Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

"Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp"

As Dr. Seuss said, Christmas is about the people we love.

We had a lovely Christmas:
1. The Children's Nativity pageant went off without a hitch - except for the minister accidentally cutting off the last reader, but everything else went smoothly. And the glue on the star was dry.
2. All the presents got wrapped, although John was up until the wee hours setting up the kid's new computer. We thought we were done with those days of late night assembly. Hah!
3. All our guests came for a lovely Christmas dinner. The roast came out beautifully, albeit an hour and a half EARLY (which so beats late). We had to wait for the potatoes because I got them in late and peeled my fingers, but all was yummy and we all ate too much.
4. We had plenty of cookies, because I went to an awesome cookie exchange Monday.
5.The kids were thrilled with their presents. Thrilled! Rachel is figuring out this texting thing. JC has evolved all the way to fire and tribalism in Spore. William didn't even miss the giant pirate ship I didn't buy him.
6. My house got just clean enough, because the kids cooperated, and helped.

So tomorrow John is off to Florida to visit his parents and earn platinum status on his frequent flyer program. I will finally mail my brother's presents, which is fine because his kids are older and understanding. I will work on Christmas cards tomorrow, yes I know it's late, but I've decided that's no excuse. And we'll just chill for a couple of days.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I'm Not Ready

The kids had their last day of school today. I kept thinking they got out TOMORROW, even though I really knew better. So now they are home, and I'm just not ready.

I have piles of wrapping to do (so why am I blogging instead?).

I still have a box to ship to my brother.

I have 7 people coming for Christmas Dinner.

The house is filthy.

I still haven't called the dermatologist about Rachel's rash that won't go away.

I would really like to have a bigger variety of Christmas cookies for dessert (someone keeps eating them...).

One of the families has yet to RSVP, and I already bought a huge expensive roast, so we will be living on beef for a week if they don't come.

I haven't even gotten all of the Christmas decorations out.

I have to make a new star for the church Christmas Eve pageant - tomorrow.

And I feel lousy and tired, so nothing is getting done.

On the positive side, tomorrow is another day. I baked the other half of the batch of cookies I made yesterday for a cookie exchange. I cleaned up most of the counters in the kitchen and got all the hand dishes washed. JC's friend Adam is here for a sleepover, and he and JC and Rachel have been occupied all evening playing a very complicated long game. William was feeling a little left out, but we sat on my bed and read about 6 Christmas books, which was very pleasant. And now he's asleep, and I'm debating - do I stay up and wrap, or do I just go to bed? The older kids show no sign of winding down yet, but since there's no school, I may just let them stay up.

They're playing the Order of The Stick Board Game, which is based on a web comic we read. It appears to be highly complicated and hilariously funny, and they've been having a great time all evening.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Survey

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both... I hate those plastic clamshell packages - how are you supposed to wrap those?
2. Real tree or Artificial? Artificial, baby. We had our last one more than 15 years and it still looks good.
3. When do you put up the tree? When we get around to it! Usually the 2nd week of December
4. When do you take the tree down? Depends on when we feel like it. It may stay up until mid-January for our Post-Christmas Letdown Party this year.
5. Do you like eggnog? Not so much. Too heavy.
6. Favorite gift received ever? John's done a pretty good job surprising me a few times, I'm not sure I could pick just one.
7. Hardest person to buy for? John. He usually buys himself what he wants.
8. Easiest person to buy for? Usually my mom. We have similar tastes.
9. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes. I'm up to 38 if you include the ones on ornaments. If you tell people you're collecting something, they look for interesting ones.
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? mail, when we get our act together. this year for sure!
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? One year my darling husband didn't get me anything because he was so busy. That one hurt (he made up for it later).
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Original version with Boris Karloff)
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? I'll pick up things year round if I see them, but I get serious around Thanksgiving.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Possibly.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Cookies.
16. Lights on the tree? I prefer twinkly colored ones, my husband likes the novelty lights (who else has shotgun shell lights?). We have some of both.
17. Favorite Christmas song? To sing, "Angels We Have Heard on High." To listen to, currently most things on the Barenaked Ladies Christmas Album.
18. Travel at Christmas or stay at home? Would rather stay home and have people come to me.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Yes.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Star
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? morning. Stockings first, then breakfast, then the rest of the tree.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? Parking
23. What theme or color are you using? I guess you'd say "eclectic". I go for novelty ornaments, and there may not be any on the tree that are identical.
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? We usually go for turkey, but this year I'm branching out to prime rib and I'm excited.
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? I've lost a lot of weight recently, so I'm actually excited to get clothes.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Renewing My Faith

Sometimes it's the little things that keep you going.

I took the kids to the mall this evening, to shop for each other and their father. We were pretty successful, it wasn't insanely crowded (just crowded), they behaved themselves pretty well.

And two miracles occured.

JC put down the bag with the video game he bought for his sister (first miracle!) and left it at the game store. When he realized 20 minutes later, he ran back to the store and it was exactly where he left it (second miracle).

I figured it was a goner. Especially since he wasn't sure at first which store it might be in, and it wasn't in the last place we'd been (although there he'd put down another bag he was carrying for me, but they had it at the counter). And to leave it at the game store automatically means it was of interest to the other clients. I think we lucked out because no-one had noticed it.

But he was devastated at first - he'd spent his own money and traded in two older games to buy this one for his sister. And he was so excited, he had taken her back to the store to play the demo version of the game, and I was waiting for him to just explode and tell her what he bought.

