Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Buckyballs, Bikes and Hermit Crabs

Christmas is over and done, and most of the gifts have found homes on shelves in the closets. The house is almost back to normal. Complete normalcy (whatever that may be) won’t happen until next week when the kids go back to school (thank you baby jeebus).

All in all, though, it was a very good Christmas – very relaxed, very low-key, very fun. I managed not to work myself into a lather making things “perfect,” and no one died or ended up in the hospital, which has happened in the past at Christmas. Ella was sick, but not enough to stop her from enjoying the day.

On Christmas Eve the big girls hatched a plan to wake up at 4:00 a.m., but I didn’t think they’d actually do it. I should never doubt the sheer combined will power of my daughters. I heard Ella coughing a little after 4:00 a.m. and went into the living room to find the girls sitting on the sofa playing a board game, happy as can be. Lily popped up and shouted, “Santa came, and he brought me a new bike!” I was initially upset that I hadn’t been there to see the look on Lily’s face when she discovered her new bike, but I got over it. The girls were so into the magic of Christmas and the tree and the presents and Santa that I couldn’t stay mad. But I did send them back  to bed with strict instructions to stay put until at least sunrise.

All of the kids except Elizabeth slept until almost 8, which was nice. The adults were able to have a cup of coffee before the festivities began.

At our house, present time is laid back and a lot of fun. It’s not a paper-filled melee of unwrapping. The kids love looking at each other’s gifts and exclaiming over them. Campbell declared each gift “just what I wanted!”  His enthusiasm was infectious. Elizabeth wasn’t sure exactly what was going on, but she loved her “phresents.”

My sister sent B a set of Buckyball magnets as a gift, and everyone spent the rest of the day messing with them. They’re addictive little buggers. Although we do yell, “Don’t go near a computer!” every time one of the kids picks them up.

One of Ella’s favorite presents was a gift card to the pet store so that she could buy new hermit crabs. She was thrilled that Santa knew her hermit crab had died the week before. Quigley II and SuperCrab II have now joined Fred the First in the aquarium.

Our big family gift was an Xbox Kinect system. We haven’t ever had any type of gaming system in the house, and the kids hadn’t even asked for one. They jumped up and down and screeched when the box was opened.

While B concocted his traditional Christmas brunch of Eggs Montreal, my dad (runnerdude in the comments) hooked up the Kinect. I had as much fun watching the kids play as I did actually playing it.

When Lily wasn’t playing Kinect, she was begging for someone, anyone, to accompany her on bike rides. Runnerdude was a good sport and took her on a few laps around the block despite the cold.

We finished off the day with a viewing of “Despicable Me,” which was a huge hit. When it was over, we all went to bed tired and happy.

I think it really was one of the best Christmases we’ve ever had. It was filled with family, love and fun – just the way it should be.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

This is why I can’t have anything nice

shower curtain

This is the shower curtain in the kids’ bathroom. It was a nice canvas shower curtain from Restoration Hardware.

Now it’s covered in grubby Campbell-sized hand and face prints.

Knittergran said that at least I have evidence that he’s washing his hands.

But given the amount of grime he’s leaving behind, I’m not too convinced he’s doing a very thorough job of washing.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Not clear on the concept

During the past few weeks I’ve been attempting to make Campbell into a more productive member of our family, instead of the little prince he thinks he is. This means he is now expected to clear his own plate after dinner and to help his sisters sweep under the kitchen table.

I’m also trying to get him to clean up his own messes.

At school he willingly picks up toys and puzzles when his teacher asks him to. So I figured he could do it at home, too.

Things went well at first. One afternoon I told him to clean up his Legos, and when he informed me that he couldn’t, I pulled out the Santa threat – “Santa Claus doesn’t bring presents to little boys who don’t pick up their Legos.” Worked like a charm. He had his mess cleaned up in record time.

But my success was short lived.

On Monday I tasked the big girls and Campbell with cleaning up the front bedroom, which was an unholy mess. The girls whined and moaned but mostly did what they were asked.

Campbell, on the other hand, informed me that he was too tired/cold/hot/sick to help. I tried the Santa line – no luck. We had to bolt out the door to meet some friends, so I told Campbell he’d have to help clean up later.

Hours and lots of fun later, I told Campbell he had to pick up his toys in the bedroom. Again, I got the tired/cold/hot/sick excuses.

