Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Blur, revisited


My in-laws read my blog. Flattering and frightening all wrapped into one. But my father-in-law decided to enlighten me as to WHY opening Christmas presents with Hubby's family is like setting rabid squirrels onto a 10-lb jar of peanut butter.

I can't do it justice, so in his own words...

In years past we tried the one gift at a time routine. The problem is the math. Time vs people vs opening of said gifts.

Min number people 11 - could be much higher

Gifts given from 1 person to the other 1 (never this low, better average 2.5)

Time to open presents 5 min per person.

Min math 11*11*5=605 min /60 min = 10.08 hours min

Max math 11*27.5(2.5 gifts from each other gift giver) 302.5 min*5 min opening time = 1512.5 /60 min in an hour =25.20 hours 

Needless to say we did not have the time since every one was hungry.

I stand corrected. Bring on the paper cuts.

'Twas the night before the night before Christmas

And I'm hoping Santa takes one good look at my living room and basement and decides my kids don't really need any more toys.

Move along, jolly man... no need for presents here...
Since the birthday/Christmas/present extravaganza began at Thanksgiving, my little man has been gift-greedy and overwhelmed with all of his new stuff.

"Mom, what I play with?"

"Mom, I wanna do somethin" What, my darling, darling son? "I dunno. Sumpin'"

"Mom, what you play with me?"

And on and on and on...

He sincerely loves his new presents, but for somebody who only gets true gifts one month a year, it's a lot to take in. He'll probably get into the groove either a) right before they all break or b) next November. One of the two. I understand why the people who love us want to give him gifts, so I don't discourage the practice, I just grin (cringe) and bear it.

My princess has been amazingly patient through all of brother's gift openings. On Nathaniel's actual birthday, I got her out of bed and told her it was brother's birthday. She looked at me and said in the sweetest voice possible, "Me too?"

I assured her that it would be her birthday soon.


She was a model little sister at his party and he gladly let her play with (most) of his new toys.

But if in a few years I have TWO greedy Guses I may take a page from Nana's book and start threatening to shoot Santa.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Hubby needs a goal to motivate him to exercise. He gets bored easily, so just running doesn't do it for him. He has to run, bike AND swim. Nut job.

But anyhoo, every year he swears he is not going to fall hopelessly out of shape to start from scratch in the spring. Every year, he falls hopelessly out of shape and starts from scratch in the spring. This winter is extra special since with the whole "trying to finish a master's thesis while working full time and not completely ignoring my wife and kids" he didn't have time to run any this past summer.

So after an exhaustive search of our bookshelves, he pulled out the triathlon training book. (Note: I had to find the darn thing. If something gets put away, he cannot find it. It's like man law #45, and applies to car keys, shoes, dress pants, jackets, toothpaste...)

After one night of stretching and strength training, Hubby decided I needed to join him in the festivities. Me and my creaking shoulders, cracking ankles, weak knees and aching back. Nah, I don't need exercise.

There are no triathlons in my future, I can tell you that. My lungs seize up at the thought of jogging down the block. But I can be a good cheerleader wifey.

So I agreed to his plan. I will regret that decision in the morning when I try to sit up to get out of bed. And walk into the bathroom. And then down the stairs.

Crack. Ow. Crack. Ow.

You get the idea.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Part One, the Blur

Good thing I don't get paid, cuz after five days of no blogging, my butt would be fired. I'm not sure what happened. I blinked. If you are a mom, I'm pretty sure you'll know what I'm talking about. But let's see if I can catch you up...

I cookie swapped like a champ. My roughly 5.5 dozen cookies were gone instantly. I gotta say it felt pretty good to open that first tin and hear, "Oooh, you made pizzelles? I love those!" There were quite a few straggler cookies left on plates. I had crumbs. I wasn't even home before my friend texted me asking for a recipe. Oh yeah, I rock.

We had Christmas part 1 of 3 with the grandparents. My living room looked like Christmas exploded. There was no putting presents under the tree. They would have BURIED poor Doug. It wasn't like the family went super crazy, but a lot of them were just physically large. And I feel like I missed the opening of everything, including my own.

