Monday, December 27, 2010

The Best Things About Christmas

We had a wonderful and relaxing Christmas. Food was good, the weather was fine, and we at least had some extra family around (thanks, Mom and Dad!).

The best parts (aside from Grandma and Grandpa)? In no particular order I would say:

1. Gnocchi. The recipe was pretty easy, and they tasted pretty good. I might experiment with another recipe, but the taste brought me back to my childhood.

2. Dish drainers. I've been meaning to replace my dish drainer for ages. The drainer itself was rusting, and the plastic upon which it rested was no longer able to be cleaned. No amount of bleach and scrubbing got it looking nice. Mom and Dad surprised me with a new set. Cool!

3. Melina sleeps. The kid actually slept pretty well! Those of you that know me well know that I have cultivated a non-sleeper. Despite a hacking cough, Melina gave me a very nice Christmas present in allowing me just a bit more shut-eye.

4. Presents. Santa chose wisely this year, as did all the people who love the kids and send them presents. The toys that managed to show up under the tree are stimulating and interesting, and so far, all four of them are doing a pretty good job of playing with them -- together. Oh, excuse me. I guess I should say all five of the kids are playing with them, as I should include Tim in that number.

5. Feelings. It is difficult to separate the Christmas tree from the presents from the birth of Jesus. I have often thought about celebrating secular Christmas at a point in time separate from Jesus' birthday. How can I expect the little kids to understand that we believe the birth of Christ to be spectacular, and oh, Christmas isn't just about giving presents? Don't we give presents to show we love one another? Isn't love a paramount feeling at Christmas? I think I'd need to discuss this with the clergy or a philosopher in order to get anywhere, but I'd like to believe that Tim and I are doing an okay job getting through to the kids the importance of Jesus, the significance of giving (especially to those who have nothing) and how we all need to be grateful.

The list could be longer, but the dishwasher needs to be unloaded. Mom went back yesterday, and my built-in helpers aren't nearly as helpful as she is!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Crazy Day!

The kids had crazy day at school a couple of Fridays ago. The principal promised that they could dress crazy -- clothes and hair -- if the school filled the 5 barrels at the front of the school with canned goods. The school kids were thrilled to know that they had fulfilled the requirement, and our kids were caught up in the excitement of trying to put together crazy outfits.

The girls are just old enough to realize that some things just won't work for them. They would not be wearing their skirts backwards, nor would they be putting their undershirts on the outside of their shirts. Aaron, on the other hand, would have worn his underwear on top of his pants if I had let him. (Cryptozoologist -- let's blame Tim again for that one!)

The result? Here they are, posing for a mug shot. Aaron reminds me of a young Steve Martin, don't you think?

Later that day, Aaron posed for me again, and the result is much more pleasing to me.

Monday, December 20, 2010

How The Mighty Have Fallen!

Apparently, a germ is going around the kindergarten class. I spoke with Harper's dad on Saturday morning, only to find out that poor Harper had thrown up in the night. By the time I was on the phone with Matt, Aaron was doing better. By Saturday afternoon, he was actually starting to eat some food. I wonder how many other kindergarten kids are sick right now. Thank goodness for Mrs. H we all have two weeks off.

Yesterday evening, Melina fell prey to the germ. It is not surprising, considering the enormous amount of time that Aaron and Melina spend together. In fact, not to be gross, but when Aaron was heaving over the bowl, Melina was right there, watching and patting his back. I tried to pull her away, but her compassion kept her there. You can't fault makes you feel like you are doing something right.

In any case, right around dinner, Melina said her elbow hurt. I am sure it did, as one of the other kids said she did something to injure it. She ate a little bit of her quesadilla, but not enough to sustain her overnight. She started to get irritable and whiny, and she requested that I hold her. When she declined to eat a full bowl of black olives, I knew something was amiss. I asked her if something hurt. She said, "No. Nothing hurts. I just don't feel well." Okay then.

We got her to bed a little early. She was clinging to a bowl while she fell asleep. Tim rested with her while I put Aaron to bed, and then helped Zoe and Talia. I went into Melina's room about 8:15 pm, after I thought I heard her complaining. At 9:15 pm she was hot and wanted to head downstairs. About 9:30 pm, she got sick. Tim and I helped her out, held her, and all three of us fell asleep on the couch. Our necks and backs are yelling at us today for it. Clearly, Tim and I are getting old.

Melina is recovering on the couch. She only vomited twice, and I am hoping it is behind her now. Aaron is doing well; he asked for peanut butter toast first thing this morning for breakfast. The girls are still hanging in there, and Tim and I, while sore, show no signs of anything -- yet.

