Very traditional Christmas around these parts. There were Christmas cookies,
and these were some of the fanciest decorated Christmas cookies you’ve ever seen. It was actually fun to do all of the detailed, pinpoint frosting, and everybody’s turned out really nice. Evie actually had some of the best looking ones.
Of course we saw Santa (I knew when he was going to be downtown, thanks to jury duty). Evie asked for Barbies and a Barbie house, and Oliver asked for cake, candy, and mustard.
Evie reprised her role as an angel in the Christmas eve service
and let me tell you, she totally nailed it. No one has ever delivered a line with such force and determination. When her cue came, she was up, out, and ready to go while the other angels were still looking around for their halos. Behold the dedication, and marvel in the perfect form of her arms:
Christmas morning went well, and everybody got everything their heart desired. Santa gave Ollie a bunch of kitchen utensils to help with the cooking, and he put them to good use on his “O for Ollie!” cake.
But I know what you’re thinking; did he get his mustard??
I recommend listening to the audio, but if you prefer, here it is in text format:
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the edifice
Not a creature was stirring, neither mouse nor St. Nicolas
The stockings were hung by the aperture gaping
Where smoke, in it’s wisdom, had ‘ere been escaping
Downstairs my uncle was strapped down in bed
While visions of ichor danced round in his head
His nightmares of late had been growing much stronger
And sense dared not trespass his mind any longer
Once a learned professor at Brown University
My great-uncle had often, in secret, conversed with me
In his study at night, over manuscripts moldering
With a pipe at his lips, always lambent and smoldering
All that research of his, into cults esoteric
Strange symbols and glyphs and arcane numerics
Of that Dutch survey crew and their frenzied report
Of a vast arctic city filled with sunken faced dwarves
And that journal recovered from one ‘Ensign Lamar’
Which references “He that rides beasts through the stars”
Gloaming and heaving with corpulent dread
Bloated, batrachian and covered in red
And then there’s the relic in my uncle’s display:
A 4-sided top carved of wood, or some clay
With symbols engraved into each of its sides
That surely must tell of coming end times
I was pondering this manifold doom that would smite us
When out from my window shone a miasmal brightness
How the pale gibbous moon shown down on his back
Which bulged with the throngs of some hideous sack
With some alien ululations in a primordial tongue
He froze me in place, and unable to run
I was forced to bear witness to things vile and foul
So unspeakably horrid I can scarce speak them now
He summoned his steeds by their blasphemous names
And with his gangrenous grasp he pulled down on their reigns
Then suddenly upwards that noxious horde flew
That red bellied nightmare rising up from my view
Cacodemoniacal laughter I heard from my roof
And the lumbering clomps of thick octopoid hooves
Then repugnant and hoary, his stench filled the air
While he writhed down my chimney as I watched from the stairs
He spoke not a sound as then off from his back
He heaved up that thick throbbing cyst of a sack
And from it a stench came so charnel and dense
That I nearly passed out when he drew from it thence:
An Amazon Kindle, and a few pairs of nice socks
A sweater, a tie, and Call of Duty: Black Ops
Law and Order Season V on Blueray DVD
And an espresso machine,…hope he kept the receipt
Then all at once swung round this tenebrous being
And with dark ancient eyes of unfathomable seeing
Their biliferous blackness spanning eons extinct
Revealing my own maddening fate, with a wink
Then into that monolith of chimney he lurched
With the gelatinous frenzy of invertebrate birth
Ripping free to the roof he launched into the night
With a vow to return when the stars are just right
Evie: “I bet poor people who don’t have any houses try to be naughty all year so Santa will bring them coal for a fire.”
::watching a freight train go by::
Evie: “I bet all of this coal is on it’s way to Santa for all the naughty girls and boys.”
Me: “I’m wearing these pants because I’m saving my good jeans for court.” <– Something tells me I wasn’t the first person to speak these words
Me: “Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve. Do you know what happens on Christmas Eve?”
Ollie: “Hating the Whos?”
::Me, jumping out from under a bridge::
Me: “Who’s that clip-clopping on my bridge?”
Me: “Now I’m going to eat you all up!”
Ollie: “No way, José!”
I do hearby officially declare that I am releasing you from your Christmas buying obligations when it comes to me.
When I was a kid, Christmas was all about presents. Who had the most presents, who had the biggest presents, presents for the sake of presents. I’m not a kid anymore. If you ask me what I want, I might be able to come up with a thing or two, but honestly? What’s the point?
When it comes to gifts, there are three scenarios:
- In the best case scenario, we both buy each other absolutely amazing gifts that we love and adore forever but never would have thought of ourselves. Amazing. We’re awesome. This practically never happens, maybe once every couple of years at the absolute most.
- In a more typical scenario, we both buy each other gifts that we asked for very explicitly (like, we sent the hyperlink to the Amazon page and specified a size and a color), or gift certificates. These are offsetting gifts. We both could have purchased our own gifts, been out about the same amount of money, and saved a little hassle. We might as well wrap it up for ourselves too, since it’s not like you were going to surprise me with the gift that I forced you to buy in the first place. The only people who benefit in this case are probably multi-conglomerate corporations who take our cash and use it to pillage natural resources from Santa’s North Pole home.
- In the worst case scenario, one or both of us buys the other something they don’t want. In this case, the gift is a complete waste and the money would have been better spent burning on the hearth as a yule log. Waste of time and hassle, waste of money, and now it’s all awkward between us. Merry Christmas.
