Sunday, December 30, 2007

Before and After, A Christmas Story









It was an exhausting day. And all this by 11am (our kids graciously slept in until 6:00am Christmas morning, which we are particularly thankful for because we waited up until well after 2:00am to see if we could catch Santa and help him set up any toys he might be leaving for them. As you can see, Santa's gifts were pretty involved this year, and the kids were happy they were ready to play with when they saw them at long last.).

The rest of the day was wonderful, too. We had a turkey lunch around noon. The whole family napped after lunch until around 3:00pm, and we headed over to Jason's parents' house after that, where the kids were showered with more gifts, and the family was treated to news of double happiness. Jason's sister Tiffany became engaged Christmas morning, and his other sister Jessica and her husband Jon announced they will become first-time parents in July. What a joyous afternoon an evening. We celebrated over a prime rib roast meal, games of Rock Band together, and the Money Game, a tradition Jason's mom created about three years ago, where everyone walks away a winner. Literally. The kids fell asleep on the way home, and we fell into bed, snuggled up, and drifted off to sleep, dreaming of all the food we'd eaten and laughter we'd shared. It was a very merry Christmas.

Casey upon seeing his train set from Santa.

Marcie trying out her new kitchen set from Santa. She made herself "chocolate milk."

The day after Christmas, geared up to go scooter riding with scooters from Grandma and Grandpa S.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Twas the Night Before Christmas

This morning one of my brothers came over with his family. He made the pancakes and I made the bacon. The boys played quietly and nicely while we cooked and chatted. We used light Hershey's chocolate syrup for the syrup. The boys gobbled it up. Marcie was enormed of her cousin Ethan. She wished she was old enough and strong enough to hold him.

Later in the afternoon, we went to the 4pm children's choir mass. We were there by 3:20. So was everyone else. There were literally no seats. This is where we sat:

Jason and I bet on what the topic of the homily would be. He said it'd be about the wise men. I said it would be about love. We were both wrong. Though the magi were at least mentioned. The closest the priest came to mentioning love was talking about family. I think. I couldn't really hear anything because were were in the cry room the whole mass and it was pretty loud.

Highlights of mass included Casey finally catching on to the song with clapping just as the song was ending and Casey sort of pulling down his pants. I thought his resolute clap, which he did at the end of the song kicked ass. As for the pants incident, it wasn't his fault. He was trying to show the little girl his super-cool Thomas underwear. Of course, he's not always easy to understand, so her grandmother didn't understand that, and they looked a little panicked. I, of course, thought it was hilarious.

All was not lost for Christmas Eve-- and it's not over yet anyway. But here are a few of my favorite photos of the kids (sorry about the red-eye issue):

Dear Northern Quilted,

A couple weeks ago when my husband came home from grocery shopping with your brand of toilet paper, I was irate.

"Northern Quilted?!?" I demanded. "Where's my Charmin?"

"What are you talking about?" he asked, looking at me like it was the first time we'd ever discussed toilet paper brands. "This is two ply. It's less expensive. 'Nuf said."

"I mean, I could understand Cottonelle," I went on, "but Northern Quilted?!?" I didn't let up. "WHAT were you thinking?"

He just stared. Blinked a couple times. Shrugged his shoulders.

"You don't understand," I cried.

"I guess you're right," he admitted. "I don't."

"I have to wipe myself every time I use the bathroom. You only wipe sometimes. And maybe hardly ever at all at home," I tried to explain, exasperated that this wasn't all more obvious. "That makes me the toilet paper expert. And if I say that Charmin is the way to go, why don't you believe me?" I asked.

He shrugged again.

The next time I was in the store, I bought some Charmin. But there were still two rolls of our Northern Quilted left. Now, Northern Quilted Executives, I'm sure you're wondering at this point why I'm writing you this letter. So let me cut to the chase. Your toilet paper has nearly saved Christmas. Seriously. Please, let me explain.

You see, I did all our Christmas shopping last week, and I was trying to avoid returning to the grocery store until after the holiday. I thought we had two rolls of paper towel, but it turns out I was wrong. Yesterday, when we ran out of paper towel, we shifted to napkins. But today, we ran out of napkins. Just as our Christmas brunch guests were arriving.

We made it through brunch, but when it came time to start cleaning, we weren't sure what we would do. Jason was scrubbing the glass-top stove, scraping the stuck-on food with a razor blade.

"Try the Northern Quilted toilet paper," I quipped. "It's rough enough. And we sure don't have any other use for it."

He laughed. But then he figured he may as well give it a shot. And darned if it didn't work terrifically. It didn't fall apart. It didn't get all soggy and stringy. Sure, it's not quite as harsh in texture as a paper towel, but apparently it's just as sturdy.

So, Northern Quilted, I'm writing first to thank you for your fine, quality toilet paper, which we are now using as paper towel replacements. And I'm also writing to suggest you re-market your toilet paper. It's not as soft as you claim in your commercials. But it is very soft for paper towels. I think you could rival Bounty-- because the Northern Quilted was a much quicker picker-upper. It did beautiful cleaning work in our home. I myself would be happy to buy a Northern Quilted paper towel.

