We (as in Hubby and I) got two interesting Christmas presents this year. As opposed to all the uninteresting gifts we got. Actually, I love all the presents I received (kitchen knives, a gift card to Chicos, very soft jammies, lots of sweets), but two of the gifts we received have been keeping us quite occupied this past week and they are as different from each other as can be.The first gift is one that we bought ourselves (or each other, if you prefer). I hate shopping for Hubby. He's hard to shop for and you can only buy him so many pull-over sweaters. He doesn't really like shopping for me either, so this year we decided to buy ourselves (or each other) an iPad. It is a really cool gadget and I have had more fun goofing around on it. Though the novice that I am (and as technologically apathetic as I am), I'm sure I haven't even touched the tip of the iceberg of what this bad boy can do.But then, strangely enough, the other gift that has captured our attention is this little guy. It's a game called Peg Solitaire, though we use marbles instead of pegs. My uncle, the painter, made it for us. It's a very simple game, dating back to the 17th century and it's actually a puzzle. You have to, by jumping over adjacent marbles and then removing them from the board, clear the board down to only one marble and that one has to be in the center of the board. My personal best has been two marbles left. This is an addictive little game. But what has really amused me is the contrast between these two gifts. You have the iPad and while it's not the pinnacle of technology, it's up there. It's a costly gift, too. It's a product of the 21st century. Then, you have Peg Solitaire. Technologically speaking it's.... it's.... it's a board with holes bored into it and a bunch of marbles. It probably cost my uncle some time and a buck for the marbles. I'm sure he had the wood on hand. And yet... it is right up there in competition with our iPad, maybe even more demanding of our attention, because it requires some thought and some brain power. It's not simply an object of amusement and entertainment. I love this little game, and I love the contrast it makes - so humble, so simple and modest, yet in my life it's been powerful. I'll stop what I'm doing when I spot it and play a game.... which turns into a few games and then... well, you get the picture. Just goes to show you, it's not always the biggest and the flashiest that are the best!
Christmas is over. We packed it up and shipped it off to the attic to spend another year with the bugs and dust. That sounds horrible, doesn't it? Well, it is neatly packaged in boxes. We took the tree down and packed up the Dickens Village. I listened to my Christmas CDs one last time last night (My favorite being "The Joy of Christmas" with Leonard Bernstein, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the New York Philharmonic. Can't get much better than that!)and put them away for another year. Of the two holidays that make up the "Holiday Season" I definitely prefer New Years. Whereas Christmas is a "doing holiday" for me, cooking, baking, shopping, wrapping, gifting, decorating, New Years is a "thinking holiday". I tend to get contemplative at New Years. Like the Roman god Janus, from which January gets its name, I like to look forward at the future and backward at the past at this time of the year. Since I don't have to be doing all sorts of things, I have time to think about the things that happened during the year - both good and bad. It's a good time to sort through things and just remember. And I also like to wonder about what might happen in the coming year. New Year's Eve is a great jumping off point. I'm not a big one to make resolutions because I never keep them. Well, I did one year. I resolved to write down the birthdays of everyone in our family (parents and sibs) and send them a birthday card. And that year I did. Every one of them. I've tried to do it every year since and I haven't done a very good job. I maybe do half. So, anyhow, I just don't do resolutions. I do try to take stock of my life, though. I try to carve out some time for myself and think about things, where I am and where I want to be. I read Scripture and pray and try to prepare myself for the year to come. So, that's on the agenda for tomorrow. We don't do any great New Year's celebrations. We go to bed at the normal time, waking at mid-night when our neighbor's fireworks go off, wish each other a "Happy New Year" and that's about the extent of it. More of what goes on for my New Year goes on inside myself and I like it that way.
I am a bit chilled right now. So, I'm having a cup of coffee. There's nothing that can warm you up really good on the inside like a good cup of coffee. Which is why I have one often. Why am I chilled? Well, we spent a good part of the afternoon at the zoo, and although it was a nice and sunny day, it's still December, for cryin' out loud. The large city that is about a 45 minute drive from our fair burgh has a very nice zoo. It's been around a long time.
