Saturday, December 31, 2005



Definition - to be required
Usual form in sentence - purposs to
Example - See, Mom, the tree is purposs to lean that way. Otherwise, all the ornaments will fall off this side too. (The all knowing five year old's outstretched hand is critical for getting the point across.)

Yet an other word to watch. For its passing will mark heart rendering maturity of my littlest one.

I'm not ready for that.

Friday, December 30, 2005

What are we thinking?

I had the wonderful pleasure to go to the theatre this week. It isn't a trek we make once a year or even once every two years. As a matter of fact we hadn't been to the city for such a purpose for eight years. But when I heard White Christmas was coming to town I suggested we make the trek, sans les enfants, (another fact of life that we don't experience too often).

As we waited to enter the theatre I couldn't help but admire the rich artwork that adorned the foyer. I love gilded and ivory Rubenesque art. Where the smiling women and child are healthy, and beautifully curved. Their bodies are full and warm, eyes round with contentment, lips pleasingly wishful. They are relaxed, reclining on clouds, or draped in silks. Just looking at them I couldn't help but relax myself as I anticipated seeing the play.

And then I started to think about what is beauty? Let's just for the sake of argument foolishly say that beauty is skin deep. (After all we all know this is not true.) If you look in the usual woman's magazines, or watch any of the usual tv shows, beauty is blatantly defined as something between needing to rent a shadow and dead. No matter where we turn we are bombarded by images of women that are unheathily thin. And this time of year, everyone is willing to show us and help us, for a fee, to lose weight so we too can be a fashion doll clone. We are told, in no uncertain terms, that if we have a two digit size, if there is a curve across our backside or thigh, we are not acceptable. And God forbid we have what I call a ripe midsection, a waist that is comfortably embraceable -- we're second class citizens.

Think about it. Visualize it. What if this plush theatre were decorated images of hipless and breastless wonders? Women and children gaunt and angular. Ribs showing, hips, collar bones and sternums straining against tight skin. Personally I would find it disturbing. And instead of enjoying the art around me, I would be wondering which charitable organization I could send money to, to help these poor unfortunate souls.

Think about it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Vacation Balancing Act

This little week in December, (previously known as Christmas week), when the kids and husband are home on vacation. I love the laid back scheduling, playing games, playdates, but not the laundry, vacuuming, cooking, and cleaning up.

In the past, unless we left the house, this week was never a vacation for me. After all I'm the Mom and since when do Moms get time off, even for good behavior? Never. There are still meals to be cooked, dishes to be washed, beds, vacuuming, and there is even more to pick up with the holidays. But this year I think I have found a solution.

I have scheduled in some vacation time for myself. Yesterday the girls wanted to do some cooking and painting with their Christmas bounty. This was after cooking pancakes, a morning playdate, food shopping, and lunch. I pushed them off. Telling them after I ate my lunch I was going to read. And after I finished my book, (I had 20 pages left), we could do some more cooking out of their new book. So they attempted to entertain themselves, and the interuptions to the written word were limited to reading the instructions to a paint by number set, at which point my husband took over the art project, and retying a shoe.

The frozen fruit dessert done, I picked up the next book on my list and started reading while the girls watched a Christmas movie and my husband folded the laundry. (Can you say, MERRY CHRISTMAS! I can!) Later in the day I promised the middle wonder that we would stain enough shingles to finish the roof on her dollhouse. At 3 p.m. that promised was fulfilled. Today we will glue them on and the exterior of the house will be done. This will be a great relief to me and to her. She got this kit Christmas of 1999.

So one day into the vacation, I don't feel like the maid, cook and bottle washer. I feel like the Mom, who has taken a very long shower, helped the kids cook pancakes and make a frozen fruit dessert, finished reading a book, unloaded the dishwasher, lit some candles and started another book, did some food shopping, and watched a great movie with my husband. I might not need a vacation after this week after all.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas is still about Jesus

Last night, in the span of 0ne hour, 38 spirit-filled children showed a standing room only audience the true meaning of Christmas. They sang their hearts out. They danced. They prayed. They showed us that when a door closes, God opens up a window. Like the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" I could watch their production of "Just Believe" every year until the year I die.

Rehearsals started the week before Thanksgiving. And in these 5 weeks the children learned more about their faith and the love of God than most people learn in a lifetime. Thank you, Mrs. W., their wonderful Director.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

My Name is Ptcakes....

and I am a mean mother.

