Friday, December 30, 2011

merry and bright

Our Christmases were all they should be. Kids and toys and food and family.

Pook gave me a big bag of Lindt dark chocolate and raspberry truffles and Bug gave me a pair of earrings and a drawing. He gave CD and me, jointly, a clay bunny he'd made in art at school.  Because I know they used their own money, I'm doubly impressed with their choices.  (Not that I didn't like getting my own bubble wrap.) CD gave me a Kindle. I've been reading Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante, which he gave to me also. All good.

Mickey did not show himself by eating more gingerbread and getting stuck in a mouse trap. BUT! I went into the storage room to get a paper bowl and picked up a plastic bag holding a paper tablecloth. Which sprinkled shreds onto my feet.  Shredded paper + gingerbread nibbling = not good. I will try to remember to mention the final results of this drama when they unfold.

We are hosting a South Georgia Islands New Year's party again this year. Simple menu of soup, salad, bread and dessert. There are a total of eight adults and eight kids (ages 5-11) who will be here. I'm looking forward to it. Gotta get to the dollar store with the boys to buy some streamers and horns to toot!

I doubt I'll be posting again this year, so have yourself a merry little New Year's Eve.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

a creature was stirring

Last night when the stockings were hung (and filled) by the chimney with care, and the boys were nestled with sugarplums dancing in their little sweaty heads, I settled down for my long (not really) winter's nap. And yet, all was not right. A creature was stirring.

This morning we naively brushed crumbs off our big dining room table, added a couple place mats and served a Christmas breakfast with Nana, Papa and VB. In the middle of the table was a tray with the boy's gingerbread house.

But something was wrong. A big chunk of the corner had been nibbled.  And part of a tree on the opposite side. I accused the boys, (although this isn't really their style.) No one fessed up.

Mice? No way! Couldn't be. Someone must have eaten a chunk. But when it was suggested that we throw out the remnants of the gingerbread, still no one fessed up.

Yes, mice. No, we've never seen any sign of critters before. Cereal is kept on the floor of the pantry.  Fruit is  on the counter. A compost bowl is by the sink. Crumbs abound. Never have we seen a package nibbled. Nothing has ever been amiss like this.

And yet, mice. What else?  Santa had his chips, salsa and beer (yes, they did, really), the reindeer had a fat carrot, I was eating Christmas cookies from a tin, CD was enjoying Santa's beer (Santa had to drive) and no one else was around.

Gives me the creeps.  But there is a mousetrap as centerpiece tonight, baited with... gingerbread house.  I'm not sure what I want to find in the morning. I might sleep in.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

for the chestnuts on your open fire

Merry Christmas from the home of Pook and Bug!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

three basic needs

Maybe we've always known this but never really put it into words.  But Bug has had some optional basketball practices these last few days and they've been so, so, so helpful. And not just because it separates him from his brother and temporarily stops the squabbling which has been going on since school got out Friday. The exercise calms Bug down. We've occasionally sent him outside to jump rope or play ball when he's gotten fussy, but we're noticing the effect more now.  I mentioned it to CD this evening.

We knew that the kid needed very consistent sleep. We go way out of our way to get him in bed early. He's almost eight and still goes to bed at 7:30, (up by 6:15). We'd put him in bed sooner if we could, on some days.  I was a Nap Nazi for years, making sure he was home for his nap and not in the car or at an activity of Pook's. When he's tired, we all walk on eggshells trying to prevent melt downs.

We knew that he needed to be fed on regular intervals. The four hour feedings never stopped when he was weaned.  Maybe this is a blood sugar issue, maybe the kid just eats huge quantities of food. Regardless of why, he can't skip snacks or meals or he gets really crabby.

Poor Bug. I've just described him as fussy, crabby and prone to melt downs.  He is so much better than he was as a tot that we're hardly aware of it anymore. So when I pointed out that exercise was one of those things too, that Bug's major needs are food, exercise and sleep, CD summed it (him) up.  Yes, our child is kind of like a chipmunk.hamster. (I stand corrected, and I will go buy the boy a wheel)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

one happy family

I agreed to do what?

