All fun and games (until someone wakes up!)

Alexander went to bed early the other night. He has a terrible cold and hasn’t been feeling well. I gave him some Benadryl to help with his congestion. It also made him a bit sleepy so I put him in his bed, tucked him in and kissed him goodnight. Don had gone off to Home Depot for what must have been the thirteenth time that day. Downstairs it was just Rebecca, Christopher and myself. While I would have been happy to have vegged out to some mindless television, the older two suggested we play some of the new games they got for Christmas. We had loads of fun and it was nice to reconnect with them. It was nice to have time with them without their little brother interrupting things. They get less Mommy time than Alexander does and with all the craziness of  Christmas, the days immediately before as well as those that followed, it was nice to have this time together, laughing and having fun and making a little too much noise as we accidentally got a little too carried away and woke  Alexander up at 8:00pm! It was all fun and games until then. He did not fall back to sleep until 11:30!

Anyhow, these were the games we were having fun playing:

Warm Hearts, Warm Home!

Last Saturday I woke up to a cold house. As I trudged across the kitchen floor to make my coffee before the sun was up I thought the house felt cooler than usual. Not cool, but downright cold. The icy cold ceramic tiles pierced through my feet. As soon as I scooped out the right amount (Christmas Blend, of course!) I cranked the thermostat. A short while later we learned that the furnace was not working. Again. I feared we would be required to replace Furnace Number 2, the downstairs furnace, just after furnace Number 1 was replaced. “Here we go again,” I thought to myself. Later that afternoon we learned that the furnace would not need to be replaced, (Thank God!) but an integral part did. The part had to be ordered. And seeing it that it was early evening on a Saturday this was not going to happen until the following Monday. At the earliest, we would get our heat back on Tuesday. As the house entered the refrigeration zone the temperatures outside plummeted. The thermometer outside our window read 9 degrees, but the angry, howling winds told me that it was much colder. The downstairs soon turned from unpleasant to unbearable. We began to make our meals (sandwiches) downstairs and brought them upstairs. While I was eternally grateful to have a working furnace and a warm upstairs (where the bedrooms and playrooms are) I was getting tired of living in my bedroon. It was just too cold to do anything downstairs. It was even too cold to cook or bake. We did some. We had to. I had promised to make Santa’s cookies and since there wasn’t a minute to spare we did bake for him. We baked chocolate m&m cookies. It’s one of Martha’s recipes. Not the m&m part. The chocolate part. (We added the red and green m&ms ourselves.) Even with the oven on we couldn’t shake the cold. (The warm cookies sure felt and tasted good though!)

Throughout our four cold days I kept reminding myself how fortunate we were to have a half-heated house. While it was a nuisance and uncomfortable we had a house and we had some heat. The frigid first floor was sobering in the sense of reminding us of what we had as opposed to what we didn’t have. The kids were fine actually, happy to run around a 40 degree house in nothing but shorts and a Tshirt!

On Tuesday, the day before Christmas Eve, Don came home early and sent me out to finish my Christmas shopping. I had fallen behind due to a couple of snowstorms. I had started out well ahead of the game and had fallen seriously behind. I was eager to get out and finish up. I was eager to get out to a warm mall! I called the house periodically to check in on the kids, check on whether the groceries had been delivered and the status of the furnace. The heat company was due to come that day with our part, and barring any problems, we would have heat at some point that night.

By the time I arrived home, 5:30 pm, the furnace had been fixed and was working hard. The house was cold still and would take many hours to warm up but knowing that it would again be warm I was thrilled. Christmas Eve was the following day and we would have a warm home! Now really, I couldn’t have asked for anything more!

With our heat restored I began to work frantically to get everything done to get everything ready for Christmas. I wrapped and cooked and cleaned. I was busy all morning making up for lost time. I was so productive that by early afternoon I was all done. Don went out to finish up a few things and I had nothing to do but relax and enjoy the day! I had a long relaxing soak and a long mid afternoon nap. When I awoke it was already dark out. It was Christmas Eve. It was Christmas Eve and we had heat and food and presents that were all wrapped. We all snuggled together in the family room in front of the fire and watched The Santa Clause 2, the kids favorite movie of the week. We took breaks for dinner and dessert. It was a perfect Christmas Eve night.

