Thanksgiving 2010

We had a very busy but good Thanksgiving this year.  This year’s festivities began on Wednesday when we attended Liam’s Thanksgiving puppet show that was put on by the kindergartners.  They did a really fabulous job and it was super cute.  Liam played a pilgrim using his Jamie The Pilgrim puppet and every time he had to do his part, it looked like his pilgrim was doing a hip hop dance routine.  We were giggling insanely.  It was awesome.

Since Jamie was at daycare that day, we took Liam out to lunch to celebrate and then came home and had a lazy afternoon.  Although I should have been cleaning, I spent most of the afternoon taking a nap.  Sometimes being lazy is the most wonderful thing ever.  Sleep rocks.

Thursday was Thanksgiving and we spent the day with Scot’s family (Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother-in-law, Niece) and his Mom made a really wonderful dinner.  It was a lovely day.  Jamie was pretty fractious that day for reasons I’m still not sure of, but we made it through.  We invited people up to our house the next day, mostly so that the cousins could have a romp.

Friday morning I got up and did all the cleaning I should have done on Wednesday (oh look!  The cleaning found me!) and just as I was vacuuming the family room everyone arrived.  I escaped upstairs to get acquainted with the shower and some clean clothes.  We spent the day hanging out here while the kids played.  Liam and his cousin were playing tackle games that, while giggle-worthy, were almost on the inappropriate side of things – good thing the kids are only 4 and 5 years old.

Scot’s Aunt came and joined us at our house for most of the day and it was wonderful to see her.  It’s been quite awhile since we’ve seen her and she’s always fun to have around.  That evening we all trooped off to dinner together and had a lovely time.

We made plans to take the older kids to see Tangled on Saturday so Scot stayed home with Jamie while Liam and I went off to meet everyone else.  We had lunch before hand and then headed to the show.  I bought everyone’s tickets ahead of time and I’m glad I did so because the show was sold out.  We were lucky enough to get to the theater early and get great seats.  I liked the movie and thought it was a fun telling of the tale with fun songs.  Liam thought it was OK and a little scary in parts.  Towards the end he leaned over to me and said “I don’t think we need to get this one on DVD, Mommy.”

After the movie the kids got a ride on the carousel at the Mall while I stood around watching people at the food court.  I got to watch a big dude with a tiny little dog walk his dog INTO THE MALL and then allow it to POOP IN THE FOOD COURT.  He kept trying to pull it along to keep it from pooping and all he got for his trouble were poo balls all over the mall floor.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it.

I invited everyone up to our house in the evening for a fire and s’mores and we parted ways with that being the plan.  We had a few hours of quiet at home, got some supper and all that, and then everyone showed up again and I broke out the toasting forks and marshmallows.  It was nice to just sit quietly by the fire and take it easy.

I got to bed late last night but, in a miracle of gargantuan proportion, the kids slept in today and I didn’t have to get up until 7:45.  I have spent most of the morning with my butt parked in a chair while the kids run around.  There is no rush.  There is no place to be.  There is nothing so urgent that it can’t wait a little bit.  It’s sheer and utter bliss and I’m enjoying it.  [raising coffee mug] Here’s to a Sunday Morning Laze!

As always, at this time of year, we spend time giving thanks for all our blessings and while I’m thankful for all the usual things (friends, family, health, wealth, love, and life) I have two things in particular for which I’m thankful this year.  The first is the continuing good health of my friend’s baby post-transplant.  She seems to be doing quite well and I’m so pleased that they are beginning to be able to find a new normal.  The second thing I’m thankful for is the news that after 4 years of waiting, a couple who we are close friends with have learned they’ve been matched with their adoptive daughter.  They’ve waited long and patiently and I’m so happy for them that they are finally getting to expand their family.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


70 Degrees and Sunny

A few days ago, it was gorgeous here in Pittsburgh.  In late November it was 70 degrees and sunny outside.  After his nap, Jamie insisted on going outside so off we went.

It’s probably the last day this year we’ll get that kind of weather so I’m glad he enjoyed it.