In my family, we dragged out the opening of presents. Everyone got their turn to be the center of attention, to ooh and aaah appropriately so that the giver and the receiver could both rate their gifting experience. (Watch out for the Russian judge... always critical) The youngest always went first, and in my years, I guess it was to keep my head from exploding in anticipation. I was the baby. I never had to wait for anyone. Explains a lot, don't it?

Hubby's family gets everything over with in one giant cluster. One person plays Santa and passes out gifts, and once everyone has a box or bag in front of them, it's all over but the cryin'. Even with only my fam of 4 opening I felt like I had no idea who got what for whom. I checked all my tags, but before I could commit the name to the present under the paper, my attention was drawn to one of my offspring tearing into the new favorite toy of the last 30 seconds.

Sorry, I've had two kids. My brain can only handle so much at once. Christmas last year with the WHOLE family about did me in. That's a whole lotta wrapping paper flying... eek... paper cuts...

So kinda glad the rest of our Christmases should be low-key. Besides our family Wii, Craig and I will only have stockings to open on Christmas Day. And if we're feeling left out, I'll break out the iPod and he can go to the garage and stare at the Other Woman (his boat, if you're just tuning in).

On the 26th, we'll head to PA to visit my family, which will be the one-at-a-time deal with my Nana, aunt and uncle. Aaah... I can hear the almost silence now.

I'm a mom. Silence is golden.

So are Starbucks gift cards, Santa. Hint, hint.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oh the weather outside is frightful

I think I understand why my grandmother's freezer was always packed with baked goodies. How else do you keep warm? This is my baking week. It's also the coldest week so far. That is a fortunate coincidence.

My freezer was dangerously low on banana bread, so I made 2 loaves Monday and an experimental loaf yesterday afternoon. I follow my Nana's recipe to a T normally, so I tried to healthify the bread a little with wheat flour and applesauce instead of oil.

Lesson learned? Don't mess with a good thing. At least Nathaniel seems to be going through a growth spurt and is eating everything we put in front of him. Even if it tastes like banana cardboard.

I have to take 4 dozen cookies to a swap tomorrow night. I couldn't narrow it down to just one kind, so my plan is to make 2 dozen of each. One is a new recipe, one is an old/new recipe.

I found Pumpkin Creme Pies online a few months ago and have been itching to try them. A little labor-intensive, but still classified as "easy," so I can do it, right? Gosh I hope so...

The other is pizzelles. When Nana moved out of the house I grew up in, I made sure to grab the pizzelle iron my mom and I used to make Christmas cookies. The original manual is gone, so I'm using a new recipe I found online and I've never made them solo. I was always Mom's sous chef. Sous baker? Whatever...

Of course I just discovered I am low on a few ingredients, so until Hubby takes a detour to Wally World on his way home, I will be at a standstill. Not that I really want help from my kids, who are currently chasing each other around the living room.


Since we are ahead on the whole gift-buying-card-sending-other-random-task extravaganza that is Christmas, I thought I might make a few homemade gifts for friends. And when my plans for yesterday afternoon and evening got cancelled, I decided a little baking therapy was in order.

Enter the cinnamon rolls.

And because I felt like I needed to go a step farther, Orange Marmalade Rolls. Oh yes, I went there.

I think I like them better than P Dub's Original Cinnamon Rolls. Which are still kick-butt. Hubby, who professes to dislike both maple flavoring (in everything but syrup) and coffee (I know, I don't understand it either...), still went back for seconds on my first attempt at her rolls. That should tell you all you need to know.

So I have six trays of rolls in my freezer, waiting for a new home. Since I'm still learning how to make them, the gnarly, misshapen ones went into their own pan and the kids and I put a dent in them for breakfast this morning. Oh darn.

In fact, I'm drooling now just thinking about them.

But the plus side to baking like a crazy person is that my kitchen is nice and toasty warm when the oven is on AND I'm running around the kitchen like a chicken with her head cut off. It will also delay the formation of a Bridget-sized lump on the couch.

