Thursday, December 29, 2005

Right on this very site there was to be a witty post recounting my busy week with my family, replete with photo gallery and tales of Ferbies and ice skating wipeouts.

No, your eyesight is not failing. It's not here. Yet. It will be, just as soon as we return from Christmas Part III.

Till then, Happy New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2005

'Twas the Morning After Christmas

Before our company descends later today, I just wanted everyone to know that Christmas 2005 was a rousing success hereabouts. Despite my grumpy demeanor leading up to Christmas Eve, we all had a terrific day.

At 8:00 (Yay! Starting off with a Christmas miracle!), I heard Sean's feet hit the floor, and listened as walked out of his room and over to the top of the stairs. A sharp intake of breath, followed by a hushed, awed, "Presents!" He came into my room, tapped me on the shoulder, and said, "Mommy! I want to show you something!" He led me by the hand to show me the two carefully arranged stacks of presents under the tree. "Look! Santa was HERE!" A quick trip to the kitchen confirmed that Santa indeed had eaten the cookies and drank the milk we left him (we had had to reign in the number of cookies left for Santa the night before because Mommy, I mean Santa, had already eaten about 10,000 cookies that day).

Allie's reaction was a little more subdued, but she takes most of her cues from Sean and seemed pretty psyched, too.

All the presents were hits. Seeing Sean's excitement over each and every gift, especially the ones he had asked Santa for, is something I hope I never forget.

The best nonmaterial gift of the day, for me, was the sheer bliss of finally, after four Christmases with kids, being able to partake in my favorite Christmas morning activity: reading. The kids were now old enough to just play quietly (No fighting! Another Christmas miracle!), while Jeff and I lounged about in front of the tree. I know I haven't been reading much lately, so I suppose I shouldn't be revealing that what immediately grabbed my attention on Christmas morning was this. But it is just too engaging to pass up. When I'm done with the fluff, though, there's always this for a more substantive meal.

My mom came over for Christmas dinner (lasagna, because the prospect of one of those traditional holiday dinners filled me with dread, plus because I'm lazy that way), a lovely way to cap off the day. Last night, in her crib, Allie told me solemnly, "Santa comes tonight!"

If only, sweetie. But with all the family visits ahead of us, Christmas will last a lot longer than one day.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

On behalf of myself, my family, and the Ghost of Christmas Brattiness that has taken up residence in my house, I wish you all Happy Holidays (whatever form that takes).

I'll be popping by sporadically over the next week or so (I know, you're saying "And this is different from standard blogging behavior how?") -- my sister, her partner, and their kids will be in town from Massachusetts next week, and then we're going to visit Jeff's parents for a few days. I'm really looking forward to all that attendant hustle and bustle!

See you soon.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

In Case You Were Wondering... (Updated)

The dentist visit mentioned in my previous post was a bonafide box office flop. Sean sat in the chair for about 2 minutes, freaked out when the chair tilted back, and that's all she wrote. The hygienist was fabulous, using all sorts of tricks to make him comfortable, but it just wasn't going to happen. We were there for 40 minutes just trying to get Sean to open his mouth!

We're trying again in a few months. In the meantime, here's hoping his teeth don't crumble or something.

Further Updates on Today's Festival of Frustration: The cookies were among the worst I've ever made. I'm placing the blame on the baking soda that may or may not have been about a year old (it's quite possible that the last time I used it was last December). Another potential culprit might be an inappropriate portion of flour, the precise measurement of which I'll never know since Allie spooned a hefty amount into the sink after the salt and flaccid baking soda were added.

The trip to visit Jeff ended before it began; as a result of miscommunication between Jeff and me, I left the house too late for the light show. To placate a very disappointed set of kids, we are now watching the dreaded Caillou's Holiday Movie.

The soundtrack to our Festival is "Tears, Shouting, and Whining, plus More Tears for Good Measure." With special sound effects, too, like the sound of the Christmas hurricaine lamp on my kitchen table breaking into several jagged pieces around 12:15 this afternoon. Available for downloading on iTunes.

Anyone have some Christmas spirit for me?

Gut-Spilling Post

Okay, not exactly gut-spilling, perhaps more like "holiday minutiae-spilling." I haven't had much chance to post lately, so all our holiday festivities must come forth in one big outpouring. Else my brain hurts. And we do not want that.

