December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Instead of a separate blog entry about everything going on, I think I will sign off for the next few days and leave you with the family Christmas letter. A few of you may find the same thing arriving in your mailboxes if we get around to actually sending them. The rest of you? I don't have your addresses.

We have not had any more children since we last wrote, which is a relief to us, but a blow to those of our friends and family counting on us to keep Social Security solvent in their lifetimes. This is not to suggest that we do not take comfort and joy in our offspring — we do — yet that is not to suggest that we have not investigated whether it is illegal to auction off children on EbayUSA (it is) or EbayKazakhstan (it isn’t).

Justin is a still a lawyer and still cannot describe what he does — business law, civil litigation, since you asked — in such a fashion as to give an interesting answer at parties to the question, “What do you?” So, if the interrogator persists, he makes do with telling fabulous lies about his fictional counter-terrorism law practice (“And I said, ‘Subpoena? We don’t need no stinkin’ subpoena.’ And then the SEALs took him out.”).

According to testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jordana manages our three-child horde in a ruthless fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan. With remarkable dexterity and serenity — remarkable for someone reminiscent of Ghengis Khan, anyway — she keeps them clothed, fed, bathed, and non-critically injured. Indeed, it has been almost twelve months since we last visited the emergency room, a new personal best since we gave up drug dealing and its attendant turf wars. Jordana recently participated in a neighborhood art show. She offered for sale several water colors, magic wands, and toy swords (all handcrafted by fair trade labor and certified organic, rest assured). The wands and swords sold but the water colors didn’t, indicating that the market niche for violence and superstition may be underserved. So, there is hope, after all.

The Boy (six) is in a wonderful “alternative kindergarten” — a phrase which here has the meaning, “hippie German school” — where even the vegan children seem happy, if malnourished, and some of the children, and all of the faculty, really do believe in gnomes and fairies. Imaginative and imitative play are strongly encouraged there, although it must be said that, when The Boy insisted on leading the children playing “pirates” to pillage the children playing “house,” the teacher gently “re-directed” his play. He will begin first grade next year, because the school no longer offers leaving home to follow Phish as an alternative. His most endearing, annoying, and dangerous trait is persistent inquisitiveness. Recently, he asked, “What’s a virgin?” His father, thinking himself very clever, answered that a virgin is a woman who is not married and that virgins don’t normally have babies, which is why it’s miraculous when they do. Whereupon, The Boy asked, “Is Jesus the only miracle baby?” and his father answered — now somewhat apprehensively — “As far as I know.” To which The Boy replied, “What about Devin?” to which his father could only utter a dreadful “Huh?” in response. “Devin must be a miracle baby too. His mom’s not married.” Oh, the tangled webs we weave, when we practice to deceive.

The Middle Girl (three) holds court at home. She has been described by those who love her as “imperious,” “intemperate,” and “maniacal.” Those who meet her are not surprised to learn that she is just thirty generations removed from her mother’s Danish Viking ancestors. In another age, she might have terrorized the English seaside. Today, she is content to terrorize her family, in particular, her brother. Yet, just when her blue eyes dangerously gleam with vestigial memories of burning coastal villages, she suddenly dons fairy wings, or takes a baby doll in her arms, and become the very image of domestic tranquility. They say it is better to be loved, but sufficient to be feared. The Middle Girl is both.

To our eternal sorrow, The Toddler Girl (one) learned to walk. She has left the ESE (eat-sleep-excrete) stage and entered toddlerhood (a word which here has the meaning, “that period of childhood development that is most costly in terms of lost, broken, and destroyed personal property and medical bills”). Her physical and mental development appear to be occurring at a normal pace, with the exception of her sense of self-preservation, which does not appear to have developed at all. She was born last November with what appeared to be a Hindu caste mark on her forehead. After consulting with various physicians, theologians, ethicists, and consultants, we concluded that she could, nevertheless, be raised in the Christian religion. It turns out that the mark was actually a fairly common, and harmless, birthmark called a hemangioma that grows rapidly for about six months after birth into an unattractive, prominent red bump, but then gradually shrinks away over the next five or six years. Beatrix’s birthmark has been a powerful catalyst for activism in our family. We have joined a support group for people who constantly answer the question, “What’s the giant red bump on your baby’s forehead? Did you hit her over the head with something?”; we have designed a ribbon to be worn by celebrity spokesperson’s to raise awareness; and we are forming a lobbying group to seek federal legislation outlawing hemangiomas. Please call your senator.