Thank you for saving our pre-Christmas cleaning with your toilet paper/ paper towel product.

Happy Holidays,

Karen S.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Failed Holiday Experiments

This holiday season has been chalk full of well meaning attempts at holiday cheer. But it's also been a series of one failed experiment after the next. I already wrote about the Gingerbread House Experiment, but my craft-like failures don't end there. I am many things. But a Martha Stewart competitor is not one of them.
For example, I really wanted to do my traditional sugar cookies with the kids. Casey is finally old enough and has good enough listening skills to help make and decorate them. But I couldn't find my recipe. I fear it got tossed in one of my many manic cleaning sprees over the past year, and my mom and my sister were both out of town for the holidays, so I couldn't ask them for the recipe (I could ask, but who carries their cookie recipes with them when they travel?).
So I decided to take a short cut. I bought two bars of Pillsbury sugar cookies. I left one refrigerated and let the other sit on the counter for a couple hours before I gathered the children to begin baking. I mixed the two rolls so that the consistency was right to work with. Casey did a fantastic job rolling the dough, and both kids helped press the cookie cutters into the dough. After we filled a cookie sheet, the kids each decorated half the cookies. So far, so good, right?
Until I pulled the cookies out of the oven. With my homemade ones, there is no stretching and no growing. Things look pretty much exactly as they did when I put the pan in the oven. Not so with these Pillsbury cookies. They look all swollen!
Luckily, they taste just fine.
Never one to give up easily, I joked about my failed sugar cookie experiment with two friends whose families had joined ours for an afternoon of play time for the kids (and grown ups), and dinner. Weeks and weeks ago, I purchased a couple crafts for us to do with the kids. One was penguin beanie hats. I thought it would be fun to make these hats, then get some photos of the kids wearing them while we went to look at the Christmas lights. Three of the four kids seemed relatively interested (Casey wanted nothing to do with it). We followed the directions, gluing all the pieces on. And this is what we were left with:

Um. Yeah. Not so good. And of course I'm not entirely sure where my hot glue gun is. I'll figure it out eventually and get the beanies to my friends' kids, but . . . well, . . . it was just one more failed holiday experiment. Fortunately, my friends don't have very high expectations of me when it comes to my crafty endeavors.

So next time I'll plan ahead to get the sugar cookie recipe (as well as recipes for the other cookies I like-- this year it's just fat sugar cookies and MnM cookies). And I'll have my glue gun handy. Some things you just can't plan for. And because the season is about spending time together as family and recognizing all the wonderful things we have to be grateful for, it doesn't really matter that my cookies look funny or that the hats fell apart. What matters are the memories we made. And really, if everything went exactly according to plan, what fun would that be?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Surprise Package

One thing about parenting a child who happens to be adopted is that holidays take on a slightly different significance. I'm sure this is not true for everyone. Probably just me, in fact. And that's because for me holidays are all about family. Well, food, too. Food and family. But my favorite thing about the holidays is that we all take the time to really spend it together. Doing stuff.

And so especially around the holidays, I think about the people who we don't get to share our time with. And that's not specific to adoption. I only see my parents at Christmas time about every three years. And the last time I saw them on Thanksgiving was my freshman year of college, I think-- over ten years ago. And I don't just think about them on the holiday but also during the days and weeks leading up to the day.

I'm very conscious of this with Casey, and less so with Marcie. I think this is because I know Casey's birth family. They aren't just an elusive concept; they're real people with real names. And I talk to them. Send them a Christmas card. They're family. But I never feel badly that they are missing out on spending Christmas with Casey. It could be because I know they don't celebrate Christmas, as it's not part of their religious beliefs. Or maybe I just never really thought about it at all.

But this year, I have. I've been thinking about the trip they're taking this week. I've been thinking about the small presents we've been collecting since we saw them in August. Gifts we'll get around to mailing at some point. And I've been thinking about their role in Casey's life-- how lucky we are to have them as family.

And today Casey's birth family unwittingly participated in our family time. You see, they mailed a surprise package, which the kids and I opened up yesterday morning. It was filled with those popcorn curls, and we had to dig deep in, which the kids loved. Inside was an outfit for each child, the book Guess How Much I Love You (doesn't that speak volumes about how they feel about our kids?), and a toy for each child (Cars toys for Casey and a Lily for Marcie). They also mailed us a Dora blanket and a Dora blow up sleeping bag, which they'd purchased for Marcie to use during our stay with them last summer.

So tonight after dinner, the kids cozied into their pajamas early, we blew up their sleeping bags, and they curled up inside for a night in at the movies. They watched Ratatouille for the umpteenth time before heading off to bed (they bathed earlier in the day, which is a story for another post). Not before I caught a shot of them, of course.

