31 December 2007

death by torture

So tomorrow I'm heading north as a sponsor for a teen ski retreat. There used to be a reason I thought this was a good idea, but it has since abandoned me.

Yeah, I've never skied before.

Except if you count water skiing, which is totally not the same thing at all, because for one thing, you get to be warm while you do it. And also because the worst thing that could happen is you forget to let go of the rope once you're down, and end up with water shoved up your nose.

But in ski-skiing, the worst thing that could happen is that first, you're freezing, and then you could break your leg in fourteen places and trigger an avalanche and get mauled by a rabid polar bear and collide with a tree. And die.

And did I mention the freezing part?

It's possible I'm overstating the case, but I really think not. Anyhow, I've got a few posts waiting in the hopper (just my usual drivel; don't get excited), to upload the next few days. So if you don't hear from me, that means either I have no internet access or I died. Take your pick.

Off to finish packing. Wish me luck (and no "break a leg" comments...beat you to it, didn't I?).

30 December 2007

generally speaking

sometimes i sense that this breakneck speed which is my life affects my little sphere of influence in larger ways than just flattening it into a pancake of stress. because sometimes i think that if i just put the urgencies and emergencies of daily life on pause




like so




and thought about things

(i mean, really thought about things), you know,
as in yanked my habits and spending and schedule in line with my convictions, it could--

quite possibly

--change everything.


(and unchange is always so much easier. mindless, but so bloody convenient.)

27 December 2007

What I Did on Christmas Vacation

by Nicole Owens



This past weekend was some serious fun. Any weekend with hubby's family is a bona fide riot, but this time the fun levels flew off the charts.

A few highlights (plus some inside jokes, sorry)

:: apples and caramel dip :: "give me the bird" :: memorable one-liners during scum :: birthday cake for Jesus :: the electric slide :: Seth's over-qualification as a supplier for Evian :: picking the peanuts out of peanut candy clusters :: MC Hammer :: sweating with Debbie Siebers :: "even after death, the language of sisters endures" ::

Mostly we listened/danced/sang to tunes from back in the day (bless you youTube and project playlist), and disturbed Mom Owens with how many lyrics-of-questionable-morality we knew by heart. This reminiscing will likely spawn a mini-series, so Be Prepared.



PS I was saddened to discover that I was the only one for whom this song evoked fond memories. Apparently everyone else in the household was a good little church kid and watched Saved By the Bell. I, on the other hand, was cool. ;)

21 December 2007

so i was having a good birthday

...right up till the part when I realized I wasn't 32. Does anyone else do this faulty counting thing? I call it Delayed Counting Syndrome.

It happens whenever I'm trying to keep track of something that takes a while to progress. Like running laps on a track. I complete lap three, I'm starting out on the fourth lap and the whole time I'm rounding the track I'm thinking about how this is the fourth lap, obsessing about the number four and how it means I only have eight or twelve (or twenty four if you're someone who's not me at all) left to go, so by the time I hit the starting point again, I'm way past four and count it as five.

And then I'm obsessing about the number six for a good hundred meters until I realize, nope, that was four laps I just completed back there. This one's number five. It's all very confusing; sometimes I have to run a few extra laps at the end just in case.

Tell me this isn't just me.

So last night when it hit midnight I was conversing with the voices in my head about being thirty two and how fun a number that is and it took me a good five minutes before I realized that, no, this is just thirty one. I've been thinking about thirty one all week and apparently got so used to the idea that I moved right along to the next number once my birthday hit.

Bah, humbug.

Although, come to think of it, it's a double humbug because technically I'm still only thirty until some ungodly hour of tomorrow morning, but that's another odd story in itself.

It's just me, isn't it. Yeah, don't tell me; I'd really rather not know.



HOWEVER



Birthday joys:

:: a roasted Panera sandwich :: Anne Rice's INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE series :: How I Met Your Mother, season 1 :: a slew of delectably humorous cards from brilliant people :: girlie combat boots + knee socks from Mom and Dad (good choice, guys) :: sweet phone calls and e-mails and e-cards ::


So it turns out I'm having a good day after all. I suppose I can hang out at thirty one for a while.

19 December 2007

the excitement that is my life

Right now I'm painting a life-size donkey and lamb on pink styrofoam insulation. Just in case you wondered what I do on Wednesdays, there it is.

17 December 2007

general advice

Reasons not to be born close to Christmas, if you can help it:

1. People forget your birthday.
2. Then they try to pretend they remembered by scrawling "and happy birthday!" on your Christmas present. Unintentional two-in-ones really don't count, folks.
3. People remember your birthday, but their veins are pumping copious amounts of caffeine, cortisol, and mulled wassail, meaning you party with a jittery crowd sharing a universal headache.


