Monday, November 24, 2008

Christmas Questions

Okay, last one, I promise! Well, maybe. Depends on what it is. Feel free to copy and paste into your own blog - always fun to read what others have to say!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? A lot of both.
2. Real tree or artificial? Again, both. Last year we had our first artificial. This year, it's going up downstairs, while our main one in the living room will be real.
3. When do you put up the tree? Usually about 2-3 weeks before Christmas.
4. When do you take down the tree? After the Epiphany which is usually on January 6th. MUST leave it up at least for the 12 days of Christmas!
5. Do you like eggnog? Gack. Anything with raw egg is gross.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? You can't be serious
7. Hardest person to buy for? My dad
8. Easiest person to buy for? The boys
9. Do you have a nativity scene? Of course. Several. We're Catholic.
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail
11. Worst Christmas gift ever received? Better not say - you never know who reads your blog!
12. Favorite Christmas movie? Home Alone
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Early November
14. Ever recycled a Christmas present? I'll never tell
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Treats! The homemade kind. I love everyone's special homemade cookies - ever notice that people tend to save their best baking for the holidays? "Oh, that's my great-aunt Helen's recipe!
16. Lights on a tree? Absolutely. This year I might go for the LCD's just to be different. LOVE putting up lights. LOVE sitting in the glow of the tree.
17. Favorite Christmas song? O Holy Night
18. Travel or stay home at Christmas? Usually travel. This year home for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - a revelation!
19. Can you name all Santa's reindeer? Yes. Take my word for it.
20. Angel on top of the tree, or star? Two doves. This year I'd really like to find an angel, but so far they all look deranged.
21. When do you do presents? Christmas day.
22. Most annoying thing this time of year? Long lines, people acting like morons, parking lots, endless holiday parties with endless fattening goodies that you can't resist. Remember Great-aunt Helen?
23. Favorite Christmas dinner? Whatever is served and whatever I don't have to cook. I'm too busy!
24. What do you want for Christmas this year? For everyone to be WELL, and to have a good time and enjoy the most special time of year with each other. And to not gain 5 pounds.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Bi-Annual Update

Wow - time is going by so fast! With the upcoming holiday season, we are just swamped, and me with very little time to blog! But it's been over 6 months since my last update, so here's what's been going on with us lately.

Since my last update, we've had two major changes. First, Jonathan started pre-k, which I'll talk more about in a minute. Second, I started working again. I work from home, part-time as an independent contractor for an environmental firm. I do digital mapping, or GIS, and so far, it's working out great. Working from home certainly has it's challenges, but Mark's been great about watching the kids while I work in the evenings and sometimes a few hours on weekends. And it's only part-time, which means I can set my own hours and just work as much or as little as I want. So if you do the math and figure that I actually haven't eliminated anything in my life, but actually added a part-time job, you now know why my blog has been suffering lately. Hey, something's gotta give!

Jonathan is now 4 years, 8 months. He goes to school 3 mornings a week, and so far is doing very well. He loves it, looks forward to it, talks about it all the time and when he's home, he wants to "play" school, so I'm thinking the choice we made to go ahead and send him was a good one! It's a new chapter in our lives, for sure - pick-ups, drop-offs, school fund-raising, constant, constant communications from the school in the form of reams of wasted paper that gets sent hom every single day....sigh. They sent a full-year calendar of the school's events all the way back in August. I do not need to be reminded of them 16 more times with 16 more sheets of paper that is stuffed into Jonathan's backpack everyday. But I guess if that's my only complaint, then it's okay. In other Jonathan news - he's reading now, probably at a second or third grade level. How he got there, I have no idea. But I give him harder and harder books and he reads them straight through, and if he hits a word he doesn't know, he SOUNDS IT OUT. Ummm, who taught you phonics, Jonathan? When he's home, Jonathan has been showing a great interest in learning to cook and bake. Any long-time reader of my blog must know that this makes me happy - now if I could just get him to EAT what he makes, I'd be even happier! But so far, no dice. He started out assisting me with some recipes that I make all the time, like waffles and pancakes, but now he's been starting to look for recipes on his own and showing a desire to make them for others. Just last week, he found a recipe for oatmeal-raisin cookies in his book "Mouse Cookies and More", and with just a tiny bit of supervision, he made the whole thing himself, including cracking the egg! When I suggested he eat one of his cookies, he told me "No, Mommy, I made them for you!" Awwww. How to melt a mommy's heart in one simple step. So then, a few days ago at his school's book fair, the teacher sent home a list of books each child found and was interested in buying, so it was no great surprise to see at the top of Jonathan's list "Disney's Magic Kitchen Cookbook". What a cute book! Full of recipes geared toward kids with a Disney character on every page. How could I not buy it for him? Maybe this cooking craze will last, or maybe it will just be a passing thing. But knowing my little Jonathan, once he's hooked, he'll be hooked for life. Maybe he'll be a great chef someday.