Today I've been thinking about Marcie's birth family, too. I've been thinking about how much better my holiday season is with Marcie here to help celebrate. That's not any different than how I feel any time of year; it just feels magnified for me around the holidays. I loved Christmas when I was a mom to one. But watching them interact, feeling Casey's anticipation of Santa's arrival, it's so much more fun as a mom of two.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Lights, Lights, and More Lights

One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is look at Christmas lights. We're fortunate because in our city, there are two sections of neighborhoods known to be terrific for light viewing. I know this because I looked it up on the Internet last year, and there the information was at The best part of all is that both sections are in our neighborhood-- our subdivision, anyway.

Casey's been asking to go for a while, but every weekend it's been rainy or we've been sick, or we've had other plans. But tonight, we made time. After a quick bite to eat, we headed over to the area known as Candy Cane Lane. It got this name 20 years ago when the houses along the cul-de-sac all lined their driveways and walkways with candy canes. And it grew from there. Their electric bills go up $200 during the Christmas season. People drive through with the lights on their cars. Families hang out on their driveways around portable fire pits. People hand out free hot chocolate and hot apple cider. And then there are carollers. It's pretty cool.

Pictures really just don't do it justice, but here are a few -- to give you an idea of what it's like:

Casey and Marcie all bundled up to walk the three cul-de-sacs, including the famous Candy Cane Lane.

The first house on the corner of Candy Cane Lane.

A couple houses down-- see how they have strings of lights that connect houses across the street from each other?

Me and Marcie in front of one of the houses. You can't tell as much from this picture, but the lights covered even the branches of the palm trees.

Part of what I love about garish Christmas lights like the ones on this street is that you know it can't just be for the homeowners. They aren't spending weeks stringing up hundreds of strands of Christmas lights just because they like how it looks when they arrive home from work. I mean, I'm sure they do like their own work. But they do it for reasons much bigger than just themselves. They do it so that people like me can come enjoy the sights. And that's a little bit of what Christmas is all about, isn't it? Giving to other people a small part of ourselves?

A couple weeks ago, a lighted NOEL sign in a neighbor's yard was knocked over and vandalized. I know this because the next day, when we saw it was knocked down, we noted the hand-made sign erected next to the fallen-down NOEL. It stated quite simply: Vandals. Saturday night. And everyone who passed that house knew exactly what happened. They put up their NOEL again the following weekend, and it seems to be standing just fine. I was mad at the vandals, of course. How dare they take away such joy from others? For what? A few moments of activity in an otherwise bored (and boring) existence?

Tonight, as we passed by homeowners hanging out in their driveways, I went out of my way to thank them for putting up their lights and decorations. One homeowner was plugging in some music onto loud speakers-- his lights were timed to blink on and off with the beat of the music. I told him how much we appreciated his efforts and enjoyed walking the streets each year. He told us it was a lot of work-- every morning he has to re-arrange all the pieces. Vandals, he explained. And we both shook our heads in dismay. What to do, though? Give up? Not decorate? Thankfully, this man believes the lights are worth the effort of re-arranging day in and day out. Otherwise, the grinch-like vandals might win out-- but the Spirit of Christmas is pretty tough to beat, even when it comes in the form of Vegas-style lights.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Swiss Family Robinson

Tonight as I was turning the corner onto our street coming home from work (at 10:00 pm), I chuckled as I drove past the Swiss Family Robinson's house. They aren't really the Robinsons. Or Swiss. But it's what I call them now.

I wish I had snapped a photo before the rain began, but I forgot. So I'll do my best to describe it. This corner house is a two story house with a three car garage. It has an old-style garage door, which folds up and is made of wood. I'm personally a fan of the the roll up kind that most people have now, but as long as the wood isn't too warped, who am I to judge?

A couple weeks ago, they had a painter stop by their home and paint each of 4 or 5 different wooden squares on their garage a different color. The entire facade of the two story home is wooden-shingled. So we assumed they were seeking a color for the trim that would match the nature wood coloring of the wooden shingles.

We were wrong. The house now has a redwood tint to it. The garage door is two more tones of brownish. And the trim is a deep and bright evergreen color. It looks like a chalet out of the Swiss Alps.

And it stands out even more because they are one of the only houses on the street with no holiday decorations. I guess they spent all their money on the new paint job. In general, I'm a fan of "to each his own," but I have to be honest-- I'm glad I don't live across the street from them. I know. Not very Christmas Spirity of me. But honest.

I'm hopeful tomorrow I'll have something more cheerful to write about. It will be the star to of a four-day weekend for me, culminating in Christmas day. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ghost of Christmas Past

When I was a toddler, I was a bit of an explorer. And it often got me into trouble. My parents had one of those accordion-style gates, which when stretched created diamonds. That's just how baby gates were in the mid-70s. But I was a small child, and I could squeeze myself through the wooden slats to climb the stairs.

On one such occasion, I found my way into my parents' bathroom so I could apply some eye liner. The thing was I didn't know eye liner from nail polish. And somehow, I managed to untwist the nail polish bottle and attempt to apply the polish to my eye. I guess my mom found me before I did any real damage. I don't remember the incident, of course. But I've heard the story enough, and it's been told in consistently the same way, so I figure it's gotta be true.