Scenario 1 is when the stars align. When you’re in scenario 1 mode, you absolutely know it. However, it’s not very realistic to expect the stars to align all that often. 99% of the time we live in scenario 2. Scenario 3 is what happens when you are forced to buy a gift for someone but you don’t want to fall into scenario 2, so you try to force scenario 1, but deep down you kind of know it’s probably not scenario 1 and you really would have been better off going with scenario 2 anyway.
I do not want to contribute to rampant consumerism. I do not want to contribute to the stress of people trying to rush around and buy presents for everybody. At this point in my life, I really don’t get all that much enjoyment from unwrapping presents anyway. Certainly not enough enjoyment to offset all the bad things that come along with it (the stress, the exploitation of peoples and the destruction of the Earth, the frozen smiles on our faces when we both swing and miss with our presents and realize we’re in scenario 3 territory).
I should mention that homemade gifts are somewhat of an exception, since they do not (usually) contribute to consumerism. In that case, what you primarily spent was time, not money, so that’s a little different. And anyway, those gifts probable already fell into scenario 1 in any case.
I cannot stop buying presents for people who I feel obligated to buy presents for, but I can at least release you from your obligation to buy for me. So please, only buy me something if you have something really, really good (we’re talking scenario 1 here). I’d rather have a great present every 5 years without all the mediocre-to-bad presents in between clouding the memories of the good ones.
Your Christmas present to me can be not participating in commercialism-for-commercialism’s-sake on my behalf. I thank you in advance.
And not just any Bûche de Noël, but one with Nutella mousse filling, chocolate ganache frosting, and meringue mushrooms!
Bûche de Noël is a traditional French Christmas desert, also known as a “Yule Log”. It’s part of the tradition that it is supposed to look like an actual log, one that you might throw in the hearth to warm your toes on Christmas morning.
Barb made one for me last Christmas as the grand finale to my fabulous dessert-of-the-month present, and it was absolutely amazing. So she agreed to make one for us again this Christmas. It is so rich and chocolatey, it will blow your socks off. If you remember, this was the dessert that had Evie fighting a massive chocolate coma as hard as she could, just to eat one. more. delicious. bite.
The cake part is pretty much the same as making a pumpkin or jelly roll: bake the cake, roll it in a towel to cool it, un-roll and put the filling on like frosting, then re-roll it.
Although the cake part is the amazing part, I don’t think the mushrooms can be beaten for visual awesomeness. It really puts the whole thing over from “good dessert” to “masterpiece”.
Pipe out the caps and stems and let them dry.
Attach the stems to the caps with a little melted chocolate so it looks like that dark underside of a mushroom.
Dust on a little cocoa for the final effect! Again, remember that the tradition is to make it look like a real log. What could be more appropriate than a couple of mushrooms growing up on the side?
Oooooh, to die for! It’s a lot of work, but well worth it (especially when someone else makes it!) You technically could skip the meringue mushrooms, but who would do that?? They’re probably my favorite part. They look so awesome and realistic, and they don’t taste half bad either (although it’s hardly fair to compare them to chocolate-chocolate-chocolate cake!).
There are four major parts to the recipe: the cake, the filling, the frosting and the meringue mushrooms. The ingredients are listed each in their own sub-section.
(From Betty Crocker Cookbook, circa 1973)
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1/4 cup cocoa
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- powdered sugar for dusting
- Heat oven to 375⁰.
- Line jelly roll pan (15 1/2 x 10 1/2×1) with foil or waxed paper; grease.
- Stir together cake flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
- In small mixer bowl beat eggs about 5 min., until very thick and lemon colored.
- Pour eggs into larger bowl, gradually beat in sugar.
- On low, blend in water and vanilla.
- Gradually add dry ingredients, beat just until smooth.
- Pour into prepared pan, bake 12-15 min.
- Loosen edges; invert on towel dusted with powdered sugar. Remove foil, roll cake and towel. Cool.
(combination of some Internet recipes)
- 1/2 cup Nutella
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Microwave Nutella just to soften, not warm.
- Beat heavy cream until peaks form, beat in Nutella.
- Unroll cake, spread mousse, reroll. Place seam side down, chill.
(combination of several recipes)
- 6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Place chocolate in bowl.
- Heat cream just to scald, pour over chocolate.
- Let stand for 5 min.
- Stir until smooth. Refrigerate until cold but not solid, stirring occasionally.
- Whip until consistency of soft butter.
- Spread on chilled cake.
(don’t remember, but not Martha Stewart)
- 1 egg white
- 1/4 cup superfine sugar
- 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1/8 tsp. vanilla
- 1/4 cup dark chocolate
- cocoa powder to dust
- Bring the egg white to room temperature.
- Beat until soft peaks begin to form.
- Slowly add sugar and cream of tartar.
- Whip until stiff peaks form and sugar is dissolved.
- Add vanilla, beat briefly to mix.
- With round nozzle on pastry/icing bag, pipe stems, standing straight up, and caps, round blobs, on parchment paper lined baking sheet.
- Bake in oven at 250⁰ until dry, about 1 hr.
- Melt chocolate.
- Spread chocolate on bottom of cap, stick top of stem in center of chocolate, leave upside down to dry.
- Before arranging on or around cake, dust with cocoa powder.
You just never know with Christmas presents.
