31 December 2006

Great Finish

In all my excitement about our renovated front entry back in October, you may not have noticed that there were a couple of things missing in the photos at the end of the post...things like a handrail, kickplates, and a triumphant guy who did a great job. I will be the first to admit that I thought those things would be added to the picture sometime around 2020, or whenever we decide to sell this house...but I WAS WRONG - Chris got everything together and finished the project on his own - in the same year as he started it! Many, many, many kudos to him for rebuilding our front stairs. They're even better than I imagined they might be!

Vernors supplied by Fraukow & Family...another display of Great Gift Giving!

30 December 2006

Birthday for Days

Momo & Opa give each of their grandsons a Prince-for-a-Day Adventure on their sixth birthday - a day the boy gets to spend with MoPa all to himself, filled with adventure! As the youngest grandson, Lars has heard tales of adventures from his brother and cousins and has been looking forward to his own adventure for months! After breakfast, he got to open his Adventure Kit...

A travel cup/snackholder, for sustenance while exploring the world.

Sunglasses for UV eye protection and major coolness.

And, of course, a map for planning the adventure route! He also got a compass that Opa taught him how to use, so they could be sure they were going in the right direction.

Lars decided to head East and South, to visit Lucy the Margate Elephant who sits at the seaside on Absecon Island. Lars got to walk on the beach and collect shells, have french fries and ice cream and play games. He chose not to stay overnight so his adventure ended with takeout Thai food at home with everyone. The next day, he got to celebrate AGAIN (lucky kid) with lunch at Chuck E. Cheese and a special trip to choose his own two-wheel bicycle! He, Momo & Opa took the new bike for a spin in Duke Island Park, which has a great bike path.

On December 30th, his actual birthday, Lars got to open his last presents - Magnetix, a searching book about castles (Lars adores finding things in pictures), a story by Suzy Kline, and Fillmore to join his new collection of the Cars vehicles. All in all, a fantastic birthday!

28 December 2006

"I've NEVER Liked Chocolate!"

The desperate cry of a kid who's had just a little too much of everything is universally recognized and any parent can tell you that the more absurd the statement, the more the kid needs a nap. Considering that my kid is nearly eight and still boiling that his temper fit resulted in his being left out of the afternoon excursion with his dad, brother, and grandparents, I'm guessing he will not actually take a nap...but I'm hoping a couple of quiet hours will at least give him a chance to cool down. He's gotten bored with just about everything except scowling for the moment and I'm considering a mission into the other room to confiscate all the books I can easily see, in hopes that he'll read one I don't scoop up just to spite me.

27 December 2006

2-4-6-8...Let's Sublimate!

Chris and I justify our Omaha Steaks purchases by agreeing that we would otherwise be unable to provide the kids with such fine, interactive lessons in sublimation :

26 December 2006

Merry Christmas!

The kids were SO excited that Santa came! Lars was ecstatic to get THE BIGGEST BOX. They were both fairly sure that it would contain ALL THE STARWARS TOYS...but were happily surprised and excited to find a SweetHands Stickhandling trainer instead. We set it up in the driveway yesterday and all had a go before the rain. It's put together in the lab now for daily use - they were down for a while this morning already!

Ross got the HEAVIEST box this year, a Thumler's Tumbler for polishing his growing collection of crystals and special rocks.

All in all, a great day and we have lots of new things to play with together this week!

24 December 2006

Christmas Eve

Chris' family has a tradition of giving one present on Christmas Eve. Here are pictures of the kids getting fabulous books (and a sneak look at our usual fireplace):

And here's our fireplace after Santa worked his magic! With a nod to Navilyn, I'm charging the camera in anticipation of an exciting day tomorrow!

Gramma's Mixer

I was very pregnant with Lars when my Gramma died - too close to my due date to risk a four-hour drive north into the snowbelt, even though I knew it might be the last time that whole side of my family would be together. My aunt lived in town and called me from Gramma's house early on the day everyone would arrive to ask if there was anything I wanted from the house - she said she'd save it aside for me since I couldn't come up myself. In a moment of divine grace, I asked for Gramma's mixer, and it was mine. I honestly have no idea why I thought of her mixer. At the time, I was working full time with a commute that was an hour each way on a good day. Chris was also working and we had nearly two children - barely time to think, let alone cook...but there it was, the one and only thing I could think of that mattered to me.

That spring, we made a trip up to Syracuse to visit my aunt and a few cousins that were around and I got the mixer. My aunt reported that she had her work cut out for her in saving it for me as it turned out EVERYONE wanted Gramma's mixer! It was mine, though, and still is. In the years since, my life has changed a lot. Our work situations are different, which both forced and allowed more homemade meals. I've discovered I like to cook and bake and have gotten pretty good at it. I wonder sometimes how much of it is practice and how much of it is Gramma, stationed near her mixer, helping me figure it out.

