Archives for December 2008
I have a post up at Parenting today about our experiences being snowed in for Christmas. I submitted the post a couple of days before the 25th so it does not include our experience of waking up Christmas morning to a cold house with no power. Luckily Dan had wired our generator into the house electrical system a couple of weeks previous so he was able to get the heater and fridge running and the tree lit within a matter of minutes and we carried on with Christmas without any real inconvenience. The only way you could tell that anything had happened was by the smug look of satisfaction on Dan’s face at his amazing manly handiwork. Like the Kung Fu Panda, he asserts that “There is no charge for awesomeness.”
There may not be a charge for it but there’s certainly a payoff. I note down all awesomeness in my special Book of Awesomeness and it will all be rewarded most generously.
So, the snow. The snow is deep and bounteous. We live in a suburb of Seattle, a suburb that is apparently a vortex of weather magnification. If Seattle gets 3 inches, we get 10. If Seattle has a lot of rain, we get a flood. I don’t even want to know what happens to us when Seattle eventually gets its earthquake. Perhaps we’ll get the fast elevator down to the core of the earth where Jules Verne and all the cave people live. Perhaps I’ll be made a queen there.
Our city is really hilly and I think the county has 1.5 working snow plows which refuse to come down our street because it’s too steep. USPS, UPS and FedEx all agree as does Waste Management. We’re going on our third week with no trash pickup and it’s been over a week since any mail was delivered. Today I walked the kids to a play date through snow that was well above my knees in places. Yes. They cried. Many of tears. After about 2 hours of work on the second or third day of snow, we were able to get one of our cars to the top of our hill but have been too scared to drive anywhere. Apparently the tire chains we’ve so proudly carried with us on winter mountain journeys for the last several years do not fit either of our cars. At all. We sort of assumed they were one size fits all. They are not.
The major road that connects us with the shops and services in town has been closed for several days so when I went to town on Tuesday to pick up some groceries and mail some Ebay packages that just happened to sell right in the middle of the biggest snow event we’ve had in the past 6 years, I had to get creative. Stephanie and I loaded our packages in the laundry basket my kids had been using as a sled, hooked up a bungee cord and pulled them the half mile down the hill into town. About halfway down we met up with some teenagers snowboarding who suggested that we take the packages out of the basket and ride down.
Who am I to say no to a bunch of hooligans with blurred-out faces snowboarding down a major automotive throughway?
After the post office, we had lunch at a favorite little Thai restaurant. The owner asked us if we’d been in before and when we said we had, she squinted up her eyes, crossed her arms and said, “Hmph. I never see you before…” Apparently she had her doubts but she made us some yummy food that I did not have to cook within the ever shrinking 4 walls of my snow fortress, so I forgave her for the suspicious interrogation.
At lunch I told Stephanie that there was something kind of fun in all the cold and cabin fever and lack of Christmas packages arriving. I told her about how my sisters and I would pretend we were Laura Ingalls Wilder and her posse and that we were freezing in the wilderness. It wasn’t hard since I grew up in Canada and all winter long we were one tragic misstep away from actually freezing in the wilderness. We called the game Freezing in the Wilderness due to its aforementioned subject matter. Stephanie shook her head and laughed at me just a bit. Apparently she did not engage in that type of play.
We stopped at the grocery store for rations, loaded up our laundry basket sled and headed home. About halfway up the steep hill, we noticed a large burly man walking directly towards us. He was well over 6-feet tall with a bushy mustache and wasn’t veering to the side. Neither were we. It was strange, this chicken-like approach in the snowy deserted street. After a few moments a truck drove by, heading down the hill, having bypassed the Road Closure signs. The large man stopped walking a few feet in front of Stephanie and me with a perturbed look on his face.
“Great!” he exclaimed, “That truck just ruined my Laura Ingalls Wilder moment. Here I was walking through this peaceful snowy landscape and that guy has to drive by.”
I just stared at him as he continued on. So it’s not just little Canadian girls who play that game in their bunk beds on winter nights. Good to know I’m not alone.