I'll keep you updated. Nothing like viruses for Christmas presents!

Friday, December 17, 2010

And We're Off...

To the races. The sick races, I believe. I brought Aaron home from school today a little early. We had his Winter party (I am one of the homeroom parents) and it was clear that the little man wasn't feeling well. No fever. Just not well. Those are his words.

Fifteen minutes ago, he vomited the party snack on the family room rug.

We don't have to go anywhere the next two weeks. We aren't traveling for Christmas or New Year's Day. We only have a few plans with friends. I say this as a bright side to the lining that involves vomiting -- those viruses tend to run through the entire family and then some.

So, I might take a few days off from blogging, and I am sure you'll understand. I will probably be calling our friends to cancel our plans; I don't like to bring unwanted holiday germs. If we are lucky, the entire thing will be over by the time the kids go back to school.

If any of you feel that you have an immune system of steel, feel free to stop over :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I Want To Be The Mom!

Melina has this very funny habit. She says, "I want to be the mom" and then collects the things she needs to do this. Her list includes:

1. a hot pink bandana
2. shoes, either Aaron's brown school shoes, or the girls white communion shoes
3. an old pair of the girls' glasses
4. my old black purse
5. a toy stroller and baby

Sometimes, she includes a calculator on that list.

How does this all come together? In the usual way, of course. She asks for me to put the bandana around her waist, like an apron. I have to use a safety pin to do it, which I don't like, but I try to be careful, especially when she takes the bandana off. She then puts the shoes on her feet, perches the glasses on her nose, grabs the purse and the stroller, and proceeds to walk around the house. The calculator? She pretends that is a phone, and sticks it between her ear and shoulder.

Why do we find this funny? Well for one, I don't wear an apron, ever. I do have one. And I have worn it one time in front of the kids. I wear dresses about as often as I wear an apron, so I don't know where Melina got this idea. Second, she does a good job in the shoes. Aaron's shoes are big on her and the girls' shoes are even bigger. But she manages to parade around the house pretty well. Third, the glasses and calculator are nice touches; the image remind us of the classic picture of an old librarian, who might very well be on the phone at the time. But remember, the kid is two!

Probably the funniest part of the whole thing, is that she calls herself the mom. I said the other day, "Bye mommy, I see you are leaving." Melina's response? "I am not the mommy! I am the mom." She then added, "And you are Kelsey. Goodbye."

I am sure Kelsey doesn't know she has such a presence in our lives. Now you do, Kelsey!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Santa Time!

We took the kids to see Santa. The girls wanted to go, and they had no trouble walking up to the man in red and telling him what they wanted. The girls told me they thought he was the real Santa. It's the beard, they said. It was a real beard, Mom!

Aaron and Melina were not so thrilled with the adventure. They enjoyed looking at the Santaland decorations, but actually sitting with Santa didn't quite happen. At least there were no tears.

I tried to get all four looking at the camera, with a nice smile. Aaron, the little devil, just couldn't cooperate. No sugar, no caffeine. Just Aaron on a normal day.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nap Time

Melina has had a cold this past week. Actually, she is on day 8 of the cold, but it is clearing (or so I think). Napping is difficult when you have a stuffy nose, so a couple of days this past week, Melina just decided not to nap. I'd put her in her room, and she'd read some books for about 10 minutes, and then I'd hear her calling me. Two days ago, I really needed to get something done during what was supposed to be nap time. Therefore, I called in the troops: Aaron.

Aaron said he'd go lay down with her. No sooner had he gone up the stairs and I hear over the monitor, "Melina! You are supposed to be next to me, not ON me!"

I am sure you can imagine what I found.

During a few of the naps that did occur this week, we managed to make almost an entire pound of chocolate covered pretzels, a few chocolate covered marshmallows (way better than I anticipated, hence I bought another bag of marshmallows), and 6 chocolate covered spicy squares. That is what we call the Cheezits with the tabasco sauce in them. The girls loved the mix of chocolate and spice, but I am still on the fence. I have 3 bags more of melting chocolate, and I think, in addition to more pretzels, we might try covering some small squares of rice cereal treats and bananas. I have oreos in the cupboard, too. Chocolate covered oreos...Yum.

Today, we made Italian Christmas Cookies, some of which are going to school with Zoe next week as part of a project. The batch made 126 cookies. Stop by if you'd like to taste them, seeing as Zoe needs only 50 or so! Next up: Mandel bread (for Talia's project), cranberry-walnut bread, and chocolate drop cookies. I might try to fit in molasses cookies before we make cherry pie and date cake at Christmas. My favorite part of Christmas is the baking we do, so I am thinking that I should start sending out care packages instead of cards -- you know which ones would be finished on time.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It Sure Took Long Enough!