I remember as a kindergardener going on a field trip to that zoo. We had our little lion name badges around our necks and we were in groups of 4 or 5 with our chaperone and we saw Nosy the Elephant and the hippos swimming in their swimming pool. Well Nosy has since died, though she lived to a ripe old age and they don't have hippos anymore, but they have done a bang-up job improving the zoo since I was a kid. The kids love the zoo. They have a very nice reptile house and a rainforest jungle, too. They even have a sting-ray exhibit, but since I had to practically force the kids to put their hands in the water last time (You're gonna touch those stinkin' sting-rays if I have to throw you in the water. I didn't pay a dollar each for you all to just sit there and stare at 'em!) we skipped Sting-Ray Bay! But, we did see the cappybara exhibit, which we always love because we love love love the book "Cappyboppy" by Bill Peet in which he recounts the adventurous time in their lives when their son had a cappybara as a pet. It was a relationship that ended with them putting the cappybara in the zoo, but it was a very entertaining book. Here's the sealion tank. The zoo is in the process of building a very nice seal and sea lion exhibit. So all my kids don't have to crowd around the same window to see the animals. Of course, it doesn't matter that there are a whole bunch of windows all around the exhibit. They all have to be at the same window. You know, the social worker, when she was here visiting the girls recently, made the observation that, "your kids all like to be in the place doing the same things, don't they?" I said, "Yes, as a matter of fact, they do!" and thought that we might have a lot less conflict if they were a little less that way.We saw the kangaroos, which were pretty neat and boingie. I love watching those things hop around.And of course Missie Lou got hold of my camera and had to do the obligatory "picture-of-herself". You see that tooth? It's just about ready to come out. She's been losing teeth right and left lately. We saw the giraffes and the elephants and commented on the size of the elephant's poop. Don't worry, I didn't get a picture of that. So, we stayed for a couple of hours, saw what we needed to see and came home.
Three out of five children fell asleep on the way home,and all would agree that we had a great day!
Yes, it's that weird week. The week between andIt's kind of a down week. Nothing much going on here this year. Last year we were here....and we had a good time! That's for sure. Well, the second day we had a good time. The first day it was so crowded they locked the gates and wouldn't let anyone else in. Anyhow, we're staying home this year. Hubby has the week off - combination of vacation and holidays. Yesterday we cleaned up the mess that Christmas left. We came home from my parents' house on Christmas night and everywhere, I'm telling you everywhere I looked there was mess. We even had to pick a path to our bed and unpile that, too. It was a disgrace. Things are much better today and I'm glad the garbage men are coming tomorrow. This morning we went to my parents' house for breakfast. My brother and his family were still there (they hail from the northern part of the Golden State). I made this tasty dish.It's from one of my favorite cooking magazines. It's very yummy. And rich.We got home and Hubby helped the boys put together their Christmas present. Yes, they got a fooz-ball table. It became a real father/son project. And nobody got hurt. That was the amazing part. This is what Hubby and I got for Christmas. Well, technically, we both got it, but I'm sure you can guess who's used up most of the battery. The kids have even gotten in to it. Here's Duh-duh peeking over Hubby's shoulder, when he's supposed to be in time-out. Hey, how'd he manage that?
Why is it that when you're a kid and you actually need a nap, you hate them. But when you're an adult, you crave them? They're an absolute luxury. My kids fall into two categories of nappers - three of them take/took really good naps. Baby is 14 months old and takes two good naps a day. Bubba regularly slept in the afternoon until he was about 5-6 years old. Missie Lou would still fall asleep on a regular basis if I made her lay down. Sometimes she naps on my lap during read-aloud time. So, those three were the good nappers. Then, I have two bad nappers. Duh-duh gave up naps when he was two years old. I still made the kids have a rest time each afternoon all the way up till last March. Then I started looking after a little girl a few afternoons a week and we gave up rest time. But, unless he was sick or extremely tired, Duh-duh would just look at books or play during rest time. He would not sleep. My other non-napper is Cee-cee. She's two as well. She actually falls asleep maybe 2-3 days a week. The good thing is, though, she can make it through to bed time without any major melt-downs. So, today nap time comes around and I put her down and then left to go shopping. (Don't worry, Hubby is home today. His company gets Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off, and since both fall on a weekend, today is his holiday for Christmas Eve). I came back and hadn't heard from her, but it was about time for her to get up so I went into her room to tell her she could get up. I looked at her bed. No Cee-cee. I looked in the closet. No Cee-cee. I looked in Missy Lou's bed, she wasn't there either. I'm thinking, where could this kid have gotten off to? But, before the panic could set in, I heard snoring coming from the pile of blankets in the corner of her bed. I looked a little closer and could see just a little hair peeking out. I breathed a sigh of relief. I guess today's going to be a napping day for her.