We said goodnight and tucked the kids in at 9:30. We knew Christopher would be up for hours. We expected the others to as well, but Rebecca and Alexander could barely keep their eyes open. I went to work in the basement digging up all the wrapped gifts that I had tucked away here and there. Don was upstairs assembling the Polar Express Train we had gotten for under the train. As I was making piles for the children and checking the boxes off against my list I saw that Alexander’s pile was a great deal smaller than the other two. I began to panic. What would I do? How could my numbers be so far off? I had calculated the items. I reached for my list and it dawned on me that a bunch of toys were missing. Toys that I had wrapped. How could my youngest get less, and a good deal less, than his brother and sister? How could I let that happen? I couldn’t! Eventually a box was found with several large wrapped packages inside. One was for Rebecca and the rest were ALexander’s missing toys. Christmas could go on once more! Meanwhile I heard footsteps above. Little footsteps. Christopher was roaming the house. He could not sleep. It was 10:30. This meant we would have to wait further before putting all the items under the tree. Eventually he settled down and at 11:30 we began our treks up and downthe basement stairs. By midnight we were all done. And pooped. And 6 hours later 3 eager children could not contain their excitement!

 

No sneaking down!img_0882img_0883img_0885img_0887img_0884
img_0891img_0900

A Perfect Storm

winter-wonderland

School was closed on Friday. The kids were a bit disappointed because it was to be Pajama Day and the last day of school before Christmas break. It was supposed to be a day of class parties and gift exchanges. Sadly this did not happen this year. By noon, as the first few flakes fell from the sky, the kids had forgotten their disappointment. Within minutes the ground was blanketed in white and frowns turned into smiles with the prospect of snow men and snow balls and snow angels and hot cocoa with mini marshmallows. It is now Sunday and it is snowing again. Rebecca is supposed to be in an ice show this afternoon but we are home bound. We have Christmas on television and on the radio and in the oven! We baked Santa some double chocolate m&m cookies. And because Christopher does not think that will be enough we will bake some peanut butter swirl brownies. At the moment we are all in our PJs. Yes, it is 1:30 in the afternoon. Excitement is in the air as the kids count down the days until Santa’s arrival. I’m at peace and relaxing. It’s nice being forced to slow down and take a break. Sure I have some shopping still to do, but it will get done. So while the snow (and rains) fall from the sky I will take the time to enjoy the quiet (well, for the most part!) with my family and enjoy the time I have with them all together and without interruption.

Despite the loss of another furnace, we are keeping warm. (Luckily this time it involves replacement of a small piece and not the entire furnace!) We are lucky to have two furnaces. While the downstairs is a tad chilly, the upstairs is perfectly comfortable. As is the playroom. And the cold, hard tile on the kitchen floors are humbling. While it certainly is a bit of a nuisance to be without a furnace for a few days, the cold floors serve as a reminder of all that I do have.  So after I finish this post I will snuggle into my bed next to Christopher and stare out my windows and marvel at the beauty beyond. (Alexander is outside shovelling with his father and Rebecca is supposedly cleaning her room — Polly Pockets and Flokati rugs are not the best mix!)

 I’ll use this day as the perfect excuse to keep the kids a little bit closer to me. And then, when they are least expecting I’ll wallop them with a cold, wet, fast snowball!

Why I Won’t Use Santa as a Threat

img_04711

Truth be told I have a problem with Santa. Not with the jolly old man with sparkling blue eyes and whiter than snow whiskers. But the myth behind the man. The myth that causes those idle threats that terrify the young. You know the one that’s based on that oh so popular song? The one that has something to do with pouting and shouting? The one with the lists… and checking them twice? Yeah, that one.

You see way back when Rebecca and Christopher were very young I did the same thing that most well meaning mothers do. I would tell them to mind their manners, mind their mother, mind each other, mind their teachers and be good because Someone was watching. Someone was making up lists and Someone would be giving presents to good little boys and girls. I am sure my mother did the same. I am pretty sure that when I was older she told me I was going to get coal in my stocking. I am pretty sure that she did as a teen. It was a joke. But still a cruel one.

The pleasures of the season rival the pressures. This I do believe. As parents we have presents to purchase not just for our children but their teachers and specialists and coaches and whatnots. It can get to be a lot to handle, not to mention pricey. There are grab bags and party favors. Christmas is more than decking the halls and lighting the tree. Christmas is more than a few presents under the tree. Christmas is parties and events and invitations. Christmas is shows and pageants and extravaganzas. Christmas is a crazy, wonderful, hectic, exhausting time of year.