So we are thankful to God this evening for the small mercy of not crushing JC's spirit, simply by inspiring him to put down the bag in an unobtrusive spot. I'll take my miracles where I can get them.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More Pictures (Wordless Wednesday)

Yes, there were other children at this party, but I don't feel right publishing their pictures without permission, and I didn't think to ask the parents at the party. So you get my kids in all their goggled glory.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

All Out War (Marshmallow Style)

The big "kids" got in on the action too.
William loading his magazine for multiple shots.
Taking cover is important in an offensive action.
We survived the party. We survived the party, everyone seemed to have fun. We survived the party, everyone seemed to have fun, and NOTHING GOT BROKEN. And no-one got hurt (well, at least until after the party when William got his finger pinched in a door). There were marshmallows stuck to the floor where they had been stepped on, but we've mopped so the floor is probably cleaner than it was before. And there are probably marshmallows lurking here and there, but we got the majority of them picked up.
More pictures tomorrow - I'm beat!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wish Me Luck

Tomorrow is William's Birthday party. The cake is not completely decorated (I ran out of sprinkles for the sides). The dining room is a mess, there is no tablecloth on the table yet. The kitchen is a mess from the cake making/decorating process.

We are going to be making marshmallow shooters out of PVC pipe. I have goggles for each boy and targets from the hunting goods store (including turkey targets!). We don't really have many planned activities besides that. They will be here 2 hours.

I've never been this unprepared for a party before - usually I have a list of activities and plenty of backups. We have until 1pm to prepare, and then five 6-7yr old boys will descend on our house. Right now, I'm going to bed because I'm exhausted.

It's like a bad reality show on TV. "Will she survive? Tune in tomorrow to find out!"

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

And What Holiday are YOU?

You Are Thanksgiving

You are a bit of a homebody who enjoys being in the company of people you love.

It doesn't take a lot to make you happy. You're enjoying life as it is.

You have many blessings in your life, and you are grateful for each one.

You believe that life is about what you *do* have. You feel like you have enough of the good stuff.

What makes you celebrate: Family, friends, and the changing of the seasons.

At holiday get togethers, you do best as: The host of the party

On a holiday, you're the one most likely to: Spend so much energy preparing that it's a full time job

Busy Busy Busy

I've been knitting, and filling in at the school library, and running around with errands. Oh, and maybe a few Christmas presents here and there.

Anyone got party activity ideas for 7-yr old boys? William's birthday party is Saturday, and I'm feeling a little under-planned. We're going for a loose "7" theme (he wants a 7-shaped cake), so anywhere I can work in a "7" is good. We invited 7 friends, although only 3 have RSVP'd so far. They're not going to be picky, but they are going to be active for 2 hours (!!!). And of course there is rain predicted for Saturday. WHY did I have my children in the winter??!!?

The good news? I don't feel like my house has to be perfectly clean. The bad news? I think all breakables should be securely locked away...

Friday, November 28, 2008


I have succumbed to the pressure (Barb, it's all your fault) and started my first pair of socks. My excuse is that there's something else I want to knit on double-pointed-needles and this is a good way to practice. Ummm, yeah, right.

I had knitted about an inch of the first sock, and realized that something was screwing up one of the joins between the needles, and it was bad, so I ripped the whole thing out and started over (in the interest of cutting my losses). This go-round, it's looking better, but I've discovered a tendency to yarn over in one particular place in the pattern. I've caught it every time, but now have to be a little diligent in that one spot.

Of course, I've now bought yarn for about 5 different projects, so I really need to get cracking, or I'll have the same problem with yarn that I do with paper crafting. It's just so much fun to BUY all that stuff!

And the Gravy Rocked!

Happy Belated Thanksgiving everyone! Hope you all enjoyed some quality time with family and friends, or had some nice quiet time with yourself.

We had a very nice day with John's sister and two of her kids. Her husband and oldest child were off in Utah skiing, so we invited them up here. They went to the Macy's parade in NYC in the morning, and then came out here. The kids got along well, and mostly everything I was cooking came out at the same time. For some reason, the turkey took WAY less time than the estimate, so we ended up not making potatoes (which seemed fine with everyone). But I made the gravy from scratch and it came out EXCELLENT. Woo Hoo! I handle everything else ok, but gravy is often challenging. I highly recommend the method in the Better Homes and Garden cookbook (the big red gigham print one). Worked great, easy, no lumps, flavorful!

Can you tell gravy is important to me?

And I made the Candy Bar pie from the same cookbook, which ended up being a huge hit as well. And of course apple pie (secret- put chopped crystallized ginger in it) and found a "Pumpkin Mascarpone Bread Pudding" at Costco. Also very yummy.

The only minor disappoinment was the stuffing, I just did the bag of Pepperidge Farms, and followed their directions. A little dry, although the flavor was ok. Needs gravy!

So today? No Black Friday shopping for us (well, maybe later). I am currently putting off going to the gym, so I guess I gotta get off my tuckus and get moving.

Happy start to the holiday season!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dust Mice

We have some serious dust mice around our house.

They tend to congregate under the stove. Periodically I have to send William on a hunting expedition to flush them out.

The tools of the trade are a flashlight and a yardstick, and being young and limber helps.
This particular expedition yielded 14 dust mice, and at least one bouncy ball.
George was extremely interested in both the process and the result. Of course, it's primarily his fault that there are so many under there...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

So Cold...

You would think, since I grew up in Idaho, that I would be immune to the wimpy temperatures that make the rest of the East Coast shiver. I guess I haven't lived in Idaho for, say, 20 years or so? I'm cold.

We barely cracked 40 today, and there was a wicked wind. And I've been freezing most of the day, even while wearing a heavy sweater (with a long sleeve shirt under!). Actually, it's mostly my hands are freezing. Anything where I have to sit still, such as, say, the computer, and my hands are like ice. I got smart this morning and put on wool socks, so the feet aren't too bad.

