Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Headin' For Home

Tomorrow we reluctantly tear ourselves away from the food, fun, and shopping fiesta we've been indulging in and head home to Maine. All good things must end, and my pants don't fit so well anymore, so it's time to get back to reality. And the gym. Especially the gym.

Bear is starting to miss her friends, pine trees, and sleeping in her own bed.

Daddy Shortbread misses the cats.

I miss being able to button my pants.

Bug doesn't miss a thing. She'd be happy to bask in the glow of her grandparents' adoration forever. But I'd like to think that she'd eventually miss us, so we're taking her with us.

I'd like to send up a small prayer to the Gods of Travel that our return trip involve easier driving weather than our trip out. Because THIS is what we drove through on the way here: I'd like to submit a formal request for clear-to-partly-cloudy-skies, a lack of significant precipitation, and a liberal dotting of Starbucks along our route. Thank you.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sugar Stupor

Can't blog. Too full. Am basically napping and eating in shifts, 'cause once we're back home The New Eating Regime begins. Daddy Shortbread and the girls are NOT enthused. They've been in favor of the sugar cookies/tiramisu/truffles routine we've been wallowing in while in Ohio.

I'll be back to blogging next week. When I can fit in my pants again.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gingerbread & Suitcases

Yesterday Daddy Shortbread and I went in to Bug's third-grade class to make gingerbread houses with them. We brought the gingerbread and frosting; the students brought in the candy decorations.

"Your hands are FILTHY," one little boy told me with a disapproving frown, as he came up to the table. Indeed, they were pretty much spackled with frosting from filling decorating bags, rescuing toppling walls, and general gingerbread house construction, but come on little dude, it's FROSTING not manure.

"Baking is a messy business," I told him seriously. The M&M and gumdrop-placing crew around me nodded in happy agreement.

Daddy Shortbread spoke to his group like they were actual contractors, discussing load-bearing walls, and icing/spackle-strength, and things like what kind of candy-load a real roof made of gingerbread could hold. They were delighted to hazard guesses while sneaking chocolate chips into their mouths.

After working on a house construction crew, they each took a cookie, frosting, and some candy to their desks to construct a personal snack. I watched one little boy laboriously place gumdrops, marshmallows, and gumdrops on his cookie, just so. When the teacher gave them permission to eat, he just as carefully removed every piece of candy before eating the cookie. "I don't like candy," he explained to me. Ah. Well then.


Tomorrow we leave for Day One of travel, heading to Rochester, NY en route to Ohio. I'll try to blog from the road and give you a glimpse of what the girls do to fill the long travel hours. Let me just say that what with the DVDs, iPods, Gameboys, and activity books they have loaded their backpacks with, I don't think they'll be bored.

I will just be happy to have the packing done and be on the interstate (preferably with a Three-Pump Nonfat Peppermint Mocha Latte in hand and Christmas music on the stereo). Until then, I will be continuing to pack, stopping occasionally to self-medicate with Lindt truffles. Mmmm.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Status

Christmas cards - SENT
Baking - DONE
Out-of-town gifts - WRAPPED & MAILED
Suitcases - PACKED
Children - WIRED

We went to Bear's band concert last night, where she dazzled on the bass clarinet. And by "dazzled" I mean managed to play all the correct notes, in the correct time, while sitting up straight in her chair and looking completely adorable in her white ruffly blouse and black dress pants. Unlike certain trumpet and saxophone sections, about whom the word "discordant" could be considered kind. Her teacher had some lovely things to say about Bear's technique and musicality and told us that she is confident that Bear would excel at any instrument she chose. Made my heart melt, I tell you. Need I mention that I trotted right out and bought said teacher a Starbuck's gift card this morning? (Either the teacher thinks my kid is genuinely talented, or she knows how to rake in the Christmas presents).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Elementary Deduction, Watson

I returned from shopping this morning to find a small Christmas cookie (previously on a plate on the counter) with one small bite out of it in the middle of my kitchen floor. Proceeding into my bedroom, I found Mittens curled up sleeping inside the suitcase lying empty on my bed.

From this I can only deduce that she is already suffering pre-trip separation anxiety and has been indulging in some emotional eating.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ice Storm

Our first major winter storm of the year came in the form of an ice storm. Wet snow, followed by sleet, topped off with freezing rain resulted in a slushy icy mess. School was cancelled, delighting the girls, who were then not at all pleased to learn that freezing rain was incompatible with sledding. Hitting them when they were down, I then broke it to them that we'd be venturing out that afternoon ... for flu shots. Aren't snow days great?