1.  The kids got their flu shots on Friday and oh the drama.  Liam was understandably nervous about it and it bothered him enough to wake him up in the middle of the night.  I worked it out with him with gentle words and lots of cuddles and some lost sleep on my part.  When we went to the doctor’s office in the morning he did just as I asked and sat still while the nurse did her thing.  When it was over he said, “That didn’t hurt at all, Mommy!  It was great!”


I’m glad it was better than he was anticipating it would be but I would have preferred to keep my sleep.  I did point out to him that next year he didn’t have to be so scared.

Unfortunately, the kids then proceeded to spend the next 36 hours doing their very best to be their very worst.  I am honestly amazed that I did not spend those 36 hours screaming my fool head off at them.  Slowly, oh so slowly, I am learning patience.

2.  I raked up 20 bags of leaves this weekend.  TWENTY.  I have completed about half of the front yard.  I haven’t even touched the back patio yet.  I hurt all over and my hands are covered in blisters.  I HATE RAKING LEAVES.  I detest it.  I abhor it.  I loathe it.  I despise it.  It is an abomination.  I am sure that the total number of bags I will rake will be 666 for this chore is The Beast and that is his number.

In other words, it is evil.

3.  I made apple pie today.  Homemade crust, northern spy apples – the whole shebang.  Om nom nom.

4.  Jamie believes in safety first.

5.  Pittsburgh has its own lexicon.  After living here for 10 years, I am still learning new and interesting jargon.  Just this week I learned about “dippy eggs.”  (That’s over easy to the rest of us.)  Well, I ran across this at a local Dunkin’ Donuts this week and, well, only in Pittsburgh would someone do this:
“Caution: Wet Slippy Floor”
6.  It bears repeating:  Raking leaves is the devil’s chore.
7.  I’m going to go eat pie now.

Santa and The Magic of Giving

I believed in Santa Claus until I was 11 years old.  I’m sure I must have had people in school tell me that he wasn’t real, but I refused to believe them.  My parents, bless them, played with it for all those years, never once letting on that they were playing the role.

Then, one late fall day, I was in the car with my mother and she was listening to the radio.  I wasn’t listening all that closely to what was being said and I was daydreaming as I stared out the window.  But the words “Santa Claus” made my ears perk up and I realized the DJ’s were discussing the non-existence of said figure.  I didn’t believe my peers when they tried to tell me I was wrong, but hearing it on the radio was something different.  Those people I went to school with couldn’t possibly be trusted and I was sure that they were pulling a prank on me.  I was positive they were doing it just to make me look like a fool.  But when I heard it from the DJ’s, it suddenly clicked.  They were right!  Santa wasn’t real!

I turned to my mother (who *must* have been expecting it) and said, “Mom, you’re Santa Claus aren’t you?”

I could tell she was trying not to laugh a bit at my indignation but she said, “Yes, honey, we are.  But that’s not really the point of Santa Claus is it?  It’s not about the presents, it’s about how giving is a good thing and we should give to others instead of always taking for ourselves.”

My parents had taught this lesson to us from the time I can remember.  We worked with our church during the holiday season preparing food and gift baskets for the needy in our community and we did it at both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  After those baskets were prepped, we’d go with Mom and Dad and deliver them to the families that needed them.  It was eye-opening.  We were never privileged as far as our income was concerned, but we always had what we needed and even lots of things we wanted.  We never had to wonder about where our next meal was coming from because Mom and Dad were sure to provide.  We walked into homes where that wasn’t the case and it made me realize that not everyone had it the way we did in a way that words simply couldn’t do.

So, when Mom told me that Santa wasn’t about presents, I could understand what she was trying to point out to me.  I felt a little foolish for believing the lie for so long but in the end I became proud of the fact that I was so old before I found out.

Now that I have my own kids, I wonder how long the magic of Santa’s visit will last.  Kids grow up so fast these days – surely the kids will find out before they hit double digits.  Liam will be 6 in February and he’s in school now.  There’s bound to be some kid that comes to him with the news that Santa isn’t real.  How long will it be before that happens?  What do I say to him if he comes asking about it?