On another occasion, one I do have some memory of, I climbed up on the toilet lid, pulled myself onto the sink counter top, stepped into the sink, and flung the medicine cabinet open. Inside I found a bottle of Sure deodorant. The roll-on kind. And I licked it like an ice cream cone. The whole thing. I don't remember its taste, though it couldn't have been that bad if I managed to practically empty the container. Eventually my mom caught up with me and called poison control. And what I remember, aside from climbing from the toilet seat lid to the sink counter top, is having to drink a whole bunch of milk to balance out the "poison" I'd licked into my stomach. But I didn't have to go to the hospital and get my stomach pumped or anything, so that was good. I'm not much of a milk fan, and I secretly (or not so secretly now) attribute that to my deodorant licking adventure.

Well, this morning after I left for work, our impish little Marcie managed to get herself into some trouble, too. I wasn't here, so it was all relayed to me via a phone call I received an hour or two after I'd arrived at work.

Marcie somehow cut her lip. We think it must have just been dry and split, but we just can't really know. How did Jason discover the lip injury? Casey came to tattle on Marcie-- he wanted to be sure Jason knew Marcie had "drawn on her lips with red marker." Of course Jason took one look and knew the crimson color was no marker lines.

After checking out Marcie and making sure she was okay, Jason went into the kitchen. Where he found two chairs pulled up in front of the refrigerator, with the freezer door flung wide open. When he inquired why the chairs were there, Casey explained they wanted to eat some ice, so he and Marcie decided to get it themselves. (They were unsuccessful because the ice is in a drawer, in bag.) Jason closed the door, but worried about how resourceful Casey has become in recent months. We can't help but wonder if Marcie is helping scheme.

Finally, Jason returned to our bedroom and the master bathroom to finish getting ready for work. He noticed the kids' step stool, which pretty much permanently sits in their bathroom in front of their sink, was sitting in front of our sinks instead. He briefly wondered why, and then he quickly got his answer. When he opened his deodorant. There, on his solid bar of deodorant were clear blood markings. As if Marcie had either A. attempted to stop the bleeding by holding the deodorant to her mouth like a bar of ice, or B. decided to test out her own deodorant Popsicle. There were no striations from teeth scraping the top or bite marks, but we imagine Marcie's mouth was nice and dry for quite a while this morning.

On the one hand, I know I should be worried. Very worried. On the other hand, I can't help but think, "That's my girl."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I'd like to think I present professionally at work. I'd like to think people take me seriously. I'd like to think the work I do is important and helps resolve big conflicts, making the world a tiny bit more peaceful. I'd like to think of myself as a power player, a go-to girl, a one-to-watch, an inspiration, and a force to be reckoned with. In my mind's eye, I'm all these things. Even in my five foot body, in my mind's eye, I see eye-to-eye with the big boys.

But I know it's just in my head. Because the other day, I saw myself for who I really am. There I was, dressed nicely in work clothes, sitting forward on the edge of the couch. My black back, filled with a redwell of papers and a legal pad of notes, lay on the floor next to the couch. The Blackberry peeking out the top of the bag was flashing red, and I was contemplating checking the e-mail messages. All the while, Marcie was perched on my lap, pulling on my nose with one hand and one of my ears with her other hand, giggling. Casey was standing on the couch behind where I sat, pulling up on hair on both sides of my head and waving it up and down like it was feathers instead of hair, laughing uncontrollably. Just at that moment, Jason walked past me toward the kitchen and paused just ever so briefly to glance back at the scene. I looked up at him, half-dazed, half-amused.

That about sums me up. Professional attorney by day. Professional toddler and preschool toy by night.

And for once, I am exactly where I want to be in life. But honestly, it's not because of the job. It's because of the kids. And even though right now is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, I get to experience the love and joy and hope and promise of the Christmas season all year long. That's the best part of being a mom.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Haunted Nativity Scene

In our family, we have a tradition of not putting the baby Jesus in the manger of the nativity scene until Christmas morning, to acknowledge His birth. Once at a party on Christmas Eve, Jason swiped the baby Jesus from the hostess's nativity set and hid it in the Christmas tree, commenting that you can't put the baby Jesus in his place until it's time. But he forgot about it until Christmas morning, and we had to call her the next morning to wish her a Merry Christmas and tell her where her baby Jesus was hidden. We were never invited to another Christmas party after that.