We are always reminded this time of year just what terrible correspondents we are. We don’t really deserve the families we were born into or the kind friends we’ve made, and our failure of correspondence only tips the balance further against us. But, despite the utter lack of any evidence corroborating our self-serving testimony, and our use of a shamelessly mail-merged form letter to contact you — despite all of that, we assert, contend, and aver that the thought of you, your life, and your loved ones has crossed our minds more than a few times during the past twelve months, even if our paths have not, and we have hoped that you and yours are happy, healthy, and wise. As we do now.

December 22, 2005

The Second Annual Axis of Weevil Ramahannuchristmakwanzavus Thursday Three

1. Are you an early bird in the prep for the holidays, and if so, how early do you start?

I try to start early and I generally get my shopping for the kidlets out of the way well before December. If I'm organized enough to jot things down during the year, I might get my husband's presents before December. After trying to get everyone in my husband's family to to tell me what they want, which they never do, I have a mad scramble to find something -- which usually means CDs, gift certificates or coffee. I hate that.

2. If you decorate your house, when do the decorations go up, and what are they?

We generally decorate the house the day after Thanksgiving, though some things take a bit longer. We have a tree in the living room -- fake, though I think we might go back to real next year -- stockings on the mantle, various little bobeche decorations on the chandeliers. We put garland on the stair rail -- this year with little colored (blech) lights. Outside we put a wreath on the door and garland with little colored (blech) lights and we hung a Moravian star in our attic window. Next year, I think I might hang wreaths in all the front windows.

3. Do you go out of your way to find special, well-thought-out presents, or are you so harried and confused that gift cards make more sense?

I really would like to buy presents that are meaningful, beautiful and that the people will either cherish forever or use up in happy memories -- or at least something the recipient really wants. I think I do well for my immediate family, but since I don't know my inlaws *that* well and they never tell me anything they want, give me any hints and don't want handmade stuff or paintings, I tend to fail miserably and am probably known behind my back as the giver of crummy gifts. No, they are really too polite to say it. So a little of both, I guess.

December 21, 2005


Marc has questions in the comments below.

1. Does your husband share in your sentiments, or do you need to "gently correct" him while he is driving and commits a non-signal offense?

My husband was probably the person most responsible for teaching me to drive (before he was my husband though) and taught me to always use my turn signals even when no one is around. He always uses his signals.

2. Do you (and he?) find yourselves extra careful in referring to other drivers and the particular names you use, with little ears in your vehicle?

I don't talk outloud to myself while driving or at any other time. The voices in my head stay in my head. However, the little people in the backseat have learned to talk to other drivers and call them nitwits and say things like, "Hurry uo, buddy!" from somewhere. I'm not saying where, but it wasn't from me.

3. Have you been involved in an accident as a result of a non-signal offense?

I don't think Justin has been in any accidents. I haven't been in any real ones, but the one time I got bumped, lack of turn signals was, in fact, involved. Though so was being an idiot. I was driving on a one way road in the left lane, going straight. The fellow in the right lane decided to turn left in front of my car without signalling or anything intelligent like waiting until he was in the proper lane to turn. I stopped and all he did was bump a bit of trim off.

And there you have it.

December 20, 2005

Driving Lessons

It seems to me that there are a few things that today's drivers seem to have missed in their driving lessons.

First, turn signals. Use them. It would be nice to know what the other drivers are doing. Although I know that sometimes using a turn signal marks you as the person to cut off, it is generally nice to have some notion of what the driver in another car is about to do. And if you see someone trying to merge lanes and using their signals -- don't cut them off. They deserve a reward. I admit to being a bit obsessive about the subject and I use my turn signal in deserted parking lots -- better to keep the habit up at all times, I say, than to let it lapse.