In the meantime, I know that I’m safe for at least this year.  Kipperbuckles is soon to make his reappearance and Liam is already asking me if he’s been good that day because he wants presents from Santa.  Pretty soon I’m going to have to introduce him to the notion that it’s just as important to give as to receive.

I have a twitter friend, Burgh Baby, and she loves to play Santa for kids in need.  She’s running her Christmas Crazy fundraiser again this year to benefit a local women’s shelter and Toys for Tots.  I gave a donation both last year and this year because of those lessons my parents taught me.  The same lessons I hope to teach my children.  She’s very near her goal and if you could spare a dollar or two, I know that she will use it to make a lot of kids really happy this Christmas.

From Ridiculous to Completely Absurd

I was complaining a couple of weeks ago about the stupidity of the school schedule during parent-teacher conferences and I should have kept my fat trap shut because it has only gotten worse.  I’m starting to think that whoever does the scheduling for my district is on some really good drugs.  I wish they’d share because then this might make sense to me.

The entire month of November is screwed up.  We will not have a single normal week for the whole month.  It started during that first week with parent-teacher conferences.  By day three of that schedule, I thought I was going to fall over in a heap.  Everything felt so hectic.

The week after that we had our regularly scheduled once-a-month early dismissal Friday.  I *hate* early dismissal days.  Lunch is always super rushed because I have to shove it in really fast.  Liam has to be at school at 11:30 and he gets home at 1:30 – so he’s there right when he should be eating lunch but kindergarten doesn’t get a lunch break so the kids just have to make do with early or late lunch at home and the regular snack at school.  It just throws the whole day for a loop and I can’t stand it.

That same week, Scot and I went to see Ben Folds which fell on a Thursday night – a night we would normally have been at the dojang.  Since that wasn’t going to work out, we took Liam to a class on Saturday morning to make up the class.

This week, Open House fell on a Tuesday.  Again, this is a TKD night.  So, once again, we had to skip class and we’ll make it up on Saturday morning.

Next week is the real kick in the jewels, though.  First, there’s no school Thursday and Friday due to the Thanksgiving holiday.  Second, the entire kindergarten is putting on a Thanksgiving puppet show on Wednesday.  It’s being held at 10:15 am and that means that all afternoon session students have to attend the morning session instead.  I thought that meant a change in schedule on Wednesday only.  Oh, how very wrong I was.  In order for them to practice for the show, all sessions of kindergarten (that’s 40 kids, folks) must attend morning kindergarten ALL THREE DAYS next week.  I think I may just stab something.

I don’t understand how the kids can be learning a damned thing with all these short days, schedule changes, days given over to show preparation, etc, etc, etc.  There have been days when they’ve only been in the classroom for 45 minutes.  WHAT IS THE POINT?!  Couldn’t they have spread some of this stuff out a little bit more?  It’s already beyond annoying to me that our district insists on half-day kindergarten in the first place, but cutting down on instructional time even further – and for an entire month – makes me stabbity.

I’ve said before that Liam is a creature of habit and routine is his saving grace.  When routines are off, he has trouble adjusting.  We do our best to help him through it and prepare him for upcoming changes, but we still end up with a kid in tears.  On Saturday, while I was trying to get him ready for TKD, he broke down into tears about going.  He loves going to TKD and to see him resisting to the point of tears was so unusual.  When I asked him about it, he eventually came out with the fact that he is used to going at night instead of in the morning and that he was scared of not knowing anyone.  Translation:  I don’t like this change in my routine, Mom.  I worked through it with him and reassured him that there would be people there that he knew and he calmed down and by the time class was over, he was bouncy and happy.

Yesterday he cried and whined that he didn’t want to go to school.  Normally the kid is pushing me out the door, bouncing up and down, completely revved up to go to school.  Yesterday he was upset, sullen, and all out rude to me.  Obviously, I made him go and he was happy when he got home, but I have no idea how things went in the classroom yesterday.

The holidays are always a rough time of year anyway – with all the excitement and family plans and whatever else.  But now school is pitching in and helping to make things so much worse.  Anyone else have a kid like Liam?  How do you prepare them for things like this?