Magoo is at a stage where he just NEEDS to know. He needs to know why. He needs to know who. He thinks he knows how but he’s not sure. Yeah. He wants someone to tell him how. [Read the rest of this post at Parenting.com]
Laylee let me know verbally what she wanted for Christmas a couple of months ago. So, being on the ball as I am, I did my shopping early. Then last week when we wrote our letters to Santa, she asked for totally different things. Guess who’s gonna learn the hard lesson that Santa’s elves are always watching and will make the Barbie and the Magical Pegasus DVD when they hear you ask your mom for it and there are no returns in Elf-land?
Then after her letter to Santa, she said she still had more things she wanted, well one more thing, and she wanted me to write it on a wish list for her. I asked her to tell it to me and I’d write it down later. She asked me to sit down and brought a pen and paper. She said, “I know I probably won’t get this but I just thought I’d ask so please write it down just the way I say.” So I did. Here goes:
Item #1 — “A square without a bottom of wood and I want to put it over my bed and I want there to be a door or stairs and I want a light in it so I can wake up by myself and I want it painted brown and if you want you can put a triangle on the top for a roof. I want the roof, if you do a roof, to be painted blonde. And I want there to be a TV and I just want movies on it and no antennas. And I want it to have windows and I want it to be soundproof from Magoo waking me up. And I want it to have a heater in there that’s as easy as it can possibly be for me to turn it on and off. And I want there to be a hole for the cord to go through and that’s the whole message. And I want it to be lockable so Magoo can’t come in and make noise in my ears. And I said I want art stuff in there, right? Because I want it to have art stuff.”
So yeah. I’ll talk to Dan about that one, or Santa, or Glenda the Good Witch or somebody because I’ve personally decided not to build my 5-year-old her own functional soundproof, fully-loaded, bed-topper mini-mansion bunker for Christmas. (Dan calls it a “life pod”.) Maybe one of those other people will have more mercy. I’m doubting that person will be Dan.
However, I will cherish that wish list for as long as we both shall live.
I’ve had several questions about our advent calendar so here’s a little rundown. You already know I’m all about pockets. The obsession continues with the advent calendar my mom helped me make this year. It’s a replica of the one we always used growing up and I greatly love it.
Each day of December has a pocket and each pocket has a little card with an activity on it. Some are pretty elaborate and some are simple, thus allowing me to retain what sanity I have left. Here’s a list of some ideas if you plan to make one yourself:
Write a letter to Santa
Church Christmas party
Read Christmas stories
City tree-lighting ceremony
Shop for a giving-tree stranger
Choose a Christmas tree
Decorate the Christmas tree
Random acts of kindness day
Get picture taken with Santa
Celebrate mom’s birthday
Farmer’s market craft fair
Make a wreath
Go roller skating
Make treats for friends
Sleep around the tree
Visit Snowflake Lane
Deliver treats to friends
Drive around and look at lights
Make kits for the homeless
School holiday begins
School holiday sing-along
Visit a live nativity
Go ice skating
Turn on all the Christmas lights and candles
Sing Christmas songs
Watch a Christmas movie
Read THE Christmas story (always on Christmas Eve)
I set everything up at the beginning of the month but reserve the right to move things around as I see fit. The kids pull out the cards each day to see what we’ll be doing and they really look forward to it. It doesn’t take much to make every day of December feel Christmassy.
I think I’m mostly done with all my shopping. Today I shipped out all my gifts to far-off family and friends, for the first time ever not caring about how fast they went out because I planned far enough ahead. Hate me if you will, it’s a good year. And I braved “the winter” to go the post office. I swear to you my tires spun out a bit. I’m all kinds of daring and wintery in the winter we’re having these days.
So are you done? If not and even if you are, I’m gonna give you a few gift ideas. Some I have purchased. Some I plan to purchase. Some I wish someone would purchase for me. Enjoy.
These little notebooks are nearly perfect. They’re cute and housed in a stylish little metal cover that protects the refillable notepaper inside. The pen holds them closed but when you pull it out, a little spring pops the book open. They come in tons of colors, for all the big boys and girls on your list. I love mine and have given several of them as gifts this year.