Second, when it is rainy and grey outside, turn on your headlights. Yes, during the day time the world is light enough for you to see without them, but it is helpful to others if they can see you.

Third, mirrors are nice. They help you see behind you, but they are not a replacement for turning your head. Check your blindspots when merging lanes and do not back up using only your mirrors. Especially, do not back up using only your mirrors while driving one handed and talking on a cell phone in a busy parking garage with tight spaces.

Follow these simple rules and driving will go better for all of us.

What's That Stench?

For The Toddler Girl (whom her older siblings inform me can no longer be called a baby) the past week could be summed up as such -- vomit in my sleep and all over the floor, leaky diarrhea diapers, nothing, more diarrhea, vomit all over Mom at the library, more diarrhea, don't sleep all night, even more diarrhea. I took her to the doctor yesterday and other than the obvious stomach bug, she seems fine, well-hydrated and without other health problems. Lucky us!

Today seems good. We haven't had any foul-smelling emissions as of yet. And thanks to the previous night's complete lack of sleep, last night I fell asleep at 9 and for once actually feel rested.

December 16, 2005

Vacation for Whom?

My son has the next two weeks off from school. He almost cried when he found out. He loves school and his teachers and friends. Of course, I'm also slightly tempted to cry. Now every errand I run will involve three children and bickering levels will be heightened. I'm going to make a concerted effort to do lots of fun stuff during until school starts again. And first off? Cookie baking, I think.

December 15, 2005

Ready For Summer?

My son longs for snow and wishes we could travel to my parents' home in Ohio to share in some of their cold, white bounty. On the other hand, I think he really wants it to be warm and sunny.

Why? For the last two days he's been singing the Fine Young Cannibals lyrics "Never had a holiday in the tropical sun..." and today he asked if he could go shoot a water pistol in the backyard. The Viking Ice Girl (also known as The Middle Girl) promptly asked if we could get out the wading pool.

It may not be snowing and the sun has come out, but it is only in the forties and it is December. Reason, it seems, does not prevail around here at all times.

And no, we didn't get out either the water guns or the wading pool.


Christmas shopping is finished. I think. Even stocking stuff. Let me see...

My husband is getting a hfsjfbfi and a hihfdkjs and one fhskdhs. As if I'd let him see what's he is getting before hand. Hah!

The Boy gets a toy castle (like a dollhouse for boys), some knights, a book about space and a huge package of colored pencils.

The Middle Girl is getting a dollhouse, dolls, a book about fairies, and something else that slips my mind.

The Baby Girl is getting tights, slippers, and um...well all the milk she can drink at the Mommy milk bar...there might be another present in there for her, but I didn't really have bright ideas.

I got presents for my husband's grandparents, parents, siblings and their kids. Many of these things I got way back in June or so, when I found them on sale. It does make this time of year simpler. At this point in the season, I'm always rather glad that my family doesn't celebrate Christmas. The Boy's class got a joint gift for his teachers and I gave the kids' Sunday School teachers notecards from my supply of notecards with my paintings on them. I got something for my husband's assistant and for his office Christmas party.

Now comes the fun part. Wrapping! AAAAAUUUGH!

December 14, 2005

My Daughter the Nipple Nazi

The Middle Girl has adopted a family at church as her second family. Usually they sit right in front of us and she usually sits with them -- the parents and their three teenage daughters. The family is very sweet to The Middle Girl; Miss Ann always brings a snack for her and the girls will even take her to the bathroom when the need arises. It's a nice arrangement as far as I'm concerned.

Last Sunday, after services, Miss Ann (the mom) leaned back to tell me that one thing she loves about my daughter is how she always makes them laugh. Then she told me that The Middle Girl had crawled into the lap of one of the teenagers, patted her on the chest and said, "Why do you have those things? You don't have a baby and need to nurse it yet."

I'm glad she knows how important breastfeeding is, but I guess we haven't really explained that those "things" don't just appear at baby feeding time.

December 13, 2005

It's A Miracle!

"Mom, what's a virgin?"

"Hrm, um..."

"In Silent Night it says 'Round yon virgin.' What's that mean?"