Much as I actually like winter (really!), I do get tired of feeling cold all the time. I try to be "green" and keep the thermostat at 68, and then I'm freezing all day. And oddly enough, I get really warm during the night and would prefer it chilly then. Somehow, the other members of the family start complaining if I turn it too low at night. But in the morning, the programmable thermostats are wonderful, because it's warm(ish) when I get up.

Guess I'm getting old and cranky.

Oh, and we are still under a boil advisory. And to those who commented that their towns have an update system, I subscribe to the county health updates. I didn't get a notice about the boil order until noon today. And I subscribe to the email-blasts from the school system - the only people who got a notice were on the high school list because that school had low pressure. Seems like the school system could have put out a courtesy notice for the safety of their students, or that the county health office could have been a little more on the ball. Most or all of the TV and radio stations in this area are New York or Philadelphia - we have almost no local news. It's just very frustrating.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Water water everywhere

But not a drop to drink. A water main broke and as a consequence, most of our county and parts of two others are under a boil advisory. It's a precautionary measure, since there was a pressure drop in the system, but here's what really bugs me.

How am I supposed to find out about these things?

John called (from Denver!) to tell me that the water at his building here in town was low pressure and he'd heard about the break. But it didn't really occur to me that there might be a boil advisory here, because our pressure was fine. So I didn't check the water company website. A friend called after dinner to let us know, and then I called a few more people to spread the word. Even then, someone had checked the company website and didn't see the alert.

Ummm, hello? Wouldn't you think you'd at least want the alert to be, well, noticeable? And why am I relying on the kindness of neighbors to find out this potentially important info? The schools have implemented a robo-call system, why can't the water company? Or let me register my email or phone or something. Anything! This wasn't really serious (IMHO) because a) it's precautionary and b)we don't appear to have a pressure drop on our part of the system, so contamination seems unlikely. But what if I had an immune-impaired person living in my household? It could be serious!

The last time we had a boil advisory, I had the same issue with the water company. The technology exists, and probably isn't even that expensive. Guess I have to write a letter. I wish there was some way to force companies to be ethical, but that's probably unrealistic.

Hey, folks! Do the right thing!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Toof Fairy, again

William lost a tooth in gym today. It's been loose, but someone apparently kicked him in the face while they were crawling through a tunnel. If he was upset about being kicked, it was more than offset by the tooth coming out.

So I asked what the tooth fairy would bring him. "A gold coin," also known as a Sacajawea dollar coin - which I don't think I have any of. SO we had a little math exercise about that's the same as 4 quarters or 10 dimes or 100 pennies. I'm leaning towards the 100 pennies, personally.

However, at bedtime, I found him putting the tooth inside multiple containers, "so the tooth fairy can't take it." We have a checkered history with the tooth fairy so I wasn't surprised, but it does leave me with a dilemma. Does the tooth fairy come tonight or not? I asked what he wanted to do with the tooth if he kept it, and he didn't have an answer. I'm not sure what I'm going to do - I guess it depends on if I can find the tooth and how well he's hidden it.

On the plus side, he's all excited to sing "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lucky Seven, part 2

There was much excitement on William's birthday. This was the big present from us - it's a Playmobil Pirate ship. They've been having huge naval battles with the Romans. Somehow the pirates usually win and loot the Roman soldiers. This kid doesn't have an older brother or something, does he?

Yes, the cake is homemade. I did use a cake mix, but doctored it up with cocoa and buttermilk. Very rich, not overly sweet. And homemade frosting, of course. I was trying not to make too much extra, so we did chocolate sprinkles on the sides rather than any fancy icing tricks.

There was a little too much silliness when blowing out candles, so he didn't get them all out on the first try.

And John took very nice pictures of all three kids, so you get a bonus! JC, with not too much teenage attitude.



Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lucky Seven

William is 7 today. My baby is 7 years old! Where did the time go, and I can't possibly be old enough for that to be true, can I?

If I can catch him long enough to take a picture today, I'll post it later. He's in a very goofy 7-yr old phase of missing teeth, and loose ones that look crooked, and desperately needs a haircut, so he's pretty cute/funky right now.

He was a little grumpy that he had to go to school on his birthday ("I can't believe my birthday is on a SCHOOL day!"), but he's very excited to tell his teacher. Probably so many times that she'll have to tell him to stop.

And now I'm off to go make a devil's food cake with chocolate frosting. Betcha can't guess HIS favorite flavor! And we're going to the hibachi steak house tonight - my kid's favorite special occasion restaurant. Dinner AND a show AND fire! What more could you want?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Troops and Trains

On Saturday, the PA RR museum had a special event commemorating World War II. They had costumed re-enactors all over the place, tons of artifacts, and even a complete 1940's era apartment (in a semi trailer) to tour. It was marvelous.

I don't know if the kids enjoyed it quite as much as I did, but it was just so cool to be able to show them a slice of history. Iceboxes, ration coupons, skate keys, a rotary phone - things that I either grew up with or was familiar with from my parents and grandparents.

My favorite was the knitting table. Yes, they had a whole display dedicated to WWII knitting - "Knit Your Bit." Did you know that knitting in church was allowed because it was patriotic? "Remember Pearl Harbor - Purl Harder."

They had a whole collection of WWII knitting patterns, including a balaclava one of the women had made for her husband when he was a helicopter gunner in Kosovo. Seems you can't have synthetics on the choppers - if there's a fire, it melts to your face. So she used an old pattern to knit him a wool one, complete with slits for your headphones. Apparently all the guys on his chopper wanted one! And the Red Cross has some of the patterns up on their website - no balaclava though, I checked.

We talked socks and knitting needles and it was just so much fun. This knitting thing is like entering a secret society - you just never know who else is going to turn out to be a knitter. I love the paper crafting, but knitting, well, it's everywhere, and it's portable.