These mini-mini Maglights caught my eye when a friend’s baby was playing with one in church. They use 2 AAA batteries so they’re lighter than the regular mini-Mag but more powerful than the teeny pocket mag. I think they’re small and light enough to fit nicely in a purse, making them a great gift for your lady friends.
Wooden Legos — AKA “Interlocking Blocks”
I love so many things from Nova Natural but these may be my favorite new toy. I love them because they’re so versatile. The kids make the most amazing things with them, my favorite ever being a series of replicas of battleships from Star Wars with the darkest wood block taking on the role of “Dark Vader”.
These cards are made by a small company who wanted to provide a note card a thoughtful guy wouldn’t feel wimpish using. This has been a problem in our house. Dan will want to write a thank you note and all I have are these sissy girly cards he wouldn’t deign to touch. So I was glad when they sent me a sample for review. I liked them quite a bit but the real test came when Dan needed to write a thank-you card recently and he asked, “Hey, can I use one of those, um, Man Cards you got in the mail.” I’d call that a success.
These are the best for kids. We’ve switched our water bottles over to Sigg and other stainless steel bottles and I hate to write the kids’ names on them with marker but also hate the idea of losing one or getting theirs mixed up with a friends. So when I saw a friend using these at a preschool field trip, I flipped out and ordered them almost immediately. They’re a flexible rubber band with your kid’s name engraved on them to keep track of sippy cups, water bottles and cups in general. You can use them at school, on cups at parties or if you’re Magoo, you can wear them all around the house as bracelets so your mother can never find them when she needs them.
I got my mother some of these last year and she loved them. The artist fashions his creations from old silverware. They’re one of the most beautiful forms of recycling I’ve ever seen.
I love this gingerbread T-shirt from Target. It’s cheap. It’s cute. What more could you want?
This is Me Journal
A while back I reviewed this kids journal and just had to give it one last shout out. It’s wonderful and when the fill it out, it’s a treasure. I think every kid should have one of these… every year.
I think ever college dorm I ever lived in had these little babies hanging on the fridge, mostly the Shakespeare set. We were English snobs like that. Now that I’m a grown-up mommy, I’m really excited about the First Words version of Magnetic Poetry. I bought it for Laylee to practice reading and writing new and exciting sentences but I think Dan and I have used the set more.
Trader Joes Soaps
Trader Joes has these amazing soaps for a little over $3 a piece. They smell yummy, give a great lather, are completely natural and non-toxic and both my parents mentioned to me separately how much they liked them when they were staying with me recently. Let me repeat. My dad came up to me and commented on how much he liked these soaps. Yeah. They’re that good. Oh, they’re not available online.
Purses from Endless.com
If you’re completely stuck for something to get her (or yourself), rushed for time and loaded with money, go to Endless.com and get her a nice new handbag. The selection is enormous and there’s always free overnight shipping so you can get what you want fast.
Zen Alarm Clock
I read about this clock in Sophie Uliano’s book, Gorgeously Green and I’ve become somewhat obsessed with the idea of waking to the gentle sound of a Tibetan bell chiming. Listen to the description from their website:
“The Zen Alarm Clock’s long-resonating Tibetan bell-like chime makes waking up a beautiful experience ”” its progressive chimes begin your day with grace. When the Clock’s alarm is triggered, the acoustic chime bar is struck just once … 3-1/2 minutes later it strikes again … chime strikes become more frequent over 10 minutes … eventually striking every 5 seconds until shut off (see the chime progression graph, below). As they become more frequent, the gentle chimes will always wake you up ”” your body really doesn’t need to be awakened harshly, with a Zen Clock you’re awakened more gradually and thus more naturally.”
On the site, you can listen to the chimes and pick the tone that’s most pleasing to you. Aaaahhhhh. When next I have a spare $120 lying around, I’m buying myself the digital E Tone model in walnut.
Have you any good gift ideas to share?