23 December 2006

Amen, Sister!

Fraukow wrote about her holiday woes and totally understand! It makes me grouchy to decorate and undecorate for the holidays...so I generally don't do much. I prefer to spend my time doing something WITH my family. I might feel differently if I worked fewer hours, but I abhor the commercialization of Christmas anyway so I sort of think I wouldn't do that much more.

We haven't put up a tree this year - it just seemed too too much to deal with around everything else that's been going on. We did get the chimney swept but still can't use it, so I'm planning to put our tree skirt on the hearth and spill presents out of the fireplace, which I think will look festive.

Our holiday plans are centered around our house this year and will feature a couple of guests, a couple of great meals, and (hopefully) a boatload of good memories. Chris' cousin Geri will join us tomorrow for a few days and his parents will come down on the 26th. On the 29th, we'll have some friends for dinner because I'm having a psychotic need to cook a turkey (I think it has to do with Fraukow's Hot Turkey Salad). Lars turns six on the 30th and then we'll celebrate NYE at Chez Stoll before tumbling into 2007.

As for
presents, my own theory may be viewed as rather anti-holiday but it's heartfelt and based on these thoughts:
  • I like to give presents to people I know and care for.
  • Giving a Great Present makes me feel better than giving something just to give it.
  • A Great Present is good to give (or get) on any day.
  • Some of the best presents I've gotten break the rules of present-giving (like 'never give a woman a purse'... :) )
In support of these thoughts, I've been trying to Give Great Present for a while now. It sometimes means I suffer moments of doubt - this fledgling theory still needs quite a bit of working out - but I think it will be just the thing to ease my holiday stress. I think Fraukow will see a great example of a total hit AND miss when Lucas gets his present - I should have brought it up for him to open at Thanksgiving, but I suffered doubt (didn't want him to be without something to open at Christmas...) and didn't. In retrospect, I should have followed my gut and given it to him then - it was totally the right time. Ah, well...I think I learned something about Giving Great Present and I hope he'll like it for a long time anyhow.

Holiday Mystery

We moved in to this house at the beginning of December in 2003, so it was reasonable that year that a lot of holiday cards were delivered that were not meant for us. Our postman has had this route a long time and I'm sure he redirected many such cards before we saw them but I still recall putting "no longer at this address - please forward to..." for the people we'd bought from or "return to sender" on the ones that were not for them (they only lived here two years or so). In the years since, we've only gotten one wrong card that I recall...but we get it every year. I remember it because the return address is a town I've never heard of otherwise (Vincennes?). The family to whom it's addressed hasn't lived here in at least twelve years, by our reckoning. We've been here three; the people we bought from two; the family before that, seven. The name on the mystery card doesn't belong to any of the people that we know have owned this house. Each year, I've marked the mystery card, "Addressee unknown - please return to sender" and each new holiday season, another card shows up. Thinking that whoever sends them gets no greeting in return makes me sad each year, so this year I've decided to mail the note back to the sender myself, enclosed in a note explaning that those people don't live here. I hope it's better for them to realize they're using the wrong address than to think they've been being ignored at the holidays year after year?

22 December 2006

Confused Baby Pokémon

R: YaiYaiYaiYaiYaiYaiYaiYaiYaiYaiYaiYaiYaiYai... !!!!!
L: WHGDgdgdgdgdgdgdgdgdgdg (*gasp*) WHGDgdgdgdgdgdgdgdg... !!!

R: (over the din) And then you see me and you don't know who I am!
YaiYaiYaiYai... !!!!!

L: (over the din) And so I


M: (yelling to be heard) What ARE you guys DOING??

[sudden silence]

R: (in very practical voice) We're baby Pokémon having an electrical battle because we don't know if we're on the same team and we're losing all our lifepoints.

M: (now curious) What happens then?

L: (also practical) We jump on each other and wrestle.

R: YaiYaiYaiYaiYaiYaiYaiYaiYaiYaiYaiYaiYaiYai... !!!!!
L: WHGDgdgdgdgdgdgdgdgdgdg... !!!

Smells Like...

It smells like snow today. Visual inspection of the outside confirms the possibility of snow and - more certainly - the kindergarten is having a Pajama Party, so Lars will be heading out in his pjs...and that's just asking for some white. I've got Irving on standby, if somebody is going to sing today I'd rather it be Irving than Chris. :P

20 December 2006


In my Birthday post, I did not list the present from my OB/GYN which was a script for a baseline mammogram (I'll bet she knew nobody else would give me one of those). My sister (who reminded me that I should get a mammogram done this year) will be glad to hear that I went to have it done! While I won't bore you with specifics, my summary review is: Office process, painless; Procedure, OUCH. For next time, I'm contemplating a stiff drink beforehand with a ride to and from the offending appointment...