It's true. I am mean to my own kids and I'm mean to everyone elses. At least that is what my kids say. For instance, tonight at pageant practice, I separated two angels that couldn't stop hitting eachother. I asked another if his mother let him jump all over the furniture the way he was doing it in the church hall. He said, "No." Then don't do it here, was my advice to him. I stopped two choir members from balancing on the back of folding chairs. I said, "A black eye or a broken wrist for the pageant... not a good idea."

I admit it. I have a problem watching kids doing dangerous behavior and just letting it go saying kids will be kids.

The Middle One - Saved Again

My middle daughter is my sensitive one. The one who cries when the world doesn't spin her way or if she perceives one of her sisters might be getting one second extra of my time. The one who won't let me kiss her good bye; dodging my every two lip attempt - even to the top of her head.

Making our relationship even more complex she questions my every move and utterance. I say, "Did you do your homework yet?" She whines, "I don't want to do it now." I say, "Please hang up your coat." She says, "I'm going out again (in 4 hours)." I say, "It's winter, get your hat and mittens." She says, "But I'm wearing my sweatshirt."

Get the picture...

Yesterday when I was picking the girls up from school, she was walking the usual 5 paces ahead of everyone else, so she could be first. As she went to cross the street she stepped right into the path of an on coming car. I SCREAMED, "NO STOP! DON'T CROSS! STOP A CAR!"

Did you hear me? I am sure half of the northeast did. But my daughter didn't. Well that's not true, she did hear me, but she kept on walking into the street all the while giving me that "I don't see a car" look. And the reason she didn't see the car was, as she was galking at me, the car was coming up behind her.

Thankfully the car stopped and she crossed somewhat safely. Seatbelted in the car, I couldn't talk. I didn't know how to control the fear and rage that was building. We ran the afternoon schedule and nothing was said until it was just she and I in the car on the way to pageant rehearsal. " Why didn't you stop when I told you to?" I asked. She murmured, "I don't know." I said nothing more. It is one of those moments a mother will never forget.

Usually in the winter I will drive the kids to school. Today when we stepped outside, the weather seemed warm enough to walk. No wind and the sun was out -- the perfect winter day. So that is what we did. Hand in hand we walked. Actually I walked, my middle one stomped on the ice and climbed over snow drifts all the while talking. Pouring our her deepest wishes and secrets. She wants a bell from Santa's sleigh for Christmas. "Mom," she asked "do you believe in Santa?"

"Oh yeah," I replied. "There is a Santa." But I didn't tell her I'd already gotten my present; a walk to school, hand in hand with my middle wonder. It was one of those moments a mother will never forget.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Land of the Noon Moon

I heard on the news that in one months time the sun will rise over Barrows, Alaska. To be specific the people in that fair city haven't seen the sun for a month and, unless they travel, won't experience its warmth on their shoulders for yet another 30 days.

Yesterday, as I did the late afternoon taxi thing to kids' activities, in the dark, I wondered what it would be like not to see the sun for weeks on end. To eat, sleep, go to school, shop, run the taxi, and to play in the dark. I wondered if the people walk around wearing reflective clothing so they can be seen like the evening joggers that pass my house? Do the kids play outside when the temperatures warm to a balmy 15 degrees above zero. (Can the temperature get that high without the benefit of the sun?) Today and for the next 10 days it looks like this would be a marked improvement over the predicted subzero temperatures. And I doubt mothers in Barrows have my problem of kids refusing to wear their winter coat because its not really cold out. I would think if you stepped outside, without several layers on, in Barrows you'd freeze into the human popicle I'm always screaming about.

In the summer (or is it really in the light) I am more apt to start a project after dinner. Now I tend to clean up the kitchen (sometimes) and then curl up with a book or a movie for the evening. And what I noticed over the past two years is, come February, after dinner, I'll get itchy to do something, (not the dishes), and work on a project that's been hanging over my head. If people in Barrows have this same mentality then nothing would get done in the winter. So instead of taking their activity cues from light they must be clock watchers. Where if the little hand is on 6 and the big hand is on 12 its time for dinner and not bed.

The article went on to say that some people experience the no light winter blahs and will lavishly decorate with Christmas lights to brighten up their space and their lives. Is that what we do here in the not so frozen northeast? Do we put up lights to claim back some of the ebbing sunlight. If Christmas were in June, (or if we lived in South America), would we go so wild over Christmas lights? Would we plan trips just to look at them?