Well, things are getting done around here. I hate it when Christmas gets to be just one big check-off list, but that's the way it is sometimes. I got the last of the truffles coated and I packaged them upand sent them off with my little elves. I've been working on baking bread, too. When Hubby's family gets together, the adults don't exchange gifts. When I joined the family we would draw names and everyone would get a gift, but somewhere along the line we stopped that. Only the kids draw names now. The adults all give homemade gifts. It's a great idea and much less expensive. One year my sister-in-law made mini-bundt cakes and we each got three different kinds. They were awesome. I always give zwiebach (because I can do that easily and quickly and my zwiebachs are pretty good, actually) and a little jar of my aunt's jam. I've made a couple dozen already (well, more than that, but a lot of them didn't turn out right. Some of them the top fell off during the baking.) and this afternoon I'll try to make another batch. The house is a mess, so I need to get to that, too. Lots to do, but I am determined to not let myself get so overwhelmed with the things I have to do that I don't enjoy the time we spend with family this year.
We have too much stuff. Part of it harkens back to my "Depression Era Sensibilities". And I was born 30 years after the Depression. But I still think that way. "Oh, don't throw away that bit of yarn. You never know when you'll need it." "Those toys are still good. The kids play with them.... once a year.... don't throw them away." I can't blame the kids for all the stuff we collect, but they are definitely part of the problem. So, today I went in the boys' room and collected all the Duplos and put them in a box to give away. I threw away a bunch of broken trucks and collected a bag of stuffed animals (Most of which were given to us by the neighbor girls a couple of weeks ago who were told to clean out their closet. Thank you very much!) to give away as well. I tried to pick the animals that were the plainest and least obvious that are missing. I also collected a couple bags of just trash. I don't know how we collect this much junk but I know it's not good for us and I'm dreading Christmas because I know they're just going to get a lot more stuff. It's already started and it's already starting to turn the kids into little monsters. The more stuff they get the more selfish they become. Yesterday someone brought over some gifts (long story) but they were unwrapped, so the kids each got something right away instead of having to wait for Christmas. They weren't big and fancy toys, but I could see that ugly look in their eyes appear and they refused to share. This morning I told them they needed to share with each other and they fought about how they would share. Finally, I just took the toys away from them. I feel bad and I certainly don't want to seem ungrateful, because I am grateful and I appreciate the sentiment behind the giving but.... it seems like our kids get a lot of things for Christmas from a lot of different people and it's been very difficult to combat the greed and selfishness that has been rising up in their little hearts. I'm not sure what to do about it. I'm certainly trying to get rid of the stuff we already have, just to cut down on the physical clutter, but I'm having trouble combatting the heart clutter that comes from getting too much stuff. I guess I should probably do stuff like, have them make their own gifts to give, but I'm not quite sure how to go about that. Probably should have started something like that in November. Not 4 days before Christmas. I wish we could get involved in some ministry with poverty so the kids could see what real poverty looks like. But, I'm not sure where to start with that either. Anyhow, just some things I've been struggling with this Christmas time. It's a season for giving and my kids think it's the season for getting!
What do you get when you add this and this and this and multiply it by a good bit of selfishness? You get this! Oh yeah. This is what happened when I was making dinner last night. They were both tugging, one let go and the other got smacked in the face and lost half his front tooth. A permanent tooth, I might add. I called the dentist, but they had gone home for the evening. I kind of figured they had, since it was after 5:00, but I could only hope. I left a message and they called me first thing in the morning and we were able to get in at 11:50 today.I had no idea what they were going to have to do, but it was a fairly straightforward procedure. They deadened his gums (I had to look away. I just can't take looking at medical procedures of any kind. I am so squeamish.) and then the dentist just built up his tooth with filling material. We were in there about 40 minutes, that's all. The dentist said it was fortunate that he didn't break if off any higher or it would have hit the nerve and he would have had to have a root canal. That's all we need for Christmas is a root canal in an 8 year old. It looks pretty good, too. He's just going to have to be careful about biting in to hard things because it can break off. So, that was my excitement for the day.