Our devious music director came to me and asked if the boys wanted to be shepherds in the Christmas pageant again this year.

Is Bug too young to be a narrator?

Yes, maybe in a year or so.

Then sure, they'll be happy to be shepherds.

And would I be willing to be Mary to CD's Joseph?

(CD agreed to be in the pageant? Really?) Sure, I guess.

Apparently he had already asked CD if he'd be willing to be in the pageant as Joseph to my part as Mary.

Tricky guy.

But here we are, the happy family of Mary, Joseph, Shepherd Pook and Shepherd Bug.

I must go unearth a baby doll upstairs. We'll need a Jesus to pull this off!

Friday, December 16, 2011

butter, sugar and gifts

I worked both Monday and Tuesday this week, swapping out so I was home on Thursday. Liking it. Even making progress on a long to do list. Not that I was "home" much on any of these days. Yesterday the school had holiday parties and I was, of course, helping to organize one of them.

I came home and by 4pm I realized I felt ready to crash in bed for the night. Not just tired, but actually sleepy. I couldn't think of any good reason for my exhaustion, but I gave up on dinner planning and called CD to pick something up on his way home.

I revived just fine, not feeling sick or anything. Except I was starving this morning and at 10 am I had two leftover slices of pizza. That might have been the best leftover cold pizza I've ever enjoyed. Could be that it is just the best cold pizza I've had at 10 am in many years.

 The boys are finishing up their last day of school today. (Yes, holiday parties were Thursday and school ends on Friday. No, I don't get it.)

We've got a lot of activities planned. They want to go to the zoo, to the art museum, to ice skate, to see a movie and to bake cookies (x3, including a gingerbread house). I want them to get haircuts, to buy new shoes, and to start and complete a science fair experiment. We, as a family, need to get a Christmas tree and decorate it, get stocking stuffers, wrap presents and mail a couple of them.

Overall I'm in a good place. All but two or three gifts are purchased, many decorations are out, extra butter and sugar are bought Butter, sugar and gifts. That's about all anyone needs.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

carpel tunnel candies

Where has December gone? Half through!  I think between the job and, of course, the holidays, I've been busy!  I have had time for these however:

Prepare your materials: mini pretzels, Hershey's kisses of all variety, M$M's

Peel/husk/disrobe the Hershey's kisses. Next time get the kids to help.

Pop a kiss on each pretzel, bake 3-4 min at 200', then place an M$M on each

My family likes the mint truffle and candy cane flavors best

Monday, December 5, 2011

'tis the season

'Tis the time of year that proclaims that winter is about to begin. I know it must be December because my neighbor's cherry tree is blooming.  Right on schedule every year.

And yet, while I usually feel badly that the tree is going to freeze and waste its blooms, maybe I should look at it more optimistically. Yes, we're going to have winter, but heck, this is Georgia. It will not be long and it will not be mean.

There will be cold weather (yes, we've had a few hard freezes already) and it will snow (yes, this happens about once a year) but as soon as I think I cannot spend one more dreary day wearing wool socks but still having cold feet, I see blossoms.  The little heads of crocus come popping up. The daffodils smile yellow smiles and I know that even if a late snow shows up, it will melt quickly.

So her cherry tree is a reminder that spring is not so far away. The tree is simply planning ahead and getting herself dressed up a bit early. She will ruin her dress, (we know that) but she doesn't care. She will put on another in just a few months.

Other blooms in my December garden:

This is an ancient white camellia which came with our house. We prune its ten foot height occasionally but it is in such an inconspicuous location that we usually forget that we own it.

Yuletide camellias I've put by the front door.

The Obedient Plant I dug from a neighbor last spring has done perfectly in this confined location between the two driveways. If it becomes less than obedient I think I can easily limit the spread.

Winter Daphne by the front door. It will be the very best smell in my garden. I think it wins over its rival the gardenias by its timing alone. Who else can bring that smell in mid-winter? (Not yet in bloom)

Daffodil leaves. I hope they won't be bent, broken and yellow in the spring, or if they are, that they can be like the cherry tree next door and simply change to freshen up.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

hum along

If you have a memory as bad as mine, you never remember lyrics anyway.  It is much easier to make them up.  Most of the kids' bedtime songs have made-up lyrics.  I remember them so much easier.