It was really an enjoyable weekend. But now we have to clean and winterize the trailer - and I just keep putting it off. Can't we go just one more time?

Last Man Camping

In NJ, the teachers' union has written into the contracts that all teachers must be allowed to attend the annual teachers' convention in Atlantic City the first week in November. It's on Thursday and Friday. I don't know how many teachers actually attend, but it means we get a 4 day weekend every November. Add to that the fact that our district closes the schools whenever there is a major election (not sure if it's logistics, since voting is mostly in schools, or fear of terrorists), and we had a pretty useless "week" of school last week. Monday and Wednesday. If I had more guts (or less integrity?) I would pull my kids out, like so many other families did, but no, we sent them to school on Wednesday.

We had dropped off the trailer at a campground in Lancaster County PA on the previous Saturday, because John was in London until Thursday afternoon. So Wednesday after school, I packed up my three kids, all the clothes we'd need including winter gear, food for 4 days, pillows, firewood, etc., and we picked up JC's best friend Adam and all HIS stuff. Of course, it was raining, and dark because the time changed. The good news was that roller hockey was cancelled, so we could leave on Wednesday. But the Suburban was PACKED - Adam's mom made brownies and coffee cake for us, and they actually went under William's feet (he's short, you know) because there was no other room in the car.

We stopped for dinner on the way, and got to the campground about 9:30pm. Unpacked the car (mostly) and cleared off the spare bunk for Adam, and hit the sack. Thursday was grey and drizzly, but not really rainy. The kids opted to go to Intercourse. There's a lovely little pedestrian mall there, and we walked around looking in all the little shops. And I'm a sucker - I bought them kettle corn, fudge, sodas, beef jerky, pretzels... We found a lovely quilting shop with a little quilting museum on the second floor. The kids made quilt patterns with blocks. We tried to go to the Toy Train Museum, but it was closed on weekdays this time of year, so we went to the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum and looked at and climbed on real trains.

We spent the evening making dinner and building a campfire (Adam was happy to play with fire). The two other families we were camping with arrived that evening. Friday, John drove out to join us, and we ended up splitting up. The dads took the kids mini golfing, and I got to go outlet shopping with the womenfolk.

Lancaster County has a large Amish and Mennonite population, and this Pennsylvania Dutch heritage is all over the place. For tourists, one of the manifestations is the smorgasbord. Technically, it's more of a buffet. Our friends prefer the Shady Maple Smorgasbord, and it is truly an astounding place. It is GIGANTIC, seating hundreds of people at once, and with probably a hundred or more dishes to choose from. The food is good, not great, in my opinion, but since it's their favorite, that's where we went. For someone on a diet, it was... challenging, but I did pretty well. I had a little bit of a lot of different foods that I like, and if it wasn't a favorite, I didn't bother. I even had dessert - one small piece of shoo fly pie, which unfortunately wasn't as good as it looked.

Saturday dawned grey, and started raining while I was making the pancakes on our outdoor griddle - let me just say that holding an umbrella while pouring pancakes took three hands. But it stopped raining after breakfast, and we split up again to hit the OTHER gigantic outlet mall in Lancaster. However, this time I took John's car, and was able to join up with the guys and kids after they did the Toy Train Museum (truly a charming place). We went to the PA RR museum again - but this time, they were having a special event for Veteran's Day.

(To be continued...)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Get Out And Vote!

My mother emailed my siblings and I with her voting experience this morning. My sister replied to all with hers, and I just added mine. It's kind of fun comparing experiences. Mom spent about 40 minutes on the process, my sister in AL spent 1 hour 20 min, and I spent about 15, including the walk into and out of the school.

I don't care who you vote for, but if you'd care to share your voting experience, I'm curious. Mine was no lines at all, and bringing all the kids into the booth with me to explain the process. Pretty painless.

And in honor of election day, Itty Bitty Kitty Committee ( has a list of presidential cats over the years. Fun!

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Can't believe it's been and gone already! William's costume got finished in the nick of time. We carved pumpkins Thursday afternoon to minimize rot/animal damage. I didn't take pictures that day - wish I had.

We came out the next morning to this. Pumpkin carnage! This was all that was left of Rachel's. It was cute, too. Long triangle eyes, little triangle nose, and big round mouth, so it looked like it was screaming.

William's did a little better. You can still see one eye, and the mouth was big and round, but with little vampire fangs. It looked like it was opening its mouth wide to bite! John propped it back up and put the lights back inside, so we at least had something. I contemplated going out for more pumpkins Halloween afternoon, but that seemed more than a little silly. Just more deer food.

The kids in their costumes.

Yes, William is a pile of leaves. It was his idea, but as soon as he said it, I knew how to make the costume. We started with a ghost costume from a couple of years ago - just a white poncho. I dyed it brown, and attached the leaves with a tagger (like they put price tags on with) I borrowed from a friend. It looked great (could have used a few more leaves in front), and everyone thought it was wonderful.

Rachel is a sorceress. I kept suggesting accessories and enhancements, and she did finally find a book to carry around as a spellbook. We're going to work harder at it next year.

JC went for the easy way out. His best friend lives in a condo complex, so the boys put on their roller blades and skated around for trick-or-treating. They covered a LOT of ground and came home with a ton of candy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I apologize for the language, but, you see, I'm stunned. I was hoping to take some pictures today of the beautiful fall foliage in our neighborhood. Instead, this is what I got - This is front and back yard, just standing in the doorways. This morning at the bus stop it was raining, and we were all agreeing that cold rain is awful and we'd much rather have snow.

I guess I should be careful what I wish for. I've lived here 19 years, and I'm not remembering snow before Halloween. Ever.

