Friday, December 26, 2008


C is for carols, sung in the car over the protests of a whiny child. Sometimes, parents must force kids to be happy.

H is for hugs from family and friends, especially from a sister whom I love dearly but don't always understand.

R is for a ridiculous number of Sleeping Beauty dolls given to one girl.

I is for innocence, since we've manage to prolong the Santa magic for another year with an increasingly dubious boy.

S is for the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, a mouthful of a name that made us laugh every time the poor announcer muddled his way through it.

T is for tired, for we were all late to bed and early to rise.

M is for Mass, which proved to be a challenge this year. Despite speeding on the highway, we didn't quite make it there by 5:30. Even worse, it started at 5. Then we cut out early when Claire lifted her beautiful faux fur trimmed Santa dress and entreated everyone in the narthex to "See my butt!" Thank goodness that God gives points for effort and intention.

A is for the angel that sits on top of our tree. Every year, Nick tells the kids about how that angel has been on top of our tree since our first Christmas together. Every year, it makes me smile to hear it.

S is for sated, full of tasty treats and love. I hope that everyone had as merry a Christmas as we did.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I'd like to pause here for a moment.

We celebrated Claire's birthday this past weekend. My baby-who-is-no-longer-a-baby is all of four years old. At her request, we threw a pizza party with a pizza cake. I made the pizza and the cake, but she decorated the cake. I was given a shopping list (marshmallows and m&ms) and then was extraneous to the cake decorating process. She counted out four yellow candles and pressed them in, then liberally covered the rest of the cake with candy. It was beautiful and delicious. She also led the happy birthday song.

I am enjoying Claire at this age more than at any other so far. She's sharp. She's funny. She knows what she wants and how to get it without making people angry. She doles out compliments and smiles, bats her eyelashes, and uses her very nicest manners to convince the rest of the world to bow to her every whim. The rest of the world generally complies. And honestly, I understand why. It's a pleasure to spoil such a gracious child. Yet I also know that I'm the one who is responsible to keep her as a gracious child and avoid allowing her to fall into a spoiled brat. So for now, I'd like to pause here for a moment and just enjoy this time.

Happy Birthday to Claire. I love her as much as I know how to love.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I may have piped icing directly into my mouth.

As part of my ongoing attempt to force myself into Christmas cheer, I caved into the children's demands and purchased a gingerbread house kit. I have never, ever made a gingerbread house before in my life. I was too daunted to actually make the walls. Then when I saw the kit on display at the warehouse club, I grabbed it on a whim. Ten dollars seemed inexpensive for happy children and a little Christmas spirit. When I carried the kit into the house, the children's screams of delight could be heard by all dogs in a five-mile radius. I am hoping to have my hearing back by Friday.

I cracked open the box on Sunday evening, attended by two eager elves with freshly scrubbed fingers. The kids grabbed the walls while I read the directions. "If a wall happens to be broken, DO NOT BE DISTRESSED!" I was slightly alarmed by the strength of the emphasis. Luckily, no pieces were broken so we didn't actually have to test the effectiveness of the instruction. I kept reading. "Assemble the walls at least thirty minutes before decorating." I broke the bad news to the kids. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I convinced them that finishing the project in two days would only prolong the fun. (Good marketing is a secret to good parenting.) I filled the slots in the base with icing as directed. Little fingers emptied the slots of the icing as I started icing the tabs. We were off to a good start.

The walls went up easily. I instructed the kids to hold them up while I prepared the roof. I thought that holding the walls would keep fingers out of the icing. It worked, but I did see a little pink tongue licking the base of the wall. I pretended not to see it as I slapped the roof on. "Ha HA!" I crowed in delight. Then the roof started to slide down. I slid it back up and reinforced with more icing. "Ha HA!" again. And again it started to slide. And again. And again. And again. I finally managed to affix the roof more or less correctly and fill in the inch wide gap at the top with icing. Royal icing is the duct tape of the food world. We set the house aside to dry and I secretly hoped that the children would forget about it overnight.

Yesterday afternoon, I no sooner walked onto the daycare playground before Claire came running toward me. "We're making a gingerbread house! We're making a gingerbread house!" So much for my secret wish. I herded her out of the building while she stopped to announce our plans to every available set of ears. B the time I had hung up my coat and checked the voicemail, the kids were both sitting at the table with the house and the box of candy. I poured myself a glass of wine and joined them.

