Monday, December 31, 2007
So Long 2007
We are kicking your butt to the curb, 2007. Sayonara! Christmas whipped us so bad we can't celebrate anymore. This family is having a quiet New Year's Eve at home, which is what we always do.

Tonight we're having a mini party. It's going to be Klassy. We're going to play Operation, eat the always elegant pigs in a blanket, zebra cake and out-of-season bellini's (only for the adults; the kids are getting sparkling cider). Also stomachaches by tomorrow if we actually eat all that.

This year, like most other years, I have the following resolutions: eat better and healthier, drop some poundage, keep in touch and actually see my friends more, enjoy the things I like to do more often, take better care of myself, play with my children more.

Also on the resolution list: read Walden. Back in high school, I thought I'd lost the copy of Walden the school distributed to the senior class. I ended up using the Cliff's notes to pass the class. The school made me pay for the lost copy, despite my 17 year old's logic of "if this is a public school funded by the taxes my parents pay, isn't it really MY book anyway?" I found the book while packing to move into my own apartment and I've been meaning to read it ever since. This year I just might.

I wish you all a wonderful 2008, and hope it turns out to be everything you're hoping for.

Friday, December 28, 2007
More "Kids Say the Darndest Things"
This week we've been catching up on movies from our Netflix queue, which is good because I wanted to see Shrek the Third and Barbie as The Island Princess before the Oscars.

One of the movies I watched with the kids was Evan Almighty, which I thought would be cute for them. Well, for Sophie. Harry's been holed up building train track structures and neighboring cities and playing cars. So him? Haven't seen him all that much. But Sophie and the singing dolls? Right by my side for the past week now. With the dolls that sing. Did I mention they sing? I think the dolls can read my mind because just when I think "Gee, the dolls haven't been making noise for two whole minutes," they start singing again.

So Sophie, me and the singing dolls sat down to watch Even Almighty, which is a send up of the story of Noah and the Ark. Steve Carrell is ordered by God, played by Morgan Freeman, to build an ark. And Sophie, seeing Mr. Freeman, asked "God is black?"

So I said "Well, God is many colors to many people."

I hoped that was the end of the conversation. "So just his son is white?" she asked.

I answered "Jesus is many colors to many people."


I hoped THAT was the end of the conversation. It wasn't. We continued watching the movie and when Morgan Freeman got a closeup, his teeth....well, they were a bit yellow and slightly crooked and when Sophie saw them she asked "Doesn't God brush his teeth?"

Thursday, December 27, 2007
Getting Out of the House and Away from the Toys
In an effort to get the kids out of the house and away from High School Musical Edition UNO!, Connect Four and Operation, I bundled them, hopped the F train to Coney Island and took them to lunch at Nathan's.

The "seaside" is so peaceful at this time of year. The only patrons in Nathan's are die-hards (or the Polar Bear Club) and there's virtually no line to order. Which is nice, because that meant I got to nag Harry to eat his lunch that much quicker. The boardwalk was empty except for a couple of runners and another pair of women looking to break the cycle of holiday eating with nitrates from Nathan's. (I know because they asked me for directions.)

Next we spent a couple of hours at the aquarium looking at fish and penguins and Northern fur seals. The grand finale of the visit was seeing Brooklyn's Biggest Baby. We left the aquarium and started for home when Sophie realized she'd lost her High School Musical Gabrielle doll. So back to the aquarium we went to search for the lost doll. This was the point in the day when for the billionth time I reminded my kids "this is why we leave our toys at home!" (Sophie is happy to report that her Gabrielle doll was right where she left her, on a ledge near the walrus' underwater viewing tank. I am happy to report that the tic I had in my eye went away upon finding the doll.)

Finally, mercifully, we boarded the train to head back home, where I could sit and have a cup of coffee in peace. Now, one of the best parts of living in New York City is the incredible amount of culture you are exposed to on any given day. This afternoon alone, we saw families of all shapes, sizes and colors. I thought the kids took this for granted and hardly noticed differences in people. Then our train stopped at a station on the way home and an orthodox Jewish man boarded, wearing the traditional black hat and a black coat. Harry took one look at him and said "Look, mom! A magician!"

Pass the Bailey's for that coffee, please.

Sunday, December 23, 2007
I'm Going In
In 18 minutes, or whenever I finish this cup of coffee, I'm heading over the mall. I have four gifts left to buy. A shirt for my brother. A gift card for my dad, something for my uncle and his wife and bike lock for my mother in law. Or a bike basket, whichever I can find in Target.

I'm not a mall go-er normally and I avoid them like the plague at Christmas. But I'm behind and I'd rather get to the store early today than going on Christmas Eve, when I could be doing something more fun, like wrapping presents. Or drinking. Or inventing a wrapping drinking game.

Here's the plan. I leave here at 07:00 hours. It's a ten minute drive over there. I will drive the route that takes me past the good, free parking and if they're all taken I'll head straight for the pay garage. I'll bring my list, and go right upstairs for the bike lock/basket, head over to the men's section, grab a shirt. I'll be right on the side of electronics where I think they have the gift cards, then pop down the escalator, hit the express line and I'll be out of the store in no time. (If I can avoid the dollar bin, the greeting card section and women's clothing section I'll be OK. I'll be strong. I must be strong....)