The kids are probably so excited. Wanna bet William wants to go sledding?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A River Runs Through It

We went camping this weekend. I have no pictures to post, not a single one. Why?

It poured rain all day Saturday. I woke up at about 5am to the sound of rain on the trailer, and a steady drizzle by the time we got up. We rigged one tarp next to our trailer awning, which soon turned out to be leaky. Then the guys started rigging a REALLY big tarp in the empty campsite next to ours (with permission). By then it was a steady rain, which mostly just got heavier throughout the day. By dinner?

Monsoon. Severe weather warning with thunder and lightning. Torrential rain. Wind. Actually kind of scary, and so loud under the tarps that we were shouting to hear each other.

But, you know, we were CAMPING. And we were there with 4 other families, sharing food, so our options for indoor gathering together were limited. Most of the kids spent the entire day in one family's cabin, watching TV and playing games. The adults and older kids (and William) spent most of the day rigging tarps, huddling under them, and asking each other, "Why are we here? Are we having fun yet?"

And yet, we did have fun. Not quite the fun we were hoping for, but even when huddling around a campfire under a tarp, being with friends is fun.

And of course, today dawned clear, sunny but cold. Just beautiful - while we were packing up to come home.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Kitty Knitting

Kittens and knitting don't go together. They're either attacking the yarn I'm using, because of course it moves, or trying to steal the skeins that I'm not using, because, well, just because, I guess.

Since I have finished hats for all three kids (although John decided that JC's was too "girly"), I needed a new project. Too many dollars worth of yarn from Michael's later, I spent yesterday evening figuring out a cabled scarf for Rachel - using the same yarn from the hats. She wants it to match.

I've decided it's just as well I haven't found my local yarn store yet - even the bins of sort of generic yarn from Michaels are too tempting. So now I have lots of yarn, I just have to figure out projects to go with it. I almost bought (twice, now!) a book of one skein projects that's divided up by yarn thicknesses. If you're like me, that seems like a good idea. And I need to figure out where to find more patterns on the internet. Free, ideally. And small - I need instant gratification.

I did buy a book of sock patterns. But it's a little intimidating to start that - the thinner yarn takes a whole lot more knitting than the chunky stuff I've been using. I still can't imagine knitting a sweater, but maybe someday.

Hundreds of dollars of investment in paper crafting - and I'm knitting. Go figure.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Life in Pictures (at least a little)

This is a picture of the consignment sale. Rachel and another little girl are carrying in a big Little Tykes Tool Bench - they wanted to help, so we put them to work! I didn't actually take a picture of the room as a whole. I wish I had, it is a truly amazing amount of stuff that shows up. The depressing part is how much is left at the end, but we sold over $6000 worth of merchandise. When the average price is probably $2-3, that's a lot of stuff!

We are still bento-ing. I have mixed sucess. William just doesn't eat very much at lunchtime, and even using only half the box (which is way less than bento guidelines for size for his age), he still often doesn't finish it. The yellow box is Rachel's current favorite lunch. Peanut butter sandwich, no jelly, no crusts. Pretzels (they're square, so they stack nicely), and watermelon or currently apples in the lower compartment.

William's is grilled cheese, cut with the dinosaur sandwich cutter, carrots (currently cut thin because he has a loose tooth), and a box of raisins. He also likes tortellini, no sauce, and I've been cutting up leftover chicken or ham or whatever we had for dinner. I thought he'd go for peas, since they're usually one of his favorites, but not lately. And we've been experimenting with onigiri (Japanese rice balls), although he doesn't eat much of that, either.

And these are my silly kittens. I had boxes from a book order on the table in my craft room (which is a perpetual dumping ground for things in transition). And since there were boxes, there were kitties. George is on the left, Sheba on the right. They curled up and took quite a long snooze. They have been the most delightful companions. I'm not sure I've ever had cats that followed me around quite as much as these two. And they both talk to me, although George is much more vocal.

Just Say No

So I'm having a little puzzlement this week. I mentioned (to friends) at the gym on Monday that I couldn't go out for coffee that morning because I had to run to the grocery store and be quick because I was working the school book fair for 3 hours that afternoon.

I got the "don't you ever say no" and "you need to take some time for yourself" reactions. I really wasn't expecting that. Ok, I did consignment sale two weekends ago and garage sale this last weekend, and I happen to have both book fair and library duty this week. But my main agenda this week is getting ready to go camping this coming weekend, which is totally a family thing and very enjoyable. So the stress this week was just adding that extra in, not really the volunteer stuff - Monday just happened to have only a small amount of free time between gym and book fair, and I wanted to squeeze in groceries in there because we were out of a few things.

I really don't feel like I say "yes" too often. And when I do say yes, it's more likely to be a short term commitment, or once a month or something like that. Yes, the consignment sale is a lot of work, but most of that is concentrated around one week in the fall and another in the spring. Library is every two weeks (I haven't even been yet because of how the vacations have fallen!).

I do like to have "a broad margin to my days" (Thoreau). I would rather spread things out and not feel rushed, although I'll admit to being much more productive and focussed with a deadline. If I'm not doing the things I say I want to do, it's most often because I'm spending too much time poking around on the internet, or reading the paper. Both of these are habits I'm working on (especially since I had a habit of snacking along with reading the paper).

So I really wasn't expecting that reaction. Tomorrow I'm free for coffee! But I do still have things that need to get done. But that's always true.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Take a Deep Breath

The consignment sale is over. It appears to have been successful - we grossed almost 25% more than we did in the spring. How that translates for the church is yet to be seen - we give the consignors 70%, but if we have donated items we get 100% of that. But there's lots of counting before we know that number (each item sold has a card with the consignor code, so those all have to be added up).