On the bright side:

1. Sometimes you can get one huge combined gift that would never have been possible if your birthday were in, say, July. I recall (with large doses of fondness) the Barbie McDonald's from my grandparents, third grade. That thing had little trays and fries and Big Mac containers that opened and snapped shut, plus tiny beef patties and buns and a spatula. Good golly do I miss that McDonald's.
2. There really is no two.
3. You get to have a long-standing tradition of making gingerbread houses at your birthday parties.

I'm not sure when it started, really...likely after (and as a safer substitute for) the debacle of the carousel cake that caught on fire (that was a memorable one, Mom)...but sometime in my childhood we started rinsing out those school milk cartons and trucking them home for my birthday. We'd tape them to plates, smear the sides with my mum's homemade icing, slap on graham cracker halves and embellish with candies. We fashioned chimneys and doorknobs, landscaped the paper plate yards, and built on second stories and guest room additions.

Much to my delight (and everyone else's chagrin, I'm sure), I never did outgrow this tradition. To this day, I still force everyone to participate in my birthday faux-gingerbread house construction.

This year the triple F (Forced Family Fun) took place a week early. If you want to celebrate my birthday at your house, here's the brief process:

1. Either go the milk/whipping-cream carton route (make sure you wash and dry them thoroughly), or make a template and trace on stiff magazine paper or lightweight cardboard:





2. Tape houses together and adhere them to paper plates.



3. Bust out the candies and such:




We used dark chocolate M&M's, sour gummy shapes, pretzels, marshmallows (both standard white and tree/star shaped), mint Hershey's kisses, and gummy bears. Spiced gumdrops are very pretty but, in my opinion, taste like fermented licorice. Beware.





4. You could mix your own frosting. My mom's recipe is something like powdered sugar, vanilla, milk or possibly water--not sure, and maybe an egg white for good luck? I will look for the recipe card. In the meantime, perhaps my mum will post the recipe in the comments because she is a Really Nice Person. She honestly is.

OR...you could be like me and just buy a jar of vanilla frosting because one should not have to make frosting on one's own birthday, albeit a week early.



5. Bust out the Christmas music.



6. Give your kiddos dull butter knives, glops of frosting on the sides of their plates, and free rein with the candies.



Results may vary. Here are ours.

















7. Bonus points if you do this on Friday, which is my actual birthday. I will be thirty-one. :)

16 December 2007

Almost exactly the same thing except not





Church was canceled this morning, so I made an apple pie. Pie makes me feel close to God.







I'm on my second piece.

14 December 2007

bribery and whatnot

So I'm hoping the rest of y'all are deeply embedded in the craziness that is December, not because I wish you neuroticism but because then you won't have had time to notice my lack of posting. And if you are thinking to yourself, eh? lack of posting? and who got tinsel in the eggnog aGAIN? then it's nearly impossible to overestimate my love for you.

And if you are not thinking to yourself those thoughts, not at all, thankyouverymuch, I took some pics for you (to, er, coax a little forgiveness in my direction?)...



Now we're good, right? In my head you're saying right. You're agreeable like that.

So I've been running into all these "Best of 2007" book lists, and I have to say that I've moved entirely out of annoyed and knee-deep into perturbed. I need warning for these kinds of things, folks, so I can be jotting down titles. I can't even remember what I read last week, I kid you not, let alone the whole jolly year.

But as I'm not one to be discouraged by such trivial complications (and also because I'm not one who likes to be left out of anything, be it Irish cribbage meetings or fundraisers for unicycle hockey leagues), I am going to give you my version of the list.


Oh yes.


My list is called "Best of the Second Week of December." Yeah, mock me later.

BEST OF THE SECOND WEEK OF DECEMBER
by Nicole Owens

(Somebody conjure me up a drumroll)

...And the winning novel of this insanely coveted distinction is REBEL ANGELS by Libba Bray. Although, to be honest, the initial book (A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY) in the series was a tad better. Ah, see now? I do remember something from last week.

The other contestants (well, the fiction ones) are:
A DOOR NEAR HERE by Heather Quarles (reaction: eh? just okay)
RULES by Cynthia Lord (not bad; garnered a Newbery Honor, so other people liked it)
GOSSIP GIRL (another eh? didn't hate it)
**Update, 12/16**
TWISTED by Laurie Halse Anderson (well-written, but I enjoyed the plot/setting of ANGELS more)
THE HOUSE OF SCORPION by Nancy Farmer (again, strong writing, but the plot seemed to ramble and sag at times, especially near the end. did win a crazy number of awards.)