Saturday, December 22, 2007
One of the Better Varieties of Holiday Spirit
I am so fortunate to work for a company that closes between Christmas and New Year's Day. Yesterday was our last day of work for the year and I thought I'd celebrate it by going to Toys R Us Times Square. At 5pm. On a Friday. The Friday before Christmas.

Self root-canal or chewing glass was probably a better alternative.

I only went because Harry's been asking for a Thomas and Friends playset and a quick google search turned up a wooden box which doubles at a storage case for the individual engines and a portable track. I took my chances in Times Square because that seemed better than sneaking over to a location closer to our house after the kids were in bed last night.

For the most part, it was tourists. Once you got past them, with their jingle-jangle holiday sweaters, you got to the nitty gritty New Yorkers who just needed to get in and out. There were maybe five of us.

I got what I needed and stood in line. A loooong line, which snaked far back into the aisles, where it mysteriously doubled back on itself. Then a very nice lady whispered to me "If you go over the foot bridge into the candy section there's no line."

I told this information to the nice guy in front of me who seemed slightly overwhelmed before high tailing it to the candy section and breezing through the line in five short minutes.

I made it back to work and picked up the rest of the stuff I'd need for the long Christmas break, including my laptop and another bag of gifts I should have brought home weeks ago. I was a sight on the train with my giant sacks of toys and laptop. And purse. And totebag.

I boarded the train and a nice guy quickly got up and offered my his seat. I politely declined because I was only going one stop, and if you know anything about traveling the subways it's better to just stand when you're lugging too much stuff around.

As we approached 42nd Street, another man offered me his seat. "Please sit, miss," he said in what I think was an Indian accent. "No thank you, this is my stop," I said.

"I wish you a very merry Christmas, then," he said. And we exited the train at 42nd.

More than any other year, I've noticed more and more people being kind to one another this season, in this, a city which is known for rudeness and hustle and bustle. More than once that spirit of kindness has brought me back from the brink of Christmas madness.

I hope you are able to find some unexpected cheer this season. It's the best kind there is.

Thursday, December 20, 2007
This Is Not a Cry For Help
Consider it a public service message from me to you. Yes, you!

It's that time of year, when lips get chapped. Fortunately for me, I keep lip balm stashed EVERYWHERE.

Don't believe me? I have at least one stick in each coat/jacket, one on my desk, two on my nightstand at home, one in the cabinet in the bathroom for quick touch-ups when I don't want to go back to the bedroom, one in the car, three (or more) in my purse at all times. Backups are kept in my toiletry bag for traveling and in the diaper bag for the weekends.

But I don't think I have a problem because I can stop anytime I want.

OK, not really. I can't stop. I have a problem. I know I do because I took this quiz and I answered yes to many of the questions. But of all the things to have an addiction to, surely lip balm is waaaay down low on the list, yes? Far beneath heroin, gambling and overeating, right? Right. Right!

Anyway, I recognize this problem but I also embrace it because...well, I have to. I live in a cold climate and need the stuff like I need air to breathe from time to time.

A few weeks ago I received as a gift a gorgeous-and I mean GORGEOUS-Kiehl's gift set. I will risk arrest and say that I'm not really supposed to accept this kind of gift from a vendor but she was really nice and I really like Kiehl's stuff and I *might* have told one of my supervisors that they'd have to rip it from my cold dead hands if they wanted me to send it back. Anyway, in it is a tube of Kiehl's #1 lip balm.

This is one kind of balm I've not tried yet but I hear all sorts of good things about.

Today I received from a co-worker a small pot of shea butter from L'Occitane. This is like giving a gambling addict a voucher for an afternoon at the Taj.

And then, the kind lady at work who gave me the shea butter told me about a Canadian brand of lip balm called Labello which is supposed to be excellent, but unavailable in the United States. Which means I will be arranging for a mule to smuggle some stuff in for me finding a reputable Canadian source and ordering it online.

I am flush with lip balm, I just received two new lip balms and yet I seek more. Yes, I'm THAT addicted.

Please don't hate me. Or tell Lip Balm Anonymous. Or take my Carmex away. Or hold an intervention.

Monday, December 17, 2007
Greeting from the Island of Misfit Toys
Or as Harry calls it, the Island of Messed Up Toys.....

Method Man
Last night we were tucking the kids into bed and John went to turn out the light when Harry said "No! You forgot to turn on the night light!"

So I took over the ritual of putting the two-soon-to-be-three year old to bed. First. I turn on the baby monitor, then I turn on BOTH night lights, in a specific order. Next I turn off the lamp. Then I spray the monster spray, which is nothing more than a weak solution of lavender scented linen spray and water, but it keeps the monsters out and helps rest his overactive imagination from bad dreams. (The kids think I get it at the No More Monster big box store. Heh. Heh. Heh.) Then I say "when you can smell it, it's starting to work," but the solution is weak, so it takes awhile to kick in.