Thirty minutes, a dozen pieces of stolen candy, hand cramps from piping, and a pretty funny version of the Twelve Days of Christmas later, we had a completed gingerbread house. I stepped back from icicling the roof to get a wide angle view. Surprisingly enough, it's pretty darn cute. It's amazing what white icing and candy can accomplish. As I was admiring our work, Jake asked me the all important question. "So, can we eat it now?"

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sneaky Season

I'm running a little behind this year, somehow. Advent snuck up on me last Sunday and I was caught by surprise. Sure, I signed up for the Advent wreath making event. I even marked it on the calendar. I even told Jake and Claire. And yet somehow, the sight of the Great Big Advent Wreath on the sidewalk in front of church took me by surprise. Oh, right. That whole Christmas thing - coming soon! Get ready! For even when you know when He is coming, He still seems to come like a thief in the night and surprise unwary women who have been entirely too busy doing much of nothing.

We made our wreath after church. And of course, "we" means "I" because Nick doesn't share our faith and the children were sitting raptly at the feet of a story-telling seminarian (which certainly bodes well for his future as a parish priest). I was left with a foam ring and an unruly bough of evergreen that I gradually beat submission with 48 u-shaped steel pins and pruning shears. Anyone who comes into the house is told that the children helped me to make the wreath, though, because I am certainly not about to claim that disaster as my own. I suspect that more than a few Martha Stewart types in the school cafeteria have added me to their prayer chain based on my wreath-making (in)ability. That is fine with me. I have decided at this point in my life that I will take all the prayers I can get and thank God for them.

Jacob took charge of the wreath on Sunday evening while I made dinner. He found a little pamphlet and enlisted the family one by one. Nick was assigned as the candle-lighter - a speaking role. To my astonishment, Nick agreed to participate. And so our advent began with our little family clustered around one pamphlet and an ugly wreath, listening to the high sweet voice of a boy leading us all in prayer. I was so transported by the moment that I agreed without thought a moment later when Jacob suggested that I get ready for the birth of Christ by cleaning up my language. Like I said, I will take all the prayers I can get and thank God for them.

Monday, December 1, 2008

It has been a very rough month.

Once upon a time on a bright and windy autumn day, an ogress and a goblin went for a walk in an enchanted wood. The goblin was especially crabby because he had broken his finger. His bandage was getting in the way of his favorite activities. He complained loudly and longly to the ogress as they entered the wood. The ogress ate the complaints, which made her grow larger. Unfortunately, complaints give ogres indigestion, so she was quite as unpleasant as the goblin. He complained. She growled. The trees shrank back from the path in fear.

After the pair had walked half a mile or so, they came upon a fork in the road. The ogress stopped for a moment to consider which path to take. The left path looked arduous but perhaps the climbing would rob the goblin of breath, thereby reducing his constant complaint. The right path was lovely, sunny, and wide, exactly the type of path that ogresses prefer. As she pondered, the goblin felt a memory tickle his miserable little brain. "Two paths in the wood. I took the less travelled," the goblin muttered. Ogres have very sharp hearing, of course, so the ogress recognized the incantation. "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by." And ever so slightly, the goblin and ogress began to change. They began to look more human. The ogress even smiled. Another traveler came down the path and veered left. The monsters decided to take the road less traveled at the moment and started down into the valley.

As they walked into the sunshine, the pair began to seem less and less like monsters. The ogre shrank down to human size. The goblin's beady little eyes grew larger and rounder. Their greenish skins gradually begin to look peachier. The goblin stopped complaining as the ogress shared a few discoveries with him: a tunnel under a mountain, a gnome's house in the base of a large tree, and a particularly fine walking stick.

Then, as they were almost out of the wood, the goblin placed his hand into the ogress' hand. As she felt around the big bandage for the small hand inside, the ogress remembered that she wasn't actually a monster at all. She was a mother. As the goblin looked up at the woman who was no longer an ogress, he remembered that he was really a little boy. So the woman and her son went back home where they shared hot chocolate and sandwiches.