Sunday, November 29, 2009

One of us is wiggly

I just made the hat this weekend and someone felt a little silly.

Monday, November 23, 2009

PSA: Marshmallow Warnings

  1. Do not attempt to make rice crispy treats in between making pancakes.  Yes, it feels like you are wasting a lot of time standing by the stove, spatula in hand.  Yes, your eyes might come to rest on the box of crispies while you are waiting for bubbles to form and edges to dry.  Yes, it might feel like a particularly inspired idea to multitask two very simple tasks.  But don't.  Just don't.
  2. If you ignore the above and forge ahead with this reckless combination of projects, then consider the microwave instructions for crispy making very carefully.  If you dump the entire bowl of marshmallows into the 1.5 quart bowl and wonder to yourself, "Wow, that bowl looks really full." then STOP.  Get a bigger bowl.  Instructions are not always correct.
  3. If you ignore your inner voice and use the small bowl, then stop the microwave the instant you smell sugar.  Don't stand there pouring pancakes wondering what could be burning.
  4. If you do not stop the microwave in time, use the silicone potholders to remove the smoldering mass from the microwave.  Melted marshmallow tends to embed itself into terrycloth.
  5. If calling for help, make sure to specify that you need adult help.  Otherwise, an eager junior pancake flipper (seriously, he makes terrific pancakes) will show up to rescue you.  The only problem is that junior pancake flippers are afraid of the oven.  Since you stowed the pancake platter in the warm oven, the junior pancake flipper will likely stand in your way waving the spatula around while requesting that you just open up the oven already so that he can assist. 
  6. If you manage to save the pancakes, give up on the ill-conceived idea to make the crispies.  I repeat, CAPITULATE!  Do not under any circumstances return the mass of marshmallow goo to the microwave.
  7. If still forging ahead, stop the microwave as soon as you smell burning.  Again.
  8. If somehow you manage to scrape a fair amount of melted marshmallow from the microwave interior, be sure to reduce the rice crispy measurement by a suitable amount.  Calculate the amount of marshmallow left on the potholders, the microwave, the counter, and quite possibly in your hair, then reduce the cereal measurement by the same proportion.
  9. If you fail to adjust the recipe, make a rule that the resulting treats be eaten only in the kitchen over the trashcan so that you don't have to spend the rest of the evening clearing up crispy cereal bits from all over the house.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

When is the solstice again?

It's dark.  It's dark when I get up.  It is so dark that I am a little afraid to take a shower.  Our shower has a window in it.  Of course, the glass is that odd blurred stuff appropriate for showers.  And also of course, the window faces the brick wall of my neighbor's house across the 5 foot strip of weeds and air conditioners.  Yet still I feel on display, showering in front of the pitch black window.  I freak myself out with vague ideas of Watchers skulking around outside. 
It is dark the rest of the day too.  Not the pitch black of night, but the gloomy gray dark of yet another rainy day after what feels like a month of rainy days.  I know we've had sunshine recently, but for some reason that is harder to remember than the gray days.  I huddle in my cubicle and avoid looking out the window.  It is just too depressing.  So instead, I daydream about new projects in bright colors.  I'll embroider kitchen towels!  I'll make crazy fluorescent paper snowflakes!  I'll craft gigantic felt flowers in obscenely bright colors to wear in my hair!  I'll make a Christmas tree skirt out of the glitteriest gaudiest red liquid lame that will sparkle and gleam!
Then, when I leave work, it's dark again.  All my cheerful projects flit right out of my head.  I trudge home in the dark, moping all the way.  It's odd for me.  I usually love winter despite the short days.  I like the tingling ache that comes from breathing cold air - although it hasn't been that cold yet.  I like sitting under a cozy blanket while the darkness presses on the window.  I like the holidays lined up like dominoes - my Birthday!  Thanksgiving!  Claire's Birthday!  Christmas!  New Years!  Super Bowl!  - followed by the long slow yawn of early spring.  But this year?  Not so much.
Tonight?  I'm going to finish some Christmas sewing come hell or high water.  I am trusting that some cheerful snowmen will shake me out of of these doldrums.  And if not, then at least I can feel virtuous about having accomplished something, right?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On the Cusp of Readerhood

A month or so ago, Claire's preschool teacher told me that they'll be working on sight words this year.  My eyebrows shot right up over my head as I struggled to make a coherent response.  "But...four!  Early!  Really?  Four!"
"I know," she said.  "But the new kindergarten entry standards..." yada yada yada, "but don't worry.  If they get it they get it.  If not, no stress."  I was unsure about the standards and also unsure about speaking up with curriculum concerns before I knew there was a problem.  So I satisfied myself with a vaguely negative countenance, gathered my children, and went home to stew.
Several weeks later, Claire was recognizing words all over the place.  "Look, Mom!  It says 'the' right there."  I looked at the box and saw the word "mother."  I blinked, looked again, and saw the word "moTHEr."  During bedtime stories, she pointed out first one word, then two, then three or four on a page.  I wondered if maybe she was a little more ready for reading than I originally thought.
Then, a few days ago, Claire proved that she is not only ready to read, she is already on the cusp of readerhood.  I was in the bathroom attending to, erm, business.  Claire piped up from the hallway, "P! O! P!  Does that spell poop?" 
"Very close, baby!  P-O-O-P is poop.  Oooooo has two ohs."
She thought about it briefly, and replied, "Oh, like boo.  B-O-O."  She might just be reading by her birthday next month.  She'll definitely be reading before kindergarten.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sweating the Small Stuff