Finally, finally, I am posting pictures of Aaron's birthday cake. He turned 6 on November 1st. You'd have thought, with NaBloPoMo and all, that these pictures would have already been posted. Ah well.

Aaron really likes Scooby-Doo, especially Fred. Aaron has taken to making traps, especially when the weather is warm (unlike now). In light of his fascination with the people of Mystery, Incorporated, I fashioned his cake like this:

It is hard to see, considering the chocolate icing blends well with the tray the cake is on. The graham crackers are Fred's trap, and inside the trap is bait: a Swedish fish! Fred does have a twist tie attached to his hand, which extends to the graham crackers -- my attempt to make it look like a real trap. On the other side of the cake, by Shaggy, we had a figurine of Scooby-Doo himself. He just didn't make it into the picture.

Apparently, Aaron liked the cake. I had toyed with trying to shape a cake into something that resembled Scooby-Doo, but I am glad I copped out and went with the figurines. The overall effect was much nicer.

Here's to posting the pictures before he actually turned 7!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Birthday Toys

Remember Aaron's joint birthday party with Harper? At the pool? The kids invited the entire kindergarten class plus some other friends, so Kelsey had the great idea of nixing presents for the kids. If the children wanted to bring something, they could, but it would be donated to Toys for Tots. Before agreeing to the party, I explained what this would entail to Aaron. He basically just wanted the party; he completely understood and was thrilled about donating the toys.

We found that the local branch of the library had a bin for toys, so this past weekend, Aaron and Harper met up and filled the bin with the toys. Kelsey had her camera ready (as usual, and thanks, as we did not) as the kids put the toys in, and then posed for posterity's sake.

As a side note, Aaron had been eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich about 5 minutes prior to meeting Harper, who is allergic to nuts. Thank goodness Tim thinks ahead when it counts. He informed Aaron not to touch Harper, and to stay on the other side of the barrel.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Saturday Morning Pancakes

I took a much-needed break from blogging the past couple of days. November really wiped me out. I don't know that I'll attempt NaBloPoMo again. I can just say it's one thing I've already done, and cross it off of my list. On the other hand, it gives friends and family a nice glimpse into the lives of the little ones. Let's see what I decide next year.

I went for my usual Saturday morning long run yesterday. It had started to snow, just as I headed out, so the entire time I was running, I was covered in little flakes of snow and ice. My face was cold, and ice collected in my eyelashes. I was actually enjoying the run, though. About 51 minutes into it, a blast of cold air blew by that carried the scent of hot buttered pancakes. My mouth watered.

When I was a kid, my dad didn't do much cooking. He COULD cook -- he got married at 32, but had been on his own for a long time, so I imagine he sustained himself somehow. But before my mom went back to work, he had no need to cook. However, on Saturday mornings, he made the family pancakes. I bet that some morning, the conversation might have gone like this:

Dad: Boy, pancakes sound good right now.
Mom: Well then, make them. I do the cooking all week.
Dad: All right, then.

And a Saturday morning ritual had been born.

I don't know how long he did this, but to this day, I can taste the pancakes and smell the aroma. He didn't make large, fluffy cakes like restaurants do. He whipped up the mix with a whisk for many minutes, infusing the air bubbles into the batter. He made the batter very thin, by adding milk. And to make sure the flavor was impeccable, he added melted butter and maple syrup. Sweet and buttery. Yum.

His pancakes were not the size of dinner plates. He ladled out the batter onto the griddle in scoopfuls, but just enough to make a pancake the size of a very small teacup saucer. Dad watched them religiously as they cooked. He'd turn them at just the right moment, and then, he'd top them with more butter. Dad probably got a good 30 pancakes out of a batch the way he made them, and when he gave us a plate, he'd load up 6 or 7 into the stack.

I can't tell you how full and satisfied I was after eating Dad's hot, buttered pancakes. I shutter now to thing of all the artery clogging that might come from those Saturday mornings, but I have a memory that will last a lifetime.

I don't think my pancakes will serve the same purpose for the kids; they won't remember that I add a touch of vanilla if I am using a store bought mix, or that, if I make them from scratch, I actually use real buttermilk. My kids don't even like butter on their pancakes (butter is really reserved for baking in this house, not cooking), so the scent will not conjure images of me at the stove, serving up cakes full of love.

I do hope the kids find their own aroma that stops them mid-track, some day when they are in their late 30s. It is a wonderful feeling -- one that everyone should experience