19 December 2006

Morning Conversations with Lars

Lars: Mama, are you afraid of the devil?

Mama: Not really, but I try to always be a good person so that I won't have to ever meet the devil.

Lars: Oh, because you know he's right here.

Mama: He is?

Lars: [picks up foot and points to bottom, near big toe] Yes, right here under your foot.


Each week, Lars makes a little book for school. He has to highlight his wordwall words in the text, color the pictures, cut out the pages (four to an 8-1/2 x 11 paper), figure out the page order and staple them together. He reads the book at home a few times, then brings it in on Friday for a class activity. He usually cuts each paper in half and then each half in half to get the quarter size pages. This morning, as he was cutting the second page, he suddenly broke out his radio sports announcer voice, "I'm going to make a sudden turn! Look here! It's coming up! And now, with my scissors, I'm...goooING...TO...TURN! I did it! I turned! Did you see that? [holds up page with one quarter size corner cut out] Mama, it was AWESOME."

18 December 2006

Getting His Game On

Ross, waiting to start a game on Saturday. His ferocious game face needs a little work...

In Which Ross Becomes Insanely Jealous and Portland Overtakes Hawaii as his Next Desired Vacation Spot

My recent trip to Portland had a delightful surprise ending - dinner and a show with a regional manager and his wife, who found themselves with a spare ticket on the day (their daughter couldn't make it). We ate in a cute little sushi place that had conveyor belt service - you can either select something right off the belt or call out your order and the sushi chef will make it up and send it your way. I thought it was a novel set up but conveyor belt sushi is apparently not uncommon in the Northwest and is rumored to be quite a popular method of dealing with service in small spaces in Japan. At dinner, I told them how much Ross likes sushi and how I thought he'd adore making his selections off the belt. Sure enough, when I made it home and described the place to Ross, his eyes lit right up and he declared that we NEED to go to Portland so he can eat there! Hawaii used to be his dream vacation spot but conveyor sushi service seems to have pushed Portland right to the top of the list. To his future wife, I'm sorry (!) ...but Portland is a pretty nice place to visit.

17 December 2006

Shiny Happy People

Home at last! The boys are in a great mood this morning (they must be happy I'm home, too) and are celebrating vocally. Lars walked around for a while jubilantly reciting:

Hickory, dickory, DOCK!
The mouse runs up the CLOCK!
The clock and then
Hickory, dickory DOCK!

Ross treated us to a great Kevin Bacon imitation (including vocal pot clangs) on his way in for breakfast:

Whaddya got? You got a POT? (clang) SPOON? (clang)
You got a Pot! Spoon!
Rythym tune! (clang clang)

Both of them are now running around singing:

I see a Hiiiiiiiney
What's nice and Shiiiiiiiiiney
I see a Hiiiiiiiney
That's nice and Shiiiiiiney
Shiny hiney!

Ahhhhh...it's good to be home. :)

15 December 2006

Lights Out

Coming back from the group dinner last night, our driver cruised right on by the hotel. I noticed when we passed Starbucks and when everyone else agreed that the hotel was surely behind us, the van got turned around and we headed back into a eerie darkness. Where was the hotel? Exactly where we'd left it, only completely without power due to the storm. The hotel had someone stationed in the entryway, prying the automatic doors open as people approached. Inside, a camp lantern lured you to the front desk, where they were handing out glo-sticks to those without their own source of light. Room keys were rumored to work but there was a working fireplace in the bar if you didn't want to sit in your room in the dark. Most of us opted for the cozy fire and, after a bit of cajoling, got the hotel to open the bar too - they didn't want to serve alcohol in the dark, in case we might bump into things. After pointing out that we were going to bump into things anyway, they relented and we settled in before the fire for an animated discussion about the emergency lighting in the hotel. We're SUCH party animals.

13 December 2006


Things every business trip features:

* Impossible hours
* Missing my family
* Conference decor in every possible non-color

Things that separate one business trip from another:

* Personal driver pick-up at the airport, particularly at 9:50pm local time (1am body clock) when I am generally not inclined to lug my own suitcase around.

* Mint Milano cookies and chilled water waiting in my room, along with a note thanking me for being a Platinum Member (I welcome Mint Milanos anytime).

* Dinner includes a wine tasting featuring some surprisingly good local Oregon vintages and some fantastic food.

I will be glad to get home on Saturday!

