My friend Blair is going to be having a baby soon. An exciting, but terrifying, prospect under the best of circumstances. For Blair it is more scary than normal, her baby has only been cooking for 34 weeks out of the regular 40 and this is following sixteen weeks of bedrest, but Blair's water broke and the time is coming. Please keep her, her baby "Dotcom" and her husband in your thoughts and prayers.
1. The ol’ Tannenbaum--fake or real? When does it go up? And when does it come down?
When we first got married, we had a lovely real tree. Well, the first year we did. The second year we didn't do a tree at all. I had a baby on December 1 and was too worn out to care. Our third Christmas we had another real tree. Then we moved to Alaska -- the land of a million spruce trees. There we found out that real Christmas trees are hard to come by. If you go buy one at a lot, they've been shipped in from Oregon and cost a fortune. You can go chop one down for free on specially designated government land, but then you have to slowly acclimate it to the indoors, because if it warms up too quickly all the needles fall off immediately and all the hibernating bugs wake up and swarm your house. We decided to buy a fake tree like 98% of the other people in Fairbanks.
It's a nice, skinny, 7-footer that served us very well. Currently though, it is up in the attic. Last year on Christmas Eve, my mom was at Lowes and found a 9-foot, pre-lit tree for $20. Now, I was perfectly happy with only a 7-foot tree, but not having to string lights makes me almost giddy. We haven't decided what to do with the other tree. Maybe some year we'll get ambitious and put it up elsewhere in the house.
As to when we put it up -- normally sometime in the weekend after Thanksgiving -- this year it was about 30 minutes after the last bit of pumpkin pie was eaten at the Thanksgiving feast due to pressure from The Boy. It comes down as quickly after Christmas as I can talk my husband into working on it -- usually right around New Year's Day.
2. Shopping--fake or real? Oh, wait, that’s the last question. Here we are--do you wait until the last minute or plan ahead? Do you give gift cards?
I usually plan ahead and buy things on sale or make things, but I always either can't think of anything for one of my husband's brothers -- and yes, I do all the shopping for everyone except me -- or I forget someone. So there is always a last minute gift or two that I have to run out and buy. My husband, relieved of almost all shopping duties, still manages not to do any shopping until I kick him out of the house with instructions not to come home until he's bought me a Christmas present. He's lucky that this year we decided we're not buying presents for each other at all, having just bought ourselves a lovely new furnace instead.
3. And finally, where do you carry out your celebrating, of whatever sort it might be? At your house, at a relative’s house in the area, or out of town?
At home. My parents don't celebrate Christmas and my in-laws take the, in my opinion, unreasonable stance that children should be allowed to get up whenever they feel like it -- say 3 a.m. to open their presents -- and that everyone should get up and make merry. I'm not merry at 3 or 4 a.m. and therefore we do not go anywhere. We might, and have, travelled later in the day to eat with someone, but the morning time is reserved for opening presents and playing with them and wearing pajamas.
Seeing as how I live in Nashville and near the parts where the Battle of Nashville raged, I suppose I should have known when the battle was fought. It took Robert over at the Llama Butchers to point out that this is the 140th anniversary of the battle.
I love black liquorice. I think it all stems back to visits with my grandparents. My grandfather liked black liquorice a lot, so they always had it around their house. If I was going to sneak candy, it was going to have to be liquorice. Later, my love of the stuff came in handy. I never had any problem getting everyone to give me all the black jelly beans and I never had to share.
Today I noticed that Altoids now makes curiously strong liquorice. I love their wintergreen and ginger flavors, so I had to buy the liquorice. If you really like black liquorice, it is very tasty. My children like black liquorice and wanted to try the Altoids. The older one wasn't so impressed, but the two year old is wandering around the house, sucking on her liquorice Altoid and telling me and her brother, "I like liquor!"
I tried to take some photos of the two big kids in front of the Christmas tree the other day. It wasn't that they were grouchy or willfully uncooperative, but I only managed to get one good shot out of 68. Thank goodness for digital cameras though. I didn't get the picture up above until about number 50. I would have felt even more sorely tried had I snapped three rolls of film, paid to have them developed and then found out that nothing was worth having. Of course, having a digital camera also encourages you to just keep shooting away.