Not only are we rushing around at warp speed, but so are the children. Not only are we getting less sleep and rest, but so are the children. Not only are we wiped out. But so are the children. And they have something that we don’t have. They have something exponentially much more important. They have pressure. The pressure to be good. Not just here and there. Not just for a few minutes at a time. But all the time. All day and all night. And they must go to bed and sleep tight. Through the night. Because He knows when you are sleeping.

You know how draining it is for kids to be good in school all day. Sometimes it takes such an effort for them to be angelic that the moment they see you at the end of the day, their little faces crumple up and the floodgates open and the tears start and they are hungry and tired. Tired from being so damned good. And you embrace them and while you really wish they would save some of that goodness for you every once in a while, you understand the importance of them holding it all together for their teachers. It takes a lot of work and determination. Now, for the most part kids can just let go a little bit at the end of the day. Unless it is December. In December they absolutely can not let down their guards. And that’s the trouble with Santa Claus.

I remember how Christopher and Rebecca went from being such pleasant children (for the most-part) to whiny, terrible, devilish little creatures. I had no idea who these little people were who looked a great deal like my very own offspring. But clearly from the beahiours exhibited, these little people were from another planet.

And then one day 4 years ago I remember having a little talk with Christopher’s teacher who is a wise — one of the wisest — woman. I remember telling her how emotionally drained I was because my children were so terrible, Christopher especially. Mrs. Shannon had an answer for everything. And it was always the right answer. Still is in fact. Well, she looked me in the eye with a look that told me I had to cut the kids some slack. She explained to me that the kids were under terrible, terrible pressure to be good at all times. And then it dawned on me that she was absolutely, positively right!

Christmas is supposed to be a wonderful, magical time of year. Kids look forward to nothing more than stockings and a tree brimming with presents. How magical to go to bed with an empty tree and then to wake up to see presents piled all over the place! But how wonderful is that if, as a small child you worry that one wrong action could possibly prevent Christmas from arriving at all at your house? Not so great, is it?

And that was when I stopped using Santa as a threat. And that has made all the difference. Every once in a while the kids will tell each other that they have to be good because Someone is watching. But I will never threaten them with Santa Claus. Never!  I will continue to take away television. Much more effective and better for the family all around!

Just something to think about.

I heart NY in December

new-york-xmas-082new-york-xmas-083

new-york-xmas-081

There is nothing quite so beautiful as New York in December. Especially at night. Rebecca and Christopher have been to the city many times, at night and at Christmastime. This was Alexander’s maiden voyage. He was captivated and enamored! He marvelled at the tall buildings, the light show at Saks, the tree and all the people and sights in general that New York has to offer. We could have stayed forever. We could ahve danced all night, but alas there was school the following morning!

The pictures above feature random sights in NY, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Chestnuts roasting on an open (vending cart) fire, The American Girl Store (and if you look closely you will see a special doll holder for little girls who use the loo) and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Elegant, Organic Holiday Centerpiece

        img_0504

I made this last year with the help of my kids. I was decorating the front entranceway at my children’s school and needed something that was festive, attractive and inexpensive. Since the school works hard to conserve energy and recycle in as many ways as poossible, since the school tries so hard to be “green,” I thought my display ought to reflect the school’s philospohies. So I set out for branches and pine cones to start my project. I did not know where I was headed. I then sought out acorns. Of course I enlisted the aide of the children and we all three had such fun collecting these items. When I had them all in front of me I looked at them and thought they looked rather bland. Raw. Boring. They needed to be spruced up somehow. So I went to the paint store. In the back of my mind I was thinking Silver and Gold. So I bought some non-toxic, kid friendly poster paints. I bought white, silver and gold. And some Mod Podge, my favorite crafting partner. And some medium and large foam brushes. And some glitter. Silver and gold.  And the kids and I started paint and frosting and glueing and glittering. We painted the branches and pine cones and the acorns. These items were spruced up but still the centerpiece was bland. I found some really inexpensive small red plastic apple ornaments. We painted those in gold as well. My friend Susan tossed in a handful of small silver ornaments. And our final touch was a sprig or two of holly we cut off the bush outside the school’s main entrance. The display was spectacular and was dismantled during Christmas break. I kept the acorn/pinecone mixture and just came across it in the basement. I found a large oval ivory platter and my holiday centerpiece will look perfect for when my girlfriends come over on Tuesday evening!