12 December 2006

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Heather did a nice holiday photo retrospective and I thought I'd follow her lead. My rendition is a bit spotty, as it turns out we don't have digital pictures from some of the years...you'll have to remember or imagine those years on your own

Christmas 1998, our last without kids:

Two weeks after Christmas 2000:

Christmas 2001:

Christmas 2004 (it looks like Ross just got a stocking full of coal but he was just practicing teenage malaise a few years early):

Christmas 2005 (I couldn't get the kids to stand still concurrently, so all the pictures I have from this year are of them separately or are terribly blurry):

In preparation for holiday pictures, Lars gave his own bangs a trim - can you tell?

11 December 2006

Another Exciting Episode

Welcome back, folks, to another exciting episode of 'Let's Get A Group Shot!' While it might seem that technical support made an unfortunate musical choice, the tunes were actually all in their heads; no music was playing at the time of this photo:

Here, we see them following the 'sit-still-for-one-minute' request:

And, finally, Lars taking matters into control. He never did figure out what the other three were doing in the photo above, so he decided to squash them all - a tactic that has been working well for him over the last five years...why give it up now?

10 December 2006

In the Mail


Should you take hormones - or not?
Yearly mammogram - yes or no?
How much calcium is too much?
What's the real truth about botox?
Abnormal Pap - cause for worry or not?

INSIDE: Find Out What The Doctors At Harvard Say...

I'm terrified and I haven't even opened the envelope (which is LARGE). Who knew I should feel so confused, as a woman?

09 December 2006

Double Woo!

Lady & Bernie had their daughter, Paidia Diana, this afternoon! Might be an even better way to end the day than a Sabres win. :)


Thomas Vanek seals it with a slapshot in the shootout!

Happy Birthday to Me!

While I'm now approaching ages represented by numbers that cannot be comprehended by mortal children, birthday presents can take my mind off such horrific thoughts in a heartbeat - especially great ones like I got this year! Unwrappables included getting to sleep in, time for a long shower (fabulous can't-find-coffee face products are FABULOUS), great phone calls with my best friend, my mom and my sister, and a great chuckle from Heather (more of a warning to Chris that if he wants to get a burger mid-shift, he should park the Zamboni and eat in...there's only trouble to be found at the drive-thru). I got some fantastic wrapped things, too - a bluetooth old-fashioned phone handset for my cell (pictured here while talking to my sister), Lucky Charms (from Lars), Civilization IV, gorgeous mosaic glass candle holders, and brass drawer pulls for the kitchen we will one day actually have. We celebrated after dinner with an amazing chocolate raspberry tart and are about to finish off a wonderful day watching a hockey game. The Sabres are wearing the Blue and Gold for me at a road game - Chris had to pull a few loooong strings to get that to happen, I'm sure! Here's hoping they win tonight - that would make a really nice finish to the day!

08 December 2006

Life is Grand

The only thing better than having grandparents who live right on the lake is...

...having grandparents who live right on the lake with neighbors who have a trampoline and kids your age!

07 December 2006

Pseudo Photo Post

I haven't posted a photo in a while, so here's a nice one of my favorite proofreader, who doubles as a lap warmer on cold days:

A photo post of some humans will follow...I'm only now getting around to downloading shots from our Thanksgiving trip.

06 December 2006

From the School

"We have an atypical and recently on-going problem that we need assistance and support from our parents/guardians of boys in grades 1-4. Briefs/underwear belonging to a young boy has been repeatedly found in the boys' lavatory near the All-Purpose Room/Cafeteria. It is usually found between the middle of the day and the early afternoon. Today's pair was light blue in color -- and reported by a student who spotted them on the floor."

The rest of the note is a request for those of us with boys to check their underwear drawers and report back if we notice a diminished supply. They (tactfully?) did not instruct us to check for undies on our kids after school. They also did not offer size or brand, which might be helpful. As I was lining up these thoughts and preparing to mount an underwear investigation, I realized three things that get me right off the hook:

1. My children are inordinately attached to their underwear. I think it may be genetic, passed along on their paternal side.

2. Boxers or boxer briefs are the preferred style around here.

3. We haven't had any light blue undies in a while; not since size 4.

Phew! (?)