But we maintain our tradition anyway. We have a very elaborate (albeit inexpensive) set we bought when we were first married from what was then K-Mart. There are lots of buildings and bridges and people and animals. But Casey broke so many of the pieces last year that I decided to get something simpler. There's no reason for our kids to play with the nativity set because they have their own Fisher-Price version to play with. With that in mind, I set up our nativity scene (sans baby Jesus just yet) a couple weeks ago. Here's what it looks like:

The morning after I set it all out, when I came into the front hall, this is what I found:

Thinking it was odd, I opened the doors of the manger to find this:

The parts had all been stacked inside, with the angel on her side and the camel upside down, on the angel's head. I opened the doors and re-configured the scene. And left the room for a few minutes. When I returned, here's the chaos I found:

Looks like a storm blew through, knocking over the palm tree (did they have palm trees in Bethlehem?) It took me all morning before I realized that the Nativity Scene was haunted . . . Casey was just having some fun. I can't keep him away from it, despite his very own Fisher-Price set. But at least he's showing an interest in the reason for Christmas.

Tonight he told us at story time that we give presents at Christmas to help celebrate the Baby Jesus's birthday. And he's really looking forward to putting that little baby figurine into his place in the nativity scene.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ah . . . Time to Myself (Spirit of Christmas Post # 4)

After a quick trip to Costco followed by some time viewing the Walter Anderson's indoor/outdoor train display, Jason and I dropped the kids off at their grandparents' and grabbed a quick bite to eat.

Then I took time for me. To be honest, the time wasn't just for me. I spent most of the afternoon scrap booking. I felt uninspired. I am in the middle of Marcie's baby book-- well, actually I'm at the beginning. This is my third time scrapping our trip to China, and I just didn't feel very creative. Lucky for me, I finished that portion of the book and next time I work on her album, I get to actually start in on her life in America. But I generally enjoy hearing the banter of the other women who scrapbook when I do. And today I ran into someone from high school who recognized and remembered me. This was the second time this week that happened. We chit-chatted about who we've stayed in touch with and what our lives are like.

After I finished up scrap booking, I headed to the mall. I was hesitant to do so. But I was pleasantly surprised. I eased into a parking spot without difficulty and wandered the entire mall-- in an out of stores, pricing gifts in my mind and trying to figure out what to buy Jason. I didn't buy much at the mall. I headed to one other store, where I did pick up a few items, and then I went to the grocery store. I couldn't remember what to buy for our Christmas meal, so I bought what I could remember and headed home.

When I finish this post, I will set out to bake MnM cookies for the bake sale at work tomorrow-- proceeds to benefit charity.

But before I sign off, grateful for a luxurious afternoon to myself, I feel compelled to comment on the state of gift giving. I love the idea of wish lists. They're nice for their suggestive value. Mostly they're useful if there are a lot of items of varying prices from different places. But I see wish lists that primarily look like this (and I'm guilty of this, too):

Gift card to . . .

And while it's nice to let someone know where you like to shop, and we all want the people for whom we're buying to like what we've picked out, I can't help but wonder if we're all just trading money. I understand why we make suggestions-- heck, I even posted lists for Casey and Marcie on Amazon this year to help avoid repetition and give our extended family ideas. There is comfort in knowing that what we've picked out will be welcomed. But Christmas used to be about the process of the giving-- getting good deals, thinking about what a person loves or needs or would enjoy. It used to be about giving a part of ourselves because it took so much of us to pick out the gift. And that seems a little lost now.

Not everyone is a slave to the Christmas wish list phenomenon, though. I have a friend whose family has decided to do theme-gift baskets this year, filled with items for an Italian meal. A gift that's required a lot of thought, and something their family builds together. And another friend of mine's family has decided that instead of giving things this year, they are all giving the gift of time to each other. They've each picked an activity to do with someone else-- so they might go to a ball game or on a walk or to a show. The gift is of each other, of friendship.

And while I'm not quite ready to give up on gift lists completely, this year I've decided to quietly and subtly boycott them, at least a tiny bit. I've really stretched myself to pick something for each person that they have not asked for, but which I think they'll like. I don't know how well-received my scheme will be. I'm hopeful my thoughtfulness will be appreciated. But just in case, I've also purchased something from each lists, so I think I'll be safe.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Festival of Lights (Spirit of Christmas Post # 3)

Each year we attempt to visit the Wild Animal Park's Festival of Lights. It is not related to Hanukkah except that it shares the name. It's called the "Festival of Lights" because the park is lit up with light displays all over the place-- some trees, some animal shapes, some lights just dangling from branches. They build a snow hill and invite the kids to sled down it. They have craft booths set up throughout the park with activities for kids to complete. There's face painting and cooking decorating, and a night time safari bus tour.

We tried to get Casey to stop and check out the crafts, but he made a bee line for the far-away snow hill. After playing for less than 5 minutes in the small area set aside for children 4 and under, Casey insisted we get in line for sledding. He's never been. Once in line, he opted to leave for a few minutes after viewing the chocolate frostinged cookie Marcie was chomping on so that he could create his own chocolate frosting monstrosity. Then, after we were back in line he became antsy almost immediately. The wait was 40 minutes long, and we lasted about 15 minutes before he insisted we go see something else.