What's crunchy and spicy and completely addictive? Why, my peppernuts, of course. I'm making peppernuts today. What? You've never heard of peppernuts? Well, they're a traditional Mennonite Christmas cookie and, I might add, that even if you say you've had peppernuts before, you really don't know all there is to know about peppernuts, because there are as many recipes for peppernuts are there are Mennonite grandmas. Some peppernuts are soft and some are crunchy. Mine are crunchy. Some actually do have pepper in them, mine don't. Some have nuts in them. Mine don't. I made my grandma's recipe once. They're the soft kind and they have candied fruit in them. My recipe doesn't. I don't really remember where I got my recipe, but obviously it's not my grandma's recipe. Don't tell anyone, but I like my recipe better than my grandma's. Shhh! Here's my recipe. Peppernuts 3 Cups sugar 1 C margarine (I use 1/2 c butter, 1/2 c Crisco) 1 egg 1 1/2 c dark Karo syrup 1 tsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. salt 1 tsp each: star anise, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, cardamon 6 c flour Mix all the ingredients. It makes a very very stiff dough. You chill it for a while and then roll the dough out into little snakes. Cut it. Put it on a cookie sheet (lined with parchment paper to keep them from sticking)and cook for 11 minutes at 350 degrees. They turn out like this. Although sometimes they do turn out a little weird. But they are still good. Even if they look weird. They make a yummy little cookie that you just keep eating and eating and eating. And you just can't stop. They're really good with coffee. Or tea. Or just plain. They're good eating by yourself. Or with a friend. So, make some peppernuts this Christmas. They're a great holiday tradition.
Today at church a lady came up to me and told me how amazed she was that we made it to church on time with five children all nicely dressed and ready for Sunday School. I kind of had to chuckle because I may give the impression once a week that I have it all together, but I definitely don't feel like it. Ever. Anyhow, today was the day of the Children's Christmas Program and it went well. I wish I had pictures to show you, but I forgot my camera at home. And even if I would have brought it, the way the morning went, I wouldn't have been able to take pictures anyhow. It all started last night when my buddy and Sunday School teaching partner D called and said she'd been in a bad car accident and wouldn't make it to church today, so could I please take her place and help with the Christmas program. Well, of course I said "yes". What do you think I'd say, "Oh, no. I'm sorry. I know you're in horrible pain, were knocked unconscious and all that, but... I'd rather just sit and watch the program." So, I got to church and did what I could to help out. And then I realized that I had already told N the nursery coordinator that I'd take her place in the nursery since she wasn't going to be there today. It wasn't a big deal because my girls are the only ones in the nursery on a regular basis anyway. I figured I'd just keep them with me in the service. Well, the older kids rehearsed during Sunday School and then came church time and Baby was already getting a little tired. We were sitting up near the front and she just started falling apart shortly after the service started. Well, so much for that. I got up and left and as soon as I started walking up the aisle Cee-cee started freaking out and Hubby was right on my tail walking out of church. We got to the nursery and I settled myself in to missing the program when my dear friend B came rushing in and said, "Why are you in here? You're going to miss the program. Just take the girls into the narthex and open the drapes (there's windows between the narthex and the sanctuary, but the drapes are usually closed) and they can run around back there and no one will hear them, but you can watch the program." I about kissed her. So, that's just what I did. It was a little hard to hear, but since I'd sat in on the rehearsal it wasn't that crucial to hear it all. The kids all had readings and Duh-duh, while he reads well, was nervous and was very very quiet. The songs were well done, except that Cee-cee was supposed to join them for "Away in a Manger" and I was in the back with her, instead of sitting up in front where the director assumed we'd be. When the song came, the director turned to look for her to come up on stage, but didn't see her and started the song, which was good. I was back there thinking, "I know I should probably take her up there so she can sing (we'd been practicing the song and the motions with her all week) but I just can't. It's just not going to happen." And it didn't happen. Which was fine. She's only two years old. It's not going to scar her for life.