So. We put up our tree last week. By "we" I mean "I picked out the tree, drove it home, put it in the garage, Jeff put it in the stand, and I did the rest." I don't mind this distribution of labor, actually, since for the past two years Jeff was saddled with solo tree-selecting and -carting duties. Sean and Allie were fascinated with decorating the tree for about 45 seconds. After that, they were more interested in setting up elaborate play-tableaux involving various ornaments. Allie, in fact, did not want any ornaments on the tree at all. I had to sneak some on while she wasn't looking.

Although my hopes for trimming the tree were not quite as high as Amy's, I had hoped that it would not have deteriorated so rapidly into a series of increasingly frustrated exhortations from me: "Put that down, please." "No, Allie, we don't need to put pants on the angel." "We don't roll the glass Christmas balls, Sean." "For the love of God, would you PUT THAT DOWN PLEASE!" Imbued with saintly Christmas-related patience I am not.

I guess I'm pleased with the result, although it looks better in person.

Next up: Trip to the mall to visit Santa. We immediately tripped over the fruit of our exceptionally poor time management skills: We arrived at 5:00, exactly the time Santa went on dinner break. To bide our time we had dinner at the mall (something we do about once a year). Not a noteworthily bad experience, I suppose, if you discount the actual food consumed. Then it was time to wait in line for Santa. As the line snaked about the Christmas display, Allie tested every last fiber of forbearance we possessed. I don't think her behavior---climbing, running away, lying down on the floor, running away---was atypical for a 2-year-old; it's just that her parents were drained by that point.

As it turned out, Allie wanted nothing to do with Santa anyway. Sean unhesitatingly ran up to Santa and sat on his lap. (This was his first time seeing Santa -- don't look at me that way; it just never worked out!) He grinned for his photo, explained what he wanted for Christmas, cheerful all the way. (Note: We will pretend that Santa did not hear Sean say he wanted a robot for Christmas. All presents have been purchased, and you just can't make me go back to Toys R Us.) Allie clung to my legs, saying "Don't like Santa. I scary of him."

Proving that she is our child, with full comprehension of the concept of reverse buyer's remorse, she changed her tune as we were waiting for the photo to be printed. The Santa threat apparently diminishing, Allie started screaming "I want to see Santa! I want Santa!" Too late, chickie. Maybe next year.

Which brings us to Sean's holiday sing-along at school on Tuesday. "Sing" might not be the most accurate term in the world given the fact that Sean did not open his mouth. Not once. He did shake the jingle bells, but beyond that his participation consisted of standing against the wall.

Back at his classroom, we gathered up his things, including a bag of holiday crafts. I'd wondered why his backpack had been curiously lacking the usual plethora of preschool works of art! This one is my favorite:

Today we're going to visit Jeff at work and then we're off to see a light display at a department store in the city. Right after Sean goes to the dentist. We're seeing my dentist this time, so perhaps we won't have a repeat of the trauma induced by Sean's first dental visit.

Phew. Gotta run now. There are cookies to be baked this morning and, more important, consumed.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

But Most of This Movie Is So Disheartening!

As seen at Amy's.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Enough Evidence to Convict?

Allie's recent exploits have earned her a new nickname: Ms. Destructo.

I submit the following pieces of evidence, all gathered at my sister's house and at my house over the past 2.5 days:

-- Locks and locks, and more locks, of thin, straight hair completely coated with my sister's liquid foundation. In case you were wondering, it's really hard to wash this stuff out of hair. It took three separate hair washings and lots of scream-inducing combing to eradicate the sticky residue.

-- The entire contents of a bottle of liquid vitamin dumped all over the family room carpet. With iron, to make the stain even more recalcitrant. Prior to my trip to the bathroom that sent up the "All Clear!" signal, I had thought the bottle was out of harm's way. Silly mommy. Yes, of course I'm lucky no one ingested any of the vitamin. And yes, of course I'll be more careful next time. But my rug! I can still complain about my stained rug, right?

-- Copious amounts of dish soap squirted on, let's see, the kitchen floor, the kitchen cabinets, the same abused rug mentioned above, the coffee table, the entertainment center, the chairs in the family room, a few stuffed animals, and some Christmas decorations.

The guilty party needs a better poker face. When faced with the incriminating evidence of dark brown vitamin solution and bright blue dish soap scattered about the kitchen and family room, she ran away, crying "I'm scared of the vitamin/shampoo!"

I guess I need to stop making these luxurious, self-indulgent visits to the bathroom.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Sometimes It's Good To Be the Mommy

The other night Sean was having trouble falling asleep. Since this is such a rarity nowadays, I don't mind resting next to him in his bed to help ease the transition. When I settled next to him, he sighed, snuggled close, and said, "I feel so much better when you lie next to me." A few minutes later, another contented sigh, followed by "I love you, Mommy."