On Our Calendar

December is one big celebration around here:

December 4th: Anniversary of moving into this house. FINALLY.
December 5th: My Gramma's birthday (I always remember)
Walt Disney's birthday (fun to know)
Prohibition repealed (and there was much rejoicing)
December 6th: St. Nicholas Day [we're secretly skipping it this year and the kids don't seem to have noticed. Shhh...this means I'm ahead on stocking stuffers!] {Fraukow's skipping it at her house too, with the same lack of notice from the younger set. Must be a bad year for St. Nick.}
December 9th: My birthday (woohoo!)
Rochelle's birthday
Jessica's birthday
December 12th: Emma's birthday (her first this year!)
December 15th: Katja's birthday
December 22nd: Ging's birthday (we are screaming up to the point where the two week difference will be firmly in her favor...)
Dylan's birthday
(his first this year!)
December 30th: Lars' birthday (he'll be six!)
December 31st: Kara's birthday (and you thought I'd stand on the whole New Year's Eve thing here...)

More reasons to party than you can shake a stick at!

05 December 2006

Cool or Cold?

New York City's latest fashion trend (?), based on personal observation:

Tackstitch "X" on coat-tail kick pleat is not being removed, giving the wearer a wooden nutcracker gait when walking with coat buttoned against the wind.

Note: Not remembering to cut the X might be understandable for a new coat but one guy also had a drycleaning tag pinned to his hem.

Quote of the Day

From an NPR interview regarding the newly imposed ban on trans-fats in all New York City restaurants:

"...they [artificial trans-fats] are cheaper and that's one of the reasons they cost so much less."

30 November 2006


Years ago (like 15) I worked on a fashion show which, for about five minutes, blasted (and I mean blasted like even my teenaged girl-self would have thought it was too loud) a mesmerizing song that imprinted itself firmly in my head. For a long time after, I'd walk into random record shops and sing the lyrics to employees in the hopes they could point me toward a recording of the song so I could listen to it obsessivly for a few weeks and GET IT OUT OF MY HEAD. Nobody could place it. Finally - FINALLY - I found it. I bought a CD and listened obsessively for weeks, until I could sing the entire song backwards and forwards and then, mercifully, it left me alone.

Chris is not merciful. Every few years, he finds reason (or no reason) to bring up the song and it enjoys a few days (weeks) romping around in my head again. Tonight, it was for no reason. Worse, he dug up a Muzak version online! EEEEEEEWW. It's worse than the girls who try to host an intelligent plot discussion during commercial breaks for Gilmore Girls! Make it STOP! Please make it stop! Mean. SO mean.

D(M)ental Heath

We invade our dentist's office twice each year by scheduling all our check-up appointments in a row. Her office is a bit of a drive from our house, so it makes sense to wedge all of us into one trip since we really like her and are not inclined to look for a closer dentist. For reasons unknown, we do this on a Thursday morning. Also for reasons unknown, we go just after Thanksgiving and right before our anniversary so we handily have clean teeth shortly after the two big eating holidays (Halloween & Tday) and in time to smile for all those anniversary photos we never take. After the spring appointment, we traditionally begin a long weekend trip for Memorial Day. After the fall one, we traditionally play hookey and this year was no different - we took the kids out for lunch (tacos) and then saw Happy Feet. We did wonder this year if we're corrupting the kids by not returning them to school for the last two hours...but not for long.

26 November 2006

In the Car

The boys are reading in the back seat. Lars is in the habit of spelling words he doesn't know out loud so we can help him out. "M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I," spells Lars.

"M-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-humpback-humpback-I...Mississippi," Chris replies.

"Mississippi," says Lars, then spells, "H-A-L-L-E-L-U-J-A-H?"

"HALLELUJAH!" Chris and I shout in happy unison.

"HELLOJULIA!" shouts Lars.


Mama: Find the action word in this sentence: "Lucy plays the piano."

Lars: Piano.

Mama: Is the piano doing something?

Lars: It's being played.

21 November 2006

You're Missing What?

Excerpts from a note sent home from school:

"...rattlesnake head (in a small jar), was missing after the P.T.O. sponsored [presentation]..."
[how do you lose a jarred rattlesnake head?]

"...the fangs may still have venom and the chemical in the jar is not one to share with children." [but you may enjoy it a bit yourself?]

The note gives instructions to share with your child regarding the dangerous nature of the missing object, phone numbers to call if the jar is spotted or if you require additional information, and assurances that all teachers have thoroughly checked their classrooms and custodians are on High Alert for suspicious looking or unidentifiable jars. At least it wasn't another copy of the Peanuts Kill note.

20 November 2006

Sudden Food Needs

We used to throw biannual barbecues, one in January (first barbecue of the New Year) and the other over the summer sometime (the wet one - BYO supersoaker & towel). These grill events were great fun and very well attended, usually filling both house and yard with everything you'd like in a party - good friends, a lot of fun and fabulous food. One year, a group of six or seven family friends were travelling through town and stopped by unannounced on the chance we might be at home for a quick visit. As luck would have it, we were in full wet-bbq mode and before anyone blinked, so were they! Many hours later as the party wound down, we decided there was no way for them to reasonably continue their journey that night so we fixed everyone up to stay. That house had plenty of room for unexpected guests - each person got a spare bed, air mattress, or couch in a reasonably private place and there were plenty of bathrooms (five!!) to go around, too. That extended visit was a rare gift - I don't get to see that family very often at all, although they're in my heart always - and it made me aware that one of my goals in life is to always have room and provisions on hand for unexpected guests.