In the car tonight the boys started picking on each other and Pook told Bug, "You'd better be good."  I added "because Santa Claus is coming to town."  Pook then began to sing the song, but he'd started with his phrase, "You'd better be good" instead of "You'd better watch out."  Recognizing that he had the tune right but not the words, he was undeterred.  (You'll absolutely have to hum along or none of this will make any sense.)  "You'd better be good.You'd better be good. You'd better be good. You'd better be good.  You-ou-ou-ou had better... be good."  I was about to call the song quits after he'd sung it four or five times and Bug had joined in, but then he decided on a new tune.  Not new words, just a new tune.

(Begin to hum "We wish you a merry Christmas" now, in preparation for this new, exciting song.)  "You'd better be good. You'd better be good. You'd better be good.You'd better be good." And then I gave in and joined them.  Let me tell you, a three part harmony-ish-like-thing of "Carol of the Bells" with the exciting lyrics, "You'd better be good" was pretty awesome.  

Bug decided we should be singing a Thanksgiving song because (I have him so brainwashed) it is too early for Christmas songs. That led to "We're thank-a-ank-ful, We're thank-a-ank-ful." (Pick a tune.)

Then Bug did something in the back seat that annoyed his brother into saying,  "Don't be a jerk." (You know where this is going, right?)  "Don't be a jerk. Don't be a jerk. Don't be a jerk. Don't be a jerk...."  It took the rub off the calling-of-names.  Bug joined in, so I did too.  That had Bug in gales of giggles, Mama singing  "Don't be a jerk." to the tune I think of Jingle Bells.  He was unable to giggle and sing at the same time, so Pook returned to the oldie but goodie, "You'd better be good."

I tell you, our Carol of the Bells was good.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

be nice, or else

I suppose it has happened slowly, in the boiling a frog sort of way.  Nevertheless, the arguments around here are too many and too frequent.  "But..."  "Do I have to?"  "He did it."  "Why do I always have to...?"

First I started responding to Bug's frequent "But..." sentences with the declaration that I did not want to discuss his bum/bottom/tushie.  He'd giggle and I could avoid having to respond to his excuses.  I hoped it would help him see just how often he used the word.  Maybe it helped, but (BUT!) not enough.

We tried offering arguments for 25¢.  As in, "I will have that argument with you for 25¢.  It helped too, but (BUT!) it required stamina and vigilance on the part of the adult.  That tends to fade after time.  I can stick with something pretty well for a while, but some are harder than others.

Right now we have a Heart Chart.  Five good getting-ready-for-school-mornings and they can earn ice cream after dinner. Our mornings have been better, however I put this in effect just before Halloween and the filled candy jar makes ice cream less of a draw now.

I'm not thrilled with using sweets as rewards.  They work, as does money, but they aren't my favorites.  So I'm going to use a combination this time and see if we can blast these bad habits away.

1) We'll continue with the heart chart in the mornings.
2) We'll go back to selling 25¢ arguments.
3) We will start dinner with a statement of thankfulness from each child concerning his sibling. What has your brother done today that makes you thankful that he's your brother?
4) I have decided that they will each choose an after dinner reward for their brother based on the way he was treated during the day.  In other words, if your brother has treated you well, give him candy for dessert.  If he's behaved in other ways, there are options varying from fruit to eggplant which are also available.

When I explained my ideas they were met with  "But if we have an argument with you and we win, do we get our money back?"  <>

Friday, November 4, 2011

and also

"Can I tell you about my book?"
     "I"ve read it.  It was good."
"Ok, but can I tell you about it?"

"Do you know how to draw a shark/robot/vampire...?"
     "How's this?"
"Well, I'll show you how."

"Want me to tell you about how we played freeze tag at PE today?"
     "Was it regular freeze tag?"
"Yeah, but let me tell you how we did it."

