Friday, December 31, 2010

what time do you want midnight to be?

I just got off the phone with a friend, having asked her "What time do you want midnight to be?" 

It isn't a question one asks often, but under the circumstances it was highly appropriate.  See, at the House of Pook and Bug we do New Year's Eve differently.  Meaning, it doesn't happen at midnight.  Or rather, midnight doesn't happen at 12:00am.  We decided on 7pm.

We're having four families over, all with small/ish kids, and midnight is impractical.  (Because none of the adults would be able to stay up that late and still parent in the morning!)  So, we go through the motions at an earlier hour.  It works great and no one feels cheated of a New Year's Eve celebration.

The party will start at 4pm.  We're making pizza dough and letting everyone decorate their own slices of pizza with their choice of toppings.  Everyone will chip in some pizza toppings to keep it fun but simple.  Because simple is the key word here.  No one is going out of their way to prepare or shop.  (Although the Christmas gifts still strewn on our floor will need to be cleaned up.)

I'll get out bubbly beverages, party hats (some of which say Y2K on them), streamers, noisemakers, Mardi Gras beads and plastic Hawaiian leis (just 'cause they look cool).  We'll pull up a YouTube video of New Year's 2010 (they'll say hello and we'll say goodbye).  Everyone will toast, kiss, cheer and generally make merry. 

And then go home.  And the House of Pook and Bug, all of whom are recovering from a nasty cold, will go to bed.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

pile stack

Now that is a heaping pile stack* of Christmas cookies and candies!  (And a bottle of wine sneaking into the picture, which I must say, goes well with chocolate.)  I did not bake all of these myself by the way.  My mom now lives in town!

from top to bottom:

  • pretzel wreaths
  • Swedish cookies
  • shortbread
  • spicy pecans (recipe here)
  • sour cream and nutmeg sugar cutout cookies
  • mixture from a cookie exchange party, (including a wonderful peppermint pinwheel, some coconut macaroons, chocolate cherry cookies and... lots more)

Next to the pile is a box of Russian chocolates from the office white elephant party. ( I always go for something edible and not white elephant-ish because otherwise I end up with the dog Christmas stocking paired with the plastic dog that poops candies if you bam it on the head.) The chocolates are adequate, but I don't eat adequate chocolate if I can help it. Plus the translations of the contents in each are a bit rough so I can't predict what I'm going to bite into. The kids like them.  On top of that box is a bowl of fresh pecans from a farmer in my CSA and some random school party candies. And wine.

*a "pile stack" is a phrase from baby Pook

And, because I'm dealing with photos, here is my new dining room table:

Friday, December 17, 2010

table talk

Just a follow up on my kitchen table.  If I thought it was a mess before, that was nothing compared to the results after two boys cut out numerous paper snowflakes.  The scraps on the floor and table look more like snow than the pieces taped to the window.   Red, blue, purple, black and green snow.  (FYI: Don't eat green snow.)

I consented to keeping the bean plants which have sprouted in their plastic cups of polymers.  I 'm a sucker for green plants I guess.  I'm less accommodating to worms.  I decided that the worms were lonely for their outdoor home.  I wasn't sure there were still worms in the bug box, but there didn't appear to be any Halloween pumpkin left in it either.  Instead there were some bugs getting attracted to it. 

I asked Bug to take it outdoors since today finally had pleasant weather after all our cold and then rain.  He used a stick to scrape out the dirt mud compost rotted pumpkin and found all the worms.  I told him they'd be happy going home. Or maybe they liked it better indoors in the warmth than they do outside, I don't really know the mind of a worm. Doesn't matter.  They're off my kitchen table finally.

The boys had holiday parties at school yesterday and their last day today.  (Don't ask me why they don't save the craziness and just celebrate on the last day; I'm sure there were no academics today.)  We have emptied the book bags and put them away until January.  Of course, there are  now candy canes and cards and bits of crafts all over the table.  Maybe my kitchen table is shy and just doesn't want to show itself.

But!  I have been getting new tables!

