Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Day in Photos

[whispers: I've got a house full of company.  We just finished a giant roast beef dinner with 11, and now more people are arriving for the Last Game Night Of The Year.  But I'm feeling antisocial right now, so I'm hiding.  I've just given the kids glow-sticks, and they're all piled into the bathroom-without-a-window, so they can glow at each other in the dark, and I'm pretending that I'm "in charge" of them, while the adults swarm around in the other room]

Here's Christmas Day.

After the late night shenanigans of Christmas Eve, there was much sleeping-in to be done.

In fact, we might still all be sleeping if my best friend (4 time zones later than me) hadn't phoned to wish us a Merry Christmas.  She sounded all spent, having been up off and on since 3:30 in the morning with kids who wondered if "it was time yet".  I didn't have the heart to tell her that I was the only one up, and the kids probably wouldn't be thinking about heading to the presents until close to 9am or 9:30.

But then Nate started getting active.  And he was ALL about the stockings.

So for an hour, it was just him and me, hanging out with the stockings.

"I am getting so excited, I can't stand it!"

(his stocking is the Charlie Brown one.  It's already starting to disgorge its contents a bit)

"They better wake up, or I'll have ALLLLLL the stockings for ME!"

But slowly the sleepers awoke.

First Kelly, and then Skip...

Eventually, Ken even shuffled downstairs, by which time the kids had stationed themselves in the front room by the tree, so they brought him his stocking and he opened his stocking while they drooled over the present overload under the tree.

See his feet?  I made him red wool socks, and stuffed them into the toe of his stocking.  They're MILES too big, but was my plan to make them too big, and then FELT THEM to fit his feet.

Because I rock.

Look!  Nate had socks in his stocking, too!  And Kelly gave him that penguin.  He's COMPLETELY penguin obsessed.

Before presents, we read the Christmas stories.

First Kelly and Nate read "B is for Bethlehem".  Nate needed a bit of help with some of the words.  OK, with a lot of the words...

Then Skip read "This is the Star".  He reads it every year.

Yikes, I'm still getting used to that haircut.

Then it was time for the presents to come out.

Skip had gotten the Littles "Puffles" for Christmas.  He wanted them to open his gifts first off, and it was hilarious, because nobody wanted to open anything else, once the puffles came out of the wrappers.

Mommy actually got surprised this year.  Here's my fabulous over-the-top cream leather with taupe suede interior jewelry box.  Oh, and I'm not giving you the finger.  I'm holding the key.  It's teeny-tiny.

The kids get to open lots of gifts.  But that's because we wrap stuff like individual socks, underwear, and candy bars.
(Everything for Skip was wrapped in Sock Monkey paper)

I got Ken the old Kung Fu series from the 70s.  Apparently, that was one of his most favouritest things to watch when he was a kid.

And then it was time for Skip to open his Big Gift.

We'd been teasing him for weeks that it was almost time for him to start using deodorant.  And how it was important for him to be in the routine of pit-sticking before those pesky armpit hairs started making an appearance.  And then, when he'd ask for hints about his "Big Gift", we'd say things like 'it has an R in it.... like deodoRRRRRant"

So, to the "Big Gift"

Looks like deodorant....
Feels like deodorant....
Smells like deodorant...


It *IS* deodorant!

Oh, what's this?  I have to USE IT???????
Oh!  The indignity!

Wait a minute.... what's this?  A note inside the lid....?

Look in the coat closet????

Nate loved his "Big Gift", too.

As did the siblings...

And Kelly?  When it was her turn?


Here, Kelly, let me see it, and I'll figure out how to play it so I can teach you...

Oh good.  You got her a book, too.  I'll just read it through really quickly, and become an expert...

And while we all laughed at the bravado, we were taking back any jokes when he was playing like a pro within a half hour.

The kid is scary-fast.

After the present carnage had abated somewhat, Ken and Kelly put together an apple and blackberry pie to take to Ken's uncle's place for supper.

It was nice not having to cook AGAIN.

And look!  They bought their grandsons a drum kit!  A little bit of payback for the neighbours who had played the drums until all hours for the last 10 years...