But hey! Look! The birch tree looked pretty!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bear: Closet Snow Eater

Bear has a nasty little addiction: snow eating. She loves nothing more than noshing on handful after handful of snow. I don't know if it's the crunch, the cold, the lack of taste...? She really can't seem to help herself. I think that I was probably the first one to show her that she could eat snow back when she was tiny and easily impressed. (Look! It's teeny pieces of ice, and you can eat it!) Or maybe she made the connection after catching snowflakes on her tongue. I really don't know because it's hard to remember a time when she wasn't eating snow like some half-starved lunatic who thinks the lawn is blanketed in marshmallow fluff.

I spent several winters trying to dissuade her from eating it, telling her it's dirty and things PEE in it, for God's sake. She'd nod solemnly, look properly abashed, and go right back to eating snow as soon I went back inside. We finally achieved The Great Snow-Eating Detente of 2002, when her kindergarten teacher melted a jar full of snow in the classroom and showed them the specks of dirt and crud that settled to the bottom. We managed to negotiate a deal wherein she would only eat freshly fallen snow. Once it's a day old, no deal. On that first day, though, she's pretty much dedicated to the task of eating as much damn snow as possible. She savors its bouquet, like a fine wine, before taking that first crunchy mouthful. Every picture of her I took this day is either her eating snow, about to eat snow, or just finishing a mouthful. Like here. Attractive, no? It reminds me of the tell-tale rings of white around the nostrils of cocaine-users. Just in a slightly more wholesome and less illegal way.She even multitasks, munching snow while sledding.Totally, unabashedly full-out eating snow. No shame at all. And, yes, she saw me taking pictures. That's how devoted she is to her craft.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Santa's Satan's Little Helper

Wrapping presents with cats around is such an endeavor. Cats are all about entitlement. They assume that anything placed on the floors is a cat toy, intended for nothing but their amusement. If I spread out a quilt to baste, it takes about two minutes before I have two furry, purring bodies sprawled across it. Board games incite Mittens to stalk from across the room, then run and skid onto the board. But wrapping paper! Wrapping paper provides a whole wonderland of cat fun.

Shockingly, the offender was not the cat you would expect. She was busy having a pedicure.
This one, on the other hand, was a Class A Nuisance. She padded across the gift shirts, which had been neatly folded, ready for boxes. Back and forth. Short break to sit in the gift box. Back to back and forth.She discovered an empty tube from a roll of wrapping paper.
And proceeded to happily gnaw the crap out of it while battering it with her hind claws. At least she was out of the way.
Until... "What? Did you need something?"

Monday, December 8, 2008


Last week, I suggested to Bug and Bear that they take half of their Christmas checks from Mamaw and use the money to buy presents for a child whose family can't afford Christmas presents. They loved the idea and chose to put their week's allowance into the pot as well. I told them that I would cover any extra expense.

The elementary school always has an Angel Tree in the front office, decorated with paper angels, each filled out with a child's age and gender (names are kept private) and one of the things they would like for Christmas. Each child has four angels on the tree, so one person might be buying clothes for the child, one a coat and boots, and the other two toys.

They took their time examining each of the angels left on the tree. Bug chose a six-year-old boy who wants Legos for Christmas. Bear picked a nine-year-old boy who needs new shirts. We made a quick stop at the bank, where they happily cashed their checks, counting out half for their wallets and handing half to me for our Angel shopping.

At Target, I let the girls take the lead. I helped them to compare prices and check quality, but all of the final selections were theirs. Bug spent quite awhile in the Lego aisle, comparing the different sets and making sure that she chose the one with the "coolest parts." Here are her final selections:
Bear was careful not to buy any "sissy" shirts. She told me how everybody wears a new outfit on the first day back to school after Christmas vacation, and she wanted to make sure this little guy had some cool shirts to choose from. She was able to get him five.
I loved how proud they were of their purchases. They were both so excited to show Daddy Shortbread and explain why they made each selection. They were anxious for his approval, since he represents the Boy Opinion in this household. He reassured them that they had made solid choices and expressed particular interest in wishing he could play with the Indiana Jones Lego set, which made Bug glow with pride. The merits of various wrapping papers were discussed (too girly? too young? too shiny?). They both insisted on wrapping their own gifts, smacking away my hand when I tried to help. I was relegated to ribbon-tying and corralling certain cats, who felt that they should be allowed to help wrap presents, too. And by "wrap presents", I mean run around like furry maniacs in the loose tissue paper.
Christmas morning, while my two are opening their presents from Santa and all their loving relatives, I'll take a moment to think of the two little boys opening these carefully chosen and wrapped gifts, never knowing that their angels are my angels, too.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Winter Visitors

Inspired by the gardening magazine my mother-in-law got me a subscription to, and also by the stunning case of writer's block that was rendering sitting staring at my computer screen pretty pointless, I decided to take pictures of the birds visiting my feeder yesterday. The feeders hang right outside the window by my kitchen table, where we enjoy watching the birds while we're eating (or instead of writing, as the case may be).