Yesterday the kids were looking at our photo albums. They'd pulled out the one from Fairbanks and were flipping through it. The Boy was really excited to see the pictures of him in North Pole sitting on Santa's lap. The Girl was interested in all the pictures, but kept asking, "Where me?" She can't fathom the world before she began. I hardly can either. Sometimes I look at those pictures and wonder why we didn't get any of her, until I remember she didn't emerge from the womb until a few months after we returned to the Lower 48.
Six weeks ago today, I was in the hospital having another baby. I already am beginning to forget what the world was like before we had three children and officially became outnumbered. There are moments when the big kids are playing quietly and the baby is snoozing that make me think I wasn't insane and that life is rich and full. More often, the older ones are bickering, the baby is screaming for food or attention and I'm pulling my hair out.
I can't say things are back to normal. I know a new normal will have to evolve as I get used to life with three kids. Right now I'm generally too intimidated to get out of the house with all three kids. I can take two into a store and do just fine, but three is still beyond my ability to cope. I know I would have a meltdown and turn into the screaming, crying, spanking woman in public which would be bad. It's not a good thing to be at home either, which is why when it is not raining, I make the kids play outside as much as possible. They get along better in the yard, and I get a few moments of quiet. A fenced-in yard is a wonderful thing.
Although things are crazy and loud around here and although there are times when I want to sell all the children to the nearest band of passing gypsies, I love them like mad. In a few years, the baby is going to flipping through the albums asking, "Where me?" I'll have trouble remembering that she hasn't always been around.
The kids and I made these sugar cookies (minus the Lifesavers) tonight. They are very tasty and don't require you to refrigerate the dough before you roll it out, which is a big plus if there is an impatient 5 year old or an impatient 29 year old in your family. Penzey's Spice Catalog also has a no-chill sugar cookie recipe, but I think the Kraft recipe tastes better and the dough is easier to work with.
Some time in the next week or so we may make two more favorite cookie recipes -- ginger cookies and chocolate macaroons. The first came from Southern Living and the latter from Martha Stewart, I believe.
Ginger Cookies makes about 4½ dozen
1½ cups shortening 2 teaspoons baking soda 2 cups sugar 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 2 large eggs 1 teaspoon ground cloves ½ cup molasses 1 teaspoon ground ginger 4 cups all-purpose flour Sugar
Preheat oven to 375°. Combine first 9 ingredients (everything except additional sugar) in a large mixing bowl; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until mixture is blended. Shape into 1-inch balls, and roll in additional sugar. Place on greased cookie sheets, and flatten slightly with a flat-bottomed glass. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Chocolate Chunk Macaroons makes 20
¾ cup sugar 2½ cups shredded coconut 2 large egg whites ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract pinch of table salt
Preheat oven to 350°. Have ready a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (not wax paper). In a large bowl, combine sugar, coconut, egg whites, chocolate, vanilla, and salt. Using hands, mix well, completely combining ingredients. Dampen hands with cold water. Form 1½ tablespoons of mixture into loose haystack shape; place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining mixture, spacing about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating halfway through. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
I'm slow to mention this, but Frank Myers has moved his blog to spiffy new digs at www.CitizenFrank.com. If you haven't visited his site before, go now. He blogs about his time in Iraq and is an excellent writer worth reading whenever he gets a chance to post. He's not the only good writer in the family though, and I recommend reading his wife's guest post, if you missed it. Actually, I recommend going back and reading everything you've missed.
I just don't like my teeth. I went this morning for my teeth cleaning and found out that not only do I have several sensitive areas on a watch list -- let's hope the FBI aren't monitoring my teeth -- I also have one real cavity and two fillings that have reached the end of their lifespan and are leaking. Bah. Three fillings. Hmph. And I even floss!
The Boy actually turned five last Wednesday, but with a mid-week birthday he wound up really celebrating more of a birth-week than a birth day. My mother came down from Ohio on Wednesday to bring birthday presents, take him out for a birthday mango lassi and eat a cupcake with him. She had to leave the next morning though because my younger brother was arriving from Japan.