Since I don't really like driving around after dark (can't really say at night now, can I) and I'm not crazy about cold weather, I don't think I'm a candidate for moving to Barrows, but I would love to visit in the dead of winter. I want to experience the lack of daylight, see if I can lose all track of time and schedule and eat lunch by the light of the noon moon.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

What's Important?

This week, at the neighborhood tres chic coffeehouse I picked up some disturbing news. A dear friend's husband has opted for his third overseas tour. This group event doesn't involve walks along the Seine or gondola rides on the Great Canal. It's of the military type. The other shattering news was in a nearby town a small boy died of cancer. Both events hit me hard. Still both events weren't unexpected. The decision to go or not go has been waffled on for months and that poor child had been sick for years. But still, as I said to a writing friend, the wind has left my holiday sails.

Since hearing this news, I've been plodding through life. Sure the girls got to school, parties, and playdates, and dinner was on the table, but life had lost its luster. Both events are centered on the lose of a loved one; either by choice or disease. How could I go through this season continuing to worry about whether the girls would LOVE every one of the 4 billion presents Santa was bringing, whether the Christmas Day dinner would be just so, or whether I would be able to stick to my diet? What's Important?

Yesterday I got my answer. The schedule was full as usual: volunteering at the school, setting up for the community craft fair, finishing a scouting project and babysitting. The girls up, and fed we headed out the door and the process of finishing the list commenced.

Volunterring Done (check)

Helped With Set Up (check)

Then the strangest thing happened. As I was heading home to babysit and collaborate on the project I got a migraine. Thankfully they are not painful, but I get that aura where I can't see clearly and I'm exhausted afterwards. And thankfully again it wasn't full blown until I was safely parked in the driveway.

As we walk into the kitchen we were greeted by the holiday red light of the answering machine. We didn't need to babysit, which was fine. Then the phone rings and there is a change of plan. We won't be finishing the scouting project; fine too. Our afternoon had melted away; my little one and I ate lunch.

The best thing for this type of headache is to relax. So I suggest to my little one that we have a snuggle on the couch. She gathers her favorite blankies and we get cozy. First she is sitting on my lap, all tucked in and safe. Then we are laying side-by-side. She is wrapped up tightly in my arms. We're blanketed in our shared warmth when I remember the little boy and the children my friend's husband is leaving behind and I start to cry.

What's Important? Warm cozy afternoons on the couch, preschoolers washing dishes, school-age children telling you about their day and listening to them, walking with a child's hand in yours, hugging, doing puzzles, reading together, snuggling in bed an extra ten minutes, hearing your child say, "I love you," and knowing it's true, and loving them back.

So, with a renewed effort I will unfurl the holiday sails. And I will remember to love my children and even those that aren't mine, for all those people that can't.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Death By Chocolate

Help! Save Me! I'm expanding hip deep in chocolate!

Normally, I wouldn't put out such a plea. Normally, I squirrel away my stash of the good stuff and eat it when I don't have to feel guilty about not sharing. But Christmas is not a normal time in our household and when the air turns frosty, like a compass pointing north, every fiber of my being becomes focused on making candies. Specifically, truffles, toffee and fudge of every and any flavor. Well not every flavor, but before it's time for the school bus in the morning I can whip up a mean batch of kahlua, ginger, jalopeno, or chocolate cherry fudge and still get the girls out on time.

Last year I swore I wouldn't go down this rocky road, that I'd save myself the hassle of trying to lose this holiday 20, as well as last's. But as Christmas drew closer I found myself, without thinking, writing on the shopping list: sweet and condensed milk, heavy cream, butter and more butter. (I buy all my chocolates from Mountain Man.)

So, with the ingredients in house, I was determined to be strong. Make the candies, not eat them and give them all away.

For the batch of Kahlua fudge I did just that. Made it, cut it up and put it in the freezer. Okay, I admit I sampled a few crumbs. But I had to. How else would I be able to answer the question, "Is it good this year?" I had to do some research, at least that is what I told myself.

Next was the toffee. I managed to make one batch, that safely saw the inside of the refrigerator. I didn't taste any. Instead I had my three official toffee piglets handle the horrible task. After three pieces each, they deemed it adequate, as they reached for more. I rescued the rest for Christmas giving. And last week I made a double batch. From this I have been pinching the small pieces. Afterall, who wants a piece of toffee less than three square inches? With a clear conscience I'm making this sacrafice.