JC survived his wisdom tooth extraction, part two. It seems to have been a little more painful this time, there has been much more Advil consumed. But he's in pretty good shape, and reasonabley chipper about the whole ordeal.

Rachel has gotten through the first orthodontic appointment (spacers, to make room for the bands around the teeth) and has her second one tomorrow.

William is just cruising along. His current project for school is to observe the full moon every month and draw a picture or write about it. He likes the observing part, the rest he could do without.

I volunteered for the intermediate school book sale. I spent 2+ hours today helping to unpack and arrange all the books, and also putting the "last book, please order" tags in the last copy of EVERY @%$&!! BOOK. And I get to spend 4 hours on Monday working the sale. But Rachel is thrilled, and I happened to arrive during her lunch today, so she got a hug and was excited.

And John had a big demo today, and then jetted off to Toronto for meetings.

I'm just waiting for the "slow" week. So I can work on all the things I put off until after the consignment sale. Hah!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hmmmm, I wonder

Which takes more time, thinking up a blog post or finding stupid stuff on the web because I don't have time to post?

Now THAT would have been interesting!

Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures
see Sarah Palin pictures

This I like

You Are Ginger

Like ginger, you are a total shape shifter.

You can be sweet, spicy, mellow, or overpowering.

You are both soothing and unique. You are popular... yet you are often overlooked.

But am I good?

The Recipe For Ann

3 parts Vitality

2 parts Enchantment

1 part Ingenuity

Splash of Pride

Finish off with an olive

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bento, schmento

Ok, my gym partner called in sick, so I should be on my way to the gym but instead I'm blogging. So sue me.

A quick update on the bento lunches. William is eating more variety for lunch, although it's not clear he's actually eating any more at lunch time. He is often coming home and eating the rest of the bento after school, which is good. The bad is that he's decided he doesn't really like baby carrots (despite scarfing them down at most dinnertimes. ???) But today I suggested grilled cheese sandwich, which he was excited about. Only problem is that I burned it (doing too many things at once again) and had to start over so we were rushing. He grudgingly accepted apple rabbits, we'll see if he eats any. And he did make the bus, so all's well.

Rachel was excited to have watermelon in her bento today, and decided the rest of William's apple rabbits could hang out in the fridge and be her after school snack. So more variety of fruit in her, yay!

Apparently, cute food tastes better. Though with all the jokes about biting the heads off of rabbits, we may have much work for their future therapists!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

And what DO I have to show for it?

I haven't posted because I've been busy. And yet I feel like I have nothing to talk about. Or at least, nothing terribly interesting.

I'm running a consignment sale for my church. I've done it once a year for the past, oh, I don't know, 4 or 5 years, in the spring. This year we're having a Fall sale for the first time in a long time. I'm remembering why we haven't done a Fall sale in a long time.

It's hard.

School has been in session for a month, now, but in some ways we're still adjusting. There's activities that are just now starting, and others that are in full swing. Registration for the sale coincided with the beginning of school, which is always unsettled, at the very least.

I haven't tagged any clothes yet. I have managed to get everything on hangers, at least everything that doesn't have cat hair on in (thanks so much, kitties). Still have to make the cards and pin them on. We're trying to fit setup around soccer practices and roller hockey, I scheduled JC to have two wisdom teeth removed on Thursday (we have 2 days off for Yom Kippur and a teacher in-service), Rachel has her first orthodontic appointment on Thursday, and William has a birthday party. The sale itself is Saturday and Sunday, so we have setup, dropoff, a preview sale, the sale, half price, cleanup....

I'm not sure the Spring is any less busy, but maybe we're better at juggling by then. Or inclined to let them skip a game or practice because it's further into the year. For whatever reason, from this vantage point, it looks easier.

But, you know, everything will get done or it won't. And the world won't end. The important stuff is all arranged. So hopefully, we'll have nice weather and not too many people will be out of town. And we'll get lots and lots of customers and make a nice bundle of money for the church and make it all worthwhile. A girl can dream, can't she?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Lunch Lunacy

I've officially lost my mind. A couple of weeks ago, I discovered a blog about bento lunches ( It's like food porn - and I'm addicted. I think I've read all her back posts, and envied her lunches, and especially envied the eating habits of her preschooler.

Last week, I finally snapped, and went to the cheapo online Japanese store she linked to. She's in San Fransisco, so there's a location there and it's basically a dollar store. Even the online stuff is CHEAP, and, well, I love cheap. Two kid's Bento boxes, various accessories. They arrived yesterday, and it was like Christmas with all this bright plastic stuff. William was enthralled.

My ulterior motive is to get him to eat better lunches. He's been eating a Quaker Oatmeal-on-the-Go bar for lunch for almost 2 years. And he doesn't usually finish it, because he also has a chocolate milk and it fills him up. So when he was excited about the possibility of rice and hard boiled egg (shaped like a bunny!) and maybe even apples, well, I'm all pushing that!

It was mostly a success - I was rushing the eggs and didn't use my usual procedure (warning, don't try more than one new thing in the morning when you're rushed) so I had to do a 2nd batch since the first wasn't cooked all the way. I almost burned the grilled cheese sandwich (shaped like 2 dinosaurs!). Long-grain brown rice isn't sticky enough to make rice balls (but he did eat some).

He was thrilled, he ate some at school and actually the rest for his snack afterwards. He even forgot to drink his chocolate milk because he was so excited about the rest.
The pictures are actually Rachel's lunch. I didn't have time to take a picture of William's, although it was probably "cuter".
She had a peanut butter sandwich, goldfish in a paper muffin cup, carrots, and apple rabbits. They're soaked in lemon water to keep from browning, and it curls their ears up, too.
William had a grilled cheese sandwich shaped like dinosaurs, a hard boiled egg shaped like a bunny, carrots, apple rabbits, and a rice ball (supposed to be shaped like a bear).
I guess "cute" food tastes better - wonder if the novelty will wear off?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I Fought the Law, and the Law Won

Actually, I didn't fight the law. If anything, I fought on the side of the law.