I think I know what will be going on Nate's wish list next year.  Too bad, so sad.  Nobody's going to be making drums in 2008....

Back home after supper, Kelly put on her new nightshirt, (hooray!  It fit!) and gathered her beloved puffles to herself before heading off to bed.

And what's this?

Remind me again... WHO did we buy the flute for?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Eve in Photos

We had a big dinner at Ken and Toni's house.  I love going OUT to a family dinner, and not really being responsible for the Kitchen Bits.

But we brought lots of food, anyways.

A few hours before we were scheduled to be eating, I suddenly got this wild hair that I should bring rolls.  And not just any rolls.  The Spectacular Rolls from Pioneer Woman.  They were 'no kneading required', and seemed to fit the bill, especially as it looked like you could make the entire thing and just dirty a single stock-pot on the stove.

Deal me in.

There was only one moment of crisis when I thought I'd run out of flour, and another moment of crisis when I nearly ran out of sugar, but otherwise, things went off without a hitch.

And then, as the Pioneer Woman would say "The punks got involved..."

The rolls are composed of three little walnut-sized balls of dough, put together into a muffin pan.  Within minutes of me getting my hands dirty, I had two helpers, rolling the dough-balls.

And once things had been explained, Kelly took over...

"Here, Nate, this is how you make the buns..."

And then I didn't even have to get my hands dirty, as they quickly figured out how big a walnut was, and could pinch their own dough balls without help.

I love being a supervisor..

But all was interrupted when the FedEx truck pulled up.

Ooh!  Aah!  A foodie gift from one of Ken's brothers.

And the best part about getting a big, exotic gift?  Why, when you're a kid, it's ALL about the box.

But before you knew it, it was time to get dressed and go over to Toni and Ken's for Christmas Eve dinner.

Oh, my children have the BEST table manners...

Uh oh.  Whatever stung Kelly seems to have infected ALL the children...

Hmmm, and Nate even grew a set of antennae.

They had an advent wreath, and Nate was allowed to make fire!  We didn't burn down their house, so I consider it a success.

And then it was time to sing for the Birthday Boy

and exchange presents.

But by this point, I was getting a bit antsy, because just before we'd left to go out for dinner, our pastor had called to ask if I'd mind if he switched up the Midnight Service a bit... he'd heard that we had the piano music for the Peanuts Christmas Special, and wondered if I could do that "Christmas Time is Here..." song, and if I could do it  more jazzy and subdued, and suitable for candles and low-light, and clubby. 

Um, yeah, I'll get right on that.

So i really wanted to get home to practice the piano.

It was like herding cats, but I finally got us out the door by 8:30.  We came home, and gave the kids their Christmas Jammies.

And while Ken put the kids to bed (where they'd hopefully sleep for a little bit, and then he'd wake them up to take them to church for 11pm), I sweated it out on the piano for an hour before heading off to church to practice there.

I shouldn't have worried.  People talked through much of it, and really, they were probably more taken with the candles, and the lights...

This was the stage.  I'm just off to the left on the piano.

The perfect ending:

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Christmas Story. Retold by Nate.

This year, I was caught in a weak moment and bought yet another Nativity Set.  My logic was that Nate has no 'decorations' in his room, and maybe if he was in charge of decorating, he might be more inclined to keep his room a bit tidy.

So, once home, Nate and I cleaned up his room, and made a big space on the top of his dresser where he could set up the Nativity Scene, and act out the story as many times as he wants.

Here we have the Holy Family, so happy and rosy-cheeked:

But what's this?

The Wise Men seem to be wiser than we think.  Ahead of their time, one might even say...

Yes, they're arriving on ATV's.

But wait.  There's more.

And there were in the same country, shepherds, abiding in the fields...

...keeping watch over their scorpions by night...

This Nativity Set seems to have a bit of a lack.  There is no angel.  But Nate improvised.  I will spare you the photo of Ned Flanders standing up on top of the clock radio.  When you push the button on his back, he says "There's always room for one more Flanders", but, as Nate says, "That's just another way of saying  'Fear Not!'"