My parents new home is near a strip of antique and consignment shops.  I went with my mom for the first time several weeks ago and I found a new coffee table for our den.  I loved the size of our old table when we ate in the den, and I loved that it held so many books and magazines.  I disliked the height, which was too high to put feet on, and I'd never loved the style of the table. I also disliked bumping my shin on it every time I walked past because it was too big for the room.  The new table was intended to be an end table, so my properly retired father cut the legs down and refinished the top.  It now sits in our den, covered with books and magazines so no one can see it.  But we know it's there and my feet like getting propped up on it.  It won't hold us when we sit in the den for a movie night, but we'll learn to cope.

My parents, like properly retired people, sometimes go browsing in the antique shops. This is how CD and I received a phone call two weeks ago telling us that there was an antique Victorian dining room table now marked down to $250.  Did we want to come see it?

The store had so much Stuff that my kitchen table would have felt inferior.  Not a spot of table was visible under what, I was told, could be several thousand dollars worth of knick knacks.  But my parents had seen Potential.  CD and I tossed the kids in the car and went to see it.  Sure enough, good quality solid walnut.  Slightly wider than our current too-small table, and with four leaves.  The owners cleared the table of all the pricier Stuff.  And, we bought it. 

My dad has been refinishing the top for us. (Doesn't retirement sound good?)  The base is in pretty good shape and shows less anyway.  He's told us that we can come pick it up this weekend.  Maybe we'll put a big red ribbon on it and treat it like a Christmas present!

Monday, December 13, 2010

christmas meme

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? My mom, SIL and Sister MD have sewn gift bags for years with holiday remnant fabrics they find after Christmas. We have bags now that can hold earrings or huge Lego sets and we simply fold them up and each take a few home for the next year. They're wonderfully colorful and festive and so easy to use, plus of course "green".

2. Real tree or Artificial? Real, and sometimes cut ourselves.  From a big box store this year

3. When do you put up the tree? Some free weekend in mid-December. Did it this weekend.

4. When do you take the tree down? New Year's Day

5. Do you like eggnog? no- it must be a texture thing

6. Favorite gift received as a child? I remember my red saucer sled and the homemade teddy bear my sister made for me.

7. Hardest person to buy for? me. We have some traditional gifts we give these days, like pecans or booze, so the hard to shop for people aren't so hard to shop for anymore.

8. Easiest person to buy for? my kids.  Pook lists the Lego kits by model number when he writes to Santa

9. Do you have a nativity scene? no- although we did have this one year

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? mail, but mass produced these days. Pictures of the boys

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Still thinking on that.  None come to mind, fortunately. 

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?  The Grinch!

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?  I get odds and ends starting in October, but get serious after Thanksgiving

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?  I used to teach in an elementary school.  That speaks for itself.  Oh, and the white porcelain soup tureen shaped like a goose that we got for our wedding.  The ladle came out of the goose's.... tail end.  It became a white elephant gift.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?  Sour cream and nutmeg sugar cookies

16. Lights on the tree?  Yes. Large, multi-colored ones like night light bulbs

17. Favorite Christmas song? Silent Night which when sung by children makes me cry

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?  We take turns.  I like having family here

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?  all nine. I can also recite the entire of “The Night Before Christmas”

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

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?  I used to open one at night, usually pj's.  My kids get it all in the morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?  not this time of year, but summer when stores start to decorate before Halloween

23. Favorite ornament theme or color?  angels and musical instruments

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? roast beef, baked potatoes, Mom's sweet rolls

25. What is your favorite thing about the holidays?  Seeing it through the eyes of my children

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

multi-tasking table

I've had a post describing the contents of my kitchen floor before, but today I'm going to share the contents of our kitchen table.  Frequently the floor contains the same ingredients  (after it gets brushed off the tabletop and onto the floor I guess).

Our table is:  a breakfast table, a mail depository, a temporary filing cabinet, a homework station, an art station, a but-I-might-want-it-again-later spot, and whatever other role it is needed to play.  Very versatile, our table.