So I pulled out the biggest threat I could think of and told Campbell that if he didn’t clean up, he’d have to go to bed without dinner. He looked at me for a second and then, to my surprise, climbed into bed. I reminded him that no matter how hungry he got, he wouldn’t be getting any dinner. He pulled the covers up to his chin in response.

I kissed him goodnight and turned out the light, figuring that was that.

But an hour later, he started yelling from the bedroom that he was hungry. I ignored him for a while but then went in and reminded Campbell why he was in bed. In response he informed me that he had “wots of energy to pway, but not wots of energy to cwean.” I told him that he had to stay in bed. For two hours, he went back and forth between yelling that he wanted to come out and play and whining that he was hungry.

It was a long night, but I had hope that Campbell had learned his lesson.

Foolish, foolish me.

Yesterday I told him to pick up his Legos, which were scattered across the floor. He told me he was too tired/hot/cold/sick. I replied that if he didn’t pick them up, I’d take the Legos and put them up for three days.

“That’s OK, Momom. They’re boring anyway.”


So I picked up the Legos and put them on the highest shelf in the hall closet, and Campbell skipped away.

I’m wondering how many toys he’s going to have to lose and how many dinners he’s going to miss before Campbell gets a clue.

I’m guessing it’s going to be a lot.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sure, she looks sweet . . .


but looks can be deceiving. She’s likely plotting an evil scheme to drive me insane.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Knitting up a storm

I’d been in kind of a knitting funk during the past few months. I just couldn’t find any joy in knitting. And since it’s supposed to be a fun hobby, not a chore, my projects had been languishing. I had given up all thoughts of knitting Christmas gifts for anyone.

But then I decided to knit a cowl for Aunt A as a thank you gift. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of the cowl, but it was out of this gorgeous handspun that I received as a gift a few years ago. It was just so lovely to work with, and the cowl turned out beautifully.

And that was enough to end my knitting funk. As I’ve finished projects, I’ve been piling them up on a desk in my room.


It’s such a satisfying pile. It includes . . .


A bulky button hat in super chunky alpaca


Mis-matched socks for Ella that are too small (I’m convinced her feet grew as I was knitting)


A hat in Jarrod Flood’s Turn a Square pattern, yarn is Andy’s Merino, Colorway Mardi Gras


Another Turn a Square hat in Cascade 220 and Noro Cash Garden


Yet another Turn a Square hat in Cascade 220 and Noro Silk Garden


A cowl in Malabrigo Rasta, colorway Zarzamor (the picture doesn’t do the colors justice)


Another cowl, this one with a twist, in Malabrigo Rasta, colorway idon’tremember


Another cowl in Cascade Baby Alpaca, which made me itch and sneeze


And, finally, socks that I started in August. Yarn is Shi Bui. I used two skeins, which apparently were dyed just a tad differently, because the striping patterns don’t match.

I’m waiting on a delivery of more Malabrigo Rasta from a store in Atlanta. All the yarn shops here ran out and couldn’t get any more in stock. The store in Atlanta isn’t even sure they’ll be able to get me any. I hope so. It’s lovely stuff to work from .

And, yes, I have recipients in mind for all of these items.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Campbell's Christmas Greetings

He sang this in the car for 45 minutes the other day.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas pictures

Last Monday I crammed the kids into jeans and matching white shirts, brushed their hair, bribed them with the promise of hot chocolate with marshmallows, and hustled them outside for our annual attempt at Christmas card pictures.

I took approximately 70 pictures in about seven minutes. Thank goodness for my new camera. Out of the 70, I got three contenders for the card. And the only reason I was able to use the one I did is that Liz from Peace, Love & Guacamole has Photoshop and isn’t afraid to use it.

Here are some of the outtakes.


Can you please look at the camera?


Ella, please stop choking your sister.


Elizabeth, sit down please!


Lily! Get off me!


Stop squinting!

But the sun is in our eyes.


Lily, can you please just give me one normal smile?


Aha! We have our winner, except for the speed limit sign next to Lily’s head.


Thank goodness for friends with Photoshop.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Worm Winners–Round Two

Well, try to give a woman a can of worms . . .

Wendi declined her prize of a can of worms because she also hosted Oxfam giveaways over at her site and at Mouthy Housewives.

Fortunately, I still had my knitting bag filled with names. So I enlisted my husband’s help in drawing another winner.

photo 4

Congratulations to Cheryl!

E-mail me at hokgardner (at) gmail (dot) com to make arrangements for your worms.

Thanks again to every one who entered.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Worm Winners

Last week I announced a giveaway of two cans of worms from Oxfam. Thank you to everyone who entered.

Because I don’t know how to use one of those random number generators that other bloggers use for their giveaways, I went old-school and wrote everyone’s name on scraps of paper.

photo 1

Next, I emptied out one of my many knitting bags and put all the papers in it. (Every time I come home with a new knitting bag, B asks just how many knitting bags I need, anyway. My answer is always, “One for every project. D’uh!”)

Then I enlisted some cute little helpers to draw the names. And our winners are . . .

photo 2

Becky from Tales of Princess Mikkimoto


photo 3

Wendi of WendiAarons.com.

Congratulations ladies. E-mail me directly at hokgardner (at) gmail (dot) com to work out donation arrangements.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Running Blues

After so many months of training for the NYC Marathon, I’ve hit a running slump. I took a week off after the race, as planned, but since then, my running has been terrible.

My motivation to get up in the wee dark hours to run has vanished. Most mornings I lie in bed for five minutes, arguing with myself about whether I’m getting up.  The fact that Elizabeth has stopped sleeping through the night hasn’t helped me, either. When I’m up with her twice in the night, the idea of waking up on purpose at 5:00 isn’t appealing.

On the mornings that I do make it out the door to run, I generally feel terrible. It’s like I’m starting from scratch, which is discouraging. Four weeks ago, I covered 26.2 miles. Three weeks before that, I ran a great 18 miles. And now I stagger through four miles.

During my scheduled week off I considered running a half marathon that’s scheduled for this weekend. Once I started back, I had to get rid of that plan. So I decided I’d run the 3M Half in early February. But now I’m thinking that might not happen either.

When I grumbled to B about all of this, he helpfully pointed out that I’m 40, not 29 like the last time I ran a marathon. Sigh.

In the meantime, I’ll keep slogging along, hoping that at some point my body will remember what it’s supposed to be doing.

Today is the last day to enter my Can of Worms Giveaway. Winners will be announced tomorrow.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Sunday Morning Mess



Elizabeth decided to make her own breakfast this morning.

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway. So far only 11 people have entered, so your odds of winning a can of worms are really, really good.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

A giveaway!

I’m always a little slow to catch on to trends, but I say it’s because I like to wait and see what the cool kids are doing. This year a lot of the cool kids, specifically Wendi, Marinka and Ann, are holding holiday giveaways, and I’m going to copy them.

I’m going to donate cans of worms through Oxfam. Two lucky winners can each have a can of worms donated in their name or the name of a family member of friend.

I can’t think of anything request for comments like Wendi, Marinka and Ann, so just leave a comment telling me you’d like to enter. Winners will be drawn next Thursday, December 9.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Campbell, age 4


I am totally loving Campbell right now. Four is such a good age with him. He’s fairly independent – he can get dressed and go potty all on his own – but he still loves to snuggle and hold my hand. His enthusiasm about pretty much everything in life is infectious.

I wish he could stay four forever. Apparently he heard me say that, which sparked this conversation:

C: Why do you want me to stay four?

H: Because you are a great four-year-old and lots of fun.

C: But on my next birthday, I HAVE to turn five.

H: Yes. Yes you do.

C: I’ll be a great five-year-old. I promise.

H: And this is exactly why I want you to stay four.

C: Look! The chicken truck!

The other day in the car, he asked if I had won my “big race” in New York. When I told him no, he informed me that I needed to go back and try again and win this time. I said that I needed more practice, and he decided that I was allowed to practice a lot more but that I did need to back and win next time. I told him I’d get right on it.

One day, when he was being particularly cute, I told him he was going to have lots of girlfriends. His reply? “That’s good. Because I like girls. But I only have one girlfriend, and her name is L. She’s my favorite girl.” Fortunately, L is the daughter of one of my best friends, and she’d make a great in-law.

My mother-in-law took the big three on their annual shopping trip for Christmas outfits, and Campbell came back with a spiffy number that included a sweater vest and a tie, of all things. According to my mother-in-law and the girls, he really did pick it out on his own. Campbell wore the tie through the store, over his Thomas the Tank Engine shirt, until his grandmother took it off to pay for it.

When he got home, Campbell had to put the tie right back on. Then he asked if could go to L’s house to show it to her, because he knew she’d like it. I can’t believe he’s four and already worried about dressing to impress.

Last night, the kids were doing artwork at the kitchen table. Campbell brought in this picture.


I asked him to tell me about it.

C: It’s you and me and Elizabeth.

H: Do we all have belly buttons?

C: Yes. Yours is the biggest.

H: Thanks for that. What’s between our legs?

C: It’s everyone’s penises.

H: But Elizabeth and I are girls, and we don’t have penises.

C: Oh. Yours aren’t penises. Yours are tails that are taped on to you, like cat tails.

I was particularly impressed with how quick he was to change the story. He’s a smart little dude.

If only he could stay four forever.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More about New York . . .

But not about the marathon, I promise.

I actually did a lot more in New York City than run. I went with two of my best friends, and we lived it up.

We arrived on Friday, and after I made a pilgrimage to Central Park to see the marathon finish line, we hit the town.


Statue of the NYC Marathon founder Fred Lebow at the finish line

Our first stop was to see Pee Wee’s Playhouse on Broadway. The show was still in previews, so it had some rough spots. Despite that, it was a whole lot of fun. I smiled through the whole thing. A funny aside – two women edged their way into the row in front of us and then carefully encased their seats in clear plastic trash bags. A woman sitting next to then turned around and said, “Either they’re afraid of bedbugs or they have weak bladders.” We all cracked up, which probably wasn’t nice, but the women really did look ridiculous.

After the theater we walked for what seemed like hours and found an amazing Italian restaurant in the Hell’s Kitchen area. I had asparagus risotto that was divine. I wanted to lick the bowl clean.

Saturday was low-key. I went to the marathon expo, which was a zoo, so I grabbed my race packet and headed back to the apartment. On the way, however, I found a great little yarn store called Knitty City and spent too much.

That night, I fulfilled another longtime dream and watched fireworks over Central Park. My friend H and I parked ourselves on the steps of the Natural History Museum, right below the statue of Teddy Roosevelt, and had a great view.


On the way home, we stopped at a cool bakery for some treats. I resisted these cupcakes and opted for a black-and-white cookie instead.


Sunday was the marathon, which I’ve already written way too much about.

On Monday, my other friend, L, and I took a Circle Line cruise around the island. In the months ahead of the trip, spending three hours on a boat seeing a different side of the city seemed like a grand idea. But on the actual day – not so much. The weather was terrible – rain, wind, sleet – so we were trapped inside the boat. I made brief forays on deck to snap pictures, but I never lasted for more than five minutes. Unfortunately, the part of the tour I was looking forward to most – the Harlem River around to Spuyten Dievel and then the George Washington Bridge – was cut out of the tour due to bridge construction on the Harlem River. So the boat had to double back. Seeing all the bridges, Gracie Mansion, and the UN wasn’t as interesting the second time. Even the tour guide, who had been excellent up until that point, seemed bored.

The Verrazano-Narrows. Hard to believe that the day before I ran across it in sunlight.

PB080012The tip of Manhattan


Always inspiring


My favorite bridge

The Queensboro Bridge – which nearly did me in during the marathon

After the three-hour tour, I went to Purl Soho, a famous knitting and fabric store. I wasn’t that impressed, given the store’s hype. The place is very small, and it’s half fabric, half yarn, which means they don’t have a huge selection of either. I did still manage to buy some yarn, though.

Monday night, I met Marinka and Kelcey for dinner, which was a blast, except for the fact that I had a raging case of vertigo from the boat ride. I spent most of the meal gripping the edge of the table to keep myself upright. I was even present for the now-famous “Ma’am” debate. I was a bit worried that one of them would channel Teresa from RHONJ and flip the table, so I kept a firm grip on my plate just in case.

The perfect weather returned on Tuesday, so H and I started the day with a walk in Central Park, visiting the Reservoir, the Shakespeare in the Park theater, and some playgrounds. I love Central Park.

H headed back to the apartment to pack, but I ventured over to the Natural History Museum for an hour, which was just the right amount of time. There are only so many dioramas and taxidermied animals I can look at. The museum was showing a movie called “The Race to the End of the Earth,” about polar exploration, which I would have liked to see, but the show times didn’t work for me. Same thing with the planetarium. Maybe next time.


The Hayden Planetarium – our apartment was right around the corner.