When it seemed that he had fallen asleep, I shifted my position in prelude to getting up. Sean was still awake after all. "No! Don't go! I want to visit with you for a little while longer!"

What was I saying in my previous post about needing periodic ego boosts?

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Both Purple Elephant and Corndog have tagged me for the same Seven meme. (Now, you all know that I am the nerdiest of nerds. So you won't think any worse of me when I say that I am tickled to death when I'm tagged for a meme. I am all about external validation and propping up of my floppy ego.) I've already done several of the questions, but the last two are fresh territory for me.

Seven books (or series) I love

So hard to limit it to seven!

1. Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver
2. Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
3. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
4. Republic of Love by Carol Shields
5. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
6. Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
7. Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams

Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would watch over and over if I had the time)

These were surprisingly hard to come up with. I don't usually like to watch movies over and over. Most of the time, once is enough.

1. When Harry Met Sally
2. Grosse Pointe Blank
3. Psycho
4. The American President
5. Say Anything
6. Gone with the Wind
7. Lord of the Rings (any of the three)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Santa Baby

My kids believe in Santa. So far, I don't know the salient characteristics of this belief -- Wonder? Excitement? Nervousness? Fear? Allie is so young that the few encounters we've had with real-life Santas have made her quite uncomfortable, if not downright afraid. Sean seems excited about the prospect of Santa and rather blasé about the corporeal incarnations we've seen.

Santa has a checkered past as far as I'm concerned. I remember, as a child, feeling both excited and scared on Christmas Eve. Sure, the thought of presents was quite enticing, but knowing that a large man would be invading my house while I was sleeping, possibly tiptoeing into my room to make sure I was asleep? Not the stuff of sugar plum dreams.

Most Christmas Eves we went to my grandparents' house. They lived across the street from us at the time, so we would walk there and back. I vividly recall walking down the front steps on our way home, anxiously scanning the sky for a flying sleigh and reindeer. Was that star moving? Could that be the sleigh? Are those jingle bells I hear? I wanted to get home as quickly as possible so that I wouldn't encounter Santa in person.

I'm not sure how old I was when I stopped believing in Santa. It may or may not have coincided with an extremely unpleasant dream I once had. In the dream, I woke up in the middle of the night because I heard something in the backyard. I opened the shade in my window, and there, hovering in the darkness, were Santa and two demonic-looking elves. I still shudder over this image. I think the dream ended there, perhaps both figuratively and literally.

I don't want to overanalyze Santa right now (there seems to be enough of that going around the blogosphere right now). I want my kids to just enjoy Christmas without having me project my own childhood neuroses onto them. But if they do turn a nervous eye to the sky one Christmas Eve, I know I'll be able to empathize.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Miss Me?

You'd think that my blogging respite would have given me ample time to cogitate over new and exciting post topics.

Unfortunately, you'd be wrong.

However, I did have a pretty fun weekend. And even if the retelling lacks the sparkle of direct experience, I'll still write about that so that you all don't give up on me completely.

Jeff and I hosted an actual grown-up dinner party on Saturday. I suppose it could also be characterized as simply "having friends over for dinner," but since I freed the china and crystal from the confines of the dining room breakfront, I've decided that the more upscale term applies. I think that in the almost 10 years that we've owned it, I've used this stuff only once before. This will give you some indication of how robust our elegant-dining life is.

Other than completely freaking out about dinner throughout the entirety of Saturday, it was a great success. It's not that the guests were going to be judgmental or anything; my friends from my former work and their husbands would be gracious even if the dinner were a complete disaster. Hmm. Maybe they were just being gracious after all when they had seconds…

Anyway. I've missed seeing my friends, and I really enjoyed reconnecting with them. I'm also kind of chuffed that I was able to pull it all off even with the kids there. Who, by the way, were just about perfect during dinner. Thank you, 90-minute Caillou's Holiday Movie! This has me all invigorated about the possibility of having company more often.

On Sunday, Landismom invited us over to bake Christmas cookies. Her post about this is very funny (LM, it was a GREAT idea, and you handled everything so calmly that I was mentally taking notes.) My kids had a terrific time. It's inspired me to go out and purchase a rolling pin and cookie cutters to make our own sugar cookies. (Look, I'm not a baker. I do bake cookies this time of year, just not those that require any skill.)