The whole family was in the car headed off to a Bible study and lunch at someone's house. It wasn't quite the time when I wanted to sit down and discuss all those things, if you know what I mean. My husband told The Boy that a virgin was a woman who wasn't married.

We explained that Mary wasn't married to Joseph yet and normally she wouldn't have been able to have a baby, but God put Jesus in her belly and so his birth to a virgin woman was miraculous and celebrated as a miracle.

I should have known there would be more questions coming. I should have become especially nervous when the next question popped out of the backseat.

"Is Jesus the only miracle baby?"

"Yes, as far as we know. He's the only one mentioned in the Bible."

"But what about Devin?"


"Devin, our neighbor. What about him? He must be a miracle. His mom's not married."

"Um, well look at those Christmas lights and doesn't that fried chicken smell delicious?

Who taught this kid to reason anyway? This thinking has got to stop and I have got to come up with some better answers.

Christmas Kitsch

Something tells me that the fact that this "lights up" and "plays the melody of Silent Night" would not really improve it at all.

The Best Toys

Chris of The Big Yellow House has a post at DotMoms about the best toys and her list rings so true. Blocks, Legos, pretend play stuff, those are the things that last and get the most play time. They don't the bling-bling excitement that the noisy toys have and are therefore often not given by my kids' granparents, who want to see the instant excitement that noise brings. A few things that didn't make Chris's list, but that get a lot of play time around here are puzzles and toys to ride on. We let the kids ride on some things in the house and my children seem to take great joy in circling the kitchen table chasing each other on foot pushed riding toys I could have sworn they wouldn't fit by now.

But my son's current great love in life is Legos. He inherited all of his dad's, which my mother-in-law had saved and he and my husband could spend hours together building and playing with those little plastic bricks of impending doom for barefeet.

And now, let me say that The Boy thinks he has the most awesome Aunt Mimi (not her real name) in the world.


Nobody does Viking ships (even in miniature) better than the Danes.

Behind Schedule

But, phew! Finished and delivered. It feels good to have that completed.


December 10, 2005

Boring, Mudane, Ordinary?

Dean has the Carnival for you! It is a Carnival devoted to the ordinary, every day and all the little things.

Dinner Parties

Yesterday sure was busy. I cleaned like a mad woman and although we'd moved almost every toy out of the downstairs for the occasion, I still was constantly picking up plastic bowls, dish towels and things like that.

I really didn't know how it was going to all come together, but it did. The house was clean. We had chairs for everyone and lots of food. We served buffet-style with a line snaking from the dining room around the counters of the kitchen. We'd cleaned off all the kitchen counters for serving and I sure wish we didn't have to put anything back on them, they look so nice. However, I also like having a toaster oven and some of the things that went into hiding.

Knowing now that we can seat almost 40 people for a meal makes me feel pretty confident we could easily have an appetizer stand-up sort of party for 50-60 in our house. I'm not sure what I will do with that information, since I rarely entertain on a large scale, but if the occasion arises, I'll keep it in mind.

One of our guests last night ask if I was bothered having so many people in my house at once. Honestly, the answer is no. I freak out a bit for the 24 hours before hand, but having a big gathering is fun as long as everyone goes away after a few hours. I also love that entertaining requires me to clean house. Otherwise this place can get pretty bad. There's nothing like the impending arrival of guests to make one finish some of those little things that never seem to get done.

I must add though that I had two ladies who came in the afternoon to help me set up, vaccum and all that stuff. Without them and without Justin, who got the turkey ready to stick in the oven before he went to work and who came home early to help do all the little necessary tasks, I'm not sure it would have been half so successful. Always take any help that is offered -- a lesson it took me a long time and three children to learn!

December 08, 2005

Before Tomorrow

Tomorrow night we are hosting the entree part of our church's progressive dinner. I don't have to cook the whole meal, fortunately, but I do have to roast a turkey, make a side dish, clean house and figure out how to seat about 50 people in my house. I can easily find room around our two big tables for 20-25 and I borrowed a table from our church building to seat another 6 or so. Where the rest will go is a good question.

Another good question is how will I keep my children from destroying the house while I clean it. I think finding seats for 50 will be easier.

