Archive | December, 2011

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

15 Dec

Thing I Love: The little things (Christmas style)

Today I have a laundry list of things I love. Laundry, shockingly enough, is not one of them. Here we go.

Walmart*: I’m pretty sure I’ve done this one before. If not, I should have. Judge if you will, but this place does our family such a service. It’s price-matching alone saves us billions of dollars every week. Yes, billions. The mere fact that I don’t have to cart my boys over the river and through the woods to every sale-touting grocery store is a brilliant gift. Today was a special day at our favorite bargain barn, as their staff was Out Of this Discount World helpful. The photo man rushed my one-hour service. My clerk ensured I price-matched items of which I had no prior knowledge. And today I got car side service. Yes, one of their employees donned winter apparel to assist me with my cart-ful of groceries and little boys. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

Christmas Carols: Yeah, I know. Everyone loves these. But they are playing a unique role in my 3-year-old’s world these days. We are regularly regaled with completely original Carol Mash-ups like “Up on The Holly Jolly Housetop” and “Jesus is Coming to Town”. He’s also been fitting little lines from these songs into his daily communication. The other day he beguilingly asked me “Won’t you drive my sleigh tonight?”, and last night as he was saying good night to AJ and I he wished us “a merry Christmas and a happy new year”.  And often he gets confused by dated lyrics. He regularly sings of “the timings of Christmas”. Good timing.

House Guests: Because I rarely allow people exposure to our chaotic abode, hosting TWO get-togethers in the next week has me cleaning and organizing places I had forgotten existed. Today I was excited to find a savings bond gifted to my 3-year-old upon his birth 3-ish years ago. I was also super pumped to know that I had not one, but 4 bottles of Zyrtec. Oh, and opened dark chocolate doesn’t age well. Just an FYI.

Sweet Potatoes and These candied tubers are on sale a lot these days. In addition to making loads of Henry food I have found a muffin recipe that pleases each of my male minions (and some that aren’t mine). Try them.

Christmas Carols: What? I did this already? Ah, well. Bear with me. This time our incessant listening has created in our Eldest a love of The Jackson 5, because of this song. We’ll let the young Michael Jackson play a role in his life. Why not?

This blog and its readers (Hey! That’s YOU!): When my sister and I landed on the idea to do this blog I had no idea how much joy it would bring me. I find comfort in the wise, silly, and creative antics of my sister. I love collaborating with her. It’s almost as though she doesn’t live 11-ish hours away. I also love sharing my life with others who so respectfully and kindly take part. Thank you.

So, that’s it. My cup of cocoa runneth over.

Inborn Greed (and pudgy hands, too)

14 Dec

Okay, I know. It’s too too cute, right? Tooooooo cute. I’m just impressed that his propensity for gift opening is so obviously innate.

Now bring us some Piggy Pudding*

13 Dec

*If you don’t already own the John Denver & The Muppets Christmas album, do yourself a 1 minute and 6 second favor and listen to this selection.  Now, on with the post:

There are many ways in which I have failed my children.  Some of which, I’m aware.  For instance I know that we have never given any of them a proper birthday party with peers, party favors and presents out the wazoo.

Of other failings, I am blissfully unaware.  Those are the worst.  Everything can be swimming along merrily – wait!  they don’t know how to swim yet!  What kind of mother am I??!!??  ARG.

Okay, as I was saying, everything seems peachy-keen and then – BOOM!  Out of nowhere you are smacked alongside the head with yet another unfulfilled area of your offspring’s lives.

This is how it was at the zoo last week.  I mean the actual zoo.  John Ball Zoo was celebrating Christmas for the Animals, so we downloaded their list, and checked it twice.  Then we grabbed some Jello,

peanut butter,


and our children, and headed down, because who wouldn’t want to give Jello to the animals?  Cecilia, that’s who.  I guess she has something against them having flavored ice.  Come to think of it, why do they need flavored ice?

Aside from the separation anxiety over the gelatin dessert, the day seemed to have all the necessary ingredients for a lovely family outing:  cool weather, free admission, no crowds, and happy critters.  We drifted through the animals, taking our merry time, laughing all the way.

The storks didn’t seem overly concerned about delivering a newborn babe to a young virgin mother, instead they were busy having a little jousting match.  

“Four Fighting Storks”, may soon replace the Calling Birds in our boys’ rendition of The Twelve Days.

The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown rival this beauty that we photographed for my Mom’s sake.  So Mom, what is it?

I can’t wait until she tells us, because of all the trees that are in the zoo, this berry wears the crown.

There were no bells on bob tails, but there was an ice sculpture of  a bob cat that made our spirits bright.