As of this morning it holds:
  • four cloth napkins, three of which are in rings
  • two juice glasses the boys use for water the rest of the day
  • my tea mug I might want again today
  • two bottles of vitamins
  • salt & pepper
  • cinnamon sugar shaker
(All reasonable breakfast table items, but then it also has:)
  •  a stack of unopened mail
  • a stack of opened mail, to deal with later
  • the manual to my car which needs a new headlight
  • a couple of Christmas cards from way-too-organized family members
  • coupons, torn from some advertisement, that might get used
  • two pencils
  • three pens
  • some homework pages that aren't finished
  • some homework that came home from school, graded
  • some scraps of art projects that were discarded but not thrown out
  • unused art paper
  • some finished drawings which probably aren't worth saving but aren't yet trash either (seems like you have to wait some prescribed time before art can become trash)
(Keep going-- it gets better)
  • two plastic cups growing bean seeds in some polymer
  • one plastic cup holding a "growing reptile" in water- which looks like a three inch long worm today but will be "a cool snake" after 48 hours.  We'll see.
  • a bug jar holding "there used to be about six" earthworms and the dirt, rotting Halloween pumpkin, composting leaves and... whatever else our pet worms might want to "eat and then poop out as dirt".  The bug jar has a dishcloth across it to keep them happy since they "probably prefer" the dark.
And, on this table, I am folding laundry today.

Friday, December 3, 2010

while driving-- always while driving

As a family of Unitarian Universalists, we try to explain how all the world's religions have something to offer.  And to not confuse the kids.  Especially at Christmas. Do they get mixed up?  Maybe. Last year I asked for a menorah for Christmas.  I made (awesome) latkes, but thoughtlessly served them with pork chops.  And had Santa Claus placemats that night. Every year we play dreidel games and save the coins to donate to the UUSC through the "Guest at Your Table" program. Still, I make a bigger deal about Christmas and consider Hanukkah a dabble in the exploration of world religions.

On the way home from church Wednesday night, after celebrating  the first night of Hanukkah, (yes, that could potentially be confusing) Bug says, "I guess Santa and God are kinda alike."

Um?  Oh my.  I braced myself.  I have tried to make sure that Santa is a feeling of love and unselfishness.  Each year each child has helped fill xmas stockings for everyone else.  They still get a big unwrapped gift from Santa, but if they wanted to put two and two together it wouldn't spell Fat-Man-in-Red-Suit.

So I went with that.  I decided that yes, God and Santa were kind of alike.  Both, to me, are symbols of love and generosity.  Neither one is something we can see, but we can choose to believe anyway. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

happy December

Dear all of you who are on my Christmas card list, but whom I may or may not ever send a Christmas card this year, and to all of you who are not on my card list because I don't personally know you, even if I do appreciate that you're here reading:

It has been a busy fall here in the household of Pook and Bug.  The children have been active as they worked to use up our medical deductible.  The achieved this yesterday. We are so proud of our boys.

Bug's pediatrician suggested, last May, that he received an evaluation by an orthopedist to see if his toe walking was causing any physical problems.  The orthopedist suggested we get an evaluation by a physical therapist.  The first available appointment was after school started in the fall.  We decided to work with Bug at home to do some stretches and to postpone any physical therapy until the following calendar year, when we could use all of the appointments toward the same medical deductible.  (Seemed wise, right?)  But then we received the $800 bill for the evaluation itself and we decided that the ball had already begun to roll.

We went back to the orthopedist, back to the physical therapist and to an orthotist who made  "boots" (AFO= ankle-foot orthosis) for his feet.  He can't bend his ankles past 90° although they do have a hinge to allow him to flex and go up stairs, for example.  He chose a tie-dye pattern to the boots.  I handed over a credit card to be charged $900. He began weekly physical therapy appointments.  You can imagine how much Bug loves the boots and the exercises from therapy. The full cost of PT is $400 per hour, although even our insurance company doesn't force that upon us. 

Not that it really mattered, because on November 1st, Pook broke his left pinkie finger while playing football with Bug.  I should be happy that they were playing together.  I don't know if Bug aimed at Pook's head and missed, or if Pook simply didn't catch the football.  He requested that his cast be a lovely aqua blue.  I handed over a credit card to be charged $400.  He played some of his piano music with eight fingers during his piano recital.  He was unable to play his saxophone in band and unable to ride his bike.  He read approximately thirty books in November.

Yesterday, Pook got his cast off.  The receptionist told me I only owed "a little bit," which turned out to be the last $56 of our deductible.

Today I shall suggest that any other injuries or illnesses which my children plan to acquire, they acquire now. December should be a fun month.  You can find me in the same place I've been all fall-- in the waiting room, holding my wallet close.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season
My Kids' Mom, CD, Pook, Bug, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia