Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy December 26

It was a good Christmas at Chez hok, all things considered. We had gifts and food and time with family. Ella's favorite present was a slide whistle from Santa that has restored her faith for another year. Lily's favorite gift was a new case for her American Girl doll. Campbell spent the whole day making his new Buzz Lightyear and Lightning McQueen toys talk to each other. Ella beat Gran in a game of Scrabble, and Lily taught Gran how to play Go Fish.

Today we're basking in the glow of yesterday's fun. Runnerdude and I started the day off with a run on the Trail (he left me in the dust, but we won't talk about that), and the girls have been happily creating great masterpieces with their new art sets and playing card games. Campbell's been doing puzzles and drawing with his new crayons. There's a big pot of turkey soup simmering on the stove.

Peace rains supreme here, with the occassional sibling spat. Life is pretty good.

Now if I can only get my Christmas New Year's cards in the mail.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Discussions with Ella

As I mentioned, Ella is doing her best to keep believing in Santa, despite having many friends at school who have told her the "truth."

Yesterday we invited the kids from next door over to decorate cookies, and I had fun eavesdropping on their conversations. Ella and her buddy L, who are in the same class at school and who have been buddies since they were 18 months old, were discussing Santa and how kids in their class don't believe in him. I laughed at this part of the discussion:

Ella: We Googled his e-mail address last night, and he has one, which means he's real. I mean, you can't have a gmail account unless you are real.
L: Exactly! They don't let people who aren't real have e-mails.
(This doesn't bode well for our efforts to keep them away from Internet predators or Nigerian scam artists.)
Ella: Plus, if Santa wasn't real, that means my mom would have had to buy TWO scooters AND a pogo stick last year all in one night. That's a lot of money, and she was home all night on Christmas Eve.
L: Yeah, my mom and aunt would have had to buy four video games last year all in one night. It would have been expensive, and they couldn't have done it all in one night.
Ella: So Santa has to be real.
L: Definitely.

I had a hard time not laughing while listening to this exchange. I'm pretty sure that Ella and L know that Santa isn't real, but they're not willing to give up believing just in case it means they won't get presents anymore.

Sunday afternoon the girls and I were out and about trying to find the clips that hold Christmas lights on the roof to replace the ones that disintegrated because our lights stayed up all year. While we were driving from one store to the other, the girls were in the wayback singing songs and chatting, and I was listening to the "Glee" soundtrack. Suddenly from the back Ella popped out with a question that almost made me wreck the car.

Ella: What does virgin mean?
Me (gasping for air and wondering where this is coming from): Ummm, it's someone who's never had a boyfriend or girlfriend before.
Ella: Why do they call Jesus's mother the Virgin Mary?
Me (still gasping): Ummmmmm . . . (deciding to just be clinical because we've had all the talks about where babies come from with the girls) . . . because Mary was pregnant without ever having a man put his p.enis inside her.
Ella: Well in the song, what do they mean by "Round yon virgin"?
Me: They're saying "Around that virgin, over there."
Ella: Well, who are the "mother and child" in the song?
Me: They're talking about Mary and the Baby Jesus. The song is about when he was born.
Ella: Ohhhh

Fortunately, the girls moved on to singing "Jingle Bells," which doesn't have any lyrics that need translation. I'm not sure my nerves could have handled any more questions.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tracking Santa

Ella has been pestering us with questions about Santa and whether he's real. She's been trying to trip us up or catch us in a lie. It's like she's trying to believe with all her might.

Tonight the girls were asking whether Santa had an e-mail address, so we Googled it, of course. We also came across the official site for NORAD's Santa Tracker. The men and women who work at NORAD have put a lot of time and effort into their site, and my girls loved it. I could only get them off my computer by promising to let them go to the site again tomorrow. I think this one site may have strengthened Ella's belief a little bit longer.

Anyone who has kids who still believe should visit - NORAD Santa Tracker. I particularly like the story of how it all started.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Felting Fail

Last week, because the Yarn Harlot raved about them, I decided to attempt these felted slippers. The Yarn Harlot said they were simple and easy to knit, which they were, and that it was a quick project, which it was. Unfortunately, my end result bears no resemblance to the cute things in the pictures on the pattern.
All the pieces knit and ready to be sewn up. I swear the sewing took longer than the actual knitting.

All sewn up and ready to go in the washer for felting. I tied them into a pillow case, per instructions, but the pillow case came untied, and the slippers ended up floating around in the washer. Perhaps that has some bearing on how they turned out.

The final result, but without the cute straps sewn on, mostly because the straps are not the same size and I can't figure out how to remedy that short of knitting and felting new ones. As you can see, the slippers don't match each other in shape or size. They sort of fit me, but they don't stay on well when I shuffle around in them. Right now I'm so disheartened by the whole project that I can't even bear to de-fuzz them, which they desperately need.
I like felting, in theory, but I think I need to find a less fussy pattern for slippers - maybe some that are a bit more shapeless. Or I need to take lessons on felting from someone more expert than I.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Two new toys

I have two new toys in my life, and I feel like a little kid with them.

The first is a vacuum cleaner. I know it sounds odd to be excited by a new appliance, but given how much I vacuum, having one that makes the job easier is a big deal. I first fell in love with this vacuum at my parents' house this summer, when I had to use it multiple times a day to clean up the crumbs that my children scattered far and wide.

When my mother was here last month, she bought me the vacuum as a gift, and I was thrilled. It's a Hoover stick-vac deal, and the best part is that it's cordless. Plus, it switches from floor to carpet mode with just the push of a button. I'm able to vacuum from one end of the house to the other without have to stop for anything. It's also light enough that the big girls are able to use it, which means they've been given the task of vacuuming the kitchen each night after dinner.

My second toy arrived yesterday, and it's also a gift from my wonderful, wonderful, kind, generous parents. It's a new camera - an Olympus SP590. The camera is halfway between a point-and-shoot and an SLR. It has both automatic and manual shooting modes, so I'm able to take great pictures right out of the box, but I will also be able to learn more about aperture and ISO and such as I get better.

This picture alone makes me love the camera. Normally Campbell is a blur in my pictures because my little point-and-shoot wasn't fast enough to catch him as he zipped by. But now, I can capture him even when he's at full speed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

When will this end?

This is our last week of school before the holidays. Campbell's last day was today, but he's home with pink eye, which ruins my plans for running a few last errands this morning. (When I told him he had pink eye, he said, "But I don't want pink eye! I want bwoo eyes.) The girls' last day is tomorrow.

I desperately needed this week to finish Christmas preparations and to gird my loins for three weeks of four children in a house that gets smaller by the day. Instead, I'm spending all my time prepping for and attending school holiday events.

Monday Campbell had his Christmas party, which started 11:30, effectively taking up my whole morning considering that I had to run to the grocery store to buy a veggie tray and a Secret Santa gift because I left the present I'd already gotten at home. And then school ended early for the day, which meant I had an extra half hour of Campbell time at home.

Last night I attended Ella's Winter Sing-along and concert at school. And this is where I reveal myself as a horrible mom - I hate going to things like school concerts and plays. I'm just not one of those parents stands there with video camera in hand recording everything. Don't get me wrong - I love seeing my kids perform. It's the sitting through an hour of it that I can't stand. Last night's event had an overflow crowd in the school cafeteria, and instead of sitting in the front row with my mother-in-law, I hung out in the back with the parents of one of Ella's good friends. The mom and I kept ourselves amused by joking around about bringing spiked egg nog to the parties in order to survive them. Every once in a while, my friend's husband would turn around and give us the hairy eyeball and ask why we weren't singing.

Today's events include not one, but two parties at school. Ella's is from 12:00 - 1:00, and Lily's is from 1:00 to 2:00. I'll be sprinting through the halls to make sure I'm on time. And instead of running errands this morning, I'm baking and frosting gingerbread muffins.

I had originally thought that today's events would be the last, but I found out yesterday that Lily's class is doing a holiday-themed "Readers' Theater" tomorrow morning. Lily's teacher, whom I otherwise adore, decided that it would be too much to do a performance AND a party today. I wanted to pinch her cute little head this morning when she explained the change in schedule. At least tomorrow's Readers' Theater doesn't require any baking.

Time to head off to school to help set up. Pass the egg nog, please.

Monday, December 14, 2009

When will I learn?

Sunday afternoon I decided that it would be a great idea to dress the girls up in the Christmas outfits my mother-in-law bought them and to wrestle Campbell into something respectable in order to take picture for our Christmas New Year's Easter Holiday cards. You would think that I had learned my lesson last year. But no, I managed to torture everyone in the process. B refused to participate, calling it a fool's errand.

I simply could not get all four children looking at me and at the very least not crying for one single picture. I think next year I'm going to have to go with a collage card. Or a card without pictures. Or maybe no card at all.

"Wait. Someone's missing. Where's Ella?"

"Girls! Stop doing bunny ears! Campbell, take your hand away from your eye."

Close. I think this may be our winner.

And now we've lost it. Things got sillier from here.

I tried again in a different location, and while I got some decent pictures, there were terrible shadows over the kids' faces.
Next year, I'm definitely doing card without pictures.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The goodness of people

I know this should be a love Thursday post, but the day got away from me. On Wednesday, I received affirmation that people are essentially good and kind and nice.

A woman who works at a title agency that B uses for his work called him on Tuesday to see how he was doing. She had heard about his multiple neck procedures and wanted to check in. After she had chatted with B for a few minutes, she asked how I was doing. She told B that one of her daughters has four young children and that she has seen first-hand how chaotic having that many kids in the house can be. Then, and this is the part that gets me, she offered to bring us dinner to help ME out.

B accepted her offer, which I would have never done. I would have said something like, "Oh, we've got plenty of food in the house. We're just fine. Thank you for your offer." Because the only thing I'm worse at than accepting help when it's offered is asking for help when I need it.

Wednesday afternoon the woman showed up with enough food to feed a small army. There was a pot roast that was so good B almost cried, steamed carrots, green beans, mashed potatoes, rolls and an apple crumble. Plus she brought two bags of kid-friendly snack foods like yogurt and cereal bars and, to my kids' delight, pop-tarts.

She said she had cooked up a huge batch of everything and split it between our family and her daughter's.

I was, and still am, blown away by this woman's thoughtfulness and generosity. I have never met this woman - ever, and B's only contact with her is the occasional work-related meeting, and yet she made and delivered this huge meal because she'd heard we were having a rough time.

Now I'm determined to pay it forward. When I hear of someone having a rough patch, I'll do something unexpected and helpful. I'm not sure it will involve cooking a meal, because I'm not a good cook (really, I'm not), but I will find some way to help.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Done, done and done

My Christmas knitting is officially finished as of today. In the past month I have knit:

3 wool watch caps
1 beautiful Noro sock yarn shawl
3 bits of fluff
1 pair of mittens
1 "One row" scarf from The Yarn Harlot's site

I have everything that I haven't already given away in a pile on the desk in my room. It's been great fun adding to the pile over the past few weeks. But the best part is that from here on out, all knitting is optional. I have a few projects that I want to knit for me, and I might just get a wild hair and knit pickle ornaments for the neighbors, if I can get my hands on green wool in time. Of course, given last year's lumpy snowmen, which never got distributed, I may change my mind about that.

I do know that my kids will be glad to not have me say, "I'll do it after I finish this row!" every time they ask me to do something.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

So, so tired

Elizabeth seems to be on a sleep strike. After a few nights where she slept really well, she's kept me up for hours on end in the middle of the night. Last night she was up and down from 8:00 until 2:00 am. I guess she's making up for all the nights she didn't do this to me when she was teeny.

In the meantime, I am so, so tired. I wake up each morning and count down the hours until I can go back to bed. I'm even spacier than usual; yesterday I put the milk away in the pantry. The worst part is that I'm cranky and irritable with the kids, which isn't fair to them.

I'd write more, but my brain has ceased all meaningful functions. Keep your fingers crossed that tonight is better.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

In which we prove - again - that I'm an idiot

You would think I had learned my lesson the last time I took a sideways video, but no. I managed to take a whole series of videos of Elizabeth this weekend, all of them sideways. This one should have been the best - she walks, she hugs her Curious George, she says "thank you" and "hi." But you can only see all of that if you cock your head to the side.

In my defense, when I'm filming it on my camera, it looks right-side-up on the viewer.

Saturday, December 05, 2009


Technically, it did snow on Friday. There were some flurries that came and went for about an hour. But there was nothing like the inch of accumulation that the weather "forecasters" were predicting on Thursday night. In fact, when we drove to school Friday morning, they had already downgraded their predictions, much to the dismay of all the kids in the car.

I let Campbell and one of his little friends outside to play every time the snow started falling hard enough to at least see it, and they had a grand time running around with their tongues hanging out. One neighbor told me he could tell each time it started snowing because he could hear Campbell yelling with delight.