Wait, there's more! Hard to believe, isn't it? THEN we visited my brother- and sister-in-law to see their festive Christmas decorations. Allie and Sean were awed by the 8-foot inflatable snowman and light-up candy canes lining the walk. (Sean's already taken me to task over own our dim outdoor display. Consisting of three wreaths, no lights. Someday, kid.) At the diner where we all had dinner afterward, Allie made no bones about the fact that she did not like the balloon artist. At all. While he fashioned her an Elmo balloon creation, she glowered, she furrowed her brow, she whined quietly. After he left our table, she called out cheerfully, "Bye, Balloon Man!"

To cap off this flurry of social engagements, we are just about to leave for a playdate with one of Sean's classmates. Yes, I finally did work up the nerve to ask the boy's mom. It turns out that her son consistently mentions Sean, too. Wish us luck!

Have I made up for not posting for so many days?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

This Is the Story...

Of the blogger who has nothing to say. I feel as if I have an acute case of malaise that is preventing me from even contemplating so great a task as composing coherent paragraphs. Even a string of wry observations seems too exhausting to compile.

When all else fails, then, a cute kid snippet will do, I guess.

Allie puts on a firefighter hat and pretends to put out a fire.

"Thanks, Firefighter Allie, for keeping us safe," I say.

"I not Firefighter Allie! I Firefighter Cutie Pie!"

I'll be back when inspiration strikes. Sooner rather than later, I'm sure.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Running the Emotional Gauntlet

In a testament to the complexity of human emotions, Saturday morning found me all aglow with cheerfulness and holiday spirit, and by Saturday night I was sitting on the couch, wiping away tears, surrounded by wadded-up tissues.

In the morning we all boarded the local commuter train for a Holiday Ride. Santa, a Victorian-themed barbershop quartet, a clown, and gospel singers made their way from car to car as we rode from the suburbs to the city. For Sean and Allie the big hit seemed to be the guide dog that accompanied one of the gospel singers. As for Santa, Allie dismissed him by saying "Don't like Santa. Don't want to ring his jingle bells." But her own rendition of the song "Jingle Bells" made everyone around us laugh: "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle BELLS!"

So that was a lot of fun. As was our dinner out that evening. I'm feeling marginally encouraged by the kids' restaurant behavior. They manage to avoid meltdowns in public by and large, and as long as we keep up a steady stream of activities and don't dawdle over the meal, we are usually assured a pleasant time.

(GRRR. Ask me how many times I've been interrupted by shrieking disputes while I've written a measly three paragraphs. Give up? TEN times. They are driving me crazy this morning.)

After the kids went to bed, I settled in to watch a movie while Jeff went out to do some Christmas shopping. Have you seen In America? It's about an Irish family who immigrate to the US in the early '80s. They're seeking a new life, both economic and emotional as they cope with the fallout from their young son's death from cancer.

This kind of plotline tugs at every single piece of my heart. Above all things, I fear losing my children. I feel like I live a pretty charmed life most of the time, and often I'm holding my breath as I wait my inevitable turn in the grief line. I'm always conscious that all I hold precious can be torn away at any moment. This isn't a profound observation, I realize. But Saturday night, watching the movie, I was just awash in vulnerability. After the movie ended, I sat in Sean's room, then Allie's, watching them sleep. It comforted me, seeing their chests rise and fall.

The irony of the juxtaposition of the above parenthetical statement and the rest of this post is not lost on me. I guess we can add "contradictory feelings" to the complexity of emotions.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Speaking of TV...

In my Christmas Acculturation Campaign, I've been singing Christmas songs in the car, planned a trip for our first Santa photo shoot, begun opening our Advent calendar, explained the biblical Christmas story, and been reading one or two Christmas-themed books. I've even taken the kids shopping with me (one "quick" trip to the mall that ground to a halt in front of the fountain -- my kids seem to have poor aim when it comes to pitching pennies into the fountain, didn't want to move until they had successfully lobbed the coinage, and wouldn't accept my help).

Next up, logically, would be viewing Christmas shows. The Grinch, Charlie Brown, Frosty -- all childhood favorites that I'd like my kids to see. But then there's the show about a certain reindeer. Should I expose my kids to a show I think imparts a truly dreadful message? After reading this post last year, my sister Kathie says that the show just isn't the same for her anymore.

I wasn't harmed by watching Rudolph as a child, certainly, and perhaps it's not that big a deal. I suppose I will let them watch it and then, when they're a little older, I'll explain Rudolph's dark side.