Also by tomorrow, I need to get three swords and three fairy wands completed. I'm on my way, but not sure about my chances of success. I've got the padded blades for the swords done and their covers stitched. I'm in the process of putting a finish on the wooden parts, and once that's done, gluing the pieces together isn't hard, but I stil need to sew up the heads for three wands. I usually only manage one per night, so we'll see.

I always let too much creep up on me at once. I'm not good at spacing out my projects.

Further Adventures in Shopping

I went to Home Depot yesterday. They had one cashier and the self-checkout lanes open. This close to Christmas, that meant that the lines were totally crazy and although I tend to never use self-check at Home Depot, because I hate it, it was the shorter of the two lines.

Self-checkout lanes have been around for a while now. By now, I expect everyone to have tried them at least once and to understand the basic rules. And the first rule is -- ONE LINE. You do not wait for individual self-check registers. You wait in one line until a unit is free.

You should especially not push in front of a woman with a chattering three year old, a one year trying to climb out of the cart and screaming, who only has five things. Not if you don't want to make her very cranky. And trust me, you don't.

December 06, 2005

Wal-Mart, I Do Not Love Thee

Yesterday I had many things to get done before I had to fetch The Boy at 12:30. I needed to get regular groceries, plus a twenty (or so) pound turkey. I needed to get some 1-inch foam and some particular colors of felt from a fabric store. I needed to get some hardwood dowels, a universal remote for a TV we were given months ago and that hasn't worked because the giver forgot to give the remote with it and I needed to look for a Christmas present for my mother-in-law.

I decided since Wal-Mart sells groceries, fabric, some wooden crafty stuff, electronics and all sorts of potential Christmas presents that I would make the twenty minute trek. I could get all of those things some where around my neighborhood, but I love the idea of one-stop shopping and I haven't been to Wal-Mart in almost six months.

Now I remember why I haven't been to Wal-Mart in six months. The produce wasn't particularly nice. They had no large turkeys at all. The Great Value sandwich bread is super cheap, but the mid-grade sandwich bread I prefer to buy was more expensive than at my regular store. They didn't have anything but pine dowels. They didn't carry foam or the felt I wanted. They didn't have the Christmas present I wanted to buy. They did have a Universal remote though.

After leaving Wal-Mart, I still had to go to the fabric store where I got the felt and foam. Then I ran by my favorite grocery store where the lights were bright, the mood was cheery and they carried the turkey and a few other things out to the car for me. After picking up The Boy, I still had to go to the hardware store and buy dowels.

In other words, the trip to Wal-Mart only saved me a trip to an electronics store, but I had to redo everything else. Plus the colors, the lighting and the crowded feeling of Wal-Mart always leave me feeling slightly less loving towards my fellow man.

In theory, I think Wal-Mart is wonderful. Provide the masses with goods they otherwise could not have. Bring employment that otherwise wouldn't be there to towns, etc. There is much to be liked about the place, no matter that it is the chi-chi thing to sneer at the store and those who shop there. However, personally my experiences there are never happy ones and I actually get a lot more done when I avoid the store. I think I'll wait at least six more months before venturing back, if I can help it.


White Lily or King Arthur? Discuss...

Read More "Flour" »

December 04, 2005

So How Was the Art Show?

I know you are all waiting anxiously to hear how it went. Riiiiight...

Perhaps not, but I shall tell you nonetheless. It went very well. It could have been better, I sold no paintings, but I did sell two of the three fairy wands I brought, as well as the swords, and most of the notecards. I'm not going to be supporting the family on my earnings, but without subtracting for expenses, I brought home a little over $100. Subtracting for expenses, I'm pretty sure I didn't make anything, which will make my income taxes easier at least.

I heard lots of nice things and there were a couple of nibbles at paintings, one couple who really liked the red sunflower, except they said the flower was facing the wrong way for their room, another woman who wanted to buy the same painting, but her boyfriend thoguht it was too feminine, and another woman who would have bought the daffodils had she had any extra money to spend.

Another lady ordered three fairy wands and three padded swords. I have to get the materials to make them and do it quickly. I'm a big slacker, so working fast is not my strong suit. But I think I can make an exception for a large order.