It is kind of a long story about how it came to be that my brother gave Evie a watch for Christmas, but suffice it to say that it was thrown in at the last minute just so that she would have something to put in her purse. The watch is huge. I very much doubt that it would fit around my wrist; it could probably fit around her waist. The face of the watch itself is the size of my fist. It’s probably twice the size of the face of my (adult) watch. It weighs about 5 pounds, and she can probably use it to work on her biceps.
So imagine everyone’s surprise when she saw it and acted like she just unwrapped the Hope diamond.
Oh man, she couldn’t have been more excited. “It’s a watch! A real watch!” She was running around showing it proudly to everyone. “If you need to know what time it is, just ask me!” It hasn’t been forgotten since Christmas either. Every night she takes it off and puts it in the bowl next to my bed where I put my watch, and every morning she gets it out and puts it back on.
She can’t tell time. The numbers are all Roman Numerals, so she probably couldn’t read it even if she could read a clock. The watch falls off if she hangs her arm down straight. The watch itself would be huge on an adult male, much less on a little girl (there’s a reason why Uncle Nathan decided to get rid of it). She couldn’t love it any more. It’s the best Christmas present she got (tied for the best with the paper dolls).
The thing is, if we knew she would like a watch so much, we could have gotten her one that was intended for a kid. Small, light, digital, perhaps with a couple of butterflies on the sides. But you never really know what’s going to be a hit, what is going to capture a kid’s imagination, and what is going to be a complete and utter failure.
A little explanation for you non-family types: in my family, it is customary to write poems for Christmas. Typically we had a name exchange, and you tried to write a poem about the person whose name you drew (especially if you had some good dirt or friendly ribbing for the person in question). Not everybody wrote a poem every year, but this year we didn’t have a name exchange, so I was worried people might be without the proper motivation to write poems. Therefore, I wrote this poem:
Remember the Poems by Shane Halbach
This year we won’t participate in a family name exchange,
And so this year’s Christmas party is feeling kind of strange.
Personally, I can do without my annual gift card,
And coming up with stuff to ask for does get kind of hard.
And the name you drew is always one who didn’t write a list (Rachael),
Or asks for something you can’t find, and maybe doesn’t exist.
No, the name exchange I can live without, but there is one other thing,
Usually about this time, the poem exchange is really in full swing.
The poems, the poems, what about the poems? We can’t forget about them!
A tradition like no other family, and proud of it I am.
The poems together tell a tale and document the year,
And without the family name exchange, we risk losing that I fear.
What if nobody thought to write down all of this insanity?
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? Not in this family.
I’d hate to think that we’d forget to talk about the time,
That Laurie was watching Oliver, and he fell off the slide.
Or when Josh said he was engaged? It turns out he was hacked.
And who sent Rachael formula, just to see how she’d react?
Remember at the reunion when Steve and Char and Jay,
Had their tents destroyed by storms and almost blew away?
Are you sleeping Brother John, Grandma’s 85th,
Bernie’s tire falling off isn’t just a myth.
We need these poems or else there’s just too many things we’d miss.
Though some of you might be feeling now that ignorance is bliss.
It’s good to have a time of year when you can hear a poem,
And find out what we say about you when you’re not at home.
You might not know that Mike Debroux spent hours just to see,
If he could prove that Lady Gaga really was a she,
No, it’s up to us to spread the word, in case it isn’t known,
That when it comes to butter, Len prefers to bring his own.
Or take Cecilia, one might think she doth protest too much,
Since after holding protest signs, her arm’s too sore to touch.
Roger got a new job, but he must not work enough,
He’s trying to take his work home with him, but Grandma’s hygiene’s up to snuff.
And mom makes Ron use napkins more than 30 years old,
And I think that this decision was really rather bold,
Since they’re from when she married dad (it said so in the heading)
Of course Steve might not know she’s remarried, since he missed her wedding.
There’s Colleen’s lost luggage getting left out in the rain,
And cleaning Grandma’s coffee mugs leads to great financial gain.
Emily’s love of new recipes is known to Facebook viewers,
And Scott prefers his Cardinals over rooting for the Brewers.
But have you heard the one about Judy mowing in high heels?
Or Nancy almost running over Ryan’s runaway wheels?
The city of Janesville might be interested to hear what trees were chopped,
Since Lois isn’t even sure she owns the trees she dropped!
I can tell you Pat sneaks vegetables hidden into dessert,
But I need to hear a poem for Kris, I couldn’t find any dirt!
And Cecilia and Arleen aren’t even here, their virtue to defend!
Surely, someone could have written a poem ‘bout both of them!
There’s so much more that could be said, and anyone could say it,
Even without a name exchange, a poem we’d all okay it.
Between us there’s enough abuse to fill up tomes and tomes.
So please people, I ask you now: remember the poems!
Last year, Evie participated in a (semi) amateur Christmas play at the family Christmas party. This year she was very excited to be in a “real” Christmas play. She was hoping to be an angel, and she got her wish!
The angels had a relatively small role with one line to speak, but Evie practiced and practiced her part. She did very well, and had a great time! She already has plans on what parts she wants to play next year.
Christmas here was very nice, and relatively relaxing. Santa left me a replacement wedding ring, and gave Evie a present or two, including the only thing she asked him for: a long sleeve dress (easy enough!). He also gave Ollie a new water bottle that he is very excited about (he doesn’t have to share with his sister anymore). I think Evie’s favorite present is a set of paper dolls from Florence. I never in a million years would have guessed how much she likes them. She’s pretty much talks about them non-stop and wants to show them to everybody.