The downside, of course, is my waistline. I don't think I'm doing enough running in the kitchen to quite counteract the calories in all these goodies. Maybe I should start racing the kids around the house.


Monday, December 13, 2010


If only it weren't so gosh-darn-cold...

...I would not be close to wearing two layers to sleep and defying the Hubby by putting flannel sheets on our bed.

...I would insist my family become nudists because I am really, really sick of laundry.

...I would go outside to investigate the dryer vent to see why I feel a blast of cold air every time I open my dryer.
I can't put my arms down!

...I would not preheat my side of the bed with a heating pad.

...I would send my wild monkeys outside to run off some of their energy. But the amount of clothing they would need to survive the elements makes Leah look like a little purple Stay Puft Marshmallow girl. And the drifts next to the house are up to Nathaniel's knees. But I can still see grass in the middle of the yard.

...I would not drink my body volume in coffee and chai throughout the day to stave off hypothermia.

...I would take my new toy (iPod) outside to calibrate the nifty Nike app on a run. HA HA! Okay, maybe a walk. A stroll. A mosey down the street.

OK, well, the rest of those things are true.

Dreaming of a white Christmas and a 75 degree and sunny Dec. 26.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

If anything happens to our tree star...

My mommy friend B talked about finding a mooning Santa for their family Christmas tree. She couldn't find a topper, but I'd say she came close. 

Apparently I had a very witty comment for her, but I have no memory of when/where I said it. 

I have two kids. It happens. A LOT. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

An early Christmas

Another cake win... Go Diego Go
Sometimes it takes random days and actions to remind me how lucky I am. Where family is gone or far away, my life and my family's lives are filled with amazing people that create an extended "family." My living room was filled with non-relatives who took time to help celebrate a 4-year-old's birthday. I'm pretty sure a few were there for the cake.

I think every mom has a laundry list of people who have offered, at one time or another, to watch their kids. There are some that you actually believe, a few in the gray area, and always ones that are saying it to be polite. I very rarely consult that list. Not because I don't trust any of those people, but just because I feel like it should be for an emergency or at least a really good reason. I'm not sure why. Maybe a control issue? Or just knowing it's hard to repay the favor, so I better make it worth it.

Earlier this week, I had to run down that mental list not once, but twice. Weeks where we have concerts are always dicey, especially when our list of paid babysitters is practically non-existent. I called on one friend who loves my kids (and loves taking their pictures, consequently), but who I knew would not let me repay her in any way. I know. I've tried. I asked anyway. I'm not sure why, as an empty-nester, she had nothing better to do on a Friday night than hang out with a 4-year-old and an almost 2-year-old, but...

Nathaniel and Leah didn't even notice when I left and when I returned home a few hours later, they were tucked in bed and my kitchen was cleaner than when I left. I had to do a double take to make sure I was in the right house.

You see, "Snefanie" is practicing to be a grandma (in a few years, she says. Hope her girls are on the same timetable). I'd say she's off to a good start, but practice makes perfect, as they say. I think it should my job to make sure she's good and prepared...

Friday, December 10, 2010

But I shy!

I had to check my phone when I dropped my FOUR year old at preschool yesterday to make sure I had the right day. An unfamiliar teacher walked out to the first car in line. I've been a little scattered lately, but really? Would I try to take him to school on the wrong DAY? That would be a new low.

After my dear phone told me it was in fact Thursday, I saw his second (normal) teacher come out to greet the kiddos too. Whew. My phone and I were not losing it.

Nathaniel was less than excited to have this new person. See, my boy, he fears change.

"I going to be shy to her." He informed me.

When I passed that information along, his second teacher laughed.

"Oh that's okay, I'm here. You can be shy to her, she won't mind."

That is why his teachers are awesome. They think he is hilarious and know that in his heart, he doesn't want to be shy.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

No good can come from this...

I got a little bit of Christmas early yesterday. I mean, it was half Christmas, half "thanks for letting me buy a sailboat, honey." 

I now have an iPod touch. 

I feel like I've jumped several levels of the dark side to the REALLY dark side, since I am going from unlimited texting with my full keyboard phone (which Hubby gave me grief about) to app-mania and every addicting Internet device at my fingertips.