Thursday, December 20, 2007

4000 Words

If a picture paints a thousand words, here's a 4000 word story from Skip:









And here's more words:  He's not stopped grinning like a complete LOON since I cut it all off.  He keeps thinking of people that he can't wait to *surprise* with his new hair.  And I wish I'd taken the camera to Kung Fu right after this haircut.  The looks?  Hilarious!  People were doing MAJOR double-takes.  And a couple of the parents even stood and applauded when they realized who he was.  He's completely JAZZED about the cut.  And the hair gets mailed off to "A Million Inches" tomorrow.  It's not quite long enough for Locks of Love (wigs for kids with alopecia), but *IS* long enough for Million Inches (wigs for women who lose their hair from cancer-chemo)

Merry Christmas. From Nate

OK, so here goes with my first attempt at being part of the YouTube generation.

I really need some video editing software.  I guess I should go see if anything came with my camera...

This was Sunday.

Merry Christmas, from Nate, and his family, especially his mother, who never got around to writing a Christmas letter,

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Feed the Fountain, Move the Mountains

Nate's going to be performing in the Christmas Pageant of the Church associated with his School on Sunday. If I were a good mother, I'd be working with him on all the memory work that they'll be doing. But I am not. I'm throwing him to the wolves, and hoping that he's got a memory like his brother and sister.

But that doesn't mean that my beloved daughter doesn't feel the need to step into the gap, and make sure that Nate knows all the words to all the songs.

The other night, we were driving home from somewhere, and she got a little bee in her head that she needed to make sure that Nate knew all the words to "We Three Kings".

All well and good... if she knew the words herself.

But she is nothing if not confident...

So this is what I hear, floating back from the back seats of Homer, as I'm driving in the dark.

"Now, Nate... repeat after me...

We... three kings... of ORION are.. [oh look. They're so wise, they're stellar!]

Bearing gifts... we travel afar... [well, that's pretty close]

Feed the fountain....

Move the mountains...

Following yonder star..."

I've gotta say, I love that line. From now on, I think I, too, will sing "Feed the fountain, move the mountain..."

Skip went out last night to the annual Youth Night Out at church.

I picked him up at 8:30 this morning.

He now holds the dubious crown of "ONLY KID WHO DIDN"T SLEEP ALL NIGHT"

That's my boy. Already in training for the all-nighters he will want to pull in college.

I let him sleep until about 3 this afternoon, and now we'll see if we can get him back into bed before midnight. It might be time to bring out the warm milk, and hope it does its magic.

But first, we'll fill him full of sushi.

Ken took the Littles out this afternoon to decorate cookies at the home of one of his colleagues. Nate's all in a tizzy because he's FINALLY old enough to be included in this exclusive event.

And while they were out, I finished off one of the 'homemade' Christmas presents that's in my queue.

So now there are penguin-print flannel jammie pants under the tree for Nate.

I've got some pirate-map print flannel to make a set for Skip, and this afternoon, while out getting more wrapping paper, I stumbled onto some FANTASTIC fabric that's Disney Fairy print.

And so, tomorrow, we'll see if I can't pound out a pair of jammie pants for Kelly.

Eek! is that the time? I was supposed to already be at the sushi place with Skip.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Second Concert

Second verse, same as the first.

A little bit louder... a little bit worse...

Ok, it wasn't worse. It was actually shorter.

And there were no surprises.

But good golly, miss Molly, the 'senior chorus' performed first... and I was truly expecting something better than last night's "junior chorus"...

You'd think, right?

Don't know what happened. Maybe it was the unfortunate placement of one of the microphones? There was one kid who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. I never quite put my finger on which kid it was (I was sitting way across the auditorium, and regrettably close to the speaker), but that microphone picked up EVERY sour note (and there were many) that proceeded out of his mouth. Poor Ken, I thought he was going to turn inside out from trying not to visibly cringe.

But soon, it was time for the Jazz Band to hit the stage. We'd moved to the Jazz Band side of the auditorium, and I was sitting nice and close. I had such high hopes for the photos that I could take...

And then I realized that Skip was going to be sitting BEHIND the rank of saxophones, and... what? Who put a set of vibraphones between me and the rhythm section?


But I have a good little video clip of one of the songs. Maybe I'll try to figure out how to post to YouTube....