Santa left a few other gifts including a set of “tiffin” stacking lunch pails that were pretty exciting:
The best part of Christmas is that it just keeps going! After the main event, we still have a week long celebration of vacation, food, and more presents. We’ve already stayed up late a couple of nights snacking and playing board games. Sara and I are particularly looking forward to the new microwave shelf for the kitchen.
Evie: “After mose and geez, it’s always us.”
Evie: “Moses, Jesus…”
Me: “We have to go to [a local church], because someone very special is going to be in the Christmas play.”
We’ve been listening to a lot of Christmas music on the radio lately. I’m not sure Evie entirely understands how the radio works.
Sara: “Uh oh, we left your radio on all night!”
Evie: “Well, not all night.”
Sara: “Yeah, all night.”
Evie: “But, didn’t they go home for the night?”
Evie: “Don’t the people at the radio station get tired when they’re singing all those songs?”
Me: “No, they record it once and play it many times.”
Evie: “Yeah, but don’t their throats get sore? From all the singing?”
In which we try to answer the age old question: does Santa’s neck mach his suit?
After purchasing our land, we apparently weren’t quite ready to return to the Big City, so we decided to stop and see Santa. At the Bass Pro Shop.
Now, you might be thinking that the Bass Pro Shop is a strange place to go see Santa. However, there were a few major advantages:
- Conveniently located off the highway (important when we usually have to go pretty far out of our way, a.k.a. the suburbs, to see him)
- Much smaller lines than we have experienced at various malls
- They give you a free picture (because they’re trying to draw you into their shop, making money on you in other ways than directly on Santa)
- Commercial Santas are WAY better than crazy-Frank dressing up in his homemade Santa suit (in other words, a big upgrade from what we saw last year)
- They had some awesome decorations
The combination of #4 and #5 really improves the quality of the pictures. Santa was very authentic. And even though you can’t see the animatronic elves in the picture, I never had an actual reindeer in the background before (you really can’t tell it is stuffed in the picture!).
The downside was that there were no less than three different types of shooting games for the kids to play while they were waiting for Santa. If you’re a hunter, I’m sure you’re bristling at me indicating that this is a problem. Let me remind you that shooting guns means something a little different in our neighborhood, and I’m not really ready to have that conversation with my 4 year old.
I definitely felt like we stood out like a family of sore thumbs there.
Sara: “Are these people in costume?”
Sara: “Do you think they wear this stuff every day, or did they put it on to come here?”
Methinks it was time for the City Mice to go back where they came from.
I would definitely go back there next year. Quick, hassle free, and the whole place is sort of amazing, even when you take Santa out of it. There’s a two story waterfall! Mounted wolves attacking a mounted moose! Camouflage pick-up trucks fake ramping off of fake rocks! Several tanks of live, large fish swimming around! I’m not sure that the kids found Santa to be more interesting than the rest of the place. I certainly didn’t.
Last year for Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me the gift of a dessert every month. Unfortunately, the year has finally come to a close, so here are the rest of the desserts. You can see the first six months here.
July - Peaches with Honey Chevreau cheese
August – Peach crisp
September – New Orleans Praline Brownies
October - Aunt Helen’s Apple Pie Cake with homemade whipped cream
November – Pumpkin Marble Cheesecake (with gingersnap crust)
December - Bûche de Noël with Nutella mouse filling, chocolate ganache frosting and meringue mushrooms
Has it really been a year already? Thanks again Barb, they were all delicious. I’m very disappointed that I have no more deserts to look forward to. However, Evie immediately volunteered herself and her mommy to start making the desserts instead! So maybe they don’t have to stop!
We went to church on Christmas Eve, and Evie was really excited. However, we’re still struggling to find a Christmas service that both starts at a reasonable time, and is around an hour or so long. They tend to draaaaag. I understand, you want to get your big choir in, and read all the best readings, and have a Christmas play, etc., but it is very, very stressful to try to keep Evie entertained and quiet while all of this is going on. Especially when you factor in that you have to get there 30 minutes early if you want a seat.
There were still some good moments though, like Evie playing peekaboo with the president of the Cook County board, who sat right behind us. The big thing for Evie was singing Christmas music. Of course, she likes the more commercialized songs and the church ones tend toward the religious. She asked me if we were going to sing Deck the Halls and I was like, “I don’t think so honey.” She likes Hark the Herald Angel Sings, so I thought we might have a better chance with that. However, when we looked in the program, sure enough, Deck the Halls was on there! Who would have thought?
Of course, once we opened the door to Deck the Halls, as far as Evie was concerned, everything was fair game:
Evie: “Are we going to sing Santa Baby?”
Of course, Deck the Halls was at the end of the service and Evie didn’t quite make it. It was a big relief to me when she fell asleep, since I didn’t have to threaten her anymore, but I knew she would be disappointed that she missed it. The first question she asked when she woke up was, “Was it beautiful?” Then she made us all sing it when we got home in reenactment.
As far as the presents go, there were so many under the tree that the meager additions from Santa sort of went unnoticed. The presents I was most excited about were the balance bike, the sizable donations to college funds, the “my first bacon” from Uncle Nathan, and the beautiful, amazing doll house that Sara and Anna had when they were little (which Evie adores).
