Our oven has broken at least twice. Sometimes it comes to life again without any repair, sometimes it comes to life despite the replaced thermostat. Our dishwasher is on it's last legs. We dump in soap but can't close the soap door. Seems like things don't always get clean these days either. And there is rust inside. And, it stinks. I worry about the dishwasher. But it was the refrigerator that broke this weekend. Who knew?

We had a Christmas gathering with the families of our dinner group. We usually pick restaurants and hire babysitters, but this month we cooked and everyone came to our house. LG brought an apple cobbler and ice cream. When she pulled out the ice cream to serve it, it was mush. Good mush I must add, melted all over the hot cobbler. I figured we'd been in the freezer too much for ice and it had gotten left open accidentally. Nope. Broken.

I'm looking for a repair person as I type. Only one with a reference has a new phone number and can't be found. CD looked up a few other names but no one can come until tomorrow. We are fortunate to have a large freezer in our garage. The fridge has a couple bags of ice to keep milk, cheese, eggs and such things edible. The rest we refroze outside. I'll open the fridge as little as possible and try to use up anything I can for dinner tonight.

I do not want a new refrigerator (or oven or dishwasher) for Christmas. Just in case someone wondered.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Humpty Dumpty Bug


Daddy, will you crack me open?
You mean like an egg?
No, like tickle me.
Tickle you till you break open?
No, tickle me till the giggles come out.
Do you mean, crack you up?
Yeah! Tickle me till I crack up!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

follow the light

This was the view from my bathroom window a week or so ago. Our Chinese Maple tree is over two stories tall. When the leaves turn and the sun is out, it simply glows.

The window in the children's bathroom is frosted and the light and color are diffused. I have come upstairs just to look for the source of the pink light.

The leaves are almost all gone now from the rain we had Monday. I will have to wait a full year to enjoy the color show again.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Today I pulled out the recipe file and picked out Christmas cookie recipes for the year. My baking goal may be a bit extensive, but I already did the gingerbread house at Halloween, so I might succeed. We'll see.

Cookies to Make for Christmas 2008
  • pretzel-Hershey's wreaths with an M&M on top. Easy and good. I already made some on Monday.
  • fruitcake cookies with the recipe I invented
  • nutmeg Christmas cutouts- with my mom when she arrives - and lots of mess with the kids and sprinkles
two of the following:
  • Swedish cookies sliced thin with nuts and powdered sugar
  • "Faith's Grandma's cookies"- I have never made these. But... my memory of them (only eaten once and probably in the 70's) is still strong. Therefore, I think I should finally make them. They call for an entire orange and are rolled in cinnamon sugar. I enjoy the irony that Faith and her grandma are Jewish. Hope she'd approve.
  • "Cookie Store Cat" fruit squares with a shortbread dough and jelly- recipe came from a kid's book... "The Cookie Store Cat" (surprise there!)
Then I'm going to make apple butter* for teachers and neighbors (might give pretzels to some instead) and probably a coffee cake to eat Christmas morning. I'd be smart if I had it half baked and in the freezer before the big morning. That's all!

*I make apple butter by putting unsweetened applesauce in the crock pot with sugar and spices, and coming back for it many hours later. Simple as can be.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

please be quiet


He feels perfectly healthy. He just can't talk much. He's just loud enough to be heard, but doesn't have a scream in him. Or a shriek. Or a yelp. Or a squeal. Or a shout. Or any of the rest of those. And if you know Bug, you know he's loud.

First thing said about him in the delivery room: "My what a beautiful baby. My goodness, he has strong lungs." True quote and fitting to a T. He used to leave our ears ringing when we held him. I could comfort him better if he didn't hurt my ears. I would tickle him more if he wasn't so loud.

I should feel badly. But really, I'm wondering if it can be induced.

Monday, December 1, 2008

list making

I'm a list maker. If it means anything to you, I fall off the edge of the 'J' criteria on the Myers-Briggs. I can make lists of things that make me a list maker if you want. Pook likes making lists, but his are things like The Characters in the Book Ordinary Boy, and U.S. Presidents. I make lots of lists on scraps of paper mostly as I drive. All my lists fall under the title To Do.

When I notice that my car/purse/desk is full of scraps of paper, I pull them together to make a Master List. Those feel especially good because I usually find things on the list that I've already done, so after I recopy them onto the Master List, I get to cross them off right away. (If you have to ask why I bother to write them at all, you just don't get us 'J' personalities.)

Christmas is Prime List Making Time. I need to:
  • make a big order from Amazon
  • make a small order from another, to remain unnamed, location
  • make another Target run (or maybe W%##Mart even though I hate the place).
  • The kids and I need to go to Michael's Crafts and then produce some cousin gifts.
  • make a trip to the Post Office- just for Sister MD's family.
I made an Excel spreadsheet this year to keep track of past and present gift giving to extended family. I love it. I can keep the ideas they email to me available to look at in the future. If SisterInLaw dislikes vanilla and peach scents but likes candles and bathtub products but isn't getting any this year, I can remember the idea for another time. It also is supposed to remind me that there are lots of December birthdays in my family.

Ugh.... (I was temporarily off in La-La-Land making sure I'm prepared and now I need to add a second trip to the post office, and soon.) But back to my lists.
  • Advent calendar (Ha! Just got it out and hung it up this morning! Does my computer have a check mark somewhere?)
  • decorate house- one must do this slowly so CD doesn't freak out
  • see if there are pansies anywhere in Atlanta that I can put in my backyard planter. I'll bet they're all gone and replaced by Christmas trees
  • find place to cut tree this year- see if we have a free (ha!) weekend afternoon anywhere.
Now I'm starting to panic. I will stop this list making before I'm a mess. I'm going to unload some laundry and unwrap a pile of Hershey's kisses. I can bake a few pretzel candies right now.