Then, there's Matthew. Matthew is currently 2 years, 5 months. He is finally learning to talk, although he still seems to prefer his own language, which is most certainly not English. We're working on this, but haven't yet ruled out a little intervention if he hasn't made a lot of improvement by Spring. This is not to say he doesn't understand us! It's pretty obvious the child hears and understands every word we say, and, just like his brother, doesn't miss a thing. He just picks and chooses what he hears and goes with it! One of Matthew's favorite activities lately is sneaking into the bathroom, and emptying the contents of our vanity drawers into the trash can. Or knocking down whatever his brother just built. Or sneaking off with a non-washable crayon and decorating our walls. Or discovering the lid off of the liquid soap and fingerpainting the whole house with it. In other words, can you say Terrible Twos? But he's also the sweetest little snuggler you'll ever see - he loves to curl up with us and read or watch tv, or to just "be". In many ways, he's a gentle little spirit, but, like his brother, and I imagine many children his age, he has an agenda and he's sticking to it! Many a tear has been shed because Mark and I, and sometimes even Jonathan decide that we're not going along with the agenda, and it apparently breaks his heart!

I'm sorry to say the sibling rivalry hasn't gotten much better since the last update - there are days when the two of them are offended that they're each breathing the same air. But overall, I would think that things are maybe ever-so-slightly changing. The times when they actually play together and erupt into giggles and squeals may be catching up to the times when it erupts into screams and tears, so that's a step in the right direction. The biggest problem is that Jonathan is very independent, and Matthew likes to follow him around and do what he sees Jonathan doing. Hmmm, what's wrong with THAT picture?!

As for Mark and I? Well, you know about me. My busy is now even busier. And Mark, as a direct result, is busier too, but I can't say enough good things about a guy who comes home from working an 8 hour day, gobbles dinner, and then is responsible for watching the kids, bathing them every night, doling out the bedtime snacks, getting them into bed, and then cleaning up after them, i.e., picking up all the toys and putting them away, cleaning up all the sippy cups and bowls lying around, picking up their clothes, etc....whew, makes me tired just thinking about all that! But he does it, and lately he's been doing it every night. Sure, I'm there to intervene in a crisis - helping out with soap in someone's eyes or finding the one and only bath toy that's acceptable that evening. But Mark's a saint, I'll admit that, but only once! Mostly, he just knows, as I do, how fortunate we are to have this little arrangement where I can work from home, saving us all kinds of extra expense while actually providing us with more cash in these depleted economic times.

So there we are. Just re-reading this update before I save it and post it, I can't help but notice that if someone were to read this, and then ask to describe our family in one word, that word might be...well, not to overuse a word, but that word might be "busy." I'm guessing many families can be described this way these days, but I hope it doesn't seem like that's all we're about. Sure, we have a busy life, but we find time, or rather, we make time and plan time to be a family, to do fun things together, and to make it work. And it's ever-evolving. What worked for us 6 months ago isn't working now, and what's working now probably won't be working 6 months from now. So on that note, I'll check back in 6 months from now and re-assess where we are, then. In the meantime, stay tuned for holiday festivities, more cooking fun and yet another "getting to know you" - this time with a Christmas theme!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Yet Another....

My cousin sent me another of those "getting to know you" things by email, so once again, I'll share it here in my blog. Enjoy!

1. What is your occupation right now? SAHM and part-time independent contractor GIS analyst for environmental firm (work from home)

2. What color are your socks right now? dark brown

3. What are you listening to right now? The sound of the two year old (not) napping while kicking his crib and playing his aquarium music, and the movie Ratatouille in the living room which is, for the moment, entertaining Jonathan.

4. What was the last thing you ate? A handful of vegan animal crackers I got from Trader Joe's that the kids WON'T eat.

5. Can you drive a stick shift? In a pinch, but it's been awhile and if I were you, I wouldn't trust me with your clutch

6. Last person you spoke to on the phone? Mark - I was out shopping and I told him I'd be home with carry-out for lunch!

7. How old are you today? 38

8. Favorite sport to watch on tv? ooohhh, tough one. NFL football, probably, but I like the olympics, too.

9. What is your favorite drink? Coke? Though I rarely drink it anymore.

10. Ever dyed your hair? Yes, if highlights count

11. Favorite food? whatever's cooking

12. Last movie you watched? That Thing You Do

13. Favorite day of the year? Christmas Eve

14. How do you vent anger? lock myself in somewhere and read or watch tv

15. Favorite toy as a child? my bike?

16. What is your favorite season? Fall

17. Cherries or blueberries? cherries

18. Living arrangements? 4 bedroom home I share with hubby, two sons and a dog

19. Last time you cried? Hmmmm...can't really remember...does that mean life is good?

20. What's on the floor of your closet? Lots of shoes and probably a matchbox car or two

21. Friend who will see with you've had the longest? Shannon

22. What did you do last night? Several hours of work at the computer, then found a movie on On Demand

23. What are you most afraid of? My husband or children getting injured or sick

24. Plain, cheese or spicy burgers? Cheese

25. Favorite dog breed? cute and sassy

26. Favorite day of the week? Friday

27. How many states have you lived in? 1

28. Diamonds or pearls? Diamonds

29. Favorite flower? whatever Mark plants in the spring for me!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuxedo-Black Christmas Tree?