The bacon, in particular, has caused quite a stir. I can’t tell you how many times someone has said, “I’m bacon!” in the past few days. It was a present for Oliver, but Evie is the one who keeps playing with it.
Evie: “Mommy, shh! Bacon is sleeping!”
However, there were two presents that really take the cake.
Well, the first wasn’t technically even a present. For months now, Evie has insisted that the only thing she wanted for Christmas was a new bed upstairs where everyone else sleeps. Her bedroom is downstairs, by itself, and she’s terrified. It makes me feel pretty bad. So naturally she wants to sleep upstairs where everybody else is, and who could blame her? So, since Santa gave her a bed last year, she figured he’d be good for another one this year.
So my mom had a trundle bed she was willing to give up, so we got that to put into Oliver’s bedroom upstairs. We tried to make it very clear that it was not a Christmas present. It’s Oliver’s big boy bed in Oliver’s room, that he doesn’t mind sharing with her while he’s not using it. Her bed, and bedroom, remain downstairs.
For my part, the grand prize was my new accordion. I have really been wanting to learn how to play the accordion for some time now. I don’t know the first thing about it, but you know what they say: the first step is buying the accordion!
Something tells me you might hear a thing or two about the accordion on the blog in the future…
Evie, opening her stocking: “It’s candy! From Trader Joe’s!”
Sara: “Wow, Santa shops at Trader Joe’s too??”
You know, it’s one thing to recognize the Target logo, but the Trader Joe’s logo? (Though I admit, they have a distinctive font.)
Evie, playing with a bike bell: “I think I used up all the batteries.”
Evie, unwrapping a shirt that says, “My Aunt Rocks”: “But I don’t have an Aunt Rock!”
Evie, riding her new balance bike down the hall: “Daddy, help! Oliver’s chasing me and I can’t get away!”
I’ll give her this, he is crawling a lot faster these days. And the only one who seems to like that bike more than Evie, is Oliver. So he is able to crawl about as fast as she can go on there.
Grandma S: “I see you gave Oliver your old barn.”
Evie: “It was my parents’ decision.”
by Neil Gaiman
I recommend the video, but just in case, the words are reprinted below:
older than sin, and his beard could grow no whiter. He wanted to die.
The dwarfish natives of the Arctic caverns did not speak his language, but conversed in their own, twittering tongue, conducted incomprehensible rituals, when they were not actually working in the factories.
Once every year they forced him, sobbing and protesting, into Endless Night. During the journey he would stand near every child in the world, leave one of the dwarves’ invisible gifts by its bedside. The children slept, frozen into time.
He envied Prometheus and Loki, Sisyphus and Judas. His punishment was harsher.
It’s almost Christmas. Do you have all your shopping done? Not to worry.
The key to lying about buying someone a Christmas present is to really sell it. You can’t get away with “It’s in the mail” anymore. You need documentation.
Enter Selling the Lie.
For the low price of $5, they will create fake documentation to “prove” that you ordered a present.
Once you’ve given us all the info we need, and paid your $5, we send you a fake order form for whatever you ordered from a fake store. A few days later, we send out a second email, this time stating that the product’s been placed on back order. Finally, a few days after the holiday/gift-giving occasion has passed, we send out an order cancellation.
It doesn’t stop there. If you’re the type of person who tries to weasel out of giving presents, you might run into some suspicion with this tactic. They emails they send even contain a fake link to a website, and if someone goes to that site, it displays a message saying the website is down.
Isn’t the Internet great? I mean, it doesn’t enable you to lie. You were going to lie anyway. You could even have generated your own fake documentation. No, the Internet makes you lazier. Now you don’t even have to go through the effort. Pay the $5 and get on with your life.
Thank you, unnamed genius, for creating this business.
We had a very, very busy weekend, but it was a really good weekend. Well worth it!
On Friday, Oliver and I went to a Chanukah party at Evie’s school. The party afterwards was fun, but for me the best part was going to temple. I had never been inside the temple (any Jewish temple), and I was very curious. It was so much fun! My favorite part of the day was seeing all the kids spinning like dreydles while singing the dreydle song. We definitely never had that much fun at church when we went for school!
At the party they got wooden dreydles and some chocolate gelt, so Evie and I played dreydle at home. It was a lot of fun, and simple enough that Evie could understand, even though she couldn’t spin the dreydle very well. Unfortunately, we eventually will run out of gelt, since she keeps eating it (we didn’t let her eat it all at once).
In an interesting dichotomy, Saturday morning we went to see Santa. Well actually, first off, Evie and I made oatmeal and danced our butts off to Christmas music. There are actually two radio stations in Chicago that play only Christmas music, so we had our choice. The funny thing about listening to Christmas music on the radio is that you’re constantly saying, “Didn’t they just play this song?” They all sort of run together after a while. But it certainly put us in the Christmas mood.
So anyway, they tried to have some sort of holiday celebration in the neighborhood with all day crafts, lights, etc. The only part we were interested in was seeing Santa, since we usually have to drive way out to the suburbs or something, fighting big crowds, crying kids, and barely escaping with our life. So we showed up to the restaurant listed, camera in hand.
Now, I’ve been to that restaurant before, and I wasn’t really sure where they were going to put Santa, or how it was going to work. It was as sort of claustrophobic and disorganized as I feared. Also, they tried to push their “Christmas brunch” on us, and when we said we were only there to see Santa, they charged us $5. Oh well. Between that and the parking, it was still well worth it to see Santa in the neighborhood with a very limited wait.