It’s just even cooler looking at night.


Dinosaurs say “Rawr!”


It’s awesome from the inside, too.

Some other random pictures, and I promise I’ll shut up already about the trip.


The Dakota, where John Lennon lived until his death.


This teeny building was down the street from our apartment. I would have loved to go inside. The rooms must be so small.


And, finally, a picture B sent to reassure me that the kids were all alive and well.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My New Do

Thanks to my darling youngest daughter, this is my second draft of this post. She walked by my computer and did something to it that shut it down, and, unfortunately, my draft didn’t save. Grumble. The first draft was much better, I promise.


For the second time in 2 1/2 years, I cut off ten inches of hair for a donation to Locks of Love. But this time, donating was much more personal.

The woman who has cut my hair for years has an eight-year-old niece. When the little girl was 3, she was diagnosed with cancer and had surgery and chemo. She beat the cancer and had a relatively normal childhood. Until now. Her cancer is back. She underwent surgery a few weeks ago and started the first of her nine chemo treatments this week. Just this week, her parents sent off a bit of her hair to Locks of Love so they can match her new wig to it. My hairdresser started crying while telling me all of this, and I cried, too.

The last time I donated, it was to some child somewhere with cancer. This time, even though my hair won’t go to this little girl, I see her sweet face when I think about the donation. I hope that my lopping off my hair helps make some other child’s life a little bit better.

marathon3Before – notice the medal (ahem)



And after. I took about three dozen pictures trying to get any I’d be willing to post.

I’d love to have a short little pixie cut, but I know better. Each time I talk about getting one, B pulls out pictures of some of my unfortunate high school hair cuts, and that sets me straight.

To top off my morning of altruism, I went straight from the hair dresser’s to the blood bank and made a donation. I figure that between the two, I can be a selfish witch for at least two weeks.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I see giant hollow cakes in her future.
(Taken with my iPhone, so the quality isn't great.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Final Marathon Post (maybe)

A week ago today, I was running the marathon. I’ve spent a lot of the past seven days thinking about the event and what the whole journey means to me.

This marathon means more to me that the two I ran and one I trained for back in my 20s. Why? Because this one was harder, all the way around – harder to train for, harder to run, harder to recover from.

The last time I trained for a marathon, I was 29 and child-free. I was able to go to running workouts in the evenings and run before or after work without a problem. On Saturdays I’d meet up with the crew and go running for hours. Afterwards, we’d have a leisurely breakfast, and then I’d go home for a long nap. By the time B got home from coaching Saturday diving practice, I’d be rested and ready to go. It was easy-peasy.

This time around, however, I couldn’t go to evening workouts because I had to take Ella to climbing practice. During the week, if I didn’t get out the door by 5:45 am, I didn’t get to run.  On Saturdays I’d have to start my long runs at 5:00 or 5:30 so that I could finish and get home in time to take Lily to ballet class. There was no time for breakfast with friends and a nap afterwards. Finding time to run was as much of a challenge as the actual running was.

I’ve had many people tell me that they are proud of me, and my response is always “Thank you. I’m proud of me, too.” And I am. I pulled off training for a marathon (albeit a slow one) while managing kids, a husband and working. That’s no mean feat.

Friends – and my husband – have asked if I want to do the NYC Marathon again. Immediately after the race, my answer was no. I’d done it and fulfilled my dream. No need to do it again. But now? I want to do it again. Now that I know what to expect, I know I can do better. Plus I won’t be starting from scratch with training. But I’m holding off on putting my name in the lottery – for now. There are a lot of great marathons in Texas that don’t involve leaving home for a week, as nice as it was to do that. If I decide to train for another marathon, and I think I will, I’ll pick one that’s closer to home.

And now for some pictures, courtesy of Brightroom.com.

bridge1 The Verrazano-Narrows covered with runners. Running across it was breathtaking.


Me on the bridge. The hat was a freebie from Dunkin’ Donuts, and I loved it. Unfortunately, I dropped it somewhere along the course.


I have no idea what mile mark this was taken at, but it was obviously early in the race.


Not feeling so good at this point. I think this is in Central Park.


Finished! I’m the sunglasses-wearing speck beneath the lion on the banner. In the top right of the picture you can see the Chilean runner and his entourage.

finish line

I was crying and laughing at the same time. One friend said I looked delirious, and I think that’s a pretty accurate description.