All in all, it was pretty fun and I think I'll probably try to sign up to do the show again next year, if I can make myself do some more paintings and all.


We got a laptop for my husband. I'm not sure I'm going to let him ever use it though. I could get used to this wifi stuff. Not being tied to a modem is really nice.

December 02, 2005

I Hope This Bodes Well For Tomorrow

Arty Kid
Whether you were a drama freak or an emo poet, you definitely were expressive and unique.

You're probably a little less weird these days - but even more talented!
Who Were You In High School?

The paintings are framed, the notecards are folded and I'm in the middle of sticking each one with an envelope. I've made a few padded swords and some fairy wands. I can't believe I signed up for any kind of art show, but it was on my "I want to do it some day" list. Now if I can just stop feeling like the wannabee geek and lose the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

And Nashvillians, if you want to come to an awesome party and art show tomorrow between 4 and 10, e-mail me for further details.

Christmas Presents

Ugh. I'm done shopping for presents for people for whom I know what to get. The others -- well that's the problem. Some people I have no idea what to get for them. What do you get for a teenage boy that doesn't cost a fortune? What do my husband's grandparents, who don't need anything, need? What about my mother-in-law? What do you get for a third baby who has access to every toy under the sun and more clothes than anyone should have? I just don't know.

As for the older two kids, they should be pleased with their presents from us. The Boy is going to get a wooden castle and some knights, which I found on a very good sale. The Middle Girl will be getting a wooden dollhouse that comes with furniture and dolls. It came from Target via Goodwill, brand new, unopened and I stumbled across it on a day when all the tags of its color were 50% off. I know Meredith would approve. Because you can never have too many dolls though, I bought her some extra wooden doll house dolls that normally run $15 and up for $10 at TJ Maxx when I ran across them there (just in case anyone else is looking for doll house dolls at a good price).

December 01, 2005


Yesterday I felt almost like Sarah. I baked two kinds of cupcakes and a Hippie German Kindergarten birthday cake. Today the last half hour of the school day was taken up with a special story time about The Boy to which his family was invited and then all the kids got to snarf down some cake.

Then came the highlight of the party season for the Kindergarten set. There are five children in his class who have December birthdays. No one, thus far this year, had had a birthday party at all, but The Boy wanted a class party. I wasn't about to be the one who escalated the party cycle, but I still thought it would be nice to give him a party. I talked with the other moms of December kids and we decided to throw one party for all of them. The only problem being that December is totally full of stuff and everyone had something scheduled on every day we talked about doing. It finally came down to this afternoon, we doled out assignments -- one mom made sandwiches, one brought water bottles and a fruit and veggie tray and I brought cupcakes. We asked everyone to bring one gift per kid they brought with them. After letting the kids run around the park and freezing in the deceptively sunny, but windy, outdoors, we ate, sang happy birthday, ate cupcakes, and then let each kid at the party choose one present out of the bag. Everybody got something -- no party favors or birthday presents to worry about. It was a lot of fun, although I still haven't defrosted, and I'll be all in favor of doing a party like this every year.

Birthday Boy

Six years ago, I was in the hospital laboring away knowing that pretty soon a tiny little baby would come out and change everything. I didn't know whether that little one was a boy or a girl, but I was pretty sure it had to be one or the other.

Finally after 25 hours of labor, The Boy arrived. Perfect, beautiful and not tiny. He took his time coming out, because he was over nine pounds and had a head in the 95th percentile. He was also face up and had his hand up by his head. He clearly wanted to torture me and I suppose I'm lucky to have been able to deliver him without a c-section. But at the time I could only gaze at him in an exhausted stupor and fall totally in love.

Back then even as a big newborn, he seemed so tiny, so fragile. Now he's huge. His legs stretch way down. He used to fit on my chest and now he comes up way past my waist. He ponders and thinks and makes and does. He drives me absolutely batty and he fills me with wonder over how amazing he is. I look at his huge brown eyes and eyelashes that are longer than some feather dusters and wonder at how I could have had any part in the making of someone so beautiful. Lucky me.

But how can my baby be six?