Then I have to sing the Baby Song, reassure Harry that all is OK with the baby that fell out of the tree, and repeat that the bough broke, not the cradle. THEN, and only then he can fall asleep.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Sick Day
I'm home today with Sophie who has caught the stomach bug from either her brother who had it on Monday or any of the three kids at school who threw up in class earlier this week. While it's never good to be sick the timing is better than, say, next week, as work will surely be crazy trying to wrap everything up for the year.

So while Sophie napped on the sofa for four hours, I slipped into germophobe mode and sprayed door knobs with lysol, opened the windows in the kids' bedroom to air it out with good, cold wintry air, washed laundry, at a big bowl of soup for lunch, knit, watched Christmas in Connecticut, had a cup of tea, read a book, went through the mail and watched the news. It's not often that I can be that productive.

I just sent some emails and finished up some work and now I'm off to cuddle with the patient. It's terrible when the kids are sick but their under-the-weather snugliness is awesome.

Monday, December 10, 2007
Our Weekend Adventures in Pictures
We started out at Girl Scouts, where Sophie introduced her Daisy troop and rededicated herself to the cookie cult. (The sale starts Friday.)

After dinner on Saturday, we headed out to Dyker Heights to see the over-the-top Christmas spectacle. It's become a tradition.

This is the house that has a Santa every year, in addition to a mammoth electric bill. They also have a snowman and Elmo dressed up collecting change from passing cars.

They also get grouchy when they leave their driveway gate open and your six year old walks in to see the white Christmas trees lining the drive.

This house has a far too many inflatable Christmas decorations. It's like a city of licensed characters.

Here's the red light district of the inflatable city. Simba does Scooby! (Not really, it just looks that way. At least to me.)

We demanded asked the kids to take a picture. They did so begrudgingly happily obliged. After all, Santa was in the neighborhood WATCHING THEM. (Sophie's facepaint is from a birthday party earlier in the day.)

Thursday, December 6, 2007
Their Cheating Hearts

As a recent victim of identity theft, I've enjoyed reading about these two assholes getting nailed to the wall for defrauding their neighbors. They also turned themselves in yesterday to face more charges.

And to the woman who stole my identity: see you in court!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Well, When You Think About It That Way...
Last night Sophie wanted me to sing to after putting her to bed so I sang "I Will." It was the first song I ever sang to her after she was born and she loves it. I love that its a Beatles song.

After seeing me sing to Sophie, Harry (namesake of George Harrison), asked for a lullaby, too. I sat by his crib and sang "Rockabye Baby" because "Happiness is a Warm Gun" just doesn't cut it as a lullaby, know what I mean?

I get through the song and Harry's eyes open wide. "WHAT? WHERE WAS THE BABY?? Sing it again."

I sing it again and when I get to the part about the baby in the treetop, he gives a cautious "yeeaah," as if to say "Go on, I have to find out why this child is in a tree."

So I continue. "When the wind blows...."

"Oh no!"

"The cradle will rock." Eyes as wide as saucers again.

"When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall..."

"What's going to happen to the BABY?!"

"Nothing! The baby is just fine...he comes down cradle and all."

"Oh, OK."

Monday, December 3, 2007
More Success
So this Culinary Expedition has totally worked. I noticed this weekend that the kids have been trying more dishes, some with success and some without. But that's OK, because the point was to get them to TRY new foods. Liking the new food was optional.

Last weekend Sophie ate a nice sized piece of lasagna. I've made her lasagna before but she never wanted a lot of cheese in it so it was a pretty sorry looking lasagna. Just three or four layers of pasta sheets with sauce and a mere hint of cheese. She ate the whole thing piece last weekend, which surprised me because it had a fair amount of ground beef in it and I thought that would automatically make it unpalatable to her. But she ate it and then asked for seconds. Harry refused to touch it. To be completely honest, I caved and made him a plate of leftover turkey and vegetables. I know the Expedition rules explicitly state that there would be no alternate supper made, but he was so cranky and I attributed it to hunger. Sue me.

This weekend I made penne vodka with pancetta. Once again, Sophie dove right in while Harry told me it was "disgusting." And then I caved and made him some pasta with butter and cheese, which he ate because that is what he eats at the sitter's house sometimes for lunch. I didn't even know this until he asked me to make the pasta the way the sitter makes it, "Wif budder!"

Last week, Sophie came home and told me that would like me to make pumpkin muffins for her. PUMPKIN! Not corn, not chocolate chip. PUMPKIN. "Where did you have pumpkin muffins?" I asked.

"At school. They were good! At first I didn't want it but then I tried it and it was really good. Can you make them?"

And so yesterday, without muffin liners, I made pumpkin mini loaves for my little pumpkin. I served it this morning with apple sauce for breakfast. I suspect they were different than the ones she had in school but I'm willing to tinker with the recipe or just accost the mom who made them for the class and ask for her recipe.

The other way I'm noticing success is in the amount of tears shed at the table. It used to be that the tears would just pour forth from their eyes at the mere mention of anything out of the ordinary. Lately they've been take the new dishes stride, taking a few bites, and loading up on vegetables if they don't really care for the rest of it. But not crying, which is great! Also not whining, which is great, too!