In April, I witnessed a one-car traffic accident. The car turned right (from the left lane) at a high rate of speed, travelled in front of me already in a 4-wheel skid, and tried to turn into a side road. He almost made it - except he hit a curb, which launched the car into the air. It landed on its top, and rolled over onto its wheels.

It was just like the movies. Except real. And very loud.

I was in shock. By the time I processed what had happened, I had travelled well past the scene, and really didn't know what to do. John convinced me later that evening to call the local police department. When the officer called me back, he took my story, and very apologetically said he would have to subpoena me as a witness for the state.

Oh, goody.

So, after many months of delays, we all got to go to municipal court tonight. I must say, it was a fascinating slice of life. And the judge was fabulous - no nonsense but reasonable, very entertaining, and fluent in Spanish. Most impressive. Our case finally got called after about an hour, and the judge sent the young man and his mother (I assume) in to talk to the prosecutor. I took the chance to run out to go to the bathroom, and of course, ran into them in the hallway. I made the mistake of telling them I was a witness in the case (and where I was going), because of course, I didn't want to be AWOL, and I got an EARFUL about how they didn't know there was going to be a trial and they had witnesses too and...

Look, lady, I'm just trying to do my civic duty here, and I've GOT to pee. Fortunately the police office stuck his head out in the hallway just then so I told him where I was going.

By the time I got back to court, and knitted a little more, the officer came back in and told the judge they had decided to plead guilty. The judge asked if the witnesses had talked to the prosecutor and they HAD to have that opportunity before he'd accept any plea. So we (there were two of us) went in, the prosecutor clarified that it was a one-car accident, said they were pleading guilty to all the charges, and did we have any problem with that?

Mmm, no, not really.

Ok, thanks for coming, and you can go home now.

So I missed choir and rushed through dinner and freaked out (a little, ok, maybe slightly more than that) and never even had to tell the story. And the young man hopefully has learned a lesson (I can hope, right?).

And my conscience is clear. And I started a hat for JC and got more than a third done just in court.

Friday, September 26, 2008

What State Should You Live In?

You Should Live in Kentucky

If you don't want to live in Kentucky, you might also consider:




New Mexico


I don't know, I've so strongly identified with being a Westerner for so many years that the only one on this list that actually appeals to me is New Mexico. Guess I should have said I love snow.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Looky What I Made!

I've been dabbling in knitting for a couple of years now. I had a friend who knitted in high school, and she taught me a little - I made a washcloth or two. And I'd made a few small projects, with more and less success, including a scarf that took FOREVER, even with a bulky yarn and fat needles.

But I'd never done anything beyond garter stitch or stockinette stitch (the most basic of basics, for non-knitters out there). So I found this pattern in a beginning knitting book that included twisted ribbing, but it was just a hat, so well, that's manageable, right?

This completely would not have happened without the kind guidance of Barb at She blogs about kids and knitting, and is really funny. And she's practically a neighbor, living in Long Island. She pointed me a couple of knitting links with videos (yay videos!).

So I started this at soccer practice Monday night. Knitted for an hour and finished the ribbing - but it didn't look right. Tuesday I ripped it out and started over, after watching the videos again - like three times each - and realizing I was purling backwards (don't ask). I finished this THE SAME DAY. It got addictive as I realized how close to done I was. I think it was about 3 hours start to finish. AND IT LOOKS LIKE THE PICTURE IN THE BOOK!!!!!!

I am SO liking this yarn. Of course, now I have to make at least one more for William (in dark grey), and I'm still debating the pom pom on top. Yes? No? What do you think?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Toxic Waste

I just used an (almost) banned substance. I feel contaminated. I washed my hands carefully after using.

I made my daughter a peanut butter sandwich for lunch.

Now, don't get me wrong. I get the whole peanut allergy thing. I understand that for some people even contact with the oily residue from someone else's fingerprints can cause a severe reaction. That reading labels has to become a way of life, and that small children are especially at risk because it's so hard to explain it to them (and they often can't read yet).

And yet, I have a child who doesn't want anything else in her lunchbox, and who doesn't like 98% of the hot lunches at school. What do I do? Yes, I know, if there was a total ban on peanut butter we would find something else. She would adapt. She wouldn't starve.

But I feel guilty sending in this dangerous substance, and I take precautions based on working in chemical laboratories - I don't wear gloves, but I'm very conscious of cross-contamination and I wash my hands thoroughly before I handle the lunch bag (keep the outside clean). And I do resent (just a little) this feeling of guilt for putting someone else's child at risk. I sent William in with a granola bar for snack yesterday. There are peanut-sensitive children (child?) in his class, and the label read "May contain traces of peanuts". I really agonized over sending in that snack, and it was just for him, not the whole class!

I keep going back to when JC was in kindergarten. There was a child with a peanut allergy in his class, and in those days, you could still send in treats for birthdays. I called the mom, to find out what was safe. She was great, and made the comment that her children had to learn to be responsible for their own safety. "They have to live in the real world." What a fabulous attitude! And far safer for the kids in the long run - relying on the school to keep them safe is not much of a safety net.

I sent in peanut-safe Rice Krispie treats. Her daughter politely declined, even though her mom had told her they would be ok. She felt safer with her own snack.

Good for her.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Playin' Hooky

I didn't go to the gym on Friday. I didn't work on any of my various projects-in-process. I even abandoned my sick child (ok, it was the 13-yr old and he just had a cold).

I went SHOPPING. And shopping for scrapbook/crafting materials, even, which I need more of like a hole in the head.