Evie was a little nervous about Santa. It took us two tries to get her up there. I had to agree to stand with her, but when she got up there she went on his lap without me. She was too shy to talk to him (and anyway, she couldn’t think of anything she wanted, which I take to mean that we are the best parents ever!). We assumed that Oliver would sob his eyes out, since he’s been going through a mommy-only (and-very-occasionally-daddy) phase lately. However, he just stared at Santa with huge round eyes the whole time, and never cried once. I think he was just like, “What is this crazy talking beard thing??”
Overall, everything went about as well as possible. As far as Santa goes, he was ho-ho-hoing like there was no tomorrow. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him jollier. By the end of the day, his throat must have been raw.
The ironic thing was, we ended up spending the rest of the day shopping in the suburbs anyway. I don’t know how the rest of the neighborhood festivities turned out. It was cold and snowy, and outdoor crafts seemed a little much. Maybe we’ll give it a try next year if they do it again.
Evie and I also found time to play in the snow for awhile, and we made a nice (read small) snowman in the front yard. Afterwards, Sara made us some hot cocoa (and Sara’s homemade hot cocoa is to die for!)
On Sunday we put up our Christmas tree. We have an artificial tree, so we left the bottom row of branches off, so Oliver can’t reach up and topple the whole thing. It actually looks pretty good without the bottom row (and more room for presents!). We also hung up the stockings and replaced Evie’s butterfly lights with Christmas lights. Evie was really excited about all of this, but eventually lost interest and I decorated the tree alone. She gets pretty excited about the Christmas tree though, and she’s upset that we don’t keep it lit 24/7.
Sunday night, Evie and I had a sleepover. After supper we both got ready for bed and then put our sleeping bags out in the family room. We watched a movie and, in a bizarre twist, Evie wanted to watch an Elmo potty video. So, not only was there not a plot per say, but she’s already seen it, and the whole thing is set up to convince you to use the potty, which she has been for a long, long time. She didn’t care though, she loved it. She said to me, “If there is a scary part, I can hide in my sleeping bag.” Not a lot of scary parts in Elmo potty videos!
Afterwards, when we turned out the lights and we were whispering and giggling, she said to me, “Daddy, you’re my best friend.”
Unfortunately, the night went downhill fast. Evie was really sick and she was having trouble breathing through her nose. She was waking up every 30 minutes or so. Finally, around 11:30 or so, she woke up with a really tight chest and a croupy cough.
I gave her some medicine and broke out the humidifier. We moved into her room so she could sleep in her bed, and the humidifier would be more effective. I slept on her floor for the rest of the night, and it seemed to go a little better after that. However, it was a disappointing end to our special night. It’s always hard to see your kids sick.
However, the sleepover was still the highlight of a very nice, very busy weekend. I didn’t even mention the part where Oliver managed to cut his finger on something and crawled around in the kitchen for like 20 minutes afterwards, spreading blood on about every surface he could manage, including his, my and Sara’s clothes! He didn’t seem to mind though.
So, except for that, it was about all you could ask from a December weekend!
For Christmas this year, my mother-in-law agreed to make me a special desert every month. Sort of like a dessert of the month club, except the deserts don’t arrive by mail. As far as I’m concerned this is about the best possible Christmas present one could receive!
We’re 6 months in, so I thought the half-way point might be a good place to put some of the desserts on display. I think the pictures speak for themselves, so without any further ado:
January - Apple Cheese Cake
February - Cocoa Waffles with Mint Ice Cream and Home Made Chocolate Fudge
March – Carrot Cake
April - Rhubarb Pie (special request!)
May - Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream
June - Homemade Samoas (my favorite kind of Girl Scout cookies!)
Thanks Barb! I’m looking forward to the next 6!
As a side note, thanks to my horrible spelling, the original version of this post has inspired Sara and I to start a “Desert of the Month” club. Every month we send you a full sized picture of a selected desert, suitable for framing! Contact me for pricing.
So Christmas came and went, and Evie got piles and piles of wonderful presents to play with. But the marquee present, the gift to end all gifts, was the big girl bed. If you asked her what she wanted for Christmas, or what she asked Santa for, there was only one answer (pronounced as one word in Evie-speak: “bigirl bed”).
We were away from the house for Christmas Eve, but Santa left a note saying there was “something big” waiting at the house in Chicago. Sure enough, when we got home, there was the brand new “office bedroom”, resplendent with a new bed, dresser and book shelves. “Everything turned brown!” she exclaimed, since her old furniture was white. It was everything Evie had hoped for and more. We took a video of it, but if you don’t spend a lot of time around her, you would probably think she wasn’t very excited about it. She’s a pretty low-key girl, so you have to know her to really see the things she’s doing that show she is excited. So you’ll have to take my word on it when I tell you that it was that quintessential childhood moment when you get everything you’ve always wanted.
Now, for our part, there were two big concerns going into this: 1) would we lose our hard won gains with sleeping, and 2) would it be okay with her on a different floor of the house.
It turns out, there was no need to worry at all!
From the very first night, she slept perfectly and peacefully, waiting to get out of bed in the morning until we come down and get her out. She doesn’t set a toe outside of her bed until morning. In retrospect, this kind of makes some sense, since she already had the ability to climb out of her crib, but she doesn’t. Also, she doesn’t like to go downstairs by herself due to “scary monsters”, but she has no qualms whatsoever once she is actually in her room. What a relief (especially after hearing some other parents’ horror stories)!