We meandered over to the sleeping lions and found our way to the safari bus, which we rode as part of an abbreviated tour through the heart of Africa. We saw plenty of animals-- rhinoceroses, giraffes, antelope, deer of all different kinds, water fowl, and even some bunnies. And Marcie was enthralled. She screamed in sheer joy, called out hello and good bye, and stomped her tiny feet in place in her excitement. I've never seen her so engrossed in something-- and so alert-- for such an extended period of time.

When our tour came to an end, we hopped off the bus and over to the hot chocolate line, where Jason and the kids imbibed some hot chocolate milk, and then we headed back for the van. We weren't even out of the parking lot before the kids fell asleep.

This was the third or fourth year in a row we've gone to the Animal Park's Festival of Lights, and each time we go, we're so glad we did. We hope we've established a tradition that will live on at least for a while. What a great cause-- to support animal conservation-- and all the while learning about animals and snacking on cookies and hot chocolate. Really, what more could one ask for out of the holiday season?

Oh. A good picture. That's always a bonus. And I have just the right thing:

Me and the kids as we were departing on our safari tour through the Heart of Africa.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Gingerbread House Experiment (Spirit of Christmas Post #2)

This year I decided to get a little crafty with my kiddos and help them construct a Gingerbread House. I've never built a gingerbread house before that I recall. But one was calling my name at our local Albertson's, so I purchased it. It sat on the wet-bar, which we use as a storage shelf, for a couple weeks before I had the opportunity to introduce it to the kids.

Pros about this gingerbread house:
  • The house pieces were pre-made. No gingerbread baking in preparation.
  • The frosting was ready to use after a little bit of kneading.
  • The instructions were clear and easy to follow.
  • The decorations were included-- no need to purchase extra gum drops.
  • The frosting was fast-dry, so we only needed to hold the parts together for 60 seconds, then leave it alone for 15 minutes to set before we decorated.
Cons about this gingerbread house:
  • Not enough frosting to really do it up right.
  • The house fell apart less than fifteen minutes after we completed it.
I really did follow the directions very closely. Casey and I held the roof on the house for a full 60 seconds before we set it aside to really set for fifteen minutes. After the fifteen minutes had elapsed (we used a kitchen timer to keep track), I frosted the house roof and poured the various decorative components into tiny bowls for the kids to use.
Marcie mostly ate the candy. In fact, there were a few gumballs, which I was unaware of. Earlier in the day Marcie had begged me for gum and I'd told her no because she was too young. Plus, I'd given her half a piece of gum the week before and she swallowed it. This time, after she snuck the gum, she showed it to me-- quite proud of the gum in her mouth. When she told me she was "all done" I walked her over to the trash can to spit it out. And she swallowed it on the way. So I confiscated the gum balls. Of course Marcie had a blast-- she was eating candy. What two year old doesn't think that's fun?
Casey did a very nice job decorating the roof of the house with Spree candies and gum drops. And he really seemed to enjoy himself. But about ten minutes into his decorating, he noticed the roof had begun to slide off the side of the house. I carefully pulled the roof apart, re-pieced it together, and let it set for another 15 minutes. All to no avail.
We did have time to finish our decorations, but the house didn't last long. Take a gander for yourself:

In the end, we just threw it out. But don't feel too badly. It entertained the kids (and me) for a full 40 minutes or so, and really, who wants their kids eating that much cookie and candy? So I suppose the falling apart was a blessing.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Spirit of Christmas Post # 1

Today is the first day of my Twelve Days of Christmas or What the Season's Brought for Me post. As explained to the right, I'll be posting daily for the next 12 days, leading up to Christmas day. I've been saving up tidbits to write about, so you can look forward to hearing about the Gingerbread House Experiment, the Haunted Nativity Set, Casey's Class Show, and What Two-Year-Olds (Don't) Do for a Holiday Show in the coming days.

But today, this first day of my blog-o-thon, I am going to write what this Season's Brought for Me: A Bad, Bad Cold.

It all began innocently enough, Marcie passing along her germs in the middle of the night while I held her, rocking her back to sleep for a couple hours in late November. And after that cold began to pass (it never really subsided), my nose began to stuff back up. Marcie began to sneeze more. And Jason began to complain about a sore throat. Not good. Not good at all.

Yesterday I left work around 2pm to catch some sleep before Marcie's class show. And sleep I did indeed. But I didn't feel any better after the show was over. Or after the kids were tucked in. I went to bed myself around 8:30pm last night and still had trouble dragging myself out of bed this morning to get the kids ready for school at 6:30 am (which was sleeping in for me). And I don't feel any better today. It's the kind of cold that prevents you from tasting anything. The kind that blocks up your nose so badly that you have to just hold a tissue over it constantly. The kind of cold that exhausts you when you're just watching TV.

So this cranky mama isn't much feeling the holiday spirit. Still haven't sent out the Christmas cards (though they have been ordered and are arriving soon). Still haven't even written the thank you notes from Marcie's birthday party almost a month ago. Still haven't purchased the gifts for Casey and Marcie's teachers. Heck, haven't even really shopped much for Casey and Marcie.