Open House

And the school commitments just keep rolling along…

Last night was Open House.  Liam was super, super excited to go and show us all around.  I thought the poor kid was going to vibrate right through the walls.  The truth is that we probably could have been in and out in about 15 minutes flat.  I was a little shocked at how little there was for us to do.  I have no recollection of open houses when I was a kid.

Anyway, I knew going into the evening that Liam had made a pilgrim and an Indian to hang in the hallway outside of his classroom.  His teacher told me that he had decorated his pilgrim to look like Jamie and named him “Jamie the Pilgrim.”  All together now, “awwwwwwwwww!”  I had to get pictures.

Some thoughts:
1) Yep, he got the red hair right – I think it was the only redheaded pilgrim in the bunch.
2) The pig-like nose is hilarious to me.  He insists on drawing all noses that way and it’s particularly appropriate for what a porker Jamie is.
3) When Scot heard it had been decorated “just like” Jamie, his comment was “What?  With devil horns and everything?”  HA!
His Indian is sporting the same pig nose.

Last, they had a project they had done about what they were thankful for.  I would have expected something to see something like “Star Wars” or “Lego Star Wars” or “Star Wars books.”  I was wrong.

Good to know, kiddo.  I’ll hold off on turning her out of the house for peeing in your room.

After we toured his classroom we went to check out the snack table.  Liam stood there telling everyone “My Mom baked THOSE ONES [point, point] and they’re really good!”  Scot said we should have made him a name tag that said “Liam, Pastry Pimper.”  Maybe I’ve managed to regain my Cari Crocker title.

Cari Crocker No Longer

Long ago a friend of Scot’s dubbed me “Cari Crocker” because I love to bake and I’m pretty good at it (if I do say so myself).  The moniker stuck and when I get my bake on, it inevitably comes up.

I may have to resign my position after yesterday’s mishap.

At the beginning of the school year I volunteered to be a baker for various school events that needed baked goods.  Well, Open House is tonight and Thursday night so (among many others) I was asked to provide some cookies.  I thought “Great!  I’ll whip up some chocolate chip cookies, send the requisite 3 dozen to school, and have a few left over for us.”

Yesterday afternoon, while Jamie was napping, I got to work.  I normally use the Toll House recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag and the only thing I change is to use all brown sugar instead of a mix of white and brown.  I threw the softened butter in my mixer, grabbed the 3/4 cup measure out of the drawer, and proceeded to measure 1.5 cups of brown sugar into the bowl.  I then started creaming the butter and sugar.

While that was churning away, I pulled out a separate bowl to measure out the dry ingredients.  When I looked for the 1 cup measure for the flour, I got confused because I couldn’t find it.

Then a horrible thought occurred to me and I turned to look more closely at the cup I had used to measure the sugar.

1 cup.  Oh damn.

So instead of using 1.5 cups of sugar, I had put in 2 full cups.  At that point I was too far in to go back, I didn’t know how to adjust other proportions to fix it, and I didn’t have the ingredients to start over.  Moreover, Jamie was taking a monster nap and I was not about to wake him up so that I could go to the store for more.

I chose to push forward and hope for the best during baking.  I tasted the dough before I baked it and it tasted just fine.  I hoped that if they baked OK I could salvage them.

It was not to be.  The first batch came out of the oven as flat as roadkill.  They barely had enough integrity to maintain cookie shape.  They went in the trash.

The second batch were no better despite the fact that I baked them for slightly less time.  They were a tiny bit puffier but they were raw in the middle.  It was clear to me that these cookies were not going to work out.

I tossed the second batch in the trash along with the rest of the dough.  Then I tried to figure out what I was going to do.  Scot offered to stop for replacement ingredients on his way home from work so I could bake later in the evening.  It wasn’t ideal but it was looking like my only option.

Then I realized I had another recipe I could use for which I almost always have all the ingredients in the house.  I looked at the recipe and I had everything except the required 2 cups of flour.  I called a neighbor and she generously gave me some flour.  I whipped up those cookies (being careful this time about how I measured!) and ended up with exactly 3 dozen cookies for Open House tonight.

Crisis averted.

For someone who can make pies and cakes and cookies of all kinds, this was a colossally stupid mistake.  Cari Crocker?  Maybe not so much.