This sort of preparedness isn't tested that often but the tests are generally a lot of fun. That first time was seven unexpected overnight guests. Sometimes it's just a friend stopping over with a book or to watch hockey and all that's called for is snacks or lunch and beer. Ginger, who'd otherwise be stranded at the airport (bad way to finish off WTHS...). Heather, alone or not, for dinner because facing the meal together that day suddenly seems the best idea for all involved. Whatever the reason, I can be sure of time with friends and happy memories whether I have enough food on hand or not.

Today's prattle is brought to you by the kindergarten class mother who interpreted my checking off "Juice" and "Paper Plates, Napkins, Bowls" on the Things You Are Willing To Send In For School Parties form as a willingness to send in corn muffins. So much for the juice and paper goods I stocked up on...but woo-hoo for my single little pantry cabinet which, in addition to not falling off the wall today, yielded all the makings for corn muffins without my having to run to the store. Today's Sudden Food Need Preparedness test score: A!

14 November 2006

Beware...Frogs Are Next

I managed to walk about twenty blocks through midtown Manhattan today without finding a Starbucks. Not just an indication of the Apocalypse, it was awful especially because I was looking for coffee and didn't have any cash (I'd already spent my emergency $5 on a black scarf - much nicer and 1/3 the cost of the one I saw at Target last week). After sixteen blocks, I phoned a friend (Chris) and got him to plug my location into the website for a list of nearby fixes. Traffic on 7th Avenue was loud so I ducked into a corner shop while he looked - BAD PLAN. My afternoon latte cost an absurd amount of money and came with an amazing face polisher, mud mask and moisture lotion (I also got a ton of decadent samples). If you happen to be in the city tomorrow, find me and rub my cheeks - they will be unbelievably soft and glowy. Do it fast, though, the world is surely about to end.

13 November 2006

Happiness Is...

...A two-for-one sale on Andes Creme de Menthe baking chips! Such a nice surprise after day that could generally be characterized as annoying.

Climbs With Monkeys

Climbs With Monkeys is off to school this morning wearing his fringed leather vest and feathered headdress. There was some discussion over how many feathers he should have - all the important indians, like the Chief, wore more than one. When I pointed out that he only owns one feather, he sighed but accepted his single-feather status like a true brave. Happily, he made the bus with molasses cookies, potato peeler (Climbs With Monkeys is on the Potato Peeling Team and will be making mashed potatoes for the Feast), brushed teeth, and clean fingernails. Thankfully, Lars has a regular day on deck so we've planned a morning of games before his bus comes by.

11 November 2006

Fire's Burning

Our house is on a very wooded lot, in a very wooded neighborhood, which means every autumn we have a lot of leaves. Last year, we managed to fill over 40 bags before the town collection date and we'd only worked on two sides of the house. This year, we decided to try mulching instead. It was so much faster! If it doesn't totally kill the lawn, we'll be all set. Along with leaf cleanup, we collect an enormous pile of sticks and branches that I burn in our fire bowl. This year's burn went very well. The boys helped with the collection and sorting and Chris helped break everything down to burnable sizes.

We had about five hours of active fire and I didn't get to burn anything from the dead tree stack in the lower yard. Once everything was stacked and ready to burn, I enjoyed the late afternoon reading my next book group book in the porch rocker Chris got off our neighbor's trash pile. The kids were all over the place today, playing with friends in every yard but Ross came out to sit with me as dusk fell. We watched the bats and looked for stars and talked about what he wished for, "the best Mama in the world and ALL the cowboy stuff (except the horse...and the gun)." I said that was really two wishes and Ross said it wasn't because he already has the first part. Moments like that make all the rest of it worthwhile!

10 November 2006

You Say It's (not) Your Birthday

Suspense kills five-year-olds. Literally. Mine, at least, can't contain himself when he has a secret. He KNOWS he's not supposed to tell. He KNOWS the date he will be able to tell. He even tries hard to keep the secret by telling you everything but the very secret itself. I'd been in the door about four minutes this afternoon when Lars appeared next to me. "Bend down your ear, Mama, I have to tell you something I can't tell you." I bent and he whispered something urgent and utterly unintelligible into my ear. Ross paced nearby, trying to overhear, and glaring at his brother. I had Lars repeat his whisper and managed to gather that he was not about to tell me anything until my birthday but whatever he was not telling me about was in his brother's safe bank. Then they both darted away, Lars giggling and Ross admonishing that Lars was not to tell until my birthday.