I'll get there. Eventually. The Spirit of Christmas will come to me. But right now, I just want to curl up in bed and sleep.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

School Pictures

I never uploaded my kids' beautiful school pictures. At long last, see for yourself:

Below is one of our favorites, though we didn't order any prints. We think it's hilarious because it shows exactly who Casey and Marcie are. Casey is sticking his tongue through his lips making a "nuuuh!" sound, and Marcie is laughing at him. It's them at their most playful, captured on film. Of course, if you don't know Casey, he just looks silly-- but anyone who knows him and knows this sound, which often accompanies him crying out, "CASEY MOO!" (we don't know why, it's just his thing), knows what I mean. Casey is definitely a character. And Marcie loves him for it-- really, who doesn't?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

How We Spent Our Sunday

After the fact, all loaded up and ready to go home:

And back at our house:

We haven't named the car yet or anything. It was a long process, the kids were running around throwing paper airplanes and eating popcorn. But the sales people were patient. And let's just say it's good we can multi-task because we caught a couple significant financial errors on the paperwork, which were of course corrected before we signed anything.

And for the record, this was Jason's choice of vehicle. This is his car. I have now officially inherited the Black Camry with the Valente School jiu jitsu sticker on the rear window. Both a color car I didn't want and a sticker unrelated to me. But he has been driving around with a Delta Delta Delta license plate frame for a year now on the Accord, so I suppose it's only fair. And honestly, I feel lucky he wanted the mini van and not the pilot. The pilot's a fantastic vehicle, mind you, but I have to heave myself up into it. So Jason's considerate of my height if nothing else.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Chocolate Milk Incident

I should know better. I do know better. I should not leave a child unattended with a lid-less cup of chocolate milk. But earlier today I did just that. And poor Marcie paid the price.

You see, I was busy doing dishes and cleaning up the mess from our Gingerbread House experiment (which I will be posting as part of my Just Blog it! Holiday Style participation, which begins on December 13th and runs through Christmas with a post a day about the season's events), and the kids were in the family room playing together. It sounded like they were playing together nicely. Until the screech.

Now, I have to interject here that I'm not actually a yeller. I can be firm. And even loud. But I don't really yell at the kids very often. I mean, one of the kids has to be hurting me, or the other one, or about to get hurt to warrant my to really yell at them. But earlier this evening, their activities initially achieved a responsive shouting. And almost immediately after I began yelling at Casey for the turn of events, I noticed the humor in it and broke into laughter. Poor Casey. I'm not sure he knew how to respond. He just kept apologizing. But in retrospect, it was funnier than it was annoying.

Anyway, after Marcie screeched, I flew around the corner of the kitchen into the family room to find Marcie more or less like this:

In the photo, she's begun taking the sweatshirt and shirt off, which is why the right arm looks so funny.

As it turns out, Casey had been giving Marcie "rides" on a green blanket, pulling her up and down the hallway. He was unaware that she carried a cup of chocolate milk sans lid, and looked awfully surprised at the turn of events.

After I calmed down and stopped laughing, the kids enjoyed a nice, warm bath-- and no one was worse for the wear. And as mad as it made me at the time-- the mess of it all-- it really was funny. . .


No, not the magazine. Me. I'm official. I was sworn in yesterday morning, and I'm finally an attorney.

This is me taking one of my oaths (I was sworn into California and also the United States Southern District, which allows me to appear in federal court):

And this is me with Jason after the ceremony:

There were a lot of people, and it was a much bigger deal than I thought it'd be. People brought their whole families with them! I didn't even think to bring my kids. I felt a little guilty about that, but really-- bringing them would have been kind of selfish. They would have been antsy and bored and they wouldn't have understood what was going on. So I would have been bringing them just to show off what beautiful children I have. And I went right back to work after-- so pulling them out of school for an hour round-trip drive in the rain would have been a logistical pain, too. Anyway, they have no idea that anything has changed. But it has. I can add another title to the end of my name -- esquire. Oh, and of course, I can dispense legal advice now, too. I guess that's a pretty big deal. (But don't ask me to here, because I won't-- it's against firm policy and a total professional responsibility/malpractice nightmare to do that!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Just blog it! Holiday Style

The Cackler over at Cackalackie has invited bloggers 'round the world to participate in a blogorama. If you haven't noticed, I added a button below my profile to the right of this post that says "Blog it! Holiday Style." I'm going to join Danielle by posting "What the Season Brought for Me" for the twelve days leading up to Christmas, beginning December 13th. You can read the details of her idea on her Just blog it post.

I hope you'll join us-- not just by reading (though please do!), but by adding the button to your page to promote the blogging event, and then blogging for 12 days this season about what the season means to you. It could be about Christmas, but it might be about Hanukkah or Kwanza or some other component of the holiday (or winter) season.

Be creative, spread the word. Whatever you do, just blog it!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Toilet Wars

Sometimes when I think back on toilet training, I think of those times as the toilet wars. Casey just wasn't ready to toilet train at two. No matter how much pressure his then-preschool put on me. When he turned three, his doctor told me to let it go; he'd train when he was ready. And right around that time, as long as we took him to the bathroom every two hours, he did fine.