Because the Boy does not have preschool on Wednesday, they had his celebration the next day. The girls and I went for the last few minutes of school, where they told a version of the Waldorf Rainbow Bridge story all about The Boy, while he got to wear a special crown and cape, then they gave him a little handmade bag with modelling wax, a seashell and a polished stone in it, and the kids got to eat cake the teachers had made. There was nothing for me to do, which was lovely.
And decidely not the case with the real birthday party on Saturday afternoon. The Boy had requested, admist about 900 party ideas, a knight party, so we went with that. I made the cake on Fridaymorning and then made felt crowns for all the kids that night. Saturday morning I decorated the cake, while Justin demonstrated his creative skills and turned one Smiles diaper box from Sam's Club into five shields, five swords, and three archery targets. After the cake was finished, I downloaded coloring pictures of various creatures to paste on the shields (which the kids got to color and decorate), as well as some images for the targets and an extra large dragon for the kids to play pin-the-fire-on-the-dragon.
I made sure the two year old was napping before the guest arrived and a good time was had by all. The kids did archery with The Boy's suction cup bow and arrow set, then decorated their sword and shield with the finest plastic gems, sparkly star stickers and glitter glue, ate cake and ice cream, after which they pinned fire on a dragon and then ran around our backyard whacking each other with swords.
I'm glad it is over, but I'm glad we threw a party this year too.
When I next get invited to a baby shower, I'm getting the new mama and daddy an extra large jug of laundry detergent. It doesn't matter how many cute clothes or toys the new baby gets, what they really need is more soap to wash it all.
I remember being overwhelmed by the laundry when my son was born -- but we were using cloth diapers most of the time then. After my first daughter arrived, I gave up on using the cloth diapers again in large part because of the extra laundry they required. Now my laundry piles are beyond amazing.
I have a newborn who gorges herself and regurgitates all over herself, me and whatever surface we're on before I can burp her. She also has the occasional poop-splosion, requiring a change of everything in the vicinity.
The two year old has consistently refused to wear a bib since she started solid foods. She usually spills or drips or wipes her hands on her clothes. And if she doesn't, she'll get chalk or something else on her clothes. When she notices even the slightest stain or mark on her clothes, she rips them all off and cannot be convinced for any consideration to put them back on -- they are dirty.
My five year old eats somewhat more neatly and doesn't rip his clothes off at the smallest hint of dirt -- he is a boy, afterall. However, it is not unusual for him to come home from preschool in his spare clothes carrying a bag of soup, oatmeal or mud covered clothing. That much wouldn't be so bad, but on top of that -- the boy who so proudly was staying dry for months and didn't need to wear Pull-ups anymore has reverted. He has wet the bed almost every night for the past two weeks. We limit his fluid intake. We make him pee twice and he still wakes up soaked.
I washed two loads of laundry yesterday. Today I have at least three to do, because I have one spit-up covered down comforter and one pee-soaked one. Have I mentioned that I hate laundry and never have enjoyed washing things?
I hate pacifiers! My son, however, sucked everything he could get his mouth on from the first hour after he was born. We used a pacifier for about 6 months and I hated looking at it every time -- but it sure was useful in the car and stuff like that.
My first daughter would have nothing to do with a pacifier. We learned to live without. So this time, I was fairly resistant to even bothering with them. However, the baby seems more like her brother in many ways and I did want to be able to drive without screams from her mingling with the arguments from the other two and I like to be able to pass her off to her dad for a little while now and then. So I boiled up some pacifiers last night.
She took right to them. I sure hate seeing her all plugged up, but it is convenient and leaves my pinkie free for other things.
My son probably sings as well as most five year olds -- which is to say atonally and when he makes up his own songs (frequently) they tend to ramble and make very little sense. I admit that when we're in the car and he's sharing his latest ditty, I tend to tune out. It's sweet and cute and all that, but I can only take so much off-key, tuneless, pointless singing.
The other day he was singing "train songs" though and at one point what he was singing actually registered. He was singing a song he'd named "Don't Get On That Long Black Train, Because It Means Death". He must have gotten that from his dad, but it made me laugh.