So once again, I have nothing to show for the actual event, but I pulled Skip aside during the intermission.

Say Cheese.

Oh, and Skip?

Hanson phoned.

They want their hair back.

psst. See that bass he's holding? It belongs to the school.

In 12 days?

He'll have his very own. Made of bright shiny awesome red, even.

It's hiding in my closet right now. I can hardly wait to bring it out and play it!!!!!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

First of the Concerts

Last night was the first of the Middle School Music concerts.

It kind of tickles me that there are so many musical things going on at the school that they can't do it all on one night.

It kind of tickles me that Skip has his fingers in so many musical pots at school.

It kind of chafes me, though, that the groups that Skip plays with don't all perform on the same night.

So last night was the first concert. And Skip was in two of the groups.

[insert the basic you're-all-tired-of-hearing-it overly busy running around daytime events here]

When it came time for the concert, I wasn't home yet, so it was up to Skip and Ken to get themselves together (dressed in concert garb, hair out of the eyes, take all needed stuff (INCLUDING all the decorated Christmas Cookies that I'd made for the bake sale), and get to the school by 6:25.

My menfolk, they are a well oiled machine, so that went off without a hitch, except for the txt message that I got while I was leaving gymnastics with Kelly, that said "All is well, except Skip doesn't have a jacket". Normally? This would not be an issue. We *do* live in California, after all. But, just because God didn't want me to gloat over my New Brunswickian BFF's frosty plight too much, He made sure that we've been having to scrape ice off our windshields in the mornings, and by the time the concert started, the air temperatures were dropping into the low 40s. A tuxedo shirt really doesn't offer a lot of protection, especially if you are a 12-year-old boy, and think that wearing a white undershirt under said tuxedo shirt would be un-cool. Fortunately, there was a tiny window of time, and Kelly and I were able to swing home and snag a jacket for Skip while Kelly changed out of her "I'll just wear a leotard and flip-flops after getting out of the shower with wet hair and then run to the gym" attire, and into something more winter-suitable.

Because Ken had to be there so early with Skip, he actually had pretty nice seats, and I didn't have to beat my way through the shuffling crowds and bring out the Evil Eye.

I'll spare you the re-telling of the sets with the Orchestra, and the Junior Choir. They were fine. really. Just long. Kelly now wants to play the cello, AND sing in the Junior Choir when she gets to Middle School.

Then there was a brief intermission while they got set up for the "Rock Ensemble" (their title, not mine). This is the guitar elective class that Skip's had since September. The kids that play in the winter concert are the kids who took the elective in first trimester. I don't think that the other trimester classes have an opportunity to play at a concert, because the Guitar Band only plays in December. For the Guitar band, the kids were asked to wear 'some combination of black, white and blue", and so there was a sea of black head-to-toe rocker dudes... and Skip.

Don't you like how he brings an element of class to an otherwise somber and casual event?

(The 'who's the girl in the tuxedo shirt' comment from the bleachers behind me notwithstanding)

There's a guitar phenom just off camera to the left. He's the secret weapon in the jazz band, and, according to Ken, who volunteers with the jazz band one morning a week, can play guitar better than he does. You can't see him, but he's playing a 12-string, and doing it with great facility. It was really fun to watch him. I think Skip might idolize him just a bit.

So the Guitar Band starts playing their numbers, and the 8th-grade Phenom gets a little bit of the spotlight (well-deserved, the kid can really play), and it's generally an enjoyable set, the 'rock-n-roll choir' standing behind them singing the Greenday songs notwithstanding. (hello, 'notwithstanding' is my new go-to word of the day). Skip keeps looking over at us with this little smirk that I can't read. He must really be having fun with his guitar cronies.

And then it comes time for the final song, and the teacher turns to give a little introduction. Behind him, I see a little activity... it's the Phenom, handing Skip his guitar. And for the last song, Skip, with a grin like a Cheshire Cat, has the spotlight with the 12 string guitar.

I nearly cried. And of course, I was too blubbery to take a photo of the performance. So you have the 'aftermath' shot.