Marcie is another story.

In between Casey and Marcie some friends of ours welcomed their son into the family. They are great parents, and when my friend mentioned that they were having potty time in the morning, at nap time and before bath-- when their son was all of 18 months old-- I was shocked. And told her so. But she explained that they weren't really try to toilet train their son at all. Their doula had taught them that establishing toileting as part of a routine would make the transition to actual toilet training much easier down the line. The rationale is that we try to toilet train our kids right at a point in their lives when they want to assert independence. If we have a toilet routine set up in advance, we can avoid the toilet wars.

I remembered this when we brought Marcie home, and I resolved to incorporate toilet time into the routine once she was walking. Alas, this was not to be.

Perhaps it is because I am a work-outside-the-home mom, and I didn't think the routine would be dutifully followed. Perhaps it is because I am not so good at routines. Whatever the case may be, there was no toilet routine with Marcie.

But right around 20 or 22 months, Marcie began asking to use the potty. Sometimes she'd just sit on it when Casey was in the bathroom. Other times she tried using it as an excuse not to sleep. And much of the time, she had toilet success, and we'd clap and dance.

We knew she was using the toilet at school from some notes we'd received from her teachers. And she's been going through way fewer diapers in very recent weeks. But today her teacher told us to please bring in her underwear. I didn't even know we were supposed to have any for her yet. "She means pullups, right?" I quizzed Jason.

"No. She said underpants," he explained.

"But she meant pullups, right?" I pushed the issue. I mean the kid just turned two. We haven't even been trying toilet train her.

"I think the teacher knows the difference," Jason retorted.

"Oh. Okay. Maybe she can get some for Christmas," I commented as I began mentally planning a Christmas gift.

"She asked us to bring them in next week."

Wow. My baby in underpants. I just wasn't expecting it.

If I already feel like she's growing up too fast, imagine how I'll feel when she hits kindergarten! Or puberty!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Patient Zero and the Office Party

Patient Zero is how Jason has been lovingly referring to our daughter this weekend. While she is doing much better, the rest of us are experiencing various stages of illness and despair. Okay, so despair is kind of a strong word. Marcie's cold is sitting in her trachea, which her pediatrician has informed me means she will have a loose cough for probably 4-6 weeks. But she's in good spirits and back to sleeping through the night, so that's good news.

Wish I could say the same for me. The sleeping through the night part, anyway. This virus is most miserable first thing in the morning. I feel exhausted. And everything hurts. It's just sitting in my sinuses and my vocal cords, hanging out. And hanging on. But at least I can breathe.

It's still attacking Jason's throat. So last night Jason forewent my office shindig (which was quite swank compared to what this public school teacher's usual holiday office festivities entail). I missed him terribly, and I am the worst at making small talk, so I was feeling a little anxious about going alone. But after spending two hours curling my hair into spirals, I'd be darned if I weren't going to go! So off I went.

As is the case with most office parties, upon arriving I immediately attached myself to my closest friend at work, who was there with her husband. But I knew I couldn't (and shouldn't) glom on to them forever. So I headed for the bar. Not to drink because, well, I'm a serious light-weight and with Jason conspicuously absent I was driving myself home. But my strategy was to spend my time at the bar.

I met two people in line the first time through, accepted my drink, and got back in line. Where I met two more people. And by the time I got back to the front of the line, my diet Pepsi was empty-- just in time for another drink. I repeated this three times before they asked us to sit down for dinner. It works great with Diet Pepsi, but it's not something I'd want to do if I were actually imbibing alcohol. And yet I have no idea how to circulate around a room. I'm certainly open to thoughts and suggestions here. I don't really have trouble finding a circle of people in which to insert myself. My issues come when I'm bored. Or we've run out of things to say. How do I extract myself? I see a future filled with cocktail parties of one sort or another. So please. If you have advice share. My career may depend on it.

I had a good time despite flying solo. There were dance instructors (what a fantastic idea!), so no excuses for not dancing! I did the Electric Slide, which really brought me back to my sorority days. And then I headed home.

The kids were tucked into bed. The house was quiet. And I fell into a restless sleep. And actually, my kids don't really tuck themselves into anything. Talk about restless. They flip and flop and scoot and toss and turn. They flip so they are sleeping sideways. They turn so their heads are where their feet should be. They kick off their sheets and blankets, then cocoon themselves into them. It is amazing to observe. They are seriously messy sleepers. I think they take after their father-- though I don't suppose sleep habits are the sort of thing that result from nurture unless you opt for a family bed (and we don't).

Anyway, I have been carrying magical words with me since early yesterday evening. The kind of words that make a girl smile inside and add a spring to her step. As I was kissing the kids good-bye before I left for the party, Casey smiled up at me, eyes wide, and said, "Mommy, you look pretty!" I was on cloud nine. He's never called me pretty before. What a treat.

My (Super) Heroes