So I admit: the competition wasn't fierce. And while we're confessing things, I also admit that: 1) as I've discussed with The Ununcle, books are my heroin; and 2) I have a thing for YA (and the occasional middle grade novel). I did, however, tote home four novels from the library this morning, and two of them are bonafide grown-up books. It happens occasionally.

If any of the reads between now and Sunday edge out Bray's ANGELS, I will update my award. And next year I will attempt to keep a running list of books and my reactions because y'all deserve a real list. You know you do.

And now, pardon moi, but I HAVE to get moving on those Christmas cards. Hope to pop in again soon, but if not, have another round of eggnog and sing some falalas and, you know. Be merry.

Speaking of pardon moi, you've got to check out this website. Click on the picture to enlarge the business cards--you need to read the text. Very charming folks there at pardonMOI.

10 December 2007

o tannenbaum (again)

There's a lot to be said for lack of selection.

Last year's Quest for the Perfect Tree required a bit of deliberating. And by a bit I mean a ridiculously huge amount. This year's specimen was selected in less than six minutes.

We are good.

So the secret to fast-tree-picking is to go a few days into December, when the trees in your price range have dwindled to half a row and they all look equally good. Or equally bad. Either way.

Also, go on the day where it's about 12 degrees, and bring all four of your children to chatter their poor little teeth beside you. If you don't have four, borrow some to make up the difference.

The result is that everyone shuffles back and forth between fraser firs, mostly to generate a modicum of friction in a vain attempt to stave off frostbite. You sticky your gloves with tree sap, pulling out this tree and that, but it's so cold that even your opinions are numb. You pick one.

Surprisingly, when we got home and our eyesight defrosted, we found that this year's edition is no worse than any of its predecessors who required a solid twenty minutes of comparison shopping.

It's actually quite lovely, and fragrant to boot. Next year I'm aiming for two minutes flat.

09 December 2007

happy birthday



Ten today
and your smiles are easy
your jokes plentiful,
you still take hugs
(with secret relish)

and you are all at once
tall
and my little boy,
swaggering
and so easily crushed

and since I cannot
watch you intently enough
to keep you from running off and growing
up
I will give you
instead
a something to carry along:
the surety that
I
love
you

and that
this
you will never outgrow.

07 December 2007

sight




Never mind the mess, the seven hundred thousand bits of tissue paper littered across floors and tables and chairs, looking quite a lot like snow. Never mind that.


Because I love crafting with my children; I'm perpetually fascinated to find what their fingers will shape, these people who are from me, so much like me, and yet wholly apart. I remind myself that one of the most pleasurable sounds is their laughter as they stretch on tiptoe and drop their tissue paper snowflakes from the back of the couch, delighting in the tipsy, fluttering fall.





I'm immersed in beauty, if only I'd choose the clarity to see.

06 December 2007

St Nick and I have so much in common

For the first time in the history of ever, I've listed a few goodies in my etsy shop. A few mama and little girl jewels, plus some chenille-backed patchwork scarves.






And because I like y'all so much, and also since you let me prattle on for days er, months? all right, years ad nauseam, you deserve a nobel peace prize or, you know, a 20% off discount in my store.*

So, um...Ho ho ho, and On Dasher! On Dancer! Etc! But I draw the line at the gut resembling a bowlful of jelly. I do have my limits.

*If you shop my place anytime this December, just mention that you read my blog and I'll give you that 20% discount. I love you, too.

05 December 2007

bring on the snow plows

So the thing about school delays due to snow is that while they're loads of fun for the school-goers, they are a concentrated form of purgatory for the mothers.

And while the rest of the Midwest Momhood might bear these mornings with good humor and grace, thinking, I certainly did enjoy a snow delay as a child myself, and now it's only fair that I take my turn as the mother, those of us who grew up in places where, for instance, the only missing of school to be had was that one time in third grade when a hurricane was coming and we got to go home early--yes, that minority among us should be exempt from this fluffy white delaying stuff.

02 December 2007

disconsolation is an unwieldy sort of word

I've been having a hard week.

I'm not sure why, this being my favoritest season and all; you'd think I'd be feeling the opposite of...this. This muck, this despondency that seems to mire my life at the most inexplicable times.

It feels like I'm walking through a tragedy, but without the tragic event, if you can follow that one at all.

But I sense the upswing coming, which is good news, and so we carry on.