All except Thomas’ that is.  He went into a little meltdown because the sculpture was erroneously located in the African section of the zoo.  Gladly the artist could take the heat, even if his artwork couldn’t.

Also in the African section was this lovely lioness who is surely hoping that Santa will bring her five tasty lads and lasses for Christmas.

She’s undoubtedly been a good girl.  And even if she hasn’t, who’s going to argue with her?

There were other harmonious holiday moments as we strolled through the nearly empty zoo – games, free stickers and bookmarks, the opportunity to pet a snake (I’ll spare you that picture) and a chance to actually visit with our children about what we were seeing – something I find a frequent challenge in crowded public venues.

So when did the parenting ball drop as quickly as if it were in Times Square on New Year’s Eve?  When we ended our visit to the zoo with a quick stop by the Farm where my eldest son and I had the following conversation:

Me:  Look boys, they have all the animals penned together, the cows, the goats, the chickens and the pigs.
Simeon:  There aren’t any pigs, Mom.
Me:  Yes, there are.  Look, right there. (Pointing to the pig standing just 20 sloppy feet away.)
Simeon:  But Mom, it’s not pink.

Errata:  My mother just politely, and privately pointed out to me that my Storks are Pelicans.  I have no explanation for my animal identification ignorance but would note that obviously my apples don’t fall far from their tree.


Doo Doo YOU remember?

12 Dec

I’m presently confused. About presents. Presents of the past, in fact. Not of the present. See, amidst my children’s greed-riddled list making mania of this particular season I have been racking my mind grapes about what gift I absolutely HAD to have as a youngling. Which toy was it that without which I couldn’t live another day? I’ll be honest, this was a hard one. I must have been a super awesome, grateful, selfless child. (We don’t have fact checkers in the production of this blog.) Anyway, I figured it out. Baby Goo Goo. I’m sorry, you’re confused now, too, right? It sounds as though I wanted the infant version of a certain pop star, yes? Well, you’re wrong. I wanted a Baby Goo Goo. You know, the baby doll in which you could shove your hand and make to wiggle like everyone’s favorite newborn? Yes, that. Our local dime store had them. And them I did covet EVERY time I went to said store to buy embroidery floss with my Gramma. So on the list they went. In fact, I’m fairly certain that owning a Baby Goo Goo was my ONLY Christmas desire.

This isn't it. Boo Hoo, baby.

NOW is when it gets confusing. I went to find an image of  a “Baby Goo Goo” with which to dress up this post. I Goo-Googled it and I FOUND NOTHING. Well, that’s not true. I found something called the “Goo Goo Kids Hand Puppet”. My first thought was that I was mis-remembering. That can happen. But then I looked at this “hand puppet” thing and while it was certainly similar to my childhood yen, it was not the same. Hm. Weird. At this point, I thought MAYBE we (yes, both Christina and I were gifted this the greatest of our yearnings) had fallen for a generic. That, too, can happen. In fact, in our world, generic is king. (You’re welcome, Generic.) And I’m thinking this is the most probable scenario. However, I put in a call to my sister to see if I could wiggle her memory stick. She Goo-Googled, too (it’s just too goo-good on the wordplay front to stop). She stumbled upon something that looked MORE like our Baby Goo Goos but was called “Little Sprout Baby”. What? That doesn’t sound anything like goo goo. Don’t you think a generic of that one would be called the “Tiny Bud Buddy”? Upon further research (specifically THIS VIDEO) I have decided that the Little Sprout was never in our puppet-baby loving hands, either (because we didn’t get a bassinet and birth certificate!). So now I’m at an impasse. What is this “Baby Goo Goo”? How can there be NO record of its existence on the internet?? EVERYTHING is on the internet!!!! Everything except generics, I guess.

Christmas Bibliomaniac

9 Dec

We have Christmas books. Many many Christmas books. Whooptie-doo, so do you. (That was a cute little rhyme, huh?) I didn’t used to have this book collection. It’s one of the things my husband brought to the Christmas prep table. He and his brother got a new Christmas book every year and over the years their collection reached beyond the widest branches of their tree. I love this tradition, so we have adopted it into our family. We don’t necessarily buy a new book each year. AJ’s mom is adept at keeping us stocked. Sometimes she gifts the boys with new books. Lately she’s given them books of their Dad’s from the past. Some of the books are gifts from others. Regardless of their origin, we love the books. We love hauling them out of storage each year. We love picking a new one to read each night. Here, I’ll show you some of our collection.

This was our first purchase as a married couple. Funny.