Because we were worried about her downstairs by herself, and in particular worried that we wouldn’t hear her, we finally broke down and bought a baby monitor. It’s kind of funny to buy one at this point, since she’s quite old. We didn’t tell her about it, and she hasn’t noticed it, so we’d like to keep it that way to avoid the dreaded “toddler-monitor-summons”.
Now, I thought I mentioned this on the blog, but I couldn’t find it. When we went to Seattle, we were sleeping in the same room as her. Since we couldn’t really go anywhere while she was sleeping, and we couldn’t have any lights on in the room or anything, we mostly just ended up going to bed when she did. This is where we learned that for the first 20 minutes or so, when we always thought she went right to sleep, she really whispers to her stuffed-animal friends. I don’t know what she tells them, but she’s sure telling them something. The monitor confirms that she seems to do this pretty much every night. I still can’t hear more than the occasional word, but it sounds very interesting!
One last thing, on a lighter note. Evie got some lotion for Christmas, (“Just like mommy and daddy!”) but she wasn’t sure what to make of it at first. Sara asked her what she thought it was.
Evie took a long look at the package and exclaimed, “It keeps away bees!” If that’s what she thought it was, she sure was excited about receiving bee repellent.
Now that Thanksgiving is past, I don’t feel bad about putting up some Christmas stuff (It is the 1st of December after all). Now, if you work a desk job like me, your cube (or what have you…I don’t actually sit in a cube) can always use a little sprucing up. The problem is, the second you start plugging things in, the safety people are all over you. But if you work at a computer, you have a convenient source of power just sitting there. As always, we turn to the leader in USB powered devices, ThinkGeek, for all our festive desk decorations.
First up, a USB-powered Fiber optic christmas tree.
ThinkGeek always goes above and beyond. In this case, they not only provide us with a nice product, but even a festive song to go with it:
O USB! O USB! A wonder of technology;
O USB! O USB! A wonder of technology;
Our favorite toys are plug and play,
Just stick it in and we’re on our way.
O USB! O USB! A wonder of technology!
If you’d rather go with something a little more low key, more traditional, you can just stick with the USB-powered Christmas Lights:
Today we got not one but TWO Christmas cards! The one was postmarked December 12th. I think the fact that we got two is telling; it’s not like one just slipped through the cracks. It was probably a whole bag they had or something. Unfortunately it is sort of typical of our mail service around here. I remember we didn’t get my mom’s postcard from Japan for like 6 months until our neighbor moved in and got his mail for the first time. It was kind of funny since we had seen my mom a couple of times after she got home before we got the post card, meaning it would have been more efficient for her to hand deliver it. Another time someone sent us a package that they never notified us about and just held onto it for a few months before returning it to sender. This is to say nothing of soggy mail or the way we found a package in the bush one time even though there was no note or anything to say we got one so who knows how long it was there.
Not really a service oriented town, if you know what I mean.
And a happy New Year!
Vacation is slowly winding down. I’m still waiting for all that free time I was supposed to have to materialize. It all went so fast and yet I hope I can still remember everything that happened.
So the main event was Christmas obviously. Ooh boy did Evie clean up. It took hours for her to open all of her presents. Even with a break for breakfast, by the end she was lying on the floor lazily opening presents with one hand. My dad almost ruined Christmas because after she opened the giant Elmo from him she almost couldn’t be coaxed away from it and back into opening more presents. We had mentioned that it would be nice for Evie to get some dress up clothes, and she got some pretty awesome stuff. When I think back to the fun we had with our simple dress up stuff, I can only imagine how much she will enjoy her fairy wings, cape, eye patch and full viking regalia! She got some custom-made necklaces which she insists on putting on and taking off of everybody (including her stuffed animals) about 100 times a day.
Our family room had been fairly empty, but that is not the case anymore. There were some big ticket items down there including a slide to help us through the winter months and a kitchen set, table and chairs. Evie just loves all of this stuff. She used to be alright with playing downstairs, but now she positively loves it. ”Downstairs” is the first thing she says in the morning and the last thing she says at night. She likes to send “Baby Elmo” (so designated now that she has “Elmo Big”) down the slide. She loves to wash her hands in the play sink and make “supper” in the stove and “cocoa” in the microwave. It didn’t occur to me that we would need dishes, etc. but it actually worked out because she had a sort of a picnic set that she hadn’t used much that had all kinds of dishes, which ended up being perfect for the kitchen. I think it is the first time I can really say she was using her imagination and playing pretend. It is very heartwarming to watch her “making supper” and serving it to Elmo Big at the table.
Unfortunately, all the good cheer was dampened a little bit the next day when Evie and I each got our first ride in an ambulance. Apparently Evie slipped on the hardwood floor and fell directly on her head. I say apparently because I was actually in the shower at the time. I remember hearing a loud sort of screaming / croaking noise or something from Evie and thinking, “Is she upset or is she just being silly?” Anyway, for a couple of reasons (including random vomiting) we decided to take her to the hospital. However, when we opened the back door, we realized there had been a really bad ice storm. After a couple of falls (including some by firemen, but that came later) and the realization that the car was a solid block of ice, we decided to call an ambulance. To make a long story short, she ended up being fine. But it was pretty scary for a little while there. I can’t decide if it was scarier being in the shower and not seeing most of it and getting little pieces here and there, or if I would have actually seen everything first hand.