See, we don't want to bite the bullet and get Crackberries (or their equivalent) because we're cheap and don't want to fork over more money for a data plan. I'm home a lot, where we have wireless, and if McDonald's has free Wi-Fi, the rest of the world isn't far behind. I talked to a friend who was raving about her iTouch, and when she told me she download iBooks, I was sold. Books, Facebook, games, other random useless crap that seems really cool at the time - what's not to love? Oh and it plays music too, right?

iPhones aren't options because a) I live in a cornfield and AT&T service bites and b) Hubby is morally and ethically against Apple. I have no idea how I convinced him I "needed" one. My guess? He's really happy I green-lighted the boat, people.

Now I just have to figure out how to use the darn thing. I'd like to do so without handing it over to my enginerd hubby every 30 seconds, but considering how electronically-challenged I am, that's not bloody likely. My 4-year-old has better luck operating the DVD player than I do. 

So I had the thing for about 8 hours and what did I do? Blogged while Hubby tried to figure out what happened to the free apps I thought I downloaded. 

Yeah, this is gonna take some time...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Happy Birthday Little Man

Four years and one day ago, Hubby and I were on my way home from a concert in Fort Wayne, the day before my due date (because I'm that crazy). I had the next day off at work, and I was bound and determined not to waddle back in in another day still very pregnant.

Turns out, while time and deadlines sometimes escape me, my little man decided he needed to try to make his appearance right when he was supposed to - but he missed by about 3 hours. Nathaniel James came into this world at 3:16 a.m. Dec. 7, 2006 after 17 hours of labor, four games of darts while we waited to go to the hospital, two tries at the epidural, and one trip to Walmart to get something with a second hand to time my contractions.

You'd think we would've thought of that one in the previous nine months.

So today, I went to preschool with him to watch him enjoy his "leader day" and help with his snack. I watched him do his own thing, help his teachers, and proudly declare to everyone that he is now four. He showed a picture of himself, only days old, next to a teddy bear that was bigger than he was.

That was then. This is now.

What happened? Where did my little peanut go?

He is so big now... and my baby girl turns two in a few weeks. I don't think my nerves can take this.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I love/hate Christmas

I have developed a love/hate relationship with Christmas. It has nothing to do with the commercialization of the holiday, the over-emphasis on gifts or any other cynical curmudgeony rants.

You see, my mom loved Christmas. I mean LOVED it. So as we start establishing traditions and enjoying the season with our children, I am reminded of what I learned growing up. And there is no quick call home to say, "Oh Mom, you remember this," laugh and move on. I am alone in my reminiscing. I can tell Hubby the stories, and he willingly listens every year, but it's not the same.

And the end of the Christmas season brings back even more painful memories when Dec. 31 rolls around. I remember the frantic call at 3 a.m., mere hours before we were planning to leave for PA for an emergency visit. We were too late.

This week, when we piled into the van as a family to pick our tree, I was excited, but I still felt as though a weight was being pressed down onto my chest. That feeling will come and go for the next month. It resurfaced this morning as we dug through the ornament boxes and hung some of the same ornaments I did as a child.

It will hit me again when I pull out Mom's pizzelle iron to make cookies for an exchange in a few weeks. And again Christmas morning, because she will never enjoy seeing her grandchildren wake at the crack of dawn to tear down the stairs to see what Santa brought.

But I can't pull a Grinch and bury my head in the sand to wait for Jan. 1. It would dishonor her memory and deny my children the same joy I used to have every December. Because I too used to adore Christmas: the music, the snow, the tree, the decorations, everything.

So when I want to cry, I glue a smile on my face because I don't know what else to do. I hope someday the glue isn't necessary.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

O Doug the Tree

Christmas tree stand, Christmas tree stand, wherefore art thou Christmas tree stand?

The wind chill has been in the single digits lately, so that meant tonight was the PERFECT night to go pick our Christmas tree. Too bad it wasn't snowing. Or freezing rain. That would've made it even better.