What will they think of next? In case you can't see it too well - this is an all-black Christmas tree. I actually saw one of these at Walmart yesterday. Black. With little white lights, but still, totally black. Am I the only one who thinks this is just a bit...strange?

Don't get me wrong - black has it's place, for sure. My first car I purchased with my very own money was black. By choice. Black clothing, black vehicles, black accessories (purses! shoes!) - all very elegant, very classy, very tailored. Love it.

But a black Christmas tree? Black TREE? I'm sorry, but when I think of black trees, I think of forest fires. Old, charred wood, blackened branches, leaves gone....

I understand not all trees need to be green, of course. White Christmas trees reminiscent of snow perhaps, and then there's the silver and gold trees, while not exactly true-to-life, at least they are festive and sparkly and have their place.

But Black. I just don't see this one catching on. And if it does, I guess I'm in for a major attitude readjustment, because I'm just not going to make it!

Monday, November 3, 2008


A very busy day Halloween turned out to be!! We started at Jonathan's school, where, despite my misgivings about 14 pre-k kids carving their own pumpkins, enough parents showed up to make it quite a success! And despite the fact that it LOOKS like Jonathan carved the pumpkin "all by himself", let's just say, he did MOST of it. Okay, SOME of it. He had a good time, and I did most of the finishing touches!

After carving, the kids got to climb into their costumes. Here, Jonathan is a tiger. I was surprised he decided to dress in this particular costume - I had borrowed a few from a friend, and he didn't seem to like the tiger much. But once we got to school and I showed him the choices I'd brought, that's what he picked.

And so they all lined up for a photograph - there's my little tiger all the way to the left. Then they had a big parade and a party in the classroom. Then, we got to take the little sugared-up goblins home. Oh, the joys of parenting!

The parade was outside this year - it was a stellar day - almost 70 degrees! Why am I chasing a pumpkin, rather than watching the parade? The pumpkin is Matthew. He decided he'd rather run around the track and the football field than wait for his brother to march by with all the elemetary school. So guess who gets to run him down?

Back home for dinner. Trick-or-treat started at 6pm, so while we got Jonathan into his SECOND costume of the day (for trick-or-treating, he decided to be the alligator/dinosaur), we let Matthew go to town on a cupcake. Mistake. By the time he was done, cupcake was everywhere. Oh well - what can you do right? We just put his costume back on - good thing they're washable!

We head outside to the yard for a few minutes, where the pumpkin takes off again. Daddy caught up to him trying to get into the shed! (Which, btw, we just a brand new coat of paint a few weeks ago! Sharp, huh?)

Finally, pumpkin AND dinosaur corralled, off we go.

It was truly a great night for trick-or-treating! The weather was great, and lots of neighbors were out and about. Mark and I both went with the kids - it probably would've been pretty hard for just one of us to manage both kids anyway - and we took a big basket of candy with us so when we met up with other trick-or-treaters, we would just give them the candy on the road and tell them not to bother going up our long, steep driveway because we weren't there! As it turned out, good thing we both went - those hills are steep! Between three things of candy, the wagon, the dog (another mistake, but we're learning!) and the two little guys, we about had our hands full! But the kids LOVED it and didn't even complain too much when Mark and I had finally reached our breaking point and told them we were going home: LAST HOUSE! When we got home, Jonathan stripped off his costume immediately, but Matthew stayed in his long enough for us to get a few pictures! Here's one of him checking out his loot, and another of him giggling over his brother's antics!

So anyway, that was Halloween '08. All in all, a great day for the little guys! We were thinking that since Halloween was Friday, then on Saturday we wouldn't make any plans, just let the sugar wear off and have a slow day. But that didn't happen! We got up the next morning, noticed the kids were really kind of "normal" and decided to take off for Morgantown to do some early Christmas shopping! We spent a long day messing around Barnes and Noble and Target and a few other places, mostly wasting time since we never seem to remember that taking both kids shopping with us is NEVER time well-spent. But we did manage to get a few gifts bought, another two or three researched and priced, and we finished the day with a stop at the West Virginia Brewing Company. Quick stop at Arby's drive through, and home we went. All in all - a great weekend! Looking forward to Mark having the day off tomorrow so we can get some more landscaping/yardwork done...did I mention we were KILLING ourselves in the yard these days? Happy November!