Anyway, we made it through all of that with no scars other than psychological (I am a lot more worried about her falling now) and next up was a trip to WI. One funny thing that happened there was that my Grandma’s Christmas tree was on a remote control and my mom was trying to trick Evie and saying “Abracadabra!” and turning the tree on and off. So Evie picked that up and eventually figured out how to use the remote. She would stretch out one arm toward the tree, hit the button on the remote with the other arm and say, “Abadabra!” The other funny thing she started doing was, whenever we put on her coat to go outside she would start insisting we were going to “target”. I guess we shop there too much!
One fun thing we did while we were there was to go to my cousin Marci’s house. We don’t see my dad’s side of the family all that often, but it was really great to see my cousins Marci and Aaron and their respective daughters Molly and Maggie and McKenna. I think Evie really had fun playing with a bunch of little girls more or less her age. I wasn’t sure if I would still have much to talk about with my cousins, but it turns out parenting can be the common denominator.
One more Evie story for the road. She has really started picking up little things you say so you really have to be careful around her. I learned this the hard way when she started gleefully shouting “Daddy bastard! Daddy bastard!” You don’t want to encourage it, but it was really hard not to laugh!
Christmas is getting closer and closer and I couldn’t be more excited! We are having everybody to our house this year and I think it is going to be a good time. Evie is very excited about all things Christmas. We have been listening to a lot of Christmas music lately (even the Christmas station in the car) and she has many many favorites which she attempts to sing. This usually consists of saying one term with a lot of pauses like, “Pist Mas Tree. Pist Mas Tree.” I guess the pauses make it musical.
She has several favorite songs, such as “Oh Oh Pistmas Tree”, “Wish you Pistmas Tree” (that’s We Wish you a Merry Christmas, but she can’t bear to say Christmas without following it with tree), “Deck the Holly”, “Sosty the Snowman”, “Reindeer Song” (usually accompanied by “Nose!”), and “Jingle Bells”.
So I think it goes without saying that she is going to be pretty excited come Christmas morning. And all this BEFORE she sees what Santa is going to bring her! She’s one lucky girl. Having a kid makes you look forward to Christmas in a way you haven’t in years.
Better late than never, right?
Hey, I’ve been busy. Did the usual 3 state trip (IN, MI, WI) over the break. It was exhausting! I couldn’t believe how much stuff we had to bring for Evie. We couldn’t have fit very much else in the car. How do you do it with more than 1 kid? It’s still not over with yet, we still have more traveling for the next two weekends (IN and WI respectively). I was really worn out by vacation. I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that Evie has apparently stopped sleeping.
Okay, check this out. Yeah, I read that book…saw the movie too. Were they Rita Hayworth pictures by any chance? You’d think they’d at least make prison escape movies that were up for best picture required watching for all prison guards.
So I get frustrated with LiveJournal from time to time. (BTW did you notice all those annoying “link preview” things are gone now when you hover over hyperlinks on here?) I found a program the other day that downloaded all of the content and comments from this blog and saved it on my computer. So I have it now, which opens up the option to switching to another service (probably blogger because Sara won’t let me pay for my own domain). But should I? Loyal readers what say you?
On one hand I think I would have better features since I won’t pay for an account on LiveJournal. On the other hand would I be disloyal to LiveJournal and to Stacy if I switched? Although it seems like a long time ago, I really started this with her in mind and it kind of feels disloyal to her memory to switch to something else.
Nothing is better than Christmas time! I get so excited to put up the tree and all the decorations and everything. So yesterday was perfect! It started snowing out, I was reading Evie some Christmas stories, singing her Christmas songs, etc. I got out the tree and assembled it and then I put the lights on. We bought these strands of old fashioned, glowy lights like we used to have when I was little. I was pretty excited about them; I like them way better than the newer small lights that we’ve used for the past couple of years. So I got the lights on the tree and everything was ready for the ornaments.
Thats when everything went bad.
I should have read the omens correctly when the beautiful snow turned into yucky cold rain and washed off the inch or so of accumulation we had. So first off, let me say that there were a few issues with the lights the other day that I sort of glossed over in my Christmas euphoria. First off apparently they are covered in lead. It says so on the box, but probably nobody looks at the box before they throw it away. Second off, one of the bulbs broke for no reason at all. I don’t even know what caused it to break, but of course now there is tiny glass shards all over. So today I had the lights on because Evie likes looking at them and then I noticed that they were melting the tree!!! So we had to take them off the tree because we don’t want to ruin it or have a fire or something. So instead we draped them over our bookcases. While we were getting that set up, the first strand blew a fuse. I replaced the fuse and as soon as I plugged it in it blew the second fuse. At this point there were only 2 strands plugged together and the directions clearly state you can have more than that plugged together safely. I don’t know if there is some electrical flaw in the strand or what.
So at this point we have strands of lights dripping in lead, shorting out and setting fire to everything they meet while shattering glass shards all over the place. The only way these things could be more dangerous is if they were filled with angry bees!
This is on top of the fact that there were about 6 bulbs already burned out in 3 strands the first time they were ever lit, and the paint is already being chipped off some of the bulbs. So I’ve boxed up all the lights again to deal with them next year. I was this close to throwing them all away but I resisted. So now I have to put new lights on the tree (for the 3rd time if you count the time when Sara made me redo it because they weren’t spread out enough!)
Oh well, I had the Christmas spirit…