The one on the left was the first Christmas book we bought for Owen. The one on the right was AJ’s when he was little. Mr. Grinch is so mean we needed two of him.

Some of our books tell a Classic Christmas Story.

Some of them tell the Actual Christmas Story.

We even have a touch and feel. Don’t you?

Oh, and a Christmas Humor Book. That’s really important in any book collection. You know, keepin’ it light.

And hey! Look at this! SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR. How cool is that? This is thanks to my sister who is willing to stand in line to get such things. Chris Van Allsburg is from Grand Rapids, so he and Christina are practically bff’s.

And board books. There must ALWAYS be board books, because we always have at least one child who consumes books. See? He’s getting ready to chomp.

 Please, feel free to come over and read. I’ll make hot cocoa and put on some James Taylor. Or Harry Connick Jr. Maybe Barenaked Ladies? Mormon Tabernacle Choir? The Osmonds? We could always hit ‘shuffle’. Tell you what, you can choose the Christmas tunes. No, YOU choose the book, I’ll choose the tunes. Wait, no, you’re the guest – you choose. I’LL make recommendations. No, no. I’ll just make hot cocoa.


8 Dec

Things I (We) Love:  Our Twins

Now, don’t get me wrong, outside of the clever Thing 1 and Thing 2 reference that can be made, I typically think of them as people not objects.  Also, while we’re making sure everything is crystal clear, regardless of what you are about to read, I do love them.  Very, very much.  That’s why they are allowed to stay.  Otherwise, they’d be off to boarding school faster than you can say “Cat in the Hat.”

For your reading enjoyment, with a heavy side of “Whew!  I’m sure glad I’m not her!,”  here is a brief rundown of what our 15-mo-old Twins were able to accomplish today.  Please keep in mind, that despite my propensity for exaggeration they did do each and every one of these things in the last 24 hours:

  • Peter tackled the cat.
  • Cecilia took Pete’s cup at breakfast and then acted as if she was giving it back to him, only to pull quickly away everytime he reached to regain his milk.  A delighted “No!” and guilty smile shaped her mouth.
  • Pete pulled our good serving platter, bowls and several other large, breakable items out of the china cabinet.
  • Cecilia fell off the desk.
  • Peter stood on the dining room table.
  • They emptied a bag of 72 individual teeth flossers on the bathroom floor.
  • Peter unplugged the TV, DVR, computer and Christmas tree.  Numerous times.
  • They pulled out the entire contents of a newly opened Kleenex box.  They must have meant them as gifts to me, because I found the pile under the Christmas tree.
  • Peter tried to clean the toilet with the back scrubber.  Then he threw in some bath toys for good measure.
  • Cecilia threw the nativity scene down their changing table.
  • They stole butter knives out of the dishwasher and toddled around the kitchen wielding them.
  • Cecilia nabbed a yam from the potato bin and gave it a tour of the house.
  • They removed the few remaining ornaments from the bottom of  our already top-heavy Christmas tree.  Despite what I said earlier, I fear it could topple.
  • Peter sharpened pencils.
  • Cecilia ran interference.
  • Peter sharpened scissors.  In the pencil sharpener.
  • Cecilia squealed in delight, or warning.  It’s unclear.
  • Peter tried to help Thomas with his math manipulatives.  They were both working on subtraction.

You’ll have to forgive the lack of pictures.  I was a little busy.  No!  Wait!  I have this one from exactly a year ago.

I think I’ll just stare at that for awhile.


The Shepherd’s Lament

7 Dec

He tended his sheep, and was able
To make do with the bright plastic stable,
.         But hands tickled his belly,
.         Threw him through air, so smelly.
Bethlehem’s too near the Twin’s changing table.


Taking a Haiku in the Snow

6 Dec

In case you haven’t noticed, I have a very clever sister. Recently that smarty pants put her cleverness to the test and entered a wee writing competition in hopes of bringing home a trophy  treadmill. Yep, you read correctly. A treadmill. Clever AND fit. That’s my sis. I don’t want to get too deeply into it as the wounds are still bright red, but she didn’t win. She wasn’t even a runner-up. Here’s the deal: SHE WAS ROBBED!!!! That treadmill was ripped from her waiting feet.

So, in hopes of bolstering her creative ego I have hosted my own little writing competition. I challenged my friends (the word-ly adroit ones) to make December weather, well, less December weather-ish, by couching their thoughts on said subject in a witty haiku. The results thrilled and charmed me. Read.

when it’s not bitter

the weather is dismal grey

does the sun hate us?


Ice coats the windows

the snow drifts deep, so I won’t

get the mail today


winter has come today

tell the fashionistas that

gray is the new black


My house looks naked

but I like to stay inside

maybe lights next year!