(Suggested) Materials:
Acorns
Pinecones — these vary in shapes and sizes and if you can, try to get as many varying sizes as possible
Small rocks
Small silver or gold ornaments
Cranberries
Nuts, whole in shells — like chestnuts, walnuts, almonds, etc
Small plastic fruit ornaments
Small pine bough
Pieces of holly bush with berries
Large and medium foam brushes
Mod Podge
White, silver, gold poster paints
Silver, gold glitter
And anything else you desire!

 

img_05021

img_05031

Knit One, Save One (Life)

is an ongoing effort on behalf of Save The Children to save the lives of children under five.

img_0402

I am writing about this because my friend Lilly urged me to.

Nearly 10 million babies each year die due to hypothermia. That’s right, not hunger, but hypothermia. Half that number do not even make it to their first birthday. And staggering is the number of newborns unable to survive their first 24 hours of life. All that’s needed to prevent these terrible, tragic deaths are hats. The same little caps placed on the heads of our babies when they were born. These hats are vital to survival.One tiny cap! It’s not so much is it?

Rebecca and her 4th grade class, under the guidance of her teacher Patricia Bruno, knitted caps for Save the Children this year. These children, boys and girls, had so much fun with their creations, knitting 24 hours a day it seemed — in front of the TV, when they were supposed to be doing homework (!!) and simply as a means of relaxation. Rebecca not only learned a new skill that she will carry forth in life, but she is helping to make a difference. My daughter helped to save a life today. Wow! That’s powerful, impressive stuff. And you and your children can  do the same thing too! To learn more about Knit One, Save One Program please visit Save the Children, and click on the Knit One, Save One: What You Can Do video. It doesn’t take much all! The world is a better and healthier place because of my daughter and her 4th grade class. And with all your help it can get better still!

img_0401

img_0409

img_04081

img_04061

The Land of Misfit Cookies

img_03561

T’is the season to be baking, Fa La La La La, La La La La… I was on a roll making my favorite crispy, buttery, brown sugary chocolate chip cookie.  I broke out all the cookie sheets and had both ovens on. Despite the boys wanting to help and make a mess along the way which included egg yolk on the counter and down the front of the cabinets, flour, white and brown sugar all over the floor, I persevered and baked all my cookies. I love to bake and I have been told that I am very good at it. But just as with everything else, we have our good days and our bad days. This was not one of our best days! I was having a harder time than usual. The cookies seemed thinner and more delicate than in the past. Perhaps it was my imagination. Perhaps it was my haste. Perhaps it was my complete and total lack of memory. The chips were hot and the cookies were thin and in some cases transfering them from hot cookie sheet to cooling rack took a bit of determination. I need a few more cooling racks. And a way to get the chips to cool faster. That’s when the grand idea of tossing the cookies into the fridge to harden hit me as brilliant. I was operating at warp speed. Cookies on sheets, sheets in oven, sheets out of oven… sheets into fridge. Sheets out of fridge. Scrape cookies off and place in large plastic container. And so on and so on and so on. And when the Silpats were in the fridge I would place the cookie dough balls directly on to the cookies sheets. I had a system going. A good one. Efficient and fast. But as it turned out not so pretty! In two cases I crammed too many cookies onto the sheet resulting in a oozy blob… the cookies hardened nicely, but I had to cut them out. What resulted were square, rectangular and triangle shaped cookies! And I forgot to grease a cookie sheet and despite the fact the recipe called for 1 POUND of butter the cookies seemed to be pretty well glued on.

All my beautiful, perfectly tanned and browned cookies were set asside and packaged together. But what do I do about the others? The not so pretty ones? They still tasted good! I’m not one who likes to waste anything. I am certainly not going to waste a perfectly delicious though maybe not so beautiful (by certain perfectionists standards) cookies. So I loaded all my square, rectangular and triangular shaped cookies into the cookie jar. They looked odd but happy in there. Then I scraped the heck out of the cookies that were stuck. Crumbs went flying everywhere. I scraped off peices with my fingers, delighting in the buttery sugary goodness. In the end I got each cookie off the sheet. Beautifully, not really… Ok, not at all… But I do know a few kids and a certain husband who know better than to care what their cookie looks like. They know all too well that the beauty of the cookie certainly lies within.  And now, within me!