Such is a conversation with Bug.  Think he has a little teacher in him?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

she is not dead, but sleepeth

Here are the boys, Halloween 2011:
Bug chose to dress as a slice of Swiss cheese.
Pook dressed as his favorite thing- a Lego minifig

They'd chosen their costumes in plenty of time. My parents helped put them together with a good bit of cardboard this year. The yellow "cheese" is a thrift shop drapery.  The Lego head is made from a bucket, covered with paper and painted.

We had just the right route for Trick or Treating this year.  Our neighborhood isn't well arranged for this; the kids from their school who walk can't easily walk from street to street, making us have to choose since we live in the middle.  The loop we took included a nearby cemetery.  I've heard that the gravestones have never been identified so they can't be moved.  They're sort of between three cul-de-sacs up on a ridge. 

We visited on Halloween once before.  Every flashlight had either died or been lost by then so one dad lit the way with his phone.  This year I planned ahead and bought LED candles, which I placed on the gravestones while the kids were at school Monday.  I wasn't sure if I was making the place less creepy or more creepy, but I did think it would help us locate the stones in the dark.  I hope other neighbors visited also; we stopped on our way home and were alone there.

There are between two and five graves here.  I think.  There are enough pieces and parts of gravestones to be five, but I don't find writing on enough to be five.  In any case, the dates that are legible are of births in the late 1800's and deaths from the early 1900's, making the area just perfectly Halloween creepy.  Plus, that epitaph?  "She is not dead but sleepeth"-- yikes!

"Here lies one who in this life was a kind mother and fine wife.  She is not dead but sleepeth."

Friday, October 28, 2011

coming to a neighborhood near us

I bring it upon myself, I know I do.  In fact, in 2008 when Pook asked to be "just a bat, not a vampire or Count Dracula or anything" I think I was a bit disappointed. But!  I made him great bat wings and he looked the part and was pleased.

This year is no exception.  We have, coming to a neighborhood near us, a Lego minifig and a slice of swiss cheese.  Yes, we do.  And they will look fabulous!

I seem to have left photos out of the Halloween post from last year.  I wasn't sure how to best make Bug anonymous.  But I have done it now, so, for your viewing pleasure here are Pook and Bug, 2010.  2011 will come soon.  To get both boys in costume at the same time it will have to be time to leave on The Great Candy Run, so I'll just wait to show them later.

Friday, October 21, 2011

ta da: "After" photos

Time for the post-renovation, After photos!

The boys chose the turquoise, and now that it's up I like it a lot.  I wasn't sure.  Right now I have some very cool temperature daylight bulbs in the fixture and they give the space a very cool light.  I think I'll replace them with something warmer since the paint color reflects on the white tile already.  Snoopy was the other choice they made.  I figure that it is their bathroom and those two things, paint and shower curtain, are easily changed.  The existing Snoopy towel is right at home.
The new bathroom as seen from the doorway
The new vanity, medicine cabinet and light fixture
Second cabinet is 9" deep to hold lots!
Snoopy shower curtain and full-to-ceiling tile around window
The existing towel fits right in
The water damage was minimal. The new sill is made of cement board.  The shelf is one of my favorite details.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

running, screaming with my ears covered

I heard the phrase:  "This Holiday Season."  Later, my mother in law called. She'd seen a toy in a catalog and wanted to know if I thought it was appropriate for the boys.  My first instinct was to say "for what?" but then I caught up with her and realized that she had Christmas shopping on her brain.

Up until then I was comfortable in autumn.  Really, summer lasts so long that we've only just started autumn here.  The holidays are in the winter, last I'd checked.  Or, at least the one which requires shopping, which is the one in the reference.  Winter is a long time away.

I am not there yet.  I am so not there.  I am in "the school year is well underway" mode.  I am in "this is the coasting, life is pretty simple" time of year.  I am in the "enjoy those last warm days" clothing.  I am not wearing sweaters.  I am not making my list and checking it twice.

We are planning for Halloween.  If the calendar doesn't cheat, it is still a few weeks away.  I'm willing to make plans for Thanksgiving, but only if it is necessary to make them so early.  Christmas?  No.  It is not on the horizon yet. 

But the family will need ideas for the boys. I will have about three ideas and I will give them all to the family members who ask first, and then I will panic. 