A while later, I overheard Lars asking Chris if he didn't think I deserved a present now, even though it's not my birthday. After all, it will be my birthday. And I've been being a very good Mama - I eat my dinners and do my work. A present now would seem, by Lars standards, very well placed...especially since he's prepared to give one. I'm not sure if Chris was convinced but Ross seemed to swing his vote to the give now side. Shortly after, the boys cornered me in the hallway. Ross said very ceremoniously that they KNOW it's not my birthday but they wanted to give me what they and Daddy had gotten for me at Home Depot anyway because I've been so good and it will be my birthday one day and so they got me HOCKEY KEYS! Woooot!

09 November 2006

007 1/2

I'd long thought "mystery shopping" was a fictitious scam made up by people who write spam content until I read a magazine article comparing various jobs with flexible schedules. It turns out that mystery shopping is an actual profession! After doing some initial research, I signed up with a company listed by the mystery shopping standards organization. In addition to the standard job application information, I had to list two character references (yes, there are two people willing to say I'm a good shopper...) and write no more than 50 words about why I wanted to be a mystery shopper. Surprisingly, I managed to come up with several more words than the obvious two, "Who wouldn't?"

Logging in to the assignments website for the first time was exciting - they don't tell you which companies you will observe before you are accepted, so I was very curious to see what options I'd have and was pleased to see
several places I regularly patronize listed. I ran through a brief general orientation program and then an additional training session specific to one of the companies I wanted to shop for. After passing the tests, I got to select my first assignments! I picked a store that I needed to get something from and then, feeling ambitious, I signed up for a second assignment on the same day - what the he**? I get paid per assignment and get a small reimbursement toward anything I purchase while mystery shopping, so hitting two stores on one trip seemed like a good idea.

I had a few days to wonder what, exactly, I've gotten myself into and then today was the big day! I waited until I'd gotten my actual work done, reviewed my assignment paperwork, and then set off on my adventure. I was mildly apprehensive but it turned out to be fun! I had to remind myself of one or two things - for example in the first store, I forgot to try to identify the manager and see what s/he was doing - but on the whole, I did quite well. It wasn't hard, I got something I needed, filling out the evaluation form afterward took maybe five minutes and in a few weeks I'll get a little bump in my savings account. It's too bad I'm only discovering this hobby now, as I have an ironclad policy not to go into a mall between Thanksgiving and Epiphany. Maybe I'll try restaurant evaluations between now and then?

07 November 2006


Humor for today, thanks to xkcd for a good laugh!

Ross came home needing a Pilgrim Name. He wants Huggable or Hockey. I've suggested Constant. He also needs an Indian Name. Plays with Sticks and Climbs with Monkeys are in consideration.

Lars has taken to offering a toast each night as we sit down for dinner. Instead of offering a compliment or well-wish to someone, though, he uses his moment of attention to present something he would like to have happen. For example, "I would like to propose a toast to Daddy for playing a game of Memory with me after dinner. And for trying hard to win but not being sad when he doesn't win because I am GREAT at playing Memory."

Chris made our menu and shopping list for the week! He had to do it twice because I'm an impossible spouse and pointed out that the five dinners he'd first selected contained four pasta meals, one of which we'd already eaten just the night before. Then, because he's wonderful (or he just wanted to get out of the house) he did the shopping and he only called me twice from the store. Once was to ask where they've put the ham (moved it a few months ago) and the second time - bless his heart - to ask where he'd find Chicory. Chicory? We're not exactly sleeping on mattresses of cash but I hope we're not consigned to depression coffee quite yet. Thankfully, he let me convince him not to keep looking for the stuff.

I filled out even more forms for the credit card fraud thing and learned the name, e-mail address, and telephone number of the person who used my card from Priceline by calling and asking for information about the reservation my card had paid for. Then, I Googled the phone number and got the address. If jail is not in his immediate future, I predict he will be flooded by spam, telemarketing offers, and Fuller Brush men. Who steals a credit card and then uses his own actual information to book travel reservations with it?