When we first started this whole adoption gig we had to take a class. It was called Adopt-Pride. I don't know why they named it that. Anyhow, in order to adopt through foster care you had to take these classes and they taught you all sorts of things like how to be a good parent, not to spank your kids and the ins and outs of the child welfare system. The classes were not all that interesting, although we had a good teacher and we all really liked her and gave her a hard time, which she took with good grace because she liked us, too. Anyhow, we all kind of bonded together and even after the classes were over we all got together for potlucks. The first time we got together everyone was there. And none of us had kids. It was a nice quiet gathering, we all sat around the table and talked and laughed and had a wonderful time. That was in the summertime. By Christmas, several families had dropped out for one reason or another and we all had kids. Then, it wasn't a nice, quiet gathering. It was a nice gathering, but it was rather chaotic and fun in its own way. Over the years our monthly gatherings have dwindled - life with kids gets really busy. You've got sports, piano lessons, church activities and whatever else you're involved in. But three of us couples have refused to let our friendship die, no matter how difficult it may be to get together. And no matter how busy we are, we do try to get together at Christmas, hire babysitters and go out to dinner. We did that tonight. It was a wonderful evening. We had Indian food. It was delicious, although I'm not sure I could order the same meal again. Actually, we had the waitress order for us. I'd say, "Now, what would you recommend?" and she'd say, "Well, the blah-blah-blah is very popular," and I'd say, "OK, we'll take one of those. And how about a beef dish?" and she'd say, "Now blah-blah-blah is very good," and I'd say, "That sounds good." I have no idea what we ate, other than it was very spicy and very exotic and very yummy! And we three couples just sat and visited with each other, catching up and renewing our friendship. When you have old friends like that it doesn't take much to get back in the groove. So, it was a good evening. I love these people. It's about old friends!
When you have your first child (or in our case, your first two children that you get at the same time) you tend to be very.... very.... shall we say "careful". You are careful about bedtimes and naptimes and the amount of food they eat. You are careful about where they play and what they play with. You obsess about.... poop! Come on, mothers, admit it. You do. And then, as more children come, you lighten up a little. You have to. Your old rules about, "3 year olds go to bed at 7:00, 4 year olds go to bed at 7:30 and 5 year olds go to bed at 8:00" kind of just meld together into "Everyone's in bed by 8:00" when kid #3 comes along. And kid #3 tends to do everything her older brothers do just because she sneaks in there and nobody's really paying attention because she's 5 years old going on 16 anyhow. Well, then when you add two more to the mix, it's now not a matter of when you go to bed but that you go to bed. I've been thinking about this whole thing lately because I've started to potty train Cee-cee, and I've been so busy lately that the poor kid is kind of on her own. With the older kids I'd hold their hand and set them on the potty and read to them until they'd finished their business, but with Cee-cee... I've been just telling her, "OK, honey. Ya gotta poop? Well, just go in there and sit on the potty. I'll be there in a minute." And then I try to remember to go in and help her wipe, poor thing. But, she's figuring it out. And I think it makes a kid more independent when she doesn't have her mother hovering over her helping her do every little thing. I'm seeing that more and more with having a largish family. I can't do everything for everyone, so they're all having to figure out how to do it themselves. And in the long run, that's better for everyone.