Due to a complicated series of events, I became a co-chair for the PTO social committee.  Well, really, it wasn't all that complicated.  I opened my mouth to complain and was promptly invited to participate by an adroit PTO president.  Good for her!  So, the upshot is that I am to work with another parent to provide refreshments at various events throughout the school year.  I thought this would be a low key way to support the school.  Instead, I have managed to turn it into a veritable wasps' nest of stressballs merely by being myself.  If I don't hear from the other chair I panic - never mind that she has three children and two jobs.  I wake up at 2am to worry about the budget.   I fret over cake orders even after confirming the pick up date.
So, my latest little stressball is really no surprise.  Next week, there is a Girl Talk meeting.  I have only the vaguest idea of what the meeting is about.  I think there are some girls and they will be talking.  It's some anti-bullying initiative or character-building initiative or some other sort of initiative for either preteen girls or mothers of preteen girls.  The one thing that I know is that it is girly.  Between my (almost entirely) self-imposed budgetary stress and my knowledge of the girlyness of said event, I hit upon the perfect refreshments for the event.  The menu would include coffee, cocoa, biscotti, and fruit.  What preteen girl would not thrill to a mocha and an oh-so-adult biscotti?  What mother would not appreciate a variation from the standard meeting fare?  The PTO puts out a great spread, but it can get a little monotonous after 6 or 7 years of school meetings.
So, one would think that all is fantastic!  It's an easy, enjoyable, inexpensive menu.  All was well until around 3:30 am this morning, when I realized that I have no idea how to operate the school's coffee urn.  So,should I take a risk and try to figure it out on the fly?  Or should I retreat to the tried and true?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Second Verse, Same as the First

Jacob, First Grade
"But, Mom, why should I raise my hand?  The teacher doesn't always call on me and then someone else just gives the wrong answer.  I can just answer it right the first time."
Claire, Preschool
"I don't want to take turns answering.  I know the right answer so I should just tell everyone."
I rarely compare my children, but there are moments that just scream for comparison.  And those moments are generally followed by a few deep breaths.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Even When It's Expected...

A while ago, we adopted a couple of mice.  They have been surprisingly fun pets.  They have also provided the life lessons expected.  Jacob learned to put their needs before his own.  He feeds them every morning before his own breakfast.  He takes time out from weekend fun to clean the cage.  He carefully protects them from Claire's enthusiasm.
And last week, as expected, Patches died.  I'd noticed a few weeks ago that she was looking a little rough around the edges.  Jake and I talked about it.  He had already noticed and started making little changes to make her life easier.  He put the food on the floor of the cage so she wouldn't have to climb to reach it.  I noticed mid-week that she wasn't running around the cage.  I actually thought she escaped.  I eyed every corner of the cage and couldn't find her anywhere.  I spent the week surreptitiously looking behind furniture.
On Sunday, I reminded Jacob to clean the cage and broke the news to him.  "Patches is missing.  I can't find her anywhere."  His eyes widened and he ran to the cage.  Then he found her as he was taking apart the cage.  He handled it so well.  I found a box.  He took her out of the cage and buried her in the garden.  Then he cleaned the cage and worried about Peanut.  He told me that she looked upset.  I thought maybe it wasn't Peanut that was upset.
Later, in the quiet of the evening, Jacob commented that he wasn't feeling well.  I asked him if he was sick or upset.  "I'm just a little sad about Patches," he said in a tight voice.  I'm a little sad about Patches too.

Monday, November 2, 2009

All Saints All Stars

We've been up to our ears in saints around here lately.  Last week, Jacob participated in the schools traditional third grade All Saints prayer service.  Each child chose a saint.  They dressed up as their saint of choice, then read a little blurb about that saint's life and patronage.  It was interesting and the kids were adorable.  Yesterday was actually All Saints, of course, and the homily was fittingly about how fortunate we are to have this tradition.  So, I thought I would pay a little tribute to my All Saints All Stars - the team on whose intercession I rely and who provide for me a composite image of what my Christian life could and should be.
St. Monica
St. Monica was St. Augustine's mother.  And St. Augustine is known for being spectacularly bad before he was spectacularly good.  While Augustine was tramping around having a high time, Monica was following him around and praying for his conversion.  She eventually prevailed and Augustine became one of the greatest thinkers in the history of Christianity.  Our faith is richer because of him, and we owe much of that to St. Monica in my opinion.  St. Monica had great faith in both God and her son.  Her faith is a reminder to me that I must remain constant as a mother - a reminder that I might have to tell my children umpteen times to stop and THINK about the consequences of their actions before they actually hear me.  And I ask her to pray for me almost every single day.  She would probably be sick of hearing from me if she weren't such a saint.
St. Therese
OK, I know almost everyone loves St. Therese - but it's for good reason!  Her Little Way teaches us all that any life can be holy.  Plus, look how she influenced Blessed Teresa of Calcutta!  When I was very young, I used to sing songs from a children's hymnal called "Hi God!"  They were cheesy, childish, feel-good songs from the 70s.  My favorite was "Bloom Where You're Planted."  St. Therese's life was definitely about blooming where you are planted.  There is dignity, love, and even salvation to be found in the hundreds of small, selfless acts that we can all incorporate in our pedestrian lives. 
St. Frances Cabrini
Mother Cabrini is an absolute inspiration to me.  She gave new meaning to resourcefulness and a can-do attitude.  She is a saint who Gets Things Done (yes, with capital letters!) and she's my go-to for those moments when I wonder "How am I going to do this?"  I firmly credit her for getting me through sticky situations ranging from a complicated report at work to constructing a St. Nicholas costume at home.  Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I ask for help from the woman who arrived in the US with six nuns and went on to establish many schools, orphanages, and hospitals.  She must have felt overwhelmed every day of her life.
So, who is on your All Saints All Stars team?  Even if not a saint, who inspires you with their life or ideas?