06 November 2006

Static Ritual

The rituals of Halloween Candy haven't changed much since I was a kid. The candy is wildly different but the rituals surrounding sorting, trading, selecting and eating are exactly as I remember them. For weeks after Halloween, the collections must be viewed and sorted each night. The sorting will be done by type of candy, by wrapper color, or by whether the collector has ever tasted that kind or not. Sometimes it is lined up in the order in which the collector intends to consume the treats, sometimes by piles according to how jealous another collector might be of the items. There is a lot of vocal admiration and it's facinating to watch bazarre trading skills develop. If a particular candy doesn't garner the expected amount of apprval, the shrewd holder of the candy might guess that a good trade might be made for any of that kind appearing in the other person's pile. A disparaging comment might provoke a trade of astronomical appeal and the urge to outdo another collector can instigate something very near war. In this fashion, one packet of Necco wafers might be exchanged for two or even three Mounds bars (dark chocolate being currently out of favor, since the neighbor girl has managed to lodge the idea that it's actually made of mud into their heads...bless her heart!). One brother offering Mama a Heath bar (remembering how she asked him to put on another costume and go around to that house again...) can inspire the other to extend his entire stock of KitKats because he knows she likes them. Top level diplomacy skills are required for Mama to make it out of the exchange without a lapful of candy or anyone in tears. To her great credit, not only did she manage, she also came out of the transaction with hugs, the Heath bar *and* the life-size 100 GRAND bar. She is (if she does say so herself) good!

P.S. Can you tell which kid is a little bit compulsive? I took the picture before he got to moving them into position by colors, with each color spaced one life-size Butterfinger length away from the others...

04 November 2006

White Hibiscus by Cheryl Meehan

I stumbled on the blog of artist Cheryl Meehan one day and found myself intrigued by some of her paintings. I was also impressed by her vow to do a painting each day, as a way of improving her skill and focusing on her art - I admire dedication like that quite a bit. Mid-September, Cheryl painted White Hibiscus, a painting I couldn't stop looking at! The colors are gorgeous and the way she captured the light is fabulous. I sent her a note and a short while later, became the owner of the lovely painting. It is just back from the frame shop and now hangs over my desk, where I can see it often!

03 November 2006

Sound Bites

In conversation over dinner tonight I mentioned Barbizon, a company I work with on occasion. Ross perked right up, "Barbizon? Is that a Transformer?"

I couldn't help but grin, "No, it's a company I know from work."

Wistfully, he sighed, "Oh, too bad. 'Barbizon' would make a cool Transformer!"


An acapella quartet of Firemen
sang the anthems before the Bruins-Sabres game yesterday. Chris asked how they'd be classified (I think he meant musically) and Ross immediately offered, "Non-fiction, animal." Made me realize I have no idea what really goes on in his head sometimes...

02 November 2006

7:43am: Too Early for Poor Grammar

I have a Starbucks affliction. Actually, it's a coffee affliction...but Starbucks is a particularly gratifying way to satisfy it, especially if you say, "Triple grande latte for Karen," to the person in the green apron with the Sharpie and the stack of cups. If said person is also wearing blue tint glasses and manning the early morning line in the NYP station branch, I don't usually have to speak - a watery smile demonstrating my lack of caffeine is enough to get him writing my standard order on a cup and waving me toward the pastry case. This morning started off well enough - much too early but well all the same. Train mostly on time (despite rain), transfer uneventful, watery smile, apple fritter, swipe card, get GTL, grab a few napkins, head for subway.

Standing on the subway platform, I started to fold the napkins into my bag when I noticed they have a new design. It's light green print on unbleached recycled napkin stock, so you have to look closely to see what it says: Less napkins. More plants. More planet. Less napkins.

Less napkins? LESS? And did they have to write it twice? FEWER. FEWER NAPKINS. Less/fewer errors bother me even after I've had coffee but they turn out to be particularly annoying before coffee, in a subway station at 7:43am. It's almost enough to send me back to carrying cash for corner cart coffee.

01 November 2006

Post Halloween Observation

Kit Kat snack bars seem smaller this year. Good thing there were a lot of them!

31 October 2006

Halloween 2006

Halloween at our house is heralded by the arrival of a box from Momo containing the costumes she's made for the boys. There's always great anticipation - the boys choose who they'd like to be and send Momo pictures (when she doesn't know the character) but they don't see their costumes until just before the day. Of course, they try them on as soon as the box is opened:

Lars is Boots the Monkey and Ross is Yoda:

Costume wearings will continue until it gets hot next summer and will resume in cold weather for as long as they can squeeze into the outfits! Here they are opening another exciting package - this one containing gifts from Japan:

Here's Yoda as part of the school parade:

And a wave from Boots:

Finally, the business end of the holiday...ready to trick-or-treat! Blue (from Blue's Clues) and a growly tiger cub came over but I sadly forgot to take any pictures. Heather put up a few pictures of the girls in their costumes on her blog, though, if you're in the mood for some more cuteness.

Happy Halloween!


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