I haven't slept through the night since we got the girls. Baby just won't sleep through the night. When we first got her we indulged her passion for a little nightcap at 1:30am, thinking that "she just needed to get used to her new surroundings!" Well, at 14 months old, she's still waking up. Or, at least she did until last night. You know, you just get used to things, and for a couple months now I just got used to being woken up, stumbling to the kitchen, mixing up her bottle, giving it to her and resuming slumber. But then last night.... all the sudden I woke up at 4:30 in the morning and realized that I hadn't been woken up at 1:30 in the morning and everything was still quiet. In my sleep-induced fogginess-of-mind my first thought was, "She's dead. Oh my word. She's dead." Isn't that a horrible thought? Of course I can't imagine any reason why she'd die in the middle of the night (other than the fact that Monday I took a class on SIDS for my foster care license), but anyhow. So, I jump up, run to the crib and was greeted by the sounds of "snuffle, snuffle, sigh". And I breathed a sigh of relief and went back to bed, happy that for once, my Baby was sleeping through the night and hopefully this would lead to more sleeping through the nights in the future. But, that wasn't the only thing that woke me up last night. This thing woke me up last night, too. I'm telling you, this toy is possessed. See, the way it works is that those doors you see on the front are activated when you put the key in it. Each door is for a different Pooh character and they also have a distinct little melody when the door is opened. Well, something is wrong with the Eeyore door and it goes off without cause in the middle of the night. It is so obnoxious! It's been doing this for some time now, and I have no idea why we keep the book. So, last night at 2:00am it goes off and I stumble into the family room, find the book and in my sleep-induced fogginess-of-mind stick it in the dryer. It's the only place I could think of at the time where I would not hear it. Come morning Hubby was asking me what all the clatter was about in the middle of the night and I told him I was putting the Pooh book in the dryer. He gave me a funny look! Here's hoping that tonight is a better night for sleeping!
You know, it's always a good idea to try new things. Keeps your brain working. Staves off Alzheimer's Disease. I also heard drinking coffee helps with Alzheimer's. I think. Lots of coffee. With 1/2 & 1/2 and chocolate syrup. Ahhhh!!!! Anyhow, whatever the case, it's a good idea to try new things. Experiment. A couple days ago I experimented by picking all the buds off my Nancy Reagan rose bush. I brought them inside to see if I could get them to bloom. This is where we're at with that experiment!
My other experiment is of the culinary persuasion. Have you ever heard of cake pops? They're like lollipops, but made of cake, not candy. I had them once at a bbq and they were heavenly. Then, I got this cooking magazine and it had recipes in it for these cake pops and I had to make them. So, that's been my next experiment. I think it's an experiment that's going to add a few pounds to my frame, but.... well, that's what January's for, right? Anyhow, I decided to make the Chocolate caramel pops. Oh my stars, they are delicious. They're pretty easy. Just make chocolate cake, crumble it up in a bowl, stir in a can of Dulce de Leche, form them into balls and then freeze them. I decided to make them into truffles, actually, not cake pops, because I didn't have the lollipop sticks. But they're still good. I dipped them into chocolate candy coating and rolled them in finely chopped cashews. Words cannot describe..... There are a couple others I want to try. If they turn out well, I may give them as gifts. The problem is, I'm never very good at making things like this. I mean, they taste great, but I just lack that artistic talent and fine motor skill necessary to make beautiful baked goods. Mine are always kind of sorry looking. But, we'll see. So, as I said, it's good to experiment with things now and then. Makes life more interesting and sometimes your experiments come out pretty good!
Tonight we got the tree up. We have an artificial Christmas tree. We've had it for about four or five years now. The first Christmas we had with the boys we got a live Christmas tree from Lowes. We had every intention of keeping it alive and using it the next year. It died about two weeks after Christmas. The next Christmas we went to an actual Christmas tree farm and cut down our own. That was pretty fun. Except that it was kind of muddy out there and Duh-duh kept putting mud in his mouth. So, we didn't do that, again. Plus, the trees were kind of expensive. So, the next year we decided to get an artificial tree. One that was pre-lit. That made it really easy to put up. The kids loved it. Imagine, a tree that comes out of a box! This how big Missie Lou was that year. Wasn't she adorable? Which brings us to this year. This was kind of a difficult year decorating the tree. The kids have been rather wired the past week, so today when we said we were going to decorate the tree... yikes. We had time outs, tantrums, children sitting on couches while Mommy sorted the ornaments, fights breaking out and the classic Mommy-line, "This is supposed to be a fun family time. Not a time when Duh-duh breaks all the ornaments and Mommy yells at him!" Oh mercy! But, we did get the tree decorated. There are some spots where the ornaments overlap each other and other spots that are empty, but we did it. All the way to the angel at the top.