The girls' teachers let them outside to play in the flurries, which was a relief. I was very worried that I'd end up with two very upset girls after school. And as a bonus, Ella's teacher told them on Thursday that they wouldn't be able to go outside if it snowed unless they were dressed in weather-appropriate clothing. So Ella voluntarily went to school in long pants, a long-sleeved shirt AND a jacket. I was relieved to not have to fight with her about it.

I loved watching the snow fall. There's just something so magical about the white flakes fluttering down. I was disappointed that we didn't get enough to stick and that it didn't last longer. I haven't seen real snow since 1993, when I was at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs during a blizzard.

To soothe the girls' disappointment yesterday, I foolishly promised that the next time it snowed someplace in Texas, we'd hop in the car and drive to see it. So we may be driving to Dallas sometime this winter just so the girls can throw a few snowballs. Whee.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

It had better snow

Monday night's newscast had the first mention of the possibility of snow on Friday, and all week the chances for snow have gone up. Last night's news said there was a 70 percent chance of at least an inch of snow, which in Austin is a BIG DEAL. The weather people are all adither, and the way they're talking about it you would think we were getting a blizzard.

My kids have never paid more attention to the weather forecast than they have this week, and they're not the only ones. Conversation during this morning's carpool was about which weather forecast was giving the best odds and how much is predicted to fall and when.

Last night at dinner we were discussing the possibility of snow, of course, and Ella asked if I'd let them outside to play in it. She and Lily were thrilled when I said that they could play outside until their fingers fell off from frostbite. But then I rained on their parade by asking what would happen if it snowed while they were at school. Their little faces fell, and Ella said, "You mean we have to go to school even if it snows?" I had to laugh at that. I lived up north when I was little and remember all too well having to go to school in the snow. The girls perked up when I told them that I was sure their teachers would let them out to play if it really did snow.

I hope for the weather peoples' sake, it does. Otherwise, they're going to have to bar the doors of every TV and radio station in town to keep out the hordes of disappointed kids who want to have a little "chat" with the weather people.

Truth be told, I'm hoping it snows, too. I get as big a kick out of snow days as the kids do. Of course, if I lived up north and had to wrestle four kids in and out of snow gear on a daily basis, I'd feel differently. But one snow day every two or three years is just fine by me.

Here's hoping for snow!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Fellowship of Knitters

Twice recently, I've struck up lovely conservations with complete strangers, which is a big deal for me. Normally I'm very shy in public, and I'd rather eat glass than talk to someone I don't know - heck, I have a hard time talking to people I do know. But for some reason, when knitting is involved, I can get over my shyness.

Last Tuesday I arrived at Ella's climbing practice a few minutes early. I had a squirmy toddler with me and no knitting or reading, so I wasn't looking forward to the 10 minutes I was going to have to wait. But there was a woman sitting knitting, so I marched right over and asked what she was working on - it was a market bag. Then she showed me a scarf she had just finished, and it was the same pattern my mom had just sent me that afternoon and that I was planning to make for a Christmas gift. So I picked her brain on the pattern and whether it was worth knitting. Then we started talking different yarns, and she showed me some lovely hand-spun stuff she had gotten at a fiber festival the previous weekend in Boerne - which I didn't find out about until after it was over (grumble). The ten minutes flew past, and Ella ended up having to drag me away because she was hungry.

We spent Thanksgiving at B's cousin's house, feasting on a wonderful meal prepared by Aunt A. Once everyone had finished eating and the kids were upstairs playing, I pulled out my knitting bag and started working on this cool puckered scarf I'm making out of this gorgeous pink and purple yarn - I love this scarf so much that I'm going to be selfish and keep it. Aunt A's aunt sat down next to me and started talking knitting. I gasped out loud when she told me that she had knit her own wedding dress on size 1 needles. For non-knitters, size 1s are really, really tiny. She said it took her every minute of six months to finish the dress and she almost didn't have it done in time for her wedding. I can't even imagine.

Aunt A's aunt teaches at a private school, and the students have to do volunteer service hours each year. So she teaches the kids to knit preemie hats for the local hospital and gives them three hours of credit per hat. I think it's a brilliant plan - she's passing on a love of knitting and teaching them to help others all at the same time.

I'll end with one last knitting story - the other day I came around the corner to find Elizabeth sitting on the floor with a pair of circular needles, fortunately without any knitting on them, and she was clicking the ends together like she was trying to knit. Ella and Lily both know how to knit, and it looks like Elizabeth will be a knitter, too.