This one below is a female goldfinch. I know that because I emailed the picture to a friend who's an avid birder and said, "Hey, can you tell me the name of this bird, so I don't look like an idiot on my blog?" The males turn an all-over intense highlighter-yellow color in the summer, which is why some people, who are way less well-educated about things like proper bird names, call them wild canaries. They would be wrong. Don't be one of them.
Chickadee, here. I love these chipper little guys, and I think this one was deliberately taunting my cat, Maisy, who was standing on her hind legs on a kitchen chair talking smack to him the whole time I was taking pictures. Doesn't he look cheeky?
Another female goldfinch. I've decided that an excellent weight loss plan would be to hang by my feet while using only my mouth (no hands), like the birds. I plan to get right on that after the holidays. It seems to work for them.
Lest anyone be erroneously impressed by my skill as an avian photographer, I would like to point out that I got about four decent, in-focus pictures with actual birds in them. I got about eighty of just my bird feeder. The rest looked like this:
I should also mention that if, while you're photographing birds through the window, you decide the window is too dirty and open the window, shove up the screen and hang your shoulder and arm outside to squirt Windex and wipe off the panes, while restraining your cat with your left knee... The birdies? They will not come back for a looooong time. File that away for future information.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


I had a terrible dream last night. Daddy Shortbread, the girls, and I were all sitting in the living room listening to a gentle rain slapping the windows, when I happened to look out and spy an enormous funnel cloud just beyond the treeline.

"TORNADO!" I hollered in disbelief, and we all sprang from our seats and ran for the basement. I could hear the trademark locomotive sound of the tornado getting closer as we all pounded down the steps. Downstairs, I watched through the casement windows as the inky black swirling cloud moved with slow precision along our neighbors trees. Each one exploded with a deafening bang, leaving behind a splintered stump. I began to fear for the giant spruce beside our house. When I turned to glance out the window nearest the spruce, I realized that Bug was gone.

I dashed up the stairs, hearing the living room windows explode and rain begin to blow in as I frantically searched for her. I found her in the garage casually selecting a juicebox from our spare refrigerator. She was puzzled as to why I was so panicked. I had just grabbed her arm to pull her back downstairs when I woke up with a pounding heart.

I knew immediately why I had dreamt that. Last night I had one of those scary mothering moments where time seems to stand still and you feel your brain scrambling like a rat in a cage as you take action.

The girls were watching "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" in the living room, while they ate their dinners on a picnic cloth. They were excited to get to watch TV while eating dinner, an almost-never occurrence in our house. But it was the first Christmas special of the season, and they had both worked so hard on homework that afternoon that I felt they deserved a treat.

I was putting away laundry while they ate, and had just happened to glance into the living room, when I noticed a strange look on Bear's face, who had turned to look at her sister instead of the TV.

"Mom, I think she's choking!" Bear said urgently.

"I CAN'T BREATHE," Bug mouthed to me, struggling to try to cough. In what must have been three seconds, but what felt like twenty minutes, I ran to her and jerked her to her feet. I thumped her back and was just about to turn her around to do the Heimlich Maneuver when she managed to cough up the offending bite - a long, particularly fibrous piece of broccoli.

It scared me to death. All night long I kept dreaming different hair-raising scenarios where I was desperately trying to save her.

Postscript: I asked Bear what she would have done if I hadn't been there. "The Heimlich," she said promptly. Thank God for that, but we'll be reviewing it after school to make sure that they BOTH know how to perform it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


A definite plus to living in a state with four distinct seasons is watching the kids' excitement with each dramatic shift of the seasons. I know I tend relish each season more when I know it's fleeting. Midway through summer, I start thinking wistfuly of fall. Around the end of October, I decide I'm ready to face snow again. By December, we're all jonesing for those first flurries.

With impeccable timing, Mother Nature provided our first snowfall of the season on December first this year. "Snowfall" being a relative term, as it was more slushy than fluffy, and the grass was still poking through.
Good enough for Bear and Bug, though. As soon as they got home from school, they went out to "sled."
I was dubious that there was enough snow to slide on, but they would not be dissuaded, and sure enough, they made it work.
Bear initally agreed only to go out and watch Bug sled and "maybe walk around a bit." I think she feels sledding is somehow beneath her newfound maturity.
Within two minutes they were both rolling around like puppies.
Didn't you realize that sledding is a full-contact sport?