Ranger Industries, a leading manufacturer of scrapbooking inks and accessories, was having a warehouse sale. 3 of my friends and I carpooled, and met 2 more friends there. We had no IDEA what to expect, whether there would be anything worth buying, or whether the prices would be worthwhile. But, hello, it's a warehouse sale. You assume a certain level of ... cheapness.
You would be right. This entire display of stuff, including those white sheets in the background (Cut n' Dry foam, usually $5+/sheet) and the grey stamp scrubbers in the front (there are two), cost me $28. Yes, really. All those lovely glitter glues in front, fabric paint, embossing powder, ink pads and more cost a total of $28.
Because, get this... it was by weight. At $4/lb., you can buy a WHOLE lot of crafting materials. So cool.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Just Shoot Me Now

I have been having the head-exploding too-many-activities why-did-I-say-I'd-do-that week. It's not that I can't get all this stuff done, it's more that I've gotten used to being, shall we say, a little lazier over the summer. But somehow I've managed to get involved with several activities that have coincided over the past week.

Consignment sale - this is why we haven't done a fall sale in 5+ years. All of the start up/prep work happens RIGHT at the start of school. What was I thinking?

Library Volunteer Co-chair - I knew this was going to be most intense at the beginning of the year, so this one I was mostly ready for. But it still has to get done.

Scholastic Book Mom - someone pegged me for this at the meet-the-teacher the day before school, so I can claim this one is just out of the goodness of my heart. But of course the first order had to go out last week and is going in this week, right on top of everything else.

Rubber stamping group - I invited everyone over for a BYOP (bring your own project), knowing that my house was a complete disaster and really needing a kick in the pants to get it cleaned up. It worked, but I am EXHAUSTED.

Chauffeur - soccer has started, dance has started, I should write down the mileage on my car and see how many miles I log this fall. And we're still waiting for Roller Hockey.

Back to school nights - two down, one to go. And they've all been in conflict with some other activity, of course.

And the icing on the cake was my poor husband has been traveling, almost non-stop, since last Wednesday. He did a trade show in Europe, which is always too much work and not enough sleep, came home, and turned right back around and left the next day for Canada. Oy.

Some time ago, somebody asked me what superpower I would choose, if I was able to choose one. I used to say super stretch, like Helen in The Incredibles. Now I've decided I need the ability to be in two places in the same time. And they both need driver's licenses.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

They come in many colors...

As part of the ongoing effort to dig out from all the piles of stuff we've accumulated, we cleaned out Rachel's closet. The big dig occured in the last week of summer, as part of prep for school. We found a pile as tall as William of craft kits and similar stuff that had never been opened. I guess there was a phase of "Rachel is into crafts" that became easy presents for friends and family. But since it got stashed in her closet, little of it actually got used. Saturday, the kids and I went through the big pile, which had ended up on the dining room table (and stayed for a while). One of the items was a Crayola Crayon Maker. "Take your broken crayons and make new ones!" It always seemed cool to me, but Rachel was never very interested. William, however, saw this and thought it sounded WAY COOL.
So we opened the box, did the minimal assembly, and cranked it up. Mr. Perpetual Motion sat for 10 minutes watching the crayons melt. Then waited 10 more minutes for them to cool enough to come out of the mold. He is in LOVE with this thing. We had to make crayons for the owner of our local gaming shop (she was all excited). We had to invite the girl next door to come over and see the process. Every moment we're not involved doing something else, "Mom, can we make more crayons?"
After dinner tonight, I was busy cleaning up and he wanted to make more. Since I couldn't get there right away, he did it himself (with permission). I was vaguely worried that there would be toxic fumes or that he could burn himself, since the box DOES say "8 and up" and he's six. But it's pretty well designed and smells like, well, hot crayons. And he's been careful (we'll see if that lasts).

They even come with customizable labels that have the official Crayola logo on them. It's pretty cool.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Soccer Saturday

It was Opening Day of soccer today. Our town recreation department, which has run an in-town league for years, just combined with one of the local traveling leagues. Now there are three levels, higher fees, and we had an Opening Day ceremony for the first time ever.
This is William's team (he's the one in white). We get two jerseys, one red, one white. The schedule tells you which team is which color, but not everyone knows to look at the schedule. I guess.
Rachel's team only had 5 girls show up. The rest of them were smart enough to sleep in - this event started at 8:30am and our game wasn't until 10:30. Rachel's flashing the peace sign. I'd love to say it was "v" for victory, but we haven't won a game in two years. But they've all been close!
The girls got really bored after the teams paraded around the track. There were several speakers, including the mayor, but they didn't use the stadium PA. They had a dinky little speaker hooked up to the microphone, and even the people who were standing close by had trouble hearing. We couldn't even tell someone was speaking.

We've had several days of lovely fall weather and cool temperatures, but of course, just in time for soccer, we had heat and humidity today. It was pretty awful in the sun, but fortunately there were clouds on occasion.

I don't have any pictures to post of Rachel's game. I didn't even GO to Rachel's game. Naturally, given that John's out of town on a weekend (which is rare), their games were at exactly the same time, in two different locations.

Doesn't it look like William is the super awesome soccer player in this shot? Alas, his actual play was more like the picture below.Don't ask me what he's looking at. It does not appear to be the ball, or his teammates, or even the goal. He mostly follows the ball around, although he always appears to be thinking about something else entirely. However, after the game, he complained that even his own teammates never let him kick the ball - which prompted a whole discussion about going after the ball and the realities of competition.

Yeah, I'm not seeing any career potential here. But his team managed to win, 3-2. And Rachel? Who plays hard and pays attention (and is admittedly almost 4 years older)? Rachel's team lost again. 2-3. But it was close!