You know its christmas,

When your neighbor blows circuits,

lighting up his yard


Chilly chilly air

Blowing right through my sweater

Oh you naughty thing


Winter snow and ice

seem to bring dismay to all

folks over sixty.


Summer’s opposite

December weather is cold

Cold like my small feet.


December abounds

with birthdays around

Jesus, Dana, Zach (Someone OBVIOUSLY has an ulterior motive here….)

Great, huh? Haiku hilarity. I was super-pleased with my friends, so I wrote this:

Wordsmiths are my friends

Making snow and ice clever

A blizzard of pride!

That was their prize. Oh, wait. Officially I am naming Christina the winner (nepotism and bias aside). This is her certificate:

SO, that’s it. Oh, no, wait. It’s not. I forgot to mention how our dad weighed in on this important competition. You’ve already been briefed about him, right? Well, here was his contribution:

Limericks are shrewd

There was a lady from Ott

Haiku doesn’t rhyme

This was our mom’s retort:

Try something for Dad

iambic pentameter

or maybe lim’rick.

How Deadly Are Your Branches

5 Dec

My husband has brought many good things in to my life, and as we decorate our home for Christmas I always give thanks for one which has allowed me comfort and security when I’m afraid the weight of the season will crush me.  Literally.

That’s right, due to my husband’s insistence on an Answer Stand, there will be no falling Christmas trees in this house.  No matter how crooked our tree may appear, the drilled trunk is securely sitting on a long rod.  And the three lengths of rebar that steady the whole bedecked blue spruce have gone a long way in stilling my fears of all the years.

In comparison to my other justifiable childhood anxieties, (collapsing floors, open flames, more than ten people in any one location) being crushed by a Christmas tree was pretty mild.  And oddly, this phobia is in no way related to my dislike of trees, but it certainly can be traced back to a specific incident.

You see this delightfully resting early 80’s teen?

Her anonymity will remain.  For now let’s just say that we didn’t often have babysitters, but when my parents needed one it was pretty handy that my older cousin lived down the road.  And this little late-night snooze of hers was well earned, although the sneaky sleeping picture probably was a bit cruel on the part of her aunt and uncle.

No, she didn’t need to crash because her charges wore her out, or because their parents stayed out until the wee hours of the morn.  Her exhaustion is the result of an adrenaline and pine cocktail hangover.  She, and the young left in her care, were attacked by an errant, but beautifully decorated tree.

It looks so harmless, but trust me, when a prickly evergreen attacks your evening of babysitter bliss the shrieks of “O Tannenbaum!” echo in the decked halls for Christmases to come.


Large Hopes

2 Dec

I’m trying to read this right now:

It seems applicable, even though five children doesn’t really constitute a large family.

It doesn’t.  There are much larger families out there, and to be really honest with you, five feels pretty normal.  I suppose that just goes to show that children make you a bit delusional.

In case you’re doubting my size assessment I encourage you to read this description of family size, and then hang out there and read every entry on their entire blog, because whether or not you agree with these super smart women each word they write is loaded with beauty, often with wit, and always with enough weight to make you really consider your own beliefs.

I cannot say so much for Kim Brenneman’s very large book.  At least not yet, but I haven’t given up hope.  You see, what I wanted to read, and what the reviews promised me, is real, hands-on, practical, everyday advice on how to make our busy, noisy, cluttered abode into an efficient factory filled with child labor.  Or something like that.

I’m only 53 pages in, and hope to report back to you later that these bits of wisdom lie in waiting, ready to spring out and help me whip this house in order, but currently I’m mired in the slough of despond, or as she describes Part One, the “philosophical” chapters.

I thought I could tolerate the thirteen pages she spends exhorting us to be the Proverbs 31 woman.  I mean, I’ve heard enough good Gospel preaching over the years to comfort my guilty conscience when she reminded me to “hear your husband’s dreams and help him to reach his goals,” and that “the Excellent Wife takes care of the clothing needs for her family.  She seeks just the right apparel for them.”

I fear that my children’s jeans are probably too holey to be Holy enough for this standard.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe as wives we should do all these things, and more.  I just like my exhortation to good works served with a main course of Paschal Lamb roasted in love to save us.

But since Mrs. Brenneman promises Part Two is full of “nitty-gritty particulars” I decided to give it a quick thumb-through.  That perusal exposed bold titles like: Floor Mopping for the Large Family,When Do I Take a Shower, Keeping Up With the Work, and my personal favorite, Rest for the Weary.

So, although I doubt that even that will preach Christ crucified, I think I’ll go ahead and slog my way through.