By this point, the Littles had pretty much lost their composure, so Ken offered to take them home and put them to bed, and I got to sit through another long set while the Junior Band took the stage. That also was enjoyable in the main. Maybe because I didn't have to keep a squirming Nate quiet.

But I wasn't there to watch the Junior Band. I wanted to watch Skip's final performance, and then get outta Dodge.

Whew. Here they come!

And look! Skip's First Chair. (sorry. Bad photo, zoomed from FAR away, with no flash. But hey! I couldn't have done that with the old camera, so I think this is a pretty sweet shot)

And oh look! Dad didn't make him wear SOCKS.

But wait! There's more!

Skip didn't tell us he had TWO surprises for us at the concert last night.

First, was the 12-string guitar playing.


Halfway through their keynote piece (The Halo Theme), the music gets kind of quiet, and a single trumpet cuts across the murmur, like a beacon from far away.....

Yup. That would be Skip.

The little stinker! He never told us, so I only caught the last 8 seconds of his solo, as I was stumbling around with my camera, trying to get it into video mode.

It was a proud evening to be his mom, I'll tell you.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. I'll be back there tonight, watching Skip in the Jazz Band... and bringing more Christmas Cookies for the bake sale. I'd better get going on those right now, or the frosting won't be set up enough to package.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Because I want to be on a first name basis...

...with the doctors in the local Emergency Room...

Nate. You'll give your mother a heart attack. Or at least grey hairs (more of them).

ps. That's NOT skip in the black. You can tell immediately, because he's wearing jeans. [And from this angle, they look like the kind that a kid would have to pay fifty-plus bucks for at some swank skate-boarding store.] You can also tell because his hair isn't shoulder length. Oh, and because he's interested in skate-boarding. Skip would rather poke out his eye.

So that's Nate on Skip's skateboard. I'm glad someone's getting some use out of it, although Skip *did* have fun building it at Christmas.

I am currently taping the first few episodes of the "French in Action" series. I remember watching it when I lived in Vancouver, and was getting ready to move to Quebec. I wonder if my kids will think it's just too lame to watch.

Mark my words. TODAY is the day that I get my house back under control.

Remember when it was "when school gets out, and i have some time in the summer without having to drive everyone everywhere and volunteer at everything." THEN it was "Once the holidays are over, and I can get all the suitcases away, and get back into a routine..." and THEN it was "OK, I'll wait until school starts, and THEN I'll have all sorts of time to get things put back where they belong.."

Well, NOW, it's NOW.

Except that I'm pooped, and I really need to put the groceries away and just have a little nap. And then it will be time to get Kelly, and then swing by Skip's school to see his old teacher who wants to run the Knitting Club after school on Mondays, and then head over to get Nate at his school, then back to Skip's school, because Cross Country will be done, and then pop home to get dinner started and homework done, and then off to Kung Fu, but first I've gotta check to see if tonight's the monthly Gem Society meeting.

Oh crap. I think this past weekend was the Gem Society show, and I was supposed to work security for it.


Note to self: Mail your father's birthday card today, so it has a chance of getting to him on time. And while you're at it, mail your folks' anniversary card, too. It's only 3 days later.

Il mange
Elle mange
Je mange
Nous mangeons
Vous mangez
Ils mangent

French in Action runs in the background. I sure hope it's like riding a bicycle. Or is that "bicyclette"?

First things first.

I need to take out the trash.
Yes. It's an exciting life I lead.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Flock of Skipgulls

I've been having 80s flashbacks lately.

I can't figure out why....

And he ra-a-an
He ran so far awa-a-ay

Poor kid's not running on much sleep this morning.

He's been getting ready for his trumpet audition this weekend. It was supposed to be last Friday, and of course, he left the preparation until the last minute, which involved changing his audition piece at the Very Last Minute, and then deciding that it was probably good enough if he just schlepped through it. I gently reminded him about how hideously he'd performed at the Getting Into Honors Band auditions last spring (ie, he'd done NO preparation, and then hadn't made Honors Band, and spent nearly a week moping after school was out), and so this time, he really put some muscle into things. Fortunately, the band teacher ran out of time, and re-scheduled the Chair Auditions for today.