When weather gets bad in Seattle, it is almost always reported from the top of Queen Anne Hill. We’re not totally sure why. I guess it gives a good view of the city. It’s sort of tradition. Maybe each new weather guy wondered why it had to be from the top of Queen Anne but was too embarrassed to ask the last guy WHY it had to be done from that magical mystical place of weather.
So now whenever there’s crazy weather, Dan and I always talk about it in terms of “something happening on the top of Queen Anne.”
This is a long preamble to IT SNOWED!!! A blanket of icy Christmas goodness has descended upon a whole region completely unprepared for the 2 storms we get each year and so we’re all kind of homebound.
There was only partial church yesterday for those with 4-wheel-drive. The rest of us stayed home, played “reverently” in the snow, sang some songs, and had a little devotional about the true meaning of Christmas, where Magoo shared his beliefs, “I know Jesus loves me… and one more… I know Santa loves me too.” I told him I was only actually sure about the first part.
The snow play was great. On Saturday I ventured out to return some not-so-great kids’ snow boots and purchase some slightly better ones. Dan commented on the futility of buying snow boots in a place where the kids only where them once or twice a year. I commented that when they need them those two days, they REALLY need them, for the fun and for the frolicking. I also added that I buy them 3 sizes too big so they last a few years AND that I was planning to buy them on sale AND use a mega coupon – and he was suddenly on board.
So the day after I got the boots we had our first snow day of the year and their little toesies stayed warm.
Now one thing we haven’t invested in is a proper sled. We used the laundry hamper lid and reusable IKEA bags last year but this year Dan had an idea. It involved dumping out lots of freshly folded laundry followed by some sweet slick fun.
The baskets were fun, but not super easy to dismount. For the sake of Dan’s dignity, I’ll only show you his “before” picture. And he does look dignified, doesn’t he? At least he’s not the one who broke the basket when he rode down. I’m not naming names but I think it was because she’s a massive athlete so it wasn’t really her fault.
What kind of mother waits to comfort her son after he face plants in the snow until after she’s taken a picture of his Hitler snow-stache? The kind whose husband is close by and who needs the shot for
her blog his baby album. (I also think Chris is that kind of mom. Not pointing fingers. Just sayin’.)
***The winner is commenter number #56, Diane.***
Are any of you out there closet gamers? I’ve spent my whole life sort of mocking gamers, gently mocking because I know and love many of them, but mocking nonetheless. Now I’ve had the Wii for a year and I am totally nerd-a-liciously in love with it.
But it’s an expensive little guy to feed and clothe. That’s why I’m excited to offer you all the chance to win a new Wii game just in time for Christmas. It’s called PopStar Guitar and has a concept similar to Guitar Hero.
I’m a huge Guitar Hero fan so I was excited to try this game out and pass it on to one of you. Here’s the rundown. There are several things I like about it. First, the price is right. It costs about the same as a regular Wii game but comes with two controllers, ready to play right out of the box.
Second, it has TWO controllers. I love the fact that you can play
against with someone else right away, no more gear to buy.
Third, you are much more likely on PopStar Guitar to find female characters who are not dressed like ladies of the night. Seriously I do not want Laylee to even see the screen with what the GH girls are wearing.
Some other notes about the game: The songs are lighter than those on Guitar Hero, making it more appropriate for pop fans or younger audiences but they also have less interesting guitar solos. The controls aren’t exactly like butta. I much prefer the feel of an “actual” guitar in my hand. It helps me rock out more and get my groove on and such because that’s what we thirty-year-olds are wont to do. The little PopStar Guitar controllers aren’t as much fun. But then they’re half the price…
I’m also not a huge fan of the fact that they use some cover versions of songs instead of sticking exclusively to original music but I’d be much more likely to let Laylee play PopStar Guitar than the other similar games out there.
If you’d like a free copy, leave a comment on this post with the name of your favorite Wii game and I’ll draw a winner on Wednesday night.