Finally the truffles; and as my obit will read, "She died with the sweet scent of chocolate on her breath." Really I tried. I ate one when I made them, just to make sure I had added the right amount of Port, (it's perfect). And then I was fine. I could tune out their gentle calling from the back of the refrigerator. I wasn't tempted at all until today.

Today, I took them out to put together a "Thank You" gift for the designer who had drawn up the plans for our new kitchen. He was coming over to see the final (sans paint -- because I am the painter and I've too busy making candies) product and of course get paid.

He asked if I had been enjoying the new stove and in turn I asked him if he wanted a truffle. As he let the confection melt in his mouth I thought I saw his knees buckle a bit as his eyes rolled back into his head. I asked if he wanted some to take along to his family and he said sure.

Still, when he left I wondered if he was just being polite. Or maybe my truffle defenses were down, but I knew I had to try them to make sure they were okay. The first one, bathed my taste buds with wonderful chocolate. But was it too sweet? I'd have to try another. As the second one melted I knew that the sweetness was fine, but was the powdered cocoa too thick? The third gave me my answer, No, but I wondered if maybe something a little stronger than Port was required. The fourth one sent me into a coma. And as I slipped away I couldn't image a better way to go.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Who Decorates Your Tree?

Every year, relatives and friends decorate our Christmas tree. And gratefully, every year, this number grows. See, every ornament that gets hung on our tree has a story, a past and hopefully unbroken future. Yesterday was our day for visiting.

At the very top of the tree is my grandparent's star shining above the remaining 6 thin glass ornaments they gave us. The paint chipped balls are so old I imagine they've been in our family for almost forever. My absolute favorite ornament is Nana's bell-shaped little girl in a red dress. Her little legs are the clapper. She's a twin, and when Nana died she came to me and her sister hangs on my Aunt's tree. Near the little girl are the two clip on birds that remind me of the childhood bottle brush tree that my father still insists they set up every year. I remember the first Christmas we had that fake tree. It was the first time I'd ever seen a tree in a box. It seemed fuller back then. But those huge gaps between the branches make decorating easier these days.

A set of little glass Santas remind me of Christmas in Florida with my in-laws. Memere and I were out on one of our shopping marathons when I saw them on sale. Still my favorite ornament from her is the petite point beaded brown bear she made. It is always given a place of honor. Hanging front and center; the Santas always seem to circle it. She died 3 years ago, but she is still with us.

There are the gold era ornaments. Shells my grandfather painted gold while they wintered in Florida. Even my littlest one knows that these get hung of a good strong branch because they are so heavy. I love to hear the kids say "this is a grandpa ornament." He passed away 6 years ago, 4 months before the youngest was even born. But through his ornaments she gets to visit with him every year.

We have photographs of cousins in snowmen and snow flake frames. The girls laugh at how young they look, and I show them their baby picture ornaments and remind them that they are growing up and older too.

We have ceramic ornaments from my old college friend Peggy D. Peggy had lupus and died almost 2o years ago. But each Christmas I am reminded of those porch swing sessions and the pizzas we shared. She loved life and lived each day better than anyone I know. When I hang her ornaments on the tree I get a lesson on the important things in life.

Our tree is graced by ornaments from Arkansas, Texas, Vermont, New Jersey, Colorado and Ireland. Decorations like the Texas boot with the words "Merry Christmas Y'all" painted by Aunt Marion, the hummingbird sent by Aunt Louise, the gold tone bells from Aunt Judy, the wooden bells from Aunt Beth, china pig from Aunt Karen, Aunt Jeanne's painted eggs, inspired by the first story I ever tried to get published, Aunt Steph's Christmas spiders, and the Irish farm house from my folks' travels.

We've picked up decorations on our own too. The "Collectible CVS" ornaments, the skiing moose I bought during my younger skiing hay day, the clarinet, which yesterday served as a reminder for a practice session, the step dancers, the skates, and the karate kid to list a few. Our glass vegetable ornaments are always a big hit. Now old enough to hang some of the more fragile ones my oldest takes great joy in putting these on the tree. It's a rite of passage.

This year I let the little ones hang the glass icicles. With each one I handed out they'd ask, "Mom, isn't this your favorite?" I'd just smile and tell them they're growing up and can handle them. And they did.