So it wasn't enough that he play one of his current band pieces. Nope. He had to scrounge around in our piano collection, snag a jazz book, and pick one of the moody blue numbers. No worries that the second phrase is at the extreme upper end of his abilities... or that he had to transpose it. He thought it sounded cool, and the sort of thing that would be good for an audition.

And that's what we've been listening to all weekend. And Ken's really stepped up to the plate and taken on the role of Trumpet Instructor (he'd seriously considered being a Band Teacher when he was finishing up high school - before he got all the physics/math scholarships). Good thing, because what I know about trumpets can be contained in the drop of spit that is shot out of the vent-hole when the trumpet's being cleaned.

So after all his diligent playing, when bedtime rolled around last night, and the trumpet was finally put away, he asked if he could just read a book in his bed for a bit before Lights Out. Sounded like a good idea, so Ken and I said sure.

And then we both thought the OTHER parent was going to go in and tuck Skip in.

I went downstairs and did 3 loads of laundry.

Ken went into his office, and worked on a backlog of Top Secret computer stuff.

And we both freaked out at 11:45 when we realized, as we were shutting the house down for the night, that Skip's light was still on. Poor bewildered kid. He had no idea.

And now he's dragging around on his way to school.

I felt so guilty about it that I handed him a Coke for breakfast. If I'd had a Starbucks Doubleshot, I would've handed him that instead, even though I know he would have turned his nose up at it.

I just hope he can wake up enough to rock his audition. It'd be a shame if he was disappointed this time, too.

And he ca-a-an
He can, his trumpet pla-a-ay
He's the ma-a-an
His jazz horn makes them swa-a-ay
Gotta get an A....

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Science Content

Because I am trying to be The World's Coolest Mom in the eyes of my quickly-becoming-jaded eldest son, I took him out on a shopping excursion yesterday.

"Shopping? We have to go SHOPPING?" he whined.

"Yes, dear. Because I can't count on The Littles to help me out at the grocery store, and I know how much you like to go shopping for meat..." (my son, the vegetarian)

After a quick trip to the Chinese Market (hey! Where else can you get beef tenderloin for $7/pound?), I headed back for home. Mr. Grouchy was slouched down in Homer's passenger seat, playing with the seat warmers while I cruised slowly past the mall. (oh, did I mention that the car now has a name? Yes, it's Homer... the Odyssey).

"Honey, do you think we should go shopping at the mall, just you and me? Maybe you could look at overpriced jeans, or skateboard-and-skull branded oversized shirts. Or we could just sniff all the pretty smells at the soap store..."

He laughed, "Yeah, I need to stop by Hello Kitty." He was getting the joke. Whew.

But it was not the mall we were heading for after the groceries were bought.

It was Mollie Stone's.

Yes, another grocery store. But this one wasn't for food.

This one was for SCIENCE!

Because yesterday was the day we became Backyard Scientists.

Hello, Dry Ice!!!!!

A bowl of cold water...

A bowl of hot water....

And a weed that didn't have a chance...

And hey, look what you can do when you put dry ice into a deflated balloon and tie it shut.

(you can still see the little white nugget of dry ice inside the balloon. It's floating in a pan of warm water)

Experiments in Carbonation:

That's room temperature lemonade, two identical glasses. One with a little nugget of dry ice (thumb sized) dropped into it (on the right), and one with a large nugget (deck of cards size) dropped into it (on the left).

We then did taste tests. Both were chilled, but the one on the right (little nugget) wasn't AS cold, and it tasted just like lemonade. The one on the left, though, was REALLY cold, and had effervescence. Not big bubbles like soda, but some tingly feeling on the tongue. Really quite fun.

Of course, you can only say "Don't touch, don't touch, don't touch" so many times, before SOMEONE has to say "Well, I wonder if -70C is REALLY all that cold..."

Yeah, kid. You thought licking a flag pole in winter hurt? I'll see if I can take a photo of his blister later today.

We all had to wear 'safety glasses'. For the little ones, that meant sun glasses if they wanted to come outside and watch the experiments.

So, Skip. How am I doing in the Mom Department today?

"Yeah, mom. You really are The Coolest Mom Ever. At least today."