Boogies are a big thing around these parts. Everybody’s got ’em, and for most of the winter, there’s some crazy drama that goes on in the parenting community over which type and amount of boogies are acceptable in social situations, and which should resign a child to quarantine-leper status. [Click here to finish reading this post at Parenting.com]
Since our first year of marriage, Dan and I have never gotten a real tree. We have a great tree stand and I have a great love of fresh trees with all their smells and messes and fire hazards. And although Dan loves me and would humor my choice of tree whatever it was, I’ve opted for fake because we normally spend a good chunk of the holidays out of town visiting family.
This year we decided to try having out first Christmas at home, just the 4 of us, an island in a sea of holiday festivity, missing our families but trying to make our own magic. And I decided that this was the year. It had finally come. We’d pull out the 10 pound Costco tree stand, head down the street to the tree farm and saw us down a live one.
On Monday night after Dan got home from work, we drove out of town to a little farm I’d had my eye on and almost drove right past it because apparently tree farms in the country do not stay open all night. Little tree farms in the country do not have lights and inflatable animatronic reindeer riding motorcycles. All they actually have are trees, saws and an old guy, an old guy who apparently shuts the whole operation down when it gets dark for legal reasons.
When I went back with the kids the next day, he explained that saws shown in the above picture with the sign that looks as if it were painted with blood are not safe when used by small children or by adults in the dark of night. So he generally closes down at 4:30 and goes home, I’m assuming to his wife Martha. He was an impossibly cute old man and if he doesn’t have a wife named Martha waiting at home with fresh biscuits and a hearty meal, it’s not because he doesn’t deserve one.
As we walked through the rows and rows of greenery, it became evident that they did not have one perfect tree, they had several of them, spaced equidistant from each other across the several acre farm. I would have been happy with nearly any tree. Magoo would have been happy with a cookie and a piggy-back ride back to the car for more cookies. But Laylee would not be so easily pleased. She eventually settled on one of two trees which were located on either end of the farm. So we trudged back and forth looking at them, comparing their merits and eventually asking the cute old man to help us saw it down. Apparently my intense athletic training has not afforded me any new muscles because I might as well have been attempting to saw that thing down with a plastic spoon for all the difference my efforts were making.
The man pointed out that the trees were a little muddy because his entire farm had been under water when the valley flooded last month. He advised me to hose it down before taking it into my house.
As we drove home, little rivers of mud trickled down the windows of the van. Standing in the driveway I rolled the massive tree down from the roof rack and drug it awkwardly over to the side of the house where I began hosing it down. Every needle on the bottom half of the tree was coated with mud. There was grass and other flood debris tangled in the branches. I pulled off a slug and thought longingly of my tacky $20 fake tree sitting peacefully muck and vermin-free, weighing considerably less than 300 lbs in its box in the garage.
When I thought I’d finished scrubbing it down, I carried it to the front porch and realized it was at least a foot too tall so I got out our saw and began rubbing it firmly against the trunk of the tree and making no impact. I regretted the decision we had passively made every day of our lives not to purchase a chain saw.
Then I got an idea. I ran upstairs and got the giant hatchet we keep under our dresser in case an earthquake ever causes our door to jam closed in the night and we need to hack our way out and I started pounding the literal heck out of that tree. Heck was flying everywhere and I really enjoyed myself. It only took about an hour. I hope my kids don’t mind waiting that long for me to save them in the event of a quake.
I picked the tree up, setting its mangled gimpy stump on the ground, quite proud of myself and held it upright to get a good look at my handiwork. The tree was the right height but was still dripping with mud.
So I drug it out front and hosed it off again, this time scrubbing each branch and needle with my fingernails. I later heard that my neighbors were watching this whole process from their windows in fascination, trying to guess what I was doing. Was it some strange religious tree cleansing ritual? Was I a total germaphobe? They came to the conclusion that I’d come up with some fabulous way of prolonging the life of the tree and that they’d been doing it wrong for years.
Natasha about busted a gut laughing when I told her I was just trying to de-mud/de-slug the thing before taking it inside.
But now it’s up and it’s beautiful. When Laylee saw it all aglow, all decorated, she said, “Oh MOM! It’s so lovely. It’s the most beautiful tree in the world. It’s almost as good as a FAKE tree!”