I took a year off the great tree hunt last year and sent my boys, mostly because I didn't want to deal with Baby Godzilla while we did it. For the crap I took tonight, I may take next year off too.

Picking a Christmas tree is a big deal. At least, it always was to my mom. Everything about Christmas was a huge ritual, to be followed, shared and very rarely improved upon, year after year. We would pace the lot at the local farmer's market, eyeing trees for size, shape, fullness and star placement ease. She never made any decision easily, even one that seemed as trivial as a Christmas tree. We would remember a few front runners, make a final lap and settle on the best one. It was almost always a mutual decision, except for the year I chose the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. But that's a story for another time. The family still laughs about that one.

I had no such support tonight. Hubby rolled his eyes when one of the guys working pointed out where the cheaper trees were.

"Oh she won't go for those," he said.

I'm sorry, I'm the one who's putting most of the ornaments on and my hands are not giant calluses like SOME people. I like the softer needles. Mom's fav was always Frasier Fir. Pretty sure that's what we got this year, but in my haste to pick a tree and stop the ribbing, I didn't get the tree's name. It could be Frasier or Douglas. So let's call him Doug. Doug the Christmas tree.

Nathaniel was busy making boot print circles in the snow around the trees on stands and Leah was yelling at him, utterly convinced he had to be doing something wrong. Hubby was trying to keep one eye on them and one eye on me, so he could stand up whatever tree I was sizing up to get the full effect.

As I started the second lap (only the second!), one of the workers asked if we needed help.

"Oh no, she's got one picked out but she's got to check the others to be sure," Hubby said.

The guy just kinda looked at me.

"Picking a Christmas tree is a big deal!" I said in retort.

"Oh I know," the guy said. But there was no smile, no knowing look. I wasn't convinced. They were mocking me. I can sense these things. Reporter's instinct, ya know.

He did try to point out a few other trees once Hubby said how tall we needed the tree to be. But my feathers had been ruffled enough, so I sent Hubby back to Doug and took the kids to the car.

The plan was to get home and for me to get the kids ready for bed while Hubby got the tree stuff out of the attic and put Doug into his stand in the garage. Then the kids could see Doug come in and go right up to bed.

Good plan, right?

Except for the fact that last year in a fit of anger at our 5-year-old cheap-o tree stand, Hubby threw said tree stand away. AND FORGOT ABOUT IT. When I told Nathaniel, he almost started crying.

"You mean the garbage truck came and just took it?"

Uh, well, the truck took it because Daddy WANTED it to, but uh...

Yeah. So we all piled back into the car, took Doug out and left him in the garage and headed off to Walmart 30 minutes before bedtime. To make another quality investment in a $7 tree stand. And window clings, detangler, instant coffee, Mt. Dew and Diet Dr. Pepper.

So we put the kids to bed as soon as we got home and told them Doug the tree would be waiting for them in the morning. Doug is now settled into his new stand, complete with Hubby's funnel and tubing system that eliminates the need to crawl under the tree with a cup of water or watering can that we don't have that would inevitably leak. Did I mention I married an engineer? You'd think he'd remember things like the darn tree stand.

I guess if I'm not careful he'll make me get the tree alone next year. Which might not be a bad idea...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like...

Kids and I broke out the Christmas movies, so it is officially Christmastime. We watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer snuggled in PJs and under blankets after early baths tonight. Leah was her usual wiggly self, but actually was still for at least 60 percent of it. Nathaniel waited until the second sighting of Bumble before declaring "I don't like that monster," but there were no tears. He told me he liked the movie, so I see a lot more movie nights in our future.

It's also Dec. 1, so I guess I could work on addressing cards too. But Hubby left me for a guys' night, so once I got the kiddos in bed, my butt was planted firmly on the couch with control of the remote. Don't get me wrong, I am not so girly that I don't enjoy some of his testosterone-laden shows (Mythbusters, Deadliest Catch, Stormchasers), but every once in awhile I need a dose of some good car-accident TV. You know, on the networks that when he walks into the room he looks at the lower right corner, looks at me, looks back at the TV and shakes his head. 

So the cards can wait until tomorrow.