Each Christmas the girls get a new Barbie ornament from Santa. This year the Barbie section fills 6 branches. I would love to ask Santa to stop, but they love to look in their stocking and see what Santa brought. When they have homes of their own, their ornaments will hang on their own trees. I hope they will linger over each ornament as they do now.

I am so glad that nestled among all the shopping, card writing, wrapping, and running around that there is a special quiet time to visit with relatives and friends.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Snow Causes Brain Freeze

I suspect that when the Powers That Be stepped outside to determine if they should cancel school in our town they experienced PROFOUND BRAIN FREEZE and upon returning to their warm cozy homes forgot to make the call. How could they not cancel? What criteria went into their decision? Safety? Road passability? Possible bus accidents? Can walkers truly walk with all this wind and snow? (Will an added day at the end of the year effect my golf schedule?)

Everything, absolutely every other activity on the docket for today was cancelled today EXCEPT for school.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Scheduling Ebb and Flow

I am always amazed by the fullness of our calendar. I am even more amazed at the ebb and flow of said schedule.

Last September I was asked to help volunteer at the local family center's holiday craft fair. I looked at the calendar and said, "Sure." There was nothing on that date. I should've whispered my answer because I truly believe the schedule demons get a hold of a date and then somehow effect the space time continuum (there is that word again) so that every other event in our lives is suddenly scheduled on that day. For on that once empty little square we now have penned in the usual weekly volunteering gig at the local elementary school, the carpooling that has to be fit in between the fair set up, the fair itself, a Brownie meeting (which includes a cookie sales presentation by moi), a Drs appt (right before the Brownie meeting), and visiting inlaws. For two days now I have been mentally mapping out the big day. I even called the Drs office to get a sense of whether it was realistic for me to think I would get to the brownie meeting at my appointed presentation time.

THEN POOF! There is a winter storm barrelling our way. We've been warned that a white blanket of 6 to 10 inches is heading our way. The Weather Channel said there will be early releases in Boston. In my recollection, our town doesn't do impromptu early release so I wonder if the kids will even have school, hence no volunteering; no carpool juggling. And if there is school, there might not be brownies. No brownies, no cookie talk. If it snows, there is no holiday craft fair. If it snows a lot there won't be any visiting in laws. (We truly want them to come. We like them.) Of course, the Drs. office will probably be open, but if road conditions are iffy; I probably won't want to drive. I wouldn't want anything to happen to my new fuel pump. And, if the storm is really bad will our bread winner opt to work from home? (This is a goodthing.)

It just goes to show you, until the day is over, you really don't know what is going to happen.

The most important scheduling detail is that we are all home safe and sound at the end of the day.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

All I Want for Christmas

Joy of joys... Santa is bringing me a fuel pump.

Don't you love it when reality strikes right in the middle of the
holiday season. Nothing like a big repair bill to reign in the spending.

Clean or Dirty?

I am stuck at home today. Or at least I am without a vehicle since mine is in the shop for fuel issues. (But let me get back to the topic at hand.)

Being home I decided to clean a bit. Not too much; I didn't want to upset the universal dust continuum, but getting out the vacuum and a 3 inch stack of swiffers seemed like a good way to start the process.

I tackled the oldest's room first. I even dusted all those wonderful little nick nacks she collects. Still I doubt she or anyone else will notice.

Next was the little ones' room. On the initial inspection all it needed was a bit of dusting and a good vacuuming. As I pushed my trusty Oreck about I noticed a pair of socks peaking out from under the dresser. Being in a thorough mood I bent over to pick them up. As I pulled them out from their resting spot a pair of cinderella panties emerged as well. And when I looked closer I saw the tip of a shirt sleeve poking out.

Now on all fours I gave the underside of the dresser a good look. I found ALL the clean clothes I had given my youngest gem to put a way for the past week or more. I counted 13 little panties, 4 pair or tights, hundreds of socks, 7 shirts, and 8 pair of pants. Two of which I hadn't seen in at least a month.

So the dilemma -- the clothes are all stacked waiting for my lovely to put away. But are they clean or dirty??? Does she get her wish of not having to put them away, and I get to do YET another load of laundry? Or does she put them away and wear them anyway?

These kids are always coming up with interesting ways to keep me off my ever expanding behind.

Friday, December 02, 2005

A Delicious Fruit Cake

rum soaked dried fruit
very little flour
cinnamon, cloves, all spice
baked for an hour