It is a good thing that my kids want so little.  It is a good thing that they have the things they need and understand that too much is not better.  Does this mean we can skip the retail portion of the holidays?  I could suggest that we give to charities instead.  I could suggest that we draw names and only buy for one person.  I could suggest that but it would never work.  The family members who buy presents for them want to buy presents for them.  The children who receive presents would not give up the opportunity to receive presents.  No, I can't skip it and I can't hide from it.  I will have to embrace it and start The List.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

in my DNA

I spoke of my Paid Job last night in the context that it feels good to get back into my field.  CD noted that really, it isn't just my professional field, it is ingrained in my DNA.  He's probably right.

In 8th grade I had a weekly Social Studies assignment (given by a teacher who had a face like a shrunken apple and was reported to smell like bourbon - had I known what bourbon smelled like I could confirm or deny this, but I did not and cannot).  The assignment involved cutting out articles from magazines or newspapers and writing a response to them.  Good assignment really. 

One of my articles was from Time Magazine and was titled "What Do Babies Think?"  It explained how researchers could use babies' eye gaze and behavior for insight into their pre-verbal thinking.  I was fascinated.  I still have the article.  My future profession was cemented right then.

I managed to get into a college psychology class taught in my high school, which gave me a semester of college credit before starting college.  I became a Psychology major and because I was one semester off from all the others, my class sizes were smaller.

"What does one do with a degree in Psychology?"  Same as someone with an English degree.  We go to grad school.  There, or rather here in Georgia, I received a diploma which reads (due to lack of space):  "Major Mental Retard."  And so I met my destiny.

BC (Before Children) I taught a self contained class of Special Needs Preschool students.  I had a diverse group of kids, gradually becoming a class of non-verbal or violent children with Autism.  I was the teacher who took the kids the other teachers of special needs kids didn't want.

And now here I am.  Still floating, but I've spent most of my time with two particular children and I'm learning how to get into their brains. I've been given two pictures drawn by little girls, and hugs and waves from lots of children who now know me.  I'm back.  And it feels great.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

happy cow

I'm having a cow.  (Sometime in 7th grade this became the phrase to say.  "Don't have a cow." --or don't get upset.  Why did we say it? I don't know.  It was 7th grade.)  But, I am going to have a cow.  On Wednesday Mr. Farmer will be delivering a full cow to my house.   

Our congregation was challenged to make a "Happiness Pledge" last year.  This was to be something that would simultaneously make the world a better place and make us happier in some way.  CD and I decided we would purchase grass fed beef and then eat much less beef than normal. Hopefully that would keep the cost reasonable across the time frame.

The farmer keeps about six cows at a time, completely back yard grass fed.  He also raises chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, goats, lamb, and pigs.  We call it "happy cow" and try to take a moment to thank the cow, in a Native American style, before eating it.  I like that the boys care so much about the source of their food.  They ask at most meals about who grew the food they're eating.  I'm pleased to say that we often know.  (Not that Kroger isn't frequently the source.)
This farmer brings meats to our weekly organic farmer's market so I purchased a few steaks to see if the family liked grass fed beef enough to make the leap before we each bought about 25 pounds.  Two families shared 1/4 of a cow with us. We kept our pledge and were successful in changing our eating patterns, and in becoming spoiled for really, really good quality meat!

Now, I'm not sure that meat should stay in the freezer for a full year, but I pulled out the last sirloin steak today, and it was still incredible. CD marinated it in soy and garlic and then put it on the grill.  That is some of the best meat I have ever eaten.  (That and some potatoes sliced and grilled with Dijon mustard, horseradish and olive oil which were referred to by the boys as "happy potatoes" since they were also grown on an organic, "happy" farm.)

This year I decided to spread the love.  I found eleven other families to share a full cow.  The price per pound goes down naturally as you buy more, so the full cow was my goal.  The meat is all cut and labeled and approved by the government, vacuum packed and pre-frozen before delivery. I've made everyone promise to keep complaints to themselves if they have any.  The cow will do its best but, for example, it has only so many ribs.  The coolers will not be identical, but I will try to make the distribution as fair as I can. CD thinks I'll regret this.  I'm just going to try hard not to have a cow.